Sunday, September 11, 2011

Faithful Soldiers (A Dan post)

In a recent sermon our pastor expressed as believers we are soldiers in the warfare of this world. If you believe God's will is being done on earth as it is in heaven then you can understand the many battles on earth are really a part of a bigger plan often unexplained to us while living here. My life seems a never ending fight from sunrise to sunset, and I have been through many skirmishes. My Mom's death, wandering aimlessly in college for many years, the many frustrating jobs I've had, my Dad's shooting and heart attack, my wife's ongoing struggles with daily pain and of course our journey with Danica have wounded and scarred my spirit. Even the peace and tranquility in the weight room finds me in a war my herniated disc, kidney stones, tendonitis and shoulder pain. I'm so often angry at the constant battles I endure everyday. Life seems way easier for most other people I know. Somehow my faith in God's will remains steadfast through it all. I pray for forgiveness when I am angry and having the mindset of a soldier gets me through the long days and nights.

On a recent evening Danica awoke with a high pitched constant shriek. It was a wail loud enough to instantly wake anyone from a deep sleep. It took me two seconds to get into her nearby bedroom to discover blood all over her face. My wife, had she entered the room first, may have passed out at this sight. Many years ago Delaney went head first into the corner of a metal filing cabinet at her Montessori school. She required thirteen stitches in her forehead and someone had to help hold her still in her straight jacket while the deep wound was closed at the hospital. Monica had to sit outside listening to her baby girl scream in agony for several minutes because she could not look at the wound without fainting, and I had to step up to the plate. It turns out Danica was screaming from a nosebleed that night, and my "soldier training" instantly kicked in. I remember calmly raising my voice to Monica alerting her to follow me, and then I pulled Danica into the bathroom grabbing a wet washcloth. Because of Danica's medical history we were imagining it was much worse and signaled something more serious than an isolated incident. Strangely, even in the middle of the night, I was ready. I was mentally prepared. The truth is I am always on alert waiting for the next fight.

Had it not been for my life struggles and recent experiences with Danica, I may have dropped unconscious as well when entering her bedroom that night. Seeing Danica get carried away in the arms of a nurse before her first brain surgery was gut wrenchingly painful. Watching her twirl her pink butterfly umbrella into the operating room for her second surgery was cataclysmic for me. I didn't think life would continue for me after that. For three days following Danica's last surgery she was out of control because of the drugs, her pain and the brace. It took three adults to hold her round the clock. I saw my wife had become much stronger too. She refused to leave her side. We have learned there is no time for fainting or crying when another soldier needs you to be strong.

Ten years ago 3,497 people lost their lives in an attack against the United States. The only sense I can possibly make of that tragedy is believing, as most Christians probably do, that every faithful departed soul is now in a much better place than here on earth. The pain of the survivors and family of those who perished is ongoing. Wives losing their husbands. Children losing their mother or father. Mothers and fathers losing sons and daughters. I cannot begin to understand their feelings on this 10th anniversary, but I am blessed to witness how many have soldiered on in this life.

My wife, girls and I have a long way to go. There is no guarantee that any of us will get our life back after all the trials we as a family have already overcome, but there are glimpses of hope. Danica is doing really well, and we hope that Dr. Crawford tells us in late October that her bones are completely healed. We pray she will begin preschool early next year. Her cheerfulness and strength of spirit carry me on days when I want to give up.

Delaney, who has faced many challenges since her sister was born, is doing very well in 4th grade and has several friends in our new neighborhood. She is turning nine tomorrow. The obstacles she has met in her life have made her a very well rounded individual and somewhat independent at such a young age. One thing that amazes me is how she gets out of bed early every morning and prepares for school all by herself. She has developed her talents in art and is thrilled to be back in the barn and riding horses again.

Monica has found some temporary relief of her pain from massage therapy once a week. The benefits last for a few days before her body becomes all knotted up again. She struggles to make it through the day until her body shuts itself down from pain and exhaustion. We travel to a Maryland specialist at end of October and pray for answers and help. I have soldiered through this pain with Monica since I met her. No one knows more than I how real this is and how much she wants to be better so she can live and love.

I am hoping I'm kidney stone free now. The tendonitis in my arm can be restrictive, but I'm getting closer and closer to being back in the shape I was in when I was younger. I need to stay in fighting form, so I'm ready for the next battle whenever it comes. What I absolutely love about this family is that we adapt and overcome. I realize that phrase is "soldier talk" but it's true of this family. We are a strong unit, and we'll carry on with whatever future challenges we face with God's help.

Due to this blog we have heard the stories of many families in similar situations to ours and many being far worse. So many people do not get to watch a miracle unfold like we are with our Danica. We long to be able to support them financially and in service, but we cannot, so we try to help, usually with sharing our story and lifting them in prayer. From a husband and father's perspective struggling with medical bills, moving your family into someone's home and accepting charity from others to make it through all can be very demoralizing.

A male survivor of the WTC attacks, who was actually near where the airplane struck, was able to escape and survive while several of his friends/coworkers did not. He struggled with guilt but soon realized that he had to live his life. My father recently echoed the same belief stating he wakes up and does his part in the world trying to make each day better than before. For me it's about my wife, of course, but mostly for my two daughters. They need me, and I need to get them prepared for living their own life and fighting their own battles. And so I pray for the grace to be a faithful soldier. I am finally beginning to realize we will always have pain and struggles in this world, but there is a bigger picture that will be revealed and victory is a sure thing in Him.

"Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus." II Timothy 2:3

(Dan wrote this last night and this morning. As I'm posting now he's in a great deal of pain. He believes a stone is stuck in his ureter again. Please pray for an end to this suffering for him. Thank you.)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the post, Dan! I admire you & Monica so much. You are both great parents & work hard to care so lovingly for them. Our prayers are with you!

    Christina (& family)