Sunday, October 16, 2016

For the Days When God Gives You a Thorn....

I spend the days leading up to Thursday trying to get everything ready for our trip.
There is the normal list anybody might make when preparing to travel out of town for a few days: washing and drying laundry, pulling out all the clothes to be taken on the trip and getting them packed before they can be worn on accident, and getting the house clean, because who wants to come home to a mess?
There is also the abnormal list anybody might make when living in Ghana: making and packing food for breakfast on the road, because there are no fast-food restaurants on the way, packing all things necessary for roadside pit stops, because there are only two rest stops {right next door to each other!} on this trip of almost 300 km, and packing plenty of water, because traveling past 9 am gets really hot.
Then there is MY list, the one that I don't dare write down.

We aren't going on a vacation.
Oh, we plan on trying to work in a few fun things, but this is a visit made out of necessity.
We have two passports to renew.
Though they simply look like small, blue booklets, without them we cannot do any of the things we do here daily.
Since our children are underage, there is a long list of necessary documents and requirements including picture progressions from birth, birth certificates, papers proving everybody involved is who they say they are, forms, money, and the list goes on.
I spend one frantic morning trying to find the missing original birth certificates, because all I can find is copies, and nothing without the official seal is good enough for the government, but finally our file is ready to be packed in daddy's bag.
He gets to carry all the really important stuff.

Then there is the other reason for this journey.
Our little Lili has a doctor's appointment.
It has been about 18 months since she had her heart surgery here in Ghana.
I have nothing physical I have to pack for this part of our trip.
The doctor has her records.
I simply have to pack up my hopes, expectations, and five-year old prayers for my daughter's heart.

We enjoy the trip down the coast: the green, foggy jungle, the stretches of golden grassland, and the jutting rocky mountains all making the excursion an enjoyable one.
We meet with friends.
We visit some of our favorite places.
We sit in lots of traffic.
We pick up a few special things we can't get at home.
We relax a bit at the guest house.
I try to stuff my list down deep inside of me: the questions, the wonderings, the what-ifs.

Saturday morning Daddy takes Lili to the clinic.
I wait with everyone else at the guest house.
Though she is to be the first appointment of the day, it takes longer than expected.
We have hoped and prayed for this day.
We want to hear that the surgery was completely successful.
We want to hear that the enlargement of her heart is gone now that the pressure is gone.
We want her to be perfectly whole.

Through the window I see the car pull in the gate.
I watch my husband get out of the car, and I know.
From the look in his eyes, the hunch of his shoulders, I can see that this list I've carried so long is not going to get thrown away with the old, used-up lists after our trip.

John tells me about the appointment.
Lili is pale, her eyes wide and a bit scared.
She's been a brave girl, but every time she has to lay in a room, hooked up to the machines, she remembers some of the pain she's already had to face in her short life.
I wanted those days to be gone.
I don't want her to have to face these things again.

The doctor is pleased with Lili's growth and health.
Dr. Yaa is excited to hear of her progress.
As she does the scan, she's happy to see that the surgery was a complete success and the enlargement of her heart that was there after her operation is gone.
But then she notices a problem, another area where the oxygenated and unoxygenated blood seems to be mixing.
It seems that the swelling of her tiny heart was plugging up another hole.
Now that the enlargement is gone, there is nothing to stop the blue and red from mixing.

The hole is too small to require surgery.
She doesn't have to take medicine.
In fact, she only needs to have her heart checked every other year.
She will have to be monitored more closely during puberty and any future pregnancies.
These are the times when a hole in the heart can be cause for concern.
All in all, the prognosis is a good one.

But it is NOT the one I wanted.
I wanted Lili healed.
I pleaded for this trial to be removed.
I didn't want to bear this difficulty anymore.
So many times I've asked God to take this away.
The thorn stabs deep.
As it gouges me, God quietly asks me if I'm willing to accept this in my life.
It is hard to say yes, because this isn't a difficulty just for myself, but for my family, for my daughter.
As the fears and worries course through my mind, He brings another image to mind: another One who had to face the thorns.
A child who had to grow up knowing that someday He would wear a crown of thorns, and then would freely give His life for me and for my Lili.
And so, I surrender.
I open my hands to whatever He chooses for our lives and receive it as good.
I will bear these spikes, these barbs, knowing that His grace will be enough,
resting in the hope that His strength will be made perfect in our weakness.


  1. My heart cries for you as I can imagine how hard that would be. So thankful for God's grace for you.

  2. Praying for God's peace to quiet your heart, Patty, knowing that His strength truly will be perfect in weakness. Thank you for sharing. Our love to you all!

  3. Dear Lord, it's my prayer that Lilli gets completely healed. In Jesus name.. Amen

  4. Another beautiful post, Patti. God is growing you, and it is a blessing to be able to read your blog and "see" it happen.

    I will continue to pray for Lili. I was like your little girl growing up with extensive heart tests to try to find an elusive problem. I remember the fear on my mom's face in New Guinea when no one could give us a clear diagnosis. I was 21 before it finally got diagnosed by a dr. in America. Mine is not life-threatening, just something I have to live with. With pregnancy, my problem totally rights itself for nine months; then the symptoms come back after the baby is born. When I am not pregnant, I take medicine daily to keep those symptoms under control. God does give strength, way more than we have in and of ourselves.

    Love you,
    Jessi from across the continent

  5. Thank you for this beautiful picture of Gods grace.

  6. Thank you for sharing this painful part of your life. There is not much worse than having a child with a health problem. But we know that God is in control and He works everything out for His good.

  7. Praying for Lili and you! Much love.

  8. Beautiful photo. Thank you so much for sharing about yourself. You have a lovely blog. God bless you.