Live Life Pressing On
June 18, 2007, the day after Father's day, was a day I will never forget. As pastors of a great church in Miami, Florida, both Steve and I answered the call of full time ministry, a calling with its challenges but also with its rewards. Our lives were as perfect as anyone could ask for./nOn the first day of our much needed family vacation, we were all packed with our 4 children in tow, ready to go on a week-long road trip to the beautiful smokey mountains . You see, that's what I was prepared for, no stress, just rest. But that's not at all what happened. We had stopped by our little condo at a beachside resort that God had blessed us with and were moving some furniture in. Our kids were next door playing video games waiting for our call to head out on the RV we had rented for the occasion. I was navigating movers in the door way when my husband Steve stepped in front of me with a look on his face that I had never seen before. He was holding the center of his chest and his face was ashen. That was the moment our lives would change. He said very calmly, "Mary, call 911; something is wrong". "Something is wrong??" I began to say to myself, "OK then, I'll fix it! The paramedics will come and they will check you out, tell you you're fine and we'll be on our way to the mountains with our children"! Even though my head was trying to believe the best, my heart knew this might be the worst. Within 3 minutes the paramedics arrived. They sprang into action with a fierceness I had never witnessed before. Five of the biggest, burliest paramedics you've ever seen surrounded my husband. They began to ask him questions as I watched his condition worsened. As one of the paramedics was speaking to him, Steve gripped his chest and began to have a seizure. He was going into full cardiac arrest in front of them. It was so severe that it took them over 45 minutes and seven hits to the chest with a defibrillator to revive him. It all happened so fast that I didn't have time to absorb the fact that he was having a heart attack. Steve spent six days in intensive care and we began our inner struggle to have it all make sense. As in most life altering experiences, we weren't prepared for the physiological effects that were coming to us after the heart attack. Fear, a sense of uncertainty for our future, and financial stress, were just a few of the feelings Steve and I had to deal with. Our church was transitioning to a larger facility and with Steve and I out for a while it seemed as though our life and ministry had come to a standstill. Steve's heart had been damaged and we had no way of knowing what that would mean over the long term. Everything in us wanted to "play it safe" and shrink back. When life hits you hard like that, nothing is ever the same. It took us a while to get perspective again, especially when we became educated that only five percent of those with the type of heart attack my husband had even survive. As a matter of fact, none of the paramedics that worked on him that day had ever saved a man that was in the condition Steve was in. That's a shocking reality that we had to absorb. We both dealt with a type of post traumatic stress that the doctors said would take about a year to overcome. Even our children had to take some time to accept the news that they almost lost their father. During this time we began to ask God for answers. Why a heart attack? Why did it happen this way? Why now? It didn't make any sense but crisis never does. Most of our lives we both have been in ministry so we are fully aware of the power of prayer and in faith believing. We've taught it, lived it, trained people in this truth but when we were face down in our pain, that truth seemed so far away. God, being the gracious Father He is, over time began to give us answers to questions we were crying out to Him for. For Steve, they came in reassurances that his heart was healed and he would have no future health issues. For me the answers started coming in songs. It was there that I started writing again. A new project was born out of this season of my life. The lyrics to the title cut of my album are; "I'm pressing on 'cause I don't want to live an ordinary life. I'm pressing on. I'll overcome, I'll keep the faith, it won't be long. I'm pressing on. I won't look to the left or the right. I won't stop, I will stand, I will fight". That's the theme of my life right now, too. We can never go back to the days before the heart attack, but the truth is we wouldn't want to go back. Too much has happened that has strengthened our faith in God and in ourselves. God has built in to all of us the ability to face adversity head on and overcome it by pressing on. The reality is that when we face difficult times, we have to make a decision to get up and press on. We have to say to ourselves, "I may not have all the answers to where I'm going tomorrow, but I can't stay here today". I have to "live, life, pressing on." Scripture - Philippians 3:12-14. "I press on towards the mark of the high calling."