Friday, October 24, 2014

God healed me....and I didn't even know I needed healing!

A week ago last Sunday, God performed a miracle in my life! A true I didn't even know I needed...and I continue to be in awe! Oh, ye, of little faith, I have even waited 10 days to share this miracle publicly in order to make sure that it really was a miracle! Lord, have mercy!

On Sunday evening we arrived home from church as normal, around 6 p.m. A bit later, one of the physiotherapists (massage therapists) from the Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusade volunteer team arrived at the Ranch. She had offered to come out and give the ladies of our staff free massages!

So, later that evening I went to the other building on our property, up to one of the extra staff bedrooms off of our classroom area. There the therapist had set up her massage table. Relaxing music floated through the air, dancing with the sweet aromas of therapeutic oils.

As the massage began, I adjusted my earphones to listen to Dad's last sermon before retirement, which he had preached earlier that morning, at my home church, after nearly 40 years of pastoring there. I secretly hoped that that massage would reach all the way to my heart, because it really felt like it needed a massage!

As the message, and massage, continued, the therapist commented: “Julie, do you have problems with your hips?” I thought for a second and then replied: “Yeah, I guess I do, especially with my right hip.” A few seconds later I asked: “How can you tell?” “Oh, I can tell all right!” was her quick response as she continued to work silently and methodically.

Do you know when I realized, though, that I really had had problems with my right hip? As soon as I got off the massage table.....and my hip didn't hurt! A bit later, I walked upstairs....and downstairs....and upstairs....and downstairs....and upstairs (etc....) to put the kids to bed and my hip didn't hurt! The next morning the alarm went off at 5:30 a.m., my feet hit the floor....and my hip didn't hurt! After devotions and 30 minutes on the hip didn't hurt! My hip didn't hurt during my stretching exercises and I could sit Indian style on the floor....without pain! I went to school and after over an hour of sitting at my desk and attending the kids' questions, I got up....and my hip didn't hurt! I ran up to my office to make a photo copy for school without holding onto the railing...and my hip didn't hurt! I slept all night and didn't have to change positions to accommodate...a hurting hip!

In each of this instances, I was not thinking, “My hip should be hurting.” I did not even expect my hip to hurt, because I really had ignored the pain problem, but once I put weight on the hip and it didn't hurt my brain said: “Hey, that was supposed to hurt and it didn't!”

As I thought more and more about this situation, I realized that my hips, particularly my right hip, had been hurting for months! However, the pain had gotten increasingly worse so gradually that I hadn't even realized how bothersome it had become! (Like the proverbial frog in the boiling pot of water.) I also realized that I had excused the pain as a possible inherited arthritis, like my Grandma, or maybe a different congenital hip condition, like the one with which Josiah had been born born. I assumed that the pain was something I was going to have to learn to live with and knew that God would give me the strength to do so. Now that the pain was gone, I remembered that on many occasions I had had to pray for strength to be able to go up our house steps just one more time! I thought it was just exhaustion, but it had been pain!

The Lord certianly used the therapist's hands during the massage, but He did the miraculous healing! A simple massage session (I had had massages with this therapist before) feel wonderful, but they don't heal! Jesus heals! (The Lord has used this same therapist to heal people on crusade. Our staff has witnessed the elderly arrive totally dependent on a cane and then leave the crusade, leaving the cane behind!)

I have been quite stupefact for the last 10 days....marvelling at life without hip pain, marvelling at the stupidity of living with unnecessary pain, marvelling at the fact that I hadn't even considered the possibility of trying to get rid of the pain, marvelling at the fact that I hadn't even realized how bad the pain had become until it was gone, marvelling at the fact that the pain crept in so slowly and subtly that I hadn't even fully detected it!

How dangerous it can be to become so used to living in a state of pain that we don't even realize we are in pain! Wow! When pain becomes normal!

What happens when emotional pain becomes normal? What happens when we no longer even consider forgiveness because we assume that cold, stony portion of our heart is simply just that way, when we could be living in total and utter freedom?! What happens when loneliness becomes a friendly ache, rather than an impulse to seek friendship with God and others?! What happens when abuse becomes normal and we don't even consider seeking help and healing because we can't even see the abuse because “that's just the way life is”?!

What happens when spiritual pain becomes normal? When “losing your first love” is a part of Christian growth? When the big, dark, vacuum of a whole in our heart is deemed an irremediable human condition?

So, how are you healed of a pain you don't even realize you have?

You depend on God to reveal and heal!

Ask Him today: “Lord, I come to you this day asking that you would reveal any pain present in my life that You would will to heal! Reveal it to me so that I can then go to You as the Great Physician to heal my soul, my heart and my body in accordance with Your perfect will.”

One thing is if the Lord chooses not to heal and quite another is not even realizing we need healing! Let's just not get used to the pain!


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Grief looks like...the one year anniversary

The first anniversary of Danny's passing was on September 8th, 2014.  Now, with a month having passed since that date, I can now gather my thoughts sufficiently to share them with you!

How do you celebrate/recognize/acknowledge the first anniversary of the death of your child? 
 I don't know!

It's not just the event of the first anniversary of the death, but the fact that the first anniversary represents the last of a long line of firsts....first bedtime without him, first family outing without him, first time at church without him, first birthday without him, first Thanksgiving without him, first Christmas without him, first vacation without him, first VBS without him, first everything without him! 

The date, besides being the one year anniversary of Danny's passing, almost needs its own moment of grief because those "firsts" somehow helped us feel closer to him, and now they too have come to an end.  "Seconds" don't sound as comforting!

So, how do you create anniversary experience that allows healing and cleansing when sometimes all you want to do is wallow in the brokenness?

I haven't yet Googled it but I can't imagine a "how-to" or self-help or "Anniversaries for Dummies" book about how to celebrate the one year anniversary after losing a child.  I wouldn't read it anyway, because I don't want anybody telling me how to celebrate my child's passing.  (Sorry for that bit of rather uncharacteristic rudeness.)

So, to figure out how to do this, and help my husband, 17 children and staff do this, I turned to God and one of my best friends.  God had brought quite a few random and unorganized ideas to my head. Thankfully, He has also brought several not-so-random and very understanding friends into my life. So, after a very long, gentle, understanding Facebook chat with one of my soul sisters, Janelle, who understands my need to literally talk things out in order to work them out, there was a plan....a very special plan, to continue celebrating the life of a very special son, brother, grandson, nephew, student, friend and playmate...Danny.

So, how do you do the first anniversary of the death of your child?  I still don't know...but here is the photo journal of how we did ours...our very own 11 step program for the one year anniversary after losing Danny. (I tried and tried, but I just couldn't make it into 12 steps!  :-)  )

Step 1: Cancel School for two days

Step 2: Get everybody up at 7 a.m. on Monday, September 8th, 2014 (the first anniversary of Danny's passing).

Step 3:  Make a sandwich assembly line. (Thank you, Henry Ford, for giving the world the idea of the assembly line!)

      Herein lies the advantage of a family of 19!  We laid everything out on the table and had one kid on either side of the table (so 2 kids per team) at the following stations:
bread cutting station
mayonnaise station
ham station
cheese station
tomato station
onion station
sandwich wrapping station

Then there was the slicing station where Victor and Diana sliced away to keep the tomato and onion stations supplied!

Besides needing Adrian to make a mid-assembly-line-run for more ham, the kids made 150 sandwiches in under an hour!

Step 4: Go to Danny's hospital, the National Pediatric Institute, in Mexico City...a two hour drive one-way!

Step 5: Give away free sandwiches, free drinks, evangelistic tracts, smiles, hugs and even prayers! 

 In the time that it took for us to get our table set up, the signs hung on the table and the cups out to start serving drinks, most of the sandwiches were gone!  We gave away over 100 sandwiches in less than 10 minutes!

This is one of the signs we made to invite people to take a free sandwich and drink.  (In hindsight, we really didn't need to do any inviting the people were so anxious for some free food).

"Sandwiches and water
in honor of Christ
and in rememberance of Danny:
our son, brother and friend."

(Cultural notes:
1) When we say "water" it is not always just regular water.  We use the word "water" to also refer to fruit-based drinks.  They aren't juice, they are blended fruit with water.  We served an artificial version. 
2) There is a huge need, and opportunity, at hospitals in Mexico to serve the patients' families.  Danny's hospital, for example, is the largest and best children's hospital in Mexico, so there are families from all over the country represented there.  However, visitation is extremely limited, so the families spend a lot of time outside on the main patio.  Many do not have the financial resources to pay for hotels and their children do not have a diagnosis that gives them access to a local shelter, so many families actually sleep on the patio.  Their financial resources are strained to the limit with medical costs, so a simple free meal is a huge blessing, and a huge opportunity for us to share Christ's love!)

Diana and Angie, our two eldest daughters, serving drinks.

Victor and Martita, our third eldest daughter, praying for a woman and her son.  We offered to pray for anybody interested and several accepted the offer.  One man even prayed to accept Jesus!  (I had the privilege of praying for a woman and her little boy who just "happened" to be named Danny!  Talk about coming full circle!)

Once the sandwiches ran out, a friend of ours brought a bunch of apples and bananas and Victor went to the Wal-Mart across the street and bought 300 pieces of Mexican sweet bread.  It only took another half an hour for all of that to be given away!

Some of our kids helped serve, others helped pray and many walked around the patio offering evangelistic tracts with the water and sweet bread!  It was so incredible to watch our kids reach out from their pain to the pain of others!  It was so wonderful to see how sensitive our kids were to the other families and patients, knowing exactly how they feel!  Even our most shy and withdrawn kids were walking up to complete strangers to offer them hope and help!

We just might not be able to stay away for a whole year before doing this again....but we'll take at least 300 sandwiches this time!

Step 6: Go to the park with our "hospital Dad and Mom", Ricardo and Susana.  

Ricardo and Susana are the couple that God miraculously provided who live only 5 minutes from Danny's hospital and where Victor and I occassionally slept, where we bathed and ate many delicious homemade breakfasts during Danny's hospital stay.  (Just so you can see how incredible God is:  Ricardo is the sibling of the neighbor of my great aunt in central Ohio.  Did you follow that?  My great aunt, whom I have not seen since I was in elementary school, keeps up with Fishers of Men through my Grandma Blom.  She shared about us with her neighbor who said:  "My brother lives in Mexico City!"  She gave Ricardo our information and we finally connected just one week before Danny's surgery!)

Step 7: Make a family scrapbook.

Back at home that evening I spread out all of the pictures that I had of Danny...over 500, which we had printed up earlier that day, on several tables, along with construction paper, markers, crayons, tape and glue.  We then all began to create unique scrapbook pages which I will be laminating in order to create our own family one year anniversary book.

It was so fun to look at all those pictures....from the very first picture to some of the last pictures...and remember so much life and love!

Step 8 (and Day Two):  Tuesday, September 9, 2014 - the one year anniversary of Danny's burial.  Go to Cemetery.

Our family was joined by our staff as we cleaned up Danny's grave site, set new flowers in the "vases" (old coffee cans) and then gathered in a circle to pray.

Step 9:  Release balloons!  Each family member released a balloon for Danny!

Step 10:  Go to the movies!  

This was not a day that we wanted to spend at home, so after the cemetery, we took off for the movies!
Step 11:  Thank the Lord and continue to live!

Those two days proved to be very special days for our family!  
  • We had the opportunity to serve others through our pain  ("Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." II Corinthians 1:3-4)
  • We had the opportunity to thank and and have fun with those the Lord provided to sustain us during those difficult days (Ricardo and Susana)
  • Those who express themselves best alone and through words and/or art had the opportunity to do so with the scrapbook pages
  • Our kinisthetic (aka hyperactive :-) ) children could express grief through releasing balloons
  • We ended by laughing, playing, having fun and making new memories together at the movies and Kentucky Fried Chicken (buckets are the best value when feeding 19 people out)!
For any of you facing your own grief, our hope would be to walk alongside you through our 11 steps as you take your own steps in this lifelong process!  

"For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”

Revelation 7:17