in the beginning . . .

With the brave hope that you are intrigued about the collection of stories in Held and Beloved, it is a pleasure to offer one last sneak peek inside . . .

Here is part of the first chapter:

chapter one

the One with whom nothing is impossible:

blessed is she who believes

Another hour passed as the clock ticked in the dark of night.  She struggled to sleep but couldn’t.  In those days, mamas didn’t stay in the hospital room overnight with their little ones.  They walked out with everyone else at the end of visiting hours. 

Despite willing herself not to go, this young mama had done just that, leaving her three-month-old baby girl in a padded crib at St. Christopher’s Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia.  She went home to spend some time with her husband and two-year-old daughter.  To try to rest.  And pray.  And wait. 

In the darkness, she found herself pleading for morning to come and yet dreading it all at the same time.  There was no news through the night and she never knew what morning would reveal.  She wanted to believe each new day would be the day that healing would come.  She feared each new day could be the day they lost her.  And the truth is, she never knew how close they came on more than one occasion.

Agonizing weeks passed as a blood vessel tumor held her baby girl’s right forearm captive.  It was blown up like an oversized eggplant, equally purple in color.  It was sucking every last platelet out of her little body, leaving her vulnerable to bleeding that couldn’t be stopped, which would be fatal.

There were only five cases of this type of hemangioma on record.  Their pediatrician stayed up many nights making calls, hunting down any available information that would help.  In the days before cell phones or even beepers, this doctor had given his home telephone number.  He insisted they call day or night if they needed anything, even if it was just a reassuring voice that someone cared enough to work around the clock to save their baby girl.

Many family members and friends were praying.  It gave them hope and confidence that couldn’t be explained.  A peace that no matter the news of the day, a loving heavenly Father was over all things.  He would be with their baby girl when they couldn’t.  He who formed her body was able to heal it.

At a critical time when all seemed hopeless, a daunting rescue plan was seriously discussed.  Amputation.  It seemed the only way to remove the tumor and allow the body to return to normal.  But without an arm.  How could they make such a life-altering decision for their three-month-old baby girl?

Impossible.  It all seemed insurmountable.  How could they begin to understand which path forward was best?  To properly sift through medical updates they could barely make sense of?  Their baby’s condition was so rare, even the professionals seemed at a loss for a confident recommendation. 

Prayers continued for wisdom beyond their comprehension.

Practical concerns began to haunt them.  Could they even imagine what life would be like for their little girl without an arm?  Would they know how to help her navigate the adjustments she would need to make?  Could such a daring plan truly be the lifesaving measure they longed for?  How could they make this terrifying decision?

It all seemed impossible.

. . .

Many, many years before, another woman faced her own “impossibles.”  Insurmountable circumstances.  Terrifying decisions.  Feelings of inadequacy, fear, uncertainty.

Sarah’s husband, Abraham, was known as “the friend of GOD,”[i] the One who called them to leave their home and travel to an unknown land.  With little explanation to offer anyone who asked, they obeyed.  They packed up their belongings, household, and flocks, and started their journey.

They spent many years following without really knowing how GOD would fulfill His plans, but holding dearly to His promises—of land, of innumerable descendants, of His protection and the great reward of His Presence, of a covenant with Almighty GOD, and that Abraham would become the father of a great nation through whom all nations of the world would be blessed.

Sarah was Abraham’s “princess.”[ii]  She was beautiful and treasured.  But she was barren.  Unable to conceive and bear the children the Lord promised.  How did she fit into the plans GOD revealed to her husband?  Was she part of His plan?  Did she matter to Him?  Being barren was already viewed as a disgrace in her culture.  To make matters worse, she couldn’t begin to understand how her reality fit into GOD’s purposes.  Heaviness often clouded her heart.  Leaving her feeling more cursed than blessed.

Very likely, there were times of raging doubt and confusion, trying to make sense of GOD’s plans when they seemed so contrary to human reasoning.  How did Sarah feel about GOD’s call on her husband’s life or their new, transient existence?  Did she find it adventurous and exciting?  A chance to escape the judgmental glances or hard questions from others that she never could answer?  Or did it leave her weary, lonely, questioning, and longing—still longing for a child and now also longing for anything that felt like “home?”  What did she think of the GOD to whom her husband seemed so loyal, so convinced of His existence and sovereignty?

Scripture doesn’t say.  But we know that when GOD called Abraham, they found enough courage to obey and followed the path to which GOD pointed.

There were faltering steps along the way, when fear and impatience led to unwise and ungodly decisions.  When Abraham asked her to protect him by saying he was her brother so heathen political leaders would not kill him in order to claim his wife for themselves.  Sarah was taken into those rulers’ harems, alone and in danger in foreign lands, with only the unseen hand of GOD moving behind the scenes to protect and rescue her.  Or when the fulfillment of GOD’s promise of a son was too long in coming, Sarah was the one who offered the alternative path of using a surrogate mother.  But that choice only complicated their struggles with deeper strife, heartache, separation, and blame.

It all seemed horribly impossible. 

In the middle of their mess, Abraham still seemed confident.  But Sarah was not.  Her insides swirled with a growing mixture of frustration, deepening confusion, and painful disappointment.  She resigned herself to never understanding this GOD Abraham trusted so unwaveringly.

But GOD!

One memorable day, three men came to visit Abraham and Sarah in the desert.  Abraham quickly directed his men to prepare meat and Sarah to bake cakes for their visitors.  As her husband dined with the men in the shade outside, Sarah hid in the tent, straining to hear their conversation.  She heard Abraham speak to one of the men the way he had often spoken to the LORD!  Could he be meeting with this GOD face to face?  What would the LORD say to him during this miraculous visit?

Did Sarah hear Him correctly?  The LORD reiterated His plans for Abraham to have a son.  Only this time, He spoke Sarah’s name!  He made it clear that His covenant promises would not be fulfilled through a surrogate mother’s child, but through Sarah’s son!  He confidently stated that Sarah would bear a son and name him Isaac.

Sarah couldn’t contain her shock and disbelief and laughed out loud!  How on earth could that be possible?  She was nearly ninety years old and Abraham nearly one hundred!  She had never been able to conceive a child and her body was now long past child-bearing age!  It all seemed too ridiculous to consider.

The LORD spoke again, asking why Sarah had laughed.  She had been discovered!  He saw her.  He heard her.  Embarrassed and possibly for the first time, feeling fear of Almighty GOD, Sarah denied that she laughed.  But the LORD knew her heart.  He stated the facts, “That is not true.  You did laugh.”[iii]

She held her breath.  How would the LORD respond to her disbelief?  Her dishonesty? 

But how gracious is He?  His plans were not deterred by her faltering steps.  He spoke plainly to Abraham in her hearing, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?  About a year from now, just as I told you, I will return, and Sarah will have a son.”[iv]

Beyond human comprehension and the laws of physical science (as only GOD can do!), Sarah and Abraham would have a child!  Sarah may not have spoken to the LORD face to face as Abraham had, but she heard His voice.  She heard Him identify her by name and promise the impossible.  She would come to know in the very depths of her being that nothing is too hard for the LORD!

I wonder if that day behind the tent door was a turning point for Sarah?  She heard the One true GOD speak her name and proclaim with assurance that His promise would be fulfilled through her!  Was that the moment when she realized the certainty of His promise was not up to her or to Abraham?  Not dependent on the state of their physical bodies or even remotely jeopardized by her disbelief?  It was simply GOD’s doing—and nothing is impossible with Him! 

The LORD who created you says:

“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. 

I have called you by name; you are Mine.” 

Isaiah 43:1

Hebrews tells us that Sarah believed GOD would keep His promise, that she judged Him faithful.   Reading her story, I am not so sure that was always the case.  We aren’t told much about Sarah’s journey of faith in GOD.  But it seems that now she was not just taking Abraham’s word for it, not just following his lead as head of their home.  This was her personal moment of trusting GOD!  And maybe for the first time, she stood confidently with her husband, knowing that Almighty GOD saw them as one and that together they would see Him accomplish great things!

It is wonderful to consider that the LORD pursued her heart, personally and intimately, until she was able to trust Him.

I find it heartwarming that the LORD named their son Isaac, which means “laughter.”  Sarah would finally be a mom!  She would feel him growing inside her.  She would know the elation of hearing his first cry after the pain of labor.  She would rock and bounce a baby in her arms and sing him to sleep.  She would watch him grow and note each milestone. 

Sarah would know a deeper joy than she could imagine.  True laughter, not of disbelief, but of awe and worship with which nothing could compare.  Soul-strengthening joy that could only come from GOD taking their “impossibles” and showing them exactly what He can do—immeasurably, abundantly, and above all that they could imagine!  His plans were always exact and right on time.  Moving forward in a way that was undeniably, exclusively His doing!

Sarah was able to have a child,

though she was barren and was too old. 

She believed that GOD would keep His promise. 

Hebrews 11:11

. . .

Read more of her story . . . and reflect on your own!

SARAH

Genesis 12:1–9, 16:1–6, 17:15–19, 18:9–15, 21:1–7

What in Sarah’s story would have challenged you the most? 

What might have given her courage to meet those challenges?

In what ways did the LORD make Himself known to her?

What do you think the LORD most wanted Sarah to know about Him?

What promises has GOD given to you personally?

In what ways has He stretched the known physical/medical limits to do the “impossible” in your life?  to make Himself real to you?

What is your place in His plan?  (if you’re not sure, He would love for you to ask Him!)

. . .

Who is this One we are getting to know more intimately? 

The LORD revealed Himself to Sarah as:

* the One who hears

* the One who answers in ways we don’t expect, defying what we see as impossible

* the One whose promises include us

* the One who is faithful

* the One who views us as important—to Him, to our marriages, to His grand plan

* the One who rescues us from sadness, disgrace and despair

* the One who brings laughter

* the One whose timetable is orchestrated from a place of love


#impossible #Hemeetsusthere #wemattertoHim #GODspromises #believewhatHesays #healing #laughter #heldandbelovedbook #apeekinside #coverofHisPresence #trustingJESUS #amazedbyGRACE

[i] James 2:23

[ii] Genesis 17:15

[iii] Genesis 18:15

[iv] Genesis 18:14

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