Monday, January 30, 2012

Raphael's Birth

If you are just coming to my blog, before you read this post, please read this one.

The post below is a reposting of Heather Hendrick's telling of the birth of little Raphael. See the original here.

Grace: God is the Writer of Our Stories

photo credit: Joanna Howard

"If it were up to me, I'd write this story differently."

That phrase, and shades of it have been spoken in my soul many times as I've walked this road God has paved for me.

Ingratitude. Distrust. Looking past the lush mountain God has given and fixing my eyes tight on the speck of dirt in the distance...what it seems He is withholding. I want to push His hand. Force it. Rush Him. Demand my way.

2:30 a.m. Mama Emmanuel is in labor. Come. This is her fifth baby. Her uterus has been around the block a time or two. It knows what to do.

The birth team hurries to the maternity center. Mama Emmanuel is in pain. She is almost dilated enough to push. Any time now. Coffee brewing.

"Maybe...maybe you don't want to change the story because you don't know what a different ending holds."

10 hours later the baby is still tucked safely inside his mother. 12 hours later we sit waiting, confused. This labor unlike any other I've seen before. The baby's heartbeat is healthy and strong. Every few minutes we check. Baby's heart....the sound of horses galloping. Mom's body has been ready for hours. We've all been ready for hours. Why won't this baby descend? Fifth baby. This does not make sense. We watch Cookie and Beth, wise midwives and women, seek God for guidance. Wisdom whispers, "Wait."

Farmers and ranchers are rarely nonspiritual. You can't work this land, hold the earth in your hands, and not make spiritual connections. Seeds. Harvest. Weeds. Shepherding. Life. Death. "Farmers, we think we control so much. Do so much right to make a crop. And when you are farming, are faced with it every day. You control so little. Really. It's God who decides it all. Not us." Seasons can't be rushed. Man can't figure out how to empty the sky or how to close it up. The farmer can labor until he falls over, but he can't control the frost. God's hand is infinitely stronger than our own.

In the same way, you can't consistently be around natural labor and birth without seeing our own human stories wrapped up in all that struggle, gasping, pain, and ultimately joy indescribable. You can't see the struggle, frustration, exhausting labor, and exhilarating release and not think profound thoughts about life, this world, and the God that created all of it. A labor and birth is like an entire life's story you watch in one day.

In real life and during a birth, it is tempting to want to rush the struggle, skip the pain, speed it up already...take the pen in our hands. In Haiti, where health care is limited, being impatient and rash seems riskier. Haiti is notorious for shaking us, forcing us to come face to face with our faith...or our lack of it.

"There is a reason I am not writing the story, and God is. He knows how it all works out, where it all leads, what it all means. I don't.'s accepting there are things we simply don't understand. But He does."

I've never seen a baby born with such fast force. He was not pushed out. He was launched. One minute it seemed as though Mama Emmanuel wasn't even in hard labor. The next thing we know, the midwives' hands are full of new life. A baby boy born with a chord wrapped tightly around his neck two times. The mystery. All revealed in a matter of startling moments. A baby that could have hung himself..if he had descended...if he had done what we wanted. If the midwives had rushed it, intervened, taken matters into their own hands. While we were frustrated with a labor that seemed to have stalled for hours, with a mother that seemed to have forgotten how to push, annoyed that nothing made any sense, aware of how limited our options are if things did not progress, the One that knit that little life together was faithfully holding him. Holding the midwives. Holding all of it.

In that moment I was reminded that it is by God's grace that His grip on that pen is strong. Though we snatch for it, in frustration we grab and demand to write the next chapter or rip out the last two...His hand is strong. Grace keeps the pen out of our hands. He writes our stories at just the right pace.

You have never seen a more weepy room of women. Tired, humbled midwives. Tired, relieved mother. All of us. Incredibly thankful.

God seems to get bigger and bigger and we feel smaller and smaller with every birth.

"There is a reason I am not writing the story, and God is. He knows how it all works out, where it all leads, what it all means. I don't.'s accepting there are things we simply don't understand. But He does."

You can read more about Mama Emmanuel's life and how her story and faith is forever growing ours:

Mama Emmanuel

Saturday Labor

God sparing her son today is only one chapter among many that continually turn our hearts toward heaven.

All words in italic belong to Ann Voskamp and are found in her beautiful book, "One Thousand Gifts.

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