Friday, November 16, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hello!  I'm back to write again.  I have a lot on my mind, but my mom is going to post something first.  It's a speech she gave at a Joni & Friends banquet recently.  She wants to post it in order to encourage friends who are going through some very tough times right now.  I don't remember all the events surrounding my brain injury sixteen years ago, but she does, and I'll let her tell you from her perspective.

Joni and Friends Phoenix Banquet speech. "Bridges of Hope"

When Pam called and asked me to share my testimony,  she gave me the theme of this banquet--"Bridges of Hope." She didn't know it then, but HOPE is my favorite word...and has been for 15 plus years.  You see, 16 years ago I thought all hope was gone.   Our dreams, our plans, our hopes, life as we knew it...all gone!  But through God's word, the love and help of scores of friends, and a meeting with Joni Eareckson-Tada, God showed me that He not only had a different plan for our lives...He had a much better plan--one filled with blessings, and treasures, and HOPE!

Jay and I married in 1977.  Both of us were saved as children, growing up in Christian homes. By 1986 we had four children--3 girls and 1 boy. (In 2000 we added another girl to our family.).     Daniel (who is the middle child) was born with a serious heart defect, and by the age of 11, he had undergone three open heart surgeries.  During those years, however, he remained very active-- participating in baseball, basketball, and his love, soccer. He slept, ate, and breathed soccer!

In July 1996, however,  Daniel  underwent another surgery, but this time it was a "simple, routine" hernia surgery.  What happened, though, was anything but routine, and we were not at all prepared.  The attending anesthesiologist made several mistakes during that surgery and our active, energetic little boy was given back to us severely brain injured. We were devastated!  Daniel's life was turned upside down--so was ours.  He could no longer walk, talk, eat, see, go to the bathroom on his own, or use his hands/fingers.. The journey of our faith, and Daniel's recovery, are being chronicled in a book coming out soon so I won't go into those details now, but Daniel, even though still severely injured, graduated from Bible college last May after seven years of intense study.

I had always loved reading about Joni.  In fact, I began reading Joni's books during the summer of 1976 when her first book, Joni, came out. I had also watched the movie about her life several times.  I loved Joni but had no idea what living in a world of disabilities was all about, and I really didn't care to know either. No one we knew had ever been affected by a disability...not in our family nor among our friends...that is,  not until Daniel.

Fast forward to 1997, nearly  one year after his injury, as I stood in our kitchen pondering the past year and pleading and crying out to God to heal our son, a newsletter from Joni came in the mail.  I didn't feel like reading the entire thing, but a verse at the top of the second page did catch my attention and it felt like God was speaking directly to me  It said, "Do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing. Do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.". Isa 43:18-19.  Wow!  Those verses hit me like a ton of bricks, and as I meditated and pondered on them, they forever changed my life.  I soon had new vision, new encouragement....a renewed hope for our future. God would make a way us...somehow!

I remember thinking then that if I ever had an opportunity to meet Joni, I would tell her what had happened and how a simple newsletter revived my spirit and recharged my faith in a God who truly loves and cares and has a plan in place, even for a severely brain injured little boy and his mom and dad. years later, the Lord gave us that opportunity, when we took Daniel for therapy in California,  and made visiting the JAF International Disability Center a  part of that trip.  Daniel asked Joni many questions during our 2-hour visit, but the one that had the biggest impact on our family was when he asked her why she thought God allowed this to happen to him.

Joni replied that she didn't know why, but maybe if he came to a Family Retreat with her in Georgia that summer, he would get answers to his questions.   I had known about Family Retreats for many years--and had even thought about going-- but I resisted because I was still struggling to find a place and a reason for Daniel's disabilities. I didn't want to be around people who were sad and struggling also.

But at Joni's urgings and promptings, we went....and I'm so glad we did!  It was completely different from what I had expected.  We had a blast!  And everyone was happy!  Daniel was no longer a spectator but a participant, and I was not sad at all On the contrary...  I was elated to see him having so much fun with friends he had just met!  As for me, meeting and talking with moms who live the life we live everyday was a little taste of heaven.   I truly didn't want the week to ever end.  Since then, and for the past nine years, we have attended a different Family Retreat every summer in a different part of the country.  This past summer, because we had just moved to Phoenix, we had the privilege of attending the Arizona  chapter JAF Family Retreat. What a wonderful week!  It seems that each retreat is different, carrying its own personality, and at  each retreat the Lord speaks a different message to me.   This summer was no exception.  What I took away from this past retreat was that it's not important that  people know us or Daniel, but rather that they know our God--Daniel's God...that they see Him displayed in our lives. That's all that really matters. And  I reflect on that message throughout this year,  I look forward to another Family Retreat and am excited to see what the Lord will say to me again next summer.

Well, that's  our story in a nutshell. I have learned, and am still learning, that God is good. He is loving, caring, faithful, and kind...all the matter what the circumstance. And I've learned that peace--true peace-- is not dependent on the events of life....good or bad. God's peace is perfect no matter what.  And HOPE...hope built on Jesus everlasting and true and real.  HOPE...Heavenly Opportunities Presented on Earth..keeps me going and carrying on until He comes again or takes us home!

 Joni quotes a line from a movie when she speaks about hope, and I will leave it with you as I close because I love hearing her say it:

  "Hope is a good thing...maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies."

Thank you so much for listening to me, and thank you very much for coming and supporting the work of Joni and Friends this afternoon.   May God bless you.

No comments:

Post a Comment