If someone managed to do an X-ray of the soul, I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that our places of deepest joy are located right beside our places of deepest sorrow. I’ve spent the larger part of a lifetime assuming life should come one emotion at a time. A season of joy, then a season of pain. Heartache followed by a dream-come-true. All compartmentalized into neat categories.
But as it turns out, life rarely unfolds that way. The good and the bad often fly at us scattershot: joy and pain in simultaneous explosions. The happiness is so woven in with the tears that we can’t separate them out without losing both.
There’s an old song I love by Rich Mullins called “We Are Not as Strong as We Think We Are”:
With these our hells and our heavens So few inches apart We must be awfully small And not as strong as we think we are
Isn’t that about right? Our hells and our heavens, mere inches away from the other.
And that’s where Daniel and I find ourselves right now—smack dab in the middle of both. Great joy intertwined with deep sorrow.
Twenty weeks ago, God fulfilled a dream I’ve held on to for years—one of the most tender desires of my heart. My body wasn’t cooperating, my biological clock was working against me, and the doctors said it was impossible. But one brisk morning in January, to our speechless delight, Daniel and I found out there was new life growing inside me.
This is our miracle, our answer to prayer, our little piece of heaven on earth.
But just inches away—and weeks away—we bumped into one of our deepest fears.
We went into the ultrasound rather giddy about meeting this baby of ours, naïvely thinking the biggest question would be whether to find out the gender. After much contemplation, we decided to be surprised.
We were surprised. But the gender was the least of it.
After the ultrasound was over, the doctor came in and did a second one. That’s when I felt the first niggling of trepidation. Wouldn’t a doctor be too busy to repeat what the tech just did? But I was on such a high after seeing the baby’s button nose and tiny fingers that I was caught off guard when the doctor called us into her office.
“We suspect a genetic abnormality,” she said matter-of-factly, as if she were mentioning it might rain later.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
I’ve heard Psalm 139 countless times, but honestly, I’ve always skipped over the “fearfully” part and moved right on to “wonderfully.” The images we saw in the ultrasound served as incontrovertible evidence of the wonderful part. Before our baby weighed a full ounce, the kidneys and liver were formed. Before this child was the size of an avocado, the heart was thrumming away at 150 beats a minute. Wonderfully made indeed.
But in that doctor’s white-walled office, fearfully took on ferocious new meaning. I am carrying a wonder inside me, yes. But inseparable from that wonder is fear. Fear about what could happen if something is amiss with just one of the 46 chromosomes. Fear about the ramifications if this baby enters the world too soon. Fear about how fragile life is for all of us, but especially for someone who is currently only about one pound.
This baby is, even now, being masterfully and tenderly knit together by the Creator himself. In the meantime, I need to know: How can I hold on to both the fear and the wonder? I don’t want to revel in the wonder alone and deny the legitimate fear. And I don’t want to let the fear eclipse the wonder altogether. So somehow I need to find a way to embrace both at once.
It’s a risk, this business of loving someone. But isn’t that part of what it means to be made in the image of the Creator who knit us together? He knows full well our frailties and weaknesses and humanness. And yet he loves his children with abandon. To love is to risk being hurt. But it’s worth the risk.
As we wait in the unknown these next four months, I wouldn’t choose any other way than the bumpy road of love. Even if it means that our hells and our heavens, our fears and our wonders, are separated by mere inches.
To love at all is to be vulnerable.
C. S. Lewis
Jenny Caterer says
Thank you for pouring out the raw emotions of your heart so beautifully. Praying with you, my friend. Love you!
Thank you, my friend! I’m believing for you too.
With you in the “mean time” of awaiting your next divine assignment. My love to you and Daniel…I want to hug you right now.
What a gift to have you wait with me in the meantime, Cheryl!
I LOVE THAT BABY! And I love you two too! 🙂
Can’t wait to meet him/her – what a greatly-anticipated miracle, already loved and cherished!
I’m so glad I got to see you and double-rejoice!
Thank you for sharing and trusting us to be praying along with you and Daniel. We love all three of you!
Thanks for all your support, Donna!
I love you Stephanie and will be prayerfully waiting with you.
Thanks for your loyal support, Aimee!
You are loved my friend. Praying daily for your and the baby’s health. Can’t wait to meet this sweet and miraculous gift!
Thanks for the love and the prayers, Kristen!
Thank you for sharing your heart Stephanie. We are praying for the 3 of you during this time of waiting. Love and hugs to you! 🙂
Beautifully expressed. Love and prayers x 1000.
Thanks, dear friend.
Barbara Erickson says
I know that God has the 3 of you wrapped in his love and protection along with your joy and fears. Praying for all 3 of you along with everyone who loves you. You are not alone!
Sending many hugs and much LOVE!!
Thank you, from the 3 of us, Barb!
Alice M. M. Teisan says
Stephanie, you have portrayed love in such a profound way. The lifelong journey that so forms our character as we travel from glory to glory–how to hold fear and joy together–not denying the one and clinging to the other, but balancing them both in the balance of God’s Sovereignty. I’m praying for Big D and S and for Tiny R.
Thank you, AT, from the two bigs and one tiny!
You are, as always, true, through and through, Stephanie.
Your willingness to let us see what real life is as a Christian, with all the uncertainty yet unwavering trust, is something I can cling onto when going through my own challenges. Thanks for so beautifully showing us how we can choose to live when life surprises us. God’s never surprised and we know he is preparing you and Daniel to meet and parent your perfect little boy or girl. To God be the glory, forever and ever and through your new baby.
Thank you for the reminder that God is never surprised!
Beautiful and true. I love you and your sweet baby! Praying and waiting with confident expectation.
Thanks, my faithful friend.
Linda MacKillop says
I’ve always loved that song by Rich Mullins, and how beautifully it applies here and now for you and Daniel. Praying for you both as He ushers you into this new part of your story. You will be wonderful parents. And your baby is fearfully and wonderfully made and greatly loved.
Thanks for the reminder that this is all part of the story God is writing!
Rhonda O'Brien says
Thank you, Stephanie, for sharing your life so beautifully and honestly. It is a privilege to join you, Daniel and so many others before His throne.
Thank you for your prayers, Rhonda! So grateful.
Patti Christopherson says
Thank you so much for your honesty, and putting to words that struggle we all understand of the profound risk of loving. Please know I will be praying for you and your sweet baby as you wait, that you will sense God holding you and your family close and that He will provide for, comfort and equip you for whatever lies ahead.
If you ever need a listening ear, I’ll have the coffee ready and a plate of cookies for you.
Love and hugs to you today❤
Oh, thank you, Patti! Coffee, cookies, and prayer–that sounds like an ideal combo! 🙂
You are truly a gem, Stephanie. Our collective hearts are both thrilled and worried for you as well. Thank you for sharing your heart and your journey.
Thanks so much, Todd. All three of us feel super loved!
Sharon Kettinger says
Thank you for sharing your heart in such a beautiful way. It takes me back almost 29 years when we discovered I was pregnant. We were thrilled yet fearful because of our ages. God gave me Revelation 4:11 to calm those feelings, showing me our baby is to be for His pleasure. Fear once again gripped me when closer to my due date, an ultrasound revealed there would be challenges. Looking back, we see how God has truly used B.J. to bring Him glory and has also blessed us with joy in the process. Be assured of our prayers- and congratulations!
Yes, B.J. shines God’s light in beautiful ways–and so do you and Burt as his parents! Thanks for setting such a wonderful example for us. I will cling to that verse too.
Kathy B. says
You put into words what can’t be put into words – but you did. May God’s loving embrace hold you all in grace and hope. God bless this precious new life, and you and Daniel. You are all so deeply loved.
Thank you, Kathy–God has been loving us well through so many people!
Have courage. Keep hope. Ask for miracles. I’ll be praying….
Thank you for the prayers, Becki!
Praying for you all my sweet friends…
Thank you for the prayers, my friend!
Tammie S. says
Stephanie, You so beautifully expressed the beauty and challenges of life here on earth and our great need for Our Father. Praying for you, Daniel and this precious little miracle God has placed within you. Trusting that His plans are perfect. We love you!
Yes, His plans are perfect! Thanks for the reminder and the prayers, Tammie.
Oh sweet friend. I heard your baby’s heartbeat in every line of this post. Covering you in prayers for your miracle.
PS Whitney told me to tell you that God’s got this.
Whitney would know! Thanks to your whole precious family. Baby just kicked a little when I read your words!
Kristen Joy Wilks says
I have been praying that this great gift would be yours. When you mentioned a hope for the year, I just knew what it was. I have been hoping for you and now I am hurting for you too and yet still hoping all the more. You are right. Bask in the joy and do not turn aside from the deep waters of sorrow. Even without disturbing medical news, to love is to hurt but it is well worth the effort. Hang in there, so many are praying for you. I’m so sorry and I’m so glad.
Psalm 56:8–“Record my lament; list my tears on Your scroll–are they not in your record?”
This was my mother’s postpartum depression verse that she passed on to me and I will pass onto you–Psalm 63:8–“My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.”
What beautiful verses to cling to, Kristen. Thank you for the kind note and prayers.
May the Lord calm your heart and give you grace to embrace both and wait patiently for Him! Congratulations that you already are carrying a life. Its a privilege.
Thank you, Maggie! Grace for each day.
Tracy B says
Prayerfully trusting with you guys the One who knows full well… xoxo
Thanks for the reminder, Tracy–he knows!
Jennifer Leavell says
Oh my heart….Stephanie…..my Joy collided with my greatest Fear last year…..many sleepless nights described in great part by this quote “My weary heart aches in the night to remember the truths of God and His great mercy in my life.” Kara Tippetts
I will be standing in the gap praying for those sleepless nights and for that sweet child you are carrying. Congratulations on your soon to be entrance to motherhood!
Jenn Leavell (friends of Pat Feldake)
Thank you for the beautiful words, Jenn! I am praying for comfort and grace for you as you are no doubt still reeling from your own collision of joy and fear.
I read your book at a time when I really needed it in my life and I am forever grateful for that! I am now in a healthy relationship (YEAH!) and while it is still new (only 5 months along) I also needed to hear this message today.
Thank you for opening up and sharing with your readers. Please know you, Daniel and baby R are in my prayers.
Katie! Thanks for letting me know my book found you at the right time. May God bless you in this relationship! Rejoicing with you.
Your beautiful words are so eloquent as you describe this blend of anticipation of both wonder and concern. Praying for your little family as you navigate these next few months. I’m right now with our dear little one who has had a rough go from the start. The highs and lows continue to come together as you describe so clearly. Your wisdom is evident as you choose not to miss the joy because of the potential challenges. Praying.
Thank you for the kind words, Sandy! I don’t see you much, but you encourage me every time our paths cross.
Stephanie, your words are so beautiful . Just like your heart and that sweet baby inside you. I know all will be well because God is in control. I’ll be praying with and for you, Daniel and baby Rische. In the meantime, I’m going to try to focus on the wonder and excitement and try to hold the fear off. My sister said there’s no point to the worry before you know. It steals your joy now for no good reason. She didn’t always succeed, but she was right. Hope you can hang on to the joy of this beautiful new life you’re carrying.
That is such good advice, Nancy. You have walked the road of joy and fear, and you’ve come out stronger on the other side.
My love and prayers are with all three of you during the time of waiting fearfully full of joy. One of the verses I have clung to over the years has been when Paul says, in 2 Corinthians 6:10, that we are sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. It seems like such a dichotomy to those that don’t know Christ but it has proven itself true so often for me.
Such a perfect verse, Sally! You have walked this road and you are a hero to me. I’ve written down that verse to look at daily!
Praying for the 3 of you! God is good — all the time.
All the time, God is good!
Maggie R says
Stephanie, I just read your post aloud to Mike as we are returning from our trip. We are doing his Mother’s Day sermon as a joint message this year. May we have permission to quote you? The request comes with our love and continual prayers for all three of you. ” The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight. “
I would be honored to have you share any part of this, Maggie. Thanks for your faithful prayers in so many seasons of my life!
“I know your able and I know you can to save through the fire with your mighty hand but even if you don’t my hope’s in You alone.” Mercy Me Even If.
God is our refuge and our hope in times of good and times of trouble. He is what we will cling to and who is worthy of all the glory. Blessings and love to you and Daniel, and baby too!
Thank you, Nancy! What great words to hang on to!
Predictable from me:
Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure
By the cross are sanctified
Peace is there that knows no measure,
Joys that through all time abide.
(“In the Cross of Christ I Glory,” st. 4)
No better place to see you than at CROSS today. <3
It was SO great to catch up! Thanks for sharing your wise words (and the good words from a hymn).
Sweet friend, my heart resonates with the tension of the wonder/joy colliding with fear/pain.
And with these many beautiful words and truths and reminders of God’s love & goodness. May you, Daniel, and precious Baby R feel and know deeply that you are held and loved, just as you are holding and loving the exquisite life growing inside you. Praying for health & wholeness, for comfort and strength ❤️
What a beautiful perspective–that God will hold us as I’m holding this baby. Thank you, Brooke!