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JOURNEY TO THE CROSS | Week One: How navigating childhood illness pointed me to Christ

By: Nicole Miners


person carrying cross


”Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting, 'Praise God for the Son of David! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Praise God in highest heaven!'“ Matthew‬ ‭21‬:‭8‬-‭9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Construction Paper Palm Fronds

It was an otherwise quiet Wednesday morning. Scattered on the coffee table was a growing pile of green construction paper scraps, a popsicle stick, a bottle of glue, and a pair of scissors. My daughter’s feeding tube pump ran as I tried to keep her occupied. Thirty-minute feeds were getting harder and harder to administer to a toddler who wanted to run free. So, I talked the whole time, tracing her tiny hand on green construction paper and cutting each one out all the while. Then we glued the collection, overlapping, to a popsicle stick- a literal “palm” branch. Across the middle, in magic marker, we wrote the word “HOSANNA” in all caps.



Matthew 21:8-9 scripture

It was just a few days until Easter and we had been talking about King Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. He came riding on the back of a young donkey, a long-awaited prophecy of the Hebrew people. This was their Messiah. The crowds of people who knew Him as such laid their clothes out before Him and waved their palm branches crying out, ”Hosanna,” or save us. It was an act of adoration and worship as much as it was a plea for rescue from oppression. As I watched my two-year-old daughter wave her palm branch and sing the words of Hillsong United’s song, “Hosanna”, I began to understand the heart of the Hebrew people. They were so grateful for the hope of a Savior, and so desperate for Him to do something.



Our Journey to the Cross

Two years earlier, though it had been against doctors’ advice, with their compassionate understanding we brought our daughter home on a heart transplant waiting list. My husband and I had decided so long as Savannah was not dependent on any IV medications or mechanical interventions, she needed to come home. She deserved to have the opportunity for a normal childhood. Or, you know, as close to a normal childhood as possible. Between four-hour-long road trips back to the cardiac unit every month for checkups, local pediatrician and cardiologist checkups in between, two-time weekly physical therapy, occupational therapy, and feeding therapy appointments, five-time daily medications, daily oxygen saturation checks, and a feeding pump that ran every three hours (even through the night), we worked hard to ensure our girl grew up well-rounded. We made time for play dates and swimming lessons. We worked on therapy goals in fun locations like the county park or the local children’s museum. We went to the library weekly to gather a new collection of books on which to build background knowledge and plan trips and activities around. And, of course, we taught her about Jesus. But every day, as I praised God that I was finally living out my long-awaited dream to be a stay-at-home mother, I was also begging Him to save our family. Long after Savannah was in bed each night, I would stay awake searching Scripture for what it would take to see her set free.



My husband and I had made a lot of sacrifices so that I could be home with Savannah. I gave up my career, and we moved into a townhome we could afford on one income. It had stained carpets, horrible blue wallpaper, and just one designated parking spot, but it was in the same plaza as a local emergency room. I figured that I could run to it faster than any ambulance could make it to us, and that seemed pretty important after the warnings we’d gotten about what it all could look like. “Cardiac kids decline quickly,” they had said. We had been CPR trained, trained to administer all of Savannah’s medications, and even trained to replace a nasal-gastric feeding tube if it was ever pulled out. (Which turned out to be often.) We lived every day with the threat of our daughter needing to be re-admitted to that cardiac unit hanging just above our heads. To be admitted again would mean that my husband and I would be separated in cities four hours apart while he continued to work and provide for Savannah’s benefits and I lived with her inside that hospital indefinitely, waiting upon a heart. For her to receive a heart would be for another her age to lose their life. Tell me what mother has the heart to pray for that.



child waving palm fronds, Hosanna

I sat back on the couch as she moved to the floor, waving her palm branch with reverence before the TV screen, requesting the song be played over and over. God had promised healing- and I was always quick to tell Him I thought that should mean sudden, miraculous healing- but the reality was I couldn’t control the way it would come. All I could do was thank Him each night that she was home, safe and asleep in her own bed. All I could do was thank Him for each day that she was here, doing these simple acts of worship with me. There had been a day doctors said she wouldn't even make it to delivery. I needed to remind myself of those miracles. When she was finally done with her palm branch, Savannah crawled up into my lap, and I asked her if she knew what any of it had meant. In true childlike faith, her response was simple but sacred… “I love You, Jesus.” I knew, somehow, she struggled a lot less to get to the same revelations I did.



Reflection

This year, as you prepare your heart for Easter, you might find yourself in a similar place. Maybe you are wrestling with a heart that loves the Lord and so wants to honor Him, but that also aches with questions like why, and when, and how. Why did this happen to my family? When will our rescue come? How will you do it, Lord?



Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem might have matched the prophecies of old, but what followed in that week was unlike anything the people could have imagined. They watched their long-awaited King captured, beaten, tortured, and killed, and they struggled to understand. But Jesus had never missed their cries to save them. Hebrews 12:2 tells us, for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross. The people who had cried out to Him were His joy. Knowing He was saving them was what allowed Him to endure the cross at all. He just needed them to trust Him until the day He rose again and it all made sense. He was saving them from much more than just a political opponent or unfavorable living conditions. He had to look past their circumstances because He was saving their very souls.



Prayer

Lord, this year, may I cry out my “Hosanna” with deep honesty and true surrender. You are worthy of my praise, and You've never missed my cries for help.





writer

Nicole Miners is married to her high school sweetheart and mama of a miracle girl who taught her the wildly passionate, protective love of a parents. She writes to empower mamas to partner with the Father in discipling and defending the children entrusted to them. Read more of Nicole's pieces on her blog.


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