Furnace or Freedom

I posted this story on Karen's Threads of Hope as well. Today is a day of remembrance for me. And I'd like to share it with you.

Lean in close to your monitor, because I’m about to whisper you a little secret.

I usually don’t blog on this particular day. Or even try to write in general. In fact, on this day, I usually hide from the world (or at least try to), with Kleenix box in hand and hide out to just reflect on memories, both sweet and painful alone.


Seven years ago today, my daughter was born.

Three hours later, she was carried to the arms of Jesus.

Saturday, January 18th, 2003. A beautiful, beautiful snowy day. Beautiful and tragic. Amazing and sorrowful. Yet, a miracle just the same.

Ever since I realized what day I would start blogging for Karen, and realized that it coincided with this ‘anniversary’, I knew what I must write about.

I told you – God has a plan. A plan to help Karen and a plan to not let me ‘numb out’ on this day. God knew I wouldn’t do this for myself...but I’d do it for her.

You see?

He knows what each of us needs, when we need it.

To understand the miracle of my little Anna, you have to know that to be pregnant with her at all for the length of time I was able to carry her, was a miracle in and of itself.

You see, I’ve had five miscarriages, with almost all of them ending at seven weeks.

So when I became pregnant again, I uh...didn’t go to the doctor. I figured, what’s the point? Instead I decided to ‘wait it out’.

Only, nothing happened.

At all.

I hadn’t even told my husband I was pregnant. I couldn’t bear to see his eyes fill with apprehensive excitement and fear again. So I waited some more.

Still nothing.

Finally, I confessed to him.

“Whaaaat?? You’ve got to go to a doctor, NOW!” he thundered.

And then his eyes filled with apprehensive excitement and fear.


At the doctor’s visit: “How far along are you?”

Me: “I have no clue. Maybe six or seven weeks?”

They looked at me incredulously and set up a sonogram.

I HATE sonograms.

Every single sonogram I’ve ever had has ended with a tech saying, ‘I’m sorry Holly, but it looks like your pregnancy has terminated. We can see a baby, but no heartbeat.”

HATE sonograms.

And what’s up with, “Your pregnancy has terminated,” anyway? Sounds like “Your life insurance policy has expired.”

I mean, why can’t anyone say, ‘I’m sorry, but your baby died.”

Up on the table, all that goo on my belly, my husband stands to one side and gives me an encouraging grin...with fear in his eyes.


The tech checks the monitor and says, “Your baby looks good! I’m measuring at 8 weeks along, heartbeat strong. This one’s a keeper!”

Brent and I look at each other with wonder.

8 weeks?

Me who has never carried past seven weeks before is now pregnant at 8 weeks??


We ran outside and fairly danced in the parking lot of the medical center.

Only this celebration was short lived.

A few weeks later, I started bleeding. I won’t go into details, as to spare you both the imagery and the emotional pain, but suffice it to say, I was transferred to neo-natal specialists who found many genetic problems with our baby. As the genetics specialist told us, “You need to be prepared that you might have to decide on surgery which may or may not correct her multitude of problems, or make her as comfortable as possible.”

What a huge, huge blow!

“..make her as comfortable as possible”? What kind of plan is THAT??

Our dancing turned to mourning. Brent and I cried out to God, begging Him to not let us have to make a decision like that. For the genetics counselor said that her little DNA was such that even if we tried to do surgery to correct what’s wrong, her very DNA would think that the corrective surgery was wrong and try to put her back the way it’s coding says to be.

How totally, totally awful.

Because of the complications from the pregnancy, I was told to be on restrictive bed-rest as much as possible. That was FINE by me, for it gave me an excuse to pile my favorite books around my bed and read, read, read, escaping from the pain. Only God wasn’t going to let me hide from Him and the reality of this situation. He would use two works, one fictional, and one not to speak deep words into my soul that would give me the courage to face the future

Besides scouring passages in the Bible for encouragement, I picked put the book “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” by J.R.R. Tolkien. I had just seen the movie not too long ago, and became interested in the book. So I dove in and got lost in the tale of Frodo and the One Ring.

Who knew God would meet me there in those pages?

I get to the part where Frodo tells Gandalf, “I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.” Gandalf replies, “So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

And I stop, for now I am crying so hard I cannot see the page.

I wish I had never gotten pregnant with Anna. I wish she had never come to me only to be taken away.

And I feel God tell me in my heart, “I gave her to you. I gave this time for you to be with her. To experience her growing inside of you. You have tried so hard not to bond with her, because you are so afraid of what it will feel like when she is with Me. Don’t waste this time I have given you to be with her. All you have to decide right now is what to do with the time that is given to you.”

And I knew...I knew He was right. I knew I had been trying not to think about her, or feel her kick (with what I know now, was with one good leg), or feel her turn over. I was trying to act like she didn’t exist when in fact, she DOES exist, she is VERY much alive. Broken, but alive. And I’m wasting time, fearing for the future. I need to enjoy her NOW.

And that was the moment, the dam broke in my heart that I held back. I fell in love with Anna instantly and fiercely. That wall tumbled.

And it’s a good thing, cause the next ‘story’ God used was even a harder lesson to swallow than this one.

In my wanderings of the Bible, He had me sit awhile with the captives of Israel, tucked away in Babylon. And he had me read the story about three guys who’s names I cannot pronounce well, much less read. But for your viewing pleasure, they are: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego

To me, it’s a familiar story. One I grew up with within the walls of Sunday School & Church. I’ve heard many stories about these three guys and how they refused to bow down to the idol made in the image of the king of Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar (and yes, I had to look that up. You think I can spell that off the top of my head? ;) )

The story goes that the king sets up this idol, tells everyone in his kingdom that when they hear a certain song play, everyone should stop what they’re doing, face the idol, bow down and pray to it. Only these three guys refuse to do it. When the king finds out about this, he’s furious and has them brought before them.

The following is their defense:

“"O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." (Daniel 3:16b -18)

That phrase, “But even if he does not...” just stood out at me. Why would they say that? I mean, why wouldn’t’ they just say, “Our God’s bigger than your god. And He’s gonna deliver us and we’re gonna dance a dance of victory while you just sit there and glower.”

But even if he does not...wow, do I have THAT kind of faith to say “Even if God doesn’t deliver me from this mess...from this situation that was handed to me, I REFUSE to GIVE IN to you.”

You know what those guys were saying? “Furnace or Freedom – it doesn’t MATTER to me.”

That’s the kind of FAITH they had. Faith that said, Deliverance or Death, I still stand in Faith believing in God and His will over me.


And I realized, this is where God is challenging me. “Holly do you trust me, even if this deliverance leads to death? Will you still stand in faith? Will you bow and give into the grief? Will you allow the fires of this trial consume you?”

With what do I answer that?

I answer: “My God I serve is able to deliver and rescue us. But even if He does not, I want everyone to know that I will not serve fear and anxiety, nor worship remorse, bitterness, and regret.”

A hard lesson, but a necessary one, for I ENJOYED every minute of my pregnancy after that. And I LOVED going into labor. I wasn’t fearful, nor really thinking of the sorrow that would eventually come, whenever God called her home.

All I thought about was, “Whoa. This hurts and yet it makes me want to laugh. I’m really going to have a baby!”

Oh, how I wish you could have seen the comedy of my poor groggy husband being awakened to me saying, “I’m having real labor pains and we’ve got to go.” You know what it’s like to wake up a husband at 2 a.m. with those words? He acted like every husband I saw on TV when those words hit. He was disoriented a little delusional and like a wound up spring all at the same time. It was a hoot. That’s one of my FAVORITE memories.

Although I had asked God to please not let it snow, since we had a 40 minute drive from the country, it WAS snowing. Beautiful, huge goose feather-type flakes of snow. So, nobody was no the roads. And it was coming down so symmetrically, that I timed my breathing to the falling snow. It was gorgeous!

I laughed at the ER guy saying, ‘You are NOT having a baby in my waiting room!” and then him whisking me up to labor and delivery.

And the doctor on call was my FAVORITE doctor to visit (so woo hoo to God for that scheduling!). Because Anna was coming to fast, I couldn’t have a localized epidural and because she was breach they had to do a C-Section. I ended up laughing at the anesthesiologists. There were two of them working on me, and by the time the team had gotten me prepped for surgery I was having to will my brain to NOT push, even though my body was telling me to. In order to keep me from getting my heart rate up and getting fearful, I closed my eyes and just started praying, slowing down my breathing and keeping myself as still as possible, while still listening to what’s going on around me. I could feel one of the anesthesiologist’s lean over me and say to the other, “My god, look at that! See her blood pressure numbers?"

And I’m thinking What? WHAT?? Is it really bad?? But I say nothing...

The other doctor looks and says, “Yeah, I do.”

The first doctor: “If I was going through what she’s going through, my blood pressure would be through the roof! Look how LOW her numbers are!”

The other doctor leans over me further. I can feel his breath on my face. “I think she’s doing yoga.”

I pop my eyes open. “No I’m not!” I gasp indignantly through a contraction. “I’m PRAYING.”

Those two guys looked like they were about to jump out of their skin. Haha. I scared them!! I think for a moment, they thought I was truly ‘out of it’. Well I showed them!

They immediately popped that little gas mask on my face and.........//blackness//

I wake up later hearing my husband saying, “Momma. Momma...come and meet your new daughter. Wake up, Momma and hold her.”

I come to and look up to see my husband towering over me with something pink in his arms.


He makes sure I’m awake and puts Anna in my arms.

“Hello,” I say softly.

She turns blue eyes to look at me...

...and then...

...she was gone.

I had been passed out for almost three hours after the surgery and the doctors and Brent had done there best to wake me up because Anna was losing precious time. I woke up just in time to say Hello and then Goodbye.

Brent and I both believe that Anna refused to go until she had locked her eyes with mine.

Before she saw Jesus face, the face she really wanted to see...

...was mine.

Happy Birthday, my baby girl. In earth years, you would be seven. I have no idea what life is like for you in heaven. But this I know...

...you are healed and whole, and in God’s everlasting arms.

And I am at peace.

Furnace or Freedom – it doesn’t matter to me.


Crissy said...

I am sobbing! What an amazingly beautiful heart wrenching story. I can barely type. Thank you for sharing these precious words with me. You have blessed me. The last part of Anna waiting just to see your face is beautiful. I feel like you have given me a small piece of heaven and I will treasure it always.


Holly said...

Thank you so very much, Crissy! You bless my heart! <3

p.s. I LOVE your blog design work!! Been looking it over. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Holly,
I too lost a son on January 18th. This year Marc would've been 21. The hard part for me is that the 18th is the day after my birthday. :(
I cried as I read your story. It brought back all of the memories of my labor/delivery only Marc went to be with the Lord before he could be delivered all the way (I was in my 5th month) I had wanted a son so badly! However, a year later, God blessed us with a tiny beautiful little girl named, Anne. I call her my 'little bandaid' (although she will be 20 this July) God has used her to heal my broken heart and I wouldn't trade her for a thousand boys.
Thank you for sharing your experience.

P.S. Hi Holly-My name is Terri Spencer. I put anonymous as I don't have any of those profiles. We have a mutual friend in Wanda Miller. I grew up with Wanda in Edgerton. She told me about Furnace or Fire and sent me your blog address. I also found out via a post I sent to my new friend, Elaine Mullock on Facebook, that your husband used to pastor in Camden Point. Small world! :)

Holly said...

Wow, Terri what a small world indeed! I'm so glad that this is ministering to your heart, and how wild to also have a connection through the date of Jan 18th. It makes ME cry. ::tears::

God is so good to link sisters in arms this way. May the Lord bless you and I look forward to getting to know you better. :)

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Feel free to comment, and God bless you! ~ Holly

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