I push harder, 130-140-150 steps per minute, sprinting up an elliptical stairway to endorphin heaven, the blood pumping, the lungs filling, the muscles flexing, and the heart beating a steady rhythm of thank-you-thank-you-thank-you. This heart, strong by birthright, gift of genetics. All my life, nurses slip off the blood pressure cuff, and raise eyebrows, impressed.
I climb this stationary stair, watching the heart monitor blink its steady confirmation, and I wonder. Why for me? Why not for her?
Sarah, whose heart touches the untouchables, reaches out to the unreachable, and welcomes the homeless home. Sarah, who has believed for the impossible and seen miracles, now gasping for breath, fighting for faith, and contending for joy. Fear never did play fair. It strikes at the place where the deepest wounds and longings lie.
Motherhood. The heartbeat she danced to in the womb, long since silenced. Now six months pregnant with a daughter of her own, her heart races irregular. Blood pressure rises, spiking into dangerous territory. Also by birthright. When she was the forming one, her mother was placed on bed rest for this. When she was sixteen, that weary mother’s heart literally broke.
When God gave her to my son, he gave her to me, making me a joyful mother again. I embrace the name and all it means with all the strength of this steady heart. All that’s mine is hers.
But I can’t fix this.
Lungs fill, muscles flex, and I think of how this workhorse heart pulsed blood through corded lifeline to developing lungs, muscles, son of my womb, knit together cell by cell in secret. Luke. Young husband of just a year. Now a father. Poet philosopher, who can quote reams of T.S. Eliot but doesn’t remember where he left his cell phone. Learning how to plant the feet. Learning how to lead. Learning how to love and serve well. He works, he prays, he gently kisses the forehead. When the pain crushes, the head spins, and the fear suffocates, he holds her hand and whispers comfort. Places his hand on the swelling belly and speaks benediction to blossoming life.
But he can’t fix this.
The legs churn faster, racing to escape possibilities but going nowhere, and the heart beat shifts to what-if-what-if-what-if. Fear slithers, prickling the skin, hissing its whispers. Worry dressing itself as concern. Fretfulness presenting itself as realism. Fear comes as a thief, a captor, a tormentor. Fear is a liar.
And what is my birthright? What is hers? The answer comes in words. Promises. I know the plans I have for you, plans formed long ago with perfect faithfulness, every day written in My Book before there was one of them. My thoughts toward you outnumber the sand. I will never leave or forsake you. Let not your heart be troubled.
I breathe them in. Let not. Pound them out. Your heart. And trample fear underfoot. Be troubled.
Lungs fill. Every breath grace. Blood pumps. Every heartbeat grace. Faith muscles flex. He who promised is faithful, and not one word He has spoken will fail.
I’m sprinting up an elliptical stairway, my body in this gym, my spirit raised up and seated in heavenly places with sovereign grace and perfect love, and the heart beats a steady rhythm.
Giving thanks in community:
#39. A beautiful community of faith surrounding Sarah and Luke in this journey
#40. Blood pressure medicine
#41. An anytime, anywhere welcome at the Mercy Seat
#42. Sarah’s brave heart, choosing truth, and contending for joy
#43. Sweet son, laying down the life and learning Christ-likeness.
#44. Precious granddaughter, safe and well, all her days written even now
Please pray for Sarah, Naomi, and Luke, and thank God with us for all His good gifts, even the difficult ones. To read more stories or add your own voice to the community, visit Ann Voskamp’s site.