Agents of Mercy

How does one weave together the bits of our story lines, the threads of our daily lives to create a fluid narrative, a gorgeous tapestry? There are threads that appear loose, maybe just in need of tying together, binding up or intersecting with a few more lives to understand the pattern as a whole. Some threads appear wholly disconnected or out of place. Until eternity we will never see clearly, but we must try to see even dimly or we lose hope that we are ever more than just frayed edges.

Here a few threads intersect, held together by one main thread in one great guiding hand.

It was my birthday, 2012. I sat in church with my oldest, college-age son, listening to his pastor. He told us that God created all things for the purpose of bringing glory to Himself, in order that all creation might see His power and goodness. I have a distinct memory of the pastor saying that there are no maverick molecules in the entire universe, but that each one is ordained by God and under His control. I’ve checked the transcript and listened to the sermon again and do not hear him say that, though I found it other places. Memory lines blur and fuse at times. At any rate, the words were meant for me, an almost immediate sustaining grace.

My eleven year old had been suffering from headaches that week, though he perked up a bit for the weekend, making our birthday visit with the oldest possible. The headaches continued to worsen until 10 days later we found ourselves in an emergency room being prepared for the realities of brain surgery. My son had an epidural abscess and mastoiditis with ear infection. To put it simply, he had a bacterial infection inside his skull, a portion of his skull bone and his ear. The only way to drain an abscess from a fully enclosed space is to create an opening from which it can escape.

The surgery was delayed till the morning, though a wonderful ENT put a tube in my son’s ear immediately to begin the draining process. In the meantime, he was admitted to the ICU and a wonderful team of highly qualified doctors began attempting to unravel the mysteries of the universe, based on their knowledge of bacterial characteristics and habits. By God’s good healing hand, the impossible occurred, and the abscess did not need a drain hole opened in order to disappear. It took time, but the the healing began almost immediately, joyfully surprising everyone. Doctors asked every question they could think of to track down the source and explanation of an infection that appeared to have begun in the skull, which had never been injured, allowing bacteria to enter. This should not be. All I could say is that there are no maverick molecules in the universe. I do not know the how or why, but I know the One who does.

One day, in the ICU, after being downgraded from Intensive Care status, a brand new team of doctors and students swept through the door of our room. The resident was asking many of the same questions that had been asked and answered several times already, but they needed to know the answers. Some questions, however, were meant simply to put the patient at ease. Questions like, “How many brothers and sisters do you have? Are they all at home? What college does your brother go to?” When the last question was asked and answered and the doctors satisfied with their observations, the group moved to leave, all but one lovely student, who stopped to ask if we went to her church. She recognized the name of my son’s college and thought we might be connected to the church, the one we had just visited on my birthday. We’ve found a common thread, possibly one less frayed edge.

A mere five days after being admitted to the hospital, we were heading home, having seen the same lovely med student a time or two more. We’d been trained and sent home with specific and detailed instructions for our son’s care, assigned a support team, and loaded down with medicines to aid his healing process, a process we were told could still be long and exhausting.  Those were prophetic words, as my son was admitted two more times and spent nearly a month in the hospital. So many lives were woven together, intersecting for a time then woven into others’ lives, as wonderful, caring, dedicated, and compassionate people became involved in my son’s care. A hospital room is a revolving door of caregivers, exhausting the patient and loved ones with repeating the details, remembering names, building trust all over again.

That’s when God sent us an agent of His mercy, our own dear medical student from the first visit, full of compassion, for the duration of our stay. Each time we arrived back, she was there in a heartbeat, with her concerned look and embracing smile, teasingly chastising my son for being a difficult patient, saying, “Why do you have to be difficult? We don’t want you here. I mean, we LOVE you, but we don’t want to see you HERE. Maybe we could meet somewhere else sometime.” Every day she came to our room, for that’s what it became, our room. My husband and I were residents with my son, though our suffering was only the emotional agony of watching his physical suffering. Yet here was God’s agent, bringing her smile, her medical knowledge, her compassionate heart, her firsthand knowledge of the medical team’s thinking as doctors still struggled to solve mysteries and help heal without hurting. We had one tangible constant, for it seemed she never rested or missed a day.

Today, our own lovely and dear med student graduates. She was granted a residency in pediatrics without having to leave our city. These are her words from an e-mail she sent this week, “during my interviews, I got to talk about how my interaction with [your son] and the rest of [your family … ] played a significant role in my decision to go into pediatrics. And so, thank you all, […] for being a big and unexpected part of this journey. I can only imagine how difficult that time was on your end, but I’m also so grateful to God that He saw fit to orchestrate that, and to sustain you through it.” He did sustain us, using a single, random medical student, who wasn’t random at all, but strategically placed for our good as an agent of His mercy. There are no maverick molecules in the universe. I can’t solve all the mysteries, but the Hand of God weaves every last thread, pulling in the fraying edges and holding them tightly till the last stitch is made and the whole beautiful tapestry is seen clearly in all it’s glory. His glory.

Eta & Stephen the day before his final release from the hospital
Eta & Stephen the day before his final release from the hospital


©2014 Erika Rice

Spring in my Heart

We bid farewell to the coldness and indifference of a spiritual winter when the Lord creates a spring within. – Charles Spurgeon

The darkness creeps in almost before I have a chance to notice I’m missing the sun. SPLAT………. SPLAT. A fat raindrop smacks hard against the windshield, followed several seconds later by another, exploding like water balloons on pavement with each hit. SPLAT……….SPLAT…………SPLAT….SPLAT. The hard staccato comes more rapidly. There is no driving wind, no slant at all to the rain beginning to fall in sheets, just the silent, strong pull of gravity.

I practice efficiency at its best, perfectly timing the door opening and the trunk popping to avoid any delay, attempting to remain dry while getting myself and eight bags of groceries indoors in the downpour. It’s a purposeless battle, really, because I never win, and yet I always try. Another time, with less on my agenda, I might stay and soak it all in. A good rain shower never bothers me, and spring downpours are some of my favorites. Today, however, I am sensible and dash for the door. I have responsibilities, the memory of my optimist’s to-do list staring me in the face.

Now I stand at my sink, washing tomatoes, surveying the greening of the countryside, evidence of new life emerging. Strawberry-rhubarb cake is in the oven, turkey and wild rice soup simmers on the stove, and hymns exuberantly emanate from the music player under my kitchen cabinet while a hundred tiny chicks cheep softly from my entry. A scratch in the cd sends the song on a constant loop of the same verse and chorus, Heir of salvation, purchase of God … Praising my Savior all the day long.” I’m pulsing together a new fresh salsa recipe, my first batch in the blender, ready in mere minutes. I’m the queen of my kitchen, in my element, a happy homemaker.

My day isn’t clouded by gloomy skies, punctuated by oaths of frustration, splatting on the heart-surface of those who dare to be caught in my storm. I have no driving wind of fury in my compulsion to achieve. Instead, my day is a day of joyful, vibrant living. By His Spirit, spring is in my heart.

Heir of salvation, purchase of God, Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood. This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long. (Fanny Crosby, 1873)


©2014 Erika Rice