The morning of
It was 4:30 am on October 19, 2016. I hadn’t really been asleep at all but was laying quietly on the hospital couch looking at the clock that had stopped working. In a few hours, Layla would be going downstairs to have her skull opened and tumor removed. Skull opened….I kept saying that over and over in my head until it didn’t even sound like real words. Do you ever do that? Say a word so many times it starts to sound wrong?? This was wrong on so many levels. 24 hours before I was asleep in my own bed, just down the hall from my perfectly healthy children. How did we get here?? Why was this happening? Would she be ok? What was next?
I moved from the couch to the chair and opened the Bible app on my phone, wishing I had coffee. One thing about the ICU is that “technically” there are no food or drinks allowed. Who makes these rules to torture parents in need of caffeine?! Talk about adding insult to injury. I sat there looking at my phone trying to figure out what I was looking for. In the search bar, I typed Fear.
Afraid was how I was feeling. Fear beyond measure or comprehension. I had worried about many things in life. I’m what I like to call an “apocalyptic worrier”. I can take the smallest thing and completely blow it out into the end of the world. It’s my coping mechanism. If I can think through any worst-case scenario and survive it in my mind then everything will be ok. This time I couldn’t do that. I knew what the worst case was and my mind refused to go there. Life without Layla was unimaginable. Even my apocalyptic brain said “nope!”
I needed to know what God said about fear. I mean, I knew what it said already, but I reeaalllly needed to know. To me, this was not a Philippians 4:6 moment. Simply presenting my request to God did not seem sufficient. I couldn’t imagine holding my daughter up to him because I was curled up on the floor at his feet. I was wrecked. No, this was going to require some big guns 💪🏼
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
Philippians 4:6 NIV
Never in my life had I read Psalm 91, but that was the first thing listed in my search results. Every single word brought me comfort. It’s impossible for me to try and pick a favorite verse or the one that spoke to me the most (I just tried again and still can’t do it), and every time I read it I still cry. But for the sake of this post my heart is leaning towards verse 15:
“He will call on me, and I will answer him. I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.”
I remember that morning reading it over and over and I began to insert Layla’s name into all the pronouns.
“For he will command his angels concerning [Layla] to guard [her] in all [her] ways; they will lift [her] up in their hands, so [her] foot will not strike a stone.” v 11-12
“He will cover [her] with his feathers, and under his wings [she] will find refuge” v 4
God repeats himself
Later that morning after we had walked Layla down to surgery and her team had whisked her away, Bryan and I headed to the surgical waiting room. Again, no food or drinks were allowed anywhere except the tiny break room (who are these people that make these ridiculous rules!!!), so we had close to 30 people crammed into this space to gather and pray. Both of our families, our closest friends, Layla’s teachers from school…they represented only a fraction of the people that were bowing their heads to pray for us that morning. It was emotional and overwhelming. One of our pastors from church was there as well and she pulled me aside to talk. That morning she had opened her Bible to pray for Layla and her heart was also guided to Psalm 91. As she read it to me, I remember her using Layla’s name in all the same places that I had. It was that point I knew I was a Psalm 91 fan 🙂
The more I read the words and meditated on their meaning, I began to draw parallels between Psalm 91 and Ephesians 6. In Ephesians 6, we’re told about the Armor of God and directed on how to use each piece of this protection as we walk through our daily lives. If you’re a woman and have not read Armor of God by Priscilla Shirer, you absolutely should go buy it right now! Hop on over to Amazon and order it.
The imagery of Ephesians 6 10:19 is that of going to battle. We are soldiers in the army of God and without our equipment, we are rendered helpless against the attacks of the enemy. We are instructed to take up the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit as we march forward in life. Roll back to Psalm 91 and we’re told that His faithfulness will be our shield (v 4). “You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you” (v 5-6)
Maybe it’s just me, but when I read that I imagine a battlefield. A raging war between good and evil, and with my God beside me there is nothing that can touch me. I am surrounded by angels as arrows zoom past with no effect. This is the image that I return to on the days where fear tries to overtake me. I put myself in the middle of that battlefield with Layla and we are covered by the wings of angels. As a parent of a critically ill child, you do your best to cover and protect them from everything you can. You’d take the burden of their pain if you could and you’d carry it just like Christ does for us. But the truth is we cannot carry all of that for our children (or ourselves). Christ wants us to lay those burdens down at his feet and allow ourselves to be covered by his angels.
Let our story be an encouragement to you. Remind yourself to take up that shield every morning even if your burden is not cancer. Carry that armor with you onto the battlefield of life. The enemy attacks from all angles, but when we’re prepared by the Spirit we can overcome so much more than we think.
All the hugs,