I look forward to receiving Christmas card photos and newsletters every holiday season. Although our family has never managed a Christmas card photo shoot at the beach, I enjoy seeing smiling children and their parents sitting on the beach in their color-coordinated outfits. I always save the photos and newsletters and periodically go back to see how everyone has grown. I even put them in scrapbooks.
One day I received a card from our friends, the Millers, from Little Rock. Instead of a photo or newsletter, however, the card was a picture of a Christmas tree that six-year old Shelby drew. She also printed “Merry Christmas” on her picture. I immediately flashed back to six years ago. Shelby, born at a little over 25 weeks, was fighting for her life in the Baptist Hospital NICU. Her parents had buried Shelby’s twin sister, Julia, earlier in December. In addition, Nancy fell and broke her ankle and needed surgery between Shelby’s birth and Julia’s funeral.
Six years ago, Mark and Nancy spent the entire holiday season, including Christmas day, grieving for Julia and helplessly watching their tiny one pound, 8 ounce baby daughter endure treatment for her premature and diseased lungs.
Six years ago on New Year’s Eve, Nancy called me and other friends and family to ask for prayer for Shelby while she and Mark waited to see if another treatment would help Shelby’s damaged lungs begin to work properly. Mark and Nancy had no idea six years ago if Shelby would live through the new year.
Shelby not only survived, but she is the hardest working little girl I have ever known. She has been in physical and occupational therapy, speech therapy, and feeding therapy since she went home in April, 2006. What is play for other children has been work for Shelby, but I have seen her set her cute little mouth a certain way which means, “I’m going to do it.” Nancy said Shelby doesn’t usually take the initiative to draw because she has to work at drawing so much in therapy. On the day she and her parents went to pick out a Chrsitmas tree, she was so excited and drew a tree without any prompting.
Shelby’s Christmas card is more than a tree with a holiday greeting. The card tells about the miracle of a little girl who has overcome more challenges in her six years than many people will have in a lifetime.