“Your womb is empty,” said Dr. Witek, after pouring over the ultrasound for what seemed like hours. How could this have happened?, we silently cried. Everything seemed perfect. We had already lost one child by miscarriage, but now I was into my 12th week of a new pregnancy and everything was going so well. We had so wanted another baby, and our then two-year-old son, Jacob, was already looking forward to a brother or sister.
The reality of this loss was severe. The confusion as to why my womb was empty lingered in my mind. Of course I wondered if there was some kind of miscommunication – I wanted to believe that there was. Yet the doctor on duty had spoken English and had made it very clear: there was no baby.
It was weeks later that we found out the reason. Though at the time I’d never heard of such a thing, I had what they call a Mole Pregnancy – a small tumor that is fed by HCG hormones. Sadness and grief set in as we coped with the reality of what had been: an empty, yet growing womb. Each trip over the next year and a half to the hospital for further testing only painfully reminded me of the child I never carried. The dark, looming questions of what would happen next filled my mind.
We’d had some tumultuous days of ministry in Poland prior to this pregnancy. Having come all this way and given our lives to this people, I felt at this point like God was asking us for more than I had bargained for. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. We were to come to Poland, give our lives for the Gospel, people would respond, everyone would love us, and then we would go home. Of course I never said that, but deep down I clung to that belief.
In the early months of 1998 following these difficult circumstances, I found myself struggling with yet another problem: physical pains. It seemed that daily the manifestations of that pain would show up in different places. I was beginning to lose sleep, and tingling sensations were happening in my feet and hands. I didn’t know what was happening and it scared me.
The following months were filled with additional visits to the doctor. Finally there was a diagnosis: depression and anxiety. What? Me? A global worker? This can’t be happening.
Those were dark months for me; months of trying to figure out why this had happened. I spent hours trying to figure out how to “do it differently” next time so that I would never end up here again. The darkness only got darker as I headed down this path, trying on my own to fix the past and prepare for the future.
God was leading me down a different path. “It’s not about the past or the future, but the present”, He quietly spoke to me. “Of course I know that,” I thought to myself and said to Him many times. “I’m sorry I’ve worried so much. I’m sorry I’ve taken things into my own hands. Clean me out.” I cried. But the darkness, the fears, and the negative thinking didn’t go away. I didn’t know when, or if, it ever would. I felt trapped inside my own body.
After months of struggling, my husband, Dan, made plans for us to go to Germany to take a break from the pressures I was facing. Many were praying. Many had moved into my life strongly, had loved me, and had stood with us during those difficult days. God was present.
After those weeks in Germany, I wrote to some friends in an attempt to capture what the Lord was doing in my life through these trials.
This has been another step in the road of faith for me. I have gotten some good sleep and have leveled out some emotionally (more good days than bad). Dan and I are more “together”, and the Lord has been at work. I have a few pictures in my mind of what it looks like right now to trust Him. I want to share those with you so that you will pray for me along these lines.
The first picture is that of a bullfight. Often I begin to see life as some kind of game and want the guarantee of “winning” in every move and every decision. Somehow, life SHOULD be more clear and more simple but it’s often fairly complicated and overwhelming to me in its decisions and unknowns. Sometimes it feels like a rough game, something like a bullfight. As I’ve spent time with the Lord and thinking through how I live life, I’ve come to see that I spend a lot of time on the stands as a spectator at these “bullfights”. Whenever the fight gets wild (i.e. things don’t go my way, Dan isn’t perfect, the ministry doesn’t go as I thought it would), I find myself up in the stands, “spectating”. As a spectator, I plan all the moves that everyone else should make (or shouldn’t have made), or how I would do it differently. Then, I judge, and even condemn (myself included), those down in the fight when they don’t do it the way that I would.
Sometimes the opposite happens and I end up glorifying or praising those same people when they do it my way. Or, I decide they are just too good and I could never be on a “team” with them. But this leads me down another empty path and the people remain distant, and life is not much fun. I somehow think it’s a safe place up in the stands because of the distance, when in reality it’s a very scary and lonely place.
I see now that my call from the Lord, who is in the ring with the red flag, is to hold His hand and walk down the stairs with Him and enter the fight. I am to be right alongside everyone else. We’re all on the same team fighting the same bull. He can be creative and wear an assortment of masks, but they are just that–masks. The most important part is that the bull is not Dan, co-workers, or our pastor. That bull is the enemy.
The fight might get wild. But it’s the One holding the red flag who takes the blows. He is Jesus. He is taking them for me. I might get bruised when I get in the way, but He will really take it all. So I’m choosing to take the hand of my Savior and walk down into the fight. I’m not going to be a spectator anymore.
The second picture is just coming into focus since our return. I went second-hand shopping with a friend one day in Switzerland. For several years I’d wanted to buy a dessert buffet for our living room – I’d even prayed about it! Yet the whole trip to Switzerland was confusing like most everything is for me right now. I was feeling shaky during the drive just thinking about the decisions I was going to make there, especially if I found this buffet.
In the afternoon, we were wandering around in a store when suddenly something caught my eye. Sitting there on a dusty shelf was a beautiful antique tea set. I knew my friend, Candy, was looking for a teapot in this certain pattern so I didn’t say anything. However, Candy didn’t want the whole set, which left me to make a decision. I was feeling very shaky by this time. But it was at this moment that Candy said to me, “Laura, this tea set feels like ‘life’ to me for you in Poland – that you will have women around you and that you will love them”.
That caught me. Somehow it gave me hope for a different future. I didn’t know why I needed a pink, antique tea set, but after tentatively offering the woman less than what the sign said, I bought it. We drove on to another store and it was there that I saw the buffet. It wasn’t the dessert buffet that I’d always pictured, but was something like what I would call a “mini-buffet”. The color was darker than I’d imagined, and the price a little too high. But there was something about it that caught my eye. And somehow it also gave me hope – even something to look forward to in just taking it back home to Poland a few days later. The man at the store ended up taking less for it, and I even got a basket thrown in for free!
The next part of this picture that the Lord is weaving for me, came a few days later when we went to the airport to pick up Jerri, a friend who had flown in from Colorado to spend time with me. Right away she gave me a birthday present. It was a picture of four teapots! One of them was almost identical to the teapot in the set I’d so tentatively bought. Oh, how that blessed me! “You really do have something in this for me, don’t you Lord”, I thought to myself. Several weeks later we arrived home, set up the buffet, put the tea set on it, placed the picture nearby, and went AHHHHHH! It’s nice! It fits. It belongs here.
I then went to open the mail and there was a birthday card from our organization. It had two teacups on it. They looked like my cups! “Okay Lord, now I know You are talking to me!”
For me, it was all about hope; the hope that I have set before me, both in this life, and in heaven to come. I don’t have all the answers here. I don’t make good decisions every time. I’m not perfect and neither is anyone else. But God loves me and longs to work all things for good as I love Him in return.
And then, there is the hope of heaven when it will ALL come together. When I’ll see Him face to face. When I’ll sit at His feet and drink in all of who He is. When I’ll be with all the people I love and we’ll have a wonderful banquet together. All together, in the same place, with no unanswered questions. Maybe He’ll even set out a teacup that looks like the one He brought to me here on earth!
I long to be present both in the bullfight, and at the tea parties of life. Pray for me that I’ll cling tightly to His hand in both.
I had three special tea parties last month. It was wonderful to have the tea set and the buffet as reminders of the hope God has given me. I want to pour my life out to the people here in Poland. I’ve had some really good talks with my neighbor this past week. She doesn’t understand why God allows such painful things as what I’ve been through (or what she’s been through). Do any of us? But she told me again how good it is to talk about these things. She said she doesn’t have anyone that she can talk to like this. She knows that I struggle with life, and it’s been good to offer my struggles and my hope to her. I pray that one day Helena will come to know the hope that I have found in Jesus; that she will also sit, resting at the beautiful banquet table He has so carefully prepared for her and will hold His hand as she walks into the “fight.”