erin ahnfeldt

Listening to Life

The day after our daughter Hope was born, I was afraid. The nurses wheeled her into the hospital room, and the two of us looked at each other in the morning light. Her big brown eyes looked up at my bed-head and five-o’clock shadow, and I realized, she would see my mess. There would be no hiding my insecurities and scars. Anxiety moved through me like electricity, and I wondered, With all that mess, how could my wife and I ever do a good job raising her? God had given us this precious little girl, and I was sure we would blow it. My heart shook inside me, but then just behind that hospital basinet, a window perfectly framed Pikes Peak.

I looked up at that mountain, freshly frosted with white snow, and out of nowhere, this verse settled softly on my heart:

I lift my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?

My help comes from the LORD (Psalm 121:1-2).

The mountain, the verse, the timing—that was no coincidence. God was with me in that hospital room whispering His comfort. Maybe we couldn’t do it, but He could, and He would be our help through all the late-night feedings, dirty diapers, driving lessons and teenage drama.

Seventeen years later, I still get afraid. There are three teenagers living under my roof now, and they definitely see my mess. My now balding head, my complaining about holiday decorating, my weak attempts at avoiding another social event—they see it all.

And they struggle too. In fact, the older they get, the bigger the issues. Rather than broken toys, they get broken hearts. There’s drama in friend circles, not making the team, and dating. Navigating our kids through all of that can feel overwhelming. But like I say with our plants and our pet lizard, at least they’re still alive. That’s one step in the right direction. And they’re patient with us. . . mostly. They even say “please” and “thank you” and brush their teeth at night. They really are incredible kids despite our mess.

Now, Hope is about to go to college. We’ve been making the most of this last year with her at home, so just a little while ago, we went to a concert as a family.

The band was For King and Country, and the place was packed, but after a few songs, I honestly wasn’t feeling it. While our teenagers were bouncing to the beat, screaming to the music, I just wanted to sit down. The teacher in me was hoping the band wouldn’t forget it was a school night. Am I too old for this? I wondered. Or maybe it was indigestion. Either way, I wasn’t feeling the vibe.

Eventually, the band moved to a smaller stage closer to us. We were probably twenty feet away. Everyone in our section pulled out phones to record the moment, and one of the lead singers started talking about going through difficult times. The crowd went silent. He told us that during those hard times, we need help finding our way.

“This song” he said, “has helped me do that.”

When he finished talking, the band started playing one of their biggest songs. The first chords were met with cheers, and everyone started singing along.

We were singing “Shoulders”, and suddenly every line in that song mattered to me. No more indigestion. No more thinking about school the next morning. Our whole family was singing, and then came the chorus. “My help comes from you”, they sang. “You’re right here pulling me through.” I watched Hope. She stood there in front of me, her silhouette framed by the stage lights and her hands lifted up. She wasn’t in the World Arena anymore. She was standing before the throne of Heaven, singing to her Help with a capital “H”.

Time froze, and then suddenly, I realized what we were singing. It was Psalm 121. The song was based on the verse God had whispered to my heart seventeen years earlier. My daughter was worshipping the God who was with us in that hospital room.

The song continued; people stood around me lost in worship. The music, the singing, the lights all moved the moment forward, but something else was moving—the Holy Spirit. The One who whispered to my heart in that hospital room was whispering again in the middle of the crowd. Like a giddy child with a sandcastle, He couldn’t wait for me to see what He had done; that little brown-eyed baby had grown into a beautiful young woman. He had done what He said He would do.

I stared at Hope worshiping Him and thought about the mountain in the window. God was my help. In fact, He was more than that; He was the Author of Hope’s story and of mine, and He had written this moment into our story to bring it all together.

“You did it, Lord” I said as I stood staring in wonder. The music continued, but I couldn’t sing anymore. The tears came, and the silhouette of my daughter, my wife rubbing her back and the stage lights all blended together into a beautiful watery mess.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found myself in the middle of things. Marriage, children, a career, my dreams—these are all pieces of my story that have beginnings, but their endings are a little unclear. I have no idea how that little baby in the hospital grew up so fast, and I don’t know her future. It all moves by so quickly, and it’s easy to feel out of control, but the good news is we have help. The Maker of mountains wants us to see, more than anything, that when He puts a mountain in front of us, He’ll help us climb it.

He finishes what He starts, and if we take even just a moment to notice, we’ll see that those daunting mountains, in the end, will have a kind of beauty we never thought we’d see. They’ll look much more like sandcastles carved by the hand of the One who’s been down in the dirt, reaching into our mess, helping us all along.