Thursday, August 14, 2008

Each Day is a Gift

When I was a little girl I would often climb up on my Daddy’s lap and ask him to tell me the story of the “Dale Twins”. Dad would cuddle my sister and I in close and begin a familiar tale of two babies who were spared life by the divine hand of God.

It all started one day when the families only daughter noticed two pink hyacinths in bloom in their front garden. She confidently announced that her Mom, who was expecting a child at the time, was going to give birth to twin girls. This daughter was 18 years old and there had been no siblings in all these years. One baby was going to be a change…but twins? Impossible! Besides, twins didn’t run in the family. Her Father however was hopeful. He declared he would love twins. In fun, he put in his order for identical twin girls with curly, red hair.

It wasn’t long after this that the Mom did go into labour, at 25 weeks, and two precious, little one-pound baby girls with curly red hair were born. No-one had been anticipating twins, and definitely not this early. The Doctor didn’t even know that twins were arriving until he saw the second head coming. Can you imagine the surprise? Upon hearing the news, the teenage daughter was quick to exclaim, “The hyacinths were right!“ The Doctor’s gave absolutely no hope for either babies survival. Born with undeveloped lungs, diseases and other concerns characteristic of preemies, these little ones were just too small to beat the odds.

Feeling the babies were too fragile to be transported to a specialized facility, they were put in incubators and basically left on their own. Their parents made 101 trips to the hospital before they could even touch one of them. My Dad related how the Father would stand by the nursery window, watching their little chests rise and fall, and wonder, would that be their last breath? The agony of each moment. The pain of watching, yet too afraid to tear his eyes away, as if his very presence brought an unseen strength, willing these babies to fight for life.

And fight they did. Surpassing all probability, day after day these little girls clung to life. There were people praying for them all around the world. They became known as the “Miracle Babies”. Each day brought increased hope. Daily miracles were evident. After weeks and months of agonizing uncertainty, these precious little ones finally came home. The journey still wasn’t without challenges, but the prayers of many had been answered.

(I’m on the right!)

That story began 46 years ago today. Those two little babies were my twin sister and I. She and I have been constant companions all these years. She has been my insurance policy against loneliness. Although we have developed very strong characteristics of our own, those who don’t know us well still get us confused and can’t tell us apart. The joke in our family is that I’m the cute one - something I began saying years and years ago, and it just stuck. As babies we were so identical that our parents had to paint the toenails on one of us red just so they could tell us apart and know which baby they had fed.

To my Dad I’m “Peanut” and my sister is “Pumpkin”. Our personalities are very individual. I enjoy…no…NEED…alone time. I’m more quiet and reflective. My sister is very social and needs constant interaction with others on a daily basis. She is a “butterfly”, gracefully involved in the lives of many. Where she struggles with saying ‘no’ to any request presented to her, I need major confirmation from God to say ‘yes’. She has about an inch on me in height, yet still, annoyingly, weighs less. She is very excitable and her voice carries great distances, while I tend to hold more inside and speak quietly. Her son describes “Auntie Joy” as the ‘peaceful one’.

My sister loves to cook and doesn’t seem to mind a mess. I avoid the kitchen like the plague and believe there’s a place for everything and it should be in it’s place. Without a doubt my sister has a very giving, very soft heart. She is the first to respond to a friends need…usually with some baking. Whenever I hear that she has reached out and shown God’s love in a situation, my response is always, “Of course she did!” Sharing Jesus in this way comes naturally to her and she does it willingly, joyfully and without any hesitation. Her Christmas list with names of people she remembers each year is literally pages long. I thought my list was pretty inclusive, but her list puts mine to shame.

We were named after my older sister’s two best friends - Japhia and Joy. “Joy” seemed appropriate, as my parents were delighted to have twin girls. “Japhia” is an Old Testament Bible name that means “shining light”. Can you believe that Japhia was in a wedding as a flower girl when we were about 6 years old, and the Bride and every attendant was named, “Japhia”. It’s the truth!

We have experienced many ‘twin moments‘, feeling each other’s pain and an uncanny knowing when the other needs prayer. Have we always been this close? Yes and no. We’ve had our moments like any siblings. Being the same age, in the same class, dressing the same until High School, there have definitely been periods of rivalry and competition, yet we also always had an instant, available study companion, champion and best friend.

Not only do we share the same birthday, but we were married on the same day, six years apart. We both have only had one child. Both have a son. Our husbands share similar features - dark hair, moustache, glasses. Our tastes in clothes are similar and when we go shopping for clothes, I’ll sometimes try on items that Japhia is considering purchasing so she can see what she will look like in them! We act as a mirror for one another. We both are heavily involved in Women’s Ministry and leading Bible study. We both love dark, orange chocolates, reading, writing letters and Christmas.

Today we are celebrating 46 years. It's a different celebration this year. Traditionally Mom and Dad take us out for breakfast, but as I write this my Mom has been hospitalized since Saturday and our family is facing concerns and challenges with both my parents. I know some of you know that I have been living at my parents home the last few days while my husband and son went away for our holiday. An unfortnate fall has my Mom still awaiting results as to whether it's "just" a crack in her pelvis or if the plate from her hip replacement last year has been damaged which would result in further surgery. My dear old Dad is struggling through other issues and concerns and this year's family celebration has a cloud threatening overhead. Each night as I have been battling sleep I am praying that as my days, so shall my strength be. The Lord gave life and strength 46 years ago, and He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Thanking God for the gift of years that Dr’s said would never happen. Nothing is impossible with God. Today I am thankful for each breath and pray that my life has been worth the gift bestowed on me by my Lord and Saviour. Celebrating and rejoicing in the blessings that surround and fill my life.

Happy Birthday Japhia. And Happy Birthday to me!


Yolanda said...

Joy & Japhia:


I will also be praying for your parents.

Love ya,

Runner Mom said...

You darling friend!! Happy, happy birthday!!! 46 is a lovely age, is it not? We're only 4 away from the big 5-0!! Oh, my word!

Joy, your story, your life has just touched me this morning. I'm looking for the Kleenex right now! Isn't it awesome how God used His miracle babies to bless so many others--including your parents( continuing to pray for them!!). Oh, I wish I could take you out to lunch to celebrate your birthday today! Please tell your darling twin, Japhia(ooh, I love that name!) that I send Brthday wishes to her as well.

Love ya!

Carol said...

Happy Birthday dear friend! Wish I was off and could take you out for breakfast!

Enjoy the day! Know you are loved and prayed for!


Sita said...

Happy Birthday to both you and Japhia. I have never heard the name before. How precious to have a twin sister who seems to complement you in every way.
May God give you all that you need as you watch over your parents.

Last summer, I had my parents with me for a couple of months while they dealt with medical issues. It was a most emotional time for me, watching their deteriorating bodies and minds, knowing how they used to be, and just wondering how they were feeling inside losing their independence. Anyway, I am learning to release what I cannot handle.

Marilyn said...

My sweet friend Joy....this one made me cry. In fact I'm having trouble typing! ha Happy Birthday! God certainly had a great purpose for your life. You have touched and continue to touch many lives on a daily basis.

I thought of you first thing this morning and said a prayer for your family's situation. I pray that our loving God will drop you some "handfuls of purpose" today!

By the way...I truly LOVE the pictures of you and your sister!

Happy Birthday to the both of you!

Marilyn in Mississippi

Beth said...

Whay a beautiful story, Joy. Happy Birthday to you both, from the daughter of an identical twin!

Paula (SweetPea) said...

What a wonderful story. I had an incling of a feeling this was about you before you revealed it.

I can't believe that about all those bride's party named Japhia. How wild!

Happy Beautiful Birthday!

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

Oh precious, lovely beautiful friend...

Happy Birthday! You, indeed, have brought Joy to this earth, especially to this heart of mine.

I dearly love your beginning, and I dearly love your now, even though it is hard and tender and trying.

When I think of all I would have missed in not joining blogging, you would be listed at the top.

May God give you a year beyond your wildest imaginings, full of grace and peace and abundant favor. Straight from heaven, right into your lap.

I love you.


elaine @ peace for the journey said...

If you could only see the "bag" that you're hanging in these days...full of a rich harvest for those who are partaking. I know you are weary, but my feeding is not your necessary tonight. There are others who need the provision of your garden. You may not fully see the abundance that overflows from your heart, but God does. And he is well pleased, and in the end, he is all that matters.


Melinda said...

Hi there Joy!

I popped over from Elaine's blog, as I always enjoy reading your comments wherever I find them...seems we hang out at some of the same places! :o)

How pleased I am that I happened over just in time to wish you a happy birthday! May it be a year of blessings beyond your wildest imaginings.

Love to you this day,

Lynn Cowell said...

I LOVE your story! Thank you so much for sharing it.
The year my father passed away, I spent my birthday alone by his bedside in the hospital. I know your feelings all too well, my friend. The circle of life can feel so strange at times. I am praying for you now!

Jen - Balancing beauty and bedlam said...

What a precious testament to this gift of sisterhood.
Happy Birthday!!

Leah said...

happy Birthday to both of you!!! What a wonderful story!!


Sue said...

I heard it was your birthday but assumed you were away. Happy belated birthday. Praying for you all.

Enjoy today,

Cindy said...

What a miracle!
Happy belated birthday.

On Purpose said...

Happy Belated Birthday!

I am visiting your blog today and feel very blessed to be here. What a beautiful life story. I am lifting prayers for you and your family knowing God is caring about all the details.


Zoe said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY sweetest friend!!!!!
I loved your story; it is so very touching.
I pray the Lord will grant you a year full of HIS biggest and BEST blessings.
You certainly are a JOY to each of us and one of HIS BEST blessings.

One more thing... you get more than you think you do. Your list on my blog is hilarious; especailly "Mr. Clean".

Renee Swope said...

Happy Birthday again sweet friend. I am just getting over here tonight to read your birthday story. I LOVE IT!!! What a great photo, too.

I am praying for you, and for your parents. I love the post about them and the photo. too.