Father Dave chats with Mary Lenaburg about her new spiritual memoir, which reveals what caring for her severely disabled daughter Courtney taught her about trusting God.
On the day of Courtney’s Baptism, Mary and her family had to rush out of the church when the baby started having seizures. Courtney had to spend a week in the pediatric ICU. This was the beginning of what Mary calls her “earthquake,” a difficult journey in which her life was turned around in every way possible. “What she exposed in our life and our hearts and our faith journey was all the stuff that we pressed aside and weren’t dealing with, and she brought all that to the surface,” Mary explains.
Although Courtney went home to God five years ago, for 22 years Mary and her family provided 24/7 care for a daughter who was blind, nonverbal, wheelchair-bound, and prone to daily seizures. Previously, Mary said suffering had been a foreign concept to her. And yet, despite the struggles of the family, “What she taught us, myself especially, was how to love. That my whole job on this earth, our whole job on this earth, is to love in the Father’s name,” Mary says. “She was the sunshine, the heart of the home, and she always led us to pray.”
The story of the Lenaburgs is an astounding testimony to a beautiful, strong, and inspiring family, and Father Dave points out that the book also shares universal lessons about relationships with oneself and others. In “Be Brave in the Scared,” Mary dives into chapters like “The Blame Game,” in which she describes her struggles with guilt and using food to take the place of God. In “The Lies We Tell Ourselves,” she provides an honest look at how her marriage was saved from pornography addiction and ultimately restored to love and trust in God.
Ultimately, the book’s central theme is the need for reliance on God. Trust is a necessary ingredient in our relationship with the Lord; it is extremely difficult to be vulnerable, but we need to cling to God with all our being, especially in the midst of extreme suffering.
“In order to trust God with your entire life, you have to surrender your entire life. … You have to trust him with his provision in every aspect of your life, from what’s in your bank account to what your kids are doing to what’s happening in your marriage… everything. You must surrender all of it to him,” Mary encourages.
“The worst thing that I ever faced in my life was the death of my daughter. And yet, in the moment when she took her last breath because I had trusted him and surrendered her life to him … he gave us the most beautiful moments that I will treasure for the rest of my life.”