You could have knocked me over with a feather! Laurie and I were talking on the phone last Saturday and discussing their plans to celebrate this most American of all holidays down there in Ecuador with Fernando’s family. They were having a cookout, complete with hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, baked beans, s’mores and apple pie among other yummy treats. We talked about favorite family recipes she’d be using— Grandma’s potato salad and apple pie, my beans, her aunts’ pretzel salad—and then she casually said, “We’re not going to get the kids any sparklers or fireworks, though. We’ll have our fireworks in February.”
Huh? “Fireworks in February?” I was confused. “What are you talking—What?! No! You’re not saying what I think you’re saying, are you, Laurie? You’re not—you are! You’re pregnant!” I stammered. For a moment I was speechless. Laurie was laughing, and then I realized she had put me on speaker-phone because in the background I could hear the kids all laughing, too. “You’re having a baby?”
I hardly knew what to say at first. My first thought was concern for my daughter. This was baby number six, and she would be forty years old when it came. I’ve always been thrilled to welcome new grandbabies into the world, but I have to admit, I get scared for my daughters when it comes time for the delivery. And how would she handle six children now with all that she has to do—especially the home-schooling? It was already stressful. These thoughts raced through my head, but within moments I set them aside and said, “Well, praise the Lord! Babies are such a blessing!”
“Thanks, Mom,” I heard Fernando say quietly. “Thanks for saying that.”
I knew what he and Laurie were thinking. There would be criticism from some folks at this news. Large families are not in style—even in Ecuador–anymore. They’re expensive. How could a missionary family afford to have so many children? Why couldn’t they be satisfied with the children they already have and just stop?
I must confess—I had been less than enthusiastic with the news that babies number four and five were on the way. I had quickly seen, though, that Katie and Matthew were such special, precious, wonderful little gifts and had blessed our lives immeasurably. I could not imagine the pure joy we would have missed out on if they had not been sent by God to our family. Laurie and Fernando were just as surprised as we were that God had chosen to bless them again with another child. If He saw fit to bless this world with another precious little Naranjo, then who were we to question His wisdom? He has a special plan for that life! And you have to admit—He certainly makes beautiful little Naranjos, inside and out!
This time I would not question. I’d learned my lesson. The news of a new grandbaby deserves to be met with joy and excitement—and it was. Oh, I’m still concerned for Laurie, but I have to place those fears in the Lord’s hands for He knows what He is doing.
Of course, I was full of questions. When did you find out? How far along are you? Have you figured out the due date? Which would you rather have—a boy or a girl? Have you thought about names yet? And then, of course, I could not resist teasing Laurie and Fernando about having a baby in their old age—just like Abraham and Sarah! “Just think, Laurie—you’ll be almost as old as I was when I became a grandma!” I joked. By the time we were Fernando’s age, we had three grandchildren!
She laughed. “Don’t remind me! We’ve already been calling ourselves Abraham and Sarah!”
It was just by coincidence (???) that I happened to read the account of Abraham and Sarah this week in my Bible-reading. I’ve been reading in Genesis and I came to chapters 17 through 21 where it recounts the story of the announcement by the Lord that He would bless them with a son, despite their old age, and make of them a great nation and nations. The passage goes on to tell of the birth of Isaac and the fulfillment of God’s promise—and their reactions to it.
Genesis 17:1, 5, 6, 15-17, 19; 18:12-15; 21:6 tells the story: And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her. Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him…Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also? And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh. …And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me.
Their reactions to this unexpected announcement and the miraculous birth of their baby boy? They laughed! But there is laughter—and then there is laughter. Abraham’s reaction to the Lord’s promise to him seemed to be one of wonderment! He was ninety-nine years old, but he would father this miraculous son! The Lord Himself had made the announcement to him—how could he doubt it?
Sarah, on the other hand, did doubt. For many years it had been her all-consuming desire to have a child until finally her body had gone through menopause and she knew with a bitter finality that it was not to be. She was old. When she laughed, it was in disbelief and bitterness. Then, to make matters worse, when the Lord asked why she had laughed, she denied it. She tried to lie to the Lord—the One who knew her heart better than she did herself. He, in his forgiveness and grace, however, kept His promise and a year later Sarah bore a son, despite her age and the fact that her body was long-past the capability of conceiving a child.
Sarah laughed again—this time in joy at the birth of her little miracle son. And she named him the name that God Himself had chosen—Isaac—“He will laugh.”
Reading the story all over again reminded me that God has a purpose for each life that He brings into this world, and that the birth of a baby is a blessing and a gift from God and should be met with rejoicing and wonder and thanksgiving—and yes, laughter!
I was reminded also of another truth—nothing is too hard for the Lord! Sarah had become discouraged and bitter and hopeless as the years went by and her greatest desire and prayer was not granted by the Lord. She could not see that the greater miracle was about to happen, not only in the fact that she would miraculously conceive, but also in the fact that through this son, all the world would someday be blessed, for Jesus’ humanity would come through the line of Abraham and Isaac and their descendents.
God’s timetable is not always what we would desire. He does not always work in our lives in the way that we would choose or expect, but never doubt that He is at work! I must not be discouraged when time slips away and it seems that God does not hear my prayers. I should never lose hope, even when things seem impossible in my finite, human wisdom. He is still the God of miracles, and when I trust Him, He brings unexpected joy and laughter into my life! Is anything too hard for the Lord?
I was sharing these thoughts with my other daughter Julie later that day. As I recognized the discouragement and hopelessness in Sarah over the years as she had begged God for a child, I could not help think of Julie and David’s long journey on the road to adoption. It was easy to get discouraged. At times it seemed hopeless—that it was never going to really happen. I wanted to encourage her. “Look at Sarah! After her despair and hopelessness, God worked a miracle and brought joy and laughter! “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”
“Mom, I read the exact same message this morning in my devotions! ” she exclaimed That must be our word from the Lord today—is anything too hard for God?
They are good words to remember. When things seem hopeless; when the desires of our hearts seem to go unfulfilled; when the years have slipped by and it does not seem that God hears or cares—He is working in our lives. The miracle may yet come—but if it does not, He can change the desires of our heart to be in line with His will. Be open to His timing and working in your life. Regardless of how He works, you just may be surprised with unexpected joy and laughter!