First, an update. Our Christmas contest stories will begin posting tomorrow, Friday. We'll publish true stories on Fridays, and fiction on Mondays and Wednesdays, all throughout the month. You're in for a treat - the quality of the writing this year was superb, and the competition was stiff.
Today, we'll share another precious story from Christmas Miracles. This book will make an EXCELLENT Christmas gift for your friends, family, coworkers, doorman, postal carrier, beautician, Sunday School teacher, child's teacher, neighbor, and babysitter, so be sure to order your copies soon.
Taken from: Christmas Miracles (pages 130-134)
Copyright © 2009 by Cecil Murphey and Marley Gibson
Published by St. Martin’s Press
175 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10010
Used by permission
"Thank You, Amen"
(Elizabeth M. Harbuck with Marley Gibson)
"Exploitive dermatitis," the doctor said. That was the best diagnosis my husband, Joe, received for his unexplained skin disease.
One night he went to bed and felt quite normal; the next morning he awoke with something broken out all over his body. It looked like a mix between measles, chicken pox, and psoriasis. The strange eruption covered every part of his body from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet. As bad as that was, he itched constantly. He scratched himself so much that he had to wear gloves because the ends of his fingers had split open.
We took Joe to the clinic every week, hoping and praying each time that they could explain his skin disease. They tried every available medication on him. Nothing worked.
All through his ordeal, Joe never missed a day of work, and he didn't complain. "It came quickly overnight and it will go away just as quickly," he said several times.
I hoped he was right. I called it Job's disease. In the Bible it says that Job was struck "with terrible boils from head to foot" (Job 2:7.)
We learned about two other men in our area with a similar disease. We wished we hadn't. One committed suicide and they admitted the other to what they called an asylum in those days.
On September 23, 1970, my parents visited to welcome home my medical doctor brother, David, and his wife. David had completed his tour of army duty in Germany.
After an enjoyable evening together Joe stood up. "I'm not feeling well." He excused himself and went down the hallway to our bedroom.
"Liz! Liz!" he screamed not long after that.
I ran toward him. "I'm coming—"
"Get David and come quickly!"
David and I rushed to the master bedroom. David examined Joe quietly and efficiently. "I'm sorry to tell you, but you're having a heart attack."
We arranged for relatives to stay with our three children and rushed Joe to the hospital. At the emergency room, David identified himself as a medical doctor. "My brother-in-law has had a myocardial infarction."
The nurses hurried into action and sent for the cardiologist. They put Joe on a gurney and moved him into the intensive care unit. In 1970, in New England where we lived, they didn't know as much about heart attack patients as they do today. Back then, they normally gave them injections of morphine and watched them closely.
Joe spent several days in the hospital. He was weak. It exhausted him just to have one of us wheel him down the hallway for a shower by the orderly.
Feelings of sadness and fear swept over me. As much as I tried not to, I wondered what I would do without Joe. He was only forty-three years old. As much as I could, I tried to focus on gratitude to God that he was still alive.
There was one bright spot in that terrible ordeal. As Joe had predicted, his skin condition cleared up. Doctors later said the stress had built up inside his body and caused the skin condition. His heart attack was the "breaking point" and released everything inside of him.
After about a week, Joe came home. He slowly began to recuperate. Three months later, on December 9, 1970, Joe suffered another massive coronary—on the fifteenth birthday of our daughter, Jennifer. After an examination at the hospital, the doctor came out to the waiting room.
The gravity of his face warned me of the message.
"I'm sorry, but your husband is gravely ill—"
"He won't make it through the night." As my tears erupted he said softly, "Go home and prepare your children."
I left the hospital. I wasn't emotionally ready to face our three children. I wanted to wait until my two older children, Jeff and Jennifer, were out of school. I'm not sure why, but I stopped and bought an artificial Christmas tree, the kind that comes inside a box.
I picked up Jeff and Jennifer and drove them home, and Jeff immediately assembled the tree and Jennifer started to decorate. While I waited for four-year-old Marley to come home from the neighbors, I went into the bedroom and called a few friends at church. I told them about Joe and asked them to pray.
When I heard Marley's voice, I returned to the children. I took a deep breath and prayed silently for guidance before I said, "Kids, sit down. Your dad's back in the hospital."
Marley, hands on her hips, stared defiantly at me, and asked, "What's wrong with my daddy?"
I knelt in front of her so that we were on the same eye level. "The doctors say that Daddy might go home to be with Jesus tonight." I bit my lip so that I wouldn't cry. I had tried to pray, but I didn't know how. I didn't even know if I should pray for Joe's recovery. That wasn’t the kind of praying we did in our church. We prayed for God’s will to be done. Of course I wanted him well, but was it right to ask God to intervene?
Just then, Marley clasped her hands together and looked toward the ceiling. "Dear God, please make my daddy well. Thank you, amen." She turned around and picked up one of her toys.
Even in my pain, I smiled. I had struggled with how to pray. Our little daughter certainly taught me about prayer that night. She went directly to her source: She made her petition to God; she thanked him before he answered; and she rested positively after her request.
Moved by her simple expression of faith, I relaxed. I couldn't explain it, but Marley's simple prayer changed my attitude. I knew God had heard her. I sat down at the piano and started to play and sing hymns. Between them, I paused to say, "Thank you, God."
Word about Joe spread rapidly through our church group, and several people came to the house to stand vigil with me that night. Their kindness touched me and I told them so. I went back to the piano to play and sing praises to God.
"She's still in shock," I overheard one friend say. Another thought I was in denial about Joe's impending death. It was neither. I told them that God had heard my daughter's prayer.
Joe didn't die that night. The next morning, he was extremely weak, but still alive.
The children and I were allowed to spend Christmas Day with him in his hospital room. We brought a miniature Christmas tree and gifts for him. We were grateful to have Christmas time together.
I had great peace. It came from such a simple thing as a prayer from a child who didn't know enough about his medical condition to understand that her daddy was supposed to die. Marley had enough faith to believe in a God who cared enough to listen to her prayer. A simple prayer, and just as sweetly and simply, she had said, "Thank you, amen."
Joe lived and is still alive today, four decades later. I don't understand what happened and I don't try to explain it. This much I know: A child prayed with utter faith that God would hear her and let her father live and God answered.