Friday, March 11, 2011

The Ugly Beauty: God's Enduring Love Story


The day ~ October 16, 1980 ~ 28 year old parents rush to the hospital to deliver their third child - some 6 weeks earlier than expected. The timing isn't right,  the baby emerged from the safety of the womb too soon, contractions were resisting all form of intervention and  at 10:53 AM a small and fragile little boy named John was born. He weighed 4 pounds 4 oz and had dark brown hair - the first thing noticed about this child was his smile. This little miracle spent two weeks in the NICU before joining his family at home in the beautiful Northwest. It was a joyous occasion - life had proven difficult and God in his infinite wisdom sent a hidden blessing wrapped in the brain of this special child. This child's blessing would be hidden from sight for many years, it would look foul and graceless to the naked eye. There was mystery wrapped within the body of this child named John whose name reminds the world that "God Is Gracious!"
John and his older brothers Scotty & David

This is where the ugly beautiful begins for all of us - at birth. The moment our eyes see that bright light and we emerge from our mothers womb ~  the ugly beautiful begins. There are moments of joy, moments of foul odorous pain and moments of elation. All these pieces are woven together into a story - Our Love Story.
John's love story began that crisp fall October morning and from the moment his birth story began to unfold,  God screams out "God Is Gracious!". 

John and his determined momma - I will forever be greatful!
This small frail child, named John Allan, was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy; possible  caused by lack of oxygen at birth. Throughout John's life he  had many corrective surgeries at Shriners Hospital - a place of hope for thousands of parents struggling with the trauma of raising a child with disabilities.  His loving parents were very proactive and pushed for anything that would improve on John's situation. They even homeschooled him for  two years so he could spend the necessary time recovering in the hospital and making physical therapy appointments. These surgeries were the main reason John  is able to walk and lead a "normal" life. As the Love Story of the Ugly Beautiful unfolds - there is pain but joy, sorrow but gladness, anger but communion, trials but thanksgiving.

In Jamaica on a mission trip, this trip is where God revealed to me that John was going to be my husband one day.

Fast forward to March 12, 1998 ~ a day I will never forget - the day our two love stories intersect. This was the day that my own personal love story crossed paths with a 17 year old boy named John. I was independent, a horse woman, a violinist and writer. I was determined to never fall in love and was  thrilled to be graduating from High School in a mere three months. But as God reminds, He is Gracious!  The path I had for my life was not the Love Story God was writing. John and I met that afternoon in March at a school play, neither was impressed, and then we went our separate ways. Our love stories intersected and then drifted off into our own ugly beautiful. A few weeks later I was invited by a dear friend to rock climb at a local gym. Little did I know that this boy I was so unimpressed with from  weeks earlier would be there waiting.

Engaged ~Rose Gardens ~ Portland Oregon
That Spring day in late March would later capture my heart and mind for years to come. It was at that gym, climbing that steep wall of rock, that I again met John - we talked, we shared, we climbed the rocks of life together and have never looked back. It was in mid May that I began to see John's ugly beautiful shape my life - he called and said he needed surgery-- tomorrow -- on his foot. Up until this point in time John had walked with a huge limp in his right leg. He drug the leg as he walked, making noise and catching glances wherever he went. It didn't phase him, he was use to living with the ugly beautiful.

I visited John that May day in the hospital, his dad had taken a picture of me and colored my hair bright red! John had it on the window in his hospital room. Smiling as usual, he was sharing stories and helping a young man who had many ailments too. The way John so easily conversed with people so different than myself floured me. It  was the first time the ugly beautiful began to paint a little more beauty than ugliness. John had a gift - the gift of compassion that only someone who had been through the "Valley of the Shadow of Death" could understand. I did not understand - but God would change all of that. The corrective surgery John had on that May morning corrected a lot of his right leg issues. Instead of dragging his right foot, he was now able to put full weight on the leg. His walk had been perfected.

Our Ugly Beautiful meshed together into one broken and messy canvas of splattered paint. The Ugly Beautiful "That which is perceived as ugly transfigures into beautiful... the dark can give birth to life; suffering can deliver grace." One Thousand Gifts Page 99. 

" I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine." SS 6:3
We were married some 5 years later, on a mild January day. I had an inkling that marrying a man who had known suffering, who deals daily with relentless pain, was going to be an adventure. God shared with me that our story wasn't written to be  "Happily Ever After."  I often asked myself, "Am I willing to experience my own pain in order to marry this man?" I remember God vividly  telling my that for a season John would struggle with employment, we'd have financial struggles, and my own Ugly Beautiful, was going to be a stumbling block in our union. "Was I ready?"  Looking back, I was naive and lacking in faith!. I am so glad the Lord didn't share with me all the struggles that were yet to be experienced. 

I prayed early in our marriage that he would run with our kids!
The Lord's foretelling of my future came true, we struggled ~ inwardly & outwardly, I questioned in silence " Did I make the right choice?, " Will we ever lead a "normal" life," "Will my husband find a job or will his disability keep him from his passions?"  "Will I every be able to just be a mom and wife, or will I always need to work?"  I tried for many years to be supportive, my own life messes being unraveled and God used John's ugly beautiful to change this graceless woman's heart from the inside out. The refinement  process of learning to surrender, submit, believe with great faith, and obedience went on for 6 years. For 6 years we didn't see much beauty in our story,  we  experienced pain together,  we grew together, we grew in faith, we grew in love. It was a struggle, yet a blessing, a grounding and rooting in all that we knew to be true. John's ugly beautiful woven into my life became  -- beauty. The fruit of God's tree was beginning to bloom.

Beauty from Ashes.

On our Wedding Day, I was unaware of how God was piecing events in John's life together ~ weaving those prices into a beautiful tapestry.  The Ugly Beautiful,  “That which is perceived as ugly transfigures into beautiful... the dark can give birth to life; suffering can deliver grace."   John's struggles with having been born with Cerebral Palsy, numerous surgeries and career difficulties, were all woven together into a  stunning picture of God’s bigger story ~ a story written in service for those with special needs. A champion to share the love of Christ with a broke and hurting group of young people.

Weekend To Remember 2011
Two years ago, when teaching jobs were scarce, John's resume was one of a few hundred waiting on the desk of a principal’s desk.  Teaching jobs in our area were scarce. I confess, our faith in John ever finding a job to support his  family was lacking too. Then John received a call, the the principal at a local school had picked out John's resume, primarily because he had “police experience” and was an Eagle Scout.  The only position available was an Aid position in Special education – a far cry from the Math and Science avenue John been pursuing. After much prayer, he took a pay cut and accepted this “foot in the door” to a better teaching career. Little did we know that Special Education was right where God wanted him ~ this profession of service is what God had been equipping John for his entire life.  John was offered a permanent teaching position that December and accepted full responsibility for his first class of 10 children the following August. John said he knew from the first day with Special Ed kids that, "this was what God designed me for; this is where I desire to invest the time I’ve been given!" 
Schriners Reunion

I remember John coming home that first day with a heavenly glow, I'd never seen his smile so big. A year later he asked if we could pray about him participating in a trip to Vietnam with our church, to help educate the community about special needs children. The Ugly Beautiful was coming into focus, those things that "Satan had used for evil, God meant for good."  

The fruit was finally coming into bloom. The beauty of the story is still being written, the Designer still writing the script for our journey. The lessons of faith, trust, perseverance, & courage are memories inscribed in our family's DNA reminding us of our  gracious God who commands the entire universe and yet cares to write our Love story ~ that which we perceived as ugly - disability, pain, rejection, - transfigured into splendor - the evil and darkness gave birth to light. The anguish delivered reformation: Two love stories became One Testimony of God's graciousness  & devotion for mankind.


Cara said...

Thank you for sharing y'all's beautiful story, Melissa! I know that John is a gift to his students as much as they are blessings to him!!! You are truly an incredible wife, mother, writer, and so much more, and my life has been blessed through your sharing on your blog!!! :)

Jodi.Pafford said...

I'm catching up on blogs tonight. I'm touched by yalls story. Thanks for sharing!!