Do you believe in miracles? Miracles that transcend our understanding? Do you believe that God has a plan for our lives and sometimes we see the answers to our prayers and other times we don't because He has another plan for our life? Well, I believe, and if this year's challenges and answers to our prayers is not indication alone of an Almighty God in our presence, then nothing is.
As you may know, my dear husband, better known to all of my readers as "Big Bear" has been out of work for over 3 years since his layoff from Avaya in Sept. 2008. In that 3 year's time, we have exhausted our savings, our retirement, and every dollar we can muster to support our family of 6 (which includes my elderly mother, Mary, who has lived with us for 13 years.) Never in our dreams did we ever believe that if Bob were to be out of work for 3 years, we'd still have our home. I had visions of us living in a tent city with nothing but the clothes on our backs.
When the first year passed and Bob was still unemployed, the nightmares began. I found myself overcome with fear and uncertainty, doubt and insecurity, like I've never known in my life. I, too, applied for local jobs to no avail. I did, however, continue to write, paint, craft, sew, and quilt as to bring in a little extra cash for our family while Big Bear found work in lawn maintenance in our community, and did some contract work to help out as well - all the time spending hours upon hours behind his computer looking for work and applying for many opportunities. A few times he went on interviews and was told he was over-qualified or didn't have experience in a certain area. It was difficult to receive the rejections, but he persevered and did his best to stay positive.
Together, we found the resources we needed, month-after-month we always made what we "needed" to survive and keep the electric and utilities paid, but not the mortgage, and of course, food on the table. During this time, as well, Bob made certain the children had medical insurance via medicaid, and that we had all that we needed as a family to survive until he was firmly back to work and our family was back on its feet.
The nightmares continued for me until I turned it all over to the Lord in 2009. Not only did I pray about my fears and ask for guidance and understanding, but my children asked us if we could please go to church more often. We made a promise to our children and we kept our promise. For 2 years, we have consistently gone to our church each Sunday, and will continue to do so. The children love their Sunday School and we love the traditional services. Each week we find ourselves walking closer with the Lord and letting Him carry us through this hardship. As we listened and learned by His Word, our children prayed and made friends at our church. They became involved with the youth choir and youth group ministries as well as helping others less fortunate in our community through community service. I am so proud of our children.
Despite the lack of Christmas gifts under the tree, our children never once complained or moped about it. Instead, each of them, in their own way, said that they were happy we were together in our home for the holidays, that we were a family and together, that we were home and healthy. As the years passed, we walked closer to the Lord and never faced a meal without prayer. We were grateful - for our blessings - for everything that we had been given in this life together.
I did find, however, that I had to learn to pray faithfully. That was the most difficult lesson of all for me. Faith. That was a tough one, especially after months and months went by and still no job, no security, and tougher times.
Somehow, though, our bank continued to work with us, as we did have equity in our home, despite the economic downfall of home values. Somehow, through the grace of God, we have not been formally in foreclosure. Somehow, we've managed to pay our utility bills - and that did not include cable or satellite television either, as we cancelled that luxury 2 months after Bob was laid off. We got used to watching ABC, Fox, and MeTV via an antenna attached to our family room television, and we enjoyed watching our movies together often.
It really is amazing what you can do without when you have to. And honestly, we don't miss cable television at all. We read more, and enjoy more game nights.
By the time 2011 rolled around, even though we were all rather weary of the situation, we were still here, but nothing could have prepared us for what we were about to face - a crisis and tragedy so life changing and frightening, it would change all of us to the core. That tragedy happened on August 16th, 2011 at about noon. My daughter, Kimberly, and her husband, Zak, had driven from their home in Arkansas to Minnesota, to the Mayo Clinic, for what was supposed to be a 2-day in-and-out procedure called the "melody valve" whereby, via catheterization, she could have her pulmonary valve replaced without the need for open-heart surgery. Having had 4 open-heart surgeries in her young life, Kim trusted that this would be the best choice for her, her life, and her health, as open-heart definitely puts her life more at risk than with a catheterization.
Well, the catheterization was disastrous, and Kimberly had a massive heart attack during the procedure. She ended up fighting for her life for nearly 3 months after. I was at the hospital 24 hours after hearing the news and was there for a week. Mere minutes compared to the months Kim's husband, Zak, Kim's father, Doug, and step-mom Sandy, spent by her side - never leaving her side. Zak wasn't leaving the hospital or her side until she left with him. That is Love. That is Commitment. That is Marriage like marriage is supposed to be.
Without getting into detail, just suffice it to say that Kimberly had 2 open-heart surgeries, developed acute respiratory distress, and an elevated diaphram, had 3 valve replacements, multiple clots removed, spent over 2 months on life support and so heavily sedated she was close to death more often than I care to recall. She spent one week after her 2nd surgery with her chest wide open so as not to stun her fragile heart. How she survived all of this in her fragile condition I can only attribute to the grace of God and His Almighty Hand blessing her with the miracle of life, and of course, the power of prayer.
(This picture was taken this past Spring, 2011)
Just before Thanksgiving, my daughter, Kimberly, left the Mayo and went home to Arkansas - to her home - with her husband, and saw, for the first time in 3 months, her beautiful 2 y/o daughter, Reagan. Kim had so much to live for and we are so grateful for her life and presence in our lives each and every day.
To say the least, her life is a miracle, a blessing, and brings dear to our hearts the true spirit of Christmas - Christ in us, the precious value of life, the fragility of life, the meaning of love.
(This picture was taken just a few weeks ago. Kim looks so beautiful. The most beautiful sight of all is her smile and sitting next to her baby girl, Reagan)
Shortly after Kim returned to her home to recover, my Big Bear received a job offer. A wonderful job offer! An opportunity to work with good people at a good company in his industry of Information Technology and more. He begins on December 29th.
(This picture was taken last Sunday. My mother and I are sitting in front. Behind us is Matthew, Kathleen visiting from Florida, Sarah, Bob "Big Bear," and Glen.)
Now the kicker ... my mother, Mary, has lived with us, primarily, for the past 13 years, although she has spent time as well with my brothers in Florida from time-to-time. She is home now and a month ago, after many tests from her oncologist, we were asked to come to his office for a plan of action. Well, as it turns out, my mother is in remission for the first time in 7 years. Miracles. There truly is power in prayer.
To all my friends and readers ... I would like to wish you all a blessed, joyful, and wonderful Christmas. May the Lord bless you all in the coming year with prosperity and health. Thank you for your kind words of encouragement, your friendship, your prayers, and your readership.
The Lord answered our prayers abundantly. All it took was Faith.