There are some things in life that are so altogether mysterious and overwhelmingly amazing that one who observes or experiences them is forced to stand mute in silent astonishment lest he speak too soon and in speaking, miss some of the wonder of it all. I’ve been through such an event this past week and now the time has now come for me to put into poorly crafted phrases that which can never be fully expressed by mere words. Still, I must try.
It all began nearly 45 years ago. Certainly, there were things in motion before that time but I’ve chosen to begin at that signal moment when my life course was diverted by the “chance” meeting, arranged by one of my Navy buddies, in the form of a blind date. If some life events can be categorized as being tectonic in force and result, meeting the pretty, young blue-eyed blonde from Iowa in the middle of the big city of Chicago was one of them for me! Her name was Linda Sue and there was no antidote for me. There are so many mysterious and overwhelming things surrounding and springing forth from that event that it would take a lifetime to tell them … and some of them will never be told because they are precious, closely guarded secrets known only to the two of us, and God.
One result, however was that on July 5, 1968; only eight months after our meeting, only four months after I trusted Christ as my Savior, and just one day after celebrating our independence, we were two teen-agers standing in a preacher’s study in Grand Rapids MI, surrendering our independence by saying “I do” without a significant clue as to what we were saying “I do” to!
If I could live my life over again, there are many things I would do differently both before that day in 1968 and after. But saying “I do” and taking Linda as my wife is not one of them. I’d do it again without any hesitation.
I will quickly pass over the forty-four intervening years of the learning that we have had together. The years have produced a steady stream of tears; tears of joy and tears of sorrow mixed together in good portions. We’ve reveled in the exhilaration of standing on mountain heights together and we’ve navigated raging rivers in the valleys. We’re still doing those things today … and expect to do them together into the future. One does not raise three children and spend nearly 35 years in full-time vocational ministry without such experiences.
Just a short 21 months ago it was my privilege to give my precious daughter, Charissa Eirene, away in marriage. We gave her that name when she was born because our aspirations for her were that her life would exude “grace” and “peace” in the lives of those around her, wherever she went. In my estimation, my little girl (Muffin), has fulfilled that aspiration in so many ways, and in so many lives. Linda and I prayed for many years, and encouraged Charissa to pray as well, for her husband … whoever and wherever he was. After years of such praying, Ryan Peterson stepped onto the stage of Charissa’s life and was revealed as “the man”. In spite of my confidence in that fact, giving my Muffin away was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I can admit now that I was very close to tears … of joy, certainly … but also of some sadness I think. I did not shed them during the wedding … but wanted to. We love Ryan. He’s just goofy enough to fit in well with the Jeske family, but more importantly I can tell he has an intense love for my little girl that finds a comparison nowhere else but in my own heart. Linda and I are in love with him!
9 months ago, we were told that our baby was going to have a baby! What a thrill! We’ve watched her as her pregnancy made her even more beautiful and vibrant than ever. I was also interested in the change that came over my dear wife as the pregnancy progressed. I could tell, without a word, that she was excited and feeling “maternal” again as she encouraged Charissa and shared in special moments and conversations together. She literally “glowed” as she shared the news with friends and kept them apprised of little bits of news. We are not new to being grandparents, but this was different on a couple of levels. This was our Muffin who was pregnant and she is geographically close (just 70 miles away, a distance I can walk if necessary)! At first I felt a little bit “left out” but I understood the connection between a mother and daughter at such a time. I was a bit stoical about the whole thing for the most part anyway. It is, after all the natural progression of events.
My attitude shifted gears without me even knowing it as we came down to the end of June. With a due date of July 7 (the date of this writing), we cleared our calendar even to the extent of not attending the IFCA International Convention (our first miss in decades) so as to be available to be present at the birth. I chided Linda, as July came up on the calendar, for not having our bags packed and ready to go the moment we got “the call”. I actually urged her on several occasions before she “got it done” and then she refused to put them in the trunk of the car! She gave me a reason for that but I won’t share it here.
On Sunday (1st), I had the privilege of speaking at Arbor Oaks Bible Chapel and jumped when the phone buzzed in my pocket as I was being introduced. If it had been Charissa, I would have had to make a hard decision. It wasn’t. It buzzed again on two occasions during the delivery of the message and the first time caused me to be distracted to the point that I lost my train of thought. I managed to ignore it the second time but it wasn’t easy. Anticipating the slight possibility that the arrival of the baby might coincide with my preaching engagement the following week at AOBC I arranged with our friend Rob Tyler to step in for me if necessary. I confirmed after the service that even if we were there for the beginning of the service … if the call came before I started preaching … Rob needed to be ready!
On Tuesday (3rd) I took the old car to the garage for its “delivery trip” checkup. I don’t know what came over me as I shared the reason for the check-up on the phone when making the appointment, with the guy at the counter on Tuesday morning, with the guy who was assigned to drive me home, with the guy who picked me up after the car was finished, and with the guy who took my payment of 26.00 for the work they did. I was excited about paying only 26.00 for servicing the car and checking it over! Only as I reflected on it later did I realize that every one of those grease monkeys had a sort of smirk on their face as I talked with them. Do you suppose….?
The car was ready, and filled with gas and I even considered backing it into the garage so we could make a quicker getaway but thought Linda might think that was foolish.
Wednesday (4th), Linda was home because of the holiday. Linda and Charissa conversed early in the day but there was nothing unusual about their conversation that needed to be reported to me .. apparently. Linda and I casually made conversation as we talked about what we might do to celebrate our 44th wedding anniversary on the next day. We talked about a quiet dinner out … and maybe a movie.
At 5:48 pm on Wednesday, I received a text message from Charissa which began, “Still having regular contractions. No clue how quickly things will progress. We’re not going to the hospital yet because I can still talk through contractions and they’re uncomfortable but not unbearable. I have no idea what to tell you as far as when you should come. Haha. It’s hard to know”
I looked at Linda and said, “WHAT contractions?” Linda looked totally baffled and protested that she didn’t know anything about it and made noises referring to Braxton Hicks and false labor and other such stuff that I don’t understand! Fatherly intuition kicked into high gear and after just 5 minutes of thought and without consulting anyone I made the executive decision that we were leaving. We were on the road by 6:30pm.
At 7:15 pm, when we were more than halfway to Davenport we received a text message: “I feel like maybe you should come tonight so I don’t have to call you in the middle of the night… I don’t know. HaHa. I honestly have no idea how things will go. I can just call you when we’re on our way to the hospital but will you be sad if you don’t make it in time?”
I told Linda to text her back and tell her we were 25 miles away. Charissa responded by texting back “HaHa” (she was laughing a lot for a woman in labor).
We arrived to find Charissa in the whirlpool tub at the home of Ryan’s folks. Contractions were irregularly timed but intense enough to require Ryan’s assistance in enduring them. She emerged after a short time looking tired and it was then Dad knew instinctively that we were about to get a wonderful 44th anniversary gift.
I kissed my daughter good night at 10:30 pm, as she was in the midst of a contraction. She gave me instructions to “be vague” in my FB posts. At 2:30 am we were awakened by a knock on the door and Ryan said, “We’re heading to the hospital.” I posted a FB status which said, “I’m being vague” and we headed for the hospital 25 minutes away. In some ways, it was a longer drive than the one from Dubuque. Upon arriving at the Hospital I checked in on FB at 3AM “Sightseeing at Trinity Hospital” (still being vague).
The nurse showed us to the waiting room after telling us that Charissa was getting “hooked up” and that we’d be able to join her soon. “Please don’t forget we are here”, I pleaded. The nurse smiled condescendingly and said she wouldn’t.
The Peterson’s arrived and things were going smoothly…but then it became weird around 5:25 am.
Sarah, the doula (birth coach) came running into the waiting room and exclaimed, “We have a baby!”
This was incredible! Lucy decided that when it was time to be born there would be no messing around. It seems as though Charissa was observed to be feeling “ a little pressure” and was about 4-5 cm dilated at 5:25 am. At 5:28, she suddenly exclaimed, “the head” and when they checked they found that Lucy had indeed popped her head into the world. In quick order after that, she “squirted” out and was in the world at 5:30 am. It caught everyone totally by surprise. The nurse had to take over and kept saying to Ryan “hit the red button, hit the red button …”. The doula was incredulous. Ryan was ushered into position and just barely arrived in time to catch little Lucy as she launched into the world! Linda was there in the room to witness it all.
As I entered the room I heard a baby cry and my eyesight became blurred. I came from behind the curtain and the first thing I saw through watery eyes was my Muffin, lying on the bed with a huge smile on her face and my “mini-Muffin”, Lucy, lying contentedly on her chest.
The next hour or so was spent just “taking it all in”. Here are some things that will never be forgotten
- There was a whole lot of shaking going on. Charissa was shaking (as is typical after birth), Ryan was a little shaky, high on adrenalin, after the quick pace of events and just barely “catching” Lucy as she “launched” herself, the doula was shaking having been totally unprepared for the rapid escalation of events and stating that she had NEVER seen anything like it, the attending nurse was a bit shaky after being pressed into delivering a baby that decided the time was right well before anyone expected. The nurse had only been doing this for 4 months.
- The calm and gentle demeanor of my darling wife who cracked a few jokes and appeared entirely relaxed and her unwillingness to leave the hospital for a nap when she was well beyond tired.
- The glow on Linda’s face and the little curve at the corners of her mouth when she said on Thursday afternoon, “I held Lucy for an hour and a half” while Charissa and Ryan took a nap.
- The sheer joy on the faces of Ryan’s folks, who just became first time grandparents.
- The beauty of the mini-muffin who obviously knows what it means to make an entrance with special flair.
- The demonstration of the wonderful watchfulness of our Great God over our lives and the way He makes even routine things “special”.
- My daughter Charissa, face beaming as she looked into the face of the little one on her chest as she shook her head and said “Oh my goodness!”
- The tenderness and love shown by Ryan … and the look of awe on his face when he first held Lucy.
- The tender kiss they shared shortly after the birth
- My brave daughter who was determined to do this naturally from start to finish and succeeded with flying colors and stayed beautiful through the entire process.
- The business like doctor who came in to “finish the business of birth” after Lucy took center stage … the same doctor who several months ago told Charissa “you don’t get a gold star for doing it without drugs”
- The doughnuts provided by Jody and Melissa after their trip to Starbucks! Lucy was born while they were on a doughnut run! No one expected it!
- The comfortable and humbling feel of a baby in my arms … or lying comfortably on my chest as she “hangs out with grandpa”. It’s enough to make a grown man cry. It’s the kind of anniversary present that pretty much “does it all”!
Lucy means “light” and can also mean “born at dawn”. We should have expected it … Sunrise in Davenport on July 5 was 5:35 AM. My granddaughter brought the dawn with her.
My prayer is that just as her mom serves the Lord Jesus as a channel of Grace and Peace in the lives of those whom she has contact with, so too Lucy will be a channel of light, bringing blessing to many as she serves the Savior throughout her life.
Welcome to our lives, Lucy! We love you!
PS: Welcome to my heart.