Extraordinary to Ordinary

January 9, 2016 from Maria

Beloved friends and family of God,

I’ve put off sending an update, since it doesn’t seem like we had big news or significantly different prayer requests.  That statement alone, however, is reason for thanksgiving and a testimony to your faithful prayers:  no illness or crisis, just continued, steady improvement.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

With the commencement of 2016, Mike is eagerly reading the daily selections in the M’Cheyne Bible reading plan, something he has done for more than 20 years.  I hear him reading aloud, stopping to talk to the Lord about things he notices (Genesis 1:  “Thank you, heavenly Father, for making the world…  Thank you for creating me…  How old is the world?”), and really belly laughing when he gets to funny names, (“Thank you, heavenly Father, that my parents didn’t give me the name Melchizedek.  Can you imagine learning to write that name?  I’m so glad my parents named me Michael Robert Francis.”)  Would that each one of you could be a fly on the wall!

748020CC-9965-45A1-846C-542D1C8BC52BMadeline and Lydia were home for the holidays, and the five of us had a terrific time together.  Mike truly delights in our children, even if he sometimes mixes up their names.  What a blessing to see his faith and integrity intact, while he also retains his marvelous sense of humor and knack for downright silliness. On the one hand, his highest priority is to spend time in the Bible and prayer, wanting to grow in faith and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.  On the other, it’s not uncommon for Mike to make up fanciful stories or spontaneously break into song and dance, and our days are punctuated with lots of laughter.

We have been experimenting with prompts for Mike’s memory, such as taking pictures on his phone during the day so he has a visual record of what he’s been doing.  To this end, he has a ring of index cards with names and prayer requests.  Please let me know if you have a special request—Mike would be glad to pray for you.

Which brings me to these particular prayer requests:

  1. Caregivers and daily routine:  I and the team of caregivers want to make the best use of Mike’s time to advance his recovery, which means adjusting activities according to his changing needs.  Please pray for wisdom, creativity, and consistency.  I am so grateful for the many people who devote their time to helping and teaching Mike.  They really are miracle workers. 
  2. Me as Mike’s guardian:  we now have a court order establishing me as plenary guardian over his person and property, and with this sad duty comes a heap of paperwork and reporting requirements that often feels like too much.  So I remind myself that nothing is too difficult for the Lord and that I can do all [needful] things through Christ who strengthens me—but it would be foolish pride to think it can be accomplished without prayer!
  3. For restoration of Mike’s memory, knowledge, and abilities:  he is increasingly aware of what he’s lost, and occasionally weeps bitterly, yet we rejoice over the progress we witness.  Glimpses of his past are returning and he is sometimes able to remember recent events and a few people’s names.
  4. For Mike’s full and complete recovery.

FA6697F9-3D88-4E7E-9A5A-D096FE883E2EWe try to take a long walk every evening, and we thought it would be good to use the time to memorize Scripture (please pray for progress here—it is slow going!).  We’ve started with James, beginning with “Count it all joy, when you meet various trials.” I asked Mike about how to have joy in what he has gone through, and he said, “We have to be trusting in the goodness of God.” 

Thank you, Mike, for a truth and a challenge for all of us, since we all face “various trials” daily:  the key to joy is believing that God and ALL his plans for us really are good (e.g. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things” Romans 8:32).

Finally, a treat for those who have read this far.  Enjoy the pictures of our journey found in Lydia’s beautiful year in review:    http://lydiatakespictures.com/blog/2016/1/2015. 

We can’t thank you enough for your continued prayers.  May the Lord bless and keep you in 2016 and may you count it all joy,

Maria for the family

0844EF4D-85C2-43C1-A30F-239ECAD900D1March 6, 2016 from Maria

Beloved friends and family of God,

When I started writing this update, I particularly wanted to thank all of you for your prayers and tell you some of the ways they are being answered.  It ended up as a list of six, followed by a list of six lessons from Mike and list of six prayer requests.  I hope you’re not suspicious about 6-6-6 and instead think that good things come in threes!

Here is a small sample of the way your prayers are being answered, with a heart full of thanks to all of you.  Praise God from who all blessings flow!

  1. 8999F7AB-C971-44C6-9070-17DEB4A240E0DF3D0BB5-E00D-4A34-B98D-99233782F5DDWe recently celebrated Mike’s birthday, and it was great to stop and marvel that Mike is alive and still making progress, slowly and surely.
  2. The caregivers continue to adjust to the new Mike and give so generously of their time, energy, and talents.  Among recent highlights for Mike are an afternoon at the Ligonier conference, regular trips to the gym, visits to people in his “flock,” and swimming!
  3. Mike’s memory has improved to the point that with cueing he can remember something about today or yesterday, navigate his way through the Bible to find the four passages he reads in his daily plan, and be familiar with a handful of people, knowing their names as well as a few things going on with them.
  4. Our children are doing well, even thriving.
  5. The initial hurdles of guardianship reporting and applying for disability have been passed.
  6. Mike knows who he is, an image-bearing child of the High King of Heaven, saved by grace, the senior pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church, father, and husband.  He takes seriously the ministry of Word and prayer, spending a couple hours each day reading his Bible and praying for himself, our family, the people of Immanuel, and prayer requests.  I’m sure there is no congregation more prayed-for than Immanuel. 

3a11f30c-ed0d-41c7-92a3-ef727125e7e7.jpegMany things are confusing for Mike, but in other ways his vision is unclouded by things that bother the rest of us, and there is much we can gain from his example.

  1. Every morning he says, “Thank you, God, that I am not in heaven—I am ALIVE!” (sometimes accompanied by a happy dance and singing), and in the evening he declares, “This has been a great day.” 
  2. Mike expresses gratitude and affirmation like Chicago voters (early and often), thanking people everywhere we go. 
  3. When we are out walking, he greets others with expressions of praise such as, “Isn’t God’s creation amazing?” 
  4. His priorities are right:  the very first thing he does when he wakes up is pray (always out loud, regardless of the hour), without coffee, breakfast, or shower, and the next thing he does is reach for his Bible. 
  5. Even though he sleeps quite poorly, he always says he feels great:  “I have so much energy!” 
  6. He has a strong reaction to campaign news: that the president is not as important as God, that Christians should be more concerned about what the Bible says than the news, and that freedom is not about the government but about our relationship with God. 

We are grateful for all who pray, as the Spirit leads and for these requests:

  1. All helpers:  Thank God for all who are involved in Mike’s recovery and serving our family, and ask Him to strengthen, bless, and guide them, from the hands-on helpers to all of you prayer warriors, and everyone in between.  Besides the incalculable good that is accomplished, it’s a tremendous witness to the watching world and encourages and sustains me and our family more than we can say. 
  2. Neuro-psych testing:  Mike saw a neurologist in February who has referred him for additional testing, first available on May 5, though we are on the cancellation list.  Please pray for the timing (sooner?) and outcome to show as accurately as possible what is going on in Mike’s brain and how best to advance his recovery.
  3. More “rememory” (as Mike calls it) and less confusion:  I love to share with you all the great things are going on (the first list of six), but the reality is that these can seem like mere drops in an ocean of confusion and forgetting.  For example, it’s great that Mike is learning to use his phone; it’s less great to hear Paul Simon’s Graceland playing at 3:30 AM when Mike is awake and would enjoy some music.  Please ask the Lord to give Mike great strides in remembering and restoring his mental capacities.
  4. Sleep:  remains sparse, which can’t be good for neurogenesis. 
  5. Maria’s fatigue and added responsibilities:  I would be foolish to think I can survive without your prayers, and dishonest to not admit that I am very tired, often discouraged, and battle feeling inadequate to single-parent, do things like taxes and FAFSA, manage my mother’s finances, and deal with the bureaucracy surrounding guardianship rules and the disability application process. 
  6. Mike’s full and complete recovery.

E33EEBAC-FC65-4894-9781-19689F5E46D0Most of all, I want the details of what’s going on here to encourage you and remind you of our heavenly Father’s great faithfulness.  I am helped by Paul’s words to the Corinthians:  “He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.  For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving to the glory of God.  So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:14-18).  God is doing a mighty work, no matter what it looks like! 

To God be the glory, 

Maria for the family

May 29, 2016 Maria’s testimony during Immanuel worship service

As we hit the one-year mark of God saving Mike’s life I have been feeling the whole range of emotions, but the sadness over what has been lost is far outweighed by gratitude to the Lord and the family of God and, yes, joy.  

11218966_999816786698031_7967229466326921027_nI’m going to tell you a story that some of you know by now, or know pieces of.  Today is the anniversary of one of the hardest days of this past year.  On May 29, I woke early in the hospital recliner in the ICU by Mike’s bed.   There was a beautiful sunrise.  It was a peaceful and beautiful scene, and soon there was a text on my phone that my friend Elise Maynard was in the waiting room with a fresh batch of muffins.  Around 7:30 the neurologist came by on his rounds and read Mike’s MRI.  He told me he had some bad news, that Mike wasn’t coming back, and that he would never walk or talk and probably not see or hear.  Mike’s sister and our children arrived right after, in time to hear this news repeated, and then a couple of doctors came in to say in a nice way that there was no hope and perhaps the most loving thing for Mike would be to unplug the machines that were keeping him alive. 

What happened after that is a blur in my memory.  We prayed and others prayed.  Later that night we had a real scare with Mike. There was bleeding in something called a pseudoaneurysm, and the doctors didn’t seem to be able to fix.  Many of you got texts late into the night and Deren and Ellen came to be near, even though we told them not to.  If you were one of those people who prayed, thank you.  

As you can see, Mike is still with us, and he’s doing great.  So I want to say three things in light of this story and the whole year in general:

  1. First, I want to talk about hope.  I am learning that too often I base my hope on what I see:  I feel hopeful when things are going well and lose hope when they’re not.  I look at today’s circumstances and assume they will be that way forever, but here you see:  Mike didn’t stay in a coma, he didn’t stay bedridden, and all the terrible things the experts said last summer have not been true.  The refrain of Psalm 42 and 43 is “Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him.”  Unless my hope is always and only in the Lord, in his promises, and in his purposes for our good, I have no hope at all.  God is working out something great.  I know that, because he who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  None of us knows what tomorrow holds, but we do know the one who has ordained all of our days, and that is reason enough to hope.
  2.  Second, thank you.  We stand here before you because the family of God has loved us so lavishly. I have been able to see God’s grace for every day because I have seen the family of God delivering that grace. Here are some of the forms that grace took:  the prayers and prayer meetings, the casseroles, the cookies, the gift cards, the visits, the thousands of texts, emails, and notes; help with our home and cars; the hospital visits, those who have helped with subsequent medical, financial and legal needs, those who sat with Mike so I could go to work, and the “Mike Marathon” team of helpers; the FranClan Care Committee; the pastoral care fund; those who have helped us stay healthy and dreamed up kindnesses “just because”, and a million other ways you have sacrificed and come alongside all of us. Immanuel, the name of our church, means God with us.  You have certainly proved that.  We will never be able to thank you enough. 
  3. Third, I want to say that God answers prayer.  The fact that Mike stands here today is the fruit of your prayer.  For all of you who came to pray in the evenings last summer and continue to pray for us, thank you. We are not in a crisis anymore, but honestly, we are still desperate for your prayers.  Please don’t stop praying for a full and complete recovery.

June 4, 2016 from Maria

Beloved friends and family of God,

We have passed the one-year mark, and how different today looks from a year ago!  May 25 was the anniversary. We celebrated God’s work to save Mike’s life with as many helpers as we could gather.  Though recent days have not been without sadness and tears, the majority of my emotions have been tied to gratitude – to the Lord, for preserving Mike’s life, and to all who have walked this journey with us and sustained us so magnificently.  God’s grace has been sufficient for every day of this journey, but it has been delivered by all of you with your prayers, texts, casseroles, visits, home projects, volunteering, and a million other ways.  Thank you!  

09ABC243-5649-41D0-8BE6-10C9A2CA8B3FSince the last update, there is much answered prayer:  tax returns and FAFSA have been completed, neuropsych testing done a month sooner than scheduled, and Mike’s application for disability has been approved!  It is no less significant that we “keep calm and carry on,” day in and day out, all due to the mercy of God who sustains us through the prayers and incredible generosity of his people. Helpers continue their phenomenal work with Mike, and others come alongside for everything from yard work to legal matters.  A day of neuropsych testing showed nothing really surprising – Mike’s cognitive and functional deficits are severe – but we are encouraged that they expect Mike to continue making progress.  And he is making progress!  We continue to observe improvement in short term memory and the recovery of bits and pieces of pre-event knowledge (such as theology or Bible or history—you name it!).

I have delayed sending an update, wanting to have something concrete to report.  “A long obedience in the same direction” (HT Eugene Peterson) is the best way to describe Mike’s recovery, as well all those who are involved, including you, the faithful folks who pray.  Day by day, we see more of the “old Mike” in his mannerisms, increased memories, and abilities, and sense of humor.  Not only does he recognize the humorous side of things, he laughs at himself and his own jokes as he used to do.  He exhibits the same determination to achieve his goals, in this case to do whatever it takes to advance his recovery, such as deciding that exercising his non-dominant side would help his brain and eating and drawing with his left hand.

9BEF88DE-549B-49E9-8441-A82F5F898C27As this journey has stretched from weeks to months and the sense of crisis is past, sometimes my expectancy for God to do a great work of total healing has also waned.  Remembering that Christians are called to be full of hope – and rightfully so! – has made me take a hard look at my hopes.  I’ve had to repent of placing my hopes in what I wished for (Mike’s full and complete recovery), and remind myself that real hope is always and only in the Lord, his unfailing promises, and his good purposes.  Let us join the Psalmist in the repeated refrain of Psalm 42 and 43:  “Hope in God, for I shall yet praise him!”  Christians have “Christ in [us], the hope of glory!”  We have a mighty God working all things together for good, a Savior who has taken our sin and secured eternal delight with the Father, and the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide, teach, and comfort us.  The God who raised Jesus from the dead has given new life to my hope as well.               

If you have seen any of our family’s social media posts over the past year, we often added #hopebig #praymore #mikemarathon.  I am finding it more fitting now to use #hopemore #praybig as our #mikemarathon hashtags, since I want to do more hoping in our great God and not cease praying for big things, like Mike’s full and complete recovery.

Please join us in praying:

  • For answered prayers and Mike’s continued progress:  thank you, Lord!  We asked you to pray for a miracle, and considering where Mike was a year ago, the Mike we have today is a miracle!
  • For Mike: who has in recent weeks suffered miscellaneous aches and pains, sometimes severe, which we don’t seem to be able to remedy.  Please continue to pray for more sleep and more memory. 
  • For our children:  Madeline is raising support for another year with Reformed University Fellowship in New York City, Luke has a new job at ChickFilA, and Lydia is preparing for six months of study in France.
  • For the helpers:  may the Lord bless those who so generously commit their time to Mike and give them wisdom for the most productive use of  their time together.  The more Mike improves, the more we wonder how best to coordinate volunteer efforts for maximum results. 
  • For our trip:  I write from Berkeley, California, looking forward to the gift of time for the five of us, time with our relatives, and time in our old stomping grounds that, Lord willing, will bring back memories to Mike. 
  • For Mike’s full and complete recovery.  

983DBFBB-3AC0-46C8-99C1-F335B346AE1ELast summer, these emails began because asking people to pray was the only thing I could think of to help Mike, and I was desperate.  It’s still the most important way to help, and though the needs are less dramatic, we are still desperate – and so very grateful – for your prayers. 

Hoping more and praying big,

Maria for the family

August 29, 2016 from Maria

D87F3B5A-A31B-4AAA-9D76-889D47649054F5F75B9D-3F28-497A-9400-54A7DDF50D79Beloved friends and family of God,

Mike is not done recovering or beyond desperately needing your prayers, so I am not done writing updates!  Thank you, praying friends—what you do on your knees keeps us putting one foot in front of the other.

The miscellaneous aches and pains I mentioned in the last update have become absolutely debilitating, and we hope you will join us in begging the Lord for relief and healing.  At this point we have dealt with all the muscular pain that was statin-related by ultimately going off all statins, but nerve-related pain persists.  It not only persists but has been getting worse each day, despite increasing doses of seemingly appropriate medicines.  His doctor has diagnosed it as Central Pain Syndrome.  

Mike can no longer do most of the things which he enjoyed and were good for his brain:  walking, swimming, going to the gym, helping out around the house, writing, and doing art.  Everything hurts, especially his hands and feet, and he can’t stand even the slightest touch.  Foremost on his mind is how to avoid more pain, so we sit as far away from others as possible at church, and he barks at anyone who comes near, “Don’t touch me!” We say to the Lord, “Hasn’t there been enough loss already?” and join David, who asked, “How long, O Lord?  Will you forget me forever?” (Psalm 13:1).

Despite his physical torment, we see and celebrate cognitive gains.  Mike is increasingly able to store and retrieve information about what he’s done, people and places, and the content of conversations—he’s remembering more!  He’s given all his regular helpers a nickname:  Gym Man, Scripture Memory Guy, Art Lady, Swimming Gal, and How Ya Feeling (for the EMDR therapist).  Just as the old Mike was very good at remembering people’s names, the new Mike works very hard at trying to learn and address people by name because he somehow inherently understands the significance of names.  Since the very act of naming is so important in the Bible, the way since Eden to mark something or somebody’s God-given meaning and value, this is a sweet indicator of Mike’s “re-creation.”

Psalm 13 begins despairingly, as I mentioned, but ends in hope, as we strive to also:  “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.  I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.”  Just because we don’t understand what God is doing doesn’t mean he isn’t working out a marvelous plan.  We need look no further than the cross as a reminder:  what seemed the ultimate injustice and cruelty was in fact just the opposite, God’s loving provision in himself (his Son) of a means of salvation for sinners like us.  We return to Romans 8:32:  “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”  When we trust in the things we know (God’s character and promises) instead of the things we wish for, we can still sing about the Lord’s goodness.  There is still lots of singing in our home, and Mike often begins the day, “This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made … I will rejoice and be glad in it.”  Lyrics are adjustable for Mike, like, “This is the deal that the Lord has made,” which is so true, and singing it helps everything go better.    

Here is our updated list of prayer requests, with many, many thanks in advance for your prayers.

  • For Mike:  for relief from the pain and continued cognitive progress.  (Mike says it this way:  pray that God would give him the strength to persevere through the pain and that God would do it for his glory.)
  • For an upcoming appointment with neurologist Kevin Barrett at Mayo clinic, scheduled for October 31 but an earlier opening may arise.  An anoxic brain injury like Mike’s is rare, and I am praying not only for relevant expertise but also that their neuro team would take a special interest in helping Mike.
  • For the helpers:  from the miracle workers spending time with Mike daily to the folks who help our family with kindnesses beyond number, may the Lord equip them and may they know that “whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord” (Eph. 6:8).
  • For legal matters:  the reality of my appointment as Mike’s guardian is not getting any easier.  A combination of inexperience and incompetence of the judge, her clerk, and my first attorney have made a legal mess.  A Notice of Status Conference is scheduled for September 13 to clarify how our joint assets are to be inventoried and, hopefully, how we are to function as a family under laws that prohibit me from touching any of our joint assets without a court order.   
  • For Immanuel’s leadership as they plan for the future.
  • For our children:  Madeline is settling in to a different apartment and second year with Reformed University Fellowship in New York, Luke into a new term at Daytona State, and Lydia into a homestay with an older couple (Agnes and Arnoux) while she studies at the Sorbonne in Paris.
  • For answered prayers and Mike’s continued progress:  thank you, Lord! 

917136A1-AEA8-453D-B671-B5C1A432975EOne year ago, Mike came home from the hospital.  It was a milestone that seemed unthinkable, and nobody predicted all the amazing progress that followed:  goodbye to catheter, hospital bed, and wheelchair; hello to reading, writing, and progressive remembering.  May remembering what God has done fuel our continued prayers for Mike’s full and complete recovery!

Trusting in God’s steadfast love, rejoicing in salvation, and singing to the Lord,

Maria for the family

November 8, 2016 from Maria

Beloved friends and family of God,

Thank you for all your prayers.  I hope you’ll be encouraged, as we have been, by the ways the Lord has answered some of the prayer needs laid out in the last letter.

Mike reads his Bible while waiting at Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic appointment:  Mike’s initial appointment with a neurologist was moved to October 19, and since then we have seen a doctors for sleep, pain, pain psychology, and another round of neuropsych testing to evaluate his functional abilities (no results yet).  The neurologist remarked about Mike’s profound amnesia (“and I mean profound,” he said with emphasis).  Although I had hoped for some fresh insight and real help for Mike and his pain, these experts seem as puzzled as the rest.  They have recommended Mayo’s pain rehabilitation program, a three-week class to learn to live with the pain.  

Legal matters: the judge granted our attorney’s request to rearrange the guardianship assets to make financial transactions and record keeping much simpler for the future.  Hallelujah!

Immanuel:  in a congregational meeting on October 23, the congregation voted unanimously to change Mike’s call from senior pastor to pastor emeritus and to continue to assist our family financially. An occasion I had been dreading turned out sweet and affirming. It was full of love for our family and gratitude to God for Mike’s ministry and life.

Many of you may have seen what our friend Aaron Denlinger wrote about faith and Mike’s example (http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2016/10/faith-is-a-gift-but-not-that-k.php).  Please take a moment to read it (again?!).  As I’ve thought more about what I see in Mike as he lives out each day, I’m struck by how the fruit of the Spirit is so evident.  Every fruit that the apostle Paul lists in Galatians 5:22-23 is there in abundance:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.  Take any one of them and you see much more of it in Mike’s life now than before—bountiful, ripe, sweet, beautiful, fragrant, and nourishing for heart and soul.  

The Mike before us today, so disabled yet so full of fruit, has me reconsidering fruitfulness.  We usually think of a fruitful life as one that’s highly productive—a person who leads a great organization or has lots of money or property or children.  God’s providence in Mike’s life is a great mystery, but surely there is something to be learned from a life that is full of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, not just the fruit of our labors.  Recently I read Psalm 92’s description of the “righteous man” who flourishes like a palm tree, is planted in the house of the Lord, yields fruit in old age, and is full of sap and very green … for what purpose?  One might expect the psalm to end with the righteous man’s great works or esteemed position.  But no, the “righteous man” bears fruit in order “to declare [show forth] that the Lord is upright.  He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him” (v. 15).  

Mike is a walking and talking version of Psalm 92.  A conversation doesn’t go far before he says about his situation, “But I trust the Lord.  He knows what he’s doing.”  During an echocardiogram last week, Mike was full of questions for the tech, punctuated by exclamations over how marvelously God has made our bodies and expressions of gratitude for her work.

Please continue to pray for relief from the pain for Mike.  It prevents him from doing and enjoying so much, as I’ve mentioned before, and I worry about its impact on brain recovery.  High doses of pain meds make him more confused and unbalanced.  This past week it finally seemed like the pain had stopped escalating, but the past couple of days haven’t been so great at all.

Please pray for all the medical folks who are involved with Mike, that the Lord would give them insight into the best way to care for him and advance his recovery.

10270488-DB20-4086-AA04-E82D59EA388EPlease continue to pray for all the volunteers, the miracle workers who continue to spend themselves for someone who will never be able to repay them.  Truly, it’s a daily Matthew 25:40 example of doing unto Christ as they do unto the least of the brothers.  They, and others who continue to do so much for our family, are living out the Gospel before me, lavishing grace upon us that we didn’t merit or earn.

Speaking of volunteers, pain, and the medical team, please pray for Mike’s time in Mayo’s pain rehabilitation program, November 23-December 14.  It will take a remarkable work by some of our super-helpers to make it happen and the mercy of the Lord to make it effective.  

There is a lot that’s discouraging about Mike’s situation right now, but it makes me happy because of you, the family of God, gathered before the throne of grace on our behalf.  I can’t thank you enough for your prayers and all that is being accomplished!  Indeed, it is far more than we can ask or imagine, whether or not we have eyes to see.  (I write this on election night, an especially good time to remember to walk by faith, not by sight.)

Grace to you and peace from God our Father,

Maria for the whole family

May 25, 2017 from Maria

9B4B532E-7886-4639-8FD9-AC4F3D10A0D5Beloved friends and family of God,

As we mark the second anniversary of Mike’s heart attack and brain injury, I can’t help but think of all the ways your prayers have been answered these past months, and what my eyes see is but a small part of the story. Here are some of the highlights:

Mike:  sleeping well, pain diminishing and meds decreasing, doors opened for medical appointments and scheduling, and his remarkable ongoing progress.  

Maria:  sustained as I grow in my role as head of household and Mike’s guardian, tackling taxes, legal matters, and plumbing.

Kids:  Maddie finishing a terrific second year with Reformed University Fellowship and in a terrific apartment (link here to her latest newsletter); Luke making progress at his studies and loving his job at Chik-Fil-A; Lydia returned from an amazing six months abroad and a great spring semester back at GWU (link here to her fabulous 2016 pictures).

Volunteers/caregivers:  generous and creative, adjusting to Mike’s varying needs—they really are miracle workers.  

Faith:  still alive!  Our theology teaches that our faith is a gift, that we are both saved and kept by grace, and nowhere is it plainer to behold than in the life of Mike Francis.   

In my last update, Mike’s pain was at its zenith and we were hoping for help from Mayo’s pain rehab program. Mike didn’t get past the intake day, as they determined that having a helper with him would violate HIPPA for the rest of the group, but we learned their major premise:  function better so that you will feel better, not vice versa. (This is good advice in many situations!) So we set about doing more and scaling back on pain meds while all of you kept praying, and Mike is doing much better. Pain still restricts his activity, but he is much more active and much less confused.   

C870B587-A963-4E1A-B97B-17F0F1880166Meanwhile, I continue to ponder our family’s neediness. I long to hoist the drawbridge, withdraw into our castle, and stop having to ask for help to keep our little family going. Because we are being given so much, I think often of Paul’s words to the Corinthians when he warned them about boasting:  what do you have that you were not given?  (1 Cor. 4:7)  Not just our faith is a gift, but everything is a gift!  When life goes as we expect, we think it’s ours: our work, our schedule, our time, our paycheck, our blessings well deserved.  And yet, if you have a functioning body and mind, an education, a job, a stable economy, a church, an address in a first-world country … are those not gifts as well?  We who cannot even cause our hearts to beat or the sun to shine are all completely and totally dependent on our Creator.  It is ALL by grace! Even our hardships and suffering are given by God for his good purposes, and so are the Francis family’s needs. I marvel that in God’s economy, particularly in his wonderful family the church, he answers your prayers for us through people giving and serving in so many ways.  It seems like chaos, but it’s a million God-ordained transactions of love and grace which we experience as exactly that:  our Father’s loving care for us.  Thank you. I wish you could all see Mike’s frequent expressions of joy and gratitude that bubble up in spontaneous song and dance. To God be the glory!  

A highlight of this spring was joining the Stetson Choral Union for weekly rehearsals of Brahm’s Requiem. What a gift that our singing buddies Dan and Dru Fridsma were up for the challenge and that the choral directors were enthusiastically committed to helping Mike succeed. Dan stood with Mike and pointed out every word in the score so Mike could follow the music, and week by week he could sing more and more. The lyrics were biblical, including passages describing the comfort of the Lord (Matthew 5:4Psalm 126:5-6Isaiah 66:13) and the promise of our ultimate joy, rest, and glory (Psalm 84:1-4John 16:221 Corinthians 15:51-55Revelation14:13), so the singing was always good for our hearts.  You can watch/listen to the performance here—not because of us, but because it is edifying and astonishingly beautiful! (Where’s Waldo buffs: we four are together on the right, in front of the organ console and behind the woman with white hair.)

Our prayer requests haven’t changed much, but please keep praying!

  • Please pray for Mike:  for the pain to cease and his cognitive and physical capacities to increase.  His ability to store and retrieve memories is improving–pray for more!
  • Please pray for our children and me:  for Maddie as she ministers to students in New York; for Luke as he continues his working and learning; for Lydia as she interns in California this summer and lives alternating between her two aunts and families; and for me to be faithful and joyful in my roles at home, church, and work.
  • Please pray for great grace and wisdom for all the volunteers and for a few more to join the team to fill in the gap left by fewer days of paid help. Please pray that the Lord would sustain and reward them and all those who serve us in other ways, including you prayer warriors!
  • Please pray for Immanuel:  for the search committee, the person whom God will call to be pastor, and the leadership and congregation in this season.
  • And yes, please pray for a full and complete recovery.

1097F7C7-F3E9-4878-A914-0B8093B1E1C2On this 732nd day of the Mike Marathon, join us in thanking God for his astounding kindness to preserve Mike’s life and bring greater recovery than anyone thought possible. More importantly, the Lord has held us all fast (remember our theme song?), and nowhere is it more beautifully evident than in Mike’s faith, spiritual gifts, and abundant joy.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Because of His great faithfulness,

Maria for the whole family

Read more here.

Read the previous installment here.