Identity: Applying For A New One

Have you ever had to become someone you had never been before? Have life’s circumstances put you in a position that caused you to choose between fight or flight? As the proverbial line in the sand was drawn at my feet about 5 years ago, I never knew that crossing to the other side would require so much.

Next week, my 5 year-old will be turning six. This will be the day after my four 4 year-olds turn five. It has been five years now since I spent almost two months sleeping on the roll out hospital bed. I spent many, many hours pacing the hospital halls at night; not knowing that I was in “training.” I watched Liz’s stomach expand as her womb grew to make room for our four miracles. During that time, the word “magnesium” became a dirty word. I learned how to place multiple heart monitors on pregnant tummy. And I know where the quietest places are in a hospital.

A month later, I was still basically living in the hospital. Sleeping at “home” or at friends’ houses, getting to the hospital by 6:00 am, so as to not miss visiting hours in the ICU, spending a few hours in the NICU, setting up the lap-top in an employee-only conference room…all became very routine. Those months were spent living on emotions. Fear, worry, anxiety, anticipation…pick one. It was while experiencing life at a whole new level that I learned to stop praying at God and began to actually walk with Him. When I would run up the stairs between floors, I imagined Him running with me. When Liz was asleep with wires, tubes, and drains all over the place, I would sit there and stare at her monitor and felt my Lord watching with me. The long days and nights spent at the bedside of my newborn miracles as they began t0 move, grow, and work on stealing my heart, I knew my King had His hand on my shoulder admiring His handiwork.

Logan didn’t see me much. I regret that. I knew my in-laws and others were loving on him during those trying days. There are times now when I feel like I am trying to catch up to where I am to be with him. When I listen to his stories and listen to him teaching his brother and sisters the things I have taught him, I hear God whispering to my soul, “Don’t stop. I have plans for that one.”

But those months in the hospital in 2005 were the beginning of what was to be a change in identity. I grew up the son of  two God-fearing parents, who gave up everything to follow God’s direction for their lives. The time had come to severely cut the lifeline and decide whether I was going to choose a faith of coat-tails or a faith that would require my own “all.” And before I could move forward and without the knowledge of what was to come, I had to give my answer. And as soon as I decided to walk by myself with my God, I realized I was standing on a sheet of glass over the Grand Canyon. Everything had been striped away. No home of our own, no money to be proud of, no possessions that were worth much and zero capability to walk alone. With the help of family and friends and strangers, all of whom God had placed in our lives for a reason, the journey had begun.

Since those life-jerking months in the middle of 2005,  brokeness has become a norm. And it feels so good. When things are as easy as Sunday morning, I tend to coast. No need for God’s attention or interference cause life is good and I’m the smooth operator. But then again, that was the identity of old. So often times, I feel like I am not running from God per say, but I know I am not running directly towards Him either. Over the last five years, I have become a notorious treadmill jogger. What a waste! A waste of energy, breath, time, and potential. But, I keep coming back because every time I hop off and start to let God lead me down some path, I trip on some root of life and skin my knee. “It’s not worth the pain. I was just fine where I was.” I have missed out on the scenic views of my life because I want to get back to the rut I know how to manage.

Two and a half years ago, Liz had a stroke. I remember that day and watching a mother of five begin to go numb. One side of her body, then the next. Her face began to draw downward. Her eyes were sunken. Her skin was pale. I felt like Life, God, and I were not on the same page. This didn’t fit. We had experienced a great ride with the purchase of our first home; work was rockin’; blue skies never seemed bluer. Was life about to be shattered? How does this factor in the grand scheme of things? Fight or flight? Fight or flight?

For the last five years, I have garnered more medical knowledge than I ever wanted to know. I have learned how to take care of five kids by myself. I have signed too many consent forms for the kids and for Liz. Diapers, meals, clothes, appointments, work, hospital visits and stays, surgeries, emergency room stops, procedures…its who I have been. I have learned how to cry with no shame. I have seen much.

I have become that guy who talks about God when it would be easier to yell at Him. I have become the guy that finds God in big ways, when looking for Him in the little things. My identity has been wrapped up in being the guy whose wife has been sick for so long and whose kids need Him for everything. I am the guy that knows how to ask for help now. But…prayerfully and with all the hope that I can muster from the bottom of my heart, Liz is getting better. The kids are growing up and are often times able to do the things for themselves that used to require my assistance.

We live life for the purpose of having a relationship with God. I get a feeling sometimes that I have sacrificed my talks with God by filling that time at the different area hospitals or giving baths or making lunches. Where’s my one-on-one? Where’s my exclusive? Or better yet, I think He is asking me those questions. And the best answer I can come up with is, “God, here I am. I’m right here. Would you mind picking me up for a while?”

As I look for a job these days and as I work myself free from my past identity, I am filled with a new lease on life. I wasn’t made to be a mother or to become a smart alec husband of a patient or even to be chef-dad. I was made to follow. I was made to worship. I was made to credit God with answered prayers. I don’t know what is next. I don’t know what will happen in the next five years. This is  now the close of another day. I am now one more day closer to my death. But as of right now, I still have time. Is it treadmill training again or have I learned my lesson that skinned knees heal, but a wrong path is hopeless and meaningless.

The love letters I receive daily from my Lord are seen in the way He has carried me through. I feel slightly lost in where I am to go and what I am to do, but man, you know something? I have been here before. The sheet of glass isn’t as scary as once before.

Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

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2 Responses to “Identity: Applying For A New One”

  1. NanaPops Says:

    I praise Him for you, Liz, Logan, Hudson, Madison, Candice, Logan, and all the family of every kind the Lord has and is using in your (and our)lives. I thank Him for calling each of us to Himself, through faith in Christ, who opened the door back to our Father. I thank and praise Him for walking with each of us & for working His will daily in our lives & circumstances (as much as we allow Him to), as we live it out in this temporal, fallen and thus, very imperfect, world. His presence & power in and with us here, now, and the assurance of timeless eternity with Him is the key, which your words above reminded me about this morning. I’m celebrating, praising and praying some more as you, you all, all the family, and Mom & I here, seek to live according to His Word and “fight the good fight”. And as Paul also wrote to Timothy, “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. Love, praise & prayers.

  2. Jennifer Howard Says:

    Donny, You can never imagine what an impact your posts have made on me as a person. I read what you write and I realize that I have NO idea what Faith truly is. You may feel like you’ve been in this place before but please know that along the way God has used you to save more lives than those of your family. God is using you to send his message to those who at times find it very hard to listen.

    When we moved to Illinois I knew (and still know) that God was leading us to come here. I always say that the door was opened so wide that ther was no way that we COULDN’T walk through it…He made it so obvious! Now with the birth of our second son, almost 6 monthes ago, we want so bad to be back near our family. It does seem as though God is closing the door on this chapter of our lives, but so many more things must happen before we are able to move home. I have been praying, but not hard enough!

    Thank you for speaking God’s faithfulness to me. Your writings are better than any sermon I have ever heard…God is using you in ways you may not even be aware of!

    I will continue to pray for you, Liz and your family. You are an awesome husband and father. Thank you for sharing your life with all of us.

    Jen howard

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