If you read Part 1 of this anxiety series, you know that today I planned to share how I learned to apply a passage in Philippians to some dark days in my own life. However, when the Little Man came down with a fever on Monday, his needs trumped the blog. And trying to put my own experience down on paper (err, computer screen) requires quite a bit of time, which I didn’t have with him needing attention. So instead, today I’m going to share an article that my grandmother wrote in 1975 recalling my grandfather’s lightning strike, which I referenced in Part 1 of this series. It’s a captivating account of how she experienced the peace that passes understanding during exceptionally anxious times, and her story is certainly worth a post of its own. I hope that you can find some encouragement in her words. And tomorrow, I promise, I will get to the details of my own battle with a journey through anxiety! So stay tuned. But until then …
WHEN LIGHTNING STRIKES
by JoAnn Kjellin, published in Power for Living, June 22, 1975
The morning of June 29, 1962 dawned bright and hot, the start of a typical summer day in Kansas. But hot or not, our farm work had to get done. The air hang motionless as I pinned the wash on the line. Many chores later, I noticed a change. The blue sky was turning to gray near the horizon.
Charles came in for lunch, anxiously eying the darkening sky. “I’d better finish raking the alfalfa before it rains,” he said. And after a bite, he left again for the field.
I got out the lawnmower and tackled the grass that stretched around our house. Thunder rumbled ominously, and I mowed faster. At about 2:30, the first few drops of rain spattered my face. “Girls,” I yelled, “get the clothes off the line!” I rode the mower into the shed as a stab of lightning ripped through the sky. A shaking explosion of thunder followed immediately.
I rushed into the house. “Let’s drive out to the field for Daddy before he gets wet,” I shouted. And dashed out again for the station wagon. The alfalfa field was over a mile from our home. A whiplash of rain flung itself across the windshield as I pulled out of the yard. When I turned into the field, few nuggets of hail were pounding the car.
I could see Charles‘ tractor. It was stopped, and our neighbor’s jeep stood nearby. Then I saw someone beside the jeep waving frantically. I eased the wagon carefully into the field, braked to a stop and hurried over.
Charles lay motionless on the ground, his face blue. Our neighbor was bending over him.
“What happened?” I called out.
“He was struck by lightning,” the neighbor replied. “No breath, and no heartbeat.”
Please God, don’t let him die! I prayed wordlessly, tears streaming down my face as Charles lay motionless on the ground. Just then the neighbor’s brother ran up to us and said he had called the sheriff and our doctor in the nearby town. I looked back at Charles. He was breathing again! That seemed like a miracle. I didn’t know then how many more I would need.
I thought of the girls in the car and ran to them. Four-year-old Patty Jo was crying. Mary Beth and Karen, who were older, turned to me anxiously. “Mama, what can we do to help?” one of them asked. “Pray,” I said woodenly.
The doctor pulled up just then. He checked Charles over, but quickly admitted he had never before treated anyone struck by lightning. I could see the indecision on his face.
“Is an ambulance coming?” he asked. I said I didn’t think so and suggested we put Charles in the station wagon. He agreed. The men loaded him onto the back, and I sat beside him. The neighbor slid behind the wheel and started the motor. The tires spun helplessly on the miry field.
I prayed again for God’s help. The men were finally able to pull the car to the road with the tractor. The sheriff had arrived, and with him speeding ahead, we raced down the highway. Thoughts pummeled through my mind. How badly was Charles hurt? How could I cope with the children and the endless chores and responsibilities of the farm? When we pulled into St. Luke’s, Charles was whisked away. As the doctor’s closed the doors behind him, I felt totally alone. A policeman took the girls to stay with Charles’ mother. Our pastor arrived shortly. “JoAnn,” he said after he prayed. “Please let me take you home so you can get some dry clothes.”
I balked at leaving the hospital. “My place is with Charles,” I insisted stubbornly. Still, I was uncomfortable in my wet clothing. I finally consented, and after changing, returned to the hospital and stayed all night.
I was so distraught, I hardly noticed the help I was receiving. Neighbors took over the farm chores. My sister arrived the next morning, with her own two girls, to take care of our children. People from the church showed their concern with food and prayers. I focused my whole attention on Charles. Yet there was nothing I could do, it seemed. My prayers reached no higher than the ceiling.
The lightning had badly injured Charles. How badly, we didn’t know. There were spots on his head where the skin had broken. The hair on his arms was knotted, apparently scorched. There was a deep gash near his neck. His arms hung limp and lifeless at his side. Later we learned that the hearing in his right ear was completely gone. Worst of all, Charles was in a semiconscious state and refused to cooperate with hospital personnel. He didn’t even recognize me.
One day as I was seated by his bed, a lump formed in my throat at the futility of it all. I turned to my husband: “Charles, do you have children?”
He nodded weakly. “Three daughters. Mary Beth, Karen and Patty Jo.”
“Then who am I?”
He shook his head helplessly. “I don’t know who you are.”
Pain knifed me. We had shared 12 years of happily married life; yet Charles didn’t even recognize his own wife.
Lord, I prayed desperately, show me how I can get through to him. Suddenly I remembered our little code. Squeezing each others‘ hand three times meant “I Love you.” I reached over and took his thin white hand and squeezed it gently over and over. This time he responded with feeble grips. Subconsciously, at least, he remembered.
But I wasn’t satisfied with Charles‘ progress. What if he didn’t recover? I couldn’t stick it out on the farm alone without help. The doctor consulted specialists in Wichita, and I was told he was doing everything he could for a lightning strike victim. More tests and X-rays showed little progress. Since Charles would not cooperate, there was little the doctor could determine.
I was discouraged and troubled. I’d been brought up in Sunday School and had made a commitment to Christ before Charles and I were married. So had he. But I had grown lukewarm. When we moved to the farm, Charles and I rededicated our lives to Christ in Pastor Gilbert’s church. We had grown spiritually under his ministry.
But now I felt so alone, so depressed. How I wish Reverend Gilbert were here, I thought. Then a quiet voice spoke to me. “What can Reverend Gilbert do that you and I can’t do, my child? Can you trust me? Remember, I’m the originator of miracles.”
In deep humility, I prayed for forgiveness. An overwhelming peace, the peace that passeth understanding, coursed through me, and I knew Charles was going to be alright. I felt like singing and shouting when I came out of his room.
Not everyone shared my optimism though. Others came out of the room shaking their heads. But one of the nurses told me later that my positive attitude had done more for Charles than any medication. How could it be otherwise with the Lord in charge?
Charles was released from the hospital at the end of 10 days. He still had problems, but each time they seemed to overpower us, the Lord stepped in with another miracle. We learned after visiting with a neurosurgeon in Wichita that the lightning had crossed through Charles‘ spinal cord at the base of his neck. Had it stuck an inch higher, he would have probably died instantly, an inch lower and could have been permanently paralyzed.
Because of the intense agony in his arms, Charles was forced to take heavy doses of narcotics. Eventually the doctor refused to renew the prescriptions, and Charles grew almost desperate. He cried for something to alleviate the excruciating pain. Through the chance remark of a friend, we found someone who was able to relieve his suffering with massage treatments. Milking cows by hand also proved excellent therapy. These were slow but certain steps toward recovery. We looked on them as our customary miracles. Another miracle was our son, Douglas, , who was born to us two years later, in spite of everything that had happened to Charles.
Looking back, I realize I have never been so completely dependent on Christ as I was when Charles was hurt. My faith has grown and strengthened me as a result of his accident. I now gladly accept opportunities to share my faith with others. I tell of the abundant life the Lord gives. And when I live each day, expecting to see Him working, I’m not disappointed. I know it isn’t God’s way for me to rely on an experience that happened a dozen years ago, but it started me on day-by-day growing. Today, ours truly is a Christian home. Our girls have become committed Christians, and Doug, who is 10, loves Jesus. Wonderful miracles? Of course!
I hope you found a little encouragement in my grandparents’ story. Please stay tuned tomorrow, when I FINALLY share the details of my own battle with anxiet