When asked, “What is something that surprised you about chronic illness?” my mind was overloaded with thoughts.
There are so many things that have surprised me in my journey as a “heart mom.” I thought of all the unforeseen things I’ve experienced, all the relationships and unexpected connections I’ve made. I thought about how differently I look at life, how thankful I am for every little blessing, and how I’ve seen joy in the eyes of my daughter amidst her struggles. However, today, as I look back at my life and think of my experiences, I’m most surprised at the powerful gift prayer has been. Some describe prayer as a conversation with God, but I believe it’s much more.
Prayer is not a new concept for me. As a child, I remember praying nightly for my dad and younger brother who were diagnosed with a genetic neuromuscular disease. Growing up, I witnessed the effects of the disease on my brother. I wanted to help him, to take away the difficulties, to do something, so I prayed. I prayed God would take away his disease, would let me switch spots with my brother. I prayed for a cure. It was during this time, I started to understand prayer was more than a conversation. Prayer had purpose. It was a gift and a tool, and it was powerful. Little did I know how powerful this gift would continue to be.
When I first heard the words, “Your baby’s heart is not normal,” my world was turned upside down. I was scared, angry and confused. I questioned God. How could He allow this innocent, unborn baby be to be brought into this world to suffer through repeated surgeries, procedures and pain?
Why would He give her this journey?
My heart was broken, but I prayed. I prayed for the comfort and safety of this little person inside me. I prayed He would give me the strength to give her what she needed. I prayed that whatever God’s plan was, and however much time He was going to let us share with her, He would always be at my daughter’s side. I knew I had to trust God, and even though I did not understand, this was the path He had chosen for her. I was no longer in control.
I had never been in control.
The more I prayed, the more I was able to see. I saw more than the diagnosis of a congenital heart defect. I saw the support system surrounding me – family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. I saw the outpouring of supportive messages from people, including those I had never met. I saw friends dropping off meals and offering to help in any way they could, strangers adding our daughter to prayer lists, our church and a large community praying for our baby. I saw generosity, compassion, and most importantly, the power of prayer.
Prayer did more than help me to see, it also helped me to feel. Slowly the shock, denial, anger and depression turned into comfort and acceptance. The paralyzing fear dissipated, and a positive attitude emerged. I started to feel confident and strong. I felt HOPE.
And because of prayer, I no longer felt helpless, but instead, ready. I was ready for our daughter to enter this world, because I knew whatever the outcome, I was not alone.
Board Member at Chronic Joy Ministry, Inc.
Prayer Photo courtesy of Kyle Re Creative. Text added by Chronic Joy Ministry.