What do a broken arm, a tree along the North Shore, and the French Resistance during World War II have in common? That is actually not a joke and there is not a punchline coming—these are all things that the Lord used over my summer to prepare me for what the fall would bring.
In early July, I went for a Sunday morning bike ride to the farmer’s market and then through one of my favorites places to ride in the summer for the cacophony of bird songs overhead. I had planned to ride home via a new route, but a short distance into it my bike slid on a sharp turn and down I went, resulting in a broken right arm, a severely jammed/bruised/swollen wrist, multiple bruises to both elbows, and a few stitches in my chin. It was not one of my finer moments, but how the Lord provided that day is a testimony in and of itself, and for another time. After the accident, people would ask if I was right-handed and I would tell them “I used to be.” Switching my dominant hand over to my left and only usable hand was not easy to do overnight, but over time it became more natural. Some of what I gained during that time, apart from a learned patience, was a greater understanding of and compassion for people of limited abilities. I recognized a greater need for community and the importance of being able to ask for and accept help. I had to find new ways to do routine things and quite frankly, part of me actually enjoyed the challenge.
Given my broken arm and a less stressful work assignment, I had taken to early morning walks around the lake which gave me a way to exercise, enjoy His creation, and fit in my ever expanding hand and arm therapy exercises. On one such occasion, I felt led to walk home a different way and through a patterned walkway which I prayer walked. On the way toward the center, I released to the Lord all sorts of things I had been carrying, which had been holding me back from Him. Once in the center I prayed for all of it to be washed off of me. As I moved back out, I picked up that which I felt He wanted me to have—things He was giving me, things He was calling forth—His identity for me, the fruits of the Spirit, other blessings from scripture. Everything I spoke out that He was giving me seemed to make sense, accept for one: motherhood. Motherhood?! That one was weird and caught me off guard. I have never had a desire to be a mother, wasn’t in a position to be one, and was quite mystified but since it felt like the Lord’s leading, I thought I had better pick it up on my way out.
Not long after, I was camping along the North Shore with some high quality friends when the Lord spoke to me about my favorite tree at the campground. For the last two years He and I have interacted about this tree and what it represents. This year as I was praising the Lord for His creation and particularly this tree, He seemed to indicate to me that a single word described it: resilient.
While camping, I also reflected on the various books I had been reading throughout the spring and summer, most of which related to women’s roles in the French resistance during World War II, as well as Tortured for Christ, the autobiography of Richard Wurmbrand, founder of Voice of the Martyrs. These books stirred my thoughts as to how I would have responded under similarly overwhelmingly challenging and potentially life threatening circumstances. I was inspired by the continuing theme of resilience and I could not help but feel that the Lord was somehow preparing me for something as I read and pondered, but I had no idea what—there were no known wars on my horizon.
Then my parents came to visit in mid-September.
I could not have realized it at the time, but these seemingly unconnected moments throughout my summer were the Lord’s great grace in preparing me for what would become an epic visit. No sooner had they arrived, than my mother became very ill. What we thought was the flu gone wrong turned out to be a brain infection of unknown origin, but it took over a week to figure that out. In the meantime her condition worsened quickly and she had to be sedated and on a ventilator, otherwise known as “life support.” We were not sure if she would survive and if she did, who knew what her condition would be? Those first two weeks of being at the hospital every day, seeing one parent suffering physically and the other one figuring out how to grapple (or not) emotionally gave me the sensation that I was in a war zone. It felt like I was the commander of the battle leading the troops while simultaneously being the only troop on the front lines, fighting and caring for two who were wounded, while reinforcements (in the form of my siblings) were light years away. In the midst of the battle I began to see that which He had deposited in me and had been honing rise to the forefront: patience in the waiting, compassion for others who weren’t able to stand on their own, motherhood—initially as I cared for a grieving parent reeling from the shock that his wife and best friend of 50 years was incapacitated and might not return, feeding, tending to him, nurturing without his realization and then again, when the other parent finally began to emerge from sedation and needed a tender touch, compassion, and a familiar and reassuring voice encouraging her throughout her own physical therapy, as she found new ways to do routine things. Resilience.
My story is not finished—my arm is still not fully healed and my parents are still here…..but so is that resilient tree along the north shore which reminds me of God’s faithfulness and continued provision. May you be reminded of the same tonight.