Our son was six months old on his first Christmas. By then he’d racked up one ambulance ride, two surgeries, three hospital stays, three airplane trips (two of them life flights to the University of Nebraska Hospital and one airline flight to a scheduled doctor’s appointment at the same medical facility), and dozens of 240 mile round trips to Rapid City for doctor’s appointments and procedures.
Call it the special needs version of the Twelve Days of Christmas if you like.
By the time the holiday season rolled around, all my husband and I wanted for Christmas was a good night’s sleep and to stay put. My parents and our extended families accepted the news graciously. A few days before Christmas, circumstances seconded our decision when our little guy came down with the chicken pox. A mild case to be sure–only one pox on his forehead, a fever, and a week’s worth of fussiness–but chicken pox none the less.
About two days into the fussiness, I was shouting “Ba-humbug” louder than Ebenezer Scrooge ever did.
Our house was enveloped in darkness. My husband and I were severely sleep-deprived. Our baby picked up every virus I brought home from my students at school, or my husband carried from the clients at the boys’ ranch where he worked. Our son was allergic to anything but breast milk, but he couldn’t nurse so I spent hours day and night hooked up to the people version of a milking machine. Even so, he was below zero on the weight and height charts for his age. We lived 70 miles away from our family doctor, 120 miles away from the pediatrician, and 750 miles from doctors who specialized in treating children with our son’s condition. My faith was waning. My anxiety level was waxing.
I was drowning in darkness.
Then one day, our baby wasn’t so fussy. I dressed him in a red romper and Santa hat, arranged him on a little wooden sleigh under our Christmas tree, and snapped a photo. He was so cute, I decided to get copies made to send with our Christmas letter. Which meant I had to write a Christmas letter. Which meant the letter would go out around New Years. Or possibly Valentine’s Day, if the past six months were any indication.
But I wrote the letter anyway.
Of course, the letter was mostly about the adventures of the last six months with our only son, our firstborn son. Of the miracle of his birth. Of hearing the doctor’s diagnosis when our son was hours old. Of knowing that he could die. Of my husband praying for both of us, placing our son in God’s hands, and trusting His will whatever happened. As my words poured out, God’s truth seeped into my heart.
Giving up a child is something no parent wants to do. Still, God gave up His only Son for me.
“We love our baby so much,” I wrote in our Christmas letter. “Because of our little boy, I better understand what God did for mankind long ago in the manger in Bethlehem. I know how His heart must have broken to send His Son to earth. But He did it anyway. Because He knew how much men lost in darkness needed to see the light of His love.” With those words, light entered my darkness. My faith began to wax. My anxiety slowly waned.
Because God had used my son with special needs to shine the light of Jesus into the darkness of my heart.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.