Signs and Wonders and Marvels and Miracles

(All photos below taken in my yard)

rainbow blog

I’ve always loved the story of Gideon in the Old Testament.  Gideon was the unlikely hero that God chose to lead an army to deliver the Israelites from the terrible oppression of the Midianites.  (The Israelites were so afraid of the Midianites that they were hiding from them in caves in the mountains). When the angel of the Lord first appeared to Gideon and told him that he was chosen to “save Israel from the hand of the Midianites,” Gideon’s response was incredulity.  “Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? Behold, my family is poor and I am the least in my father’s house!”

But God persisted, so Gideon asked for a sign.  First, a sign that it was really an angel of God talking to him (instead of some imposter angel).  Gideon brought bread and meat as an offering, put them on a rock, then watched as the angel of the Lord touched them with a staff.  A great fire arose from the rock and consumed the bread and meat.  So he was satisfied that it was the Lord alright, but that wasn’t enough for Gideon.  No indeed.  He then wanted a sign that God would not only lead him to battle, but give him victory.  He asked that a woolen fleece that he put out would be drenched the next day with dew, but the ground around it dry.  The next morning, Gideon wrung an entire bowl of water out of the fleece, while the ground around it was bone-dry.  

So, at this point, Gideon (1) had an angel appear to him as he worked in the wheat field, (2) had said angel cause a mighty flame to arise from a rock, and (3)had gotten the Lord to perform Gideon’s own personal magic fleece trick.  But was that enough for Gideon?  No sirree.  Gideon, though he was shaking in his sandals, had the nerve to ask for one more miracle!  This time, he asked that the fleece be dry, while the ground was wet.  By now, I imagine God sighing and rolling His eyes, but, again, He complied and made the fleece dry, while the ground about was soaked.  And, at last, Gideon was satisfied.

I love this story, in part, because I identify so strongly with Gideon.  It’s so hard sometimes to keep the faith, especially when you feel that you’ve had far more than your share of hardship.  Especially when you see so many bad things happening to good people.  Especially when you have Midianites in your own life, making you want to hide in a cave, like the Israelites did.  But what I love most is the fact that God, although He must have been somewhat vexed at Gideon’s lack of faith, still had the compassion and mercy to give him the sign that he asked for, not just once but three times!. I think that means that God understands our doubts and recognizes that we are only human. The story of Gideon has given me solace the past couple of weeks while we’ve been going through a difficult time and I’ve been struggling with my own faith.  Because, during that time, we thought for certain that Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man, my husband Tom, had cancer. 

fritillary and coreopsis blog

It all started when Tom was referred to a urologist because of very high PSA levels.  His PSA was 40—-a normal one is 4 or less.  Not a good sign.  Some of the information I found on the internet suggested that almost all men with a PSA over 20 have cancer, and PSA’s much higher (like 40) probably were advanced cancer.  So I was anxious to start with, but became even more so after the urologist said that Tom’s prostate on examination was very hard and lumpy, and he scheduled an immediate biopsy. 

After the biopsy, the doctor (who was a very kind and straightforward sort) showed Tom the ultrasound pictures of his prostate, comparing them to an ultrasound of a “normal” prostate.  He pointed out the dark shadows on Tom’s, which he indicated was not good.  What it boiled down to was this:  he was trying to tell Tom, in so many words, that he was almost certain that he had cancer.  With the extremely high PSA, the hard lumpiness of the prostate, and the suspicious mass on the ultrasound, cancer was almost a sure thing.  The doctor also began to talk about having bone scans, which are done to check whether cancer has spread to your bones. Obviously, the doctor was trying to prepare us for the worst.

bee balm blog

It’s funny how the mind, when confronted with a hard reality, begins immediately to search for signs of hope and reassurance, for signs that God is near.  At least, that’s the way it is with me.  That day, after Tom told me all the doctor had said, I immediately thought of how we had seen five rainbows that week from our porch.   Those of a more scientific bent might say, “Well, yeah…you had rain every single afternoon.  Rainbows are a pretty good bet!”  But, for me, every rainbow is a wonderment, a marvel, a symbol of hope.  And we saw Tom’s favorite airplane—the B-17—fly over our house that day, too. You don’t see that everyday.  Plus, we won two dollars with the lottery ticket we picked up that day.  We never win the lottery. 

Some might call this grasping at straws.  But who’s to say what’s random and what’s not?  Who’s to say whether signs and wonders and messages from our greater power really are?  Even if most of us haven’t been lucky enough, like Gideon, to have an angel visit us in the wheat field, I believe that God sends us messages all the time.  I guess sometimes, we just don’t notice, and He has to knock us upside the head to get us to pay attention, to get us to listen, to get us to see.

fritillary on bee balm blog

We got the results of the biopsy two days ago.  Since Tom, as a maintenance man, has to work in the field, I was the one to call the doctor’s office for the results.  I had my questions about prostate cancer and its treatment all written out, ready to hear Tom’s Gleason Score and the staging of his cancer.  I already had sort of come to terms with the idea of his having cancer and was ready to talk about how to fight it.  But I was still a nervous wreck.  It took a while to get the results because everyone I spoke to—the receptionist, the nurse, the doctor’s secretary—told me, after looking at Tom’s record, that I needed to talk to the doctor.  They all sounded rather grave when they said this, which further heightened my anxiety.  Then, I was put on hold with some sort of Britney Spears-type pop music playing.  Now I don’t care for that kind of music under the best of circumstances, but this time it made me want to tear my hair out and run screaming from the room.  But I couldn’t.  Because, in a few minutes, a doctor was going to tell me something that would either make me the happiest woman in the world or one of the saddest.

I heard someone pick up the receiver. “Hi, Mrs. _______?”   My heart quickened and I began to shake.

“Yes sir.”  I could hardly breathe.

Thank God, he got straight to the point.  “The biopsy showed no sign of cancer.” 

I gasped and very nearly hollered in his ear, but managed (with great effort) to restrain myself. He went on to tell me that Tom had a somewhat rare condition called granulomatous prostatitis which apparently mimics prostate cancer in every way, causing an elevated PSA level, a hardened prostate, and areas on an ultrasound that are indistinguishable from cancer.  Only a pathological analysis of the biopsy samples revealed what it actually was.  Tom was fortunate, in more ways than one.  In some cases, men with this condition have had their prostates removed because of a mistaken diagnosis of cancer.

After I hung up the phone, Benjamin and I began to jump and holler and whoop and giggle and dance around the room like utter fools.  We were actually afraid we might break something—we were much too giddy to be inside.  So we went for a walk.  When I stepped out into the sunlight that day, I felt like someone who had been in a cave.  Everything looked especially bright—our big purple-pink coneflowers, the daisies dancing dazzling white in the field, and the ferny, lacey red and pink yarrow.  The world looked so fresh and new and beautiful that day.

fritillary on coneflowers blog

You know, I’d never have the nerve to ask the Lord for a special sign like Gideon did, especially not three times.  But I’m quite sure God sends them, just the same.  Remember the heart in the grass?  Well, it’s still there.  I looked.  It looks a little different now, but that’s okay.  My heart’s a little different, too. 

That day, as Benjamin and I walked around, still giggling with pure joy, we saw even more signs and wonders.  The butterflies were here at last.  They’ve been scarce this year, and I’ve missed them, but the Great Spangled Fritillaries are flittering now in great numbers to my coreopsis.   And the bee balm that wouldn’t flower last year is just now showing its first blooms.  Soon, it will be covered with pink and red flowers that the hummingbirds especially adore.  And the morning glories have begun climbing up the porch lattice again, with those heart-shaped leaves that seem to convey a divine message of their own, apart from their luminous glory blossom. Natural events, sure…but signs and wonders just the same. 

fritillary on coreopsis blog

But the greatest sign and wonder came later that day when Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man stepped out of his work truck whole and healthy and happy and alive.  And wet. The sky had opened up that evening and it was pouring rain. Tom got drenched as he ran up to the porch, so I got wet too when I threw my arms around him and held him close.  I laid my cheek against his damp hair and closed my eyes and thanked God for rain and sun and fritillaries and bee balm and morning glories and hearts in the grass.

And for giving me, despite my doubts, despite my wavering faith, despite my fear, the sweet miracle of Tom. 

glory blog


29 Responses to “Signs and Wonders and Marvels and Miracles”

  1. Sharon Says:

    Oh, Beth, I am overcome. Overcome with joy for you and Tom, happiness over the strengthening of your faith, and with gratitude for the gift of knowing you and your writing. Blessings, blessings, blessings.

  2. Pat Says:

    I love every bit of this story.

  3. Nancy Says:

    Amen! Wonderful, wonderful! Whoopee! Go, God!

  4. Betsy Says:

    Oh Beth—I had no idea what you all were going through. I wish you would have told me because I could have prayed for you both (all three)… WELL–as it turned out, you didn’t need our extra prayers. Thanks Be to God for hubby’s good health. This has probably been the worst 2 weeks of your lives. Now–you can relax and live every moment… Enjoy those rainbows. That defiitely was a sign.. Thanks be to God–who loves us even when we doubt his love.

    By the way, you MUST enter this article in Guidepost Magazine. It would be perfect for that magazine –and probably others. I’m going to ‘hound’ you ’til you enter it. It’s phenomenal.

    Lots of Hugs Little Friend of Mine,

  5. Sudip Says:

    I have gone through this myself. So I know how you feel. My ordeal had gone on for over a year. My PSA dropped from 19 to 16 to 12 to 8 and now to 5.6 in one and a half years. I am 49 now.

    This slow decrease sometimes worries me. Some urosurgeons have asked for repeat biopsy, wich I have declined.

    I would like to know how Tom’s PSA decreases and what medication he is using for hi granulomatous prostatitis.

    I amver happy for the two of you.

    Pls write back

    • blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

      Hello, Sudip. I’m sorry that you’ve had to go through such an ordeal. Tom was prescribed sulfamethoxazole (to take for six weeks), which is a sulfa antibiotic. He will be returning to the urologist for a check-up in three months for another exam and another check on his PSA levels. We are hopeful that his PSA will be significantly down by then. I do hope that things get better for you. Have they been treating you with antibiotics as well? I can imagine that the slow decrease in levels is worrisome, but I’m glad to know it is decreasing. All the best to you.

  6. june Says:

    Wow…I’m so very relieved that this story had a happy ending! I’m often struck by the realization of how quickly lives are changed…how normalcy can get redefined in a blink of an eye…by something. Most recently I thought of this regarding the families who had loved ones on the plane that went down off South America. I try, try, try to live consciously and appreciate all the blessings I have!

  7. Jeff Says:

    Oh. My. Goodness!!! I knew something was not quite right when you hadn’t posted in such a long time, but THIS? I was hoping that your absence was because Benjamin and Ariel were home from school and all of you were having a grand time. Medical issues are so, so anxiety producing and I am so very relieved to learn that there is no cancer. I’m sure it is going to take some time for your world to return to normal after this tremendously stressful event.

    One of my co-workers has been treated for prostate cancer that developed after he retired. He and I had a long talk one day when he was at the work center doing some contract work. He told me that the PSA test is not as definitive as is commonly thought and that a PSA level over 4 (which has been considered a sign of cancer in the past) is not something to be terribly concerned with. What needs to be watched is how the PSA level changes over time. If it gradually increases, then there is concern. The rate of change is far more important than the level. He developed cancer when his PSA went from around 2 to around 4. Thus, it is very important for men to have the PSA test included as part of their blood work during their annual physical examination. And you need to compare the reading with the reading from the years before!

    I surely am happy for both of you that the sky is sunny and bright now, though!! What a huge, huge relief!

  8. Jayne Says:

    Oh Beth… I was holding my breath and I have tears in my eyes as I write this. Your last paragraph undid me. I am so very thankful that Tom will be OK and that your faith did sustain you. What a scary, scary time. Indeed, it’s time to dance in the rain and smile at the rainbows….

    Much love and joy to you and yours!

  9. wesleyjeanne Says:

    Beth–I am in tears for the beautiful beautiful way you have told your story. Even in your pain and lingering exhaustion from worry, you write so amazingly. As you know I have been praying for you all and I will continue to do so as you recover from that depleted feeling of walking around on the edge of a cliff.
    I am so grateful for your signs and blessings and miracles, and for you and your sweet sweet family.

  10. Clara Melvin Says:

    Oh Beth. I know you and Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man must feel a great amount of relief. I’m so glad it turned out to be no cancer. My brother-in-law was operated on for prostate cancer at John Hopskins Hospital in Baltimore about five years ago. He is fine today. Your story touched my heart. It made me think of the saying “Behind every cloud there is a silver lining.” Your pictures are magnificient. Keep on looking for the rainbows!

  11. Judy Says:

    Beth, You had me holding my breath for most of this post and silently saying to myself, “please, please, don’t let her say he has cancer”. I was so relieved that he was o.k. that I was in tears. I think we have signs all the time. We just have to learn to recognize them. Your heart in the grass continues to amaze me. The rainbows and butterflies in your photos are beautiful as I know your life is. I am so happy for you and your family and so sorry I did not recognize something was wrong. I thought it had been longer than usual for you to write a post. Thanks so much for sharing this. We all love you and your family and want only the best for you. Love and hugs to you all.

  12. Ariel Says:

    As you know, as I prayed and prayed and prayed, I kept hearing the same verse over and over in my head. Psalm 84:10: “Better is one day in your house than a thousand elsewhere.” God was reminding me that he is sovereign over Daddy’s life, Daddy’s great redeemer, Daddy’s comforter, the only truth and power in Daddy’s life, and that it is the greatest privilege for us all to remain in His house. God has humbled us and lifted us up by reminding us that we live and breathe only by his grace.

    And, oh my God, what grace that is! What grace that we are given more than one day in his house to praise Him, his mercy, truth, miracles and wonders! Praise be for sunshine, rainbows, butterflies, and mountains. And praise be for the life of my wonderful Daddy. I love you so much.

  13. Benjamin Says:

    Amen, Ariel. And thank you for writing this, Mommy. I love the pictures you chose (all the little and big miracles of life!). It makes me laugh to read your enumeration of Gideon’s requests; makes me cry to read the last line. And thank you for the tip, Jeff.

  14. Jayne Says:

    Beth, please resend me your mailing address? I thought I had moved it to another mail folder, but I can’t find it and wanted to send you a little something I think you’ll enjoy. (journeythroughgraceATgmailDOTcom) Have a great day!

  15. peacefulacres Says:

    Thank you Beth. My eyes are filled with tears as I am so comforted in knowing that our Heavenly Papa God cares for us. Yes, He does send us messages of His love. I think I’m going to go outside right now and look for some…I need them too.

  16. CountryDew Says:

    Wonderful story. I hope you can find a publication somewhere to pay you for it; it deserves to be rewarded with great compensation.

    I am so glad the outcome was positive.

  17. eemilla Says:

    My heart goes out to you and your family, and I am so glad that the biopsy brought good news. These are some of the best photos of the year, so drenched in sunshine and summer. I love the imagery of the rain washing away all of your worries when Tom came home to the good news. What would life be without all of the little signs scattered throughout? Searching for them makes us slow down, and when we see them, especially all in a row, it feeds our flickering hope or faith.

    Bless you!

  18. Rosidah Abidin Says:

    Hi Beth, I came from Betsy’s blog to congratulate you on her giveaway. This is a beautiful post! I’m glad to read that all turned out so wonderful for you. Have a great week 🙂

  19. Dorothy Says:

    Hi Beth,
    I came over from Betsy’s blog, too. I really enjoyed reading this touching post and I agree with Betsy that it should be published in Guide Posts or somewhere. I happy that you were the giveaway winner but even happier that your story had a joyous ending!!

  20. Neas Nuttiness Says:

    Betsy sent me over. This was a beautiful post. I should read this each and every day!

    PS – One of my grandsons, loves the Veggie Tales version of the story of Gideon:-)

  21. Margaret Says:

    Betsy sent me your way, and I’m so glad she did. This is a precious and the way you tell it is another gift from God. I’ve now book marked your blog too.

  22. wendy Says:

    I am so so so glad this story has a happy ending!! And I truly believe the signs God sends us earthlings. Your rainbows, winning this lottery…

    I have a hibiscus plant that belonged to my mother. It is huge now and really really needs to be transplanted to another container. But it’s too big. Well, it stopped blooming 2 years ago. However – on my mother’s birthday, it bloomed! One flower – that’s all. But that was no coincidence. My mother (who has been dead for 11 years) was telling me that she’s alright. Or it was a message from God telling me mom is still around somewhere…..

    I found you through Betsy’s blog.
    Big hugs to you and your dear hubby.

  23. colleen Says:

    Wow. Are you trying to make us cry. I could barely slow down and not jump to the end to find out …the good news too. It’s an uplifting story that more need to read. Submit it!

  24. ~ Sil in Corea Says:

    Thanks be to God for sparing Tom and you all that anguish. I surfed over from “Cumulus” and am so grateful I found you. You are a very talented writer, so don’t hide your light under a bushel basket! Do submit this story for publication.
    Hugs from Asia, ~ Sil

  25. Martha Says:

    What a wonderfully, beautiful ending… I admit I cheated; I scrolled down to see the results from the doctor because I was hoping that everything turned out okay.

    This blog is amazing. You are a very talented writer! And a very inspiring person.

  26. ginger Says:

    Beth, what an ordeal and what a lovely story. Thank you so much for sharing such an intimate glance. I am so happy for the happy ending.

  27. blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

    Thanks so much to all who commented here. This experience indeed knocked us for a loop, and your expressions of concern meant a great deal to us. We are so grateful for answered prayers and for the manifestation of goodness in this world. Some of your comments were so full of lovingkindness that they brought tears to my eyes. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  28. dotsamson Says:

    God sure gives us wonderful surprises, doesn’t He? He is awesome….thanks for sharing…

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