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It was a dream come true for Danna White and her children when ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition built the family an amazing 5,000 square foot home. With all the excitement, The 700 Club had to take a trip to Bartlesville, Oklahoma, to meet the White family and see their new home.
The girls finally have their own bathroom, which makes Zeb – the only boy – really happy. He’s got a room that kind of looks like a basement. Ruth has a complete photography studio in her bedroom; Rebecca has an airplane; Sarah’s got a beauty salon, and Esther? Well, she’s got her own horse.
But in the midst of all these new things, there’s someone missing here -- John White, the children’s father and Danna’s husband. He died of a sudden heart attack on their 19th wedding anniversary.
Esther says, “I just miss having him around and having someone to talk to at home.”
Zeb concurs, “He loved to hug people and be close to you.”
“He always called us his princesses,” chimes in Sarah. “He made us feel like we were the most beautiful, precious thing that could ever be. He made everybody feel that way.”
… Especially Danna.
“I lost the spiritual leader in my home and in my church,” Danna says. “He was my pastor, my husband, my best friend. I feel like a turtle without a shell. I’ve even stood before the Lord and said, ‘I can’t do this by myself. I need John.’”
Since John was a pastor, his family had always lived in housing provided by the church. But when he died, the Whites’ days at the church parsonage were numbered. The new pastor and his family were moving in.
“I’m trying to become the person I need to be so that I can be a strength for my family. I know at this point I can’t help anybody,” Danna recalls about life at the parsonage. “Who am I? What am I? I’m not a pastor’s wife. I’m not going to be home schooling my children anymore. My whole identity is gone. I just had to start going back to the basics. I’m a child of the King. Jesus Christ is my Savior. I had to start digging my roots deep in who in the basis of my life were.”
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition built the Whites a chapel inside their new home. It represents how Danna and her kids kept their faith even in the face of death.
“There is no circumstance that is going to falter my commitment to God,” Danna says. “I know people do things different when they deal with death, but for me, [I] talk about John, laugh about his funny things and cry when I miss him. The Lord has taught me the principal of dealing with each bit as it comes along so it doesn’t fester and it doesn’t make me hard. As I process the hurt and the pain, I’m able to recognize it, and I think you have to recognize where you’re at to be in reality. You recognize it, but I’m not going to wallow in it.”
Another thing that’s helped Danna and the kids get through John’s death is the hope of heaven.
Sarah says, “I know that God’s in control of everything. So, I don’t have to be, ‘Oh my gosh, where’s my dad,’ you know? I can know I’m happy for my dad because he’s where he always preached about. He’s where he always dreamed to be.”
Ruth says, “He talked about dying a lot and going to heaven and how much he wanted to see Jesus.”
That thought is a comfort to the kids.
“I will see him again,” says Rebecca. “We shouldn’t be sad. He’s gone because he’s in a better place.”
On the outside, the kids seem to be doing pretty well. But Danna’s still concerned about what’s going on… on the inside.
She says, “My children, I feel, are all at different stages, different levels. They may bounce from one to another. I feel that have some anger that they need to process. I worry of them getting locked into an anger issue and becoming bitter or explosive with that temper that may develop through anger or rejecting God. Then I have others that maybe they’ve gone through a little bit of depression and I’m concerned, ‘Okay God, how far do I allow them to go in this before I need to address it?’ So, for moms sometimes I think that’s the hardest thing. We hang onto that control of, ‘Yeah, You love them, but I love them more.’ God loves them much more than we do, so I’m trying to continually put my children before God and say, ‘You heal them; You walk them through this.’”
So Danna makes sure she shares God’s Word and prays with her children every morning in the chapel. It’s her favorite place in the house.
“We need a sanctuary; we need a safe place to rest,” says Danna.
It’s only been a little over a year since Danna lost her husband and her children lost their father. The family seems to be doing remarkably well.
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition helped the Whites by giving them a fabulous new home, but Danna wants people to know it’s Jesus Christ alone who’s healed her heart and given her strength to make it through the storm.
“We have to have a family that centers on who Christ is and that’s what John built in our home. That’s what I’m trying to continue to build in our home,” Danna says. “Whatever the circumstances are, our foundation is Christ. Our foundation is in a mighty God who loves and is there for us and whose mighty wisdom and presence will surround us in, even in the hardest times.”
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