Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Miracle of Easter

Jeremiah 29:11   
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.

Chocolate bunnies
Dyeing Easter eggs
Easter dress shopping
Special family time
Easter lilies and
Jesus is risen!
Up until a few years ago, Easter was about traditions that I followed as a child and have carried forward with my children. As a believer, I read scripture and prayed. I tried to focus on the journey of Jesus in the last week of his life. Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and then the joy of Easter Sunday. I heard the words transformation and resurrection and tried to understand what they meant. I thought I understood.
Three years ago, my mom received the much anticipated call that a kidney was available for a transplant. She had been on dialysis for two years. 18 years before that, I had donated a kidney to her. The expected life of a live donor kidney is 10-12 years. We felt incredibly blessed that my kidney, in her body, worked well for 18 years. Now she was having her second transplant. Everything went well and on Super Bowl Sunday night, 2009, she was sitting up in bed, eating jello after a successful transplant surgery. But within a few hours, everything went wrong. By Monday morning, she was in ICU on a respirator and all her body systems were shutting down. The doctors did not know what was happening or why. The cultures they took to determine the cause of infection had to incubate for several days. When I walked into that ICU room and saw a machine breathing for my mother and four IV trees with 40 bags of medicine each hooked up to her frail body I could barely stand up. The next few days were touch and go until they determined that the infection came from the very kidney meant to give her life. E coli was raging.  Not only was the new kidney not working, her very life was hanging in the balance. After isolating the infection, each day we would see some improvement, and then we would have a setback. Mom was gone from us during this time, and her coloring was ashen, her tiny body just a shell. As I struggled to make sense of what was happening and also be a support to my dad, I remember praying, “God, please heal her. And after all the fighting she has done, please save this kidney.” Her improvement continued and after 42 days in ICU, she was moved to a regular room where she continued to improve and grow stronger. Her kidney was working well and she began the work of physical therapy which would allow her to go home. With the attentive care from my dad, she made steady progress toward wholeness and healing.
Three years later she is strong and feisty – a walking testimonial of healing. Each time I am with her I marvel at the goodness of a God who loves us and restores us. He did not just save my mom or spare her life, he restored her to full health. I feel a bit like Mary and Martha who witnessed their brother’s death and also his resurrection. I have witnessed God’s resurrection power through my mother’s healing. For me, Easter has a profound new meaning, full of gratitude and hope.

Mark 16:6  “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. “

Saturday, April 21, 2012

20 Years Ago

20 years ago
A young woman dreamed of joining the Peace Corps.
When the application asked if she had a country preference,
She checked, “No preference.”
When her assignment came as a teacher trainer on the island of Grenada
She immediately headed to the public library
To see where the heck they were sending her.
20 years ago
That young woman found her new home
In a place with warm, friendly people,
Adorable, curious children,
The sweet nectar of mangoes, dripping from every tree,
And a cute young teacher named Ryan.
And a church in Kingwood, Texas prayed for her.
They sent notes of encouragement
And care packages with things like Oreos and Pace picante sauce.

20 years ago,
She was placed in a small country school
at the north end of a tropical island
that is only 12x22 miles wide.
Placed by whom?
No question about that.
Of all the schools on that island,
Of all the islands in the Caribbean,
Of all the countries in the world,
God placed her there.
And over two years, that nice young teacher named Ryan became a friend,
then a boyfriend and then a fiancée to the young woman.

And Ryan made a choice: to give up that life in order to start a new one with her

He came to America and became a husband, and then a father.
He became a friend, a faithful church worker and a citizen of the United States.

And the church in Kingwood, Texas,
Opened its arms and its heart to this Grenadian son.

Fast forward twenty years.

One month ago, 17 of us carried the prayers,
and energy,
and hope,
and love,
and financial support,
of Kingwood Christian Church,
across the ocean
to our brothers and sisters in Grenada.

One month ago I had the honor of sharing Grenada with my church family.
One month ago I had the honor of sharing my church family with Grenada.
One month ago, standing in the very spot where Ryan asked me to marry him,
We renewed our marriage vows in the presence of our dear friends.

One month ago I saw nine months of planning bear beautiful fruit.
One month ago I saw an 18 year dream come true - a dream to help, to give back.
God’s perfect plan,
20 years in the making.

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Psalm 139:13 (NIV)
For you created my inmost being;
   you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Questions for Reflection: 

 Looking back on your life, can you think of a time when God was at work, long before you were  aware of it? Thank God for that time. How would you describe that time?

Do you have any pictures of yourself during this time period? What do you notice when you look at yourself in those pictures? What could you say today, knowing what you know, to that person back then? What words could you use to encourage her?

How does it make you feel to realize that God is ever-present, even when we aren’t aware or tuned in?

Are you in the midst of a struggle now that seems hopeless? Imagine the best possible outcome and write about that. How long might it take? Share this desire of your heart with God, asking for the patience needed to wait.