A few people have asked about our faith in the current circumstance, so we thought we would write a second blog today on our thoughts on where we see God in all of this. It might seem very difficult to imagine us seeing God in the midst of such immense pain – and there really is immense pain, but we have definitely felt God present with us throughout.
Disclaimer: This blog isn’t an attempt at a theological unpacking of suffering (there are plenty of other blogs that can do that). This is a marker in the sand of where we have seen God in this journey so far. A friend of ours kindly gave us a stone with Ebenezer written on it recently. This is in reference to 1 Samuel 7:12 in the Bible, which says:
“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”
This blog is our Ebenezer blog.
We also recognise our perspective of things may change later down the road, in a few months or years to come. We continue to pray in faith and hold firm to God’s promises for Eloise, however this doesn’t change the fact that ETMRs have extremely poor prognosis statistics.
Also for the record: We don’t believe that God wants this for Eloise – we believe that God weeps over the suffering she (and we) are going through. Sickness, pain, death and suffering are not the world that God intended. But we do believe that God promises to be with us in the pain, and that He can use the situation for greater purposes too.
So where have we seen God in this journey so far?
- In her name, Eloise Zoe: Before Eloise was born, choosing a name for her was really important to us. We spent time praying and wrestling with God about what name we should give her and felt convicted to give her this name because of the meaning. The message we sent to family and friends announcing her birth stated ‘Eloise means warrior and Zoe means abundant life. We pray she fights for life in all its fullness for herself and many many others’. Little did we know how important and true this is. Every time we say her name we are declaring these things over her. We continue to pray she fights for life in all its fullness for others too!
- In a dream: On the day we unexpectedly found out that Eloise had a brain tumour, Mel had woken up early feeling disconcerted because of a dream she had. In the dream Mel was told by a Doctor that Eloise had 2 brain tumours and that they would need to operate to remove them. After Mel woke up she told Pete about the dream and we even messaged a few family members about it before we found out about the tumour from the Drs. Only a few hours later, we got an unexpected call to urgently come in and meet with the epilepsy consultant to discuss Eloise’s MRI – where she tells us that our precious girl has a brain tumour, and that surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy might be needed. Never before, and not since has Mel had a dream like this regarding Eloise. It felt like we lived out the day Mel had dreamt (except there only being one tumour!). As bizarre as it may seem, the dream actually reassured us and brought a certain level of peace – it felt like God was demonstrating to us that He knew what was about to happen and that He was with us.
- Being “Blessed” by the outpouring of prayers, love and support. Before all of this, Pete had felt for some time that we would be entering a season of ‘blessing’. This may seem like an odd statement at the moment, but we have been abundantly blessed with prayers, gifts, meals, love and care – including from many people we don’t even know. We would never have envisaged that the blessings would play out in this way, but we have clearly been blessed by family, friends, the church community, school community and many strangers, including the hundreds/thousands of people praying for us.
- In acute moments: We’ve tangibly felt God’s presence in a few very acute moments. For example, when they were struggling to control Eloise’s seizure after the biopsy/ETV surgery in January – Mel and Eloise (who knows the song) were singing ‘The Blessing’ in-between seizures. Despite the pain and chaos, we could sense God.
- In conversations with people: We’ve had the privilege of chatting to people (many of whom we don’t even know) on a much deeper level more frequently over these past few months. Pain brings connection – and we are grateful for this.
- In the surgery at Alder Hey: We still look back and think of the miracle of Eloise having surgery in Liverpool, where she received a Gross Total Resection. Having been told on a number of occasions by some extremely gifted surgeons that it would be almost impossible to remove all of Eloise tumour, we can’t help marvel at God’s timing of someone connecting us with a surgeon who said they could get all the tumour out (and did) at the 11th hour before we needed to make the crucial decision on surgery.
- In Eloise being accepted for proton beam therapy. As far as we understand, Eloise is the first ETMR case to be accepted for Proton Beam Therapy under the NHS! On numerous occasions we have sensed God’s favour on us as Eloise’s treatment options. We pray and hope that this also helps pave the way for other children in the UK too.
- In warnings. About 10 days ago, Pete got the sense from God (that he didn’t have before) that the journey was “going to get worse before it got better”. Again, when Eloise had her large seizure last week that ended up with her in intensive care, it felt like God was going ahead of us to let us know that He knows all about Eloise and is with us.
There is much more we could say about God’s presence with us during this time. Despite the pain (every day we wish it would just be over for Eloise – and us all), we are grateful that no matter what, God is with us and God is with Eloise.
As noted earlier, this is not a theological breakdown of “Why”, nor is it the end of the journey, it is simply a declaration of “Ebenezer” that God has been with us thus far.