Cindy Sullivan is more than my friend, she is like my 3rd sister. She is married to a wonderful man, Jeff and they have 2 beautiful girls, Sara and Isabelle. She is a woman of authenticity, no doubt. She volunteers her time helping women in crisis pregnancies, pointing them to the Savior and helping them choose life. She is an extraordinary person.
Do you ever get tired of the battle? I do. Thankfully we don’t have to fight it alone, but sometimes it sure feels we do.
I was raised in a loving family, attended church and practiced some religion, but did not accept Christ as Savior until the age of 26. Prior to this, I never felt like I was a really bad person. I thought I was fairly good. I didn’t do things a whole lot differently than those I was around. But you know what? I didn’t know Him personally and I always felt like I was in a battle or ready for battle. For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt on the defense. I may have been defending myself or someone else, but I was battling.
Not until December 6, 1995 did I truly believe and accept Christ. I attended Christian summer camp as a child, went forward at an altar call and followed with baptism. But not until God revealed Himself to me in His special way, called me by name and showed me just how much I needed Him, did I surrender. I had lived through years of darkness. I’d lived through years of looking for love and acceptance and yes, rebellion and that same old battle. He used one of my best friends coming to know Him, one of my friends dying of a brain tumor and sharing his testimony and He used my sweet little sister continually sharing the gospel with me. (Isaiah 52:7) I’m sure He used more than that, but these are the people and situations that stand out to me most. I can still remember the feeling and realization I had the night of my salvation… He’d been whispering to my heart, nudging me, drawing me and then …. There was no turning back. I tried not to think about changes or consequences that would come if I fully surrendered to Christ. I was on the edge of “O soul, are you weary and troubled? No light in the darkness you see? There’s light for a look at the Savior, And life more abundant and free.. Turn your eyes upon me.” I was gone.. I said “Yes” and I was His. I remember thinking, “I am forgiven…. I am a forgiven woman and I am loved by Christ.” The most peace I’ve probably ever felt in my life. (2 Cor. 5:17) I had been married for six years by this time, so I knew what it was to be loved, but this was different. The Creator of the Universe loved me and called me by name and I was His and in His family forever. He knew every hair on my head, every bit of my past and where I was going in the future. The Holy Spirit coming to live within me and revealing this to me is the only way I truly knew and believed. (John 14:26-27) This is the only way I could truly trust, because I had lived a life of not trusting. That was part of the battle. And, no matter how hokey it sounds, He made words from hymns I had heard all my life come alive to me. Music and lyrics have always been a big part of my life, through the good, bad and ugly, but now….. These sweet words were so personal, so comforting, so real. “I surrender all, I surrender all, All to Thee my blessed Savior, I surrender all.” “Just as I am, without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me, Just as I am, and waiting not to rid my soul of one dark blot..” I could go on and on. Especially in the early years, I would be easily brought to tears by the words of songs/hymns I had heard for years. They were now personal for me. (Romans 8:1-2)
I would like to say that I gave up the battle and have lived the rest of my life in peace, but that wouldn’t be true. Although I don’t believe we should live “on the defense”, we are in a battle, as Christians. (Ephesians 10:6-18) The difference is that the real battle is spiritual, therefore we do not fight it physically, on our own. As a member of the Body of Christ and of the Lord’s army, we do participate, but through His power. It’s a daily and sometimes hourly surrender to His authority and power. I still find myself, after 19 years of being a Christian, falling back into the mindset of “I have to fight”, “I’ve gotta save him, her, myself, etc.”, “I have to fix this”, “What if I don’t do this… what will happen?” and so on and so on. There is a battle going on, but My Savior is in charge and He continues to unconditionally love me, work with me, speak to me. I’m nothing without Him, but can do all things through Him. (Phil. 4:13)
He so graciously called me to Himself and put me in His family, just 10 months before I would be stressing, pleading and worrying about whether or not our baby would live. I felt like I was in a battle, for sure. As early as 8-9 weeks into the pregnancy there were signs of complications. But not until the 18th or 19th did we know how serious things would be. I began having contractions and the spotting was more and more prevalent. This would be the first baby to come into our little family of two and the second and ninth in our extended families. I had a feeling it would be a boy. I never had a girl name picked out, but we liked Jeffrey Marechale’ Sullivan for a boy. There were many doctor visits, much reading, researching, stressing and then there were prayer times with friends, family, bible study groups, deacons, etc. There were those intimate prayer times with just Jeff & I and then those we had alone with our Heavenly Father. We were told by doctors that we should go ahead and terminate the pregnancy, “it didn’t look like things were going to work out.” The answer from us was always, “No.” One of the last hospital visits was for a 3D ultrasound. Doctors reported that “There isn’t sufficient amniotic fluid which means there’s a rupture, although pregnancy is viable.” They didn’t have to tell me pregnancy was viable though. I knew, because of the precious baby I saw on the ultrasound screen and the movement I felt inside. Although I wanted this little baby boy as much as I could want him, I could feel my Savior begin to nudge me and let me see what the outcome was probably going to be. I had been fighting to keep this baby inside, but it wasn’t going to work out how I hoped it would. This realization was especially clear when I began seeing bigger signs of labor. I remember being in the restroom in the hospital and crying out when I saw physical signs of what the doctors were saying would probably happen. I didn’t want it to end this way, but there was nothing I could do. The doctors suggested we go ahead and induce labor. “No.” “You have to be concerned with infection to your body because of the rupture in the amniotic sac.” “No.” “OK, you must call us if you begin running a fever and have signs of infection. It could ultimately end in death for you.” A few nights later I woke up in a sweat. I was cold and then hot, cold then hot. A rush of anxiety came over me and I thought, “This is it, this is what they were talking about.” (Phil. 4:6-7) I began to feel stronger contractions. I called the doctor’s office, they told me to come in immediately. “Lord, is there any other way this can end?” “Trust me child, stop fighting, rest in me.”
When I was seen by my doctor, he said “You are in labor, full blown infection, go to hospital immediately." I was 22 1/2 weeks along. Within a couple of hours, little Jeffrey Marechale Sullivan came forth. I felt him all day and then I felt him leave and go to heaven. Nothing but Jesus Himself, the Lover of my Soul could truly comfort that pain. I know Jeff felt the same way. I don’t know how people deal with things like that without a Savior. I went in the hospital with a baby moving inside me and came out a couple of days later with a wounded heart and empty womb. Though all the while, my sweet Lord held me and comforted me. He used my loved ones, nurses and doctors, but He also just came to me in my solitude and tears. “Child, I am in charge of death and life. You must trust me and know how very much I love you. I called you by name and I called this child by name. Walk in your trust and love for me. I will heal your heart.” These words come easier now, 17 years later, but then I felt all this in my spirit. He was teaching me about our relationship. He was confirming that we’d be walking through many good times and many bad times together. He was showing me just how personal He is. He walked me through that time and if anything good came from it, it was because of Him. If anything good comes from my life now, it’s because of Him. I am nothing, He is everything. If I did not truly believe His love for me, I couldn’t say these things. His gracious, undeserving love for me means everything.
There is a battle going on out there. There’s a battle for our children, for our marriages, for our witness and more. We do have to participate in the battle, but it is not by our strength. I have to remind myself of this daily. Part of my daily food is music, especially worship music. I like lots of different kinds of music, but worship lyrics just wash over my soul like healing balm. I know I’m not the only one. But God uses the sweet words with me almost as much as He uses scripture. “When I lose my way and forget my name.. Remind me who I am.. In the mirror all I see is who I don’t wanna be.. Remind me who I am.. In the loneliest places, when I can’t remember what grace is..Tell me once again who I am to you, Lest I forget I belong to you.” “You crush the enemy, underneath my feet. You are my sword and shield, though troubles linger still. Whom shall I fear? I know who goes before me, I know who stands behind. The God of Angel Armies is always by my side. The one who reigns forever, He is a friend of mine, The God of Angel Armies is always by my side.” There are so many and I am so thankful.
We have two precious daughters and I am often challenged to “take them out of God’s hands”. I know that He holds them safely and loves them more than I ever can. His love for me is what gives me hope each day. I know and believe He has this same love for my daughters, but in my humanity and fear, without even realizing I’m doing it, I take them back and hold on to them for dear life. Jesus has to remind me of who He is and I am thankful that He does.
Do you know Him personally? We will face many things in this life and after. You don’t have to do it alone. In this life, you have a chance to say “yes to Him.” In the afterlife, there’s no time to choose. You’re either with Him or without Him, for eternity. There is no other love like His. No human can love like Him, protect like Him and fight like Him. He loves His people unconditionally… NO conditions… and He’s already won the battle… He’s just waiting for the perfect time to bring all His people home. It’s all truth and it’s all in His Word. Check it out. (John 14:6) (Romans 3:23, 6:23, 10:9-10)