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Joyce Meyer says: “don’t’ waste your pain.” God will use it if you let him. Thus my mess became my ministry, and my desire is to use my pain to help others who are also hurting.

My husband David and I were married in 1992 and we couldn’t wait to be parents. Something interesting happened to us even before we got married...the Lord visited us in a unique way, a way that later proved to be a life saver for me. I was working at Perkins restaurant at the time and a gentleman named Mr. Fisher came in late one night and had a word for us. He saw David first and told him that he lives in Germantown and hardly ever comes out to Collierville. But when he saw David he knew why he was there. He then asked David if he knew me...and he replied yes...he said the Lord wanted me to tell you that you can marry her. What a shock!! No one knew but a few days before David and I were praying about getting marry. Just wanting to make sure that it was the Lord’s will for us and in that prayer David asked that the Lord send someone by that we didn’t know to confirm the answer! Crazy right? I couldn’t’ believe what I was hearing as he prayed this but God was all over it! No mistaken that answer!! 

As we continued to visit with Mr. Fisher he looked at me and asked if I had recently lost a family member. I told him “no”...He asked again... “A baby boy”. I said again “no...” Then he wanted me to know...that the Lord said “everything is going to be okay...I see heavy, dark clouds around you and it’s about a baby boy. But trust in the Lord because one day there will be clouds of joy!” After this conversation we really didn’t know what to wasn’t until 10 years later that I knew!

In 1995 we found out that we were expecting and very excited...but it was only short lived when i miscarried at about 6 weeks along. Thus started a cycle of many more babies and many more miscarriages.

We have been blessed over the next few years...we were senior pastors of the church we grew up in and we had custody of our niece and nephew. What a blessing they have been to raise as our own. As they both kept me busy we were still eager to have a baby of our own.

September 2, 2001 we found out that we were pregnant again and everything was going well. We had an ultrasound and the baby was thriving! I was loving being pregnant...the best thing that I had ever experienced. I was sick but it was worth it all! We had waited a long time for this. The ultrasound said we were having a girl!

Then on December 12th I felt like something was wrong. This is another long story but my water had broken and I was only 19 weeks along. They stopped my labor and put me on immediate bed rest. Your amniotic fluid replenishes itself every 24 hours so we were praying for a miracle. Our lives suddenly changed. My Mom and step Mom took care of everything for me (house, kids and such). Our church ladies took care of our meals every night! Wow...what a blessing that was!

A month later at 24 weeks I was put into the hospital to stay until the baby comes so they could watch me closely. My doctor had already stopped labor twice and finally told me that if I start having contractions again we just need to let the baby come. So we were getting ready...started steroids to help her lungs develop and I had an ultra sound every day to make sure she was doing the best she could be given the situation. The goal was to make it to 30 weeks.

About 3 weeks later i woke up early one morning on February 5th and felt a little different. Finally a nurse came and checked on me and I was having contractions and knew that today would be the day. We called our parents and soon our room and the waiting room was full of friends and family who supported us. I was only 27 weeks along. I was very nervous and excited because I was confident that everything was going to be okay. 

The time had come to push and my room was full of about 20 doctors. They explained to me that I wouldn’t be able to hold her because they would have to take her to the NICU but I would be able to see her before she left. David and my sister Toni was with me. Everything happened so fast...i pushed twice and there she was! I remember asking if she is still a nurse said “yes” and another said “uuhhh no, it’s a Boy!!!”. I was shocked and couldn’t believe after all that time that our baby was a boy! That was a nice surprise!

John David Cross born at 4:50 PM weighing in at 2 lbs and 2 oz.

As promised, they let me see him for a few seconds and then they took him off to NICU. I could hear cheers from the waiting room when the nurse told everyone that we had a boy! 

I got settled in my room and the nurses brought pictures of John David. He was doing well and they said that the first 24 hours are critical and there will probably be ups and downs. But we could go see him. I was so overwhelmed with joy that I couldn’t stop crying! He was beautiful! My baby was finally here! He was hooked up to all these machines but he was doing good. We would hold his little finger and he would squeeze it and he would open his little eyes when he heard our voice. He was precious and just perfect!

I wasn’t worried about him...I had waited so long to have him I knew God was going to take care of our son. We settled in for the night, everyone had gone home and then around 11Pm we got a call from NICU and the nurses said we needed to come. We called our parents and they were making their way back to the hospital. 

John David wasn’t holding his oxygen levels and they asked me if I wanted to hold him. I knew they wouldn’t let me hold him unless he wasn’t going to make world was turned upside down! He just got here and we are saying goodbye!

Our parents made it and were allowed to be with us. I will never forget the heartache that I sensed from each of them. They were losing their grandson.

I held him, we told him how much we loved him, we prayed for him. 3 hours and 42 minutes later he fell asleep in my arms and went to be with Jesus. (Feb. 6th @ 2:42 AM)

“I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, 
O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8

We had his funeral on February 9th. I completely poured myself into making his homecoming celebration special. This would be the one and only and I wanted it to be perfect! Over 300 people attended and the service was beautiful. Our church staff pastors did a wonderful job, my friend Jill sang a beautiful song ‘Sleep With the Angels” and a dear friend, Pastor Huie delivered the message. 

We buried him in the cemetery down the road from where i grew up. As a child I played in that cemetery. Never thought one day I would have a son buried there. 

After saying goodbye hard times came. I was having a hard time praying...All i could say was ‘Jesus!” David assured me that that was enough...He knows my heart. This started a new season in my that i struggled with for years.

Then one day i remember it so clearly...David and i were riding in the car and I was having a terrible day! And the Lord brought back to David’s memory the conversation we had with Mr. Fisher. A conversation that was 10 years old! “ I was saddened over a little boy but that one day I would have my joy restored!” How awesome is our God! That he cared enough about me and my son John David to encourage me 10 years before his existence! He knew that I would need that word to touch my heart that day! I was overwhelmed with the dark clouds and couldn’t get a hold of my life.

“Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” 
Psalm 30:5

I struggled with depression and finally sought out help after about a year. I was able to get a grip in life again, deal with my sadness and work on my relationship with the Lord. 

‘The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

So I was moving ahead. I missed John David so much my heart ached for years. Not a day would go by that I didn’t think of him, look at his pictures or visit “his place”. It was a hurt that is like no bury a child.

“I lift my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord the maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip; he who watches over you will not slumber...
...the Lord watches over you – the Lord is your shade at your right hand: the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm – he will watch over your life. The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forever.
Psalm 121

The Lord is faithful, he helped me make it those days i felt like i couldn’t get out of the bed. I had a church that needed a pastor’s wife, kids at home that needed their aunt and a husband that needed his wife. Finally i found that place of “peace that passes all understanding.” I can’t explain to you how I got there but the Lord did it for me. I trust His heart!

New beginnings...two years have past and we were thinking of adoption. A friend of mine, Jackie Ashpole, was praying over me and god said, “the seed is in you!” So I knew at that moment that God was saying “Hold will be able to have one yourself!”. He has a different plan.

“Wait for the Lord: be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”
Psalm 27:14

Even at this point I had a few more miscarriages...but my relationship with the Lord was strong and I trusted His Heart. Not that I wasn’t sad or disappointed or even frustrated...because I was...I just choose to continue to have faith.

Now it’s 2006 and the Lord sent Alette Shappley to me. Her neighbor was a fertility specialist and she shared my story with him. He said “tell her to come see me...I’ll help her have a baby.”

So we meet with Dr. Ke, and found out that I have Lupus anti-coagulant. When I become pregnant my blood would clot at inappropriate times thus cause a miscarriage. And there was help for this condition.

I had no problems getting pregnant so the plan was to try next month. I got pregnant but also lost that baby. So now we would try again....this time around we succeeded! I started two heparin shots a day and was on other supported meds to help hold the pregnancy. 

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.” Psalm 40:1

February 23rd I went into labor 6 weeks early but delivered a baby boy, Christopher David Cross on the 24th at 7:50 AM by C-Section (he was breached) He weighed in at 4lbs and 9 oz. He spent 10 days in the NICU but was perfect!

That day when I held him a world of hurt was healed! 

“Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy”. Psalms 126:5-6

On Christopher David’s 1st birthday we announced that were expecting again! 

Jonah David Cross arrived on September 20th by C-Section full term and a whopping 6lbs and 15 oz!

The Lord has always been faithful to me...through it all! My faithful Savior and Friend!

Eight years after John David changed my life forever “CrossHeart” Ministries was launched.
After 25 years of clockwork menstrual cycles, 12 years of marriage, 10 years of conception attempts, 4 years of complete acceptance of our infertility, 1 mini-menstrual cycle, 1 totally, positively, absolutely missed cycle and 1 vomit-fest my husband and I took 2 home pregnancy tests that came out positive! We couldn’t speak – we could only look at each other and laugh. We have never been more shocked about anything in our entire lives. We walked around in a stunned, hopeful yet reserved stupor for the 4 days between the home tests and the ultrasound that showed a very active, highly-likely-male baby. We were positively, absolutely, 11½ weeks pregnant! There was some concern over my age – I was 39, only 6 months away from turning 40 and I was on some medication that was on the questionable list for causing birth defects, but we just couldn’t be worried, we were too excited.

The following weekend was the July 4th holiday, and we had plans to join Jimmy Ray’s family for dinner on Saturday night. We have had a dog for 5 years, and her name is Foxy – she WAS our baby. I bought a baby bib and puffy-painted the words “I am going to be a big sister…” on it. Then I glued a little card that had a stork on it to the bib, and inside I wrote “and not to a puppy!”  We tied the bib to Foxy, sent her into the house before us and waited there with the door cracked so we could hear. Jimmy Ray was so nervous. We heard people asking what was on her neck, and then we heard his sister read the card. For a moment, complete silence…then a really loud “What?!?!?!” We walked in right then and everyone was shocked and excited and freaked.

The following day, Sunday, we drove the hour to Jackson, TN to see my dad and step-mom. We met them at Cracker Barrel – they had no idea why! I had been having stomach issues (before I was actually pregnant). I sat directly across from my daddy. After we ordered, I took his hand and I said “Daddy, they think they’ve figured out what is wrong with my stomach.” He looked worried and said “What is it?” I said “There’s a baby in there!”   He was totally still for a few seconds and then he teared up and said “Are you kidding me?”.

These were two of the best moments of our lives!

The next few days were a whirlwind of announcements, tears from those who had been through our infertility struggle, baby gifts, and re-adjusting our lives to the idea of being a “family” instead of a “couple”. Then things settled down and we just enjoyed reading our weekly baby-stage updates, thinking about what we were going to do to the “baby’s” room, trying out names (we were so sure it was a boy, we really didn’t talk much about girl names), and just dreaming about the things we would do when he was born. We even went and traded in our much beloved Ford F-150 Super Crew truck for an SUV. We wanted to save money on gas and have a vehicle that would make it easier to get a car seat in and out. We loved that truck. But we wanted to be mature and responsible parents, and did what we thought would be best for the baby!

I went for my 4-month check-up on July 21, and got to see the baby moving around. He was so active and he didn’t like the ultrasound pushing on him, and I got to hear his LOUD and healthy heartbeat! Jimmy Ray wasn’t able to go this time, but I did get to take him more pictures.

Our 12th anniversary was coming up on August 10, so we went on a “12th-anniversary-last-chance-for-romance-get-away”. While on our trip, he bought me a beautiful figurine of a man and woman with their hands resting on her pregnant belly. I never thought we would be able to have one of those for ourselves.

The following week, Jimmy Ray was able go with me to my 5-month check-up. I was 19 weeks into my pregnancy. We first went into the “financial” office and learned the amounts the insurance would pay and what our part would be, arranged our labor and delivery payments and signed the circumcision release form. 
As the doctor prepared to listen to the heartbeat, she asked if we wanted to have the ultrasound to confirm the sex of the baby. September is a busy month on the farm, and afraid that Jimmy Ray might not be able to come then we agreed it should be now. She couldn’t hear the heartbeat but told us that it is sometimes hard to hear over the mother’s heartbeat. I told her how every time we had an appointment, I spent the previous evening wondering if there was no baby, if there had been a mistake and I wasn’t really pregnant. I think we had just finally started believing it was actually going to happen. We then went to have our ultrasound.

I knew immediately that something was wrong. First of all, there were 2 nurses instead of the usual 1. When the 1st nurse put the wand on my stomach, there was nothing moving. The 2nd nurse came over and looked and did some adjustments and then left the room. Jimmy Ray says this is when he knew something was wrong. When the 2nd nurse came back in, I realized that there was no sound – the little blips that showed up on the screen last time indicating the baby’s heartbeat were now just straight lines.

By now, I had started to tear up and when the nurse noticed, she looked at me and smiled sadly and shook her head back and forth.

I think I quit breathing for just a second. Then I heard the strangest sound as my husband jumped up and wrapped his arms around me. I realized it was me wailing. Our doctor came in and held our hands and told us it was a confirmed “demise”.

I don’t remember everything she said – just snatches. She reassured us that it was nothing we had done and nothing we could have done would have prevented it. She told us that now that we had gotten pregnant once, we could more than likely get pregnant again. I remember shaking my head no when she said that. She told us that it appeared that he had been gone for about 3 weeks – he had lived only a week past my last check-up. We were 19 weeks, and he had only made it to 16. She said we would need to come back on Friday or Monday to discuss our options; I blubbered that it would probably be Monday. She mentioned allowing nature to take its course, or inducing labor. I heard those words, but I didn’t realize until later exactly what that meant until later.

I remember little things after that. I remember hearing Jimmy Ray sob once while he was driving us home. I remember not being able to say “dead” when I called my sister to tell her – I just kept saying “he isn’t there”. I remember waiting in the car while Jimmy Ray went in to tell his mom and then him back in the truck sobbing. I remember telling him that if all I ever had was him, it was more than most people had in a life time.

When we woke up Friday morning, we decided to go through labor and delivery, and to do so immediately. They were able to schedule us for admission on Friday night at 9:00pm. I knew I was going to go through labor and delivery. I knew we were checking in through the Labor and Delivery department. But it never hit me until we actually walked down the hall that I was going to be in the same wing, in a room next door to other people having full term, healthy, breathing babies.

My sister drove in from Nashville and got to the hospital at 11:00pm. They gave me the first dose of Pitocin 10:00pm. I started having contractions around 8:00am, went into labor around 11:15am, and gave birth to a tiny pink baby boy at 11:30am on August 23, 2008. I went in for the D&C at 1:00pm and woke up at 5:00pm and left the hospital at 6:00pm.

While I waited with empty arms in the wheel chair at the door, my husband wandered around the parking lot looking for our SUV. He had only driven it about 3 times, and couldn’t find it because he couldn’t remember what it looked like. It took him 15 minutes.

We buried our only son, John Preston Sloan on Tuesday, August 26 at 11:00am in the family cemetery in a tiny little coffin about the size of an Igloo cooler. My Uncle Leon, Music Minister at the church in which I grew up, performed the ceremony. He sang a song that my grandfather (also a music minister as well as a song writer for the church) had written, “Be with Me Lord”.

On October 13, almost 2 months after the birth of John Preston, my husband was driving us back from picking out a head stone, and he blacked out and the car veered off the road into a 40 ft ravine. Even while we were crashing down, I knew that he was not conscious. The doctors said that he suffered from Syncope Grief Reaction – sort of like Delayed Stress Syndrome.

Every month seemed to have some sort of anniversary or event that we had to face and work through. In September we faced the one month anniversary, in October we ordered the tombstone and had the wreck, in November we had to go proof the tombstone, in December we had to face my birthday, Christmas and the tombstone came, and finally in January we faced the fact that we would not be bringing home our baby on his due date of January 20.

Although I lost my mom to cancer when I was 15, and Jimmy Ray lost his dad in a car wreck in 2004, we have been so blessed in our lives. We both come from very awesome, very supportive, very faithful families. We have both always been surrounded by caring and loyal friends. We have never been seriously ill. We are not rich, but we have enough money to do the things we want to do and to help others. We own a house free and clear for which we have never had to pay. Most importantly Jimmy Ray and I truly love one another and have a marriage that is more wonderful than I would have ever dreamed was possible.

When we first found out we were pregnant, I told Jimmy Ray that I was a little sad that our baby wouldn’t know my mom or his dad in this lifetime. After we lost him, Jimmy Ray reminded me that they had gotten to meet John Preston first, and that they would take care of him until we got to Heaven. I don’t know what the future holds and I don’t guess we ever will.   We can only live in the present and be thankful for every day and every minute we have. I know that some day, we will see him again.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
Romans 5:3-5

During the summer of 2009, Robin Cross began working for Right Management with me.  She supported me, listened to me, gave me a care package and helped me make it through the roughest summer of my life.  In March of 2010, Robin posted her desire to start CrossHeart Ministries on Facebook.  I responded immediately and here we are!

Feeling at peace with the idea of becoming parents, we quit using birth control and within two months learned we were expecting. We were surprised but yet so very thankful that the Lord would allow us to conceive so easily.  We were due July 16, 2007 and found out at 22 weeks it was a little boy. We were thrilled!!

The pregnancy was progressing beautifully and our doctor gave us the “ok” to take one last big trip before the baby would arrive (the “babymoon” as some call it). We have a friend who works in the hospitality industry and she graciously made us a reservation at a fabulous five star, all-inclusive beach resort in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. We requested our time off from work, booked plane tickets and were so excited for one last couples-only getaway!

Being 26 weeks pregnant, I felt great! Nausea was a thing of the past, my energy had returned and I wasn’t very big yet. We left for Cabo on Friday, April 6, 2007. Our first few days at the resort were amazing! We relaxed poolside and on the peach, took walks, played some tennis, took advantage of the all-inclusive restaurants, and attended nightly events on the resort.

However, on Sunday I woke up feeling a little different. But so did my husband. We attributed the stomach pains and many trips to the restroom to something we must’ve eaten the night before. Being pregnant, I didn’t want to take any chances. We phoned back to the states to talk to my OBGYN’s nurse and also Jeremy’s brother who is a doctor. Both agreed that the symptoms sounded like an intestinal bug that would probably clear up with lots of water, rest and time. So we kept an eye on things, and eventually my husband felt totally fine…I however, did not. My pains got slightly worse throughout the day Sunday and Monday. On Monday afternoon we went in to see the doctor who works full time at the resort.  After asking about my symptoms, listening to baby’s heartbeat and feeling movement, he also agreed it was probably a little intestinal virus.

That evening I was actually feeling somewhat OK so we got dressed up and went to dinner. However, the pain returned in full force somewhere between the salad and the main course. I literally remember doubling over in pain and having to run back to the room. I’m not sure why, at this point, neither one of us thought I should go to the hospital but I guess it was because we had just come from the doctor’s office and he seemed to think this would pass soon.

I unknowingly labored in our hotel room all through the night. Somewhere around 3 a.m. Tuesday, I woke up Jeremy and told him I couldn’t deal with the pain anymore and we needed to do something. Within an hour, the on-call physician was at our door. She said I probably had a urinary tract infection and could either wait until the morning when the local clinic opened or I could chose to be taken by ambulance to another hospital right away. Thankfully, we chose to request the ambulance.

The paramedics couldn’t have arrived any sooner. By the time they put me on the stretcher to wheel me out, I could barely bend or move because of the lower abdominal pain. They took us to some far away clinic because the local one was closed. My husband, who thankfully speaks fluent Spanish and had been interpreting this whole time, finally convinced the general practitioner doc to examine my cervix. Apparently whenever she did, her face lost all color and she looked extremely concerned. She said in Spanish that this baby is coming, and it’s coming now.  But this little remote clinic did not have the facilities to accommodate childbirth, so back into the ambulance for another bumpy painful ride to a hospital. Literally, as the ambulance pulled up to the hospital entrance my water broke. They rushed me in and I was put on a cold metal table with stirrups with instructions to NOT push. Nobody even thought about anesthesia and my husband was instructed to wait outside the labor/delivery room. In between my own cries of pain, I remember hearing his fervent prayers to the Lord that the baby and I would be OK.

After what seemed like forever they finally told me I could push and within a few seconds our precious little boy, Andrew Nicholas, was delivered stillborn at 6:26 a.m. Tuesday, April 10. He weighed almost 2 pounds. I regret that I did not hold him and there was no encouragement to do so. I took one brief look at him and turned my head as if wanting to forget a bad dream. Before I knew it, they wrapped up our son and took him to my husband in the hallway who held him and sobbed like I’ve never heard any man sob in my entire life. Again, I was in total shock and had yet to shed a tear.

Throughout the remainder of the day I sat in shock in a recovery bed.  Jeremy was out and about most of the day arranging things with the U.S. Embassy and doing paperwork which had to get done in order to make Andrew a dual citizen so we could transport his body back to the States. During that day in recovery we received several phone calls from wonderful friends and family back home. My husband’s brother who works as a diplomat for the State Department flew immediately to us and helped arrange things.

I was released from the hospital that same night and we were able to get on our regularly scheduled flight on Wednesday afternoon. I remember being on the plane listening to songs on my iPod and talking to the Lord when the old hymn “It is Well with My Soul” played softly through the headphones. My heart and emotions melted and I finally cried. It was like the shock had been replaced with utter despair and grief, yet my soul was truly learning to trust in the Lord like never before. We arrived home with both sets of parents there to meet us at the airport. Our firstborn son was buried on April 14, 2007 in Babyland at Memorial Park Cemetery in Memphis. My father, a minister, conducted a small family memorial and graveside service.

Our church family reached out over the next several days and weeks in a tremendous way.  Through the support of them and the strong arm of God holding us up, we were able to slowly but surely get back to our “life” which would never again be the same. The Lord took us to a new level of compassion for others and allowed us to look at the gift of life in a whole new light. Just five days after we lost Andrew, another couple in our church lost a full term baby boy due to placental abruption. If we had not walked in their shoes to some degree, I don’t think we would’ve been able to meet them at their point of need and pain. Even in those early days following our loss, we knew that we wanted to be used by God to minister to other couples who lose babies.

I knew that for me, having a full-term healthy baby would be a big part of the healing process.  Just under two months after we lost Andrew I became pregnant again and we were thrilled. At 29 weeks I experienced some preterm labor and was put on bed rest for the remainder of the pregnancy. This was a test of faith, but I knew in my heart God was going to give us this baby boy (yes, another boy and we couldn’t have been happier about that). At 36 ½ weeks I had an ultrasound which indicated our little one might be in trouble, so they sent me to the hospital right away for a c-section since he was breech. While others were nervous, the Lord gave me a supernatural peace at that moment and I knew that everything was going to be OK. Grant Andrew was delivered that afternoon, January 31, 2008,weighing exactly 5 lbs. Doctor said the cord had been wrapped around his neck 4 times and twice around his leg. They kept him in the NICU for a week but he is now a healthy, adorable little boy who loves life!

Just after Grant’s 1st birthday we learned I was pregnant again, this time with a girl. The pregnancy went well but at 35 weeks we learned she had a vein in her umbilical cord that was dilated and could be fetal if it burst. We were sent immediately to the specialist who said we’d be monitored closely because it was definitely a problem. We left that day praying for a miracle, and I’m happy to say that the Lord answered our prayer. The next time we went in the vein had shrunk and the third time we saw the doctor it was completely back to normal size! The specialist told us this rarely happens. Thank you Jesus!  Adelyn Elizabeth was born October 22, 2009 weighing 5 lbs. 7 oz and was the picture of health. What a blessing she is to our family now.

Three pregnancies, three stories of God’s faithfulness in good times and bad.