by Jon & Dianne Rice - August 13, 2020
August 7th, Dianne and I celebrated our 38th wedding anniversary. We’ve experienced and enjoyed so much over these years and are grateful for our two adult children, Amanda (husband Rob) and Aaron. We eagerly anticipate our first grandchild in about three weeks.
We both grew up in Godly homes where we learned about Jesus Christ, the wonderful stories from the Bible, and His desire for us to follow Him in faith. We were what you would call Proverbs 22:6 children, "trained in the way we should go ..."
Both of us received Christ by faith early in life. Our parents modeled faithfulness in their walk with Jesus and in the priority of obedience according to God's word and will. We are grateful for our own journeys with Christ throughout the years. It has been THE key to life, relationships, marriage, parenting, caring for one another and our parents, as well as our work and service.
Daily surrendering my life to him has not necessarily been a straight line. I have grown most through mistakes of selfish ambition, through disappointment over missed expectations, and was that not enough, we’ve suffered more and grown most since May 14, 2011 (I’ll come back to that).
I've struggled with perfectionism, where “good was not good enough” and “enough was never enough.” I’ve had a very performance based motivational system. As a result, Dianne and I had a good marriage, but not a great marriage. Dianne radiates contentment, me however, striving. In 2010, we were approaching the empty nest years. Hearing how good marriages often struggled after kids move away from home, I began praying in the fall of 2010 for two things. First, that God would give me a greater love for Dianne than I had ever experienced before. Second that God would teach me patience. Trust me when I say, through the following journey, we’ve learned to earnestly prepare for answered prayer – especially if or when answers don’t look like what we were expecting!
Our Life Changed
On May 14, 2011, Dianne experienced a Cerebral Hemorrhage and Complex Brain Aneurysm, which was followed by months of brain surgeries, subsequent brain bleeds, infections, allergic reactions, intensive and acute care, a 10 month coma, seizures and years of rehab. Pivotal points in the early days found us in complete physical and emotional surrender, giving Dianne over to the Lord repeatedly as a family. Through all this, God chose that she would remain with us and has kept teaching us about His love and patience ever since.
NOTE: Harborview Medical Center helped us set up a family journal through CaringBridge, so sparing you years of details you can read more at https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/diannerice.
Recently, I read through the first 120 days of our CaringBridge posts. It shared raw, honest and often overwhelming words from our hearts. As I read, I could not help but see how God was teaching me to grow in love … and to practice patience.
From Day 25, I wrote: (June 7th, 2011)
Yesterday I mentioned that when Aaron and I were home last Sunday, Aaron noticed Dianne's devotional study, still open from Saturday, 5/14/11. He had read the devotion and Dianne's notes, and said "Dad you've got to read this."
Psalm 130:5 says, "I waited for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His Word I do hope." Two key points were shared: First, "We wait for what is worth waiting for, and in the process we learn patience." Second, "God, who is timeless, requires of us a mature faith that may involve delays that seem like trials. Patience is one sign of that maturity, a quality that can develop only through the passing of time."
Her study went on to chronicle Biblical characters (Jacob, Joseph, Moses), who endured maturity developing trials, and prayerful relationship growth with the Lord – all refined out of acts of waiting.
On the study, Dianne wrote and attached a post-it note that hit Aaron and me as if it was a reminder note for us, from Dianne today (like, please pickup milk and bread at the store). She wrote, "God has three answers to life's questions: 1) Yes! 2) Not yet, and 3) I have something better in mind." Think about something you have been asking God for – got it? Now, imagine God answering “not yet – I have something better in mind."
God knew we were going to need a special word from Dianne at the "three week and waiting mark", thus her devotional book, notes and Bible were left open on the kitchen table for us to read. Thank you Dianne! Thank you for your words of hope to Amanda, Aaron, me and a world of friends that needed you to speak to us today!
Our Deepest Valley
Well little did we know at this time, the worst was yet to come. Looking back, we came to our deepest valley between days 80 through the mid 120’s. We’d passed brain bleeds, surgeries, infections and neurological setbacks – too many to count. Now we faced a life threatening allergic reaction, uncontrolled anaphylaxis and aspiration pneumonia.
From Day 113, I wrote: (September 3rd, 2011)
Have you ever been conflicted between what you know is right in your mind and what you feel in your heart? It is that place where human reason wrestles with truth. I know in my head that no matter what work of genius Harborview medical staff provide, God can overcome all efforts and take Dianne to be with Him in Heaven. I also know in my head that even if there is human error, or that an allergic reaction catches us completely off guard, God can overcome any set-back and miraculously heal and resolve any medical condition. It’s unsettling to know these truths in my head but be driven emotionally by feelings of anxiety, fear and in today’s case, critical spirit in my heart. My protector instinct flared up during the night, causing me to become critical of “those people” who would prescribe something that turned out, further injured Dianne. Wow, bitterness was just at the surface. Rather than trusting God’s all knowing, powerful and present nature, my fear button triggered a poor reaction in me. I know better and am grateful God was merciful today, redirecting my attitude, trust and heart back to Him. I am also grateful that Dianne’s temperature and swelling are both down tonight. Thank you Lord!
“Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”
Our Story of Hope
The past nine years have not been easy. Medical complications are ongoing. Our family has wrestled through recurring stages of grief and a journey of unexpected refresher courses just to make sure we keep learning. In grief from loss, there is denial and isolation, anger and bargaining, and the overwhelming nature of depression from helplessness. In a situation like this where loss is recurring, choosing to trust Jesus, and walk in faith is an ongoing human struggle. Also, if you've provided caregiving, you know your enemies are physical and emotional fatigue. I’ve come to know and respect the impacts of emotional whiplash – It’s more exhausting than any amount of physical fatigue.
But – isn’t this just life? One of the greatest missed expectations we have is in believing life owes us the “Great American Dream” – the idyllic life, family, job, health, and garage full of boy toys. Yet, God doesn’t present that idea in Scripture at all. Rather, Jesus describes the greater joy of eternity for followers of Christ found beyond this life. In our journey, we seek to keep trusting Jesus and live for Him each day. With God’s help, especially when overwhelmed by feeling and fears, we seek to choose faith in His promises, His authority and His all-knowing nature.
In 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 we read: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
May 14, 2021 will mark Dianne's tenth anniversary of her brain aneurysm. She is part of a one percentile who survives this type of catastrophic injury and profound complications. Today, we are all in the company of a living miracle of God. Her name is Dianne, and though she is mostly non-verbal, she teaches us to love and gives opportunity to practice patience without speaking a word.
From our Story of Hope, please know the following:
I hope this has helped you become a little bit better acquainted with us, but more importantly I hope you have been touched, just as we have been touched, by God's rich love and patience. He’s been answering my prayers all along.
Still Trusting Jesus,
Jon and Dianne Rice