Day 13; seeing light in the metaphorical dark is CHALLENGING. While Joseph’s brain was swelling, covered in lesions, his eyes crossing, white blood cell count rising; I was coming in and out of the hospital from one surgery after another at the same time. This kind of metaphorical darkness is when it can be CHALLENGING to see light.
In the deep vastness of chronic pain or a devastating diagnosis or global pandemic chaos zero-ing in on your job security or holiday plans – the darkness comes in consuming your landscape.
“I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.”
Barbara Brown Taylor, “Learning to Walk in the Dark”
This daily exercise of looking for how the light gets in is much more than looking for a silver lining. I’m not a fan of another positive spin. I want the real deal. The power of dark, looking for light in it, the challenge to appreciate them both is a daily exercise.
So, everyday I bring what I’ve got. And Jesus sees it. Takes it. And Answers.
With five loaves and two fish, Jesus fed thousands. A boy brought Jesus what he had, and Jesus worked a miracle.
Bring Jesus your dark and your light today. He sees your darkness. He is offering light. Challenge yourself today. What will your miracle look like?
Do you remember those clunky projectors from elementary school? The big, gray, crane-necked machines sitting squat in the center of the classroom. Mrs. Hostetler would lay a transparency sheet on the glowing machine and the lesson would begin.
If needed, she’d add another transparency sheet on top of the first to build on the original lesson.
I feel like our miracle story has another transparency sheet or two you need to know about.
Transparency #1 (which you know from the previous post): Late August 2016, Joseph was in the hospital, sick and visiting with various specialists.
Lay on Transparency #2: Joseph was released from the hospital on August 26th. Just a few days later, I was admitted for my surgery.
Yes, I was in the midst of my own medical chaos.
Yes, our medical messes were overlapping. And to be clear, it was bad.
While Joseph was suffering with a swollen brain, crossed eyes and visiting with Infectious Disease, Neurology and Ophthalmology docs; I would be going through 5 surgeries in 10 months leaving me with 13 scars and one major complication – all at the same time.
Joseph’s story had a beautiful miraculous healing – an unexplainable gift. My story continues with pain. But just because I don’t have a spontaneous recovery doesn’t mean I don’t have miracles too; they’re just different.
The miracle of Loaves and Fishes tells us about a crowd of thousands smooshed in on a hill to be near Jesus. They didn’t want to leave his side but they were also hungry. While the (sometimes doubtful/snarky/forgetful/sounds like Andrea) Disciples suggested they send the crowd away; Jesus said you will feed them.
Let’s add on one more Transparency sheet, shall we?
Jesus says, bring it here to me… Bring me your shred of self-love, your glimmer of hope, your maybe of trust. Just bring it.
1. Jesus looks at what they have right in that moment.
2. He looks up to heaven and says Thank You.
3. He Shares it.
With just 5 loaves and 2 fish, Jesus multiplies what the disciples bring him to feed thousands (with leftovers).
So subtle, so powerful, so Jesus – he models simple steps towards our own miracles.
I don’t have complete healing. In fact, today I hurt. I’m sad remembering the fear and pain of going into that surgery In 2016. I didn’t want to go. I still sometimes even get mad that I went ahead with it and the one after that and the one after that.
Right now, I’m bringing what I got.
I lay down throbbing hurt and frustration. Here it is Jesus. I look up and say Thank You for a beautiful day, with my family, giving the beach one last go before school starts. I hit “publish” and share this story with you. Now we watch the miraculous beauty of gratitude or hope or love or all of the above multiply, together. 💗 And that is how the light gets in.
His fever was at 104 for 3 days straight. His cough had gotten worse. But when Joseph looked up at me and his eyes were crossed; we went to the ER. Joseph (then 7 years old) would stay in the hospital for a week and then leave with a tube coming out of his chest and a battle ahead. The next 365 days we spent traveling up and down Charles Street for medical appointments – Spinal taps, MRI’s, MRA, MRV, bloodwork, Ophthalmology visits… His brain was swollen, messing up his cranial nerve and crossing his eyes. His white blood cell count was through the roof. He’d lost 14 pounds, was working through brain fog and we kept going. An MRI revealed Joseph had 11 lesions on his brain. My boys brain was presented during Grand Rounds in neurology and they “couldn’t figure him out.” That’s when we switched to The Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia (CHOP).
Pediatric MS or Spinal Cord Cancer. That’s what Jason and I were told. “Joseph either has Pediatric MS or a sneaky Spinal Cord Cancer. We’ve ordered a spinal tap, MRI and bloodwork to confirm and we’ll move forward from there. We’ll be in touch with the results.”
Let’s take a breath from the story for a moment and jump to present time. The message series at Church right now is “Ordinary Everyday Miracles.”
August marks the beginning of our own Miracle. And if I didn’t write about it, well, I wouldn’t be me and you wouldn’t know about it. The alignment of this series at Church plus the anniversary of our miracle is enough prompting for me to start typing.
Okay, here’s the overview Father White gave us and I love it. Looking at these 3 miracles, we see a progression for the Apostles (Jesus’ closest friends). At first, they get to witness a miracle. Then, in the Calming of the Sea, they are in the midst of the miracle. Next, the Apostles get to participate in the miracle of feeding thousands of people off 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.
Hearing all the different ways the Apostles had access to MIRACLES that happened right in front of them, for them, by them was beautiful because Jesus is offering so many ways to see him.
Reading all the different ways the Apostles reacted TO miracles with Jesus RIGHT NEXT TO THEM gives me hope. Matthew 14 verse 15 says they were irritated, verse 26 says they were terrified and didn’t recognize. In Luke 8 verse 24, they were freaking out, forgetting Jesus was with them. In Luke 9 verse 13, the Apostles were straight up sarcastic.
I don’t know where you stand with God or miracles. But, the fact that the Apostles fear and sarcasm and forgetfulness is written in the Bible reads like gracious encouragement from a big God. Doesn’t it? It’s as if God is saying, “Look, these ding dongs were right next to my Son and still didn’t get it. And they still freaked out. It’s ok. You will too. And, I love you.”
Back to the story of our miracle… Terrified? Sarcastic? Freaking out? All of it. We were promised test results and an action plan in 2 days. But instead of 48 hours, we waited 2 weeks.
The doctor called to say, “Mrs. Smithberger, I apologize for the delay but we just had to make sure. There’s no medical explanation for this but Joseph doesn’t have anything. The 11 lesions, gone. His white blood cell count, normal. The swelling on his brain, gone. Even the marker for Lymes, gone. I had to go to hematology, oncology, ophthalmology, neurology to verify. There is no medical explanation for this.”
This ding dong was crying.
There is no medical explanation for our miracle. I still poke Joseph from time to time. I don’t want to forget.
The gift of being in and going through something hard can be that you develop a new way to see things. Looking back and writing, for me, keeps my eyes open as I move forward.
Don’t miss your miracles.
You’re a ding dong too and God will stop at nothing to get your attention. And if you get freaked out, scared, doubtful – keep looking. You might be witnessing, in the midst of or participating in a miracle of your own. Look back, look ahead – God is there.
Who spreads out the Earth with all that springs from it.
Who gives breath to it’s people
and life to those who walk on it.” Isaiah 42:5
Yes, that God… My God is doing a little happy dance with us today. Our God is high-fiveing and celebrating right along side us.
The hospital called.
The neurologist listed it all off, like a grocery list; “MS-no, Lesions-gone, Cancer-no, Not even a history of Lymes, No more cranial swelling, No more enhancement of the cranial nerves. Yep, he looks good.” She asked if I was still on the line but I was too busy crying in absolute shock to answer. Did you exhale?
Deuteronomy 4:9 says “don’t forget the things your eyes have seen… don’t let them fade from your heart as long as you live.”
I can’t forget Joseph in the hospital; pale, weak, skinny, sad. I can’t forget how he woke up so angry from anesthesia realizing he had a line put in his chest. I can’t forget when he was waiting to blow out the candles on his birthday cake but was working so hard to pull his eyes together. I can’t forget driving down Charles street to one appointment after another week after week. I can’t forget phone calls to any and every doctor, “Can you help me? My son is sick and I need help.”
“What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight.
What is whispered in your ear, PROCLAIM IT FROM THE ROOFS!” Matthew 10:27
This is my “roof” and I am shouting it friends! There has been a lot of dark but the whispers of “I will hold your hand” from Isaiah or “Be strong and courageous” from James and “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go” from Genesis… Come on! That’s what we’ve been holding onto, breathing in!!! And the exhale is a snot-nosed, red-eyed, blubbering ME, ready to hug everyone and dance all day!
I want the pain, the beauty, the victory to leave it’s imprint on my heart and yours. We’ve learned too much, right? And life being life, there will be more. So, let’s carry these lessons together.
Also, the neurologist said she has “no explanation for why Joseph was so sick or for why he is fine now.
Whateve’s Science, Spirit’s got this… If I see you, I’m hugging you!