I am so honored to have our courageous cousin, Anita “A.J.”, sharing some very raw moments. This Mother’s Day will be extra special for Anita as her son Caleb almost lost his life in a terrible accident at the start of this year. Thank you Anita, for sharing your story of faith and courageous living, entitled: Coloring Inside the Lines. Trust me, you don’t want to miss a morsel of Anita’s wisdom or Caleb’s courage. So, grab a cup of java or tea and snuggle in for a real blessing!
Coloring Inside the Lines
A. J. Dunn
Do you remember in kindergarten when you were taught to color inside the lines? If my life was a picture, God has colored way outside my comfort-zone lines. One thing is for sure: my life story is in full living color.
From being a pastor’s daughter to marrying a God-loving adventurer, my picture has been one of creativity. Starting with an unplanned move to Puerto Rico 6 weeks after “I do” to later raising 3 kids in the Amazon jungle of Brazil. I have worked in a funeral home and am now teaching in a prison—way outside my lines again. My God is a masterpiece of originality.
I have never faced a king and plead for my people like Esther, nor ever had a son murder his brother like Eve, nor barren like Hannah and Sarah, nor did I see my son crucified like Mary. I’m just me, doing life the best I can, and not always bravely. Sometimes, I have questioned God. Sometimes, I have doubted His leading. I have seen and experienced brokenness and pain during my life’s journey. I could choose to hold on to “woe is me” brokenness or I could choose to give it to God in exchange for his mercy. My dad once wrote to us, when we were in the depths of the jungle: “A person without needs does not need God.” I chose to follow God, no matter what needs I had, and exchange any pain for His beauty.
II Chronicles 20:15 “….Do not fear or be dismayed … for the battle is not yours but God’s.”
I have 3 beautiful children. Each child totally different from the other and each one loved and designed by their Creator. We chose to dedicate all our children to the Lord as babies. There are times along life’s way, when mom and dad have to re-let go and let God handle their child’s life. Generally speaking, mom-hood always handles whatever is thrown at her. We are made that way. We are made to handle crisis and multi-task. This mom never really thought about her life as courageous, I just colored whatever picture God handed me next. My battles had to be turned over to God, for I was always in need.
Caleb is my middle child. This child had just turned 6 when we moved to the Amazon. He has been bitten by a monkey. He has caught many snakes and swam with piranhas. When he was little, he would be given 3 tasks and maybe do one because he became distracted by a lizard that crossed his path. We learned during his 6th grade year that dyslexia held him back from learning academics like others his age. He has a high IQ and is in the 99th percentile for visual learning. Although Caleb is less verbal than most, he has an inventive spirit and is very creative using his 3-dimensional thinking. He can problem-solve a lot of things that I cannot. He is a very hard worker with high compliments from every boss he has had. Lastly, he has a great smile and is the best hugger in the world.
When we got the call on January 31, 2018, we had very little info driving to the accident scene. God began to color outside my lines again. Our son was traveling on his motorcycle at 40 mph through a construction zone when a car in front of him flicked out a lit cigarette. A one in a million chance, it landed inside his half-zipped jacket. His flame-retardant motorcycle jacket held in the heat, and the wind fanned the spark, creating an accelerate and lighting his shirts on fire. EMS transported him via life-flight to a burn unit in Mobile, Alabama. He survived, but 3rd degree burns covered over 20% of his body.
I can’t explain the calmness that God gave from the moment of the initial phone call. It was like God kept saying over and over, “I’ve got this. I’ve got this. I’ve got this.” Bystanders first vocalized the words, with numerous others in the days to follow, “I can’t believe how calm you are. I would be a mess.” But that was not me; that was my God who can handle my needs. Sometimes courage is just taking the next step in faith. Sometimes we are not presented with a choice. Sometimes life just happens, and one must keep trusting God and just carry on, rather than talk. If I start sulking about my woes, then inevitably grumbling, complaining, whining, and ultimately lack of faith starts creeping into my heart and attitude. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Sometimes courageousness is just being still and letting God do God things.
In the original Facebook post, which was meant for my circle of friends, I shared some blessings through this horrific accident. All I could think about was what didn’t happen. We were thankful his life was spared. Highway 87 is under construction, and he could have hit barrels, or another car hit him, or ran into the heavy equipment at the excavation site, fallen over the bridge and into the swamp below, but God laid out a newly sodded, soft, specially prepared spot for Caleb with enough room for all the first responders. Professional EMS were on the ground and in the air within moments, despite being in the middle of nowhere. He was taken to the #1 rated Medical Center Burn Unit in America. No damage to the motorcycle or his helmet, so no insurance claim had to be filed. No broken bones. A thousand tragedies could have happened and didn’t. I had one FB friend ask if I could change my settings, so she could share the post with a friend. Within days, the story went viral.
Because of that private moment shared, I watched amazed at how God used this incident to share Him. We were awed at how many people joined us in prayer. Sometimes I feel like I’m on an island, then to see thousands of people say “I’m praying” just reinforces that God does have this. God does work through people. God colors inside His lines and not our pre-conceived lines. In this time, I am reminded by Isaiah 55:8-9 that His thoughts are not my thoughts, neither are His ways my ways.
At the same time, the spiritual battle persists. Many people commented that if God was really a good God, why would He let this happen? How can you thank God? …etc. Most of them I ignored, because I’m not here to debate God. I can’t answer why God let this happen, but I can answer that faith is not faith just when things are good. Matthew 5:45 says “the sun will rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.” Faith is exercised when life is not fair. Faith is exercised when we need God most. Faith is when we allow God to color outside the lines of our lives.
Caleb’s spirit has been nothing but positive from the beginning. He knows God spared his life and he is grateful. Nurses and doctors have said, “We wish all our patients could be like Caleb.” He is strong and he has maintained his humor and smile through it all. 90 days in the hospital and counting (43 of those days in ICU). You can follow Caleb’s recovery on his Facebook page, Caleb’s Courage, or on the website www.caringbridge.org/Calebscourage.