It was our yearly tradition of spending the Fourth of July celebrating and barbecuing with my side of the family in California . In fact, I was lounging in the pool while the kids were swimming and Mark was on a motorcycle ride with the guys. Our cousin wanted the guys to do something special, so he arranged for five of them to get bikes and go for a long ride in the hills outside of Stockton .

Having reached the height of relaxation, I was a little frustrated when my uncle approached me poolside and began to talk very slowly. “Christie, Mark is okay, but he has been in a terrible motorcycle accident and they are flying him in a Medi-Vac helicopter to the hospital. He has broken his leg.” At first I thought he was joking, but he kept repeating it calmly until I realized he was serious. I flew out of the pool, and as I scrambled to find car keys and a change of clothes, my aunt informed me she would be driving me.

Upon reaching the emergency room, I quickly discovered that this was no ordinary break! Mark had four compound fractures and five open wounds from where the bone had broken through the skin. He would need surgery to place a rod in his shin, possible bone grafts, wound therapy, and lots of rehabilitation. His road to recovery would be estimated at a year!

That night the kids came to visit Daddy in the hospital, and it was hard to shield them from the excruciating pain Daddy was fighting. When they heard him cry out during a procedure, the tears began to flow. “Why did this happen?” “Is Daddy going to be okay?” “Will Dad ever be the same again?”

Desiring to give them strength and hope I looked them in the eye and said, “Do you remember how we talk about God sitting on His throne – and how that means He is in control of everything? When Dad was driving around the corner and lost control of the bike, do you think God got up from His throne and didn’t know what was happening?” Each of our children quietly replied, “No.” And I continued, “That’s right. God knew this was going to happen to Daddy and to our family. So we are going to grow closer to each other through this and we are going to get to know God better as a family!”

Well, the “one-year” road to recovery soon stretched into 22 months of disability! We went from a wheelchair and living downstairs in our living room to a walker and crawling upstairs, to crutches, and, finally, to walking. I went from being a wife and mom to a full-time nurse and chauffeur. And our family went from being fairly close to a really tight team!

Hard times? Oh yeah  without a doubt! Tears? You bet. Wondering how we were going to pay the bills with half the income? Scary, at times, as we took out two loans, but amazed as we saw each loan paid off again. Questions? A few. But both Mark and I knew from the moment of the accident that there were definite reasons for our family to have this time set aside; we just didn’t know exactly what those reasons were. Humbled? Incredibly humbled as we saw loved ones and friends go above and beyond the call of duty: building wheelchair ramps, bringing meals, visiting constantly, helping with childcare, bringing gifts of encouragements, praying continually, keeping our business running, and so much more.

Each of us has times in our lives when a tidal wave comes crashing out of nowhere and literally knocks us off our feet. We never see it coming, and at first we can’t find our footing or anything to grab onto. We are just trying to keep from drowning! Whether it is financial crises, the loss of a job, disability or health problems, an unexpected move, or anything else that sends you flailing in the waves, how do you handle it? What on earth do you hold onto? How do you get out of the water and back onto shore again? Here are some lessons that our family learned.

1. Be a Team with a Captain
The first and foremost truth to hold onto is that God never leaves His throne. He is not taken by surprise or thrown a curve. Know that He can use whatever crisis has occurred to draw you closer as a family and closer to Him. Begin to believe this.

2. Be a Team that Allows Individual Freedom
You have to constantly ask yourselves as parents, “Are we drawing closer as a family or beginning to isolate?” Keep talking, keep asking questions, keep venting and keep sharing  but do it as a family. At the same time, allow individual family members to grieve and process at their own pace and in their own way. You won’t all be on the same page at the same time, and that is okay.

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3. Be a Team that Cheers Each Other On
Words like “I believe in you,” “I am so proud of you,” “You can do it,” and “Hang in there” need to be heard often. Perseverance is a much less long and lonely road if it is paved with encouragement. Never underestimate the power of words that come alongside to build another up. Parents need to model this and the kids will quickly catch on.

4. Be a Team with a Goal
The goal is growth! When a crisis occurs, pain is inevitable. So the real question is whether you choose to grow from the pain or wallow in it. Choose growth and make it your family’s goal. How can we grow closer to God through this? What can we learn about Him that we never knew before? What can we learn from each other? How might we be changing for the better because of this?

5. Be a Team that is Part of a Larger Team
Accept help! When others want to bring food or take children or come relieve a parent to give them a break  say yes! You need relief from stress for short periods to help you persevere and gain a fresh perspective again. You need to let others show care and concern. You are not made to battle the storm alone, and God loves to send life buoys by sending people to your door.

6. Be a Team that Emphasizes Prayer
This is crucial! Ask for strength. Beg for guidance. Plead for growth. Pray together and pray for one another. Praise God each step of the way and thank Him specifically for each prayer answered and each new step taken. Don’t assume that you know how to best pray for each family member  ask them! God has an ear that is always listening and desirous to intercede. He longs for your family to look to Him for everything and ask Him for anything.

7. Be a Team that Looks Back and Remembers
As we look back over the past 22 months, we don’t ever want to forget what God has taught us or where He has brought us to. We are not who we were back then. We needed this time to focus solely on our family as our absolute ministry priority. We needed this time to become more of a team and affirm our undivided support of each of our children. We needed this time to consider changing from being self-employed to full-time ministry. Outwardly, it appeared as if Mark needed these past 22 months to heal his leg from two surgeries, but really we needed it for far more important reasons!

As the Mark Rayburn family, we want to testify that we personally know God as the Master and Commander of our family’s ship. The waters get rough sometimes, the waves may come crashing over the sides and scare us, and our direction may totally change. but our Captain knows where we are going and can be trusted to guide us there safely.

Copyright © 2004 Christie Rayburn. Used with permission.

Read more at FamilyLifeCanada.

Christie Rayburn and her husband Mark have been married 17 years. They own Mallard Lake Bison & Cattle Co., as well as C&M Construction, a concrete company. They have served with Sports Ambassadors in an overseas capacity since 1984, and are frequent speakers at FamilyLife Marriage Conferences. Christie and Mark live in Graham, WA, with their children Hunter, Taylor and Colton .