Never Felt More Alive . . . .

It has been over six weeks since I knew I was closer to death than I had ever been before, and yet . . . I had never felt more alive. After being hospitalized with a badly infected perforated ulcer and then having problems with my heart, I was finally released from the hospital and wrote the following to a friend:

Thank you for your prayers! They carried me through many a cliff-hanger as doctors and nurses did everything they could to save my life.. Once the surgery was done, that took the back burner as two nurses worked through two nights to restore the natural rhythm of my heart. It was tough in many, many ways. But God blessed me with His presence and peace, which many non-believers who watched the drama unfold could not deny. It took 3 days and switching around countless medications to finally get the rhythm of my heart restored.

“Your ways, God, are holy.
What god is as great as our God?
You are the God who performs miracles;
You display Your power among the peoples.
With Your mighty arm You redeemed Your people . . . .”
Psalm 77:13-17

I never realized how awkward it is to write about something that you know happened, but there is no other explanation for it except to say, it was a miracle.

Miracle defined: an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs.*

As I write about some of the “extraordinary events” that happened after being unexpectedly hospitalized, I do so in the hope of enlarging the vision of those of you who are facing challenges you would never have chosen for yourselves.  I invite all to draw your own conclusion as to whether it was God “intervening in human affairs” or if it was something else. (I would love to hear your thoughts.)

In the first of this three post series** I wrote about“sheltering in place” for months because of COVID-19, and how the thought of going to the hospital and picking up the virus terrified me. Then the night came when, finding myself in unbearable abdominal pain, I had no other choice than to face my greatest fear. As the ambulance siren wailed I found myself praying this simple prayer:

Thank you God that You love me and that I am not alone,
Thank You that You have a plan and purpose for my life..
Help me Lord to see those You put on my path with Your eyes
as I trust You no matter what!

Such was the beginning of an adventure that would transform my faith in remarkable ways. It was that first night and into the next day that I came to understand this simple truth:

 God often uses the very things we are most afraid of
to draw us closer to Himself.

In my second post I wrote how God has faithfully worked in the lives of people since the beginning of time. I pointed to the prophet Elijah, who ran away when Jezebel threatened to kill him. The passage talks about how God ministered to Elijah and how eventually Elijah “pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave” when he heard God speak in “a gentle whisper.”  (1 Kings 19:11-13) In that post I wrote about  learning to listen for His gentle whisper when fearful, discouraged or feeling utterly alone.  The night I was wheeled through the Emergency Room doors I heard that gentle whisper in my mind asking, “Kathie, will you trust Me in this?” 

Looking back all these weeks later, I can now see that when I responded to God’s question (at first tentatively and then fully) with, “Yes Lord, I will trust in You!” –it was then that the Holy Spirit stepped in. During the entire time He helped me take my eyes off myself/my fears and to choose to trust in God’s sovereign goodness.

Only now, as I reflect back on the night of my surgery, can I better appreciate what happened. Scheduled for exploratory surgery at five that evening I was remarkably at ease. In fact, as I was wheeled into the surgical room I suddenly remembered having seen the same setting of lights, people and a surgical table waiting when I had my tonsils removed when I was about six years old. For me, it was a pleasant memory as I remembered seeing stars after they put the mask over my face. That is my last memory until I was taken back to my room three hours later. I was told the surgery was a success, but I paid little attention to it as I watched two nurses diligently work through the night trying to get my heart rate under control. As they worked together the lights were low, and it felt like being in a cathedral.  Surrounded by a scattering of vaulted light and soft, shimmering colors, the nurses ran lines of various combinations of medications to finally stabilize me. I watched and prayed but experienced no fear and no pain. Finally the male nurse (Shawn) spoke to me: “Mrs. Siler, your hair is shining!” Moments later he exclaimed, “Mrs. Siler, your skin is beautiful!” and then asked, “Mrs Siler, what are you doing?” All I could think to say was, “I’m cheering you on!”

It wasn’t until weeks later that I thought about Shawn’s question: What WAS I doing?!! I thought about how they couldn’t understand how I was able to stay with them as I teetered on the edge of life and death!

  • Humanly speaking I should have been exhausted. I’d had major surgery to address a life threatening issue just hours before. (Imagine my surprise when, days later, I saw the seven inch incision down my middle being held together by fourteen staples!).
  • Yet I was clear-headed, not a bit fearful and felt no pain. (My only concern for the nurses.)
  • In fact, I felt exhilarated to the point where I cannot remember ever feeling more alive!

The only reasonable answer was the working of the Holy Spirit in me. It was indeed, “an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs” .

So what can we learn from this?

  1. God often uses the very things we are most afraid of to draw us closer to Himself.
  2. To enjoy our God-given life to the fullest requires that we be fully invested in Him–not our fears or the things of this world.

But how can we avoid giving way to our fears/emotions and the stress that is so much a part of this world? The Apostle Paul put it well: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thessalonians 5:18) To fight the onslaught of emotions that can so easily overtake us, I have found it most helpful to simply bring Christ into the center of my thinking:

Thank you, God, for loving me and
for sending your Son to save me for Yourself.
Thank You that You have a plan and purpose for my life.
Help me Lord to live for, love and serve You with a glad heart.

The words of Jesus that flew like a banner in my mind when I first entered the hospital, continue to be true for all who choose to trust in Him:

“I have come that they (YOU!) may have life,
and have it to the full.”

John 10:10b

All to His Glory!

*Merriam-Webster Dictionary
**To access the first and second posts of this series press here >>Not Afraid << for the first post and here >> The Fullness Of Life << for the second.

 

On Miracles and Facing The Unknown . . . .

Do you believe in miracles?  I certainly do.  One of the primary reasons I love my job, is because of the joy and privilege it is to witness God working miracles in the hearts and lives of those I am privileged to serve.  When facing a challenging situation, I encourage many a Client with this reminder: “We serve a God of miracles.  He parted the Red Sea for the Israelites and changed your heart and mine–so keep going–He is worthy of our trust!”  

The Bible talks about miracles and encourages us
to remember them as we face the unknown.

In fact, remembrance is so important in the Scriptures, that I draw a little cloud around words or phrases such as, “remember” or “do not forget”, so the reminder stands out on the page.  Psalm 105:3b-5 says this about miracles and their importance:

Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Look to the Lord and His strength;
seek His face always.
Remember the wonders He has done,
His miracles, and the judgments He pronounced . . . .”

Amy and her much-loved doll, Ka'wen.
Amy and her much-loved doll, Ka’wen.

The following is a fun little miracle that, had I not witnessed it myself, I would never have believed it.  It involved our middle child, Amy, when she was about 3 years old.  At the time my nicknames for Amy were, “Sweet Pea” (when things were good) or “Stink Weed” when she was being obstinate.  All that to say–she was quirky.  (One year later, when we moved to England, we were grateful to be able to assure Amy that there were no volcanos there.  For whatever reason, Amy was intensely afraid of them, so it would have been quite a fight getting her to board the airplane!}

I was busy working on a project in my sewing room when Amy slipped through the doorway and stood next to me.  When I glanced at her, she looked down at the floor and mumbled, “I put ‘um up my . . . .”  I put my finger gently under her chin so she would look at me, and asked her to repeat what she had said.  Looking sober and slightly embarrassed, she still tried to avoid my eyes as she said, “I put gum up my nose.”  

Stunned yet not wanting to upset her, I immediately forgot my project to give her my full attention.  I could see the gum lodged in her nostril but could not quite reach it.  Trying to stay calm, I instructed Amy to: (1) open her mouth to take a deep breath of air in, and then (2) told her to close her mouth as she blew the air (and hopefully the gum) out her nose.

Of course, that is not at all what happened.  Amy took a huge breath in through her nose and sucked the gum far up into her sinus cavity!  I called the Advice Nurse and was instructed to immediately bring her in to remove the gum.

As we drove to the clinic I asked, “Amy, why on earth did you stick gum up your nose?”

I nearly drove off the road when she soberly replied, “I didn’t.  I was looking at it very carefully on the floor, when it turned into a worm and crawled up my nose.”

 So far this is a cute story, right?  Well, that is not my reason for sharing it.  This next part is what is what has remained a miracle in my memory more than three decades later:

When we arrived at the clinic that late afternoon, Amy clung to me slightly but otherwise appeared fascinated by everything that was happening around us.  We were put in a side room to wait for the doctor.  When he came in, I explained why we were there as Amy soberly looked down at her toes.  When he put her on the patient’s table to locate the, “worm”, the doctor saw that it was lodged too far up to remove without special instruments.  Concerned (I’m sure) about the response of his young patient to what needed to be done, he gathered his instruments (a very long thin set of tweezers and a special light he wore on his head so he could differentiate between the gum and the tissue surrounding it) and four technicians to hold Amy down in case she turned into a wildcat.  (Which I knew was entirely possible.)

As the four technicians held Amy’s legs, shoulders and hands, she became transfixed on the doctor and the light on his head.  Her body did not tense, in fact, she appeared quite relaxed as the doctor positioned the long tweezers above her.  As I watched the tweezers enter her nostril, Amy appeared to be fascinated by what the doctor was doing and NEVER FLINCHED–TRULY!

After the doctor had removed the gum turned off his light, he turned to me looking totally astonished as he said, “I have never had a child stay still like that for such a procedure–NEVER!”  The technicians appeared equally impressed as they pulled out a bunch of stickers to commend Amy’s bravery.  It was truly miraculous!

More than three decades later, it still gives me pleasure to think about that day.  I never have entirely figured out what caused Amy to remain so still, but I do remember that she seemed transfixed as the doctor spoke softly and she focused on the light that shone brightly above her.  What I DO know was that something special happened in those moments when Amy steadfastly refused to give way to fear.

What can we learn from this, especially when we face the unknown?  For me, the lesson is about choices–in every season we come to in life there are choices to be made.  Do we give way to fear, anger or some other emotion that can so easily overwhelm us?  Or, do we take that deep breath of faith, steadfastly looking to the Light of Christ to help us in our time of need?  After all is said and done, isn’t that what it is all about?  We serve a God of Miracles, tried and true!

All to His Glory!