The invitation was colourful and fun, and proved to be eerily prophetic.
Looking at this photo of my three-year-old Katherine dressed to go to the party, it's hard to believe that within hours, a health crisis would land her in the hospital and take her parents to a new place in the adventure of faith.
The birthday lunch was served under our hosts' table, with plates and utensils above our required hats. All too soon, the "unexpected" became unpleasant. My little girl started to fade, and finally lay down on the couch complaining of a headache. At home more Tylenol didn't seem to help. Unable to sleep, at 2:00 a.m. She said, "Mummy, my neck hurts too." Dad whisked her off to the hospital.
Early the next morning I arrived to find a rag doll with a mane of long blond hair in a hospital gown attached to an IV pole, sleeping face down on a mat in the playroom, waiting for a bed. What a pathetic sight!
Our pastor and his wife visited close to 11:00 p.m. that first day, and church family members brought love and prayers during one of scariest weeks of our life. One parent needed to be with the patient throughout the night because Katherine had to eliminate two ounces of fluid every hour. Richard would have done the entire around-the-clock vigil, but when I found him there almost comatose after two nights, I insisted he go home.
The pediatrician came faithfully; we could see his concern.
As I sat on the edge of the hospital bed beside my ailing, unresponsive daughter, with no diagnosis, no sign of the happy, energetic girl we knew, I was faced with frightening possibilities I hadn't contemplated until then. A clear, unavoidable… "What if?" gripped my heart.
What if this isn't a quick fix? What if this changes the personality we know and love? What if our hopes for her future are compromised? What if…
…God calls her to Himself?
In retrospect, I believe the Lord was questioning me. Would my faith be rocked, my love for and trust in God diminished?
At her dedication Richard and I had given our firstborn to the Lord knowing He had lovingly planned for her life. We had been entrusted with her care and nurture. But now we were powerless except to put our trust in the One who gave her to us. I sensed Jesus walking me through those solemn moments.
Adenitis was the diagnosis finally. Thankfully, God returned a healthy, whole daughter to us.
In his book, A Grief Observed, C. S. Lewis wrote poignantly about pain and loss, after the death of his wife Joy Gresham. I've long treasured his testimony: "God has not been trying an experiment on my faith, or love, in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn't."
David prayed: "You have tested my thoughts and examined my heart in the night" (Psalm 17:3).
His son Solomon wrote:
"Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but the Lord tests the heart" (Proverbs 17:3).
In my school days, I was never a fan of pop quizzes and unannounced tests. I preferred having time to study and prepare for the challenge. But life isn't like that, is it? That's why, as Dr. Alan Redpath frequently remind his students, "Christians need to be R. F. A. = Ready For Anything!"