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Currently Browsing: Testimony
Oct
26

Alternate States of Being: abiding in grace

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Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who has promised is faithful. ~ Hebrews 10:23 (niv)

IMG_2276I have been offered the unprovoked opinions of others as to why such a tragedy would occur in my life. One expressed notion is that I am being punished for past sins. I disagree. Through this adversity, God has provided me a true understanding of who I am and of Who He is as well as who I am in Him and that He changes not no matter how altered my life has become. He has extracted an honest picture of myself while captivating me with the reality of who He has always been and will forever be. He is not a condemning or a punishing God, but One of conviction. He is not a part-time God nor is He a selective God. He is an equal opportunity God. He is an existent perfection that seeks intimate friendship. In Him, I find the only truth that matters. He is a perfect parent who loves me how I need to be loved, not necessarily how I want to be loved. And I have learned He wants the same thing any parent wants from their child – their love, their respect, their obedience.

IMG_2273My salvation did not provide me spiritual maturity. Maturity is gained through the refinement of faith which leads to purity of spirit.  It allows God to transform me into what I was meant to be instead of what I am trying to become. All my life I had refused to submit to God’s will and demanded He submit to mine. A platform had to be built where God could create and mold me into His own creation – a working instrument to carry out the will He has for my life. It was imperative that He bring me to a point where I could only focus on Him and not the world around me. It was crucial to my healing that I recognize the relevance and significance of God’s presence, authority, and omnipotence in my life. It was absolute that I exist in the ambience of His worth so that I might understand mine. And now, God has become Someone who I can hear.

IMG_2269In my life, I can honestly say that I have walked through some difficult places, but none have been as dark as the grief borne of buried children brings. I have learned that true grief is private. It can not be shared or explained or hurried. Each day brings new grief and I find what others take for granted are secret desires left to burn in my heart. There are times I am paralyzed with disbelief.  In those time, I can not breathe, can not move; my mind shuts down incapable of functioning for a moment and in that moment I live infinitely. Desperation resuscitates me. I emerge hysterical, pleading, begging God for a reversal of events. Whatever the price. This desperation fills me with unexplainable urges such as jumping from moving cars and it takes real effort to resist leaving me wholly exhausted.  To me, there is but one explanation ~ In my mind, the possibility of the reality that such an event could have occurred in my life is so surreally unfathomable, so definably unreal that it trips me up at unexpected times. Then, there it is. That state of disbelief – an arrow to the heart piercing me straight through rendering me incapable of ever escaping these alternate states of being.

IMG_2268It is the existent mentality and irrational fear that one of us could die in the next day, next hour, next minute – at any moment. In accompaniment, is an attitude of “so what?” that skews my thoughts and the average daily tasks of laundry and algebra II and finances become very unimportant breeding an indifference within separating me from the rest of the world. In the midst, the realization is ever-present that time never stops; the world still spins no matter the catastrophic events that might be unfolding amongst the keepers and inhabitants therein. In the end, guilt-driven, I desire to make the irreversible, reversible. But I can not and God will not. The truth for me encompasses a definitive meaning of bittersweet: I was fortunate to survive, but two of my children died. Dark whispers rise up from deep recesses when I am happy and scathe, “How can you not be devastated?” Yet to waste time on self-pity seems ungrateful and a survivor’s guilt should never force an apology for a gift of life. The trick is not to get caught in all the chaos the enemy creates, to solely rely on God to see you through each moment. It is then, that His faithfulness is revealed.

IMG_2279And it is in those moments of witnessed faithfulness that I know I will make it through. I will not drown in sorrow. I will not be driven mad by fear of unknown events. I will not be left to become lost in a maze of my own perpetual acts of helplessness. It is in every moment of God’s reaffirmed faithfulness to me that I know I will truly survive to live the life He has given me to live.

This is the fifth and final blog in this series housed under the Testimony category.

Oct
19

Alternate States of Being: love of The Shepherd

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He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart. ~ Isaiah 40:11 (niv)

IMG_0396The first seven weeks of my hospital stay were spent in an induced coma. During that time I had many dreams and hallucinations. And I could place each one on a timeline with out missing one. Each have their own characteristics that allow me to distinguish between them. There are five more events that I would place on that time line; they are my divine encounters. Of the five, I only had one encounter with Jesus.

I have come to this place because someone has told me that I can have anything I want here. My desire is to find Zak and Emma and bring them home. I am clad in simply a thin hospital gown. I am very cold. People are milling around a fountain; I ask them questions, but they pay me no mind. I stop and stand still mesmerized by the beauty and serenity of this fountain. I need a rest; it seems I have been walking for a long while. A blanket of warmth wraps itself around my shoulders and I am pulled into an indescribable peace and I breathe deep and long wanting to linger in this place. Jesus and I sit down on a bench by this fountain. I confide to Him that I have come to bring my children home, but I do not know how to set about finding them. And He tells me, “child, you may not have them back.” As those words fall on my ears, confusion swirls me and exhaustion consumes me. He puts His arm around me and I lie down with my head in His lap.

I hear my husband’s voice. “Bethie, Zak and Emma are in Heaven.” I begin to cry. Jesus’ hand smoothes my hair and wipes my tears.

IMG_3758My physical body was laying in a bed in the dimmed lights of a Trauma ICU with my family gathered around; my spirit lingered in a sacred haven as Jesus held me close. My husband would later describe to me the scene in the room and how the tears would begin to fall and roll down my face, but how then they would simply disappear.

The moment Jesus wiped my tears, I understood that no matter what happened, no matter what crossed my path, I could take it because Jesus was going to be there with me. No matter how angry, how sad, how grief-stricken, how lonely I became, He was going to walk me through it.

We have troubles all around us, but we are not defeated. We do not know what to do, but we do not give up the hope of living. We are persecuted, but God does not leave us. We are hurt sometimes, but we are not destroyed. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (ncv)

IMG_4091There are times when grief is all-consuming, when tears replace prayers because words are elusive and the brain imprisoned. It is in those times, God appears inexplicably. Grace folds us into this perfect agape love and there we waft as the Divine breaches our earthly realm.

One perfect Spring Sunday afternoon, I find myself sitting on the edge of my bed after church. That morning I had cried through the entire service. The only explanation I can give is that my heart was broken. Just plain broken. And the sadness poured out like a breaking dam. I sat alone. I could not pray. Not a thought passed through my mind. And a light broke through – brilliant and warm dimming the rest of the room around me and engulfing me in peace. My head was held in a bow and I made no attempt to struggle against it.  I just melted into the warmth and the light and rested there, held by God completely enveloped in His love and His peace and His holiness.  That afternoon, God became someone who I could feel.

This is the fourth blog in a series of five housed under the Testimony category.

Oct
12

Alternate States of Being: miracles in chaos

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Affliction – the cause of continued pain of body or mind, as in sickness or losses. Of affliction and sorrow, affliction is the stronger term. The suffering lies deeper in the soul and usually arises from some powerful cause, such as the loss of what is most dear.

If Your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. – Psalm 119:92

But out of the sheer goodness of my heart because of who I am, I keep a tight rein on my anger and hold my temper. I don’t wash my hands of you. Do you see what I have done? I have refined you, but not without fire. I’ve tested you like silver in the furnace of affliction. ~ Isaiah 48:9-10 (nkjv)

IMG_9319Life moved on until the morning of July 20, 2004.  Everything about this morning seemed normal. The kids were up and ready to go. We went out to breakfast. I delivered Logan to basketball camp right on time, then, Zak and I, headed home. I was eager to get there; I had a full day planned. So when I exit the ramp onto the freeway and everything comes to a halt, all lanes at a standstill, I am not amused. It is 9:30 am. Zak is calling my name from the backseat and we begin to play peek-a-boo through the rear view mirror. As I glance up the second time, instead of Zak, I see a white truck bearing down, but it is too late and there is no place to go. His speed was almost 70 mph when he made impact. My car collapses and as I try to free myself from the seatbelt so I can get Zak free, I become tangled in it. The best I can do is twist and try to pull the front seat forward to un-wedge his body from between the front and back seats. A moment later my gas tank explodes. I began to scream for someone, anyone to help me. I yank as hard as I am able to dislodge the front seat, but it refuses to move. People begin calling 911 and they are quickly told that a fire truck is already on the scene; the accident has already been responded to. The reality is the accident a mile due west, that created this traffic jam from hell, has a fire truck and has been responded to.  Two retired fire fighters passing east, park their truck and jump the median wall to assist. One worked to free me, the other to free Zak.  When it was determined that Zak could not be saved, all their attention was turned to me. The seat belt is cut and arms are grabbing, pulling me through the window, but I am unwilling to leave Zak and I fight, hitting and clawing, my way free. But in the end, I can not fight them both and together they remove me from the car to the side of the road. I only remember a little of the next few moments: I remember begging for someone to save Zak; I remember Emma kicking; I remember a voice praying and psalm 23 being chanted; I remember the sounds of the med-i-vac chopper. But then I lost consciousness for a while.

IMG_9327I am listing my injuries so you might have a better understanding of what physically I was up against and so you might better see the miracles as they unfolded:

Both of my lungs collapsed and I had to incubated in the field; 30% of my body was burned, 20% was third degree, 10% was second degree and I sustained flash burns to my flash from the explosion; my spleen was ruptured and had to be removed; my liver and my gallbladder had lacerations and required repair; my kidneys were bruised;  my right ureter, which is the connector between the kidney and bladder, was severed and shredded; my bladder had lacerations; blood clots formed in my left abdominal cavity; the last three vertebrae in back were fractured,  both my pelvic bones were fractured, both my hips had multiple fractures, and it was these injuries that kept me non-weight bearing for 14 weeks; my uterus was ruptured in several places which caused hemorrhaging; an emergency c-section was performed because Emma died en route to the hospital; when the chopper landed at the hospital, I was in cardiac arrest; I was resuscitated three times; I required multiple reconstructive surgeries to stop hemorrhaging and 72 pints of blood; the bruising and trauma caused swelling of unbelievable proportions; there were cuts that needing stitching. When trauma is this severe, the body begins a process known as natural triage and it will shut down organs that do not need healing to conserve energy for the ones that do, and so vital organs in my body were shutting down in an attempt to save itself. The first week I was given more of a chance to die than to live.

IMG_4070Someone once told me that I was stupid to believe that God was on the scene of my accident and that it was really doctors that saved my life and were due the credit. I submit the four following miracles, a tiny sliver of a full spectrum, in order to disprove this statement:

Two retired firefighters working together at Homeland Security are sent on a trip to Alexandria, VA from Chantilly due to sudden failed plans which put them directly on course for the scene of my accident. These are the men that pulled me from my car. They left their office at approximately 9:20 am.

Since 9/11, Washington Hospital Center has run drills to ensure their trauma service runs as efficiently as possible in the event of another terrorist attack. During drills, a Med-i-vac chopper patrols the area and the heads of all departments are present in the ER. This morning the chopper was already en route westbound towards Fairfax and every top surgeon of every trauma team and their nurses were standing in the ER when the pilot radioed to say they were no longer in a drill and to give an ETA.

A nurse on her way home from Mary Washington Hospital, was close enough to witness the accident and attended to me on the side of the road until the transport arrived.

And there was a chaplain, not one who was interfaith who might be performing rituals and asking for good karma to be sent my way. He sent me a pastor. One who was clear about who our Lord and Savior is and who did not doubt His sovereign authority or His mighty power. He sent me Father Robin Rauh.

IMG_9285These are just the first four. I could write a book of just miracles that would prove God already had everything in motion. He may have allowed the enemy to wreck havoc in my life so He could draw me in close to Him and show me His love, but I know I was never in any danger of actually leaving this earth – not to die.

Through these miracles and the many that followed, God became someone I could see.

This is the third blog post in a series of five housed under the Testimony category.

Oct
5

Alternate State of Being: the gods of our imaginations

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Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them. ~ Deuteronomy 11:16 (nkjv)

IMG_9419The next week, I resigned from my commitments and walked away from my church. Worse even, I walked away from God. I stopped praying to a God I had come to believe only listened to a select few. I stopped believing that He even realized I existed. I believed that in His eyes, I was something to be given up on, tossed aside and forgotten. The next two years were spent in a fictitious world of God’s forgetfulness, studying religions and their beliefs continually asking myself the same question: How could so many people believe in a God they could not see, touch, feel or hear?  I read the Bible and I believed what it said, but it only reaffirmed what I already knew: God only chose certain people to commune with and I was not one of them. I was certainly no Abraham, Moses or Daniel nor was I a Mary, Esther or Ruth. It further instilled what I had always felt: I was nothing special. I was average and ordinary. Inside I seethed. I was unknown to God. So, I unwillingly accepted my view of the inevitable and refused to speak to Him.

IMG_9415In all that time, it never occurred to me that I had invented my own god, a god of my imagination who was a wish granting genie and someone who I could dismiss casually and at will.

I was so angry with God and had been for so long that when those double lines popped up on the pregnancy test in January of 2001, instead of hitting my knees and thanking God, I delivered the news to my family and began planning the nursery. And in the delivery room, after my second son was born, I committed a most heinous sin. Instead of thanking God for this gift He had fearfully and wonderfully made and given to me, I looked at my husband and pridefully said, “Look what we did.” As those words left my lips, I felt a shock to my spirit. I had not only taken credit for God’s work, but I also made what was holy, common. And I knew for the first time in years – He knew who I was and He heard what I said. I could have asked His forgiveness of it all – the whining and the petulance and my wretched snide behavior and for my arrogance and pride and contempt. And maybe the price would not have been quite so steep. The prideful, after all, have the furtherest to fall., but all I could do was sit in this ephemeral moment remembering a vow I had made to God one morning. In a shameful bribery attempt, I cried out, “I’ll do anything you want, endure anything for more children.” And for the next two years and into my third pregnancy, I feared what I might have to endure to make good on my word.

IMG_9414I am the Real Vine and my father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing, He prunes back so it will produce even more. When you are joined with Me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated you can’t produce a thing. This is how my Father shows who He is – when you produce grapes, when you mature as disciples. You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to Me, He gives you. ~ John 15:1-2,5,8,16 (the message)

Near the end of my third pregnancy, complacency in the chaos replaced my secret inner fear. I had become like Nebuchadnezzar flourishing in his palace and I was content in the chaos that ruled my life. I had what I wanted: my marriage was stable, I had children and I was writing for the neighborhood newspaper. As far as I was concerned, my requirements for my life had been met. It seemed like for the first time things were going my way. I had everything I wanted and yet, something was still missing for me. There was a loneliness I could not satisfy. All these years, I had convinced myself that God had paid me no attention because I was not important to Him. Since I was twelve, the most simple thing had escaped me: God wanted a relationship with me. I never understood I was one of His flock. I had spent my life trying to fit into this world and I was never going to fit here because I already belonged to Him. All He asked was that I bear fruit. But I was too busy trying to do the rights things spurred from the fear of my sin.  I capitalized on my perfected and honed skill of flying under the radar and kept myself far removed from His presence, but even when we make our bed in hell, God is there.

IMG_9417And sometimes in the middle of the night, my heart would race and I would think of Jephthah watching his daughter run out the front door to greet him. And I knew my moment would come and like a deer caught in the headlines of an on-coming truck, I had no idea what to do to rectify it.  Simply getting on my knees and repenting never even crossed my mind.

This is the second in a series of five blog posts housed under the Testimony category.

Sep
28

Alternate States of Being: perceptions

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You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, “I’ve lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

IMG_0331Once I was immature and small in my faith, plagued and consumed by continual questioning and perpetual doubt of God’s existence and my believed perception of His unawareness of mine. But then, God became someone who I could not only experience, but Someone to whom I could fully commit myself because I experienced His omnipotent power, life-saving provision and unfailing love.

Yet, O Lord, You are our Father. We are the clay, You are the Potter; we are all the work of Your hand. ~Isaiah 64:8 (niv)

I was one of those kids that was generally good. I adhered to rules and remembered my manners and did my homework. I was not by any means perfect nor anything special. I screwed up plenty, but mostly I just wanted to fly under the radar. And following the rules allowed for that- to be unnoticed and slip through whatever crack that would open up large enough to swallow me, to just let me to disappear. My greatest skill became my adaptability; I could melt into a crowd and never be seen and it suited me just fine.

I grew up in the Southern Baptist church. When I was twelve, I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior and was baptized.

IMG_0328I was not one of those Christians that had an earth shattering awakening when I asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior. I won’t say that at twelve I was not saved, but I will say that I lacked the wisdom that comes with maturity to fully understand exactly what it meant. I knew I was to follow Jesus, but no one really said to me, “Just because you are a Christian doesn’t mean bad things will not happen to you. It doesn’t mean you won’t screw up or have doubts or be scared or even make wrong decisions. It just means when those times come, and they will, you must focus on Jesus with faith that He alone will get you through.” I thought I had done the right thing; I loved Jesus and I was not going to hell. I thought it was a done deal.  No one explained that the long road after stepping out of the baptismal pool was filled with opportunities to increase my faith and those opportunities were designed specifically for me by a loving God who desired that I be holy and be obedient to His will.

When I was sixteen, my Sunday school teacher had some hard and fast rules about faith. She taught there was no in between; you either had faith or you did not. If you had faith, you believed. If you believed, there was never to be any questioning. Questioning led to doubt and doubt meant you had no faith. Eleven more years would pass before my skills of spiritual discernment would emerge so that I might understand the truth and the fallacy of her teaching.

I have always been this headstrong, literal-minded, tenacious truth seeker who was passionate about my beliefs. But who I truly want to be is a heart strong, faithful warrior who is unwavering, wise and obedient whose intricacies of who Jesus is will be reflected through each and every one of my inner thoughts, my spoken words, and my good works. It is my aspiration to always live within His will for my life.

Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you. ~ Jeremiah 1:5 (the message)

IMG_0315In August of 1998, I found myself desperately wanting another child. Every morning, I woke up, made the coffee, stepped into the shower and prayed. Truth be told, I begged. I begged Him every day. And one day, I became utterly convinced that God was ignoring everything I said. And in my petulance, my begging became angry, whiney, full of self pity. I taunted God and I yelled at Him. Every day, silent He remained. And every month, He remained just as ungiving.

During the time I wasn’t screaming at God, I was remembering. Remembering 8 years earlier, when the good girl voted most likely to not be promiscuous by all her previous boyfriends, decided being a good girl only earned you no boyfriends. And in her first year of college let herself be charmed by a slick talking city boy who knew all the right words to say. But slick decided fatherhood was not for him. So I dropped out of college, took a job at a grocery store, and a few months later delivered a healthy baby boy. So as you might be able to see, understanding was slightly elusive; my situation confusing, but do not believe for one stinking minute I did not take opportunity to point it out to God with carefully constructed words dripping with venom. And I clawed through my days digging deeper into despair, desperation and bitterness. I rarely thought of anything else other than what I was being denied and even the sermons at church became mere background noise because my desire for a baby consumed all my time with God.

But God gives us free will; He gives us choices. When those choices turn into a forked path before us, we can follow or we can stray. If I had followed, gifts of wisdom and truth and peace would have been mine. But I strayed. I lost myself in the midst of anger and bitterness and resentment. God wants us to walk in reverent obedience while being refined and purified so that we become an encouragement to our brothers and sisters in Christ and to bear witness to those who have yet to experience Jesus in His awesome wonder. I choose to be a stumbling block. In Matthew (22:27-38 nkjv) it says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.” And I did, as long as everything went my way. The first sign of trouble, I became the epitome of a petulant and unrepentant child.

IMG_0320One Sunday morning, I walked into the second grade class that I co-taught. We were studying Moses walking through the wilderness. A little boy looked up at me and asked, “How do you know God exists?” And I could not answer him. Dumb founded and left speechless by a seven year old. For the first time since I was twelve, I realized my faith was weak, if it was even there at all.

This is part one in a series of five blog posts housed under the Testimony category.

Oct
26

Alternate States of Being: abiding in grace

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who has promised is faithful. ~ Hebrews 10:23 (niv) I have been offered the unprovoked opinions of others as to why such a tragedy would occur in my life. One expressed notion is that I am being punished for past sins. I disagree. Through this adversity, God has provided me a true understanding of who I am and of Who He is as well as who I am in Him...
Oct
19

Alternate States of Being: love of The Shepherd

He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart. ~ Isaiah 40:11 (niv) The first seven weeks of my hospital stay were spent in an induced coma. During that time I had many dreams and hallucinations. And I could place each one on a timeline with out missing one. Each have their own characteristics that allow me to distinguish between them. There are...
Oct
12

Alternate States of Being: miracles in chaos

Affliction – the cause of continued pain of body or mind, as in sickness or losses. Of affliction and sorrow, affliction is the stronger term. The suffering lies deeper in the soul and usually arises from some powerful cause, such as the loss of what is most dear. If Your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. – Psalm 119:92 But out of the sheer goodness of my...
Oct
5

Alternate State of Being: the gods of our imaginations

Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them. ~ Deuteronomy 11:16 (nkjv) The next week, I resigned from my commitments and walked away from my church. Worse even, I walked away from God. I stopped praying to a God I had come to believe only listened to a select few. I stopped believing that He even realized I existed. I believed that in His...
Sep
28

Alternate States of Being: perceptions

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, “I’ve lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt Once I was immature and small in my faith, plagued and consumed by continual questioning and perpetual doubt of God’s existence and my believed perception of His...

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