The Greatest Love There Is

As the 2-year date that changed my faith and many lives approaches, I felt the Lord calling me to share this story in some way. I cannot stay quiet about His love and how he restored me and many others by His grace through a time of suffering.

I am 24 years old. A few years ago, I would never have guessed I would be sitting here writing about my faith. I became a believer when I was small, grew up in a Christian home, and sought out the Lord as best I could in my younger years, which to me meant doing good and being good. I would read my Bible because it was what I supposed to do. I knew it was the right thing to do to obey God, obey my Mother and Father, and stay out of trouble but I didn’t truly understand the depth or life in The Word. Still, I knew Jesus as my Savior…that He bled on the cross for the sin of mankind.

Yet, as college approached I began to pull away from God. My rebellion involved irresponsibility, parties, boys, and carelessness. My heart became numb to the things I once proclaimed wrong as a follower of Christ. In the midst of my selfish lifestyle, I knew that Jesus was still in my heart… but a million things were on top of Him keeping Him from me. Often I found myself thinking guiltily, “What would death look like for me now? What would I say to Jesus? How could I face Him?”

So I continued to hide, distancing myself from Him and attaching myself to worldly things or people who were like me and just wanted to “have fun”. Meanwhile, Satan was pleased, using guilt to tell me that God was angry with my behavior, loving me less and less as I made mistake after mistake. He was continuously whispering that His Grace has surely run out on me by now (which was a complete lie that I believed).

Satan can be very sly and he LOVES to drive us away from God. He will use anything, in all different forms, to create space between God and His children. During this time, following Jesus was my long-term desire. I eventually wanted to leave these idols behind and restore my relationship with Him. But my sinful nature chose this world as it pretended to be better than its Creator.

As I left college and started a new chapter of my life, I half-heartedly let go of some idols in the physical sense, but realized they had left behind a thick residue of shame and I remained withdrawn from my walk with God. Little did I know, He was about to demand my attention and my trust in a very real way.

On Feb 17, 2013, I was at work…it was a Sunday. I talked to my mom around noon. She was taking my little brother to Lacrosse practice. We hung up like any other normal conversation. A couple hours later, I receive a call from my Dad. His voice begins to crack and he says “Miranda please pray, mom is in the hospital. She collapsed at church.” That was really all I remember him saying before we hung up and I immediately left work with a racing heart full of fear.

I called my dad again to get more information. His words jumbled, I could tell he was frantic and all he said was “she is unresponsive.” The next thing I knew, thanks to the generous hearts of my roommates, I was on the next flight to Dallas. My friend picked me up from the airport and took me straight to the hospital. When I arrived a woman from my church embraced me and walked me through what had happened. In the weeks prior to this my mom had been preparing a women’s retreat for the summer. That Sunday after church the women had gathered to hear her introduce the theme of the retreat. She stood in the front of the room and began to explain what she had been studying from the Bible. She spoke the words of Psalm 84: 5-7 “Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.  As they pass through the Valley of Baka they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength till each appears before God in Zion.”

She sat down and within a minute she collapsed onto the woman next to her. God was immediately active in this incident by knowing a nurse practitioner was sitting just rows away. This happened to be the same woman embracing me at this time. She gave my mom CPR and restored her breathing. The ambulance came and took her to the nearest hospital where she was then med-flighted to a trauma center in Plano, TX. My mom had a brain aneurysm that ruptured… the same thing that had taken the life of her brother at the age of 19 many years ago. She presented to doctors as comatose. As the woman let go of me, I hear the doctor tell my dad and my little brother that my mother’s prognosis was 90% mortality.

That night in the ICU, she could open her eyes and squeeze my hand. I told her I loved her probably 100 times that night because I was unsure if she would be alive in the morning. We were warned that these incidents were like a rollercoaster ride and that we needed to prepare ourselves.

We had heard of the website “CaringBridge” and made a profile for my mom. It provided an overview of what happened and allowed us to give daily updates into a journal of her condition. This allowed for my dad to voice specific prayer requests for the events that went on each day. Friends and family from all over the world were signing her guestbook, encouraging us and praying for us.

Over the first few days they repaired her aneurysm and checked to see if her responsiveness had changed. She was under sedation so they would lift her out to ask questions. The first couple of days, she would nod and move her feet and squeeze fingers upon command. But towards the end of the week, there was no response. Seeing my mother on a ventilator in the state that she was in was the most painful thing I have ever experienced in my life. Her eyes would open every now and then but they were full of fear… they weren’t looking at me, but past me, in a glaze. Her arms would tense up (for those of you who are not in the medical field, this is called posturing) and her head would jerk back and forth in discomfort. These are signs of severe brain damage.

As Sunday approached, a week after the incident, I was planning to head back to Arkansas to talk with my professors (I was in grad school at the time) and discuss my absence at work with my boss. A doctor came in as I was crying with my dad on and off, as we had been that whole morning. No improvements, no change, my mom was just lying there. I told the doctor that I didn’t understand the regression of her state. He explained that from a medical standpoint, she was improving; however, neurologically the progression of the bleed in her brain had taken effect over the last few days.

For those of you who may not know the statistics, most cases of brain aneurysms result in immediate death, like my mom’s brother. They break the cases into thirds. The first third will die instantly before reaching the hospital while the next third will make it to the hospital but die within 30 days. Out of the final third, 60% will have permanent major deficits depending on the damage to the brain. My mom presented as comatose, which should have resulted in one of the first two categories. The doctor told us that the chances of my mom living a normal life ever again were in the single digits. I was broken.

In whom should I trust? Man or God? I can easily recall the answer to that question from the Bible:

Psalm 118: 8-9 “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.”

Proverbs 3: 8 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”

1 Peter 4: 19 “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”

My dad’s faith prevailed through the week as he trusted and prayed and relied on our merciful Savior to do the unthinkable, the impossible. He would encourage me, pray with me, pray with Mom, and read to her the sweet, victorious words of Jesus. I went back to Arkansas that night and was overwhelmed with the love and support from my friends and coworkers. I had communicated with God more in that week than in the past 4 years.

My dad told me when I left that it was okay for me to cry out to God and voice that I was disappointed in the circumstances, that I was hurting and afraid. It took me a while to muster up the courage to do so, to really cry out to Him. I remember sitting on my couch that Monday, looking up at the ceiling, and weeping. It wasn’t an angry cry, but full of desperation, full of sadness and submission to what I was sure was God’s will for my mother’s life. I knew that my mom would be rejoicing with the Lord if she died. I knew that she might have already been with the Lord for some time now, given her present mental state.

At the same time, my human nature pleaded with God for more time, more laughs, more hugs. But I knew there was nothing I could do, except for trust in God that He is good and He has a plan no matter what comes next. Somehow, I felt a peace about the possibility of my mom’s death that was unexplainable. I could feel the Lord’s presence with me, displaying sympathy, empathy, and sorrow. I felt as though he was weeping with me, saddened by these circumstances. This was a pivotal time for me and my relationship with God. I felt like God was preparing me, giving me the strength to ask some really hard questions. Preparing my family to make some really hard decisions. “Okay, God.”

My dad called me Monday night and gave me an update. The doctors had told him that we needed to start thinking about some important decisions to make by the end of the week because she needed to be taken off the ventilator. Basically, if we were to take her off the ventilator and she couldn’t breathe on her own, she would die, we would let her go be our Savior in Heaven. Another option was for the Doctors to perform a tracheotomy so that a machine could help her breathe outside of the ICU. They were unsure of the depth of brain damage so quality of life was something we had to keep in mind. My dad read a list of questions off to me he was going to discuss with the medical team in the morning. Questions like: “Have you ever seen a case like this before?” “If so, what were the outcomes?” “Is there a way that we can see how much brain activity there is?” “Is she still in there?”

My dad and I prayed that God would provide clarity, give us a clear sign to whether my mom was still with us or not. My roommates and I opened the Bible and read the full passage of Psalm 84. We reached verse 10, “For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.”

God’s courts are better. His plan is better. He is bigger than anything else this world has to offer us. If I believe this as true, my mom is safe in His hands.

As I was taking my flight out of Arkansas back to Dallas, my dad called me. The doctor had come a bit earlier and discussed taking my mom off the ventilator. The nurses were unsure, but my dad said the doctor displayed a confidence that hadn’t been seen that whole week. So they did. Once she was off the vent it was okay to lift sedation so they did that as well. We were still unsure of the damage to her brain, or what she would be like when she came fully out of sedation. When I arrived at the hospital, my dad hugged me and told me he had seen her cry… What a sign!

We prayed for clarity and not long after she began breathing on her own, she began to show emotion! Slowly, but surely…she returned to us. The Lord’s will prevailed and his power and might gleamed from her recovery.

It has been 2 years since her accident and my mom has no permanent brain damage, no deficits, not even minor cognition problems. During the miracle of my mom’s recovery, I couldn’t help but praise God for his amazing grace towards my family. An abundance of good has come from what was seemingly very bad. Obviously, he healed my mom from a perishable diagnosis. God showed her the “Valley of Baka” and taught her what it meant to “make it a place of Springs,” as she trusted His will and praised Him throughout an entire reboot of her previously capable body. She can now share this story with many in person, alive and well.

God used this to strengthen my relationship with my father as we leaned on each other in support and desperation. It has also been a tremendous witness to those who were around during the week of her ICU stay. My dad’s unwavering faith and devotion was an example to them as they saw the healing hand of Jesus at work. It became an encouragement to many believers who struggle to see God’s will being answered through prayer.

I thank Him for taking me to that moment, where all I could do was trust in Him no matter what that meant for my mom’s life. Friends, this is what God does. He uses suffering and struggle and defeat to draw us to Him, to make us rely on Him. As I was running away from Him, He was constantly moving towards me. He will always be moving towards us, although we may run in every direction but His, he will never stop pursuing us with the greatest love there is and ever will be. His grace abounds to me and to you, whether you know Him or not. He is just waiting for us to turn his way, to choose Him over this temporary life, so that we may each appear before Him in Zion.

 

Miranda Lytle