This is Catherine Segars, that drama girl. Today I want to tell you a story about how the season of silver bells offers us a silver lining.
Silver Bells and Silver Linings
I’m a dreamer. Always have been. I daydream, and I have vivid dreams at night ever since I was a child.
Some dreams I forget, but I will never forget this one.
It was 2:30 a.m. during the season of silver bells, and I woke up screaming at the top of my lungs. An onlooker might have thought it was an old-fashioned nightmare, or some sort of trauma visiting my dreams, but it wasn’t. It was more than that. It was a warning. Something assaulted me in my sleep, something from another world.
I was twenty-six weeks pregnant, and I was visiting family in Alabama with the kids for Christmas while my husband worked long holiday hours back home in Tennessee. I knew that Bryan needed rest, but I had to call him. We had to pray.
He picked up after two rings.
“What’s wrong?” he whispered with an urgency in his voice.
“Something attacked me in my sleep. Something evil.”
We took authority over whatever it was, rebuking that vile thing with the Scriptures we had been praying every day for the past year. At the seasoned age of forty-five conceiving this child was just the first miracle. Carrying her to term would be the next. After we had lost a precious little one on Thanksgiving Day the year before, God told me that we would have to fight for our promised fifth child. So, we fought like never before . . . on our knees. We hadn’t prayed this long and this hard for nothing. This child was staying put!
Finally, peace washed over me, and I went back to sleep.
In the morning, I alerted my ladies Bible study and pleaded with them to pray. I knew that I was standing on a precipice, and I needed their support. I reminded them of the dream I had a few weeks prior. In it, I had been given army fatigues to fit my burgeoning belly and was told that I was being transferred to a battle station. Joy! Every pregnant woman wants to go to war. All the soldiers being transported with me were lying flat on their backs. How curious. What could it mean?
Do you ever get the feeling that the course of your life is about to shift dramatically and destiny lies in the balance? That is how I felt on December 18th, 2016.
The day seemed normal but the hairs on my arms were standing at attention. Everything in me was on high alert. That evening, I found out why.
As the kids opened their gifts in the annual cousins’ Christmas party, I felt the shift inside me. There was a gush, and a quick trip up two flights of stairs to my room, where I first felt the attack in my dream, confirmed my worst fears. I was bleeding. Badly.
Something was not right. There was an initial panic as I realized that the spiritual and the natural had collided. The battle was no longer out there. It was inside me. The countless hours of prayer and the graphic warnings were for now, for this moment!
I called Bryan as we rushed to St. Vincent’s Hospital in downtown Birmingham. He left work immediately. I kept pressing on my belly, trying to get my sweet angel to move. I wasn’t in pain, but was she? Was she ok? I couldn’t feel her. Why was she so still?
They immediately wheeled me into an examination room. They don’t mess around with pregnant ladies. They lied me flat on my back, just like all those soldiers heading to battle, and hooked me up to a monitor. Finally . . . I heard her heartbeat, strong and steady. So reassuring. Thank God, she was alive! She was fine. Chaos surrounded her, but she was untouched.
Still, twenty-six weeks was far too early to have a baby.
My phone lit up like a Christmas tree for hours as my prayer ladies sent encouraging words and Scriptures. They were fighting alongside me. I wasn’t alone. Bryan made the three-hour trip in record time, arriving around midnight. He held my hand and prayed into the wee hours. The bleeding subsided and I was released the next day under the strictest of orders to see my obstetrician in Tennessee as soon as possible.
I did not yet know that my placenta was abrupting and would continue to do so for the next two and a half months. I didn’t know that this abruption would risk not only my child’s life, but mine as well. I did not know that I would be put on complete bed rest for the rest of the pregnancy, thus the soldiers lying flat on their backs in my dream. I didn’t know that I would visit the hospital again from a second bleeding incident four weeks later, and then, after a third occurrence, spend the last month of this pregnancy on the sixth floor of Centennial Women’s Hospital in downtown Nashville. I didn’t know that I would fully abrupt ten weeks later in what would resemble a crime scene investigation from an episode of CSI, maternity ward unit, and be rushed into surgery for an emergency C-section, where my longtime OB would jump on top of the operating table with two scrub techs to cut, tug, and pull my precious girl out of my womb with mere minutes to spare.
I didn’t know any of that because we never know where the battle is going to take us when the conflict starts. We only know that His grace is sufficient.
And His grace was. The war raged all around this child with an enormous 11 cm fibroid tumor blocking her way to the birth canal, a placenta that barely held on to 36 weeks, and a breach position that resulted in a particularly dramatic and brutal C-section. One that, in the haze of anesthesia, made me feel like I had been abducted by aliens and taken aboard their space ship to have my internal organs probed and prodded in an effort to become fully acquainted with the human species.
And yet, during the daily two-hour monitoring sessions in the hospital, the nurses told me that Evangeline’s heartbeat and movement were textbook perfect. Every single day. Even during the final tearing of the connection between her life and mine, while my doctor struggled to set her free, her heartbeat remained steady and strong.
How could she be at perfect peace in the midst of all this carnage?
Isaiah 26:3 tells us: “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You.”
War is bloody business. Some gifts and promises come to us with comfort and ease, but others must be fought for and won in bloody battle.
Even still, we can be at peace in the midst of a war, and sometimes we can have a blessed reprieve . . .
I’ve heard many stories of raging international conflicts that stop for a single day, Christmas day, in honor of the Christ child. My war stopped on that day in 2016 with the most incredible silver lining. My husband usually works 15-hour days throughout the Christmas season. He worked Christmas Eve and Christmas Day every year at one of the biggest holiday tourist destinations in the south. When his boss heard that I had been released from the hospital on complete bed rest, he sent Bryan home with the strictest of orders not to return until after Christmas.
In over two decades with this man, I had only spent two Christmases with him. Now we would have four whole days together to celebrate the Christ child with our family. What a gift! We had a reprieve from the war. The final victory would not come for many weeks after numerous long and arduous days of battle, but that Christmas we celebrated with the Prince of Peace.
The silver bells of Christmastime provide a silver lining in the midst of our battles, even if the silver lining is just the promise of an eternity free from the heartache and toil of this world.
Still, in this world God has promised to bring beauty from the ashes of our lives. Emanuel, God with us, has promised to redeem. My war really started on Thanksgiving Day thirteen months before when my little one left this life for another, and the child I fought for in the wake of that loss is the beauty from those ashes. She is my redemption. She is my silver lining.
Whatever war you are waging this holiday season, I pray that you have a reprieve to celebrate the Christ child, who promises us redemption in this life and victory in the life to come.
May the silver bells of Christmastime bring you a blessed silver lining.
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Merry Christmas, everyone!