We were decorating our home for Christmas.
Overlooking the snowy town of Prescott, we had a perfect view of the Arizona mountains peaking over a valley of Pine trees. Although we had just recently started renting, our rustic little house felt like home.
In between jobs and wondering what God had for us next, we didn't have much to spend on gifts that year and had warned our kids that Santa would be bringing gifts from the second hand store.
I admit, I was excited for the opportunity to teach our kids the lesson of appreciating Christmas for what it is and not for the gifts. How could God have a different plan than that one?
Christmas Eve I received a call from someone I didn't know, informing me there were toys left over from a toy drive and asking if we wanted them. Confused, I said sure and drove over. A lady I had never met gave me three huge black garbage bags full of something. I drove home. What I found in them that evening were all the things that the kids had been wanting, and all new: scooters, trains, teddy bears, diaries, and so much more. I wasn't sure whether to cry with thankfulness or get angry at God for ruining my plan.
Christmas morning, our kids were confused: "You said we weren't going to have any presents!" We shared with them what had happened and then we sat in a circle on the floor before opening our presents to thank God for them. We did not deserve them, didn't need them, ... and I didn't even want them!
We actually had so many toys that we took a bunch of them to another family that we knew that same day.
That Christmas turned into one of the many memories our kids are collecting of how much God loves to give occasional surprises, just for fun. Even when it's not necessary.
by Becky Karnsund
One night Pontus woke me up at 2 am unable to walk or talk. Too shaky to make the call myself, I ran to our neighbors for help. They called 911, the ambulance came, and took Pontus away. I couldn't leave our four young children alone, so I watched from our Spanish apartment balcony as the ambulance drove him away to a private hospital in a nearby city called San Sebastian.
I later called his hospital room and spoke to him. He started talking to me in his broken Spanish. No matter what I said, he wouldn't speak English or Swedish (his native tongue). Instead, he would laugh and drunkenly tell me he was speaking English.
The next morning I went to see him. As I walked into his room, I stepped over a trail of dried blood that led from the bathroom to his bed, where I saw red stains all over his sheets. I was told he had pulled all his cords out during the night, wandered around the halls looking for help, and then threw up in the bathroom.
I hadn't been there for him.
I sat by his hospital bed and tried to feed him. His eyes were closed and he could barely take the teaspoon or communicate. They came in and wheeled his limp body away, wired his head up with sensors and put him through tests. The doctors found some disturbance in the brain activity but couldn't figure out the root problem.
I don’t remember how many days went by. It’s all a bit of a blur. He did end up waking up more, but they isolated him when they suspected Tuberculosis. Our four kids were not allowed to visit him. I had nowhere to leave them, so I would park where I could see the car from Pontus' 4th floor hospital room, buckle them up tight with shaky hands, pray for them and wander numbly into the hospital alone.
Results didn't seem to match up to me though and the doctors didn't seem as worried as I thought they should be, so one day I stopped a neurologist in the hallway and pleaded with him to see Pontus. When he heard about his language issue, he immediately started putting him through a different set of tests.
The next day, he called me in and he let me know that Pontus had Meningo-Encephalitis (inflammation of brain and the lining of the brain). He coldly and bluntly added that there was 50% chance that Pontus could pass away and that if he survived, he would most likely be handicapped.
My knees gave out under me, my body went cold as ice, and I could feel the taste of blood in my throat.
Nicole's teacher asked to speak to me one day. Word had spread through our town of what was happening, so she had asked our 6 year old daughter how her dad was. "He's in the hospital", Nicole had replied. "He might die, but if he does, it's ok, 'cause he will go be with Jesus and we will see him again." As morbid as that sounds, to this day I am in awe at the peace God gave each one of us through the storm.
Being viral, there was nothing we could do, but wait and hope the body would fight it on its own. Pontus was back home. He couldn't handle light, he was seeing invisible flies, felt sick, got headaches and had to stay alone in a room. With warnings from the doctor that he could have a relapse, any interaction with people or with the kids made him have all kinds of symptoms.
The phone would ring off the hook all day long, emails swarmed my inbox, and neighbors would check in. But it was all too much. I gathered the little energy I had to be a mommy and be a wife. I had nothing else left to give.
Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months. We had scheduled a summer travel around the States to raise support, so I contacted everyone and cancelled everything. One thing we didn't cancel, though, was a house swap we had planned with a family in Arizona. They were going to stay at our place, and we would stay at theirs. We decided to go for it if we could make it across the ocean first. I asked the doctors and they weren't sure if we should go. Pontus, oblivious at his own situation, said he felt great and it would be no problem.
Against his wishes, I scheduled a wheel chair to meet us at the JFK layover. I'm glad I did. He was not doing well by the time we landed. I was so thankful to have help to wheel Pontus to the next terminal while continuing to be in charge of four young children by myself after a 7 hour transatlantic flight. He was very sick by the time we arrived to Arizona, but I was thankful for a friends and family to help me. One of our partnering churches in Arizona took good care of us. They brought us meals, took our kids out, and loved on us. Pontus stayed in his room most of the time and the rest of the world just continued to pray.
One Sunday we met a teenage boy had been through meningitis. He was crippled, couldn't walk, and couldn't talk. That day Pontus cried. Why had God protected him from that, but not have healed the boy.
Eight months went by and then, suddenly, Pontus woke up different. He was alert. He had energy. We were able to return to our home in Spain.
A few weeks later, we returned to the hospital for some checkups. Once again they wheeled Pontus off, wired his head up, and put him through all the tests. The nurse recognized him and asked: "Do you remember any of this?" Pontus couldn't remember ever having been there before.
The doctor returned. They were baffled. They couldn’t find anything! Not even scaring on his brain showing anything had happened at all. I told him people have been praying for Pontus all over the world.
There are moments in life when you wonder why sometimes God chooses to heal, and other times not. With mixed feelings of thankfulness, guilt, wonder, and awe, we returned home knowing there had been a miracle.
Little did we know what an effect that year had on us. From then on we viewed life differently. Our priorities changed, our souls were strengthened, our passions deepened, our marriage improved, our relationship with our kids grew, our goals clarified, and our purpose for life crystallized.
We all learned how to be thankful. I caught Joel singing this song in the car one day during this time. A reminder to me to be thankful in all circumstances:
God is in control, even when you have to call 911.