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  • Writer's pictureAdina

Easy as Eagles' Wings?

Updated: Jan 29, 2023

Jesus’ teachings were not easy. He said, “Everyone who follows me leaves behind father, mother, house and security, yet will receive in this life even more— family, enemy, and then Eternity.”

(Paraphrase of Mark 10:29-31)

Dan and I were fifteen months into our first overseas assignment when we learned I was expecting. We had recently completed our first two language survey seasons in the mountains and had been assigned a new survey in the plains. As we prayed about our next step, we considered completing one more survey during my first trimester. Though the bone-jarring bus rides and steep mountain trails had been wearying, I loved learning more about the culture and languages of the communities we visited. Then I started to lose weight, and we discovered certain risks with my blood type and with working several days' travel from even basic medical care.

In the end, we flew back to Montana with plans to return as soon as our new little team member arrived. We knew God had called us to start our life and our family in this place where more than 100 languages were spoken, yet only a dozen of them had Words of Hope to light their way. But where could we serve with a newborn child if the transient survey team was no longer feasible? How would we get visas to stay year-round? Finding where we'd fit wasn't easy.

Back home, Dan could indulge in the food we'd been craving, but I ate only bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. This “BRAT” diet wasn't my choice, but neither were the tummy bugs I'd picked up on our travels.

By Thanksgiving, my system had returned to health. I grew round as a pumpkin, and loved strapping on my skis to enjoy the winter snow. “Be ready any day,” Dr. MacDonald said in early December, though my due date was a month away. I was so ready.

Then Christmas arrived and, with it, the worst snow and ice storm in decades. An avalanche buried the interstate beyond us with fourteen feet of snow.

The storm downed power lines and shut the only road linking us to the hospital an hour away.

We were, of course, entirely unprepared for a home birth. I thought of the women I had met on the survey, most of whom lived far beyond any medical care. I thought of Mary when she carried Christ in her womb. This was the world God sent his son to as a helpless infant, a world whirling in transition with so little care.

He led Mary from house to house from the moment she learned she was with child— first visiting her cousin Elizabeth; then traveling with Joseph to Bethlehem; finally delivering her precious child in a rustic manger.

Though Mary had initially responded to Gabriel's news with fear and bewilderment, the angel's words gave her confidence in God's plan. She could say, “I am the Lord's servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”

She said this even before she knew how Joseph, her fiancé, would respond to the news that she was unexpectedly expecting. Her peace was not engineered by the circumstances that assailed her, but by the presence of the child in her womb, the son of God.

As Dan and I waited at my parents' A-frame in the country for snow plows to clear the road, I had time to reflect. These words from the Psalmist calmed my fears of the unknown.

See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power,

He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms

and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.

A few days later, the roads cleared and we moved into town. New Year's came and went. January 9th, my due date, passed. Ten days later, after 48 hours of agony, our daughter arrived amid yet another blinding snowstorm. She was beautiful, with rosy cheeks, bright eyes, and a perfectly round head. So lovely … and so fragile. The longest month had passed, and we could hold her in our arms.

At one week, little E. gazed into the camera for her first passport photo while nestled in a car seat. She couldn't hold up her head. And I could not walk without pain.

But when Dan tried to discuss purchasing our return flights to Asia, I changed the subject. My world had shrunk to the bundle in my arms and I could not plan beyond the next feeding. My sense of adventure had disappeared like the sun hidden by frozen fog on a wintery Missoula morning.

When Joseph nudged his young bride awake in the middle of the night, saying, “Mary, we must leave, now,” did she roll over and face the wall?

The angel only appeared to Joseph that time. Yet as one flesh, they moved, keeping their eyes on Jesus from Nazareth to Bethlehem, to Egypt, and back again to Galilee---so many miles they journeyed together.

I, too, wanted assurance to take the next step. Would it come when my strength returned?

Where did Mary find joy each time they had to move? How often did she recall Gabriel's promise, “He will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne … and his kingdom will never end.”?

How often did she ponder Simeon’s words at Jesus’ dedication, “This child will be a joy to many … and a sword will pierce your very soul.”

Mary was the first person who faced the choice of a life surrendered to Jesus, or not. Joseph faced that choice, then King Herod when the magi came to worship. Now I was facing it when everything in me wanted to hold back.

As Mary treasured each reminder of God's promises for her Son—the words of the angels, the provision of a stable, the gifts of the magi, and Simeon and Anna’s prayers in the temple—she received strength to endure.

I turned my mind to recall God's provisions in the years leading up to this point—the healing from frequent parasitic infections; the safe arrivals at the end of each endless bus trip; the cozy third-story apartment overlooking the zoo; the love and support from my parents though they grieved our departure. God even provided the finances and every item we thought we needed before we returned, but not the desire.

Could I wait on the Lord as the eagle waited for her silent eggs to hatch?

My gentle husband, however, had been raised in a civil war and was eager to get back in the saddle. Our teams there also anticipated our return and the new role Dan would fill with computer needs and developing the new email system that would replace staticky phone calls and three-month gaps in hand-delivered correspondence.

We delayed our departure to give me time to recover and to be with my family when my grandma passed into the arms of Jesus. Our suitcases were soon swapped out for larger boxes as we gathered extra supplies, including an infant bike seat and a portable crib. Our new little “team member” needed lots of stuff!

When Dan booked our flights to leave in early May, I still struggled; leaving with my newborn was a suffering I could never truly prepare for.

We arrived early at the airport for an unhurried farewell, only to discover our boxes were oversized and needed to be cut down. After scrambling to repack, we finally decided the child's bike seat was worth the extra fees since that we be our main means of transportation.

That first night back in Kathmandu, after the 36-hour journey, I wrote in my journal,

“This move is more difficult than childbirth. The latter was physically hard. But this is painful emotionally. Being on the plane was fine, like being in limbo. The leaving done, the arrival yet to begin. Little E. was peaceful and happy—a good little traveler. But our bags were not at the airport when we arrived; this finally hit Dan's stress button. And Little E. hated the noisy terminal. She screamed her heart out until two Nepali ladies came up and cooed and clucked until she calmed down...But I don't understand my feelings. It's like I hardly know myself anymore. I just don't want to be here. This pre-monsoon season is hot, noisy, and polluted.”

Our luggage arrived on a later flight and we spent the first week in a guest house to give me time to recover from jetlag. On my first Mother's Day cuddling little E., I missed my own mother so much. Then God spoke to me through another woman whom he had led to South Asia in a time of weakness.

Amy Carmichael had been sent home from her first assignment in Japan for failing health. She was allowed to go Bangalore, India, only because the climate there in India's "Garden City" was better than her own damp native England. Amy Carmichael wrote these words:

"Sometimes we feel strong enough to say about some new thing we are asked to do, 'Now bid me run and I will strive with things impossible, yea and get the better of them.'
Sometimes, however, it is not like that. Then these words come, 'Peace, I leave with you.' Peace, not conscious power. But as we go on, power comes to do what God wants us to do. First peace, then power. This is always God's way. 'Let not your hearts be troubled, neither be afraid.'"

As the days passed, my stormy emotions began to settle down. Then we heard that our friend and landlord, Mr. Subba, had been rushed to the hospital with heart trouble. The day we resettled in our apartment, his son told us that he would be released from the hospital the next day. In the morning, we noticed a flurry of activity in the garden below and crowds of people.

Mr. Subba had died unexpectedly. Then the Lord showed me his purposes. We had this family in South Asia, who did not have the hope of eternity with Christ or of reunion with lost loved ones. In the following months, God gave us the gift of loving the family our landlord had left behind, the gift of waiting in prayer through the long year of mourning and religious observances for the dead. Our exuberant little team member burst open doors in the midst of grieving that we may have been hesitant to knock on.

As the days passed, I discovered God had called me so far to wait with him. To live as a follower of Jesus in a Hindu Kingdom. To be present. And slowly, I realized that in this chapter of my life as a young mother, I was not there to do … but to pray. To wait, watch, and pray.

When I thought that I did not have the strength for another step, the true adventure had just begun. A new venture of walking by God's grace, not my own strength, through the unknown as a new mother in a new culture.

And God has been so faithful.

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;

they shall mount up with wings like eagles;

they shall run and not be weary;

they shall walk and not faint.

(Isaiah 40:31, NIV)

My father-in-law loves to use the ABC method when he reads the Bible with people. Try it as you follow more of Mary's journey. For each section, choose:

1. A title to describe that section

2. Best Verse: Which verse speaks to you the most?

3. Challenge: How can you apply this verse to your situation?

Mary as a new mother:

Luke 1:26-38 Gabriel speaks to Mary

Luke 1:39-55 Mary’s Song of Praise while she visits her cousin Elizabeth

Luke 2:13-19 Mary reflects on the events of her son’s birth

Luke 2:22-38 Simeon and Anna speak to Mary

Matthew 2:1-18 Joseph wakes Mary to flee to Egypt

Going deeper, Jesus speaks to Mary:

Luke 2:41-52 The boy Jesus explains why he stayed in the temple

John 2:1-12 Jesus responds to his mother’s request

Mark 3:31-35 Jesus defines his family

John 19:26-27 Jesus’ last words to Mary

Mary waits with her son and Savior:

Acts 1:14 Mary joins the disciples and other believers in prayer

Credits: Illustrations are from All Because of Christ, an acrostic retelling of the life of Christ. Those and the oil painting of Little E. and the Elephant were done by her Montana Grandma.

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