Wedding Gifts, Part One: The Day My Face Fell

Wedding Favor. October, 2011.

Prayer, Prednisone and Immanuel

“It’s Bell’s Palsy,” the doctor said. “It’ll probably get worse over the next few weeks, then improve. Most of the time it goes away after three or four months.” He reached for his prescription pad.
“Um. Our daughter’s wedding is in ten days.” 
The doctor smiled at me. I smiled back with the half of my face that wasn’t paralyzed. “Come back and see me day after tomorrow,” he said. “We’ll see how you’re doing.”
I climbed into my truck and phoned my boss. She’d encouraged me to leave the office and see my doctor when I mentioned that the odd sensations, half a fat lip, half a swollen, untasting tongue, one tearing eye, one numb cheek, had persisted into a second day. It was as if someone had drawn a line down the center of my face and injected the right side with novacaine. “I’d like to just go home,” I told her, though it was only one o’clock.

“You go ahead,” she said. “I’ll let everyone here know you won’t be back. And I’ll pray.”

“Thanks,” I said. 
Once home, I sat down to talk with my husband. I was worried about Rebecca, so busy with last minute details of the wedding. “Let’s not tell her,” I said. “I don’t want her to have one more thing to worry about.”

“Okay,” he said. 

I imagined myself at Becky’s wedding, wearing the dress she had helped me choose, looking as if I’d had a stroke. She’d planned this day so carefully, attending to every detail with an eye for beauty. Her groom’s mother had created pew decorations, centerpieces, place cards. 
At an event when all eyes belonged on the bride and groom, I didn’t want people whispering, “What happened to Sheila?” 
I fired off a prayer request to several sisters in Christ. I asked our pastor to pray for me. I cried a little.
Then I took a nap.
I woke up remembering the masks. The wedding would take place at an historic theater. Rebecca and her groom, Jeff, had decided to incorporate that theme into their reception. Jeff’s mother Susan, a crafting genius, had decorated 170 masks as favors for the guests.  
After I looked in the mirror to see if the right side of my face had slid further south as I slept, I went to Rich. “Hey! Remember the masks? If this thing gets worse, I’ll just wear my mask all evening.” He nodded.
Two days later my doctor said, “I don’t quite believe it. I expected you to be much worse by now. It looks like we caught it early. Keep taking the steroids, and see me on Tuesday.” 
I took the pills. I prayed. People prayed for me. I could feel their prayers, asking God to free my face. And every morning, I searched in the mirror, checking for signs of further paralysis. 
The Worst of it. 

I cannot say whether it was speedy medical care or an indulgent miracle that spared me a frozen face on our girl’s big day. 
But I know all the way down to my bones that the feeling of our friends lifting me up, praying me through this little crisis is one I’ll never forget.

At the Wedding: Rich, me, Son-in-Law Jeff, Daughter Rebecca, Rich’s Parents, Beth and Rick.
Photo by Ryan Lagrand.
I could feel God’s presence.  And I knew that so long as He was with me, whether my face moved really didn’t matter. 

19 “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. 20 For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”Matthew 18:19-20 (NASB)


  1. Sheila, what a gripping story! What exciting answers to prayer!

    In high school, my best friend (who later was my Maid of Honor) got Bell's Palsy and it was such a heartbreaking situation. She never fully recovered; she still has visible paralysis in one side of her face, though perhaps it's not all that evident to others. I'm telling you this to emphasize how wonderful your recovery is!!! I'm rejoicing with you!


  2. You know I LOVE this wonderful tale. But I gotta say, Sheila, if that's the worst it got for you – that in itself is miracle. Our now son-in-law was struck with this strange condition on December 5th of last year and showed clear evidence of it for nearly six months. He is back to usual now – and in time for their wedding in mid-July – but it was a long, long time. And we all prayed for him, too. So…you just never know. So glad the exterior part of this cleared for the wedding- but I'm guessing it still feels slightly weird? But that, too, shall pass. Such an odd feeling. Did you have a cold or flu just before this happened? Sometimes it's viral and comes with the tail end of another event…

  3. Carolyn Counterman

    Sheila, how funny to read this AFTER I had seen all of the wedding pics on Facebook. I thought you looked absolutely lovely and never would have dreamed that you had problems a few days before. So glad it wasn't worse. Praise God for your health. xo

  4. So the Doctor was surprized! God does these special favors for his children. Doctors must be surprized more often! So happy you could enjoy the big day with your family,daughter and new son-in-law.

  5. Linda, Thank you.

    Your story about your MOH makes me wonder (but not doubt) about His ways…why me, and not your friend?

  6. Diana,
    Thanks for your story, too. I'm amazed at how many people get this disease–it seems everyone I've told knows someone who's had it.

    Yes, I'm still all numb. But so far I haven't bit my lip, tongue, or the inside of my cheek, so I'm doing ok, I think.

    I got sick AFTER I got the BP, though my doctor did prescribe an anti-viral as well as the prednisone. He said old herpes infections, like the chicken pox I had as a child, can cause it.

    I never do sickness in a normal way. 🙂

  7. Carolyn,
    Thanks. You're too kind. I'll join you in praising Him for it.

  8. Hazel,
    Yes, the doctor was surprised. It's not the first time I've surprised doctors. God is so good.
    Thanks for reading.

  9. Praise God for His gifts. He knew you'd give Him the glory!

  10. Patricia,
    Thanks. My goal is to live in Psalm 34:2:

    My soul will make its boast in the LORD; The humble will hear it and rejoice.

    But sometimes—LOTS of the time–I fall short.

  11. oh, God is good…

  12. Oh, isn't he, Emily? Thanks for coming by!

  13. "Hey, remember the masks?"

    What a doggone good sport you are. You take life with quite a dose of grace, Sheila. And encourage me to do the same.

    Praying this was indeed the worst of it.

  14. Aw, thanks, Lyla. I can assure you (and Rich would back me up on this) that more often than I'd like, grace fails me. Or rather I fail it.