The Intentional Life

a better way to be

The Stroke


I heard the word with the sensation of one outside of reality. Time stopped yet continued on as a bad slow motion feature film.  My mind could not comprehend the incomprehensible magnitude of its meaning.  In that instant our world shifted and altered forever- as an earthquake comes without warning, devastation inflicted on those in its wake… so, for us- everything we knew had changed. 

May 20, 2012, the phone rang beside my bed long after I had gone to sleep, jarring me to reality. I heard the words of my son in law Ben, low, wavering and trembling-“ambulance, Amanda….stroke…  I don’t know. “

Questions rushed into my mind as I tried desperately to make sense of what made no sense at all. My daughter, 14 weeks pregnant with her fifth child was being rushed to the hospital –a debilitating, massive stroke, completely paralyzing her left side.

At 29, my beautiful vibrant and active daughter, wife, homeschooling mom of four children under eight, the picture of health and vitality, now fought for her life in a hospital bed across the country in Arizona.

I quickly made plans to leave Michigan and travel to Phoenix to be with her and her family. Praying through tears and a heart that would not stop breaking, I cried out to God for grace, strength and a miracle.

Within hours, friends in their adopted home of Arizona, surrounded Amanda, Ben, and the children. Meals were brought and children were cared for as Ben and I kept vigil with Amanda. If love could have rewritten her story it would have changed in an instant.  Because of the little babe tucked deep inside of her, treatment options were limited to reverse the effects of the stroke and the prognosis we were given for recovery was guarded at best. 

Hope was not often served on the menu during those dark days.  My heart could not accept the words being spoken, inside I continued to say- “you don’t know my girl… you don’t know my God!” Tears flowed as I sat beside her bed- helpless to change anything.  I struggled to hang on to faith- I knew God could but there was fear too. What if? What if? What if he did not…..  I wrestled with my desire to believe and the reality of what I saw.

The call for prayer was sent out and within hours, warriors around the globe cried out to God on behalf of this little family and to this day, one year later… there are still those who continue to pray for recovery, as she continues working towards recovery with intensive daily outpatient therapy.


This past year.

365 days.

525,600 minutes.

 Countless prayers, tears, and buckets of love.

Hours of therapy, support of family and friends beyond measure.

Faithful God.

Walking, laughing, running

Ezekial, born amidst it all.  November 15, 2012


Love of a spouse that does not give up.

Running a 5K race.

Krista, an amazing sister in law who set aside life as she knew it to care for this family over the past 12 months.

An eight-year-old boy who learned to tie his shoe just before mom’s stroke…now ties hers.

Children who love and learn and laugh….they are the reason to fight the fight of recovery.

So much more than words can say.

I prayed for a miracle. The one I asked for and the one we are yet receiving looks different.

Still…. Faithful God.



About Nancy Bouwens

Simplicity Coach, Writer & Wonder Seeker. My family and I are lifelong residents of the "Mitten" -near the incredible beaches of western Michigan and am passionate about beautiful things, human beings and living a life that matters. I believe people matter more than things. We can't do everything. What we choose to do matters more than we know, We will have to leave some things behind to live the life we yearn for and are called to. I believe most of all...God is faithful- even when he is silent.

25 Replies

  1. Wow. Amazing story. With four daughters, between 36 and 19, I can only try and imagine the shock this must have been. So thankful your daughter went on to have her beautiful 5th child and pray if she hasn’t fully recovered, she will. My husband was hit by a car 22 years ago and has Traumatic Brain Injury…but he is a walking miracle. About to get his doctorate after a very long road. God is Good!

    1. Elise- thank you for your encouragement and the hope of your husbands own walking miracle!! Celebrating with you the milestone he is at the brink of! My sweet girl continues to work her recovery- ups and downs- but she is my warrior girl and there is no quit in her! 🙂 Her road too is nothing short of miraculous and thankful does not even come close to what we hold in our hearts. Blessings!

  2. eli

    Beautiful piece..brings tears to my eyes remembering what thoughts raced thru my head I love my family.

    1. I too remember most every detail…so,thankful,for,the love and unconditional faithfulness of family and friends through this journey ! Love my family too !
      hugs – Eli

  3. Your family’s picture still hangs on my fridge and we pray for you often, Nanc. Life can be hard, but we have so much to be thankful to God for. I love you, sweet friend.

    1. and I love you too… thank you for blessing Eli and Laura yesterday- and being Jesus with skin on to us in so many ways.. and on so many days!

  4. Amazing, miraculous story, Nancy! Her faith, your faith & the faith of many accomplishes much. Praise & thank you, God.

    1. Teresa-
      God… God and all God!

  5. Nancy,
    Thank you for sharing your daughter’s story with us. God is faithful!! So glad she is doing so much better! Blessings to you and your family! Brenda

    1. Thanks Brenda – it is the prayers of so mamy that have allowed her and us the strength to walk this journey!

  6. Powerful! Thanks for sharing your heart with us.

  7. Nancy,

    The word stroke makes me freeze as well. When I was 16 my mother died of a massive stroke. Then years later I was told my blood pressure was dangerously high. I nearly died having my second child. I appreciate your post and will definitely be praying for continual healing for your precious daughter. Thank you for sharing your heartfelt story.

    1. Anne- 16 is so young to loose your mama…. so many hard places- yet God has been there for you in the midst … as he has for me. thankful for the peace.. that passes all understanding. It’s true. It does. When nothing makes sense- we hold on to Jesus for all we have.

      Blessings my friend!


  8. Oh, Nancy! What a story of God’s faithfulness and the beauty of a community reaching out in love. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to be so far away. Rejoicing with you on her recovery thus far and her beautiful baby, and prayers for continued progress!

    1. Hugs Ameila- rejoicing we are and looking for even more… inside and out!

  9. Jane Hall

    Nancy, what a year you all have had. Continued prayers for strength, healing and blessings. You have amazing strength & faith.

    1. Jane- Thank you for your prayers and encouragment… I beleve when people pray, and bring a meal and hug … they are like Jesus with skin on. Real honest and true. Doing the little things that mean so much to someone in the midst of the fire.

      Nancy 🙂

  10. You have shared the beauty that came from the ashes … that is praise to God.

    1. Kathy-

      … and believing for yet more beauty- diamonds from the fire.

  11. Thank you, Nancy, for sharing this heart-felt account of your life over the last year. God’s richest blessings on Amanda and her family as they continue the race of recovery.

    1. Anna-

      interesting- the analogy of a race… Amanda has said… this is like a race, a marathon but no one tells you how long it is, where the mile markers are at and where the trail is… it’s hard to run without knowing….


  12. Nancy what an amazing recovery, even though the road is long and hard for anyone who survives a stroke, it is possible and your family, love and support especially in prayer is a journey like no other. Your daughter is an inspiration to many. I hope she continues to heal and you have a happy peaceful year with your loved ones.

    1. Kath- I can surely agree- Love support and prayers are treasures beyond measure when given to those walking through fire.
      Blessings- Nancy 🙂

  13. Heather- thank you for sharing… And most of all for your love and prayers over the past 12 months-priceless beyond measure!
    Blessings- Nancy 🙂

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