When you marry someone you expect to take their last name.
You expect to purchase a home together and become one.
But when you stand before your invited guests to become Mr. and Mrs.,
you do not expect to really have to live out certain parts of your vows.
Or you hope to never have to anyway.
...to have and to hold from this day forward,
for better or for worse,
for richer, for poorer,
in sickness and in health
to love and to cherish...
The part about "in sickness and in health" really takes you to a whole new level of your faith in
God and what you believe He is capable of when you or your spouse are faced with health issues.
The last two years have been tough on Gene and I as a couple. I'm a "fixer" and I can't help my husband get rid of his constant pain. After the 2nd back surgery his back finally feels better, but we found out that he now has nerve damage which is causing excruciating, burning pain in his right leg. He has lost strength in his leg and can barely lift it up to walk. The thoughts of not ever being able to run again or being forced to live with this pain the rest of his life has taken its toll on this athlete's mind.
This week the frustration caused Gene to start taking the high dosage knock-him-out prescribed pain pills again that he had weaned himself off of a few months ago. I started to notice a little depression trying to creep into his mind and then God in all of His mightiness intervened.
In my last post about my son I mentioned our family friend, John Harris.
Here is a picture of John and his beautiful wife, Charlene.
Our families are very close and last week she and I were talking and sharing our prayer requests when she told me she wanted to introduce us to a couple from Missouri that she had just met.
A friend of hers that knows this couple called and asked if Charlene would welcome them to Nebraska as they don't know anyone in this state.
On Tuesday night John and Charlene stopped by to pick us up to go visit them and Gene
backed out because he was in too much pain. As I was leaving, I said, "Gene, I really think you should go with us. I know you're in pain, but this is part of your life right now and you're going to be in pain whether you are lying down or standing. I think you should come." He again said no and then quickly changed his mind. When we got home later that night, he kept saying, "I'm so
glad I went."
Let me introduce you to our new friends....
Randy and Shalana.
Randy is a 37 year old lawyer. Just made partner in his firm in December 2008.
Shalana is a 33 year old RN.
Married for 5 years in June.
Spring of 2008 was when there life would forever change as the normalcy of it escaped them...
Shalana became pregnant.
Randy started having debilitating headaches.
An MRI would reveal that he had an AVM which is explained this way:
Normally, arteries carry blood containing oxygen from the heart to the brain, and
veins carry blood with less oxygen away from the brain and back to the heart. When an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) occurs, a tangle of blood vessels in the brain or on its surface bypasses normal brain tissue and directly diverts blood from the arteries to the veins.
Road trip to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota where Randy was treated with radiation of the AVM. They were told that over the course of the next year the AVM would continuously shrink.
After returning home Shalana would find out during a check-up that their 14 week baby's heart was no longer beating. A week later their blessing already in God's arms was surgically removed from her womb.
Prior to any of this happening, Randy had already "stopped running from God" as he put it when he answered the call God put on his life to enter ministry. The call to preach the Good News. He was already a successful lawyer and in the military and now God wanted him to preach. The last time he stood behind a pulpit, 5 people responded to the altar call and chose to accept Christ as their Savior.
Then March 2, 2009.
While at work Randy sneezed. Then he complained of not feeling well and said his head hurt.
Trying to stay at work long enough to attend a meeting, his paralegal recognized his slurring words and his confused state. 911 was called and Randy was rushed to the hospital.
Shalana met him there and scans revealed he was suffering a bleed of an AVM to the left side of his brain.
This happened on a Monday morning.
The night before after having worked three 12 hour shifts in a row all Shalana wanted was to sleep as she went to bed.
Randy wanted to talk.
He asked her if he could read her something and as she lay beside him she mumbled, Sure.
So he read her the passage about Jesus in the desert being tempted by the devil for 40 days.
A story of familiarity and so she wondered why he read it as it were his first time hearing it .
He then told her,
"That really spoke to me because if Jesus was tempted by the devil who are we to think we won't go through things and be tempted by the devil?"
Five months later, after much research, Shalana found out of an awesome rehabilitation hospital here in Lincoln just 2 blocks from our home. Not being satisfied with the care he was getting in Kansas, she had him transferred to Lincoln the end of July.
So on Tuesday as Gene and I followed John and Charlene into Randy's room, we had no idea God would meet us there.
Shalana shared their story with us and the tears flowed.
She shared with us some video she had taken of him preaching and our heads shook.
She has Randy surrounded with pictures of their life together before March 2nd, such as this one
on vacation in San Diego...
and a New Year's Eve ball keepsake...
and this one at the beginning of their journey when she surprised him with the news that he was going to be a Daddy....
She misses him reading to her. Being held by him. Hearing him laugh.
She misses their normal.
And yet, this beautiful young bride embraces the new normal that God has entrusted them with and everyday her faith in the Almighty One increases.
She misses Randy trying to convince her that he
knows God has something so big for you.
Something she now believes.
When the doctors say Randy can't, she voices her belief that her God can.
She lets the nay-sayers talk, but doesn't let her faith budge. Not one centimeter.
She believes that miracles isn't just something God did back in the days when donkey's were the main form of transportation. She believes that her husband is a modern day miracle and that God is only getting started.
She believes that the Bible is the Living Word, not just a storybook.
And so she praises God for everything.
For the times Randy whispers words to his therapist.
When he responds to the commands his therapists gives him.
When he gets to go outside.
She puts earphones on her husband so he can listen to the gospel music he has downloaded on his i-pod like he is doing in this picture.
She dances for him and tells him how much she loves him.
And she knows that no matter how different from before he looks that he is still the same, if not better on the inside because He is filled with Jesus Christ.
Before we left his room on Tuesday night Shalana said as she was holding his hand,
"Randy and I met on a cruise and I just keep asking God, why would you give me someone so wonderful to just take him away from me? I know He isn't going to do that, because you see, Randy isn't just my husband." And as her voice cracked she said, "This is my best friend."
We all gathered around his bed holding hands and each one of us prayed.
Later that night I received an e-mail from her thanking us for visiting and on Randy's care page, she described it saying, "we had church in his room".
God alone filled that room with His awesome presence.
If I was a non-believer, I honestly think I would have left saved.
For 2 years now Gene has endured much physically, but after visiting Randy and Shalana
he asked me,
"What am I complaining about? Lord, have mercy. Thank You Jesus."
Shalana and I have talked quite a bit this week and her love for the Lord is evident.
Here we went to encourage them and yet we are the ones feeling blessed by them.
She believes God has not forsaken her or Randy.
She believes in God and believes Him as she lets Paul's words echo from her heart...
the words that Paul penned as a prisoner when he learned to be content in every situation.
From his cell, he encouraged others with the truth that God finishes what He starts...
being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Lord, thank you for introducing Charlene to Randy & Shalana.
Thank you for Charlene's obedience to embrace them and also for sharing them with us.
In Randy's silence he has already blessed our lives in a loud way as we see once again that You are a Mighty God as he is still preaching the Good News.
Thank You for his wife's devotion not only to him, but especially to You.
And thank you for using them to show both Gene and I that you are in control and to praise instead of complain.
Please help me to keep focused on You and not the circumstances we face.
And keep giving Shalana the strength to live out the plans Randy knew You had for her.
You never cease to amaze me.
Please keep Randy & Shalana in your prayers.
If you'd like to leave them a word of encouragement, please do so in the comments and I will print them off and give them to her.
If you'd like to send them a written card, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you their address.