Here are three stories written by wives of NOBTS faculty members that tell of God's faithfulness despite difficult circumstances this year involving their children. In each case, they share reasons to be thankful.
By Laura Harwood, wife of Dr. Adam Harwood
We were right in the middle of the weekday morning rush. Everyone was showered, breakfast was finished, and school lunches were being packed before we all hurried out the door to go in our different directions. My husband Adam and I were doing the usual who’s-doing-what-today-routine as we prepared to send our two teenagers off to their respective high schools.
Our 17-year-old son, Jonathan, turned to me and said, “Mom, I don’t feel good.” My 6’ 4” man-child has always been strong, active, and healthy, so whenever he complains, I go on alert. He had mentioned having headaches the last couple of days (which were unusual for him) but I was not too concerned about headaches.
But when I heard his voice and looked at his pale face, I immediately became concerned. Jonathan sat down, rested his head back, and started rubbing his chest. He said he felt a tightness in his chest and had a strange pain radiating down his arm. He then quickly jumped from his chair, hurried to the bathroom, and became violently sick. It was at that point Adam and I knew this was not a typical illness. Something was wrong with our son.
TRIAGE AND TESTING
We immediately changed our plans and headed for the emergency room at New Orleans Children’s Hospital. At this time of the morning, there was no way to avoid heavy, rush-hour traffic.
As Adam crawled through the backed-up cars near downtown New Orleans, Jonathan again began complaining of the pain in his chest and the pain in his arm. Adam knew Jonathan could not wait any longer. He needed help immediately. The Children’s Hospital was still too far away. Adam headed straight to the University Medical Center ER entrance, and as Jonathan was triaged, the wheels of medical care began to move and the reminder of God’s love and faithfulness began.
Over the next several hours, Jonathan was placed on monitors and underwent a barrage of tests. The doctors told us that his troponin level indicated he had had a heart attack, but he was not showing any of the other typical markers. The troponin enzyme for someone Jonathan’s age is usually around 20-25. His initial reading was over 5000. Every few hours, this enzyme was rechecked and his numbers continued to climb. His troponin level would eventually peak at 13,000.
After spending all day in the emergency room, the cardiologist shared the diagnosis of Myocarditis—inflammation of the heart. Jonathan was admitted to the hospital to monitor his heart and to wait for his enzyme level to stabilize. He stayed four days. He was discharged with orders for two weeks of strict bed rest and then restricted physical activities for 6 months.
REMINDERS OF GOD AT WORK
We are now two months since the hospitalization. Jonathan has seen his cardiologist regularly and has had echocardiograms and MRIs to monitor his heart. He still has swelling around his heart, but it is improving and our family remains hopeful that he will be completely healed.
Throughout this challenging time, there have been so many reminders of God’s faithfulness and His goodness. We look back and see so clearly how God’s hand led us to the best cardiac hospital in our city and provided amazing doctors who worked diligently behind the scenes, consulting with physicians in other hospitals to ensure Jonathan was given the very best plan of care.
When we began to worry, our family was filled with a sense of peace and comfort that our son’s life was securely held in the hands of the Almighty. We were constantly encouraged by dear Christian friends who prayed for us, shared Scripture with us, and willingly and eagerly sought ways to bear this burden with us.
Our hope has been that Jonathan would be able to use this experience in his young life to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalms 34:8) and that he would see so clearly how God was faithfully causing this to work for his good (Romans 8:28).
We are still praying and trusting God for Jonathan’s complete healing, but we are so grateful for the many ways He has already worked. “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever” (1 Chronicles 16:34).
By Rebekah Rice, wife of Dr. Bo Rice
The day before I turned 40, January 8, 2020, as I struggled through the emotions of such a milestone birthday, I told my husband Bo that I was not sure what the next decade held for me as a ministry wife and stay-at-home mother of four.
After having our oldest three children biologically, we fostered and adopted our fourth child Nathan through the Louisiana Department of Children Family Services (DCFS). His adoption was official on January 22, 2018. I did not feel that the Lord had released us from our foster care and adoption journey that we had been on since October of 2016, but Bo and I were praying for direction about keeping our home open.
On February 8, 2020 -- exactly one month after I struggled with God’s purpose for a new decade of life -- the Lord clearly revealed His purpose to me and answered Bo’s and my prayer about continuing our foster care journey.
After DCFS contacted me and I spent the night of February 7, 2020, in the NICU at a local hospital, I brought home a beautiful and tiny two-week-old baby girl named Savanna. She needed our family desperately, and I knew God had confirmed His continued calling on my life and on the life of our family. The journey and calling has been filled with overwhelming joy and gratitude in the midst of great heartache and trials.
Because of the circumstances surrounding her birth, Savanna struggled significantly for the first year of her life. Every time she ate, was hungry, had a gas bubble, needed to burp, etc. … all those things registered as pain in her little body. She was difficult to console, and she did not sleep well. She attached to me immediately, but because of that, I was the only one who could soothe her or who could feed her—the first nine months of her life were intense.
One month after her coming into our care, the entire world shut down because of COVID, and our three school age children came home for virtual learning. Those months were extremely difficult, and looking back, I am not quite sure how we made it except for the grace of God.
But even in the hard and exhausting moments, tears of overwhelming gratitude would pour down my face because of the privilege of being the one who got to hold, love, nurture, and tenderly care for Savanna through such an intense healing process.
As she began to heal, she would reach up and grab one of my hands and hold my fingers during her feedings. My heart would just melt and my eyes would fill with tears at the beauty of that action. In those moments when the exhaustion was overwhelming, her tiny hand clasping mine was the reminder I needed that our Mighty Holy Father cared for me just as tenderly and fiercely as I cared for Savanna, and my heart would overflow with Thanksgiving.
This year, on April 12, 2022, a Louisiana Judge legally declared Savanna Ruth Rice to be Bo’s and my daughter, and tears once again flowed freely with the overwhelming gratitude of God’s goodness to Bo and me.
From God bringing Savanna into our home to the emotional highs and lows of foster care to her becoming our daughter, I can say without a doubt that God is so good. He is so kind.
Savanna continues to have health needs that require many doctors and therapy appointments each week, but her life is truly a miracle. She has come SO FAR on her journey to healing.
I read Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts twelve years ago, and the main idea of the book has stuck with me—to “dare to live fully right where you are” through seeking to give thanks to the Lord in the day to day because in Him we find true joy. So, even in the exhausting, the hard, the beautiful, the brokenness, I am so thankful God entrusted Bo and me to parent and shepherd Savanna and has allowed our family to be her family–forever.
By Marilyn Stewart, wife of Dr. Bob Stewart
My grandson was six days old when my family received a phone call that rocked our world.
My daughter and son-in-law were told that their beautiful, perfectly formed baby has spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), the number one genetic cause of death in infants. It was a long, dark night of tears as we struggled with the news that our sweet baby would not live to see his second birthday.
At the neurologist’s office the next morning, the news was brighter: Caleb’s SMA type is not the most serious form, and today there is ground-breaking treatment. Still, SMA is degenerative, looks a lot like ALS in adults, and every individual responds differently.
In other words, there are no guarantees.
Caleb is bright, beautiful, and reaching milestones other babies meet. He looks like any other baby. But there is no cure for SMA and as the neurologist has reminded his parents, treatment will only slow the condition, not stop it.
I admit, this has not been easy to process. Nor has it been easy to accept.
Throughout the year, other difficult news for our family has come along, each being a reminder that we cannot dictate what life will look like or what tomorrow will bring. We don’t know what lies ahead for Caleb. We do know he will face challenges and some will be significant.
Yet, we are so very blessed. Caleb lights up our lives and fills our hearts with joy. Already he is reshaping our thoughts and tuning our hearts to listen more attentively to the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1: 3-4). At every turn we see God’s mercy as He has patiently waited for us to grow, even as He walks beside us.
While Caleb’s news was a shock at first, we soon came to our senses and realized this isn’t the end of the world. We are well aware that others, even dear friends, are facing trials and losses that cut more deeply than ours. On hard days, we marvel as we realize that God had gone before us to make our path that day easier than it could have been, and we are filled with thanksgiving.
We are as humbled as we are grateful: grateful for dedicated medical researchers and advances; grateful that newborn screening very recently became available; grateful for the outpouring of love and care we have received from praying friends.
Many years ago, I discovered C. S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew of the Chronicles of Narnia. To read it is to feel young Digory’s desperation to save his dying mother as he searches out the great lion Aslan, the Christ-figure in the story, to plead for “magic” to cure her.
Only in despair does Digory find the courage to lift his eyes from Aslan’s terrible paws to look into the lion's eyes. When he does, Digory is startled to find “great, shining tears” there. In that moment, Digory begins to believe that Aslan must care for his ill mother even more than he does.
I do believe Jesus loves Caleb more than I do—my love is so shallow compared to His—and when I remember this, my hope begins to rise (Psalm 27:13-14).
Recently, one of my daughter’s friends in the SMA community, a mother whose child feels the impact of the disease keenly, told her, “Suffering is a gift.”
Perhaps. This inspiring woman knows far better than my family does at this moment the trials of this condition, and she knows Jesus. All I know is that only God can turn suffering into a gift.I know this, too. When I look into Caleb’s sweet face and watch him grow and learn, I know he is a gift. And as with every gift God gives, I strive, I intend to, I hope to be able to accept this gift with joy and gratitude, and then resolutely turn and place our precious gift, our grandson, back into hands that know suffering all-too-well, into the nail-scarred hands of King Jesus.