You learned, quicker than most, that this world can be a dark and scary place. And, yet, you fought to stay here. To make a difference in this world.
At only five days old, you got sick with a mysterious illness. After a week in the hospital with multiple seizures and a fever that wouldn’t break, we finally had answers. You had contracted a rare virus that causes brain inflammation, sepsis, and seizures in infants who are especially vulnerable to viral infections – Parechovirus Encephalitis. A big word that would impact your little life in big ways!
Your dad and I had had barely left the hospital with you In tow before rushing back to the emergency room. There wasn’t time to meet your extended family or settle into your daily routine. There was no time to heal at home or acclimate to our new life as a family of four. Our days would soon be colored with the neon glow of beeping monitors and the fluorescent lights of the Pediatric ICU.
Simply put, it was not the maternity leave I had hoped for or imagined I’d be spending with you. But as unwelcoming as the hospital may appear, I can assure you, it is the only place we wanted to be when you needed to be there. We needed the knowledge of medical experts and the prayers of fellow Christians, seeking a miracle on your behalf.
Sustained by Grace
Everyone tells new moms to take it easy and focus on their recovery, but that wasn’t really an option in the Pediatric ICU. I lacked sleep. My body was sore. My milk was coming in and I couldn’t even feed you, so I would just try to hold you close through a mess of tangled cords. In many ways, my body was still healing from the trauma of birth as your father and I stayed by your side, spending sleepless nights in uncomfortable hospital recliner.
Yet, God’s presence sustained us. There was a network of prayers surrounding us from all around the world. People from Florida, Arizona, Washington, Pennsylvania and countless others we didn’t even know were praying for you – the “baby from Michigan”. You were on prayer lists, text threads and email chains exchanged between friends. Even the local ice-cream shop owner was asking about you! Fellow brothers and sisters in Christ were sending us text after text with written prayers, Bible verses, and worship songs that we would play on repeat in your hospital room, uniting us and drawing us into something far bigger than ourselves.
We felt the prayers of others lifting us up with His grace and peace.
And, dear Phoebe, I want you to know something. I want you to know that in those moments, when I was scared for your life, I’d never felt more honored to call myself a Christian. Your father and I found ourselves humbled to be part of a faith community that reaches around the world. We were reminded what a privilege it is to be part of the family of God. And that wouldn’t be possible without the local church.
Supported by the Church
After your terrifying seizure episodes, the neurologists laid out all the worst possible scenarios. A brain hemorrhage? A genetic disorder? We didn’t know what to think. But we knew where to place our hope. That night our church family gathered outside within view of our hospital room window to lift us up with prayer and praise to the God of the miracles!! They prayed and interceded on your behalf in Jesus’ name.
People, especially my generation, can be so hard on the Church, and I’m sure that’s not going to change in your lifetime. But let me tell you, my child, through this trial we can testify that the Church is alive and well. Your father and I experienced the Church that night… as it was meant to be! The Body of Christ is a powerful family of believers, united by faith, all around the world. And it starts in the brick and mortar walls of your local congregation.
Throughout your life, there will be people who will try to make you see the negative in everything, especially the Church. And, yes, the Church has it’s faults and failures. Because it’s full of broken people like us. But just like the hospital is the place of healing for the sick, the church is a place of healing for the sinner. And God has transformed His Church into beautiful saints who are united by His love.
Like Aaron holding up the arms of Moses, the Church held us up when we could not. There were moments when we felt like we had nothing else to offer, nothing else to give to ourselves or each other. We lacked energy. We lacked words. Sometimes we even lacked the emotions to express what we were feeling. But the Body of Christ was there for us, they were there for you, and I want you to know that.
Living on a Prayer
This is a dark, scary world. In moments of trial, it’s tempting to cut others out and turn inward, focusing only on yourself, but it is the prayers and support of your faith community that you will need the most.
Because of those prayers, we felt a peace that surpasses understanding. Even when we should have been filled with fear and distress, God gave us a peace that didn’t make sense. Like Paul writes to the church in Philippi, “Instead, in every situation with prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. And the peace that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6)
We didn’t know what tomorrow would hold, and as you continue to recover, we still don’t. We don’t know your long-term seizure risk, and we don’t know the damage the inflammation could cause. But we find our sustenance in the daily bread that God provides. We pray and we trust that God holds tomorrow in His hands.
You are our little miracle, Phoebe. Your life is an answer to prayer. In a world that can be so cold and unwelcoming, we hope you’ll continue living on a prayer, putting your faith in a God who always cares.