Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It's Not a Bag of Snakes - Part 9, the final chapter, of "In His Arms"

Part 9 – It’s Not a Bag of Snakes

Just before the accident, I remember having a conversation with John about how blessed our life was.

“Our life is wonderful, John. I somehow feel like we are bound to have something bad happen soon.”

My wise husband responded. “God’s got us. He doesn’t give out bags of snakes.”

He was referring to Matthew 7:9-11:

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

Throughout the ordeal of John’s accident and recovery, I often reminded myself that our situation was NOT a bag of snakes. It was a gift. A gift that came in the shape of a trial. For me, I believe it was a test of my courage.

When Noah was six, I began a conscious effort to fight the fear that lie beneath every motivation and action. I sought counseling, I put on my armor and began a spiritual battle like nothing I’d ever done, and I began practicing courage.

Three years later, on December 28th, I took an exam. More like an internship really. A chance to live out the courage that I practiced.

Just two weeks ago, John told me, “You know Robbie, you’re fearless. It is simply amazing how much you’ve changed over the past few years.”

Fearless? Me?

I smile thinking of that. It is a 180 degree from where I used to live. Scared of everything, especially the future. Scared of death. Scared of really living like I wanted to. Scared that someone would declare me unworthy of living abundantly because of my weight. Scared I’d never be able to lose weight. Scared that I would never get over being scared.

My internship in living a courageous existence in the face of great fear, lasted a year, long after John went back to work full time. I found myself drained and empty. I fell into a depression. I found out that when someone tightens up their insides in order to stay calm for a duration, eventually the insides will exhale. And it will hurt.

In some ways, those days were more difficult for me than when John was in the hospital. I ate everything I could to not feel that mysterious pain. I didn’t take care of myself properly and my health took a downward turn. I made plenty of mistakes.

But I wasn’t living in a bag of snakes. I couldn’t see the good that would come, but God did.

Isaiah 41:10 became a staple for me to recite every day during John’s recovery and my own.

“Fear not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, yes I will help you. I will hold you in My righteous right hand.”

At times it felt as if John’s hospitalization would never end. And then it felt like he would never get to go back to work. And then it felt as if I would never be myself again. But I wasn’t sitting in a bag of snakes. I was smack dab in the middle of His Righteous Right Hand.

So was John. So was Noah.

I have chosen to take risks the last couple of years that I wouldn’t have taken before. It’s just a matter of choosing to believe God and His Word and to not believe the world. Easier said than done. John’s ministry, dealing with men and sexual integrity issues, has thrived and John has become this warrior and Godly man who I love more than ever before. Because of the accident, we have practiced believing God.

I still don’t know why it happened. Did God cause John to be thrown from the bike? Did God simply allow circumstances to happen? I don’t know. But it doesn’t matter.

What matters is that pre-accident, during the accident and post-accident, God never changed. He loved us through it all.

We were then and we are now IN HIS ARMS.

Glory be to God for the things He has done!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Home and Healing - Part 8 of "In His Arms"

Part 8 – Home and Healing

The day John came home, almost a month after he’d left for a motorcycle ride, was a day of rejoicing…mostly. I was also scared to death. No doctors, no nurses. Just me to look after my man.

During the next few weeks, I changed his dressing on his icky leg wound, I made sure he took his myriad of pills, I took him to his outpatient rehab and I drove him to the doctor each and every morning to have his blood checked because of the blood thinner medication he was on.

We both believed God was in control, but it was a constant battle to rise above circumstances and keep a positive attitude. Doctor Doom was the one who checked his blood every day. (That’s not his real name.) Maybe he was having trouble in his marriage or maybe he was dealing with painful hemorrhoids, but he never, ever encouraged us. In fact, one day John and I went to his office feeling great. John’s numbers showed that his blood was too thin and Dr. Doom told John to be very, very careful because one tiny little wound could land him back in the hospital fighting for his life. No kidding. We went back to the car and sat there, shell shocked. It wasn’t a coincidence that my brother Phil texted us at that moment. He said something like “Don’t let the medical community dictate your future – God knows more than any doctor!”

We sat in the parking lot and prayed and cried and told God we leaned on Him, not Dr. Doom.

Although I did my best to change the leg wound dressing correctly, the wound got infected and all black. The day I changed it and smelled something gross, I ushered John into the car and we went to Dr. Doom who hemmed and hawed and then sent us to a wound specialist.

In one of the appointments to see the wound doctore, he used a huge needle to suck out 10 ccs of John’s blood clot under the wound. I’ve never seen John in such horrific pain. Right after, a nurse using a monotone voice asked, “Was your pain sharp, dull or throbbing?”

John and I glanced at each other and burst out laughing.

He replied through tears, “How about screaming like a little girl?”

John had to have leg surgery in March which brought more drugs and more recovery. After the surgery, the Wound Vac was introduced to us and we fell in love with this miracle device that brought healing quickly. The first time we were to use it, some home health care nurses with southern accents came to the house to show us. They didn’t seem to be experts at it.

I asked them if they’d ever hooked up a wound vac before. Silence. Then one said, “Not many.” She picked up the user’s manual and began reading.

Once again John and I exchanged glances. Two guttural noises arose. And then we laughed. About the time we quieted down, one of the nurses in an Alabama accent casually said, “Boy, they sure do have a lot of gadgets in this.”

After three hours and two tries, they succeeded.

One step forward, two steps back.

One of the leaps forward took place in February. We were just hanging out at the house and John was doing some puzzles that his outpatient cognitive therapist wanted him to work on. Remember, when he was in the hospital it took him an hour to finish one of these and even then he often got something wrong.

John finished his puzzles and said, “Robbie, come check this.”

I looked through the two puzzles and announced, “You got them all correct.”

My husband looked at me with a strange look and then smiled. “Guess how long it took me to do both of those.”

“I have no idea, honey.”

“Five minutes.”

The cognitive therapist had initially told John he would work with her 3 times a week for 6-8 weeks. After 2 weeks, John was deemed fine to go back to work part time.

God heals. Not always, but in John’s situation God said, YES.”

John’s accident was on December 28th.
He came home from rehab on January 22nd.

God healed his brain (at least we saw healing through the puzzles) on February 9th.

John went back to work part time on February 17th. We were in His arms.

John’s leg surgery was on March 4th – two more days in the hospital.

John went back to work full time on April 8th.

And through it all, every moment of uncertainty, pain, fear, joy and relief - we were IN HIS ARMS!

All glory to God for His healing and His mercy on our family!

(Come back, Tuesday, December 28th, the 2nd year anniversary of his accident with my final post in this series – “It’s Not a Bag of Snakes.”)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Whole New Kind of Pain: Rehab - Part 7 of "In His Arms"

Part 7 – A Whole New Kind of Pain: Rehab

After nine days in the ICU, John was transported by ambulance to Swedish Hospital in Denver for what they thought would be five days. John was there 19 days.

During that time, four challenges to recovery became obvious.

First was John’s pain level. As John woke up more and more, he felt every ache. The pain was excruciating at times. Because of that pain, John didn’t move as much as he was asked to move. And ergo, a pulmonary embolism or blood clot, developed in his lungs. This added many days to his stay in rehab and proved to be a complication he would have to deal with for the next six months.

Next, we quickly realized that John’s brain injury had caused memory loss. He had no memory of the accident at all and he couldn’t remember a list of three words for more than a half an hour. Deductive puzzles that John would normally finish quickly took him an hour to finish. And even then, he didn’t always get everything correct. Cognitive therapy proved to be extremely frustrating for John. At one point he told me, “You know, I’m used to being one of the smartest people in the room. Now…well, it’s obvious I’m not. Are they going to let me come back to work again? Will they put up with me?”

The third obvious effect of the crash was the personality change. John got angry very quickly. He cussed and ranted often. He noticed this change and at one time told me that he had lost “the ability to show grace.” This third challenge was the one that unnerved me the most. My usually gentle husband called everyone who worked in the hospital, “Crackheads.” He complained non-stop about everything. And he treated me at times, horribly.

Lastly, his leg developed an infection. When John was first placed in ICU, he had a bad bruise on his left calf, but it was one of the last priorities for the doctors. During rehab, we noticed it had scabbed over and then started to turn black. Wound specialists were called in and did their thing. Two months after John left rehab, this wound would become infected and demand surgery.

I hated every moment John spent in rehab. It wasn’t like ICU was a party, but the tyranny of the urgent prevailed. In my shock of “What just happened?” my responses and emotions were at a level of high adrenaline. Always. In ICU, John got constant care from the nurses. In rehab, he was expected to do a lot for himself. It was like going from a four star hotel to a Motel Six.

In rehab, John and I both realized this was going to be a long road. Adrenaline left and a committnment to the drudgery of recovery began. One step forward, two steps back. Over and over.

However, since I am married to a man with a wonderful sense of humor, there were some great moments. Our main doctor was a Russian woman, who spoke with a thick accent and sounded as if she smoked four packs a day. Think Tevye from "Fiddler on the Roof" was a smoker's hack. She was often comic relief for us when she left the room. John's physical and cognitive therapists found my husband charming and funny. Developing relationships with these two ladies was a blessing.

Folks visited John often and sometimes they would leave and he would ask me “Who was that?” He honestly didn’t remember. At one point, John asked if we could put a sign on the door – “Traumatic Brain Injury Patient – Please introduce yourself.”

Although he was dealing with a blood clot that caused pain in his chest, some guy friends visited a couple of times and made John cry with laughter. I left the room when they came, knowing John was in good hands and also because I was scared that the laughter might cause some kind of rupture. :0)

God’s infinite grace became apparent to John and I while he was in rehab and we had some wonderful talks about how blessed we were. Not just because John was alive, but because of the presence of God so powerfully palpable in our lives. And John, who was already in this process of becoming a aggressive warrior-man for Christ, continued in his resolve that fear had no place in living for God.

In fact, one day after we talked about the concept of safety and motorcycle riding, John said the following. I thought this was so wonderful, coming from a man who almost lost his life, that I wrote it down verbatim.

“There is a faulty theology out there that minimizing risk is the only thing that honors me, others and God…There is nothing wrong with being safe. Safety takes work. Dozens of times every minute, you assess risk. To be safe is to effectively analyze and manage that risk…But Careful? Careful is a terrible way to live. Careful is to try to control and eliminate risks. People who try to live careful think they have the ability to manage their own lives. Careful people will be disappointed and eventually surprised. They might even end up blaming God. I don’t mind trying to be safe. But I never want to live a ‘careful’ life.”

(Come back Friday, December 24th for Part 8  "Home and Healing."

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Family of God During a Trial - Part 6 of "In His Arms"

Part 6 – The Family of God during a Trial

Just a couple of hours after I’d learned about John’s accident, I sat in an ICU waiting room with my brother Phil. We were going to see John for the first time in just a few minutes.

In walked Kay Day. I burst out crying as soon as I saw her. I stood and hugged her.

“You didn’t have to come.” I sobbed.

“Of course I did.” She replied.

Kay, as a former nurse, was invaluable to me to interpret medical jargon. She came back to the hospital many times in the next few days to just hang out with me or take me to lunch, despite her forty-five minute drive one way to reach me.

Kay is not only one of my best friends, she is also my sister in Christ. She, like many other folks in my family of followers of Jesus, came through for John and me over and over during those three months at the beginning of 2007.

I’ll never be able to repay all the countless kindnesses during that time. I’m not supposed to either. What I am called to do is look around for others who might need a kindness. Then, without hesitation, lend a hand.

At one point while John was in the ICU, my friend Jan wrote about me on her blog asking people to pray for me, in essence hold up my arms as Aaron and Hur had held up Moses’s during a battle. The same day my friend Michele called me and told me she was praying – she was holding up my arms. I said, “You read Jan’s blog?” She said, “No, why?” That night, my sister-in-law Kasey called me and said, “Robbie you don’t have to be the strongest person in the room. So many people are praying for you. They’re holding up your arms.” She doesn’t know Jan or Michele.

My family of God held up my arms and John’s arms and got us through.

I wrote an email update during those days about some of the kindnesses. I feel the best way to tell the story of the love for us during that horrible time is to just repeat what I wrote then.

• Someone loaned me a phone to call Colorado Highway Patrol when I got message on answering machine. (Our phones didn’t work!)

• Someone prayed with me immediately following that moment I received the news. That someone turned my focus toward God in the moment of my greatest fear.

• Someone stayed on the phone with me on the way to the hospital and prayed for me most of the way.

• Someone met me at the hospital and loved me. Purely with the love of Jesus.

• Someone surprised me at the hospital and stood beside me as I listened to the doctors. When all I heard was Waa, Waa, Waa John, she interpreted the medical terms.

• Someone called John’s boss and let his work know what happened.

• Someone sent me an email of support and encouragement. (There were MANY)

• Someone prayed that my beloved would be healed. (MANY!)

• Someone gave me strength on the phone. (MANY)

• Someone took care of my precious son when I had to be at the hospital.

• Someone told me about the John Zay house, a place I could stay for free, just across the street from the hospital.

• Someone laid his hand on John’s head and prayed for my husband, thanking God that John was a WARRIOR who would fight through this.

• Someone bought me dinner. Someone bought me lunch. Someone bought me dinner. Someone bought me lunch. Someone bought me…(You get the picture)

• Someone (a nurse) comforted me while John lay asleep on a ventilator.

• Someone (a nurse) told me that the hospital took in two other motorcycle accidents last Sunday. One died and one is in a coma with a severe, severe brain injury.

• Someone encouraged me to look to God and not the medical personnel.

• Someone encouraged me to peruse the traumatic brain injury pamphlets, lightly, and then put them AWAY.

• Someone visited me in the hospital with a goodie bag.

• Someone visited me and prayed with me and hugged me while I cried.

• Someone visited me and gave me gifts, including an envelope full of change for the vending machines.

• Someone visited me and asked what I needed. When I told them, they searched Colorado Springs for a Barnes and Noble and got me the exact book I wanted.

• Someone organized a play date for Noah and five of his friends.

• Someone drove my son up to see his Daddy.

• Someone emailed a friend who lived in Colorado Springs to pray for John and asked her to visit me.

• Someone, a woman I’d never met, and now a friend, visited me in the hospital.

• Someone encouraged me to go home and take care of myself for a while.

• Someone invited me to drink champagne with them for just a minute on New Years Eve, then prayed for John and toasted his healing.

• Someone took care of Scooby, my dog.

• Someone went with me to see John’s beat up motorcycle.

• Someone called me New Years Eve at 11:30 p.m waking me up. It turned out to be an incredible blessing as we talked and laughed and rang in the New Year together on the phone.

• Someone came to the hospital and made me laugh and laugh.

• Someone took initiative to get the paperwork for John’s time off and short term disability all fixed up.

• Someone brought me work papers to sign to start John’s short term disability at work.

• Someone used twitter and facebook to encourage me. (MANY)

• Someone organized a girls night out for me.

• Someone (5 beautiful women) drove to Colorado Springs and took me out for a girls night out.

• Someone offered to go pick up John’s mom.

• Someone picked up John’s mom from the airport and drove her to the hospital in a semi-blizzard.

• Someone went to my home to get my cell phone charger. (I left it there)

• Someone offered to buy me a new cell phone charger.

• Someone brought me and Noah gifts.

• Someone took my son to see a Nuggets game.

• Someone listened. And listened. And listened to me pour out my heart.

• Someone offered wisdom when I needed it.

• Someone rejoiced with me through emails and phone calls when John started to wake up, a little at a time. (MANY)

• Someone offered to pick up Noah from school next week and keep him until I get home. (Several neighborhood moms)

• Someone showed me that in a crisis, the family of God shows up to help. (MANY)

I’ll never be the same after being dipped, soaked and immersed in the love of God through my brothers and sisters.

(Come back Wednesday, December 22nd for Part 7 –"A whole new kind of pain – Rehab")

Friday, December 17, 2010

God Works in Mysterious Ways - Part 5 of "In His Arms"

Our family while John was in Rehab - Me, JoJo, Marriah,
Sarah, Hannah, Noah and John

Part 5 – God Works in Mysterious Ways

It’s been almost two years since John’s accident and as I look back I still don’t see exactly why it all happened. I think it’s human nature to ask “Why?” But as a Christian, I am called to also relinquish the need to understand God’s ways. At the same time, we Christians often feel it’s our duty to list the exact lessons we’ve learned through trials in order to figure out why God allows circumstances. That can be beautiful, but it also can be a subtle way to try to control.

So I look back and I can’t make a list of the many lessons God taught us, simply because He is still using that time to teach.

However, one mighty miracle began during that time. The miracle of healing a family’s bond.

JoJo, my mother-in-law, came to be with John a week after the accident. Seeing her was such a joy to me and Noah. She brought strength and practical wisdom. Having her sit at John’s bedside was comfort. John said his first understandable word to JoJo. On one of her calls on day 4, I held the phone up to John’s ear and he listened and said the word “Hi.” A mother’s voice is a powerful tool.

So it was a joy to see her. A partner in helping her son and my husband to heal.

And then, John’s three daughters called and said that they were coming on Monday, day 8. John and his daughters have had a rocky relationship for years. Up and down and sideways. Good moments and bad moments.

When I heard they were coming, my first reaction was fear. I’m not proud of that, but it’s true. I was scared that as they visited John, awkwardness would interrupt John’s healing. I was SO wrong. Hannah, Sarah and Marriah came with hearts full of love and forgiveness. They just wanted to love on their dad.

While they were here, I had time to watch them and appreciate the goodness and individualism in each of them. The way they looked at their dad was so touching. And while they were here, he began to make huge strides in healing. JoJo came on Sunday and the girls came on Monday. On Tuesday, John was moved to a rehab hospital. A nurse pulled me aside before we left the ICU.

“Robbie, I just want you to know that it is incredibly rare for someone to go from ICU to rehab. Usually there are weeks of recovery in a regular room and then rehab. This is amazing.”

God is the one that heals. Did He use John's mom and daughters? I say yes.

While John was in rehab, the girls’ presence brought delight to my husband. The awkwardness of years of a rocky relationship did not vanquish, but seeds of healing were planted in everyone.

Before they came, their mother Annie, John’s ex-wife wrote me a long email full of love and prayers for John and Noah and me. I didn’t know what to do with it, because as is the case in many current and ex-wives’ relationships, we were not friends.

My sister-in-law advised me to write her back and be civil. I did, but I was terse and distant.

Fast forward a bit. After John recovered, we made a plan to bring JoJo, her sister Nanny and the girls to Denver in October for JoJo’s 70th birthday. We had a great time. More healing. More joy.

At the time, it was mentioned that Annie and her current husband might come. She was of course, close to JoJo. I said unequivocally NO. A decision out of fear.

A few months ago I was in a hotel room having a WAAWG – Weekend Almost Alone With God. I was walking around praying and God brought up my lovely stepdaughters. I asked Him, “How do I love them, God?” As clear as a bell, I heard the Lord in my heart say, “By loving their mother.”

I emailed Annie and thanked her for the long email of love I’d received a year and a half prior. I asked for forgiveness for being so curt and distant in my reply. I apologized for not inviting Annie and her husband to JoJo’s 70th birthday party. Her response was full of grace and wisdom. I cried at what God was doing in our family. I emailed back and mentioned wouldn’t it be wonderful if someday we all got together as a family. She responded with “Yes!”

I asked her to be my facebook friend and slowly we’ve forged a relationship. John likes this, but thinks it’s a little weird. :0)

AND THEN, Sarah, my middle stepdaughter told us she is pregnant. I will be a Grandma next summer! Woo Hoo! That means that of course, we will be visiting them in California more than once in the coming months. Sarah and her betrothed Erik, will visit us in January.

On Thanksgiving, we called and John and I both talked to each of the girls and we ended the call with me having a long conversation with Annie.

THIS is a miracle! This is healing! It’s far from perfect. No family is, but God used a horrible motorcycle accident to start the process of restoration and healing. I am moved even to tears as I write this, because of my sincere awe at the goodness of God.

There is an overused cliché. I’m a writer so I’m not supposed to use this. But I will now because it fits perfectly:


(Come back Monday for Part 6 – "The Family of God during a Trial")

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Noah and his Dad - Part 4 of "In His Arms"

Part 4 – Noah and his Dad

I made some mistakes in the way I handled John’s accident and recovery, but none larger than the one I made with my son Noah. I completely underestimated how this would affect him.

When I first told him the news and that he was going to stay with his aunt, uncle and cousin Hunter, he simply said, “Okay,” and then he packed his bag. This all happened on December 28th, three days after Christmas. Noah had received a Nintendo, his first hand held video game, and he was consumed with the joy of it. So I considered it a blessing for him to have this distraction.

I talked to Noah that night on the phone and once again I sensed no emotions. He asked how John was doing and I told him he was sedated. Noah’s response: “Well, at least he’s sleeping.”

My first clue that the accident really affected Noah was the first time I allowed him to see John. It was day 4 and John had ripped out his ventilator earlier that day. I didn’t want Noah to see his dad with that thing on his face because it made John look like a horribly sick Darth Vader.

I tried to prepare Noah for how John would look and act. I told him about all the machines and wires and that John had restraints on because his brain was making him angry and so he wanted to get out of bed but shouldn’t. I also told him his dad would probably sleep through Noah’s visit.

Noah went in the room and stood beside John, who was sleeping. Noah simply said, “Hi Dad.”

John’s crazy eyes opened and looked at Noah. Then John lifted his hands which were in restraints and said to his son, “Help. Help.” His throat was still affected by the intubation causing his voice to be gravelly and deep.

I told John, “Honey, you’re okay.” And he went right back to sleep.

Noah stood there looking at John in shock. I told him that it was so good that Daddy recognized his son’s voice. This was a good thing. Noah said nothing and I asked him if he wanted to leave.

He said, Yes,” and walked out. Once we were in the hospital hallway, Noah burst into tears. I told him he was very brave. He kept bawling. I told him I would like to know what he was feeling so I would guess and he could just nod yes or no.

“Are you scared?” He shook his head no.

“Are you angry?” He shook his head no.

For some reason I thought if I joked, it would help. “Are you happy?” He nodded yes.

I thought for a moment and asked him, “Noah, did you think Daddy was dead?” He said “Yes.”

I had no idea. I hugged my boy like I never had before. We talked a little after that from time to time because I wanted to make sure he was okay. But how could he be?

Soon, Noah went back to school. And though he didn’t miss one day, his grades plummeted. And it took the rest of fourth grade to get his feet back under him at school.

It was after all this happened that I realized my son felt so much more than I ever imagined. I regret with all my heart not trying to do something more for him. Even now, I don’t know exactly what that would be, but I’m sure there was something. I was so wrapped up in John and myself that Noah came a distant third.

In time, he recovered like John and I did. But now I know that a child’s heart is deep and fully capable of being hurt deeply, even when there are no outward signs.

I wrote a story for Chicken Soup for the Soul about Noah’s moment seeing his dad in the hospital. In it, I emphasized that Noah had taught me gratitude. I’d only been thinking about the future while he was grateful his dad was alive. When I found out the story was going to be published I read it to John and Noah for approval. They both cried. Tears are a part of healing.

And then Noah said, “So how much money do I get for that story?” :0)

(Come back Friday, December 17th for Part 5 - "God Works in Mysterious Ways")

Monday, December 13, 2010

Traumatic Brain Injury, Traumatic Heart Injury - Part 3 of "In His Arms"

Part 3 – Traumatic Brain Injury, Traumatic Heart Injury

The first three days in the hospital went in slow motion for me. I walked through antiseptic jello, trying to comprehend what each doctor and nurse said. I think the moment that jarred me into reality was the moment on the second night that our nurse gave me some pamphlets entitled “Traumatic Brain Injuries.”

She gave me a look of pity and said, “It’s important to prepare yourself, Robbie.”

Lory stood beside me as this happened. When the nurse left, Lory suggested I look through them briefly and then put them away.

I now know that many folks who suffer a severe traumatic brain injury are changed forever. Their personality is different and depending on the person and the circumstances, life is never the same.

I saw a changed John the first few days in the ICU. When he did wake up for a couple of seconds at a time, he would often be angry and try to get up and pull out wires. His eyes were wild and crazed, like someone other than my husband. The doctors decided to put him in restraints. It was heart breaking to see him restrained in his bed like he was in some looney bin. But I understood. The man in that bed wanted to escape and in the process, possibly hurt himself or someone else.

Two moments gave me hope. The first one happened on day four when John was still on the ventilator. I was told they were going to extubate him that morning but after the rounds, the doctors decided he just wasn’t ready. Exhaustion, stress and disappointment exploded in me and I lost it. I left the hospital to have lunch with my friend Kay who often came and visited me.

When I came back, John was in his bed with no ventilator. I asked what happened, and a very upset nurse told me John had ripped out the ventilator. He extubated himself which is very dangerous. I laughed. The nurse told me again that he was lucky to be alive and he shouldn’t have done it. I laughed louder. To me, this was a sure sign that my warrior husband was still in there, craving his independence. He knew he didn’t need the ventilator and he was right. When I asked the nurse how he managed to do this while he was restrained she simply said, “I have no idea.”

She left the room as I howled in laughter.

The other moment that brought me hope and joy was on day eight. The night before, John's mother JoJo and I were discussing John’s progress. I told her that when John woke up he was either really angry or really funny. I told her I was praying that John would wake up as a gentle John.
The one that would look at me and smile and say “Hi sweetie” and melt my heart.

On day eight, JoJo and I walked up to John’s bed and said “Good morning, John.” He opened his eyes, smiled at me and said “Hi sweetie.” And then he went back to sleep. God answered my prayer.

I doubled over, crying. Hope for normalcy when abnormal circumstances prevail is a tremendous emotion.

As John was dealing with his severe traumatic brain injury, I was dealing with my own trauma. Was I going to have to get a job and support us? Was John going to be a different person? What did our future look like? These thoughts bombarded me.

But trauma came in another way, too. Have you ever been rear-ended in a car? I have and it feels jarring. After the hit, you think practically. Where is the insurance card? Do I need to call someone? Is everyone okay in their car?

Later on, the shock of the rear-ending descends and it’s as if your entire body starts reverberating with that one moment you endured.

My heart trauma worked that way. At first I was emotional, but extremely practical, thinking about what needed to be done. The reverberation of John’s accident would begin in me, months later in May, and it would take a little over a year for me to recover. (More about that later.)

Come back Wednesday when I share “Noah and his Dad.”

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Part 2 of "In His Arms"

John's bike after the Crash

Part 2 - "The Battle"

“Help John, Lord. Help me.”

This was my gut prayer as I listened to the Colorado Highway Patrol’s message about John’s accident. The officer didn’t know the extent of the injuries but he knew it was serious. I called the hospital and the trauma surgeon told me that John suffered a traumatic brain injury. He didn’t think it was life threatening, but surgery might be required depending if bleeding on the brain stopped or not.

Following Jesus requires practice. Since I’d practiced leaning on God so many times, calling out to Him was the natural step to take.

After I talked to the trauma surgeon I called Lory and Phil, my sis-in-law and brother. Before making a plan in which Lory would take Noah, she prayed for John and me over the phone. I told Noah and we packed overnight bags and then I did what I’d practiced. I chose to get help from my Christian brothers and sisters. I emailed several prayer warriors and asked them to pray. As I drove the hour to a Colorado Springs hospital, (John’s accident was near there) my sister Karen prayed for me over the phone.

When I arrived at the hospital, Phil was there. Ironically, he’d been driving his motorcycle near Colorado Springs also, separately from John. We went in to see John together. All sorts of wires were connected to him. He was completely asleep, under heavy sedation, due to his extremely high agitation that is often a symptom or result of a traumatic brain injury.

I’ll never forget watching my older brother put his hand on John’s forehead and pray, “Lord this is Your son and this man is a warrior. Help him fight through this battle.”

And a battle it was.

I don’t know why God does what He does. But I believe with all my heart that he is in ultimate control of all. I prayed fervently, desperately for my mother to be healed of lung cancer. God said no. But in his mercy and grace, God would come to heal John. In the meantime, saints across the country battled for my husband in prayer. Our prayer request was passed on to friends and churches. People I’ve never met prayed for John. Fellow soldiers in Christ and good friends came to the hospital, prayed over John and read Scripture.

Encouraged by my fantastic 6 syblings, I walked around John’s hospital bed praying and reading Scripture. Although all I saw was John lying on a bed, unmoving, I knew that unseen forces on both sides were at work.

Without a doubt, I know God heard all those prayers and said Yes. Why He said yes and not no, I’ll never know.

But He did tell me something about two months after it had happened.

Let me tell you first that as a family we have a habit that we pray every time we hear a siren be it an ambulance, police or fire. When Noah was little he would pray “God help the wheels on the fire truck be okay. “ :0)

So two months after John’s accident I was sitting quietly and praying. And God’s voice inside my heart told me that when the ambulance was coming for John, someone saw it and prayed for him. When he was being rushed to the emergency room, someone heard the siren or saw the ambulance and prayed.

Before I ever knew anything had happened, God sent prayer warriors to begin battling for my man. And then the Lord told me that some day in heaven, I will meet those folks.

And just like I would tell someone in the military today, I will thank those prayer warriors for their service to God and my family.

Come back Monday, December 13th, for Part 3 – “Traumatic Brain Injury, Traumatic Heart Injury.”

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Part 1 of a 9 part series - "In His Arms"

A picture of Noah and John before Christmas - December 2008

Today I begin a 9 part Series, telling moments from a period of time, December 28th, 2008 to the end of March, 2009. It’s been two years since John skidded on “freeway kitty litter” (the gravel like substance placed on freeways in winter Colorado) hit the guardrail with his motorcycle, flew off and over the guardrail and smashed his head on the cold icy embankment. For a long time I haven’t been able to write about this, but now I feel the freedom. My purpose? To tell a great story and give all the glory to God, who carried us through a difficult, difficult time.

Part 1 - "Oblivious"

When I think back to December 28th, two years ago, the first thought I always have is “Why didn’t I feel something when it happened?”

I’ve heard of twins feeling each other’s pain even when they are apart. I’ve read stories of moms who know when something is wrong with their child, even when they aren’t in the same place. But the moment when John had his accident I felt nothing. I was putting up Christmas decorations at home while Noah played outside with a couple of friends. I had no moment of pause or an inkling that something was up. I was happy and busy with my task.

Then 2 o’clock came. The Broncos/Chargers football game was starting. No John. This is when I started wondering why he wasn’t home. He’d left at 10 a.m. after I urged him to take a ride. “It’s probably the last 50 degree day in a while, honey. Go.” I wanted to have an empty house to take down the decorations. He reluctantly went to his room but came out ready and excited to go, dressed as usual like Neil Armstrong. My husband believes in safety and he wore armored gear, a helmet, special pants and riding boots. Enough to protect him from most any accident. Most. He left me saying he’d be back by the game.

I told him, “Ride like the wind.”

So at 2:05 I hit record on the remote, thinking he would want to see the entirety of the game when he got home. I checked my cell phone. It wasn’t working. I decided to go into our bedroom and check the answering machine, the one we hardly ever listen to and the one we can’t hear unless we are in our bedroom.

One message. I hit play and my life changed in an instant.

My husband had left for a four hour motorcycle ride. He would come home 28 days later.

When Noah was little, occasionally he would bump into something or fall down. Our instinct, as parents, was to go to our son and pick him up and hold him. Maybe even carry him for a while.

In that moment that John went down, in the same moment that I was oblivious to my world changing, God picked up John and Noah and I and began to carry us.

Come back tomorrow for Part 2 - "The Battle"

Friday, December 03, 2010

It's Time to Declare our Independence from Martha Stewart!

(I wrote this a couple of years ago, but I reread it each year and declare my independence each December!)

Martha Stewart is not from this planet!

Well, she’s not. I don’t ever watch Martha Stewart’s TV show. I don’t ever read her magazine. I pretty much ignore her. I mean, why read an alien’s how-to book?

But this time of year, every year, I feel the need to buy her Christmas issue. Something in me, and it ain’t the Christmas Spirit, my friend, possesses me with this insane hope. This fantasy that this year, yes this year, I will transform my simple condo into a holiday spa, complete with Jesus Jingle Bells made from sea shells, ribbon and walnuts to a simple centerpiece made of twine, cranberries, candles, garland and a glue gun.

The fantasy is intricate. I see myself opening my front door greeting guests wearing the dress Rosemary Clooney wore in the final scene of "White Christmas". It is a floor length velvet red dress with white fur trimmings. I look spectacular and seasonal. My teeth are extra white just from the glow of Christmas joy, ready and waiting with a smile that brings good tidings to even the grumpiest of souls. Guests may enter glumly or stressed, but one moment in my Christmas kingdom brings sighs of relief and happiness.

The oohs and aahs begin.

Then questions:

“Oh, Robbie, how did you ever make that?”

“Is that your homemade plum pudding I smell?”

“How did you manage to cut down such a tall and perfectly symmetrical tree?”

The flattery pours forth soon after.

“Robbie, your decorations…well…they aren’t gaudy or too simplistic…they’re exquisite.”

“I have never smelled such a perfect blend of potpourri in my life.”

“Robbie, I need to get saved again right now. Just because of your home.”

Like a reoccurring nightmare, the same scene unfolds in my mind every year.

And every year, the reality is a just a teensy bit different.

I open the door wearing whatever will fit me after the Thanksgiving season. Usually a baggy sweater and pants with an elastic band.

My teeth are accented not by their brightness, but my ever present gap, a gift from dear old Mom. Guests who enter my home glum or stressed are encouraged with “Lighten up. You’re having free food.”

Questions come.

“Robbie, is there any room to put my coat down?”

“Have you tried Resolve Carpet Cleaner?”

“Can you make your dog stop humping my leg?”

And the comments follow:

“Robbie, I love the dollar store, too.”

“Your home makes me grateful to God for mine.”

“I think something is burning.”

Okay, maybe it’s not that bad. But it sure isn’t like the fantasy. So every January as I pack up the decorations and breathe in the peaceful air, sadness and a little depression gets mixed in.

I know why, too. It’s Martha. And all the other Marthas of the world who offer up 5 Ways to make your House smell like a Good Memory and 8 Simple Dessert Recipes and 7 Easy to do Christmas Crafts.


Maybe not for everyone. My sister Karen is an exception. Give her a bobby pin, some scrap cloth, a couple of pecans and some dried cherries and she comes up with a three-foot beautiful wreath everyone thinks was bought from Michaels. She is the MacGyver of crafts.

But not me. Give me the same materials and ask me to make something and I will brainstorm for five minutes and then run away screaming.

So, what to do?

This is the year, my friends. This is the year I claim my independence from that part of society that lies to me and tells me I must make my home a holiday retreat in order to enjoy celebrating my Saviour's birth. I am now independent of Martha Stewart, Rachel Ray, (30 minute meals? Yeah, if you have a sous chef in your refrigerator!) Good Housekeeping and all the rest of them that tells me I can do it.

To twist an Obama phrase, “No I Can’t!”

And I am fine with that! I think I can still say Happy Birthday to Jesus without firing up my own manger scene at a ceramic store. I can still give gifts that say I love you without learning to knit in two weeks or creating a fabulous scrapbook in a month (each night staying up until 3 a.m.) I can still entertain my friends and let them know they are special to me. In fact, my party plan this year does not involve homemade centerpieces and three course meals.

My plan? Enjoy the people I love and serve whatever is on sale at King Soopers!

Aaahhh…I feel good.

And may God bless us, everyone.