We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.

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I come home with blood on my shirt. A single speck, the size of the end of a pin, a smear the shape of a tiny moon. I throw the shirt in the washer but can’t bring myself to push the start button. Instead I stare at the stains, mystified and overcome.

I recall being at the bedside of my daughter, her face contorted with pain. Her left leg is in the crook of my right elbow. Her husband is on her other side, same position, like a mirror image. A doctor is between us and she calls out, “Push!” My daughter pulls on the end of a white knotted sheet, the other end held by her friend who is also a dooula.

It is a merciless tug-of-war, Lovelle’s face flushed with agony and the wild strength of a lioness. We count through the contraction. She leans back again, her face on the pillow, hair splayed all around her like a mane. She has never looked more beautiful to me.

In the pause I think of words sent to me just last weekend, entirely out of the blue, by someone who knew my grandpa. She tells me how much he loved me, how proud he was of me and she ends her note with this: “All of this to say, if you ever get discouraged, writer’s block, etc. just know you’re being cheered on! You’re being cheered on by a great cloud of witnesses that includes your grandparents. So on behalf of Brother Hollie (my grandfather) keep running the race. You’re making a difference.”

She is quoting Hebrews 12:1, “Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us….Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us.” She doesn’t know this is my life passage, the place I return to again and again when it feels like I can’t take another step, that she has spoken exactly what I needed the weekend before I am to become a grandparent myself.

My thoughts are broken by the doctor’s voice, “Push!” My daughter strains and we shout. I tell her over and over again, “You can do this! You are doing this. You are strong. You are brave.” We are the great cloud of witnesses in this moment. Then the doctor is holding a baby and we are whooping and weeping. My granddaughter, Eula Ellen, is here. I am in awe. I am in love. I am witness to a miracle.

I lean over my daughter, brush the matted hair back from her forehead. The sweat of her labor and salt of my tears run together like a tiny river onto the white sheet. The scenes of our story flash before me: Almost a decade of infertility for me, almost two decades of hardship for her, almost four years since God brought us together as mother and daughter and exactly three years to the day since we’ve officially become a family.

I may have never experienced physically giving birth but there is something in the laboring I understand in my bones. The pushing through the pain and tears and exhaustion and the temptation to give up hope. Perhaps that’s why I’m reluctant to wash away the stains on my shirt. They feel like holy reminders, like badges of honor.

I hold my granddaughter for the first time the next day. I put my cheek against hers, breathe in her skin, whisper to her that she is loved and strong and she is going to grow up to be a fiercehearted woman.

The great cloud of witnesses watches.

I can almost hear the cheers.


Holley Gerth

P.S. Thank you to each of you for following along, over the past several years, with this miracle-story. And a special thanks to those who shared on Instagram and Facebook last week that you were praying for Ellie’s delivery. We are overjoyed that she is here!

Ellie is here! :)

About Holley

About Holley

Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author and Life Coach

I like humans, words, and good coffee. And I’d love to help you beat what’s holding you back, become all you’re created to be, and kick butt for the greater good.

Cheering you on,


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