A Random Encounter
Jan, 2020: I write to you this very first day of January 1st, 2020, the start of not only a new year, but a brand new decade. That’s a bit intimidating as you consider the typical thoughts of years past and what prospects that not only this new year, but also this new decade might bring. Instead of layering on the pressure of having life all figured out with impressive one, five, ten, and twenty year goals and a golden path laid out to achieve them, I thought I would offer some re-assurance and encouragement.
Today as you ponder your life and what 2020 and beyond holds for you, consider this truth. “Your life is not a series of random events. Your family background, education, and life experiences- even the most painful ones - all equip you to do some work that no one else can do (Ephesians 2:10),” says writer Timothy Keller. Case in point, I offer a story I posted to my personal Facebook page exactly one year ago, on January 1, 2019.
A long story...
So several weeks ago I was sitting in a random imaging waiting room on the 17th floor at Northwestern in Chicago, waiting for 8am to come around so I could start making phone calls for a same day consult with a cardiothoracic surgeon for a likely sternum infection. Why was I on this floor? Because an address posted online had mistakenly said that this was the floor where the thoracic surgeons were (it was not). It was literally the only floor with a reception area open where I could sit down in a comfy chair and wait. In fact, I had left the floor and hit the elevator to check several floors nearby before my fatigue, nausea, chest pain, and racing heart forced me back to the only open waiting room on the 17th floor.
I had just spent an all nighter driving to Chicago after the kids' musical, waited for hours to get admitted to the ER, and then at 5:30 am was discharged and told to go get an urgent consult. So here I was, staring at my phone, checking Facebook and Twitter, researching sternum osteomyelitis for the 509th time online, when an older gentleman sitting across from me was called back for his MRI. He told the imaging tech, "Of course, my wife just left to use the restroom and all of her things are here." I quickly offered to watch her things until she returned. The man joked, "I would totally trust a random stranger in a hospital waiting room, wouldn't you?" I said, "I'll let her know you were called back." No big deal. I refrained from saying, I'm a farm girl from Wisconsin, of course I can be trusted. ;)
Then the lady returned. I let her know her husband was called back for his MRI. We struck up a conversation. They were locals, I was not. The gentleman was there for his quarterly MRI for a terminal brain tumor, and he had outlived his 6 months left to live prognosis over three years ago. He was a dentist, so upon diagnosis, he had immediately retired, and they set about traveling the world, since he had very little time left to live. He did have surgery and radiation, and he is still here. Every 3 months they hold their breath, and the MRI shows no new tumor growth. They get the results by phone by 10am. Then she told me about her family. She has 3 kids who are a decade younger than me, have outstanding educations and careers, and are spread across the US. Her one daughter she is picking up from O'Hare that night to spend Christmas with them. She is pregnant with her first. She is having trouble with a heart problem, a tachycardia, that is supposed to be benign but is quite limiting and worrisome to her daughter. The doctors told her daughter it could not be treated, that there was nothing she could do. It was inappropriate sinus tachycardia.
I shared with this mom about my experience being pregnant and diagnosed with inappropriate sinus tachycardia five years ago. I offered the names of a medicine that worked very well, and was quite safe in pregnancy, so her daughter could get her life back a bit for her last 10 weeks of pregnancy. And if it continued well after delivery, the name of another drug to try that is brand new and most MDs are not aware of. Had I known the name of it, it would have saved me a year of consults and unsuccessful trials of other meds that actually put me in the hospital at times they were so unsuccessful. Being as good with technology as I am, I typed the names of the meds in her phone.
When 8am came around, I excused myself to make my phone calls. The lady said she would be praying for me. I walked around the corner to a quiet spot of the waiting room to make what turned out to be no less than 15 calls to get in the same day in the Chicago area with a cardiothoracic surgeon. I foolishly had thought it would take ten minutes. When I came back around the corner, the couple was gone. I don't even know their names. But what a blessing that in the midst of not a great time in my life, I was able to use my past negative experiences to help others (and they had used theirs to encourage me!)
Completely random, but isn't God amazing? I share this story because when we are in the midst of a rough time of life, we wonder what good might come of it. You just never know, even on your lowest and darkest day, God will use you to help others. You may never see that big, wide open road in front of you with a road sign saying: this is your path, His will and His plan for your life. But never give up! Never guess why. Rest assured that you are loved, and His will, plan, and purpose are where you are and right where you need to be!
Look forward to this next year, next decade, and beyond with confidence, not trepidation, knowing that whatever comes your way, wonderful and exhilarating, sad and excruciatingly disappointing, (likely to be a bit of both!) it is all a gift from God to be used for good and His glory. We are never alone, and God has fully equipped each of us for the year ahead. That’s what makes this year a Happy New Year indeed!