Friday, July 14, 2017

Looking Back... just needing to stop and tell you how good God has been to us

I am a fan of looking back. One of my favorite parts of social media is being able to look back on each day in previous years and remembering the places and people that filled up my past. It's fun to see growth and change in that way. It is also sobering when I see comments from people who have passed away. Sweet messages from my dad and my aunt, who went to heaven without much warning, and long before I was ready for them to go. But mostly, I feel joy and gratitude when I see the way God's hand has moved in my life.

Three years ago I posted a note on Facebook about why we were leaving Delaware. We had only been there three short months. I felt confused and sad, and I had no idea why God was moving us. We had already done so much moving. But in that note, I listed the things we needed to be able to make our move back to Texas. I was very specific in laying out the areas in which our family needed prayer. I remember that the future felt so nebulous, so unknowable. But I knew that we had a list of needs, and God knew how we would answer. As I read those requests this morning, I was overcome with thankfulness. Because God had gone before us, preparing the way, preparing provision before we had need.

If I could sit down with you over a cup of coffee and tell you the story in person, I would. But the kids are napping, and leaving the house might mean makeup and changing out of yoga pants. So I'll just tell you here how He did it. Because houses and jobs may seem everyday and ordinary, but they are downright miraculous to the homeless and unemployed. And that's what we were. So here's what we prayed for, and here's how God came through for us.

We prayed for housing. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary approved us for housing almost immediately. Despite our last minute move, they placed us a beautiful, two bedroom apartment with washer/dryer hookups, and y'all, it was on the first floor. Of course, we had crazy loud upstairs neighbors, but we recently moved to the second floor and we get to be the crazy loud upstairs neighbors. Hallelujah. This last apartment was our home for the last (almost) three years. This was a record setting residence for the Turner family. It was the longest we lived anywhere since our wedding in 2011.

We prayed for a job for Jake. He found a job almost immediately. He bought computers and tablets for an online technology company. He worked this job for his first semester, until God provided a ministry job for him.

We prayed for a job for me. Once we got back home to Texas, my dad welcomed us back to his church. He offered to let me step back into my previous position as Children's Minister, giving up part of his salary to make sure I would get paid. I served at Trinity Baptist Church for Jake's first semester. I got to spend valuable time with my dad during those months. I would walk into the church office with Jude, and we would look back into my dad's office. My dad's face would light up when he saw Jude us. Jude got lots of extra one-on-one time with Papa during that time. We had no idea how precious those memories would be. My second job was a teaching job at Science, Etc., a homeschool enrichment program in Fort Worth. They needed someone to teach History and Geography. The job was only two days a week, Tuesday and Thursday, so I would need someone to keep my son during that time. We quickly discovered that the seminary offered a Mom's Day Out program, and that classes were offered only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I have no doubt that this was orchestrated by God himself.

We prayed for a church home. Going back to my dad's church for our first few months was like moving back home as a fully grown adult. It's good and beneficial and healing, even, to be around the familiarity of family. But it's not where you're meant to stay. Those months at Trinity Baptist Church were a breath of fresh air. We needed those months to regroup, to rethink what we wanted in a church home. And I'll admit, I was more than hesitant about walking into another new church situation, whether it was just for attending or for employment. It all made me nervous. But again, God knew what we needed. Five months after we arrived back in Texas, Jake took a position at Lane Prairie Baptist Church in Joshua, Texas. Everyone was so incredibly friendly and kind, but I had no idea how much I was about to need my church family. Through my dad's accident and passing and those hard days that followed, the people in our church showed us the love of Jesus in more ways than I can count. God knew that we would require extra care during that time. Two and a half years later, Lane Prairie is home for us. Jude walks into the church building like he owns the place, stopping to give high fives and to hug every senior citizen he sees. And there are lots to be hugged, y'all. I have made sweet friends that have celebrated and grieved with us. We are loving our time at Lane Prairie, and we look forward to however many more years of ministry God gives us there. We hope it's a long time.

In the past three years, there have been a thousand gifts that we didn't know to pray for back then. Like I mentioned already, we got the gift of time with my dad. I was home in Texas for six months before his accident. Through his coma, I was never more than a half hour away from him. I was able to visit him several days a week. I was able to spend time with my mom during those difficult, uncertain months. As a result of my dad's accident, I saw my Aunt Judy regularly. She lived in Houston, but she came up often to check on my dad. We didn't know then that she had cancer and would be taken from us just a few months after my dad's passing. We have been given the gift of people. So many people. God brought us back to previous friendships that we left behind in the DFW area. He gave us our church family and seminary family. God orchestrated a friendship for me with the campus nurse. Do you know what it's like for a worried mama to have the wisdom of a nurse just a text message away? I do. She has become one of my dearest friends, always ready to encourage and help problem solve. My teaching job is such a life-giving thing for me. It's the kind of thing I would want to do even if I didn't get paid to do it. That is how much fun I have teaching. (Don't get me wrong, the money helps us live, so I like getting paid.) I have so much freedom and I work in such a positive environment. Anyone who has ever tried to teach in a toxic environment knows the blessing in this. He gave us a baby girl to round out our family. We get to celebrate her birthday tomorrow, and we are so grateful for her.

I know I am kind of rambling.

But I needed to tell you.

I needed to stop and say "God did this, and I am acknowledging that it came from him."

I know that even if God hadn't done any of these things for us, He would still be good. He would still be faithful.

But these are all good gifts. And they did come from Him. And I want to spell it out because there will surely come a time when the future is hard and uncertain. And I might need to look back once again and remember how big and faithful our God is.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Day We Lost Him

We lost him long before we lost him. And we didn't know that he was truly gone for a really long time. We kept waiting for him to come back to us. We waited for the feel-good movie ending where the coma patient opens his eyes, looks around, wondering where he is while his loving family cries and gathers around. And that's just not the way it went for us.

It was a Tuesday morning, and I was at school. I got a call from my sister that my dad was being rushed to the hospital after a fall off of a ladder. She said my mom was upset, but I still didn't understand exactly what was happening.

Do I need to come?

She said yes. And so I went downstairs to tell the office that I needed to leave. When my husband called a few minutes later, he was telling the same story, but he used the word "unconscious". My sister Kari hadn't said that. That's when I felt the urgency. I got into my car, and I rushed to the hospital in Arlington.

I relive that day in pieces.The scariest parts stick out the most. 7 or 8 of us crowded into a tiny room in the ER. Waiting for the doctor to come tell us what on earth was going on.

Bleeding on his brain. 

A blood clot. 

Emergency surgery. 

A waiting room filled with family and friends.

Before his surgery we went back to see him. He looked like himself. Or himself after a fall. A little bleeding. He was a little disheveled. He wasn't awake. But he was going to be fine. A little surgery was going to fix him right up. I just knew it. We were scared, but we held hands, and I prayed over him before he went into surgery. And then we waited.

Pastors came to visit. Friends and family came to sit with us. But before long, they told us that the surgery was done. It had gone well. We were able to go see him, and even though his blood pressure and heart rate seemed a little inconsistent, he seemed fine. We all kind of breathed a sigh of relief, even though we were unsure of what would come next.

My sister Ashlae and I decided to run a quick errand, since our babies were on their way to the hospital with their dads. We hadn't come prepared for an all-day hospital stay with kids. But just a few minutes out of the parking lot, we got a call to come back to the hospital. It looked like my dad might not make it. We turned the car around, and I panicked. I prayed out loud in the car.

Please, God, do not let him die. Do not let him die.

And I started to realize that this might not be so simple after all.

We had no idea what kind of damage was done as a result of my dad's fall. There was so much swelling in his brain. The neurologist said that we wouldn't know anything much until he woke up. We never considered that he might not wake up.

For several days, we waited for his heart rate and blood pressure to stabilize. There was a tangible burden lifted when the doctor finally told us that he thought my dad was "out of the woods". He said the recovery might be slow, but we would just have to wait and see. We expected that within a week or two, he would be fine. Even if he wasn't completely healed and back to himself, we never expected what would come next.

What came next was waiting.

Long days of uncertainty. Days turning into weeks. Weeks turning into months. Hospital visits. Short conversations with nurses about medical procedures and conditions that we didn't understand... until we did. Scary he-is-not-going-to-make-it moments... except he did. Songs sung by a hospital bedside. Scripture read. Prayers prayed. Conversations where we would talk and try hard not to notice that he wasn't talking back.

He woke up in the only ways his injured brain would let him. The occasional eye flutter. The slightest hand squeeze. The doctors said it was all nothing. I will never believe that it was nothing. But I also know that he was never fully aware. And I am thankful that he wasn't. It would have been a hard way to live life, unable but also aware.

We had him for eight months like this before he was gone. Like really gone. We had said the things we needed to say. We were tired. He was tired. With one illness, he was freed.

On the day of my dad's accident, we had so much hope. It was a hard day, but we believed that God would be faithful and that His will would be done.

Here we are, two long years later- and can I just tell you- we still have hope. We will see him again. And we still believe that God is faithful.


My faith has been shaken.

I don't understand why.

Some days prayer doesn't come easy.

I miss him terribly.

And it still doesn't feel fair.

And for now. This is just it. This is how it feels. This is what we have.


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