"You are beautiful, little girl of mine," Wendy Duke whispered over her newborn daughter. It was a still moment amidst the turmoil of birth defects and a life-threatening illness. Grace in the Middle is a memoir recounting one young couple s struggle to hold on to an unraveling faith during the greatest crisis of their lives. Heartbreaking, triumphant, and funny in just the right places, this inspiring story is an authentic reflection on battling and overcoming physical illness and disability, resisting the dark doubts that plague us in the midst of tragedy, and trusting the faithfulness of God through the deep twists and turns of life.
Wow, this was quite the mountain the Dukes had to climb! I can't even fathom how awful it must have been, but no worries, reader -- this story ends on an inspiring high note!
In Grace In The Middle, Wendy Duke starts with recounting the early years of her marriage. Let me just say, the story of how she got her husband's attention the first time they met -- adorable! She then recalls her deep desire for motherhood, and the struggles to carry a child to term. She suffers multiple miscarriages until years later when she becomes pregnant with daughter Savannah Grace. Sadly, the Dukes are told that Savannah, in embryo, has only developed one of her legs. The other does not look like it will develop. The Dukes immediately see the challenges their daughter will face --- I cannot believe the doctor actually suggested possible termination of the pregnancy! -- but were up for taking it on, for the chance to meet the child they so longed for. I laughed at the story of how when Wendy goes through a procedure that requires a needle to enter her pregnant belly, baby Savannah inside grabs the end of the syringe! My mother had similar stories of what she labeled "that spirit of yours." X-D
I got an epidural at 3:00 and thirty minutes later was fully dilated. I'm sure this surprises no one who knows me well, but my doctor explained that because I was fighting the contractions instead of allowing them to serve their purpose and move the baby, I had prolonged my own labor. That says more about my spiritual tendencies than I care to admit.
~Wendy Duke on awaiting the arrival of Savannah Grace
Savannah comes into the world, and if missing a limb weren't challenging enough (for anyone, let alone an infant!), the Dukes get further news that Savannah has cancer. Just ten days old, she begins chemotherapy. Ten days old! The heartbreak I felt to read that.I On top of that, it's discovered that Savannah has a blocked valve in her stomach, causing her to repeatedly projectile vomit until the stomach is surgically repaired. Given what Wendy says about how important the blood donations were to keeping her little one alive, it made me so proud to be a blood and organ donor myself.
Wendy goes through a crisis of faith, angry at God for feeling like she was denied motherhood for so long, only to be given a child that has to suffer so much after birth. She didn't understand all this "all part of God's plan" everyone kept going on about. Over time, what she starts to see is her community coming together, praying, offering strength in numbers, shoulders to cry on, opportunities to laugh when she is just about broken to the core. Wendy also sees just what a remarkable spirit her daughter has -- nothing seems to be all that much of a setback to Savannah, only a minor hiccup to bigger and better things.Through these moments, Wendy Duke learns lessons of gratitude, strength, humility, and the patience to have faith that answers will come in their right time.
Life is not easy for an amputee. But it's not easy for anyone else either. We all have a different limp. We all have to overcome our missing limbs. Maybe a father or mother was absent in your life. Maybe there is an empty space where you thought a mate would be by now, or a big gaping hole a divorce or death left behind. Maybe it's courage or confidence or conviction or children or compassion you're lacking. Limited education, financial struggles, depression, loneliness, abuse, disapproval, rejection: all these things make us feel less than whole, no matter what image we may present to the world. But look around. Really look, and listen, to the people you encounter. We all feel that way. Everyone's got a gap, a hole, a hollow where doubt and fear and confusion and anger and frustration settle in and wreak their havoc. Everybody you meet is fighting a battle, even the ones who seem to have it all together. It is the one thing we all have in common: no one ever feels like enough. There's always something missing. Those empty spots remind me to keep grace in the middle of it all. Because no one has it all together. No one.
While it was painful to read of such pain and hardships being placed upon a child virtually from her first breath, I admired Savannah's spirit and perseverance. I enjoyed Savannah's story in her own words, which makes up the very last chapter of this memoir. I was also impressed at Wendy's honesty about seeing now that she needed to get out of her own head to see what a gift her and her husband had been given. Their story of renewed faith was an enjoyable and inspiring read!
FTC Disclaimer: Ambassador International kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.