We were hoping this wouldn't happen. Our family Christmas vacation was planned. The host home location, arrival time, meal plans and gift exchange protocol were set. All that remained was celebrating Christmas Eve and Day with Resurrection Church where I pastor. After that, off to the races for our annual family Christmas celebration.
And then it happened. Valor got fussy. He started getting hot, losing his appetite and not wanting to play. It was December 23, so we waited most the day hoping his fever would pass and we could still celebrate with family. By 9 p.m., he was getting worse not better. We took his temperature--101 degrees--enough to trigger an immediate trip to the ER. Brandi grabbed Valor's pre-packed hospital bag, called Duke Hospital and got the all-clear to check straight in to a local pediatric emergency room.
In the car, we comforted ourselves with the thought of Mary and Joseph making a similar emergency trip to Bethlehem for the census while Mary was pregnant. We made contingency plans for missing Christmas or arriving late depending on the length of Valor's stay. At 10:30 p.m. I dropped Brandi and Valor off, thankful my sister could be home with the older four sleeping kids. It would be a different Christmas without Brandi and Valor. But we were used to different by now.
At 1:06 a.m. I received an unusual phone call. Actually 2 phone calls--the first didn't wake me. The local hospital ran tests on Valor. His neutrophils were at 1600. 1500 is normal, but his are usually around zero when he checks in to the ER. His temperature had reduced to 99 degrees and his white blood count was normal. After a precautionary injection of IV antibiotics, he would be ready to go home.
Returning home from the hospital at 3 a.m. Christmas Eve morning, Brandi and I were tired and shocked. In his seven prior extended trips to the hospital, Valor had never been sent home early with good news, much less ABOVE AVERAGE neutrophils of 1600. Christmas was back on!
A couple days after the whirlwind of interstate travel, greeting family and exchanging gifts, Brandi and I snuck away to process our emotions about this strange new turn. We agreed Valor's unexpected homecoming felt like "a Christmas gift" and as if "brokenness was broken." The normal tired routine of sickness, hospital stays, needle pokes, and keeping an eye on 4 healthy kids while working full time was no longer normal. The brokenness of Valor's body had unexpectedly (if temporarily) been broken, and early Christmas Eve morning at that.
Can you relate to the tired routine of brokenness? Another family fight? Another toxic work environment? Another addiction relapse? Another bout of anxiety, depression or both?
Israel at the time of Jesus' birth could certainly relate to the tired routine of brokenness. Their king, Herod the Great, married and divorced ten wives, murdering at least one along with three sons, whom he suspected of conspiracy to overthrow him. Near the time of Jesus' birth, the Roman army crucified 2000 Jews along the streets of Israel as punishment for Judas the Galilean's revolt against Rome. Another day, another divorce, another family member murdered, another Roman crucifixion.
But somehow Jesus was different. Somehow Jesus broke brokenness. He slipped through Herod's murderous fingers. He bucked the downward whirlpool of inward rebellion, guilt and shame. He made family out of people who weren't his family. He even ran the gauntlet of a Roman crucifixion, including death, and rose from the dead three days later. Jesus broke brokenness.
Valor's unexpected recovery and surprise Christmas Eve homecoming remind us life isn't all about brokenness. Sometimes brokenness is broken. Sometimes you get discharged from the hospital unexpectedly. Sometimes, marital problems don't lead to another divorce. Sometimes, our favorite addiction doesn't enslave us again. And with Jesus, that "sometimes" has become a permanent "all the time." This Christmas we are thankful for Valor's small foretaste of what is becoming permanent.
Meet the Authors: Elijah & Brandi Lovejoy
On March 15, 2019 nine days before his 6 month birthday, our son, Valor Emmanuel Lovejoy, entered Duke Children's Hospital for the second time with a recent fever, low white and red blood cell counts and a below 1% weight chart gain. Doctors suspect Valor has Shwachman-Diamond Syndrome, a disease that effects bone marrow health, pancreatic function and sometimes skeletal structure, among other symptoms. You can learn more about SDS here: www.shwachman-diamond.org. I (Elijah) am a pastor, and I (Brandi) am a volunteer Children's Ministry Director and home school mom to our five children.
These Chronicles are written from a Christian perspective in the spirit of 1 Corinthians 11:1, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." We believe the Lord does his best and deepest work through profound patterns of death and resurrection, particularly as pioneered and embodied in Jesus Christ's own death and resurrection. Through faith and ongoing participation in Jesus' death and resurrection, we offer these Valor Chronicles in hope that others will find comfort, hope, peace and resurrection life with us in Jesus.