Saturday, March 15, 2014

LIFE & DEATH (brain bleed testimony) Part 2

Oh' The Blood: A few months ago, my head experienced an unexpected leak. To the best of my knowledge, blood from a bursting vein flooded parts of the subarachnoid layer of my head, and apparently this is bad. It was a strange and unexpected experience for me and my family. We are trying to learn from it and to be thankful it ended in life. There are many ideas I want to share from this experience, but I'm still processing them myself. I'm still not sure how to situate my thoughts but here are a few highlights that stick with me. 

While I Waited: This is a part of the story that speaks to the hour and half after I initially felt the pain, loss of hearing and pressure in the back then front of my head. While I sat in the darkness of my room, my family sleeping, Shanna, the lady I love most, laying just feet away. And while I silently sized up the pain and wondered, what is going on, are these my last moments, why can't I think clearly, what should I do, is this just a headache???  The conversations I had with my self and with the Lord are intimate and personal, but likely a point of contact for many others who experience pain on a daily basis, mental, emotional, physical pain, pain that threatens to drive you crazy or take your life. For now, I can only share this......I made it out.....I made it through the worst parts and to the other side, where I can see, hear, think clearly (my wife would question that), walk, talk, eat and even drive again. (I'm actually back to normal, but normal has always been a fluid concept with me)

City Lights: This part of the story is about the "life-flight" experience from Colorado Springs to Denver, from St. Francis to Sweden Medical Center. The pain was worse, the moments were a blur and before I knew what was going on, I was saying goodbye to Shanna and being put into a helicopter. People were talking, in flight medical and air staff asked questions, pulled and poked me, I must have answered correctly seeing they didn't throw me out. Thoughts of the end flooded my pounding mind. I can't share much now, except for how amazing it was to mentally shut everything out, to find myself in a bubble for just a moment where my physical senses seemed to no longer transmit sound, feelings, or smells. One minute I was fully absorbing what the physical world told me, the next, just a faint sound of a helicopter blade at high speed and a slight wobble left and right. At that moment I decided to look, to make my last view from earth a spectacular one and to look upon the Denver City Lights from my seat above. Not many people get that kind of view and I wasn't going to miss it. I'm not sure moving my head was in the "in flight rule book" for bleeding brain victims, but I was not going to let my last picture be the back of my dark eyelids. It was a fleeting and strange moment, one I barely remember, but one I will likely never forget. Most importantly on this side of the ride, I am thankful that it wasn't my last view from the sky. It seems I will live to see those lights again.....thank you Father!!!

Pulling the Plug: For now I only have one other moment to mention. Several moments actually, moments I don't remember, moments I was not aware of over my 12 days in ICU and moments that leave me with deeply mixed emotions. See, my vein must have burst open, leaked blood in places blood should not be then sealed itself up. Doctors don't know why but it happens, both veins and arteries just sometimes burst and the head is filled to some extent with unwelcome blood, in small or large amounts. It doesn't seem to matter, when this happens, the result can be fatal, cause strokes, other bleeding and brain damage. At the least it can be surprisingly painful for a long time. In my case, the bleeding seemed to be done by day two. It was sketchy but I was in the fight and winning. You couldn't have told my head that from day 3 to 8, nonetheless, I was in the fight. If you don't believe me just ask my nurses and family, rumor has it I was a "difficult" patient. Meanwhile, down the hall, others were loosing the battle, the fight for them was ending and they were in essence pulling the plug. They tell me that three other families lost their loved ones while I was there, I only hope they had a great last moment, a spiritual encounter with their creator and I pray now that their family learns to grieve well. Eternity is real, life and death are real, and for now, I just pray that broken hearts would be healed and that the Spirit of Christ would minister hope to those others, deep, abiding hope. I am deeply grateful to have made it out and to be sitting in the same chair I sat in on that night when I thought it was all about to end. But, I do wish I could have done something to help save the others or to help them find the light of God's Love before the end came. I'm not sure where all this is going, but it has me shaken, in a good way, down to by bones. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

#dadchallenge PANIC MODE

#dadchallenge (foundation)

!! When I made the plan to take her home to meet my parents I never imagined things would turn out the way they did. I loved her, I loved my parents, I had prayed, waited and sought advise from friends, mentors and pastors. What could possibly go wrong?

!! Oh, let me tell you........

!! Besides the fact that I was broke and had not spent proper money on a ring, I was not prepared to be properly romantic either. That part of this process was a little broken, OK, a lot broken. But, I did value the input of her parents and mine, so getting blessing from parents was a step I would not forget. Maybe some day I can talk about our experience at her house, but for now, I want to talk about a foundational issue relevant to every father in the #dadchallenge. 

!! Pause, what is the #dadchallenge you ask???  

!! Well it is a movement that has been going on in my heart since before I made the PANIC MODE trip home.  It has a new name, thanks to a friend of mine, Pastor Jim Hardy from the frozen tundra of Oshkosh, WI. The challenge is simply a message, a movement to share that message and the men involved. We are dads, who are taking the challenge to be better dads, exceptional dads and perhaps, legacy dads. We teach, preach, coach, sing, work, worship and war for our children, their hearts, minds and souls. Then we use conferences, retreats, seminars, coaching sessions, face to face coaching, sermons, eBooks, Books and maybe even smoke signals to share our #dadchallenge with other dads. IT IS A CHALLENGE.....not a soft sell idea of "maybe if you can find it in your heart to spend more time with your kids." This is US being open and honest about the challenges fathers face and we can declare war on apathy, mediocrity and laziness. So, invite us to your group, we would love to share......

!! Back to the PANIC MODE.  

!! So, my parents and Shanna had not really known each other and now, I'm at the house asking to merry her and for them to bless it. Mom said, I don't know her and you have to live with her, so it is your decision. My mother has grown to truly love Shanna, but at that point, they hadn't spoken for more than a few minutes. I had been gone to college now for nearly 2 years and parents just were not up to speed on all things "social life".  So, after that reaction, I realized the decision to move forward landed square on my shoulders, wow, really......what the heck....I'm in uncharted waters without GPS.  

!! I should pause to mention, this was my home town, the home where I was an older teen before leaving and where much of my teen-sin-crazy-sick-lost-angry-punkish life was lived out. Though mom had torn down my posters and painted my room a version of pink or something, it was still my home base for rebellion and dysfunction. Now, with my mind on right, I returned to do things the right way. Shanna and I had been friends for nearly 2 years but had not had sex, said "I love you" or really gotten too committed to each other until just that Christmas. So, unlike my past experiences in this town, I was doing it right. To honor God, honor Shanna and honor my parents was my goal. 

!! So what happened??  Well....PANIC set in. COMPLETE, OVERWHELMING, PANIC. Once I realized this was all on me, a super 8 video real with high def surround sound began playing a loop in my mind. I saw the multiple divorces experienced in my immediate family, I saw the struggles of my sister, uncles and aunts. I saw my own lust, immorality, crime, drunkenness, hate, anger and rage. I saw a family tree that was pretty jacked up, to put it bluntly and I just kept seeing it, playing in high speed, at deafening volumes, over, and over, and over. 

!! Shanna can tell you, over the course of the weekend, there was a moment when my bones began to shake, physically, my mind began to race out of control and I cried, like serious "cry like a baby", deep pain, deep fear, PANIC MODE, cry. It was not very manly and pretty confusing to Shanna. She could not help but to think I was unsure about "us". Actually, that was not the case at all. The problem was actually activated by the fact that "us" was a sure thing in my mind. There had been other good girls along my short Christian-Guy journey, but I just knew for sure, she was the one. It was the responsibility that came with that, especially in regards to family, that ......FREAKED - ME - OUT. 

!! I was around 24 at this time. I had already witnessed high school friends getting divorced, fighting over custody, adultery, betrayal and the like. I knew I had one chance to do this right and that I was on my own, with very few examples to follow. I also knew that I was new at this Christian guy thing and that my first real test was standing right in front of me, to love and to cherish till death do us part. My parents had not been successful, my friends, and even my first Pastor had messed this up, how in the world was a punk 24 year old guy, barely out of Christian Guy Preschool, going to succeed?

!! In my parents' living room, crying like a baby, I finally, sort of, convinced Shanna that my PANIC was about my 'FEAR' and not about her. Love covers a multitude of sins, but it does not guarantee a successful marriage and family for the long haul. It takes long term effort, daily decisions and minute by minute awareness you are the husband, you are the dad and you are leading the home toward the light or toward the darkness. I'm not sure what made me calm down, besides the assurance I got from Shanna, that she was on board because she loved me back. 

!! In my PANIC MODE I seriously thought, I AM GOING TO ROYALLY MESS THIS UP. The movie real of memories and accusations just played, looping, looping, blasting doubt and fear into the internal chambers of my heart. I felt like I might just crumble from the inside out, coming apart at the seems. Then, somewhere along the road, I remembered this one thing. I remembered that God had made me a New Creation. 

!! According to 2 Corinthians 5:17, when I surrendered my heart to Jesus, I became a brand New person. The New had come into my life, meaning the New "born again" life of Jesus with all of the joy, love and laughter that goes with it. The Old was now gone. The Bible tells me that I no longer belong to the old ways of life and they no longer belong to me. There was and is a hard break in between those two realities. I might not have known, experientially, how to be a good husband and father, but positionally, according to my Father in Heaven, whom I trusted, I was not the same person, with the same DNA for destruction and dysfunction. I was a New Creation.

!! My PANIC MODE was an opportunity to test the New Creation theory I had begun living out. This was the #dadchallenge in living color. I had prayed for years about my future family. I had seen kids in my dreams and knew they were special. Now that it was time to begin, even step one seemed too heavy. The essence of the #dadchallenge is the purposeful act of obeying the Word of God over our fleshly desires or earthly fears. PANIC goes away when a foundational decision is made to trust God with our past, present and our future. 

!! We headed back to college together knowing that God was breathing on this new family enterprise. The #RamFam was being formed in our hearts and conversation. So, with eyes wide open, and after processing the PANIC I had experienced over the weekend, I decided to trust God with this path instead of freaking out or throwing in the towel. The foundation my family would need was now being formed. Turning the PANIC into FAITH IN GOD was the key lesson for the #dadchallenge I faced at this stage of the game. Looking back, it was more than a key lesson, it was the foundation to everything I have done as a father and still remains one of the most important decisions I have made in regards to parenting. 

!! So, my encouragement to other dads is to become a New Creation in Christ, to merry a lady who follows the Lord and who wants to parent with faith in God, and when PANIC sets in, attacking your future as a father, declare war with your FAITH, radically TRUST God and be the best dad you can be!!!!

Billy Ramsdell, A New Creation
"Bringing Faith Home, Passing Faith On"