For several years, little Annabel Beam suffered from a rare, incurable, and life-threatening digestive disorder. She'd been in and out of the hospital numerous times, poked and prodded by many doctors, and had invasive tests run. She was on a regimen of several different drugs that still just barely kept her symptoms controlled, and even then, she experienced frequent flare-ups. Just before Christmas, on one of their many trips to Boston to see a renowned specialist, Annabel once again found herself admitted to the hospital. While there, her mother Christy could tell that she wasn't her usual self. Annabel had always held up well in her battle with the disease, but this time, she was very emotionally drained. In a quiet moment, Annabel told Christy, "Mommy, I just want to go to heaven with Jesus where there is no pain." Heartbroken for her daughter, Christy didn't know what to do except lean on her lifelong faith.
Two weeks later, back at home in Texas, Annabel had a rare day where she felt up to playing outdoors with her sisters. They climbed a huge Cottonwood tree on their rural property, but the large branch they always pretended was a bridge started to crack. In an effort to get off the branch quickly Annabel's older sister, ordered her to climb inside a big hole in the side of the tree, thinking it was just a depression. Little did either of them know, the tree was completely hollow inside. Annabel plunged head-first thirty feet to the bottom and was trapped inside. While first her dad, and then rescue crews, worked feverishly for hours to get her out, Annabel had a life-altering experience. She says that she went to heaven, where she met Jesus and sat on his lap. He told her it wasn't her time and that she needed to go back, because he had plans for her and that she would be completely OK. When Annabel finally awakened inside her wooden prison, she also says a guardian angel watched over her until the rescue workers were finally able to free her. Not only did she come out of that experience virtually unscathed, but over the following weeks and months, she also was miraculously healed of her disease. Miracles from Heaven is the inspiring story of her incredible journey back to wholeness.
Miracles from Heaven is the inspiring story of a chronically ill little girl whose condition was life-threatening but who found miraculous healing. I'm so grateful to have two relatively healthy kids. I honestly can't imagine the anxiety and heartbreak of having a child with chronic health problems. My husband's little cousin has a rare disease that isn't unlike Annabel's, and my heart breaks every time I see her mom posting on Facebook about another hospitalization or surgery. I can imagine the stress takes a toll on the entire family, and it requires some really strong parents and a strong child to endure for so long. I have so much respect for people in this situation, including the Beams. They did their utmost to make life as normal as possible, not only for Annabel, but also for their two healthy daughters, yet the reality is that their life was anything but normal. I greatly admire them all for their emotional strength and for holding up through a devastating situation with grace and dignity. Even during the parts of the book that really tug at the heartstrings, I felt calm, comforted by the presence of God, and wondered if this is how the author felt or how Annabel felt. Based on certain parts of the story, I would say probably not all the time (after all they're only human), yet somehow Ms. Beam managed to convey that sense of calm throughout.
Then of course, came Annabel's miraculous recovery, which came about in a way that's truly stranger than fiction. As a writer of fiction, I can certainly attest to this, because the scenario is not something that I could have ever come up with in my wildest imaginings. After a particularly difficult bout with her illness that had left her emotionally wrung out, Annabel, who rarely felt up to playing outdoors with her sisters, went out to climb trees. They shinnied up an enormous Cottonwood tree they'd climbed many times before, but this time, the large branch where they liked to sit, started to crack. In an effort to get off the branch quickly, Annabel's sister told her to step inside a hole in the tree which they thought was some kind of depression. Never in a million years would anyone have imagined that the tree was completely hollowed out inside. Little Annabel ended up plummeting thirty feet, head-first to the base of the tree. She was stuck inside for several hours while rescue workers tried to figure out how to get her out. During part of that time, she appeared to be unconscious, and she says that she went to heaven where she talked to Jesus and sat on his lap. Jesus told her it wasn't her time, that he had plans for her and she must go back, but she would be totally fine. Not only did Annabel come out of her experience inside the tree almost entirely unscathed, but after that, the symptoms of her illness began to abate as well until she was completely healed. This of course, if the beauty of God's mysterious ways. We can't always make sense of them, but I can't help wondering if he sometimes does seemingly crazy things like this just to get our attention.
One thing I really admired was how pragmatic the author and her husband, Kevin, were in their approach to Annabel's story of what happened inside the tree. They never pressured her for more details, simply letting her share what she felt like sharing when she felt like sharing it. They never tried to either dissuade or encourage her belief in what occurred. In fact, they themselves weren't entirely sure what to think initially. Soon they started to believe it, but still they were cautious in their optimism that Annabel was getting better. It took more than a year before they were ready to actually start using the word healed to describe what had happened. There are certainly those who expressed some degree of skepticism about what Annabel experienced inside the tree, but as Kevin told an atheist who questioned him about it, the one indisputable fact is that she not only survived a fall that should have left her with severe injuries if not killed her, but she's also now healed of a rare disease that has no cure. Readers can make of that what they choose, but I for one, believe something unexplainable and miraculous happened inside that tree and God had a hand in it. As a little afterthought here, I really like that Christy and Kevin have allowed that tree to stand, despite others encouraging Kevin to cut it down. It would have been a shame to destroy the place where such a beautiful spiritual experience like this occurred.
Every time I pick up a faith-based book, I have a tendency to approach it with a certain degree of trepidation. Even though I am a woman of faith myself, I've read far too many of these types of books, whether fiction or non-fiction, that are preachy or seem to be pushing an agenda that the reader is expected to agree with. I'm thrilled to report that Miracles from Heaven is neither of those things. It's a truly inspiring and spiritually uplifting story that is very gentle in its approach. The writing style is highly engaging, keeping me riveted throughout. But IMHO, the true beauty of the book is that the author doesn't try to force-feed her daughter's story to the reader. She simply presents it as it happened and allows the reader the latitude to draw their own conclusions. Obviously, some will believe it (which I do), while others may not, but she doesn't seem overly concerned or perturbed by that knowledge. That, IMO, is true faith, which in turn is what makes this book so incredibly good and what makes it work. I think people from many different faith traditions could glean encouragement from its gentle message of hope and love. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and thought that it was a stellar debut book. Ms. Beam certainly has a talent for writing, so I hope that she will consider writing more.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via GoodReads FirstReads in exchange for an honest review.
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