It has been quite some time since I did a Changed Life post here at Growing4Life. It isn’t because there is a lack of testimonies, that’s for sure. But it is sometimes hard to work out all the details. Many do not feel comfortable writing their stories. Some do not want to relive all that pain or would rather not share their story publicly. Many times I don’t even ask because of a variety of reasons.
However, one person I did ask awhile back was my cousin, Michelle. She kindly said yes and last week she e-mailed me what I am going to share here today.
It is hard to believe that it is coming up on nine years ago this December that her beloved dad was in a terrible car accident. For three and a half weeks, while the rest of world was celebrating the holidays, she was wondering if her Dad would survive. Michelle, her mom, Lorraine, and her sister, Melissa, put their lives on hold while they lived in a tiny church apartment far from home, traveling back and forth to an unfamiliar hospital, as the days melted into weeks.
The shock wasn’t for her family alone. Her dad, my Uncle Larry, was a much beloved member of the family by all of us. He was my mom’s brother and they were especially close. He was the kind of guy you knew you could call if you needed help. He had a great sense of humor and, as an over-the-road trucker, always had lots of stories to entertain us with! But, most importantly, he (and my aunt Lorraine) love(d) the Lord and, with God’s help, have created a wonderful Christian legacy through the lives of their daughters and families.
Michelle, a wonderful writer, is willing to share with us about this time in their lives and how the Lord used it to grow her and so, without any further words from me, I share her story–
O God, our Help in ages past,
Our Hope for years to come,
Our Shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal Home!*
With this hymn flowing through my mind, my eyes searched the buildings of the city that loomed before us. I wondered how would we ever find our destination in the darkness and falling snow? We relied on a traditional map along with limited directions…and ceaseless prayer. Then, appearing through the murkiness like a longed-for beacon, were these bold letters: E.C.M.C. I remember feeling relief mingled with uncertainty. We had arrived at Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo, New York.
The previous day, December 21, 2009, the beloved patriarch of our family had been brought to E.C.M.C. following a tragic auto accident. We had traveled all night to get to Daddy. In the back seat, Mom and I looked pale with the stress and the wondering. The front seat held my husband along with our son and, of all things, his puppy who was too young be left behind. Togetherness gave us hope. Ultimately, we traveled with hope that centered on our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
If you’ve faced a similar pathway, you know that the Lord uses life’s storms to teach and equip us. Here are some of the vital lessons we learned.
The Lord’s Gracious Provision
There were some provisions that came well before Daddy’s accident. Dad always spoke highly of “his boys.” My husband and brother-in-law were the sons he’d never had. He expressed more than once that he was thankful for the men who took care of his girls. Our husbands, who were both pastors at the time, kept up with those responsibilities along with supporting us, our parents, and fulfilling the role of “Mr. Mom.”
During our time in Buffalo, my husband took on various roles. He quickly became our mediator, making and returning phone calls on our behalf and driving us where we needed to be. He became our spokesman, especially when we didn’t even know the questions to ask. When he and our son had to return home, I recorded in my journal – “I feel a bit fearful of Mom and I being ‘on our own.’ Praise the Lord, [Christ] is our Rock (Capital R) and God has moved in the hearts of His people to assist us. We are not alone!”
In God’s providence, He had already prepared a place for us to stay. The day after Christmas, we moved into the guest house of a nearby Baptist church. In my journal, I wrote —“After settling in to our new ‘home-away-from-home’ and washing clothes until 12:30 am, we had a fairly good night’s sleep. What a blessing to get most of [our laundry] completed. The guest house is cozy and clean. In the morning, we attended their Sunday School. The church family received us warmly. It’s always amazing to see how Christ’s love reaches across the miles and the way we are bonded together with other believers.” Furthermore, the pastor assured Mom and I that transportation would be provided to and from the medical center. I later wrote – “We keep crying and offering thanks to the Lord as we see His provision.”
Strength and comfort came through family and friends who surrounded us with prayer, made visits, gave thoughtful gifts and words of encouragement, and sent a plethora of cards, particularly when Dad celebrated his birthday. The Lord’s faithful provision also included the medical team who skillfully cared for Dad. He had several physicians plus a nursing staff of at least 22 different women and men who tirelessly ministered to his needs.
The Greatness of His Sovereignty
As days blended into weeks, God clearly revealed His supreme authority. Despite how it appeared, the Lord was completely in control of our circumstances. Although we deeply desired for Daddy to be restored to health on this earth, we eventually began to realize that this may not be a part of God’s plan. When these heart-wrenching thoughts came, God’s sovereignty gave us security. On one particular day, I found, nestled in a pamphlet, an excerpt from Amy Carmichael’s little book, If. A moment of dread passed through me as the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart through her words–“If the burden my Lord asks me to bear be not the burden of my heart’s choice, and I fret inwardly and do not welcome His will, then I know nothing of Calvary love.” I knew, then, that I must welcome God’s will, regardless of the outcome.
The greatness of God’s sovereignty enables us to welcome His will whether or not it makes sense to us.
A truth my husband shared in a recent sermon dovetails with this beautifully– “Prayer is not getting what we want but aligning our will with God’s will.”
The Gift of the Ordinary
At one point, as the unknown future stretched far in front of us, I remember a longing to do ordinary, mundane chores–washing dishes in a fluffy mountain of bubbles, cleaning my kitchen floor on my hands and knees, chiding our two female dogs who always seemed to be fussing with one another. Perhaps these tasks seemed so appealing because, if they were taking place, it meant life had returned to normal. We would be living in a new rhythm of days, one flowing gently into the next and Daddy would be well and whole again. We learned that ordinary days and simple joys are meant to be cherished.
The Goodness of the Lord
God’s goodness was clearly displayed through His Word that brought comfort coupled with conviction. We were filled with confidence in the Lord’s plan as we read Romans 15:13 –“Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.” I counseled my heart with verses Daddy had recently shared with me — “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” When my Uncle, Dad’s brother, came for a visit, he read Romans 8 to us. What a precious reminder that all things work together for good to those who love God and that nothing can separate us from His love! Even when our precious father went home to be with the Lord on January 15, 2010 the goodness of God remained evident. Certainly the grief was excruciating. Yet, our hearts were gently lifted up by our loving Heavenly Father Who is always and only good. A friend wrote a poem for us that she penned the day after Dad’s funeral. Below the title, When God Is Good, she included this verse – Psalm 34:8 “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him.” An excerpt of her poem asks,
When is God good?
Is He good when life is filled with pain,
When the dreaded phone call comes,
When your world is turned upside down,
When it seems there can be no gain?
When God is good
Do we trust Him?
Perhaps there are easier ways to learn these lessons but those were not chosen for us. Instead, the Lord took us through this difficult time and gave us precious reminders –the graciousness of His provision, the greatness of His sovereignty, the gift of the ordinary, and the abundance of His goodness. And when the next storm comes–and it will–may we find our refuge, our ONLY refuge, in Christ.
“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust.”
*A portion of the Hymn: O God Our Help in Ages Past
TEXT: Isaac Watts; based on Psalm 90
MUSIC: William Croft