A pregnancy is counted by weeks and Kayla Aimee (@kaylaaimee) had only completed 24 of the 40 when she unexpectedly went into labor. She thought her church upbringing had prepared her for every circumstance but when tragedy struck and threatened to take the life of her newborn daughter, it felt as though once solid ground had turned to glass beneath her feet, destined to shatter everything she held sacred.
With vulnerability and plenty of wit, Kayla lays bare her struggle to redefine her faith, her marriage, and herself within the context of a tragedy she never saw coming.
The following article is an excerpt from Anchored: Finding Hope in the Unexpected.
A Time to Laugh and a Time to Cry
Besides the time spent causing a ruckus in biology class, most of my high school years revolved around the various clubs I was in and the local youth group I was a part of. Apparently extracurricular activities look good on a college application (or so I was told), and that is how I ended up as the vice president of the FCA. That stands for Fellowship of Christian Athletes, in case you were wondering. You might also be wondering what sort of athlete I was and this is where I will inform you that you don’t even have to be an athlete to join the FCA. In fact, you can be quite poor at athletics. You can even be the vice president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes if you are also the Secretary of the International Society of Thespians. (That’s the Drama Club, for all you non-thespians out there.)
I thought I had all the answers about things like faith and God and spirituality. I mean, people don’t just let you be the vice president of things unless you really know your stuff.
Plus, I was in high school and basically your job in high school is to just assume that you are right about everything. I felt pretty overly confident that I understood how this whole faith
thing worked and was quick to give people answers when they asked. I was like the Vanilla Ice of Christianity: “If you have a problem, yo, I’ll solve it.”
If I didn’t know the answer, then I would just tilt my head and reply knowingly, “Job. The answer to that is definitely in the book of Job.” I didn’t fully understand the book of Job myself, but I figured it would get them reading the Bible and gave myself a pat on the back for that brilliant line of thinking. Plus, I figured a whole lot of stuff went down in the book of Job and so there was probably an answer to their question somewhere in there.
I thought about Job a lot back then and how he went through many of the same trials that I was enduring as a high school girl. I mean, sure Job’s problems were that he lost everything he cared about and was covered in festering boils but that was SO SIMILAR to my problems of not being asked to the prom and running out of concealer. Boils, acne, same thing, Job.
It’s not to say that I didn’t know heartache at sixteen. I pressed my face against the window and watched the taillights of my father’s truck disappear down our driveway. I stayed behind in the house the judge awarded my mother in the messiness of the divorce and thought about Job and why bad things happen to good people. As a teenager, life was hard and confusing and emotional. It was also fairly dramatic, thanks to the fact that I was a card-carrying thespian and all. Of the trials and tribulations of faith, though, I would come to find that I knew little.
In the summer of 2001, I spent my days shopping for matching duvet covers for the college dorm room I would share with my best friend when the seasons changed to autumn. States away a young mother held her four-year-old daughter’s lifeless body close to her in a tragic scene that seems so senseless my hands tremble to type it even now. Jody Ferlaak had stopped for breakfast with her family, in the way that you do on many a leisurely weekend morning. High chairs and hot plates and happy faces smeared with syrup in a completely average morning.
There it is again, tragedy, entirely unwelcome and infringing itself upon an ordinary day. One minute she was eating pancakes and the next a car was driving through the wall of the restaurant, severely injuring her toddler son, pinning her six-month-old baby to the wall, placing her husband in a coma, and killing her daughter. Four-year-old Teagan would never know another autumn.
This was the book of Job playing out in modern day, and it was a far cry from the trite advice I was spouting in my naïve youth across the country.
In my early twenties our paths would cross, and Jody and I formed a friendship that blossomed out of a love of paper crafts and late-night phone calls. One winter day I would find myself lying on a bed at a scrapbooking retreat holding her infant son as I mourned the coming and going of another month without a viable pregnancy of my own. I never wanted to complain to Jody though, who walked through life with a sweet spirit in the midst of its hardships. One child buried and another left severely disabled by a woman who had tried to end her own life with a car and wreaked havoc on Jody’s instead. There was much to mourn, and still Jody found much to give thanks for. Friend and mentor, she would spill out her story with such peace that I was in awe of her faith.
Sitting in the dark of the NICU I thought often of Jody and the question of why burned within me. Why my baby? Why did this happen? Why did a good God allow such severity of suffering to fall upon the innocent? I wished then that I could be more like Jody with a disposition of deep and blessed assurance, the kind that people set to music and printed in choir books. I wished that I had the same peace that all of those songs referenced or at the very least a small reprieve from my pain. But I didn’t have any answers to the whys. My faith was as broken as the little girl lying under the lights, and we were both struggling just to make it out alive.
The hospital chaplain stopped in to see if he could visit with us just as alarms began blaring to signal the rate at which the numbers on the screen were dropping and a nurse worked briskly to push oxygen manually into my daughter’s lungs as her skin mottled gray with the lack of it. The kind man of the cloth reached out his hand and the former vice president of the FCA snarled at him to get out. It wasn’t that I quit believing. It was the fact that I did believe. The chaplain could speak a prayer over us but those words couldn’t be spun into a cord that would keep my daughter here, and that—not the promise of a heaven—was all I wanted.
What I had was a problem. And I couldn’t solve it.
Not on my own.
The above excerpt is from Anchored: Finding Hope in the Unexpected. Copyright © 2015 by Kayla Aimee. Used by permission of B&H Books. www.bhpublishinggroup.com. All rights reserved. Taken from pp. 32-35.
Bio: Kayla Aimee is a writer, mother, and slightly spirited southern girl who spends her days uncovering hope and humor in unexpected places. She makes her home and garden in northern Georgia with her husband, Jeff, and daughter, Scarlette. Kayla shares stories of faith, family and her favorite things at www.kaylaaimee.com.