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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Who Will Roll the Stone Away?

By Susan A. Vernick
Feb. 26, 2012

My husband’s deployment with the U.S. Army to Saudi Arabia began in February 2010. We had prepared well and felt ready for the eight-month journey ahead of us.

About two weeks after John left for the Middle East, I found out we were expecting our fifth child. I was in disbelief, trying to wrap my mind around how I would parent four children, expecting a fifth, while my husband was thousands of miles away.

Even with all the concerns and anxiety, I was excited and filled with anticipation. I informed my husband via Skype, which was not the most ideal way to share the news. We determined to live day by day and embrace the journey.

In mid-March I decided to take my four children to visit my parents in Florida for a much-needed break. John had been away about six weeks, and the kids and I were eager to have 10 days of sun and the beach.

The day before we left, I started to have some symptoms that all was not well with the pregnancy, so I decided to call the doctor. He told me I needed to rest. I did my best, considering we were packing to travel. My sister swooped in to help me, and we made it to the airport the next day. We enjoyed our trip to Florida and arrived home about a week before Easter.

It was our first major holiday without my husband. We dug our heels in and had a wonderful day of celebrating our risen Lord. Sometimes our outlook takes a decision, and I decided to celebrate in spite of my imperfect circumstances.

A particular Scripture spoke to my heart during that Easter season: “When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, ‘Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?’” (Mark 16:1-3, NIV). I didn’t know why, but that Scripture resonated with me in an especially profound way.

The kids received kites in their Easter baskets that year. I splurged beyond the customary chocolates and marshmallow peeps because Daddy was away. The day after Easter was a gorgeous, bright spring day. We were flying kites in the backyard when I felt something and knew immediately there was a problem.

I called the doctor and was scheduled for an ultrasound the next morning. Questions began to fill my mind. Who will stay with me? Who will watch my children if I am in the hospital? And, most of all, Is this baby OK?

To complicate matters, my parents were in Florida, one of my sisters was in England visiting in-laws, and my other sister lived six hours away.

The Scripture returned to my mind: “Who will roll the stone away?” Questions upon questions were spinning in my head. And, again, the Scripture came: “Who will roll the stone away?”

I prayed, and God began to intervene. By that evening, close friends were able to come and stay with me during the night, my parents were planning their trip home, and a close neighbor and friend had readily volunteered to accompany me to the ultrasound. Still, I was fearful and needing my husband. God was there, though — moving the stone like He did on the day of the Resurrection.

By morning, the news was worse. The ultrasound revealed a problem. God blessed me with a kindhearted doctor; his name was, appropriately, Dr. Grace. His words were gentle as he informed me that there was no baby forming. It was a molar pregnancy, where the fertilized egg has no genetic makeup.

The situation posed potential long-term physical problems, along with the grief of a miscarriage. My neighbor was there with me and helped me during those difficult hours during the sonogram. And as I told my husband and family, God was there, moving the stone.

The Army flew my husband home, and he arrived within 48 hours — in time for a second sonogram that the doctor performed at our request. We wanted to put our minds at ease. John was also able to be home in time for the surgery the next week. God can move mountains!

It was a grief-filled two weeks, but after the surgery — with our pastor by our side and some recovery time — I was healing physically.

Emotionally, though, it was a different story. Saying goodbye to my husband again, two weeks after the surgery, was one of the hardest moments of my life. I can still see him walking out the door to go to the airport to leave for Saudi Arabia once again, and I felt like the air was sucked out of my lungs.

But God lifted me up. During that time, Scripture and prayer brought comfort to me along with my family. I am blessed to have the support of triplet sisters, amazing parents, and extended family and friends.

As spring arrived, my days became brighter. God was moving the stone. The Holy Spirit descended on me day by day and, amazingly, the grief and despair began to lift.

Even so, the following six months without my husband were difficult, and at times I thought I could not endure another day amid my circumstances. But God continued to hear the cry of my heart. Family, friends, my church family and even strangers stepped up at the exact moments I needed them. I knew it was the leading of the Holy Spirit as God heard my prayers.

When faced with tragedy and the difficulties of life, we can ask the question that Mary did: “Who will roll the stone away?”

The answer: “Jesus, our risen Lord and Savior!”

SUSAN A. VERNICK attends Calvary Assembly of God of Chili in Rochester, N.Y.

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