Last weekend my husband and I flew out to Denver and spent two days loving on Jay and Ashley. I don’t know what I expected, but what I experienced was more. More love, more laughter, more tears, more glimpses of God and grace. We landed on a sunny day and took a rental car across the flat roads leading to Denver where we found the Craig Hospital. We met precious new friends who have been the hands and feet of Jesus for our dear old friends and walked through the hospital doors.
To holy ground.
They were making cupcakes. Jay, seated in his wheelchair, surrounded by his four daughters and all the excitement over measuring cups and sprinkles. Ashley, turning from a conversation and catching my eye and me fighting tears as I finally got to hug my young friend who I have just longed to mommy for the past nine weeks.
Wheelchairs of many shapes and sizes lined the far wall. An air hockey table was in the corner. Lots of open space, plenty of room to navigate and play around whether you walk or roll. And laughter.
I don’t know the spiritual condition of any of the Craig staff, but I can tell you that the Lord is very present in that place. Everything is so intentional, the goal being independence and life and finding joy again.
But boy, is that journey hard and painful. Without going in to details, (You can read their words here if you want to know more) Jay fights for every milestone. Nothing is easy. Nothing is not accompanied by pain. Yet he perseveres and fights and gains ground every single day. He laughs and cries and parents and loves and God is honored in it all. To know the Rapleys is to see Jesus at work and realize that God is good even when we cannot make sense of our circumstances. His love for us is fierce and He fights for us even when we fight against Him.
We all suffer. If you have not, brace yourself because it will come. Some of our suffering is private. It may be within the walls of our home or in the battlefield of our minds. It may be from outside sources, people who have determined to pick at you until you fold in defeat or from the vice-grip of trying to survive the bills coming in faster than the money. It may be self-inflicted because of poor choices or it may be the result of what appears to be a random accident, like in Jay’s case.
He did nothing wrong. He was just walking his dog. Yet here he is, navigating this sudden suffering. But in the midst of suffering the beauty emerges.
It is in the friends back home, happily packing up Jay and Ashley’s belongings to they can move into their new, wheelchair-accessible, house when Jay is discharged. It is in the community of faith, Kristin and Mark taking on a huge supportive role and thousands of believers backing them in prayer, gifts, texts and love. It is in Jay’s brother, Eric, who consistently encourages him and faithfully makes the drive to visit and be a support to Jay and their parents.
Their parents….There are no words to describe these precious people. They have dropped everything for their son and his family. They have walked away from retirement, taking on the role of parent and teacher for their four little granddaughters in order for Ashley to be by her husband’s side and for their girls’ lives to be as normal as humanly possible. They have done this so beautifully and fight through the fatigue and grief in order to serve their family. I can only imagine the treasure being laid up for them in Heaven at this very moment.
As I process what I saw over the weekend, I remember a conversation we had about how God is weaving a beautiful tapestry out of Jay’s story and right now we are all on the back side. We can’t see the picture. All we see right now is a tangled mess of knots. It makes no sense. But the Weaver is at work. He is carefully and lovingly creating a picture, a huge and intricate work of art, that will be fully revealed in eternity. He is using His people as instruments, needles and thread and the stretching loom, to construct a garment fit for a King.
Jesus, who suffered for us and identifies with Jay’s suffering. He walks with Jay now, today, giving him strength moment by moment and reminding him of who he is and whose he is. He is not surprised nor shaken by Jay’s accident because He has shown over and over again that He had everything lined up, positioned perfectly, to provide for the needs of Jay and Ashley and their family. He surrounds them with grace in the midst of the knots, promising that when He returns and makes all things new, it will be worth it. Nothing is wasted. He will, one day soon, flip over the finished tapestry and, in the center, will be His masterpiece…Jesus holding Jay by the hand as they walk together into Glory.
Pray for Jay. Pray for a miracle. Pray for strength and joy and protection over their minds and bodies as they all work so hard to learn this new way of living. For more specific prayer needs, you can visit their Caring Bridge site.
Phillippians 3:8-11 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.