While flipping through computer files on my PC last night, I found this old document, and thought you might enjoy reading about what God did in my life years ago.

“Where are Mom and Peter?” I breezed into the house and curiously questioned my dad one afternoon late in March of 1995. He normally worked at this time of day, so it surprised me to see him when I arrived home from school. I continued my walk into the peaceful blue and white living room, dropped my book-bag near the velvety pinstriped couch, and turned to hear Dad’s response.

His already serious face saddened perceptibly, and he swallowed a few times before answering quietly, “Missy, they’re at the hospital.”

An awful feeling of dread overwhelmed me; with a dull ache in my stomach, I sank down on the couch and sucked in some air. I already knew that a problem existed with my two-month-old brother Peter, but I had assumed the appointment my mom talked about making with the doctor that morning after we all left for school would take care of it.

I had never been so wrong in my entire life, and my thinking and way of life has never been so drastically changed—but God knew exactly what He had in store for my future.

After months of testing and many brushes with death, my family and I found out that my baby brother Peter had an extremely rare blood disorder in which his body did not produce red blood cells. Because of the severity of this disease, Pete needed something to be done quickly. Unfortunately, doctors did not know how to treat this disease that did not yet have a name because of its rarity. They gave my parents a few options that might or might not do anything for him.

As the months passed, Peter existed in the hospital, often on life support. Many times we did not know if he would be alive the next day. Mom stayed at the hospital with Peter, and Dad had to work. Sometimes, after work, he would go straight to the hospital to visit Mom and Pete. At 15 years of age, I had younger brothers and sisters ranging from 11 years down to 18 months, so the responsibility landed on me to cook, clean, and care for six scared children who missed their parents, and who needed to be readied before school, supervised after school and comforted at night as they were being tucked into bed. I know that I did not do this job justice.

One night, my sister Charity’s tiny voice stopped me from stepping out of her bedroom after tucking her in for the night. “Missy,” her voice came out in a half whimper, “is Petey going to die?” My heart squeezed in my chest, and I rushed back to sit on her bed and run my fingers through her blond bangs. I looked down at the small second-grader and then over at the other bed occupied by my nine year old sister, Hannah, who was lying on her side facing us. Her solemn, white face reflected the full moonlight pouring in through the window as she patiently waited for my answer to Charity’s question.

I carefully considered my next words. If I told them not to worry – that everything would be okay, and then Peter did end up dying, how would they trust me again? How would that affect these girls’ relationship with God? God, help me! I cried out silently, ironically feeling like the disciple Peter who yelled, “Lord, save me!” when he was sinking beneath the storm-chopped waves of Galilee.

I decided to be honest with them. “I don’t know, Chari,” I smiled at her, my hand still tangled in her hair. “He might. But even if he did, God is taking care of him.”

Her next question shook me, “If Petey dies, will Mom come home?”

I suddenly realized that my fears, wonderings, and inconveniences were nothing compared to what my younger siblings were facing. They understood the situation in varying degrees, and their unknowns were vastly different from my unknowns. I assured her that Mom would come home immediately if Petey died, and the three of us ended up praying together. We knelt by Charity’s bed, the two girls huddling underneath me like I used to do with Dad when I was their age, but when I sat stiffly on the couch in the living room after leaving their bedsides, my anger boiled. I was too young to have to answer questions like that; Hannah and Charity were too young to have to ask questions like that; Peter was too young to have to endure pain like he was: I insisted to myself. My thoughts were indirectly directed to God, because I knew He was listening, but I did not dare to direct them intentionally to God.

I missed a lot of my second semester sophomore year and first semester junior year of high school and failed several tests, taking me from an effortless A/B student to a floundering adult-kid trying to decide what truly defined my priorities. Dad would bring my schoolwork home, and after I had put all the kids to bed I would stay up late to finish it. I put on a brave front around the kids and the people from church and my dad. I could have easily discussed the situation and my feelings with my father, but I knew that he was already over-burdened and facing the same pain and fear that I was. I chose not to add more to his plate, but in retrospect, I wonder if talking about our pain and fears together might have helped us both?

In my bedroom at night, I would pull the layers of blankets over my head, stuff my mouth deep into my pillow, and sob as loudly as I could without waking or frightening anyone, trying to express my hurt and anger and helplessness. In those moments, I sometimes whispered, “Why, God?” but I usually refrained from speaking aloud what I considered to be disrespectful.

Life continued in this manner until the week of Thanksgiving. Mom and Peter had come home from the hospital for the first time in a month. They were only allowed to be home for the Thanksgiving weekend, but our family wanted to be together for it. I stood in the kitchen washing dishes and staring out the kitchen window. The sun shown happily onto my face, but its kind attention was ignored. My hands lay lifelessly in the warm, sudsy water while my mind flew at top speed after one thought, then another. Thoughts gave way to tears, which chased each other silently down my cheeks.

I heard my mom come into the dining room behind me. When I turned to look at her, I saw that she had pulled out a chair, and she was resting her head in her hands. Her face looked so weary. Suddenly, I found myself yelling uncontrollably, “Why, Mom? Why? It’s just not fair! Why is God doing this to Peter—to us?” My sobs overcame me, and I could not speak for a few minutes. When I finally calmed down, I raised tear-filled eyes to my mother’s face. “Mom,” I whispered, “I don’t want to say this, but why doesn’t God just…just let Petey die?” Those words sounded extremely harsh in my ears, so I rushed on. “I mean, he is in so much pain right now, and this is tearing the rest of us up. Why doesn’t God just take Peter home now and get it over with?” I paused then added in a whisper, “I don’t want Peter to die.”

I expected my mother to be mad or shocked or something! Instead, I watched as a look of peace flooded her eyes and washed over the rest of her features. She smiled at me and replied, “Missy, God knows what He is doing. You may not have noticed, but so many lives have been changed because of this. You know that our church is changing. What about the people around the world who have been praying diligently ever since they heard? What about the families I have been able to meet in the hospital, and other people who are not sure if they will make it to heaven who know about this situation, and who are watching, amazed that we can cope through this? No, Melissa, God has a purpose for Peter being here and going through this!”

I will never forget my mother’s peaceful, triumphant smile as she spoke those words. Somehow, in some way, God used that smile to crumble my defenses. I turned back to the sink and plunged my dripping hands back into the water. I noticed the sunshine, and my troubled heart pondered life and God and Mom and Pete.

That night, I did not sob face-first into my pillow; tears slipped out of my eyes and into my ears as I lay on my back and said softly, “God, I know You are in control, and I give everything to You. I’m scared to trust You, but I’m going to anyway. Please take care of us.” I finally realized that my anger or grief would not change anything, so I chose to let God worry about the details, while I focused on trusting Him and praising Him for the little things that I could understand. This does not mean that I was not sad or hurt about the situation, but whenever I found myself thinking too hard about it, I would purposefully remember that God was in control and that He had a purpose for His actions, a purpose that was for good.

God filled my life with joy that overflowed all boundaries, and no way existed to contain it. My best friend, Jen, and her family came to visit for Thanksgiving, and God allowed me to serve Him sooner than I thought. Jen’s grandmother needed comfort about a situation her son was in, and because of what God had taught me through Peter, I could share His joy and peace with her. Later that night during my devotions, I read Matthew chapter 11, where Jesus’ cousin John the Baptist started to doubt whether Jesus was really God. John was in prison, about to be beheaded, and he sent a messenger to Jesus to ask if Jesus was really the one that John had preached He was. In essence, John wanted to know if he was about to die for no reason, if he had wasted his life trusting that Jesus was God. When I read this, I expected Jesus to be angry that John would dare to question Him, but instead Jesus turned to the people that were around Him, including John’s messenger, and He began praising John’s faith! I could not believe this! God does not mind being questioned; He knows we will all have doubts that His way is right, and He still loves us! That Thanksgiving eve, God enabled me to thank Him for putting this in Peter’s life, in my family’s lives, and in my life.

The summer of 1996, I worked in the kitchen at a beautiful summer camp in the mountains of upstate New York. The doctors were trying a new treatment for Peter, and he was stable enough for him and Mom to stay at home and travel back and forth to the hospital twice a week. Before I left home, I decided I would not tell anyone at camp about Peter. I was tired of thinking about Peter’s pain; I was tired of hearing everyone’s sympathies, and I was tired of explaining exactly what disease Peter had. I kept that promise to myself. I refused to tell anyone, and every time someone asked the group to give testimonies of how wonderful God has been, I sank lower in my seat and stopped my ears to the Holy Spirit’s urgings.

In the middle of July, I finally gave in. “Lord, to tell You the truth, I’m scared. It is so much easier to hide from this situation. I rested for a while, but You made sure it was not a peaceful rest. I realize now that for half of the summer, I’ve robbed others of the blessing You could have given, and I’ve robbed You of the glory You could have received. Please forgive me, Father, and please give me the strength to do this.”

The next time my kitchen supervisor asked for testimonies at lunch time, I volunteered right away. I told the entire story, and I finished with this statement that I carefully evaluated before letting it out of my mouth. “I would willingly go through it all again, because God showed me His grace really is sufficient for me.”

The following afternoon, my parents called the camp and I was brought out of work to the phone to hear that once again Peter had gone to the hospital. Because of his weakened immune system, Chicken Pox threatened his life. The doctors expected him to die before I could make it home, so my parents told me it was my decision whether I left or not. In anger, I rushed outside, looked up at the robin’s egg blue sky framed by the Appalachian Mountains and tall pine trees and cried, “God, what happened? I opened my mouth, and right away it piled back in on me! This is what I was afraid of in the first place. What are You doing?”

He opened my eyes, and I saw the majestic mountain He had made that I was staring at. He struck me with my own smallness and His sovereign awesomeness. I did not hear a voice, but God plainly said, “Missy, just yesterday you praised Me for giving you this trial. Have I changed? What is the difference between today and yesterday? My grace is still sufficient for you.”

Peter lived through the Chicken Pox, and six months later, January 1997, we decided to try a bone marrow transplant. At this time, this procedure was still experimental. I vividly remember reading through the stack of papers containing streams of statistics that the team of doctors had sent home regarding the process. The doctors told our family that there was an 80% chance that he would not live through the procedure and a 98% chance that if he did live through it, the transplant would not cure him. But he was dying anyway. Although many people angrily disagreed with us, we decided that the 20% and 2% shots were worth it.

Peter was still recovering during the first week of June, when it was time for me to leave for college. I had chosen a Christian college in Florida, a twenty-hour drive from my family in New Jersey, and leaving them at this time was horrible to me. My parents, however, would not allow me to put it off. Dad took off from work to drive me down there and say goodbye, while Mom had to stay home with Pete and the rest of the family.

November 4th, my dad called to tell me that Peter again delicately hung in the balance between life and death. Instead of experiencing immediate sadness, anger, frustration, I felt peaceful. I asked all of my new college friends to pray for him. Then I went down to the lobby of Bradley Tower where I lived and found Debbie Faubion and Jenny Jallen, two of my friends. When I told them of the telephone call, they both expressed their sympathies, and we all sat down on a nearby overstuffed, pink couch to talk. God’s strength permeated our conversation, and I know that all three of us walked away with God’s amazing peace and contentment.

God has definitely changed my life and thought processes through this situation with Peter. I know that whether Peter lives or dies, his life is in God’s hands—Who, like Romans 8:28 says, works all things together for good for those who are called, according to His purpose—and I know that His grace is sufficient!

November 11, 1997
Pensacola, Florida
1 Response
  1. Anonymous Says:

    You are such an encouragement. You are also a wonderful writer. Have you ever considered writing a book or something?

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