Wednesday, November 26, 2014

"Life is What Happens to You While You're Making Other Plans"

So, the PLANS were set:  Blake would report to the Missionary Training Center on Wed., Nov. 19.  His open house was scheduled for Saturday evening, the 15th, and then Sunday we would go to the 10 a.m. Phoenix Temple Dedication, meet with our stake president for Blake's setting apart in the early afternoon, and head for Utah.  We had a box of food packed so we wouldn't have to buy anything on our drive up Sunday.  It was a great PLAN.  But... "life is what happens to you while you're making other plans."

Well, Saturday night after the open house Blake went next-door with friends for his final little hurrah.  They were being normal kids (big teenage kids), running around and playing on the trampoline and everything else available.  The merry-go-round was a big hit, and they spun each other as fast as possible.  Blake was one of many who took a spin on it.  But as he jumped off while it was still spinning fast, and took off running to keep from falling, he ran his big toe right into a shovel and sliced it deep under the nail.

I knew nothing about it until I got a text from the mom next-door saying, "All I have to say is, I'm so sorry... =/"  So I asked more questions and found out what had happened, and that she had cleaned it out and bandaged it for him.  I was grateful to her, and really not too concerned.  We agreed that he was practically a missionary and would be blessed.  It was fine.

The next morning Rob found Blake on the couch with some liquid bandage, ready to glue his toe closed so we could leave for the temple dedication.  We hadn't seen it before now, since it was already cleaned and bandaged the night before, so when Rob took a look at it he told Blake that gluing it might not be a good idea; that it would likely need stitches.  We found out it had bled a LOT when it first happened (to the point that one of the other boys threw up when he looked at it--haha!), which we knew was good and hopefully meant it was well cleaned out.  But we still decided we might need to give it more thought.  We needed to leave soon for the dedication, so Blake wrapped it up and we left.  (This is the least graphic of the pictures--I won't post the rest!)

When we got home from the dedication Rob decided to see if we could contact a wonderful foot doctor we know, that we absolutely LOVE, who we've been to with injuries before.  We hated to bother anyone on the Sabbath, and especially him as he's a very busy man.  He currently serves in a mission presidency as well as continuing to work full-time.  We thought a text message would be the least bothersome way to contact him, so Rob sent him this, with a close-up picture of Blake's toe:

"Dr/Pres ______, this is Rob Ferrin. Hate to bother you.  My son, Blake, is being set apart at 1:00, and we were leaving today for the MTC shortly after, and he just showed me his toe that he cut open last night running into a shovel.  He had super glue out, and I stopped him, looked at it and told him it looked worse than that to me.  I'm not sure you can see it well enough in this picture, but I'm looking for some advice. Does it look like something we could attempt to butterfly bandage up, and take him to someone in Utah before dropping him at the MTC if it gets worse, or should we change plans and get it taken care of before we leave town???"

Rob almost immediately received this reply:

"I would not leave town with that wound. I am just leaving for the [1:00] dedication and would be able to see him in my office @ 3:00 if that is agreeable. The wound is over eight hours old and is already potentially colonized with bacteria. Let me know ASAP if that will work for you.  If you close that wound at this point without proper preparation it will be significantly infected within 48 hrs."

Wow.  We had underestimated how potentially serious this could be.

So we went for Blake's setting apart (AWESOME experience), and then Rob and Blake left to meet the doctor in Gilbert.  I wanted to go to support Blake, but then when I heard about it afterward I was glad I hadn't been there.  It was a pretty gruesome and painful 5 stitches (including 2 numbing shots that didn't really take effect). =(  Thank goodness Blake is tough! =/

By the time Rob and Blake got home it was evening (and the kind doctor was late to a family gathering because of his time spent helping us).  We debated whether to still leave and drive a small part of the way, or just go to bed early and leave the next morning.  We opted to wait.

We got up early and were driving away at 3:30 a.m.  The kids were just getting comfy enough to go back to sleep when Rob's phone rang at about 4:10.  We were all surprised, wondering who could be calling at that hour.  Everyone was silent as we listened to Rob's end of what we quickly realized was a serious conversation.

It was the doctor, and he apologized profusely for waking Rob, although Rob assured him he hadn't.  He then told Rob that he had been awakened in his sleep with concern that he had done the wrong thing; that he should have performed Blake's procedure in an operating room rather than just in his office, and done a more thorough job of cleaning out the wound.  He advised us to turn around, come back and have surgery, and keep Blake home to rest his foot and recover before going.  Yes, it would postpone his mission for a time.

My first thought was that we had no choice but to heed his advice.  We hadn't really been concerned about the injury until this phone call, but this phone call changed everything.  We have a great deal of respect for this man.  We know he lives his life very close to the Spirit, and for him to call and say he had been awakened in the middle of the night with concern automatically caused us great concern as well.

How would we feel if we continued to Provo and something went terribly wrong?  How could we question a man who's a very knowledgeable doctor, a member of a mission presidency, has seen serious consequences from similar injuries (he told us an injury like this definitely has the potential to cause a missionary to be sent home), and is just so very inspired?  We've literally had a spiritual experience every time we've been to his office, even though we were simply there for medical treatment.  Before knowing him, I never knew that was possible.  We've never known anyone like him.

On the other hand, Blake received his call to leave at this time, and we felt good about that and weren't sure that it should change--for any reason.  Maybe we needed to continue with our plan to get him to the MTC as scheduled.  We knew the doctor was feeling the weight of responsibility for the outcome of Blake's foot, and we wanted to believe that his feelings were just out of fear of the worst-case scenario.  What if we kept Blake home a little longer to heal, and therefore his mission was postponed, and in that time the decision was made to reassign him to another mission?  That would be heartbreaking, when Blake's been so excited about going to Hawaii, and most of all that's where he was called to go.  But the same could happen if we took him to the MTC as scheduled, he got a bad infection or suffered a setback of some sort, and had to be sent home and then possibly relocated to a new mission.  We also thought about the fact that once he's in the MTC we have only weekly contact with him, by mail or email; we can't just pick up the phone or text him to check in each day and make sure all is still well.  And a lot can happen (i.e., infection) in a week's time.  So many thoughts were going through our minds...

Since we were already on the road, and Rob wanted to get through Phoenix before rush hour traffic in case we continued, he kept driving as he thought over the conversation.  (Getting another half hour or hour down the road wouldn't make that much difference, even if we did end up turning around.)  We had all been silent during his conversation with the doctor, and except for filling us in on what had been said we continued to drive in almost complete silence.  Rob was visibly consumed by the decision at hand, as were the rest of us.  It was horrible.

We came up on Pinnacle Peak Rd. and took the off-ramp.  Rob knew that that was the road the new temple is on, so he drove there.  He pulled into the parking lot and parked facing the temple entrance.

Even though our minds were in turmoil, I loved the dark of the early morning with the temple lit up against the black sky.  We sat looking at the temple, our minds heavily weighed down.  Rob suggested we say a prayer together, and asked me to be the one to offer it.  Before I started praying I asked the family if we could all make sure to be silent after the prayer, and simply listen for direction.  I struggled through the prayer, pleading with Heavenly Father to bless us with His guidance in this critical decision.  It's very humbling to pray urgently for an answer that is needed immediately, realizing that the Lord is truly the only one who knows what the outcome will be and what direction needs to be taken.

We sat in silence once again for a few moments afterward.  Then Rob traded places with Kaybree in the middle seat so he could reach Blake in the back seat, laid his hands on Blake's head and gave him a beautiful father's blessing.  About 20 minutes before we got to the temple I had felt impressed that Blake had been set apart as a missionary and was probably the one most entitled to receive the needed guidance in making this decision; in fact, that it needed to be his decision.  I kept these thoughts to myself for the time being, as we continued to drive in silence, but when Rob laid his hands on Blake's head he blessed him with the exact same things I had been feeling, only better.  He told him that he had been set apart as a missionary and that with that came an added measure of guidance that he could draw upon.  He told him that this decision needed to be his to make, and that he needed to make it, move forward with confidence and trust in the Lord, and not look back.

One feeling that surprised me during the father's blessing was the gratitude I suddenly felt for having this experience.  We were still in the middle of the struggle, and yet I somehow already felt grateful for it.  Sunday, as I was saying my personal prayers in preparation for our trip, I prayed that this trip would be good, bonding opportunity for our family.  With the kids getting older and going more directions, I miss our family trips that used to be more frequent and easier to schedule.  And I knew this would be our last one all together before a lot of things will likely change--(the baby coming, Ashlee could find the right guy and get married, Spencer could leave on his mission before Blake's even back...).  I knew it would be our last trip with our family as we've known it, and I wanted to be sure our time was well spent and that it brought us all closer.  I've realized that prayers are often answered in ways far from what we're expecting or what we think we're asking for.  But as Rob blessed Blake in making this decision I actually felt gratitude for this challenge and the opportunity it would be for all of us to exercise faith and especially for Blake to receive guidance.  It was truly the bonding experience I had asked for, although I never would have thought it was what I wanted.

After the blessing, Blake said he wanted to get out of the car for a little while.  Before he got out Rob told him that as he sought this guidance he shouldn't worry about what other people thought he should do, or be swayed by what he wanted either; just to be in tune with the promptings he received and go with what he felt.  Blake got out and walked over to an area (still within our sight) where he could be alone.

While the rest of us waited in the car for Blake, Rob asked us if we had any thoughts/feelings.  Kaybree told us she had just been reading her scriptures on her Tablet as we left home, and had read 1 Ne. 7:12.  She cried as she shared with us, "Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten that the Lord is able to do all things according to his will, for the children of men, if it so be that they exercise faith in him?  Wherefore, let us be faithful to him."  I love the way the scriptures can speak to us the exact words we need, right in the moments we need them.  It's happened in my life more times than I can count.  (Just a quick sidenote:  As the rest of the kids were all getting comfortable and starting to go back to sleep before the phone call, I saw that Kaybree was on her Tablet.  Twice I almost told her to put it away and get some rest, as I assumed she was on Instagram or something.  I'm glad I was stopped from saying anything, since she was in fact reading her scriptures.)

As we continued waiting for Blake and sharing our thoughts, Spencer said, "At first I thought it couldn't be coincidence that we ended up waiting until this morning to leave and then the doctor called while we were still close to home, so it seemed like we needed to stay.  But then I thought about how Satan will do anything to keep a missionary from going, and I thought maybe he was just trying to throw one last obstacle in Blake's way."  Emmee said, "I feel like whatever Blake decides, the Lord will bless him in his decision and it will be ok."  We all agreed that we had also felt exactly what Emmee expressed, and it was very comforting and confirming to us all.  Ashlee added, "I feel like no matter what his decision is, he's going to be able to look back and see why he needed to be where he was at the time, with the people he was with, and why it all needed to work out the way it did."

We came to the conclusion that this experience probably needed to happen exactly the way it did so that Blake could go into his mission with a difficult decision to make first-thing.  This decision itself could set the tone for his entire mission, teaching him to call upon the Lord, to trust in Him as well as in himself, and to move forward in confidence with what he feels.  Having such a big decision to make, with potentially far-reaching consequences that would directly and immediately affect his mission, is such a difficult but valuable experience.

When Blake returned to the car we talked for a minute and then Rob asked him how he felt.  Without hesitation, he said, "I felt most impressed that we should keep going."  Immediately when he said the words, every one of us felt peace regarding his decision.  We talked about how incredible it is, in times of difficulty, to be able to go from feeling such turmoil to instantly feeling calm and assured.  We all felt it, the quiet and calm but sure confirmation that Blake's feelings were the guidance we had been seeking.  We knew there would still be things to figure out, but we also knew we could get back on the road and continue on our way with confidence.  It reminds me of the scripture in Philippians 4:7 that speaks of "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding."  Feeling immediate peace like that can only come from one source--our Heavenly Father.  It's not something the world or any human power can provide.  So many other feelings can be mocked and imitated by the adversary, but true peace cannot.  I am eternally grateful for that.

We knew this answer wasn't the end of the trial, but it was the direction needed for the time being.  We didn't know if we would get to Provo and then seek further medical help, or what would happen over the course of the next few days/weeks.  The Lord seldom tells us the whole story; He just guides us through one step at a time.  It was very powerful to see Blake act upon his decision in full confidence, and not waver for a second.  A huge burden had been lifted from all of us, and we were truly able to move forward without looking back.

We felt so good about things, yet we knew the doctor was waiting to hear back from us and it would be very difficult to tell him we were choosing to go against what he had advised.  Rob took some time and sent him this text:
"Dr _____, I don't want to call and wake you up, I hope you can sleep now.  Thank you for your call and concern.  Your timing was perfect, we talked about it as a family and ended up going to the Phoenix Temple and pulling over for a while.  We said a family prayer and then I gave Blake a blessing.  My wife and I both felt impressed that Blake has been set apart as a missionary, and this is a decision that the Lord would like him to make.  Blake walked around the temple for a while and at this time feels like we should keep going.  His decision was confirmed to all of us.  This has been one of the most spiritual experiences our family has had, so thank you for listening to the Spirit.  I don't know what will be the end result, our inspiration right now is just to 'keep going' so that is what we will do.  We will need to keep seeking guidance for the next few days.  We feel peace, which the adversary can not replicate.  Please feel comfort in knowing that you did what the Lord impressed you to do, now Blake is in His hands."

As we got back on the road, the music playing in the car was "Sometimes He Lets it Rain."  The next song that came on was "Be Still and Know."  Both just seemed so fitting, and further added to the peace we felt.

On a lighter note, Ashlee had a text conversation later that day with an Elder she knew on her mission, who is now home from his mission too.  She shared with him a little bit about the situation, and he replied:  "Whoa!!!  This is awesome!!  Go Blake!  Tell him I think he is a stud and I respect him a lot.  Man he sounds epic!  Satan's like, 'Stop him!' And Blake's like, 'Get thee behind me Satan' ha ha!  I love it."  =)

So, the trip went well, and we contacted the MTC on Tuesday to give them a heads-up about Blake arriving with an injured toe.  The receptionist in the clinic didn't seem to be at all concerned, even though we told her it was a deep cut and that our home doctor was worried about the potential for infection.  She said they have two full-time doctors available, and also that they remove stitches all the time.  We told Blake to plan to go in soon after arriving at the MTC, to have it looked at so they could keep an eye on things.  We felt better just having talked with her.

On Wednesday, just before we dropped Blake off at the MTC, we parked near the Provo Temple and talked some more as a family.  One large paragraph of Blake's patriarchal blessing talks solely about his mission, so we read some of his blessing together and talked about the powerful things he's been promised.  One thing we had forgotten was in there was a promise that he would be blessed in mortality to be able to interpret the answers to his prayers, as he goes before the Lord with a humble heart.  We were grateful to read this, especially after going through this experience with him, and to be reminded that he will be able to draw upon these promised blessings again and again as he faces challenges on his mission and throughout his life.

We all realize we're still in the "exercising faith" portion of this experience.  Blake's toe still has plenty of healing to do, and we don't know how everything will turn out.  But having felt the peace we did as the initial decision was made, we can be confident that anything that happens now is part of what the Lord wants us to experience and learn from.  Each day that goes by gives us more hope that everything will be fine, but we know it won't be completely behind us for awhile.  All we can do is pray and wait and hope for the best.  We know he is in the Lord's hands.

1 comment:

JessLawyer said...

Thank you both, so much, for sharing this special and personal experience with us. What an amazing family you have raised! Whatever the turnout ends up to be, that's exactly how the Lord wanted it. I'm so glad that your family, especially Elder Ferrin, has that peace and knowledge!