Lazarus

He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen  Deuteronomy 10:21

Lazarus is what The Fella is calling him. 3 weeks ago yesterday, we were informed by a neurologist that his injuries included extensive brain trauma, and in the unlikely event that he’d wake up, he would be significantly brain damaged and wouldn’t ever be able to function. 3 weeks ago. I had to wrap my mind around the concept of my vigorous, hyperactive, overachieving son being a…well…the one thing he would hate more than anything in this world.  After a week he was moved out of the Neuro ICU because “we’ve done all we can for him and he’s physically stable.” and “We need the bed”. He’d opened his eyes but wasn’t tracking, wasn’t seeming to respond.

And… 3 days later he was tracking movement, looking at his Fine Wife. Then one morning he started making sounds, very soft, possibly even just breathing. By that afternoon he was looking at me and trying to form words. 2 days later he was attempting to sit up, lifting his head, looking pissed off when he couldn’t say what he was thinking. Every day after that, more improvement, the occasional word, more purpose to his movements,

Now, 3 weeks later, this young man who wasn’t supposed to wake up, who we’d been told was going to be ‘minimally functional, at best”…he’s sitting up. He’s speaking some, cusses like a sailor when something hurts. His tracheotomy is gone and he’s swallowing water. He can use hand signals to respond to questions. His responses are appropriate. They’re moving him into a rehabilitation center in a couple of days. He’ll get to go home after a week or two, until his broken legs and arm heal enough to bear weight, then he’ll go back to rehab for a while.

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”  Mark 10:27

You know, neurologists know a lot. They’ve been to a whole lot of school and based on the evidence they had, and the experience of past brain injuries, had no reason to believe anything other than what they told us. But you know what else? God is bigger than all that. You can’t tell Him anything. If Someone can breathe the universe into existence, raise a man who’d been dead for 4 days, grow a baby inside a woman, and make an octopus, then He can certainly take a broken body and brain and make it whole again.

Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.”  Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.”  John 11:40-44

I am going to admit I had doubt. I knew God COULD heal #3, if He wanted to. I was just…worried that He didn’t want to. I was scared for the future of #3 and his family. The Fella asked me why do I ask God for something specific then worry He won’t give it? Why am I surprised when God answers a prayer so gloriously? Because I’m human and sometimes God says no. I didn’t want Him to say no but I was scared He was going to. He didn’t this time. He said YES so resoundingly my ears are ringing.

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.  Mark 11:24

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. 1 John 5: 14-15

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Because God said so.

“Why do you doubt?”  Because none of this is making sense.  Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

“Why does it have to make sense?” Because I like a world that is sensible and orderly and predictable.  Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for light by day And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The LORD of hosts is His name:  Jeremiah 31:35

“By who’s standards?” Um…Mine?

It’s like this. #3’s recovery is going so fast I just can’t wrap my mind around it. I know that God’s timing isn’t the same as our timing.  But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 2 Peter 3:8

i don’t think it’s so much as doubt as it is confusion and amazement. It’s just .not….NORMAL. but then God specializes in not-normal. He delights in surprising us. Then the Lord said to Samuel, “Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which the two ears of everyone who hears it will tingle  1 Samuel 3:11

So there it is.  no one has ever accuse my life of being normal. I am thankful and grateful that God is in this and I have to continue to trust he knows what he’s doing.

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One day at a time

That phrase, the title up there, has taken on deeper meaning to me. I really DO have to take it one day at a time, celebrate the victories as they happen, and simply let tomorrow sit in the future, rather than making assumptions about it. Losing Himself 3-1/2 years ago taught me to not take tomorrow for granted, and #3’s accident, and the severity of his injuries, are making me realize how important it is to celebrate today, each small improvement, one day at a time.

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

One of the things I thought early on, when he first opened his eyes, was how his behaviors and movements were like those of a newborn baby. He could look at you very briefly then his gaze would slide away. His movement lacked purpose. he just…moved. We celebrated that. We didn’t know if he could see or hear, or if his limbs worked. Then he looked at us. First at his Fine Wife…really looked at her. She was the first person whom his gaze stuck to. His eyes followed her around the room. We celebrated that! Who ever thought having a grown man’s eyes follow you around the room would be something as exciting as that?

Then he would grab your hand if you put it in his. Remember the first time your child grabbed your hand and everyone commented on how strong his grip was? It wasn’t a purposeful grab, just a reflexive response to having something put in his hand. but it is there. His grip is stronger on the left side than the right. But then his brain was really banged around in that thick skull of his, so that isn’t surprising. He can move his right leg a little (it’s in a massive boot right now), so we know the right side works. Another reason to celebrate!

I was with him last week. When I first got there, he was starting to make little grunting noises…very small and soft. I wasn’t even sure they weren’t anything more than the way air was going through his throat. He had a tracheotomy so sounds weren’t easy. By the end of the day, they were louder and more deliberate. The next day he was looking directly at me and moving his lips, trying to form words. He would look at me directly when I said his name, and soon was able to look at other things and people if I pointed to them. His gaze had lost it’s random sliding around, and he was watching TV, people, and looking at pictures of his wife and child. When I played music for him, he would close his eyes and relax. Depending on the music, of course. Some of it he’d make a face and turn away.

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. Lamentations 3:21-25

At point, 2 weeks after his accident and still in ICU, he was watching Vanessa, the nursing assistant who was caring for him. He watched her through the door at the nurse’s station. I told her this and she came in, talking to him. Then she said “#3, you need some coffee.” and came back with a cup of black (I’d told her that was how he drank it) and a small sponge on a stick. She gave him a taste of coffee (his first taste of anything since the accident) and he closed his eyes and sighed, and bit down on the sponge. I told him if he’d let go of it, I would give him a little more, and he opened his mouth. Who would ever think a drop of coffee on a sponge would be a cause for celebration? That he understood what I said, and followed the logic of the request, was huge.

He was being cared for by one of the nurses one morning. They all talk to him constantly when working with him. She asked “Are you feeling ok this morning” (of course, not expecting an answer. ) and he said very clearly, “NO”. Startled, she asked him again and again he answered “NO”.  That was all he had to say that day. A couple of days later, I was repositioning him in the bed, and he looked at me, then looked away, and said “Dammit”. I stopped what I was doing, and asked him “Do you want to go home?” and he said “Yeah.” I celebrated. Who’d ever thought I’d celebrate my kid cussing at me, but right now if he let loose like a drunk longshoreman I’d probably shout and do cartwheels down the hallway.  He’s not talking regularly. No sentences are forming, but my boy’s in there, and he’s just having trouble making the brain and body talk to each other.

The Fine Wife has been with him throughout, and seen the small improvements. She had to return home for 4 days and I stayed with him. Now she is with him, and able to see a bit more. He is now holding the sponge-on-a-stick and bringing it to his mouth. He tries so hard to grab the stick and take it out of his mouth now. He’s trying even harder to say words, and she’s going to see about finding a speech therapist.

I talked with a friend who’s a developmental psychologist about his progress, and she said his progress follows the development of an infant’s abilities…only much faster. I’d said he was like a newborn baby when he first woke up. I can see what she means. He’s gone from a newborn 10 days ago, to about a 3 month old, only there’s the 26 year old mind still in there. He knows he’s got to work at this, but it’s a LOT of work and the frustration on his face at times is pretty intense.  “Oh that’s just reflexive facial expressions” Oh no it’s not. I’m his Mom. I’ve seen that look. That’s when he gets bullheaded and says “You can’t tell me I can’t do that. I’ll prove you wrong just to prove you wrong.” This pigheadedness of his will be what sees him through. It is why he is so good at the things he does…he just doesn’t give up until he’s perfected it.

We were told as soon as he could squeeze the doctor or therapist’s hand on command, twice in a row so they would know it wasn’t random, he would get into physical therapy.  The Fine Wife knows how to handle him. She has trained animals most of her life and knows the ways to gently guide them to do what they need to do. I know she will be what #3 needs to get ready for the next step, and get into rehabilitation.

I also know there will be plateaus in his recovery. I know it may even stop at a particular point and go no further. But I also know that today, he is alive, he knows us, and regardless his condition, has something to offer to us and to the world. I am choosing to celebrate that. This young man, the one the doctors said would probably never wake up and “most likely would never regain any function if he did” is a pigheaded, stubborn, “you can’t tell me nothin” miracle.  He has regained a level of function that has astonished the people who have been caring for him.

Early on, I asked God what He was teaching me through this. Each one of us in this with him is going to learn something that we need. I need patience, and to quit constantly planning planning planning. I spend so much time looking ahead that I forget to look around at the here and now. I forget to enjoy the momentary blessing that surround us all, because I’m so busy looking at the map. I miss the trees because I’m looking at the forest. So far, God has taught me that no, people do not wake up from head injuries as if nothing had happen. The TV shows lie about that. He has also taught me that it’s important to celebrate the small things that happen today. Look at today’s blessings and be grateful for them.  Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with planning for the future…but don’t spend so much time doing it that you forget to see what’s here today.

Go hug your kids. Tell your spouse you love him/her. Smell a flower and marvel at it. Instead of getting annoyed at the mess in the floor, rejoice that whoever made it is capable of doing it. We simply don’t know what the future holds for us, and it can change in a split second.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

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Down Time

This past week The Fella and I were going to be in Portland Oregon, for the Portland Rose Festival. Obviously, that didn’t happen and you know what? I don’t even care. Instead, we were dealing with #3 and his life. Phone messages flew back and forth, The Fine Wife keeping us updated on #3’s slow-but-steady progress, baby steps of encouragement and lessons on patience and endurance.  I feel funny saying that, because it’s only been a couple of weeks and to me, endurance through something like this calls to mind something along the lines of months and years. It still may mean that, but the little signs of open eyes and the way his eyes follow The Grandpunkin around the room mean so much.

I’ve said before I have no idea how all this is going to unfold and play out. But then do any of us? We make plans, and forget that God is the one who’s directing this show. (Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand. Proverbs 19:21)

But in all this…I was exhausted. I can only imagine how The Fine Wife feels, or #3, too. She’s been with him nonstop through this. I will be going back to where he’s at tomorrow, so she can go home for a few days. I hope she will be able to take a breath, maybe sleep an entire day (like I did Thursday). I am holding so hard to God right now He’d have fingerprint dents in His arm. I have this image in my mind, that sort of thing you see when a toddler is frightened and she’s holding on really tight to her father because she knows he’ll keep her safe, and he’s holding on tight to her because he wants her to know he’ll protect her.  (Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You preserve my life; You stretch out Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and Your right hand delivers me. Psalm 138:7)

I read somewhere credible that the sense of smell is used with therapies for people with brain injuries. Smell is the most powerful memory-kicker. Think about what your grandmother’s house always smells like, or a particular perfume, and how smelling a pot roast reminds you of Sundays after church. I’ve been making a list of things I know #3 likes, and figuring out how to capture those scents so I can wave them under his nose. Mexican food, cordite, pickles, coffee…how to bag those aromas up and take them to him. What kind of shampoo does The Fine Wife use, what does Grandpunkin get washed in, what does home smell like? Today will be spent bagging aromas (or trying to). I’ve got some herbs in the garden- mint, cilantro- that will go as well.

Today will be packing and planning, gathering stuff for #3: a bluetooth speaker so he can listen to music from my phone. Fragrant things. Reading material for me. Planning and making lists and getting things in order. I want to take walking shoes because there’s 2 bits of time I’m not supposed to be in the room and those would be good times to take a trot around the hospital grounds for exercise. Last time I went was in an all-fired panic and I forgot to pack shirts and underwear, and had to make a quick trip to Stuff-Mart for such. This time, I’ll probably overpack but whatever. Better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it. I need to remember a coffee cup, as refills are cheap (or free, if I can figure out which floor has a volunteer that day) Chargers for phone, speaker, and laptop. There I am, already listing. ( Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise! Though they have no prince or governor or ruler to make them work, they labor hard all summer, gathering food for the winter. Proverbs 6:6-8)

Preparing makes me feel like I can be useful. The past few days of not being there with #3 was a little unnerving, but I know that he didn’t need me hovering and crying and flapping my hands. The time allowed me to gather my senses and rely on The Fine Wife’s calm spirit and sensible manner to take care of him exactly how he needed. Now I can go there, follow her lead on things, and let her take a break. The plan is to take care of him in this way- tag-teaming so we each can recuperate and be who he needs.

But the down time…so important. Doing nothing, thinking about nothing more pressing than whether to use peanut butter or almond butter on a sandwich, being able to put the situation in God’s hands completely (as a control freak, I have trouble with that) and trust Him to take care of #3 (which He has, far beyond my expectations),  has meant I feel rested and ready to give The Fine Wife a break.

I want to thank everyone who has been praying for #3 and Family.  God hears our prayers, and answers them according to His will. (I cried to Him with my mouth, and high praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But truly God has listened; He has attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, because He has not rejected my prayer or removed His steadfast love from me! Psalm 66:17-20) (And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of Him. 1John 5:14-15) (and many many other bits all woven throughout the Bible that assure us God hears our prayers). It is so incredibly encouraging to all of us involved in this. I will pass your messages of love and encouragement on to #3.

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Patience

I’ve been wondering what we are supposed to learn from this thing with #3. What am I missing, character-wise? Please don’t answer that. But like I’ve said before, God uses situations to perfect us. It’s called sanctification. He takes the stuff we go through and improves us, makes us more like He wants us to be. It takes our entire lives to do this…I don’t think we will get there wholly until we die. (And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Phillipians 1:6)

So what *am* I supposed to learn? Tell me! Tell me NOW!

I get things in my email from several different ministries. One is a daily devotional, one is a weekly thing for parents, and one is a weekly wrap up of an online Christian magazine. All 3 of them were about patience. That’s never happened before, that all 3 would be the same thing, use the same verses from the Bible, and discuss the same topic from 3 different perspectives. I commented on that to The Fella, and he said “OBVIOUSLY God thinks you need patience.”   (But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:25) (Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12)

Oh…right. So I said “God, give me patience please, RIGHT NOW.”

You know, it’s a thing that has to be exercised. Like building a muscle, you build patience by doing it, a little at a time, and eventually it gets easier. I suppose it’s working. I’ve been able to wait for The Fine Wife’s twice-daily updates, rather than panicking every couple of hours and texting her. And, he’s getting better…slowly, very gradually, one little triumph at a time.

I’ve also learned to celebrate each small victory, and quit with the worrying about the next one. Today, he’s doing better. Today, he opened his eyes more, and moved more. I’m not thinking about tomorrow. He may need to take a rest and not do anything more for a few days. I’m going to have to be ok with that, and have patience.

I have no way of knowing how much he’ll recover. There isn’t a scan or a test that can tell you that. Only God knows, and He knows the why of it all. I have to have patience, trust in His plan for #3, and celebrate today that he’s opened his eyes and is moving his body. He’s not responding to the nurses commands (stuff like “squeeze my hand” and “give me a thumbs up”), but he’s never been one to do what other people tell him. He honestly might just be tired of them asking that. He is more active when Grandpunkin is there, and when his Fine Wife works with the physical therapist to move him around.

I have to be patient. I don’t like it. Our world isn’t a patient place. But what do they know…

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Strong, not strong.

Sometimes, I am confident. I am able to hold on to God’s promises and know that the outcome of #3’s accident will, somehow and some way, be good. I can imagine he’s on a long trip somewhere and it is uncertain when I’ll see him again, but I know I will and the reunion will be fantastic. I can know God uses hard times to perfect us (Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. James 1:2-3)

But…(you saw that coming, right?) sometimes I am scared. I’m scared for #3’s future. For that of his Fine Wife and the Grandpunkin. I worry about when (or if) he’s physically healed if his brain will be as well. I worry that he’ll be frustrated at any physical limitations he likely will have. He’s never had them before. He’s always been able to do anything he put his mind to, whether it’s one-armed hand springs 3 days after a broken arm, or trick-riding a horse 3 days after the first time he ever rode one.

A few people have said I’m strong. I’m not. I’m weak and tired and scared and holding on terribly hard to the promises God made about loving us and teaching us through trials and eternity.  (For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11) It’s a life raft in the midst of a terrible storm. I’m being tossed around, seasick and exhausted, but still in the raft and still safe. #3…I don’t know what’s going on in his head. I know his body is healing, and there’s tiny signs of healing happening with his brain…but the uncertainty…oh that’s so hard.

We live in a world of instant gratification. Text messages and cell phones, microwave ovens and pre-sliced cheese and 3-minute frozen dinners. People are healed in an hour (with commercials) on TV. They wake up from comas, and act like nothing happened. We forget, I think, that some things take time. Sometimes a long time, sometimes so long that we won’t see the results until after our bodies die. Remember when ordering something meant filling out a form and a check, mailing it off and waiting long enough that your forgot you’d ordered it? Now, you order something online, pay for it immediately, and get a little testy when it takes more than 2 days to get here. Or you can do all that and go straight to the store where someone else loads it into your car.

I think, probably, God’s teaching us patience right now. I don’t know what He has planned later on. But for now, He’s making us wait. We are having to learn to trust His timing, and we don’t even know what we’re supposed to prepare for. That’s frustrating me. If someone could say specifically “These will be #3’s needs” then I could go ahead and research, learn how to do what he’ll need help with, figure out how best to help The Fine Wife and Grandpunkin, and actually have something to DO.

As if prayer isn’t DOING something.  God tells us to pray.  (This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.. And if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him. 1 John 5:14-15) The kicker is that one little bit in the middle: “if we ask anything according to His will.” In the Lord’s Prayer, there’s a similar phrase “Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven” Jesus is telling us God’s will is what’s important and we need to remember that.  Is it God’s will that #3 be completely healed? I hope so. That’s what we are praying because God tells us to have faith in what we pray for. (If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 1:5-8)  Like I said earlier, I’m in a life raft, being tossed around by waves in a storm, holding as tight as I can to God’s promises and comforting presence. Sometimes I doubt, fear, dread the future for #3. I can’t help it. I’m human.  But then I start to read and write about God’s promises and comfort and plans, and I feel better. Regardless the outcome, it’s all going to be ok in the end. It might be hard for a while, but it will be ok.

I also know #3, and if anyone can do this, he can. Right now, he’s got to heal and brain healing takes a long time. We celebrate each step that shows improvement, however small it may seem to the world. We learn patience in a world that demands instant results. And yes, sometimes I fear and cry and panic and get angry that this has happened to my baby boy. But thank God I have God. Because of Him, I don’t have to despair.

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 3:8-9

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It’s not fair!

Alot of people use bad things as an excuse to not believe in God, or to be angry at Him. I get that. It would be easy to ask why a supposedly loving God would allow bad things to happen. But that’s not how it works. We live in a broken world where bad things happen to good people, and sometimes “good” things happen to bad people.  Way back in the day, back when God was walking around with Adam and Eve and clothing wasn’t even thought of and all God asked of them was to stay away from one tree, they decided they knew better than God, and listened to someone they shouldn’t have and got us into all this trouble.

Now, God, Who’s always known what was going to happen anyway, ( “Who can fathom the Spirit of the LORD, or instruct the LORD as his counselor? Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge, or showed him the path of understanding?” Isaiah 40:13-14 ) excels in providing us with the wisdom, encouragement, and guidance for maneuvering through the stuff (For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.Romans 15:4)..but it’s really up to us to use it, isn’t it. Otherwise we’d be mindless puppets and what’s the point in that? And that, in my mind, is why bad things happen. A broken world, hardheaded humans who think we know best. It ain’t God being all capricious like a 2 year old poking an ant bed. It’s more like we’re the 2 year olds and He’s the Father who knows, even though He told us not to, that we’re going to go ahead and poke it anyway. (Before a word is on my tongue You, LORD, know it completely. Psalm 139:4). 

So Why was #3 in a terrible accident? I don’t know. But God does. What are we going to gain from it? I have no idea. But God does. What is our obligation here? To trust that God knows what He’s doing in all our lives, from #3 to The FIne Wife and Grandpunkin, to the brothers and the mom and The Fella (who is very fond of #3), #3’s friends and co-workers and Himself’s family and everyone affected.  Knowing that God’s got this, that regardless our human frailties and fears and worries about the future, God’s got this and it makes no sense at all to not trust The Master of the Universe.

Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. Isaiah 26:4

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