The hospital bill

Twice in my lifetime the doctors have been wrong.  Don’t misunderstand me, I believe in doctors and have a great respect for their intelligence, training and sacrifice.  I thank God for them every time I have to go under the knife.  But it’s just that I also know God is the ultimate Healer and He has the final word.

It was my 37th birthday as I sat in the doctor’s office and heard those words: “You will never be able to run again.”  The cartilage in my knee was gone.  I sat there in silence. Running has always been a big part of my life; it is where I draw my confidence; it is my time alone with God and my thoughts.  And it had always been a lifetime goal of mine to run a marathon.  But more than the doctors words, I also knew from where my strength came, from God alone, and I decided I would not give up that easily.  After two months of pain-staking physical therapy followed by some very careful training, I ran across the finish line of the Chicago Marathon – before my next birthday.

The other time the doctors were wrong it was a more personal one.  I was a few months away from my wedding day when I had an emergency surgery.  I heard the doctor’s words once again: “You will probably never be able to have children.”  I understood the complications of my situation, resulting from a life-threatening appendectomy years earlier.  But I also knew that God, the Creator of all life, could give me a child if he chose to.  When that time came later on to start a family, the doctors words seemed to come true.  I decided I would try another surgery in hopes of increasing the odds.  I began the process of finding a doctor and pleading my case for surgery, but I soon faced another obstacle.  The insurance would not pay for the surgery, as it was considered infertility surgery and therefore was “optional”.  Again I sat in silence.  Looking down at the sheet of paper with the estimated costs for the doctors, surgery and hospital, I wondered how we would be able to pay for it on our own, or if we should even try.  We were still newly married and did not have much money saved.  This would take all of our savings plus a little more.  Even so, I decided it was worth the try and I could not imagine anything more that I would rather spend my money on.

As the day came, the one-hour simple surgical procedure turned into a five-hour operation.  The anesthesia alone was more than my body could handle and I threw up all the way home from the hospital.  I laid in bed sick for days.  The doctor had said my best (and only) chance of getting pregnant would be in the first six months after surgery.  Well, six months came and went with no news.  But I also noticed during this time that I never received the bill from the hospital for the surgery or the anesthesia.  It did not show up as a claim on my insurance either.  No co-pay or deductible was ever paid, and I never received a second bill in the mail or a phone call.  It seemed to disappear.  And, about a year later I delivered a healthy baby boy.  He truly was a gift.

God is the giver of all good things.  James 1:17

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Teacups and Rocks

A small, intricate shelf sits just inside the front door of my house.  I call it my teacup shelf.  It is a narrow shelf with five levels, and filled with all sorts of varied teacups I have collected or received over the years.  Some of them are old, some new, some are sentimental, and some are just for fun.  Most of the teacups resemble a familiar English rose pattern found in almost any roadside antique store.  None would seem too priceless, except for maybe one.  And that is where my story begins.

Prominently displayed in the center of the top shelf is a fragile and chipped teacup.  It is not of the normal teacup fanfare.  The light grey cup looks almost translucent when held up to the light.  It is made from a thin bone china and has an Asian-themed dragon carved around the outside of the cup.  Looking inside, there is a 19th century English woman’s face at the bottom of the cup.  I have browsed many antique stores over the years, always searching for a similar type cup, hoping to discover its history and where it came from.  I have never found anything else like it.  The cup has always held a certain mystery to me, ever since it came into my possession as a child.  Its mystery and uniqueness is not only from the design of the teacup itself, but in how I came to own it all those years ago.

“I thought of you when I saw this, so I bought it for you,” my grandfather said to me as child when he handed me the teacup.  I am not exactly sure how he acquired it, but it was probably from one of his many excursions to the flea markets or garage sales.  My grandfather was not a man of many words.  He had a quiet presence, always working in his garden or tinkering with something.  All I remember that day are those simple words he said when he handed me the treasure, “I thought of you when I saw this…”  The teacup was beautiful and unique and very fragile.  I, on the other hand, was a plain-looking nine-year-old girl with curly, frizzy hair, and I did not see anything beautiful or unique about me.  Yet, here I stood holding this magnificent and precious teacup in my hands, which had reminded someone of me.  My mind raced.  I tried to imagine what far-off land it must have come from, and who the mysterious lady was at the bottom of the cup.  It was priceless and valuable in my mind.  It was also very fragile.

Perhaps this is where my fascination for teacups began over the years.  I am grown now and have moved away, and those days from long-ago have mostly been forgotten.  Yet, the teacup moved with me everywhere I went.  It was always displayed on a shelf among all my other belongings.  When I got married, the teacup came with me.  Soon after, when we bought our first house, the teacup moved too.  I was not even aware that it had stayed with me all these years until one day there was an accident.  With all the moves and changes that life can bring, my teacup had been broken.  It shattered into many pieces on the floor.  It did not look like it could ever be restored.  Tears came as I cried and knelt down to carefully scoop up all the pieces.  I am not sure if I was crying over the broken teacup or because I had been so clumsy.  Life was busy at that time, so I gathered up the pieces in a small box and put the box back on the shelf, not knowing what to do with it but not wanting to part with it either.

A few years later when things had settled down a little, I once again took the box off the shelf.  I carefully glued each piece back together, holding one piece at a time until it was set.  It felt good to put it back together, to make it complete again.  A few pieces were missing on the brim of the cup, but I did not mind.  I put the chipped side of the teacup toward the back of the shelf and happily displayed it.  From a distance, the cracks were not too noticeable.  It was only up close that one could see the imperfection.

The teacup is over 30 years old now, at least from the time I have owned it as a young girl.  It is probably the only possession of mine that has been with me almost my entire life.  I even had a special shelf built for it and all the other teacups I have collected since that time.  Each one is beautiful and fragile, and has its own place on the shelf.  Yet in the last few years, things have taken another turn and the contents of the shelf began to change.

Life has become certain, more confident, and a little more weathered.  I am no longer that fragile little girl, and I have a child of my own now.  Since then, a different item has started to gain some space on my teacup shelf.  It all began when my son and I started collecting rocks during one of our adventures together.  We started with a few beautiful crystal rocks from a school field trip.  Next, we added rocks of all colors – blues, greens, pinks, and ambers.  Over time, we collected lava rocks from far-away beaches, and salt rocks from the desert floor.  Each one is unique and beautiful, and yet still as mysteriously made as my dragon teacup from years ago.  But unlike the teacups, the rocks are sturdier and cannot be broken.

I still cling to the fragile teacups at times, but I now have many strong and beautiful rocks to display as well.  The fragile times seem less.  As my son grows, he will have his own challenges in life.  I try to help him find his own strength and confidence, and to reveal the hidden beauty and mystery in life that is not always evident on the surface.

Grandpa, thank you for your kind words to a frightened little girl all those years ago.  We may not always know just how much of an impact our small words and actions can mean to someone, but they can carry us through a lifetime.  My wish is that we will all have our own teacups and rocks to share with others and to keep in our own lives.