Good God: Jana Jenkins Edition
It was Thanksgiving and we’d invited ourselves to celebrate it with my Dad’s side of the family in northern Virginia. Laughter, hugs, and the steady hum of conversation filled the house as my family began to trickle in. Last to arrive was my cousin Jana, her husband Antonio, and their fifteen-month-old son Dominic. The moment Jana laid eyes on me, she burst into tears, said, “I can’t do this right now!” and ran upstairs. Confused and concerned, my cousin and I were sent up to comfort her. And there in our aunt’s bathroom, bits and pieces of Jana’s story gushed out. But for Jana, the worst was yet to come.
Seven months later, we met in our pj’s over FaceTime so she could give me the full story. After I’d marveled at how good she managed to look at seven o’clock on a Saturday morning and we caught up for a few minutes, I started with my first question. “I obviously already know a lot, but fill me in on any gaps I’m missing and tell me what happened.”
“Oh boy. I haven’t talked about it in so long. I’ll tell you about it from the beginning. We found out we were pregnant and we were excited. But then, I don’t know … God really started telling me that things just weren’t going to happen the way we thought they were. We would go to church, and every time we would go to church, everything was about miscarriage and loss. I mean everything. So we went to church the Sunday before Thanksgiving and the woman speaking–who is now actually one of my good friends–has infertility and she was talking about loss. I squeezed Antonio’s hand because I knew that was God telling me it just wasn’t going to happen. I went home and that night before I went to bed, I prayed–” Her voice broke as she started crying and she apologized.
“Sorry. With July coming it’s just making it really hard.” She bowed her head while attempting to regain control. “I prayed God was wrong. I was like, ‘You’re wrong. Please be wrong.’ I woke up the next day for the appointment, and I just knew– I wasn’t excited. I was really scared to go. We went and, sure enough, she said, ‘Things just look too small right now.’ But I could tell– I could tell by the look on her face. I knew what I was seeing on the screen from Dominic and it just wasn’t normal. We had to wait a week before my next appointment so I went to work the next day. I started bleeding at work so I went home. We went to the doctor the next day and learned I was actually passing blood clots that had nothing to do with the miscarriage. Absolutely nothing. But that is when she told me, ‘You will most likely lose this baby.’ We saw the heartbeat. It was so faint. I feel like it was God–” Her voice faltered. “–giving me that moment to see it. To know it was real. To know it wasn’t something that was just made up. And it gave me a moment to say, okay, we are going to name this child. So that was my goal. We went home and I was in positive spirits. I was like, well God is in control, not the doctors. She could be wrong. God makes miracles. You just never know, so …” She trailed off. “We prayed, I ate a lot. I thought maybe if I ate more food, the baby would grow. And then the next day was Thanksgiving. That morning I woke up and said, ‘We’re naming the baby.’ So I looked for names that were strong and unisex. I found the name Caden, and Caden means fighter. And the middle name is Day, and Day means hope & light. And of course we came over, which I’m very thankful we did because I needed that.” She flashed me a sad smile in reference to what happened last Thanksgiving day.
“The next day was Antonio’s birthday. I wanted to get out of the house–I didn’t want to ruin his birthday. We went to the Air & Space Museum. And I’ve never felt so small–” Her voice cracked at the end of the word. “Every time I would have to go to the bathroom– “Her pitch rose as she struggled to push the words past her tears. “I thought, I don’t want to lose my baby in a public bathroom. So I just said, ‘We need to leave. I’m done.’ I couldn’t stand to see people with babies or multiple kids. That evening as we were giving Dominic a bath, I had to go to the bathroom. For some reason, I went right there and I passed it. I didn’t know what else to do. I said, ‘I can’t flush it,’ so we dug it out. I just looked at it and I cried. Then I went numb and didn’t want to talk about it.”
I apologized for crying and we laughed a little as I composed myself enough to ask my second question. “Okay. I only have two more questions. And you tell me if it’s too soon after, but I feel like maybe it’s not. My second question is not why, but how can you still say that God is good?”
Her response was swift. “It took me a little while. People would send me verses and stuff. I told them, ‘Please don’t send me anything. I don’t want to read anything. I know he’s still there.’ And I knew I had a road to choose: choosing God or choosing the other way. I’ve chosen the other way for a long time in my life, like when I was kicked out of church. So at that moment in time, I knew I had a choice to make, but I still wasn’t ready to talk to him. We didn’t go to church the first Sunday after, but a few weeks later I said, ‘Okay, it’s time to go back.’ I remember pulling into the parking lot and I had the biggest knot in my throat, like, I don’t know if I’m ready for this. But we went. There was one song, I can’t remember what it was, but it was saying, ‘I love you Jesus–‘” Her face crumpled. “–and I couldn’t sing it. I just stood there and cried. In my mind I was thinking, I do love you. I’m just really hurt right now.”
She cried for long moments and then wiped her eyes. “But as time went on, I was ready to talk to him again. About a month later, my pastor who married us came down and Mr. Doug just talked to me and said, ‘Your crying is good. Those are your tears of prayer.’ So I wouldn’t even talk, I would just close my eyes and cry knowing that God was listening. I kept seeing this verse and I have it right here.” She opened her Bible and read me 2 Corinthians 12:9. “‘But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” When she looked back up at me, I noticed a confident depth in her gaze. “It was shown to me over and over, that in my weakness he was still there. And, I don’t know, I just really trusted then. I feel like my faith grew stronger in that. God has never left my side and that I do know for a fact. I will praise him every single day, no matter what. This, then just became my story. There was nothing I could do with what happened. It brought Antonio and me closer–the way we are now is so much better.”
“I realized that as long as we’d been trying I had been so focused on this child I was neglecting the blessing I already had. The way I look at Dominic–not like I didn’t look at him that way before, but now it’s just even more like, ‘Thank you God for this gift that you did bless me with!’ I mean he’s amazing.” She paused to collect her thoughts. “Like I said from the beginning, I had a choice: to go my own way or follow God. And I chose to follow God because he never left me when I was at my worst. He was there for me every single time, so what would make me turn my back on him because this bad thing happened? I couldn’t do that.
“Okay,” I said. “Last question, and it’s a hard one. What would you say to someone if they said to you, ‘If God was a good God, why would he allow that to happen to you?'”
“Mmmm. That is a hard question. What would I say? I would say– Man.” She looked away and stared into the distance. ” It was hard to grasp the why. We will never be given that why and I learned it’s not a why. It’s a, ‘what if?’ What if something worse happened? I’ve done a lot in my past–a lot of bad things in my past. One being I should have gone to jail, and I didn’t. And God blessed me with that. I don’t know. God is good no matter what. We go through things and it sucks, life sucks. But it is what it is. God didn’t intentionally do this. If anything, God protected us and this baby. He knew that this baby, for whatever reason, wasn’t going to make it in the long run. Maybe there was something terminal it was going to have that we couldn’t handle. This was hard enough to handle, I can’t imagine handling anything more. What if we went far enough along that I had a stillbirth? Or what if I went far enough along that the child was really sick, born prematurely, and something happened? I think God actually protected us and this child from a lot of pain. Was this painful? Absolutely. But I think he knew I couldn’t handle more than this. So I don’t necessarily think it was an intentional bad thing he did. God is good no matter what. In bad times too. And I also think he gives us these bad times to really see …” She paused. “Not a test, but to see he’s still there in those times and in our weaknesses. He is still there. We can praise him when everything good happens, but all of the sudden if something bad happens, who are we to stop? It doesn’t make him not our God. He is still our God. So I would just say I’ve trusted him. And I know he took this baby for a reason. I will never understand why, but he did. As July approaches, yes it’s hard. But again, I know there’s a reason that I will never understand. I just feel–I don’t know–he rescued us from something that could’ve happened that would’ve been really bad. And that child is now in good hands. One day I was sitting at work and a flash came and it was–” Her tears interrupt. “–our baby being held by Grandma Ellis, and my heart overflowed with joy knowing that our baby was baby was being protected no matter what. And God can protect that baby more than me.
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 100:5
Jana is a Rodan + Fields consultant. She, her husband Antonio, and their almost 2 year-old son, Dominic, live in northern Virginia. They are expecting again and are due in December 2017.
*If you’re new to my blog or the Good God series, welcome. Get caught up here.