So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ Matthew 6:31
On day 7 of his life on this planet, Matthew, the infant son of Joe and Julie Kiffmeyer stopped nursing. He began to fuss and cry uncontrollably. This was their third son. Julie surmised she was having her first experience with a colicky baby. Over the next day or so, there were moments of calm, but mostly Matthew was just a wailing mess of a sweet thing. And he wouldn’t nurse. She wondered if she’d eaten something spicy, she wracked her mind for ideas. He wouldn’t eat despite her trips to the drugstore for every kind of nipple and bottle available on the market.
Then, he turned a very scary shade of dark red. She took him to see the pediatrician. A lengthy examination ensued, which led to more of the same. Initially, nothing seemed amiss. Then, suddenly they saw a clue. His eyes were twitching, and he was clenching his fists. Her baby boy was seizing. Every 5 minutes.
“I was calm,” Julie declares when we asked her to recount the years old details. “Had I been less so, I think probably they would have sent me home with the usual remedies and suggestions for a colicky baby. It was my calm demeanor that I think led to a closer look. I clearly was not an over-reactor.”
It wasn’t long before more tests and an MRI revealed that Matthew had a level 4 brain bleed affecting the left side of his brain. Although his symptoms and prognosis really are unique to him alone, his official diagnosis was cerebral palsy.
“My mom taught me to trust in God and not worry. I was raised in an Episcopalian home. God gives you what you can handle. How Matthew is? That’s how we’re all supposed to be.”
I knew exactly what she meant. You see, Matthew is the same age as my middle son, Drew. They are both teenagers now, and anyone who knows Mattie knows he’s an amazing, sunny kid. When I met the Kiffmeyers, Matthew was about 4 years old. We were both busy Catholic school moms with kids the same ages. A lot of people would look at the situation as an obstacle, but Julie? She revels in every single success, and she flat out just celebrates the gift of her son—actually all of her 4 children. Andrew, their oldest, is in grad school in St. Louis, a physical therapist. Jimmy is a UC Bearcat, next comes the aforementioned Matthew and then sweet Sarah is an 8th grader with my Zach at SLDM. I’ve never detected anything but gratefulness and I’ve heard a whole lot of laughter as I observe her family. Personally, I think it’s hereditary. AND, like all our best qualities, the positivity I see in her children, well, I think it’s a gift born of God and passed down by their mother! Ha?!! Ok, maybe they won the double DNA lottery. Dad, Joe, is a pretty fantastic human too.
Julie is graced with the outward looking smile. This smile is one which is aimed at another for his or her benefit. It’s the silent and powerful acknowledgment that she sees the presence of Christ in that person. Love is a decision. When we love, we are making a decision to look outward. It’s not about impressing someone or looking the part. Have you ever considered how you might answer the question if God asks you “How did you love me?” Julie has.
Do you know anyone who smiles with their entire body? I know a lot of people with beautiful smiles who are just showing their teeth and flashing their cuteness at me when I see them. People who smile are pretty much my most favorite people, I’ll be honest. However, there is a vast difference between smiling and radiating a glow that envelops those in your path. A real smile is authentic, and it simply can’t be faked. It’s a response to all the joys and chaos of life, and it attracts admirers. Do you know anyone that smiles like that?
My well-adjusted, authentic, bright, warm and compassionate friend Julie is such a person. With all the energy in a 3-foot radius, she smiles, hugs and giggles to greet others. She knows what to savor and what to disregard. Her positive perspective can turn any problem into an opportunity for growth. She listens. She notices. Quite simply, she sees the value of each passing moment. She’s content and aware in whatever moment she inhabits in a way few others can manage.
This is a woman with 4 amazing children, but she’s had moments of struggle. I shared the story of her son Matthew to illustrate this point. Life hasn’t been perfect. She knows her life belongs to the Lord and she trusts God and just lives today better than almost anyone I’ve ever met.
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ.” When we exhibit the virtue of joy, we recognize that happiness is rooted not in things of this world, like money or power or possessions, but in being believers of Christ. Our joy is in being a beloved child of God.
Julie is a Jesus girl. She is a happy and amazing woman of God.
Thanks for showing me what JOY is supposed to look like, Julie. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! I LOVE YOU, FRIEND!