Another hour passed as the clock ticked in the dark of night. She struggled to sleep but couldn’t. In those days, mamas didn’t stay in the room overnight with their little ones. They walked out with everyone else at the end of visiting hours. Despite willing herself NOT to go, this young mama had done just that, leaving her 3 month old baby girl in a padded crib at St. Christopher’s Hospital in Philadelphia. She went home to spend some time with her husband and 2 year old daughter. To try to rest. And pray. And wait.
She found herself pleading for morning to come and yet dreading it all at the same time. There was no news through the night and she never knew what the morning would reveal. She wanted to believe each new day would be the day that healing would come. But in her gut, she feared each new day could be the day they lost her. And the truth is, she never knew how close they came on more than one occasion.
A blood vessel tumor held her baby girl’s right forearm captive. It was blown up like an oversized eggplant, equally purple in color. It was sucking every, last platelet out of her little body, leaving her vulnerable to bleeding that couldn’t be stopped. Which would be fatal.
There were only 5 cases of this type of hemangioma on record. Her faithful doctor stayed up many nights making calls, hunting down any available information that would help. In the days before cell phones or even beepers, this doctor had given his home telephone number. He insisted they call day or night if they needed anything, even if it was just a reassuring voice that someone cared enough to work around the clock to save their baby girl.
So many family members and friends were praying. It gave them hope and confidence that couldn’t be explained. A peace that no matter the news of the day, a loving heavenly Father was over all things. He would be with their baby girl when they couldn’t. He who formed her body was able to heal it.
At a critical time when all seemed hopeless, a daunting rescue plan was seriously discussed. Amputation. It seemed the only way to remove the tumor and allow the body to return to normal. But without an arm.
Suddenly, the tumor began to die on its own. There was no real explanation. They simply considered it the gracious hand of God. Their personal miracle. It would take nearly two years for the arm to return to normal. Their baby girl learned to tuck her little “eggplant” under her belly when she started to crawl, or hold it up over her head, somehow finding just the right position to offer balance as she learned to walk. She was alive! And healing. And thriving! It was hard to fight back tears as they sang to her on her first birthday and watched her blow out her candles with JOY and glee that seemed oblivious to the fight she had endured.
God had been gracious. He heard and answered all those prayers. He sent a miracle and spared their baby girl’s life.
~ ~ ~
Fifty years ago, I was that baby girl. My mom and dad endured long days and nights waiting and praying and never quite knowing what a new day would bring.
As a kid, I continued to be their child with every quirky medical malady. I’m sure to some extent, they never let out a full breath. Stitches to sew up a nasty gash across my face at age 6. Appendix scare at age 7. Sky high fever and hospitalization for Mono at age 9. And even one occasion when a strange lump appeared with accompanying fever where the blood vessel tumor had been. Concern about a heart murmur in my teen years. … It has been a journey!
Not too surprisingly, after a feisty battle as an infant, I was known as the stubbornly independent, strong-willed child of the family – a rebel even! I never settled for things at face value. I had to press against the sides of everything to feel and experience it for myself. I wasn’t content with the “tidy little box” version of life and asked a lot of hard questions. In addition to my medical quirks, I was not an easy teen to raise emotionally or spiritually either!
Far too often, I have been guilty of test driving my own plans and landing myself in complicated messes. But GOD. He has rescued me at each turn and used it all to draw me closer to Himself. He uses those struggles to shift my perfectionistic tendencies from “picture perfect” to “real” – a genuine and eternally unchanging kind of “real” that can only come from Him.
Not too long ago, a Bible study lesson asked the question, “how has the Lord protected and preserved you?” I responded in a group discussion, on the spot, without much preparation. I shared how my life as an infant was spared and how He protected me and graciously provided for me during my boundary-stretching years as a teenager and at other critical junctures in my spiritual walk with Him since.
A friend commented that the enemy must have been working overtime to snuff out my life, but God had other plans. I was stunned at the thought and tears welled up enough to spill over. I couldn’t fathom the thought that the Almighty God of the universe placed so much value in my life that He had graciously preserved me! It is still staggering!
The implications of that thought are still a bit hard to explain. I cannot begin to understand the heart and mind of the Lord. There are many whose lives on earth, by our estimation, have ended far too soon. Does that mean that their lives were not of value to Him? Absolutely not!
I firmly believe His value of each and every life is immeasurable. I also believe His plans for each life are exactly purposeful and eternally significant (Psalm 139). And it still guts me to realize that every time I wake to see a new day, I am reminded that His plans for me here on this earth are not finished.
Has the enemy been underfoot, working overtime to cut my life short on more than one occasion? Or to derail me wherever, however possible from a growing love for the Lord and a desire to serve Him as He has planned? What potential does my life hold that could draw such an attack?
What does my heavenly Father know about me or see in me that I might not fully understand yet? What are the many facets of His design for my life? What plans are yet to be fulfilled that continually draw His heart and His powerful hand to preserve me?
Turning 50, these questions could send me into a tail spin. Am I living the life I was designed to live? It is an important question. But let’s be honest. I could work myself into a nice (or not so nice!?!) mid-life crisis… all focused on me. Or I can choose the one simple act I am still learning 50 years into this life…. to lift my eyes to the One who formed me, the One who redeemed me, the One who continually rescues me, and simply ask Him. “What do You have planned for me? Today? In this moment?”
If all I do is look up, hunger for more of Him, offer deep gratitude and adoration and praise that are so deserving… is there any greater value to Him than that?
Forgetting what is behind, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus… Philippians 3:13-14
The high calling of God for me isn’t necessarily some BIG thing He planned for my life. Greatness in His eyes isn’t what we expect. His ways and thoughts are greater than mine (Isaiah 55:8). He uses the meek to confound the wise (I Corinthians 1:27).
He could have taken me home to be with Him in heaven as an infant. I would have been at His side, eternally secure before I was even a few months old. But I believe He spared me so I could choose Him. He rescues me again and again so I can know a deeper facet of His grace, of His heart. So I will know His hand and choose to reach for it sooner and hold it tighter. (Psalm 18:16-36, 50:15)
May I never stop reaching – looking up and longing for a closer walk with Him. May I never tire of learning about the Person of my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, or His all-sufficient, never-ending provisions for me. May I never run to anyone else but my Father. May I have a quicker reflex to surrender my own plans to Him in full trust. And may I always have eyes to see the many ways His gracious hand has moved and worked in my life.
May I always stand amazed.
Amazed by GRACE!
Hitherto has the Lord helped [me]… I Samuel 7:12
If Your Presence does not go with [me], I cannot go on from here… Exodus 33:15
The Lord is my Shepherd, I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows, He leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to His Name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid. For You are close beside me. Psalm 23:1-4
All [I] have is only what has come from Your hand… I Chronicles 29:14
excerpts from AMAZING GRACE
by John Newton (1779)
“Amazing GRACE! How sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see!
Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace that brought me safe thus far,
And GRACE will lead me Home.
The Lord has promised good to me;
His Word my hope secures;
He will my Shield and Portion be
As long as life endures.”
excerpts from I STAND AMAZED IN THE PRESENCE
by Charles H. Gabriel (1905)
“I stand amazed in the Presence of JESUS the Nazarene,
And wonder how He could love me, A sinner, condemned, unclean.
When with the ransomed in glory His face I at last shall see,
‘Twill be my joy through the ages, to sing of His love for me.
O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
Is my Savior’s love for me!”