I lift my eyes up to the mountains
The moment we escaped out of the grip of coronavirus coursing through our household, our dear friends and former teammates gave birth to their first child. Half a world away, we had been praying them through this high-risk pregnancy, and what was confirmed on ultrasound was indeed confirmed in life outside the womb. Their baby Jack was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome.
Our team and friends in Uganda spent hours lamenting and pleading to God, to do his best work in little Jack’s life. Friends and family of Jessie and Ike all around the world were doing the same.
Each day I woke up and immediately checked my phone for an update. We would share any news we got with each other, all hungry for something promising. At first his situation looked hopeful, and we felt our hearts lighten and rejoice. But then his body began to share a different story. And after he had been on a 36-day rollercoaster, which included being on ECMO almost the entire time, they shared the hard news that they were having to say good-bye to their blonde-haired, firstborn, baby boy.
He died on August 16.
I walked through my week in a daze, my heart aching for our friends. Our entire team was flattened by the sorrow. It was the first time I’ve seen Jennifer with this panicked frazzled look as she ran out to get her clothes off the line so they wouldn’t get doused in a second night of rainfall.
“I NEVER leave my clothes out. I'm just forgetting things.” She said, throwing them over her arm.
“Is it because of Jack?” I unpinned some of her laundry.
“It is. I actually forgot to be at a meeting I had today. I can’t focus right now.”
She spent the next day writing the tribute that was read at Jack’s funeral. (LINK) We were all thankful to be able to attend the livestream. Then we got to quickly see our friends faces as they courageously walked past the camera and into a new life of being parents without an earthside child.
Then in a matter of weeks but what felt like too short of time since our last trauma, I woke up to Mike standing at the side of our bed with a very concerned look on his face. I was groggy and coming out of a strange dream. I had been in another country, at the edge of some water that was lined in big rocks, talking with Jennifer. The dream was right at the tip of my mind, but now I was awake and Mike was telling me the person I had just been talking to in my dream had been in an accident.
I sat there confused. I could feel my body wanting to lay back down. If I just go back to bed she will be right there.
“An accident? What kind of an accident?”
“She was riding her bike down a steep hill and she went head first over her handlebars. Scott just texted us. Here.” He said, handing me the phone.
The text was unbelievable. Bleeding on the brain. Helicoptered to the regional trauma unit. Outcome in question. Heavily sedated. A ventilator?
My kids came running into the room arguing about muffins. Boston ate 2 muffins and now Piper wanted 2 muffins. Winnie told Boston he wasn’t supposed to eat that second muffin. They were begging for me to figure it all out for them, to make it all fair.
I just sat there in bed, staring straight ahead.
My mind was in shock, and denial, it drifted to the ingredient list. But we don’t have enough food to make homemade muffins? I thought we were all out of eggs?
“You guys, STOP WITH THE MUFFINS.” Mike said.
“Do they know?” I asked.
“Ya I told them Jennifer was hurt in a bicycle accident.”
“Jennifer.” I folded over into my lap. “Jennifer?”
The words ventilator, and Jennifer Myhre, do not go together.
These are a few words that go together for her:
Tough as nails.
I have never met a person like Jennifer. I have never respected a leader more than I respect Jennifer, and yet, we live our daily lives together, so she is a very real and tangible part of my world. She is a living legend to the majority of people that know her, and I can save that post for another time. Or you can read through and get a sense of who she is yourself here: www.paradoxuganda.blogspot.com
But we were left that morning wondering what to do a continent away for our friend who was in grave condition, and for Scott who was with her. They had just flown to the US to see family and attend some meetings, and we had expected them back soon.
We walked with the kids over to our teammates house. Our kids ran off and played with their three boys, who were all still fuzzy haired in pajamas. We all sat together in shock, while we slowly tried to unravel the reality of this hour.
We wanted her to live.
Please Lord keep her alive.
We asked Him for healing. Restoration. For comfort for Scott. We prayed for so many things and we continue to do so every day.
Mike read Psalm 121.
I lift my eyes up to the mountains-
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
The maker of heaven and earth.
Later he read through all of Psalm 23…
…I will fear no evil,
For you are with me;
Your rod and your staff,
They comfort me…
We are acutely aware, especially after losing Jack, that God does not always answer our prayers the way we want Him to. We also know, He is still GOOD and HE IS WITH US.
He has the record to prove it. He did not spare his only son. Instead His son, God incarnate, came to us, and walked an earthly life of perfection while choosing suffering and a brutal death, that we might see and understand in a visceral way His great love for us, and His desire for us to be reconciled with Him. To call upon Him. To call him Father. Or Dad. Or Daddy. To orient our hearts and our lives to Him.
And to add to that, He has given us an incredible gift. The helper and the comforter, the Holy Spirit.
We will all be facing our own “ventilators” someday. I’m really feeling that recently. Watching my friends go through life and death trials and being a nurse in a hospital like the one I work at has made death come into the forefront of my world. I wrapped up a beautiful two day old baby in the NICU who passed away and thought "Thank God this isn't all there is."
This life is a wisp, and after this life, I want to be with the triune God. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We were made for so much more than this place, for so much more than the equivalent of arguing over proverbial muffins. Don’t you feel that ache in your soul too?
Lean into it.
So we continue to pour our hope, our lament, our fears, and our frustrations into Jesus, the only one who has conquered death and proven that He is worthy of it all. We continue to walk one foot in front of the other as we are led through the incredible beauty and incredible heartache here.
As we plead with all the other thousands of people that Jennifer recovers fully, I like to envision her hospital room as a slow but constant simmering pot of prayers, restoring her to full health while putting off such a strong, decadent aroma of Christ that the effects will go far beyond what we could ever comprehend.