The Dentist Dilemma

cropped-img_3836.jpgI’m kind of a fanatic about having my teeth cleaned every six months. It probably has something to do with my husband’s graduate school years, when we couldn’t afford a visit to the dentist, and the hard chunk I found in my pizza after he finally received his Ph. D. and got his first job. As it turned out, the chunk was a piece of tooth.

My tooth.

I ended up with a crown not only over that molar but two others as well. Since then, I’m a regular visitor to the dentist.

As most of you already know, I have an inner ear disorder. Fortunately, due to lots of prayer, avoiding sodium and caffeine, and my current medication, I’ve been dizzy-free for over four years. Before that time, however, I never knew when my world would start spinning or I’d have a vertigo attack.

Since I usually had two or three days a week with no balance issues, I decided to take a chance and schedule a time to have my teeth cleaned. When I woke up the day of my appointment, I was dentist appointment on calendarpleased to note that I felt fine. But two hours later, the dizziness began. I tried taking a nap and  even exercising, which sometimes helped, but the whirling continued. Although the spinning was mild while I remained upright, which means I could drive safely, when I reclined in a chair, like I would be at the dentist, the dizziness intensified to the point where I scrambled to get back upright again.

By this time, I only had a half hour left before I needed to leave for my appointment. Therefore, I did two things:

First, I started praying.

Second, I started bawling.

I’m not a big crier, but the thought of telling the receptionist about my inner ear disorder made me feel embarrassed, humiliated, and, in a way, almost ashamed. Having Meniere’s was mortifying enough, resulting in sudden vertigo attacks which left me stumbling around like a drunkard and vomiting into the nearest trashcan. Now I’d have to tell her about it, and I don’t like feeling weak or dependent upon people. In addition, I really, really don’t like crying in front of people. Now, not only would I  have to admit my vulnerability and lay my plight at the mercy of the receptionist, I’d have to do it while blubbering into the phone.

I picked up the phone two, three, four times to make the call. But each time, I started sobbing before I had even finished dialing. And the entire time I was bawling and dialing, I was praying–for God to take away my dizziness or at least help me to control myself long enough to speak to the receptionist.

But neither happened. I now had ten minutes before I had to leave.

Of course, I could just not show up for my appointment, which would make things a lot easier for me. But that would be wrong, and the last thing I wanted to deal with was guilt and sin on top of humiliation.

So I kept praying, picking up the phone, weeping, and hanging up again, knowing I would have to get the call made soon.

home phoneFive minutes left.

I no longer had a choice. I’d have to call the receptionist and try to make myself understood between racking sobs. I swallowed my pride, blew my nose, and reached for the phone.

And it rang.

I cleared my throat and took a deep breath. “Hello?”

“Hi, Sue. This is the dentist office calling,” said the woman on the other end. “I’m so sorry, but we have a patient here that is taking much longer than we anticipated, so we don’t have anyone available to clean your teeth. I know it’s last minute, and again I apologize, but can you come in another time?”

After I finally shut my gaping mouth and was able to form words, I rescheduled, hung up the phone, and started blubbering again—this time because of God’s grace and compassion. He knew I was already having a hard time dealing with my inner ear disorder. He knew I didn’t like crying in public or feeling humiliated and weak. And he knew I was trying to do the right thing.

Never, before or since, has a dentist ever called to cancel a last-minute appointment for me or anyone in my family. And I don’t know anyone else this has happened to, either.

During one of the most difficult years of my life, God showed me more of his tender heart and steadfast love by reaching down and taking care of a small dilemma that was hard for me.

As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.

Psalm 103:13-14 (ESV)


Midnight Prayers and Morning Grace

cropped-img_3836.jpgSix years ago, my youngest sister asked me to take care of her two girls, ages four and six, while she delivered her third baby. Due to some pregnancy complications, she was scheduled for a c-section and would also need me to help her when she got home.

“Sure, I’ll come for a week,” I told her. “The girls and I will have a great time.”

I drove from Michigan to Pittsburgh and arrived on a Saturday afternoon. For the rest of the day, I scurried after my nesting, turbo-powered sister as we went over schedules, bedtime routines, emergency numbers, and homework instructions. After a crash course on how to use her new oven, washer, and dryer, she declared me ready to take over.

Early Sunday morning, I kissed my sister and husband good-bye. “Don’t worry about a thing,” I told her. “Everything here will be fine.”

Later that afternoon, my brother-in-law called with news that I was now the aunt of a baby girl. Both mother and daughter were doing well, which was more than I could say for myself. I was dragging, and my stomach felt funny. I kept telling myself that I just wasn’t used to running after two energetic girls. I couldn’t possibly be getting sick; I never got sick. But by the time I tucked my nieces into bed and crawled into mine, I had to face the daunting truth.

I, who never got sick, was indeed sick.

Chills. Fever. Upset stomach. Bone-deep exhaustion. And my throat was starting to hurt.

“Please, Lord,” I prayed. “I absolutely, positively, cannot come down with something now.”

As I thought about my germs spread all over the house, the dog, the girls, I felt even worse. My nieces would get sick, and then my sister’s husband, who planned to stop back home for showers and naps, would get sick.

Then my sister would come home from the hospital, sore and turbo-hormonal, and get sick too. Or worse, she would get sick in the hospital.

And if my brand new baby niece sick…moon at night

I lay in bed shivering, thinking about all the terrible things that could happen.

And I was afraid.

I have never prayed all night before, but that night, I did. I prayed that God would take my illness away, so I could take care of my family. I cried out to him, without ceasing or sleeping, asking him to shelter and protect my family, especially the baby.

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.         Hebrews 4:16(NLT)

In the morning, I hauled myself out of bed to get the six year old get ready for school. After I put her on the bus and walked back to the house with my other niece, I noticed I was feeling better. And as the day progressed, my energy increased. The chills and funny stomach went away, the sore throat cleared up, and by dinnertime, I was eating at McDonalds and laughing as my nieces chased each other and giggled in the PlayPlace.

I sent up prayers over the next few day when everyone remained healthy, thanking my good Father for protecting my family and making me well so that I could care for them.

But later that week, I learned even more about what God had done for me.

On Wednesday morning, the day my sister and baby were coming home, I called my husband. “Are you okay?” I asked him after he answered. “You sound terrible.”

“I’m sick. I knew you’d worry, so I didn’t want to say anything before. I feel so awful I didn’t even make it to work today .”

man sleeping and sick“How long have you been sick?”

“It started on Sunday evening,” he said in a shaky voice.

The same time I had started feeling sick.

“I got horrible chills, sore throat, upset stomach, and just felt wiped out.

The same symptoms I had.

“I feel even worse today,” he said. “And my throat is killing me.”

I finally talked him into going to his doctor. The next day, he called with the diagnosis.

He had a severe case of strep throat.

We got sick on the same evening, with the same symptoms. And yet, while my husband had felt sicker and sicker, I was well in less than twenty-four hours.

Some people believe that God no longer heals. But I know better. In that little house in Pittsburgh, my big God heard my earnest prayers and took away my sickness, so no one else would get sick. And so I could take care of my nieces and then my sister when she came home.

So I would learn more about his boundless grace, unfathomable love, and unfailing compassion.

From his throne in heaven, he listened to my midnight prayers. And he answered me.

With morning grace.