Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Beauty for Ashes

Hello friends! If you are visiting from the Rankin Baptist newsletter or the Crossroads Counseling Facebook page, then welcome! I'm Whitney Caves, a Licensed Professional Counselor with Crossroads Christian Marriage and Family Counseling Center. I work with clients facing a variety of issues including anxiety, depression, and low-self esteem. I see clients at our Clinton and Pearl locations, and Crossroads has several other locations throughout the state. For more information about our services, visit our website by clicking here.

The piece of the article that I shared in the Rankin Baptist newsletter was first published on my blog a few months ago. Here is the full article:

January 11, 2011 was a rare snow day in Clinton. My graduate school classes had been cancelled, and I was at my then-fiancé-now-husband Will’s apartment with a couple of other friends watching the college football national championship when my mom called. I didn’t answer the first time, but I was worried that something might be wrong when she called back immediately.

“Whitney. Your dad has had some sort of a spell. You need to come home right now”, she told me in a voice that didn’t belong to her. Absolute panic raced through my mind and body and I had a thousand questions that she couldn’t answer. “It doesn’t look good. You just need to come right now”, she told me. 

All I remember about that moment is that I wasn’t able to coherently speak to my friends to explain what had happened, nor could I coherently think. A moment like this will make you realize what your faith is really made of, and I am forever grateful that my first instinct was to run into Will’s room and fall onto my knees. I tried to pray, and I felt like I was, but later my friends told me that I wasn’t speaking real words but just making sounds. When I look back at that moment, I am certain, absolutely, supernaturally certain, that the Holy Spirit was there, interceding for me when I couldn’t pray real words for myself. 

My friends got me up, and Will drove me two hours south to Forrest General hospital in Hattiesburg. When we got to the hospital, we found out that my dad had suffered a massive heart attack known as the Widow Maker, a type of heart attack that immediately kills 9 out of 10 people. He had been without a pulse when he got to the hospital, without oxygen to his brain for 45 minutes, and shocked over a dozen times before he somewhat stabilized. The doctors at the hospital in my hometown of Picayune had told my mom that he probably wouldn’t survive the ambulance ride to the cardiac unit an hour north in Hattiesburg, but that he definitely wouldn’t make it if they didn’t try.

Fortunately, this story ends in the happiest way possible. After the doctors told us that he likely wouldn’t make it, my dad started making tiny improvements and miraculously woke up a couple of days later. He left the hospital 7 days after arriving, rode his motorcycle for the first time 6 weeks later, and went back to work at the beginning of the summer. He walked me down the aisle at my wedding that September, and I don’t know if there has ever been a bride more thankful to have her dad beside her. Today he is healthier than ever with no lasting damage at all.

My dad looking fine as ever!

 If you happen to be in search of a Christian magazine, I recommend that you head to your nearest ICU waiting room because they are full of them. I remember picking one up, while my dad was still unconscious, and reading “For we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 

I’d known this verse for a long time, but it didn’t really become personal to me until the months following that night. For several different reasons those months were HARD, probably the hardest of my life so far. Despite being so happy and thankful that my dad was ok, life suddenly seemed unpredictable, out of my control, and terrifying.  If something this terrible could happen, what else could happen? What if it didn’t turn out so well the next time something bad happened? For months I suffered from crippling anxiety plus guilt for feeling the anxiety. Nothing seemed to be going right and it was hard for me to find “the good” in my situation.

What good things did I eventually find?  Most significantly, my relationship with God took a very real turn that night. It didn’t happen quickly, but I can look back and see that it was the turning point. The anxiety I experienced finally resulted in me turning to scripture in a way that I never had before, and this strengthened my sometimes shaky faith in a way that nothing else ever had.  Second, spending time in counseling helped me to be able to connect to the desperation that some of my clients feel the first time they meet with me—I wouldn’t understand that feeling if I hadn’t experienced it myself. Third, I now have a story to share that may encourage someone else.  

Why do I share this story? Because sometimes it seems impossible to find the good right away.  Let me be very clear about this—I am in no way trying to compare my experience to whatever painful things that others go through. My dad made it, but someone out there has a dad who didn’t and that is a pain that I can’t pretend to understand. Someone lost a baby. A marriage. A dream. A job. Maybe you’ve made a big mistake.  Maybe you haven’t lost anything, but maybe you’re just disappointed with life and with God about the things that haven’t worked out the way you hoped. 

But whatever your trouble is, know this—as long as you’re living, God has a good plan and a purpose for your life. God brings purpose from the good things—your talents, experiences, and successes--but He also redeems and brings good from your hard times and mistakes too. It may not be in the way that you expect or hope, but God, in His timing, will bring something good from your deepest pain. We can count on this promise, today and always. 

“To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.” Isaiah 61:3

After I originally posted this story the Mutual of Omaha organization contacted me and asked me to make a video for their Aha Moment Tour. Click here if you'd like to hear me talk a little about why I love counseling and finding purpose in everyday life. 

Thanks so much for reading!