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Deep Breath

My Friend Debbie

     A typical parenting nightmare: "Please," I said with a calm that I have never naturally possessed, "I know her. Something is very wrong. Please, look again." I begged the emergency room doctor. A few minutes later, another surgeon made his appearance and told us that our 11-year-old daughter, MaryKate, had an enormous abscess in her pelvis. Most likely, he said, it was the result of an untreated ruptured appendix! So, this was the elusive culprit. For two to three months, Mary had been vacillating between wellness and illness. She had no appetite, she was losing weight, her skin was literally graying, and she was sleeping all of the time. Multiple trips to the E.R. and a battery of tests had yielded the opinion that she had "some kind of viral-thing." Now, the congestion and infection from the increasing size of the untreated abscess had caused Mary's digestive system to shut down. She had a complete bowel obstruction. This is extremely dangerous and very, very deadly. She was literally only hours from being torn from this life. Mary was dying.

"Mommy, please let me sleep..."

     Only three hours earlier, she had begged me to let her sleep instead of going to the doctor...again. "Mrs. Crago, this is why people used to die from appendicitis. If you would have allowed her to go back to sleep this morning, she would have died in her sleep." I was horrified, remembering how close I had come to giving in. I just wanted her to rest! I felt terrible; like I was torturing her when I practically had to carry her out to the car, fuzzy slippers and all. Consents were signed for surgery, and Mary was wheeled away by the O.R. nurse. Being a registered nurse myself and having taken care of people who died from this very condition, this was one of those times that even a tic-tac sized bit of knowledge was "a dangerous thing." I thank God for my friend Sherry, who is also a nurse and seemed to materialize out of nowhere that day, like some kind of magical elf or something. (Well, she is small and elf-like!) The Lord sent her to me. I can picture God saying: "Hey, Sherry, go take care of your sister, will you?" She stood in the gap for me and unquestioningly handled other issues so I could focus on my child. I didn't need to wear my nurse's hat that day. I don't "do" hats anyway. I needed to be a MOM.


     I actually felt paralyzed. I could not breathe or think or interpret lab results or the CAT scan anymore, looking for the smallest reassurance in my own knowledge and experience. I struggled to ignore my own fears. This was it: I felt myself evaporating...right there. I was going to be the first person ever to vaporize into nothingness in the face of adversity. I remember reflexively dropping to my knees when I realized I was not breathing! Literally. My face was frozen into a silent cry, and, for a split-second, I could not even see. "Oh, God..." I prayed, "please, please, please take me in her place." I was never more serious about anything in my life than I was at that moment. I would have died for this child if God so desired. I was suffocating in panic and grief. I visualized myself grasping the robes of Jesus, burying my face in them and deeply INHALING Him. Immediately, I was breathing again, and my pulse was crashing in my ears. An overwhelming "pressure" settled upon me and snuggled me up tight... like a cocoon. Looking back now, I recognize the firm but amazingly gentle power of God's Holy Spirit. There is nothing like it. I knew Who was holding me. He had protectively "sealed me off" to any other influence but His. I was too weak. God filled the divide between perfect and not. When I was stretched to my limit, He stretched for me.

My Friend Debbie

     The Enemy was there, too, trying to throw in a few shameless stabs, whispering into my ear, "You are a nurse. You didn't try hard enough. You should have seen this coming. She is going to die, and it is your fault." I actually tried to entertain those feelings of panic, make myself freak-out, curse myself; in a frantic attempt to foresee the most horrifying scenario. For the very first time in my life, those thoughts would NOT come! Satan could not interfere with his whispered lies and he was not allowed in this holy place...the base part of myself where tears fell freely on the robes of my Savior. Satan could not cross the threshold into the Divine. The Enemy was officially...FIRED! He failed! But, with my Father, I was there! In that holy place: completely undeserving, loaded with imperfections and quirks. Without preparation or practice, I began praying,"Lord...if You are going to take her from us now, I will be heartbroken. I will miss her. But, God, I know that she is Yours first. Thank You for letting me love this child. I will trust that Your will for her life is better than any fairytale-life we could hope for." I almost couldn't believe I was saying all of this. Who was this crazy person praying this anyway?! POOF! There. I just lost my mind. Ahhh, I knew it was bound to happen some day: "Bye-bye, Mind . . . have fun! Bon Voyage! Call me!" I felt...just a wee bit insane. However, for 37 glorious seconds, I knew whatever decision God was going to make would be the best decision. I just knew. Even if that meant I would not hold my daughter again until someday she welcomed me into the presence of OUR Father. She would be waiting there for me. Until then, she would be safe, lovingly cocooned in her Father's arms, inhaling Him, just as her mother had done only moments ago. My deepest and only desire for my daughter at that precise moment was to have that level of intimacy with God; that deep breath. The circumstances didn't matter. To say that doesn't mean that God doesn't "care" if we don't like what is happening. It means that God is never hindered by anything. Don't worry if it looks hopeless or lost or tragic. God is still moving. He is still there. Always. His power is not even slightly diminished by adversity or road blocks. He is huge.

Walk with Me

     As parents, I believe, that there is no other time when we are in absolute closer proximity to God than when we are despairing over our children. Yes, you most certainly can have an intense walk with God without being a parent, but hold on with me for a second here...God goes a step further by actually sharing His heart as a parent with us. He does not do this on a whim or on the advice of cheap counsel. When we walk through heartbreak with other people in our lives, those who "have been there," sharing tears and empathy forge a bond. You are instantly and forever connected. Would it not be even more so when God is the one who is empathizing with us? Whoa. We forget that our Heavenly Father not only knows what it is like to grieve, He knows what is like to grieve a child. When His Son was dying on the cross, God despaired of His only Son. That evening in the surgical waiting room, I heard God say to me, "Walk with Me."

     Now listen, I have to be sure that when I say, "God said to me . . ." I don't mean like a booming voice in a cloud commanding me to build an ark and open a zoo; I mean like a feeling of absolute certainty, a complete idea or thought that breezes through-- the manifest-presence of God the Father. God loves me so deeply, that He pulled me into communion with Him that evening, and we shared our hearts. We swapped "kid-stories."

Mercy Came Running...

My Friend Debbie

     I thank God that He called me out of the void 13 years ago, and had the patience to wait for my stubborn self to be in a place spiritually where I would be comforted by Him. That's Mercy. Honestly, if I would have been on the same Godless road that I was on, I shudder to think of what would have happened. This is coming from a person who had so much animosity towards God, I would scream at Him sometimes. I was just awful! After all that I had done, Mercy still chased me down and woke me up inside.


     As strange as it seems, I actually found comfort and rest in those days when Mary was recuperating. I had hope. We spent so much time together: God, me, and MaryKate-- a supernatural version of The Three Musketeers or something. I took care of Mary at home for almost two months. She needed injections into her "central line" (an IV line that provided direct vascular access to her heart) three times a day. We laughed, watched movies, and made jewelry. I rubbed cherry blossom-scented lotion onto her back and feet. We watched thunderstorms together in the dark, like we were a private audience and giggling like it was a big secret. I am not normally a "giggling kind of girl." I have almost always been the skeptic in the background rolling my eyes at that kind of stuff, but God brought back into my life at that moment pleasures long-forgotten and a true appreciation for the tiniest of moments. I watched God heal my child right in front of me. He not only brought color back into her face and strength back into her bones, but He breathed life itself back into her physical being. "God breathed into the man's nostrils the breath of life and he became a living being," Genesis 2: 6-8 (NIV). The Lord raised this child up strong, to a new level of vibrancy and intensity. Full-throttle. "Running on all cylinders," Call it what you will. Mary. . . 2.0.

My Friend Debbie

Unusual Peace and Perfect Timing

     The "...peace that surpasses all human understanding..." Philippians 4:4-7 (NIV), is a baffling concept to most of us. We ask, "How can you possibly have 'peace' during those times?" First of all, because God SAYS SO. I wish this was enough for me sometimes! Secondly, when "it" is not currently happening, we don't get peace to handle anything. Learning that God only deals with reality changed my life. Reality is lived only moment-by-moment. We mistake our fears and apprehension as reality sometimes by working ourselves into a panic. We allow our imaginations to entertain the dramatic. I think God gives us little ways to fine-tune our discernment, so we will hear Him and recognize His voice. God gives us His peace only when it is absolutely needed. He shows up at precisely the right moment. Despite our anxieties, God doesn't just waltz in the room, fashionably late. He is never late. This crucial timing feeds our faith and increases our dependence on God. It also helps us to see the reality that God is the only One who can provide this uncommon peace and rest we so desperately need.

Sheltered & Well-Rested

     One of my favorite Scriptures is Psalm 91. There is a promise in there that I cling to. I love the opening passage: "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty," Psalm 91:1 (NIV). Wow. We will rest. Not "maybe-if-you-are-lucky-and-get-to-take-a-nap," but holy rest. When we follow the Lord's promptings, and we hang on to His promises, God not only provides protection and rest for your physical self, but also for your soul. When you are so tired and so sad and so weak, He continues caring for every aspect of your being. "For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone," Psalm 91: 11-12, (NIV). Even in our fatigue and passivity, He carries the load for His children. He really does.

Copyright © 2008-2015 Jodi Crago

Reader Comments...
2009-02-27 07:26:36
"This is such a moving and inspirational story. It truely shows the love God has for each of us. Thank you for sharing! "
        - Beverly
2009-02-22 21:26:23
"I have shared this article with my mother and sister. It is such an amazing testament to the peace that passes all understanding. I am seeing it in another friend right now as she grieves for her husband. God truly does hold us in the palm of His hand. I have read this article several times and it brings me to my knees each time. Thank you for allowing yourself to be vulnerable and show us how Daddy cares for us."
        - Jeana
2009-02-01 17:22:23
"I remember when MaryKate was ill...You are always connected to your source. We remain blessed in this world to have both of you..all of you...(:

much love,

        - Carole

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