Written By:  Tiffany Verzal @ Stand with Faith

Some of my favorite memories growing up revolved around church. I looked forward to getting my hair curled in the morning and slipping on a pretty dress and shoes. Looking back, I also liked fighting with my brother and sister during church service. My mom made the mistake of sending us out to the car for punishment once, which was even more fun! I doubt parents can do that today…oh, the good ol’ days!

When I was little, I loved the singing time during Sunday School, and the homemade cookies that got served after every service. It was usually enough sugar to get us kids running up and down the backstairs of the church until someone got hurt, or we ultimately got in trouble. But wrapped up in all of the “good stuff” I was able to build a solid spiritual base that has carried me through some difficult times.

I’m am a little bit of a “church hopper.” I am sure that it is absolutely appalling to some people, but I am guessing that others can relate. I spent the first twelve years of my life in the Lutheran Church, and then I became Methodist! How does that happen? The Methodist Church had a really great youth group and a fantastic church choir. What can I say? We lived in a small town and our options were limited. I also spent the summer touring with a singing group called “New Way Singers” that was based out of the Nebraska Christian College in Norfolk, NE.

For the most part “church” has been a constant in my life, but even if I didn’t have a “home” church for a certain time period, I still had a strong set of values and beliefs that I fell back on. And that is exactly what happened when Alexis was injured.

The pain and fear folded in the first days that Alexis was in a coma will always be vivid, but the image that continued to pop into my head as I waited for Alexis to wake up was Jesus sitting with his arm out and children all around him. When it came into my head the first time, I knew exactly where it was from. On the way to the basement of my Sunday School class hung a painting of that exact image. I haven’t seen that painting since I was twelve-years-old, yet it was as if I was standing in front of it in my mind, in the hospital.

It was during that first moment that I really knew that Alexis would survive. I knew that Jesus was really with her. My faith, deeply rooted from my childhood, carried me.

Like most parents, I want to repeat the great things from my childhood for Alexis. One of those things is giving her that same spiritual foundation that I had. After all, it was her injury that showed me just how strong my faith was.

Because of this, church is one of my largest sources of frustration right now. Since we have been back in Lincoln, we have really struggled to find a place where we belong. We didn’t go to church for a good six months after Alexis was hurt because she cried so much and we slept so little at night, that we were too exhausted to do anything. Then we tried out a couple of churches,  and continue this epic search to this day.

It only took a few visits until we knew a small church wasn’t going to work because Alexis needed to be with us, and we weren’t comfortable leaving her for Sunday school. Usually Brandon or myself would sit alone during the service while the other person would walk Alexis around outside. Then we would switch halfway through and neither of us would get any semblance of a message.

I tried taking her to Sunday School, but then again, Brandon was by himself. We’ve tried the Saturday night thing in a more relaxed atmosphere, the cry room, and a volunteer from the church going to Sunday school to help her. After all of that, we ended up at a big church sitting in the back row, having her watch her IPAD.

It hasn’t been so bad over the last two years. I love watching Alexis sing, and she sits on our laps and holds our hands. It’s nice to have her there with us, but I am not fully focused on the message because I am worried about what she is doing. Ultimately, I know she is missing out on important teachings at her level, with her peers. I’ve tried taking her to Sunday School there, but it’s a big class and the kids are really active. We spent about 15 minutes there one week, and she told me, “Mom, I think I am going to have to do more therapy before I can do PE at church.” So we went back upstairs, ate crackers, and listened to the rest of the sermon/played the “Toca Boca Hair Salon” app.

I think that it’s funny (not in a ha ha kinda way) that having the experience we did with Alexis’ injury has strengthened our faith as a family, yet the injury has left us searching for a church home for the last five years. I know we will find our place somewhere, I just hope that it is soon. Until then, I’ll lean hard on the foundation that was built many, many years ago.



Tiffany Verzal

Tiffany Verzal was raised in rural Nebraska, and now lives in Lincoln, Nebraska with her husband Brandon and daughter Alexis (9) and Abby (2). In 2008, Alexis (then 14-months-old) was the victim of shaken baby syndrome at the hands of her daycare provider in Texas. Alexis suffered severe brain damage and has spent over 2000 hours in rehabilitation since her injury. Tiffany continues to raise awareness for traumatic brain injury, shaken baby syndrome and child abuse. Brandon and Tiffany serve as members on Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital’s Board of Trustees. Brandon is currently the Chairman of the Nebraska Child Abuse Prevention Fund Board.