It was a blessed and happy Christmas in so many ways. My grandson was here for his very first Christmas! I was surrounded by my five children, my husband, my daughter’s husband, and one daughter’s significant other–all coming together to celebrate in the heart of my home. Needless to say, I was extremely thankful. It was a whirlwind of crazy and blessed few days filled with so much activity and precious moments shared together.
Oh, wait a minute! Did I mention there was a brand new puppy too? One of my daughters has a new puppy and he came to visit too, romping around in Christmas paper!
There were so many beautiful moments, but I cherish the moment when I gave my little grandson one of his very first Christmas gifts. When he saw that it was a board book with bright and cheery pictures he smiled and pointed at the pictures and immediately turned his head to look into my eyes and smiled so wide he made me smile too. It was as if he was saying, “Grandma, I love this book! Thank you!”
That little precious moment warmed my heart.
There were some challenges for me to endure this Christmas time, as well. I won’t go into them now. But, I think you’ll see as you read these stories that there are all sorts of challenges interwoven throughout all of this Christmas JOY. Amid the struggles are stories of joy and blessing, and even miracles too that warm my heart and cause me to praise God. I want to share a few of them with you.
Babies born at Christmas time
I’ll start with the babies. In recent days, I know of two babies that were born safely (one for whom I was praying while in utero which had a serious medical condition). One Mom lost a lot of blood in childbirth and needed additional prayers to recover. Her baby was born early and was having trouble nursing. I was keeping them strongly in my prayers and checking on them. I asked others to pray as well.
She emailed me to say, “God has used you so beautifully to bring us grace in this house and I do not know how to thank you Donna. Thank you for the best Christmas gift.” I was so humbled and blessed by her words. I felt deeply thankful that because of God’s grace, my simple desire to continue prayers for them had made such a difference in their lives.
The other baby was diagnosed before birth with Skeletal Dysplasia (Dwarfism) which can sometimes be fatal. When asking for prayers from me before the birth, the Mom explained, “At this time Doctors are telling us to be optimistic but prepare ourselves because they really do not know if she’ll survive. Her rib cage has not formed properly, the ribs are about half the length they should be meaning they do not meet the sternum. We have been praying through the intercession of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos for a miracle, that her rib cage will be healed.” She also expressed that no matter what, she would love and care for her baby.
Then recently I received a message from the Mom to say that she was in labor–to please pray for a safe delivery and a healthy baby, and to ask others to pray. I did just that and waited.
The precious baby girl was just born the other day. Her rib cage is fully formed! Thank God! This is truly miraculous and an absolute answer to prayer! The newborn is in the NICU but is doing well thus far. Let’s pray for this baby and family. The doctors are currently testing for another condition which could cause bone fractures. I pray that will be ruled out.
God’s perfect timing
Then there is the order of the 150 Miraculous Medals that I needed to send to a far-off place to a woman who had requested them to give to homeless people. I tried to expedite the delivery because I wanted to ensure the package would be received in time for their Christmas festivities. But, even with careful planning and a “guaranteed” delivery time, it still didn’t seem that it was going to make it on time. Yet, I still sensed that somehow the medals would arrive in God’s perfect timing. I knew I had to leave it all in God’s hands because there was nothing more I could do. I sent an apologetic email about the possible late delivery.
A few days later, I received an email from the woman. “I wanted to let you know of how things worked out all in God’s perfect timing…First, the letter I helped compose, somehow didn’t get printed in time to go into the bags either, and the lady who runs the Soup Kitchen ended up going around individually talking with each person, holding their hands, and giving them the letter personally. How beautiful!” She said.
“And now, I am quite sure that this is what God wants of me too,” she explained. “It would be so much easier to just put the gift in the bag and not have personal contact, although the gift handed in person will obviously be so much more meaningful.”
The delayed delivery caused this woman to re-think the way in which she would gift the medals. She now planned to hand deliver each blessed Miraculous Medal to each homeless person who visited the Soup Kitchen.
The medals had indeed arrived on time. I smiled when I read her email about “God’s perfect timing.” Another bit of Christmas joy I thought! What a blessing!
Totally transformed by a kind gesture
Another story really warmed my heart too. Yesterday, I called my elderly ex-mother-in-law on the phone to see how she was doing. If you have read my memoir The Kiss of Jesus, you would know that we are still in touch on a regular basis. She is very dear to me.
Elizabeth just very recently transitioned to a long term medical facility and told me during our phone call that her roommate who is 97 years old had a very tough week and had almost died. A few days after her troubling ordeal, the woman seemed very forlorn. Elizabeth, feeling sorry for Arlene and seeing her so quiet, called out to her from her side of the room. But Arleen just sat there, hung her head and did not respond.
Elizabeth recalled to me that suddenly she had an idea. She decided to quickly pick up a photo from the table beside her bed to show it to her depressed neighbor. It was a picture of her great-grandson (my grandson!) with whom she enjoyed a very special visit on Christmas day.
She wheeled herself over in her chair and showed Arlene the sweet picture. Her roommate suddenly lit right up and started asking all sorts of questions about Elizabeth’s great grandchild.
“It was like she was totally transformed when she saw his smiling face,” Elizabeth told me over the phone. “It brought her out of herself and she was happy again!”
Elizabeth handed the photo to Arlene and told her to keep it because it seemed to make her so happy. I told Elizabeth that my heart was so warmed in learning about this very sweet exchange.
“You helped her so much by reaching out to her.” I told Elizabeth.
“Well, my little great-grandson helped her without even knowing it!” She said.
As we conversed I also told Elizabeth that I was very proud of her for the way she had transitioned into her new environment (which had come about very suddenly just about a month or so ago).
“And now you are even helping others to feel better!” I said. I wanted her to feel encouragement and affirmation.
Even more JOY…
Even as I write this reflection, I heard from a woman who reached out to me before Christmas begging prayers and feeling very scared. Further testing had been ordered for her after her mammogram had detected a mass in one of her breasts. She had said, “I just received some not so good news and I am really upset.” The poor woman had to wait until after Christmas to go back in to the doctor to check further. I promised my prayers.
I just got word from her that the mass is gone. She explained that the radiologist was very certain that there was no mass evident in the follow up testing.
The woman said, “I claim her [the radiologist] words as healing in Jesus’ name. Thank you Donna so much for all you do for all of us.”
As you can imagine, I am praising God!
God never stops working through our gestures of love and prayer.
Copyright 2016 Donna Marie Cooper-O'Boyle
About the Author
Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle is a Catholic wife, mother, grandmother, international speaker, pilgrimage leader, award-winning journalist, and author of over 30 books. She knew Mother Teresa, participated in a Vatican congress, and St. John Paul II blessed her work on Mother Teresa. She writes for L'Osservatore Romano, National Catholic Register, Magnificat magazine, Our Sunday Visitor Newsweekly, Catholic World Report, and more. Visit DonnaCooperOBoyle.com.