Category Archives: Miracles

Entering in with Trembling Faith

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My Prissy Missy at 9 months old

I cried myself to sleep last night.

Most of my day was hijacked by needing to take my daughter to the doctor, something that pushes me to the brink of my emotions every single time. I don’t handle it well even a little bit. And there’s a reason why.

***

When my baby girl was born, we didn’t get to hold her right away. The nurses had been cleaning her up, weighing her, all the usual post delivery stuff, when another nurse came over to my husband and me and said she needed to talk to us.

I will never forget the fear that gripped my heart before she said a single word.

She told us our baby had a little skin tag at the base of her spinal cord, which could be no big deal and easily removed or could be indicative of spina bifida. Which has varying degrees of severity ranging from relatively harmless to the inability to use her legs. They needed to be very cautious since spinal cords are a pretty serious thing, so they needed to take her immediately for some sonogram pictures to determine what we were dealing with.

And just like that – a huge black cloud over all the joy and anticipation. I was already nervous about becoming a mommy, completely overwhelmed by the whole delivery process and the craziness I was already feeling in my body as the post-birth adjustment began. I remember feeling something go frozen inside me. All I could hear were those words, “worst case, she would not have the use of her legs” and all I could see were all the lovely ballerina things I had set aside for decorating her room. It felt like a cruel trick.

But I mustered up some smidgen of faith, asked people to pray and waited for them to come back and say it was nothing.

We waited for forever, it seemed, before they brought my baby and I actually got to cradle her close for the first time. Apparently she’d been kicking her legs and squirming the whole time, so they were fairly certain movement wasn’t going to be a problem. For now. But still, it wasn’t nothing. My disappointment was intense, but I did my best to tuck it away, to be strong.

What followed were visits from specialists and the process of finding a pediatric neurosurgeon – a practice so specialized that there are only 5 of them within a 100-mile radius of Dallas/Fort Worth. And lots of calls to the insurance company to get it all sorted. On top of the exhaustion of dealing with a newborn who struggled so much to nurse because she did not get to eat for a long time after she was first born.

When she was one month old, we had to take her in for an MRI. And since you have to be perfectly still during an MRI and she obviously couldn’t do that, they were going to have to put her under anesthesia. I was brought a waver specifying all the risks of anesthesia, plus the extra risks of giving it to a newborn, and all I remember is not being able to see as I signed my name, my eyes blinded with tears prompted by the last line of the waver, which said something about “while not common, death is a possible outcome.” It was too much for my new mommy heart.

But I mustered up another smidgen of faith because lots of people were praying that everything would come back normal, and we could finally move past all this, no surgery required.

And so it was with a crumbling heart that I sat in the surgeon’s office for the follow up visit, clutching my husband’s hand, listening to the surgeon explain how she needed the surgery sooner rather than later, before she grew too much, because she had a tethered spinal cord which could either cause no problems or lots of problems and it wasn’t worth taking a chance. I remember my husband saying, “We were praying everything would be fine, that it would be just a skin tag.” And I remember the surgeon’s almost mocking reply: “I could have told you that wasn’t going to happen. I’ve seen plenty of these and they always require surgery.”

My smidgen of faith disintegrated. Why on earth did God not answer this prayer? Why couldn’t He have proved the smug all-knowing surgeon wrong? Why did we have to subject our tiny baby to surgery?

But we did. When she was 3 months old. They had to do the whole thing under magnifiers because she was so tiny. What was supposed to be a two hour surgery turned into a four hour surgery, partly because she was so small, partly because they also discovered a cyst on her spinal cord that they needed to remove.

When we met with the surgeon afterwards, he said the surgery had been successful, they’d managed to get “most of” the cyst, there was only a 20% chance of her spinal cord re-tethering, all we could do now was wait for her to grow.

Wait, what? It’s not over? Just a “wait and see”? They told us potty training would be an important time, that if she struggled to get the hang of it, it would be a possible indicator that all was not right.

I can’t even begin to tell you how stressful potty training was. It’s hard enough as it is – but were the problems normal or due to complications that would mean more surgeries? We managed to navigate that season, but it was not without many, many tears and lots of fear on my part.

***

Which brings me back to Monday in the doctor’s office and me crumbling. They couldn’t quite put a finger on what was going on with her and due to a recent infection she had and her medical history, they decided they’d better order a round of x-rays/tests on her kidneys and other organs. It’s probably nothing, they say, but just to be on the safe side.

And they don’t know what those words do to me. I realize many people have gone through much worse medical issues with their children, at times have even lost their precious treasures in the process. My heart aches for them with a measure of empathy. And just because there are worse situations does not make our struggle any less valid or real – something I am only just accepting and why I am only just able to fully admit my wrestling.

All I want is certainty, to know this issue is no longer an issue, no longer even a faint question mark on the horizon. I want to be able to take care of my children when they’re sick without having to lock myself in the bathroom and weep because I am so afraid.

I’ve been through all the prayer classes and read the books and learned the Scriptures and I know how I am supposed to pray over my children. Full of faith and confidence because ultimately they are God’s, not mine, and He loves them and has a plan for their lives. I try. I do. I declare the things I’m supposed to declare, I reach down deep to find that mustard seed of faith . . . and so many of my prayers for my children end up with me sobbing, pleading with God to please just take care of them, let them be all right. They are not confident prayers; they are desperate prayers.

Because He didn’t heal her before. Because the money for the insane medical expenses was not miraculously provided. Because the surgeon could not say “We got it, she’ll be fine.”

Here is my raw, vulnerable truth: I massively struggle with faith for miracles, especially healing miracles. I work for a prayer ministry, for crying out loud. I hear the voices of a lifetime in church, explaining unanswered prayers as the result of a lack of faith, and I wonder what that means for my prayers over my children.

But then I wonder if maybe, just maybe, God understands my quivering mother-heart. Maybe He sees it as faith that I am still praying at all, in spite of countless disappointments. Maybe He sees it as faith that I keep trying to trust Him with my most precious treasures again and again, even though it is so hard. Maybe He sees it as faith that I am coming to Him every time with all my tears and uncertainty, still reaching and looking for Him in the fog.

Maybe that is faith after all.  So I enter in again and again – into my own heart and into what I believe to be true about God’s heart, that He is far more gracious than we have taught Him to be, that He measures faith far differently than we think. And I wait.

 

*Linking up today with Marvia Davidson for Real Talk Tuesday.

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Beauty in the Weeds

He bursts through the door, a rush of excitement.  The sun has tried to steal its way inside – the rays shine through his eyes and the scent lingers in his hair.  He offers up his treasure in tiny hands.

IMG829“Mom, I brought you a flower!”

And I know what this one means, more than countless others he has brought me before.  He has been searching for them through the winter, bewildered when I explain how the cold kills the plants or sends them into deep sleep.  I have assured him over and over that when spring comes, the flowers will return.

Thanks to a series of exceptionally warm days, the ground has been tricked into sending up signs of life, at least until the next cold snap.  Long enough for Little Man’s persistent search to be unexpectedly rewarded.

***

There is a voice that lingers in my head.  I cannot precisely pin the memory, so I don’t know if it is something I experienced or overheard.  But I recall this much.  Another small voice, thrilled with discovery: “Look, I found a flower!”

And that grown up voice, disinterested and unimpressed: “That’s not a flower; it’s just a weed.”

Then the feeling of foolishness and disappointment settling over a little girl who thought she’d spotted something lovely, only to discover it was a cruel trick of nature.

(*An aside for adults everywhere: if a child ever offers you one of these flowers, never respond with “That’s just a weed.”)

***

These tiny yellow flowers speak volumes to me about the heart of God.  Even among the weeds – the irritating, life-strangling, pig-headed weeds – He bothered to weave in beauty.

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Perhaps to bring delight to the wide-open heart of a child.

Perhaps to remind discouraged adults that beauty can always be found in unexpected places if we are willing to linger and look.

Perhaps that when life is strangling and choking and frustrating, we might have a glimpse of hope, something worth fighting for a little longer.

Perhaps because messages of His love are often tucked into the places we have deemed undesirable and unloveable, and He is gently wooing us out of our selfishness and narrow perspectives and calloused hearts.

Perhaps to quietly but unmistakably affirm that He most certainly can – and will – make ALL things beautiful.

***

We’re expecting another dip in temperatures next week, so it may take awhile.  But there will be more of these little flowers.  I know my children; they won’t rest until they’ve picked them all (which means walking the dogs will take even longer).

But I will receive them all with a smile, and we will marvel over the tiny cheery petals.  They’ll be tucked behind ears and onto dollhouse tables; they’ll be fed to safari animals and glued to nature collages.  And some of them will be picked for the sole purpose of brightening the dinner table, and they will be welcomed every time.

Because we all need the reminder – there is beauty to be found among the weeds.

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One Word 365: Epiphany

Image by Jennifer Upton

Image by Jennifer Upton

I love the new year – the official start to a new chapter in time.  I relish the opportunity to pause, reflect and refocus.

But the reflection has been challenging over the past few weeks as I face the reality of another year – a fourth year – coming and going without the change we’ve been fighting for, the miracle we’ve been looking for.

It has forced me to ask – is it worth it?  The goal-setting, the dreaming, the migrating back to hope.  Is it worth the effort when you’re already discouraged and weary?

I am craving clarity, focus, something to hold on to.  I wanted my one word, but nothing was coming.  Until a story sister mentioned epiphany and another one said sometimes you have to just take hold of what you need, claim it as yours.

Epiphany is a sudden realization – a flash of recognition in which someone or something is seen in a new light.  It usually comes after a long struggle or search, wrestling with a problem or concept until the light shines and clarity comes.  Originally, this clarity or insight was believed to only come through the divine – a supernatural enlightenment.

And so, with trembling hope, I am declaring 2014 the year of Epiphany, where light pierces the darkest clouds.  After the long struggle, I am believing for sudden realizations bringing fresh perspective.  I want to see myself in a new light and for the many puzzle pieces I have struggled to make sense of to be basked in a glow of understanding only available through the Divine.

I expect surprise.

I expect awakening.

I expect revelation.

I am choosing to empty the disappointments and open myself wide to drink in the illuminations, to savor the epiphany.

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Dear December

Image Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Dear December:

You and I need to have a talk, here on the eve before you consume the world.  Pull up a chair.  I’ll pour us each a glass of wine, and we can sit by the twinkling lights of our Christmas tree, melancholy Wintersong in the background.

I have been thinking long and hard on what I’d like to say to you, yet I find myself still mostly at a loss.

What can I say?  I have always embraced you, arms and heart wide open, ready to push aside the dreariness and drink in your sparkle.  No matter how weary my heart may be, you come near, and I begin to find renewed faith in miracles.  Hope raises her head once more, in spite of anything else trying to smother her fire.

But for quite some time now, I cannot say you have returned the favor.  You smile, but it never reaches your eyes.  You reach out your hand, but you never pull me near.  I begin to suspect, if it were wholly up to you, you just might consider leaving me alone in the cold, but somehow my stubborn determination to cling to childlike wonder still wears you down.

It is tempting to give up the attempt to wrap you in a lingering embrace.  The fight in me is waning after years of one intense battle after another.  Hopes for miracles have been dashed again and again, and I have cried enough tears to float a small boat.  I am tired of hope and faith and clinging to promises that have yet to come true.

Still, do you see these blossoms peering beneath the snow?  It will take more than a blanket of your ice to smother the beauty my heart believes in.  You cannot snuff out life with your chilling whispers and piercing winds.   No, December, you underestimate the resilience of a fire rekindled in the midst of broken hearts and shattered dreams.  If sparks can blaze to life even while tears fall, your blizzards are outmatched already.

So dump your ice and sleet on us.  Blow those winds that bite our bones.  I will keep my course, one foot planted in front of the other, one more step and one more day.  Perhaps your frozen heart will thaw a little, and you will choose to be more kind.  We will be here, our candles lit to welcome your warmer side.

I do not know what to expect from you this year.  {this scares me slightly. A lot.}  But go on and come; maybe one starry, frosted night at a time, you and I can sit alone and resolve our differences.  Maybe you can learn to love me again.

*This post was inspired by a prompt from Story Sessions.

 

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When You Need Christmas Now

So I have these rules, these rituals.  And one of them involves not decorating for Christmas until after Thanksgiving.  The very next day.

Truthfully, I love this ritual.  I pull out my Christmas dishes late Thanksgiving night, make the table all festive.  I assemble the tree and fluff the branches, and I make sure Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby are ready to serenade us first thing.  I plan a special breakfast.  And then I fight for sleep all night, probably the way kids do before actual Christmas morning.  Now that I have children, I love this ritual even more – the excitement in their eyes and voices as they realize the Christmas season is here!!!  We eat together, and then we spend the day decorating the tree and transforming the entire place into a magical Christmas wonderland.  Every room gets something.  Really, I love this official welcoming of the season so, so much.

But this year, it has been different.  I was trying my best to hold out.  It didn’t work.

This past year has been so, so hard for our family.  And just a few months ago, things got even harder, heartbreaking.  Then all of a sudden, there was this surge of hope, faith, promise followed by . . . well, disappointment.  More waiting.  Hard questions and no answers.  I must confess, over the past couple of weeks, I could feel the discouragement wrapping itself around me tighter and tighter, choking off my breath, threatening to crush me.

And suddenly, I needed Christmas now.  Not in another week.  Certainly not in another month.  Now.  Right now.

I need the hope of promises long awaited finally and gloriously fulfilled.

I need the grace of a majestic King who chooses to reveal Himself first to lowly, humble shepherds – the least and the forgotten.

I need the miracle of people walking in darkness seeing a great light.

I need the reality of the Word – the abstract and intangible – being made flesh and living among us, close enough to touch.

So . . . our tree is up.  The kids picked out funny sparkly dinosaurs for their ornaments this year.

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And I smile every time I remember the very first Christmas I shared with my love, and the future seems to rise up in front of us again full of promise.

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Our family meals have an added sparkle.

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We’re spending more of our evenings, snuggled up, experiencing old and new holiday movies.

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And I didn’t go for a marathon day of decorating.  I am spreading it out, savoring, pulling items out little by little when we need a new dose of Christmas now.

Sometimes it’s ok to break the rules.

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The Rain

It’s raining.

There is nothing I love so much as the sound of falling rain.  A peace that can not be contained by the bounds of my understanding falls over my heart.

I believe You will come like the rain.

The heat is intense.  It’s August in Texas after all.  The plants get droopy.  The grass is tinged with brown. You run out to the car real quick and return drenched with sweat.  The weather forecast stretches before your eyes with all those three-digit numbers and if you get lucky enough to see two-digit numbers, a quick glance at the fine print where it says “Feels like . . .” chases away your momentary relief.  But then, all of a sudden, clouds gather and the sweet song begins.

I believe You will come like the rain.

The farmer carries his worried heart outside, casts a hopeful eye at the sky, winces in the glaring light of the cloudless blue.  The crops are dying.  The dry months have dragged on and on.  He knows in his bones, this year is going to be rough.  The harvest will not be enough.  They will pinch pennies and hope for next year.  Yet even in the frustration, the decades have taught him, and if not today, it could be tomorrow.  It may feel like it some times, but drought cannot last forever.  And then, one morning, clouds gather and the sweet song begins.

I believe You will come like the rain.

I toss and turn in my bed at night, 48 months and counting, stress and pressure the only constants.  I do what I have to do, and some days, it is more than I can bear.  I cast a hopeful glance at the sky, the ember of hope shrinking each time, and I am desperately trying to nurse this one last, flickering spark.  The phone does not ring.  The answer does not come.  If not today, perhaps tomorrow, but the confident voice wavers.  My gaze returns to the sky once more, but I shrug and look back at reality because all I see is a small cloud, the size of a man’s fist.  Though memory comes of another story, another time, another man who clung to the promise of such a cloud . . .

And I believe You will come like the rain.

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Facing the Hard Things – One at a Time

There are prayers I can’t pray right now.

Do you know how hard this is to say? I mean, I’m the prayer coordinator for our church, for crying out loud.   I work for a prayer ministry.  This should not be an issue.

But it is.  Because when you have prayed for something hundreds of times and still there is no answer, sometimes it all dries up inside of you.  When you have quoted every Scripture and absorbed every teaching and mustered up the guts to be vulnerable enough to ask others to pray, and still the years roll by with no answer, sometimes the words no longer come.

If you need prayer, I’ve got it.  No problem.  I’ve got the faith for it.  I will stand by you and believe for your miracle.

But these days, most of my time spent with God is spent in silence.

And to be utterly transparent, the condemnation over this has been layered on thick.  I’ve been tangled up with guilt because, well, I’m supposed to be the prayer person or something.

Until the other day, when I sat down to try again, and after a few empty moments, only managed to whisper, “I don’t know what else to say.  I’ve said everything I know to say.”  And I braced for His lecture.

But that Voice (oh, how I love that Voice) – not a shred of condemnation – simply said, “I know.  But you’re here.  And that is enough.”

I don’t know how this story ends yet.  This seems to be the messy part of it, the dark part when all hope seems lost.  But I share it because maybe another quivering soul is out there, weary with persistent prayer and feeling like a spiritual failure because of it.

And maybe you too need to know – your willingness to seek Him, even if it is groping for His hand in the darkness until you find it, wordlessly holding on as He leads you down this unknown path . . .

it is enough.  You are enough.

 

Our focus for the past week of Story101 has been on writing our hard thing, whatever that may be.  This entry is a small piece of that process for me.

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Waiting on a Miracle

I have suffered a death of sorts this week.

Our car died.  And I can hear you now: “But it’s just a car . . .???”

But it’s not just a car.  You see, our last car died.  Slowly.  Over the course of many months.  We watched it happen, but there was so little we could do.  And then a miracle.

My grandfather had a car, but was no longer able to drive it.  My husband was at school in the evenings, and my grandparents were worried about me, at home, with two babies and no way to go anywhere if I needed to.  We weren’t able to handle the expense of two cars at the time, so my parents ended up buying it from them.

But when our car died, my dad said, “This was always intended for you.  And so it’s yours.”  And just like that – a miracle.  A reliable, well-cared-for (free!) miracle of a car.

In the season when this happened, there was a lot of other craziness happening.  Transition.  Challenges.  And the car became for me a symbol that nothing was impossible, that God could bring something out of nothing, that He was faithful.  I had heard stories like this from other people, but this one was mine.  My story.

Two weeks ago, we experienced some minor issues with the car.  A flat tire resulted in taking the car in for some other routine maintenance.  And when our tiny bit of precious savings was spent, it became obvious that the issues were far bigger than the life of the car.  Literally all this time, it has been excellent, reliable, such a gift.  And then in a matter of days, we watched it fall to pieces.

My miracle.

This current season has its own challenges, like every season does.  But these have been particularly excruciating.  My heart has been raw and bleeding and weary.  They always tell you in these hard times to look back and remember how God has been faithful to you.

But in the midst of this dark, suffocating season, the thing that served as the most visible reminder of faithfulness died.  How do I explain?  It’s not that this was the only time in my life God was faithful to me.  It was just the most tangible, wrap-your-hands-around-it, see-it-with-your-own-two-eyes experience I have had.  I could see the fruit of my faith.

And its death feels like a betrayal.

It feels like I was granted sight for a moment only to be plunged back into darkness again.

It’s not about a car.

It’s about deep wounds inflicted on my heart.  It’s about dreams that are buried and agonizing to remember.  It’s about pressure that threatens to crush.  It’s about the demands and exhausting challenges of mothering two pint-sized world changers.  It’s about watching my enemy carry out an unrelenting vendetta against the man I love.

It’s about the age-old lie that says He is not good, He is holding out on me.

I know I am not the first to walk these dark, hard places.  Nor will I be the last.  And I will say what so many don’t want to say – this faith journey is so dang hard.  More days than not, it feels like it gets worse before it gets better.  More days than not, it makes no sense.  More days than not, it seems like the people just doing their own thing have it so much easier than the more eternally-minded among us.

But.

More days than not, I see the fingerprints of His goodness all over my ordinary.  More days than not, I am assured that I am deeply known and deeply loved.  More days than not, I hear His voice above the chaos, saying, “I’ve got you, beautiful.”

So today, I will acknowledge my feelings, but I will not be governed by my feelings.  I will not let my enemy win.  I will cling to His hand for dear life, let Him lead me one trembling step at a time through the darkness until the clouds lift and the miracles appear.

 

 

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