God hid us in the shadow of His wings when we could not see ahead, felt as though we could barely breathe, longed to feel Him near. His shadow carried us through. His Word around us, prayers encircling us. He was enough. He is enough. In His shadow we could not see beyond and we needed not. Oh, my worries and anxious heart pawed to get out, time and again. But the more we listened to His word, were uplifted in prayer, the more surrender we felt. It is said Eric Liddell's last words before dying in a Chinese internment camp were, "It's complete surrender." Enoch Jonathan Liddell Shupe . . . we had only decided on his middle name seven days earlier.
Seven days earlier, on December 14, our baby was born. A day we will never forget...want never to forget...need never to forget and need to proclaim!
We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.
...that the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments...
Psalm 78:4. 6-7
And so we with feeble and humble words long to share with all, the kindness of God to us this Christmas season. We celebrate Christ first coming to us, and we celebrate even more Christ now with us. God dwells with us, the lowly, the uncertain, the fearful, the doubting, the proud, the hurting. Oh blessed thought, He leadeth me . . . even me.
Last Monday - the snow drifts thick in our yard, the wind howls, and squalls of white surround our house throughout the day. My phone rings mid-morning. My beloved is stuck in the middle of the road with a four-wheel drive pick-up with mud tires waiting for a dear brother to come pull him out. "Seriously, you should see this drift. It must be three hundred feet long down the road."
My mind cannot even picture this. Perhaps it's clouded, grateful we made it through the night still with power. Grateful baby didn't come Sunday night, my due date. The weather horrible, the timing just not seeming right.
"Not sure if they're contractions or not, but I've been feeling some tightness in my back and front and a little crampy this morning," I respond to Jonathan. I ask what time he might be home for lunch, and he's not sure he'll be able to get home. Brrr, sweet husband! He works so hard.
Abraham and I carry on with our day, cleaning house, washing screens...wondering, "could I be nesting? Is this really it?"
By evening I'm tiptoe-ing across house and rocking back and forth at counter and trying doing Bradley method pelvic rocks through these moments of tightness. I call Jonathan back. "Um, I think something really might be going on here..."
I'm still too uncertain to call it out, not wanting to tell my husband I'm in labor unless I'm really, really sure I am. I listen to the story of his day...
Stuck 3 times in the middle of roads with a 4-wheel drive pick-up
cattle out 3 times (once can be exhausting)
cattle found 1.5 miles down the road at one point
hours of running chasing cattle
wind and snow feeling like a continual facewash
hauling feed, a 45 minute-1 hour job has taken over 10 hours
came upon a car stuck in road 3 feet up on a snow bank
driving through snow alley next to the car so tight pick-up rubbed on both sides
three times snow up under hood, knocking fan belt off each time
I also know the unsaid of his day, how this dairyman has been up since 0430 as usual. Today with just a small breakfast and no lunch. Later he tells me this was his hardest day of work in probably a couple of years. This man, my man, my coach for this whole thing called labor...could this really be happening? My heart sinks at how exhausted he must be. How is this ever going to work?
Between 8 and 9pm Abraham and I watch Uncle David plow out our driveway with the neighbor's huge loader. Thank you, Lord. I'm dancing around the counter every 3 minutes now and have been for quite awhile as Abraham waves outside. We call Daddy to see if maybe it's him in the loader? It's 2115 or 9:15pm and I tell him what my heart is fearing..."Um, I'm having a real hard time relaxing."
His response is brief, he sounds exhausted and still unsure when he'll get home. I try to pack up a few last minute things. I'm feeling like I can't do this.
Thirty minutes later J gets home. He looks at me and knows. I'm tearful. "Angela, you've got to relax."
I know this. It is one of the two key things our Bradley teacher worked on us with. Hadn't she said, "you guys need to be practicing relaxing every day..." We both know we've failed at this part of the preparation.
My fears spill out. "Jonathan you're so tired, how is this possibly going to work?"
Sweet husband rebukes this fear and replaces it with strength. He will be there for me and God will carry us through this. The joy of the Lord is our strength. He will not give us more than we can handle.
A quick shower, then Jonathan takes Abraham to bed while I try to take a shower to relax. I try a heating pad, laying down, abdominal breathing, walking, sitting...after about an hour I wake Jonathan up. "I need help, babe."
And oh the next hours. Pain. Yes. Intense. Oh yes. My coach? Awesome. God's peace? Surrounds us. My fears of Jonathan being too exhausted to coach me are completely gone.
We keep the house dimly lit. Contractions continue to be less than 3 minutes apart. We aren't timing them, they just are close together. I call close friends and ask them to pray. So blessed to know their care and response.
Jonathan tries a paint roller on my back, dry and fluffy of course:). It helps briefly. We try our relaxation techniques. Laying on my side is not working like it did during pregnancy! I try sitting back, and the pressure on my tailbone is tremendous. I thought something was supposed to be comfortable...oh dear.
Jonathan works patiently over and over again to help me let go during the contractions. Leaning onto him become one of my best labor positions.
Time goes by and I'm beginning to feel like I can't handle much more of the pain. He reminds me pain is good. Contractions bring the baby out. I sound silly but say whatever I can outloud. "I don't want to have an epidural. I want to see this baby. I want to have this baby naturally. I don't want to have a C-section."
Jonathan tells me later this is where I started saying crazy things to him:). For some reason saying it and having J reaffirm this is encouraging.
I pray over and over again for courage. And then for mercy. Oh the pain is so much. And when I think how could I do this for hours and hours more, I begin to feel sweaty and my legs tremor. Could this really be transition? Again, I'm afraid to say anything to Jonathan...to call it out. What if I'm wrong?
And then J hears me groan. I actually feel the urge to push. Secretly I am thrilled. I never felt this with Abraham. Jonathan is concerned. He asks me multiple times over the next few contractions, "Do you feel like you want to push or you have to push?" He remembers how I pushed without the urge with Abraham and wore out after a couple hours.
I honestly don't get it and logic has never been my strength. No answer from me for a few minutes until I finally say, "both!"
Jonathan takes a deep breath, "well I guess we're committed now." :) The normally 1 hour now 2 hour if passable drive to our hospital had been a question on our minds. We weren't sure how we'd even get there with the speed and intensity of my contractions and the snowstorm. We had prayed for direction and over and over God's peace surrounded us at home. Home and Jonathan delivering this little one felt absolutely right, a crazy long and uncertain drive to the hospital seemed out of the question.
And so after squatting and pushing through those early morning hours we were blessed to meet our sweet baby for the first time in his home, his Daddy telling me it's a boy, and his Mama scooping his precious body up into her arms. Words cannot describe what an amazing experience his birth was. Overwhelmingly we experienced God's kindness, mercy, direction and peace. Thank you friends who prayed. Over and over God answered prayers. . . from Abraham staying asleep through the delivery to the afterbirth coming 5 seconds after praying, after hours of waiting. We look back on the last two weeks and breathe deep, feeling His kindness and mercy in all that has passed over us.
My man, my awesome coach, holding his new little boy