Early Christmas morning, 1974, I was awakened by my mother running down the hall, shouting, “Kim, Kim, I think Dad’s dead!” As soon as I entered their room, I somehow knew that he was already gone, no longer there, but – you do what you have to do – so I told her to call 9-1-1 and I gave my beloved Dad CPR. He had had a massive coronary sometime in the night. Only two months before, he had submitted his life to the Lord Jesus Christ, after years of angry defiance, and would spend his first Christmas as a Christian face to face with the Jesus he had come to truly love.
But I was Daddy’s girl, and I was devastated and traumatized. My wedding was only seven weeks away, and for the first months of our married life I would secretly but frequently check during the night to see if Dale was still alive. I was sneaky and would cuddle so that my ear was on his chest; hearing that slow, steady rhythm was a balm to my own traumatized and fearful heart. Once I reached over in the middle of the night to check and he suddenly spoke, “I feel you checking my heart!” I knew I couldn’t live with this fear of losing him, so I had to let go, fully acknowledging that he was not mine anyway, he was the Lord’s. I had to trust God for him, to say, “He is Yours, not mine; You have entrusted him to me and I will trust him with You. I want Your will – nothing more and nothing less.”
Repeatedly, the Lord has brought me reminders to let go… to hold loosely to this world, even to the people I’m called – commanded – to care for and to love. He has had to pry my white knuckles again off those people so I could set my heart on pilgrimage. All that I have – my husband, children, health, reputation, friends, my very life – are His, not mine; He is the owner and I am only a steward, and often a very poor one at that. One by one He has put each of our four children in a position where I was totally helpless, forced to relinquish my death-grip on that child and lay him or her at Jesus’ feet. But through every trial He has taught me so much and has sent tokens of His love to encourage me and keep me from despair.
When our firstborn child Sarah saw the doctor at four weeks old she had not gained weight and had developed a heart murmur. The doctors began a series of tests. We were in the middle of moving to Southern California at the time. Dale actually had the car loaded and had said his goodbyes to us to go down to secure an apartment, when he had to come back in to get something he had forgotten. That was the moment the phone rang with the test results. (Why is bad news called “positive results”?) Yes, Sarah had Down Syndrome and a major, weight-inhibiting heart defect. Poor Dale prayed with us, but then had to drive away, leaving us alone. It was the 1970’s, (my hair was to my hips…) we were young and poor, had just finished school, and had no family close. I spent the next few ENDLESS days in our rocking chair, holding Sarah, crying and praying.
Dale secured us a place to live and came back to get us. When we finally arrived down south and went to the home of some of Dale’s childhood friends, we told them about Sarah’s conditions. The wife looked at me, and at Sarah, then asked incredulously, “Have you been sitting in a rocking chair, crying?” When I said yes, she told me that a friend had had a burden for a young mother somewhere with long hair, sitting in a rocking chair, holding a baby and crying and praying. She didn’t know who it was, but she couldn’t forget it, and she’d been praying for “this girl” all week. What tender mercy for the Lord to put me miraculously on the heart of a total stranger, and for me to find out about it! In dark hours to come – even those years later – I would remember this token of God’s love for me.
When Sarah was 2½ she finally reached the safety target weight of 23 pounds and underwent open-heart surgery. Our assistant pastor sat with us for the whole 8 hours. Two things I will always remember: he read to me 2 Corinthians 1, which says that we suffer, and God comforts us, so that we can then go out and comfort others with that same comfort. He also reminded me that God had watched His only son suffer and even die. It was because He loved me so much that He knew exactly what I was going through and how I felt. He was a God of compassion and love. This pastor’s own firstborn, Godly, 19-year-old son was dying of bone cancer. This pastor was living what he taught; he was walking ahead of me on this road of severe mercy and could truly comfort me with the tender comfort God had given him.
In the next few years our youngest got into a childproof bottle of Tylenol and had to undergo traumatic treatment, our only son was thought to have leukemia, and about 15 years later he was thought to have lymphoma, and our middle daughter had to have extensive orthopedic surgery and had a respiratory arrest while I was alone with her in ICU. I was that mom hearing “CODE BLUE; THIRD FLOOR” about her own child. But in God’s great mercy, each of our children was given back to us whole, while I had fresh reminders that they were the Lord’s, not ours. During this time I learned to cling to Godly friends, and to praise Him when doing so was a “sacrifice of praise”. In moments of deepest sorrow I learned to get out a hymnal and (sobbing, off-key and full blast) sing songs of God’s love and faithfulness. This unfailingly gives me hope and peace, and quiets my heart.
Then came six years of great peace, health, and blessing after blessing. I had a keen sense of urgency – that the Lord was giving me this time to be renewed and strengthened, to feed richly on His Word and theology, to become more firmly anchored in my faith and more aware of the devil’s schemes, to hide His Word in my heart as an ant stores up food in the summer for the winter I sensed was ahead… and we all know the winter comes for us all…
But when the next big storm finally came in 2001, I was still crushed under the weight and severity of it. During a time when my mother was being diagnosed with metastasized, aggressive cancer, and came within hours of dying, some leaders of the church we were attending began to verbally and spiritually abuse our middle two kids, slandering us and trying to divide our family, turning all allegiance from parents to the “pastor”. Over the years there had been many isolated incidents that had troubled us, but now we were concerned enough to consult with two national Christian experts on abusive churches about what was happening. We began to realize that although the church was orthodox in its beliefs, it was cultic in practice. Looking at all the troubling bits we had swept under the rug, we were shocked at what we saw. In leaving, our reputations were slandered, our kids lost their jobs, and we lost all our church family and friends, because the church members were ordered to shun us. Ironically, the treatment we’ve received served to validate our concerns. A Godly friend who had left before us put it well, “I cried out ‘Why me?? – Why did the Lord show ME such mercy to deliver me, when so many wonderful people remain behind, locked in?’”
We rejoice that He is restoring the years the locust has eaten, He has put us in a healthy church where we have had words and acts of grace poured out on us, given us compassion for our persecutors, and freed our hearts to see and rejoice in His tender care. He even amazingly gave me my mother back, in good health!
Years ago in a dark time, the Lord helped me see a huge boulder, with a large crack in the side, and when the storms blast around me, I can go deep into this crack and even watch the storm raging outside, but inside is stillness and peace. This Rock is Jesus. He is my mighty fortress. In the Cleft of the Rock there is safety and rest for my soul. I CAN trust Him.