The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Those who know me well have heard me say, "A phone call can change your life in an instant." I usually say this in response to hearing about a dire or tragic situation. It's not that I'm being maudlin, but more making an observation of how fragile life can be...
As some of you may know, I have suffered with fearfulness and anxiety for a good part of my life.
If I were to give my top 10 fears , they would be as follows:
#1 Death of a loved one
#2 Serious illness of a loved one
#3 Serious illness in myself
#7 Driving long distances alone
#8 Flying alone
#9 A severed relationship of someone I hold dear
#10 Living alone
My life verse, Deuteronomy 31:8, was born out of my fears.
It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you;
He will not leave you or forsake you.
Do not fear or be dismayed.
I hold onto this verse as if it is life itself...
His Words ARE Life itself...
My phone call came in 2008...
When my husband Michael was in his late 40s, he began experiencing severe headaches that were continuing off and on for a few weeks. We just assumed that his typical sinus migraines were a little more ramped up than usual. As the headaches persisted, my husband saw our family doctor who recommended a brain MRI, but the insurance company denied the test...
Michael eventually started having issues with numbness and tingling in his arms accompanied with visual disturbances. At this point, our family doctor diagnosed "cluster headaches" and recommended that Michael see a neurologist. The neurologist recommended an MRI which the insurance company then finally approved.
Incredibly enough, my husband continued working through the severe headaches. Michael scheduled his MRI in the morning before work and planned on heading in after the MRI was completed. I can honestly say I wasn't too concerned that the tests were going to find anything seriously wrong.
Then the phone rang...
I answered the phone. It was my husband who sounded upbeat and calm. As he started to speak and I heard the words he was saying, I began shaking; it felt like the room was spinning. The MRI detected something on his brain. My mind started racing. Was it a brain tumor?!?
Michael said he needed to be taken to the hospital as soon as possible and asked me to come pick him up. (The Radiology Department didn't feel the situation warranted an ambulance.)
I remember thinking, "Karen, you need to hold it together for Michael, and for your children (who were 21 and 17 at the time). You have to be strong." On the outside, I may have looked like I was holding it together, but I was barely functioning as I was rushing to get dressed to go out the door to pick my husband up and bring him to the hospital.
It seemed all my fears were crashing down around me - possible impending death of a loved one; serious illness of a loved one; hospitals, doctors, driving alone - Would I become alone, without a husband?...
I got behind the wheel of my car, turned on the ignition, and started driving, not knowing how the day was going to end...
I then began praying God's promise to me, back to Him, "You go before me and are with me, you will never leave me or forsake me." I fervently prayed for my husband, for his protection and healing. I prayed for the doctors who would be treating Michael to have wisdom and understanding of the situation. I prayed for peace for my daughter who was upset and waiting at home alone, and I prayed for strength from the Lord to carry me. I knew I could not do this except only by His strength.
By the time I reached my husband, I started feeling this "other-worldly" strength and peace. I no longer felt "out of control", but "in-control" and calmer.
When my husband and I arrived at the hospital, the staff took Michael into triage right away. I had to stay in the waiting room while they worked him up. My son arrived at the hospital at just that time. It was such a comfort to have him there - and later on, to know that he was in the waiting room...
The nurse called me in from the waiting room and I followed her to where Michael was. It was surreal to see my husband on a hospital gurney in a johnny, critically ill, but I was still uncharacteristically at peace...
The doctors needed to run more tests, and I went to another area to fill out paperwork. A little while later, the doctor retrieved me and brought me to my husband. As the doctor and I walked up the hallway, he started explaining the results of the MRI. He said my husband had suffered a carotid dissection. The doctor held up his two fingers and spread them apart four inches along his own neck to describe how far the carotid artery had tore. The doctor went on to explain that Michael had suffered a stroke as a result of the carotid dissection. The surrealness of it all was incredible! Yet despite seeing the doctors fingers spread four inches apart and trying to grasp what he was saying, I felt such undeniable peace. You would have thought I was walking up the hall at the mall without a care in the world!
In the midst of this whole experience, the Lord did provide some moments of humor...
While waiting for Michael's hospital room to be prepared, another neurologist came in to check on him. He conducted several neurological tests. The first one entailed my husband having to count back from 100 by 7's. Well, Michael sailed along just fine. I'm sitting there trying to do this myself - 100.... um... 93 um.... I thought to myself, "Apparently, I've had a stroke!" lol.
Then the neurologist said to my husband, "Demonstrate to me how you nail a hammer." Well now I'm thinking, "What does that even mean??" lol. My husband, without missing a beat said to the doctor, "Look, I've had a really tough day, don't you mean, hammer a nail." We all had a good laugh after that.
It was then, actually, that the Lord glorified Himself through the tender mercies He had bestowed upon Michael and I through this intense trial...
The doctor turned to both my husband and I saying, "For a person who is only in their late 40s and just had a carotid dissection and accompanying stroke, you and your wife are so calm and have such a great sense of humor about the whole thing."
We both testified to the doctor that God is our strength and that through His saving grace, we have the peace that surpasses all understanding.
God's strength, wrapped in His mercy, clearly carried me and my husband. I experienced peace like never before in my life while I faced the biggest fears of my life! My husband remained calm and maintained an upbeat attitude which made everyone around him feel at ease.
But God had worked the most incredible mercy when we didn't even know it was happening...
Once the testing was analyzed, it was determined that the day my husband was supposed to have the first recommended MRI, which had been denied by the insurance company, was actually the day my husband had the carotid dissection. It was a miracle my husband survived AND with no lasting side-effects from the stroke. Man may have made a bad call in denying my husband's MRI; But God... In His incredible mercy, spared my husband's life.
When I say my husband had no lasting side-effects, I mean in the sense of those that come to mind such as impaired speech, vision and motor skills. However, the area of my husband's brain that was effected by the stroke was the "planning and organizing" center of the brain.
You see, my husband was pastoring a church at the time of the stroke, and writing sermons required planning and organizing. But God... In His mercy, gave Michael the cognitive strength to plan and organize while writing and then delivering the sermons.
My husband did go on to make a full and complete recovery. Praise God!
I came across an article entitled, God's Mercy in Making Us Face the Impossible, on Desiring God's website which was written by Jon Bloom. Excerpts from the article truly summed up how I saw the Lord working in my life and in my husband's life through what at first seemed impossible.
"God is not content for us just to understand the idea that nothing is too hard for the Lord [Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you. Jeremiah 32:17] He wants us to have the overwhelming joy of experiencing it."
"There are times when God orders our circumstances in such a way that from a human standpoint His promises are impossible to fulfill. And if at that point, we find these promises almost unbelievable, as did Abraham and Sarah [when God promised that they would have a son in their old age], what God has exposed are the boundaries of our faith - boundaries He means to expand."
"Resting in the promises of God is learned in the crucible of wrestling with unbelief - seasons, sometimes long seasons, when everything hangs on believing that "God gives life to the dead and calls everything into existence the things that do not exist" and there is no safety net."
Jon Bloom closed his article by offering the following words of encouragement:
"If you are in such a season, [facing an impossibility and wrestling with unbelief] as difficult as it feels, God is being incredibly kind to you. Because such seasons are when we really learn that nothing is too hard for the Lord. And the joy in God that results makes any agony endured not even worth comparing.
Abraham and Sarah "grew strong in [their] faith" because God pushed them to believe more than they thought was possible. For the sake of our joy, He does the same for you and me."
Yes, a phone call in 2008, did change my life in an instant -- to a life of faith that had grown exponentially; to a life of overcoming fears through the strength of the the Lord; and to a life of great joy - waiting expectantly for God's mercies.
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