View from the Fish Bowl

It is amazing how quickly your life and everything in it can change in seconds.  For me, my life was sent into a tailspin as I exited off of the interstate and onto Country Club road headed for home.  It was a Monday, and I was thankful to be coming home from a busy day at work.  I was looking forward to lying down in a cold, dark bedroom before we headed off to the church building for our annual VBS.  My head had been pounding, and Tylenol was calling my name.  As I approached the stoplight, I felt as if I was lunged forward as something that felt like a baseball bat came crashing down on the back of my head, my vision blurred, and things became to spin and grow dark.  I looked back, just sure that I had just been rear ended by the vehicle behind me, but much to my surprise, there was nothing there.  My ears began to ring and the pain in my head throbbed uncontrollably to the hurried beat of my pulse.  I thought about exiting my car in the middle of traffic to beg for help from the pain, but I composed myself as much as I could, and drove myself the half mile to my front door step.  My legs hurt and the pain in my head was sending me off-balance, I fell out of the car, got down on my hands and knees, and drug my numb body up the steps and onto the cool bedroom floor.  Jake immediately came to my rescue, and helped me up onto the bed as he tried to figure out what was wrong.  I tried to push through the pain to talk, but it was so unbearable, all I could get out were faint whispers.  He rushed to the medicine cabinet to get my migraine medication, and as he did, I began to go crazy.  I knocked things off the dresser and tried to lay beside the toilet and the wall because of the coolness of the tile and the toilet bowl.  I began to frantically rip off my work scrubs and pull at my hair desperately reaching for relief.  Jake handed me my medicine, and as soon as it hit my mouth, I began to vomit uncontrollably.  By this time, our friends had arrived to take the girls on to VBS so Jake could care for me.  He scooped me up and we made our way back to my car and he drove me to the local ER room in El Reno.

Sitting in the ER was unbearable, it seemed to take forever and the staff was giving my husband a hard time about rushing me in for a “headache”.  Sitting in the chair, my senses were failing me and my vision had just about given out.  The nurse called my name, and as I tried to stand, my hand began jerk as I reached for a rail that wasn’t even there.  I began to hallucinate about going down a steep set of stairs and my body collapsed from underneath me.  The cruel, cold words that could have been the last words I was to ever here on this earth were ringing in my ears, “Miss, do you want to be seen today or not?”

I began to go into full body seizures on the waiting room floor and was taken into the ER to determine the cause.  The staff began to bully Jake about me being a drug addict, and seemed to care more about calling me out, than fixing the problem.  They tied me down to a gurney to control the spasms from the seizures and took blood to check for drug use.  As they were performing these tests, my blood pressure was building dangerously in my body.  A sister in Christ had come from an ambulance run and noticed Jake in the hall, she rushed to my side and began to re-examine me , knowing that I was not a sad victim of drug abuse.  She checked the things the others neglected to, and found that my blood pressure was at a near fatal 310/190.  I was on the verge of stroking out, and she quickly administered medication to get the pressure under control.  From there, they stabilized me enough to send me to the ICU at Mercy Memorial in OKC.

From there, the doctors fought to stabilized me further, and asked my husband to make the call that he had dreaded, “You need to call the family in, she may not make it.” He made the call, and friends and family began to rush in  to support Jake, and be by our side.  The 48 hours after my collapse in the ER have been erased from my memory, but during these 48 hours, doctors struggled to find the cause of my episode, and Jake was overwhelmed with love from family and from our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Jake never left my side, and his mom, my amazing mother-in-law, never left his side.  I pulled through what we found out to be a cerebral hemorrhage brought on by an aneurism that had busted in the back of my brain.  In the x-rays, the spot that had leaked out was no bigger than a small cotton ball, but it had caused enough damage and pressure in my head to almost kill me.

I spent a week recovering in the ICU department which was known as the fish bowl.  It was in the shape of a semi-circle, with the nurses station right in the middle, the front of my room was solid glass and it was very open and exposed.  Friends and family from several congregations and different youth groups flooded in to support us and to offer their help and prayers.  Sitting in the fish bowl, I had the honor to witness three amazing kinds of love between myself and my husband, the love of my family in Christ, and the love of my Heavenly Father.

My husband was such a comforting presence during my darkest hour.  When my eyes opened, he was there, either holding my hand, or he was found kneeled at the foot of my bed, head bowed in reverent prayer to our Father.  He handled all of the visitors and phone calls and was patient as he discussed the foggy details of what had happened.  He protected me from over stimulation by keeping others visits brief, and comfortable.  In between the visits, we reflected on our love and expressed our gratefulness for each other and for our love for our girls and the love for our Father.  Agape love between a man and a woman was ever present in the fish bowl and our vision of loving one another was renewed and redefined.  I am forever thankful for my husband and for his dedication to the Lord and his dedication as a husband and a father.

As people came and went with the visits, I got to witness the unique connection between brothers and sisters in Christ.  Jake and I had the opportunity to work with people from different congregations in different cities, and they all came together for one common purpose of supporting me and my family.  Many times I would wake to see one member from another congregation introducing themselves to another member and then they would join together to lift me up in prayer to the Father.  Fellow Christians were immersed in prayer to their Creator on behalf of another sister, recognizing the special and unique bond that all of us share as partakers in Christ.  They loved and revered the Lord, they loved each other, and they loved me.  There were no barriers because of not knowing another because they were there to pray and encourage a sister and a brother whom they loved deeply.  Every time I opened my eyes to see others surrounding me, fellowshipping and praying with one another, it brought peace and comfort to my soul and a sense of oneness within the Church of Christ.  They witnessed Christ’s love to me and to each other and taught me that we are all in this journey together, and we must all support and love one another by going beyond the church walls.

The final view that I witnessed from the fish bowl was the deep, unending love of my God, Lord, and Creator.  I could have met Him that day, and in my soul, it would have been ok.  I didn’t have time to fear death, it came too suddenly, and when the threat was over, all that filled my mind was my relationship with my Father and the family I almost left behind.  I feared for my husband, and for my daughters then, 4 years old, and 6 months old.   I pictured Jake being a young widower at 23 years old with two little girls to take care of.  I thought about our girls and how they would never know their mother.  I wanted to live to see Rylee blossom into a beautiful, strong, caring woman, and I wanted to see my baby girl, Kadence take her first steps and see if her hair would stay blonde and her eyes blue.  I longed to be able to carry another child in my womb  and feel the joy of a newborn baby in my arms again.  I began to realize that our lives truly are but a vapor as described in the book of  Ecclesiastics.  I always pictured myself living till I was elderly, full of wisdom and joy from a blessed life but,  that week made me realize differently.  My mind became flooded with memories of me failing the Lord and turning from Him.  I thought about the years I spent in darkness and how I could have died in darkness, but God had given me a little more time to set things right.  I reflected upon the greatest confession in my life as I confessed Jesus as the Son of God before others and was baptized into His protection and into His grace, and love.  I set things right and repented of the stagnate worship that I have become a slave of.  As a ministers wife, you are involved in so many things within your congregation that you can get caught up in the activities and lose focus on your worship.  I had lost focus, I became ensnared with the next activity to be planned or bible class to lead and lost sight of my God and my worship to Him.  This became evident as the preacher from our congregation brought communion over for me to take the first Sunday I came home.  I was still in no condition to worship with others, so he brought me the blessed communion of remembrance to partake of.  As he and my husband prayed over the bread and the fruit of the vine with me, the emotions of being a sinner stirred within me and I began to cry uncontrollably.  The love in my heart for my Savior was flowing over and I had never felt so wanted and sought after in my life.  The sheer truth of the Gospel that I have been taught and had taught was evident in the bread and in the drink.  I am loved, I was bought at a price, and I am saved.

July 17, 2006 will always mark the day of a new awareness for me.  I was shown that life is of value, and our Creator made us to love Him and to be loved by Him.  It showed me how there are no guarantees to be had in the world, but as a dedicated Christian, we do have the guarantee of Heaven.  I was shown the amazing unique love between a husband and his wife, and how I must cherish that special bond always.  The simple phrase “The Church isn’t a building, but a body of Christians” was evident through all of the calls, cards, flowers, and visits that I received from Brothers and Sisters in different congregations and how they came together to help a sister in need.  I will never forget those who helped and supported and prayed for Jake and I.  We never had to worry about the safety of our children, they were always cared for and looked after, and our home was watched over and cleaned; when I got home from the hospital, I had a hot meal three times a day made by the ladies of the congregation and people would come over and sit with me and the kids while Jake went to classes at OC.  Love was working through all of these things and my prayer has always been that these brothers and sisters may receive a star on their crown for the good works performed on behalf of my family.  Finally,  Christ’s sacrifice became even more  real to me and my devotion for Him grew in a big way.  I have a new love for my Father that is stronger now than ever and the love I feel from Him has been a peace and a constant in my life.  I try now through all of the chaos in my life to keep the focus on Him as I work with others in the Lord.  I cannot say that the focus has remained, I still get caught up in the stuff and not the cause, but I am always willing to shift the focus back when I remember the importance He has placed on me, and that I should do the same.  Again, I want to thank my  Heavenly Father, my husband, my family, and my brothers and sisters in Christ who were there for me that day and those following weeks.  You all have shown me the love of our Father, and I still pray for each of you, and especially on the anniversary of the day of my uncertainty.  May the Grace of our Lord and Father be with you always.

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7 thoughts on “View from the Fish Bowl

  1. april heitz says:

    that made me bawl. I intellectually know God’s love and mercy, and so many other things, but am reminded again of the reality of it all at times like this and realize I need to be renewed and re-energized with deep appreciation of God and the awesome price He considered me worth. Thanks, Ashley.

    • Gail Goad says:

      I have known that you were full of the Lord’s love for others when I met you. Thank you for sharing your story. It makes me love you more and makes me love God more. When I hear of His love and faithfulness to carry you through that time, how can anyone not see the Lord’s presences in the lines of your story. God’s workings in our life is still somewhat of a mystery to me, but I am so thankful for the peace, reassurance and salvation we have in Him. Thank you, Gail

  2. kdmauck says:

    Isn’t it amazing what God can accomplish through our trials? We are truly made more perfect through them, and you sharing yours with us helps all of us on our path. Thanks, Ash!

  3. Belinda Carter says:

    I am your Mother-In-Laws cousin. Thank You for your testimony, it really touched me. I lost my 30 year old youngest son Dec. 13, 2009 with a brain tumor. I think The Lord spared Michael of a lot of painful days a head. The Lord took Michael fast, it still don’t seem real to me at times, but I know Michael is with our heavenly father in heaven. Michael was an amazing young man, like your husband. He touched a lot of people and was a witness for The Lord, we said The Lord was ready for Michael and he had done his job very well when he was on this earth. We love and miss him so much, but our Heavenly Father does give us comfort. Michael left behind a wife, 3 little boys, Alex 7 years old, Peyton 4 years old, & Trustin 2 years old. Peyton said last Sunday, he wanted to see his Daddy. God gave us a miracle that afternoon & then later in the week. The boys were watching T.V., a DVD movie and the T.V. just went off. Peyton said, “My Daddy turned it off”, of course I thought my T.V. was a goner. About 10-15 minutes later, no one was in living room, I thought I heard people talking, so I stepped in the room and the T.V. was back on. Peyton said, “My Daddy turned the T.V. back on”. Peyton’s child like faith, God let Peyton know that his Daddy was very near to us that day. Then Thursday, Andrea let me take the boys out to Mark’s (my oldest son) house to see him & Kash (the boy’s cousin), that will be 2 years old in September. This was the first time Andrea let the boys see Mark since February 2010, so I count that one a very special miracle, due to family hurts and feelings. I just thank The Lord that God gave you this wisdom, so that you & your husband can do the Lord’s work and save a lot of souls before their eternal day. I’m so happy that Mary Beth’s family are Christian and her Daddy, Mama, & Grandma Braudrick would be so very proud of her and the way her life has turned out. Love you Mary Beth & Family, Belinda (Your Cousin & Sister In Christ).

  4. Ashley that was one of the most amazing stories I’ve ever read. I had no idea the kind of struggles you have been through. I am grateful God brought you through this difficult time and you were able to spend time with us. Now He has even more work for you and I must say I don’t know how you do it all. I am truly happy He brought you back so you could finish the work you were meant to do. I love you and your little family so much and am so happy to know you all. Thank you for sharing, Dianne.

  5. Savannah Martin says:

    You inspire me!!! Words can’t describe!!! Our God is amazing!!!! God Bless you Guys!!!!

  6. Mattie Osuna says:

    You are amazing Ashley! This gave me chills and brought me to tears. I love your strong conviction to Christ and I love how you are not afraid to admit your faults. This was such a good reminder that we always have to work on our relationship with God and how easy it is to get caught up.This makes me miss you even more!

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