Shonda’s Story: Not the Life I Imagined

Shonda blog photo I never imagined I would be the mother of a convicted felon. My husband and I celebrated the love of Christ with our children both in church and at home. We dedicated our sons to the Lord and taught them how to live according to Scripture.

I watched and learned from parents in our circle of influence. Their children did well in school, then proceeded to earn college degrees, find gainful employment, marry godly spouses, and start their own families.

Following the examples modeled for me, I made my loving mother checklist:

  • Christian education
  • Regular church attendance
  • Sports activities
  • Family vacations

I anticipated the same outcome I witnessed over and over again. After all, I stood on the promise of God that as a parent if I train them up in His ways, then they will never depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).

~~~

After my older son, Stephen, graduated from high school, he went to work and moved into his own apartment. His choice of friends raised concerns on my radar. When I shared this with other godly parents, they encouraged me not to worry as young adults go through a phase. “It will be all right,” they said. So, I turned my worries into prayers.

But then we got the call—he was in jail charged with serious crimes—murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Shocked, I couldn’t process the news.

With my heart ripped apart, my first prayer after learning about my son’s arrest came from Romans 8:28, which reads, And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them (NLT).

I petitioned the Lord because only He could take something so traumatic and somehow turn it for something good.

~~~

Due to the nature of the crimes, there were those who suggested that I forget about him and let him rot in prison. But when I thought about my son, how could I let him go, just left to rot and waste away? What about God’s promises to me?

Standing at the crossroads of these two choices, I chose to love him as God loves—unconditionally.

Regardless of the consequences my son faced, even if that meant the death penalty or life in prison on this side of eternity, I did not want him to suffer eternal separation from God.

Because of His love for us, Christ took the death penalty for each one of us. And because of love, God promises to forgive us of our sins if we confess them. I wrote the promise from First John 1:9 on paper and sent it to my son. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness (NLT).

I cried out, “Lord, if I have to live separated from my son in this life, I don’t want to be separated from him in eternity.”

~~~

Love for my son compelled me to write letters to him five days a week sharing God’s love. Every day I sat with my Bible in my lap determined to receive an encouraging word from the Lord. As I read familiar passages, I saw God’s words through new filters.

The Bible is filled with testimony of people our present society would label as thugs and outcasts. Many biblical heroes started out as scoundrels. The Lord redeemed and restored the lives of liars, cheaters, adulterers, thieves, murderers, womanizers, prostitutes, and prisoners and used them to fulfill His purposes. This filled me with hope, and I shared this hope with my son.

Two months after his arrest, my son sent a letter with his decision to fully surrender his life to Christ. From that moment, I knew that no matter what happened, if we depart this earth or Jesus returns, we will be together in eternity. Peace filled my heart.

As we navigated the legal process with my son and his attorney, I noticed the Bible contains judicial themes. Particularly how we are invited to raise our petitions into the courtroom of heaven. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most (Hebrews 4:16 NLT).

~~~

Because of the Lord’s unconditional love, He desires to show us mercy. God granted mercy to Stephen with a twenty-year sentence, though he was eligible to be sentenced to life in prison. Even as a lawful captive to the state, he lives in a freedom that does not depend on a location, but on the Spirit of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:17).

Stephen admits that our love for him led him to choose Christ and allows His light to shine through him in a place filled with darkness. He explained that inmates who are rejected by outside family often turn to gangs and violence.

Hebrews 13:3 says, Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Before this, I never thought about prisoners, but now I remember them, as a part of me is in prison.

Over these years, God has demonstrated His faithfulness. Step by step, I witness the amazing love of God working everything together for good out of an excruciating situation.

Though this is not the life I imagined for my son, the Lord called me to live my life as a love story.  Because of His love, I share His unconditional love at times and in places that some avoid or may never give a thought to it—loving those in prison and their hurting families.

Shonda Savage Shonda Whitworth writes, teaches, and speaks at conferences and retreats to share the hope of healing and restoration we have in Jesus. After her son landed in state prison, she realized the hardships families of prisoners encounter. She and her husband, Eldon, founded Fortress of Hope Ministries, a nonprofit organization that offers hope to families affected by incarceration. Shonda transparently shares her testimony of living with a son in prison at ShondaWhitworth.com and FortressofHopeMinistries.com.

Shonda book

Shonda’s book is also available at ShopLPC.com and BarnesandNoble.com.

 

Leanna’s Story: No Mistakes

As Leanna Sain watched her mother’s mind being stolen by Alzheimer’s, she needed words of encouragement. Our loving Lord chose to comfort to her…through her mother’s own words. This is Leanna’s story…

My mother lost her battle with Alzheimer’s in June 2018. It was painful to watch that horrible disease steal away my intelligent, creative mother; turning her into a stranger—someone who looked like her, but wasn’t; and at the same time, turning everyone into a stranger to her. It wasn’t just the lost memories, though. She lost her abilities: to brush her own teeth and hair, to talk, to walk, to swallow. Abilities I never thought about her losing. I hate Alzheimer’s more than I can express. It’s a disease straight from the pit of hell.

But in the midst of all the bad, I know God was with me. He promised me He’d never leave me or forsake me, and I felt His presence even during the worst times. He regularly gave me reminders in the form of “gift,” little nuggets of gold that I treasured. One of those nuggets was when we went to my parents’ house to celebrate my dad’s and husband’s shared birthday. This was in February, a year and a half before she died.

We’d finished eating supper and Mama was chattering with my husband—mostly nonsensical stuff, what I called “word salad,” because it was a bunch of random words tossed in that didn’t go together and didn’t make any sense, but in the midst of all that gibberish, she kept repeating, “Our God makes NO mistakes,” always emphasizing the word, “no.” The same five words, said fifty times or more. It was kind of bizarre, and at first, I was thinking, Yeah, right. A monster is stealing everything that makes you YOU, and you think it isn’t a mistake?

“Our God makes NO mistakes.” The words rang out again.

But this has to be a mistake. Why would God allow this in our family? Why would God put my Daddy through this? Watching the woman he’s loved for 60 years turn into a child? Aging him more than time ever could?

“Our God makes NO mistakes…”

The words echoed down the corridors of my mind, over and over. I didn’t really want to hear them.

Then suddenly, it’s as if there was a click or ding in my head, the proverbial “light bulb” or “Aha” moment.

God was speaking to me, using my Mama’s voice. He can do that, you know. He was reminding me that even when things feel hopeless, He is my hope, and He’s walking this journey with me, right through the valley that’s shadowed with death. He didn’t do this to Mama. It’s the result of sin, just like every other bad thing that happens. Yes, He allowed it. No, I don’t know why, and I may never know. My job is to trust Romans 8:28: And we know that in all things—yes, even Alzheimer’s—God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose (NIV). God’s word is truth. I can rely on His word.

Another nugget from God was His giving me the story idea that became my new novel, Hush. Writing this book was therapy for me. It allowed me a way to work through some of the anger, pain, and confusion that was trying to crush me. He gave me the idea to make one of the characters have Alzheimer’s so I could use some of the actual things Mama said and did in the story. It was a way for me to honor her memory. This book is also a way for me to help find a cure for this horrible disease, since I’ve decided to donate a portion of its sales to Alzheimer’s research.

Mama is healed now. There are no more Alzheimer’s spider webs mucking up her new, glorified brain. I look forward to the day she greets me on Heaven’s golden streets. She’ll smile, hug me, remember me, and we’ll shout together, “OUR GOD MAKES NO MISTAKES!”

Sain, Leanna For more information or to contact Leanna, please visit: www.LeannaSain.com. A portion of the proceeds of Leanna’s book Hush will be donated to Alzheimer’s research:

Finder of All Lost Things

lost and found The best part about working at a university food court stems from the fact that the students tend to lose things. Car keys, apartment keys, student IDs, wallets, cell phones, books, laptops, even entire backpacks. You’d be surprised at what tired and hungry students leave behind, once they’ve inhaled a Chick-fil-A sandwich and hurried on to their next class.

Their loss of these important items isn’t, of course, what makes me happy. And certainly the very worst part about my job is when I go to our lost-and-found in the back office and discover that what has been lost isn’t there. Then, I dread going back out to the dining area and telling the student that their lost item is, sadly, still lost.

I hate the look of disappointment, even fear, in their eyes. There’s the unspoken question: “Well, if I didn’t leave it here, where is it?” And of course the all important: “Will I ever find it?” What does one do, after all, without one’s credit cards, car keys, driver’s license…or the laptop on which is an entire semester’s worth of work.

When even one thing is lost, everything is wrong.

(At those times, I understand why some throughout history have been tempted to kill the messenger.)

But it’s completely different when I do find their item in lost-and-found. Then, when I return bearing what was lost…ah, the joy! The relief. The thankfulness. Even the laughter. One young man practically did the happy dance the whole time I was carrying his backpack toward him across the dining room. Had I not been an old lady, I think he might even have kissed me for the joy of regaining that lost bag.

How I love to see that joy. And so one day not long ago I thought to myself, “If I could have any job, I’d like to be the finder of all lost things.” Kind of like Holden Caulfield who wanted to spend his life simply being the catcher in the rye—the one who protects the children playing in the rye field by catching them if they get too close to the cliff. I’d like to be the one to find all the lost items and present them to the owners, simply so I can see them rejoice and break into the happy dance.

But then, if I were the finder of all lost things, wouldn’t I simply be taking after my Father? Isn’t that what He does, what He has always done for the sake of love? In fact, that’s the whole story, the whole point of history—God redeeming what was lost and bringing it safely home.

My cousin became a Christian when she was 50-something. When she wrote to tell me about her baptism, I was struck by the simple and yet profound way in which she summed up the change in her life: “Everything feels right now.”

Of course it does! When we are found—claimed by and held steadfast in the love of God—all that was once wrong in our lives comes around right, and we are able for the first time to truly know joy. Thanks be to God, the finder of all lost things, who pursues us so that both His joy and ours may be complete.

Is Al Capone in Heaven?

Al Capone headstone Those gangsters of yesteryear were a vicious lot. I was reminded of this recently when I read a book about the Mob in New York City during the 1960s and 70s.

I kept trying to imagine growing up and living in that kind of milieu, in which the business of everyday life consisted of robbing banks, hijacking trucks, laundering money, promoting prostitution and gambling, taking people hostage, beating people up, breaking people’s legs, cutting off people’s hands, and killing people with machine guns, revolvers, baseball bats, or simply one’s own fists.

Mobsters were ruthless. Violence and death were status quo. And for the most part, they enjoyed it. Torturing and “whacking” people was all just part of a satisfying day’s work. That’s what I find particularly hard to understand.

~~~

In high school, I was part of a gang myself—all college-bound, honor students who nevertheless weren’t above a little mischief. Our idea of wreaking vengeance on the enemy was leaving a banana in the history teacher’s desk drawer right before Christmas break, so that when he came back in January it was overripe and plenty pungent. We also tormented that same teacher by hanging a pair of boys’ underwear on the license plate of his VW Bug while it was parked in the teachers’ lot. Just like the gangsters, we felt pretty smug about doing something wrong and getting away with it.

And then there was the time I ventured solo into the underworld of crime when I wrote a Spanish paper for a kid named Wes who paid me five dollars to do it. It was easy money and a pretty good take in 1974 dollars, but I later felt so guilty about helping him cheat that I donated my illicit earnings to a school fundraiser.

~~~

So who would be more likely to merit heaven—the gangsters like Gambino and Gotti or the goodie-goodies like me? Of course, that’s a trick question because if you know anything at all about grace you know none of us is taking the up elevator by reason of pushing any buttons on our own.

But I know I’m going to heaven and I believe I may see at least one gangster there: Al Capone. I’ll tell you why.

~~~

When I was researching my book Sweet Mercy, I read a number of books about the life of Al Capone. One of the books told of Capone’s conversion to Christianity while in Alcatraz. It seems he was among the group of prisoners who went to hear a visiting pastor preach one Sunday morning. When the pastor asked if anyone was in need of prayer, Al Capone raised his hand. When the pastor asked if anyone felt in need of a savior, Al Capone stood.

This particular event isn’t exactly an enduring part of the gangster’s famous persona. When you think of Al “Scarface” Capone, you don’t think of him as the mobster who came to Jesus behind bars. After he was released and living in Florida, he himself told visitors that he had met Jesus in Alcatraz, but few people believed him.

For one thing, old Scarface was suffering from a physical illness that affected his mind, so that one of his friends described him as “nutty as a fruitcake.” For that reason, it was easy to blow off his talk of conversion. Although, when you think about, most people who claim conversion—especially jailhouse conversion—are considered nutty as fruitcakes. Even I’ve been called nutty myself for believing in God, so it’s a pretty convenient label to pin on folks of faith.

~~~

For another jailhouse conversion, look at King Manasseh, ruler of Judah for 55 years. His evil deeds undoubtedly rivaled those of any mobster. He worshiped idols and was deep into the occult, consulting mediums, practicing sorcery, and involving himself in other “abominable practices” that the chronicler didn’t care to go into. The chronicler did mention, however, what to me is the very worst of his acts: Manasseh “made his son pass through the fire.” That is, he sacrificed his son to a non-existent pagan god. He killed his own child, maybe even more than one of them.

Even the Mafia, according to their own code of conduct, didn’t kill children.

Eventually, Manasseh was carried off by the Assyrians to Babylon and imprisoned. It was then that he humbled himself and cried out to God. His repentance must have been genuine, because God heard him and restored him to the kingdom of Judah. Once home, the former evil king cleaned up the place, tore down the pagan altars, and “commanded Judah to serve the Lord the God of Israel.” From that time forward, Manasseh belonged to the Lord.*

~~~

If God turned Manasseh around, he could do the same for Al Capone. Because the bottom line is this: It’s not how bad the person is, it’s how good God is. God’s goodness, grace and mercy are what transforms sinners into saints and opens the door to heaven, whether the sinner is a machine gun-wielding mobster or a banana-wielding adolescent. Neither deserves mercy, yet to each it is given freely.

Al Capone, being Catholic, received the sacraments of the Catholic Church before he died and, after death, was buried in consecrated ground. Marking his burial place is a stone on which is carved his name, his birth and death dates, and the words: “My Jesus Mercy.”

Is Al Capone in heaven? I don’t know for sure, but if he is, I intend to sit down and share a fruitcake with him. Won’t that be something? Me and old Scarface—just a couple of undeserving nuts enjoying the presence of God for all eternity.

 

* King Manasseh’s story is found in 2 Chronicles 33.

Sandy’s Story: When There are No Words

There are times when overwhelming loss leaves us without words. Sandra Merville Hart has known such a time. But she has also known the love of God that carries us through those days. Here is Sandy’s story …

Sometimes … God just cries with us.

That year, between the two of us, my husband and I lost three parents. Though I prayed fervently for a different outcome—one where they’d all be healed—for the third time in six months a hospice nurse told me, “We’re seeing the kind of things we see in the last twelve, twenty-four, to forty-eight hours of life.”

This time it was for my dad. The strong man who had been a rock, a safe haven for me and my siblings, lay dying. Mom had died five months earlier and my father-in-law a month before that. Could this really be happening again?

~~~

My dad had been the caregiver for my mom for several years. Her Alzheimer’s grew worse, requiring more time from me and my sister to cook, clean, and help care for Mom. Before my dad’s stroke, one of us had visited daily for many long months. His stroke started an avalanche of sorrow and grief.

For it seemed that God had opened a box, letting out all the bad things at once, and didn’t close the lid until the box was empty. Strokes, two cancer diagnoses, Alzheimer’s, a broken hip—it all tumbled down on our precious parents. Each day—sometimes each hour—brought new struggles as I watched the health of people I loved so dearly seep away.

My sister and I shouldered the brunt of these trials so that my parents never knew all that happened with social agencies, social workers, nursing homes, insurance agents, attorneys, nurses, financial institutions, and hospice staff. I felt like I was drowning, with no one to save me.

~~~

Yet it was my parents, my father-in-law, and my mother-in-law who suffered the most. Alzheimer’s didn’t prevent my mother-in-law from grieving her husband.

The worst part was that my parents were in different nursing homes for about a month. My mom was too ill to go see him and the insurance threatened to cancel his benefits if he left the nursing home. It was a nightmare.

Anytime someone asked how to pray for us, I said, “Pray that my dad’s nursing home finds room for my mom.” Four days after she was accepted for hospice care, she and my dad were reunited in the same nursing home. Unfortunately, hospital staff had called my husband’s family to be at his dad’s side to say final goodbyes, so I missed that joyful reunion.

It was that kind of year.

~~~

For all that we endured, I’m sure we were saved from events that would have made it worse. I’m grateful for the mercies extended to my parents during those dark days.

My dad’s cancer diagnosis came five months after my mother’s death. My siblings and I were left reeling from the blow. He lived two more weeks.

Our broken hearts grieved his passing yet rejoiced that he now walked hand-in-hand with his bride on streets of gold. No Alzheimer’s. No cancer. No stroke.

I looked up at puffy white clouds during his funeral and knew somewhere up there my parents had been reunited. They were happy again.

~~~

I never felt God abandoned me, though I wondered why everything had to be so painfully hard. I leaned heavily on God and my faith. There were many days when there were no words to express my feelings in prayer. I’m grateful that the Holy Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans words cannot express. Romans 8:26 (NIV)

No one can emerge from such experiences without being changed.

I’ve learned that caring actions like a hug, a genuine smile, a card, and a meal can give you the strength to make it through the day. I’ve learned how to care for someone who is suffering through difficult days.

And I’ll never forget how God loved my parents and provided for them when everything seemed hopeless. I prayed that He’d take the illnesses away and heal them again. It wasn’t to be. But I felt that God suffered with me and my siblings. Just as Jesus was moved with compassion for hurting folks, God shared our pain.

Knowing God shared our sorrow was one of the greatest blessings I received from that experience.

From all this sorrow, I finally understand. Sometimes God just cries with us.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4 (NIV)

SandraMervilleHart_Headshot2 Please visit Sandy on her blog: https://sandramervillehart.wordpress.com/. And be sure to check out her newest book, Trail’s End, in “Smitten Novella Collection: The Cowboys,” releasing August 15, 2019!

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