Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Kermit the Frog and Doritos

Sometime during my early high school days, I invited one of my best friends, Susan, to spend the night at my house. We made all kinds of plans, the biggest part was purchasing a mother-load of junk food and staying up most of the night.

Our first activity for this adventure was going to the grocery store and spending way too much money on junk food - dark chocolate, licorice, candies, Doritos, pop and more. Then we headed to my house and set up my bedroom for our feast. I slept with a sheet of plywood under my mattress, and there were two beds in my bedroom, so we pulled that plywood out and put one end under the second bed creating a large surface to place all our junk food on.

Then we began our adventure...eating and talking and laughing and goofing off. I had a tape recorder what would record, so we played around with that but found that the batteries were nearly dead, so we put in new batteries and rewound and listened to what we had recorded....we sounded like the Chipmunks! So we spent the next few hours recording with the week batteries and playing the recording with the new batteries. Then we started experimenting with doing imitations of famous people/characters. One of the ones I liked to do was Kermit the Frog. So we did a little improv with Kermit the Frog being interviewed as he was traveling in Mexico and trying out their spicy foods. I threw a Dorito in my mouth and then gasped as though the food was extremely hot...only problem was, I inhaled part of the Dorito. And it stuck. Really stuck. I don't remember much after that point, and the next thing I was aware of was that I was dreaming that someone had a pillow over my head and I was suffocating. I started to come around, dizzy and couldn't get my bearings...then I felt like I needed to throw up...I lunged off the bed and ran to the bathroom, but I didn't throw up...I just sat there shaking and week. Susan had ran to the bathroom with me and I asked what had happened.

She told me that I had choked on that Dorito and had lost consciousness - gone completely limp on my bed. She said she jumped over to my bed, launching junk food everywhere, and tried to get me to come around, but I wasn't breathing. She then got me into position and did the Heimlich maneuver on me, and after a couple of tries I started to come to, and then I struggled and started heading for the bathroom.

I had no idea what the Heimlich maneuver was at the time, but I was sure glad she knew. I came to find out that just before this event, Susan had taken a babysitting course at the local hospital and included in the training was CPR and what to do if someone was truly choking!

I just did a little research about the Heimlich maneuver and found out that Dr Heimlich first published his findings on how to help a victim of choking back in 1974 (my choking experience was probably in 1979) so this was something new at the time. I also found out that the first time anyone was saved from choking to death was in 1974 in Bellvue, WA...just miles from my home! I love trivia!

I am so thankful that God had prepared Susan so that she could help me when I could not help myself. I also recently found Susan again after doing some searching and talked with her, and confirmed that she had taken that babysitting course that prepared her for this very unexpected event. She remembers this particular sleep over but does not remember the choking incident, but I do. Thanks, Susan, for being there for me even though you don't remember it. I think when we have a close call with death it becomes very memorable for us, but maybe not so much for our rescuers!

Friday, July 8, 2011

My Scar

It was a very hot night.  My sister, Lisa, and I had spent the day helping some neighbor girls run a garage sale to help pay for a broken window.  They had accidentally broken the window while playing one day, but the family couldn't afford to replace it, so the girls put on a garage sale to raise funds for the window.  I remember that their parents were very unhappy about that window being broken, but thought it was very cool that they found a way to pay for it!  I believe the girls were about 10 and 13 and at the time I was about 8 years old.

I had gone to bed, but my room was like an oven, way too hot to sleep in.  So I decided to try to open my window.  We lived in an old house, with wooden framed windows that had been painted more times than you could count.  They were heavy, and needed to be lifted up and then braced with something to hold them open.  I had much difficulty opening these windows when I was young and this might have been the first time I attempted to do it by myself.  My bedroom was on the top floor, and my bed was positioned right up to the window, so once I got that window open I would get the fresh air right on my face, delightful on hot nights.

I placed my hands on the window and began to push.  It didn't budge, so I pushed again, started to I tried one last time pushing with all my might.  The window gave, only it didn't go up, it shattered.  Since I was pushing so hard against the glass (not the frame), the momentum caused me to go through the window, and since I was on my knees at the level of the window there was nothing preventing me from flying right through that window to the concrete over 2 stories below.  I distinctly remember watching the glass shards dropping down towards the ground and the feeling that I was starting to do the same, when I felt a pressure on my chest that held me in place with my knees on the bed, my feet in the air and the upper half of my body hanging out the window...then I came back through the window opening (I'm not sure how to this day) until I was sitting on my bed, but on the way back through my arm (just above and inside my elbow) had caught on a large glass shard sticking up from the lower frame.  I was terrified!  I was mortified!  I had broken that window and they are so expensive!  I was bleeding too - badly.

I jumped off my bed, holding my arm to try to stop the bleeding and I ran out of my room - I was yelling at this point "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I broke the window" and ran down the stair and was still yelling/crying about breaking the window.  My mom had come running to the stair along with my dad and my sister, Lisa.  They had heard the glass breaking on the ground and then my yelling - they ran towards the stairs and got to me as I neared the bottom.

By this time my arm had bled enough that it was obvious that it needed attention right away.  My mother reassured me that it was OK and not to worry about the window.  Over and over as I was hysterically telling them that I'd work to pay for it and that I was so sorry that I had broken the window.  My mom carefully cleaned my arm, and discovered that a chunk of flesh had been scooped out - about 1/4 inch wide, and 1 inch long and around 1/2 inch deep.  I remember her discussing the possibility of stitches, but they decided that a butterfly bandage would suffice.  It took a while, but they did get the bleeding to stop.  While she was working on my arm she asked how I broke the window, and then she asked how I kept from falling completely out of the window since I was kneeling right next to the window and I told her about the pressure on my chest.    I told her that something, someone kept me from falling.  There was no reason I shouldn't have fallen to the cement below - I was even hanging out there long enough to watch the glass falling to the ground!

I believe that an angel held me back.  God preserved my life that day.  Falling 2 1/2 stories onto glass covered cement  would have been life threatening.  But that wasn't in God's plan for me.  He stepped in and preserved me.  He allowed this in my life to show me that He is in control - that no harm can befall me unless it is first filtered through His loving hand, and that it is for my good and for His glory.  Would He be any less loving or in control if I had fallen to the ground and was severely injured?  No, if that had happened, that would have been His plan for me and it would have been for my good and His glory.  But He chose to do something miraculous - to show that nothing is impossible with Him.

To this day I have the scar on my arm.  It is noticeable and I can't tell you how many time children have asked me how I got that scar, and it gives me many opportunities to share how God miraculously preserved my life that day.  Now that I think of it, scars are an excellent way to remember, aren't they!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Leaning on my own Understanding

During the summer of my fourth year of life, my parents went camping way up in the in the hills that are part of Mt Rainier.  The area is pristine and the amenities are few and far between.  My father would go hunting in the fall, using old logging roads and hiking trails, and just plain hiking through the woods.  He would take a huge army salvage tent and stay up there for a week or two at a time.  Some years he'd come home with some meat for the freezer, other years no meat, but he'd also scouted out new places to camp or the perfect Christmas tree!  So our family had gone camping to one of the wonderful campgrounds that my father had scoped and had spent a wonderful week camping together.  The only part of that camping trip that I remember is being swung around in the hammock by the big kids (wrapped up like a mummy).  I was the baby of the family, and at 4 that meant my siblings were 10, 12, 14 and 16.  The hammock might have been from another camping trip, but that is the earliest memory of camping that I have.

On the trip home, we were driving past an area that had a large lake, and out past some mud flats there were these cool dome shaped islands, but they were only separated by little streams of water.  The older kids thought it would be fun to go play on them, a nice break in the long trip home.  My parents agree with them.  The kids wanted to take me with them, but my parents were very unsure if that was a prudent thing to do, as it could be dangerous for a 4 year old to be playing around the edge of a lake.  But they convince them that they would take great care of me, not to worry.  Reluctantly, they agreed.  So while they rested in the car, they watched their 5 children walk across the mudflats (the mudflats looked the size of a football field, but I was only 4, so it might have been smaller, but still a ways).
Mark and Beth were holding my hands, and we crossed what was like a small stream that was going around the first "island".  We scouted around that mound and from the backside they could see more mounds, and one that looked very interesting, but the kids thought it wouldn't be a good idea for me to cross to the other mound (I don't remember why), so they told me to sit on a stump and wait for them...they made it very clear to me that I was not to move, for any reason.  I am sure I promised to obey.  So I sat there for a while, watching them make their way to the next mound/island.  Then they disappeared over the mound and I was alone, all alone.  So I started to take in my surroundings, the lake, the other mounds, the water swirling around the mound I was on.
While watching the water, it began to look like my island was moving....swirling with the water...moving away from the shore.  I was sure that my island was floating away into the lake!  If I waited any longer the little stream that we waded through to get to this island would be too big to cross!  I yelled for the other kids, but they couldn't hear me.  I began to panic!  I decided that I needed to get off that island right now.
I ran back to the other side and ran right down to the stream that I thought we had crossed...only in my little 4 years old mind, I had not remembered things all that clearly and did not stop to look into the water.  Instead of a few inches of water, I was suddenly in over my head.  I had this jacket on, a down jacket.  It floated up under my arms and held me afloat, but I couldn't do anything.  And the water was taking me away from my parents, who I could see now standing outside our car.  They were waving their arms, and then my Dad started running down to the mud flats, but he didn't get far....he stopped moving...why oh why wasn't my daddy coming to save me!
From my parents perspective, they suddenly saw me run down and into the water and then all they could see was my head.  As you can imagine, they panicked and started yelling for the kids - and then my dad decided he needed to get out there to save me.  The only problem was that those mud flats which we children walked across were not able to hold up an dad sunk up to his knees in the must have seemed like a nightmare!  He couldn't get to me no matter how hard he tried.  But then, in God's providence, he used a skill taught to him when he was just a child - he whistled.  My dad could whistle louder than anyone I have ever known.  He used to whistled to call us kids home and we could hear it inside the homes of our friends, even a block away.  There was no way that the kids would hear my father shouting, but they would hear his whistle...his whistle was the only thing that could bring the help that was needed to keep my from drowning.
I heard that whistle...and it wasn't long before my sibling came running back to me and found me drifting towards the lake, with an almost saturated jacket.
Mark pulled me out of the water, and carried me over to the shallow crossing and across that plain of mudflats.  Back to my loving parents who wrapped me in a warm towel and their love.  They stripped off my wet clothes and dressed me in warm dry clothes.  I really don't remember anything else past this, but the rest of this memory is vivid and clear as though it happened yesterday.
God saved my life that day...the days numbered for me to spend on this earth were not finished yet, and no watery grave could thwart the plan of God for my life.  God in His sovereignty taught my father to whistle when he was young, He had my father use his whistle to call his children - and his children knew that when Dad whistled, you came running, no matter what, right away.
I had "leaned on my own understanding".  Even when I had been told to stay where I was, I did not listen to the wisdom of those older and wiser than me, and I paid the consequences of following my own way.  My family suffered much anguish because of my folly.
God is good, God is loving, God is involved, God is in control, God is wise.  When I lean on my own understanding, and follow my own way, I can get lost, I can get into deep watery places that I can not get out of on my own.  But God will always hunt me down, find me, bring me back, and wrap me in His loving arms.  He will use these times to teach, mold, and make me like His Son.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
 And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
  And He shall direct your paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6