Today is our son’s ninth birthday. I can’t think about this day too much without thinking about part of my testimony. You read about people “hearing the voice of God”, but most of us have never heard that actual, audible voice.
I have. Once.
It all has to do with our son. Before I dive into that…I need to give you a little back story.
Gary was the son that we prayed for. We already had an amazing daughter that we loved so much. She was three years old and we felt like we were ready to add another child to our family. We had no problem getting pregnant with her. We struggled with Gary. After almost a year, we finally had a positive test. We were so excited. We made the next available appointment that the doctor had, which happened to be a day when Otis was at work. I told him it was fine. I had been through this before. All of the home tests were positive, so I’d go in, they’d congratulate me and send me home with a blurry picture with an arrow pointing to a little spot that said ‘baby’. Then we could tell family and friends. The only problem was when I went in, that isn’t what happened at all.
They pulled the ultrasound wand out and circled all around my stomach. They went round and round. Then they called for another doctor to come in. I am laying there panicked….vulnerable….and alone.
The silence was broken by the doctor telling me that she was so sorry. She told me that I had absolutely been pregnant, however that it appeared that I had lost the baby. There was no heartbeat. She told me that perhaps I had my dates wrong for my last period and that I wasn’t as far along as I should have been. My dates were not wrong. We had been trying to get pregnant for almost a year. I was recording those dates meticulously. I felt so broken in that moment. I thought why in the world would God allow us to get pregnant if we were just going to lose the baby?? The doctor told me that I had more than likely lost the baby, but that there was a small chance that everything was fine and that the projected dates were incorrect. She told me that I needed to make another appointment the next week to see if the ultrasound looked any different.
I left that office a mess. I was hysterical. This was not how I thought my day was going to go. Otis did his best reassure me that God has a plan. That was so hard to listen to, much less believe. We only told two people and asked them to pray. Going through normal routines and motions during that week was torture. Nobody at my work knew, no one at church knew…no family members knew….people interacted with us all week long having no idea what we were battling through.
Otis went with me to that next appointment. We went in dreading what we might hear. Then it happened- that same ultrasound wand went round and round my stomach again, but this time there WAS a heartbeat! The wave of relief was unexplainable. We thanked God for preserving this little life.
Everything was fine and normal with my pregnancy, well as normal as a pregnancy can be.
One Wednesday afternoon on our way to church when I was about six months along, we were involved in a car crash. A driver didn’t even look and attempted to pull across a four lane highway. We were going the normal speed and had no time to stop. The impact was hard enough that the airbags were deployed. It was scary for sure. After getting checked out, we were assured that our baby was just fine.
About a month after the car accident, I was at work on a Saturday afternoon. I had been having some pain in my stomach, but I didn’t want to ask to leave work. I didn’t want it to look like I was just trying to get out of there early to start my weekend. My plan was to push through the couple of hours that I had left, go pick up our daughter, and then I could go home and get in bed. I left at my normal time, but I didn’t know what was wrong and in fact I wasn’t sure that I could drive home. I called Otis and told him that I didn’t think I could go get Allie. I was crying and told him the pain was pretty intense and escalating quickly. I remember telling him that I didn’t know what was wrong, but that I was sure I was fine and there was no reason to panic. I went home, curled up on our bed and cried in pain. All I could do was pray in between the cries. The pain was worse then what I remembered labor being. The only thought that was racing through my mind was that this must be what it feels like to have a miscarriage. I was so scared that I was going to lose him. I wasn’t home long when I heard our front door unlock. Otis had left his job early and come home to check on me. He immediately helped me up and told me that he was taking me to the hospital. We ended up spending the weekend there. They told me that I had an severe bladder infection. They watched the baby and me over the next couple of days and then sent me home with some medication. I was fine after that, but man was it painful!
Some time passed and we welcomed a beautiful baby boy to our family. We are so thankful for Gary. Life was wonderful. We were settling into our routine as a family of four. Allie was obsessed with her sweet little brother and was such an amazing little helper. I started new hours at work and was able to be with the kids during the day. Otis was just hired as the full-time youth pastor at our church. We were excited for this new chapter. I remember that it was our first Wednesday night after our hiring. This was the night of our first official youth service. We were in the upstairs youth room setting up and getting ready a couple of hours before service. We were each working on different things. Allie was playing. We had 11 month old Gary laying on a blanket in the middle of the room, so that we could both keep our eye on him. He seemed to be content playing with his toys. We were both working in different areas of the room and Gary was right in the middle of the two of us. He was away from everything- we thought we had picked a pretty safe spot. I was looking down at a piece of paper and heard a thud. My head shot up and I locked eyes with Otis across the room. We looked down- Gary was gone. We heard another thud as we raced to the stairwell. I had only looked away for what seemed like a second. Gary wasn’t even walking yet. He had scooted across that room so fast and fallen down a flight of stairs. I can still see in my mind the sight of his little body laying face down at the bottom of the steps. I raced down to him and scooped him up. He was screaming, his head was swollen and already purple. Otis was right behind me calling 911. The operator told us not to pick him up, but we told her that we already had. She told us that an ambulance was on the way and that we needed to keep him as still as possible. We strapped him in his car seat, thinking that would be that best way to keep him still and waited on the EMS. The ambulance arrived and transported Gary to the emergency room. The doctor came in and checked him out. He was too young to do a CT…his brain was still developing so much. They examined him and physically he seemed to be fine. Another wave of relief washed over us. We barely had time to exhale, before the doctor started his next paragraph. He told us that he would not be able to guarantee that there wouldn’t be mental or developmental issues down the road. We would just have to wait and see. We pushed those thoughts out of our mind and focused on the fact that our baby boy was ok.
We never really had any other conversations about possible problems with Gary, but the words that the doctor said echoed in my mind constantly. I was home all day with the kids and worked at night, so there was no time to have a break down. My time to myself was on my way home in the middle of the night. My shift ended at 3AM, I had a 45 minute commute home, and everyone in my house would be asleep when I got there so no one would see my puffy face or my tear stained cheeks. I cried- not a soft, whimpering cry. It was coming from a place deep in my heart where I had tried to bury it. I worried about the unknown. What if he never talked? Or wasn’t able to learn at the normal rate? What if we took him to the hospital that night and he was fine, but he really wasn’t? I wrestled with these fears and thoughts for weeks. I cried every single night. I asked God why. I tried to pray through it. I talked to God between my sobs. It was becoming my norm. I balled my eyes out every single night my entire drive home. I blamed myself and felt so much guilt. One night ( I could show you the exact section of road I was driving over when this happened), I was pleading with God. I was asking Him what in the world we were going to do if something was wrong with our son. Then I was trying to ‘pray my way through’. I was trying to reason with myself and my thoughts. I said out loud ‘he’s going to be ok…you kept him safe when he fell down those 18 stairs.” In that moment in the darkness on the interstate, I was alone in my car. The radio was off. It was just me and my cries. I heard a voice. It startled me. I jumped as my head spun around and looked over at the empty passenger seat. The voice said, “Of course I kept him safe. I kept him safe on those stairs and I kept him safe when you were in the hospital, just like I kept him safe when you were in the car wreck. I am keeping him safe….just like when the doctors told you that he had died and you weren’t pregnant any more. I kept him safe. He is my child, too. I have plans for him”
Insert lots of goosebumps right here.
I had spent weeks wallowing in the what if’s of the situation. I had no reason to let my thoughts consume me. Gary was acting normal. He was learning and moving and playing like normal. But in my secret place, it was eating me alive.
Today that little boy turns nine. He loves Legos, playing video games, and Pokémon. He is a math whiz and loves reading, as long as he can choose the book. He is the comedian of our family. The kids is hilarious! His timing is just something else! He loves Jesus and hates to work! haha! His imagination is astronomical. He can make believe with anything and creates all kinds of games.
We love this kid immensely. He is 100% boy and keeps us on our toes. He is going 90mph from sun up to late into the night. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
I often think about that night in my car. I think about how God loves us so much. I think about how Gary is my child, but he is God’s child too! He must have some amazing plans for this kid! I mean, I trust that the Lord has awesome plans for all of us….but to know that I heard an audible voice regarding my son. That is something that I never thought I would experience and will never forget.
I have thought about sharing this story numerous times before. Today felt right. I think his birthday was the perfect day to put all of this into writing.
God hears your cries and prayers- even if you are alone in the middle of the night on a dark highway. He has you in the palm of His hand and just like the song says..no power of hell, no scheme of man can ever pluck me from His hand.
I hope that my story…our story….has blessed or encouraged you in some way tonight!
Wow you have never even told me about this. I don’t believe you have? This is amazing.
Rev. Otis Fulford Associate Pastor Charleston First Assembly Phone: 843-766-2902 ext. 202 Fax: 843-766-5095 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
“For I live in eager expectation and hope that I will never do anything that causes me shame, but that I will always be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past, and that my life will always honor Christ whether I live or die” (Philippians 1:20 NLT)