Over the last two years and two and a half months the word “normal” has lost all real meaning to me. Oh, I use to think I was enlightened as I would tout the saying, “Normal is a setting on your dryer”, as if I had any idea of what a life looked like that wasn’t normal. However, now I know that normal is overrated.
Two years and two and a half months ago my brother got sick. That is when our normal changed, but that story has already been told. What hasn’t been told is what took place in our family four weeks and two days ago. New Year’s Day to be exact.
So settle in, grab some popcorn, and welcome to my life as a Lifetime movie.
The starring role is played by my sister, Rebecca. She is the heroine of this story and me, well, I’m just a supporting role whose name would appear about twenty names down when they rolled the credits.
One day I’ll write the story from our heroine’s perspective. I’ll have a real interview with her with a tape recorder and everything. I’ll ask tons of questions she won’t think are important and she will roll her eyes at me at least half a dozen times. It will be great!
One day you’ll hear her story.
Today you will just have to settle for mine.
New Year’s Eve I went to a party. I played Nertz with new friends, roasted marshmallows with old friends, and rang in 2012 with my new community in Nashville without a care in the world and with so much hope for everything I believed God moved me to Nashville for.
I fell asleep that night content.
Six hours and forty-seven minutes later my phone woke me up, only it wasn’t my alarm. It was my moma.
In the milliseconds it took me to answer the phone I thought a bunch of things.
Really? 7:47am on New Year’s Day when she knew was at a party all night?!? She must feel guilty for not calling me back last night when I called to tell her “Happy New Year”, but seriously, did she have to call me on her way to church?
“Did I wake you up”, she asked.
“Uhh, yea,” I replied with my voice thick with sleep.
“I’m sorry, honey, but I need you to wake up.”
Well that did it.
What happened? Who died? What happened to Daddy? He did just have a very serious health scare several weeks ago.
“Are you laying down?”
Okay, seriously? Now she was starting to freak me out.
“Okay, there is someone here who needs to share something with you.”
Then my sister got on the phone. I followed her every word as intently as Alice followed the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. Down the twists and turns of her sentences, trying to figure them out before she got to the end to decipher what she was trying to tell me only to end up flat on my rear end in a dark hole.
“Last night I started to get really sharp pains that made me think I had another kidney stone like I had last year. I tried to deal with the pain but then I told Moma that I couldn’t take it anymore and I asked her to take me to the hospital. We got to the hospital around midnight and after a series of tests it was determined that I did not have a kidney stone, but I was in labor, and at 4:31 this morning I had a baby boy…..”
I wish you could hear the sound of tires squealing on concrete as the brakes shut my brain off at this moment. I vaguely remember hearing her share stats with me and something about him being in the NICU and maybe she said something else but all I remember is an obvious disappearance of oxygen from the room as I began to hyperventilate.
“What? WHAT?!? Who? How? WHAT?!?”
You see, I had just seen her at Christmas. I shared a bathroom with her until November 4th when I moved to Nashville. I didn’t even know she was seeing someone. I had a brief moment of feeling like I was being Punk’d and that the whole lot of my family was going to come bursting through my bedroom door any second. Like I said, that moment was brief. Because in the coolest and calmest voice I have ever heard in my sister, she responded to my questions.
“The how you know. The who is for another conversation. And the what, all you need to know is I have a healthy six pound, six-ounce baby boy.”
The hyperventilation continued.
“What can I do? Do I need to come home? I NEED TO COME HOME! What do you need me to do?”
Again, cool as a cucumber…”You can help me pick out a name.”
“Okay, I can do that.” Names are right up my alley. I love them. I love what they mean about a person’s destiny in the Lord. THAT I could do.
Something happened and my moma was back on the line and again, I was asking if I needed to come home and then alternating between asking and then declaring that I was coming home. Then I asked my moma how she was doing, hoping desperately that she would know what I meant so I wouldn’t have to speak the words to a question I didn’t even know myself.
“How are YOU?!?”
I’ll never forget her words. They were freedom for me. They released me.
“Your Daddy and I are choosing to celebrate his life.”
I can count on one hand how many times in my life I have cried as hard as I did after that statement.
That statement made him real. I had another nephew. My sister was a moma. My sister had a son and he was in the NICU. I was an aunt again. There was life…and then there were eight.
Lately, I’ve been trying to put a name to the emotion that made me begin to cry. I think I’ve settled on shock, and while that may not be an emotion by definition, it was for me that day.
After I got off the phone I walked around on auto pilot. I knew I was going to church so I went into the kitchen to make myself some breakfast. I needed to seek the Lord’s face so I took my breakfast and sat down with my bible and journal in my bedroom. As I was reading, every name I saw was a potential for my new nephew so I looked them up on the internet. I needed to shower so I did.
With every new task there were two things that were constant. My weeping and the Holy Spirit’s presence.
As I was looking up names, I wrote the ones I liked down in my journal along with their meaning. Josiah; God will save. Jesse; Gift. Noah; Rest and comfort.
After wasting about ten minutes putting on my makeup I drove to church. I talked to my brother and sister-in-law on the way.
“Did you have any idea she was pregnant, Kathryn?”
“Are you kidding? No!”
It was beginning to dawn on me that neither had Rebecca. Remember, I shared a bathroom with her until she was seven and a half months pregnant.
She never got sick. She had a cycle every month. She would never have forgone prenatal care had she known she was pregnant. She would never have let our moma take her to the closest hospital to their house, knowing good and well they don’t deliver babies at that hospital.
Still not convinced? Well, I really don’t care because I believed her simply because she told me she didn’t know…even still, the number one reason I know she didn’t know she was pregnant is she would never have let the doctors pump her full of drugs to treat her for a kidney stone, therefore drugging up that sweet baby boy of hers.
Never would she have been that selfish.
I’m not entirely sure how I made it to church that morning but I did and to say I was a mess would be a gross understatement. I was coming a part at the seams. I can’t think of a better place to fall a part though.
During that morning’s time of worship a sweet, godly woman shared a word the Lord had given her. She said that during prayer that morning the Lord had given her a picture of complete and utter chaos; end times chaos. However, in the midst of that chaos the Lord said that the year of 2012 was going to be a year of His unexplainable peace and a year where He would give us His good gift of rest.
Did I mention she was looking directly at me as she said this? Maybe it was because I was a mess or maybe it was because the Lord specifically told her that word was for me, either way, I couldn’t breathe and a whole new wave of tears crashed over me.
His good gift of rest?
Noah; Rest and comfort.
In that moment, I kind of already named him Noah in my heart but there was only one thing…my sister had to like it. Well, she did and later that day, the baby who no one but the Holy Spirit knew about for forty-two weeks was named Noah Riley. Our little man of Brave Rest, since Riley means brave.
I began to pray into his name later that night and God reminded me that the Noah of old believed God when no one else did. He believed God when there was no circumstantial evidence to help him trust. He believed God and because he believed God he saved his family’s life. Because he believed God he provided a conduit where God brought redemption to this world in the form of Jesus.
What an incredible thing, to trust the Lord not because what He says makes sense but simply because it was He who said it.
And then I remembered that is one of the things the Lord wanted to teach me through my move to Nashville. I don’t have to have all of the answers or every little nuance of the timeline of my life figured out before I do something. God’s got it all.
In the days to follow I would catch myself trying to figure things out. “Okay, Becca will need this, and I wonder if she has thought about that, and…..”
Do you know what I heard from the Lord when my thoughts would send me into this tailspin?
“I don’t, all of a sudden, need your help on this. I’ve got this and I’ve had it.”
In that moment I knew that this lesson was so much bigger than Rebecca and Noah.
How often do I find out about something that the Lord has known about from eternity past and since I all of a sudden know about it I have to find a way to fix it? All. The. Time.
When He decides to let me know He has been working in the background of my life and He lifts the veil of knowledge He doesn’t need me to all of a sudden do anything except trust Him. To rest in the knowledge that He has everything and to move when He says move.
I went home to Columbus to see Rebecca and Noah four days after he was born and when I say those were the longest four days of my life I am not exaggerating. They were excruciating and most of those days included me walking around in a zombie-like trance.
On my return trip to Nashville I was talking to a sweet mentor of mine who said, “Kathryn, I don’t know how you are doing it; going back and leaving them.”
I told her I was sure I was where I was supposed to be. That if I was any less certain then I would take my crazy self back to Columbus and live across the hall from Noah and his moma.
Has it been hard to be away? Hard doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. Do I feel a little sore towards the Lord for requiring me to move before he was born because He didn’t want me there when it happened? A little.
But here is what I know.
I was sitting in the church I now call home in April of 2011. My sister and moma and I had gone to Nashville for my cousin’s wedding and we visited New Song while we were there. I sat right next to my sister as I began to sense the Lord lay out a strategy for me to move to Nashville in the fall.
I was sitting right next to my sister when the Lord made plain my way to move and she was already pregnant. Noah was already among us and God called me away.
Does that sting a little bit? Yes, but I can’t be sorry.
Is it a sacrifice? Absolutely, but God’s word is clear that we are to die to ourselves so that we may live in Christ Jesus.
Does it seem counter productive to be here taking care of someone else’s babies when I could be there helping to take care of my sister’s? To my checking account, no, but to my heart, yes!
But then God reminds me of the Promise. He reminds me that the Promise is here and I know that it will all be worth it in the end. When I choose to remember this I stay encouraged. I don’t care who you are, you can’t hear a story like this and not be encouraged.
Where there was nothing, all of a sudden there was everything?!? Isn’t that the entire creation story?
Genesis 1:2 says,”Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” There was nothing until God spoke and then there was everything.
“Let there be light,” verse three.
“Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water,” verse six.
“Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear,” verse nine.
“Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds,” verse eleven.
“Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth,” verses fourteen and fifteen.
“Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky,” verse twenty.
“Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind,” verse twenty-four.
“Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals and over all the creatures that move along the ground,” verse twenty-six.
The earth was formless, God spoke, and then all of a sudden…
What are you hoping for? What are you believing for? What is impossible for God?
The day after Rebecca gave birth to Noah her ankles and feet started to swell. The day AFTER he was born. She asked the nurse why they were swelling now and not before. The nurse looked at her and said, “Your body didn’t have enough time to get use to the fact that it was pregnant so now it is trying to get use to not being pregnant.”
I’m sorry, what? She was pregnant for forty-two weeks! How on earth did it not have time to get use to the fact that it was pregnant? And then it hit me…God hid Noah from her body as well as her mind.
What is impossible for God?
That loved one whose salvation you are praying for, aching for; they are just one decision away. That disease in your body is subject to the King of Kings, believe that! That husband you are waiting for, that wife you are waiting for, they are closer than you think. That womb that is barren and that baby you have prayed for, you believe God! The earth was formless, there was nothing and then all of a sudden!
He is constantly working behind the scenes of our lives and while it is His good pleasure to surprise us with the joys of life, the miracles of life, He works to make His name famous among the earth.
He works in such a way that a young woman would walk through her entire pregnancy, save the final hours, without knowing anything about it so that no shame would rest on her and thus rest on that baby.
Noah was wanted from the moment the knowledge of him was given.
But for forty-two weeks it was just Noah and the Holy Spirit hanging out in Rebecca’s womb. Noah growing and the Holy Spirit protecting, preserving, and sustaining his life as his moma didn’t know to be careful. Noah stretching out in the long torso of my sister and the Holy Spirit loving and ministering to this new little life that was not planned by his earthly parents but set apart and called forth by his Heavenly Father.
Psalm 139 tells us all about this sort of thing, but I admit I had heard it so much it had lost all of it’s magic. Well, no more.
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
“My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place”…it was so secret that his moma didn’t even know. Tell me, what is impossible for our God?!?
I am more than a little excited to see what kind of Kingdom-Building relationship Noah has with the Holy Spirit as he grows older. His very entrance into the world has brought fame and glory to the Lord already. His Aunt Kathryn has fallen more deeply in love with the Lord than ever before, more enthralled with God’s majesty.
As I was feeding him his bottle this weekend during one of the middle of the night shifts I was overcome.
The room was dark but I could still make out those incredible, big brown eyes staring right into mine and as he sucked on that bottle and made his sweet little baby noises I just began to weep. How great is our God to give our family and this earth such a miracle? And even more than that, how much He must love and trust my sister to have entrusted such a miracle to her? Was there sin involved? Sure, but like I Peter 4:8 says, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” I’m fairly certain that the Lord loves her A LOT and so do I. So when I look at her at don’t see what she did but who she is and who she is is a great moma to her boy.
So, welcome to the world Noah Riley. Thank you for existing. Thank you for teaching us all how utterly dependent we are on such an awesome and sovereign God. Thank you for already making God’s name famous. I scarcely feel worthy to be called your aunt.