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A day at a time

By Scott Harrup

Christmas 1996 was split three ways for our family. There was the at-home gift distribution to our children, Lindsay and Connor. There was the wider gift exchange at my parents’ house. Finally, Christmas dinner at my grandmother’s included an array of uncles, aunts and cousins and yet another gift exchange. It was all so very normal.

But for Jodie and me, Christmas 1996 stood out from any other Christmas in our marriage, or in our lives. Connor was 3 months old, and by some estimates was living on borrowed time. His birth on September 22 was an emergency cesarean. He was oxygen deprived during the final weeks of his gestation and suffered severe brain bleeds. About a week later, the neurologist told us that Connor would be profoundly handicapped. Predictions were that he would never eat or drink on his own, would do little more than lie in bed, would probably never speak and might live to the age of 4 or 5.

Our home was transformed when Connor was released from the hospital in October. There were multiple medication schedules to follow, multiple feedings to administer through the tube running into his nose and down his throat. But at every turn, we prayerfully searched for some sign that Connor would transcend the doctors’ expectations.

He has. This Christmas he is 7. He needs help with his meals, but that feeding tube came out after just a week. Connor’s steadily increasing weight makes his original 4 pounds and 13 ounces seem like a bad dream. He’s in a wheelchair, but responding well to physical and speech therapies. We believe he will walk one day unassisted. He can pick out several simple songs on the piano with his right hand. He can pray — it’s a gentle drawn-out “Ohhhhh” whenever he hears someone begin to thank God for anything.

This year, I think again of Connor’s first Christmas. I also reflect on the world-shaking events celebrated every Christmas and the Jewish family caught in the very midst of them. I suspect any parent can identify to some extent with Mary the mother of Jesus. But maybe parents of special-needs children connect with her a little more intimately. Just weeks after Jesus was born, the elderly Simeon spoke to Mary about His death (Luke 2:32,33). As Jesus grew, Mary probably never quite pushed out of her mind the grim fate awaiting Him. Raising Jesus would have been so unlike raising a normal child. At times, Joseph and Mary must have felt overwhelmed by the responsibilities of nurturing the Son of God. They had to keep moving ahead, a day at a time, motivated by prayer and trust in God.

For our family, Christmas is a reminder of God’s preserving and healing power under any circumstances. True, Connor’s healing is far from complete. But its source was established nearly 2,000 years ago on that grim day Mary dreaded. Her Son was beaten and crucified so my son could learn to walk and learn to pray.

Perhaps you’re going through something painful this Christmas. Maybe that pain has no end in sight. Take heart. God’s plans move forward on His divine timetable, and they are constantly connected to His divine love. As difficult as the next year, or years, may be, everything God is doing in your life is pointing towards an eternal future more joyful and fulfilling than you can imagine.

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