This little stash of make-up isn’t an ad for Estee Lauder or even a look at what it takes to make me presentable in the morning. Its significance goes beyond covering up imperfections, and instead points to the ending of a month of difficulty. As I put away the mascara and the blush this morning, I thanked God for His unending mercy and grace, for the fact that I was putting this away in my own bathroom this morning and not in the hospital room of a sick little boy. One day, a little over nine years ago, I took a little boy to the ER because of a severe headache, and I didn’t come back home that night. Instead, I frantically called my mom in the hospital parking lot and spoke words that haunt her to this day, “Josh has a brain mass.” That night long ago ended with an ambulance ride, an IV, and an MRI. A few days ago, I was afraid of reliving that nightmare again; I was packed and ready.
When the doctor tells you that your son’s blood tests are abnormal and that no conclusive reason can be found for his recurrent fever (19 days of fever in one month) and that the next logical step is a trip to St. Jude to rule out leukemia or lymphoma, you stop breathing, your chest seems too weighted down with fear to move in the up and down rhythm required in simply breathing. The colors of life seem to diminish.
Let me back up a bit.
Ethan has a rap sheet of illnesses, fibular hemimelia obviously being a major one, but he has also been diagnosed with PFAPA, recurrent fever. About every 4-5 weeks, starting around age five, he had a fever for about three days with no other symptoms. This fever proved frustrating and was accompanied by many doctors’ visits and negative strep, ear infection, flu, etc. tests. Finally, an infectious disease doctor gave us the PFAPA diagnosis along with a prescription for tagamet and prednisone, and we have seen the fevers diminish greatly. This month, however, his “normal” fever went beyond the typical PFAPA symptoms and seemed relentless in its attack of his body, escalating to 105, sometimes with a strange rash. Again, we were met with testing for the typical kids’ junk: flu, strep, mono, etc., and all proved negative. Then, when the fever keep returning, he was tested for the next stage of diseases: lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Kawasaki syndrome, etc. –all of which came back negative. After infectious disease and autoimmune disorders, the next step was oncology.
Let me back up a bit.
In the ten years since Freddie and I have been married, we have endured Josh’s brain mass and subsequent surgery, Freddie’s own brain mass and surgery, Ethan’s birth, fibular hemimelia diagnosis and external fixator surgery, Emily’s birth that literally tore my uterus, resulting in blood transfusions and a near mental breakdown.
Let me pause for breath and be real honest.
Sometimes I get hung up on the list. Sometimes it makes me angry. Sometimes I look at others and wonder why their lists seem much shorter in comparison. Sometimes I wonder what HE is thinking.
Let me tell you what I’ve learned.
I’ve learned that we all have lists, and relatively speaking, they’re all difficult to bear.
I’ve learned not to bear mine alone.
I could write and write about the things God has taught me through my list, but I’ll stick to the latest lessons with this post. This time, He taught me about the Body, the Word, and Grace.
My dad danced when we found out that what doctors suspected was a malignant brain tumor turned out to be a malformed blood vessel in Josh’s brain. My mom cried when I called to say, “No leukemia, no cancer.” Today, a friend at little league sign- ups could not have smiled any brighter when I responded to his hesitant questions, “Ethan’s fine.” My church family and friends joined me last night (and nine years ago) in my praise of the God Who Heals. My children’s victories have been their victories, too. Through prayer, we unite and become instruments in God’s sovereign plan. God knows we need one another. In fact, Christ’s final prayer before the cross was that we be as One.
John 17: 9 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. 10 And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. 11 And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
We are His hands, and this month, those hands enveloped me in prayer and encouragement.
A godly friend encouraged me to surround myself and Ethan with the Word of God. I knew that the Word was powerful, but during this trial, I learned to wield the sword. I printed verses of healing and put them in my pocket, in Ethan’s room, and even under our mattresses. I opened a Bible to these verses –and sat it opened beside his bed.
Mark 1: 29 And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 But Simon's wife's mother lay sick of a fever, and anon they tell him of her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them.
I told Ethan with great confidence that satan could not cross over the Word to reach him in his bed, and I prayed, cried aloud to the Lord, to lift Ethan up and to heal him of his fever as He had healed Simon’s mother-in-law. And then I wondered, why I wasn’t crying for my other children, my marriage, my home with verses raised and repeated back to the God who spoke them.
This past week, the week of Valentines, gave me a glimpse of the One who calls me His Beloved. On the day that the packet from St. Jude came in the mail, before I could open the envelope, I first had to plow through cards and letters sent from my church family and friends, full of verses of encouragement and promises of prayer and healing. The Lord sent a mailbox full of love notes, promises made and kept. He saw me in my pain and in my tears, and He made sure that I saw Him. On the way home from school a few days before the appointment, Josh and I saw a beautiful rainbow, shining through a few drops of rain. Oh, how I marveled at the beauty of that bow, its otherworldliness, almost unreal in its appearance. And how my heart recalled the promises of the Lord, promises to work things to my good, to never leave me nor forsake me, promises of the availing of my prayers despite the rain.
God is Real. He sent real cards. He put our family on the hearts of a group of students who gave a sweet card and 86 dollars, mainly in ones. He put our family on the hearts of another family with small children who sent drawings and 40 dollars for gas and food. He put our family on the heart of a sweet man in our church who folded a 100 dollar bill into my hand after the church gathered as one to pray for Ethan. Did I mention that Ethan’s ER trip and CT scan cost $200 dollars beyond what our insurance would pay and that when Ethan picked the Golden Corral for his celebration lunch –can’t resist the chocolate fountain-- it cost $27 dollars? He paid our bills, really.
Let me keep praising.
We left St. Jude with negative test results. We still aren’t sure what caused Ethan’s fevers or if his future holds other months of sickness and uncertainty; we have a few possible causes, such as Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, but no definitive answers. We hold to the real possibility as well that the Lord has seen fit to deliver him completely from this sickness.
What is True.
What we do know is that God sees us, He provides for us (to the penny of our every need), He loves us, and He intends our “lists” to prosperous us and not to harm us. Please re-read the verse that heads the blog. Praise be unto His name forever!
1 Thessalonians 5:
16 Rejoice evermore.
17 Pray without ceasing.
18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
19 Quench not the Spirit.
20 Despise not prophesyings.
21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.
23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.