January 26, 2021
I don’t have the answers or the strength or quite frankly the patience to do life on my own. How do I know? I’ve tried. By muscling my way through decisions and attempting to control their outcomes the only result was my anxiety shooting sky-high. In digging my heels so deep in the sand, rather than security, I found myself trapped. Numbing my mind through food or alcohol, binge-watching The Real Housewives, or heading to Target for mindless-instant gratification didn’t work. A Bandaid perhaps, a quick fix, a distraction, but not a solution. The first time I knew God knew me was when I was 22 years old. My super cute college boyfriend (turned hubby) invited me to church with his family. This was an about-face for me as the only criticism I had when we started dating was that I feared my new guy was too churchy. And yet, I really liked him and wanted to hang out with him all the time, even inside the four walls of a church building. So, Sunday after Sunday we would drive out to Orange County and listen to Lance. He was a young-ish pastor who spoke so openly about life that it felt more like an hour-long conversation with a friend, there just happened to be a couple hundred people in the background.
Each week, at the end of the service there was a time for prayer requests. You could stand up and walk to the front of the church where a well-meaning prayer team member would talk to God over you. From the start, this sounded terrifying. In my naivety, I viewed this act as a sign of weakness and something I would absolutely never do. And yet, as time went by, my palms would get sweaty when the prayer time would come up. A warm feeling would rush over me but I pushed it down. The length of the aisle seemed like a mile long and the thought of people watching me walk down it made me want to throw up. I did not want anyone to know I needed help, or prayer, or anything else they offered. I could take care of myself. If something were broken, I’d fix it.
Here’s what’s interesting about God. He uses the most unexpected means to get our attention. He whispers and He drops pianos. Trust me, I’ve experienced both. Sitting in church one Sunday I’m pretty sure my feet took over and my body just followed. My mind was pitching a fit, but my legs didn’t care. They stood up anyway and carried me to the front of the aisle. It was like tunnel vision. I didn’t see anyone around me and the whole room moved in slow motion. A kind-looking man, yet a complete stranger began to pray. I don’t remember all of what he said, but what I do remember is that he quoted statements that had been spoken to me during my childhood. This man that I had never seen, who didn’t even know my name, knew things about me. Words that had pierced me years before. Words I had buried so far down I never expected them to see the light of day. That’s the funny thing about transforming love, you usually don’t see it coming. Healing can start in an instant. I don’t remember what the man looked like, or his name, or anything about him except that I heard God that day. There was no other explanation. God wanted my attention, and He got it. He knew I needed to hear something that only I would know and He spoke it through the voice of a middle-aged guy. That day changed my life. I cried rivers upon rivers of tears. Years of feeling so broken began to spill out. The dam broke. The floodgates opened and for the first time in my whole life, I felt completely seen. God saw me. He knew my heart and He didn’t want another day to go by without me knowing that.
I had been very skeptical of God for a long time. I was taught to ask questions–about everything. I was also angry. How could God let certain terrible things run rampant and just sit by? Where was He? Why didn’t He jump in like a superhero in a cape and save the day? Why was the world so broken and hurting if there was a God that could bring peace? These questions weighed me down. A full-on wrestling match in my heart waged on, attempting to gain any kind of understanding. For years I didn’t. I gripped my anger. I saw black and white. Pain and peace. God on one side and reality on the other. I didn’t have the knowledge yet to know that God did create a perfect world and sin invaded it. I didn’t understand then how free will could influence our lives so dramatically. I also hadn’t experienced a miracle.
At age 30 I thought I was going to be a widow. Sitting beside my sweet hubby’s hospital bed, the whir of various machines buzzing in the background, I fought back tears as the gravity of the situation began to sink in. My best friend for a decade was fighting for his life as his appendix had ruptured and spewed poison into his body for almost a week. Surgery wasn’t even an option because his body was septic. It was simply too dangerous. Hours turned to days and the reality that I might leave this hospital alone crushingly weighed on my heart. My precious babies were 3 and 1 years old at the time and it broke me to think they might not remember their father.
Sitting under the fluorescent lights of the hospital hallway one morning waiting for my hubs PICC-line procedure to be completed on the other side of the door, a flimsy, paper cup of cold coffee in hand, I felt God. My body became warm and I honestly couldn’t tell you if the voice was a whisper in my ears or my mind, but in that moment I heard Him in my heart: he’s going to be OK. It was simple, only five words. And it changed everything. I was no longer afraid. I walked out of the hospital the following week with a sense of peace that can only be described as God.
The months of procedures, surgeries, antibiotics, shots, and doctor visits became part of our life along with preschool pick-up and drop-off. Even during one of the scariest nights of my life when an ambulance rushed my hubs back to the ER, I knew he was going to live. Side note, I was in shock when I dialed 9-11, but I had taught my precious three-year-old a song of our address, just in case of an emergency. When the kind dispatcher asked me to give her my address, my mind went completely blank. But with a tiny and very shaky voice, I began to sing our address song set to Mary Had a Little Lamb. Looking back, I can see how what I thought was meant to protect her was ultimately what I needed. Funny how life works that way sometimes.
Around the one year mark, a meeting with our infectious disease specialist revealed the depth of how catastrophic this all could have been. At about 5’2” she was staggering in her presence mostly because she spoke to us with such grace, honesty, and kindness not to mention the vastness of her knowledge. She let me peek behind the curtain as she explained that there was no medical reason my sweet hubs was still alive. With the amount of poison in his body, he should have died. Normal people die. It didn’t make sense, medically speaking, how someone this sick could recover. In short, we had witnessed a miracle.
The years ahead brought much recovery. It took about five years for his immune system to come back, which is insane when you have littles in the house. The girls would get a cold and he would get walking pneumonia. They would have a sore throat and he would get strep. And, through it all, he is the strongest man I have ever met. He rarely ever complained, continued to work and run his own business, and only ever cited God as the Great Healer throughout the entire ordeal. Having my life collide with God’s power not only healed our family physically but it brought about a shift in my heart.
I finally was in a place to let God in.
To learn more. To seek His word. To understand instead of judge. My questions still hung in the air, but I began to ask for knowledge rather than sitting in my own assumptions. Seeing God work in real-time, not reading about something that happened hundreds of years ago, brought a new understanding of how I wanted to live my life. There a tiny miracles happening all the time if I’m willing to open my eyes to see them. When I sit back, 8 years removed now and another baby girl in tow, looking at where our life is to where it could have been, I’m so grateful that God decided my hubby’s time on earth wasn’t completed yet. The fragility of life was dramatically brought to our attention. Life is precious and sometimes I need to remember this time so I don’t forget. It is so dang easy to get caught up in the endlessness of daily living. And the tasks and all the things we have to do to make life work. But when I stop and replay where we have been and what we have walked through, it brings a sense of peace, purpose, and gratitude. Maybe looking upon your life, you see the dots too. From the tiniest blessings to the life-altering ones. Miracles are very much real. That is the power of great love.