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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Why God is Mean: Thoughts on Christmas with Jackie, from my former self

Christmas with Jackie Q.

My mother left one Friday morning before I left for school. The quick goodbye and the muffled smile from inside the huge black coat would be the last I saw of her for two weeks. I thought it was tough enough being the eldest of seven in a homeschooling family with a severely handicapped autistic brother and a father overseas in the military. What I'd called a blizzard turned out to be just a little rain—it was about to snow.
Friday I came home from school to find my grandparent's little red car in the driveway. Later that day news came in that the little girl within my mother's womb would probably not survive. I spent the greater part of my Saturday on the phone with ladies from my church, giving and getting information about my mother's condition and receiving prayer and aid of all kinds from my older sisters in Christ. My friends sent fragrant prayers to heaven for me, and this entire time the Lord filled me with an incredible sense of peace. Sunday, after the congregational prayer for my new little unborn sister, my mother called with good news of an improvement in the baby's condition. The elders of my church went down to UVA and prayed for my mother, and the baby's condition improved again. The emergency c-section scheduled Monday moved to the following Wednesday. My grandmother continued to take care of my family as I bumped my way through the last few weeks of school before the Christmas break.
My mother's water broke the following Tuesday night, the day before the c-section scheduled on Wednesday, and my wonderful dad rushed down to UVA for the emergency delivery. Jacqueline Noelle was c-sectioned 1:05 AM on December 5th. I saw her about a few days later, and about a week after that she moved out of the intensive care unit and into the moderate care unit.
My sister's emergency brought forth an amazing shower of love from all places expected and unexpected. My church's amazing support system dazed me. We found faith and love in the most wonderful people, like the EMT who took my mother to the hospital in the ambulance sang hymns and Christian worship songs to her during the entire trip. My sister's plight brought sympathy from all kinds of people at my school and she gave me a deeper relationship through prayer and care with many of the Christian teachers and teens whose faith had been previously unknown to me. One amazing teen friend took Jackie's situation to her youth group and had them praying for her. Jackie's need activated prayer-warriors around the world and sent a UVA nurse who had "heard about her" into tears. She's barely a month old and has already touched more lives than some people reach in a lifetime.
Jacqueline Noelle is not out of the hospital yet however. She has Hydrops Fetalis and may have transient leukemia (TL), which in 20-30% of Down's Sydrome kids develops into acute leukemia within a few years. Yes, Jackie Q. has been diagnosed with Down's Syndrome, although it appears mild and she does not possess the physical characteristics of a typical DS child. The TL could be causing the fluid build-up in her abdomen (ascites). Medical aid alone cannot save Jackie Q. Theory after theory has leapt in the window to supplant the previous ideas about her condition. Her life is in the hand of God alone.
I began this short blurb to write about questioning the Lord's goodness. After all I've written, however, it is quite clear that His Goodness is something I really cannot question. Jackie Q has lived a full live. To put it quite plainly, if she dies, she will have lived life to the max and she will find a sweet spot in heaven just waiting for her. If she lives, who knows what she will accomplish? This crazy emergency has given my mother a closer relationship with the Lord and broadened my own emotional horizons. No harm has befallen us—only good. We have received the blessing of knowing the transience of life, and the importance of the small, and we have seen the Almighty Hand of God at work for healing. This is more than many people witness in a lifetime.
Yes, it's true that this was perhaps not the best time for everyone in my family to come down with a dreadful stomach bug, or for my much-needed grandmother to meet Mr. Pneumonia. It certainly wasn't planned for me to be at home alone right now taking care of three children while my mother stays in Charlottesville to take care of Jacqueline. I really don't appreciate the military's success in taking my dad back to Kuwait again after only a few weeks. I don't like being a teenage surrogate mother.
But isn't this what Christmas is all about? Mary and Joseph undoubtedly had other plans before Jesus came along. I'm sure they had a nice home in Nazareth all picked out. I'm sure Joseph did not expect to marry an already pregnant woman. For that matter, I'm sure Mary did not intend to get pregnant before getting married! And I'm sure this was the absolute worst time Ceasar Augustus could have picked to send the couple journeying to Bethlehem for a tax raise.
But if Jesus had not been born in Bethlehem, He would not have fulfilled the prophecy made in the Old Testament about this "City of David." If He hadn't been in a stable we would never have seen so clearly the amazing humbling leap from God-hood to baby humanity that He took to save us. Without the manger and the fifteen-year-old girl we would not have witnessed God's amazing ability to use the lowest things in society to fulfill His beautiful purpose. Perhaps most importantly, the lowliest of the lowly, the shepherds, whose word by law could not hold in Jewish court, could never have met the baby Jesus and worshipped Him.
Little is so much when God is in it. He knows exactly what He is doing, and He does it with the smallest things of this world. He uses individuals to build His family. He used a boy to slay a giant. He used a manger to house the King of the Universe. He is the God who gets His praise from the lips of children and infants. Can He not use you, too?

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