Welcome to A Million Miracles.

In February of 2008 I was diagnosed with an incurable, progressive and terminal condition called Idiopathic Primary Pulmonary Hypertension (PH). In retrospect, we can trace this illness back to at least January of 2004, but you can have it for several years before you notice any symptoms. My diagnosis came after I was hospitalized for what ended up being almost three weeks - spent consecutively in three different hospitals - two of them being in ICU units. Over the past year we have been sending email updates to family and friends concerning my medical/physical journey as well as lessons I'm learning as a result.

These are those emails. There's no rhyme or reason as to when I send out another email update. It just happens when "the Spirit moves." But whenever I write and send one, I will also post it on this blog.

Monday, February 15, 2010

#55 - Get me off this mountain

Date Sent: Mon, Feb 15, 2010 at 9:23 PM

This past weekend I participated in a women's conference, Understanding Grace, and it was the first time I've ever participated in something like that (other than sitting comfortably at a table just listening and taking notes).  It was an incredibly stretching experience - and I learned SO MUCH - about the topic (as I reflected, read, and pondered the topic in advance), about myself, and about God's role in providing me with understanding.  It was a life changing experience for me, and I felt so blessed to participate.  

The conference center was located atop a VERY high hill, and God was gracious to me - the elevation didn't prove too much for my lungs to handle.  I even commented at one point that a year ago I would have needed to be on constant oxygen at that elevation.  The conference was Friday evening (that was my part), and most of Saturday.  Then Sunday marked not only Valentine's Day, but also the 2 year anniversary since I was originally hospitalized, and thus began this journey in an in-my-face sort of way.  Last year, as is true of first anniversaries, Valentine's Day was very difficult.  This year, I spent the days leading up to it discussing with a wonderful group of women some of the good that's come from the pain.  In hopes of helping to bring back the positive connotation most people have for Valentine's Day, my mother offered to watch the boys Saturday night while Aaron and I spent the night "away and alone."  We ended up spending the night at Oglebay Park, and picked up the boys Sunday morning in time for her to leave for Sunday School.

I'm not sure if our room at Oglebay was higher in elevation than where the conference center was located, or if God just allowed the elevation to bother me more - a LOT more.  I really, REALLY struggled with lightheadedness.  Sunday morning, as we enjoyed a breakfast buffet, overlooking the beautiful snowy hills at Oglebay, the thought entered my mind, "God, it sure is beautiful up here.  But get me off this mountain and back down to the valley."  Though I meant it literally, the figurative meaning immediately swept over me and I started trying to rescind my words!  But all morning that prayer kept replaying in my mind.

As Christians we long for beautiful, peaceful mountaintop experiences.  We pray for easy lives filled with happiness and comfort.  And occasionally God provides us with just that.  God gives us those moments to gain new perspective, and momentarily to rest.  But that's not where we grow - not where we're stretched - not where we learn the most about our God.  We GROW in the valleys - in the swamps - in the bogs - in the river rapids ....  I would be VERY happy not to have any more struggles for a LONG time, but I need to continue to grow.  Yes, sometimes that growth comes from reflection.  But sometimes growth needs to come from being stretched - from reaching the end of my rope, and needing to grab ahold of God so I won't fall.  

While I pray that I don't walk through "the valley of the shadow of death" (Psalm 23:4a) again anytime soon, I do want to keep learning about my amazing God - His provision, His grace, His forgiveness, His love - and how I can show Him to others.  So ... YES.   "God, it sure is beautiful up here.  But get me off this mountain and back down to the valley."

~ Julia

Saturday, January 30, 2010

#54 - Tough Conversations

Date Sent: Sat, Jan 30, 2010 at 10:23 PM

Alex's bedtime stories tonight were taken from his children's Bible - we probably covered 10 stories.  But the one that had the longest conversation was the one of the paralytic who had four friends who were desperate to get him to Jesus.  The crowds were too thick, and they couldn't find a way to squeeze through.  So, they climbed up on the roof, made a hole, and lowered him in.  Seeing their faith, Jesus healed the man, who then picked up his mat and walked. (Mark 2:1-12)

As I read the story tonight, Alex had a contemplative look on his face.  When I finished, he remained still.  Finally he broke the silence - "Mommy, you need friends to take you to Jesus.  Then he would fix your lungs so you could breathe.  You can't run.  You can't play in the snow or go swimming with me.  That must make Jesus very sad.  If your friends took you to him he would want you to be all better."  


We had a long talk about how sickness does make Jesus sad - and how sometimes it makes us sad too.  We talked about how much we'd both like for me to be able to do those things with him - and about all the fun things I can do.  We talked about how perhaps one day Jesus will choose to heal me.  We talked about all the friends who have taken me to Jesus - in prayer. But something that's wonderful about Jesus, is that he never does the same thing the same way twice.  He makes each person's story unique - each person's encounter with him is special in its own way.  

After leaving Alex's bedside, I was inundated with memories of friends praying with me - of encouraging cards - of uplifting emails - of tearful hugs - and of people rolling up their sleeves and helping me - helping my family - in ways we so desperately needed it.  I remembered friends grocery shopping for us - and cleaning our toilets.  I remember friends sobbing with us - and loving on our children when Aaron was holding my barely conscious hand in the hospital.

I remember one morning sitting in Tuesday Morning Bible Study - and having two separate friends feel the burning need for me to be prayed over.  That morning God gave them the role of the friends who were to bring their sick friend to Jesus.  During that special, intimate prayer time God worked on some hearts, and someone gave me an encouraging word as to perhaps one of the "deeper" reasons I have this illness.  And that day something was healed inside of me.  

After Bible study concluded I went shopping (with the kiddos) at the mall, and for the first time in months I was able to walk the length of the mall - at a normal speed - without thinking I was going to pass out - without my face turning red (a sign of how hard my heart was pumping to try oxygenate my blood).  And a month or two later one of those friends "just happened" to be with me when I got an impromptu chest x-ray done - and saw that my heart appeared to be healed.  Two years ago, when I was first diagnosed with PH, the right side of my heart was 2.5 times larger than the left side (it's supposed to be smaller than the left).  But that x-ray showed my heart to be the PERFECT size.  "Every good and perfect gift comes from above." (James 1:17a). I'm convinced that day - the day those two friends tore through a ceiling to get me to Jesus - was when he finished re-remodeling my heart.  But how do I explain all of that to a four-year-old boy?  I'm not so sure I SHOULD.

This isn't MY illness.  It's God's.  It's his to do with what he wishes.  It's not that I don't have enough faith for Him to heal me.  It's not that others haven't prayed diligently enough for my healing to come to fruition.  It's that His work isn't done - His work in my life - His work in my family's life - and perhaps, just perhaps, His work in your life either.  I don't fool myself that I'm sick so that "the collective you" can learn from the lessons I'm learning.  I'm not that conceited.  But God's permitted me to be blessed, as I've spoken with various people, to see how He's also using this illness - His illness - for a greater purpose than just my own maturation.

Today I'm sick.  Only God fully  knows why - and only He knows for how long.  But at least one thing IS for certain.  My illness is teaching Alex invaluable Biblical lessons in a real, in-your-face kind of way that he probably wouldn't learn any other way at his age.  It's not an easy path I'm walking.  As Christians we're told to expect life to be a difficult path - Jesus said to "take up [your] cross and follow me" (Mark 8:34).  I know that my God is big enough to have this illness "work together for GOOD" (Romans 8:28) in my children's lives.  It's just ... sometimes conversations break my heart.  I'm overwhelmed with Alex's love for me.  I'm overwhelmed that I'm not like all the other Mommies he knows.  And sometimes I'm at a loss to find words that he'll understand ... especially when I don't fully understand myself.  After all, he's still four - I wasn't expecting to have such tough conversations with him at this age. 

Excuse me, while I go get another tissue.

~ Julia