“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1
While it seems that the whole world is stressed out about the pandemic, today my mind goes back to a time last September that was even more stressful (I’d say “terrifying.”) to our family.
Marty and I were in western Michigan, and I was scheduled to be part of an author event on the other side of the state. Both locations were hundreds of miles from our children and grandchildren. It was the morning when I was to drive across the state when the proverbial bomb was dropped.
At 4:45 A.M. my phone buzzed me out of a deep sleep. It was my oldest daughter Joanna. I felt a wave of adrenaline; the only reason for a call at this hour was some dire emergency. I hoped against hope that she had somehow “butt-dialed” me. But the moment I heard her voice, worn out from prolonged weeping, that hope evaporated.
“Mom,” she sobbed, “we found out what was killing the guinea pigs.”
I blinked. Wait … She’s calling me at 4:45 A.M. to talk about guinea pigs?!
I knew how the children loved the little critters. It had been sad for all of them when the first one had died inexplicably and especially heartbreaking when the second one had died a few days later on Caroline’s birthday. Recently I had heard that the third one was “walking funny” and seemed disoriented.
But as much as the children loved their pets, did this merit a predawn call on the day before my author event? I tried not to sound too irritated as I asked what the cause of death was.
Joanna explained that wild rodents can get a parasite that humans are susceptible to. “It’s fatal, Mom. And there is no cure.”
My heart dropped into my stomach. But something wasn’t adding up.
“Wait a minute, honey. You got the guinea pigs at a pet store. They wouldn’t – ”
“Mom. The squirrel.”
My heart dropped to the floor.
A couple of weeks earlier their oldest, Caroline, had found a baby squirrel that seemed to be injured. She had picked it up, taken it home, and tried to nurse it back to health. After a day or so it had died. All three children had been playing with the squirrel and the Guinea pigs, and at their age, they may not have washed their hands or the cages that thoroughly afterward.
“Mom, please pray for us!”
I was weak in the knees, short of breath, and for once in my life, speechless. I still had questions, such the source of her information. She had been on line all night.
When I heard the word “Wikipedia,” a wave of relief mixed with irritation kept me standing for a few more moments, but when she added, “Harvard’s medical website confirmed it,” I sank into the nearest chair and again felt the blood draining from my face.
By this time Marty was awake. I turned my phone to “speaker” just as Joanna said, “Dad’s gonna want to know the name of the parasite…” She spelled the unpronounceable word, and Marty was already typing it into his phone. Moments later I heard him say a word he doesn’t normally use.
The good news was, the disease in humans is rare. The bad news was, for those who get it, progressive nerve damage spreads to the brain, and the victim loses muscle control and eventually dies an excruciating death. Some survive, having severe brain damage for the rest of their lives.
I felt my world spinning out of control as I finally did what Joanna called for. I sank to my knees (not that I had a choice at that point) and tried to pray, although all I could get out was the Lord’s name, over and over.
He had been so good to me – good to my whole family – a good marriage, three dear children, godly spouses for each of them, and five darling grandchildren. We had had our struggles, but they all seemed like nothing now. The thought of losing half my family in a matter of weeks changed my whole perspective on everything.
( … to be continued … )
I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been realizing lately the things we take for granted – things like hugging family and friends, snuggling up with a child to read a book, gathering around the table for a family meal. Even things that used to be seen as chores have taken on new meaning – going to school, running to the grocery store for a few items, getting a haircut, meeting a friend at the coffee shop. Things like going to a concert or play or sporting event now seem like a slice of heaven on earth.
Let’s all take this time of seclusion to appreciate the little things – and the not-so-little things – things we can still enjoy now, things we have enjoyed and can look forward to enjoying again.
More than anything, I am thankful that I can spend uninterrupted time with the God who loves me and cares for me. The quietness and solitude helps me gain the perspective I need for the rest of my day. He gives me hope, whatever else may be going on. That hope is greater even than the world’s “worst case scenario,” because He loved us enough to pay the penalty for our sins by dying in our place.
Best of all – as we just celebrated in a more subdued (and yet possibly more meaningful) way, He rose to life again! Now by believing in Him, we can be raised up as well.
Prayer: Lord, thank You for showering us with blessings, most of which we’ve barely notice, much less given You thanks for. Open out eyes to Your goodness, and may we have hearts of gratitude that will shine for You, even in our darkest times. In Jesus’ name, Amen.