Thursday, April 13, 2017

~a very special Easter guest~

For those of you who still read the things I write here, you'll know I haven't had much to say lately. It seems in a world full of voices, I'm less inclined to chime in these days, maybe it's because I realize as I get older how much I still have to learn. Today, I return to this forum to share someone else's writing, someone from whom I have learned so much even though she tells people I am her teacher. 

This is the compelling true story of life altering events that happened to a young woman who is precious to me. This is --

Johnna's Journey
Today marks the 23rd anniversary of a life changing car accident that has become my living testimony for The Lord. 

It seems with each passing year God prompts me to be a little more vulnerable in telling how one night’s tragedy continues to shape, sharpen, compel and convict me. My prayer for what I am about to share is that this brings my heavenly Father glory, because it is only a result of His miraculous intervention that I’m here to tell what happened.

In order to appreciate everything I’m about to disclose, it’s necessary to provide a bit of backstory. As a young girl I was tiny, but that all changed when I turned 10.  Suddenly, for reasons I didn’t understand, I started to carry weight in my belly and I became the chubby kid in my family. 

Undoubtedly it was due to the purchase of a kitchen gadget called the Fry Daddy and our family's discovery of deep-dish pizzas, fried chicken patties and all of the other fattening treats our Sam's Club membership afforded us.  My parents were always thin.  They did not know how to explain the cause and effect of eating more than your body needs for fuel to me.  They could eat whatever they wanted and it had no affect on them.  

My mother was gorgeous and thin, as was my older sister. How unfair that they could eat anything and stay the same while my size was increasing.  I carried most all of my weight in my abdomen and dealt with the my 'baby fat' by making my belly rolls “talk” so people would laugh with, and not at, me. Those who haven’t struggled with weight management or the coinciding self confidence or self esteem issues may not understand that we who have often laugh first in order to deal with the jokes or critical remarks of others, but on the inside we are aching.  

Each night for many years before my accident I cried myself to sleep.  I prayed a very specific prayer that God would allow me to get my stomach stapled. I only knew about this option because a neighbor who had the procedure had lost a great deal of weight. It seemed to me to be the perfect solution. 

During these years of misery, my parents and sister had no idea how desperately sad and defeated I felt in my struggle to lose the weight I had gained, and they had no idea that my daily prayer for God’s help was about to be answered in a completely unexpected way.

On April 15, 1994, I was a back seat passenger in a car with four of my best friends.  In an instant, my world changed when a horrific accident required the jaws of life to cut us out of our mangled vehicle.
I was knocked unconscious from the impact of the accident.  God sent a paramedic to the scene of the crash who knew my mom. When they removed the lap belt, blood went everywhere and they realized there were extensive internal injuries they had not anticipated.  The other paramedics did not think there was any hope for me, but the man who knew my mom said, “I cannot tell her mom we didn’t even try to save her daughter.”  In that instant, rather than transporting me to the local hospital with no trauma center, I was placed into the life flight with my friend who was driving that night. 

Along the way to Morgantown, they repeatedly used the defibrillator on me. God intervened supernaturally in my life by sending one paramedic to speak up and then several others to help save my life.

Once I arrived at the trauma center, the medical team performed 8 hours of emergency surgery. They removed half of both sets of my “mangled intestines” which amounted to over 20 feet. When my parents arrived at the hospital,  they were taken into a small room and met my attending physician.  He said, ''There's a really sick girl in there.  We have her in an induced coma and we do not know the extent of her injuries.'' My daddy said, ''the physician we believe in cannot use your hands if you are in here. Just update us every hour.'' The next day they told my parents they were not sure I would be able to have children because of all of the internal trauma.   

My injuries were extensive and multiple surgeries were required. When it was all said and done, I had 54 staples in my abdomen. Do you remember the prayer I prayed every night for so many years, the prayer for getting my stomach stapled? Apparently, God decided to give me what I’d asked for so many times! UNBELIEVABLE!

I endured multiple scar revisions and several surgeries to remove adhesions over the next ten years to ensure my scars would not bust and bleed if I were blessed to have babies.  I remember as a 16 year old my prayers changing from having my stomach stapled to being able to have babies someday.   Praise the Lord I was able to have two healthy boys naturally.  God is good! 

If you look at the facts, I should not be here today. I should not be a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, or a leader in a mom’s group at my church. But God was not finished with me.

Romans 8:28 reads: And we know that ALL things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

I am incredibly grateful to God for saving me that night.  Even though I continue to struggle daily with chronic pain, I know His strength is sufficient because I have been carried through every storm by His matchless grace.

My desire to honor Jesus, serve Him, obey Him and follow Him has only increased as a result of a tragic accident. I’ve discovered that when you physically cannot get out of bed, you gain new appreciation for little things. You feel triumphant when you finally get out of bed! When you stay awake longer than you did the day prior.  When you take less pain meds than you needed on previous days.  

Now, 23 years later, there are days when I struggle with pain so great I still need to stay in bed all day, or at the very least part of the day.  I no longer need the pain meds yet I still need the rest.  I just took the boys to Universal Studios for Spring Break. The last night there (and several days after) Iwas incredibly sick.  I was a single mom on the trip because my husband couldn't join us, so I pushed through and then I crashed HARD when I got home. I slept 14 hours but it was worth it!  Rather than allowing my chronic pain to cause bitterness, I’ve come to see this as a gift Jesus has given me to be able to read, to rest, to write, to trust and to be obedient—in other words, a chance to spend more time with Him.  I know how to listen to my body and to what God is telling me to do and my job is to obey.  James 4:8 reads: Come near to God and He will come near to you.

An accident that changed my life actually gave me my life. At the age of sixteen, God answered my prayers in a way I didn’t anticipate and then set me on a path that has allowed me to learn what I most needed to understand—and that is how He sees me. He has shown me what a precious gift this life is and how grateful I should be for every single breath I take! Something so easily taken for granted as the ability to walk to a bathroom without my sister’s help or the accompanying struggles with an IV caddy became cause for celebration. The way I viewed the people in my life and learned that they are gifts to me—along with so many other lessons that have come by way of what seemed such an unfortunate event, have made me marvel. My tragic accident was the catalyst God used to make me a grateful person.

Thankfully God has blocked the memories from that night for me; however, being a passenger in a moving vehicle can still be very uncomfortable, especially when it rains. But I have chosen to trust Jesus with all of the details of my life as I learned without a doubt that He has me here for a reason.  He could have called me home that night. My outward appearance coupled with my internal injuries on the scene gave all indications that my earthly time was over, but God was not finished with me yet and I know I will be here as long as I have a purpose and someday when He’s ready, He will welcome me home. The Lord will fulfill His purpose for my life. — Psalm 138:8

As we continue to spend time with God and in His Word, He changes us—to become more like HIM. Truthfully, we simply cannot spend time with Him, hear his Word, know Him better, love Him more and stay the same, can we?  At the core of it all, isn't that why we’re here? To be transformed by Him! More of Him and less of me—this is the defining principle of my life now.

If I had it to do ALL over again, I would get in that car again. I would still choose the back middle seat that only had a lap seat belt option. I would endure all of this again because it has brought me to my knees in desperation for Jesus over and over and over again.  I am a better wife because of it. I am a better mom because of it.  I am a better friend because of it.  I am following hard after Jesus because of it.  I started my personal relationship with Jesus almost one year to the day of my accident.  I have grown so much more in 23 years since Jesus saved my life.  I am healthier now than I have ever been....physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  To God be the Glory.  I am still a broken mess in need of grace, yet God is so good to offer new mercies everyday. 

God's Word promises to feed us before he leads us. God sees each of us in the midst of our messes and He hears us!  

My prayer is that you’ll finish reading my story with a renewed desire to dig deep into the truth of His Word. Talk to Him. Listen to Him. He will amaze you.  Your story is YOUR story: and it is most likely nothing like mine.  But you have a purpose if you’re still here, too—and you’re uniquely and wonderfully made with your own story that needs to be shared.

As we celebrate Easter tomorrow, I reflect on a Savior who conquered death and the grave.  A Savior who is mighty to save. He hears, knows, cares and loves us perfectly. If you don’t know Him, there is no better time than today to give Him your heart and life, because in an instant, everything can change. We are not promised tomorrow.  I realized that 23 years ago and I pray for you that it doesn’t take a tragedy for you to realize this.  All of us must know what we believe, why we believe it and have faith that is founded and rooted in God's Word so that when our earthly purpose is complete we are ready to stand before the One who paid in full the debt we owe for our sins. May He be faithful to challenge us all to remember the brevity of this life in contrast with the matchless, endless, glorious time we will enjoy with Him when we’ve breathed our last breath.  

God bless your journey, and may it be filled with Him.

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