Jacob – The Beginning of The Wrestler

Bob and I didn’t pick the namePictures From Mom's 006 Jacob because we knew it meant “The Heel” in the Old Testament.  That knowledge has been a bit frustrating for me these past 17 1/2 years! I liked the name because I found out my Great-Great Grandfather was named “Jacob.” And I like the story of Jacob in the Old Testament. I love it that Jacob grabbed God, (or the Angel of God), and demanded a blessing.  “I won’t let you go until you give me a blessing!”  …It’s a lot like who Jacob was in the Old Testament. -Always grabbing for a blessing!  Right from the womb!

I want my children to know that it’s OK to wrestle with God! I want them to know they have the right to go boldly before the Throne of Grace and say, “I’m not letting You go until I get a blessing!”  -I realize that they may “retreat into the dust from whence they came” or they may “walk away with a limp.”  But… I want them to know that grappling with God is part of living… part of breathing.  Life isn’t fair.  It isn’t logical.  The ‘good guys’ don’t always win.  Grapple!  Wrestle!  Trust God that He will give you the blessing of His Presence!

I didn’t realize that my Jacob would teach me so much about wrestling with God…. I didn’t realize that I would wrestle and walk with Jacob as he wrestled!  I currently pray the wrestling never stops for Jacob or our family about Jacob’s life….  So much has been taught so far. I hope there is so much more we’ll learn from our wrestling match!

Let me take you back for a minute…  1995 in my life wasn’t going that terrifically.  On November 11, 1994, our oldest daughter, Heather, had fallen and suffered from a serious head injury.  -Life flight, ICU, subdural hematoma, subarrachnnoid hemorrhage, word confusion, chronic headaches…  These were now a part of our lives in helping her cope. We had turned another chapter in our lives. You know.

And…  I knew something was up with my husband… He had been a hard, dedicated worker. Never missed work. Went in sick.  Ridiculous!  (When I had worked outside of the home prior to children, I took pride in the fact that I used my sick days!) Bob was salaried as a store manager and was so totally obsessed with working!  And then… It changed. After Heather’s head injury, the company Bob was working for let him go. He had to work for someone else… a smaller store. Less up-to-date mindset about business….

Bob was grumpy. He got sick.  He missed work and had this really bad attitude about his job. He didn’t like how the store was being run. But it seemed more than that. I didn’t get it. I felt like I was losing my husband. But, I didn’t get it. I remember telling a good friend, “Pray for Bob. I think he’s going to get fired because his attitude is so bad. In fact, if I were his boss, I’d let him go.”  She was in shock.   She knew Bob’s work ethic. Grumpy every now and then? Sure. So bad that he would lose his job? What?  It just wasn’t anything I ever thought would happen. I had questions about what was going on with him.  Little did I know the questions would be answered, but not until about 15 years later.  But that is another story… Another chapter.

November 9, 1995. Jacob was born. He wasn’t a surprise. I knew the moment we conceived him. And, as with all of my children, I promptly began to throw up for the following 9 1/2 months of my life. But, I digress…

Mom didn’t fly out for Jacob’s birth. She was too sick that year. Jacob was the first of my 4 children that she would not see. Dad had died in 1993. I took comfort in the fact that he knew we were going to name our 2nd born Jacob if the 2nd was a boy.  Jacob. After Jacob David. Dad’s Great Grandfather. But alas, Heather was not a boy. She was our beautiful tumbleweed, Heather.

Mom died the September of 1996 before she could fly out from Indiana to visit Jacob. I would miss her terribly throughout Jacob’s wrestling match.  I used to say, “I wish Mom were here to call and talk to.  ‘Cause then we could at least argue about how to handle the wrestling match!”

Jacob was incredibly quiet and gentle. People at church used to call him “Little Angel.” He was incredibly easy to parent. Loving and gentle. Easy.

In 1997 Jacob had a “twitch.” We were asked to keep track of the little twitches by the pediatrician we had taken him to that summer. We had taken a trip to Colorado. It was then we realized how often Jacob was twitching. Parenting 3 children was a lot. Helping Heather recover from her brain injury was a lot. When we were on vacation in Colorado, we noticed Jacob was twitching/flapping about 15 to 20 times a day. His twitches were a little flapping of the elbows, along with a head shake. Not much. Almost always a one or two beat. We took him to the pediatrician and started the process of figuring out what the flapping was about.

Bob and I had started counseling with a therapist. We were so stressed out. I was praying about all of our options. I was wondering about getting a separation in order to “wake Bob up” to the need to support our family financially. I wanted any answer for relief. The therapist had said we reminded him of Ecclesiastes where it speaks of it being better when to walk down a path together. Because when one falls in the ditch, the other is there to pick him up…. Only both Bob and I were in the ditch.

November 9, 1997 I woke with a startle. It was Jacob’s birthday, but something else made me go and check on Jacob.

He was in a full blown seizure. And the seizure lasted a while.  I don’t know how long. I hadn’t been taught yet about the need to time seizures. But I would learn. I would have a lot of opportunity to learn.

I remember holding Jacob in the back seat of the Taurus station wagon as Bob drove us to the hospital. A friend had driven to our house to stay with David and Heather. I remember realizing in that moment our children needed both of us. Jacob needed Bob to be there when a he woke up from a seizure. Jacob needed me to be there when he woke up from a seizure. I could not imagine doing this life without Bob.

I shot a prayer up to God. “Lord, help me to keep my marriage. Keep us together, Lord. Heal our marriage. Help us to be there for our children.”

Jacob woke up from the seizure on the way to the hospital. He wasn’t “awake,” but he was “awake.” I would later find out the term for this “the lights are on, but no one is home” experience is the postictal phase of a seizure.  Eventually, our family would have plenty of experiences with this phase. But for now… we were just wrestling.

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Heroes

Image I just read “Unbroken.”  It is based on the true story of Louie Zamperini, a WW II veteran who was also a POW in Japan. I loved how Louie entered World War II being a young, bombardier over the Pacific Ocean.  I loved how he was a little hoodlum in Torrance, California who became an Olympic runner.  He is one of the few people alive today who can say he shook hands with Adolf Hitler.  The subtitle to the book is “A Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption.”  It is really a worthwhile read. And, once again– I missed my Dad.  I missed being able to ask him if he had heard of Louie.  I missed asking him if he could now talk to me about his days in Germany during World War II.  One of the only times in my life Dad got frustrated with me was when I said, “You were in World War II, Dad?  How cool!!”  Whhhooooo-Wheeee!!  He got really frustrated with me really quickly.

I think it was after Dad died, and the taps played, that Mom told me about the nightmares he came home with. She told me about the twin brothers he was stationed in Germany with.  One was blown up right in front of the other one. She told me how Dad came home and screamed during some nights until she told him, “Doran! You have to let this out! You have to talk about what happened.” Dad told mom about what happened. He never discussed it with anyone else that I knew of. He met once a year with his World War II veteran friends. I remember him saying he didn’t always enjoy those meetings. I saw my Dad get frustrated and express his anger to me maybe three times in my entire life.  War was one thing I learned at about 16 years of age he did not think was fun at all.

When Dad died in 1991, I discovered those funny things in his drawer we used to play with were his medals.  I will never forget the 21 gun salute at his funeral.   With each shot, it felt like the bullets were ripping through my body — reminding me my Dad was dead. I would never walk arm in arm with him again. He would never make another recording of his 1932 Fordson tractor again and mail it to me. He would never go on a hike with us again– go down the trail ahead of us and jump out at us with a “Boo!”

I wear my Dad’s wedding ring today.  I’ve worn it for 22 years now. I wear it on my middle finger – right next to my wedding ring. It reminds me of his love. When I’m stressed out, I twirl Dad’s ring on my finger. I thank God my Dad’s love can never be taken away from me. Robert Doran David was my hero. There won’t be a book or movie written about him. Nevertheless,  he was a hero!

Reflections on Selah Counseling Services –

When Selah Counseling Services reached our 10th anniversary, I was asked to write a letter as the Founder and Executive Director.  I thought about what to write.  What I thought important for others to know is, although we started this fabulous journey 10 years ago, we had our beginning decades ago.

First of all, you might ask why any wife of one and mother of four in her right mind would found a nonprofit counseling center.  and I might answer, “It was a matter of destiny — of giving back.” Trust me, there have been many days that I would have chosen to do something a little different had it not been for the encouragement and support of my husband, Bob!

And so, to understand the roots and calling of Selah Counseling Services, you would have to understand Mrs. Miriam Uphouse and her calling.

I grew up in a small farming community a lot like the rural community I live in now. My parents were wonderful, loving Christian parents and we did what families like ours did.  we went to Bible memory camp, vacations across the Midwest, roller skating, hiking, etc. We had a lovely, fun time growing up on a 20 acre property with a rustic cabin in the woods with all of my extended family living around us. However, the quaint lifestyle we led gradually changed one season. My older brother got involved in drugs, alcohol, and illegal activities that sometimes go with that lifestyle. He was sent to prison in 1976 and was released on “shock probation” about a year later. He soon became involved in drugs and alcohol again. My parents were overwhelmed. They were loving parents who were not trained in addiction and how it affects a family. They had no idea of what to do to help my brother. Nor did they have any idea how to protect me from the damage that was being done to me emotionally, physically and socially due to my brother’s actions. through the emotional chaos and physical violence by my brother, I chose to leave my home.

Enter Mrs. Uphouse: I moved to a different town and attended a different high school, where I lived with a friend’s family for a semester of school. My pastor’s wife, Mrs. Uphouse, who was also the Dean of Women at Grace College, knew there were problems in my family, but she also respected my parents and did not want to undermine them in any way. When she learned of my move, she began driving the 25 miles to where I was staying and taking me out to lunch on a regular basis. Her husband and she suggested I consider going to Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, rather than Indiana University, the state college I had been accepted to.

Chicago and Moody Bible Institute opened up a whole new world to me. My life was simply changed through God’s working in me and through the wonderful help I received from a counselor there. The Uphouse’s financially supported me through college. I asked Reverend and Mrs. Uphouse during one of their visits with me why they had done so much for me. I also asked them how I could ever repay them. I will never forget the answer Mrs. Uphouse gave me. She said, “Kathy, when it is your turn to give and do for someone else, all we ask is that you do the same.” My calling was set. The roots of Selah Counseling Services began to sprout.

At our wedding, the pastor announced to the attendees our intention of one day opening a nonprofit counseling center. Bob and I agreed this was a goal we both desired to see accomplished. So many times, parents, teens and individuals are wonderful people who are simply “over their heads.” Life has dealt them circumstances they were never prepared to cope with. We wanted a safe place for people to come and get the help they might need.

Selah Counseling Services has truly become an exciting place to minister to people who need help beyond the pastoral care the church might provide. We have a team philosophy that we have held for the past 10 years. Our own families are a priority to the team and we work in a collaborative way with each other that I am blessed as a professional to have developed.

Often we see families who need a multifaceted approach. The husband and wife may benefit from seeing one therapist, while the children may need to see another person on our team. We work together to provide the most efficient and effective plan to meet the individual’s and family’s needs. In addition, throughout the years, we have provided children’s anger management groups, parenting classes, men’s groups, women’s groups, and seminars for several organizations in the community.

Our group is ever growing and learning. I can truly say I am privileged to work with such a wonderful team of professionals and staff. I am encouraged to see how the work we have done has helped to provide for our community.

Thank you, Lord….

…and thank you, Mrs. Uphouse!

Kate Pieper, LMFT