Dates matter to me. Remembering important things and the day that they happen on is very important to my heart. Unfortunately, I have been known to forget important dates such as my mother’s birthday and even Father’s Day when Josh was a new father (oops), but those only happened once.
I don’t celebrate all the days that I remember. Some days I just use to ponder different people or events. I think about the people who may have left the world on those days and the impact they made on my life. Sometimes I recall major life changes, such as moving overseas or reuniting with family after being gone for years and replay the event to the best of my memory.
Other days are occasions to celebrate. Holidays, anniversaries, graduations, and especially birthdays. In the Hepner household, we celebrate birthday months! I’ve always been one of those moms who goes overboard on my kids’ birthdays. I wake them up singing “Happy Birthday”, shower them with gifts for the whole day, and slave over making a decent looking cake. It’s a joy and I love to celebrate their little lives. However, I don’t stop there. Remembering the day they came into the world and each year they have grown is special and sentimental to my heart. I like to linger over each detail, cherish it, and keep it alive in my mind.
The word “remember” is mentioned 231 times in the Bible (NIV). Many of these references refer to God remembering. “Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and enabled her to conceive” (Gen. 30:22).
Other times, as God’s people, we are commanded to remember something important both for our lives, but also involving our futures. “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Exo. 20:8). And again, in Revelations, “Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you” (Rev. 3:3).
Several times, we are commanded to remember as an act of worship for what God has done in our lives.
Here is one example from Psalms. “My soul is downcast within me; therefore, I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar” (Ps. 42:6). Here we can see that King David is struggling yet is determined to remember that God is good, God is powerful, and God is faithful…and He will do it again.
Today, May 20, is a special day of remembering for me.
One year ago today, I had neurosurgery on my spinal cord after months of debilitating pain.
One year ago today, God preformed a miracle in my body that I will remember for the rest of my days. One year ago today, I got my life back.
Let me tell you the story.
June, 2018. My family and I took an epic road trip out west in the states. We saw places that only God could have imagined! The land out there is some of the most mind blowing landscapes and scenery. We traveled over 8,000 miles and visited places like Yellowstone, Zion, the Grand Canyon, and Jackson Hole just to name a few. The trip was amazing on so many levels. I was also 32-37 weeks pregnant with my seventh child. Sleeping in a tent (on a cot) for three weeks of that trip had me convinced that I messed up my hip.
July, 2018. Levi entered this world and our family became complete. We spent the first four months of his life spending time with family and then rushing back to Serbia. It was a crazy and hard time, but very sweet too.
December, 2018. The pain in my right hip and leg was getting worse. Was it from carrying the baby all those months? Am I just getting old? I’ll never forget putting on my tennis shoes to play soccer with the boys in the yard and falling down within the first 5 minutes. I secretly went to the bathroom and cried. I really thought my years of being a playful mom had passed.
January, 2019. The pain had become so bad that I could no longer sleep at night. Between nursing a baby and pacing due to pain, I had become so sleep deprived that I could hardly function. The one blessing that came out of that time was a sweet fellowship with the Lord. I was awake so often that my spiritual life bloomed as I began to seek Him for relief and comfort. He delivered.
February, 2019. I stated to go to a physical therapist to seek help. They tried massage, electricity, injections, magnets, and a host of other things. Some days I would think that the therapy being used was helping, just to be disappointed that the pain would always return.
April 4, 2019. My physical therapist convinced me to get an MRI. He said that if we were dealing with disks, we would use a different type of therapy than if we were looking at a muscle problem. Never in our wildest dreams could we have imagined what they found. A large tumor inside my spinal cord.
We spent the next ten days doing as much research as we could, visiting Serbian doctors, calling American ones, and finally coordinating with travel and logistics. The decision to seek American healthcare came easily, yet the actual leaving of our life and ministry here in Serbia was heart wrenching.
We arrived in America on April 15, 2019 with a van, a house, friends, family, and groceries all waiting on us. The body of Christ took care of us in real ways during this time. These are things to be remembered.
It took us several doctors’ visits to find a doctor willing to do the surgery. It was a complicated one that involved opening my spinal cord. We also had to get another MRI to make sure the found tumor was the only one. This part was the hardest one for me personally. There were a few days that my mind ran wild and taking my thoughts captive seemed impossible. God was always near and He helped reel me back in.
Before the surgery, we had been fully briefed on all possible outcomes.
“You may never walk again.”
“You may have to relearn how to walk.”
“You may lose complete bladder and bowel function.”
Josh and I were OK with anything, other than death. He was willing to push me around in a wheelchair and change my diaper, but neither of us wanted him to be left to raise our babies alone.
God answered every prayer of the wonderful people who prayed for me. I remember.
May 20, 2019. We woke up before sunlight and drove to the hospital. My Darcie woke up to give me a tearful hug. Sweet girl loves her mama and was so worried. I remember that Josh wasn’t feeling good that morning. His stomach was in knots and he felt nauseous. We are sure that it was nerves. I had a good cry in the waiting room. They came in and explained to me in detail what all would happen during surgery. There was a lot of poking and cutting going to happen. It was overwhelming. I remember.
During the time leading up to surgery, I was more worried for Josh than I was for myself. I knew that I would be asleep, but that he would be anxious. As He always does, the Lord took care of him by sending family, friends, and pastors to pray with him and talk to him during the entire surgery. I remember God answering that prayer.
Josh remembers the doctor’s body language as he walked to him. When he describes the next half hour to me, I imagine the doctor skipping and smiling. Phrases like, “I just saw a miracle” and “the tumor just peeled away” and “I was able to remove it all, 100%” and “she will have full function of her legs” and even “your God heard your prayers” were just some of the things I remember. And I will always remember and raise my hands to the heavens for God protecting me and preforming a complete miracle in my body.
I woke up in recovery very drowsy, but also very aware that the pain was gone. Completely gone. They allowed Josh to come see me and I cried. I could wiggle my toes and while I had a LOT of drugs in me, I understood that everything had turned-out best-case scenario.
I was walking around the hospital that night. I will always remember.
We were on a plane back to Serbia two months later. He gave us our life back. I will always remember.
Today, I am more motivated than ever to live a healthy life. Knowing what it felt like to not be able to play soccer with my kids and to live in constant pain has motivated me to do the work now to live the best life that I can. I will remember and I will learn.
“Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering” (Heb. 10:32). We are people created by God with memories and we should remember His goodness and talk about it. We should remember the trials and learn from them. We should remember the promises and His faithfulness and tell them to the world.
Today, I remember and I celebrate May 20. The day that will always take me back to a sweet season of experiencing the fellowship of suffering with Jesus, the encompassing love of the body of Christ, a new level of dependence and faith that was birthed in our hearts, and being the recipient of the gift of healing.
Remember with me.
The morning after my surgery, God gave me these verses:
But I am like an olive tree
flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in God’s unfailing love
for ever and ever.
9 For what you have done I will always praise you
in the presence of your faithful people.
And I will hope in your name,
for your name is good. (Psalm 52:8-9)