Friday morning as I snuck in a few moments with God before jumping into my day, I prayed circles around many long-time prayers. Brayden's complete healing from CVS was one of them. That morning I hadn't even an inkling of an idea that our son would wind up in the ER with another CVS attack later that very day. But he did.
There are many verses in the Bible that I am familiar with but have wanted to commit to heart. This week I focused on just that...memorizing all nine verses of the Ephesians "Full Armor of God"(Ephesians 6:10-18) passage, along with the Philippians instruction to think about "Whatever is true, noble and right," (Philippians 4:8) as well as "learning to be content in all circumstances" (Philippians 4:11-13) and being reminded that "my God will meet all of my needs" (Philippians 4:19). 14 verses committed to memory. 14 verses ready to draw from when the battle reached my doorstep. Little did I know that the enemy was just about to knock on my front door.
I find no coincidence that God brought these passages to mind to commit to memory at this time. I think He was preparing my heart and spiritually gearing me up for what was to come in the days ahead. He knew I needed them deeply engraved on my heart as I entered the familiar battlefield of hospitalization. He was armoring me up for the fight.
Though my natural default may not lend me to lean on these truths initially, but rather on my own understanding, a heart that's engraved with His truth is better able to rebound and put up a fight. I long to be more prepared and better equipped.
On Friday evening, our family of five was en route to see my family in Tecumseh for a fun "Cousins Carnival" weekend. My kids could hardly contain their excitement as they have been counting down the days till this event. My mom, sisters, and I have spent weeks preparing for this too. So, you can imagine the disappointment that came seeping into our car when Brayden started feeling ill. We pulled over on the side of the road to let Brayden calm down and get some fresh air, but it wasn't long before we realized we were about to hit "full attack mode." Minutes later we loaded back up in the car, turned around, and headed straight to the ER.
On our drive to the hospital, I began silently talking to God. Asking Him to reveal Himself to me and show me what was to "gain" in this hospitalization...thanking Him for the ways He would show up and make Himself known like He has done each time before. I vowed not to focus on the loss, but to gain more of Him in the midst of it all.
Hours in the ER with a very sick boy writhing in pain screaming that he "gives up," 4 needle pricks, 4 nurses, and 4 failed attempts to administer an IV into dehydrated collapsed veins didn't leave me feeling all armored up and content. My thoughts and emotions were all over the place. But slow and steady, as the 5th IV attempt succeeded, and the medicine began to kick in, I was able to reign in my thoughts and readjust my perspective.
I would have liked to have marinated on my disappointment over our changed weekend plans and the nagging reoccurring questions of "why?" but a little verse kept popping into my head each time my thoughts began to drift.
"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right. Whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable. If anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things."
I found myself thankful for the fact that we were already all packed up and had everything we needed in the car for overnight hospitalization. As Brayden found relief in his medicine, I found myself thankful for excellent medical care and our access to it. I had posted a prayer request on facebook, and found myself thankful that I have the freedom to plaster these pleas and our faith in God all over cyber space without the fear of persecution, unlike others who are being murdered right now in far away lands because of their Christian faith. And I found myself reflecting on God's faithfulness to meet all of our needs in the past, and how He wouldn't fail us now.
"And my God will meet all of your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus."
The next day my gratitude continued as I encountered parents and their children fighting battles I would never want to fight: cancer, confinement to wheelchairs, horrific accidents that leave innocent children mamed and scarred. My heart felt such compassion for these families and I was thankful when God opened doors of opportunity to hear some of their stories and share pieces of our faith. God was very much present...yet, I was still hoping to experience Him in a more personal and tangible way. And just as I had prayed on the way to the hospital that Friday evening, I continued to pray that He would.
Afterall, He had shown up before in a rose of sharon and in a clear starry night when darkness had threatened to silence my soul. He had shown up in a rock in the middle of the street when I needed to be reminded that He was my Rock, always with me, going before me. He had shown up in a swoosh of grace, and even in a straggly hair during previous hospitalizations too. So, my eyes were opened and peeled to catch a piece of Him revealing Himself to me this time around.
And He did.
I sat bedside my son in his dimly lit hospital room. Thoughts of Paul finding contentment in the confinement of his prison cell encouraged me to find contentment in the confinement of that hospital room. Verses replayed in my heart once again.
"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need and what it is to have plenty. I know the secret to being content in any and every situation. Whether well-fed or hungry; whether living in plenty or in want..."
A heart that is discontent lacks peace. And just verses prior, Paul gives us a prescription for worry and tells us where we can find that peace. These verses have been engraved on my heart for some time.
"Do not be anxious about anything. But in everything, with prayer and petition, and with thanksgiving, present your requests to God, and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Did you know that this works? It is indeed true. I know because I've tried it. And it's worked time and time again. When we take our concerns, worries, and struggles to God, and find reasons to thank Him in the process, His peace washes over us in inexplicable ways. Ways that transcend understanding. And in those moments, we can taste contentment, regardless of our circumstances. I found myself swallowing it up.
So, I bet your wondering when I am going to get to the part about God showing up in a real and tangible way. After a full day in the hospital, I was beginning to wonder if I'd be blessed with this myself. If you read this blog post title, you probably already know the answer. But let me provide the details surrounding it, if you're willing to stick around a little longer.
As I was sitting bedside with Brayden, the nurse called me outside his room to listen to the change of duty report. I quickly stepped out of his room and began to listen and answer questions. As the nurse who was leaving was filling in our new nurse, I glanced down at the leaving nurse's wrist and saw an orange rubber bracelet marked "PHILIPPIANS 4:13."
My mind went back to the verse. Philippians 4:13. What verse was that again and why was it on the tip of my tongue? Slowly, my sleep-deprived brain remembered. I might not have been wearing it on my wrist, but I was wearing it on my heart. On a place where I could never lose it. It's the tail end verse of the passage I had just committed to memory this past week. The scriptures about finding contentment in any and every situation. That passage ends with verse 13:
"I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength."
When the moment allowed, I asked her about it and told her this was one of my favorite verses. She shrugged it off as if she didn't want to take ownership of the message it spoke or actually talk about the verse itself that sat engraved on her wrist. I'm not even certain she knew what verse it was that wrapped so boldly in orange around her. She nonchalantly explained to me that another patient had given it to her.
She spoke favorably about this patient and her family..."They are the nicest family. So nice." She chuckled, "I wish they could share some of that niceness with me because I sure could use a little bit more of it in my life." (Silently, I agreed. But that's another story.) And the thought occurred to me, it's not the nice that she's drawn to, it's the Jesus behind it. Though she may not have realized that's what had drawn her to this "nice" family, I had. It was Jesus.
And just like that, through a bright orange rubber bracelet, God showed up once again in a personal and tangible way. In perfect timing. With a powerful message. Just for me.
We've spent over 40 days and nights in the hospital with our son since all this started. In many ways it never gets easier. But, I am finding that I am a bit more armored up for battle each time. I believe with all my heart that He will heal Brayden completely of this disease. Perhaps this past hospitalization will be our last one. Even so, engraved on my heart in bright orange letters, I will remember:
All for His glory,