Take Away from My Terrible, Horrible, No Good…Wonderful Birth Story

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I had a horrible birth experience this time around. My doctor decided last second not to deliver our baby. The moment I stepped inside the hospital an announcement went around for all nurses, doctors, residents and janitors to grab their needles and come take a stab at my unyielding veins. My blood pressure dropped dramatically and nurses had a hard time pulling it back up. For twenty-four hours doctor after doctor warned us that this “abnormally large” baby would tear me to pieces, come out with broken shoulders, or die. Die. I got a spinal headache from the epidural that made me pass in and out of consciousness during actual delivery. The blood patch to fix the spinal headache failed.

Ben and I had never been so emotionally wrecked in our lives.

But thankfully, Elizabeth Grace came perfectly at 12:24pm, weighing at a not-so-abnormally-large 9.2 pounds.

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The spinal headache, however, continued on. Day after day I stared up at the ceiling, painfully unable to lift my head a mere ten degrees. Unable to look down at my baby. Hardly managing the excruciating pain of walking to the bathroom. Worst of all, though, was the fear.

What if I was the anomaly who never got better? What if I was the anomaly who went blind from the spinal fluid that I felt leaking into areas of my body it should never be? After all, I was that 1% who got a spinal headache and I was that 10% with a failed blood patch. Why not be that girl who went blind? Why not be that girl who tried the blood patch a second time and got paralyzed? Who never got better?

In the solitude of my sick bed, fears like this surrounded me, sucking away my hope and joy.

In desperation, I sent my first Facebook request asking for prayers, and wept to the ceiling as the responses flooded in. Prayers came. Calls came. Texts came. People came. So many wonderful meals came. And I got better.

I learned at least one deep lesson from everything: to never ever make light of the power of encouragement or the sweetness of community. We need each other. I tend to forget that when life is full and busy and I’m running around as a happy, healthy mom.

We need each other.

I will strive to remember others, whether by quick text or intricate deed, because I was changed by the kindness of others. I was given hope and love when I needed it most. And thatnot the to-do lists and dishes— is what life is really about.

                “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” Matthew 25:34-40

                Blessings,

Melissa Ferguson

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happy daddy!

 

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Sitting up a bit at about two weeks

A Snowy Day Devos


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Moments ago I stood beneath the shelter of my front porch, holding a cup of steaming coffee and watching the flurries drift onto the white canopy around me. There’s something beautiful in the silence and crisp air filling my lungs. Of course, everyone knows this. People across the country aren’t eagerly stepping out of the comfort of their own living rooms to get their feet cold and wet if it wasn’t a fairly universal feeling. There’s just something ethereal in seeing everything—from patches of dead grass to cars in driveways—covered up in delicate white.

But, and here perhaps I’m some depressing anomaly, whenever I stand around in 18-degree weather I also feel a sudden pang and worry, for what is so beautiful about winter is also deadly. What about that homeless man who always sits outside the bagel store? Did he find shelter last night? What about the children in the World Vision catalog from Mongolia, all huddled beside a fabric tent with snow piled high around them? Suddenly that crisp air able to sweep so quickly into my lungs makes me feel desperate.

Both perfect beauty—the content of a hundred jingles around the holidays—and perilous content in one single flurry. I don’t know what to do with the dichotomy of feeling equally so happy and sad.

Then, however, I shut the door and sat back on the sofa, recognizing something as I read the most stirring poem from 16th century poet, Robert Southwell:

 

This little babe, so few days old,

Is come to rifle Satan’s fold;

All hell doth at his presence quake.

Though he himself for cold do shake,

For in this weak unarmèd wise

The gates of hell he will surprise.

 

With tears he fights, and wins the field,

His naked breast stands for a shield.

His battering shot are babish cries,

His arrows made of weeping eyes.

His martial ensigns cold and need,

And feeble flesh his warrior’s steed.

 

(Read it in entirety here! Seriously…go read it.)

What similarity!

When we really think about it, we Christians seem pretty crazy. We gather on Sunday mornings, banging on piano and drums to sing merrily about things so gory and gruesome it would sound like insanity were it not so familiar. Imagine if we went Message version on the words to some of these traditional songs and everyone sang in unison:

Oh, the wonderful electric chair!

Oh, the wonderful electric chair!

Wants me to come and be fried,

To find that I, can truly live!

Tag on smiling old men and women wearing gold electric chairs necklaces as they shake your hand during greeting time and how quickly we would run away from that place, eh?

But the reality is that Christianity as a whole is this dichotomy of gruesome and incredible. Of absolutely terrifying and positively enticing. Of horrifying and exactly all that I need.

I would never wish for the snow to cease existing; I just would like to live in a world where people never suffered. Likewise, I hate everything about Jesus’ willing sacrifice of undue shame, abandonment, whips, glass, nails, and broken bones. I wish there had been some other way. But if His tears are what “won the field” and gained victory, then alleluia. May snow fall and praises ring.

Blessings and Merry Flurrying,

Melissa Ferguson

P.S. If you’d like to pitch in and protect children and families from frostbite, hypothermia, influenza, pneumonia, and death, consider providing clothing and shelter by clicking here: worldvision.org.

 

And some verses for our snow day…

Praise the Lord from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,
lightning and hail, snow and clouds,
stormy winds that do his bidding,
you mountains and all hills…

Psalm 148

Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Psalm 51

“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.

Isaiah 1

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
 Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

 As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
 You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.”

Isaiah 55:6-13

 

My Absurd Encounter With Racism…At a Bible Study

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The worst I expected to encounter at the Bible study in a very normal, faithful, non-insane church was that the burnt coffee in its small Styrofoam cup, packed with a tablespoon of non-dairy creamer (which always is bad and yet somehow I’m always drawn to it), would taste exactly as I imagined. And yet I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The study was going splendidly at first. Sure, I was one of the youngest in the room of thirty or so seasoned Christians, but there is something great about hearing from those who’ve been through wars, depressions, loss of loved ones, and the trials of life and still come out with faith stronger than steel.

We were going over Hebrews 2:6-8, which says,

“What is mankind that you are mindful of them,

A son of man that you care for him?

You made them a little lower than the angels:

You crowned them with glory and honor

And put everything under their feet.”

 

Then the crazytown came out. The man beside me spoke up.

“Well,” he said, spreading his arm out, “as you can see by this group here, we are all studying the Bible. And as you see, we are all white. Doesn’t that mean something, that we should also be rulers, you know…over all the black people?”

My jaw couldn’t have dropped farther toward the ground. Inconceivable. Not only did his conclusion have nothing to do with the passage, he was actually stating that because there were a few people in this specific room who happened to be Caucasian, the whole world would be run by Caucasian people forever.

Then to my utter disbelief a woman at the front spoke up and said, “Yes. The curse for the black man came at the Tower of Babel. That was when they were cursed.”

What????

My eyes shot to the poor teacher who was fumbling for words against these monumental, utterly false statements that had nothing to do with the passages referenced. How do you begin to reason with someone whose logic is so far gone? Where would she begin? But the teacher managed to pull together some semblance of order and correct, at least to a small degree, both participants of their error.

BUT THEN ten minutes later a third woman said apologetically, “I’m sorry. I think my husband got confused a few minutes ago because I was reading Genesis and told him that God must’ve blessed the white people because they have all the territories on the earth.”

At this point, my body was confusedly trying to figure out whether to punch the elderly man and his wife next to me (not a healthy thing to do, I know), stand on the table and start preaching, or walk out in protest. I mean…not just one crazy person with completely ill-formed interpretations, not just two, but three? And daring to use the Bible as a reference for their preposterous opinions?

Thankfully the teacher spouted out a few good verses of truth. In the end I didn’t take to acts of violence or walk to my car in protest. I didn’t have to speak up (though I would’ve had she not done such a good job herself). The man, at least, made another comment suggesting he was starting to get that racism wasn’t biblical, and the study finished.

As I drove home, however, I couldn’t help thinking about all the things I wanted to say. As I turned on NPR and heard a white supremacist using eloquent speech to so wrongly state that Caucasian people are the real family of America and African Americans are simply outsiders, I thought of all the things I wanted to say. Today when I pushed my grocery cart past a sweet, 6-year-old African American boy and his Caucasian mother I thought of all the things I wanted to say.

And I suppose in a few words it comes down to this: The white people are not God’s privileged.

Jesus wasn’t white. The Israelites, God’s original chosen people, were not white. Contrary to what several of my former students erroneously quoted on a quiz, Jesus did not at all look like:

“He is a tall man, well shaped and of an amiable and reverend aspect; his hair is of a color that can hardly be matched, falling into graceful curls… his cheeks without spot or wrinkle, beautiful with a lovely red; his nose and mouth formed with exquisite symmetry; his beard, and of a color suitable to his hair, reaching below his chin and parted in the middle like a fork; his eyes bright blue, clear and serene…

(Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew, p86)

Copy of Not Jesus

No, Jesus didn’t look like a white American. He didn’t have those blue serene eyes. His hair wasn’t long and curling like a girl at prom. For a good article on what Jesus did look like, see: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-35120965

And you know what? We who happen to be Caucasian need to be thankful that God doesn’t show favoritism, that He graciously grafted in the Gentile, and as Peter stated:

“I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the person who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him. (Acts 10:34-35)

We should be glad that one day those from “every nation, tribe, people, and language [will] stand before the throne…” (Revelation 7:9).

We should rejoice because, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

 

Blessings,

Melissa Ferguson