Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our LORD Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulations worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. Romans 5:1-5 KJV
Tribulations aren’t what any of us want to think of, especially during the holiday season.
Yet, some of us find ourselves smack dab in the middle of them.
Years ago, my family found ourselves in the most difficult tribulation of our lives.
Our daughter was born with a very serious form of congenital heart disease.
We lived hours away from the nearest children’s hospital. By the grace of God, we were able to stay in the Ronald McDonald house.
It was Christmas, a time of peace and joy.
Except, it’s very hard to find peace and joy in a children’s hospital.
What you hear in the hand-washing room alone is enough to traumatize you forever.
So many beautiful, innocent souls in torment and pain.
You don’t want to listen when a parent discusses funeral arrangements with the chaplain, but you can’t make yourself deaf in passing.
So much sorrow.
So much loss.
It’s the last place any parent wants to be.
There we were, a recently moved military family. Which meant my husband and I were alone with two children too young to go into the NICU. So we did what the doctor’s called, “Divide and Conquer.” We took turns visiting our baby girl.
While my husband was with her, I would explore the halls of the Ronald McDonald house with our other two children.
There was a playground, and so many Christmas trees.
My oldest daughter loved all the decorations.
One tree in particular caught my attention.
It reminded me of my childhood Christmas tree, that my grandmother helped me put together. It is very special to me, and I still have it today.
This tree however, looked similar, but had little white bears with angel wings and various names sewn across their chests.
I thought that since the community was so supportive of the Ronald McDonald house (people gave food and toys all the time) perhaps a class had donated it, and those were student names.
When I asked about it, a nice woman who worked there informed me those names belonged to the children of families who had previously stayed there, and had died.
It was their way of remembering them.
Every single day we were there, I had to pass that tree. Each time I did, I silently begged God that my daughter’s name wouldn’t go on it.
When I would visit my daughter, she was hooked up to so many tubes, she couldn’t go far from her bassinet. I would have to sit in a rocking chair up close to the nurse’s station, just to hold her.
I was very thankful for that chair.
On the back of it, there was a plaque engraved with, “I saw Jesus, and Jesus was orange.”
After learning what the angel bears on that Christmas tree represented, I was afraid to learn what that meant.
Later, I found out that parents of a former patient had donated that rocking chair.
Their child, like mine, was a baby.
A wonderful nurse who took care of my child, took care of him as well.
She didn’t tell me what medical condition he had, or his name. All she told me was she had the night off, and had a dream about him, except he wasn’t a baby, but a healthy little boy. She could recognize him by his eyes, and he was so excited to tell her, “I saw Jesus, and Jesus was orange!”
She didn’t have a clue what that meant, but the dream was so vivid, she wrote it down.
When she returned to work, she found out that baby boy had passed away.
A week or so later, the mother called to thank her for taking such good care of him.
This incredible nurse said she was happy the mother called, so she could tell her about the dream.
The mother began crying.
They had just buried him under an orange tree.
“I saw Jesus, and Jesus was orange.”
Right after that, my daughter went in for her first open-heart surgery.
She coded, but survived.
I didn’t expect her to.
When you are going through a tribulation, it’s hard to have hope.
Now, we’re facing her fourth open-heart surgery.
She’s coded a total of three times.
Believe me, it doesn’t get any easier.
The doctors have told my husband and I that we’ll outlive her.
Unlike when I expected her not to survive that first major surgery, I have hope.
Even in my worries and pain, I cling to hope.
Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7
It gives me great comfort to know that no matter how long we have her, Jesus is there.
Not all the world has peace or joy during the holiday season. No matter what your circumstances are, have hope, because Jesus is there.
Whether you see him or not, Jesus is there.
In a children’s hospital, where child and parent alike are suffering, Jesus is there.
No matter our struggles, even in death, Jesus is there and sometimes, he’s orange.