They say the seventh wave of a set is always the biggest. I should have kept that in mind when I inadvertently listed out only six waves in my last post. The seventh has come, and certainly fulfilled any mythical or proverbial expectations regarding its fabled reputation.
In the wee sma’s of June 7th, the most beautiful sound to any mother’s heart was heard in a little hospital, downtown Oaxaca city. The squeaky, hesitant cry of a newborn trying out her vocal chords for the first time echoed in every expectant ear. There was the expected flurry of suctioning, snipping, wrapping, then finally, that precious little bundle, still covered in 34 weeks of waxy vernix, was placed on my chest. It may have been the 5th time, but it was no less special than the first. A baby. Brand new. A gift from our Creator, breathing His breath of life. Our very own little Galilea Persis.
It wasn’t until a couple days later we realized anything was seriously wrong. She had great color, slept and nursed well, was strong despite her early arrival.
The xray technician shook his head.
My heart flew to my throat. My head found its way to a funeral home in Mérida and then to the gushing of red after only 8 weeks of secret hope. “Oh God!” my soul screamed in its Peter-esq desperation, “not again!”
The pediatrician looked the images over, whatsapped them to a surgeon (thank God for the benefits of 2020) and turned to give us the explanation.
Galilea was born with intestinal atresia. In a layman’s terminology: malformations in her small intestine. That meant it was impossible for her body to complete the process of digestion. Surgery was obligatory.
The surgeon arrived 20 minutes later (can I just have a moment of silence to appreciate all the amazing doctors God had placed in our lives?) to evaluate our teensy baby, give us the compulsory list of unthinkable possibilities, and program the surgery.
Next morning. 10:30.
We didn’t sleep much that night. With Galilea being sentenced to the prison of a blue light bed for jaundice and iv’s and fasting, she had no trouble loudly protesting her sudden unfortunate situation. Why wasn’t mama holding her? Where was her milk? Her cozy little crib? The heartache of watching her struggle, knowing I possessed everything she wanted, robbed us of all peace and joy. All we could do was stroke her one free hand and sing until our voices broke and the floor became spotted with salt water.
The nurses came for her the next morning.
As they turned to walk out, one asked me if I wanted to say good bye.
“Yes!!!” I wanted to scream, with a few choice epithets included. (Seriously, what kind of a question is that?) Instead, I nodded numbly and pulled back her swaddle to kiss her tiny cheek. She turned her head and looked me straight in the eyes, pleading for help. It was all I could do to not tear her from that callous woman’s arms.
David gave her a kiss then we closed the door behind them and collapsed into each others’ arms, weeping. They had taken a baby away from us before. Taken him to dress and place in a casket. Memories filled the present with distress. She had to come back through that door alive. She had to.
I thanked God for His omnipresence: He was there in the room with us and down in the operating room with Galilea and Dr. Gómez. There is no limit to His comfort nor to His power. He could soothe our souls and guide the surgeon simultaneously. He could sit there beside me and hold our Galilea as well.
Galilea is the Spanish word for Galilee. As I sat there, immobile, impotent and ignorant of what was going on downstairs, the Lord drew near and filled my heart with the most beautiful promise. It started with the lines to a well loved hymn:
Be still my soul, the waves and wind still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.Catharina von Schlegel
It was a dark night. The day had been so long and in human exhaustion, Christ laid down in the stern of that fishing boat. His noble head reposing on a pillow, he slept. The wind ominously picked up, soon howling in hurricane madness. Lifted by the rushing air, waves rose and crashed, larger and more forceful by the moment. Soon the boat was taking on water. The disciples, though seasoned seamen and accustomed to the freaks of the Sea of Galilee, became frantic. They fled to the stern and shook Jesus awake. “Master!” they cried in desperation, “don’t you care that we perish???”
“Oh, God,” I found myself crying out, “don’t you care that we perish, that we are drowning in trials of life? Oh, I know you care. So please, calm the storm in little Galilea’s body.”
The Lord arose. He had no fear. He had not lost control. Even as His mortal body slept, He held the world, and that very sea, in His omnipotent, eternal hand. Speaking to the elements with His singular authority as Creator, he commanded them to be still. And they obeyed.
Ah, yes. And today, they still know that ruling voice, Catharina. I don’t know what sorrow and pain you experienced to pen that hymn of immeasurable wisdom and comfort, but you certainly knew very well the Master of the seas.
Oh ye of little faith. I fell into confession of sin and into the arms of the only one whose voice calms storms and heals tiny babies’ intestines. What manner of Man is this?!
Bolstered by His power and the prayers of so many believers around the world (including an impromptu Zoom prayer meeting) we waited with renewed hope in our hearts.
They brought back our sweetly sleeping baby four hours later. In a rare stroke of medical strangeness, they discovered she actually had two different types of atresia. One part of her intestine was so narrowed there was no passage and another section completely unattached to the rest. Recovery would be slow and tedious, with possible risks and complications but her darling little face was with us again.
It took a full two weeks for Galilea’s bowels to function enough to go home. The storm was not stilled in an instant, but the weak little disciple in room number one of Hospital Reforma found herself again the beneficiary of answered prayer and the Lord’s undeniable care. There were no complications, no set backs, a second surgery unnecessary. Each day of recuperation became a victory, that hospital room a cathedral of worship.
I felt compelled to fill my older kids’ hearts with an understanding of how good our God is and for them to share in that worship. They’ve seen a lot of sadness in their few years earthside. I’ve often feared they might become resentful or bitter. Each day that it worked out for me to meet them down at the sidewalk, they heard not only how much mommy loves them but how much God loves them too. How much He cares. How much His people love them, too. I want them to someday look back over their lives and simply see the goodness of God, regardless of what they were called to go through.
The morning finally came that we were to go home. We waited, somewhat impatiently, for the doctors to come by one final time. Suddenly an alarm blared through the hospital. Then, the floor began to shake. And shake. We flew out of the room and made for the stairs. Desperate to just get out. The nurses stopped us. The stairs were swaying too much. We had to ride out a 7.5 earthquake clinging to a pillar on the second floor. “Lord!” our hearts screamed, “all that just to be crushed under a concrete roof? Is this where it ends?” There have been many times in our married life that I have felt like the powers of darkness are literally trying to kill us. Then the Lord stretches out His hand and sternly orders the wicked one away. Enough! Those are my children. I still have work for them to do.
I don’t know why you or I are called to pass through certain trials. I don’t know why God allows hard things when we already feel overwhelmed. I can’t comprehend, like the writer of Psalm 73, why it appears certain people never suffer while my cup is continually overflowing with difficulty.
What I do know is this:
- It is an absolutely beautiful thing to be part of the family of God. To be loved and prayed for by people from literally the world over, is one of the most special things I have ever experienced.
- God does indeed hear our prayers. He works miracles even today. He still commands the waves and the wind to be at rest for His fearful children.
- Our heavenly Father doesn’t do cancel culture. Man can marginalize, attempt to eliminate others, work to have names erased. God instead works in mysterious ways to bring all His children together for a common purpose.
- God doesn’t always need great thunderings and lightenings to display His glory. Most often He uses the weak and humble to bring the world to their knees in awe of the eternal God.
- If it were not for all the bitter trials of life, I’m afraid I would know my Lord very, very little.
Flashing horizontally across her abdomen, Galilea sports a pretty long banner of valor. She’s a fighter and as she grows up, I look forward to showing her that scar and telling her again and again of how good our God is and how good His people are. I want her to know the miracle that she is, kept by the One who formed her in my womb for a very special reason.
Thank you immensely to each who have prayed for Galilea Persis, for ourselves, and our other three children. I humbly request your continued prayers as Gali continues to recuperate, specifically that she would start gaining weight properly.
God bless you for being a blessing to us.