A view into the life of a family who encountered a different future than expected, but has become all the richer for it.

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Natalie and Mr. Sam

Me and Natalie
Our middle daughter, Natalie, is 5-years-old.  She is a very sweet, tenderhearted little girl.  She doesn't like to see anyone in the hospital or in pain and hates to even see herself cry as a baby in our home movies.  She is very easy to discipline because by just raising your voice the slightest little bit, it causes her to get back into line and obey when she is tempted to stray.

Natalie loves to visit her daddy at the church office that he works in (Mark is the Education Pastor at our church) when we drop by during the week.  Natalie will make the rounds and visit a lot of the secretaries while we are there.  She especially loves to visit Mrs. Tammy, who is our worship pastor's secretary.  Mrs. Tammy is so sweet to my girls and always has candy at her desk to give them.
Natalie had the special joy of moving into Mrs. Tammy's Sunday School Class when she turned 5 this past January.  She has loved being in that class.  Mrs. Tammy's grown daughter, Stacey, helps in the class as well as her sweet husband, Sam.  Tammy, Sam and Stacey are all jewels and we love them dearly.
Our oldest daughter, Elyssa, with Mrs. Tammy, Mr. Sam and Stacey.  This photo was taken when Elyssa was in their Sunday School class about a year-and-a-half ago.

About a month ago, Mrs. Tammy and Mr. Sam invited our family over to their house for a swimming party and cookout.  That was the first time we had ever been to their house and we all had such a wonderful time.  Part of the reason that Mrs. Tammy wanted my girls to come over was because she wanted to ask them to pray for her as she was leaving soon for a mission trip to Brazil.  She gave them a prayer journal and asked them to draw or write prayers in it while she was on her trip.  The girls were thrilled to get their journals and couldn't wait to begin drawing and writing in them.
Elyssa and Natalie swimming with Mrs. Tammy!

Right before we left Tammy and Sam's house, Sam was telling us of a motorcycle trip that he would be going on the same time that Tammy would be on her Brazil mission trip.  As he told us of an 11-mile strip of road in Tennessee that had over 300 curves in it, I had a weird feeling within me and remember having the word "wreck" pop into my brain.  I wasn't sure why that happened and never vocalized it to anyone at the time.  I just planned to pray for both Sam and Tammy on their trips.

The next week, on a Sunday afternoon, we were having lunch with a family that we had invited over after church that morning.  After eating our lunch, the girls were left to play while the adults continued in conversation.  Mark received a text on his cell phone.  It was from our pastor's wife who informed him that Sam (who had been on his motorcycle trip with 12 or 13 other friends) was struck by a car and that Sam wasn't doing well.  He was being flighted to a hospital in Tennessee.  My mind went back to that eerie feeling I had when Sam was telling us about his motorcycle trip at the swimming party.  I felt sick to my stomach.  We immediately stopped and prayed for him and also for Tammy, who was in Brazil on her mission trip.  We didn't know all of the details, but we knew God did.  We were praying for God to be gracious and spare Sam's life.

This is a photo of all of the men who went on the motorcycle trip.
That afternoon more information came in through phone calls and texts to Mark.  We found out that Tammy was in the process of trying to fly back from Brazil to be with Sam.  We also found out that Sam was stable but that he was going to lose his left leg.  We were so sad for him, but were so thankful that his life was spared.  We knew that somehow God would give Sam and Tammy the strength to make it through this trial.

As the weeks went by, Sam continued to improve.  He had to go through several surgeries to prepare his leg to receive a prosthetic leg eventually.  We finally were able to see Mr. Sam at church when he was well enough to come.  We all gave him big hugs that first Sunday morning he came back, although I could tell that Natalie was acting very shy and scared.  She tried to smile but I could tell in her eyes that she was nervous and on the verge of tears.  It broke my heart.  As much as we wanted her to still love on Mr. Sam as she always had, I could tell this was going to be a challenge for her.

About a week ago, I was walking Natalie to her Sunday School class.  We reached the door of her classroom and I began to fill out the security form with her name on it.  Natalie was hiding behind the sign-in desk.  I just thought she was playing hide-n-seek with Mrs. Tammy, who had popped out of the room to greet us.  I handed Tammy the security form and prompted Natalie to walk in the door.  She began to cry.  I asked her what was wrong.  She told me that Mr. Sam was in the classroom and that she didn't want to go.  I hoped I could get her over her fears and talked with her in the hallway.  But, no matter how hard I tried to console her and let her know that there was nothing to be afraid of, the more she cried.  She was in a panic and couldn't even walk close to the door of the classroom.  Tammy assured me that it was okay and that we didn't need to push her to get close to Sam if she wasn't ready yet.  I wanted to cry.  I felt ashamed that Natalie was so scared of Sam now.  I had to end up leaving Natalie in the classroom next door with her younger sister once she calmed down so I could go to "big" church.

Yesterday when we went to church, Natalie was nervous about going into her Sunday School class.  I assured her that Stacey would be helping Mrs. Tammy that day instead of Mr. Sam.  Once we got to the room and once she saw that I was telling the truth about Stacy being the helper, she finally went into the classroom.  Tammy told Natalie that Mr. Sam had a special present for her and he wanted to give it to her after church.  Once the church services were over, we drove our van over to Sam and Tammy's truck.  Mr. Sam (on his crutches) and Mrs. Tammy walked up to the van where I had slid open the side door so they could see the girls inside.  Natalie quickly hopped from the middle seat, where she had been sitting, into the back seat by her older sister.  I could tell she had those nervous eyes again.  Mr. Sam talked to Natalie and told her that he had a present for her.  I urged Natalie to come to the open door so she could get the gift bag.  She quickly got the bag and then darted to the back seat again.  She began to open the gift bag.  She pulled out some candy and the cutest stuffed teddy bear that had the words "Friends Forever" sewn onto it.  Sam told me that there was a card in the bag that he wanted me to read to Natalie.  I noticed as Sam was telling me about the card that Natalie's eyes kept gazing down to Sam's shorts.  She was checking out his missing leg.  I told Natalie to thank Mr. Sam and come hug his neck.  She quickly came up and hugged his neck and told him "thank you."  She again darted to the back seat.  I thanked Sam and Tammy. When I got back into the van and closed the door, I opened the card and read it to Natalie.  These words came from my lips as tears streamed down my face:


Five weeks ago God allowed a change to happen to my outer appearance.  I know that can be hard to understand and might even be a little scary.  I thank God for this change because it was in His plan to make me a better person.  So now, I'm not just Mr. Sam; but I'm God's better Mr. Sam that even loves YOU more."

As I struggle with helping Natalie understand that she doesn't have to be scared of Mr. Sam, I realize that she has to come to terms with everything in her own time.  Sometimes I feel ashamed that my child is scared of such a sweet man because he lost his leg in an accident.  It makes me so sad.  But, I take comfort in knowing that one day (hopefully, soon) Natalie will run up to Mr. Sam without any fear because she remembers who he is on the inside.  I pray that she will get past his outward appearance that has changed and that she will cling to the man that she has always loved as a friend.

Natalie fell asleep on her teddy bear the very day Sam gave it to her.  She named the bear "Sambo" since the bear was a gift from Mr. Sam.
In closing, I am reminded of a special Bible verse that I use when speaking publicly about my special needs daughter, Victoria, who has Down syndrome. 

I Samuel 16:7
"For the Lord does not see as man sees:  for man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart."

May we all strive to love as the Lord does!


Teresa Graham said...

Don't be sad or ashamed because of Natalie's fear; you nailed it when you said that she is tenderhearted and doesn't like anyone hurting. She has mercy and mercy, I believe, is one of the hardest spiritual gifts to have. You enter in to people's pain and often, unless you learn not to, find yourself feeling their pain and suffering. She just loves Mr. Sam so much that she's not fearful of him, but fearful for him. What Mr. Sam did was show, in his gift and note, that God is good and trustworthy, no matter what may happen to us. Mr. Sam is being patient and soon she will respond to him and begin to ask him questions that will help her learn more about what's happened and how he is not in pain and not afraid. How difficult but immensely precious are the gifts of struggle God gives to those He loves. Thanks for sharing!!

Peppi Garrett said...

As the tears now flow down my own cheeks, I too, can empathize with Natalie. I also have the gift of mercy. Teresa is so right. My own pain for someone I love who is hurting is so overwhelming at times that I'm afraid it will show to that person and only make them more sad. I have always cried easily, sometimes just because it's Tuesday. As I grew older, I hated that about myself, because at times it was so embarrassing. I found that it's just easier to remove myself from a situation, than for people to see what I perceived as a weakness. Even as a young adult, It wasn't easy for me to express condolences when someone had a death in the family, because any little thing would cause my own tears to come gushing like a dam breaking. Things haven't changed much, but I've learned what a special, complicated and rare gift mercy is; especially in this world where criticism and cynicism are the order of the day. Hold Natalie close and let her know you love her and continue to reassure her that Mr. Sam is happier today than when he had two good legs, because when he lost his leg, Jesus put more joy in his heart to make up for it. Maybe she would like to color Mr. Sam a picture. I know he'd love that.

christmas payday loan said...

I was so inspired with these strong words. You have such a great spiritual life.

doctor for women said...

What a fine day with the family.