Christmas Courage

“For I am the LORD your God, who upholds your right hand. Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’” Isaiah 41:13

Christmas time, full of activities, festivities, decorations, wrappings…

…You see it everywhere; Christmas is in the air. The TV screen, email inboxes, billboards and flyers all advertising deals, sales, and what you should buy.

Just this week I had a woman contact me wanting to know how to explain suicide to her children, for there is a rampant rate of teen suicide in her area right now. I spoke with another woman on the phone, encouraging her as she tried to figure out how she was going to afford to “do” Christmas. As I spoke I recalled a story of God’s Faithful Hand of Provision. Even though this story isn’t about suicide or money, it is one that I pray inspires Hope for anyone struggling in the area of Courage this Holiday Season. May God bless the words and it would reach the heart of whoever needs it most.

When I was in my mid twenties, I had one small child, and I became friends with a woman about my age who also had one small child. When I met this woman (who for this story will be called Jamie) I was immediately drawn to her. She was joyful, spunky and she oozed love and happiness all over the place. I didn’t know many people like that, so she intrigued me. I had only known her a short while when I learned that she had a very rare disease that only affects women. To look at her, she looked and behaved absolutely “normal”. She was high functioning and no visible evidence that anything was wrong with her. Jamie was in the very early stages of her disease, so rare, there was no known cure. I recall her telling me there were only 400 documented cases in the USA of this sickness. Rare indeed.

I was friends’ with Jamie for many years. She was consistent and true to the character attributes that drew me to her. I was in awe of her positivity. Her physical attributes consistently began to show evidence of her sickness. Her disease affected her lungs and her ability to take in and utilize oxygen. After a number of years Jamie would begin to require to have breathing treatments. Over more time she was getting oxygen delivered to the house and required to use it as needed. The need grew more and more and over time Jamie had tubes in her nose all day long. Everywhere she would go she’d have her little boy and her oxygen tank in tow. Even still, her attitude was brilliant. She radiated pure Hope and Joy all day everyday. I won’t say she didn’t get scared or wonder of her future because she did and I recall being the listening ear and prayerful partner she needed. She and I both had tremendous faith and belief that God was going to heal her and she wasn’t going to die.

I’d say at this point I had known her for five or six years. Jamie’s condition progressively got worse and worse. Even so, her heart burned brighter and brighter. God was using this woman to prick my heart with the power of a positive attitude. I had no comprehension of how she could possibly remain so extremely joyful, positive and grateful for every breath of life as she suffered with so much pain and uncertainty in her life. If you’ve read much of my writing, you know I have huge faith for miracles and supernatural intervention that can only come from God. But at this point in my life I hadn’t a tremendous amount of evidence in seeing God do amazing or crazy things to support such a faith as I do now (browse my blogs, there are several writings about God’s unique and creative and ridiculously amazing provision through faith…and my greatest stories I have never put to pen). Jamie was my first real jump-start into long term believing for something BIG.

As the years past and Jamie’s condition looked hopeless, more and more of her family and friends began to pull away or lose enthusiasm for her “unrealistic” belief for healing. I don’t believe, outside myself, she had many others who continued to believe with her. Jamie was down to her final weeks or even days of life. I went to visit her, as she didn’t get out much anymore (required too much energy for those wilted little lungs to handle). We sat on her couch and I drank in her beaming smile. How could she be so happy? I loved it.  I found her Joy intoxicating and I craved it more and more, even though it was hard to see her in this condition. I hadn’t a clue how to encourage her. I drew close because she didn’t know was how much she was encouraging me. I remember this day vividly. We sat and agreed that we both still believed, despite the evidence and the doctors, that God had a miracle in place for her and if she still had breath, life wasn’t over yet. The doctors told her she could die any day and we knew this. For all I knew it was going to be the last time I saw her, but still, we chose to Believe, to Hope, to Rejoice.

Just a few days later I received a call in the middle of the night. It was to let me know that Jamie was on her way to the hospital to receive a double lung transplant. She had been on the waiting list (over 300th in line), but tonight was her night. God had provided while death stood on the front porch.

Jamie got her lungs and God spared her life. It was a long journey back to normal and her normal became an entirely new normal. When she was in the recovery a few weeks after surgery and was well enough to speak on the phone she shared with me her miracle story. It blew my mind…

Jamie’s husband was into motor-cross. One of their last outings as a family (pre-surgery) Jamie ran into someone she knew from her past and had not seen in a very long time. The friend learned of her illness and was moved with compassion. She told Jamie that her mother was an organ donor and she was going to tell her mom (who was in perfect health) that she needed to designate her lungs to Jamie so if anything should happen to her before Jamie died, Jamie would receive her lungs. Now, Jamie had told me this part of the story shortly after it happened and we both found it a bit odd, but thought nothing of it after that. Guess who’s lungs Jamie was receiving? The friend’s mother, in perfect health, had suddenly and unexpectedly died of a brain anurism that killed her instantly. Apparently, for someone receiving an organ donation this is an excellent way for the donor to die (sorry if that sounded morbid) for it does the least amount of damage to the organs that are being donated.

Jamie believed and lived a life full of Hope and Joy and God restored her health. Though her life permanently altered by the need to take life long medications that had some side affects that affected her appearance…through it all, she never lost her Joy.

It’s funny, they say God only gives you what you can handle. I guess Jamie could handle a lot. God equipped her to walk through something that required much strength and perseverance. I would tell her how I marveled and was blessed by her continual countenance of Hope and happiness. In all her glorious humility, she would reference a specific trial of mine that had some longevity to it and she would tell me how God used me to inspire her, she didn’t know how I did it. Isn’t God funny? My trial, though hard, felt so insignificant compared to life and death.

God has a purpose for everything under the sun. If you still have breath in your chest then He isn’t finished with you yet. You’ve got a life purpose to complete. Hold on, Dear One, hold on. It is a blessed season and the Father gave His Son that we would have the Power over Death to proclaim Life and see our Victories won. Jamie’s donor had fulfilled her call on life and God took her home. Part of her life purpose was to save Jamie’s life. God can save your life, too, from whatever afflicts you. He can walk you through it and this too probably has purpose to it. Adopt an attitude of Hope, Optimism, and Joy, infectious Joy! Believe with all your heart. He is going to put the spring in your step back.

"...count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." James 1:2-4

Never give up. Don’t lose heart. Allow courage to drive itself deep within your chest. God has given you breath…you’ve got more.