I have been thinking a lot about God’s grace lately.
It seems fitting to share a bit about how God’s grace showed up for me on this last day of the month of January 21 years ago with the birth of a gracious gift from God.
As I was rewriting this post in my head, Matt Maher’s Your Grace is Enough starts to play in my car. I haven’t heard the song in quite some time. “Your grace is enough. Your grace is enough for me..Heaven reaches out to us
Your grace is enough for me. God I sing, Your grace is enough. I’m covered in Your love.”
The day I learned I was pregnant with the baby born on this day was filled with a few surprises, including the question, “Did you know you are pregnant?” What a gracious gift.
God’s grace and hearing his gentle voice say, This baby will be “Set Apart,” even when it feels hard, got me through tremendous worry during this pregnancy.
But he said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.-2 Corinthians 12:9
I was definitely left weak; it was hardly an easy pregnancy.
While we were praying for another baby, I was still surprised to learn we were expecting when I went in to see my doctor for a routine check-up.
I also came away with an order to call a cancer doctor because something wasn’t quite right.
So, I spent the entire pregnancy wondering and worrying about whether I would make it through or if something more significant would come along and need attention and treatment.
I will never forget the somewhat harsh message I played on my voicemail from my OB/GYN: “The good news is you’re pregnant; the bad news is you need to see a cancer doctor.” Oof.
So, I scheduled monthly appointments with my OB AND a cancer doctor for each month after that. The other day, I joked in a reflection about writing a book titled “Stories from Hospitals Bathrooms. ” It’s really no joke; I have many medical stories.
For nine months, I watched my belly grow, and my anxiety and fears did, too.
But as scripture says and Matt Maher’s monologue in the beginning of his song, “God’s grace was enough even if I wasn’t always feeling it.”
Prayer was my anchor to receive all the grace I could. It still is.
Jon was my anchor, too. I know he was scared about all of the things that would run through his mind as our lively toddler ran through our home, a new baby on the way, and a young wife with the possibility of cancer.
Holding our little girl’s hand, who was just as excited to meet her new baby, brought me abundant peace. I found that was sometimes how and when God would show us his overflowing grace—in the life being lived out right before our eyes.
It can distract us and bring hope and joy to our days. Something about this pregnancy and the hope for this baby brought me peace and joy and opened my heart to much more love, even in the worry.
The grace of God has always gotten me through. His grace is enough. I reminded myself of this over and over.
He gives this goodness freely without basing it on our successes, failures, anxiety, or worry.
This baby still represents so much hope in the Lord and grace from God.
Each month, I entered the oncologist’s office with a growing belly and a growing toddler. I felt the many stares from eyes of pity and sadness each time I entered. As a widow, I sometimes feel similar stares of judgment, sadness, and pity.
His grace is sufficient.
The stares from a room full of strangers and patients fighting their own cancer battle were never comfortable. I wasn’t fighting anything yet except maybe fear and worry. We were observing the pregnancy and cellular changes that were literally living in the same space.
It was one of the most agonizing lessons in patience, trust, and surrender I had to learn. Jon and I already knew our plans if choices needed to be made—save the baby.
I knew from the depths of my soul that this baby needed to be born. He would be a gracious gift beyond measure. Little did I know then what I know now.
Our second child, our only son, our gift of God to this day, is set apart. He is a gracious gift.
We are still learning how God is using this boy/young man. I sometimes am blown away by the gift he continues to be.
I hope to someday describe how this young man showed up for his father and me in some of the darkest hours.
God’s grace was pouring out through him.
This baby I carried with so much tenderness and treasure was the most patient, gentle, easy-going baby. It was needed as I had to finally have a biopsy and surgery to remove pre-cancer cells only months after he was born.
God is gracious.
His saintlike qualities often leave me in awe. They often leave him questioning: Why me? What does it mean?
I turned Him over to God each and every day, and as I walked into that office when I was observed with the most highly technical equipment to measure any possible growth and change of the cells.
It was excruciating to wonder about the outcome as I had another baby at home to nurture and raise without allowing fear to take hold of my heart and alter her every day. I did my best to hold onto the tender moments of watching a big sister wait with excitement for the baby to come. The bond they formed while he was in the womb and as they grew up deserves its own post someday. God’s fingerprints of grace are written all over their friendship and sibling bond.
But as I wandered through the desert of this pregnancy, I repeatedly heard God whisper in my ear, “This child will be set apart—just trust. You were made for this. My grace is enough.”
Good Lord, I wondered how many more moments of being “made for this” I could have endured. Little did I know how many more moments I would be asked to bear. This is life in Christ. Giving up my life for God’s Will and a journey in life with Faith taught me that I am made for this and more. His grace is sufficient.
He gives his goodness freely without basing it on our successes or failures.
As I lay on the sterile table, I would place my hand on my heart and pray for my life to be preserved if that was God’s Will and to give life to a baby that would be raised to bring Glory to God.
He brings Glory to God.
A beautiful baby boy was born to us. Jon’s joyful exclamation as our downy-covered, chunky baby entered the world and took his first breaths was as much about the joy of getting through those 9 months of holding our breath as they were about, “It’s a boy.”
With each visit, I learned to trust more and more. Then there was a biopsy just weeks after having Ian and surgery a few months later that we kept trusting God would never leave us. He didn’t leave us…21 years later.
Of course, Jon and I were given the gift of co-creating two more uniquely unrepeatable lives after this baby, after the surgery, and after catching and removing something early enough to allow us to grow our family. So many miracles despite what we knew.
It was never easy and not without challenge, but God never left our side. His grace was enough to get us through the fear and worries that often tried to steal our peace.
Those nine months, give or take, taught me much about trust and God’s gracious providence.
They also taught me the promise God whispered in my ear: “This child will be set apart,” would come true.
It continues to ring true.
God revealed so much grace many times through this child in 21 years. His life despite the fears during his pregnacy show me what a Good and Gracious Father we have.
He gave me a child who was and is by the mere meaning of his name a Gracious Gift of God.
It rings true in how our son carries himself and conducts himself and who he seeks first.
It rings true to how he loves and cares for his sisters.
It rings true as he led retreats and how he conducted himself in high school, especially in his senior year, as we learned of his dad’s diagnosis.
It rings true how he supported me through some of the most challenging moments of that diagnosis, stepping into significant roles to help his dad and me during the journey.
It rings true as he cared for his dad after his stroke when he took his dad and his wheelchair to the movies, unafraid to have to manage and carry the magnitude of that cross.
It rings true as he shaved his dad’s head, helped dress him, and removed his shoes to stand in the ocean again and feel the waves wash over his feet and skin one last time.
It rings true, as he planned a spectacular last visit to see a Phillies game as a family, not forgetting one detail to make it memorable for his dad and our family.
It rings true in his decision to leave one school and attend another hours from home, all because he answered the call of the Holy Spirit to go where he was called. His life is forever better for it.
It rings true to how he sets an example for those he goes before, those he helps form in relationships, and his witness to others as a disciple of God.
He is set apart by the Grace of God.
While his name came after a few attempts at finding the right combination and wanting to name him after his dad, we happily settled on Ian Michael. Ian gave us a chance to name after his dad but by giving him a name all his own.
A gentle yet strong name for a young man with the compassion and heart of a saint.
Ian means “God is gracious.”
Michael means “who is like God” or “a Gift of God.”
One of the reasons we chose Michael as a middle name is that Jon and I both love St. Michael the Archangel. Not long before we gave birth, we were reminded of St. Michael and his gifts after watching the old movie Michael with John Travolta. St. Michael is a protector of people and the Church. He is also known to escort people into the afterlife and lead the Army of God.
These words describing St Michael are also fitting to describe our Ian Michael.
Ian was born on the feast of St John Bosco, one of his favorite saints since he was young. He is a saint known for his love of the youth and a great educator who wanted to walk with others toward heaven. Ian has a heart just like St. John Bosco.
I remember not long ago telling him in a text after having some heavy stuff going on in our house related to his dad. “You are set apart, Ian. You will know what you need to do when the time comes. You discern well. God will give you the grace to get through.”
He replied, “I am not even sure what that—set apart—means, Mom.” What humble college boy would really understand being “set apart?”
Please offer a prayer and raise a glass with me for Ian Michael, who turns 21 today. This young man has carried himself through life precisely as God told me he would—graciously set apart—despite the many obstacles that have come his/our way. He continues to offer an obedient yes to leading others to the Glory of God, making us proud by choosing to remain set apart.
By the way, no matter what challenging experience you are walking through now, God’s grace is sufficient for you to get through it, too.
Don’t believe me? Look at all I have been through; God’s grace continues to carry me through. And that boy I carried while seeing a cancer doctor for his entire pregnancy, he turns 21 today. His life and my life through his grace is a nothing short of a miracle.
God is gracious, and God is good.
For the record, Ian had his first-ever beer in the spring with his dad. They laughed (and cried) about the many things they knew they’d never be able to do together in the future. Ian never left his dad’s side and served him with strength, courage, and compassion. Jon was so honored to be chosen to be the father of such an amazing man. He didn’t want to miss the opportunity to toast with him; we knew time was fleeting. It is one of those memories we will simply never forget.