Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint
Publishing information (place, publisher, year):
New York, Jericho Books, 2013
This is the most doctrinally un-orthodox book I've ever enjoyed.
It taught me that I'm not supposed to trust another person's faith or apparent "walk with Christ" more than my own.
Does that sound arrogant? Too bad. It isn't. If you haven't learned that lesson yet, you probably won't enjoy this book very much. And, warning: there are some hard lessons in store for you. It's time to wake up.
Nadia Bolz-Weber is the pastor of a Lutheran congregation in Denver called House for All Sinners and Saints. Her book is a memoir of a very unorthodox female pastor's story of ministry to a group of marginalized people that would typically not be welcomed "just as they are" at your church. I'm pretty sure they wouldn't.
Personally, I find myself in a cycle where I'm questioning my faith as well as the framework of faith that has nurtured it. This book made me question it even further but it also challenged me to love God and love people more than I currently do. So where does that leave my faith? I wish I knew. Strengthened I think. It's refreshing when a book strengthens your faith in an insightfully unorthodox way. I'm pretty sure that's what Jesus' modus operandi.
I haven't enjoyed a memoir as much as I enjoyed this one in years. (Watch your back Donald Miller.) Since I've invoked Donald Miller's name, I should say that if the author of Blue Like Jazz was a breath of fresh air for you, you'll enjoy this book, too. But beware; there is some adult language peppered through out. The author's self-effacing crankiness was not filtered out by the editting process. Praise the Lord for that.
Also, if you like Anne Lamott's writing, you'll dig, Pastrix. The writing is clear and compassionate and punches you in the face and comes straight from the heart of a pastor.
A pre-dawn phone call from my prodigal daughter wrenched me from sleep. “Dad!” she gasped. “You have to pray. Allie is in an ambulance. She’s not breathing.”
My wife Susan and I prayed. Then I called my close friend and begged him to wake his wife and pray too. I needed heaven to mobilize. We needed more prayer than I knew at the time. We didn’t know yet that horrible violence had been inflicted on our granddaughter. These acts against her mowed a wide swath of damage across every life that touched Allie’s.
Allie is my granddaughter, born to my daughter, Charity, when she was 19. In the summer of 2006, Charity brought Allie home to live with us. Allie brought new life and brightness into our house. Six months later, on an unusually cold day in January, our hearts were broken when Charity decided to leave our South Florida home to live in gray San Francisco with Paul, Allie’s biological father. They wanted to be a family.
Allie’s second call came an hour later. “Dad, Paul shook her. He shook her and squeezed her and she stopped breathing,” my daughter said. My knees buckled, but I couldn’t find a chair.
Charity had been at a girlfriend’s house after a late-night shift, and Paul had been home with Allie. That was the arrangement. One parent worked and the other watched Allie. Alternating shifts relieved them from the added financial strain of employing a babysitter. They lived in a fifth floor studio apartment in San Francisco's gritty Tenderloin District. The building was old and poorly maintained. The elevator was often inoperable, requiring tenants to hike up the stairs with armloads of groceries and babies.
When the paramedics arrived at Paul and Charity’s apartment, Allie’s vitals were crashing. She wasn’t breathing, and her pulse raced as her weakening heart attempted to pump precious oxygen to her organs. A paramedic tested Allie’s capillary refill. He pressed the flesh on her arm with his thumb and counted how long it took for his thumb print in her flesh to disappear. For a healthy person, it’s immediate. On Allie’s skin, the print lasted several seconds.
As the paramedics squeezed air into Allie’s lungs with a bag valve mask, the elevator door disengaged from the lock, leaving its occupants stranded between floors. The paramedics manhandled the door open and climbed out onto the level above with Allie and their equipment, scrambled down the stairs, and sped to California Pacific Medical Center. Nurses and doctors worked to stabilize her. Tubes were inserted into her throat and a machine inflated her lungs with oxygen. Ten-month-old Allie remained in a coma.
She was admitted with a broken collar bone, a broken rib, and a broken fibula. Each injury was in a different stage of healing, indicating several traumatic insults spread out over time. When questioned by the emergency room doctor, Paul calmly confessed to physically abusing Allie for over four months. He showed little emotion as he told the doctor. “He seemed relieved,” the ER doctor later told me. His confession elicited a strange peace in him.
I was in a daze the day after the phone call. It was Sunday so I went to church. As a pastor, it made sense to be with my church family as the crisis unfolded. The earliest flight I could get was on Monday. Time stood still. There’s a famous scene in the movie “Good Morning Vietnam” juxtaposing Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” with scenes of explosions and people being mowed down by machine gun fire. This is how the first day was. It felt like somebody else’s tragedy was unfolding while I looked on.
I arrived in San Francisco on Monday. As my cell phone picked up the local signal, I noticed I had voice mail. It was from Jim, Paul’s father; Allie’s paternal grandfather. “Bryon, please call me when you get this,” the recording said. He answered my call and was frantic. “I can’t believe he did this! I hope he rots in jail!”
Those were my sentiments, too, but strangely, instinctively maybe, I told him, “Jim, if there’s anything Paul needs right now, it’s his dad. You need to be the best father to him you can be.” Out of nowhere, the pastor in me showed up. I was startled, quite frankly. I discovered early that I couldn’t hate Paul even if I wanted to, which was strange because many of my friends did not restrain their expressions of rage toward him. I wanted to keep an open door to his family. I didn’t want to blame them for the actions of their son. I couldn’t hate Paul because I didn’t want his family to become the accidental targets of my anger. My impression of Paul when I first met him after Allie was born was that of a bewildered kid in a big, frightening world. I felt sorry for him. After this happened to Allie, shock was added to deeper, inconsolable sorrow.
Another inmate beat Paul so badly his first night in jail; he had to have his jaw wired shut. He ate his meals through a straw. This news sickened me. Maybe if I was looking at this as an onlooker rather than a participant, I would call this justice. But I didn’t feel avenged, and I didn’t want the attacker as an ally. This perpetuated chaos. I felt neither vengeance nor vindication—only nausea. It didn't bring Allie out of her coma.
I made my way to the pediatric intensive care unit at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. A polite, serious nurse escorted me into Allie’s room. Allie’s head was completely wrapped in a bandage, turban-like. She lay under the glow of a heat lamp that maintained her body temperature. Tubes from machines for breathing, eating, and delivering fluids and medicines snaked from machines into her mouth, nose, and veins. I wasn’t met with excited giggling as I had been in the past. There was only the sad whir and beeping and pumping sounds of machines keeping her alive. I leaned in and kissed her, but she didn’t know.
San Francisco’s director of child protective services called Charity and me to a meeting. She was hard on Charity. “You should have known something was hurting your daughter,” she said, her words heavy with rebuke and warning. Charity told her she wanted to give custody of Allie to my wife and me. The director of child protective services looked me in the eye and told me there was no way I should expect to simply take custody of Allie. The director doubted my wife, Susan, and I were qualified to care for Allie medically if she ever left from the hospital.
In the same week, while Allie was still in a coma, doctors and I began to have conversations about removing the artificial breathing apparatus Allie depended on. Allie’s ability to breathe on her own needed to be tested. If she could not breathe long term without the equipment, we would have to have another conversation.
I plead with God to heal her, but doubt and despair towered over faith. If God had been unavailable to keep her safe, why would he be available to heal? I used faith-filled words in my prayers, but neither my faith nor my words had value.
In the first week I was pummeled by information, decisions, and weighty conversations. The only improvement observed in the first week was her ability to maintain her body temperature without the heating lamp. This was not enough improvement for me. Anguish paralyzed me.
Somehow people from a local San Francisco church, Calvary Chapel San Francisco, heard about my situation. They visited me regularly in the hospital and brought me food and prayed with me and were quiet with me. My relationship with God was thin, but he made his presence known through the small band of new friends.
I did my best to be upbeat in my communication with our church family back home. I recruited people to pray for us. Perhaps God wasn’t hearing my prayers, but he definitely would work, I concluded, through the prayers of others.
At the end of the first week, doctors removed tubes from Allie’s throat. She began to breathe on her own, but she remained in a coma. Her first few breaths were labored, and throughout the first day and night breathing was hard work.
Susan arrived in San Francisco in the middle of the second week, and Allie started to respond and began to emerge from the coma. It was gradual, not like it happens in movies. Allie didn’t just wake up a little confused after too many days of sleeping. Only one eye fully opened the first day. The other slowly followed over the next few days. It was evident that she was in terrible pain. Susan’s prayer life also suffered. Whenever she prayed for relief for Allie, it seemed Allie’s pain and discomfort would immediately increase. Prayer seemed to have contrary effects; it made things worse. Susan quit praying in the early days of our ordeal. Our entire belief system was flipped upside-down. My wife and I have watched God answer prayer in our lives and the lives of our friends because we followed him; we obeyed him and lived for him. Weren’t those the things that guaranteed that God would bless our lives? Not only was I confused, I was discouraged. Thinking about it now brings to mind the story of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham watched God deliver what only God could: a son to a childless couple whose child-bearing years had come and gone decades ago. Abraham loved Isaac with all of his heart, and one day God required Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. The Bible doesn’t give us the details, but I believe Abraham’s belief system was flipped upside-down, too. “What about your promises God?” Abraham must have cried in anguish. “Haven’t I followed you all these years?”
I was learning that God was doing something much deeper in our lives than we ever expected. God gave Isaac back to Abraham. This happened near the end of Abraham’s very full life, but it was only the beginning of God’s plan to redeem men’s lives. So, too, we were in the very early stages of the work God was doing in and through us to include us in the same plan; redeeming lives. The work he was doing would only be visibly evident from a not yet developed perspective. Why God would let all this happen to us we couldn’t explain. This is the point where we began to learn to trust God in day-by-day increments.
We lived in the hospital for eight weeks with Allie until the day she was released. Susan learned how to care for Allie while we were there. She relieved the nurses from including Allie in their regular rounds. Meanwhile, the doctors in the pediatric unit became our biggest advocates in the bid to gain custody of Allie. Our case was turned over to a new social worker who was not antagonistic. In fact, Jack became our greatest ally and champion of our cause. In a stunning reversal, Allie's court appointed lawyer followed suit and began to make the case that awarding us custody was the best course of action for Allie.
On the same day Allie was released from the hospital, the courts awarded us custody of Allie. Becoming Allie’s foster parents came with two restrictions: we were not permitted to leave California, and Charity was only allowed supervised visits. She could not live in the same house with Allie. We decided to live with my sister in northern California, a six-hour drive north. We had to say goodbye to our house in Florida, my job as a pastor, and our 18-year-old son, Aaron, living in Florida.
That was the beginning of the hardest time in our lives. We didn't have the hospital to back us up. We didn't have doctors and nurses as ready resources. We didn't have a hospital keeping house and preparing our meals and getting medicine doses ready. We were totally on our own.
My wife and I went to war with each other over private moments of peace. Our days and nights were filled with battle, each claiming that the other wasn't doing his or her share. I was a selfless martyr and she was a slacker. We tore into each other like wounded animals. I wanted to leave.
“If you’re leaving, don’t wait,” Susan said. “If you’re going to do it, do it now so I can get on with figuring out how life is going to work.”
This wasn’t living. It wasn’t even surviving. I made a decision to serve my wife and Allie no matter what the cost. This was the only clear option. I couldn’t get Romans 12 out of my head. I needed to become a living sacrifice. The only way our little family unit would weather this was to serve selflessly, expecting nothing in return. This isn't personal piety and this isn’t an attempt at superior spirituality. It was the only rational thing I could do to survive. This is what God was waiting for me to discover. Being a living sacrifice isn’t just a mystical way of doing Christianity. It’s not a life of simply reading the Bible, memorizing a few verses, singing songs, going to church, and obeying a few rules. The way Christianity works was summed up best by Jesus when he said, “…whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Matthew 16:25 ESV).”
In his book, The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer wrote:
There can be no doubt that this possessive clinging to things is one of the most harmful habits in the life. Because it is so natural it is rarely recognized for the evil that it is; but its outworkings are tragic. We are often hindered from giving up our treasures to the Lord out of fear for their safety; this is especially true when those treasures are loved relatives and friends. But we need have no such fears. Our Lord came not to destroy but to save. Everything is safe which we commit to Him, and nothing is really safe which is not so committed.
This was the biggest step of faith I had ever taken because there were no guarantees and no way to survive a failure.
Meanwhile, Charity was despondent after losing custody of Allie. Twice I talked her out of suicide. She went days without sleep. She became unemployable. She ended up homeless, a 99-pound 20-year-old living on the streets of San Francisco and Berkeley. She spent her nights up off the ground and out of sight in trees and on scaffolding of multi-story building projects. After about three months of living like this, she made friends at a local Alcoholics Anonymous chapter. They opened up their homes, allowing her to sleep here a few nights and there for a few more, giving her much-needed rest and security. Soon she was able to find work as a short order cook and rent a room.
My son, Aaron, involuntary discovered solitude. Everyone that was ever close to him has moved a continent away. Aaron was in school when everything happened. He wanted to come out to California, to do something, but I told him to stay put. There was nothing he could do. Allie was in a coma. Charity was in shock. Thinking back, it would have been nice to have the family back together even in this crisis. But having the family truly back together was not going to take a trip across the country, it was going to take a trip back in time.
Susan felt utterly abandoned. At first, there was an overwhelming response to our situation. Friends and family flew out from Florida to help Susan when work took me out of town. Over time, our needs changed little, but people got on with their lives. Friends promised to help and provide relief, but they took one look at how much work Allie is and slowly faded from view.
Now, three years later, Susan and I are back in Florida and have officially adopted Allie. Susan and I stick together like we never have before. We live near close friends that encourage us and help when they can. It has been healing for us. “Why me?” I complained to Joyce, a motherly lady in my life.
“Why not you?” she shot back. “You did a great job raising your first two kids, you’re visible in the community as a pastor, and you have a strong marriage. Why wouldn’t God give this child to you? Who else would he give her to?”
Those simple words pierced my heart and peace washed over me. She spoke like an oracle, completely shifting my perspective. At first, I couldn’t get my mind off of what had happened to this little girl, to us, and to me. My faith was strengthened as I shifted focus from our situation and to the Creator God who delights himself by including us in his plans to the great amazement of all who take notice. Once we felt abandoned by God, but now we sense his presence and see his wisdom. We couldn’t do this without each other and we couldn't do it without the preparation of our hearts over our lifetimes. My life is full now as hard as it is to take care of a special-needs child. Yet this child is the source and the recipient of all my love at the same time. Allie’s medical challenges will be continuous. She has cerebral palsy and is a quadriplegic due to brain damage sustained from shaking and oxygen deprivation. Her little body grows incorrectly, requiring surgery to prevent painful deformed development. Bones and muscle grow at different rates causing joints to migrate out of socket. She eats only puréed foods preventing teeth from strong development. Brain damage has severely limited her vision. Doctors say that she will never walk or talk or play like a normal child.
Susan is the biggest trooper. She’s embraced the task and held on with a relentless, unyielding grip. It’s more than motherly instinct. It’s mission. Of all of us, she has most deeply recognized that God picked us for this task. That being selected by God for this mission at this time in our lives is the best thing for us. That God has shown himself to be wise to wait until this precise time in our lives to do this thing. She loves being a mom again even if it’s the hardest thing that has ever happened. I always hear her say to Allie, “I love being your mommy."
I don't think about Paul, Allie’s biological father, much. When I do, I try to pray for him. I see his mother often, but I don't think of her son at all except when Allie is having an unusually bad day. On those days my mind runs a feedback loop of blame. But I find myself allowing this pattern to run a much shorter course lately. I'm quicker to pray. I ask God to cause Allie's little life to somehow impact Paul's redemption.
We want Allie to grow up to be a hero whose life blesses victims and perpetrators alike. Nobody is vindicated or avenged. The Cross enthroned a dying savior who said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Nor did they know what was coming: resurrection and new life. Death is the end of the road for offenders, but not for the forgiven. We want Allie to have such an understanding of the gospel that her repaired life is a signpost pointing to the redeemer who vindicates, justifies, and pours grace upon accusers, victims, and executioners alike.
A phone ringing in the night wrecks the silence and with it, my peace. Like Pavlov's dog, that ringing sound has trained me. I don't salivate, though; I worry. The jangling noise jolts me and clumsily juggle my phone trying to decipher the names or numbers displayed in the little window while waves of unease wash over me. Is it one of the kids? What's happened? Who's area code is this? I don't want to answer it.
I have a right to worry. I think so, anyway. These days my mobile is the only way bad news is delivered. That horrible electronic chirp woke my wife and I eight years ago with news that would forever alter the course of our lives. I could only hear my my wife's side of the conversation and it was a little confusing at first, but as I put the pieces of what I heard together, I felt the weight of the ceiling come down on my chest. I was the father of a pregnant, eighteen year old, unmarried daughter.
A year and some months later, another late night phone call jarred me out of a sound sleep. My daughter's number appeared in the caller ID. Her chilling words will always haunt me: "Dad, you have to pray! The baby isn't breathing."
My little granddaughter, Allie, less than a year old at the time, was shaken and squeezed by her father and hadn't taken a breath for several minutes. Paramedics administered CPR in the back of the ambulance while she was rushed to the Emergency Room.
That night, Allie didn't regain consciousness. She remained in a coma on a machine that did her breathing for her for the next seven days. After that, she started breathing on her own but remained in a coma for several more days.
I traveled across country immediately to be with Allie in the hospital. My wife Susan joined us ten days later, and Allie began to emerge from her coma that day. She was released from the hospital eight weeks later. She has severe disabilities from brain damage resulting from the shaking and lack of oxygen. She is a quadripelic with cerebral palsy. Adoption
My wife and I adopted Allie. But to do it, we had to leave a good job, friends, and family and move to a different state.
As much as we wanted to adopt Allie, I also wished for an easy way to fix this. I wished I could wave a wand and make it all go away.
I can't run away no matter what my instincts tell me to do. There are no short cuts. I have to walk all the way through this situation. I've learned I don't have what it takes.
Am I allowed to feel this way? I used to be able to look at somebody else's tragedy and just say, "Trust Jesus. No trial will come upon you that is too big for you to handle." I look back on that and think I've been walking around with a foot stuck in my mouth.
I'm grateful David had the spiritual insight to write down what he experienced while wrestling with his understanding—or lack of it—of God. We call these themed writings "Psalms of Affliction." What's consistent is a sense of forsakenness and abandonment, isolation and loneliness.
I'm also grateful because through this experience, encouragement and love flowed from my friends through phone calls and emails. These friends were sent by Jesus, Himself, to lift my soul out of darkness.
You can't do this life on your own. The stuff the world shovels your way will bury you if you don't have friends around to help dig out. Good days and bad
We have good days and not so good days.
Years ago, I worked in Northern California's Redwood forest as a tree faller. It was hard, dangerous work. Bringing monster trees to the ground can be daunting, dangerous, and stress-filled one day and unbelievably—euphorically—satisfying the next. My foreman had a saying: "sometimes you get the bear, and sometimes the bear gets you."
That's just the way it is.
My theology doesn't always answer the questions I ask. Instead, Jesus says, "don't worry about tomorrow... each day has enough trouble . . . " So we do what we can to make it through the day without having our deepest questions answered. That's all you can do.
Susan and I fight, we blame shift, and then when we feel better, we treat each other better. Not exactly textbook marriage therapy, but this isn't an hour on a pshycologist's couch, this is real life.
I wish I could say we handle the stress well. All I can say is that we're committed to seeing this through. If we think about the future or the past or what someone else has done to make this situation this situation, we're overwhelmed. It's too much information to process.
But there's grace for today. Today is all we're expected to handle; just today. I might have goals and expectations and hopes for the future, but I honestly think, according to a loose interpretation of Jesus words, we're only accountable for the moment. When you think about it, that's all we have control over anyway; this moment. The past has slipped away and the future isn't ours to control. It's scary.
But there's freedom in living this way.
God has been faithful to provide everything I need to daily live in grace and obedience. But I seem to only get enough for the day. I find when I want more, I'm neither graceful nor obedient.
There's no such thing as easy, but that doesn't mean this story can't be written with a happy ending.
This post is adapted from a combination of an article written for the Good News of South Florida in 2008 and a previous blog post.
I don't think I talked to God more than I did when Allie was in a coma. My prayers weren't just quiet and they weren't religious.
I talked to God out loud - I'm sure I looked schizophrenic - while walking down the street or jogging through the park. I pleaded with Him demonstratively with sweeping hand motions. Sometimes I jumped up and down and yelled "PLEEEEEEEAZE!!"
I yelled at Him. I cussed.
I questioned why people thought He was wise.
I told Him how He should be running things. If I were running things, there sure wouldn't be a little baby lying in a bed with tubes in her mouth and nose and electric nodes taped to her head. I wouldn't be running things this way I told Him.
When I prayed, I warned people not to stand to close because there may be some inbound lightning. My prayers were not reverent.
I'm thankful that reverent, faith-filled and respectful people were praying, though. A lot of heavenly business was done on our behalf because you guys prayed.
The Charming and Beautiful Susan and I sipped coffee on our patio and spent time reflecting this past weekend. Some of the initial
predictions about how life was going to be for Allie were dismal. One doctor, the first neurologist I ever met, was
always extremely negative. When Allie was in a coma, he told me not
to expect her to ever emerge from the coma. When she did come out of the
coma, he told me to never expect that she would be much more than a
vegetable. As Allie showed more and more promise, he expressed,
reluctantly it seemed, surprise, but he told us to expect to have
serious behavioral issues. He made sure we knew that life was going to be extremely difficult for us. There was a cadre of social workers and lawyers at the time working against us as we tried to take custody of Allie. They wanted to take her from us and put her into a group home for severely handicapped kids. They didn't think we could handle it.
So I prayed some more using the prayer style outlined above. And as others prayed, Allie continued to improve, and people with authority became our advocates. Prayers were being answered on so many levels.
Allie is now able to enjoy going to school and interacting with other students and teachers. She continues to exceed all expectations. Her behavior is continual joy-filled expressions of affection
and contagiously positive personality. I wish that doctor could see how blessed our lives are now.
God has given us such an abundant life. We never thought we'd be able to just sit and enjoy coffee together, the Charming and Beautiful Susan and I, on a garden patio together, but God was pleased to see that it happen no matter how I prayed.
Originally posted November 7, 2005 I can't believe this post is eight and half years old. Pastor John Chinelly has been a mentor in my life since 1994. Not only has he mentored me, together with his wife, Connie, they've mentored and poured their lives into thousands of couples. That is no exaggeration. Thousands of families have been changed by and benefitted from the ministry of this one, faithful couple. I'm asking you to join me in prayer for this couple and their extended family as Connie faces serious health issues. Über
Men of major influence and persuasion are seldom grand in stature or appearance. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “I came to you in weakness--timid and trembling. And my message and my preaching were very plain. I did not use wise and persuasive speeches, but the Holy Spirit was powerful among you. I did this so that you might trust the power of God rather than human wisdom.”(1 Cor. 2:3-5)
Pastor John Chinelly’s ministry in my life illustrates this perfectly. John taught me my most valuable lessons when I was young in ministry: the man of God is compassionate; the man of God is a wise manager; the man of God is a mentor.
John imparted something simple: God created me with one (1) mouth and two (2) ears.
John never actually used those words, but that’s what he taught me. The man of God must slow down and listen. I can’t assume that I know where some one is going in a conversation. Quick-fix answers rarely repair a crisis and are not helpful to the hurting. The man of God shouldn’t be that impressed with himself.
God’s minister listens and prays and points people to the Word of God. Men can’t fix men. Only God has solutions to help men get through this life. Only God has the answers men need to hear. A man of compassion understands that the insight he possesses comes from God given wisdom.
John taught me that God’s minister manages his time wisely. It’s God’s time. Time is a resource that is given by God as a gift to accomplish all that God has called the men to do.
Pastor John taught me that a mentor supports the mentored. Pastor John has always been in my corner. That’s a man I can learn from.
When God Intervenes: An Extraordinary Story of Faith, Hope, and the Power of Prayer
Carol Stream, Tyndale House, 2013
Dabney Hedegard believes in prayer. She has seen the results of answered prayer in the face of dire medical diagnosis and horrific physical circumstances.
When the author was six weeks pregnant, a tumor the size of a small football was found in her chest. Not the kind of news a woman in her early twenties is accustomed to hearing. The cancer had been growing for about six months to a year the doctor told her. The standard way of treating cancer like this in Dabney’s condition was to, one, perform an abortion, and, two, treat the cancer aggressively for six months to a year.
Sounds simple enough.
Not simple for a Christian, however, who believed her unborn child had as much of a right to live as the mother. Rather than terminate the pregnancy, could the doctor just cut out the cancer?
“Good question,” said the doctor. “But your growth is not one big mass. It consists of tiny pieces of cancer surrounded by scar tissue. It’d be like carving peanut butter out of Jell-O.”
That was the beginning of the fight for Dabney’s life. It was also the beginning of the fight for unborn Madison’s life.
What was unknown at the time was that this was the genesis of a ten year battle with health issues that, for this young couple, became a catalyst for faith that runs deep, a marriage with bonds of steel, and an exquisitely refined prayer life.
Not only do I have the privilege of knowing this author, my wife and I have watched this Dabney and Jason Hedegard walk through a trial that lasted for years. Their faith has been an inspiration, comfort and example as we’ve experienced troubles of our own.
This book is a must read. I promise the perspective you gain from reading this book will give you the attitude adjustment everyone around you has been praying for.
The charming and beautiful Susan became very goal oriented about six weeks ago. She determined that Allie was going to start sleeping in her own room in her own bed.
Allie is seven and a half years old and has never slept apart from us since she was a year old. That’s when we became her foster parents. Allie is a severely handicapped child—a victim of shaken baby syndrome. She’s our granddaughter, biologically. She can’t roll over by herself or even self-sooth enough to fall asleep. So for the past six years, my wife and I have been rocking her to sleep, putting her to bed, and sleeping with her through the night so we can help her roll and reposition herself through the night.
That all ended about three weeks ago.
We sure didn’t know what to expect. We eased into it slowly by getting Allie’s room ready. We had been using the second bedroom in our apartment as a guest room. Susan decorated the room in a Minnie Mouse motif to celebrate Allie’s favorite cartoon character.
We got Allie’s room totally ready and then decided Allie needed her own bathroom and should take the master bedroom. Allie has a special bath chair and it makes sense to give her a bathroom that could stay set up for her use. So we un-decorated the guest room room and redecorated the master bedroom in Minnie Mouse. We added safety rails to the queen sized bed, pillow topped bed we have for her, and installed a video monitor so we can keep an eye on her through the night.
We began to prepare ourselves for separation anxiety. Susan and I take turns cuddling with Allie through the night so we braced ourselves for Allie to be upset for the first couple of weeks while she got used to the new set up. Susan ribs me because whenever I’m out of town, I miss sleeping with Allie so much that I can’t sleep. “You’re co-dependent on Allie,” she says. Susan was pretty indifferent. “I won’t need any time to adjust.”
Allie asleep under the watchful eye of a video monitor
Allie did fine the first night. And the second night. And the third. She sleeps for hours most nights, but sometimes wakes up in the middle of the night. She just lays there, her eyes incandescent in the freaky, infrared glow of her video monitor. She’s not scared one bit. I snooze until Susan sends me into her room to put her back to sleep and then I end up snoozing in Allie’s bed. But Allie sleeps, most nights, all by herself more soundly than she ever has. In fact, she’s become difficult to get up for school in the morning which is a total switcheroo from the way it was up until just a few weeks ago. When we were all in the same bed, Allie was the first one awake, ready to go at least forty-five minutes before the alarm went off. Now she’s a big sleepy head in the morning.
Susan is the one that suffers the most from separation anxiety.