(A Sequel to Rejoicing in Hope)
My knock was answered by the vivacious redhead. "Mrs. Richards!" Hope squealed, bouncing into my outstretched arms.
"Happy birthday, Hope!" I hugged her to me, amazed how much she'd grown.
"Where's your Mom?"
Hope stepped aside as I entered the modest mobile to find Rachel resting on the couch. The shabbiness of this place startled me compared to the spacious home the Andersen's owned ten years ago. So much had happened since Hope's birth. . . yet way too little.
"This is supposed to be a party!" Rachel scolded as we hugged and wept. "Three years is too long between visits, Grace."
Hope ricocheted between her brothers as twelve-year-old Derek administered the ten birthday spankings. "Great to see you, Mrs. R!" Danny, mature at fourteen, easily dominated, snaring Hope by the luxurious hair that cascaded in shimmering waves past her tiny waist.
Behind the laughter, pain still darkened Rachel's eyes. I remembered her months of torment longing to give birth to her precious Hope. When at last she could bear it no more, her husband had made the call: "She's failing, Doc. Ready or not, it's time for the c-section," Doug pleaded. Fifteen days shy of full term, Hope arrived on February 10.
What a privilege for me to assist in their bittersweet struggle! The first time I held that vigorous five-pound bundle was more than a blessed event: Hope's birth was a victory celebration! How many of us had worked, ministering to the Andersen family? And how many more had prayed!
We were confident Rachel would recover. She had focused on that finish line, holding nothing in reserve. But Rachel's agony was just beginning: the marathon she had run, only training for what lay ahead. For four months her strength increased before she collapsed back into bed. I remember the hushed whispers, the eyebrows raised.
God's priorities became painfully clear: Doug was needed at home. The family business failed, and for the next three years Doug was refused steady work. They salvaged enough money from the foreclosure sale and bankruptcy to vacate the home they loved and move with their remaining possessions into a rental on the other side of town. God's hand was faithful--he sufficiently provided daily bread.
"How's Danny?" I questioned Rachel. "As well as he looks?"
Rachel shrugged. "It depends." When the call came through our prayer chain that Danny had been hospitalized with bizarre neuromuscular symptoms, he was only seven. Prayer went up daily that he'd keep breathing, that soon he'd walk and read again. No longer were eyebrows raised with whispers, now it was open talk: this family was cursed.
How could that be? Jeremiah 17:7 (KJV) attests, "Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is." Andersen's lifeline was Jesus. So what was God's definition of "blessed"?
"It's strange how God brings good to those who love him," Rachel reminisced. "If not for Danny's illness, doctors couldn't have diagnosed mine. Mitochondrial disease--no tests would have shown it."
"Any progress?" I asked.
"There's no official treatment, but at times we're almost normal. God in his mercy provides the wisdom and grace to keep us functioning, and Danny and I bring comfort to one another."
I squeezed Rachel's hand. "I still don't understand," I told her.
"Neither do I, but I know God is in control. He is blessing us, no matter how much it hurts. There are still Christians who shun us," she confided. I just listened as she grieved.
"Jeremiah is the book that encourages me."
"It proves God is faithful, no matter how things appear. 'The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.' (Psalm 34:7 NIV). His plan is for good and not evil, to give us a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11 paraphrased). I still believe this! Whenever I look at my daughter, I become more convinced. No matter where Jesus takes us today, tomorrow his road leads home."
Still waiting for tomorrow, her blessed hope anchored in Jesus. "I thank God for your family, Rachel." Though God's hand of deliverance may hesitate, I could see his sustaining hand blessing them daily with all they needed to walk that perilous journey of faith. . . one day, one hour, one moment. . . one step at a time according to God's sovereign will. This was a day to celebrate: a day for Hope, a testimony to God's grace.