Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Life Interrupted: Part 2

In my previous post, I told the story of my hip injury that interrupted our lives for approximately 2 years. I mentioned that there was more to the tale, so here is the rest of the story.

In August of 1998, I married for the second time. My new husband and I knew that my two children would be living with us, but never suspected that any of his children might want to move away from their mother in another state. We had only been married a month when the first of his sons chose to make the move and within a few months his other son was also living with us. We were newly weds with four children between the ages of 14 and 18 living under what had become a very small roof.

Our little home was so small that my husband and I had to give up the master bedroom to the three boys and we moved into one of the spare bedrooms. It was a trying time and there was no room to spare and no one ever had any privacy.  

Of course, in the midst of this was when I suffered the hip injury I talked about in my last post. So not only were we cramped - I was experiencing some disability at the same time.

My husband and I decided to put our house up for sale and purchase a large (5 bedroom, 3 bath) double-wide mobile home. We went to a dealer and made all of the necessary arrangements. We had a time frame for completion. We had a piece of property lined up to put it on. We were thrilled at the prospect of more room inside and out. 

Our house sold in record time - three weeks. I placed a call to the mobile home dealership before we accepted the offer to make sure everything was on track. I was assured that it was and we booked a short cruise for our entire family. We closed on the sale of our home, packed up all of our "stuff" and put it in storage, and sailed off into the sunset knowing that we would have to stay with relatives for about 3 weeks when we returned.

When we got back to civilization, we called to check on the progress of the house. Well....there's a problem. We needed both incomes to finance it and because I was receiving disability payments through worker's comp no one wanted to finance us because I did not have "guaranteed income". What?!?!? We couldn't have known this a month ago? We SOLD OUR HOUSE!!!!! WE ARE HOMELESS WITH FOUR TEENAGERS!!!!

What was supposed to be three weeks, turned into three and a half months of half of our family in one place and half in another. Tensions were high. And as if it couldn't get any better, the surgery I had been fighting for for two years was approved and scheduled. After you fight with and insurance company for that long, you don't tell them, "Ummm....Now is not a good time...." So off I went to have a hip replacement while my kids were farmed out all over, my husband was with his parents and I went post operatively to my parents home. What a mess.

During this time, a friend of mine who was not a Christian looked at me one day and said, "I don't know how you stay so calm. I would be a basket case if this were happening to me." Ahhh... possibly the meaning in the mess. I shared my faith. I wish I could say that she dropped to her knees in repentance, but it didn't happen that way. I was able to plant a seed, however.

Shortly (about two weeks) after I had my surgery and returned home to my parents, we learned of a nice home out in the country that was for rent by a friend of my husbands. I got my parents to take me to look at it and put down an deposit on it before my hubby even saw it. When he got home, I said, "If you want, we can go take a look at where we will be living for the next year." The only thing he said was "OK". On the day we moved, there must have been about 30 people who showed up to help us. Men moved furniture. Women set up my kitchen and put fresh linens on my beds. We just fed them lunch.

Our landlord/friend stood in amazement. He said he had never seen anything like it. We told him this is what it looks like when the community of faith rallies around someone in need. This is what it looks like when Christians show Jesus' love. More seeds. 

I'm still not sure I understand why our lives were so turned upside down for that year. I know learned the power of prayer. I learned the value of a community of Believers. I learned to trust a little more. I learned that God will provide. 

The house we moved into for that year wasn't all that beautiful. It had outdated formica in the bathroom and mauve carpet. The master bathroom toilet wouldn't flush when it rained. The kitchen was small, but the house was big. Big enough for all of us. It became one of my favorite places we have ever lived. I loved mowing the huge yard on the riding mower. I loved sitting outside under the trees for my quiet time and hanging my wash on the line to dry. I would move back there in a heartbeat. Maybe it was so special because we knew without a shadow of a doubt - it came from God. 

"And my God will meet ALL of your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus." Phil. 4:19

Life Interrupted

Nineteen Ninety Nine was the year my life changed forever. Who knew that something that happens so fast could have such far reaching effects. But it can. Life can change in an instant. It wasn't the most catastrophic thing that could happen, but it was a major change, nonetheless.

I was working as a facility nurse at a small assisted living facility. I had been to lunch and upon my return noticed one of the residents crossing the busy four lane road in front of the building alone. I knew her to have dementia and knew she was not safe - so I ran after her. What happened next has some comedic irony to it. I got in the middle of the road. I know it was the middle because I remember looking down and seeing the double yellow line painted on the asphalt. I got in the middle of the road and tripped. Anti climactic? Well... when I tripped my leg twisted and I could hear the characteristic "thunk" as my hip was wrenched out of the socket. I fell to the pavement and thought, "I'll just lay here a minute and then I'll be able to get up..." Wrong. Within a minute, I knew that something was painfully, terribly wrong. The irony? An 80 something year old woman with dementia crossed a four lane road successfully while I, at age 38, had fallen and dislocated and fractured my hip. Funny, right? 

God's protection wasted no time... Here I was lying incapacitated in the middle of a busy road. Did I mention it was four lanes? A co-worker who had taken the day off "just happened" to be driving by and saw me fall. She blocked two lanes of traffic with her car. The FedEx truck coming the other direction saw me as well and blocked the other two lanes. I fell down, but I would not be hit by a car on this day.

Then began an agonizing process of being transported to the hospital, x-ray'd, CT scanned, and who knows what else with no benefit of pain medication. Finally, after 5 hours of torture I was taken to surgery where the surgeon cleaned bone fragments out of the joint and put everything back together. He told my family that the damage was as extensive as someone who had been t-boned in a car accident. After several days, I went home with a brace from my waist to my knees. I could not take it off for ANYTHING. I couldn't bend more than 45 degrees and it kept my legs spread apart at about a 45 degree angle. No showers. I will leave using the toilet to your imagination. Not comfortable.

I wish I could say that I was asking God daily for the lesson in all of this. I wish I could say that I was searching His Word for how to handle this debacle. I had been married to my second husband less than a year and we had four - count em - four teenagers living in our house. I was not being very super spiritual. I was not being very spiritual at all. I was pretty darn resentful and difficult to live with, if you want to know the truth. 

In spite of me, God was still good. He provided meal after meal from wonderful friends. Phone calls, visits, cards, flowers became part of my day to day existence. Often, they would try to encourage me by telling me that God was working this to my benefit. One friend told me I should ask God what lesson He was trying to teach me. I didn't care and I didn't want to hear it.

Then, six weeks later, came the icing on the cake. An MRI revealed that during the time my hip was dislocated the circulation had been disrupted for too long and the bone was dying - a condition known as avascular necrosis. The pain was unbelievable, but the disability was worse. At 38, I could barely do any housework, I couldn't buy groceries by myself because I couldn't stand that long, if I went to the mall or a theme park with the kids, I had to go in a wheelchair. The only option was a total hip replacement. 

I won't go into great length here because this is long enough already, but the next two years were spent in a legal battle with Worker's Compensation just to get authorization for the surgery. At the time, I could not see what God could possibly be doing that was working to my good. 

While we were fighting for surgery, I was unable to work but because I was covered by WC, they had to pay my salary while I was home. God provided.

During the same time period, we had a child who was having significant emotional issues. He was not doing well in school. We were constantly headed to doctor and counseling appointments. He needed supervision. Even though he was 17, he couldn't drive. It occurred to me one day, that had I not broken my hip, I don't know what we would have done. Because I was able to be home all the time, I was able to get him to appointments and his GED program. I was able to be present with him when he needed it and he was not left along during a fragile, vulnerable time in his life. God not only provided for us materially, but also emotionally.

The other positive that came from this time, was the time I was able to spend in Bible study and prayer. I often had the house to myself when all the kids were in school and in those quiet hours I had a season of spiritual growth and sweet time with the Lord that I have not experienced since to that extent. Once I got over being angry and started to listen to Him, we had some wonderful moments together. God provided spiritually.

Eventually, I had my surgery. Our oldest child moved out. The child that was struggling moved home to his biological mom. We were down to two kids, I went back to work, life returned to normal. Sigh. I had grown to like "abnormal". 

I look back on that time now almost wistfully. God had a plan. Not just for me, but for my family. It was a good plan. A plan to give us a future and a hope. He did work it all together for our good, even if it was a painful process and I learned to look for the lessons in the difficult times. (Jer 29:11; Rom 8:38) Life interrupted turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to me at the time.

(There is another aspect to this story that I never even mentioned...maybe I'll do a sequel...)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Miracle in the Mundane

You sit in an office...staring at a feel like you are living "Groundhog Day" over and over and over... OR you are mindlessly watching the television night after night...barely comprehending what is passing before your eyes and into your ears... The monotony can be mind numbing and depressing.

Then, God gives you a window. It seems like such a little thing - this window - but it opens up a whole new world. A world where the sun breaks through the trees and warms your face. A world where cardinals flit through the tree branches, woodpeckers search every little crevice of the big oak tree for food, and the odd egret or crane may come strolling by. Butterflies are endless.
There are other visitors. The little stray tabby that always seems to have a belly full of kittens. The raccoons that have learned we feed the cats... 
Some days there are no visitors because the rain is relentless. Pounding the glass. Thunder and lightening right on the other side ... of this window.

How easy it is to get caught up in the computer screen and miss what happens just inches from my desk. How easy to get caught up in the drama that happens around me at work. How easy to forget to look and see. Why? Because I see it every day. Because it has become familiar. Because I take it for granted. This window.

How often we treat God the same way. So sure He's there, yet, never taking the time to look and listen. He shows His glory every day. In the nature outside my window. In His Word. In the gentle way He seeks to calm me with His still small voice. How easy to get caught up in the computer screen and miss the fact that He is right there with me all the time. How easy to get caught up in the drama that happens around me and forget that He is in control of every situation. How easy to just forget to stop, and look, and listen for Him. Why? Because His Word has become familiar. Because He is there all the time. Because I take Him for granted.

But He makes me a promise. If I seek Him, I will find Him, if I seek Him with all my heart. (Jer. 29:13) 

To seek Him with my whole heart, I must start my day with Him and end it with Him. I must learn to still myself to hear His voice. I must learn that His glory is not always some radical event, but is in the birds, and the racoons, and the rainstorms. I must ask Him to reveal His Presence to me. Then, in the middle of the work day, I can pause and look out the window and see His creation. When I see the flicker of red in the trees, I can know that He has given me a gift. He is there. When the tension around me becomes overwhelming, I can stop and remember that He is the Prince of Peace. When I seek Him like this, I will find Him and that is the miracle in the mundane.