A Child in a Messed up World (The Story of Jewel)

Surprise!!! Wha, wha, WHAAAAT???


I didn’t plan on having any kids… ever. I’d worked with children and families for decades and I’d had enough. Some of my life mottos were things like; “No more diapers!”, “No more screaming kids!” and “No all nighters with vomit streaming down my clothes!” Not that those are bad things (in some manner of speaking), but they just weren’t for me anymore. Aside from that; our lives were even less structured than they are now. My health was in the toilet and all I wanted to do was be a photographer and a musician again.


See/purchase image in writer's photography portfolio


Be careful what you ask for


Just about everyone knows the saying “Be careful what you ask for. You might get it.” I started confirming that truth during a previous rant I had toward God.


Something had happened one night back in early 2016. I’d been rattled good by the events of that day; coming home with the emotional breakage of one incident after another trailing behind me. When I’d sat down to watch some streaming TV and take some stress off, I found that our internet had been hacked and malfunctioning… again… for the umpteenth time (and I’m no slouch when it comes to security).


Blood boiling; I started a fist pounding, voice raising, one-sided ranting match with my Heavenly Father. And here’s the funny thing about those kind of explosions; as with any other challenge toward him, little did I know how much love God was going to show in his answer.


I went on, railing harshly about how my life wasn’t a game. I was angry about a broken childhood, failed relationships, Fibromyalgia and a host of other medical issues. And even though my own behavior had been sometimes intolerable, I’d been working painfully hard to unwind and revamp the way I interact with everyone.


So I went on toward God; telling him that if I was nothing but a pawn, a game piece; he needed to either do something about it or put me out of his misery. I told him all of my improvement and hardships were nothing but cruelty if they were all for nothing. And through my anger, I just kept repeating “You have to show me what this is worth! It has to be worth something!” I ended the rant and moved on, virtually forgetting about it.


The first clue of what was to come


Within a day or two of the above moment, I found myself walking down the hall toward Grace. As soon as I looked at her, my first thought was “She’s pregnant.” My face must have tweaked out pretty good ‘cause she looked at me and said “What?”. My response was something like “Nothing.” Of course you NEVER tell a woman you think she’s pregnant unless she says it first. She showed no signs and didn’t even know about herself yet. Then my next thought was something like “Leave it alone, it will go away”. Obviously, it didn't...


Image not available in writer's photography portfolio.


It's important to note that we were actively trying to not have kids, using birth control. And as a woman in her early 40's, her chances were very slim even under natural circumstances.


"I think I'm pregnant"


Within a few days or so, I’d forgotten about that moment in the hallway and went back to my life plans; those that came without having a little person in tow.


A handful of weeks later; Grace came to me, spoke, and out came the words “I think I’m pregnant”.


I… sank.


For some time after that, I stayed in grumpy mode. Questions and assumptions filled my mind every moment. How could we possibly afford to take care of a kid? Where would we live that was safe? How could I watch a child with such a weak, unhealthy body? My mind was jam packed, racing with stressful thoughts. I agonized constantly over what I would lose and how our lives would change. I had the thought of giving the child up. Grace had the thought of leaving town and ditching me if I didn't want to be a father.


The Ultrasound


Within weeks of the "I'm pregnant" moment, we had the first ultrasound. Nervously, we entered a dark, cozy, quiet room; computer fans lightly whirring; glowing control panel lights under a blank screen, waiting...


And then it happened...


Image not available in writer's photography portfolio.


As I saw my baby girl for the first time on that screen; an incredible, undefinable mix of thoughts and emotions came rushing into my heart. Grace said my entire look changed in an instant as I turned grey. I was so stunned I had no words and hardly spoke for hours after. later, at home, sitting on the couch; I had the printed images in my hand; slowly, repeatedly shifting from one, to another, then another. I couldn't put them down for some time. And then the first real words I'd spoken in hours came out... “We have to name the baby”.


So I accepted the pregnancy. I would now have to buck up, stop complaining and become a father.


The Rainbow


Once some time had passed and Grace became undeniably pregnant, I spoke to God about this again (this time not in anger). I told Him I was riddled with worry; if He really needed us to raise this child, I needed to know it was going to be okay.


About two or three days later; Grace and I were staying at my parents' house alone as they were on vacation. That’s when one of the strangest, coolest things I’ve ever seen happened...


It started raining; and because I love the rain I went outside to stand and watch. What I saw was a bit crazy. There was a fairly dark, grey cloud; about 500-600 feet long and about 400-500 feet wide, almost centered above the home we were in. Surrounding it were some much smaller, scattered, puffy white clouds; embedded in a mostly blue sky. The sun was about 30 minutes away from setting, perched not far above the horizon behind me. Under the large cloud… rain. And as I stood in the rain and looked eastward I called for Grace to step out with me. There above the horizon; we saw a big, double rainbow that appeared to be just a few hundred feet away from me.


That rainbow was whole and bright for at least ten minutes. And then it got a bit more weird. After the rain stopped, the rainbow hung around for about 15 minutes. I couldn't hardly take my eyes off of it as, very slowly, it shrunk from the ends upward. The center of it finally disappeared after about five minutes of lingering.


Not the actual rainbow mentioned above, but one we saw when Jewel was about six months old. See/purchase image in writer's photography portfolio


Within a short time after that, I put all of the moments together; the rant telling God to show me what it was all worth, the rainbow telling me it was going to work out. This; this child; this little being was my answer to that rant. And to this day I still sometimes call her “My Little Answer”.


The changes in me


As time passed I began spending 1-2 hours a night out of the last 3-4 months of the pregnancy; laying next to my kid while she was still in the womb. She did this thing where she would roll her back to me for 30-60 minutes every time I laid down and I would rub that little back until I knew every inch of it.


By the time her birth was near, I could hardly take the anticipation of seeing that little face and hearing that tiny voice. I'd gone from a grumpy anti-baby poster child to a hopefully waiting father, feeling upset when I'd occasionally miss my nights of laying next to Grace's belly for an hour or two.


The three nights between our arrival at the birthing unit and when we took Jewel home; we got a total of about one hour of sleep. I think I gained five pounds from the meals people were bringing us in the hospital. And none of it mattered. All I could think about was this little person I could cradle with just my two hands.


When that girl was born… magic. She came out whaling, stopped as soon as I called her while she turned her little head toward me. I put my hand on her back and there it was; that little, soft structure; as familiar as it was when I was rubbing it every night before her big debut.


As of now; I still have work to do on my behavior; but once we realized we were to keep the kid, that work went into overdrive. Church, therapy, etc became a regular thing. I knew this child would have to end up with an abundance of love, patience and understanding; and she has. Perfect? No. But welcome to being human.


Image not available in writer's photography portfolio.


The answer to the question "Why bring a kid into this messed up world?"


As time continued, by the time Jewel was about a year old I had a profound moment. On a trip across the country we stopped at a rest stop. In the back seat were Grace and Jewel, giggling ridiculously, making me laugh. It struck me that in the midst of being poor, sleep deprived, frustrated, in constant pain and having a slew of other challenges; I came up with an answer to a question I’d had for decades: “Why would anyone want to bring a kid into such a messed up world?”. Combining this child with our Christianity (or at least our struggle to be Christians), at that moment I found the answers:


The first reason why I’d want to have a kid is that EVERY child is a gift straight from God. Not everyone has the kind of confirmations about it that I've had; answers to rants and amazing, unusual rainbows. But I know that every parent and caregiver has a small, living, breathing package that is just as special as ours. And the same way I’d want to respect any gift that anyone has given me, I want to respect the gift my Heavenly Father has placed in my arms.


The second reason comes from part of the question “Why would I want to bring a child into such a messed up world?”. “messed up world” is the main point. It’s because no one knows how badly our brothers and sisters need rescue from this world, other than someone like me.


I’ve seen enough ugliness to know change has to happen in the world and more importantly, in individual lives. Misconceptions have to be broken. Chains have to be removed and people need to learn the reasons we should be putting God front and center in our lives. I can show my kid how to teach. I can bring a child up with love and joy in the light of Christ. I can help shape and guide a life into someone I’ve often failed to be. And in the process, I can make my previous stupidities and my broken past worth something.


What this kid has done for us


With all of my worry about what this child would take from us; I didn't know until she arrived that for every one thing she would take from Grace and I, she would give back 1,000 more.

Image not available in writer's photography portfolio.


I didn’t expect these gifts either. I’ve become more social, more patient, more joyful and the kind of spiritual fighter I never dreamed I’d be. Life is still often painful, but I see a love from God that I had no idea was there. He’s shown me what it means to be a father; and from that, through my desire to be more like his son, I’ve been pushed (gratefully) into being more like Christ.


My child has a bright, potential future against odds and enemies, hardships and challenges. The light she wields is incredible and I’ve seen it instantly change situations with just a smile, even in strangers. I can't wait to see what she does with that light as she grows older; and I feel privileged to be her guide in that.


To conclude


So why would I (or anyone else) want to bring a child into such a messed up world? Because the moment she showed up; every fear and apprehension I had about her fell straight to the ground and quickly became unnoticed. In their place was a clear demonstration of what Christ lived, died and rose for; freedom, love, forgiveness and redemption. There was my chance to make my own broken life worth something; my chance to guide a soul by the light that Jesus shines. Jewel is the beginning of my reasons to rescue my brothers and sisters; one heart at a time, starting with the tiny one I’ve been holding in my arms.


What's more?


Can we Really Talk to God? (article) - Jewel's arrival was part of a very large data set that I go by when I say I know God exists. Talking to God is a great way to build your own proof. Learn how.


Being a Conduit (article) - Part of being a parent is giving, but it also means getting back. You can't one without the other.


The Art of Parenting (article, located on my photography portfolio site) - What does parenting take and what is it worth? This article came out about two weeks before my first Getting to God article.


My Toddler's Version of Privacy (90 second video) - One of the gifts she brings? Humor, and a lot of it...


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About Me

The largest human/ broken machine you see to the left, that's me. I justify my breakage by living out a daily goal to follow Christ, and passing on how it can be done. The constant work it takes to create and maintain this presence, "Getting to God", it's my thank you for the Grace and resources given to me by my hero, my spiritual father.    Read More

 

© 2019, Shawn P Keenan, gettingtogod.com