When my son was born, I found him to be a joy and delight. He seemed to be a wonderful, healthy, and happy baby. He loved movement, and with the right combination of pacing, rocking, bouncing, and swaying his cries could be settled. As my firstborn, I thought my husband and I hit the baby lottery. This must be what people mean when they say they have an easy baby, I thought. On a few occasions, like the first time we had my family over for dinner, my son cried inconsolably. However, these times were few and far between.
My husband is one of seven children; therefore his mother has had a good bit of baby experience. More than once she observed that it seemed like my son was having ‘tummy troubles’. Sure enough, he would often arch his little back and push away from me when I was holding him upright. It also seemed like his tummy felt tight every now and then. I started noticing some other changes in him as well, but he was a month old now. A big boy! I thought maybe he was just eating too much, or perhaps he was too eager when he nursed.
One day, when my son was a week shy of two months old, I spotted blood where there should have been none– in the middle of his diaper. After a trip to the doctors it seemed my dear little son was possibly intolerant to something I was eating. I was instructed to eliminate dairy and soy from my diet, wait a month, and see if my son’s symptoms improved. The next day I was overwhelmed! My husband was leaving town that evening for two weeks, I had just bought groceries, but could eat very little of them, and I was worried about my son’s tummy troubles. Thankfully, my mom shelved her activities for basically the next week and came to help me with my son and to help me figure out what I could eat!
Over the course of the month, I learned that in addition to dairy and soy, I needed to eliminate wheat and eggs from my diet. I had many different feelings about this new change of circumstances. First, it was surprisingly easy for me to limit my diet because I was doing it for my son. Any bit of temptation I felt was immediately doused by love, care, and the desire for him to be healthy. Then again, sharing meals with others outside of my home became a nuisance and discouraging experience. In fact, eating anything away from home was suddenly an ordeal. Quickly, I became an expert at reading food labels and googling for allergen information.
As much as I felt that it was easy to restrict my diet, I also felt defeated. Stripped. I would survey my refrigerator, a spread at a party, or a restaurant menu and see only what I could not eat. I can’t eat that, or that, or that, I would think, Goodness, can I eat anything?! There was much I felt frustrated about. My husband and I often plan to get dinner with other people as a way to connect, but now this seemed much harder to do. I also wondered if God called us to live in another country at some point, how would we ever manage?
At the same time that I was figuring out this whole new diet of mine, my husband and I were deciding whether I should return to my work as a software developer or if I should stay home with our son. My husband is a youth director at our church and staying home would allow me to partner with him in more ministry endeavors. However, staying home would also entail a large financial change and much, much tighter budgeting.
We worked the numbers and determined that it would be possible for me to stop working, which is what we felt God was calling us to do. However not all of me was at peace with this decision. I already felt limited, restricted, and stripped from all of the food I had eliminated. Now all I could see was the rest of my life being limited. This tightening and lessening was not only with material goods, but also with my perceived freedom and with the pride and prestige I found from my job.
Sometimes though, I didn’t feel limited at all. One day, I was listening to an interview with Heidi Baker. She was describing her life as a missionary in China. “We would get so excited about just having orange juice to drink,” she said, “Sometimes as I was walking along the streets, I would pray, ‘O Lord! Please just let us have enough money for orange juice!” The next time I looked in my fridge, instead of seeing all the things I could not eat, I had a realization. I wasn’t that bad off…I still had orange juice! Orange juice, and meat! We were rich indeed.
At that time, I listened to a few more interviews and sermons by Heidi and her husband Rolland. I was inspired by the way God continually provided for them in their years of being missionaries. Maybe, I thought, maybe I can learn from this experience of family food allergies. Yes, I realized, now I will be more prepared to serve people who also have restrictions in their diet. I will learn to create good-tasting food that is allergy-free! Taste and see that the Lord is good, even when dairy, soy, wheat, and tree-nuts are not included!
One day, I sought the Lord in prayer as I tried to reconcile the piece of me that was not fully sure of quitting my job. I knew in my mind that I could trust God to provide for me in all areas of life. If he called us to another country (Side note: I don’t feel that God is calling us to another country any time soon!), he would enable a means for us to eat there as well. If he called me to stay home, he would teach us to live within our means and he would provide for us when he called us outside of our perceived means. I knew all this, yet I didn’t feel it or believe it fully in my heart.
That afternoon, my husband brought in the mail. Tucked between catalogs, bills, and solicitations was a small, unassuming envelope addressed to our family. I quickly opened the ‘real mail’ and discovered a small card. On the front it said, “Friends are blessings from God.” Inside it was not signed, but there was a small, typed, note:
Dear Trevor & Stephanie,
May this gift be a blessing to your Kingdom Work; the Kingdom Work of building your marriage by going out to dinner; the Kingdom Work of your family by purchasing your groceries or diapers; Kingdom Work of making ends meat. God bless you as you grow in his favor and work.
Along with the note was a sum of money. Here was the Providence of God! The answer to prayer! The blessings of friends as Jesus’ hands and feet on Earth!
In that moment, my theological thoughts and knowledge of God’s provision transcended from mere cold facts to heart-warming belief. The peace of God that passes understanding filled my soul and I was reconciled to his calling on my life. Here, now, at home with my son and in partnership with my husband I am able to follow God as I never let myself before.
God does provide.
19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
– Philippians 4:19-20