An Ordinary Miracle
by Jeannie Ewing
“One day you will have a son who will do great things for God.”
Through a stranger
My fingers gingerly traced these words in a diary I kept more than 20 years before when I was a naïve teenage girl with no experience with or desire for a family of my own. Joseph Michael was sleeping soundly in our family room as his three older sisters boisterously danced and giggled around him. It was hard to reflect on all those years — decades gone by — when God had spoken to my heart through a stranger.
At the age of 16, I attended a charismatic Mass with my mom on a random Friday night, not expecting much of anything except some time for prayer and worship. Instead, I was prayed over by a middle-aged woman who, astonished, prophesied that I would one day have a son who did great things for God. That very night, I wrote the words she spoke, verbatim, in my journal. They were words that would linger in my heart for a long time.
St. Michael the Archangel
Throughout young adulthood, I often felt the burden of wondering if God really wanted me to have children, especially a boy. I couldn’t picture myself with children and had no babysitting experience. Babies were pink and wrinkly, and they cried all the time. Nothing about raising children was desirable for my career-ambitious heart. Still, the thought of having a child — a son — tugged at my heartstrings.
One afternoon I was sitting in our local perpetual Adoration chapel in between college classes, and I asked God, “What do you want the name of my son to be?” The reply came immediately: “Joseph.” My next thought was, “What about his middle name?” I got the impression that God left that up to me, so I said, “Michael,” since I had such a strong devotion to St. Michael the Archangel.
When Ben and I married, I finally realized the importance of being open to new life. But I was frightened at everything involved with pregnancy and childbirth. We struggled with infertility, and I accepted the reality that I may not bear biological children. After progesterone treatments, I was able to conceive and carry our first child — a baby girl named Felicity.
With all the love in the world for her, I wondered about Joseph Michael, whose name I’d kept secret, except from a few close relatives and my prayer journal. Two years later, I underwent the same progesterone therapy to achieve another pregnancy and gave birth to our sweet Sarah who was born with a rare craniofacial condition called Apert syndrome.
A total surprise
After Sarah’s birth, I couldn’t imagine having more children. Her care was so extensive and exhausting that it didn’t seem like I could handle more. Still, Joseph lived somewhere in the recesses of my heart, and I never stopped thinking about him. Following Sarah’s dramatic entrance into the world, I held her for the first time, crying as I observed her facial and developmental anomalies. I was swept away with the notion that she was not our last child.
As the years passed, however, Joseph’s little life seemed like a distant dream. Then I read the verse from Psalm 119: “In my heart I treasure your promise” (verse 11). Then a verse from Isaiah: “You have carried out your wonderful plans of old, faithful and true” (Isaiah 25:1).
These verses came to me in prayer, daily meditation, and Mass year after year. Felicity and Sarah grew closer as they got older, and I kept wondering if — or when — we’d have another baby. For four years, I went through yet another round of progesterone treatments, and I finally was delighted to become pregnant with our third child — another beautiful baby girl we named Veronica.
I began to lose hope over ever welcoming a boy into our family, as three children at my age were difficult for me to manage on a daily basis. Then one evening, Ben returned home from a Holy Hour with a stunned look that reminded me of how Zechariah may have appeared when he received the vision in the Holy of Holies (see Luke 1:5-25).
“We’re supposed to have a son and name him Joseph Michael,” he stated plainly. My heart leapt, because I hadn’t shared the name with him. I knew it was God speaking.
Only a year after Veronica’s birth, I discovered I was pregnant — again. This time, no fertility treatments. This pregnancy was a total surprise. In fact, it felt like an interruption. I was overwhelmed with Sarah’s increasingly complex care and raising a toddler in my late 30s. I had all but given up on the thought of ever having a baby boy named Joseph.
The entire pregnancy was difficult for me, but I prayed as I wept over every fear and worry and concern. The reassurance of Scripture kept reminding me that God is faithful to his promises and that I shouldn’t be afraid, because he is always with me.
When we discovered we were having a boy, I dug up my old journal and wept tears of relief, joy, and gratitude. But I didn’t open it until after his arrival. Then it became real.
That night, as I read the words prophesied so long ago, I looked up at the girls dancing to a song called “Ordinary Miracle” by Sarah McLachlan. I gazed at Joseph while the music softly played in the background, silently thanking God for the little miracle of Joseph’s life and for our beautiful girls.