Have yourself a merry little Christmas. Let your heart light. From now on our troubles will be out of sight.
Stop! Time out! Someone forgot to notify our troubles that it is Christmas and that because of this nostalgic song and the season that we find ourselves in, they are supposed to magically disappear.
Today, I want to introduce you to someone who interrupted our holiday preparations. Our tiny Hannah. This sweet little baby made her entrance into this world one week ago at 26 weeks into my sister-in-law’s pregnancy. At only 13 inches long and just 2 lbs 6 oz, she magnifies the miracle of life and the mighty and merciful God that we serve. The doctors have nicknamed her “Little Tiger” for her already evident strength of spirit. After years spent praying for a child, this dream pregnancy had been anything but. The first trimester was spent battling nausea and vomiting. Then came a terrifying diagnosis of Amniotic Band Syndrome (ABS) that brought all of us to our knees. ABS occurs when the fetus becomes entangled in fibrous string-like amniotic bands in the womb, restricting blood flow and affecting the baby’s development, causing anything from limb amputation and cleft palate, to club feet, or miscarriage. Two weeks ago, during a bi-weekly ABS ultrasound it was discovered that Hannah’s mom was two centimeters dilated and beginning to efface. The doctors did what they could to prevent labor and prepare and protect the baby but four days later Hannah’s mom’s water broke and after being rushed to one of the leading neonatal hospitals in the country Hannah made her appearance in this world. And in joyful praise, Hannah is perfect. The ABS didn’t affect her at all, and may very well have saved her life because of the increased monitoring. Hannah’s story has only just begun but God’s merciful hand of protection on her is increasingly evident. In an answer to prayer and a display of God’s power, Hannah spent only 14 hours on the ventilator and has since been breathing on her own. Every day is a milestone with challenges and questions, victories and sometimes set backs but there is no doubt that her little life is already bringing God glory. God is already using her in a very mighty way!
Seeing Hannah lying in the NICU, hooked to machines beeping and monitoring, you can’t help but be overcome. She has captured my heart while at the same time pricking it in a way I never thought I would have known. Looking at her tiny, fragile body, I can’t help but think of my own son, delivered at 32 weeks, who never had the opportunity at life. The mix of emotions over the last week has been tumultuous. I only share this insight as an explanation of the lens through which I share Hannah’s story. I have had difficult moments claiming that “it is well with my soul” this week, with unrest billowing and rolling, always just under the surface, for these young parents, waiting and watching and holding their breath, afraid for the very life of their sweet little baby, not knowing what the next hour, let alone day is going to bring. Having been on the other side of this story my heart is in anguish, knowing too well all that they fear, but finding comfort in the confidence of our God, who is holding all of this together.
So, I come back to the words of the song above, let your heart be light. This is after all, the season for joy. The season for a plastic smile and a shiny veneer of holiday cheer. But what happens when you find yourself picking up the pieces of your dreams, having to revert to Plan B before you even knew you needed a Plan B. This is when real life interrupts the idealist version of Christmas.
This week, through Hannah’s story, I want to share with you another picture of Christmas. A picture of peace and hope, comfort and joy, in the midst of real life, delivered into a manger on that first Christmas. These promises fulfilled through the birth of a tiny baby.
She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.'” (Matthew 1:23)
In the meantime and in the days going forward, will you join me in praying for “Little Tiger” Hannah and her parents and doctors?
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. (Psalm 107:28-30)