Walking through the woods at twilight

*Photos here of my gorgeous twin nieces, Kaitlynn & Jessica*

I love babies. If I could, I would have about twelve of my own. (I would also probably be clinically insane when the 12th child hit age 3, if not before) But every pregnancy leeched a little more life out of me, and, during my pregnancy with Caleb, the heart condition that I'd been free from for seven years came back with a vengeance. I was on my knees nightly praying to somehow survive the delivery. And I did.

We researched long-term methods of pregnancy prevention, and scheduled a tubal ligation to take place the day after Caleb was born. There was trepidation sitting like a stone in my belly that morning, and despite reassurance from my mom and my husband, I canceled the surgery. Yet we didn't have peace with not doing something. So two months later I submitted to the surgeon's scalpel and had my tubes "tied".

At the physical for the surgery, the tumor on my thyroid was found. A month after the surgery, I was facing radiation for cancer and told that the hormones of pregnancy had rocketed my cancer into high gear. It seemed like a perfect dovetail of providence that my tubes were already tied and pregnancy was not possible in the future.

Except it is God who writes our story, and sometimes no matter what we do, He writes in a little twist, a little surprise ending, a little mystery.

Just to remind me that I am not in control of my own destiny. Nor that of my children. I do not know the day I will die. I do not know how many children I will have. I do not know their life stories any more than I can figure out my past, present, and future.

In November, 2009, just as Amelia was released from the hospital and needed full-time care - help walking, eating, dressing, sleeping, speaking - the miracle baby I carried inside grew so large in the tiny tube meant only to carry it to it's growing place in my uterus that I was rushed into emergency surgery, bleeding and crushed. I remember that morning, desperately calling every pro-life obstetrician I could find in the U.S. to try to find out if my baby was still alive. Fear gripped my throat like an invisible vise: what if I killed my baby to save my own life?

I finally got the answer. My baby was already in heaven with Jesus. It seemed odd that something so small - measuring 2 inches in total length, could rock our world so. The kids were grief-stricken. We were juggling Amy's hospitalizations and needs with my own recovery from surgery and the inevitable post-surgery complications. It seemed like our world had quit spinning, and we were deep in survival mode. When the doctors opened me up to take Theodore out of my body, they took parts of each of my tubes as well, so that I would never, ever have to face this possibility again - this risk. This loss.

Except God is still in control. I don't know the details of our latest mystery. But in January I began to suspect I might be pregnant. I spent hours in secret researching the effects of recent radioactive iodine on a new pregnancy. I retraced my steps of 2009, reading about odds of survival of an ectopic pregnancy, and renewing my knowledge of expectant management (versus early abortion). Yet that positive pregnancy test quickly turned to negative. I waited for the abdominal pain that would signal another emergency, but it never came. Lab tests showed my pregnancy hormones had gone down to zero. Not only would there be no baby - there would be no answer, no window into the mysteries wrought inside by a God who knows all.

Do we live this way always? Half in shadow? I watch other people walk through days with purpose. Like they know where they're going, how they're getting there, and what to do once they arrive. I feel less certain, these days. It's kind of like walking through the woods at twilight. The trees are still there. The birds are singing their night songs. Light filters through, but you pick up your feet slowly, linger through the trees, feel for the path. He says that I will hear Him whispering from behind, "This is the way. Walk in it." (Isaiah 30:20)

What's missing is why.

What's missing is the end of the story.

Life is not a book you can flip to the back page and see how it turns out.

It's a journey, a voyage, a wandering through the woods in twilight.

But life is never traversed alone.

I've seen the lightning flashing,
I've heard the thunder roll.
I've felt sin's breakers dashing,
which almost conquered my soul.
I've heard the voice of my Savior,
bidding me still to fight on.
He promised never to leave me,
never to leave me alone.

The world's fierce winds are blowing,
temptation sharp and keen.
I have a peace in knowing
my Savior stands between.
He stands to shield me from danger
when my friends are all gone.
He promised never to leave me,
never to leave me alone.

~ from Never Alone, Ludie Pickett, 1897 ~