Sentinels

On my way out of the hospital the other day, I passed the two people at the screening desk. One of them handed me a parking token, and as I approached the doors to leave, I heard the other woman ask, “How are you doing?” I turned around, surprised, and said, “How do you know who I am?” “A young woman told me about what’s going on. You’ve been on my mind so much, and I’ve been praying for you.” The other woman chimed in, “Trust in the Lord. He is there for you. He hears you. You can be sad, you can be angry. He can take it all.” I teared up as I listened to them take turns reminding me of God’s promise to be faithful, reminding me to trust him.

As I walked through the parking lot to my car, going over the exchange in my mind, I kept thinking of the word sentinels. These keepers of the gate felt placed there on purpose–this place where we now live was being guarded by people who fear the Lord, who remember him and who reminded me to remember.

It was surprising but not. We are continually brought into intimate contact here with people who love God and want to encourage us and remind us: Don’t lose hope. Trust in the Lord. He is with you.

A week in to our hospital stay, our nephrologist was rounding very early in the morning. I was in bed but vaguely listening to her talking to Chris. As she left she came over, set something on the window ledge near me, and said, “This is for you,” and left the room. Half awake, I sat up and reached for it. There was a card with a painting of wings on the front. Written on it was Psalm 91:4: “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” Along with the card was a leather bracelet that had a wing on it. The next day when she rounded, I held up my wrist showing her the bracelet. She asked, “Do you like it? A woman in my community makes those bracelets. I had a friend with brain cancer, and I bought two of those bracelets–one to give to my friend and one to hold on to. I knew someday I’d find the right person to give it to.”

On one of our hallway strolls, Chris and I stopped to chat with Mary, a nurse from Kenya. We didn’t know she was a believer until that conversation, and standing there in the hallway, we basically had church. Mary’s words were so poignant and grounded in Scripture. She has lived through many hard things. Her faith in Jesus is unwavering. Her confidence in him and her joy are undeniable, and she called us to that same confidence. She said, “I never have liked the phrase ‘hang in there.’ I say ‘dwell in there,’ because no matter our circumstances, we can always dwell in God’s presence with us.”

Our chemo nurse, Carol, overheard us talking about God with the Shuffles who were visiting. She chimed in and affirmed and encouraged our pursuit of godly wisdom and counsel. She has since told us that she carries us in her heart even when she’s away from work, and she prays for us often.

Now that Chris is on IV nutrition, we have a nutrition doctor. His name is Dr. Olson. I was home the other day when Dr. Olson first came to see Chris, but Chris told me what a wonderful man he was–how he made Chris feel so free and unburdened by the pressure to be eating and drinking, how he assured Chris that he would be taking care of his needs and that Chris would start to get stronger. Chris said, “I wonder if he’s a believer.” The next day when I got to meet Dr. Olson I was awestruck: He wasn’t just kind and gentle; he seemed to be from another realm. He said, “It is my pleasure to take care of Chris. I really mean that.” He paid attention to me, too, asking if I had questions for him. After some technical questions, I said, “Dr. Olson, do you practice a faith? You seem like a man of faith,” to which he replied, “God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are my three heroes.” He went on to tell Chris that God is with him. He will never be alone. God’s promises are real and true. He is faithful. All he needs is a mustard seed of faith, and we will see him do big, big things.

This hospital is an amazing place. So much is going on here, not just in bodies but in minds and hearts. I like to remember the sentinels, guarding the gates. And within, at every juncture, there are more standing guard, ready to remind us, sent to us to tell us: Remember his promises. He is here. He will not leave you.

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  42. Patti Gehringer

    Sarah, you are such a blessing for your husband and children. It is so evident in your writing that are a sentinel for Chris. God has sent others to give you encouragement, support and remind you of his faithfulness. I am praying for you and Chris. Thank you for your beautiful writing and letting us know how to pray for your family. Praying God continues to send his messengers to uplift you and Chris. Patti Gehringer

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  43. Wendy Williams

    Oh, Sarah! I have met you a couple of times a while ago at Charlie and Alison’s. We have come to CTK in the midst of all of this for you and learned about all your family is dealing with. You are so often on my heart and this post brought tears of joy and thanksgiving at God’s kindness and faithfulness to you. It reminds me again of the tenderness of Jesus to Jairius when he tells him, “Don’t be afraid, just believe.” I wonder, how many times did Jairius replay or even Jesus repeat those words as they walked back to his house together? We all need so much to be reminded of his presence and power and love of us. I heard someone say one that they have learned to expect to be surprised by the kindness of God. It seems you have learned this as well and I am so thankful for how he makes his love known to you and Chris. And I am so thankful for the doctor relieving him of the burden of eating right now and that his body can get what it needs to get stronger without that work! Prayers continue for you and your family. Love to you all.

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  44. Erika Fiedler Brown

    This is an amazing trail of the ways God is providing for you and Chris. Every “little” interaction holds much power!! I loved this post!

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  45. Alison Wilson

    Like Ashley mentioned above, I’ve been concerned that Chris wasn’t getting the care from the local hospital, but I do know God is not limited. So glad you are seeing the caring people surrounding you, since you can’t see all the prayers being lifted on your and Chris’s behalf. It is a wonderful reminder that your faith is a testament to others, and God is sending encouragers. You have a multitude of people behind the scenes, lifting your needs up and seeking a miracle. Keep us informed on how to pray and we will continue to lift up prayers on your behalf. Waiting for a miracle.

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  46. Bonnie McMaken

    The Lord goes before and behind you, your defender on every side! What a buoy of encouragement these sentinels are! Thank you, Lord, for the richness of your church. Love you ALL.

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  47. Jeanette Prisk

    What encouraging words! When Joseph was in prison he remained faithful and thankful in spite of his circumstances. All he could do was wait! And then of course there was Moses whose arms were held up by his fellow Israelites when his strength was waining. God is sending you many saints to hold you all up! He is so faithful / may you find peace & strength knowing so many people love you & are rooting for you constantly in prayer🙏

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  48. Sara Baugh

    Isn’t it amazing how God places people in our lives just when we need them?
    Thank you, Sarah, for sharing your poignant stories. Praying for you both and your family.

    Reply
  49. Micah

    Thank you for sharing, Sarah. It is beautiful to see how the Lord is sending you kind and Spirit-inspired messengers to encourage, you, Chris, and your family during this season. We are continually lifting you up to the Father, asking for his mercy.
    Peace in Jesus,
    Micah Thompson

    Reply
  50. Rose Chrsiten

    Dear Sarah and Chris
    Wow! I continue to be blown away by your strength and increasing faith and love of our Heavenly Father, as you both fight this battle of your lives. The messengers our Lord keeps sending you is such a testament of the gifts He gives. You continue to bring us all closer to God. Sarah, we love you and your Chris, we pray for you both, your babies, and family. And as you continue to battle and deal with all the pain, confusion and exhaustion connected with this disease, you continue to share these miraculous signs of our Heavenly Father.
    Bless you and Thank you.

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  51. Lawrence Peterson MD

    My oncology colleagues are in a field of medicine where it is very clear they walk the hospital halls with Christ.

    Reply
  52. Ashley Johnson

    Sarah- There were many times over the past few months that I worried that y’all weren’t in the “right” hospital or that your needs were being neglected. But it is clear from this post that God, of course, has had a plan all along to shower you with his grace and that you are right where you need to be, having Chris’s physical needs met but also both of your spiritual needs during this time. I’m so thankful for all of these encounters and I’m praying that you have many more.

    Reply
  53. Beverly Brasell & Joseph Slane

    Sarah, we continue to pray for you and for Chris. Joseph intentionally remembers you both in prayer as he walks by your mother’s house each morning. We resonated with the “dwell in there” insight. Prayers continue! Mercy abounds!

    Reply
  54. gerald mcdermott

    Sarah and Chris,
    How wonderful to see the way the great Healer and Friend comes to you through His Body, members of His church. We all are bringing you both, plus your four little ones, before the Throne throughout the day, begging for grace and help and healing.
    Shalom.

    Reply
  55. John Wilson

    Thank you, Sarah, for these amazing stories, which all point in the same direction. What an unexpected gift for Chris & you. Much love: we pray for you every day.
    John & Wendy

    Reply
  56. Yvonne Green

    The perspective that the Lord gives us windows to see is such a comfort! Praying fervently for you and Chris to continue to be encountered by the eternal. He is faithful to carry us as we “dwell.”

    Reply
  57. Betsy Rogers

    I praise God for the experiences and people you have encountered. What a blessing to you and Chris! What a reminder to all of us how God provides for us. I am deeply moved by your post and. thank you for sharing. I am continually praying throughout each day for healing for Chris and strength for you and your sweet children.

    Reply
  58. Jen Gamble

    Sarah, reading your words made me tear up at the faithfulness of God over you and your family. It is an example of His faithfulness over us all. I am rejoicing with you over His provision for you in this way and praying that you continue to receive His sustenance in the days ahead.

    Reply
  59. Betsy Kopecky

    I, also, thank you for sharing so beautifully the stories of the Sentinels the Lord has placed before you and around you. I believe He knows, that though we walk by faith, there is a deep comfort in hearing and seeing His care through our brothers and sisters on Earth…He is so very kind!
    It also challenges me to be a Sentinel in the lives of those whose paths I cross….may I have eyes to see.
    Love and prayer to you and Chris.
    Betsy K

    Reply
  60. Nan Brinkerhoff

    Thank you for sharing Sarah! Love seeing the Lord’s sentinels in your lives. His touches of reassurance, comfort and love. Such an encouragement to all of us!

    Reply
  61. Becky Smith

    Thank you for your words that help direct our prayers. Prayers of thanksgiving for people of faith as caregivers and prayer warriors and sentinels around you. I pray God continues to place these people in your path to come along side you and Chris to lift you up, to strengthen as you take this unwanted walk. God be with you.

    Reply
  62. Powers Laurie Rogers

    And YOU!! Your presence by your husbands side in strength, courage and leaning in to the Lord daily when you feel like you just can’t do or feel one more thing…you are a sentinel near your husband. God bless you in ways that you’ve never experienced before. Continuing to pray for you, Chris and your littles.

    Reply
  63. Nancy Fuson Watson

    Hi Sarah and Chris, you don’t know me. I knew your mother/mother-in-law at Taylor University and she has stayed in close contact with my friend from there, Mary Keifer. I have prayed for you and will continue. I’m sure you know the song, Blessed Be the Tie That Binds. It is so true. Our Lord Jesus ties those together who love Him in a way that is miraculous. May God bless you with the knowledge that people who have never met you are praying for you. Sarah, you are an amazing writer. God has given you an incredible talent to see His loving hand in many ways and to be able to express it to us in such beautiful words. May God’s tender love be evident to you each and every day. With loving blessings, Nancy Fuson Watson

    Reply
  64. Annie Parsons

    Sarah, you are a beautiful writer. Thank you for taking us into the hospital where, like you said, things are happening physically but also emotionally and spiritually. Goodness and mercy are following you. Love you so much.

    Reply
  65. Dee

    Yes! “He has not forgotten you” continued prayers and love!
    Would love to send your kiddos a little something. If you are able, text us your address…Chris has my number
    Love, Dee and Scott Crownover

    Reply

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