The background to every story matters...
The road from yesterday directly connects our tomorrows.
For most of you, this picture I took of the majestic mountains of Colorado will be "pretty", "nice", maybe even stunning. But for me, it is a deep well of emotions as vivid memories--real as the keys I type upon--of the days spent there just before the accident flood my soul. Yes, these are memories etched deep into the fibers of my heart, not just my mind.
Tears caught me by surprise as I sat here staring at this scene earlier. Lots of them. Trying to find words that would accurately pen my heart and the heart of God's as they intertwined and danced upon the Colorado Rockies, unaware that days later a thief would cut in and attempt to steal me away. In this scene you can see it, as I stood safely atop one mountain peak, drinking in the beauty with each deep inhale of the soul. The distance warns of an encroaching storm with shadows engulfing mountains one at a time, and storm clouds swallowing blue skies. Jesus held me so close, I didn't even notice the hovering cloud in the upper corner about to cover me.
Let me explain.
I had the amazing experience of attending the Captivating Advanced retreat with John and Stasi Eldredge and their team of Ransomed Heart Ministries September 29th through October 2nd of last year (2011). It was during a previous Captivating retreat several years earlier that God confirmed he wanted me to minister in the same message (if you've been following the blog for a long time, you've probably read some of my story and previous experiences there.) Such deep healing and life-giving words from Jesus paved the way from that first trip in 2006 to this past Fall of 2011. My husband, Andy, and I had begun writing and speaking in 2010, and though I had felt more alive than ever before, we had suffered some blows in those first two years. I was desperately thirsty for deeper personal healing, as well as fresh affirmation and equipping for the ministry he'd given us.
My thirst was truly quenched, as Jesus did not disappoint!! I will share various specifics along the way in future posts as they relate. Little could I have known at the time, though, just how much his words to me, the beauty, and the rescue would continue to be so vital to my heart...to rescue me time and time again in the storm that engulfed me on October 8, 2011.
As mentioned in the previous post, so many crucial things happened in the moments before the ambulance arrived to take our precious Abby from the pecan orchard to the capable hands of a children's hospital not too far away. Though my eyes saw horror on her crushed face, when Drew pulled up beside us on the 4-wheeler, I steadied her in his big-brother arms and did the first thing that came to mind. All I knew to do was lay hands on her sweet head and pray, pleading for God's healing touch! Had not the experiences in Colorado been so fresh--fresh enough to still smell the aroma upon waking every morning--I don't think I would have had the same knee-jerk reaction.
Next, I frantically thought through scenarios of how I could attempt to get her to the hospital on my own. None of them would work with her fragile state.
A neighbor's voice from the last house before the orchard entrance broke my racing thoughts, "Do you need an ambulance?!" She had seen the kids riding and heard the screams from her bedroom window. I ran toward her and stopped mid-way. I couldn't answer clearly. Each word and footstep I stumbled over brought me closer to the reality that Abby needed help beyond what any of us or our local hospital could give her. She read through my lack of an answer and dialed 911.
Then a safe distance from Abby, who was no longer crying and clearly in shock, yet out of earshot, I called Andy who was at work. He knew we had gone riding, so I dove right in. My calm composure broke down at the sound of his voice, "Hey... Andy, Abby and Ashley had a wreck...it's really bad, Andy...Abby's face is crushed...it's really bad, Andy...it's really, really bad...a neighbor called an ambulance...it's really bad...I already know she's going to have to have surgery, it's so bad!" He immediately said he was on his way, a 30-minute drive that he made in less than 20 minutes! We quickly decided what to do with our other three kids (thankfully they are all teenagers and were able to get the un-wrecked ATV and the rest of our gear home), and hung up with desperate I-love-yous.
I took liberty of the moment out of earshot of the others. In tragedy, when suffering sneaks up on you like a thief in the night, our heart is the target and most vulnerable to attack. I began to heave out breathless words as my heart beat so hard, "Catch my heart Jesus! Jesus catch my heart!! Catch my heart Jesus!! Jesus catch my heart!!!"
Looking back, I see clearly how God was paving the road that would follow my return from the Captivating Advanced. The very last session on Sunday was with John, and he spoke on suffering. I had no idea then just how life-giving his words would be. I learned, as I said in the previous post, that the worst part of suffering is not the pain, but the damage it can do to our heart.
Remember John 10:10, our enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy. He hates God and would love nothing more than for us to hate him, too. He rushes into our pain with lies to get us to distrust God's heart. When a great suffering hits us out of no where and catches us off guard, we must cry to Jesus in that moment to catch our heart. "Catch my heart Jesus!"
Doing so while waiting for the ambulance to whisk my daughter away set the stage for God to intersect our world in tangible, unmistakable ways as we navigated through ominous skies of suffering for days, weeks, and months. I am thankful the background of this story's "yesterday" directly connected my heart (and my family's) to Jesus in the tomorrows that still continue to follow. Oh it's been messy, and certainly not easy, but catch us he has!
The invitation of Jesus is to cry to him when suffering snatches the rug from underneath your feet. His promise is that he will come running when we call. Psalm 18 speaks beautifully of this truth. "In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried to my God for help; he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry for help before him came into his ears...He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters...He rescued me because he delighted in me." (v. 6, 16, 19)