In this blog post, I would like to recount the journey my family and I have been walking for the last two months, specifically the birth of our son. I hope this story will help you to place greater trust in Jesus.
An Unexpected Journey
When Amanda and I were dating and deciding whether God was calling us to marriage, one of the first questions we asked was, “How many children to you want?” This is an important decision for family life and the future. I had one sibling and she had two, so we, in predictable fashion landed on a desire to have 2-3 kids.
Fast forward several years. After being married a year and a half we got pregnant almost immediately with our daughter, Jenna. I still remember the day she was born—tears streamed down my face when I saw her for the first time. While my desire initially had been for a son, I was instantly in love with my daughter. “Daddy’s little girl” had an emotional resonance I never expected.
After Jenna turned one, we started trying for our second child. Unfortunately, this time around would not go as smoothly, or quickly, as the first. It took two years and several miscarriages before we discovered we were pregnant with our son, Josiah. This was the answer to our prayers after many nights of praying though tears and a prophetic word from a good friend. We quickly secured an OB who could take an ultrasound a six weeks—We discovered a heartbeat! Once this is discovered the risk of miscarriage drops significantly. It seemed our prayers had finally been answered.
The Friday before Christmas, 2019, we went for our 12-week ultrasound and received the news that our son might have some genetic abnormalities. While nothing is certain in early ultrasounds, we still felt shaken and unsettled. Little did we know that this would be the beginning of a long and unexpected journey with much uncertainty. Each successive ultrasound raised more questions than it answered; visits with genetic counselors proved inconclusive; only one time did we leave a follow up ultrasound without crying.
Through the midst of it all we meditated upon passages like John 9:1-3 and Psalm 46. With no clear answers, we weren’t sure what we would be facing—but we resolved that no matter the outcome we would love this baby.
A Surprise Birth
What seemed apparent from the ultrasounds was that Josiah had some kind of skeletal anomalies effecting his chin, hands and right leg. “What did that mean,” we asked? The doctors couldn’t be sure. In the meantime, we prayed for a miracle and prepared for the physical challenges that might lie ahead.
On June 5, 2020, we received another surprise. Amanda woke up that day without feeling Josiah move. The doctor immediately sent us to the hospital to be monitored. At the time, we didn’t think much would come of this but it turned out that Josiah had developed a very serious condition called, “hydrops,” where fluid dangerously fills the abdomen. After getting over the initial shock and fear, Amanda was rushed to the operating room for an immediate caesarian section. Josiah was born at 3:30pm.
The team of NICU doctors worked to stabilize him for about 20-30 minutes. The fluid had filled around his lungs making it difficult for him to breath. I am not exaggerating when I say that had we not been prompted to got to the hospital when we did, it’s likely he would have perished in utero. When I saw him for the first time, my heart broke because I still wasn’t sure he was going to live. The doctors worked on him tirelessly overnight—they put him on an oscillating (high pressure) ventilator and gave him a blood transfusion. Still, the next morning the doctor came in and told us he was not sure he was going to make it.
We had another night of tears as our minds drifted towards funerals and moving towards adoption. We wondered, “Lord, have all our prayers led us to this moment? Has our love for this child and our obedience to you led us to a funeral?” Amanda posted a poignant video on our Facebook page admitting that we weren’t sure he was coming home. In her wisdom, she said, “We are going to love him and enjoy him with whatever time we have.”
No Easy Answers
It was during this time that our family and friends courageously and faithfully cried out to the Lord for Josiah. In a show of support and solidarity, 30 people even came to the hospital parking lot to pray for him that second day—an image I will never forget. Words of a popular worship song echoed through their prayers and our minds, “Way maker, miracle worker, promise keeper, light in the darkness—my God, that is who you are!”
Later that day we received word that Josiah, surprising the doctors, was doing significantly better! They moved him to a regular ventilator (A step up for his breathing), and they told us he was going to make it. Our miracle working God had put breath into the lungs of our son! As the weeks and months have now gone by, he has steadily improved each day by gaining weight, growing stronger, and passing a variety of tests. These have been evidence of God’s grace in our lives, and the life of Josiah.
At the same time, there have been setbacks and unanswered questions. Josiah still appears to need blood transfusions and he has hit a wall with his breathing that has confounded the doctors. All the genetic tests have come back negative. We still don’t know have a diagnosis for our son 7 weeks after his birth.
Compounding this issue is the reality of living and, for me, fathering in a pandemic. Visitor restrictions for the hospital have been very discouraging, daily trips to the hospital are becoming tiresome, and Jenna still has not met her baby brother. All we want is for our son to come home—but there does not seem to be easy answers.
The Name of An Evangelist
What I have just chronicled is likely the beginning of our journey with Josiah. We don’t know what is coming next—and we certainly don’t know what the long term will look like. We are taking one day at a time. What I do know is that the Lord, in his sovereignty and grace is using Josiah to bring him glory. Josiah’s story is being shared through social media, in the hospital, and by word of mouth through friends and family.
When we were choosing his name, we settled on Josiah, because he was one of the only good kings in the Old Testament book of 2 Kings. There is also a mission organization named, “Josiah’s Venture.” On their website they explain why they chose that name: “King Josiah began seeking God at age 16. By the time he was 26, God had used Josiah to bring revival to the land, rebuild the house of God, and restore the Word of God to its central place (2 Chr. 34). Central and Eastern Europe desperately needs its own Josiahs, young men and women who lead the way spiritually, as this young king did.” It is not just Europe that needs Jesus, but all those in our lives who are far from God. Our hope, our prayer was that God would use our Josiah to make an impact in this deeply divided world for the Gospel. He already is. A dear member of our congregation recently wrote us a kind letter and said that Josiah “had the name of an evangelist.” It’s a good name—and it points to a good God.
Trust In The Lord?
For our part, God has been calling us to press into the real meaning of Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart… and lean not on your own understanding.” Now, I have read that verse many, many times. I have that verse memorized. I have preached that verse. In this moment… I need to believe that verse. Walking through this pregnancy and birth in the midst of this pandemic has easily been one of the greatest challenges of my life. What does it meant to be a father and love both my daughter and my son in this moment? Jesus says, “Trust me… not yourself. Trust me… not yourself.” And that is hard because I have such a proclivity to trust in my own understanding and my own ability to gain knowledge.
I’m not sure what your experience has been in moments like these. For me, the Lord is taking a scalpel to my heart and cutting away the dross of unbelief. He says to me, “Don’t you remember that every time you’ve encountered a challenge I have been there? Every time you weren’t sure how you were going to pay that bill, or meet that need… I was there and I provided?” God is bigger than all the giants in our lives.
“I Will Be With You.”
And so, I will leave you with a thought from Exodus today. As I have been reading through this magnificent book for my devotional times, I am reminded of God—the rescuer. Of God—the miracle worker. But he doesn’t often work in the timelines that we expect. The Israelites were in captivity for 400 years. They walked through a long, painful season. The moment seemed to continue forever when we read this: “During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them. (Exodus 2:23-25)”
Then, after what seemed like forever, God appears in a burning bush to Moses and calls him to intervene. God says he wants to rescue his people and bring them to a land flowing with milk and honey. But Moses is afraid. What does God say?
“I will be with you (Exodus 3:12).”
I don’t know what path you are walking today—but I do know that God wants to walk with you. For my family, I can resonate with the Israelites—not in the sense of their slavery, but in the waiting period. In the pain. And in our moment of need, our God, our Savior whispers in our ears, “I will be with you.”
After all, didn’t Jesus himself go to a cross for us? He went in our place, to die for our sins… and he left us a helper to guide through this life’s challenges until one day we will be with him in a renewed heaven and earth. One day, there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain… for the old order of things has passed away. Come, Lord Jesus.