Allow me (Maria) to introduce our friend Dru Fridsma, who wrote this post. Dru and her husband Dan are among the unsung heroes of our story. Not long after Mike was hospitalized in 2015, Dru texted me to say that, while she couldn’t bring a casserole or clean our house, she could give me a massage. (She is a licensed massage therapist, owner of Oasis Spa and Wellness in Oviedo.)
And so began a Monday evening routine that continues to this day. Dan and Dru came weekly to the hospital, and then to our home, bringing her portable massage table. Dan spends time with Mike while Dru gives me a massage and listens to whatever happens to be oozing, or perhaps gushing, from my heart. I count the therapy and the friendship which has grown out of it as truly essential in sustaining me through some hard times, a prime example of the people of God truly being his ministering hands and feet. Monday by Monday, Dan and Dru have cheerfully and unflinchingly weathered the highs and lows of all the seasons since Mike’s injury.
In the spring of 2017, we started doing something new on Monday evenings: singing with the Stetson Choral Union, the university’s 150-voice choir of students and community members. Dan and Dru are terrific singers, and Dan stands with Mike and points to the words as they sing. We just completed our fifth semester, enjoying the rehearsals every week though Mike has only once been able to perform (pictures at end of post). Here’s a peek at the first rehearsal from this semester, doing Handel’s Messiah, which, coincidentally, Mike and I sang with the Choral Union just a month before Mike’s injury.
I am unbelievably grateful for these friends who model the Gospel for us, walking alongside us on this crazy journey and showing us kindness we don’t merit and can never repay.
Don’t take this wrong, but I am thankful for Mike’s heart attack. Not that I don’t often wish he hadn’t had it, or the subsequent brain injury, but I received a precious gift from God because of it. I know there are dozens (hundreds?) of people who could mention a “benefit” they received from Mike’s injury, whether an encouragement in their own faith from Maria’s updates, or the blessing of working with Mike, or an increase in their prayer life from lifting up Mike and Maria since that Memorial Day. And Dan and I are recipients of these blessings, too.
But here is what I am most grateful for:
Four and a half years ago, Dan and I had an “acquaintance” relationship with Mike and Maria. We loved Mike’s preaching, I loved Maria’s teaching in the women’s Bible study, and we had enjoyed their hospitality several times. But, simply put, we had a pastor and a pastor’s wife we admired from a distance. Four and a half years later, we have two friends we admire up close and personal. And I think you know what I mean by “admire”—not, “Oh they’re so great” (although we think they’re pretty terrific!). Rather, we get to see them living out the gospel with each other. We get to be encouraged weekly by seeing THEIR gratefulness for the faithfulness of God.
Mike is a walking-talking example of what it means to pray without ceasing and give thanks in all circumstances. He expresses gratitude for everything. The first coherent words Dan heard him speak in the hospital were, “Thank you. You are so kind.” Mike thanks Dan every Choral Union rehearsal for helping him sing and for driving us to Stetson. He thanks the jazz band players after every song. He thanks us for coming to his house and eating Maria’s delicious food. He thanks God for the moon! Like the jingle says, I want to be like Mike: less of a complainer and more grateful for the little (and big) things.
Mike has lost a lot. Maria has lost a lot. That loss is real and hard. But what strikes me is that they choose to not dwell on what they don’t have. Instead, they express genuine gratitude for what they do have. And they give God the glory for it all.
I thank God so much that he has given Dan and me two wonderful friends to walk through life together, to encourage each other, and to have fun together!