Carol M.’s Story: Where an Angel Cared to Tread

The prophet Elijah was literally running for his life when he finally dropped to the ground in exhaustion and despair. In the middle of the wilderness, he sat down under a broom tree and asked God to let him die. Instead, God allowed Elijah to sleep for a time before sending an angel to feed him. Twice, Elijah slept and twice, an angel woke him and offered him bread and water. Refreshed, the prophet got up and journeyed to the next place of ministry (I Kings 19). Carol McLeod believes ministering angels are still heaven-sent today…and so do I. Here is Carol’s story…

I couldn’t wait to deliver our second baby! I loved everything about being a mom and had relatively easy pregnancies. I had experienced a “perfect” labor and delivery with our first son complete with 6 hours of labor and a wonderful epidural! Certainly my second experience would be easier and quicker, right?

The doctor finally induced labor at 3 weeks and 2 days past my due date.  Yes – you read that correctly! Christopher was nearly a month late according to medical calculations. This was at a time before sonograms were normal procedures and when doctors would rarely induce an over-due mother.

Christopher’s birth weight was 9 pounds and 11 ounces of pure boy! As you can imagine, his delivery was difficult and traumatic for me.  In addition to nearly 24 hours of labor with no medical help, I then pushed for nearly 4 hours before the doctor decided that help would be required to deliver this very large, post-due baby.  The doctor used what was known as “high forceps” and it was an agonizing physical experience after a long and arduous labor.

When Christopher Burton McLeod was finally delivered on January 27, 1983, he was whisked away to the intensive care nursery and I was wheeled down the hallway to the sterile recovery room.

~~~

I remember lying on the cold, hard table in the darkness shaking from head to toe, trying not to whimper from the trauma.  My body had been brutally injured by the difficult birth experience and I had not even been given the opportunity to hold my baby. I wondered if he would be all right and if there was something wrong with him.  No one seemed to be able to give me any information and so the pain was not only physical but also emotional. I laid in the dark and sobbed all alone. I just sobbed.

A small, Norwegian nurse came to my bedside; she had golden braids wrapped around her head with a light blue sweater covering her white nurse’s uniform.  She took my cold hand in her warm one and whispered, “I’ve heard you’ve had a difficult time, dear one.”

The tears were rolling down my cheeks as I weakly whispered in response, “I just want to know that my baby is o.k.”

“Oh, he will be just fine.  They are taking excellent care of him in the nursery and I am going to take care of you here,” she comforted with a thick, Scandinavian accent.  With that, she encouraged me to close my eyes and to rest while she lovingly and tenderly book care of my bruised and bleeding body.  She administered warm clothes to my trembling body and truly ministered in a physical way as I dealt with the aftermath of an indescribable labor.  She then rubbed my arms and legs with soothing and warm oil as she sang gently over me in a language that I had never before heard.

When this Norwegian healer had thoroughly cleaned and restored my body, she then fed me warm broth as she cooed what a beautiful baby I had just delivered and how he would accomplish great things with his life.  After praying a sweet, gentle prayer over me and my sweet boy, she smiled, patted my hand and walked away.

~~~

It was only a minute or two more before my husband Craig was allowed to come in the recovery room and be with me.  I told him all about her and could not control my sobs because of her precious care and concern toward me.

The next day, when I had been sent to the obstetrics floor, I asked the young nurse who was caring for me if I could send a thank you note to the woman who had so ministered to me in the recovery room the day before.  This perky little professional said that she would be glad to take it down on her break.  I wrote a note of deep gratitude that came from my heart and thanked the kind nurse deeply for her love and ministrations.

When my nurse returned to the floor after her break, she said, “Mrs. McLeod, I am sorry but no one works in the recovery room by that description. I even asked the head nurse who was assigned to the afternoon shift yesterday afternoon and she said that no one has ever worked here by that description.” With that, she regretfully handed my priceless note back to me.

~~~

Now, I will never be sure if the nurse in the recovery room was truly an angel or an employee of a very large hospital but what I do know for sure is that the Lord was close to me at a moment in life when I desperately needed His love and comfort.

When the Psalmist declared that “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted,” His words of promise are spoken with tender care and great compassion.  He is reminding all of Christendom in the epochs yet to come that the Lord is lovingly attentive to those who are enduring unimaginable pain.  Whatever is the source of your pain today, you can be sure that the Lord is standing attentively beside you paying diligent attention to your shattered and bleeding heart.

If you have ever suffered a broken heart, a broken body or a broken life, I can comfort you with the certainty that you were never out of His care.  If, today, you are emotionally torn apart and wonder how you will make it through one more today, I want to comfort you with the surety that He is with you now.  God is close to you and has wrapped His arms of love around your life; He is hovering beside you just as my sweet little Norwegian nurse stayed with me.

Carol McLeod You can learn more about Carol at http://www.carolmcleodministries.com

 

Carol’s Story: A Sacred Conspiracy

Does God still speak to us today as he did in biblical times? Carol Stratton knows that he does. After the death of her infant granddaughter, God spoke a promise to her heart. Here’s Carol’s story…

On a blustery April day in 2015, my daughter Caitlin went to check on her sleeping baby and found little Juniper dead in her crib. She had been fine when Caitlin laid her down for a nap, but only a short time later she succumbed to SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Juniper was five months old.

The loss was devastating to Caitlin, her husband Matt and their four-year-old daughter Magnolia. But the grief of course didn’t stop there. Only if you’ve lost a child or grandchild can you know the emptiness it creates for an entire family. An empty car seat sitting in the garage and boxes of infant clothes ready for the Goodwill were sad reminders of Juniper’s short life. And spotting a five-month-old baby at the grocery brought renewed tears at a moment’s notice for any of us.

The months that followed were a time in which each of us worked through our grief. My grief encompassed not just the loss of my granddaughter, but the pain that my daughter was going through. I ached deeply for Caitlin, and wished I could somehow lift the burden of sorrow from her shoulders.

I turned to God for answers. I needed him to speak to me in the midst of this heartache. Maybe he couldn’t tell me why Juniper was taken from us, but I needed him to tell me something so I could go on trusting him.

~~~

In previous generations people used to talk about how God spoke to them. The Old Testament regularly has the Almighty speaking to Adam, Moses, Abraham and many others. And the New Testament has Jesus speaking to regular folks like you and me. But nowadays stories about our Heavenly Father weighing in on our daily lives are rare.

I’ve often wondered why.

Could it be that we don’t pay attention to that quiet voice? Possibly. I lean towards that theory. We lead noisy, busy lives. With our frantic bustling around to accomplish everything on our chore chart, vision board and bucket list, reflection rarely fits in with our schedule.

But God operates best in silence. In that quiet place of grief, God had my attention.

~~~

A few days before Christmas that same year, I awoke one morning with the strong impression that God had spoken to me in the night. Jumping out of bed and running around to my husband’s side, I announced to my half-awake spouse that we were going to have three grandchildren to add to the four we already had, and all within a year’s span. And as the words leaped out of my mouth I thought, “Where did that come from?”

It was a bold confession. Since the loss of Juniper, I didn’t imagine there would be any more grandchildren for a while. Nor did we bring up the subject with our three married children during family gatherings. It was simply too sensitive a topic. Surely, we’d keep this secret to ourselves.

Christmas Day, our oldest daughter Erica marched her three boys into our family room. They were all wearing orange shirts that read, “Party of six.” Busy cooking the dinner, I glanced over at the group. It took a few minutes to register that they were announcing their family of five would soon become six!

Ah ha, Baby number 1 is on its way!

We all jumped up and down and applauded. Then my husband John decided to let everyone in on what I’d shared with him a few days earlier. “Yep, kids, your mother predicts three grandkids in a year.”

I gulped. Please, no. Now I was really on the spot.

Little did I know that my daughter-in-law, Betsy, standing by me, had her own secret. Christmas Eve she’d shown positive on a pregnancy test. Two weeks later she and our son Seth told us they were having their first child.

Baby number 2. Hey, Lord, we’re on a roll!

But what about baby number three? Even though Caitlin wanted another child, she had to watch from the sidelines as her sister and sister-in-law donned maternity clothes for their new baby bumps. I wished my husband hadn’t made the pronouncement at Christmas. What if I hadn’t heard from the Lord correctly? I felt guilty knowing my youngest wondered if God had forgotten her.

Later that year on Father’s Day I dropped in on Caitlin to help her prepare for a cookout. Walking into the house, I discovered it looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in a month. Poking around the kitchen I found nothing but dirty dishes, no sumptuous dessert in the fridge, nothing brewing on the stove. Did she not remember they were hosting a barbecue that day?

My daughter Caitlin was stretched out on the living room couch looking unwell. I figured she was fighting allergies. Then I spied a basin sitting on the coffee table waiting for her stomach to erupt once again. With a woozy expression, she blurted out, “I’m pregnant,” and rushed to the nearest toilet.

There ya go, Baby number 3!

Time for rejoicing. Rejoicing three times. Three babies in nine months. Happy chaos now reigns when the three toddlers get together.

Today, I look at these three miracles and marvel at God’s loving-kindness in letting me in on his plans. In the midst of my grief, when I needed him to speak to me, he didn’t tell me the why of our loss, but he gave me a hope for our future.  He invited me into a sacred conspiracy, giving me a peek at what was to come, and he did what he promised to do.

headshopt turtleneck closeup Carol Stratton

When Half-gods Go…

sun behind broken window

 

When half-gods go, the gods arrive.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Give All to Love”

 

A recent news item alerted us to the fact that Kate Middleton might have ventured out in public with her dress on backwards. Thank heavens the media was working overtime to keep us apprised of the situation.

I have to wonder, though. Once my mother slipped her sandals onto the wrong feet and walked around the house for a time before realizing her error. I don’t remember reading about that in the newspapers.

Even worse, my grandmother showed up at work one morning without her skirt. She had remembered the blouse but left home without the rest of the outfit. There she stood in the middle of the office wearing only slip and panties from the waist down. The skirt wasn’t simply on backwards; it wasn’t there at all! And yet, where were the media reports of this 1940s wardrobe malfunction? Instead of the news wires humming with this sensational story, there was nothing. Bupkis. Crickets.

Ah, but of course. My grandmother was only a middle-aged widow with a teen-aged daughter at home and a son serving his country in the war. What is either noble or newsworthy about a life like that?

~~~

But, you see, I can’t help but notice that those royals across the pond generate a whole lot of hoopla just by doing what the rest of the world does every day: celebrating a birthday, getting married, having a baby, and wearing or not wearing clothes, as the case may be. One of them can barely sneeze without causing an international sensation.

Their every movement, real or otherwise, is carried out under the hungry eye of the world. We demand glimpses into the lives of people we believe so much greater than ourselves.

Actually, no; the truth is: we demand gods. Preferably, we’d each like to be a god (our greatest temptation since the Garden), though barring that—or perhaps in addition to that—we invest a great deal of time and effort into making them. After all, we have to have something to worship, don’t we?

~~~

God (the real and only one) had a reason for not wanting ancient Israel to have a king and it was this: He alone wanted to be their king. He was well aware of humankind’s starry-eyed tendency to worship royalty, and  He wanted the Israelites to keep their eyes on Him.

I find it interesting to note that when God relented and gave Israel a king, He insisted that any human ruler was never to be regarded as better than his fellow Israelites. He was to be considered their equal, no greater than even the lowest and most common (Duet 20: 17).

You can imagine how well the Israelites did with that one. Just look at us.

~~~

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote about half-gods—as well he should have because the world is full of them…and they are all man-made. Royal blood is a human concept, not a genetic reality. The blood that flows through Everyman’s veins is the same stuff that pumps through the heart of any royal.

The half-gods aren’t limited to royalty, of course—there are oh-so-many half-gods populating the world! Movie stars, athletes, politicians, academicians, Nobel-prize winners, Pulitzer-prize winners, New York Times best-selling authors, and on and on and on, ad infinitum, as achievements catapult more and more mere mortals to the heights of Mount Olympus.

And of course our own selves if, because of our achievements, we feel inclined to consider ourselves better than everyone else.

~~~

There’s nothing inherently wrong with celebrating human achievement. Sure, those who work hard and develop their talents ought to receive a degree of recognition.

The problem comes when God is left out of the picture.

The problem comes when we say So-and-so is an amazing person without recognizing that So-and-so was created by an even more amazing God, and that without God, So-and-so would never have had any gifts and talents and abilities to begin with because So-and-so wouldn’t exist at all. Without God, we are all nothing.

The irony is that we take our God-given talents that were meant to glorify God and use them to make little gods of ourselves and other people.

And in so doing, we take the God who is everything and reduce Him to nothing.

~~~

I recently asked my 21-year-old daughter if she knew who Princess Diana was. She had to think a moment, which in itself was telling. Ask anyone of my generation and the answer would be: “Of course I know who Diana was! Who doesn’t?” None of us escaped the tsunami of publicity surrounding the woman who became famous for getting married.

Finally, my daughter, one generation removed, said simply, “Isn’t she the one who died?”

~~~

Let me take the words of the transcendentalist philosopher Emerson and put a Christian spin on them: “When half-gods go, God arrives.”

Only when the half-gods go, when they are put in their rightful place, can God reign supreme in our lives.

May God forgive us for allowing a whole world of mortal half-gods to take our eyes off Him. And may we someday be able to say with the psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth” (Psalm 73:25, NASB).

 

Photo courtesy of pxhere.com