Whoever said, “Hindsight is 20/20” definitely had the right idea. It’s always when we look back that we can see everything so clearly, see how we should have responded, see the larger picture of what was going on, see how the Lord was at work even through the worst situations.
I’ve determined that I’m not going to wait for hindsight. There are have been too many ways that the Lord has shown Himself powerful in my current situation that I can’t afford to wait, can’t afford to forget, can’t afford to miss what the Lord is doing during this trying time.
Isaiah 55:9 says, “For [as] the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” I couldn’t have said it better. There is so much about this situation that I don’t understand. There are so many questions that I have that will never be answered, and there is so much hurt in my heart that sometimes I wonder how the Lord could find this glorifying to Himself; but I cling to this verse and to the promise that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
As you might have guessed, this whole situation has been on my mind a lot since I first received the phone call last Saturday morning at 9:44am. I’ve thought a lot about what should have happened and wondered at what will happen. However, I am comforted by what did happen and by the constant proof that the Lord’s sovereign, holy, and loving hand is in all of this.
I’ve collected a list of the different ways the Lord has prepared us for this current trial as well as a list of how the Lord has shown Himself working through this seemingly awful situation. I know this list is not exhausted and that there is so much more going on than my feeble mind can comprehend and so much more than my trembling heart could contain. However, I am thankful for the abundance of things the Lord has been gracious enough to reveal to us as we walk this hard road.
Please rejoice with us at God’s amazing sovereignty and His amazing scriptwriting of one of the most trying times of my life.
You may smile at some of the things that I label as God’s preparation for this time, but I know that the Lord is also ruler of the tiniest details and He never gives us more than we can handle. To keep this promise, the Lord has prepared my family in some of the most ironic yet amazing ways.
Mandy has always been a sprint-sport athlete. As a state-wide competing gymnast between the age of 4 and 11, she has always played her heart out for a few minutes then rested ‘til her next event. When she first started playing basketball, her endurance was strong but it was not her best aspect as an athlete. Nine months ago, Mandy started running. She’s always enjoyed it, but over the last months, it has become her passion. Mandy runs almost every day and recently ran a half-marathon (13.1 miles) around Schroon Lake in the Adirondacks finishing with a time of 2 hrs 2 min. In fact, the morning of her accident Mandy was on her way home from running 9 miles with a friend. The doctor said that if it weren’t for the endurance of her heart, she might not have made it. God had been preparing her.
My dad works for the Post Office, which has amazing health benefits. He is normally very healthy, so he doesn’t use most of his sick leave; and the Post Office policy allows him to save it up. Another Post Office policy allows him to take sick leave for a limited time while he cares for immediate family. Now, because he has been healthy and has most of his sick leave saved up, he can be off work for a decent amount of time and still be bringing in a steady paycheck. God has been preparing that.
I am awful with directions. Just try to take a car ride with me and you never know, we might end up taking “the scenic route” to the Walmart across town – don’t mention the fact that I’ve lived here for over a year. This past summer I joined my dad in working for the Post Office, a risky endeavor for a very directionally challenged person as myself and probably even more so for the Post Office as a business. I was very blessed, however, to be given one mail route for most of the summer – except for one week when I went to work for a different office. Every morning while working there I drove one specific route and delivered mail from the Post Office where I worked to another, small post office (to the Davis College Post Office, for those of you who know the Binghamton area). While I was home this past week, my family was blessed to have a room at the Danielle House, a house that is rented out to people who have family members in the hospital and which comes fully equipped with food, linens, comfortable beds, tv, and internet connection. A few times I had to drive there and back by myself, and I was amazed to find it was the exact route I had taken that whole week during the summer. The only place I really knew in Johnson City was the area I had driven consistently that week. Silly, I know, but I knew the Lord had prepared me for that to give me a peace of mind when I really couldn’t emotionally deal with getting lost.
When I signed up for Outreach Week last year, my mom started praying. She said she wanted me to be in the right group and it was something she has prayed for since our first SLS meeting at the end of spring semester. I know a lot of prayer regarding placement goes into it from this end as well. I was blessed to be assigned to a group at Grace Brethren in Simi Valley, co-leading the team with Jared Foy. However, there was another SLS’er on the team, Jeanette Stallard, and after Jared left for a family wedding, Jeanette joined me as co-leader for the trip. I received the news of Mandy’s accident while I was still leading the Outreach Week group and dropped everything to fly back to New York about 3 hours later. I know that the placement of my group – locally so I was near school and the airports to fly out quickly – and the choosing of my group members – three SLS’ers so Jeanette could cover when I had to leave unexpectedly – were both sovereignly chosen by the Lord in preparation for this event.
Again, these are a just a few of the ways the Lord has prepared our hearts and lives for the events of the past week. Below are some of the stories of what God has been doing over the past week in and through this situation.
There’s a lot that can be said about great timing. I don’t know if it sounds weird to you, but saying that this couldn’t have happened at a better time sounds strange to me. It is true, however.
The accident happened on a Saturday morning at a time when traffic wasn’t all too bad on the 5 (the major freeway out here in CA – for those of you back home). I was notified on my way towards school from Simi Valley and while I was with two people who were graciously willing to drop everything and take me to the airport. Also, if I had to miss one week at school, this past week wasn’t all too bad. I missed one test, which my professor is graciously allowing me to make-up, and had another quiz postponed because there’s so much reading. God couldn’t have planned it better. In New York, my mom was notified of my sister’s accident when she was one foot out the door. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like if the police officer who came to notify her had missed her on her way out. God had even that so perfectly planned so my mom was ready to leave the house in a flash. Also, my oldest sister Gail and her daughter were up visiting from New York City, so they were an immediate and present source of comfort for my mom. Later in the week, there was also a shooting and a 2-hour standoff at my sister’s apartment building in New York City; and it is only God’s perfect timing in this event that she and her 2-yr old daughter were not there.
I’ve often wondered about Job in the Bible. In a lot of ways I’ve experienced some of the same things he’s gone through with various things and people being taken from me, so that when I heard what happened to Mandy, I felt I had been prepared. This was another test of my allegiance to the Lord and my ability to trust Him when I didn’t understand. Although my physical body shook in emotion and the tears came ‘til my eyes were red and swollen, my heart rejoiced in the sovereign plan of the Lord. I don’t say this to my credit. I say this to the glory of the Lord who worked on my heart during this time and also on the heart of one of the girls who brought me to the airport. I won’t mention her name for her own privacy, but it was right from the start, when she said, “I don’t know understand how you can have joy in the midst of this?” that I began to understand that this trial truly was larger than I could imagine—through this, God would affect more than just my family. This has proved to be the case.
We have been richly blessed for my sister to have one of the best neurologists in the world. Dr. Bagwa works at Wilson Memorial Hospital and was the doctor on call the weekend of my sister’s accident. He has been recognized internationally and has been doing an amazing job helping my sister. We have also been very blessed to have a wonderful nursing staff, some of whom are Christians (including the head of the whole department, a woman who just joined the staff). Coincidence? I don’t think so.
God has also blessed us with two dear, dear friends, Brian and Kathy Hinrichsen. They are top medical people in a nearby hospital, and they have been a God-send to my family. The couple is very knowledgeable about Mandy’s medical condition and have acted as liaison for my parents since the time of the accident. Their presence is a comfort as they help my parents make wise medical decisions, interpret medical jargon, and ask questions that keep the doctoring staff accountable to giving my sister great care.
Mandy is currently in ICU (intensive care). Right outside this unit is a waiting room where I have lived for the past week. Over this past week, this room also hosted other families who were there for their various family members suffering from a heart-attack, an unknown fall, a motorcycle accident/brain trauma case, and other injuries. Throughout the week, we began to befriend these other worried families, and again, it was evident the Lord’s Hand was in this. As the week neared a close, and as one specific family watched their grandmother pass away, the daughter-in-law approached our family and asked if they could have the information about our church because they would like to go there. God had been using our presence and the constant support from our group of friends to work on their hearts and show them that we were different. May the Lord continue to work in that regard.
God has also been at work in the lives of those we know. Mandy was one of the captain of her varsity basketball team, and the affect of this accident upon her teammates has been amazing. One of her friends Annie said it was awful that it took something like this accident, but the whole team dynamics has changed and they are learning to not take any player, no matter how good or bad, for granted. They are learning to play and live like a team.
On a more personal note, this event is helping unite my immediate family. Over this past week, I feel like I have gotten to know my older siblings and sister-in-law in a whole new way. It has opened up doors for sharing the Gospel and has helped heal some past wounds of distrust. It has also reunited my extended family, so that we were able to reconnect with my uncle and aunt after 10 years and finally able to meet my little cousin. It also reunited us with another aunt that I hadn’t seen for 6 years; and for the first time in a decade, my dad’s family was together. It is amazing to see the reconciliation that the Lord is bringing about in such an unexpected way.
The support back home for my sister and my family has truly been amazing. Her accident happened Saturday morning and by Saturday afternoon there were 75 people in the ICU waiting room specifically there to hear about and support my sister and family. As the hours turned into days, the list of visitors has grown until it includes neighbors who brought my family supplies from home, friends that drove hours to come and spend time with my family, old friends from churches years ago, players on my sister’s competitor’s basketball teams, bosses and coworkers from my sister’s and dad’s jobs, childhood playmates, and even a couple from my hometown who said, “We heard the girl who runs through town was in the hospital, so we had to come.”
One of the most important visitors was a man by the name of Alan. My family has known Alan for years – we went to church together at the First Baptist Church in Newark Valley, where he was a youth leader. Of course, that was when I was in first grade. Since then, we had lost contact with him, so on Monday (or Tuesday…it all blends together), when Alan showed up at the hospital with a bouquet of flowers, my parents were very surprised. It wasn’t until after my parents greeted him that Alan confided that he was the man who had been driving the vehicle that hit my sister. (Let me just say…. the accident was NOT his fault!!!) Something so amazing happened that night at the hospital, something only God could do, and something I was so humbled to be a part of. Alan, my parents, my friends, and I talked together, prayed together, and as brothers and sisters in Christ were able to work through the pain involved with the accident. Watching a grown man cry over the injuries my sister had experienced, taking Alan’s hand and looking him in the face and telling him I had no other feelings for him besides love, reminding him that God’s Hand was in this and it couldn’t have been orchestrated better (What are the chances that the man who hit her was not only a friend of the family but a Christian?) – these were some of the most amazing aspects of the whole week. Healing like that can only come through the power and grace of the Lord. Of course, this reunion and fellowship must have seemed strange to the other families in the room, and they definitely reacted in shock when I told them he was the man who hit her, but I pray that the forgiveness they saw would convict their hearts, not for our reputation sake but to the glory of the Lord.
God was gracious to allow us to see the overflow effect that scene of forgiveness had on others by showing us the influence it had on one of my girlfriends there in the room with us. There to comfort us, my girlfriend found healing herself through the witness of God’s forgiveness in action. Moments after Alan left, my girlfriend broke down in tears. At first we all assumed she was crying over Mandy, but then she spoke. She said that 15 months ago, her family’s 15-passenger van rolled unmanned out of their driveway running over her little sister. In tears, she confessed that it was her fault because she had forgotten to set the parking brake. Turning to my mom, she said, “Mrs. Bricks, watching you forgive the man who put your baby into a coma has enabled me to forgive myself for my causing my sister to be run over.” That night, when tears should have come at the meeting of the man who sent my sister into a coma, when anger should have riddled my soul at the sight of the man whose steel-fronted van had caused my baby sister so much pain, when in a normal situation civility would have been seen as gracious, God’s power and His forgiveness overflowed into healing, healing for the man who had worried since Saturday afternoon about the girl he had seen suffering and trapped in her totaled car, for myself as I found my own anger dispelled and as I began to catch a glimpse of the fact that God’s purpose in this accident was so much bigger than I could ever imagine, for my parents as they heard more details about the accident and had some questions answered, and for my girlfriend as she was able to release herself from an unnecessary burden she had carried for almost a year and a half.
I don’t know how to finish this because in all honesty, this story isn’t finished. There is so much that God is doing through this that I don’t know of, so much that the Lord is going to do in and through this that I just won’t know for a little while longer. However, I look on with anticipation as more of God’s amazing and incomprehendable plan unfolds. Mandy’s accident has affected the world as Christians around the globe are praying for her speedy and complete recovery, so I hold my breath to see what the Lord will do through His miraculous answer.
Please join with me as we worship the Lord for the outstanding events of this past week and for His sovereign hand in this unexpected trial. Please continue to pray for Mandy’s complete and quick recovery and more importantly, for the Lord to continue to glorify Himself through this amazing tale of His own greatness.