Merry Christmas! I hope this 2016 holiday season is bringing you and your loved ones joy, hope, gratitude, and time to be still and also enjoy.
Our Christmas came in a different package this year. Danny received his double lung transplant without a long wait, with pristine organs, a textbook perfect surgery, and so far a recovery that physically has been extremely smooth. The mechanics of this surgery has resulted in the promise of health Danny and our little family has not experienced ever before. With each passing year, Cystic Fibrosis would become more and more of the third entity in our marriage, no matter how hard we would work on having faith in His plan, patient in various circumstances, and preachers of acceptance/silver linings. In a very unexpectedly short amount of time we find our selves standing at a new beginning, a fresh start, an opportunity to step back and say here is a solution, now what is the plan? The emotional and mental journey we suddenly find ourselves on was highly unexpected and more difficult that I would have ever imagined.
Somewhere between the reality that you are still just a married couple and that you are two people trying to cope with a life and death situation – even going in a positive direction – is an experience we did not anticipate. All of the details are not a part of the story I am prepared to share at this time, but it is one I plan to share in the future. Helping others to know what can happen, how you can feel, and the real fears you will face is important. For now I will say that with all of the unexpected I have had to humble myself in front of our Lord to beg and plead for strength. It felt crazy to go before Him so quickly after He had already provided everything we needed physically for the success of Danny’s transplant. In fact, I spent a few days worried about His response – “really Jackie, I give you both the absolute perfect scenario and you are telling me you still ask for more?” Well folks – I did …..I had to! Just as quickly as our new life had come, it had also been challenged and rocked.
In my world I have magnificent support systems – my Heppes/Flaherty family who are my safe haven, friends who are so patient and loving, and a faith that has taught me that suffering is not a bad thing – it is an opportunity to truly live your faith by letting go and letting God. This past week has been the most difficult for Danny and I mentally and emotionally, so I hit my knees and prayed…. at adoration, in my home, in bed in the middle of the night, at mass on Sunday. I let my tears fall at the foot of the alter as an offering to God – I can’t see YOUR plan, I can’t understand my role – so I surrender to you – please show us the way.
God’s timing is one of the hardest things I think for us humans to accept, especially those of us who are doers. We want a plan to follow, a problem with a solution, and we want to just keep moving with life. But that is the deal with God’s timing, it is another chance for us to truly show our faith – “be still and know that I am God.” All the questions I have, all the worries I become distracted by, and all the struggles we face do remain….but God has made his presence known. The gift of life was given to Danny, not for us to live life how we want or planned ……but how He wants us to live. A life that is radically different to glorify Him, share His message, and if we humble ourselves to His plan – a life that is better than we could have ever imagined.
This surgery – a most perfect surgery – did not go as we envision or planned at all …..it went as God had planned. We continue to be shocked that any plans we had previously made (to live in the hospital for a few weeks and then to relocate temporarily to Baltimore) become completely unnecessary. All the efforts we never got to and were shaking our heads that we had left to the last minute, transformed to a chance for us to see the blessings of people in our world. God showed us what he was capable of – if we will just trust Him.
Christmas is about celebrating God’s commitment to save us, His people, by humbling himself so much so, he came to the world as a poor little baby in a manager. At midnight mass this morning Danny and I had a chance to reflect and be grateful. We may not know our path ahead – but we know the gift we have been given in God’s merciful son and in this chance at a healthy life. As we unloaded the car of groceries on Friday we even had a special visitor who asked us – have you decided how you will honor God with this gift? He has a special bond with Danny now, He has shown his faith in him through a promise of life- now you must turn your life to His will to show gratitude. The miracles we have been given with new organs and a renewed outlook are to be returned through a life given to God in gratitude and joy – even if it is through pathways that we may not fully understand.
Finally as this Christmas day comes to a close, I would like to take a moment and ask for prayers for those who are facing a harder Christmas season. As we begin to exit the shadow of illness, it is as if the blinders I was wearing focused on our world have been removed and I can see the struggles of others. We know families facing Christmas in a season of troubled health – cancer, mental illness, complications from both CF and transplant, difficult families, loss loved ones. Christmas can be a time of pain and as you all have prayed for us through our journey, if time allows please take a moment to pray for those who don’t find this season peaceful. One family faces an empty place at their Christmas dinner table, so that Danny can be on the couch with Quinlan and I – and for them we pray.
God bless us every one.