Rev. Chris Holliday serves as the associate minister at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection West.
Yesterday, Pastor Adam told the story of a young pastor who lost her baby, experienced a faith crisis and emerged transformed as she and her husband adopted three beautiful girls from Russia. This is my family’s story, and as a testimony to the faithfulness, grace and love of our amazing God, I would like to share a bit more of it with you today.
In 2002, my wife Lisa and I were pastoring a church together in a small suburb of Rochester, NY. We chose to try and have a baby. After over a year of no results, we went to see the appropriate doctors, received treatment and eventually Lisa became pregnant. We were thrilled! To top off the exciting news, the expected due date was Dec. 24th, Christmas Eve. How appropriate, we thought, especially for two pastors with the last name of Holliday!
From that point, though, it was a very difficult pregnancy. Lisa became very ill. She wasn’t just sick in the morning, but at all times of the day. After three months, we thought she would improve, but she didn’t. Lisa just became increasingly worse.
After a particularly rough night, the on-call doctor sent Lisa to the hospital for hydration. Some of the hospital medical staff became suspicious that something more was wrong, but they weren’t sure what. So they decided to admit Lisa.
Over the next two days, the staff did a myriad of tests. They finally discovered that Lisa had preeclampsia, which meant that the baby and the mother were rejecting each other. Often, if preeclampsia occurs, it happens in the eighth or ninth month when the baby can be saved. But because we were only in the fifth month, our baby would not survive; and if they didn’t get the baby out soon, Lisa would die, too. In fact, Lisa’s body was already beginning to go into shock. Preeclampsia and a disease called HELLP syndrome were shutting down her organs and vital life systems.
After surgery to remove the baby, Lisa was in the hospital for two weeks. During that time, she saw a doctor in almost every area of specialty. Her entire body had been affected and/or damaged in some way. She had immense physical recovery ahead, not to mention the upcoming emotional and spiritual journey.
I, too, had a lot of healing to do, and a lot of processing, questioning, learning and growing. Had God caused this, and if so why? I didn’t think so, but I wasn’t sure what to believe at that point. Who was God to me? Why did the prayers lifted by hundreds of people not give us the answer we wanted? Where was God in all of this?
We named our baby daughter Christina Noelle Holliday. Lisa had always liked the name Noelle, but once she married me and had the last name of Holliday, she figured we could never do that to a child. I mean, Noelle Holliday born on Christmas Eve – the kids would be merciless with that one! However, in this case, I told Lisa that we should use the name, because the kids in heaven wouldn’t make fun of her. She agreed.
Once Lisa was well enough to fly, we came back to Kansas City and had a memorial service for Baby Christina by the lake in Shawnee Mission Park. To this day, that is a sacred place for us to remember and celebrate Baby C. Lisa’s dad even collects shells from the edges of the lake and then gives the shells to family and friends, who in turn leave those shells all over the world, representing the loving spirits of both Baby Christina and God.
Lisa and I do not believe God caused the death of our baby, or that God causes bad things to happen. What we do believe is that God walks beside us, cries with us and even carries us when we don’t have the strength to go on. And as we listen and are open to God’s leading, we believe God can and will bring good out of even the worst possible situations.
God’s goodness was revealed in countless moments throughout the very challenging journey of healing and transformation. The love and care of God was shown through the faithful support of family, friends, church communities, medical staff and our therapist. God’s people were instrumental in helping us rebuild and redefine our faith and grow into a deeper, richer and lasting relationship with God.
Nearly a year after the death of Baby Christina, God blessed us with three incredible girls whom we adopted from Russia and who became our daughters. We have no doubt that after the devastation and pain of our experience, God led us specifically to Kristina (with a K), Svetlana and Victoria. Lisa and I now have a forever family with three daughters here on Earth and one forever in our hearts. We can’t imagine our lives without any of them; for they bring us amazing abundance, fullness and joy every day. Thanks be to God for His amazing goodness!
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