Brussels, Peace and the Distraction of TV

I haven’t watched TV for days.

Taking time away from the distraction of television; to read my recently purchased books, to write and work on preliminary sketches for a painting I’m doing, I have found it has been an incredibly peace filled experience.  I have been committed to  finding this specific type of solitude within my own home.  I have felt the increasing need over the course of the past year and a half to have peace, but I confess,  I had to make a conscious decision for this to happen.  The act is simple yet so hard.

I just turn it off.  

Over the last week, I’ve enjoyed the sound of the rain, the sound it makes as is sloshes down the gutter and lands on the ground.

I have enjoyed the recent sunny days we have had here in Portland and I looked at the signs of spring in my own yard. I took notice.  I could actually hear the  sound of the birds chirping through closed windows that had not yet been open for the day.

I can’t hear the sound of birds with the television on.

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I could hear the sound of my bare feet walking on the hardwood and the distant noise of the train nearby. I heard the cat fight down the street and the faint sounds of small children squealing with laughter a block over.

The days seemed longer, quiet, and peaceful.

Most of my communication with family and friends is either by text or email. For us, it is the easiest way to communicate without disturbing someone in the middle of a work day and we can get back to each other when it is convenient.

This afternoon, my phone rang. It was my mother. We had talked earlier in the day and she called back to check on a detail discussed earlier. In passing she asked me if I had been watching television and of course I let her know I had been enjoying the quiet. The peace I had so carefully nurtured was at risk of coming to an abrupt end.

She told me about Brussels.

The news was devastating for many families. She told me I should turn on the television. My mother is a tender sweet woman. She would never intentionally want to rattle anyone. We hung up. I just couldn’t do it.

At least for the moment, I refused to turn on the distraction .

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You see, my husband travels all over the world. It is hitting close to home now. For all of us, everywhere.

He had just been in Brussels a few weeks ago, while traveling to another country

 

We traveled together to Germany last fall  and fell in love with the city as soon as we stepped foot on the cobblestone.

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And together we fell in love with France as we looked out of our flat one warm night, the year before.

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Travel is a very real part of our life. It is what we do.

As husband and wife we make a good team and it means that we trust in the process. I am not rattled by the amount of time he spends traveling as most wives would be. We know this is what he is called to do and I am called along with him as his wife and I support what he does. I stay busy with my own work writing and painting and projects as they come in and I travel with him whenever I can.

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This evening, the quiet will be interrupted with a simple click connecting the electricity giving power to the distraction. I don’t really want to know the details, but I can’t stay in this haven of solitude and peace and ignore the outside fever pitch of horror that happened today; to the innocent, to the weary travelers trying to get home. I won’t want to ignore the information about those trying to get to the foreign city to do their job, away from their families that trust in the process of taking care of their beloved.

I will want to know the details; the tragedy of the Americans that are suffering in Brussels tonight.

I can’t ignore the many families plight that could have been ours just weeks ago.

My husband will be boarding a flight in the morning from a country fifteen hours different from the Pacific Northwest. I pray he gets here safe and secure within this wonderful country of ours. I want him to feel the quiet and peace of our home.

It is what all the families wanted for their loved ones.

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I am going to have to look at the world outside these four walls.  I will turn on the very necessary distraction for tonight but I cannot, nor will I, allow it or them, to take away my peace.

We just can’t allow it.

We will be praying for the families affected by the tragedy in Brussels.

We want to help ease their sorrow and let them know they are not alone.

We turn on the television for many reasons and it is certainly not all bad. I want to turn it on for just a little while for the important information, but for me, it will need to go off again.  I will want to gather the fragmented peace in my own home that those hateful actions so recklessly tried to steal.

 Peace fragmented for so many on this one solitary planet we all must call home.

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My Winnowing Life , Part One ©

Folding the piece of paper that would change the course of my life, I carefully slipped it in the envelope, sealed it and delivered my fate. That moment, the winnowing of my future, came as a rush of wind that overtook me and lead the way.

How could I possibly turn in an immediate resignation from an eleven year upper management position with no other job secured?

My Winnowing Life, Part One - Bethany at office

With words; I simply sat down at my computer and wrote out my future.

I walked down the old narrow sidewalk on the west side of Portland, making mental note of everything I  want to remember of this place and the people I worked with that I held so dear…for so many years. I push the pain of my prickly, tender feelings aside…and remember this almost eight months later: the warmth of the sun on my face, the air lighter and the load… lifted.

I remember those three sensations now as I write.

The never-ending statistics, endless reports, staff issues, the diminishing sense of worth to the company no matter how hard I worked and the weight of that knowledge held me captive, until now.

My sense of financial security had become my worst enemy. I held on to my position, my performance and my addiction to work with a grip tighter than I held on to my relationships. I was no fool, and work is hard to come by. I was co-owner of a residential home construction business for 20 years before this job. I know what tough times are, the “feast or famine” as my partner and I called it. In this position, like my previous, time was spent in relentless hours in the pursuit of raising the bar, for me, and those around me. Usually, I was the first one in my office and the last to leave. I loved to work. The harder I worked, the more work was expected. I loved the insanity. If I was to live life the way I knew deep inside it should be lived, the insanity had to stop.

I walked out of the doors I had unlocked and opened for the staff for eleven years never to return.

That was July 1, 2014.

These months have been challenging beyond anything I could have expected. My bank account shows it. The balance I had acquired over the years, now carefully stretch out to meet the other demands I placed on myself. Numbers show how quickly years drift in to the abyss.

Life, as I know it now, prompts me to dig deep; to move beyond my performance addiction and my lust for meeting an unattainable standard.

I am moving past in order to move forward.

Will I be able trust God with my future, my financial security, to live life on the new edge, with only Him to hang on to?  Will I listen to Him, to write the words burning in my chest? Will I let go of writing words for an empty report or to calculate numbers for a statistic that will change in 30 days?

Yes, I am doing it now, imperfect as it is.

My Winnowing Life Part One Bethany at home writing

Taking a look back, this journey began in late 2013 when praying… a simple two-word prayer, ” BREAK ME! “.  It’s all I could say. I made this decision lying on my floor, face down and arms stretched out. I was broken before the carefully spoken words left my lips and floated in the air.  I knew what they meant. I was exhausted in my complicated spirit and ready for God to take over the control I often struggle with.

Truthfully, I couldn’t possibly understand the spiritual ramifications of the winnowing process that would take place in my life. However, I was purposefully willing for the process to take place. I was wanting God, desiring God, needing God and I know He was wanting me. I was lost somewhere along the way in all those long empty hours of work. Did I want what He wanted for my life more than what I had chosen for myself?

The moment came, when I folded that piece of paper, slipped it into the envelope and stopped the insanity. I moved out of the way and invited God to once again sit back down in the director’s chair of my life.

Taking the steps forward walking down that old sidewalk for the last time I could feel the sun again, with the deep “knowing” that the winnowing process was good.  In my new journey, I will be okay in His tender hands.

The new path.

The new path.

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120 MPH, 250 Feet of Pavement and Broken: The story of one young man on a motorcycle, one long stretch of road, and a two word prayer that becomes a journey. ©

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Crisp cool day outside of Portland Oregon.

(Please be advised: Some pictures may be too graphic for younger readers.)

In the early fall of 2013,

I prayed a prayer.

It was sincere

and one I felt an urgency to pray.

I had no idea the life altering challenges

I would face after praying this prayer.

I asked God to “break me”.

Two simple words.

I took a deep breath and continued. I asked him to prune off everything that is hindering me and to restore me into what He has wanted and intended for me to be. I wanted to go to a much deeper level in my walk with God and I trusted Him with whatever that meant.  I was absolutely certain of two things; He would answer this prayer, and I was sure of His unfailing love. Indeed, that two word prayer started the process.  It also started a series of events that would shake me to the core.

This is just one of the events.

On April 12, 2014 I had an odd feeling that I could not shake; this day would be different.

I felt it.

I knew it.

I took ample time in my thoughts to try to calm the pit in my stomach. It was a crisp cool day in our small suburb town outside of Portland. The sun poked out above the far too often white-grey clouds that are typical for us. I pulled open the blinds in our cozy breakfast area and looked out over our beautiful back yard into the green-way that shelters a patch of ground for local hikers and nature enthusiasts. I breathed in deep at the sight, but still no relief of the achy pit that remained. I tried to explain it away several times, but the gut wrenching “knowing” could not deny something was going to happen. I went about my day as normally as I could.

I thought about a conversation I had with my son several months prior. It gnawed at me. Distance is always a concern in cases of emergency for parents when their children go off to college, get married or get a new job. My son’s job was working on high-voltage electrical lines as an apprentice, many states away.

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I began to silently pray and ask God for His help…for whatever was coming.

I finished my typical Saturday chores, sat down on my couch, opened my laptop and started doing some online searches. I felt a need to follow through on the conversation with my son from a few months back and purchase a few items that I had talked about. They were very specific items, but nothing that was outside of an ordinary purchase.

 Looking back, it was a mothers’ frail, but instinctive attempt to “comfort”.

Nathan working

Nathan was a thousand miles away in Texas:

a young, healthy, vibrant man working long hours

and loving the field he chose several years before.

After working, many nights he will go to the gym and strategically work on the muscle group in the plan that he has for the day.

Nathan at gym. Nov 2013     

I have been amazed at his persistence and perseverance to continue to do this while in training for his job.  “Who has energy and time for all this?”, I would often ask myself.  This, however, would prove important in the events to come.

Here I sat; on my couch in Oregon, filling a list of “things” I felt he needed for a reason I could not shake. Several hours passed, the orders placed and the urgent, uneasy feeling stayed.

I got a call in the evening of April 12th around 9:30 pm.

Nathan was in a serious accident.

One of his closest friends, Dylan whom he refers to as “his brother” began to tell me what happened. He became so upset while trying to tell me that he became ill and handed over the phone to another friend.

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I thought my son was dead.

In those milliseconds, I felt my knees go weak

and my heart felt as if it was being ripped out of my chest.

My mind raced. I knew immediately why I had felt the way I had earlier in the day. The other person got on the phone. I could not get the question out quick enough.

“Is Nathan alive?”, I feebly asked.

“Yes!”, he quickly respondedMy son was, indeed, very much alive! I found out that the accident did not happen on the electrical lines as one would have expected, but on his motorcycle going very fast. My mind raced to the miraculous knowledge that he was actually alive.

Thank you God!” slid quietly through my lips.

 Hope came and filled my heart.

The months of preparation in my faith and trust in God made sense. Looking back, I had never been challenged to this degree in what I was going to see in those coming days, and how utterly convinced I now am that God prepares us, when we are still enough to listen and willing to listen.

I remember asking questions of myself within those first moments of the call.

Do I really, truly trust God?

With everything dear to me?

Absolutely.

The promptings in the weeks and months prior to this had prepared me to be able to answer that very important question. My spouse and a dear friend can attest that I knew something was coming, as I mentioned it several times.

 Even that day.

I knew my son was alive! This in of itself was an absolute miracle when hearing the details of his accident. Gods hand had not only been with Nathan the entire journey, but literally carried him through, cradling him in those moments that could have easily taken his life. Going at that speed was fast, for anyone, even my son.  On the long vacant stretch of road just before he reaches his home is where the accident happened; so very close to the safety of the walls of his small dwelling, but too far from any comfort they would hold.

It was a warm night and he pushed the limits; of speed, safety and the decision to take a risk. With no traffic and being just a short distance from his house, he and his friends cruised this stretch of pavement many times without incident. On a whim he “punched it”, as they put it, for just a few minutes; long enough to get the speed of his bike up to a breakneck three figure number. When he glanced down and saw his speed, he immediately let off the gas. He looked up just in time to see a black dog right in front of his bike.

His world instantly changed.

Nathan said that when people describe going in slow motion during an impact or accident, it is absolutely true.

 Time slows.

Senses heighten.

He felt his body go head over heals as his motorcycle crashed into the poor dog, slicing it in half on impact. As his bike was falling out from under him, his shoes were knocked off his feet as they struck the pavement.  Momentarily landing on his feet, he slid, burning the soles off of his socks. Not a patch of skin on his heals were burned. The speed at which Nathan’s unprotected body was going was so fast that he lost his balance.  At 120 mph he began rolling, then bouncing and then the gut wrenching sliding…burning his skin on the areas not covered by the leather jacket and pants he had declined to wear just before the ride.

Over and over again

on the long 250 feet of pavement,

he felt his head bouncing as his helmet repeatedly hit the pavement.

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What remained of his new bike came to rest less than 10 feet from a telephone pole. Pieces scattered along the blood streaked road.

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Remains of Nathan’s bike; the handlebars are missing (the bike was totaled).

Friends that were riding behind stopped, not believing what they saw. Friends he worked with side by side every day putting their lives “on the line”, saw Nathan’s on the line. One friend in particular had been trained in triage in the military and began assessing his bloody wounds, making sure no major arteries had been compromised. Seeing this was not the source of the blood and he was safe to travel, he was not about to wait on an ambulance and decided to take Nathan in himself. He sprung into action; gathered Nathan into his truck and began the drive to the hospital at equally breakneck speed.

Nathan with Dylan, Chris and Mike

These young men trusted each other with their lives.

Daily.

            This day would be no exception.

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Continuing to trust in God’s protection became critical in my response to the call. He was still alive. I was able to talk to him briefly; just long enough to hear his voice and hear him say he needed me there with him when I asked what I should do.

I had to get to him.

Quickly.

Texas is a long way from Oregon.

God had plans to show me that regardless of how far away my son was in miles, that He, God, was close and in control. He would be one step ahead in the journey, every inch of the way. My husband was able to find a flight leaving within two hours of the call and arriving in Houston at 6 a.m. the next morning.  I quickly packed, hurried out the door and was on my way.  Shaking and trying to manage the temptation of bursting into tears, I rolled down the windows. I breathed in deep, the same crisp fresh air of a city I needed to escape.

I drove to the Portland International Airport.  I’m still not certain of the route I took to this very day.  I pulled up to the Long Term Parking gate, grabbed my ticket and ahead of me was one open parking spot. I almost gave in to the earlier temptation to cry, but for very different reasons… “Thank you God…again!” came  from my lips.

Shuttles are usually a 20-30 minute wait time, especially late at night in long term parking. On this night God had other plans. I got out of my car and opened the trunk. As I pulled out the last of my luggage and shut the trunk lid, I turned around just as the shuttle was pulling in.  The shuttle was no more than 20 feet away.

I waved excitedly to the driver. Once I got settled on the shuttle the driver said to me, “Ma’am, in all the years I’ve worked here, this has only happened a couple of times. If anyone else would have been on this shuttle I would not have been allowed to stop. You’re lucky tonight.”  I looked at the driver and said, “Sir, tonight is not luck. God has been one step ahead all along getting me on the road to my son who was in a bad motorcycle accident just a few hours ago. Thank you for stopping for me!”  The driver was stunned and all he could say was “Wow Ma’am that is for sure. I hope your son is okay”.  I told the driver about the parking spot too, as if he didn’t know where he just picked me up from!

The driver kept glancing at me as if he had something to say as he continued to pick up a few more passengers on this late night route.  We drove in to the drop off area and I could not get off fast enough. He made a point of getting off the shuttle to tell me once more, that he hoped my son would be okay and that he was glad he was there to pick me up. I smiled and thanked him.  I knew that God wasn’t just making a statement to me but also to this kind man who took time for me.

God would continue to show all of us that He was with Nathan during this crisis and that He never left his side. He was even with his mother a thousand miles away, making a way for her to be there too.  In the moments of the accident, the hours, days and weeks ahead, He was there.  God never promised easy. God never promised we would be without pain or agony, only that He would never leave us.

I would need to remember this too.

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I arrived at the Houston Airport.  Nathan was in the Memorial Herman Trauma Center emergency room. It is one of the best hospitals in the area.  Every single moment in the car was irritating to me being so close, but yet so far. Finally arriving at the Trauma Center and rushing to the ER, I grabbed the name badge that would finally allow me to see my son. With each step I was closer to him.  As I turned one last corner, I finally laid eyes on him. Nathan lay on a gurney, surrounded by monitors.

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As I walked closer, I noticed Nathan’s color was good and incredibly there seemed to be no head injuries with the exception of one small area above his eye.

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His elbows, sections of his arms and shoulders were burnt black from the pavement. It was painful to look at and I found after just a few moments I could no longer look upon his injuries without feeling ill.   As I got closer to the gurney…

 I turned my gaze to Kim.

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Kim, is Nathan’s fiancé.

She was by his side looking tired but relieved. I rushed over to her and hugged her. I too, was relieved and deeply thankful for her being with him and caring for him.

He opened his eyes and saw that I was there and in a gruff, quiet voice thanked me for coming. I could have hugged him tight, had he not been in so much pain, but I kissed his forehead instead. I have never been so glad to see my son as I was at that moment.

The experience in the ER for Nathan was just the beginning of a kind of pain that no one can understand unless they have been through it. Different areas of Nathan’s body had been burned from the friction from sliding on the pavement. He slid a long way; 250 feet on bare tender flesh.  It’s called “Road Rash” and the name does not do it justice.

Nathan was finally released from the emergency room after several hours and moved to the Burn Unit of the trauma center where they could treat his wounds. He was heavily sedated, as burns are one of the most painful injuries a person can have. Burn Units are unique in that they have their own ventilation system separate from the hospital.  The reason for separation is because burns are extremely vulnerable to infections and hospitals are laden with bacteria.

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Another complication is the particles of dirt, sand and gravel that are burnt into the skin from the road. They have to get it out. They have to scrub it out.  This was no different just because the patient’s name was Nathan. They had to do everything they could to make sure his skin was completely cleaned and scrubbed.  If any bacteria would be present or left in an open wound it would spread and the risk would be great.

This young healthy man was briefed in the first few hours of being in the burn unit on what he was about to experience and the pain that would be involved. They explained that they would give him several different types of pain medication, some would be pills and some would be injected. This “cocktail” was for the different nerve layers of the skin that had been affected dependant on the depth of the burn.  They would then scrub his skin for as long as he could stand it and inject or give pain medications again as they went; repeating until done.

He said he was ready. He said he could stand on his own.

This massive, muscular young man that looked more like a linebacker of a football team than an electrical lineman’s apprentice, stood, grimacing with pain.  They took him down the hall. 

We sat and we waited. Thinking we heard something familiar, something unnerving, we bolted up out of our chairs.

We heard screams from down the hall.

I did not think this was him. It couldn’t be him. My brain would not accept the sound of my own son’s suffering. When I looked over at his fiancés face and that it looked ashen, I knew then that I was hearing Nathan in those distant screams. I could not believe what was happening and wished there was a way he didn’t have to go through this, that there was something, anything, to take the pain away from what they were doing. I felt sick; I wanted it to be me, not him. But I couldn’t, and it was. No matter how much Kim and I “wished” that he didn’t have to go through this pain and suffering, he had to, to get well.  Our grief was so deep, we could barely speak. I couldn’t pray. I could barely think.

They did this until his wounds were cleaned out.

He came back into his room exhausted and heavily medicated. The thick white puffy bandages with stretchy mesh covered his body. There seemed to be a mental comfort in the softness of the bandages and mesh that seemed to “hold in” the cruel wounds underneath. He rested as much as the pain meds would allow him to. The special cocktail given for the delicate nerve pain in the multiple layers of his skin, worked only for so long.

Each painful movement in his sleep would birth a deep groan.

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We spent days learning about the care of burns from his nurses.  His fiancé was willing to learn the technique so that she could care for him. The dedication that she showed for him during those days and weeks was relentless and brave.  Burn patients are not easy patients to work with and Nathan was no exception. Kim showed patience beyond anything I have seen in the face of such pain. She remained unmoved, no matter the outcry or expletives, knowing underneath this she was treating the man she loved and cared for.  I grew to deeply love this amazing young woman in those days and felt a sense of peace knowing she was there.

Kim and I slept on the concrete floor of Nathan’s room on either side of his bed with a sheet and pillow. One of the nurses found out after a few nights and brought in a lounge chair. She had a soft heart and allowed both of us to stay, as this was against the rules.  They bent the rules upon telling them the story.  We were very grateful for the respite of a single lounge chair and the comfort it would give.

Each day in the Burn Unit would be important in his healing.

Kim took great care in his regimen. A special antibiotic salve would be spread on every inch of skin that was burned. following this, a layer of yellow thickly soaked gauze material would be carefully placed over the salve. On top of the yellow gauze, soft pillow-like white gauze would be soaked in sterile saline solution then wrapped over the yellow soaked gauze, covering every inch. A soft pillow-like white gauze rolled over top of this, then a stretchy white mesh was put in place to hold it together. She would then tie the ends together.  It took hours. It was grueling for him. It was grueling for Kim. I felt helpless watching.

This process, regardless of how long it took gave him the protection he needed. His muscular mass and strength, the very specific nutrition and supplement regimen, on top of the near daily trips to the gym provided a base for healing in a manner that would amaze the doctors.

Days passed, the regimen became quicker, and the routine was in place for his healing.

His aversion to pain meds, the promise that his fiancé was well trained, along with his concern for the large hospital bill helped Nathan to convince the doctors to let him try going home. They warned him of letting the pain go too long; to stay on top of it and to be wary of doing too much too soon.

They released him.

With specific instructions for what to watch for regarding complications, we returned home with bags of gauze, sterile saline solution, mesh and other supplies.

He pushed himself to go home.

We were only home a few days when we noticed his hands swelling.  We watched carefully. In the course of just thirty minutes his hands had increased by a fourth of their size. The swelling started going up into his wrist and forearms. There also seemed to be an odd color forming and with the swelling we knew something was terribly wrong.

We needed to act quickly.

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We called directly up to the Burn Unit and spoke to one of the doctors. He was having one of the serious complications that they spoke of. He said to get back to the Trauma Center as quickly as we could.  He explained to us the protocol was to go through the ER, but that they would be prepared for him when he arrived.

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By the time we got to the hospital, his entire left arm was swollen.  The grueling hours in the ER were torturous for him as they took off the precious protective mesh, gauze and soothing yellow “second skin” that would keep him out of pain.  Every wisp of air that brushed over his open and raw skin felt like a thousand needles on his bare flesh. The hospital gown that did cover parts of his burned, raw skin was sticking and causing even more pain. He had to sit very still and try not to move.

Suddenly, the ER was in a whirlwind of activity.

An influx of seriously wounded people started to arrive. More staff arrived. Another burn patient came in. This patient’s skin looked as if it had melted from his waist up. No hair and barely a face. They forced all family members out, with the exception of me. I told any staff that questioned me that we had called ahead and the Burn Unit was waiting for Nathan, we just had to come through here first. I stood silently by him hoping no one would kick me out.

Nathan’s condition continued to deteriorate.

 His left arm was continuing to swell, and now his feet. They could not give him any pain meds without a doctor’s order.  There were so many patients and no one seemed to understand the gravity of the situation. They mistook his stillness and his quietness for a lack of need. This seemingly quiet, healthy looking and in control young man was in trouble. It was taking a very long time. Too long. He was in excruciating pain. Trying to sit as still as possible helped him to focus on remaining in control. His face was bright red. He couldn’t talk. He didn’t want me to talk.

Finally, we got a nurses attention and let her know that Nathan needed to get up to the Burn Unit. We told her he had just been released for a few days. I told her that they were waiting on him. As we were talking to the nurse, she started to take his blood pressure in his swollen arm. I told her to stop, and to take it somewhere else. She quickly stopped herself.  She realized what she was doing, and proceeded to take it in his leg. His pressure was extremely high.  I got mad, not at her, but the situation. I tried to calm myself and I told her the sooner she would call up to the Burn Unit, the sooner we would be one less patient for her. That seemed to make sense to her. I wanted him in the Burn Unit, now and told her I would even take him there myself if they would let me.  She understood what was happening as she looked at his arm and his blood pressure.

 It finally connected: a dangerous complication was happening.

They finally rushed him up to the Burn Unit.  We had the same room, and some of the same staff. The doctor came in and looked at Nathans arm. He looked over the rest of his body and the areas that had become infected. He was very concerned how quickly it was happening. The doctor told Nathan they would start him on medication immediately, but if they could not get the swelling to stop they would have to take him in to surgery. They would have to do an incision down the length of the swelling on his left arm to release the pressure.

Nathan’s pain increased. This time, the pain was not just from the burns, but the swelling and infection.  Staph was settling in.  He was very sick.  The pain intensified. He was now feverish.

He was relapsing into a discouraging situation after such progress.

2014-04-13 16.51.21                                  It was a long night.

     He warned us to watch him and to make sure he breathed.

It was an odd statement.

Not much happened that night as he slept  nor changed the following day, which in one sense was good. The swelling did not increase further and we were so thankful that did not have to go into surgery. We have that wonderful answer to prayer, I thought. The swelling remained the same for most of the day which was very painful on top of the already sensitive areas of the burns. Staph is a very difficult and dangerous beast and could turn on a dime. They were doing what they could for him.

That evening, I asked Kim to try to get some rest and I would be on watch. She had been caring for him and trying to get some of her work responsibilities caught up in between. She had a lot on her shoulders and I felt helpless just watching her. I became very concerned for her lack of rest and the load she was carrying.

Nathan’s earlier comment lingered and bothered both of us.

What follows has been the single most difficult experience as a parent I have ever had.

Nathan was hurting so intensely that they had to give him large doses of the “cocktail” of pain medication he so despised. They did this to try to give him some relief so he could rest. Nathan did not like the pain meds, as they were a two edged sword, making him feel better in most ways, but far worse in others.  Nathan had been in training for weight lifting competition for several years at the time of the accident. Being diligent with his diet and exercise, the affects of the pain meds was something he did not want to  have to deal with after all of this. This, ultimately, proved to be part of his quick recovery, but this was not yet part of the story. The pain he was experiencing that night pushed his blood pressure up to 179/135.  Even for this strong 27 year old, they had to encourage him to comply with the plan to reduce his pain; and this meant heavily medicating him. The pain eventually would win over that night and he would agree to do as the nurses suggested so that he could get the very important rest he needed.

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Watching him during those hours, I could not take away the pain or suffering and no amount of wishing changed anything I was seeing. I know God never promised “easy”.  He said He would make a way for us. But at that moment, I really wondered. I had to hold fast that He had purpose in those moments because it took me to the edge of my belief system. Nathan had already been through so much. I began to question; could I trust Him with my grown son’s suffering? It was a test of faith to the core.

Then a brief fleeting thought, would I trust Him to help Nathan take his next breath?

Pulling my chair up close to him along side his hospital bed, I was just inches away if he needed anything. I kept watched and occasionally heard my son’s deep guttural groans. Agony set in as his mother. In my mind I cried to God, knowing what I had to ask could not be granted, but the feeble thoughts were asked of God anyway… “I wish you could take this from him and somehow put it on me!”

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When anger started to seep in I had to quickly lay it down.

It was a distraction I could not afford.

Every movement caused him pain.

Then he became oddly still.

His breathing was sporadic and I stood over him several times when it appeared that it had stopped. I would then settle back down in my chair and try to “shake it off”, thinking I was just tired.

I soon noticed something was very wrong. I could not hear him breathe nor did I see him breathe! I instantly stood up to check and bent down close to his face; I watched and listened. Knowing CPR I hoped I would not need to consider this since there were nurses right down the hall.

No breathing.

In my head I began pleading to God that this could not possibly be real, to not be so cruel as to allow my son to die right before my eyes; to please let him breathe! I dared not say it out loud for the fear of even whispering the words would give it power.

I quickly tried lifting his head and turned it from side to side then gently patting his cheeks to try to wake him. Nothing happened. I firmly patted his cheeks a few times. Again, nothing.

I could not wait any longer. I scrambled looking for the nurses call button and couldn’t find it hanging anywhere.  I was trying to hold my panic in check because I knew this wouldn’t help anything. But my inner voice was screaming “Why can’t I find it, has it slipped underneath him? This cant be happening!”.  I felt underneath him on both sides and found nothing and I knew time was critical. My inner voice was screaming louder,  “Do I leave him and run down the hall? What am I thinking, I can’t run and leave him here!”

I tapped him firmly on his chest. He didn’t stir in any way. Then I pressed on the front of both of his shoulders in a sort of rocking motion a few times.  Nothing. He was rigid and not moving.

Panic set in, deep.

I started hitting his chest with the palms of my hands and calling out his name,

Nathan, Nathan, please, please breathe!

…NOTHING…

I was thinking that this could not possibly be happening right before my eyes, not now, not after all this time. Nurses right down the hall, right in the middle of one of the best hospitals in Houston Texas….

…right in front of…

GOD, PLEASE, PLEASE…GOD… HELP NATHAN TO BREATHE!

Please God!!!” …I heard my own voice crying out.

A gasp came from deep in his throat and finally, 

a BREATH!

My knees went weak and I crumpled down into my chair next to his side, my entire body shaking uncontrollably. “Thank you God, thank you, thank you!”, is all I could say. I sat there,  taking in the last few moments; the knowledge I was right next to him and could do nothing, but God could and God did! God was there. I felt a deeper sense of peace than I had felt in many years; God is in control and very much present.

As I sat next to him through the remainder of the night, his breathing became far less labored with each hour that passed.

Then morning came.

 His beautiful, pale blue eyes opened.

When he looked around the room that morning;

Peace replaced those pained, furrowed brows.

Peace replaced the look of pain on his face.

I knew he had been held in the arms of God through those hours.

God sat right by us and never left.

Joy replaced fear.

Faith replaced doubt.

 People from all over the country had been praying for him and there was no doubt that he had been spared.

Nathan was released to go home a few days later.

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When he had been home about week and a half, his wounds were healing so quickly that the Burn Unit doctor released him to go back to work on light duty! We were amazed, once again, at the healing hand of God.

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Those earlier promptings and nudges, they were, they are: a gift, precious and rare though they are. I was not the only one that received them, they had been given to his friends, his fiance’, to the staff and to Nathan himself. God was there all along, guiding and directing everyone’s steps to be at the places He wanted them to be. We are so thankful for His hand that held us up during those hours, days and weeks.

We were soberly reminded, within weeks after Nathan came home for the second time, that not every motorcycle accident has the same outcome. There are times when God has a different plan and not every family get’s to welcome their loved one home.

Nathan and Kim attended the funeral of a young co-worker who was not so fortunate. He also, was a young man, a husband and father leaving behind a wife and a three year old daughter.  Although they were at a funeral, Nathan said there was joyful celebration within the walls of the church because this man knew the Lord. This husband and father had a deep relationship with God and everyone talked about it that day. Nathan worshiped while remembering.

Nathan raised his hands with a thankful heart for the gift that was granted to him.

What the enemy meant for harm, God determined for good.

When thinking back, asking to be broken and pruned was and is just as certain a gift. God heard me. It is having an impact on my life as He continues  the work He started in me, even as I write. These words are not perfect, and neither am I and all the more reason for Him to show up.  I find healing is taking root; deep and firm. In these broken places, these pruned areas are where God pours himself into; the fragmented, raw edges of our lives.

 He is the balm.

He is the ointment.

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I walk over to my back window and feel the rich deep warmth of the sun.  As I look out over the grassy knoll beyond my back gate  I see the sun’s rays glistening through the leaves on the tree and remember back many months ago to the short two word prayer I prayed.  A miraculous thought rises up and meets me here;

God’s breath…

is breathing life 

into those pruned places

and

 broken spaces in me.

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The Empty Director’s Chair

I rented a studio for two days, thinking this would be a productive and creative way to jump-start my writing again after much neglect.  The house where I rented the studio is called the “Willamette Writers Dream House”.  It is an appropriate name.  I had an excuse for not writing and this place had taken away all my excuses.  I was not home, looking at all the undone chores or the projects I should complete.

The house has six rooms to rent which are all theme based; “Scotland Yard” for mystery writers, “The Algonquin Room” which is like New York circa 1955, “The Bloomsbury Room” their English Garden room, “Middle Earth” for fantasy based writers and even a room called “Narnia” for those that love to write children’s books. When I was online looking at the different selections, I was specifically looking for a room with lots of light and large windows so that I could look outside. No particular “theme” jumped out at me.

The studio room I rented was the sixth and has an appropriate name as well “The Back Lot.” This room was Hollywood based, like a movie studio’s set, a back lot where all of the actors are behind the scenes. There was no bed, it had very plush carpet, two desks, some plants, a book shelf with lots of famous movie and television manuscripts and a wonderful heater. Right across from the desk where I chose to  type was a chair, a white directors chair, empty and haunting me for some reason that I could not put my finger on.  Why did this empty chair concern me?

I unloaded my bags which I had prepared for 48 hours of writing with my laptop, some books, my Bible and snacks. I even brought some of my art supplies and a camera, just in case I did something miraculous and actually finished something and wanted to do some illustrations. I would actually be prepared.

I had been writing for hours and time slipped by quickly.  Taking a break to make tea I started to add a chapter to a fictional story I had been working on all day, but instead, picked up a book on nonreligious thoughts on Christian Spirituality. The book is called Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. Something interesting started to emerge as the evening grew late and moved into the early hours of the morning. I wasn’t quite sure why I picked this particular book, nor why I brought my favorite Bible, but it would become clear as these things usually do.  While reading through the touching chapters in the book, I found myself laughing and then my tears flowed freely.  I absorbed the message the book was trying to make and also began reading some scriptures out of my favorite blue and very worn Bible.   I read from the book, then passages out of the Bible.  I had prayed earnestly that the Lord would work in my heart over the weekend.

I was originally more comfortable writing a fictional story and ignoring the nudging in my heart, but as I continued to read the book and open my heart to scripture I was beginning to embrace what was happening.

I knew this weekend was much more than I had anticipated.  I sat at my desk, crying softly, trying not to disturb the other writer in the house.  Would he think I should go home for some much-needed rest?

God indeed has a sense of humor, which I discovered, and is quite touching to me.

As I look around the room, movie posters fill the wall; “Gone with the Wind”, “The Godfather”, “The Wizard of Oz”, “Casablanca” and even “Free Willy”.   An interesting triptych was behind me with Marilyn Monroe and James Dean in all of their early splendor.  James Dean’s caption reads, “Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.”

I stood up and  walked around my desk to get a better view for the picture I wanted to take. “My life has been like a bad movie!!”, I said without realizing I had spoken out loud (sorry neighbor writer). I was not being melodramatic. I am not that good of an actor. Most people would shudder to think this quiet, neatly dressed preacher’s daughter would have such a complicated past. As I continued to absorb the atmosphere of the studio I was in, I pondered… would I ever let Christ rewrite the script of my life? Or would I continue to keep the manuscript in its first draft, hidden away, but being played out every day of my life? No revisions, no tense corrections, no character changes.

I would have to pick the studio that was centered on pretense, acting, melodrama….and an empty Director’s Chair!

My writer neighbor in the next room would never know my tears were for the grief I have for all the lost years of fumbling around wondering if Christ could ever possibly use my life for His purpose. I gently composed myself knowing that He certainly would, if only I could get out of His way. I began to feel that certain nudging to seriously contemplate my relationship with Christ. Where do I stand? What do I really believe? Am I all talk and no walk?  What am I and who am I to Him?

As I was thinking all these thoughts, the one constant in each of those sentences was “I”. Not Him, not Christ Jesus, the Lord of my life. The “I” in my life is all-consuming; overly conscious about my looks, my hair, my weight, my position in my career, leaves little room for anyone else. Was I seriously this  insecure?  The sad answer was, yes!  Without a doubt.

For me to really feel and know the grace of God, meant the “I” in my life had to come second.  Was I capable of doing this?  Had I lived so long in my disappointment with myself that it was even possible? Had the ingrained negative self talk of how complicated my life was permanently scarred me too deep to remove from my psyche?

Why was it so hard for me to internalize the best thing that had ever happened to me? Jesus loved me enough to die for me on an old, rugged, excruciatingly painful cross. He had already covered the complicated and difficult issues and made them His own to work out for me if only I would let Him. He loved me, not because I did anything to deserve it, but because of who I am in Him. His child.

As I gazed around the room I was drawn to one focal point; that empty Director’s Chair.

The Directors Chair;  The most important chair on any set. Nothing gets by the director. It absolutely cannot be in the film unless the director has allowed it to be. The actors move and say and do what is in the best interest of the film when a good director is seated in this chair.

The Director’s Chair. It was like it was sitting there staring at me, like it was going to suddenly come alive to say, “Um, when are you going to let Me have control? When are you going to let Me sit there and direct where your life is headed? You know…I am patient. I know how you are…deep in your fantasies of some grand life you think you can make for yourself…You can sit there and write your fiction, that is ok.  I am still here, waiting.”

The chair sat empty in the “Back Lot” studio.  I knew God was reminding me that many times I take the seat, thinking I can do a better job.  He is such a gentleman and lets me sit there. I think many times that it needs to be me  directing my own life. I fear God wont be there when I look over to see what I am supposed to do. Many times it is because I am already planted there.

After that day, who would it be sitting in that chair? God or me?

After writing for several more hours, I noticed the time being 9:00 am. As the morning was awakening; a very large smudged patio window emerged…The window bugged me. Really? Good grief, I just dealt with the empty chair. Am I really that easily distracted, I thought to myself?

The studio I chose sat on the ground level and opened up to a magnificent mature garden patio. It had brick, stone and winding vines creating another area I couldn’t wait to explore. In between me and the garden was a new sliding door.  The problem was, it had been streaked by someone trying to clean it, but apparently with a dirty cloth. You would not have noticed it later in the day. With the light coming in early in the morning, when the garden is most beautiful with the sun shining down on everything, it irritated me that someone did that.  Did they not know I would be there trying to concentrate and have everything just so…so I could be creative!  How dare them not do it right!

I knew there was a beautiful garden there, but I couldn’t enjoy it because of the streaked window. What did I do?  Well of course, I tried to fix it!  I knew every noise could be heard by the writer that came and chose to be in the room right next to me (how dare him), so I tried to be very quiet.  I tiptoed to the cleaning closet and I opened the door (which of course squeaked) and got a new cloth to clean the window.  I sprayed, wiped, sprayed, wiped….inside and out.  I sat at my desk and behold…..the same streaks!  I was mad now.  I got the napkins (the only two I had left) and finished the job right.  It was clear with no smudges and the garden was truly beautifully inviting.

I sat down at my desk to write and it hit me again!  Could I not just enjoy the room and write without judging someone else’s work, which, just so happens to be the exact same thing I did?

God’s humor ….gotta love it!

Does it seem like to you, that sometimes God is so close that we trip over ourselves to get ahead of Him? To try to do all the work? To pat ourselves on the back for a “job well done” that, well, isn’t really all that good?  Do I think I can reach all the corners of my past to clean every speck away, or am I continuously re-wiping the same grime, over and over again, just thinking I pushed it out of the way just enough so I can see outside myself?

Matthew 23:25 “Woe to you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.”

Do I rob God of what He intended for me, am I so self-indulgent that I cannot see that what needs to be healed is on the inside first? I am afraid that has been the case most of my life.  I mess up, then think, well, what is the point then. I did not do that perfectly, and someone might criticize me, so I wont try again. Me, me, me…it is ridiculous.  It isn’t about me at all.

Matthew 23:26 goes on to say “You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.”

 

So, I think to myself; get serious with the Lord of your life, from the INSIDE out. So what, you messed up, does that mean that you are forever in that state? No. God gives forgiveness, mercy and grace. (I really need to re-read what I just wrote, about a dozen times so I get it!)

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I that I have for you, DECLARES the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope” 

Now, I know I am probably not supposed to change how the scripture looks, but did you ever notice how in this passage, it doesn’t say “says the Lord”, it says “declares the Lord”. How impactful it is when He says that He DECLARES something.

To me it sounds like He is yelling it out to the world for all to take notice. “Hey, I know what plans I have for my child, don’t you mess with my kid…ok? they’re MINE!” What love comes through that scripture! He declares the plans, no hints, no grey area. I think of God in this scripture like this: My big strong father figure gently placing me behind Him as He steps in between me and some bad person trying to hurt me and puffs His chest out in love and determination that nothing will get past Him to hurt me.  ABSOULUTELY NOTHING!  Wow!!  I love this.

Jeremiah 29: 12 says: “Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.” 

I don’t feel like I am heard many times, mainly because I do not feel that I express myself well verbally. Misunderstandings and hurt feelings have occurred because I could not communicate what I really mean.  My heart says one thing, but my mouth says something else. I either say something when I am hurt and defensive, or nervous and don’t think things through. Many times I just don’t say anything and keep it in.  Inside, my heart is saying “I really care about you and I see that you are struggling with this. I know you can do it, because you are wonderful at what you do, but at this very moment, can I help you? We can do this together, what fun!!  (and I am sincere in my head)!”  My mouth says “I can do that for you” or “I can fix that” and the other person may misunderstand my intentions and hear me saying “You can’t do this without me, you need me because you can’t do this”.

I can backspace when I write, but if I say something, I can’t take it back…it is forever out there, hovering. I ache to help people, but when I look inside, all I think about is ‘If they knew me, they wouldn’t like me, so I will keep everyone at arm’s length.”  Each of us have been insulted, hurt or disappointed and I am no exception. But I have also done this to others.

With God, I know I don’t have to pretend,  act or worry about what I mean, because He knows my heart. This gives me encouragement to go to Him in prayer. I just need to continue to do it.

Jeremiah 29: 13 says: “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” 

This is tougher for me, because the question I have to be painfully truthful about with myself is…. am I really searching for Him with all of my heart? Are there other things that have taken His place in the priority of my life? I am afraid so.  In the book I just read on Christian spirituality, the author talked about having his Bible on the floor next to his bed, then slowly after about a week, he was picking up his dirty clothes and found his Bible there.

My situation is a bit different in that I talk to God…alot! I wake up praying almost every morning for God to help me, my husband and my children through the day. I have my “requests”, my directives to get in before I start my long day (because I fear, He might not have heard them the day before). W hen I read the author’s description of where his Bible was, I cringed as I thought about mine.  My Bible from my teenage years is my favorite one. It was on the table by my bedroom door, under my journal, under some advertisements, under a bag of jerky I wanted to send my son, under some shirts I neatly folded to put in the box with his jerky.  Four layers down.  That was where God’s word was.

Now no joking here; my light blue “Bible in a Year”  was at the head of my bed: under more mail, under my paystub, under my weekly vitamin organizer, under my pen. Four layers down. I am not exaggerating. That was where God’s word was that day.

Remember, I was at the “Back Lot” studio, surrounded by pictures and manuscripts written for famous actors. I chuckled as I imagined a poster on the wall next to them; Bethany Jackson starring in her award-winning role, acting in and performing as… “Perfect Little Preacher’s Daughter”… coming to a theatre near you!!

Actors; acting.  God’s children; acting like they aren’t His beloved children.

I realized how much I loved Christ at that moment, knowing how very patient He has been with me all these years.  He has saved me from myself many times when I would have crumbled without Him. He has been guiding me and directing the path of my life, even when I did not know it. Even when I would not follow the path He wanted me to take. When I would let Him in, He has always been faithful to show me His unwavering love and compassion for me. He has loved me when I have been unlovable. He has surrounded me with His presence when, at times, life became almost unbearable for me to face.  I have had such peace in Him.  I have had to realize that it is not about me, but, rather Him living in me. I want to focus more on Him, than myself. While I sure don’t seem to have Him where He should be many times in my life, I know that He loves me still. I am not perfect, but His love for me is.  It has not been, nor will it ever be conditional on what I have or have not done.

I took a long stretch and leaned back in the comfy high back chair I have sat in for a day and a half, looked outside at the beautiful garden and thoroughly loved the day that God blessed me with.  I cherished that moment, knowing He was loving me with His gentle humor.  I felt warm inside knowing He cared enough to get my attention with the simple things that would touch me personally and intimately. He has a way of getting the point across very clear, without any judgments’ attached.

I thought of this as I looked across the room, and realized that all that it took, was an empty Director’s chair.

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