An Unfinished Story

Winter. And Spring.

When I first started writng about my brother David, I put those posts in a category called An Unfinished Story –my bother finished his story here on this earth on August 19, 2017 and entered the beauty of his new life and story in heaven. And while this part of his journey is over, I suspect I’ll still be writing and reflecting on his precious life here…

These are the words I spoke at his memorial service this past Saturday evening, August 26, 2017:

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There’s so much I want to share with you about my brother David. But I decided the one small thing I’ll share with you this evening is what I saw this past spring when David was in the ICU.

This fall will be twenty years since I moved away from northern Virginia to south Florida.

Only a few short months after I moved, I experienced my first winter in Florida –Palm trees, warm weather, blue skies, and the evergreen and tropical landscape. What a strange and wonderful sight.

After a few years, the strange and wonderful sight of the ever-present summer of south Florida replaced the experience of the four seasons. A perpetual summer became common-place and familiar.

I’ve traveled back to Virginia a few times in these twenty years, but in the familiar green summers or colorful leafy falls.

This year was different, I traveled back here on the cusp of spring.

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David was fighting pneumonia in the ICU at Fort Belvoir Hospital and I knew I needed to be there. I remember my drive with dad to the hospital on a Saturday morning and taking in the sights of spring, blossoming trees and perennial flowers sprouting up from the ground. It was an incredible sight. We rode along familiar roads and hills into Fort Belvoir, even though it was familiar it also felt strange. I saw forests on either side as we entered the base. There were some flowering trees starting to blossom, but the oaks, and maples, and sweet gum trees were nothing but brown branches, “Are those trees dead?” I asked dad.

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“No, no. All this will be green soon.”

We arrived at the hospital and spent the rest of the day in the ICU with mom and David and Heidi and the girls. I was afraid of seeing him with all the tubes and machines hooked up, but David has a way of making these things seem unimportant. I could still see the smile in his eyes, and despite it all, he even gave me a genuine smile when I came over to his bed and held his hand.

We sat by his side while he rested. We talked and prayed together and talked with all the nurses who came in to care for David. Dad brought in a package from Aunt Jan and we shared all the photos and letters from when David, Heidi, and I were little.

For so many years my family has prayed over David. I can remember my prayers for him as a child. I expectantly waited for God’s miracle healing of my brother. This struggle with faith, and with trusting in God, and with questioning pain and suffering – all of it has been with me through the years. But also through the years, I know God has heard my prayers, and He gently shows me his love, for my questioning self, and for my brother –in the midst of his trials and despite his trials.

What I’ve always longed for was David’s complete healing. I’ve often heard the words, “we don’t know whether healing will come here on earth or in heaven.” And in my true childlike and selfish nature I would want to throw a fit at God and say, “That’s not the miracle I’m looking for. We’ll all be whole in heaven.”

That doesn’t count.

And then God gently reminds me again…

He showed me on a walk with mom outside David’s hospital. We walked along a tree lined path and I saw more flowering trees blossoming and more oak trees standing bare against the blue sky. I asked her too, “Mom are these trees along this path all dead?” And her answer was of course no.

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I was only there four short days, but on Monday when I said my last goodbye to my brother I walked outside among the trees and I saw on those brown branches little buds beginning to appear.

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In the ICU We faced death all around. Outwardly we saw it. The doctor and nurses spoke of it. Yet God showed me, this is not all there is.

 

He shows each of us. Reminds us through spring and these full green summer trees, There is life again.

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2 Corinthians 4:10-12 and vs 16-18 says:

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. 

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

I walked along the Fort Belvoir hospital path again this morning, This time with my dad and uncle Bob. The path was lined with full green oaks, paper birch trees, southern bayberry and thick grass. I saw and heard the new life all around. I couldn’t see it in the trees in the early spring. I could hardly imagine this pathway so full of new life. But new life has come.

 

In April I could only see David’s broken and dying body. But now new life has come. The miracle of healing I’ve been praying for is his. I can hardly imagine!

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An Unfinished Story, God, Inspiration, Love

The Gift of a Dream

This is a story about my brother David. But really it’s my story. It’s a deeply personal account of faith and praying for miracles and trusting God regardless of the outcome. God gave me the gift of His love and presence in a dream. I’ve pondered this for some time and although I don’t completely understand it myself, I feel compelled to share this story with you. I want to share the goodness and gentleness of the Lord with you through this story. It’s a bit longer than I usually post, so you may want to get a nice warm cup of tea or coffee to enjoy while you read. This is my gift… Jesus2 DavidL I don’t remember hanging out with my big brother David growing up. I have memories of his T-ball trophy in his room and his team photograph, but I don’t know if I ever went to one of his games. I remember he had a lot of matchbox cars and I always loved the big red Coca Cola truck. Did he let me play with it or did I sneak in his room and play with it when he went to school? My mom says we used to fight a lot and I would get him in trouble, but I don’t remember any of that either. I don’t remember his laugh or playing together or fighting together. I do remember the day of his car accident though. I was a little four-year-old playing in my baby sister’s crib. I think I had climbed right in with her. A neighbor came in the room and said, “Your brother had an accident and we need to pray.” I don’t remember any other details that followed. Did she say car accident? Did I understand the seriousness? I don’t think I could have at that age. I just prayed. Time was marked for me and my family that morning. Somewhere in the time span which traveled the day my neighbor asked me to pray for my brother and the in-between days of growing up I learned a few details from parents of what happened that morning.  David was crossing the street to his school bus stop and was hit by a car. He suffered a severe head injury. I’ve learned now there is a new name for this, TBI, Traumatic Brain Injury. We lived in Germany at the time of my brother’s accident. My dad was in the Air Force and stationed there. I went to a German pre-school, but never learned German because the teachers would speak to me in English. David was in a coma for some time, but when he stabilized enough my dad was re-assigned to the U.S. We moved from Germany to Biloxi, Mississippi. David spent many weeks at Children’s Hospital in New Orleans. My mom and dad, along with me and my baby sister, would drive back and forth from Biloxi to New Orleans to visit David during hospital visiting hours. He eventually came home with us. My mom took on taking care of him right from the beginning. His injury left him paralyzed, unable to eat, talk, or walk. Davey could understand us though and learned to blink to communicate a simple yes or no. And always to my amazement David could still smile and laugh. We prayed as family constantly. Somewhere in the time before my brother’s accident, to his little nine-year-old body clinging to life in the hospital, God was already at work. He was there with my parents through visions and prayers. I didn’t know much about any of this as a child. But I did believe with my parents God could heal David. I believed he would. Through the years that followed my brother’s accident my family faithfully spent time in church, David right there in his wheelchair with us. I loved my Davey. I talked with him every day and played dolls with my sister on his wheelchair. And I prayed everyday God would heal him, this prayer was also always my secret birthday wish when blowing out birthday candles Sunday school would bring something completely different from wishes and prayers. I would get lost in the wonder of Sunday school lessons. The ones that made me the happiest and upset me the most were the lessons where Jesus would heal the sick people. I always imagined what it would be like if He was healing my brother instead of those people. The woman with the issue of blood who touched his garment; Jesus, if only you were here now, I would run through the crowd and touch your robe for my brother. Or what about the friends who lowered their crippled friend through the roof to Jesus? I knew I could find someone to carry David with me and lower him through that roof so Jesus could heal him and say, “Pick up your mat and walk…” I was jealous of all those sick people who had Jesus right by their side. It was wonderful and horrible. Wonderful to know a mighty God who could heal the sick, horrible because Jesus was no longer here for my brother David. I couldn’t run through crowds to find him and touch him or talk to him or ask him to come to my house. Now I’m older, no longer letting my imagination run wild in Sunday School. But I can tell you, I still get a little tense when I hear a sermon about healing.

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Easter 1987

Recently my mother in law gave me a book to read about heaven. This story was about a father and his son who suffered a horrific car accident. His little boy, by all logic, should have died. The little boy’s story is about God, angels, and heaven. His dad’s story is of prayers, angels, and miracles. The book was hard to read as I thought of David and his accident. My mind wandered in-between what ifs and hope. I played back through the years of prayer and wondered more about the divine ways of God. (Spoiler Alert) Yet, when I got to the end of the book, the final conclusion, words I was too familiar with hit me in the gut. These unanswered prayer words, “…whether he is healed here on earth or one day in heaven.” Hope and wonder left. I read those words and wanted to throw the book. Our family too had experienced God’s divine presence in the midst of my brother’s injuries. As a little girl I prayed for my brother’s healing expectantly. My mom had shared a vision she had once of an angel and another of a brain being healed. I think there may have been another story of a dead plant which bloomed again, but I’m not sure about the details. I thought for sure I would witness David miraculously get up out of his wheelchair one day. Somewhere though, over the course of thirty years, the expectancy of healing turned to those same words uttered, “Maybe God meant David would be whole again in heaven.” Uncertainty over God’s will. Maybe God meant… I would have stood up and thrown the book in the pool right then, had it not been my mother in law’s library book. Couldn’t God just heal David now? Why a lifetime of suffering? A few months later, March 17, 2012 I was with my family visiting my in-laws again. My mother in law handed me another book to read. One look at the cover and I told her, “No thank you!”  Another book about a little boy who experiences heaven and comes back to talk about it. I told her I wasn’t interested, I wouldn’t read it, I already believed in heaven. I didn’t need to read some best seller to tell me Heaven was real. I told her how I wanted to take the other book she’d given me and chuck it the pool. Sorry Mom! Despite my earlier protests, when everyone was out of the room, I picked it up and read the back cover. What struck me was the little boy’s encounter with Jesus. I decided to find just that chapter and began to read. As I began to read I don’t think I found the little boy’s description of heaven hard to believe. I found it reassuring. But I found my self connected to his dad’s questions, and his dad’s thoughts– thinking he was alone when he was crying out to God in anger over his son being in the hospital. The little boy’s father shared something from 2 Peter 3:8,9

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: To the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years is as one day. The Lord is not slow in doing what he promised– the way some people understand slowness.

Can it be God? When I feel like saying, How long, O Lord, must I wait? How long, O Lord, for David to suffer? Is it really this simple for you God? Thirty years? One day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as one day? What am I really missing this side of heaven? What don’t I understand in light of eternity? Can I really say, this is a light and momentary trouble?

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17,18

We left my in-law’s house late to head home. That night I had a dream. I dreamt about me and David. We were little kids and we were playing together. In my dream I knew we were near a castle and we were running through grass. He was ahead of me and I was chasing after him. I had a little cane with plaques on it and he had a cane too. His was bigger than mine and had more plaques on it. I had never had a dream of my brother and I before. When I woke up I was thinking of this dream, but there was also a word, Stute-Guard. This is how the word sounded to me. It’s hard to describe, but I kept going over and over it. I didn’t understand it, but I thought it was German. I decided to see if I could look up this word online. I was excited and nervous. I hoped the word might mean healing or miracle in German. I was almost afraid to look it up. I felt completely ridiculous because I don’t even know German and wasn’t even sure if it was a real word or a nonsensical dream word. I found a translator app online, German to English, and I started to type in my word. A word I wasn’t even sure was real, let alone how to spell correctly. As I started to type, the word came up, Stuttgart. I clicked on  the translate button… “Stuttgart, city in southwestern Germany, capital of the state of Baden-Wuettemberg”.  I was shocked and even more intrigued. I don’t know anything about the places or geography of Germany. We had left soon after my fourth birthday. I started to look up more information. I read about Stuttgart on Wikipedia and found this: “A number of significant castles stand in Stuttgart’s suburbs and beyond as reminders of the city’s royal past.” Wow Lord! My dream was more than nonsense. The word you gave me was real. I couldn’t help but smile as I thought of me and David running around together somewhere near a castle. The word didn’t mean healing or miracle, but I knew the dream was a gift. The Lord sees my heart and he knows. He holds David in his hands and he cares for him in a way I can’t comprehend. I waited till night to call my mom and talk to her about the dream. I was nervous, but I wanted to know more. Maybe she knew something about my dream that I didn’t. I asked her about Stuttgart. Had she ever heard of it? “Oh yes. We visited there with Grandma and Grandpa. They had good friends who lived there and we took a trip with them. It was just before David’s accident.” She said it all so matter of fact, which of course I suppose it was, but for me it was like discovering a secret treasure! I was more in awe. There is so much about God I fail to understand. He brings me these treasures in the midst of my anger and tears.

What is man that you take thought of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Psalm 8:4

I called my dad later. He filled me in on more details about our trip. It was May, 1983. My Grandma and Grandpa came to visit us in Germany and we traveled together. We drove through the Black Forrest and stopped along the way at a castle named Hohenzollern, south of Stuttgart. This was a Saturday. Then we drove on to visit my grandparent’s friend in Stuttgart, a history professor. My dad told me David’s accident was the following Wednesday. Dear God, this dream, this gift of a memory with my brother, this was the last time I ran and played together with my brother before he was paralyzed. I was amazed by it all, every little detail, adding to and confirming this dream and gift. After my chat with my dad I received an e-mail from my Grandma Betty. She was on that trip to Stuttgart. She said she had talked to my dad and he had mentioned I was sad about David’s accident. I didn’t have time right then to e-mail her back with the details of my dream. I wrote back and told her, I had always been sad over my brother, but I was talking to dad because I had a dream and I was curious. She sent back a reply. I was in awe once again!

“Ah, Laura, I do love you so much…One thing I remember about that trip was when we went to a beautiful garden and you and David really upset me. I couldn’t do anything about it because it was up to your Mom and Dad. I just remember you and David racing through the gardens, full of joy, but with no regard for anyone else, dodging, running into the other’s paths, etc.”

More confirmation of images from my dream. And imagine this very little thing, me chasing my brother around, running after him, this one last gift for my brother and I before his accident. One last chance to run free, legs pumping hard for a boundless and reckless boy, before those legs would be stopped. A gift frozen in time. A memory given to me thirty years later. What if my Grandma had spoken up all those years ago and stopped us from running together? Funny how she thought about it, but decided not to. Strange for her to share those thoughts with me thirty years later. I think of this now when I see my two running reckless. I talked with my dad again more about David and his accident. He told me more details of our trip and the time leading up to David’s injury. We talked about God and faith and trust. He asked me if mom had told me about what David had said to her before the accident. No, she hadn’t. This is what he shared with me- My eight year old brother came to her and said he had a dream. He said Jesus came to him and told him something was going to happen to him, but he would be okay because Jesus would be with him. Jesus would be with him. All these years I’ve longed to find Jesus. To have him near like the disciples did. To walk and talk with him and run frantic to find him and ask him to heal a paralyzed boy. He was already here. He was here with my brother before the car touched his little body. He’s been here the whole time. Mary Magdalene went looking for Jesus too. She was talking right to him. She was begging him to take her to Jesus. She didn’t even know it was him. “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” He was already by her side, right there with her! God, please give me the faith to remember you are already here in our midst, even when I can’t see.

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Mom and David 1975
Dad and David 1975
Dad and David 1975
Me 18 months and David 6 years
Me 18 months and David 6 years
Me, My Sis, and David
Me, My Sis, and David
Davey
Davey

These photos are from my Grandma Betty who was with us in Germany. She asked if I’d like to have them. Yes! Please! What a gift!

My mom with me, David, Heidi, and Grandma and Grandpa with their friend in Stuttgart
My mom with me, David, Heidi, and Grandma and Grandpa with their friend in Stuttgart
My Mom with me, Heid, and David in a garden in Stuttgart- David has his cane with the plaques on it
My Mom with me, Heid, and David in a garden in Stuttgart -David has his cane with the plaques on it
Saying goodbye to Grandma and Grandpa at the train station. I think days before his accident.
Saying goodbye to Grandma and Grandpa at the train station. I think just days before David’s accident.
All grown up, playing infront of a castle again.
All grown up, playing in front of a castle again
David
My brother Davey
An Unfinished Story, At The Beach

Thus Far, But No Farther

Who enclosed the sea with doors
When, bursting forth, it went out from the womb;
When I made a cloud its garment
And thick darkness its swaddling band,
And I placed boundaries on it
And set a bolt and doors,
And I said, ‘Thus far you shall come, but no farther;
And here shall your proud waves stop’?

Job 38:8-11

This passage came to mind as the kids and I explored the beach as hurricane Sandy passed by along the open sea. I couldn’t help but be in awe of the mighty power of the waves and the boundary that was breached.

Sometimes God lifts the boundaries.

One of my favorite speakers is Ravi Zacharias. I listen to his podcasts when I fold the laundry. One afternoon I listened to him tell the story about how his daughter’s eye was injured when she was just a little girl. He told how the surgeon marveled at where that injury stopped. If the cut had gone just a little farther the outcome would have been much worse.

Ravi Zacharias spoke those words from Job in the powerful way that he does, “Thus far you shall come, but no farther!”

Those words brought stinging tears to my eyes. I thought of my brother and his injury when he was just a little kid. I wanted to ask right there, “Why God, was his injury farther?”

An eye that wasn’t severely damaged and a brain that was-

Was my brother’s brain injury too far? Or did God say, “Thus far and no farther!” when my brother was hit by a car?

The surgeons didn’t marvel to my parents. They only told them David wouldn’t make it. But David did make it! I know that even with a severe brain injury his life is a miracle and a gift from God.

Still sometimes I want to ask for more.

I don’t know all the places this story goes or how this story ends. There has been a time when I didn’t want to know where God was taking my brother’s story. It didn’t seem an answer to that would be good enough.

God is gracious though and He is patient and answers me gently when I question.

I wish I could read ahead and skip to the ending and tell you all about it. I can’t yet.

God is still busy writing this one.

I only know that if we are created for God’s glory that He will be glorified. If all is for God’s glory then so is a brain injury.

Time is not a healer

It is only a revealer

of how God heals the pain

~Ravi Zacharias

from his message The Ultimate Answer: Jesus Christ (click to listen)

His wife said to him, “Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die.”

But Job replied, “You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?”   -Job2:9,10

Does pain and suffering cause you to question your faith in God or does the pain and suffering make your faith stronger?

I’m still in the process of counting my gifts. A Joy Dare. A dare to count one thousand gifts. I haven’t been good at keeping it here, but I take my journal with me everyday and of course my camera. Where would I be without it? Yep, my camera is quicker than my pen at capturing all my gifts of thanks.

~This time with God along the shore taking in all His power is one of those one thousand gifts.

~I’m thankful for the book of Job

~For showing us God through suffering

~For Job reminding us that we can not only accept good and not bad

~For God answering Job and reminding us of His mighty power

read Ann’s words today, her beautiful reminder of the power of thanks and I know that this is what God is trying to show me gently through all these years of prayers for my brother

What you think you can’t handle — might actually be God handing you a gift.

God asks us to give thanks in everything — because this is the way you live through anything. ~Ann Voskamp

 

Join the community in counting your gifts too!

An Unfinished Story

A Gift From Mom

An Unfinished Story -A Gift From Mom

She never gives up, she cares for others more than self, she never looks back, she keeps going to the end…

Where do I start? That’s always the hardest part for me. There is so much I am thankful for about my mom, but today I’ll share just a part of her story and a gift she gave to me recently. This is part of a bigger story. An unfinished story. One I haven’t shared before. And maybe that’s because I can’t tell you how it ends. I only know where it begins and where it’s been.

The Gift from my mom comes from our time together this spring. My parents came down to Florida for spring break, along with my brother and my sister and her two girls. We tried to squeeze in as much time as we possibly could between split school breaks.

On our last night together we decided to walk around Disney’s Boardwalk. Time for walking and talking and of course getting in my mom’s most favorite thing, shopping. And I suppose it’s not fair to point out my mom’s favorite thing to do without mentioning the fact that my camera was out the entire time. When I know it’s our last day together I always try to capture every little moment. So, when we stopped for pizza at an outdoor cafe my Sweetie gave me a hard time and asked if I was going to photograph eating our pizza too. Going right along I took out my camera and said, “Of course!”

Somehow between slices of pepperoni and watching the sparrows fighting for pizza crust mom and dad started to share the story about my brother David’s car accident (I think it will be 29 years ago this month). They were talking about the details of life at the time of when it happened. My dad was in the Air Force and we lived in Germany.

This is the part of the story that God is still working out. It’s the part of the story that sometimes I want to understand and be gracious and loving and trusting and faith filled about. But sometimes it still hurts and I question God.

I listened as they told about the doctors and hospitals and trying to move back to the States. About how my mom had to care for me and my baby sister at the time while my brother was clinging to life and my dad had to stay behind in Germany. It sent my mind wandering. My parents argued the finer details of doctors and dates, like married people do. I’m sure if you saw my face there was a shift and that wrinkle between my eyes set in deep as I wondered again to God why my brother had to suffer so much.

We finished our pizza and my parents their story.

A mom and her little girl came and sat at the table next to ours. The little girl stared intently at David. My sweetie and kiddos followed my dad and David out as we got ready to leave. And my mom and I stayed to pick up the cups and our bags. Then I heard the little girl whisper, “what happened to him mommy?”  I thought only I had heard her, but then I saw my mom go over and ask the little girl’s mom if she could share what happened to David.

Mom came back over to where I was waiting and we walked together a bit and then stopped to watch the performers on the boardwalk. My mind was far away still thinking about my brother and that little girl and my mom. I was thinking about all the years my mom has cared for David and what a sacrifice it has been and how I wished he was healed. As we started to walk again mom said, “You know, we really have a good life.”

I was startled right out of my thoughts. “What mom?”

“We have it so good. Look at where we are right now. So many people around the world live in such poor conditions and suffering, but we’re here enjoying this. We really have a good life here.”

I wonder if she knew where my mind was. I don’t think so, but I was humbled. And thankful for my mom and her example to me.

The Way of Love

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 The Message

Thank you mom for your way of love. I love you!

In thanking my Mom for her lesson of life and gratitude to me she not only blesses me with her story, but now her story can bless the moms in a place where moms need a blessing the most. Read about theg 1000 Moms Project on Ann Voskamp’s blog. And don’t forget to scroll down to read the other stories of thanks for moms and maybe share your own story too.

1000 Moms Project