I was born into a family deeply rooted in the Catholic faith. In fact, when I was younger one of my favorite stories was about my father’s parents. They met in Cleveland when they were young and fell in love, but my Grandpa was a Catholic and my Grandma was a Protestant, and her parents disowned her on the day of her wedding. She walked to the church to be married in her white wedding gown all by herself, and I was entranced by the story as I pictured her, young and scared and all alone, running off to marry my Grandpa. My parents followed suit and were good Catholics. My sisters and I were baptized as infants, went to Catholic school, made our first Confession, our first Communion, and were confirmed. My parents led Marriage Encounter weekends, and our church life was the center of our world. I wasn’t taught the truth of scripture the way my children are being taught it, but I knew God loved me. I knew Jesus had died for me. I felt safe and secure, and had a wonderful childhood.
When we moved to Pittsburgh, things changed. Life seemed to go from slow to fast. My sisters and I were taken from our safe little Catholic school and put into a public school where none of us fit in. As the years progressed, my parents became disillusioned with the Catholic church and at some point we all just stopped going. Weekends were busy with activities, and none of us seemed to notice that we were no longer a churchgoing family. I was a teenager, consumed with my social life, boyfriends, and sports. I didn’t know anything about the Bible. God was irrelevant to me. At the same time, my mom began to watch a church across the street from our house as it was built piece by piece. She heard it was a Christian church and went to check it out one Sunday morning not long after it opened its doors. God found her there and pulled her back to Him in an amazing way. My dad and younger sister soon followed, and have been devoted Christ followers and spiritual role models to me ever since.
At the time, though, I was too far gone. I hadn’t learned much beyond religion as a set of rules when I was a child, and had spent my teenage years living life on my own terms. I went away to college and was very much a student of the world. I went to a liberal university and spent time abroad, learning that living a life of self-involvement was my right, and “sewing my oats” was a good way to spend my time. By God’s grace alone, as I graduated and met my husband Greg, who was also not a church goer, He pulled us back to Him. Greg and I started attending my parents’ church together, became members, and bought Bibles. We weathered a few ups and downs, but mostly enjoyed a pretty easy life that kept those Bibles closed on a bookshelf gathering dust.
God used our firstborn, our sweet Chloe, to shake us from our spiritual trance. Getting pregnant was not as easy for me as I had anticipated it would be, and when I finally saw two faint pink lines on the pregnancy test my heart soared. Greg and I rejoiced with our good news, but the joy quickly turned to fear. I had a series of problems throughout my first and second trimesters, and on the morning of my 23rd week, I went into labor. The ride to the hospital was a blur, but one moment is crystal clear: the doctor on call explained to me that if he couldn’t stop my labor, he couldn’t save my baby. At just 23 weeks she would be too small, too fragile. I remember that the doctor was from another country and had a really thick accent. "Do you understand?" He asked me several times, trying to shake me from my stupor. "Your baby might not live."
How can any mother understand that?
Hebrews 11:1 says “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Over the course of the next few months, God used this trial to teach me about His faithfulness. After eight long days in the hospital I was stable enough to be allowed to go home, but I was put on strict bedrest – they even told me how many times I could walk the ten feet to the bathroom. I was gripped with fear, terrified that one false move on my part would cost my baby her life. God took every safety net but His Word away from me. There were no guarantees. I knew of wonderful Godly people who had been in similar situations and had not been given their miracle. For the first time in my life, there was nothing I could do but pray, trust God, and know that He was good no matter what happened. I spent hours and hours immersed in His Word, and in those 13 weeks of bedrest God changed my heart. His kindness to me was so undeserved. He ministered to my smallest needs. Here’s one example that will forever be etched in my memory: I was having horrible nightmares that kept me up at night, terrified, and I finally cried out to Him, asking Him to help me. The next morning, someone called me and said that she’d felt prompted to pray Psalm 91 over me, and that she would be doing that every day - she just wanted to let me know. I hung up the phone, opened my Bible, and turned to Psalm 91:
“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday…”
I couldn’t believe that the God of the universe cared so much about my smallest needs. Our little Chloe came into the world four weeks early, small and mighty. Most importantly, Greg and I both developed a true thirst to know and serve this great God of ours and have never turned back. I pray we never will.
By God’s providence I was asked several weeks ago to share my testimony, and I agreed without giving it too much thought. Nothing is accidental with God though, is it? A week before Thanksgiving my husband walked into work and was told he didn’t have a job any more. We didn’t know it was coming, but God did. And He knew I would need to be reminded of His faithfulness. The past few days as I’ve pored over old prayer journals and thought about my testimony, I have rejoiced at the faithfulness of Jehovah-Jireh, the God who provides, and marveled at His kindness in preparing me so well for the journey that lies ahead.
I don’t know what will happen, or where we’ll end up. But I know that God is good, and the gospel is true, and that is enough for me. As Beth Moore often says, “Onward together to the finish line. Jesus is is so worthy.”