Devotional


This time five years ago, I was expecting our first child.  My pregnancy had been normal as I slowly watched my feet disappear under my expanding belly.  Nausea in the first trimester gave way to butterfly-like feelings in my abdomen.  What a miracle!  My body had become a home for this tiny person that I did not know yet, but whom I loved intensely. Each month ticked away with a visit to the doctor.  “All is well” was each report…that is until the first week of March. 

The week started out terribly.  I got a speeding ticket.  How could a State Trooper give me, a pregnant woman, a ticket?  Sure I was speeding, but who could blame me as distracted as I was?  It did not even bother him that I cried as I squeezed out from behind the steering wheel to find my registration.  This could not be happening, we did not need this extra expense with a baby coming.

The week only got worse.  I went to my normal check up, expecting the same “all is well” tag, but when my doctor came in,  the expression on her face spread panic through my heart. 

“What’s wrong?” I implored.  I had not even been officially checked yet.  They had only gotten my weight, blood pressure and made me pee in a cup.

“You are showing the early signs of preeclampsia, otherwise known as toxemia.” she almost seemed to whisper from the other end of a tunnel.

“What is that?  How can this be?  Things have been going so well.  What is going to happen to me and my baby?” 

“Preeclampsia is basically where your body is rejecting the baby.  Your blood pressure starts to creep up and protein shows up in your urine.  We are going to write you out of work until delivery and put you on strict bedrest.  We don’t want you to even walk outside to check the mail.  Rest, stay put as much as possible, for your sake and for the sake of your baby.”

I could not be written out of work, I had only trained my back-up for one day.  She was not prepared.  What was my boss going to say?  Josh was not with me at this visit. What would he say?  I could not even talk to him when I called, so I had to get the doctor to repeat what she had said to me.  “It’s going to be okay.” He assured me, but my emotions were telling me otherwise.

The next six weeks are kind of fuzzy to me.  People of the church fixed meals for us because if the meal planning were left to Josh, we would have cereal, Chef Boyardee and eggs everyday, although he would have meant heartily well.  I had days that I spent in fellowship with my Father and felt His love assure me that no matter what happened, this was all part of His plan.  Then I had days that I could not feel His presence and I cried…anxious over what would happen to my baby, starving for fellowship outside these four walls, and from just plain boredom (how many times can you watch the PBS lineup before getting sick of it).

Baby shower time came and I feel into deeper depression.  I could not even properly register for the things we needed and wanted.  We started the process, but had to quit because I could feel my feet swelling from the rising blood pressure.  This should not be so hard to accept; it was just a luxury and I knew our family, friends and church members would make sure we had what we needed.  But I longed for everything to be as it should have been.  Even then, God assured me that this was part of His plan.

April came before long, and the doctors had made me their test subject.  I had to do a few 24-hour urine samples and store them in our fridge, yuck!  Then on April 21st, the doctors ran several tests and sent us out to wait closeby for the results.  We headed over to Barnes & Noble to peruse their new selection of books.  After what seemed like hours, they called us to come back.  “Are you ready to have this baby?” they asked.  I had not even packed my bags yet, oh great!  “We have a room ready for you.  We will induce your labor and since you are only 3 1/2 weeks early, all should be okay.”

We got settled in our room, called the family and prepared for the night.  They gave me the medicine to induce and at 5:10am the next morning my water broke.  Luke Christopher was born at 9:09am on April 22nd, just one minute shy of a 4 hour labor.  He was amazing!  This little life that we had been praying for was finally visible!   

Luke had his normal up’s-and-down’s as an infant.  Maybe a few more down’s because his lungs were a little underdeveloped, but now he is a healthy, happy, lively little boy.  I look back on those days and I can see how God protected us, provided for us and used it all to teach me about His faithfulness and His friendship.  All of this was in His plan.

Advertisements

 Two months ago, I didn’t love you. Maybe I loved you a little, some of you a little more, some a little less. I certainly didn’t love you the way Christ commands me to love you, that is, as I love myself. Thankfully, God has shown me this problem and I have been praying that He will give me the grace to overcome it. Let me share with you just a few things that have helped me overcome this problem. (I am still a work in progress and believe me, I have not yet arrived at Christ-like love!)

  1. Random Acts of Kindness

           I recently went with a few people from our church to the local mall (the weekend before Christmas of all times) to participate in a Random Acts of Kindness outreach. For a few weeks prior to the event, we received donations from members of the church so we could go to the mall and buy people’s dinners. We went up to individuals and families as they were at the register of their dining establishment of choice in the food court and offered to pay for their meals. Some of them gave us odd looks, some were really pleased, one even broke into tears. Unlike typical evangelism, we didn’t make a deal with them and say, “I’ll buy your food if you sit and talk to me about Jesus.” We just provided a need out of love for our fellow people, and then gave them a church brochure with info about our church and  a message about Christ on it. No gimmicks, no Christian trickery, no evangelistic sleight of hand. For the first time in my life, I understood how Christ must have felt when throngs of people surrounded Him as He ministered to them. In a never before seen phenomenon, as we were buying food and giving church brochures to those for whom we purchased meals, we had people surrounding us asking us for our literature. Understand, they were not asking us to buy their dinners. They saw us showing love to people and it perked their interest, and they just wanted to know who we were. I have never had such a good time in evangelism. And I do very seriously consider this evangelism. Even though we didn’t actually get to talk about the Gospel, we demonstrated the love of Christ and gave them a paper with the word of God on it.

    2. Outreach to the Homeless

        A few weeks later, we took blankets we collected from church members to give to homeless people turned away from shelters. Our city has passed this really stupid law that shelters can only house a certain number of homeless, even if they have beds for more. The result is that several get turned away to sleep on the streets. I was upset the day of this ministry because as I was coming home from work around 5pm (the outreach started at 7pm) I spoke to our minister of evangelism and we only had 4 blankets. I had two problems with this: I was afraid there would be more than 4 people and we would run out of blankets and this would be bad for those who didn’t get one, and I was afraid not only would some be without a blanket, but our church would be embarrassed because we only managed to round up 4 blankets. I prayed that God would either give us more blankets, or give us only 4 people. In His abounding grace, He did both. We actually wound up with 14 blankets, but we didn’t have to give any out because everyone (yes, there were 4 people outside) got a bed that night. We’re going out again next week, it’s supposed to be a lot colder, so there’ll be more people, and thankfully we have more blankets.

    3. Real Conversations

       I have a tendency to teach and lecture without wanting to listen, because I don’t (didn’t, that is) love people enough to really listen to their problems with Christian compassion. I’ve been studying the life of Christ lately in an attempt to learn how to deal with people, and what I have seen is His remarkable ability to talk to people. He certainly didn’t talk like Christians talk. In Mark 10, a man asked Him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life”. Notice that Jesus didn’t say, “You need to believe in me and get saved,” He talked to the man, and gently broke down his worldview. He gave him the little bit of God’s truth that he needed at that time, and sent him away to meditate on it. Maybe he came back, maybe he didn’t, but Jesus had a real conversation with him. Christians have been so determined to see a soul saved that they have neglected the rest of the man. If I really love someone, I’ll be interested in him, not just teaching him. So I’ve been trying to have real conversations with the people I see everyday.

   4. My House as God’s Sanctuary

       I’m terribly hobbit-like, and my house is my hole. This is at least how I felt until God began to change me. There was a “select elite” of people who I enjoyed having over to visit. Now, I can’t really explain the change outside of grace, but I like having more people over, even in-laws! (God really is amazing!) I have for so long wanted to use the abilities God gave me to minister (teaching, preaching etc.), but I was totally blind to this hunk of real estate I sit in every day. God has given me a home, not big but at least big enough to host a few people, and a wife who loves to be a hostess, but I was too thick to see how that could be used for His glory. I’m trying to now make my home a sanctuary for those who need it. (Hey, if you’re not doing anything tonight. . .)

So that’s my confession, and a list of just a few things that God’s using to change me more and more into the image of His Son. I love you. (At least I’m trying!)- A.P. Sullivan