After 15 long hours, largely spent on the monotonous gray blacktop of Interstate 20, my husband and I arrived in Fort Worth, Texas, and located Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. We pulled into the long circular drive and paused for a few minutes to observe the B. H. Carroll Memorial Building. A yellow brick rotunda fronted by a limestone portico with white Ionic columns sat on the crest of Seminary Hill and almost glowed in the late afternoon sun. My husband would soon sit in classes to study ancient Hebrew, church history, hermeneutics, and systematic theology. Little did we realize that our greatest education would take place outside those halls.
Life began to fall into a steady rhythm between work and school those first few months. Then the holiday season came and brought an additional reason to celebrate. A slight queasy feeling led to the discovery that our first baby was on the way! But that celebration morphed into concern and then fear as the nausea intensified. I tried every solution offered by friends—saltines, lemon wedges, Mylanta, a bland diet, avoiding canned food. Nothing worked, and nothing stayed down—not even water. My husband became so immune that he could sit on the side of the tub with lunch in one hand, patting me on the back with the other, as I was once again losing my meal. If he so much as rolled over in bed or walked across the room, the movement would trigger vomiting, so he moved to the couch to sleep.
I had heard of morning sickness, but not all-day sickness. After learning that I was vomiting six or seven times a day, my doctor immediately sent me to the hospital to receive IV fluids for dehydration. I began to fear that my baby would be harmed or maybe the pregnancy was a misdiagnosis, and I was really dying from cancer or some other horrible disease. But while in the hospital, I had an ultrasound, and we were able to see our baby for the first time. Tears flowed as we watched her move around in utero.
The doctor diagnosed me with hyperemesis gravidarum. While nausea and even vomiting is common in pregnancies, in rare cases like mine, it is extreme and interferes with the ability to function normally. I was given Phenergan, which helped but didn’t stop the sickness. My husband worked only part time, so we were dependent on my full-time job—yet I wasn’t healthy enough to work. Bills began to pile up from lack of income and additional medical expenses. Many people minimized my experience and basically encouraged me to tough it out. One friend explained that she couldn’t stop working just because she was pregnant. I felt as if I was weak and lacking in moral fiber. They say, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going,” and I tried but couldn’t stop the vomiting. By my third month of pregnancy, rather than gaining weight, I had lost 20 pounds, going from 135 pounds to 115.
My husband worked only part time, so we were dependent on my full-time job—yet I wasn’t healthy enough to work. Bills began to pile up.
Throughout my season of sickness, I saw God demonstrate His love and care in the smallest of details. My employer, promising to hold my job, kindly suggested that I stay home until this phase passed. A neighbor’s parents helped us financially even though we had never met. Our new Texas church brought meals, and a doctor was on one of the rotations. She shared that babies born to mothers with hyperemesis gravidarum are usually very healthy. My God of the details graciously sent this doctor to provide encouragement and peace. A friend of my in-laws wrote me and shared her very similar experience with pregnancy. She perfectly explained how it felt, even sharing that seeing movement nauseated her too. I cried because she understood. God sent these ladies to provide refreshment in a difficult time. I learned that with the Lord, “I will not be in need” and “He lets me lie down in green pastures” (Ps. 23:1-2).
The intense nausea and vomiting lasted for six weeks, and I lay in bed alternating between the sleep induced by my medicine and an attempt to be as still as possible. Finally, week 15 of my pregnancy brought a shift, and I was able to keep down boiled eggs and chocolate milk. I decided to return to work. On my drive to the office that first day back, the sky was a beautiful blue and the air was crisp and cool. With my symptoms abating, God also restored my soul (Ps. 23:3), and I felt intensely grateful to be able to enjoy a normal day. I remember praying with new compassion for those suffering from chronic and terminal illnesses, who may not get to enjoy feeling good physically again until heaven. I learned the importance of withholding judgment on the circumstances of others, knowing that we can never really understand their situation. (Those lessons would later help as my husband and I ministered in churches.)
God wants us to know He’s interested in the minor details of our lives.
In his sermon “The Good Shepherd,” Dr. Stanley says: “Why do you think He put Psalm 23 in the Scriptures? In order to unveil to us the tender caring love and concern that He has for us.” God wants us to know He’s interested in the minor details of our lives, and that became crystal clear to me in the ways He provided comfort during my pregnancy. Before seminary, my husband and I lived close to parents and knew we had a safety net to catch us if we took a misstep or were knocked down by life. Being halfway across the country from our support system taught us to rely on the Lord, and I learned personally that “the Lord is my shepherd” (v. 1, emphasis added).
My little Texas baby, whom we named Dallas, turned 30 this year. As the doctor predicted, she was born healthy and still is today. Though ministry life hasn’t always been easy, the rod and staff of our Shepherd has provided comfort, discipline, and direction when needed, and He has protected us from harm (Ps. 23:4-5). Our daughter and her husband have blessed us with three grandchildren, and she ministers to her family and others, sharing God’s love. With King David, I praise God and say, “You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows. Certainly goodness and faithfulness will follow me all the days of my life, and my dwelling will be in the house of the Lord forever” (Ps. 23:5-6).