Friday, December 28, 2012

A Season for Miracles

     I wonder how often all of us have missed witnessing a miracle simply for lack of opening our eyes? Do we think the time for miracles ended with the final words of Revelation? Or perhaps with the death of the prophet Jeremiah? I’m not even speaking of the daily wonders of each sunrise, new life, each breath we take, the love shining from another’s eyes. I have been strikingly reminded these last months of 2012 that God is still working miracles today, if we simply ask and believe.
      Jean was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in late spring– “convenient” timing since she is a  teacher. Surgery and radiation took place during her summer break, allowing for recovery time before the fall re-opening of school. All went well, except that Jean experienced one of the forewarned complications: one of her vocal cords was paralyzed from the surgery, and by mid-August she still had no voice. Prayers for her were intensified, and every morning she awoke and tried her voice with only a whisper resulting from her efforts. One week before school started she awoke and did the usual vocal test, and much to her delight a sound came out amazingly resembling her normal voice! At her scheduled doctor’s follow-up appointment a few days later, a scope was inserted in her throat and her doctor was stunned to see that her vocal cord was still paralyzed! The man of medicine could only say, “I can’t explain it. You shouldn’t be able to talk!” Jean replied, “Oh I can!” with a great big smile. She’s back at school teaching her fifth grade class with her miracle voice!
      Jeff has been battling a very rare form of lymphoma, called Waldenstrom’s. He has other health conditions which make treatment very complicated and difficult. He had exhausted all avenues except for a trial at Dana-Farber in Boston. He was accepted for screening and went to Boston to complete qualification for the trial. I can’t possibly explain all the numbers and their significance, but anyone who knows anyone who has been treated for any type of cancer knows the importance of various “numbers.” The next to last day of the week-long screening one of Jeff’s numbers was off-the-charts WRONG to qualify him. A request for prayers went out as the doctor gave him a last-ditch effort shot hoped to improve that number. The next morning the last hopeful vial of blood was drawn and tested. The results: off-the-charts POSITIVE, qualifying Jeff for the trial. After approximately six weeks of the trial drug, Jeff’s numbers are steadily improving, meaning that the new drug appears to be working!
      Daddy (a strapping 210-pound, mentally sharp age 98) went in the hospital with pneumonia November 26. He was treated with mega-IV antibiotics, and after a week released to go to rehab to regain his strength. Almost immediately he began experiencing severe diarrhea and loss of appetite. He grew weaker and weaker and finally was refusing to take even any liquid nourishment. My brother and I had gone every day to try to encourage him to eat ANYTHING, to no avail. Sunday, December 11, having lunch with friends after church, everyone was asking about Daddy and I described what was happening. My friend Linda said, “It sounds like C. diff.” (Clostridium difficile, one of the new “super-bugs” caused by taking too many antibiotics.) “What’s that?” I asked.  Bill immediately looked it up on the internet and concurred that those were exactly his symptoms. Christian volunteered to take me to Greensboro, and so we went. I spoke to Daddy’s nurse about C. diff, and he said he didn’t think that was it. The next morning Daddy seemed even weaker and more distressed. I insisted Daddy be seen by the doctor and be given IV fluids at least. Meanwhile a urinary infection had been discovered: more antibiotics. The test for C.Diff. was done, but results would not be in for a day or two. All the while, before my very eyes Daddy worsened. I decided he must go to the hospital, where he was tested IMMEDIATELY for C.diff with IMMEDIATE positive results. He began treatment in hospital and was transferred back to rehab in a few days, where he is slowly gaining strength and beginning to eat limited solid food. I KNOW God spoke through Linda to set us on the right track for Daddy’s healing!        
      My miracle was one of the heart. I can’t even say how long I have asked God to help me love, I mean truly love, this person who is important to me, yet so different in many ways.  I have loved her with His love, of course, yet we remained distant by more than the miles that separate us. Each time I see her, I offer the same prayer, and each time it has been the same– not unpleasant for the most part, but not the warmth I have longed for for many years. It changed this time– I can’t say exactly how or when. I only know that the night before we parted I cried because I knew it would be a long time before we would be together again. The next day I cried as soon as she was out of sight and all the way to the airport. I cry even now as I write, but these tears are in humble thanksgiving to God for this gift of love, this answered prayer, the one I perhaps believed in the least. But isn’t that just how we are, thinking miracles are for other folks but not ourselves?
    Our miracle is much like mine described above, but of course on a much grander scale. It came for you and for me and for every other human being who has ever lived. Like mine, it is a Gift of Love, the Greatest Love ever given to humankind. Like mine, it was long-anticipated, but probably never really expected, certainly not in the way it came. You very likely know the story, because we’ve just spent millions of dollars, dozens of hours, untold amounts of energy and weeks of planning the annual celebration of This Love, this gift of mercy unprecedented. This arrival of our Creator God Himself in human form among us – a tiny Jewish baby in a humble stable in an insignificant town in Israel – could have gone unnoticed EXCEPT this town, these stables, were the very spot where the perfect lambs for the temple sacrifice were raised! Where else could the Perfect, FINAL Sacrifice for all the sins of the world be born? Does that fact take your breath away as much as it does mine? I feel like I could BURST with excitement over the knowledge of this Good News! Makes me want to do a happy dance and sing and shout all at the same time!
    You know, this may have been a difficult Christmas for you, as it was for me. Things aren’t so great in our world right now, and my world was a little less than perfect this Christmas with Daddy between the hospital and the nursing home, but when I gaze at my Christmas tree covered with lights and stars and think of the light of that first Christmas star, I can’t help smiling. At the center of my tree, all decorated in white, is one red, heart-shaped ornament with one word on it: JESUS. Oh, I know that wasn’t His name in Hebrew, but it’s how we think of Him today.  My Christmas wish for everyone reading this is that you know His perfect love, that you accept His perfect gift of love, even though none of us deserve it. That’s why they call it “grace.”

"But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8 NIV)