I was totally unaware of the fact that we were desperately poor. I guess that’s because our family fit right in with everyone else in our small Nebraska farming community. We were all poor. We all lived the same lifestyle. And we were all happy.
In those things that mattered, we lacked for nothing. There was love in our house. There was always food on our table, thanks to the huge garden out back, the chickens who gave their all for our standard Sunday meal, and my dad’s eagle-eye aim with the shotgun toward unsuspecting rabbits, squirrels, and pheasants.
My sisters and I worked hard in the rented fields and farmyard with our dad, which fostered feelings of teamwork and satisfaction. When the outside work was done, we helped our mom cook, garden, and sew. We worshiped together. We enjoyed the love and support of a small-town community that honored country, family, faith, and, of course, football.
I never remember feeling less fortunate, even though no store-bought clothes ever hung in my closet, orthodontics were out of the question, and a college education was not on my horizon. Christmas presents meant new underwear, and birthdays were rarely marked with fanfare. So what? I had a million trees to climb and barn kittens to love, and Dad would probably play gin rummy with me come nightfall. My sisters and I entertained ourselves by building fortresses in the groves of trees, turning the corn crib into an imaginary playhouse, and staging performances on the side porch of our small farmhouse. It was all very, very good.
Almost. There was the crooked smile. It seemed a mere annoyance at first. I was teased about it. No matter how hard I tried to mask it, it still showed in photos. But when I was about 10 years old, my jaws began locking. I would have to work hard to manipulate them open, which was excruciating. In my late teens, generalized facial pain crept in. It was an occasional visitor at first, but the pain eventually decided to stay.
Another childhood phenomenon was physical weakness. I was terrible at sports. I’m highly competitive and have loads of energy, so having little natural ability or physical strength was especially frustrating. After many years, the eventual diagnosis of hemifacial microsomia and an overall skeletal asymmetry would explain everything to me.
Unrelenting pain has a way of casting a dark cloud on even the most idealistic heart, even a redeemed heart. If you suffer with chronic pain, you know of which I speak. If you are walking through that dark cloud now, whether due to physical pain, emotional pain or simply a disappointing spiritual life, walk with me. We have much to share.
There is hope because our God is the God of hope.
Keep reading. I will share my journey and hopefully unwrap for you the layers of a complex miracle, the miracle of grace.
Joy in Jesus,