Twenty years ago, I asked God for a Christmas gift like no other. Regardless if He granted me this gift, I made a promise that I would continue a tradition I started that year from that point forward.
This was a whopper of a gift – one I knew only God could fill.
Earlier that year, my husband and I had learned we were expecting our first child. I was 20-something, fit as a fiddle with no health issues whatsoever. So, when the doctor asked if I wanted to have this blood screening test, called a triple test, to see if there were any issues with the baby, I didn't bat an eye. Sure. Never did I believe it would come back array, nor did I even consider how I would react if it did.
This particular screening looks at propensity for spina bifida and Down's syndrome, and when I got the news that it was irregular and my chances of having a baby with one or both of those diseases was now significantly higher, my heart sank.
More tests followed, but I declined on having the one test, an amniocentesis, that could tell me for sure. There was no way I was having a needle put into my belly when there was a baby in there… I don't care how safe you call it.
The fear of the unknown loomed over me for months. It was a cloud of darkness that at times challenged my faith. Why was this happening? How am I going to deal with this? How is this going to affect his or her quality of life? Is this a punishment for some other failure in my life?
I had a couple more months before my due date and I had been praying all along … not for a "perfect" baby, but one that would not be crippled with pain or have to undergo numerous surgeries. I wished for a baby that would find happiness and enjoy a long, meaningful life.
I frequently had to put my head down in church so others would not see my tears. Fear had a stronghold on my happiness, crippling dreams for the future. I bought very little clothes and only scantly prepared a nursery for the baby, for fear that I might not be bringing a bundle home.
However, a few weeks before Christmas, I finally let it go and left it in God's hands. I asked for a Christmas present that only He could give.
Two months later, little Elizabeth was born; 10 fingers, 10 toes and a beautiful little smile that had "healthy" all over it. She got a clean bill of health and even the three months of colic that ensured was not enough to dull my blessedness.
It's continued, as I've watch her grow into a kind, intelligent, generous, driven young lady. I've watched her deliver the class graduation speech, excel at four different sports (including softball that garnered a full-ride college scholarship), and just this summer, graduated from Officer Candidate School for the Marines in Quantico, Va.
Her middle name is Joy. It's short for my mother's name, Joyce, who prayed so hard for both her and me.
It also reminds me of that joyful season when God delivered on the best Christmas present ever.
As for my tradition, that year and every year since, I make a gift to St. Jude's Children's Hospital. This holiday season, I encourage you to reach out and give to a cause special to you.
Wishing you a wonderful, joyous Christmas!
Jan Corey Arnett, a.k.a. "the barn lady," as she's become known, has brought her barn passion to a new level with the recently released, 72- page book American Barns. Arnett is a barn preservation guru and if you don't already know her, you may recognize her name as the crafty freelancer who has been supplying barn copy for Michigan Farmer the last few months.
The book has consumed the last six months of Arnett's life, to bring together barn gals and guys stories and 95 beautiful photos to the book's pages. It's an easy-read, highlighting the history, ethnicity, use, decline, and rebirth of our nation's barns. The book is very nicely done and sells for $9.95 includes a glossary, reading list and places to visit.
Order online through a link at www.jancoreyarnett.com or directly at269-589-6893. Checks or money order can be sent to: Coralan Press, 2444 Halbert Road Battle Creek, MI 49017