I remember when the doctor came in and looked me in the eye and said "We're not sure she's going to make it." After that, I sort of blacked out. I woke up and there was a man with a collar in the room, asking me if I wanted him to pray for me. He prayed and then once he left I said my own prayer. I knew I didn't deserve to have my prayer answered because I wasn't living a life for God at all - as a matter of fact, since I left my home to get married and start a family, I had completely turned my back on God and didn't even go to church anymore. But things seemed dire at this point. Would He listen?
A few days before, my daughter Stephanie, who was four at the time, had come down with the chickenpox. She was very sick from the get go but the second day of her illness, it got much worse. Her fever had gotten up to 106 and I was scared. I'd taken her into the doctor several times and was told "It's just the chickenpox. Give her ibuprofen and give it time, she'll be fine." But things weren't fine. Her body was swelling and she was moaning as if she was in tremendous pain. She couldn't even stand for me to touch her. I finally called the ambulance and said "You are taking her to the hospital right now and I'm not bringing her home until you tell me what is wrong with her!" They took her to the hospital.
Now, they were telling me she had the flesh eating bacteria and that her body had gone into septic shock. The doctors had cut off her hospital bracelet twice and replaced it because it kept getting so tight from the swelling that ballooned her tiny body. She was now unconscious and it seemed hopeless. Doctors crowded around her, poked at her, took x-rays and blood and now they were telling me they did not think she would make it. I was absolutely devastated.
I think a part of me believed God was punishing me for running from Him. I even think a part of me, due to a legalistic upbringing, believed I deserved it. But that morning I found myself praying for the first time in years. Through loud sobs, I begged God not to take my baby away. I told Him I was sorry for turning my back on Him and that if He took her away I wouldn't survive. I begged Him to please let me keep her. I told Him that if He would allow me to keep her, I would dedicate her to Him - she would be all His. I wasn't sure how that would all work out, but I remember vividly that I was not willing to give up myself, but that I was willing to give her to Him. I knew I had already proven that I couldn't live up to the standards of a good Christian, so maybe she could? My ideas of God were so twisted.
God chose to heal my daughter, much to the doctor's surprise. She was in intensive care for two weeks at a Children's Hospital. It was the longest and most frightening two weeks of my life. But God gave me the grace I needed to get through this time. To this day I think "How did I do that?!" and then I remember the grace. He helped me through it.
Once we were home from the hospital and she was all healed, Stephanie developed a love for Jesus that I cannot explain. I certainly cannot take credit for it! She wanted to go to church. So my husband and I would drop her off and come back and pick her up or we'd send her with her grandparents. I didn't go with her - honestly I think there was a part of me that didn't want to ruin it for her. She was doing so well and I knew I was a failure in God's eyes (or at least that's what I was convinced of).
As I watched my daughter grow up loving Jesus, I saw something in her that I desperately wanted. It was a relationship. She wasn't religious at all - it wasn't about keeping rules and playing the church game - it was about grace and relationship. It was beautiful. I began going to church to see if I could find what it was that she had. Eventually, the Lord did open my eyes to the Truth and I gave my life to Him. I often smile when I think about how I thought dedicating my daughter to Him was such a better idea than dedicating myself. God knew that He would use that relationship with her to get to me, too! He's so good.
Today, Stephanie is a 19 (almost 20!) year old student at North Greenville University. She is passionately in love with Jesus. She is majoring in Intercultural Studies and wants to be in missions. I look at her often and thank God for allowing her to stay here with us and for showing us Himself through her witness. I know that few weeks back in 1994 had to have been the most difficult of my life, but I also know that through that difficult time, God brought me into a real relationship with Him.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by life right now - please remember that God has a plan. You may be able to look back on your life in a few weeks, months or years and see how God was weaving His will into your life through these situations all along. He will give you the grace for the moment - for whatever you are going through. Trust Him. He loves you!
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.