Gretchen and her son in the NICU
Thursday, December 24, 2015
Ordinary Women - Extraordinary God, by Sandra Julian Barker
What do we do when life throws us a curve? How do we react? Does our view of God change? What is the secret to surviving crushing loss or sorrowful circumstances and still praising God?
This book contains stories of 14 ordinary women (and one ordinary man) who have gone through various degrees of difficulty or tragedy. These women have come through their trial (or in some cases, are still going through the trial) with a prayer on their lips and praise to our extraordinary God in their hearts.
Along with these present-day sisters in Christ, there are enlightening stories from a few Biblical sisters in the faith. There are also messages from God’s word on such topics as fear, tears, His all-sufficient grace, and beauty from ashes.
Read the stories and see the pictures of ordinary women like you and me. You’ll cry over their pain and loss, laugh at their humorous tidbits, rejoice in their victories and, hopefully, whisper a prayer for those who are still going through the floodwaters.
“Yet I will rejoice in the Lord…” Habakkuk 3:18
EXCERPT – taken from chapter entitled, “Gretchen”
Gretchen was 44-years old when it happened. She'd been married 13 years and long ago been told she could not have a baby. Although she'd always longed to be a mother, over the years she’d developed peace about her childlessness and accepted her situation as part of God's plan.
As a leader in the children's ministries at her church, she'd become like a second mother to many of her friends’ children. One of her joys was having "Princess" retreats for the young girls and encouraging them to grow in the beauty and grace of our Lord.
So -- it was a huge surprise when Gretchen discovered she was pregnant. It was a surprise and joy that a dream she'd given up on was at last coming true! She would be a mother with a precious baby of her very own -- praise God from who all blessings flow!
No sooner had Gretchen shared her exciting news with family and friends than word came from her doctors that the pregnancy was in trouble. The baby boy she was carrying had a condition known as Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR) which meant that abnormalities in the placenta restricted the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the baby. It was then they told her and her husband Shawn that their son might "pass away at any time."
How do expectant parents cope with such news? Gretchen's life had seemed like a placid stream before she'd been placed on a roller coaster that started off with joyous promise, but was now plunging into a dark and fearful place.
Her first reaction was quite natural -- tears, an overwhelming sorrow and her heart's cry, "Lord, please no! This cannot be happening!"
Almost immediately, hope eased the sorrow. She said, "For a while, it was hope that conquered my sadness -- the hope that the Lord would heal my son and that what they'd predicted would be wrong -- that he would be born a miracle....a complete miracle."
Months passed and the roller coaster continued its twisting journey of ups and downs -- sometimes hopeful, but more often news they did not want to hear. It was a frightening ride for Gretchen and Shawn. Early in her pregnancy she was admitted to the hospital and placed on bed rest. This tiny baby boy, whom they'd named Shawn Austin, was a little fighter, and he'd surprised the doctors by refusing to quietly "pass away" as they'd predicted. The expectant mother was full of hope as she wrote, "We are still praying, and not giving up on this miracle baby."
As a friend watching this heart-wrenching situation unfold from a distance, what touched my heart most deeply was Gretchen's firm and unwavering statement: "I still will love and serve Him - no matter what!" This was not just something she said to sound spiritual. Even through tears and sorrow, Gretchen meant what she said from the bottom of her broken heart. That was powerful to me -- and still is as she reaffirms her love for God every day.
On the morning of July 1, 2011, Shawn Austin came into the world with eyes wide open and a strong yet gentle cry. There was joy at his birth and a continued hope that this sick 'lil warrior, as Gretchen calls him, would survive and be a testament to God's miraculous grace.
But, it was not to be. This beautiful baby boy with dark hair and a sweet smile spent the entire 2-1/2 months of his life in the intensive care unit at the Children's Hospital. His Mommy and Daddy loved him and loved on him as much as they possibly could. Gretchen said, "Shawn was a fighter until the end of his precious but brief life when he went home to be with Jesus."
How did Gretchen cope with such loss?
When a woman loses her precious baby, it is heart-rending, but it seemed like Gretchen's loss had an extra twist that made it even worse.
During moments of weakness, you can imagine satanic influences whispering in her ear, "What kind of God would dangle the carrot of motherhood in front of you like that? After you'd long ago accepted your childlessness, why would He set you up for a fall by giving you the joy of pregnancy and a glimpse of your baby, only to dash your hopes and joys with pain and a sorrow like you'd never known before? What kind of God does that?"
These are the thoughts and feelings of the natural self -- which is still part of all of us, but such thoughts and feelings are destructive to every part of who we are -- and unfair to every part of who God is. Gretchen knows this and refused to let Satan bait her into blaming God, or letting bitterness cloud her world.
Gretchen explains, "My peace with God is knowing that His ways are perfect; that He chose me to parent that Lil Warrior and Blessing that he was. There's no recurring bitterness or anger with the Lord. My pain now is to have had a child that was taken back to heaven so quickly, missing him and just what he would have added to our lives; feeling emptiness in my arms though my heart is full of the love that I felt for him. My healing is a work in progress, but He that has begun a good work in me shall complete it to the end!"
Sandra Julian Barker is the author of a number of novels, a children’s book, and now a Christian inspirational book. She has written numerous newspaper and magazine articles, and has a story in the best-selling Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul.