“How is Gabe doing?” I get asked this question more than any other these days, and I’m so touched by everyone’s concern. Lots (and lots and lots) of prayers going up for my husband in the past couple months, and man alive, have they made a difference.

I have some cool stuff to share on the Gabe front, and I’ve been putting it off, because there’s A LOT, and it’s overwhelming, and I had no idea where to start.

I still don’t.

How about October 29th, 2011? Many of you know that as the date my 34-year-old husband had a heart attack that nearly took his life. His LAD (left anterior descending) artery was 100% blocked. They call it the widow maker. And by God’s grace, I am not that widow today.

Here’s my little update from the hospital a couple of hours after Gabe’s life-saving surgery. And here’s the whole story so I don’t have to repeat it here. Here’s where we got to chat with the firefighter/EMT’s who took Gabe to the hospital and hear more about the whole experience from their perspective.

Before we left the hospital, Gabe’s cardiologist gave us the go-ahead for our 5-week trip to Cambodia (December 11 to January 13) provided that everything checked out fine at his follow-up appointment on November 28. It did. Glory hallelujah. And except for the one scare we had in Cambodia, those five weeks were relaxing and full of good health and good spirits for Gabe.

And now for some stuff you don’t already know (about time, huh?).

In a nutshell (because this post will be 60,000 words long if I don’t nutshell a few parts of it), I’d say I’ve had a bigger heart for Cambodia than Gabe if you were to lay our hearts out side by side on the table. I’ve wanted to take a trip there since our old church first started sponsoring the orphanage through Asia’s Hope. Gabe didn’t really have a desire to go, so I prayed about it. A lot. And one day in 2010 Gabe asked me if I still wanted to go, I said yes, and away we went (nutshell version).

Then I wanted to go back, and he said okay, and we saved up a lot of money and sold a bunch of stuff and went again. For five weeks. With our kiddos. And in the back of my mind (and sometimes the front), I’ve always thought, “I would love to live in Cambodia.” But I knew it was more my baby than Gabe’s, and I knew it wasn’t God’s plan for him to be a trailing missionary husband.

This all has to do with the update on Gabe, I promise.

Three weeks into our stay, I was over Cambodia. Yeah, God, I’m glad you didn’t talk Gabe into moving here, because, wow, this would be a hard place to live. I think I’m probably cut out more for life in America. It was fun to think about for awhile though.

Except I couldn’t shake the feeling that God was saying, “I want your family in Cambodia.” What the what?? I had just told him I’d changed my mind.

It was a Saturday night, New Year’s Eve actually, Gabe was asleep, I was typing journal stuff on his laptop, praying, and crying. Gabe never wanted to move to Cambodia, and now I didn’t want to either, so why was I feeling this strong, strong sense that God wanted us here?

The next morning, we were getting dressed for church, and Gabe says, COMPLETELY OUT OF NOWHERE, “I know what I could do if we moved to Cambodia.”

Excuse me, WHAT??

He went on to explain his idea of taking teenage boys who basically have no future and training them to do web design and photography, getting clients from the States, and paying these boys a living wage, keeping them from a life on the streets and inevitable poverty. He had already had the opportunity to work with a couple kids, and it just felt so right to him.

Holy cow.

Our last two weeks in Cambodia were filled with many, many discussions about this new direction our life seemed to be taking. When we landed on snow-covered American soil in our flip-flops on January 13, our plan was to pay off the rest of Gabe’s school bill (our only remaining debt besides our mortgage), sell our house, and move to Cambodia.

Two weeks later, we were in the emergency room. Gabe was having chest pains. He knew it was a heart attack.

17 hours and a few thousand dollars (that we still haven’t paid) later, they sent him home with no idea what was wrong with him. Two weeks later, we were back in the ER. I asked the doctor if it could possibly be anxiety/panic, because he’d been so, so anxious and scared and worried lately. She said that’s absolutely what it was.

Three days later, we were at a crisis center, a free alternative to the ER (yes, please) for mental health patients. Three days after that, Gabe started counseling. Then he took 3 weeks off work.

The next 8 weeks were just one dark day after another. Lots and lots of panic attacks (which mimic heart attacks, so imagine if you’ve already had one of those for real). Lots of anger and crying and exhaustion and worry about how we were going to make it through this alive.

Someday I might give you a little peek into my journal during that time, but I can sum up all those thousands of words into two: NOT PRETTY.

We received an outpouring of love and encouragement during that time, boatloads of advice (much of it conflicting), and tons of offers to help (but we really had no idea what we even needed). I didn’t blog about it a ton, but here I talked about Gabe crying, and here’s a post he wrote himself.

And here’s a post I forgot I wrote: my right-now story where I shared a bunch of stuff I just wrote up ^ there. Coulda saved myself some words.

We really just felt overwhelmed. We prayed for complete healing, and when God didn’t immediately choose that route, we knew we had to take some action steps ourselves (while continuing to cry out to God). Gabe took his medicine, saw his counselor, read his Bible, quit his job (a story for another time–basically, they asked him if he was 100% on board with the company, he answered honestly that he wasn’t, he quit out of fairness to them and because he felt God telling him to).

And I begged God to please, please, please give me my husband back.

Cambodia? No longer on Gabe’s radar. And understandably so. He just wanted to get better. I went from resenting Gabe for “ruining” our plans to being mad at God for letting it happen to accepting that his plans are better than mine and surrendering the whole thing to him.

At some point, Gabe’s mom threw something out there, and I wasn’t sure what to think. She said that she thought there was a connection between Gabe taking thousands of pictures of monks and Buddhist temples (even having a canvas and photo book made) and his anxiety. She sensed a spiritual attack above and beyond the post-traumatic-stress/anxiety that often affects heart attack survivors. She said that God has big plans for Gabe and his camera, and the devil had used that same instrument for evil.

“You need to get all that stuff out of your house,” she said.

I knew Gabe would never, ever go for that. His photography was a big deal to him. Those photos were art. And really, really good art. We talked about it a little, but then dismissed it.

Until…

(See you tomorrow for Part 2. It’s, um, really good stuff.)