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JOANNA'S JOURNEY
BY
A Series of E-mails
February 2009



Note from Pastor David K. Spurbeck Sr.,  February 08, 2009

My week has been very busy.  Sunday afternoon Joanna Christiansen, 21 year
old daughter of Dan and Kathy Christiansen, was in a snow board accident on
Mount Hood.  She hit a rock and went airborne and crashed.  Her back was
broken and vertebra T7 was shattered.  She was Life Flighted to Oregon
Health Sciences University Hospital in Portland (where her sister Karen
works).  She went into surgery about four hours after the accident.  She had
no feeling from the waist down and was paralyzed.  The surgeon put steel
rods in her back and removed bone fragments.  He discovered that her spinal
cord was in tact and the sheath about the spinal cord was not compromised by
the accident.  That was a blessing.  She is in God's hands as to whether she
will be able to walk again.  The worst case scenario is that she will be
able to live a fairly normal life though confined to a wheel chair.  She was
in the intensive care unit where Karen works.  Friday morning she was moved
from OHSU to Rehabilitation Institute of Oregon.  Pray for the family in
these days.  The saints have rallied in marvelous support and many others
share Joanna and her family at the Throne.  God has used His Word and His
saints to encourage them all.  I am thankful. Joanna has many friends Ė some
believers and some unbelievers Ė and many of them have been to see her.  The
move to rehabilitation had been called a move to "boot camp" and this is
where the real work will begin.  It will be 6 months to a year before we
will know the extent of healing and handicap.  Isn't it nice to know that a
believer has the presence of the Three Persons dwelling in her.  God is with
her!  The Indwelling Comforter certainly ministers in special ways.

The Creator of the Universe actively is at work in His saints!  To Him is
the glory!

Serving the Chief Shepherd of the Sheep,--DKS

P. S. Joanna was tired this afternoon (Saturday) after the trauma.  Her
blood pressure has been low so she wasn't able to take a trip in her
wheelchair.  She has had many visitors from many places.  Three of her close
friends flew in from California and Nebraska to see her and be with her for
the weekend.  Joanna's attitude has been very good and up.  She has been
working as an assistant physical and occupational therapist and so is quite
well acquainted with some of what will happen in therapy.  I think we are
all very thankful with her for God's marvelous grace.  

From: Kathy Christiansen
Subject: Joanna's Journey on Saturday
Date: Saturday, February 14, 2009 10:55 PM

R.I.O. Rocks!!!!!  You wouldn't know that this was a place of serious rehab
by the "party" going on in Joanna's room. Her friends flock to her bedside
with chocolates, balloons, sparkling cider, books, magazines, stuffed
animals, clothes, cameras snapping, smiles all around. Did I mention
flowers? A windowsill full of them. 

The serious side of things is that the nurses are trying to get Joanna
up more and more but that nasty low blood pressure is limiting her.
She got into her wheelchair this morning but had to get right back in
bed. This evening she tried it again, sloooooooooooooowly acclimating
to vertical. She took a self-propelled trip around the "block", ran
into even more visitors and "hit the wall". Karen was present to gently
keep her conscious long enough to get her back to her room where the
staff got her back to horizontal in quick fashion. 

The nurses and physical therapists are wonderful with her. They teach
her in very subtle ways about how to care for herself so that she is
learning perhaps without even realizing it. The ramp up may appear
deceptively easy, but will gain in difficulty day by day as she is
challenged to do more and more. There is a program here - very
definitely! We are anticipating the good progress that she will make
over the weeks to come.

We thank those who have visited in person or by phone, and those  who
have sent emails and cards. All are deeply appreciated. We thank God
for His provisions day by day, knowing He is already in the future and
preparing the way for us. There are many details to attend to and we'll
get to them one by one. 

Resting by faith,
Kathy and Dan
 
From: Kathy Christiansen
Subject: Joanna's Journey Continues
Date: Thursday, February 19, 2009 10:00 PM

Thank you all who have sent cards, emails and voicemails. Joanna wants
you to know that she really appreciates them! The RIO staff has come
to the conclusion that there have been way too many visitors and that
Joanna isn't resting enough to heal properly. She is actually in a very
fragile medical condition even though she appears to be "okay". She has
had some good times in her various therapies, including making a trip
outside to the healing garden and standing upright in the standing
apparatus. They are doing everything to keep her muscles stretched out
and flexible as well as strengthening as many as possible. But she
needs  rest most of all so that her spinal cord will have maximum
healing opportunity.

She will be home in about three weeks (no date for sure) and will be
thrilled to entertain guests at that time. Thank you for understanding
and for keeping your visitation urges on hold. There is much yet to
assimilate in terms of her disability, change in routine and freedom
of mobility. We are working to optimize all aspects of her life. Thank
you for support, encouragement, offers of help and food. 

It is God who is at work in you, both to will and be energized to do
His good pleasure. Philippians 2:13
Kathy and Dan

Note from Joanna's Pastor, David Spurbeck

Joanna began serious rehabilitation therapy this week.  It is designed to train her
to be as independent as possible.  Her back injury has left her paralyzed from the
waist down.  The injury was a very serious injury.  She has a team of physical therapists
and occupational therapists working with her.  They have her lifting weights to improve
her upper body strength.  She has been working on maneuvering the wheel chair and
moving to and from the wheelchair.  She has been outdoors a couple of times this
week learning to manipulate the chair over curbs. As you can imagine, she has to
relearn to do many things that were easy but now are very difficult.  Her team is
hoping that she will be able to go home in about three weeks.  This will involve
some consequential remodeling.  How can you communicate with the Father on her behalf?
Intercede for spiritual and emotional strength as she goes through the normal process
of grief.  Remember her fears concerning the future.  Remember her need for physical
strength and rest so that she can heal.  This kind of injury is conducive to other
health issues.  The surgery incision seems to be healing.  Friday she had a massage
therapist work to put her ribs back where they belong Ė this should take care of
pain in the sternum.  This is a common result of this kind of back surgery.  She
has been overwhelmed with visitors which has prevented some much needed rest.  They
are limiting visitors to permit her to rest and gather strength.  Intercede that
the Holy Spirit will bring portions of God's Word to her mind to sustain her through
the ups and downs of rehabilitation and her new life.  Remember Dan and Kathy (Dad
and Mom) especially through this time as well as sisters Karen and
Elizabeth
.  I know many of you have been talking with the Father about all of this and encourage
you to continue to do so.
My week has been involved with several trips to Portland
 and the hospital.  These have certainly given me opportunity to think about the
grace of our God and His perfect plan for our lives.  We walk by faith and not by
sight.  I have often caught myself thinking of the words of a song the college quartet
sang as a part of our program in my freshman year.  I couldn't help but share it
with Joanna.  The title is "God hath not Promised."  Here is the first verse and
chorus.
God hath not promised skies always blue,
Flower strewn pathways all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.
But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labor, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.

Trusting in a Faithful God,
DKS

Subject: In Joanna's own words today - her first writing since the accident
Date: Friday, February 20, 2009 11:06 PM

I hope this finds you all well and in good spirits. I've had a great,
encouraging, busy week at RIO. The staff and therapists here at RIO are
more than amazing. They are the most compassionate human beings I've
met in the medical field. I have about four or five hours of therapy
everyday. I work one on one with the therapists assigned to me. I'm
doing things like learning to transfer between my chair and bed - with
a sliding board and without - how to roll over in bed, and how to get
myself into and out of bed - all without the use of my legs. I stood up
for 10 minutes in a standing frame one day and I realized I was taller
than all my therapists. Since I have use of my upper body I get to work
out in the gym here. It's like 24 hour fitness. I get to go there
several times a week. Today, I had a friend approved to take me outside
in my chair so now I can go to DaVinci's for coffee and crepes. I was
having so many visitors that my therapists were getting worried so they
requested that I severely limit the amount of people I saw because I
need my rest as my spinal cord mostly regenerates while I am sleeping
and resting. So, I'm really sad, but am looking forward to seeing all
of you when I get out.:) I've been doing great with therapy this week,
but all my excercise caught up with me today along with my anemia so I
was pretty tired and rested all afternoon. I was too tired to even
watch a movie. I'm too tired to write this email even... I can't
express how much everyone's cards and words and flowers help me get
through each day. They are so encouraging - especially when I find out
that people I don't know are praying for me. It means a lot. My friends
created a mural of photos of me and my crazy adventures over the last
few years and posted it in my room. It makes me smile every time I look
at it, which is a lot since I'm in bed looking at it. This is the most
difficult thing I've gone through in my life. I can't explain how it
feels and I can't predict how I'm going to get through it. God is my
mainstay through this from the first second and before. It is a
constant struggle to keep my mind in the right place especially when my
legs don't work like they are supposed to. But when my mind is in the
right place I have a peace that is God given while remembering the
verses about being thankful, God not giving me anything more than I can
handle, and about the good works God has for me, knowing that I am
equipped for them even in this body. Thank you again everybody for your
prayers and thoughts. I can't wait to see you all again soon. Everybody
has encouraged me so much. Hugs for everyone and kisses for those who
want them.:)

[Joanna quoted from Facebook]

Joanna's words #2 (from Facebook)
Date: Sunday, March 01, 2009 10:47 PM


My goodness! I have started this post 5 times
at least only to have the browser window close or something happen so
everything I've written has been deleted. But I think that was for the
best becuase each letter that I started was started off very
differently, but all on the same note that I was having some very hard
times and trying to look through all the fog and grasp some measure of
hope. But writing this now, I can honestly say that I have so much more
peace and understanding and hope about my situation that God has felt I
need and was/am capable of going through. The first week at RIO was
hard, definitely, just because I saw myself in a wheelchair for the
first time and had to come to grips that this was the beginning of
something that I could never imagine myself in. I slowly worked through
the initial stages of my grief and felt better by the end of the week,
especially with the never ending support of my family and friend. But
week number 2 hit and it hit hard. There wasn't a day that I wasn't
crying, asking God "why me", not knowing HOW i was EVER going to gett
through this. I spent a day literally in shock, not able to listen to
much of what the therapists were saying becuase i kept repeating in my
head " how in the world did this happen?" My mom and dad and friends
helped me through most of those hard times, but sometimes getting up in
the morning was the worst part of my day. I would have dreams that THIS
was a dream and then wake up and face a huge dissapointment. I just
wanted to go back to sleep. I spent several days like this. All the
while, I kept asking God, why am I having all these emotions when I
know you did this for your glory and your good and that you're not out
there to "get me" and that you know I can handle this? I kept thinking
that because I wasn't seeing results today, I wasn't progressing. I
have had the blessing of having 2 of my pastors coming to see me
regularly throughout the week, being there to talk to me, listen to
what i was going through and share encouraging verses from God's word.
So in my head I "knew" that things would work themselves out, but I
also had all this emotion that wouldn't stop flooding out of my eyes
and nose and heart. That's when a friend of Teresa's came up to see me.
This was a woman who had been in a similar accident at 19, 11 years
ago, and was told she could never walk again. She walked into my room
last night with a cane and the most beautiful gait I had ever seen. It
wasn't perfect, but when she talked to me about her journey through her
injury and continuting recovery, she gave me such a new perspective
on everything! She said progress could only be counted in months and
years, not days. And there is never an end to my recovery, it will last
until the day I die. It won't stop at 5 years or 10, my nervous system
will continue to grow and figure out what the heck happened to it for a
long time. That gave me so much hope. I woke up this morning with the
best attitude (minus the waking up too early part) and KNEW in my heart
this was going to be a great day and the start of me looking forward to
my recovery whole-heartedly. I also had the great pleasure to meet
another wonderful lady who had another similar accident to mine, but
just two years ago. She is still in a chair, but just last month was so
excited to see her toes start to twitch. She too, told me that recovery
is only measured on the grand scale of months and years. She had just
passed her boards for her MD license and was on the brink of a great
career. She never let this incident slow her down though. She's doing
amazingly well and thriving! She was such an inspiration to talk to,
trying to download as much information to me as she could in our short
time together before my PT found me and dragged me back into therapy,
haha...well not quite dragged but I was still sorry I had such a
seemingly short time with her. Both of these ladies have given me their
contact information and said if they can help with anything, please let
them know. The first lady actually called me this night, just to make
sure i was doing okay and to check up on me. She said to call anytime,
if I'm crying in the middle of the night or if I had some new feeling
in my leg. She's there for me all the way. 
I have to admit, I was
scared to meet other people that were in my position. Especially 2 in
pretty much one day! But God i think just placed them in my life at
just the right time. I needed to sorrow and needed to cry about what
had happened and I needed to even struggle with how to put what I could
in some sort of order. It helped me understand some things in life that
I can't even explain. They're life events that wil always stay with me.
God has been there every step of the way, but now i am SO EXCITED to go
full steam ahead with my life. Not just my rehab and recovery, but
life. It's still there and I'm still living it by grace. My injury is
not my life. I thought it would be for the longest time. And hey! these
3 weeks have been a LONG time! But my life is so much more; it's
letting God work through me for his will...I don't know where I'll be
in 2 or 3 or 9 years. But I know this is that huge push that will shape
how I see life and I am so excited to see what God has for me. I can't
imagine that he could use someone who's body has been so beat up for
his good, but you know...he is, as long as I let him, and it's like
watching your favorite mystery novel unfold. Who knows what's going to
happen? But He's directing it and it's goign to be the best book ever!

On another note, therapy is going amazing. The PTs and OTs are either
being very nice or are actually impressed at how fast I'm learning
things and progressing. My age, previous health, and size are all on my
side. I'm so motivated to do as much as I can. A few times this last
week I've been able to be on my knees and hands, just balancing. I
"crawled" with my PT's help and then later I learned to kneel and get
my balance without touching anything. That felt so amazing!!!! I was
finally off my butt and off my back and the pressure was going down my
body into my legs! I wanted to stay like that for hours! I've been
practicing my sitting balance where I'll sit on the edge of the gym mat
(that's basically like a huge bed, but with a mat on top of it) and
I'll shoot hoops or throw balls at targets or play "tennis" with my PT
while trying not to touch the mat with my hands. It's gone better than
expected! It's so hard to explain, and i can in the nicest way say that
most of you will never understand what it feels like, but my waist
feels like it's on a bobble head doll. I can't feel anything below my
rib cage, so to sit, it's extreemly unstable. I will learn my balance
over time, but that time should be too long. I can't, for example, sit
on the edge of the bed and put a shirt on, I would definitly fall over.
But working in baby steps where 2 weeks ago, i couldn't even sit up to
now, I can shoot hoops (I didn't say make the hoops, haha!) and not need
to 'touch down' with my hands is huge for me. Okay, well, there were a
couple shots that did throw me off and I did touch down but for the
majority I didn't :)
There is so much that is happening here, I
can't possibly write it all down. I'm still overwhelmed at how much
suppport is being shown to me and my family. All my close friends have
been amazing and I'm stil getting cards and letters from people I've
met just a few times or from friends from years ago. EVERY SINGLE card
is the sweetest to read. I wish i could reply to all of them, but here
I can at least say, thank you! Thank you so much! I don't know how all
God is working in everything surrounding my situation, but He IS
working and working a lot. He's my strength through this and I"m hoping
He is yours for every trial and tribulation that you go through, no
matter how small or big, because if he can help me not just get through
this, but thrive through this, just imagine what he can do through you
and for you on a "bad day" or a car accident or even some serious
health issues. I don't know...I'm just thankful that I've got him on my
side!

I'll try to keep you all posted a little more often. And
again, thank you all for everything you're doing, all your thoughts and
prayers and EVERYTHING! Love to you all, hugs and kisses (to the less
squeemish!)

Joanna
  

Journey Sightings
Date: Friday, March 06, 2009 10:57 PM


While fog banks surround the Land of Familiar, the sunshine of His love
brightens the sky above the Sea of Trust. Sailing into sight-limiting
"soup", the passengers strain their eyes for any impressions of land,
even a clump of sand. By faith, we know that He is channeling our course
for a New Land of Normal, but we just aren't there yet.  However, there
are a few vague images emerging from the fog. Time will surely give them 
more substance.

Joanna continues to improve her balancing senses. We toss balls across a
short distance, trying to make her reach for the outside shots. She
concentrates with all her strength and returns the balls with a few
surprises of her own! Today she worked at a rudimentary form of crawling
by shifting her weight from side to side as the therapists moved her legs
forward one at a time. She laid flat on the floor mat, commenting on how
good it felt to be stretched out again, and then learned how to position
herself to pull up on a low exercise table and twist so that she could
hoist herself up to a sitting position on the table top. This will lead
her to the skill of getting back into her wheel chair when, and NOT if,
she falls out. 

She practiced car transfers with family and friends in anticipation of
more outings. She works to perfect her popover transfers from chair to
bed or other sitting item. There was a kitchen and cooking session this
week as well as shower and tub transfer practice. The recreational
therapist took her to play pool today (she wants each one of you to play one game of pool from a wheel chair
and see how difficult it is to make those stretch shots) and will take
her to a paraplegic tennis club game tomorrow. These outings are designed
to show her that life can be just as rich from a chair as from a standing
position.

Joanna's sisters work to surround her with security, comfort and
encouragement. They will be a key part of her support team once she
moves back home. Dan and friends have been working on home modifications
to make life in a wheel chair less cumbersome. 

All these sightings emerging from the fog are coming to show us the
way to the New Land of Normal. God is pulling so many little details
together and providing for us all in ways we could never have imagined:
a kind neighbor letting us store furniture in her attic, a friend
doing plumbing work, another friend setting up an in-home communication
system, professionals pointing the ways to resources and helps, more
meals from loving friends, construction helps from church friends,
adaptive equipment from virtual strangers who "happened" to have it
on hand. We marvel at God's repetitious  manifestation of His wisdom
and power and kindness. 

May you be encouraged by seeing this journey unfold and praise God for
His currents of love.

Thankfully,
Kathy and family

          Note from Pastor Spurbeck, March 7, 2009

My weeks are always busy which I guess is really quite normal.  I was in
Portland three days sharing with Joanna.  Chris Camilli shares two days with
her.  She is progressing with her rehabilitation learning all kinds of new
skills.  I walked into her room on Wednesday and she had me look at her
abdomen and she flexed her front abdominal muscles - that's progress.  I
understand that as healing takes place those muscles are among the first to
engage with motor responses.  She generally has a good attitude and is quite
a testimony.  I have been blessed to be one of the "spiritual therapists."
She is scheduled to leave the rehab unit on the 17th so Dan and Kathy are
involved in lots of preparation.  Remember them at the Throne.  

With you we trust our Great God as we anticipate our catching up to meet our
Lord in the air.

Ensphered in grace,--DKS

Joanna writes #3
Tuesday, March 10, 2009 12:30 AM


Post #1Joanna Christiansen wrote2 minutes agoHeeeyyy
Everyone!! I have to smile...I'm NEVER good at keeping on track and
keeping everyone posted as much as I'd like to or try! So here I'm
writing again, delayed, I'm sorry! But I do have a lot that has gone on
in the last week (gulp..p.lus!) or so. Again, it's still an emotional
and physical battle. I don't think that will change for years. It will
lesson, as things to do with time, but I don't know if I'll ever get
completely adjusted to this new life. BUT since I don't have the
choice...I've tried my best this week to stay on the road to a positive
recovery. In therapy I've been doing a lot of transfers between the
chair and benches and beds. Those are the basics that I still have a
little trouble with. But once I master them I can pop into cars and
slide onto couches with no problem. The only thing is that it's all my
arms that are doing the work. And as most of you know, I'm not that
husky of a girl. I'm still working on getting that muscle mass built up
there to lift the rest of my body! I've also been doing a lot of
sitting balance work with OT/PT. I'll sit on the edge of the gym mat
and work on free-weights. As an equivilant, try sitting on one of those
huge exercise balls they use in yoga and without touching your feet to
the floor work your biceps, triceps, delts, and pecs. Yeahhhhh....I
need a lot of practice on those! But after a while I got the hang of
it. They even put me on a half - medicine ball to balance on. It works
your trunk muscles. For everyone else, this would be like sitting on
top of two yoga medicine balls. We had a few laughs as I was struggling
with that. But other things I enjoyed were getting into the quadriped
position where I got on my hands and knees and balanced. Then I worked
on short kneeling where I was resting back on my legs and and I had
various soft balls being thrown at me from all different angles. Just
to feel a different position on my body besides sitting down!!! It was
amazing, but got better!! I was working with PT and they showed me how
to get down off the gym mat and onto the floor about 18 inches below
without falling. From there I got into a crawling position where the
therapists helped me crawl accross the mats on the floor. I would lean
my body to one side to unweight the other side while they encouraged my
knee to move forward. Eventually I could use the force from my upper
body to help move my lower body a little bit! After crawling I could
lie down on one side and then get back up into a kneeling position.
THEN, yes, there's more! haha...they taught me to rest against the gym
mat and prop myself up enough to get my upper body upright to lift and
twist my body off the ground into a sitting position on the table/gym
mat. I didn't think I would be able to do that until my chest brace
came off! Other things in PT/OT included making a dinner, for which 6
of my family and friends ended up showing up for unexpectedly. This
exercise was to get me familiar with using the kitchen in a wheelchair.
Not the fastest experience of my life, but I think the food turned out
ok! Today in PT I was in the standing frame for a while, shooting
basket balls (watchout guys!) and then was put into the lite-gait
machine. Basically a harness that looks like a parachute attachment on
you that supports you upright while your legs are being walked along a
treadmill by a couple of therapists. It felt just like I was walking!
In my mind, I can move my nerves in my legs to make me feel like I am
walking, but to actually have my legs move and see it, it supposed to
help with the neural regeneration process. Hopefully. I still have no
motor ability below my waist. I have gotten a few abdominal muscles
back and a few nights ago I could feel a few patchy spots on my back
just a few inches above my tailbone. These are improvements that I love
seeing! They are slow to come but I am excited for each and every one
of them. No one knows yet how far I'll be able to go. I'm scared for
what might happen still, not wanting to get my hopes up but obviously
still praying for a full recovery. God doesn't just write out his plan
in black and white like we'd like him to some time, huh? *smile*

On Saturday, I got the chance to go out and see a tennis game between a
couple of paras at Tualatin Hill Rec Center. They played a few games
and ran drills with a lady there who volunteered her time to hit balls
to them. They got me involved with a few of the drills and my goodness!
Try to steer a big chair while running after a tennis ball while
thinking of where you want to hit the ball once you get to it! I could
play a little tennis before this, but this adds on several new
dimensions! It was a lot of fun; my arms got crazy tired after 15
minutes, but the guys were very encouraging with explaining to me the
techniques and strategies. So in a few years watch out for me on the
courts, I'll be taking names to play! *winks* Sunday, I had a day pass
home again. That was a full day. Hard in so many ways. Refreshing to
get out of the hospital. And emotional. Just coming home and being in
your house where you can't get to most things you normally could. It
took 20 seconds to get from the front door to the kitchen, not minus 5
like it used to take me :) When you realize that you can't go upstairs
to your room anymore, you can't very easily wash your hands at the
bathroom sink. It's hard to open doors. You can't reach a water glass
in the cupboard...those things really got me down and I was left just
sitting there thinking "now what?" What am I going to do when I come
home? I can't clean the kitchen, help with a lot of chores, clear the
kitchen table very well. Discouraging. It all swelled up so much in me.
I just took a few hours lying down on my sister's bed trying to sort
all this stuff through. My family stayed with me and my Dad held my
hand the entire time, talking to me, emotional at times but encouraging
me. My family is there for me more than 100% of the way and i could
tell that! But I couldn't seem to voice or show any appreciation right
away with the flood of emotions that wouldn't stop coursing through my
mind. I finally fell asleep exhausted for a few hours and woke up with
a semi-fresh mind. A couple of my really good friends came over for
dinner so the distraction was good for me; especially when they took me
out in my car and drove around in the back country roads in my car
(which I've missed!) and gave me a pep-talk I needed to hear. God has
used to many people in so many ways to encourage me. In my best moments
and in my worst. But He somehow all works it out, surprise surprise
*smile*

I'm still leaning on God for everything. The days are
combinations of high ups and low downs. Triumphs, challanges,
encouragments, discouragements, sadness, hopefulness, love, prayer,
kindness, tears, laughs, smiles, and hope. I don't know what the future
is going to hold. Like I mentioned before, I am almost too afraid to
hope to walk again if it means dissapointment, but the thought of
walking again just gives me so much hope! But I don't know. No one here
does, no matter what their level of education. I'm still going on day
by day, or more accurately moment by moment. Cards and flowers and
notes and e-mails and calls and texts keep me smiling and moving
forward every hour each day. In some of my lowest moments, what has
sometimes given me hope besides knowing God is in control, is that
there are people out there right now who are praying for me. And I have
been given the blessing in return of hearing from some of those people
that have prayer requests themselves and praying for THEM. 

I wish I could make this letter longer. I still have so much I want to
say, but it will have to wait for a bit longer. I tried to check the
spelling for Grant, and I tried to add more paragraphs for Trace.
*laugh* I'm a work in progress!

But thank you again EVERYONE for
everything you've all done. I'm looking forward to coming home next
week, even though it'll be quite a switch. God has a few more lessons
on this road for me; I'll be sharing them with you I'm sure. You've all
been a blessing to me and my family. Thank you doesn't seem enough :)

Love to you all, and hopefully another letter soon!!
Joanna

Joanna's words - March 16 from rehab and a few comments by mom


Joanna Christiansen wrote17 hours ago: "Here I am, finishing up my last
few days at RIO. Itís been 37 days since the accident, but feels longer,
obviously because so much has changed and life has been so modified from
what I used to know of it. My nurse let me sleep in this morning, which was
a blessing, but coupled with an afternoon nap and enough happy memories in
the day running through my mind, I remain that insomniac writer. OT has
finished up with most of their goals for me here. Theyíre into experimenting
with new equipment
with me, like the WiiFit. I had a trial run at playing it to see if it was
something RIO should invest in. Haha! I might have been the wrong person
to test it out because I HAD to beat my therapists scores at slalom skiing.
The fact that I was trying to strengthen my abdominal muscles while
balancing on the Wii pad was just secondary. But we got it approved! Iíll
just need to come back here to play it.... Iím finishing up with a lot of
my goals for PT. Iím finally becoming more consistent on my pop-overs from
chair to bed to couch, etc.... so hopefully soon I wonít need someone there
everytime I decide to move. Iím fine tuning my wheelies so I can hop up
curbs up to 4 inches high and come off sidewalks, wheelie backwards and turn in circles. My nemesis is wheeling
down ramps--Iíll try to perfect that tomorrow, haha! Iíve spent the last
few days trying to pick out my chair. Itís not something I wanted to do,
but facing it, yes, had to be done. There are a bunch of small decisions to
make about it like brake type, frame type, compatibility, light weight,
tires, padding, etc.--*sigh* at least I have the pom-poms all ready for the
handles. And my froggy horn that my cuz sent me from Japan. Those are the
more important things after all.

I was a little apprehensive last week about coming home, but Iím getting
more excited now. One of the biggest downsides is leaving everyone that
works here at RIO. Theyíve become a support family; I love so many of
them here! The nurses and therapists are making me promise to come back
and keep them up to date. Good thing I have girlfriends that like to
shop on 23rd right here next to the hospital, so I think Iíll be able
to pop in frequently. Iíll miss my room, which is pretty much like a
college dorm here. My mom is going to have quite the time packing up
all my decorations and stuffed animals and cards and pictures. And
sparkling cider--I still have a few bottles lying around. Okay, now
that I mention it, theyíll be gone soon....

My body is still about the same with patchy sensations below my legs.
Nothing fine-tuned. I can feel a cold water bottle on some parts of my
legs some days and different parts on other days. I could feel pressure
on the bottom of one of my feet one day, but not the next. The biggest
encouragement that I had was a few days ago when I was sitting at the
edge of the bed, trying to lift my legs in my mind. My mind was doing
it just fine, then I noticed just a few muscle twitches in my right leg.
Nothing obviously apparent, but I got my ankle to slightly slightly rock
and a small muscle twitch in my right quad. Sometimes I can get it to
repeat, sometimes I canít. But I can feel when people tap my knees. And
I have some perception of weight shifting in my body. I was in the
quadriped position on the gym mat a lot this week along with tall
kneeling and sitting. Iíve also been practicing those ground transfers up
onto a bench for that day when I fall flat on my face. Which will happen
they say--thatís why Iím trying to work so hard to not biff my transfers!

Iíve been having a lot of spasms the last few days in my lower body,
which is good for muscle tone, but annoying when youíre trying to
control where your legs are going. Iíve decided to stay off as much
medication as possible, so Iím not taking any meds to decrease the
spasms. I see them as mostly beneficial. My legs MOVE because of them! 

Life is slowly getting back to a normal. I just got back from hanging out
with my EMT crowd. We all went out for dinner here on 23rd to celebrate
one of my best friends being home on leave from the Navy in the middle
East. A couple of my girl friends came to get me all dolled up
(literally, they dressed me like a doll, it was hilarious!) so I could
look semi-normal again, and not just go in sweats and tees which is
what Iíve been living in this last month. We had so much fun, just like
old times which reminded me that life keeps going and Iím still a part
of it; just as much as I was before. This accident hasnít taken
anything away from me in life; Iím still me. I canít walk right now.
But Iím still me. I still have my same friends who are all now even
closer to me, I still joke the same, still eat the same (or more) and
still care about people the same. Iíve been blessed in a way to go
through this. Iíve lost mobility, but my mind and heart have gained so
much. This is still an uphill struggle; not going to lie about that.
But I keep going uphill--Godís strength pouring through my friends and
family is what keeps me from rolling back. Iím the first person to tell
anyone that I couldnít do this myself. Iím not that strong. Pin the
credit on God. Iím just along for the ride of a lifetime--and donít
know where itís going! I was talking to my friend Emilee this evening,
and we were sharing stories of how weíve seen God work in peopleís
lives around this situation and in her life down in California. I canít
tell you how much we were both encouraged in our Christian lives just
hearing about it. I was shy about my faith before this; not running
everywhere in life with a "Christian" sign hung on my forehead because
I hate the sterotypes that people put on so-called Christians. But if I
knew how many people out there in my/your every day life that are
Christians that you donít know about until you mention God, and how
encouraging they are with just one word or prayer to you, I would have
been more open years ago! Itís that encouragement and strength thatís
getting me through this. I hope you can understand.

Okay! I should wind this up--itís late--and I should sleep sometime.
They say sleep is good! Iím still acting like a college student so Iím
on a learning curve! Iíll be going home on Tuesday afternoon. Iím sure Iíll
spend the day adjusting, then my family and I have a lot of organizing
and scheduling to figure out. But once that settles down, and my
independence increases life should come to a new medium. Iím looking at
selling Subaru Legacy "Duke" which is a manual for the same car just an
automatic. Iím looking at driving in 2-3 months, with my doctorís
blessing. It will just require some modifications for gas/brake hand
controls. Then hopefully shortly after that Iíll have enough stamina to
start going back to my work as a therapy aide. But meantime, Iíll enjoy
some time to re-coup and relax. "Relax" isnít really in my vocabulary
yet--but Iím going to try to get a little bit of it in over the next few
months! I hope everyone is doing well, Iím thinking of all your support
constantly still. Iím still getting cards and e-mails from people that
encourage me daily. I want to reply to every single one of them, but
that will take just a little time, lol--Iíll send another update after I
get home!

Love to all,
Joanna

************************** Mom's turn

I am so thankful for what God is doing in Joanna's life, as well as 
for all the people He is using to  help us here at home. The master
bedroom floor and hallway is now pretty much finished thanks to my
cousin Jim. The bathroom is serviceable and will be worked on more in
the next two days by our friend Mike. The hospital bed and other
equipment will arrive on Monday morning. We enjoyed an East Indian
meal tonight from our dear friend Priscilla and were able to share it
with my brother and sister-in-law who stopped by to help with construction
and organization. Every little bit helps immensely towards Tuesday. We
are even being forced to inspect and reduce 12+ years of accumulated
stuff that is being pulled out of closets and out from under beds (who
hides things under beds?). Not a bad activity. 

Sister Elizabeth finished a big term paper tonight (hear the huge sigh
of relief?) and sister Karen is working her way through Nicaragua doing
health clinics with Medical Teams International. Joanna's friends
continue to either feed her from Red Robin, drive her on outings,
schlep her stuff back home (eek! more stuff? bigger Goodwill donation!)
or just hang out and visit. Today a harpist made a visit and played
for her. Music therapy. 

The journey to the New Land is getting, in itself, more normal. The
currents of His fingers are warm with love and slowly guide us towards
His destination in the New Land. The birds which hover near land are
being seen more and more frequently - birds of blessing as kindness
upon kindness wafts through our lives. We are meeting more and more
people who already inhabit the Land of New Normal, people who sail out
to meet us and assure us that the Land is wonderful and filled with
delights and new challenges. We have only to arrive and take up
residence to experience these things. 

Our journey will not end when we drop anchor. In fact, we  probably
won't  drop anchor but will continue to ride the currents along the
shoreline of the New Land, inspecting all the new harbors and coves
that contain surprising adventures. There is much to learn of this
new place - strange and curious creatures yet to see. We have no map,
but the way is marked each day by the light of His wisdom and grace.
Storms will still assail us, rocks will thwart our path, but as one
friend stated: calm seas do not a sailor make. We sail on for another
day and night on the Sea of Trust, mindful of all He has done already
to keep us in His purposes. Perhaps the New Normal is already
overtaking us................

Homeward Bound: Saturday, March 21, 2009


As we headed for the Port of Home, we were naively certain of our
abilities to dock and go ashore. What we had observed in the professionals
looked just so easy. Certainly we could do the same once we hit Land.
Normal was our goal. But the winds of the unexpected picked up and began
to push us closer to the rocky reef that guarded the port's inlet. 
Wave after wave of frustration and discouragement broke over our little
ship until we were scraping the rocks and felt threatened with capsizing
and drowning. The Land of Normal looked very far away now, and certainly
not within our grasp. We looked to our Captain, pleading for help and
endurance to get through the storm. We tied ourselves to the ship and
held on for dear life.

The next morning dawned bright and clear. A capable and friendly ship
sailed  alongside and offered to direct us through the reef to the 
inlet. We gratefully accepted the offer and sailed closely behind until
we felt safe enough to navigate on our own towards the dock. Each hour
brought us closer to Land. Somehow the air smelled delightfully familiar.
The topography began to look at least similar to Normal. But the path
from the dock was new and altered from the old one. It lead up a
different hill and through new valleys. The climb looked steep, and we
could see outcroppings of boulders and tree roots, but it kept feeling
more and more normal -- a new kind of normal. We would just have to get
out of the boat and begin our land-based journey in this new country.
Adventures seemed to materialize with every turn of the path. We
helped each other up the path, hand in hand, hearts together in
solutions to roadblocks. We can do this, we said! We can find a New
Normal. Our Captain merely smiled enigmatically.

Our Joanna is living at home once again, albeit in a different room
setup with a warehouse of supplies to meet her new needs. But she is
happy, and rested, and working to live life as close to her former
normal as possible. The first night "Home Alone", with no nursing staff
and no call button was scary for all of us, and extremely stressful,
but we were able to fumble our way through the "routines" (it all DID
look easy at RIO) and get to bed. Joanna's Aunt Becky arrived to save
the day, the house and the family on Wednesday and got us organized,
fed, cleaned and pointed in the right direction. What a gift to have
family and friends who can just step in and take over at times. 

By Friday we were not dropping Joanna, we had cut our "routine" (lol) 
times in half and  and she was making her own breakfast and doing most
of her own transfers between wheel chair and other items of seating or
resting. She fired up her social life, fanning the embers of friendships
to get out for a "walk", to the mall for shopping and even out to a 
dinner party. Ah, normal-ish. Seems that way more and more.

We still have many issues to address and understand and accept, 
but doing it from the home front rather than from a hospital setting
is much easier and less stressful. Next week is filled to the full
with various medical appointments which will put our "routine" to the
test. God clearly has us all here for His purposes. Joanna's 
affirmation of God's control and strength in her life has a number of
her friends thinking more about Him. We are constantly being pushed
to trust Him more and more, but He has provided answers and resources
all along, so we need to keep that in mind as we encounter additional
concerns. 

We continue to urge Joanna to write publicly about her altered life in
order to bring the New Normal to others around her. I write to clear 
my cluttered mind and capture the emotional pictures of my circumstances and to see things in a rational mode.
It is stunning to see how far God has brought us from that initial
Sunday afternoon event on Mt. Hood just six weeks ago. The journey
will continue to be fraught with potholes, hills, dark caves, adventures
and new contacts, and stunning panoramas of God's grace. We continue
to appreciate the prayers, phone calls, helps of various types, meals,
gifts, visits, laughs (yes, even to the point of hysterical gasps with
mom on the floor - ask Joanna about that one!). The house phone/intercom
system works perfectly Denny. We're looking for you on Wednesday AB.
The grab bar works great Mike. The 32" plasma TV? She asked but did 
not receive. Keep up the great texting Tyler. Thanks for the arm-in-arm
encouragement Teri and Pam. Thanks for keeping in touch Anne. Your
"project" is doing great thanks in LARGE part to you! We still have 
your hot water bottle Holly. Your frozen bundles of love still sustain
us Seattle ladies. Curry and mango mango anytime Priscilla. Delightful
emails Beth and Joyce. No act of love is forgotten before the Father
if not mentioned here.

Karen returns from Nicaragua on Sunday. There will be tales to tell
for sure! Elizabeth is on the countdown to graduation: 4.5 months! It's
a sure thing because she got the announcements in the mail last week.
Dan is working on finishing the front door ramp so Joanna won't have
to bounce off the front porch. There is much finish work inside the
house, too, but everything is at least functional. We are learning to
dance with a wheelchair and have only been rolled over twice today.
Movies are watched from the floor on a pad and creativity soars when
it's time to return to the wheelchair. We thank the Lord for His
graciousness to us. 

Resting in His grace,
Kathy

Joanna's Journey into April: Thursday, April 02, 2009


The landing party craned their necks to stare up at the snow-mantled shoulders of Mt. Renewal. Somehow it had
looked smaller from the Sea of Trust. Now from the sandy beach it
loomed much higher and there was no obvious pathway to the top. "No
worries", people commented. "We'll figure something out." In the
meantime, the solidarity of land felt so stable beneath the  feet of
the travelers that it persuaded them to linger and play and relax on
its dry sandy shore. It provided a much needed respite from the rolling
surface of the sea and the sudden storms that overtook the ship. 

However, Land held some challenges of its own. The days seemed to slip
away, sunrise to sunset, again and again, until it became apparent that
the landing party wasn't making any progress towards the mountain. It
wasn't even looking in that direction anymore. People were gathering
comforting supplies around themselves and just attempting to regain
some familiar sense of their former lives - the lives before becoming
castaways nearly eight weeks ago. Local citizens of this New Land began
to visit and engage the travelers and form encouraging relationships.
They offered so  much information about the New Land that the travelers
became weary with an overload and began to feel discouraged again.
How could they ever come to feel at home in this place? They were
learning the language but the customs were complex, the food odd and
the weather a bit too warm at times. In fact, some of the travelers
began to say that they didn't really want to even be in this New Land.
They felt it was a place to perhaps visit, but taking up residence was
just asking too much. "Can't we go back Home?" some would ask. The
Captain, catching their eyes and raising an eyebrow, merely shook His
head as if to say "not an option now."  The travelers knew that they
would have to make the best of their new situation and learn to live
in the New Land.

As days evaporate into weeks, we are seeing a bit of a routine in
parts of the day. There's the morning routine and the evening routine.
The parts in the middle are filled with medical appointments, hour
after  hour of driving, waiting, paying, telling The Story, gathering
reams of paper, organizing papers, marking calendars so we can do it
all over again the next week, eating on the run, finding handicap
access bathrooms, finding handicap access parking spots,  disassembling
and reassembling the wheel chair at every stop and trying not to
scratch up the car seats, doors and body, remaining calm during wheel
chair spills and near misses, trying to assess how many and which kind
of supplies are needed and when to reorder/restock. Did I mention
shopping, cleaning, meal prep, visitors, construction yet to finish?
And the glue that seems to stick everything together? Humor. Laughter.
Sunny dispositions. Cooperation. Caregiver relief. Occasional prepared
meals from loving friends and family. Helping hands. Sticky, sweet "glue".

Joanna has decided to postpone returning to school until summer or fall
term. "I have taken a withdrawal from my class and will pick it up
hopefully, Lord willing, in the fall term." Joanna wants to concentrate
on strengthening her body. This will happen with the help of physical
therapy, home exercise routines, visits to the local gym and eventually
the pool, and perhaps other resources such as equipment and a training
facility. There is so much to manage and acquire access to and use that
it will fill every day to the full. At  some point there will be a
formal spinal cord injury assessment to more accurately determine the
possible outlier of Joanna's recovery, although God Himself holds the
key to that one. She wants to stay in excellent condition for whatever
her life may hold. 

While the immediate emergency of our lives has passed, the continuance
on this new pathway is still odd and shakey and unfamiliar and fraught
with potential dangers.  Yet the daphne is blooming by the front door
and the golden hops are winding their way up the trellis once again,
the birds are gathering nesting materials in the expectation of yet
another clutch of birdlets and the sun rises and sets every day just
as it has since God set it in the sky.  He indeed is faithful and 
knows the pathway He has placed us on. We try to fight it sometimes
and tears are no stranger, but we are committed to making this work
for all of us and to looking for how God will use this "tragedy" for
His glory and our benefit. 

The indicators of progress for Joanna will take one to two years to
manifest themselves. There is no daily improvement to observe, just
daily perseverence. Routine. Perseverence. Meeting new challenges.
Perseverence. Setbacks. Perseverence. Embracing the New Normal.
Perseverence.  Because of the slow pace of our situation now, I will
not be writing as often. If you wish to continue receiving my missives,
reply with something like "keep me on the list". I will try to let you
know about key developments but won't bore you with the daily routines
and persevering  efforts that consume our lives. I thank you for
upholding us through prayer and helps of various kinds and encouraging
notes. I know that your lives must move on as well as ours. I hope you
stay in touch and let us know what is happening with you too!  

The Story will continue. The journey up Mt. Renewal will take a lifetime.

Hand in hand with The Captain,
Kathy

(If you would like to write to Joanna and her family, please contact
us at BABINC for an email address.)

Joanna's Journey July1, 2009 -- Update from Pastor Spurbeck

I continue to try to have an ongoing Bible study with Joanna Christiansen. She continues therapy and rehabilitation while living at home. Progress is very slow with this kind of injury. She has a good attitude and works very hard. While she is unable to walk, she has become pretty functional in her wheel chair. She will be participating in teaching an EMT class at Portland Community College next week. She will shortly be completing the last four weeks of a class she was taking when her snowboard accident happened. Continue to remember her at the Throne. -- DKS


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