Hands and Feet

Hands and Feet

Have you ever noticed that emotional arousal creates incredibly vivid memories?

When your body’s stress hormone is released, memory making is kicked up a serious notch.

That’s why when something really amazing, terrifying, or shocking happens, you often remember what you were wearing, where you were standing, the music that was playing, and the smells that surrounded you.

I have many intense, detailed memories from the years when my Gabby was her sickest.

I can recall pulling up to a red traffic light on my way home from Duke University Medical Center, listening to the Matt Redman song ‘Blessed Be Your Name’ for the umpteenth time.   Yet never before had I really comprehended the meaning of the lyrics-

Every blessing You pour out 
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

I began sobbing uncontrollably as I sang the words inside Duff’s kickin’ “roadster”.

Scared to death of their meaning,

while at the same time, trying to summon strength from their meaning.

(I was obviously surviving on a series of mad adrenaline rushes. ;) )

I was in the deepest of valleys,

yet I was experiencing God in the most real and tangible ways for the very first time.

He was so incredibly present,

palpable at times.


And I believe He had always been there, patiently waiting in the wings.

Only it wasn’t until fear gripped me and I lost my own footing,

that I sought Him out and finally drew close enough to Him, to a place where I could really examine and begin to understand His character.


This trial I was suddenly plunged into, would become a series of encounters with an amazing God.

We would travel together through those darkest of days.

Him patiently, gently, compassionately walking along beside me.

Him showing up time and time again.

Giving me hope in the passage of a book when seizures returned.

Teaching me to trust through a fiery tractor-trailer accident.

Encouraging me through friend’s stories.

Strengthening my faith with a miracle.

Providing doctors, insurance, deductibles, premiums, and lodging.

Loving me, when I didn’t deserve it.

Comforting me in a hospital lobby when impossible decisions needed to be made.

Granting peace about the hemispherectomy.

Protecting us from medical mishaps like a misplaced BP cuff in the ICU.

Leading me on the path He set before us, moment by moment.

Carrying me when I completely surrendered and could no longer walk.

Correcting my stubborn, self-reliant ways.

Strengthening me in my weakest, I-can’t-go-on moments.

Guiding me through the maze of medical options and uncertainty.

I  learned that God is absolutely faithful to all of his promises.

He is who he says he is.  He never leaves nor forsakes.  His love is perfect.


But as I sift through the many details of our journey, I question whether God’s presence would have felt as real or as substantial to me, without His willing servants.

Do you understand what I mean?

God used obedient and available individuals, as His hands and His feet, literally rallying them around our family in support and love.

They showed up with a home-cooked meal.

They took our older kids out for pizza and bowling.

They sent gifts and handed us money.

They cared for our kiddos when we couldn’t.

They prayed with us and sent care packages.

They called and crafted emails.

They mowed our lawn and decorated our house.

They crocheted blankets and waited with us.

They bought us dinner and delivered cookies.

They followed our blog and traveled hundreds of miles to show their support.

They made me cry many times over.


They were the body of Christ, sacrificing and serving.

They glorified the Father by putting themselves last and others first.

When these servants appeared, He appeared.

There really is no separating the two.


Allow me to retell one of my favorite examples of His provision.

An amazing story of God working out the details through willing, generous individuals, who put a needy family first:

Our 20-month-old daughter was experiencing countless daily seizures that were destroying her chances of normal development.  Medications failed to irradicate the nasty electrical storms.  We brought her to New York City in search of the best doctors.  She had exhaustive testing completed and we learned she was a candidate for a radical three-stage brain surgery.  She needed to complete all pre-op testing at least one week prior to the surgery in Manhattan and we’d need to plan on staying in the city for a total of one month.

The challenge at this point was finding an affordable place to stay in New York. Duff and I would need a place to sleep and shower between shifts in the hospital’s PICU. An organization called FACES offers free apartments to epilepsy patients but they were booked until September. The Ronald McDonald House in Manhattan focuses primarily on pediatric cancer patients, I did contact them, as well as a social worker, to see if they might consider taking us in. We looked into sublets which were wicked pricey at 4,000-5,000 for the month. We also received a list of more affordable accommodations which didn’t turn up any possibilities. We moved ahead with our plans knowing our daughter needed this surgery and were really not too worried believing that God would somehow work things out.

We traveled to my parent’s house in CT where we would stay until the first phase of testing was complete.  Meanwhile everyone we knew began corresponding with friends and family in the NYC area.  It was so wild and unexpected.  Duff received a phone call a few days prior to our hospital admission date.  It was our friend, Rani Foscue, calling from Clayton, NC.  She had been in touch with her cousin, Robert Sean Leonard, an actor who was presently filming ‘House’ on the West coast.  He had a fully furnished apartment sitting empty in Manhattan, just a few blocks from the hospital. He was willing to let us use it for the entire next month, free of charge.  He had never met us, yet he was going out on a limb to help a family in a very tough spot.  I was in complete awe over the way God had worked out all the details.  We had a quiet retreat for sleep, a shower, a washer/dryer, and it was all in a most-convenient location.


But I have to wonder…

What if Rani never made that call?

What if Robert turned the other way?

What if his parents weren’t willing to work out the logistics of getting us the keys?

What then?


Friends, allow me to introduce you to the Joyner family.  I first made their acquaintance through an email sent out by JCHE- a homeschool organization.  They live in Selma, in a modest, older home in need of many renovations.

Tracy and her husband James have nine children.  James was diagnosed over a year ago with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and underwent radiation treatment. Recently it was discovered, through tests and biopsies, that the cancer has returned very aggressively throughout his body.  He is about to complete his sixth chemotherapy treatment tomorrow and will learn the results of his most recent CT scan.  Doctors are discussing the possibility of an autologous bone marrow transplant as the next step.  During treatment at Duke, James would need to live off campus in Durham and have a 24-hour caregiver.  The duration of his stay could be from 6 weeks until only the Lord knows when, depending on his response to treatment.  Insurance has already approved the transplant and will provide a spending allowance for James’ daily lodging.

The only question on James’ mind is, “How can my family be up here with me?”

Tracy says, “We know that a plan is already mapped for the journey, so please pray with us for direction.  Please do not hesitate to pass this email along to anyone that knows someone who has already been through this and could direct us to the resources that can help with financial and lodging needs for a family of 11.”

Lord,  Use me.  I am available.  I am willing to be your hands and feet, that you may work out every detail of your perfect plan for this dear family.  Direct my steps.

If you have any friends or family living in the Durham area, who might be able or willing to help this family, please contact me so that I can put you in touch with Tracy.


 Christ Has No Body

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)



  1. Michelle Warren says:

    I watched the green eggs and ham video and I got tears in my eyes. She looks great and is doing so well. I am so proud of her. She has shown great progress since preschool. I am thankful that you trusted me with her during that time in her life. You are doing a great job. Tell Gabby that Ms. Warren says hi.

    • Michelle, Thanks so much for your words of encouragement. I will certainly tell her that you said hello. She still talks about you and the time she spent in your classroom. You were easy to trust and definitely taught me a lot about the importance of a routine and being firm. I was just thinking about you the other day when Gabby was struggling to clean up the mess she had made. Some things never change. ;)

      • Michelle Warren says:

        I have a former parent that is homeschooling their child and would like to contact you. The child was a classmate of Gabby’s and the parent remembers you. She gave me her contact information and I told her I would contact you. Would you be interested in speaking with her? If so let me know and I will give you her information. Thank you for the kind words and I am glad Gabby remembers the time in my classroom.

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