When Times Get Tough

When Times Are Tough

When we discovered I was pregnant with our fourth child, I immediately fell in love with this tiny stranger whose fingers and toes were still taking shape.

But I had this uneasy feeling I couldn’t shake that something just wasn’t right. I chided myself, attributing it to fear, and forged ahead with my to-do list. At my ten-week OB appointment, though, my husband, Ted, and I found out it wasn’t just a case of mommy anxiousness. When the medical technician pressed the fetal Doppler against my belly, the monitor showed no spine, no little appendages. Just open space. When the doctor zoomed in, he found a small clump affixed to the uterine wall—less than half an inch, not the size you’d expect from a ten-week-old baby. My eyes filled with tears.

Our baby had died.

I look back at the weeks and months that followed and I don’t know how I would have survived without Ted. He listened to my uncensored words, held me when I cried, and carefully chose a name with me for our baby. We called him Noah. When I was at my weakest, Ted was strong. But even though he was consistently there for me, we weren’t always on the same page. To make matters more stressful, I suffered from panic attacks. My OB recommended antidepressants. Tired of feeling unbalanced and afraid, I filled the prescription.

With the passing of time, my “happy pills,” and the news I was pregnant again, we started to embrace the idea that life could feel normal again. But before we got too comfortable, Ted was handed a pink slip.

A mere four months after that life-changing ultrasound, we weren’t just grieving the loss of Noah but also of Ted’s job. We’d been hit with a double whammy—and it seemed more than we could handle. Even as we attempted to stick together and cling to our foundational belief that God was good not matter what, we struggled—hard.

When Ted found another job out of state, we decided to do the unthinkable–live in two different states–while we sorted things out. But when our house in Colorado didn’t sell and the separation got old, I moved our family to be with Ted in Chicago. We began paying both rent and mortgage.

Then, two days after our fourth daughter was born, Ted lost his job a second time within twelve months. Five months after we’d packed a Penske truck bound for Chicago, we loaded another one bound for Missouri. Yet we still didn’t find rest. God moved us yet again. This time to Georgia, which, I’m happy to report, is where we still live.

Sometimes I wonder how we made it though what we call the “weeping years.” It wasn’t easy. But you know what carried us though? We didn’t stop with the idea of Ted and me against the world. We knew that if we were going to make it, we needed more than just “us.”

We Needed God

Even when I was a mess of emotions that didn’t make sense to Ted, or I couldn’t understand the anger he felt, we always agreed on one thing: God was good, and God was working for our good. Because he was good, we could trust him, no matter what.

That said, the one theological area I struggled with following our miscarriage was prayer. Even though I knew “the prayer of the righteous person has great power” (James 5:16), I felt the prayers for my pregnancy with Noah had been ineffective. “Why even pray?” I asked Ted one night. “If God’s going to say no, why bother?:

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I heard Ted take a deep breath before offering me these words of wisdom: “Because it’s about relationship.”

This is one of many, many conversations we had where one of us pointed the other back to the Lord, back to the foundation that originally drew us to each other. We didn’t just cling to each other, we clung to God. We also embraced the communities God put us within.

We Needed His Bride

In the song “Shine Your Light On Me,” one of my favorite songwriters, Andrew Peterson, captures the beauty of how community—the body of Christ—can make a difference in hard times. Whenever I have the luxury of driving somewhere all by myself, I often turn on his Light for the Lost Boy and skip to this track. Without fail, tears stream down my face as I let the words of this haunting tune surround me. I’m taken back to the darkness we walked through in those weeping years. But I’m also taken back to the ways God gently whispered to my hurting heart, though the loving acts of others who blessed us,  “You’re not forgotten. I see. I know. I love you and am taking care of you even though it may not feel like it at time.”

Still a Team

During our first few months in Missouri, I packed up our four kids and drove the fourteen hours to Colorado in a last-ditch attempt to sell our house. The trip is a blur of McDonald’s stops followed by a good week consumed by Sherwin-Williams Shaker Beige paint cans and rollers, but those aren’t what stand out most clearly about the trip. Rather it’s a conversation I had with our worship pastor’s wife there.

As I updated her on our time in Chicago and our most recent move to mid-America, she thoughtfully asked me, ”Do you still love Jesus?”

“Yes,” I responded.

She followed with, “Do you still love each other?”

Once again I answered, “Yes.”

“Then you’re doing good,” she encouraged.

She was right. We’d come through our weeping years with our faith and relationship intact. Ted and I are still a team. It hasn’t been easy, and it certainly hasn’t come without questions, doubts, and fears, but here we are—together on the other side.

Adapted from Team Us, © 2014 by Ashleigh Slater. Used with permission of Moody Publishers.

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