And then there were more

Despite all their misgivings about having children, Pam and David were terrific parents. They were compassionate yet principled, generous yet disciplined, rational and fun-loving. Jennifer thrived as their child.

When Jennifer was a year and a bit, Pam felt ready to have a second, and she prayed to God that if He wanted them to have another, God would move in David’s life and David would suggest it. That very same day, David mentioned to Pam that they were starting to get older, and if they were going to have any more children, they should start heading in that direction! And so they did. Two years after Jennifer was born, there was another baby. Allison Deborah came along, rounding out their all-American family of four.

Although the couple assumed 2 kids, a dog, and a house was the fulfillment of the American Dream, God seemed to have other ideas.

Early in 1988, despite their normal “prevention” methods, David started to suspect that Pam was pregnant again. She was sure that there was no way she was, but a week later, a positive pregnancy test proved her wrong. Two days after Christmas that year, Daniel Joshua was born. His two older sisters adored him from the start, convinced they knew best for him, and “helping” Pam at every turn.

In the summer of 1990, Pam and David felt led to trust God for a fourth child, if it was His will. On Sunday, January 21, 1991, Allison was in Sunday School and confidently announced to her teacher that her mommy had a baby in her tummy. When the teacher asked Pam about this wonderful event, Pam assured her there was no way she was pregnant. But a few weeks later, Pam came home from shopping, complaining to David that the sales clerk had on such strong perfume in the store.

And that’s how they found out Pam was pregnant with their fourth. Esther Ruth was born on October 20, 1991.

 

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Axel, I could tell you all kinds of stories about growing up as part of the JADE crew. How we built a dozen forts in the woods behind our house. How we raised monarch butterflies every year. How we all played basketball. How we were classmates for all of K-12. How we lived for our annual trip to the Outer Banks. How we formed bonds that can never be broken.

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But I need to tell you another story.

I need to tell you how I fell in love with your dad. And how the biggest surprise of my life was how he fell in love with you.

The textbook baby

In late March 1984, shortly before Pam’s April 1 due date, a late-season winter storm hit Central Pennsylvania. Pam and David were at a staff meeting in town, and by the time they got back to the farm, their half mile driveway was impassable with snow. The couple had no option but to walk up the frosty lane to the house.

The snow fell all night long and throughout the next day, causing them to lose power before dawn. Pam looked out the window of their renovated farm house watching the snow come down, hoping this baby wouldn’t decide to come before they had a clear path to town. David went out to check the lane.

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The farm lane, on a non-snowy day

 

He found many trees down, blocking their exit to the main road.

David got out his chainsaw and spent all day clearing their long lane for the car’s exit. A neighbor heard the sound of the chainsaw and came to help. Meanwhile, Pam stayed inside their cold house surviving on peanut butter sandwiches in the dark, while timing irregular contractions.

It was midnight by the time he got back to the house. But he’d made a way.

The next day, they carefully left the farm, drove to town, and got themselves cleaned up at the office. A doctor friend offered to let them stay at his place until power was restored. On Sunday (the baby’s due date), the power came back, and after Pam got some groceries (beyond the PB sandwiches!), they returned home.

And the next day, in the middle of the afternoon, Pam went into labor.

I’ll spare you all the details, Axel. Pam would later say that the delivery was exactly the way the textbooks describe it. As a first-time mom, she couldn’t have expected anything more.

On April 2, 1984, at 10:26 pm, Pam and David met their daughter, Jennifer Suzanne.

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And that, Axel, is how your Oma and Zaide became parents.

The pregnancy journal

Excerpts from Pam’s pregnancy journal:

November 1, 1983

Felt the baby move for the 1st time.

 

November 15, 1983

David and I sent to our 1st prenatal class. Learned how to breath. Saw a movie on birth. Learned about labor. Preparation for the hospital (what to bring).

 

December 21, 1983

Had another appointment with Rosalee, and she thinks I’m gaining too much weight.

 

December 25, 1983

Last Christmas with my parents – they’re leaving for California, baby was kicking alot that day (as is true for most days). We got a playpen from my parents.

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January 2, 1984

I had an appointment with Rosalee and she said I was going to have a small baby. I started taking Fl2 today to protect baby’s teeth. David and I started rearranging the 2nd and 3rd floors to preparation for making the guest room into a nursery.

 

January 3, 1984

Tonight we have a prenatal class w/Jeanie Burks. David said last night he was getting really excited.

 

January 5, 1984

Talked to Carol Montei about babysitting when I go back to work. Stephanie Calder gave me lots of advice on what I need in preparation for the baby. My parents continue to tell me I look radiant.

 

January 30, 1984

The baby kicked alot this month, especially in the ribs – it must be pretty healthy – I’m still guessing it’s a boy though I’m not certain.

 

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February 13, 1984

Rosalee said it was going to be a good size baby. Fran had a shower for the baby and it was done “in style”. Received lots of gifts and support from close friends and co-workers.

 

February 14, 1984

I put a red heart sticker on my belly. Lamaze class had a film which showed a Lamaze class and their subsequent labors and births – made me cry it was so beautiful.

 

February 15, 1984

My feet are getting puffy by the end of the day – it looks like they belong to a 300-lb person.

 

February 16, 1984

My last Lamaze class – David has been wonderful to come to all of them with me – we talked about post-partum and its trials.

 

February 17, 1984

Worked on getting the nursery in shape; sorting out presents, writing thank yous, doing laundry.

 

February 23, 1984

Went to Sears – David was anxious to buy a Maxi-Taxi (stroller), he’s really getting excited.

 

March 23, 1984

Went to Divine for fetal monitoring (a non-stress test) and the baby is doing fine. There is a tape on the monitor which shows you the baby’s heartbeat and you can also see any contractions and hear and see baby’s heartbeat and movement. Baby is doing great!

The unwanted baby

May 1983. That’s when hearts had changed. Had turned. Had opened.

But just a crack.

David had tentatively suggested (with internal reservations a-plenty) that having a child was a possibility for this couple. Pam couldn’t believe her ears, especially because this unexpected announcement was so in line with certain maternal instincts that had started to bud her in her own heart. She hadn’t even mentioned to David that she’d started to think about babies, started to notice babies around her, had even had dreams about babies! But she didn’t dare bring it up to her husband. After all, getting a divorce over an unwanted baby didn’t sound appealing.

Now everything had changed. Or at least, it had the potential to change. What were the odds of all of this turning into something like…a family of three?

Pam didn’t have long to wonder. Six weeks later, she found out she was pregnant.

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Talk about a permanent state of shock! Pam had never envisioned herself as a mother or even as a pregnant person. And yet here it was all happening – to her! She was so thrilled that she began to tell people the exciting news.

One gentleman took her aside and quietly said, “Oh honey, you should wait a few more weeks before you tell people. You just never know.”

You don’t know! Pam thought. My husband changed his mind!! No miracle seemed bigger than that. Well-intentioned advice such as this went in one ear and out the other. There was no convincing this woman otherwise. She was pregnant with a miracle baby.

The pivot turn

During this season of initial Bible reading, Fran brought over a few teaching tapes by Pat Robertson on the topic of prayer. On one of the tapes, Pat Robertson noted that many Christians have a misconception about prayer. Many Christians believe that prayer is their opportunity to convince God to do things their way. Pat Robertson taught that prayer was the believer’s opportunity to let God convince the believer to do it His way. It seemed to David that since God was perfect and knew everything, His way had to be even better than any human’s way. So, on Saturday, May 21, 1983, he did something that surprised even himself.

Pam and David were on the way to a wedding ceremony. As they drove, David turned to Pam and said, “Are you ready for a shock?”

With a lead in like that, Pam didn’t know what to expect. That’s the thing about a shock. It’s very hard to predict. Lately, life had thrown a few shocks in her direction. Unconsciously, she moved ever so slightly closer to her passenger side door.

Miracle Blog 4x6 (3)
Throwback to the engagement party

 

David continued. “If I am going to be a Christian, I want to be the best Christian I can be. Therefore, if God wants us to have children, I shouldn’t be the one to say no!”

WHO. IS. THIS. MAN.

Pam was utterly flabbergasted. She literally had no response.

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The Hebrew word “shub” translates to “repent” in English and means to “turn back, return”.

Shub is used in Ezekiel 33:11 (translated to “turn, turn”):

Say to them: “As I live,” says the Lord God, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?”

David’s heart was in the midst of an incredible turn. His newfound interest in the Bible had opened his eyes and his soul to new truth. His former life was beginning to fade, like a scene in a rearview mirror. His willingness to even consider having children was evidence of a transformation. He was no longer the person Pam had married.

Even more miraculously, he was a first-generation Jew who believed and accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior.

His verbal declarations mirrored the promise found in 1 John 1:9:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Axel, I want you to remember this date. It’s a critical pivot in our family history.

May 21, 1983 marked a day of turning, of repentance. Of salvation.

The decision

Talk about a pivot. David was faced with his life’s biggest dilemma. He was born into a Jewish family, grew up pursing the American dream, currently loving his wife (and his money), and enjoying his life of selfish ambitions. But recent events had caused him to examine his whole belief system with a new lens, and new questions required new answers.

In short: David read the Bible, and he had to choose if he believed it.

As a man of logic, he reasoned that God either existed or he didn’t, and David could believe or not believe. He saw his dilemma as having four possibilities:

Option 1. God doesn’t exit, and I don’t believe He exists.

Should this be the case, I would be correct, but life would be without meaning or significance. In essence, what’s the point of it all?

Option 2. God doesn’t exist, but I do believe He exists.

In this scenario, I would be incorrect, but I would probably live my life on a higher plane. Even though life would technically be without meaning or significance, my life would be better.

Option 3. God exists, but I don’t believe He exists.

This is the absolute worst possibility. To be this wrong for eternity would be devastating.

Option 4. God exists, and I believe He exists.

This is the best of the four possibilities. Believing in God is my best bet.

David went to sleep that night silently praying, “God, if you are even up there, please help me believe in Jesus, because I could never conjure up this belief on my own.”

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Throwback to the honeymoon in Paradise Island

Little did David know he was echoing the words of Mark 9:23-24:

Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes. “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help me with my unbelief!”

The guidebook

At this point, David had attended church for the first time. In his mind, this meant he was starting down the path of becoming a “Christian”. After all, isn’t that what Christians did? Go to church? He figured that was what Christianity was all about.

But the reality was that David didn’t know anything about being a Christian. What he needed was an instruction manual. After all, what better way to learn about something than read the rules and regulations! he thought. What he needed was a Bible. The instruction manual for Christians, he reasoned.

He didn’t have a Bible, so he called up Arnie to get some advice. Arnie suggested two versions: The New King James version (more formal) and The Living Bible (plain English). David asked his secretary to contact the local Christian bookstore to inquire about these Bibles. The secretary told him the Bibles were not available and had to be ordered.

But that wasn’t true. What actually happened was she went to the bookstore and purchased both Bibles on behalf of the staff. On May 12, 1983, the staff gave Pam and David the Bibles as early anniversary gifts.

Later that night, David picked up the New King James Bible and started to read. Having been raised a Jew, he’d had years of religious training all the way through high school. The Old Testament (starting with the Pentateuch) seemed to be familiar territory, so he decided to begin in the book of Matthew, in the New Testament – completely new material for David.

But the New King James language was a bit daunting. The formal language seemed “too godly”. So he handed it off to Pam, and picked up The Living Bible.

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Each night, the couple would read their Bibles. Pam read the New King James, and David read The Living. The Living version was easier to digest, and David was getting through four, five, even six chapters a night. After about five days, he’d gotten through the whole book of Matthew. He then progressed on to the book of Mark. One night he turned to Pam with a key observation:

“This Jesus person was very special. He did things that no one else ever did. He healed the sick, He made the lame to walk, He gave sight to the blind, and He even raised the dead back to life. I think that the Jews who were alive during that time missed it. Jesus really was who He said He was. If I had been with Jesus in those times, I would have accepted Him.”

What did I just say?! he thought. If Jesus was the Savior of the world back then, He is still the Savior of the world today. If the Jews missed that truth back then, they are still missing that truth today!

He turned those thoughts over in his mind.

Where does that leave me? What am I going to do about this Jesus?

I think I believe in Him!

My parents are going to kill me.