Ornament of Grace

Ornament of Grace
August 9, 2016

Peace in My Storm

By Divine design, every human being is unique. Each one of us has our own particular likes and dislikes, preferences and tendencies: those qualities which shape our personalities to be distinctive from one another. Some people are risk-takers and others prefer to take the safe route, if given a choice. Our personality differences lead us to differing behavioral choices, some of which might sound bizarre or downright crazy to another person! For me, the type of people labelled “Storm Trackers” fits into that category! “What makes a person want to track down, even ‘chase’ an incoming tornado, thunderstorm, hurricane or other type of upheaval in nature?” Furthermore, the “kooks,” ahem…individuals who do it, act like they are having the time of their lives! I personally don’t get it and am inclined to question the sanity of people like that!

Maybe I’m the crazy one, but when a storm is brewing, I’m looking for shelter, solid ground, and as much security and protection as I can find! I admit that the loud noises, the unpredictability of high winds, and ominous cloud formations, not to mention deafening booms and cracks, leave me feeling quite unsettled…and at times, even terrified! Alas! Perhaps my feelings on this subject are rooted in my childhood. After all, my husband doesn’t have these fears. Is it because, as a child, during thunderstorms, he remembers hearing his mother say, “Uh oh! The tater wagon tipped over!”? Let me just say, that cute little adage may have worked for him at three, but it does NOT work for me at my age! (Yes…he has tried it out on me!!) For the record, even when I am in a secure place, I still don’t enjoy lightning or thunder. Actually, I don’t even like rain very much! (Especially when it’s falling on me, and I’ve forgotten my umbrella!)

For most of us, the word “storm” naturally carries a negative connotation. Storms certainly can wreak havoc on landscape and property, disrupting our lives with chaos and trauma, and may even cause death. In spite of the negatives involved, if we will look deeper, we can often find some good things in the mix. For example, when the rains of thunderstorms or hurricanes subside, new growth and opportunity can often be found in what was once a path of destruction. The challenge is that we must go through the storm before we are able to realize the blessings on the other side!

No matter what our individual preferences may be, at some point, most people realize that storms are simply a natural part of life on planet earth! I can do my best to avoid certain geographical locations or atmospheric conditions, but that does not guarantee I will never have to experience a thunderstorm, a tornado, or worse!

While storms of any type can be unpredictable and unsettling, and are never chosen or planned, there is much to be learned by comparing storms in the natural world, to “storms” of an emotional or spiritual nature. If we were able to have a choice in the matter, it is likely most people would prefer to experience the difficulty of certain weather related storms to the anxiety of deeper, more heart-wrenching emotional storms. I can tell you if I had been given that choice recently, I know which one I would have chosen…

It was shocking to receive the news on a Saturday afternoon, just a little over four weeks ago now. My dear mother had fallen on the stairs at home. As we later surmised, she evidently blacked out and face planted into a piece of furniture in the foyer area across from the steps. She was lying in a large pool of blood, for exactly how long we do not know, when my dad got up from his nap, saw her there, and pressed his Life Alert button! By the time I received the news, she was in the ambulance being rushed to the ER. Everything seems like such a blur, now that I look back on that day.

Less than an hour later, sitting in the waiting room with other family members, the news we were given did not sound very good. For an eighty-five year old, any injury becomes much more serious. For years, my mother has had fragile health and of necessity and prudence, has always taken very good care of herself. As we waited to hear the latest updates on her condition on that somber afternoon, thoughts like these kept plaguing my mind, “Was this the end of her life?” “How could she possibly survive this kind of trauma?” “Are we going to be planning a funeral in our family soon?” I hated those thoughts, but somehow could not keep them from entering my mind! Mixed in among them, I found myself crying out to the Lord for help for my mother, myself and for our entire family! It was a very sad time, as I tried my best to sort through my own feelings and still try to process the information I was hearing. It just all seemed so surreal. Life had changed so drastically, so very quickly!

As a result of her fall, my poor mother suffered several facial fractures, a broken nose, a forehead “goose egg,” extensive facial bruising and swelling, teeth knocked out, a concussion, a broken wrist, and other injuries. At her age, adding all of this trauma to her already-weakened heart and compromised lungs, due to her lifelong battle with asthma, was cause for great concern! Eventually, even though being warned that she was still quite bloody, the family was allowed to go into the Surgical Critical Care Unit to visit her. As we stood around her bed that dreadful evening, many of us weeping, we took turns leaning over to talk to her. Sedated and badly injured, she could not speak to us. However, we were quite certain she could hear and understand our voices. In those difficult moments, you can imagine how encouraging it was to feel the faint, hand squeezes she would give to indicate she was tracking what we said to her!

Oh, how it hurt to see the one we loved looking like she had literally been “beaten with a baseball bat,” as one family member graphically described it. Lying in that hospital bed, we marveled over how unlike herself she looked, yet by God’s Grace alone, she was still alive!

The next 48 hours or so melded together into a mixture of consultations with doctors and various efforts to make connections with family members and friends. During this time, our immediate family felt a definite sense of urgency, which several doctors verified. According to the statistics and their opinions, we were given little hope that she would last very long! Everyone in the family who was able to do so, made it to her bedside. For instance, in short order one grandson hopped on a plane and another drove six hours through the night, one way, just to be able to spend twenty minutes with Gramma before he had to get on the road again!

Early on, there were many daily, heart-wrenching decisions that needed to be made. The risks abounded. As a family, we had several consultations with doctors trying to determine the best course of action. “Can she survive a needed oral surgery?” “If she has the surgery, will we lose her, or will she even be able to come out from under the sedation?” “What is her prognosis, given her pre-existing conditions with breathing and congestive heart failure?”

Our over-riding concern and question was always this, “What does the Lord want us to do?” None of us in the family would have chosen the circumstances we found ourselves in at that time. Nevertheless, we could see God’s Hand at work, leading us along and answering our prayers and needs, in quite miraculous ways! Interacting with doctors and medical staff afforded us many opportunities to show God’s Love and Purpose in the lives of those who have a personal relationship with their Creator.

Of necessity, during those first two weeks, many things changed drastically for all of us. Besides Mother, we had our eighty-nine-year-old father to be concerned about, as well. He had many adjustments of his own to make. Keeping nightly vigils in a chair beside her bed in the Surgical Critical Care Unit was a sacrifice I willingly made for my precious mother. Many nights, it seemed I cried all night long! It broke my heart to see my mother, my mom, the one who birthed me and gave me life, the one I loved so much, so helpless, so wounded, weakly clinging to life! As those dark hours passed, I found my mind wandering back over the years, imagining her as a young mother, rocking me or one of my siblings through the night. At times, I could almost hear her voice, quietly giving me some word of caution or instruction. I know her heart. I know when she did things like that she did them lovingly and sacrificially. That’s just how she was. Sitting beside her bed, surrounded by a myriad of life support machines, cords, and tubes connected to her, one somber thought kept coming back to me: “What if she doesn’t make it through the night?”   I felt overwhelmed! I just couldn’t leave her…

From the beginning of this chapter in our lives, we have heard from people, near and far, who have assured us they were praying for my mother’s healing and recovery! My family has been buoyed by the outpouring of love and concern from so many caring friends at home and around the world! What a blessing and encouragement each one has been, and continues to be, to all of us engulfed in this ongoing, emotional journey. I cannot deny the fact that this has been one HUGE “storm” for me and my family! It has been so hard for me to even wrap my mind around what my life would be like without my mother! I realize I am extremely blessed to even say this at my age, but, as long as I have known life up to this point, my mother has been there with me!

There have been many times over the past few weeks when I have struggled to keep my focus. I have had trouble remembering basic everyday things. When I have slept, it has often been restless and wakeful. I try to keep up with normal life, but I have to admit it has been hard, because I have been so preoccupied. It’s a different kind of stress to feel like you’re continually staring death in the face, and any day or hour could be the last one you have on this earth with your loved one! The wide range of emotions I have experienced, within the span of even a few minutes, has amazed me! Everything in life seemed to be changing so fast it made me wonder what was going to happen next! In my mind’s eye, during these moments, I have imagined myself in a ship out on a tumultuous, stormy sea without an anchor!

While my emotions were “all over the map,” as the saying goes, my heart was telling me that God knows all about this storm and He has the answer and the calm that I so desperately needed. As I cried out to the Lord one morning during my devotions, He led me to this verse. It has been such a comfort to me! Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.” God has not and NEVER will change! Oh what a promise! What a wonderful comfort!

As I think back over the years since I was saved, since my husband and I were married, since he became a pastor, since our children were born and raised…oh yes, I can say there have been many, many storms! There have been many tears, many sleepless nights and many times when we thought our hearts were so broken we wondered if they would ever mend! But still,through it all, in the very midst of every one of those storms, our God was there, and every single time, He was still the same! For all these years, through every trial and every storm, He has never changed! He is always the same: reliable, trustworthy, and always there. He has always been “a very present help in trouble.” (Ps. 46:1)

No matter what we face in this life, He will always be sufficient to carry us through. He will always be enough. He has proven Himself over and over to be all I’ve needed at so many junctures in my life, that I ask myself, “Why should I doubt Him now?” At such an extremely painful time like this, when I need Him the most, when one I love so dearly is close to the end of natural life, I know He will be enough for her, and for me. Why should I fear?

Life is hard, and often, life is very tragic. Storms of all types are a natural part of life for every person. None of us really knows what our future holds. Anyone’s life can drastically change in mere minutes! The best answer to life’s challenges is to know the Unchangeable God, and His Son Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Saviour. He alone can provide the stability, comfort, and true peace we all desperately need in the midst of any storm!

“He only is my rock and my salvation; he is my defense; I shall not be moved. Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” Psalm 62:6,8