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China Reflections

This week we received word that one of the other stroke patients who was in China at the same time as Matt has passed away. This is the second passing from the group that we know of. All week I’ve been reflecting on our time in China, and thinking of the folks who were a part of that experience. We came from all walks of life, all stages and ages to a foreign place in search of healing and hope. While none of us came away with the miracle healings we had prayed for, I have no doubt we all came home changed.
It’s still strange and surreal for me to think about the fact that Matt spent 3 months in China. Looking back at pictures I can’t really believe we were actually there…in China. It was 6 years ago, nearly exactly, that we were preparing for Matt’s big trip. We were hopeful and excited, nervous and a bit scared. We had sacrificed so much to get there – as did our families. We were taking this great leap of faith in hopes of brighter days ahead.
And truly, our days have been brighter in ways we couldn’t have anticipated. I know Matt endured a lot while he was away. I know he doesn’t like to think much about that time in his life. He was so homesick, so lonely. He was frustrated that after all that sacrifice and work, not a whole lot changed for him physically. He had a few small improvements in the beginning which gave him hope to keep going…but they weren’t the big miracles he so longed for. When I think back on that time, I realize maybe God wasn’t using that trip to change Matt physically, but to change us both…emotionally. Coming home from China was a blur. I had moved to the new house while he was away, trying to get somewhat settled. Matt came home to a new house, and a new life. More than anything, what we both took away from the China experience was gratitude. We quickly realized all that we had to be grateful for, just living in the US…in Iowa. But more than that…over time we were reminded again and again how much we have to be grateful for in Matt’s recovery…period.
Sure, Matt was disappointed he didn’t come home walking in his new front door. He still had double vision, a tremor, a lack of balance…etc etc. But what he did have…a wife, a family, friends, a killer sense of humor, faith through it all, and an increasingly hearty appetite…for life.  In the years since China, Matt and I have done things I never dreamed possible. We’ve traveled, explored, laughed, loved, fallen down, and gotten up over and over and over…usually with a smile on our faces. I realized this week, thinking on those other stroke survivors who ultimately lost their battles, how incredibly, undeniably, amazingly blessed we are. We’ve had a tough year, hoping and wishing and trying all we could to have a baby. And it was frustrating and painful. But we want to have a family. We want to add complexity to our already complicated life. We realize all the crazy ways it will change and dismantle our lives and yet we welcome it, we yearn for it. Because we know we can handle it. We know the challenges. We look them dead in the eye and ponder how to circumvent them. And someday, God willing, we will be parents. Without China – I’m certain we would not be where we are today.  
Look - Matt should have died from his stroke. It was a miracle he survived it. Matt’s only remaining limitations are physical…and we’ve gotten pretty good at figuring out ways around them. They rarely stand in our way anymore. Matt is strong, healthy, and helpful (he is vacuuming the couch as I write this). He is capable of so much. He is the same man I married 15 years ago – in all the important ways. We’ve managed to make a beautiful life together – despite and probably BECAUSE of the hardships we’ve faced.
My heart goes out to those stroke survivors whose daily lives are still a struggle. I wish for them all the same strength and good health Matt has been blessed with. I wish we could have all come home from China with restored bodies, minds, and hearts. I wish. I wish. 
Rest in Peace - Linda
Rest in Peace - Devin


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