I have Every Reason to be Mad at God.

My husband, Ian, and I were married right out of college. Nine years later, we were living a picture perfect life. My dream of being a stay-at-home mom came true. Ian was working as a freelance software developer, a job we decided would keep him close during the day. We now had a smart, beautiful girl who had just started kindergarten, an active three year old boy hungry for adventure, and an eleven-month-old bundle of boy joy. Life couldn’t get any better.

I never saw it coming that January day. It happened so fast. What started as a common cold for my husband ended up changing our lives forever.

“Your husband is in multi-organ failure. I’d advise you get your things in order.” The intensive care unit doctor was kind, but dead serious. By the end of the day, his condition had worsened so much that he was in a medically induced coma and breathing only with the help of a ventilator.

Why is this happening, God? What is going to happen to us, to our kids? I don’t understand!

My world came tumbling down. I was in the middle of a terrible nightmare, one I couldn’t wake up from. My thirty-two year old husband was fine yesterday, but today he was dying. How am I going to tell the kids their daddy is gone? I don’t want to be a single mom! My eleven-month-old will have no memory of his father. This is too much!

What happened next can only be attributed to God. For my family’s sake, I accepted the situation we were in and decided to make the best of it. I knew that without God, there was no way I was going to make it through this. God was there and built me up. He helped me search deep inside myself for something I never knew I had, and I found it. I was brave. I was strong. I found courage to press on.

That night in the intensive care unit, everything pointed to Ian’s inevitable death. His vital signs were extremely low. A team of specialists had done all they could for him and there was nothing left to do but wait to see what would happen. As a last desperate plea, I got on my knees, laid my face on the floor outside his room, and prayed aloud.

 God, please save Ian’s life! You can do all things! I’m not ready to be a single mom! I can’t do this alone! I need Your help!

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words… because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” ~Romans 8:26-27

At that moment, a deep sense of peace flooded through me. It was as if a heavy weight was lifted from my shoulders. I had given up. If God wanted this for us, then I had to trust that it must be best. I realized that I was not in control of this situation, or any other for that matter. I had no choice in whether Ian would live or die. I gave it to God.

Our God is so gracious and loving. After nine days of therapies, medication, and prayer, my husband miraculously woke up. God answered our prayers! He survived a condition all doctors had warned me he wouldn’t. I was grateful I’d have a husband to grow old with after all. Our children would have their daddy, too. Witnessing this miracle rekindled my faith in God and the power of prayer.

However, there were consequences I was not ready to deal with when he woke up. The medications that helped save his life had also done irreversible damage. Ian’s hands and feet did not receive adequate blood flow for many days and turned black. I witnessed his hands and feet die. Ultimately, nothing could be done to restore them and all his fingers and both of his feet had to be amputated.

Why, God? Why did this happen? Ian is such a good man. Why did he have to go through this? How is he going to get through life without fingers and feet? What are the kids going to think about their daddy now? What about me? I don’t want to be the wife of a disabled man!

I have every reason to be mad at God. Would you believe that I’m not? In fact, I am grateful! These last five years of my life have molded me into the person I am today. Would you believe that I am a better person today than I was before this happened? I can now see how selfish and proud I was. I am much happier with this new version of myself than I was with the previous negative one. Now my life is full of purpose and true joy.

Have I lived through hardship and struggle? Yes. Was I upset that my husband lost his fingers and feet? Of course. Do I wish this had never happened? No.I’m grateful that God used my weaknesses to show me His strength. My whole life I’d been weak and uncertain of myself. During the time Ian was hospitalized, God made me strong and confident. God gave me the qualities I needed to be my husband’s advocate and biggest fan.

God also led me to the realization that I am not in control. I couldn’t control whether Ian lived or died, and I had to give up control of my children when I was in no position to care for them myself. God showed me being in control was His job, not mine. I began to trust His will wholeheartedly without question. God showed me his faithfulness.

I’m happy to say my family has now reached our new normal. Ian walks with prosthetic legs and has figured out how to live life without his fingers. He is completely independent and back at work. He can even help me with tasks around the house! After this experience, I will never take our boring, uneventful life for granted again!

Our children are amazing. They are eleven, eight, and six years old now, and they’ve adjusted to our new normal very well. They love their daddy so much and don’t see anything different about him. I think this trial has given them a wonderful perspective of life and they are better for it. They have become loving, accepting children who happen to have a tough experience under their belt. For that, I am grateful.

So, you see, I’m not angry at God. He has gifted my family with lessons we can carry for the rest of our lives. We have found joy in life no matter what the circumstance. Romans 8:28 tells us:

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” ~Romans 8:28

God was always at work in our lives. Good came from our trial and we believe His purpose is being fulfilled in us. Many of us have experienced hardship in our own lives. Can we step back and see how God was there all along? Do we believe that there was purpose in our trials? Friends, God is the maker of all things, and He is in control of it all. Learn to trust Him wholeheartedly with your life. He knows best.

 

This post also appeared on waysidewomen.com.

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Ian’s adventure continues…

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While the rest of the Cloudwalkers are heading home today, Ian is not. He and a friend are staying in Tanzania a few more days. The reason he is staying is the only reason I am jealous of him taking this trip.

In June 2009, when Emma was three years old and Jack only 6 months old, we started sponsoring two children through the organization, Compassion International. For six and a half years we have sent them $76 each month, a small amount for us that we are sure makes a big impact in their lives. We have corresponded with them, sending letters and photos of our family. Even better, they have written to us and sent us photos of them, too. I love talking to our kids about our two kids, Phoebe and Elinathan. We often wondered what they were doing, eating, playing, and prayed for their health and safety. Above all, we prayed that they would hear about Jesus and believe.

Fast forward six years. Who would have ever thought that Ian would be visiting Tanzania??? We sure didn’t expect it! And yet, God had plans for Ian to climb Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania, where Phoebe and Elinathan live!!! There was no way Ian would be in their home country and NOT SEE them. NO WAY! So, he is staying behind. He is on his way right now. He and his friend have taken a plane to the opposite side of Tanzania, to the plains of Shirati where our sweet kids live. I am so so so excited for him!!! I wish I could teleport and meet them, too.

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We bought them soccer balls for Ian to give them as gifts. He is also bringing them each a photo frame with a pic of our family. Someone suggested that he take a pic with them while he is there, so we can mail it to them afterward. I think it will be so neat for him to meet these kids… to see where they live… for them to know that we are a real family and really care about them. I truly can’t wait to see photos of him with them!

So, all of that to say, keep up the prayers for Ian. He said the runway they landed on was dirt. They had to slow down because of cattle on the road. Pray for safety.

I’ll update soon.

Update on Ian in Kilimanjaro-Day 4

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I was curious to see exactly where Ian is right now. Maybe you are, too. As you can see, he is getting pretty close to the top. The team went through Lava Tower and Arrow Glacier today. They are spending the night at Barranco Camp. I might be wrong about this, because I don’t remember exactly how many days they are making their hike, but I would guess the following is the plan.

Day 5 (SUNDAY)- hike to Karanga Camp

Day 6 (MONDAY)- hike to Barafu Camp

Monday night (close to midnight Tuesday morning) start the hike to Uhuru Peak and reach it at sunrise. Get to the summit Uhuru on TUESDAY. They will spend a few minutes there, take pics, and head back down.

Complete the hike Wednesday or Thursday through Mweka Camp.

If any of you out there know any of this for sure, or can tell me if I am wrong, please please correct me! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Real Life Hero: Ian W.

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You knew I’d share about my own hero first! Ian Warshak. My high school sweetheart. My dear husband of twelve years. The father of my children. The person I admire most in life.

Why is he my hero, you ask? I’m not even sure where to start. I suppose I’ll start at the beginning.

I met Ian in ninth grade. He was thin, but not too tall. He had blonde, frizzy hair that was parted down the middle and reached down to his ears. He was what you’d call a class clown, always joking, always giggling about some line in a rap song or a movie. Everyone liked him. Ian was a theatre kid, the only freshman in the senior one act play. He wasn’t my type. I had a boyfriend. I didn’t talk to him for the next two years. (He had the lead role in the play our senior year by the way. 🙂 )

For some reason that I don’t completely understand, we ended up dating our senior year in high school and stayed together through college. His humor was just what I needed. I was uptight and serious. I was the girlfriend who constantly got upset when he said the wrong thing. I still don’t know why he stuck around with me. (But I’m glad he did.)

Ian and I finished college and got married. Three years later we started our family. He was a self employed software developer. I was a special education teacher turned stay-at-home mom after our first child was born. Life was great.

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Then something we had not planned for happened. Life threw us a bump in the road.

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I’ve watched Ian go through the unthinkable. I’ve sat by his side during the hard times. He’s been through medical procedures, therapies, and numerous surgeries including amputations. After being healthy and independent for thirty-two years, I watched him unable to take care of himself. It broke my heart.

Ian learned to walk again. He figured out how to do things in life in a new way without fingers. I’m happy to say he is now back to normal.

So why is Ian my hero?

Well, he does amazing things everyday. For one, he puts on contact lenses and loads a dishwasher without fingers. He runs regularly, which is not an easy feat since he has to do it on prosthetic legs. Ian throws a football and plays soccer with his kids. He assembles desks and chairs for me when I order them (try grabbing tiny little screws or using an electric drill with no fingers… he does it!) He grills dinner for our family by himself. He works as a software developer (on a computer) everyday to provide for our family.

Those things are great and everything, but that is not why he is my hero. Ian is my hero because he never quits. He does whatever he sets his mind to. His attitude has been positive from day one when he woke up in that hospital room. He is grateful. He is passionate. He is determined.

Ian shows our children that anything is possible when you set your mind to it. He encourages others just by being himself. Just think, if you think you’re having a bad day, look at Ian! 🙂

Our family and friends don’t even notice that Ian is missing fingers and feet anymore. He is just Ian. His body may be changed, but his spirit is still full of joy and life. He is still the silly kid I met in ninth grade.

Sometimes I wonder if I’d married Ian if I’d known he would be a quadruple amputee. I don’t know the answer to that. I hope I could have seen past it. I’ll admit life has been hard. It would have been nice to have an easier path. But, this is the path God chose for us. Till death do us part.

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This post is part of a series of 31 Real Life Heroes. If you’d like to nominate your hero, please email dwarshak(at)gmail.com.

My Reflections on Ampuversary #3.

I am a creature of memories. My life has been shaped by my experiences. I am who I am because of what I’ve gone through. The same is true for you I’m sure.

I learned something about memories a while back. We tend to remember events in our lives if they are extremely emotional. That is, we remember things if they make us really, really happy, or really, really sad. Or any other strong emotion for that matter. Events that are just kinda bland and meaningless tend to go unremembered. But if we attach real emotion to events there’s a good chance they will be remembered and marked in our memory clearly.

My wedding day and the birthdays of my children are among my greatest memories so far.The other big dates for me are the day we took Ian to the emergency room and the day he had his legs amputated. {Ian asked me why I don’t have such a strong connection to the date he had his fingers amputated… I’m not sure why. The legs are a bigger deal to me for some reason.}

The anniversary of Ian’s leg amputations is July 11. Tomorrow. On the first ampuversary (anniversary) we were at the beach. It was something unreal and totally unexpected. I’d thought we wouldn’t be able to go to the beach anymore. Who knew Ian could wear them in the sand and water? I’d assumed prosthetic legs couldn’t get wet… Thankfully, I was wrong about that. We spent a few days at our friends’ condo enjoying life’s simple pleasures. We played in the sand building castles and searching for shells. We ate some of the best peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chips, and popsicles on the patio for lunch. At night we took our flashlights and went hunting for crabs. Those are the things I remember. Probably not the most memorable activities to most people, but to me, that year after such a challenging time, there was nothing better. I remember going to sleep at night so full of gratefulness I couldn’t keep it in. Just the thought brings tears to my eyes. That was the first ampuversary.

Last year for the second ampuversary we timed a road trip to California for that exact week. We were at the San Diego Zoo on the 11th. We visited many places and made more of the memories I love. We visited the gorgeous cold beaches of La Jolla, rode the carousel and ate delicious seafood at the windy Seaport Village, and took a city tour which included a ride on a vehicle that traveled on the road and water. The kids got a kick out of that one. Sweet Luke fell asleep while we were driving and woke up when we were on the water looking at seals. He was a bit confused but overjoyed. The trip ended with three days at Disneyland, truly the happiest place on earth.

Tomorrow is the third ampuversary. I really wanted to plan something special and fun for us to do, but I failed. We will be home. We will be together, no less grateful than we were two years ago. It will just be less of a memory for me, and I’m struggling with that. I’d always wanted to be doing something memorable on July 11 every year. Since moving in to our new house two weeks ago, life has been a bit crazy. The kids have been staying up until crazy times at night, which means they are sleeping in until crazy times of the morning. We are still getting comfortable and settling in. Maybe we can do something extra special next year.

As I think about where we were three years ago, I can’t help but get a bit sad. Ian and I were headed to bed at this time, knowing our alarm would be waking us up at four o’clock in the morning. I would drive Ian across town to the surgery center where he would voluntarily have his legs amputated below the knee at six. That would be the last time he would walk on his own feet. I would sit in the waiting room praying for everything to turn out okay, anxiously waiting to see him again. Everything would go smoothly as planned. I would cry only when he slept in his room afterward, not wanting him to see me cry. The reality of his newly shortened legs in too-short black casts was too much to bear. The next two days would be the hardest, most pain filled days he’d have since everything began… and to this day.

Here we are now three years later and this is what I know.

1. We are not where we were. We are in a better place, a much easier place. Life is now normal for us again even though that looks a little different. God has continued to love us and guide us each step of the way.

2. God is still who He is. Father. Creator. Loving. Patient. Kind. Faithful. Peaceful. Powerful. All-knowing. Provider. Teacher. {Insert any other descriptor here.} God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I’m so glad. Even when all else in this country or the world is shaky or messed up, I know He will not change. I find great comfort in that.

3. He is not done with us. Yikes! I wish I knew what that means, but I don’t. If we are still here, there must be more for us to do… More for us to pour into each other and the people around us… More for us to learn… More for us to accomplish through him and for him.

Lord, I’m willing.

 

Are there any memories that shape who you are? Are they positive or negative? I’d love you to share them!

 

 

 

5 Reasons Why Daddy is Better Than Mommy.

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It’s Father’s Day weekend. (Ian calls it ‘Father’s Month’ actually.) I’ve been thinking about all the things I love about him and how he loves our kids, and I’ve come up with a conclusion. Our kids like him better than me, and I’m okay with that. I’m willing to bet this is case in most other families, too. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on any of these points.

1. Daddy is more fun.

My kids love me, I’m sure of it. But, there is just something about their Daddy I can’t compete with. When Emma was a baby, I used to rub lotion on her skin after a bath, massaging gently as I went. When Ian did it, he didn’t rub gently, no. He held the bottle of lotion a couple of feet above her and squirted it while making silly tooting sounds. Even as a little baby, she knew. She knew Daddy was more fun. She giggled so much more for him. Her smiles when he came home at the end of the day confirmed it, too.

Sports are fun by definition. Ian has always enjoyed sports. Because of Daddy’s love for sports, Jack has always loved to play with balls, too. Soccer, basketball, football, bouncy balls… if it is round, he loves it. When Ian got sick one of his biggest worries was whether he’d be able to play sports with the kids. “How am I going to throw a football around? Will I be able to play with the kids in the backyard?” We didn’t know how it would work, but we knew he’d figure it out.  Like everything else, he’s been able to play sports with the kids. Last year Ian even coached Jack’s soccer team. (Amazing, I know.)

Ian wrestles with them. He tickles them so much I’m afraid they’ll wet their pants sometimes. Still, all three of them beg to be tickled. They love it. They love him. Daddy is more fun than Mommy.

2. Daddy knows everything.

Recently I overheard a conversation between Ian and Jack. It moved me to tears.

“Daddy, I’m so glad you’re my daddy. You know all about everything.” This is true. Ian knows a LOT of useless information (and some useful stuff, too) If he doesn’t know something, he is quick to Google it. When the kids ask me something and I don’t know the answer (i.e. is the sky really blue? what does it mean to be double jointed? what is the biggest animal in the ocean?) I always defer to Ian. “Oh, I don’t know, guys. That’s a good question for Daddy. Let’s ask him when he gets home.”

You see, I want them to look up to their daddy. I want them to love and admire him, to think he is the best thing since sliced bread. And they do. He is the coolest, best dad in their eyes.

His knowing everything leads me to my next point.

 

3. Daddy is a great teacher.

He is patient, kind, and loving when he teaches the kids about anything. Ian wants the kids to know anything and everything, and he loves being the one to teach them things. He is constantly explaining the rules of some sport to Jack (currently it’s basketball.) He is showing Emma how to program code by making it fun… we will probably have several computer geeks in the family soon! Luke loves asking Daddy about different kinds of airplanes and their engines. When he sees an airplane in the sky he asks, “Daddy where is that plane going?” Ian opens an app on his phone and says, “That one is on its way to Mexico City.” Or Dallas. Or Frankfurt. Daddy always knows and wants to teach them what he knows.

4. Daddy is unstoppable.

When I asked Emma what she likes about Daddy, she said, “I like that even though he doesn’t have fingers or feet he still does everything he wants.” Ian is unstoppable. What an example and lesson for our kids to carry with them forever! They are learning that even though things are hard sometimes, they are not impossible. If Daddy can accomplish what he has, they, too, can accomplish anything they set their minds to.

Ian’s been through a tough experience in life, and yet, for every obstacle that’s been set before him, he has attacked it and succeeded. So you are a computer programmer with no fingers? No problem for Ian. You want to run again after you’ve lost your legs? Of course you do, Ian. You want to drive your daughter to school all by yourself? The sky’s the limit.

Ian is climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa later this year. He is truly unstoppable!

5. Daddy is their hero.

All the cheesy t-shirts that say ‘Daddy is My Superhero are right.’ Daddy is, without a doubt, my kids’ hero. The boys want to be just like their Daddy. I remember a day back when Ian wore the stiff braces on his wrists before he had his fingers amputated… he had left the braces on the coach and sweet three-year-old Jack walked over and put them on himself. “I’m Daddy,” he said with a big smile across his face. Tears filled my eyes. I realized Jack didn’t care that Daddy was going to be different. He loved him because he was HIS Daddy.

Emma thinks Daddy is her hero because he is the ultimate authority in everything. He knows everything, decides everything, can fix everything, the list could go on and on. She loves her daddy-daughter dates with Ian, and I know she is learning how a man should treat her because she is seeing how her daddy treats her. The bar is set high.

I think Daddy is the superhero in every family, don’t you? Kids gravitate to Daddy when he comes home from work. Kids beg for Daddy to read them just one more book at bedtime. Or five more minutes of wrestling in the living room. Or to fix their beloved broken toy. Anything, really. Anything to spend more time with Daddy.

I don’t think this is just at our house. It is probably the case in every home with a daddy. This Father’s Day tell your Daddy how special he is. Make sure he knows you love him for all he does for your family and your kids. Hopefully we can do a good job in our house, too.

WE LOVE YOU, IAN! YOU ARE THE BEST DADDY IN THE WORLD! WE ARE BLESSED TO HAVE YOU!

trip of a lifetime.

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May is my month. I get to celebrate Mother’s Day and my birthday…and school is out for summer. Great month indeed.

Last month Ian and I were fortunate enough to go on a trip, a seven night cruise on Royal Caribbean. I turned thirty-five (ugh!) so we thought it would be a great reason to travel. The best part: three other couples who are some of our best friends were going, too! We just had to make it work. This situation might never work out so perfectly again.

When you have three children you don’t just decide to go on a trip. You can’t. What will you do with your kids? Who will feed/bathe/love said kids while you are away? For seven nights (eight since you leave a day earlier to be close to your port)???

Childcare arrangements had to be made. And with us living in an apartment, we had to figure out where the kids would stay. Although we have no backyard and the space is small we decided the apartment was the best place for them. This is where their “stuff” is so they’d be most comfortable here. Luckily, Ian and I have great parents who came to the rescue. My mom and his dad took turns taking care of them. They both made the four hour road trip up to hang out with their grandkids. We are so fortunate to have them!

Once we figured out our kids were taken care of, we started planning. Well, my dear friend, Amy, started planning actually. She told us all about excursions, we all agreed, and then she booked them for us. She told us how much they cost, who we would pay, and anything else we needed to know. Amy would make an amazing travel agent! I love her!

When the day finally came, I couldn’t believe it was actually happening. Everything had worked out for us to go. Ian’s dad came in, the kids were excited to see us leave, and I’d magically packed enough clothing for a month for us both. I’d always kinda doubted we would go. I’d think, it would be nice to go, but I’m not sure it will actually happen.

Well, it did. I sat in our car in disbelief Saturday afternoon, both excited to be getting away with Ian and already missing my kids. It was going to be a looooooooong eight days.

The week was amazing! We crammed so many activities, and yet I also felt like all I did was sleep and eat. Have I mentioned how amazing it was???

We ate a LOT.

We slept a LOT.

We had uninterrupted time with friends.

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We went to the beach.

We went snorkeling!!! (We put flippers on Ian’s prosthetics!!! Post coming about that!)

 

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We went zip lining!! (I loved watching Ian do this in his fake legs! Post coming about that!)

We played blackjack, slot machines, and bingo. Yep, bingo.

I read an entire book. (The Girl on the Train)

We hung out on our balcony and watched the sky and the ocean. My favorite was looking out at night.

 

The part I was anxious about was leaving the kids and not being able to communicate with them. But that wasn’t the case. We were able to buy an internet package on our ship and we were able to text and sometimes Facetime with them. It was great to be away and still know what they were up to. The kids really enjoyed knowing what we were up to each day, too.

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Overall, it was an amazing trip. The trip of a lifetime. I really don’t know if a trip like this can ever happen again. I’m so grateful we were able to go. Thanks, Mom and Mike for taking care of my babies while we were away!