What is a miracle?
Dictionary.com defines a miracle as an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause.
Here are some quotes of what other people have to say about miracles:
“I truly believe that everything that we do and everyone that we meet is put in our path for a purpose. There are no accidents; we’re all teachers – if we’re willing to pay attention to the lessons we learn, trust our positive instincts and not be afraid to take risks or wait for some miracle to come knocking at our door.”
God did miracles in the times recorded in the Bible. From what I have learned, there are 123 separate recorded miracles found in the Bible. There are 67 recorded miracles in the Old Testament. There are 37 miracles Jesus alone performed recorded in the New Testament. If you believe in what the Bible says, it is clear that miracles did happen then.
The question becomes, does God still perform miracles today? There are many people who doubt miracles still happen today so they don’t look for them, they don’t pray for them. Many people are more comfortable with a God who keeps His distance and lets us run our lives the way we want to run them.
Over the past month at my church, Christ Community Church, Pastor Staff has done a sermon series about the topic of miracles. He introduced us to what miracles are and discussed the above questions with us. For this reason, the topic of miracles has been on my mind a lot recently.
I am a believer and I have seen my relationship with God grow by leaps and bounds over the past 6 years. I do however, struggle a bit with the idea of miracles. I do believe that all the miracles discussed throughout the Bible did take place, but I like many others have had certain doubts in my own head about these types of miraculous miracles happening today. It’s not so much that I didn’t believe that they happen today, but rather that I have not really seen any clear examples of them in my own experience. To put it more properly, I have not noticed any major miracles.
Well, that has all changed during this holiday season, when God decided to show me a miracle in my own life that was so clear, even I could not miss it. This miracle has changed my entire outlook on miracles and made me realize that they do happen each and every day in all different kinds of ways.
Let me tell you about the story of the miracle I got to witness first hand.
This story starts over the course of this past year. My mother has always been a very extroverted and sociable person. I would consider her strong and self-motivated person. In fact, she has instilled some of those traits in me simply by living with her for so many years of my life.
The strange part is that those characteristics in her had begun to change over the course of this past year. She began to transform from being an extraverted person to being more and more introverted. I can remember last 4th of July when she came to Williams to spend the day with us, her sitting in the chair and not saying much all day long. I was seeing the same thing this past fall at ISU football tailgates. We would head out for several hours of tailgating prior to games and she would just sit in the chair and not really go out of her way to talk to anyone. If you came up and talked to her, she would talk back, but her answers tended to be very short and not very conducive to carrying on a conversation.
When talking to her, I would ask her a question and it would seem to take her forever to give me an answer. It got to the point of their being 30-45 seconds of silence after asking a question, before she would respond. It was not like her at all. Please understand that this did not happen suddenly, but gradually and it seemed to be getting slowly worse.
After Thanksgiving, I started getting text messages from family members asking what was wrong with her and if there was anything they could do to help. We did not really know what was going on or how exactly to help her. She seemed very depressed. It was like she had lost all her motivation to do anything productive and that is just not like her.
Grandma Rose, Steph, and I continued to get more and more worried. I even had several conversations with mom and she honestly did not see anything wrong with herself. She was not recognizing that there was anything wrong. I asked mom why she was so depressed and she said that she wasn’t. It was very frustrating to say the least.
I know that I was pretty depressed following my divorce and my getting more involved with the church really helped me in my time of need so I was pushing mom to do that, but she wasn’t really responsive to that in any way. I continued to push to try to find some answers though.
Through discussions with mom, I did learn that she was on depression medication, but had gone off of it a couple of months prior due to cost, so I encouraged mom to strongly consider going to the doctor to discuss what was going on and see about getting her prescription renewed. Mom agreed that she would go to the doctor. It is hard to convey how frustrating it can be to try to help someone, who doesn’t even realize they need help and you live far enough away that it is very hard to make sure they are getting things done. Through phone conversations with mom, I did find out that she had gone to the doctor and had her subscription renewed, but when I asked her how it went and what they talked about during the visit, she really couldn’t tell me anything. I really suspected that she hadn’t told the doctor the whole story of what was going on. I guess that is what you get when you send someone who doesn’t think anything is wrong with them to the doctor by themselves.
It all came to a crazy day on Wed. 12/17/14. I was scheduled to travel to a plant outside of Chicago to do some training for a couple of days for work. I had several boxes of meat that I needed to get to my dad before Christmas because they were going to be using them for Christmas presents. I decided to load the meat into my vehicle and drive to my destination through Waterloo so I could deliver the meat. I stopped at my dad’s and delivered the meat and since I was in the neighborhood, I thought I would stop by and say hi to mom and grandma before continuing my trip to Chicago.
I stopped by the farm and mom was cutting my aunt’s hair. She was just finishing up, so I asked her if she had time to cut my hair too since I needed a haircut. She said that was fine so while she was cutting my hair, we were talking and I was asking her some questions about how things were going.
She was taking forever trying to answer my questions and some questions she could not remember what I had asked just a minute or so later. She looked at me with a confused look on her face and I knew she had no idea what we were talking about.
When mom finished cutting my hair, I went over to grandma’s house and talked to her. I told her that I thought mom had gotten a lot worse since the couple of weeks that I had seen her last and that we were dealing with something more than just depression. Grandma agreed and immediately got mom’s doctor on the phone and asked if there was any way we could get mom in for an appointment yet that afternoon. They told her that they could see here right away if we brought her up there. Grandma had her hands full since she was babysitting my aunt. My aunt had a brain tumor in the early 2000’s and the effects of the surgery saved her life, but left her with the mind and mannerisms of a young child. It was going to be very difficult for grandma to try to take her because she would have to take my aunt along as well. Grandma asked if I could take her. I really needed to get on the road for my work trip, but I also knew that we really needed to get mom back into the doctor so I told grandma that I could do that. I would just have to get a later start to Chicago.
That was fine, but the next issue was trying to get mom to agree to go to the doctor with me. She was not very willing to go because she still thought (in her own mind) that she was fine. Grandma and I had to get stern with her and I was able to finally get her to agree to go by saying we could spend some more time together and I promised to take her to Hu Hot (one of her favorite places to eat) following her doctor’s visit. So it was agreed and we loaded up and headed to Waterloo to see the doctor.
Once we started talking to the doctor she had visited the previous week, it soon became apparent that mom had not shared with him everything that had been going on with her. Luckily, I was able to fill him in and give him the full picture. Once the doctor knew the whole story, he agreed that we needed to get right on trying to find answers so he ordered a full blood workup and a contrast CT scan of mom’s head. We would have to travel across town to Allen hospital to get this done and it was getting to be mid-afternoon, but he was able to push us through so I could take her. He could have easily just let it go till the next day, but him pushing for that day was so kind and important as we would soon find out.
Mom and I traveled across town and got her checked in at Allen. The first thing they did was blood work and that all came back normal. Then mom was off for her CT. After she was finished, mom and I sat in the waiting room waiting to hear about the results. Mom and I just sat there watching TV in the waiting room for what seemed like an enormous amount of time.
Then the CT tech came into the waiting room and handed me the phone. I immediately felt that something was wrong and I had a very uneasy feeling. On the phone was the original doctor we had seen that day. He explained to me that they had discovered a very large mass in the front of my mom’s brain and that we would need to take immediate steps to get this taken care of. The next hour or so was a blur to me. Over that course of that hour, I learned that mom was going to be admitted into the emergency room at Allen and that she would need to be immediately transported to Iowa City for brain surgery to remove the mass. I also learned that I would not be taking her, but rather she would be traveling by ambulance for fear that she might have a seizure due to the mass pushing on her brain. That is a lot to taken in. I knew that I was the one mom had made in charge of making major medical decisions if it came to that, but I wasn’t ready for that. I guess you never are.
I had to hold back my fears and tears and keep a strong face when I tried to tell mom what was going on. Mom seemed to take things very well. I’m not sure she had full comprehension of what was going on, but she never seemed scared. In fact, her biggest concern was that the dogs would be taken care of while she was gone. That is like mom. She really loves her two dogs Dixie and Punkie. I also had to talk with her briefly about if she would want to be put on life support if that became necessary and learned that she did not want that. That is a tough conversation to have. I will have to admit that all this was happening very quickly and I was feeling very overwhelmed in the moment.
Soon mom was on her way to Iowa City by ambulance to Iowa City and I was on my way as well by car. During this time, I was talking to my wife, Stephanie, who was at her parent’s house in Williams. She was soon on her way to Iowa City as well to be with me as we saw to mom. I was also on the phone with my dad. Even though my parents have been divorced since I was a very little boy, he still showed great concern for mom’s well-being. He helped me more than he will ever know by being a calming influence on me when I was really struggling. My dad has always been so good in those type of situations. I also call our close family friend Gayle Dar, who lives in Texas, and explained what was going on with mom with her. Very soon after that, Gayle had posted a post on Facebook and was gathering a legion of prayer warriors to pray for mom in her time of need. It was amazing how large that legion became over the next several days.
I arrived in Iowa City before Stephanie did and sat in the emergency room for quite a while. The emergency room was pretty busy for a Wednesday night. Stephanie arrived and after a while longer, we were able to see mom. She seemed to be doing OK. Despite all that was going on, not much had seemed to change with mom. She seemed very brave to me. We were able to find out from the doctors that they had run an MRI on her head and the neurosurgeons would meet in the morning to determine a plan for mom. I knew that mom needed her rest and we should get some too. Steph and I were able to find a hotel room in the early hours of Thursday morning and get a few hours of sleep before returning to the hospital.
I didn’t really sleep very well that night. I kept having visions of times spent with mom over the past year and wondering if those were a series of “last time events” with her. My greatest fear was that we would return to the hospital the next day and they would tell us that she had a malignant tumor and that it would be inoperable and mom was dying. I tried my best to stay optimistic though and not worry about those things until they came to pass. Having Steph there with me was such a help. She was a calming effect on me and helped me deal with everything that was going on. She also was putting Facebook updates up on what was going on so I didn’t have to deal with that. There was a large number of phone calls and texts wanting to know about mom, but I could not tell anyone much since I didn’t really know myself.
The next morning, Steph and I went to grab some breakfast before returning to the hospital. While sitting there, I broke down a little bit. I not usually much of a crier, but I was feeling very overwhelmed in the moment. The thought of mom possibly dying was more than I wanted to have to try to face.
We got to the hospital and learned that the surgeons had already rounded and discussed mom’s condition. Mom was telling us some things they had discussed with her, but we weren’t sure if she knew what was really going on. We waited all morning for an update. Several nurses and doctors came into the room throughout the morning, but no one had a full story of the plan. Finally in the early afternoon we were told what was known and what the plan moving forward would be. Mom seemed to have a slow-growing benign tumor. They suspected it was a meningioma, but would not know for sure until a biopsy could be taken and pathology results obtained. The plan was to schedule her for surgery on Monday to remove the tumor. Until then, she would be discharged that afternoon and could go home to the farm and return on Monday morning for the surgery. She was on medication that would reduce the swelling in her brain and anti-seizure medicine.
Soon, we were on our way home. Driving back to the farm, it was just mom and I. I was so thankful for this time I was able to spend with her and so happy to hear that the tumor seemed to be benign, which meant that mom’s chances of survival were greatly increased.
When we arrived back at the farm, the dogs greeted us at the car. They were so happy to see mom and mom was so happy to see them. They are such a sense of joy in her life. We got settled in at the house and soon discovered that Joyce King had dropped off a crock pot full of soup along with breads and cookies made by several members of the St. Timothy Lutheran Church in Hudson. The meal was great and we were thankful not to have to worry about making supper. We also received visits that evening from Diedra Darold, Dianna Darold, Clint Hodson, Julie Lichty and Chris Greiman. I just love the idea of small town country community and how everyone is there for each other.
We continued to get texts, Facebook messages, and calls from hundreds of family and friends telling us they were praying for mom and if there was anything they could do. It was so amazing to experience this sense of love from all around us. I know that mom really appreciated it. I had her talk personally to several people who called and showed her the text messages and Facebook posts. We were all blown away by the support.
Mom had a good weekend at home. On Sunday 12/21, Grandma Rose, mom, Steph, and I all went to church at St. Timothy Lutheran Church in Ames. It was so great seeing a whole bunch of familiar friends. I grew up in that church and it was almost like I never left. Mom really seemed to enjoy all the love and support she was receiving from everyone. We went to eat lunch at Hu Hot after church. I had promised mom I would take her and since I hadn’t been able to the week before, I wanted to make good on my promise before she went to surgery. We spent the rest of the day relaxing at the farm and watching Christmas movies. It was a very enjoyable day. Pat Lichty stopped by to see how mom was doing and made us some chex mix so we would have something to snack on at the hospital.
The next morning, Steph and I drove mom to Iowa City for her surgery. Grandma Rose was driven to Iowa City by my cousin Cody. My other cousin Cash and my aunt Jayne met us in Iowa City. While we were in the waiting room at the hospital to get checked in, I received a call from Coach Dan McCarney. He was calling from his home in Ft. Lauderdale to see how everything was going and to wish us all luck with the surgery. I was able to give the phone to mom and she was able to talk to Coach directly. I played football for Dan McCarney from 1995-1999 at Iowa State. We have stayed in contact ever since. He has been such a huge role model in my life and the love he has shown me and my whole family through the years has been so amazing. Coach taking the time to call just shows what kind of man he is.
Soon we were all gathered in the prep room and mom was being prepared for surgery. Pastor Cindy, who is a staff chaplain at the hospital came and prayed with all of us before surgery. Her light shone brightly and brought a great warmth to the room. It was at this time that we were able to see an actual image of the tumor. I was blown away by how big it was. The mass was the size of a tennis ball and you could clearly see how a large portion of the front of her brain was displaced greatly by the mass. The resident said that a mass like this could have been growing inside of her head for decades. The size of the mass and seeing it made me start getting nervous again. I know that there was a whole list of complications that could happen and as the time approached for her to go off to surgery, a part of me wondered if this was the last moments I would ever see her again. I was able to choke back tears and gave her a kiss, told her I loved her and that everything would go just fine. Then I walked away and left it in the hands of God and the very capable surgeons.
During the surgery, I took Grandma Rose back to the hotel so she could take a nap while Steph and my aunt Jayne stayed at the hospital in the waiting room. While at the hotel, my good friend Nate Schneider, who is a surgeon at Mercy Hospital in Iowa City stopped by to see how we were doing and to offer his help in any way that he could. It really was very good for Grandma to see him and he helped put our minds at ease a little bit. It was great to see him again and very kind of him to stop.
Grandma and I returned to the hospital and Steph told me that the resident had come and talked to them while we were away. She said that the surgery would be shorter than they initially anticipated and that they were able to remove all of the mass they thought. He warned them to be prepared for mom not being able to talk or have full use of the right side of her body for up to a week following the surgery as this is very common in this type of surgery. That news made us all a little nervous. We were not there at the hospital much longer when we learned that mom was out of surgery and we could go see her in the ICU.
As I approached the ICU, I was very nervous. I saw mom sitting in the bed and she waved at me with her right hand, which was awesome since she was able to use her right side. She was also able to talk to me and even answer questions for the doctor. She was able to move all her fingers and toes. I could see the front part of her hair had been shaved off and she had a large white bandage over the front part of her head. I was amazed at how good she looked and how well she was responding to everyone. She seemed fully aware of what had happened and what was going on now. We did learn that the mass was not all solid. There was a large portion of the area that was filled with fluid and that it showed strong characteristics of being a cyst. Mom was very tired for the surgery so we told her goodnight and left her to get her rest.
Steph and I went to the hotel and the rest of the family went home. I still did not sleep great that night. I was still worried about some of the lingering effects from the surgery and the mass.
The next morning Steph and I returned to see how mom was doing. When we entered her room, she was sitting in a chair beside her bed and was fully bright and alert. In the first two sentences mom spoke, I could tell a night and day difference. It was like she was totally back to her old self. The old self I had known several years ago, but had slowly faded over the past few years and I had mistaken for normal aging. Mom said it was like a cloud had been lifted from her head and she could think clearly again. It was amazing and I was totally blown away.
Pastor Beth came to visit. She had driven all the way from Hudson to see mom and us. It was so great to talk to her and her smile. She took the time to pray with all of us.
Steph and I spent most of the day with her hanging out and talking to her. I could not believe the difference. The amazing part is that mom was not experiencing any pain at all. Despite the fact that she had just had her skull opened, she was not taking any pain medication at all and said she did not need any. Now this was the mom I knew.
By Tues. 12/23 afternoon, Steph and I said our goodbyes to mom and headed for home. One the way home I told Steph that we had just witnessed a miracle.
Mom continued to do great and by 7 am on Christmas Eve, they told her that she could go home. She went home that afternoon. She would get to spend Christmas at home. What a blessing! We have stopped and visited her several times since then and she is doing great. She still has not taken any pain medication and seems totally back to normal.
Through this event, my mind keeps going back to idea of miracles and how God loves to do miraculous things through ordinary people each and every day. We see this all throughout the Bible:
2 Corinthians 4:3-7 (NIV)
3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
Job 5:9 (NIV)
9 He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed,
miracles that cannot be counted.
Psalm 77:14 (NIV)
14 You are the God who performs miracles;
you display your power among the peoples.
Matthew 13:58 (NIV)
58 And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.
Pastor Staff has been telling us all these things over the past month in the sermons in church, but it did not hit home with me until I experienced it first-hand.
The Being of God is an eternal team of divine persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), which acts together to reveal the glory of God’s love. We experience God and His miracles each and every day. It is just a matter of being able to recognize and notice them. Then to take to an even further level of expressing this to others.
People question if God does miracles today like He did in the Bible. He does, but they don’t come in the form of parted seas, torn curtains, and immaculate conceptions. God’s Miracles and love is shown through those around us who come to us in our time of greatest need. They reach out, they help, they love, and they pray. There were no donkeys, sheep or camels in this Christmas story, but there were two dogs.
I think of everyone who God used to show His love to us in this great time of need we were experiencing.
Dr. Grittman and all the staff at Allen Hospital.
Dr. Howard and the nurses and staff at the Iowa City Hospital.
Pastor Beth and all the loving people from St. Timothy Lutheran Church in Hudson.
Pastor Staff and everyone at Christ Community Church
Chris, Julie, Diedra, Dianna, Soo, and Nate for visiting.
Gayle, John, TJ and Alice for their calls.
Jacque for drawing a Christmas tree for Mom’s room.
Coach Dan McCarney for his calls and texts
All of Steph’s family for their caring and concern.
Everyone from work and the flowers Becka sent to mom’s house.
Jayne, Cody, Cash, and Grandma Rose for being at the hospital.
Dad and Sandy for their great advice and support.
Dixie and Punkie, two of the best dogs ever.
All of those who texted, posted, and prayed in their own time for mom.
My wonderful wife Steph for all her Facebook updates and being there to support and comfort me every step of the way. I am so glad I never have to go through things like this alone.
I agree with Leonardo DiCaprio, my mother is a walking miracle.
Sometimes we have to go through trials so we can be reminded of how much God really does love us. How He was willing to send His only Son to earth as a human so we could be saved and be able to have a final home with God in heaven. How He loves us so much that He sent His love to us on earth so we can get by until Jesus comes back for us.
One day each of us will be called to leave this world, but as I was reminded this Christmas season, we do not leave this world alone. God surrounds us with His love in the form of family, friends, strangers, and even pets. This Christmas I received the greatest present ever. I got my mommy back and that really is a Christmas miracle.