Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Month: May 2012

The Miracle In The Womb

I recently came across this amazing pregnancy video which shows the development of a baby from conception to birth using the most spectacular images from Tor Constantino.  It’s definitely worth watching.

Picture, Dream, Tears (Healing – Part 2)

About halfway through the Lifeshapers course is the Holy Spirit night.  After a time of worship, prayer partners team up to pray for course participants, and the Spirit is invited to do His healing and cleansing work in people’s lives.

I was dreading Holy Spirit night:  the wound of childlessness was deep and raw, and I was terrified that an awful primal wail might burst from me if my internal pain was exposed.

A few days before the Holy Spirit night, the Lord revealed to me that I had always blamed myself for losing Two and Three by sinning.  I shared this with my faithful prayer partner Judy, who prayed into it with me.  At home the Holy Spirit reassured me with various Bible verses that Jesus took all the punishment for my wrong when He died and rose again, and that I was forgiven.  I tried hard to believe, but still the doubt persisted.

On the Holy Spirit night, Judy and another friend, Pam, ministered to me.  As they prayed I saw a picture in my mind of a beautiful meadow full of flowers and grass, with a stream in the distance.  I saw three people:  Jesus was playing and laughing with two small red-headed children.  I watched as the three of them held hands and danced in an ecstatic and exuberant abundance of joy.  I’ve never seen anyone as happy and fulfilled as those little children laughing and playing.  They absolutely belonged in that wonderful place.  It was like seeing a picture of God’s sovereignty and I knew that nothing I did could ever have altered God’s purposes for my twins.  God’s Spirit made God’s Word real to me at that moment, and the burden lifted.

I became aware of Judy and Pam quietly praying over me in tongues.  Judy offered me a handful of tissues, I hadn’t realised until then that my face was wet with tears.  They hugged me and while Pam moved away to pray for someone else, I shared with Judy something of what I’d seen.

With the weight of guilt lifted from me, I finally felt ready to face my childlessness but wasn’t sure where to begin.  So I decided to borrow the ‘March of the Penguins’ DVD from a friend because it shows a scene of a penguin losing her chick in a snowstorm.  Her heartrending cries are terrible and the only other time I’d watched it, I felt stabbed to the heart witnessing the penguin’s grief.  A couple of nights before I watched the DVD, I had a dream:  I was talking with Jesus in a room.  He invited me to follow Him out of the room because He had something better to offer me, but I wanted to stay in the room and wouldn’t go with Him.  In the end He left, but as He walked away He looked back over His shoulder at me and I couldn’t resist the invitation on His face.  I left the room and walked towards Him, and He looked so glad.  Then I woke up.  I recognised that the room was like my childlessness, it was time to leave it behind to pursue Jesus.  It gave me courage to watch the DVD.

I watched ‘March of the Penguins’ with plenty of tissues at the ready.  The pain went deeper than tears, and at the very depths of the pain, Jesus asked me to give my childlessness to Him.  ‘But it’s shameful Lord,’ I replied.  ‘Are you sure You want this shame?’  Then I remembered that He had already borne all my shame on the cross and so I felt able to hand it all over to Him.

I know that healing has taken place because my whole way of seeing babies has changed:  I no longer see them as threats but as lovable little people that I enjoy cuddling (albeit a bit nervously).  I used to dream almost every night about empty houses and empty roads leading nowhere, but from the day I gave my childlessness to Jesus, all of my dreams are crowded with people!

Deep inside me there was a raw wound that I thought could never heal.  It would crack open and bleed at the slightest provocation.  But it wasn’t beyond Jesus’ gentle, yet powerful, healing touch.

And perhaps the most obvious proof of healing is the new category on my blog:  childlessness.

What’s Down There? (Healing Part 1)

Last autumn I enrolled on a Lifeshapers course at Grace Church.  I was 99% confident that I didn’t have any issues that needed dealing with, I just wanted to do the course so that I could get experience in prayer counselling with the aim of being a future prayer partner.  I’m not saying I thought I was perfect, but God dealt with so much rubbish in my life a couple of years ago through illness that I didn’t think there were any ‘big’ issues left!

A few weeks into the course, while my friend Penny was praying for me at the end of a meeting I became aware of a big issue that God wanted to deal with in me.  I hoped Penny would hurry up and finish praying because I felt at any moment I might erupt in an explosion of tears, only I wasn’t sure why.  As soon as she was done, I said goodbye and fled to my car.

Driving home, I asked the Lord to show me what it was He wanted to deal with.  I didn’t want to know, but at the same time I did!  It was a painful and scary moment.  He immediately showed me that He wanted to deal with my childlessness.  It’s a good thing the roads were quiet that night because I cried so hard – sobbed – that it was hard to see and even harder to concentrate on driving.  I forced myself to calm down as a neared home; I didn’t want Adrian to see I was upset because I couldn’t talk about it.

After Adrian had gone to bed, I sat staring into space.  I didn’t want to face my childlessness, but at the same time I understood that if I didn’t deal with it now when the Holy Spirit had highlighted it, I might not get another chance.  Certainly, it would be foolish to ignore God rather than face the issue, painful though I knew it would be.  I was due to meet with my Lifeshapers’ prayer partner Judy the following morning.  Would I have the courage to mention what had happened?  Or would I have reburied it?  I suspected the latter so, shortly before midnight, I texted her:  ‘Make sure we talk about me being childless tomorrow as otherwise I’ll bottle out’.

Judy is a faithful friend and over the following weeks we prayed into it.  She encouraged me to share with Adrian how I felt about not being able to have children.  Poor Adi, he wondered what on earth I was going to say when I organised a ‘date night’ for us and said I had something to tell him.  But, as always, he was incredibly supportive and understanding, listening to me while holding me close and giving me lots of hugs, not to mention buying me flowers and chocolate.

For two or three weeks I was very emotional.  Sometimes I felt like throwing the Lifeshapers’ journal across the room and other days I couldn’t face doing the study at all.  I refused to let anyone pray with me apart from Judy because I was terrified of what was buried.  It was deep, and I wasn’t sure what was down there.

During that period, every church meeting I attended seemed to mention barrenness or babies in some way.  On one particular Sunday, I went to pray with a lady during the ministry time and when she turned around I saw that she had a baby in her arms.  Oh well, I decided I could ignore the baby.  But no, the lady wanted me to pray for her little one.  I hesitated, feeling that I couldn’t face it.  For years I’d felt threatened by babies and would do almost anything to avoid them.  But as I looked into this little girl’s big dark eyes, I suddenly saw her as a person and I remembered how Jesus welcomed little children and blessed them.  He wanted my hands to represent His as I laid them on her and blessed her in His name.

My healing process had begun.

 

As One Devil To Another

As One Devil to Another is an excellent and insightful debut book by Richard Platt.  In similar style to C S Lewis’ The Screwtape LettersAs One Devil To Another contains letters written by senior devil Slashreap to his young nephew Scardagger who has recently graduated from Temptation University.  Slashreap mentors Scardagger on luring a young woman – his client – away from Heaven and the Adversary into their clutches.  As the devils plot their way to triumph, they reveal the spiritual dangers and risks we face in today’s society.  They have a frighteningly accurate perspective on issues such as contemporary art, modern technology, and sexual practices, which is interwoven with timeless matters such as the power of prayer, the purpose of suffering, and promises held out by Heaven and Hell.  It seems that there is no subject, nothing that affects we humans, that the devils do not gleefully explore as they try by any means to keep the precious soul of their client from Heaven.

Two distinct storylines gradually emerge from the letters making up the book – that of the humans and that of the devils.  Their lives are inextricably entwined, while exhibiting completely separate cares, concerns and ambitions.  Scardagger works hard to keep his young client firmly in his grip but, again and again, receives scathing criticism from Slashreap over his naive mistakes.  The reader realises that these mistakes are not necessarily Scardagger’s fault because we see the Adversary quietly working in the young woman’s life through circumstances and ‘chance’ conversations.   While there is real anger from Slashreap at his young nephew’s ineptitude, he is also gleeful in anticipating his failure and downfall.

There is an excellent twist at the end of the book.  No more here, you’ll have to read it for yourself!

One quote that touched me was:

It seldom occurs to the humans that the Adversary would naturally have provided them with the best things in abundance, and at no cost whatever:  sunsets and spring rains, love and friendship, goodwill and fellowship, and, it pains me to write it, Himself.  We teach them to see a desert while standing in a garden.

How blind we humans are to eternal truths!

I enjoyed reading this book which seemed to have such a lot of spiritual common sense in it.  There is so much these days that we call ‘good’ that is actually ‘bad’, and our society often seems topsy-turvey.  As One Devil to Another is brilliantly written and reveals a deeply unsettling perspective on our twenty-first century society.  This is a fascinating glimpse of oursevles through the eyes of those who have embraced their underwordly existence.

I can highly recommend this book.  And so, I’m giving away one free copy (courtesy of Tyndale House publishers).  First come, first served!  UK participants only, I’m afraid.  To win, please comment on this post.

I am grateful to Tyndale House for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book for the purpose of writing a review.

 

Why Didn’t You Abort Your Baby?

Watch this brave mum explain why she didn’t abort her baby.

Be Fruitful And Multiply

Within 8 weeks the baby has a face, characteristics. It has all its internal organs. And its nervous system is already so developed that it can perform reflex actions such as movements away from cutaneous stimulation and squinting. It hiccups.

While I am weary of making this into an anti-abortion ad, I want you to note that this baby is still 16 weeks away from its right to life, as declared by the UK government and hundreds of thousands of woman each day. I don’t want to provoke anyone that is affected by this subject, and I am not criminalising or judging any woman who has made this decision. I do want to lovingly change people’s perspective when it comes to the sanctity of life.

By 16 weeks the baby can hear, breathe amniotic fluid, make facial expressions within the range grown adults and even has fingernails. By 24 weeks its brainwaves resemble those of a newborn child and it can recognise its mother’s voice.

There is so much beauty in this. A study has been conducted that shows, when a baby is face to face with its mother, their heartbeats synchronise to coincide with one another. Isn’t that just the most precious thing?

This is part of my friend Bethan Elysia Woodward’s blog post and I found it passionate, biblical and scientific – no mean task!  Read more of Bethan’s post, including a fascinating quote from the late Paul E Rockwell MD.

Quoted with kind permission from Bethan Elysia Woodward.

Learning To Live With Barrenness

Being unable to have children can affect a woman in all sorts of ways.  As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post, I felt there was a sense of shame attached to being unable to do something that should be natural.  No one ever made me feel shamed, and I didn’t even realise that this was how I felt until recently.   But that’s another story….

If you’re the type of woman who has always dreamed of a home and children of your own (and I think most women will relate to this), facing the disappointment of it not happening is heart-breaking.  It’s hard to face up to.  Maybe some of you have become bitter.  Others of you may be pushing it away and burying it deep inside.  And I know that some reading this are quietly accepting it.

There is also that awkward silence in a conversation when someone asks:  ‘Have you got children?’  and you say:  ‘No’.  It’s a fairly natural assumption that women or couples of a certain age will have children, and I don’t blame people for asking.  What I do blame them for is their awkward response and the fact that, by their awkwardness, they lay all the responsibility on your shoulders to rescue the situation.  I used to handle it by saying:  ‘No we can’t have children, but I have eight guinea pigs,’ and in chatting about the idiosyncracies of my piggies, the conversation moved on easily.  Now that I don’t have guinea pigs, I simply smile and change the subject.  Most people appear relieved that the awkwardness is behind us and are happy to continue talking about other things.  Others, however, disappear as soon as they can, no matter what I say. 

Okay, I’m going to be bluntly honest with you here.  In the months following IVF I lost all interest in sex.  (I didn’t tell Adrian that and tried to carry on as normal, but he noticed even though he didn’t say anything.  I know he noticed because he told me so when I asked him to read this blog post.)  There didn’t seem much point in sex if it was never going to result in pregnancy.  In the early weeks, having intercourse also brought back difficult emotional memories of the procedures I’d undergone and the psychological and physical pain of miscarrying.  Eventually it all became easier, but it took about a year of praying and working through it, for me to recover genuine interest.

Being unable to have children affects not just the couple but also their family.  My mum and Adrian’s parents will never have Adrian-and-Mandy grandchildren.  Our brothers will never be uncles to our children.  Our niece and nephews will never have Adrian-and-Mandy cousins.  It took a long time for me to realise the affect our childless state had on our families.

It’s not just about the children we don’t have.  I also grieve for the grandchildren we will never have.  Right now, it’s not too big of a deal, but I wonder how it will feel when my friends who are my age become grandparents?  I suspect a whole new aspect of pain will need to be faced.

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