Count your Miracles

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Today I was reminded of a very important date in my life: August 3, 2013.

On that life-altering day, God answered my prayer before I prayed it. Josh and I have written about this day on several occasions in various formats because it is such an important day to us. We were in the process of moving to a little rental property in Waskom, Texas. It was only a 3-bedroom mobile home at the end of a country road, but it was our little oasis. We had that newly-wed feeling again after a marital separation. We had only been living together for a month after finally becoming pregnant for the first time. We were ready to be alone together, and God was answering that prayer. But, that’s not the prayer I was referring to in the first sentence.

Josh and I were driving separate vehicles to haul boxes and furniture. After unloading and signing the lease agreement, we were on our way back to Shreveport. I don’t remember why we were on the phone-the drive from our new home to I-20 was only a few minutes long- but I remember telling Josh, who was not even a mile ahead of me in his little blue Chevy truck, that I needed to get off the phone before I turned onto the entrance ramp. Waskom is the first exit upon entering Texas, or the last exit before entering Louisiana. It’s less than 20 minutes away from Shreveport. I had just hung up the phone with my husband, believing I would see him safe and sound in less than 20 minutes at whatever the destination we were heading to. Less than a mile before the Louisiana rest stop, I gasped at the sight of a little blue Chevy truck flipped over and in flames on the right-hand side of the road. It did take a second or two for my prayer for “that victim” to turn to denial of reality and then to a new prayer of “Please, let him be okay. I don’t want to be a single mother.” I parked at the exit ramp for the rest stop and ran as fast as my 13-week pregnant self could go, praying and still partly hoping that I was only making a fool of myself for running to a stranger’s rescue. A woman who had stopped to help was standing on the side of the road watching the flames and I yelled as I got closer, “Is he still in there?” She could see my distress and explained that the man got out and pointed to him standing near another vehicle several yards ahead. At that time he stepped out to where I could see him. If I thought my adrenaline was rushing before, it was evident that I had only been going at half-speed until our eyes met. He was covered in blood from a head wound, but he was alive and mobile. That was already more than I had expected coming up on the scene. 

I’ll stop here to reiterate that God had answered my prayer BEFORE I prayed it. Josh had exited the truck before the full tank of gas caught fire. How? He can’t really explain it. He was wearing a seat belt and was upside-down so that the tension of the belt was tight. He had to push himself up to unbuckle the seat belt, then crawl out the broken window. All of this happened and he had gotten safely to the shoulder of the interstate before I passed the truck; it was already on fire and Josh was no where in sight by that time. The occasion was nothing short of a miracle and God screaming at Josh that he saw his potential for faith and ministry and wanted more from him.

Ten days later, Josh and I went in for our first ultrasound scan. Josh still had his head wrapped. He had no internal bleeding or damage, only a minor head wound and body aches. The nightmare was still fresh on my mind as we saw Aniston and Jonah for the first time. My immediate thought was that I could have been a single mother–to twins! I know if that had been the case that God would have gotten me through it every step of the way, but it didn’t happen that way. God pulled him out of the truck. And, there he was, red-faced and backed against the wall, one hand over his gaping mouth. At some point I remember him saying, “and, I almost didn’t get to see this.”

We do reminisce of that scary incident on a regular basis, for various reasons. That incident is what God used to turn Josh’s eyes to ministry. From that day, he has strived to #LiveLikePaul. That wreck was his “flash of blinding light,” when God spoke to him loudly and clearly to completely turn and follow him.

Today Josh had to work. He hasn’t worked on a Sunday morning in at least two years. Today was the first day I got the kids dressed and ready for Sunday morning service by myself. Usually, Josh dresses them or makes their breakfast while I get ready. Today I carried two while the older two held hands and walked close behind me into church. Usually, Josh carries one and holds one hand while I carry one and hold the other’s hand. Today I planned to take the older two to church with me. They wanted to go to “school”. So, I walked into church by myself. Usually, Josh and I hold hands.

I sat in the back and looked around the church, noticing for the first time how many women were sitting alone. I couldn’t help but think of all the reasons a woman may be sitting in a church pew alone. Some were widows. Some would never marry, or haven’t married yet. Some would be leaving straight from church to visit their husband in the hospital. Some were divorced. Some had a husband who “doesn’t do that church stuff.” Some had a husband who works on Sundays, like mine did today. Some have a husband who not only isn’t there for church, but is away from home more often than not because of the distance between work and home. I spent the entire service meditating on my thankfulness to God that I have a godly, present husband. He could have been taken from me on August 3, 2013. I could be a single mom to twins. Instead, today I hauled my six kids (if you include the two in utero) to church while my husband sat in the guard shack working dispatch. And, if I know my husband, I know he was wishing he could have been with me partaking of the Lord’s Supper today; but, he knows he owes his life to Christ and he will go where ever the Lord leads, constantly in remembrance of His sacrifice.

#ToLiveIsChrist #ToDieIsGain

 

—-Raye

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God Is On the Move

 

The week leading up to my birthday this year was one for the books. On Tuesday, I rushed to the bathroom several times expecting Aunt Flo.  On Wednesday, repeat. Odd. When Thursday became a no-show, I was in full-blown panic mode. On Friday morning (1AM) I woke Josh and exclaimed that I could not sleep. I was “late”, and I was certain I knew what that meant. Even still, I tried to google and explain it away: maybe I was stressed over Joshua’s end of semester and last-minute assignments, maybe it was due to weight change, maybe my cycle was just a little off. Or, maybe…  I was pregnant.

She seemed very worried, almost distraught. As she stood there in the kitchen with that worried tone and depleted look, I felt the same feeling in my heart which I had felt the day we found out about our first pregnancy. “God hasn’t abandoned us,” I said. “If we are [pregnant], He will get us through it.” A few short hours later, my 5AM alarm rang. I woke up with mixed feelings of curiosity and doubtfulness regarding the possibility of pregnancy. I opened my bible app and started to play the audio to Genesis chapter 38. The story of Judah and Tamar began to play. This piece of history is an early example of how one person’s refusal to surrender to God’s divine plan will NOT stop him from working everything out for His glory. Tamar is the daughter-in-law to Judah via his son Er. God kills Er because he is wicked. Then Onan is to carry on Er’s legacy with Tamar, but purposefully spills his seed on the ground (Genesis 38:9). My heart sunk. I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit because we were trying not to have kids, moreover, our hearts didn’t want any more kids (at least for another year or so). Onan was destroyed because he refused to have children for his brother. Judah then promises his youngest, who was not yet of age, to Tamar. Judah forgot about his promise, so Tamar tricked Judah into having intercourse with him and conceived. I was reading the NIV. My curiosity climaxed as my doubtfulness dissipated with every word of verse 27: “When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb.” I immediately knew that God was telling me, not only were we pregnant, we were pregnant with ANOTHER set of twins AND they would be boys. NIV is one of two versions to express the specific gender of the twins (in verse 27) that Tamar conceived (though that information would be gathered by later context in the chapter); God’s Word Translation is the other.

So, at who-knows-what- time in the morning, my husband comes in with a Bible, a commentary on Genesis, and a lovely note of instructions and encouragement. I halfway acknowledged him and went back to sleep. Breastfeeding twin moms don’t play when it comes to sleep, and I had already lost too much due to anxiety. Once the girls woke up to eat and we were all situated, I began to read. My response was not as radical as Josh’s, but that’s probably because I’ve already (recently) been through two twin pregnancies and was terrified of the idea of going through another so soon. Maybe this meant something, and maybe it didn’t. We’d just have to wait and see. That night we took the test to confirm what we both knew. The Harris family is expanding; by how many feet, was yet to be confirmed except on faith of God’s Word.

We agreed not to tell anyone in our family until we saw a doctor, but we wanted to tell everyone else in our prayer circle, for obvious reasons. I’m not the type of person to tell strangers I’m pregnant when I clearly don’t look pregnant yet; Josh, on the other hand, told everyone who dared to lend a listening ear. Our conversations in wal-mart went something like this:

Stranger: Oh, look how sweet! Twins? *gestures towards Madeline and Magnolia*

Me: Yes, these two are identical, but the older ones are twins, as well. Fraternal, of course.

Stranger: Wow! You have two sets of twins!?

Josh: *places hand on my abdomen* And two boys on the way!

Stranger: *gasp* (response varies)

Me: We don’t know that for sure, yet. We haven’t seen a doctor.

This went on for about 8 weeks. As the day of our first appointment approached, my attitude about the pregnancy changed dramatically. I would refer to whomever was in my womb as “baby brothers” and hoped for the sake of Joshua’s faith that it was true. He was SO sure God had spoken through that Bible study. At the same time, I was so sure I was only carrying one baby. I’ve had relatively easy pregnancies before, but this one had been a breeze for the first 12 weeks. No way could there be two babies in there!

My boss’s wife and daughters agreed to keep Jonah & Aniston the day of the first Dr.’s appointment. I wasn’t nervous, just anxious to find out anything I could about this pregnancy that would confirm what I knew to be true. Raye wasn’t sure whether we would get an ultrasound, but we both had high hopes. As Raye said before, I had told everyone (short of family) our story. I told them all about the bible study and how sure I was that they were boys. One of my co-workers said “what are you gonna do if it’s not boys, or twins for that matter?” “It’s still a miracle!” I told them. While we were in the waiting room, both of us grew jittery with butterflies. Raye was nervous about not knowing what to expect; I was nervous to find out what I already knew, to finally get to see this miracle with my own eyes. We entered the room and, to our pleasant surprise, the doctor had ordered an ultrasound. As ADHD as I am, I wasted no time in telling the nurse and doctor about our story and what God has done. The usual skepticism was incurred, but it didn’t slow me down. The nurse readied the machine and the moment of truth finally came. Raye couldn’t see, but I stood squashed in a corner with a baby on each hip because I COULD NOT wait another second to see this. “You’re gonna need a bigger boat. It’s twins, and by the looks of it identical! Congratulations.” Wow! Mind BLOWN! I told Raye earlier on that if she was in fact carrying twins, then I knew for sure they are boys. God heard my faith and went a step further to put a doctor in our path who is thorough and educated enough to be able to tell us they are identical. So whatever the gender, they’re both the same. *If you haven’t read our blogs before, we didn’t find out until AFTER the girls’ first birthday that they are identical.*

Well, that’s all it took to convince me that God had genuinely spoken to Josh. 12 weeks’ gestation is too early to distinguish genitalia, but from that point I believed whole-heartedly. It made sense that I was having the easiest pregnancy because A) that’s God’s grace on me for taking the physical brunt of whatever this grand plan is that He has in store for our blossoming family and B) my body must have an easier time carrying boys than girls. Per the decision we made early on in the pregnancy, we now had to face Goliath AKA tell our family the news. We expected disapproval and fear of the medical and financial unknown from our closest loved ones. We prayed and asked everyone who already knew this GREAT news to pray for our families to receive it with politeness, if not excitement. That’s all we asked. And, what do ya know? God blessed us with open-arms, tears of joy, annnnnnd mostly shock. This is the kind of shock that won’t wear off until we are taking our new “first family photo” which will give way to a new wave of shock. And, at that point, what’s not to be happy about, right? Thank you, Lord!

What’s next on the agenda? The 4-week waiting game…waiting for our next appointment to prove to all the doubtful Dolly’s that God still speaks through His Holy Word. After all that waiting and anticipating and telling everyone that we would find out today, July 22, 2016, because we should be able to confirm the gender via ultrasound, we left the house with our two big twins in tow and a gut-wrenching thought occurred to me. “What if we don’t get an ultrasound today?” I thought out-loud. Bad idea. Josh was so distraught. He had charged the camera, and he was ready for soundwaves, camera, action. He was anxious to collect evidence that #GodIsOnTheMove today, and he did not want to wait. Certain that God would prove Himself in His own divine time, I was a little worried that Aniston and Jonah may not get to see their “baby brothers” like I had promised. Josh was bummed out, but he prayed about it. I couldn’t make out his exact words as I was busy searching for parking, but I know his heart. God sent him a distraction.

Thanks, God. I couldn’t see it as a blessing at the moment. Josh’s phone started this peculiar malfunction where his microphone would not work for outgoing calls, but somehow it still worked for incoming calls. He’s ADHD. You do the math. I sat in the waiting room trying to fill out paperwork with twin two-year-olds who were fighting over puzzles and notebooks by myself while he stood out in the hall making phone calls. When the nurse called me back, I could not get his attention. So, I just got those little ducks in a row and we waddled into the restroom together. Yes, Jonah flushed the toilet for me after I rejected his offer to wipe me, and Aniston pushed the Call-For-Assistance button. Never a dull moment. They stood nice and quiet against the wall holding their toys and my purse while I had my weight checked. When the nurse directed us to our room, I was surprised to see Josh waiting for us. He had already asked whether we would have a scan done today. The nurse told him no. Disappointment was all over his face. But, God kept on with that distraction. We bickered the whole time we waited for the doctor because he would not put down that stupid electronic and help me keep up with our tiny pretend “doctors”. The real doctor came in; no machine. Poor Josh had still been hanging on to a tiny glimmer of hope until he locked eyes on the Doppler in her hand.  After a little chat, she informed us that she had decided to do a quick look to make sure babies and placenta looked normal. She went on to explain that it’s difficult to make out two separate heart beats with the Doppler, anyway, which I already knew from my last two pregnancies. Wow! Okay, God, we’re ready.

I wasn’t even ready for this!! Yeah, so I had a fully charged camera, which apparently had reset itself and required me to “set the time.” I didn’t have time for that. Come to find out, it didn’t have a memory card, anyway. Plan B: my phone! That didn’t work out too hot either. I forgot to press record! It was all happening so fast. Before I knew it, I was seeing two sets of testicles. The crown jewels to carry on our strong Scottish name (be it God’s Will), moreover, our strong Christian faith. In short, it was quite overwhelming. The moment of truth finally came and the faith I had held onto so dearly paid off. God DID speak directly to me through His word. So here we are: a family of 8, now. Where are we headed? All I can say is, if He says, “Go,” we will go. What else is there? I’ve already been down unguided paths; they were dead ends. Not happening again. This miraculous “randomness” (cough, cough) only strengthens what I already know to be true. GOD IS REAL!

Here’s a little lagniappe for those of you who still may want to chalk God’s work up to coincidence, or those of you who just love to acknowledge the “little” miracles. Josh and I have always known we wanted six kids. For Josh, this dream started as a child. He has ALWAYS wanted six kids: 3 boys and 3 girls. Not ironic. God! When I was a child, I always imagined myself to have four kids. Now, I realize I only felt that way because my mom had “four kids.” Hindsight, it wasn’t that I wanted to “have four kids,” I just wanted to be like my mom. But, in fact, my mom had six kids, one of them being my twin brother, Larz. Not ironic. God! The chance of having two sets of fraternal twins is 1 in 3,000. The chance of having one set of fraternal twins and one set of identical twins is 1 in 10,000. The chance of having two sets of identical twins is 1 in 70,000. The chance of having three sets of twins (regardless of zygosity) is 1 in 500,000. We have never used fertility treatments of any sort, and I’m 24 years old. For two years my womb was closed; we didn’t understand why. Finally, we prayed that God only give us children if it’s His will. We vowed that we would raise them to be an Army for God. Six kids in three years…I’d call that an army. Not ironic. Not irresponsible behavior. God! An hour or so after we got back home today, Josh’s phone miraculously started working properly. Not ironic. God!

Here is a link to all the twin statistics. http://www.twinstwice.com/twins.html

Drake Elliott Harris & Judah Lane Harris will make their appearance in early December.

—-Josh Raye