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Sunday, January 22, 2012

How God Introduced Us

Ginger and I have been asked many times to tell the story of how we met. I decided to find the original emails we exchanged and post them in a blog. It began in Jan 2007 when Andrea went into the ICU for the first time. That night I wrote an email to my friends updating them on how Andrea and I were doing. It was a very difficult night, when for the first time I thought I was going to loose her. That email was forwarded to Ginger between mutual friends and Ginger responded to my email through a friend, Terri Otto and asked if she could contact Andrea and I. Sadly, in Jan 2010 Terri was killed after being hit by a truck while jogging. She always has a special place in our family, a Godly woman and mother, she prayed for Andrea and God used her to introduce Ginger to our life.

Ginger told me long after we met that she, most graciously received hundreds of emails, calls and letters during those first months after Troy's death. They meant the world to her but she was simply too physically and emotionally drained to respond to many of them. Also, deep down, she felt that, though thankful for their kindness, few really understood the level of deep pain and hurting that racked her soul. She remembers seeing this forwarded email late at night and immediately felt drawn to this unknown couple. Ginger was going through a period of being very angry at the God she had always loved whole-heartedly. Yet as she read the words I wrote that night, she saw a couple that had suffered for a long time but did so without the expected anger or disappointment in God. It made her curious about our journey. Andrea would get out of the ICU soon afterwards and Ginger continued to correspond with Andrea and I about once a month over the next 9 months. When Andrea was sick, I would read her Ginger's emails and Andrea will tell me what to write. I have Andrea's prayer journal that list Ginger's name. It is a very special connection between my two wives.

Andrea went back into the ICU in Nov 07 but this time she when she never came home to the boys and I, she went to her real Home with Christ. It would not be until 25 Dec 2007 that I would meet Ginger, the hurting widow at the other end of this email trail.

Below is the email I sent on Jan 3 2007 followed by Ginger's email she wrote back on Jan 6 2007.

It is 2:00 am and I just got back from the hospital. Like everything about cancer we are not the drivers of events, at times it seems we don't even control our time. 48 hrs ago Andrea was a little short of breath when we went for a walk, 24 hrs ago Andrea was out of breath walking in the house and today (Tuesday) we woke up to take Nic to the airport and Andrea needed oxygen, right now I sit in our house alone and Andrea is in ICU on a ventilator. It looked very similar to 2 months ago when Andrea cancer had gotten worse. I assumed when Andrea went in for treatment this Thursday we would start a new chemo. But when we got home from the airport Andrea was so short of breath that even with oxygen she was unable get a normal breath, so I called her doctor.

He had us go do the CT scan at 7pm and based on the results had Andrea check into the hospital. Off we went to back to the hospital and the 7th floor, the oncology floor. A place I had been once before for Andrea's transfusion, and a place I did not want to ever go back to. There is not much good when you have to go to the 7th floor. But after meeting her doctor in the hospital and describing the events of the past 2 days he became more concerned. It was just happening too fast. So he recommended Andrea go to ICU and be put on a ventilator. The reason is Andrea was having so much trouble getting oxygen and it was taking so much effort that she could face some serious complications.

So off we went to ICU, Andrea being wheeled in her bed and me following behind. In ICU there was a flurry of activity with wires and hoses and people all around my wife. I could just stand in the corner and watch as the machines displaying Andrea's vital sign sprung to life, with a lot color displays showing data and beeping. The doctor came in and explained the procedure, why it was necessary, and how it would be done. Then we were left alone to discuss it. In a matter of 5 hrs we went from our house to the ICU. Now surrounded by displays showing Andrea's heartbeat and any other data you would want to know about her, we sat, separated from the nurse's station by the curtain now closed for our privacy. We prayed and decided that it was best to go with the procedure. It meant 3-10 days of Andrea being put "asleep".

Once we gave the okay, the activity resumed, with blood draws, needles and bags. We stayed together and read Psalm 91 together. I read it and Andrea repeated the verses with what little breath she had. It was a reminder of why this was necessary. I anointed her with oil and it was time for me to go to the waiting room. In a quick 40 minutes I got the call it was done and I could go see her before having to leave for the night.

Walking back into the room seeing her asleep with the hose in her mouth, the rhythm of the ventilator in the back ground the room was suddenly very different. When I left Andrea was smiling, looking at me with her beautiful blue eyes. When I returned she was laying limp her life seemingly replaced by the machines all around her. I was able to talk to her and her nodded but did not open her eyes. It was 1:30 and I had to go. No spending the night in ICU. I walked back to the car and drove home to an empty house. And I thought what just happened today?

I admit it was hard to walk into the house. I called a close friend to talk. Now I'm still up at 5 am writing. I'm not ready to go to bed alone. Thank you for allowing me to work this out in my mind. I have thought a lot about the seriousness of today. Heck I have thought about it many times in the past 18 months. Cancer is so relentless in it's pursuit. It is always there. We just etch out what normal life we can around the constant reminder of cancer. We cherish the days where we don't think about cancer, every day we don't have to sit in a doctor's office, every time we can laugh about something silly, or plan something in the future. Those times are precious but really we have found no matter where we are or what has happened, God has sustained us. Just as His word says he will. The doctor called me over to explain how serious this was, that even though her tumors looked better in her CT scan this was no a simple step we were taking. I said, " We have been facing the constant threat of death for 18 months and I know God is in control right now, we are at peace and we are trusting God to heal her." Today I listened to a sermon about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. I may have mentioned this before how they are told to bow down to the golden statue or be thrown into the furnace. I love their response:

"O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."

I agree, God is able, He will, but even if He does not rescue us we will not bow down to the idol. I won't, by the strength of God, give up on all I believe, nor get mad because I don't understand why. God is still God no matter how these events transpire. Circumstances don’t define my faith or my God. God is unchanging. He is the same today, yesterday and tomorrow. Being a Christian does not mean we are given a guarantee of a trial free life or pain free life. In contrast it means we will face trials and pain. Our guarantee is He will never leave us nor forsake us. We do not face trails alone. And through our faith we glorify our creator and our savior who gave us another guarantee…that we will live for eternity with Him. So as we get ever closer to the edge of this furnace, and has we begin to feel the heat from the fire we know the flames do not control our destiny. And we rest under the shadow of the almighty.

In Christ, Jim

Below are the emails from Ginger and Terri

Begin forwarded message:

From: Terri Otto

Date: January 6, 2007 11:30:37 AM CST

To: Jim and Andrea Ravella

Subject: Friend of Jenn Gordon's

Jim - I just received this email. A friend of mine is very good friends with the family and she forwarded Ginger your email about Andrea. Ginger would like to email you and I hope you don't mind but I gave her the go ahead. I am sure that you heard abut her husband dying in Iraq. Anyway, she is struggling and I know that she was encouraged by yours and Andrea's faith. You will be hearing from her soon I am sure.

Love you guys and am sooooooo happy to hear of Andrea's recovery and good humor!! Like you say "small but mighty!"


Begin forwarded message:


Date: January 6, 2007 11:30:37 AM CST

To: Terri Otto

Subject: Friend of Jenn Gordon's


My name is Ginger Gilbert. I am a good friend of Jenn Gordon's. She forwarded me an email from Jim about his wife and their faith and it touched me. I don't know them or you at all. My husband was Troy and he was the F16 pilot who was killed in Iraq on Nov. 27th. I am a believer. I love the Lord but I am struggling. I am left with 5 small children and the reality is starting to sink in. I really needed the spiritual encouragement he enclosed in his email and wanted to email he and his wife if possible. Totally different situations but still pain is pain. If you think it would be okay could you send me his email address? Thanks so much.


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