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He Neither Slumbers Nor Sleeps

By Catherine Arveseth

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Four years ago today, the Saturday before Valentine’s Day, our twin girls were born. Moments of that day have slipped in and out of my mind all week, like a soft and gentle stream, giving life to everything around me. Mostly, I have been warmed by the tender, subtle feeling of being known.

The girls were born two months early, in a sudden rush of events that saved their lives, and mine.

I was feeling fine until early afternoon when the nausea set in. I wretched into the toilet twice, put my 19 month old down for a nap, then collapsed onto the couch. But even lying down didn’t relieve the debilitating headache I had.

My husband was at Stake Conference, along with most members in our Virginia area. President Packer was the visiting authority. I didn’t want to bother Doug, but I felt awful. So I phoned the doctor with my symptoms. “Maybe stomach flu” he said. “Let’s watch things. Call me in an hour if your symptoms remain the same or get worse.”

Desperate for relief, I phoned my Dad, who is an emergency doctor. I could hear the concern in his voice. “You need to call Doug and get to the hospital quickly.” I could tell he didn’t want to scare me, but his job (by profession) was to think worst-case scenario. I couldn’t ignore his urgency, so I phoned Doug, who left the meeting, then phoned my doctor, who agreed with my Dad. “Let’s bring you in for monitoring.”

After getting off the elevator, I pressed the call button for the labor and delivery doors to open. And that is the last thing I remember.

When the darkness began to lift, I saw Doug’s face hovering over me. He was out of focus but I felt his hand in mine and I could hear him talking. “Cath? Can you hear me? You had a seizure. They had to take the babies.”

There, on the labor and delivery floor, twenty feet from the operating room, I suffered an eclamptic seizure. My brain shut down. It simply turned off due to high blood pressure. Eclampsia can come on quickly, but a progression of symptoms like this was unusual. I went from asymptomatic in the morning to full-blown seizure by evening.

Doug said he yelled for help as he eased my rigid body to the ground. Within seconds, several nurses were on the scene. They put me on a gurney and wheeled me into a room to check the babies’ heart rates. Both rates were dropping rapidly. They suspected placental abruption during the seizure and they were right. The only doctor on shift had planned to leave hours before, but one of his patients was slow to deliver. So he gloved up and began my surgery. There was no time for anything but general anesthesia, no time to prep me for c-section. They had to work fast.

My own physician, who just happened to live five minutes away, was called. He arrived in time to deliver both girls. Doug waited outside. He watched the nurses rush in and out, all the while wondering what was happening – worrying, praying. He talked with his parents and my parents, they phoned our siblings, and prayers began to rise out of blood lines, out of love lines, into the heavens.

Suddenly, a nurse pushed an isolette out of the operating room and whisked our two babies right past Doug toward the NICU. Doug jumped up to follow them, but they asked that he stay in the waiting room.

Finally, a NICU nurse returned to tell Doug both girls were born blue and had to be resuscitated but they were breathing now with assistance. She told him they were sewing me up and giving me magnesium to control my pressure. We were going to be alright.

Doug spent the night divided between the NICU and my recovery room. Unable to sleep, he moved back and forth, asking for updates on his newborn girls then returning to my side. In contrast, I slept – completely unaware of the trauma that had ensued, the fact that two little lives had been snatched from my belly, that all three of us could have died had we not been in just the right place at just the right time.

When our doctor finished the surgery and came to find Doug, he was still sweating. “That’s the first time in twenty years I’ve delivered a baby in my street clothes” he said. “Had she been anywhere else – anywhere – those babies would not have made it, and neither would she. Someone was watching over you.”

When I felt well enough, the nurses wheeled my bed into the NICU so I could hold my daughters for the first time. CPAP masks forced air into their lungs and obscured their tiny faces. All I could see were their slitted eyes – thin lashes reaching out of unopened lids. Heart rate monitors, feeding tubes, pulse oximeters and oxygen cords wove a web of tangled baby into my arms. Three pounds of fragile, but breathing baby. When I placed an index finger against each of their palms, they grabbed on tight. I knew they would survive.

My Mom arrived the day after the girls were born and with her, a card from my Dad.

He had written two things. First, that he loved me. And second, this verse from Psalms. “Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber, nor sleep.” (121:4)

I wept.

It is true. Our God is a sleepless God. He is vigilant. He is awake. He is inexhaustibly aware – even when things don’t appear to be going as planned. Even when the results leave us broken – so broken we wonder if we can ever be fixed. He is watching over us. For we are His.

Today, as we tie pink tulle around party favors and hang paper hearts in the windows, I remember the miracle that brought our girls here – the parting of our own red sea, the manna that fell abundant. I remember the Lord’s mighty orchestration of our lives. And yours.

God has done great things for all of us. How have you come to know of his love and vigilance?

About Catherine Arveseth

Catherine Arveseth is mother to five children, including two sets of twins. She is an exercise physiologist by profession, writer by passion, loves hiking with her family, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and the edge of an ocean. She and her husband, Doug, began their family in Virginia but now live in Salt Lake City, Utah. She blogs at wildnprecious.com.

61 thoughts on “He Neither Slumbers Nor Sleeps”

  1. Catherine, I am so honored to be the first one here to respond.

    (Like God, I'm sleepless. Were I not, II would have missed this post today. Hurray for insomnia!)

    Spectacular events, spectacular outcome, spectacular narration.

    I can only think of the Spiritual I've always sung to my children:

    "All night, all day, Angels watching over me my Lord/
    All night, all day, angels watching over me."

    Bless you all.

    What are your twins' names?

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  2. I was really grumpy when I started reading this post; I'm several days overdue with my first child and am feeling very impatient and anxious. But this (beautifully-written post) reminded me that God is watching over me and this little babe. Thank you!

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  3. Catherine,
    Beautiful…and so moving. I first read this off your blog last year, in the midst of a miscarriage that wasn't going smoothly and was causing me a great deal of concern and grief. But I knew God was watching over me and that scripture has become a favorite. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful talent of writing. I find your particular style especially beautiful.
    Best Wishes,
    Charelle

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  4. Absolutely, breathtakingly beautiful. What a sweet scripture you shared here. You are an incredible writer. Happy birthday to your sweet girls.

    This story hits me particularly hard. I gave birth five years ago to my own set of twins. I definitely felt the Lord's hand during that difficult pregnancy. There was one particular priesthood blessing my husband gave me which literally turned the tide of what should have happened. And, weeks after this blessing, I responded very poorly to the morphine given post-surgery, and there were some miracles which brought me out of the unconscious state I was slipping into…nurses who were called in just in time to administer a reversal drug.

    Thank you, thank you.

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  5. Thank your for sharing this. At first I thought it would be just another proud momma sharing her birth story, it is much more than that.

    My sister lost her twins at 6 months. With her next pregnancy things went well but after the birth she almost died from blood loss. Your story awakened those memories and made me grateful that my sister is still here, despite missing the nephews I haven't met yet.

    Add that scripture to all of this and you have me crying on a Saturday morning! Troubles abound, and many are out of our hands. After studying the Old Testament I feel the surety of God watching over Israel, even when they were rebellious and sinful.

    God's love and vigilance is most apparent to me in the private moments when no one else knows my struggles. He sends sweet relief that at times can be very simple, but makes all the difference.

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  6. Catherine, what beautiful words to read first thing in the morning. Your dad's note quoting Psalms is poignant and I will never think of that verse the same way again. Thank you.

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  7. A stunning story, and what a reminder that even in this day and age, we must pass through the valley of the shadow of death in order to bring forth life.

    I have a story, also involving twins. Almost 6 years ago, my twins were delivered via C-section. Everything went fairly smoothly… until their one month birthday. My husband was at work, and I was home alone with the babies, nursing, when all of a sudden I felt a rush of warm liquid. I put the babies on the bed and rushed to the bathroom. I was hemmorhaging – badly. The blood was seriously flowing like a faucet. I tried to run to the phone, but I passed out in the hallway with the receiver in my hand.

    This is how I know Heavenly Father was watching over me. I easily could have remained unconscious and bled to death there on the floor, with no one finding out until my husband returned home that night. But I came to, was able to call 911 and even my husband at work. And I was able to crawl to the door when the stupid policeman wouldn't open it himself.

    I shouldn't have been able to do those things. There's no reason that I should have come to. But I did. And I know now, with a surety, that He is watching out for me.

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  8. I have a similar story with the birth of my son who is almost five. When I was 37 weeks along we happened to go over to a friends house who happened to live a block from the hospital. And I happened to have my placental abruption at her house; and even though it was a Sunday night my doctor happened to be at the hospital already for another delivery. I don't think any of those things that just 'happened' were coincidence and I still don't know why God was so loving with me and my son, but I am humbled and grateful every day for it.

    I'm going through another hard time lately and this post was a good reminder that God is mindful of us. Thank you.

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  9. "…prayers began to rise out of blood lines, out of love lines, into the heavens"… I loved that line you wrote. An ambulance close by, a doctor who wasn't *supposed* to be at the hospital, an *experimental* procedure that "wouldn't work"… my son who is now 7 is truly a blessing from God, and all who prayed for his survival.. I am thankful for people who write like you to tell the story I wish I could…thanks again…..

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  10. There are many people who would think that the events of that day would be a coincidence but that is not so. A series of moments when the Lord put you and the right people in the right place at the right time. The Lord truly never sleeps! He looks out for us always. Two thoughts came right after I read your post. Tender mercies and miracles. Thank you for sharing your experience and enjoy those beautiful blessings! Happy Birthday to your daughters!!!

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  11. This was beautiful and what a true miracle!

    Your post made me think that it can be so easy to see the Lord's hand in our protection when lives are saved or things end up going well. But sometimes when the outcome isn't good or those lives aren't saved, it is hard to see the Lord's hand, for good, in that.

    I've mentioned this before that I have lupus. At this point I don't foresee a cure or complete healing in this life. But I have seen the Lord's hand over and over in my life as I cope with this chronic illness. I was blessed to be in the right place at the right time to get the proper diagnosis. I have been blessed abundantly with getting good medical care when I need it. And I've been blessed with the strength I need to do what is required of me.

    I felt the Lord's hand as I dealt with a miscarriage a few months ago. While we lost our baby, all the "coincidences" in getting the help we needed at the right time made me realize that the Lord does indeed bless us, even in our times of greatest sorrow.

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  12. My youngest niece turned four on the 5th of February. She was born pretty much at the right time but had to be turned and it was quite a labor for her mom and her before she made her entrance into the world. Last September, we were worried sick about her when she was in the hospital for about a week and a half for pneumonia. We are so grateful that she is doing so well. I wish our girls could meet and play. 🙂

    I have felt God's love for often in my life. The closest I felt to God was prior to my mission when I was being prepared. Life was very stressful on so many levels and my environment was very bad much of the time.

    I felt so close to God that there was not a separation of Spiritual and Temporal like there is often in life. I felt his closeness at work or waiting for a bus.

    Recently, I have felt such a sweet peace as I felt the Holy Spirit while I was working. I worry now with my condition and anxiety problems that I will do or say something to my parents to make me unworthy of such blessings or that something would happen that is bad and make me unworthy. I have to trust in a loving Heavenly Father who knows when to bless his children.

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  13. I am weeping.

    I, like Tiffany, struggle with health problems that have persisted for years. But I have had those moments where I know God is there, and I feel healing coming in other ways as I grow and progress.

    That scripture is particularly tender for me as my insomnia is really causing me trouble. Nights can be incredibly lonely, and just last nite, I was talking to Him, saying that I just needed to know that He was there with me during the night. This was very timely.

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  14. All of you dear people – thank you for your comments. I wish I had time to respond to each of you. I am moved by your expressions of gratitude and belief, as well as your honesty.

    From Michelle G. – "I want Him to always be there for me, but I don’t always feel that way." I too have had moments, weeks, when I wondered how close God really was. But when I think of Annie's post about Climbs and Descents, I recall one of God's characteristics. He is unchanging. If He has been there for us before, why would he leave? I know He is reaching to us, whispering, always.

    Melissa DB – I haven't been able to stop thinking about your post. The contrast is strong for me. In this situation, God's vigilance allowed us to live – in yours, His vigilance (in which He was no less wakeful) allowed for your son to go. And then in turn, your son was the means for preserving life – several lives. I struggle sometimes to make sense of it all. It can be exhausting. Only you could speak to how you find peace. Mortality wrenches us, shatters us, bends contrition out of us. And at the same time we feel God's rescuing hand. The duality is remarkable. I acknowledge God's greatness, His omnipotence. And I am always transported by your thoughts and words. Your pen lifts souls all around you. I love you.

    ps – My girls' names are Alexandra and Samantha.

    Barbara C. – wishing you a babe in arms soon. Hang in there!

    Charelle and others who have suffered the same trial – I ache for you. Although we went through years of infertility work, I always felt it would be harder to know I was pregnant then lose the baby, than to never be pregnant at all. Thanks for your comment. I am reminded of Joseph Smith's words about pursuing a course of faith – that it will "wrench our very heartstrings." Sending love to you.

    Jendoop – "grateful that my sister is still here, despite missing the nephews I haven’t met yet." That sentence leveled me. As well as this one, "God’s love and vigilance is most apparent to me in the private moments when no one else knows my struggles." What a beautiful statement. And so very true. Thank you for this reminder.

    mom o' boys, Jeannie, Duerma, FoxyJ – I love your stories of circumstance – things that "just so happened" "wouldn't work" of having super human abilities – all indicators of a larger eye, a greater hand over all of us. Everything really is possible for Him, isn't it?

    Mary – "private stories that have shaped people’s lives and made them who they are." Yes, you defined it perfectly.

    Tiffany W – I can't imagine the daily challenges you must face. Yet, you have a gift of seeing the Lord at work in your life. "I’ve been blessed with the strength I need to do what is required of me." And I'm so sorry for your miscarriage. I do not doubt that your experience will be the means for blessing others.

    Barb – what tender comments. "I have to trust in a loving Heavenly Father who knows when to bless his children." Considering what else you said, I believe you must trust in God's knowledge of you – who you are, and what you've been asked to accept. He not only knows when to bless you, He knows why.

    Many of your comments have reminded me of this quote from Robert Frost.

    “Always fall in with what you’re asked to accept. Take what is given, and make it over your way. My aim in life has always been to hold my own with whatever’s going. Not against: with.”

    Such is the mark of graceful living, of submission, of moving with God's flow. I hear it in so many of your words.

    Thank you also for the birthday wishes to my girls. We had a lovely "fancy" birthday luncheon, a few melt-downs, and I now have a kitchen of cake crumbs to clean up and dishes to wash. But the miracle merited our joyous celebration.

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  15. michelle – just saw your comment. I can see how that verse from Psalms would soothe you, especially when you fight sleeplessness. Maybe knowing He is watching will give your mind and body freedom to let go. To sleep. The Lord can do things for us that we cannot do for ourselves. prayers for you.

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  16. . . .And Robert Frost is allowed to speak those words about submitting to the often painful requirements of this life. If I'm not mistaken, he buried 4 of his 6 children (one died after three days of living, one died from cholera, another from puerperal fever, and another from suicide, ). The 2 living children suffered from serious mental illness to the extent that one was institutionalized. I suppose he used poetry to "hold with", not against, the high cost of living.

    Wonderful and "ravissante" Renee. . .you cannot know, maybe, how much we love hearing your voice here. You are a living token of God's power in our lives. Always your sister.

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  17. whooops, sorry, friends, for inadvertently slipping in a comment here to Renee Hall. I meant to paste it elsewhere. as it was meant for another post.

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  18. Thank you, thank you for writing this, Catherine. Bless you for softening and expanding our hearts.

    And I can't help but wonder if angels whispered in all three of your ears this week– "Melissa, Renee, Catherine– tell your story."

    I often think that on the other side we will be amazed at all the help we received in this life. I expect that nearly everything we "know" will be turned upside down.

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  19. And I can’t help but wonder if angels whispered in all three of your ears this week– “Melissa, Renee, Catherine– tell your story.”

    I often think that on the other side we will be amazed at all the help we received in this life

    Beautiful thoughts.

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  20. By the way, Catherine, thanks for your kind thoughts. My sleep issues are as much biological as psychological and have been with me most of my life. A lot of it is just learning to work with it. So that Robert Frost quote was yet another 'just what I needed' thing today, so thank you.

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  21. What a beautiful story and beautiful girls. I too loved the line about prayers…blood lines…love lines.

    Today I have been remembering a year ago when I was taking my daughter to the hospital for an unknown infection in her hip – we stayed 12 days. 7 years ago we were just days away from the birth of that same daughter and her two sisters. I know Heavenly Father was with me on both of those occasions giving me the strength I needed to face the unknown.

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  22. Thank you to you and to Melissa for yesterday's post to remind me of how blessed I am and to humble me. I needed to read these beautiful messages. Thank you.

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  23. MDB – I knew some of Frost's losses – but not to that extent. Wow. "Allowed to speak words about submitting" – indeed. Breaks my heart.

    Sweet Michelle L – "We will be amazed at all the help we received in this life. I expect that nearly everything we 'know' will be turned upside down." That is the sense I have as well. Our knowledge is so finite and limited (yet sufficient.) I look forward to having the kind of knowledge Alma describes – "no longer faith, but knowing." I'm sure it will cause us to fall on our knees and weep. Love you.

    Courtney – I know your story, have read your blog, and the wonder of your triplet girls. The pictures in your header make my heart swell. Our families are so similar. Five under five. Thanks for contributing your testimony here of the Lord's watchfulness – of his ability to help us negotiate the unknown. Your beautiful children are a witness of His abilities and love.

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  24. It's not always that I feel Him close to me though I really do know He is there. Through tender mercies during those quiet moments when I need Him most I am reminded once again that He is forever watching over me.

    I've been struggling a lot lately so this is just what I needed to read tonight. Thank you for the good cry before bed.

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  25. My own twin daughters were born nearly five years ago this month – one week after my mom died.

    But they were born nine days before their due date, both over six pounds. I would not have chosen that timing, but I came to realize that those two precious miracles were exactly what I needed to sustain me through my grieving.

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  26. Gorgeous post, Catherine! Thank you for sharing such an amazing, tender, beautiful birth story. I hope your girls had a wonderful birthday yesterday and that you celebrated with gusto.

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  27. Ten and a half years ago my triplets were born by emergency c-section at 29 weeks. While I was never in the kind of personal danger you describe, it was still a frantic and frightening situation and at one point there was the possibility that my babies might be born on a helicopter. (It was a very long and complicated day!)

    As we approached their first birthday, I was warned by a few other triplet moms that it was common to feel some type of post-traumatic stress disorder at the anniversary of the stressful birth. It made sense to me, so I prepared for those feelings.

    Instead, I was overwhelmingly filled with the realization of how present the Lord had been through the entire experience, and how much he had watched over us in the intervening year. I think your scripture is exactly appropriate.

    (And that your children are beautiful!)

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  28. Oh, how I needed to read this today.

    My husband lost his job two days ago; we bought our first house 3 months ago and have been living on savings since then. (His job is a seasonal one.)

    Even in the midst of trials I KNOW my Father is watching over me. He will make this all right, I know it.

    Thanks for the post.

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  29. Thank you all for connecting me to you and to spirit through this beautiful post and your remarks. Funny to wait till the end of Sunday to have my bucket filled. Blessings.

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  30. I've shared this post with more people than any other Segullah post I've ever read. I was so touched by it, and know it will buoy the hearts of a number of people who don't read blogs, but they need this.

    The quality of insight and ability to express it in writing that you have here on this blog is unparalleled. You women amaze me. All of you! I'm so grateful for Segullah. Thank you for this story, Catherine. ♥

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  31. Stephanie – I have a good friend whose twin boys were born soon after her father's death. She says the same thing – they helped her survive the grief. I am so sorry for your loss. Losing a parent, no matter the circumstances, is just so hard. I'm so happy you have your babies. Sending love.

    Cindy – triplets?? Wow. Now that is work. I've never heard such a warning – of PTSD – at the anniversary of a birth. A faith perspective makes all the difference doesn't it? "Instead, I was overwhelmingly filled with the realization of how present the Lord had been through the entire experience" – so beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

    Jean – what faith! "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." Blessings to you.

    Blue – thanks for your kind comment. There is purpose in sharing here. I find my life is so enriched by you and others – Yes, we are indeed blessed. Love to you.

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  32. Catherine and other commenters,
    Thanks for your wonderful post and words. Tears are rolling down my cheeks. I am grateful God kept you here and brought you such lovely girls. I was touched by the tender love & insight of your father. What a blessing to have a loving Heavenly and earthly father.

    I feel so grateful for a Heavenly Father who never sleeps, but is mindful of each of us, waiting for us to come to Him.

    I struggled for years with a chronic skin disease. It tried my faith and then broke my heart when my perfect little three-mo. old baby girl was afflicted with the same disease (severe atopic dermatitis-eczema). But the time did come, as promised in priesthood blessings, that we did overcome it. And I'm grateful for all I learned through the pain (although it took awhile to come to that place).

    Blessings to you, my Segullah sisters. Love the spirit of faith and joy that you share!

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  33. Cath, You made me cry. It is so comforting to know that He is ever watchful-ever present inour lives. I am putting that scripture in my room-what a sweet father. A father on earth that gave you life and saved your life. A bond never to be broken…love you! Allyson

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  34. for some reason as i read and re-read this post, i kept thinking about your relationship with your dad.

    "i could hear the concern in his voice"
    "i couldn't ignore his urgency"
    "a card from my dad"

    a true blessing to you to have the love and respect for your father to heed his counsel.

    sounds pretty familiar to me…at times in our lives, when things don't seem quite right, even though there may be those around us who tell us otherwise, it's those moments where the Spirit can testify to us of "concerns" and we should never "ignore the urgency".

    the Lord truly does answer our prayers…i've come to know of His love for me during both good and bad times in my life. i know that He is an ever present, consistent, constant in my life.

    wow do i luv beautiful girls! simply perfect!

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  35. I feel like @Mrs. M, I just love this space- it's like a safe harbor in the storm that can be the internet.

    Catherine, thank you for such beautifully written words and for sharing your touching story. I'm so grateful that you and your daughters are here.

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  36. I'm pregnant with my first and this totally made me cry! I probably shouldn't have read it at work 🙂 What a beautiful and touching story. I'm so happy everything worked out right!

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  37. Just "found" your blog today based on an article in the supplement that came with this week's Church News…and looking through older posts when I came across this. I am sitting here in tears; this has triggered a flood of memories of the birth of our twin girls at 33 weeks. I woke up bleeding heavily and we drove (too quickly) to the hospital. As an RN, I knew this was serious. In L and D they couldn't find a heartbeat on the lowest twin and rushed to perform an emergency C Section. The girls were delivered, with Twin A needing to be recussitated and placed on a ventilator. The twins will turn 23 this coming week. Both are beautiful, talented, smart, funny and wonderful young women who have both graduated from college this past year. Their pediatrician put his arm around me when they turned 2 and told me "You don't know how lucky you are". I DO know how blessed we are and there is not a day that goes by that I don't say prayers of gratitude for divine intervention on that day.

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