Do you ever dream of warping back to your teenage years? So many people I know have talked longingly about all those “wonderful” times. And inevitably they’ll ask me: “Wouldn’t you like to go back? Everything was just so easy then.”
Don’t even have to think about the answer to that one: “Nope – would never want to. Unless I could bring back with me all the knowledge I have now.”
Because life during my teenage years certainly wasn’t easy!
My sister and I weren’t raised in a Christian home. There was a lot of arguing, and it seemed as though I could never do anything right in mother’s eyes. I guess that was one reason I always felt closer to my dad.
But one day our lives changed drastically when dad came home from his job, and stated he had been laid off. He started changing a lot after that. He began withdrawing from us more and more; and then one day he suffered a mental breakdown and was admitted to a hospital psyche ward. He was there for about a week, then got access to the ward keys one day and took off. He just plain disappeared. No one at the hospital could find him. He seemed to have vanished into thin air.
I never saw him again…
That tore me apart, and thus began my rebellion years. I, of course, blamed it all on mom – it was her fault, no doubt about it! If she hadn’t been yelling at him all the time this never would have happened!
I began skipping classes at school, drinking heavily, and doing drugs (among other things). Nothing seemed to matter anymore. And, when I was 17 years-old, I dropped out of school and got a job at a local pancake house.
Life actually was a lot better after that, at least for awhile. But then I got pregnant by one of the guys I worked with. We were living together at the time, but since neither one of us were ready for marriage we arranged for an abortion. After all, it wasn’t really a baby yet, right? Such was our thought process at the time.
About a year later we did get married, and I ended up getting pregnant again. This time we were ready. But something happened in my fifth month, and I ended up going into premature labor. I delivered the baby at our local hospital all alone in a delivery room, as the nurse had stepped out for a minute. I was terrified – even too terrified to look at the baby because I knew something had gone terribly wrong.
My husband and I ended up getting a divorce not too longer after. We had been married only two years.
At the time of my divorce I was working at a steak house, and it was there that I met and later married my current husband – a man who stole my heart and showed me really what love was. My life would surely turn back around now, right?
And so it seemed for the first years of our marriage. We were living a great life: parties with friends, traveling, and I’d gotten a job at a law firm as a receptionist where I had more regular hours.
Kids? No way. We didn’t want to get tied down, plus like myself my husband hadn’t grown up in a happy home. It would just be better if we stayed childless – that way we could do what we wanted, when we wanted to!
But God has ways of changing our priorities, doesn’t He? Even when we have yet to come know who He is.
Where Are These Feelings Coming From?
When my little sister got married and started having babies, I discovered one day while I was holding one of them that there was a strange little fluttering going on in my heart. What was all that about?
A short time later my husband and I ended up talking about children, and I think we were both surprised that we felt we were ready to start a family of our own. It took awhile for me to get pregnant, but then came the day – ten years into our marriage – that I found out a baby was coming!
I was excited, yet terrified…
Before that time my husband and I agreed that if we were to have a family we needed to bring them up in a church environment. Even though neither of us knew what that really looked like, we began visiting churches, and eventually fell in love with a small church not too far from our home.
The people were so friendly! I threw myself into learning all about the Bible, and heard from the pulpit about who Jesus Christ was. I learned the Christianese language, and felt like I was grabbing this whole Christian-thing just like a pro.
And, nine months after conception, we gave birth to a healthy beautiful boy named Matthew. Were we really parents? We were smitten.
About a year after that, I became pregnant again, and this fit right in with my plans – until I found out I was pregnant with twins. I admit, I was very angry with God. How could I take good care of Matthew and twin babies at the same time? I just wanted one more child, not two!
Yes, selfish and pigheaded were definitely definitions that fit me – to a tee!
I was a whiner while pregnant with the twins. It got to the point where I even heard one of the neighbors tell my husband that I sure had been grumpy. I didn’t care.
Trouble started as I entered my fifth trimester. It was discovered that the twins were identical, but the umbilical cord was wrapped around one of the baby’s necks. It was crucial that I not be allowed to go into labor, so I needed to start weekly non-stress tests at the hospital.
I arrived right on time for my first appointment, and met with the on-call doctor. The staff got me all hooked up, and then the doctor came to monitor the babies’ heartbeats. She found one, but couldn’t find the other.
Finally she located the other one, but then she couldn’t find the first one!
I laid there as if in a fog. Surely this wasn’t all happening to me.
Then I began to hear rapid-fire voices coming from out in the hallway. The doctor was clearly stressed, and they were in contact by phone with one of the larger hospitals in Seattle. Could they get me transferred? No, too risky.
Suddenly my regular OB/GYN raced into the room. It had been his day off, and the staff had been frantically trying to reach him.
He shouted, “We need to do an emergency C-Section now!”
So off I went. Thankfully by that time my husband had arrived so I wasn’t all alone.
The first twin (Jeffrey) came out looking pretty good – but so small! They immediately took him away into another room. Then the doctor pulled out the second twin (Bryan), but something was not right. He was even smaller than Jeffrey, and he had a blueish tint to him. His little arms were stiff like sticks.
They transported Bryan to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Children’s Hospital immediately; and later that evening they also had to transfer Jeffrey, because of breathing difficulties.
Nothing could have prepared us for visiting the ICU for the first time. I felt as if I had no breath in me. Our little babies were hooked up to all sorts of tubes and wires. God, what was going on?
We ended up hiring a nanny to sit with our 2 year-old son Matthew every day so we could travel to the ICU and visit with the twins. The days were long and exhausting. Yet still, things would turn out okay, right?
Three months later Jeffrey was able to come home from the hospital – still attached to oxygen.
But little Bryan? Our doctor sat my husband and I down in a conference room one day and explained that after running numerous tests, they discovered his brain stem wasn’t connected as it should have been.
Their best prognosis? If he lived he would never be able to move his hands, arms, legs or even speak. He would also need a feeding tube.
My husband and I felt the wind being knocked out of us. And after taking some time to pray, we agreed with the doctor’s prognosis that we should keep our little boy comfortable, and see what God would do. We moved him to a fragile care house for little children, and he passed away in our arms peacefully about a week later.
After Bryan’s memorial service, we tried to make our family life as smooth as possible.
Matthew was a great big brother, who was as patient as a two year-old can be with a little brother who needed so much extra attention. Until one morning when our lives took a turn every parent dreads…
Time for Recalibration
I woke up one morning, and after looking at the clock was amazed that Matthew hadn’t come in to wake us up yet. Very strange.
I got up, and slowly opened the door to his room. “Matthew, honey?”
Fear filled me as I could sense something terrible had happened. I went over and touched my little boy, and he was ice-cold. Our healthy two year-old boy had died in his sleep.
Of course I screamed before falling to the ground in a weeping mess. My husband came flying in, and immediately we called 9-1-1 and our pastors.
But through all this chaos, there was also a thought in my mind that there was something I really needed to do. Something I had neglected; Someone I had been turning my back on in my quest to have perfect and complete control of my life.
You see at our new church home I had been learning that Jesus wanted to have a personal relationship with each of us. I learned that He had died a brutal death on the cross to save people from going to hell - people just like me. All He was asking was that we surrender our lives to Him, acknowledging that He was the Son of God, and that He died and was raised from the dead.
I hadn’t done that. I had been living a lie. To me as long as I had the “head knowledge” of Christianity, I was okay. I had always been able to handle things on my own – somehow.
But that morning? There was simply no way I could handle losing my precious son all by myself. I needed the God of All Comfort to wrap His arms around me. I needed Him to take control of my life.
So in the confusion of paramedics and friends from our church, I ran downstairs, got on my knees by our couch, and surrendered my life – everything I had – to Jesus.
And you know what? Yes, the following months were more brutal and painful than I could have ever have imagined. Yet at the same time, whenever I called out to my Savior, He filled me with an unexplainable peace.
Loved ones, it says in Jeremiah 29:11 that God has plans for all of us. And that His plans are for our good – to give us hope and a future. I can tell you right now today that He has changed my life for the better. I’ve now come to realize that even when things seem the most hopeless, He is always there to fill me with hope. Plus I know now, without any doubt, that I’ll see my precious children again in heaven someday.
Yes, I am now truly loved+blessed. Are you?
by Linda Kennedy
Linda is the author of The God of All Comfort, which details the lumps, bumps and bruises of her life until she finally met her Savior. She also loves to encourage others through her blog and videos. Her passion? Excite people about Jesus, reminding them that there is nothing they have done that can keep our loving Father from coming right alongside them. She and her husband currently reside outside of Dallas, Texas.