Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Beauty from Ashes

When I found out I was pregnant with Isaac, I was quite young. Well, young for today's standards. I was 23 and we had only been married for two and a half years. I was in the workforce working as a Writer/Editor for a non-profit (Family Care Network) in town. Thankfully, we were both were graduated but my husband was in an internship at our church and not a permanent position, working with the youth group. We lived in a tiny one bedroom apartment that when I think about it now, would've taken me about 45 minutes to clean top to bottom. Too bad I never cleaned in those days. I didn't know ANYTHING about running a home. I cooked some nights but we ate out a lot and I was pretty naive about most domestic things.

But there I was, pregnant with our first, and I had NO CLUE what was going to happen next. None of my friends were pregnant yet. All of our buddies from college were newly married too and were enjoying their first years together. So that meant that I was all on my own to try and figure out how to handle pregnancy. To say I wasn't scared is an understatement, however, as time went on, God helped me navigate the new waters and I learned quickly how my body was changing. It was all a big adventure.

We had quite a bit to figure out. Steve had to figure out very quickly what he wanted to do with his life and get himself a real job. Not that he wasn't working hard as an intern, it just wasn't permanent and we needed health benefits. My job provided our benefits at the time and we hoped I wouldn't be working after the baby was born. We started to save money like we had never before. We always saved and we almost always dealt in cash with things-you know the old fashioned way, like if you can't pay cash for it you can't buy it (being poor, married college students taught us this) but we knew that it wasn't just us anymore. There would be another little person relying on us and we had to make sure we were being wise!!

So we saved, we searched for jobs, we prayed and we marveled at my growing belly. Everything went well, except for Steve finding a job. We lived in San Luis Obispo at the time, and we quickly found out that there isn't much for college grads there. It's just too small of a town and there are too many overqualified Cal Poly grads looking for jobs in the area because no one wants to leave the beautiful Central Coast. We hit June and 32 weeks and Steve still didn't have a permanent job. After August, we'd have no income. Isaac was due in August.

I remember feeling like we'd have nothing to offer. We lived in this little apartment, had old, old clunkers for cars, didn't have a nursery and lived paycheck to paycheck. And after August, there'd be no paycheck either. This time in my life proved to be one of the most stretching times. It also was an incredibly stretching time for our young marriage. Yet, instead of drifting apart in our frustration, we banded together like no other. We were so tight. We knew it was us against the world and we weren't about to give up on each other or anything else.

Then our cars were totaled. I know that I've already told that story on this blog so I won't go into so much detail but...for those who don't know, here's the story in short. It was early July and Steve finally had a lead on a job. The good news was that it meant money and benefits. The bad news: it was in another city up north and it started two weeks before I was due. Great timing huh! On our way home late at night, we got hit in a hit-and-run on the Cuesta Grade while just ten minutes from home. I was very pregnant and we got hit on the freeway--totally crazy. The whole thing is really a miracle. Even though we got hit very hard and our car was totaled, we were totally unhurt. We never found out who hit us so we were just out a car. The next day, on our way to get our rental car, somebody side-swiped us in our other car sending it to its grave as well. We had nothing but our rental car for the next 30 days.

I remember very distinctly going to bed the night of the hit-and-run thankful we were okay but shaken up pretty badly. As we lay there in the dark, huddled together, my husband sang the words to the Matt Redman song, "Blessed Be Your Name". We couldn't quite understand where we were at this time in our lives, but we knew that we just had to praise. God had already given us so much and knew our needs. Even though it looked bleak, we had to trust.

Within a few weeks things had turned around a bit. A couple at church had given us a car and Steve had accepted a teaching position which meant we were moving. I was 35 weeks and was packing my house. While most women are putting their feet up, admiring their nursery and washing all their baby clothes, I was boxing up everything we owned and getting it ready to move. We were to move when I was about 38 weeks. I never even saw the place we were going to live. I had no idea what we were getting into. I just knew we had to go. It was our only option.

The day before our move we found out Isaac was footling breech. He hadn't been the week before but all of the sudden he had turned around. I was devastated. I had wanted a natural birth and here I was staring down the barrel at a c-section. I knew nothing about c-sections. I knew nothing about breeches. It's not like I could go home and research my options since my entire house was full of boxes. We had no idea what to do. We were given ten minutes to discuss our options. C-section the next day or up in our new town early the next week. When the doctor left us alone to talk, we both burst out laughing. I was crying through the laughter, of course, but we just couldn't believe the curve ball we'd been thrown yet again. The next day we were supposed to move. The next day was also Steve's birthday.

Isaac, which means "laughter", was born the next morning via c-section, in his hometown of San Luis Obispo. There were many things, looking back, that I didn't anticipate about his birth. I didn't get to hold him for a few hours. I didn't get to be with him and watch him get cleaned up after he was born. I didn't have the whole birth process like most women do. And the pain afterward was horrible. I wasn't given any other options besides a c-section, which I know now wasn't very responsible of my doctor at the time. His birth also put me on a path of uphill struggle with the rest of my children and this was something I couldn't foresee.

However, when I look back, it was the perfect ending to such a roller coaster ride. One that only God could have orchestrated and one that only He could get the credit for. He is pretty creative. And it was special that all of the people we loved in San Luis got to see him actually born and say "good-bye" to us in the hospital. I will cherish those days and the many, many people that came through forever.

It was a time when God used the upcoming arrival and actual birth of our firstborn son to change us into totally different people. We had to grow up. We had to be brave. We had to band together as a team and we had to trust. Isaac's birth laid the foundation for all of our other children and their arrivals. God used all that He put us through (which could've been much worse) to prepare us for the future.

And that's what God does. He uses our life-changing events to help us see that there really isn't anything that is impossible for Him. He can do whatever He wants. And whatever He does do, even when it's what we least expect, it will always be beautiful, even if its beauty from ashes.

" grant for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor." Isaiah 61:3


  1. Wow, this one took me back. I remember every moment you talk about here! As hard as it was, and still is to not have you in SLO and at FCNI I am SO glad you are happy, a wonderful mom, and keeping up on blogs so friends in SLO know what is going on with your life. Miss you lots lady, and our wonderful morning talks :-)
    Guess I have to post this anonymously...cause I am not blog literate enough to figure out another way to do this!!! Amanda

  2. this was so encouraging to read, nikki. the Lord began family's story together with such beauty as he worked in your fresh new-parent- hearts. i love that and am encouraged. you are a beautiful mother and a beautiful family! thanks for sharing.

  3. Beautiful mama, beautiful baby, beautiful story! God is good!

  4. Wow - what a great entry! I didn't know half of that story. Amazing how God lets us look back on the difficulty with joy, isn't it. So cool about Isaac's name too. I love that!

  5. Nikki, I so miss the time we had at FCNI. I still remember taking pictures for you every week, it was so much fun! I am so proud of you and you are an inspiration. So glad that we got to know each other. God is amazing and so beautiful. You are a great MOM! - Michelle