Little Miracles, Part 1

We see them everywhere. Every day. But so many times we don’t realize it.

We keep looking for our own miracles. And most of the time we don’t notice them.

Why? Because we expect miracles to be big. Really big events that stop us in our tracks. That cause us to say “WOW”! And “I never expected THAT!” Or “That was truly a miracle because it just couldn’t have happened otherwise.”

But consider all the little things that we experience on a daily basis that just seem to happen naturally, and we never stop to think about all the parts that had to come together to make that one thing happen.

They can be in the form of unexpected encounters. Meeting someone who told you something that resonated deep within you, an answer to something that you’d been searching for, and didn’t even realize it.

Or maybe you were the one who made a comment to someone strictly by chance, and that comment was something they really needed to hear at just that time.

How about the time you were cleaning out a drawer or a closet, perhaps in a loved one’s home, or even a box you’d packed up long ago, and discovered something so precious to you that you sat down and cried over it. Maybe a letter or a journal you’d never seen before, telling you something you’d always wondered about, and never knew; or something you’d long forgotten but really needed to be reminded of.

These are not necessarily what we traditionally think of as miracles, but they are that, nonetheless. 

We associate the Christmas season with miracles, because Christmas began with the miracle of the birth in the stable. But miracles happen daily and all around us. We just tend to notice them more because Christmas is such a special and almost magical time of year.

This is the first of several writings on this subject for this holiday season. How many there will be I cannot say, because I never know what I’m actually going to write until I start writing. Yes, I have ideas, but many times those ideas take me in directions I didn’t expect.

Another form of miracle, perhaps?

More to come. Keep watching.

The Wonder of Pregnancy

Our daughter is currently less than two weeks away from delivering her first child. It’s certainly been a long nine months for her. Not just because of the anticipation of having her first child, but also because her pregnancy has not been easy.

We see so many pictures in magazines and on TV featuring pregnant women who continue to work full time up to their due date, exercise daily, and do everything they used to do before getting pregnant, with seemingly no problems. For our daughter, this has not been the case. She has been sick the entire time; she’s been dehydrated and even hospitalized twice; there are very few foods she can eat without being nauseous; and by the seventh month, she was already having problems walking because of the excessive pain in her back and her hips.

And she’s only 27.

Pregnancy is not as easy for every woman as we’re led to believe. But she has gone though it, and will again, because she knows how much of an honor it is to bring a new life into the world. Pregnancy is indeed a miracle.

She’s heard all of my stories about my struggles with infertility and then with secondary infertility. She knows that as soon as a baby is conceived it is a human life. She also knows that not everyone is as lucky as she was to be able to easily conceive, even though the actual pregnancy itself has been so difficult. But knowing that doesn’t keep her from being miserable.

As her mother, I can’t help but worry about her. I’ve worried when she’s been sick all day. I’ve worried when she’s been dehydrated and going to the hospital. I’ve worried, yes, that something could happen to the baby. Even though I know in my heart, and in my head, that this little one is going to be just fine.

Mothers always worry about their children, no matter what age they are. It’s just what we do. And so will our daughter.

But two days ago, I discovered feelings that I didn’t even know I had. The actual realization that my daughter, the one I carried inside my own body, is carrying her own daughter inside of her. Yes, I knew that. But suddenly seeing her in a bathing suit for the first time this year, her swollen belly holding my granddaughter, I was suddenly struck with a new sense of both wonder and awe. I KNEW she was carrying a new life inside of her. My granddaughter was right in front of me…before my very eyes. Just hidden by her mother’s body.

The wonder of pregnancy is incredible when you stop to think about it. It is truly a miracle. From the moment of conception a mother is carrying another life; a life she alone is totally responsible for.

My daughter has been carrying a life that has been growing slowly inside of her for almost 240 days. We have actually seen her baby inside of her several times through the wonder of ultrasound technology. She has nourished that life on a daily basis; as she eats and drinks, so does her baby. She feels her baby move and kick, poking into her all the time now, because there’s not much room inside of my daughter for her daughter to grow any more.

My daughter’s daughter has grown and developed from just a few tiny cells into a multi-celled complex being that is her child. That is my grandchild. And yes, she was a human life from the time she was conceived.

May we never lose the idea of the wonder and the miracle that is involved in carrying a child. Because it is truly a gift from the Lord.

Just like our daughter. And our granddaughter. Both are our gifts from the Lord.

A Lesson of Faith

Hebrews 11:1 “Faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.”

She was diagnosed in 2013 with systemic scleroderma, an autoimmune disease which involves the skin, gastrointestinal tract (stomach and bowels), lungs, kidneys, heart, and other internal organs. It can also affect blood vessels, muscles, and joints. The tissues of the involved organs become hard and fibrous, causing them to function less efficiently. The term “systemic sclerosis” indicates that sclerosis (hardening) may occur in the internal systems of the body. This is not a pretty disease.

As the skin starts to harden it makes movement very difficult. A couple of times during the course of this disease she has been threatened with amputation of toes or even feet because of low circulation, which can cause deep ulcer-like sores, which would turn gangrenous and cause tissue death. But God has intervened. Her rheumatologist has put her on medication which is usually given to heart patients that “blows open” the blood vessels as much as possible, giving her extremities all the blood and oxygen her body can offer.

She still has both feet and all of her toes; both hands and all of her fingers.

One of her favorite hobbies is crocheting. She may have trouble some days holding the crochet hook, but that doesn’t stop her from picking up that hook and making something beautiful for her grandchildren, including the newest one that’s on the way.

She loves to cook. But right now her husband has to do the cooking because she can’t hold the pans or the utensils. She can’t bake because she can’t put the pans in the oven or take them out without dropping them. But one day again, she believes she will.

But this piece is not about her disease. It’s not about how long tumblr_m8xzyugI7N1rce0e2o1_r1_500she will live with this, because the Lord is the only one who knows that answer. It’s about faith. And I can honestly say I wish I had the amount of faith this woman and her husband have. During the entire course of this disease, neither one of them have lost their faith in what the Lord can do.

I’m sure they’ve both asked God, “Why me?” Or, “Why her?” I don’t know whether they’ve gotten any answers or not; if they have they haven’t shared them with us. Which is fine. That’s a very personal answer, and I don’t know whether I would share it or not either. They’ve prayed for a miracle. Their whole family continues to do so, and so do many others.

About six months ago she started having trouble eating. Her food was not digesting, in fact it seemed her stomach was shrinking so that she couldn’t eat very much at each meal. She started having to eat six or seven very small meals each day in order to get nourishment. It became increasingly harder for her to eat, and she wasn’t getting the proper nutrition she needed to fight this disease.

She consulted her doctors and discovered after a number of tests that all of her internal organs had rearranged themselves. Her stomach and intestines had migrated to her left upper body. Her esophagus had shortened. Her left lung had not been inflating properly because of the overcrowding, and as a result she was not able to do much of anything because of lack of oxygen. Her lower body cavity was basically empty. She was unable to eat normally, surviving on several very small meals each day. This condition is known as diaphragmatic hernia; more about this condition can be found on line. An emergency repair was needed to head off gangrene, necrosis, strangulation, the risk of stomach contents becoming toxic, and other major digestive issues.

They consulted a team of doctors who had actually successfully done this type of surgery before, and several times. However, with her systemic scleroderma, her odds of even surviving the surgery were only 20%. And the odds of recovering from it were about the same. No other scleroderma patient has been known to have this particular surgery before.

During the course of testing to see if she was a candidate for this surgery (because of the scleroderma) the doctors discovered that her blood vessels and major organs are now showing better function than they had even ten months earlier. It appeared that the disease may be in remission! Why? There’s no known medical reason, but we all know the reason. Prayer works!

As Calms the stormshe quoted when she wrote announced this, “He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.” Psalm 107:29

But back to the surgery, and the decision that had to be made. What would you have done? She and her husband prayed about it and with no hesitation called the doctors and scheduled the 10-12 hour procedure for the week before Christmas. As they both said, it’s in God’s hands, and He will keep His promises.

That’s faith. True faith. True trusting in the Lord, no matter what man says.

Shortly before the surgery, she wrote on her Facebook, “If it is my time to go, my family will need your support and prayers. It is well with my soul, so I will be dancing with the angels and worshiping my Father. I will have no more pain. My spirit is eternal so I will BE…. He is my God. Either way. No matter what, I will worship Him.”

The operation was long, but not the ten hours originally quoted. A little over eight hours, actually, which is still a long time to be under general anesthesia. Her husband was anxious of course, but he remained calm and relaxed as we sat in the surgical waiting room. Friends, family, and pastors came and went, keeping her husband company the whole time. We prayed; we laughed; we talked; we read magazines; we even discussed football and politics; and waited for news. Nurses came in off and on to give updates that all was going well. And we rejoiced.

Shortly before 11:00 that night we got the news. She was out of surgery and in ICU. The next day she was moved to a step down unit where she started using her new elongated esophagus to swallow ice chips, and over the next few days, other clear liquids and jello.

Three days before Christmas, just six days after the surgery that had offered only a 20% chance of survival, let alone recovery, her husband drove her back to their home to spend Christmas with their family. Her Christmas dinner was most likely to her, one of the best she’d ever had, even though it was only juice.

On New Year’s Eve she downed an entire package of instant cheese grits. While it may not sound wonderful to you or me, to her, it was an enormous step towards recovery.

Today she continues her miraculous recovery, and she and her family and friends thank the Lord every day for what He has done, and for what He continues to do.

This is faith. And it is the miracle of the Lord’s blessings upon this woman and her family.

After reading this, where is your faith? I only have to think of her when I am downcast, and be reminded of His faithfulness.