Miracle on Fox Street

David wrote this about 12 years ago on his blog spot. I (Paddy) read it again today and was taken by it. I have updated the content to reflect 2019 but this is how he saw his life when he was 28. And the picture is updated as well.

Everybody has a testimony. A testimony is a story about a test, which a person has encountered, and how they have dealt with that problem. In a court, the testimony of a witness is expressing what they saw take place. The judge then makes a decision based on their testimony whether a defendant is innocent or guilty of a crime.

For a Christian, their testimony is the telling of what God has done in a person’s life. Therefore, you could say, “I caught God doing this thing in a person’s life.” For the next few minutes, I want to tell you my testimony and what I experienced God doing.

My testimony begins at my birth, on November 27, 1978, when I was born with a life-threatening sickness called hydrocephalus, which means water on the brain. This meant that while still in the womb, my brain was severely compressed. After a CAT scan, the doctors determined that I had approximately two percent living brain tissue. They said I would be a person who would be unable to do anything for himself — a vegetable. This news came as a great shock to my parents, who were looking forward to starting their new family in their new home on Fox Street, West Vancouver.

When my Dad held me as a babe, he saw that I had a head the size of a two-year-old, and also as soft as a sponge, due to the amount of water that was in my skull. He sensed God tell him to name me David, (which means ‘beloved of God’), and Joseph, (which means ‘He shall add’). At this, Dad knew, first of all, that God loved me, and he believed that God would add brain cells to my tiny brain.

Mom and Dad then listened to the doctors as they told them why I was this way and how hydrocephalus takes place. “Before a baby is born,” they explained, “water travels up and down its spinal column several times per day. This fluid makes sure that the vital pathways in the body are clear, so the body’s essential organs may continue to work. What happened in David’s case is that somehow, the fluid was unable to make it all the way down his spinal column. Through time, water backed up his spinal column and filled his head, crushing his brain.”

The doctors continued. “In order for any child to live an ordinary life, they must be born with a functional brain. Brain cells do not multiply; the amount of brain tissue a child is born with is the most brain tissue that he/she will ever have.”

I was given no longer than one or two days to live. My parents were told by the doctors that surgery could insert a tube (a shunt) that would drain fluid from my head and take the pressure off of my brain. However, at that time, the procedure was fairly new, plus they could not be certain that it would work effectively. Even if it did work, they were unable to assure my parents that I would live very long.

But, my parents believed that Jesus was able to heal me with the hope that I might be able to live a fulfilled life.

I believe that when Jesus walked this earth two thousand years ago, there was little that impressed him more than faith shown by regular human beings around him. My parents read a story in the Bible from Luke 18 that encouraged them to pray until something happened. “Will not God make the things that are right come to His chosen people who cry day and night to Him? Will He wait a long time to help them? I tell you, He will be quick to help them, but when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:7,8. New Life Version)

As my story spread, people started to pray and have faith that Jesus would work a miracle in my life. They prayed that God would multiply my brain cells so that I would be able to live without machines. They prayed that just as Jesus made the lame walk, made the blind see and gave life to those who were dead, that Jesus would give me brain cells so I could become a normal human being.

After six months of prayer, the doctors were amazed to find that I had 25 percent brain tissue. My parents and many others continued to pray for more. Six months later, doctors again were amazed to find 50 percent brain tissue. By this point, I was a year old and was slowly learning how to do simple things. My parents and those who prayed for me were in awe at what God was doing, full of praise and thanksgiving to Him. As people continued to pray on my behalf, the Lord heard their prayers and continued to answer them. Prior to my second birthday, their prayers were answered yet again when doctors took a final CAT scan and found 98 percent brain tissue.

By this time, I was able to do most things that a two-year-old child could do. The only problem, which has persisted since my early days of life, is a severe visual impairment. Doctors have determined on many occasions that I have only two and a half percent vision in my left eye and three percent vision in my right. However, this was enough vision to get me through my first nine years of grade school.

In grade nine while I was thirteen, I suffered a stroke, which paralyzed the entire right side of my body. Before I came out of the coma, doctors in San Diego, California performed surgery to place a second shunt down the left side of my body. For years, I had had scars on my stomach which my parents termed scars of courage. By the time the surgery was done in 1991, I now had twice as many scars to boast about!

Soon after the surgery, I awoke from my coma and went back to school. Though the Special Education Assistants (S.E.A.) at my school now needed to help me overcome memory issues and balance problems in addition to my blindness, they helped me, and I graduated from high school with my classmates in 1996. That fall, I started a psychology degree at Trinity Western University and graduated with my second academic certificate in 2003. I then completed a certificate in Special Education and worked as a S.E.A. at a private Christian school in North Vancouver. S.E.A.’s had helped me successfully complete each level of grade school. It was my privilege to help others in the same ways that I had been helped many years ago. Not bad for someone who was supposed to die as an infant?

Though my parents originally gave me the credit for the courage I had to go through the many hours of surgery I endured, I give all the credit to Jesus Christ as he was the one who healed me. I hope my story will serve as a reminder both to me and anyone else, that God can and does heal us today. I know that he can work the same miracle in the lives of people anywhere. God is willing and able to make your life a testimony of his ability to transform a life. My life was turned around by prayer offered in simple faith. Your new life can begin the same way. All we must do is ask.

“Nobody did anything wrong,” said Jesus. “But this happened so that the works of God might be shown in this person’s life.” John 9:3

Addendum: David completed a Master’s degree in Spiritual Formation at Carey Theological College (UBC) and is now working on a chaplaincy degree at Vancouver General Hospital through Vancouver School of Theology (UBC). As well as the chaplaincy with seniors and the hospitalized, David provides spiritual direction (a kind of faith-based private practice) and is an active member of Artisan Church in East Vancouver.

 

Never-Ending Problems: Like Dandelions in the Grass

I like solving problems – always have. I like to think triangularly, question appreciatively, figure out what has not worked before and suggest something that I think is brilliant, create a plan for real change, and measure the anticipated success. I was taught all this in grad school, some of my female friends tell me that this is such a “man thing,” but I have lived this as far back as I can remember – when I was 8 years old I tried marriage counselling with my folks! I think I did pretty good.

Now John Gottman comes along as a marital researcher and says that about two-thirds of relational problems are perpetual, like dandelions in the grass. Some troubles are unsolvable he says, and lots of arguments never accomplish a thing other than rehearsing for the next squabble. Never-ending — sounds discouraging.

Carole and I have a bunch of unsolvable problems, mostly the same ones we had when we were first married. No matter what I do to “persuade” (coerce) her to do what I want (or she me), the problems keep flowering. The solvable ones delude us into thinking that we are pretty good at conflict solving, and it’s true that we’ve had some dramatic successes. It is the unsolvable ones that really bug me.

Here are some perpetual problems that you are probably familiar with:

Personality or “your way in the world”: Who is the most introverted in the dyad and who is the most extroverted? This probably doesn’t change much. Neither does the tension between the one that is most emotionally intuitive with the one that is perseveringly logical. And some people are emotional stuffers (always have been) while their devoted other is pretty much a feeling gusher (always has been).

History: You can’t change a person’s history. The times in which you were born, and the ways in which you were raised, or dynamics in your family of origin – this is set in history. The goodness of your connection has a lot to do with how winsomely you accept each other’s life before you met.

Sensitivities: How do you react to failure, or criticism, or loneliness, or unpredictability, or being excluded from a group? This is well-wired by the time a child becomes an early teen.

Some things change really slowly. Things like your view of what success or failure means in life, or what a worldview might be. Our relationship to money, emotions, work, conflict are hard to change, but change they do.

Habits change slowly as well. If you are an early-to-bed kind of person and you are married to a late night email addict, this too can change. Savers always seem to marry spenders – at least in my practice. Maybe that is why they come to therapy. Habits change – slowly.

I have discovered that unsolvable problems require different strategies than solvable ones. First off, you need to be willing to distinguish solvable from unsolvable problems. Make two lists of your problems. What can be negotiated (solvable) and what cannot (unsolvable)? What is most important to you (grade this 1-3)? What can you let go?

Secondly, focus 80% of your resources towards the good things that you already do well. Show a little “benevolent disinterest” (differentiation) towards the problem areas. It is not a moral failure to take a break from working on faults while you celebrate the good stuff you do now. Over-focusing on problems (many of which you can’t solve anyway) is a serious waste of good humour and friendly faith.

 

[You are welcome to comment on this blog or anything else you see on my website. Please suggest improvements or ideas, or just dialogue. Contact me at life@theducklows. Hear from you soon. Thanks.]

Our Online Office for People “Out There”

I am apparently slow to the online therapy world. Life coaches, eye doctors, dieticians use online resources to bring their skills to people “out there.” However, my client-friends are educating me as they ask for psychological therapy on Skype or FaceTime or Google Duo.
Here are some reasons why lots of people would rather Skype than meet face to face:
  • Some live out of town or are on vacation. I have clients from Seattle, Hong Kong, New Hampshire, Calgary, Vancouver Island, and San Francisco. Long commutes to say the least.
  • Some folk need to save time travelling to our wonderful Horseshoe Bay office. They may work in Vancouver or Whistler or New Westminster but would prefer to consult from their computer.
  • Some people view counselling online as an adjunct to seeing us “live.” A pretty good combination for many.
But there are some things to consider in this online world:
  • One is whether you have an interruption-free location. I have a private space where confidentiality is assured. You will need to find something that allows you a quiet space to think and speak.
  • Couple counselling and family counselling are a bit problematic, though I once had 2 parts of dispersed family video connect for our session. Worked pretty well.
  • The intimacy and ethos are different. I can’t offer you a cup of coffee, but I can still empathize and challenge. It just feels different.
This way of connecting is different and for some, it is preferred. You can book online sessions as easily as you would in-office times. The payment transaction is done online through our booking system or with an e-transfer.
If you would like to learn more about online therapy or coaching online session with Paddy or Carole, please email us at life@theducklows.ca.
By the way, did you know that Skype was invented in Estonia, for which they are greatly proud?

[If you would like to comment on this blog or anything else on our website, you are invited to do so. Send a message via life@theducklows.ca]

1 Out of Every 2 Couples Divorce? (Happy Valentine’s Day)

I have people tell me that “1 out of every 2 couples divorce.” The tabloids say it often so you think it must be so. But it is not my experience — and I am a marital therapist who sees people who might have lots of reason to divorce (and, of course, some do).

My bet is that over 80% of couples who seek marital therapy revive and even thrive. So happy Valentine’s day.

Statistics Canada (2005) tell us that by the 30th wedding anniversary 38% of couple divorce. About 16% of the divorces include people who had already been divorced at least once. The probability of divorcing for a first marriage is lower because remarriages have a higher divorce risk than first ones.

Concerned couples starting out in marriage are sometimes worried about the reported divorce numbers and it surely does not help that we are inundated with “media divorces” who break up on a seeming whim, perhaps to obtain more glitz and blitz.

The Vanier Institute reports that the divorce rate for first marriages is about 30% throughout 30 years of marriage. In other words, first marriages have a 70% chance of surviving and even thriving for 30 years!

I have seen in my practice several variables that affect marriage stability. Let me give you a few:

  • How well the couple was brought together. Was a decision really made or was the couple in a romance trance (limerence) where they felt they could not interrupt the process?
  • Will the couple participate in premarital counselling or mentoring? My experience is that this process allows couples to differentiate, that is, to thoughtfully and even prayerfully decide if marrying this person and at this time is what they wish to do.
  • Location of where the couple lives has an impact. Urban and suburban life can have a negative impact on the survivability of the marriage. However, this is ameliorated by participating in an intentional community (e.g. a church, community network).
  • The willingness to obtain early marriage counselling when conflicts become wearing and unsolvable.
  • And another key factor has to do with the couple redefining the relationship with their respective families of origin. For the parents, this involves a kind of relinquishment and for the marrying couple, it requires a new definition of themselves with their parents.

Get the word out — marriage still works and the numbers are getting better! And your marriage can work well even if you come from a divorced family or had a previous marriage.

[You may respond to this blog or anything else on this website by contacting us at life@theducklows.ca. Paddy wrote this blog in 2010 and updated it for 2019.]