As any parent will tell you, tummy pains aren’t uncommon when raising kids. Jacob has them often. Usually, a successful trip to the bathroom fixes the problem. (Sorry for the TMI.)
But Monday, his stomach pains were worse than usual, even after an extremely productive bathroom trip. (Nope, I wasn’t really sorry about the earlier TMI either.) And he was so specific about where the pain was “all around my belly button and on my side,” (while touching his right side, of course), that I made the call to the doc. They scheduled us an appointment for early evening, so I had the whole day to let him rest, watch his symptoms, and
pray and trust that God is in control worry myself sick thinking of every possible horrible scenario. (And you know where the worst case scenario fears lead. Always. I swear, in their combined 11 years of life, my children have died 5,327 times in my worst case scenario fears.) (Yes, I realize that this is not a constructive way to spend my time.)
After his fever spiked to 103.3 and he was bent over in wincing pain when I tried to get him to go to the bathroom, the nurse recommended I just take him straight to the ER. After all, if his symptoms were the same at the doctor appointment that was still 2 hours away, they would be sending him there anyway for further testing for appendicitis.
I took a few deep breaths to calm myself down and made a call to a friend to see if she could watch Annalise. With the rear-view mirror tilted so I could see my red-faced feverish boy alternately head bob and wince in pain, I headed to the hospital, calling Matt and the grandparents on the way. My sick boy had gone from having one worried mom bargaining with God to 2 sets of grandparents praying, a family of 6 praying, and both his parents praying with all their heart as the situation seemed more and more serious.
As I held my silent boy on my lap in the waiting area, I prayed that it would not be appendicitis or something worse. Jacob was still a bit restless, and he opened his eyes as I whispered my prayer. I told him he didn’t need to worry, that this was exactly where he needed to be. The doctors would know what to do, I assured him. Funny, I can’t seem to convince myself of these things when I’m terrified and picturing him on his deathbed.
By the time we got called back to a room, I could tell he was starting to perk up a bit. As you might guess, the absence of noise coming from his face is usually a pretty good sign he is either asleep or feeling pretty awful. (It has to be pretty bad for him to be silent. Just not feeling well means he might be laying down, but the mouth still moves.) After being quiet for most of the day, my little buddy had a lot of stored up words to get out. As I laid him in the hospital bed, he began to use them. Sure enough, his fever had gone down, and he was excited to play with the toys our friends had given him in a get-well-bag. He told me about all the characters in Star Wars, even though he’s never seen the movie. He argued with Matt about how to pronounce Han Solo. He asked questions about every. single. thing. in sight. He repeated over and over how funny it was that “they want to do a test on my pee! I had to pee in a cup! That’s so funny that they wanna check my pee!” And when there was finally a moment of silence – as in maybe 10 seconds – where nothing was being said, he just blurted out one word – the thing that is always on his mind… “Bottom.”
I’ll admit it. It sent me into a fit of giggles. Here sat my boy, previously down for the count at home with a ridiculous fever, the only sounds coming out of him were groans of discomfort and “ow ow OW OW-OW-OW”s when the sharp stomach pain would return. Now, at his most expensive doctor visit ever, he was full of life and ever-flowing words, making us laugh through it all.
On the other side of the curtain separating the two beds, I heard a lady giggle, then sigh and say, “I think I’ll take a break and walk the halls.” By “take a break,” she meant her ears. Not even kidding. Welcome to my world, lady on the other side of the curtain. Only you’ve just experienced 10 minutes. Try 10 HOURS A DAY.
The nurse offered him a popsicle. I asked her how much that was going to run us. “You don’t want to know,” she replied and handed him a blue one. Somewhere, a hospital administrator cackled.
It was pretty clear at this point that we were done and just waiting to be given the release to go home. Sure enough, the doc headed in and said, “Sounds like he’s doing much better. I’m just going to check him over real quick, then you’ll be out of here.” Except as he felt his abdomen, he felt a bulge around the appendix area, and Jacob winced when he touched it. We couldn’t leave just yet.
The lady on the other side of the curtain returned to her father’s bedside. Jacob and I waited. He talked. I listened. More giggles from the other side of the curtain. The lady who had left earlier whispered to another lady – her mother – “Well, he is sure one very happy boy.” I could hear their quiet conversation about how much he had to say, and that it was all so happy.
I was thankful he was so full of joy, but I was dying of embarrassment just a wee bit. We really had no business being in the ER. Clearly, this kid was fine.
We headed to ultrasound, his mouth still constantly moving to the ultrasound tech about the “fun ride” he was getting as she pushed his bed through the corridors. On their way back, the tech asked Jacob how many siblings he had. He didn’t even hesitate. “I have 3 sisters. Annalise is 6, and the other 2 are Madison and Taylor. I won’t get to meet them until I get to Heaven. How old are they again, Mom?”
He’s never responded this way, so I was quite surprised, but not as much as the ultrasound tech was. It was clear she didn’t know what to say. “It’s ok,” I explained while holding back tears, “We had premature twins before he was born. They would be 8 next month.”
“Yeah.” He continued. “They are 8 in Heaven.”
They are 8 in Heaven. How come I still can’t seem to use the present tense when I refer to them? How come my kids keep showing me up on their wisdom and faith?
Back in our room with the same 3 people still on the other side of the curtain, the ultrasound tech awkwardly tripped over her words about the doctor coming in and us going home. I wondered if she was uncomfortable with the topic of Heaven, or if maybe it just got her thinking. Either way, while she was very well spoken earlier, she clearly stammered in that moment.
A few minutes later, the doctor and a nurse came in to discharge us. “It’s not appendicitis. Probably just a virus.” he said.
In my head, I thought about the insanely expensive doctor visit we just had. How much are these unnecessary tests going to cost us? I wondered. At least it’s not appendicitis.
“Nope!” Jacob stated matter-of-factly. “It’s not, because my Mom prayed it wouldn’t be!”
I just stared at him. In his hazy state, Jacob had heard my prayer in the lobby. While I was relieved it wasn’t appendicitis, my grown-up brain immediately assumed it never had been, followed by thoughts of the useless and pricey ER visit, and a little bit of embarrassment that we came to the ER for “no reason.”
His thoughts – and boldly flowing words right from his heart - immediately went to answered prayer.
I’ll admit, I don’t understand how prayer works. Our own personal tragedy is evidence to the fact that more people praying doesn’t necessarily guarantee desired results. We had hundreds – maybe even thousands – of people praying on several continents for our twins to survive. I also don’t believe that if we had just had more faith, our prayers would’ve been answered. My dad is a funeral director. I’m quite aware of the personally devastating results of unanswered prayer.
But I do know this: We are commanded to pray. In fact, we are to do so continuously (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and faithfully (Romans 12:12). We are to trust God, who is sovereign. And while God does not need our help to accomplish His will, He gives us this opportunity to cast our cares upon Him, to join Him in His works, and to acknowledge our total need and dependence on Him. And I fully believe that if we submit ourselves in prayer to Him, we will witness miracles and the mighty works of His hand.
I also know that in God’s sovereignty, He knows each of our needs. He allows people to cross paths, experiences to happen, things to be said that will bring glory to Him.
I wonder if that ultrasound tech needed to hear of Heaven on Monday night?
I wonder if a doctor and a nurse, and three people who sat anxiously on the other side of the curtain needed to hear the faith of an ever-so-happy 4-year-old boy who contributed his lack of appendicitis to answered prayer?
I don’t exactly know how prayer works, but I know that a little boy got sicker and sicker while his mom worried herself into a tizzy. But then she finally set aside her anxieties and began to pray… presenting her requests to God (Philippians 4:6). Around the same time, 11 other people also got word of the sick boy and began to pray, and that sick little boy ended up perfectly fine in the ER. And I know that he used his words to brighten the day of everyone he talked to and spoke his faith boldly where no fewer than 6 strangers heard.
I’m not mentioning any names or anything, but I wonder if a certain mom of a certain four-year-old boy needed to witness that kind of faith and boldness?
Incidentally… while in the ER, I found myself explaining to everyone who came in the room just how sick Jacob had been earlier. I was feeling like a total idiot with a super healthy chatty kid sitting there eating the most expensive popsicles known to man. Three ER nurses responded the exact same way. “Don’t feel bad. It happens all the time. People come in and have been so sick for days. They get here, and they’re suddenly all better.” At the time, it just served to make me feel like less of an idiot. But now I wonder… How many of those people did exactly what I did – waited until they started their drive to the ER to really begin to pray and ask others to do the same? How many people’s prayers began to be answered as they finally submitted their requests humbly before God?
I don’t know why some people are healed and others aren’t. My aunt – who has been in remission 3 times for her Leukemia in the last 13 years – just found out some of the “bad cells” have entered her spinal column. I know that last week, as she had part of her head shaved for the port that was put in her head so the chemo can go directly into her spinal fluid, she was trusting Jesus. And now, as she sits recovering from a surgery that left a “Frankenstein” jagged cut in her head, she is glorifying Him to those she comes in contact with in person and on Facebook. And I know that God has allowed her to be the 79th documented case of this in the world for a reason. For His purpose. He has a big job for her to do, and she has said that through it, God has given her amazing peace and strength.
I wonder, how many nurses, doctors, techs, other cancer patients, friends on Facebook, or friends of friends of friends, need to see that kind of strength come from a woman who has difficulty standing and walking on her own two feet as a result of these cells in her spinal column?
I don’t know what you’re going through, or why. And I certainly don’t know how it will turn out.
But I do know this… “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. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. ~ Jeremiah 29:11-13, emphasis my own.