Friday, December 21, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Well, it's almost that time, again. Silver bells are ringing in the birth of Christ the Savior! Such good news for all, whether you know Him, or have yet to know him. He is the hope eternal. The faithful one. The Messiah. Abba, Father. The Christ child. There is joy in the morning and hope because He lives.

This is why I can sing, why I can get up each day and have hope, why I don't succumb to pity or despair(most of the time). We were given a real miracle this year and although life will never be what it once was, I will always know that God personally intervened in our lives by saving Jim's life. I also know that the power of prayer of Gods faithful people has been a gift to us, better than any gift one could get under the Christmas tree.

The hard part is living that miracle every day and never allowing myself to take it for granted. I am learning patience beyond any I thought I could have, pleasure in simple things and accomplishments, victory in my ongoing desire to look ahead, and satisfaction with so many things I have and not what is lost.

I struggle with learning to do things that don't come naturally, meeting many responsibilities, staying focused on one task and allowing God to do, what I can't.

I wish I could say I am always strong, never down, always full of hope and never grumpy...but, then I guess I wouldn't need need Him. And I do.

Jim is still making recovery progress. But as this new life settles in, I ache for the adjustments he must now make and accept. He has gained his life, but lost a big part of the many things he could do once do and enjoyed. Please pray with me that he will find joy and a sense of well being and need.

May God bless each and every one of you and may you and your families enjoy and Merry Christmas.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The last two weeks have been particularly hard ones. I've had to make major decisions and act on them. They will affect us for many years to come. It is one thing to choose your own path, it is quite another when you must choose for those you love. I have prayed, sought counsel, and tried to weigh my options. I have a sense of peace or acceptance, but, my emotions are scattered. I find myself on the verge of tears for no reason, stuffing my shredded composure and thoughts back into my body like a cast away rag doll.

I catch myself self talking(lecturing would be a better word) and recalling all the reasons my heart should be thankful instead of mourning. But I wonder. There are losses. Major losses.

What would Jesus do? He had feelings, disappointments, discouragements. I am sure he must have felt devastation when he lost his friend Lazarus. The Bible says, "Jesus wept." And how discouraged and disillusioned must he have been when his closest friends, the apostles, let him down, or acted out of selfishness or lack of trust. Surely this weighed on him.

Did he ever second guess his decisions? He was all God, but also, all man. Did he place his trust in his earthly wisdom, or his heavenly father? I wonder.

We all know, ultimately, what he did. But did he struggle?

In my quest to follow him I think I sometimes get confused with how I should be and just being who He created me to be. If He knows me from head to toe, inside and out, he knows my weaknesses and my struggles. What crushes me and what I can withstand. If He allowed himself to experience the feelings that accompany major changes and loss, surely he expects me to feel the same. When will I get it through my head, He loves who he created in me and only ask that I walk in faith. My weakness is made perfect in his strength

I've been told, Joy comes in the morning. Maybe that is because Jesus is the 'Son' that rises in the dawn of a new day, giving us hope for tomorrow and displaying his faithfulness today.

I will smile through the tears, count my blessings, and rest in his faithfulness.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Fall

This year could be described as the fall of my life. We are in the fall season now and as I gaze at the wonder of Gods beautiful earth and the kaleidoscope of color he has painted for our pleasure, I am in awe and humbled to be able , year after year, relish in the sheer Majesty of it all. The miracle he creates, and lets me partake in, makes me realize who he is, in relationship to who I am.

It is, somewhat, how I feel about this past year. The miracles He has performed on behalf of Jim and our family and the wonder of why he allowed us to be part of his display of power and grace, astounds me each time I think of it. But, just like fall, there is a time of change that comes. The golden orange, red, purple leaves that leave us all breathless, disengage from their branches, tumbling to the ground, stripping the tree to its bare limbs exposed to the winters rage. It seems a heartless, cruel end to something so magnificent...and for what purpose?
If I had never experienced spring, with it's new growth and hope for abundance of shade, it would all seem too meaningless for the tree; and leave us no hope of another fall. But, God in his perfect design, had a plan. For the tree, and for me.

The change that has come about due to Jim's accident has brought much pruning, literally and emotionally. We are having to let go of many material things and way of life that was familiar and comfortable. We will be leaving our home of 9 years that we poured sweat, tears and money into and will be downsizing to almost our beginning married life. It's not the things we must let go of that is so hard, it's the memories that go with them. Financially, we have had to disappoint many as the bills are too overwhelming. This is really painful and I hate it. Most of all, changes in daily living have been enormous. The routine of our lives, good or bad, was comfortable, do able and known. This path we are now walking down is strange, isolated and frightening, at times.

But, God.

Experiencing the range of emotions and trials does not exclude us from his mercy, grace or constant love. As glorious fall gives way to winters wrath, we are not left without hope. For Gods planning for the seasons, as well as our lives, always brings hope, growth and life. I think the secret to pressing on and waiting for spring is knowing Him and his faithfulness; and trusting in his perfect plan with a thankful heart that the mighty creator of the tree, and me, has it all under control.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

He Lives!

Catastrophic. A big word with a big meaning. My thesaurus gives it three choices of interchangeable words. Destructive. Disastrous. Revolutionary. A catastrophe can bring destruction, tearing to pieces what once was and leaving ruble. A catastrophe can be disastrous, destroying or disabling ones life and family, and way of living. Also, a catastrophe is revolutionary, for this is the result of the impact of the destruction and disaster. Change does come, there is no mistaking this. What was before stops. Something new begins.

I've been thinking about this, lately. What happened to my husband when he had his accident was catastrophic for us. It destroyed part of Jim's physical life when his head was impacted, leaving him with lost abilities and challenges to conquer; and destroyed a way of life, as we knew it before the accident. It was disastrous, in the fact, that our family may never know the Jim we once knew or the unlimited possibilities to simple things we once took for granted. It has brought about change. It has been revolutionary.

But revolutionary has meanings all of its own. To revolutionize is to, change, originate, overthrow or revolt. Wow! This is a powerful word. To revolutionize your life takes energy, foresight, hope, planning, accepting change, movement, letting go of the old. It is originating a new life with new ideas, overthrowing sadness and loss and revolting against self pity and depression.

How can one survive catastrophe and, in turn, revolutionize their life? Humanly, it's near impossible, without help. I know myself, and I am one to want to run away from hurt, pain and confusion. I tend to become a recluse and hide in my own thoughts. Even after living many years in this world I tend to be sensitive and easily scarred by tragedy and hurt. The only thing that has helped me revolutionize my life is my reliance on what I know and experianced to be true and never changing. God, my father. He makes me more than a conqueror of catastrophe. He revolutionized my life thru his son, Jesus Christ, and forever impacted my tomorrows with hope. " Because He lives, I can face tomorrow."

Friday, July 20, 2007

Homecoming

The time has come. We are going home tomorrow. Jim, my husband, has been in the hospital(or hospitals) for 6 months, as of yesterday. Jim took a fall in our home, on our steps. The resulting injury broke his neck, gave him a traumatic brain injury and a small heart attack. On January 19th, 2007, life as we knew it, ceased to exist. It has taken me six months of soul searching, prayer, tears, alone time and releasing control, but I have accepted this. We are going home to a new life. One that is not so familiar, and has many unknowns.

I've been thinking about this all week. Many have asked me if I am excited, scared, nervous etc. I'm not sure, but maybe all of the above and more. Deliriously happy, too. In many ways, I have been wrapped in a cocoon these past few months. Loved on from family and friends, lifted to the heights in prayer, and showered with support. But like many things we experience in life, there are parts of a journey you must walk on your own. But then, especially during these alone times, I have felt the unseen, ever present hand of my savior, moving me along, pulling me out of bed, clearing the path before me, lifting the heavy weight in my heart and making it feel much lighter then it was.

I packed all of Jim's belongings today and finished packing mine tonight. We came to Indy in April and I swear I moved half of our house here, one week-end at a time. Our daughter, Kelli, has put up with a full time border, as well as, many week-end guest and a stressed out beagle. Nothing was required of me. She understood all to well, visiting and supporting her dad was full time energy. I don't think I could have done this here, without her. Our other kids have spent their week-ends hauling their families back and forth, giving up their time off and thinking of new ways to encourage Jim and I. We are so blessed.

Tomorrow will start the rest of our lives and only God knows what that will be. But, even with all the emotions I am feeling, I do have peace. The man I love is happy to be coming home. His home. I am so grateful to be able to take him there.

Many things will have to be put in place and changed to make it a safe place for him. He still has a brace on his neck.

And I am looking forward to his return to his art. He does beautiful oil paintings and carvings. We use to talk about what it would be like to be home together without one of us running off to work. We will now have that wonderful thing, called time, to spend with each other and family. Although many big, life changing decisions must be made soon, life will become simpler. Who knows what God has in store for us. I've walked with Him many years and I know he never waste our pain and uses it as an opportunity to make life clearer or bring someone to Him.

Each day I live, I realize more and more, why the first Bible verse I ever committed to memory(there are not many) was this:

Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not unto your own understanding. In all ways acknowledge him, and HE will direct your paths. AMEN!

Tomorrow we go home. Yeah!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

OK, so I haven't continued the story. Life is happening and there is no time to write it. But I will give a short update.

We are now almost 6 months into this journey. Jim has surpassed all expectations of the medical staff and family and friends. Everyday brings a new, sometimes small, sometimes huge, reason to sing Gods praise for the progress Jim has made. Yet, I continue to ask for more.

I remember when I only needed to see Jim's eyes to be happy, then it was to move a finger, then be able to be trached, then, to breath on his own. I needed nothing more then to have each of these answered to be content for life. All these request were utterly impossible at the time. And they were huge; and they were answered and given to me.

So why, now that Jim can see, walk, talk and breath, do I put those behind me and continue to make my list for the future? Some days I stress that we will never be able to have a full conversation due to his speech problems. Or I pace the floor worrying that our conversation will never get past a circle of questions and answers. Will he remember this or that? Can we go home and carry on as before or will life be so different I won't recognize it.

What happened to, 'I only need to see his eyes to breath again?' I am amazed at my fleshly wants and poor memory for many answered prayers. Yet, I am thankful, really I am. I'm also needy. God is so much bigger then my needs, yet, I am realizing more each day that some needs are not always met in a way I will recognize. I am beginning to see them wrapped in the tissue of love and encouragement to others.

God, the Father, is using our journey of trust and hope to show Himself faithful and true, to us, and the people in our circle of life.

That, in itself, in another miracle...and, an answered prayer.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A Journey of Faith

God has taken me on an incredible journey of faith. In my wildest dreams or thoughts, I would have never imagined walking this path. Last year, about this time, I was thinking life was confusing and difficult. My mom had been ill and in the hospital. My step dad was in a nursing home with Alzheimer's. Many of my days and nights were spent taking care of them. My husband was home, without work, suffering from chronic back pain. My youngest son was out of work and living at home. And I had just started a new career after being out of work for over a year. It was stressful learning all new products and trying to concentrate on my job with so many people depending on me and the bills piling up.

Life did, indeed, seem difficult. I longed and prayed for change and rest. I was feeling restless and out of sorts. God seemed distant, although my faith did not waiver.

Spring turned into Summer and my time became increasingly spent. The few hours I had to myself were late at night. I turned to writing as an outlet for my restlessness. I poured my heart into creating stories as an escape. Nothing seemed to help. I had never been so self absorbed in my own thoughts. I felt stretched in every direction with no compass.

I remember praying and asking God to change my life. Please, I begged, get me out of this black hole and help me see your face once again.

As the leaves began to change colors, my mood stayed black and dark. I could see no light or future, only more problems I couldn't solve, money I couldn't make enough of and people I couldn't help. By Thanksgiving, my step dad, Ed, entered the hospital and things went down hill. Most of the holidays were spent by his side, holding my moms hand, helping her to let him go. By late December, the doctors gave us no hope and sent him to a nursing home to live out the rest of his days. Christmas day we were called to the nursing home. He was near death and was taken back to the hospital by ambulance. He remained there thru the first week of January, then sent to hospice to die. His last breath came early Monday morning, January 15th.

Gathering up Mom, I called my husband to come be with me. By now, he was no longer driving due to the pain medication he was taking for his back. Our son brought him to me and we got thru the day. I had not spent much time with Jim due to my work and taking care of my parents. When I saw him walk thru the door at hospice, I realized how much I needed him and missed his taking care of me. Too much time had passed since we had connected. I think I was angry at him and myself. I also noticed how weary he looked. My heart ached to run away with him for a rest. We had been planning a trip to Florida for this week, but canceled out tickets when Ed took a turn for the worse.

The next few days were spent planning the funeral and helping mom deal with her loss and what would be her future. Jim stayed in the background, sleeping through most of the plans. He managed to go to the viewing at the funeral home and the funeral, but did not feel like joining us for the dinner. Again, I prayed. God, please help us. Please change this. We are drifting apart and I don't know what to do.

When I returned home from the lunch, Jim was asleep. It had been a common occurrence...sleeping alot. He stirred as he heard me come in and asked me if he could fix me dinner. He seemed so groggy but managed to make us something. Both disappointed about our cancelled trip, we briefly agreed to try to rearrange it in the near future. Once again, our life was put on hold.

The next day I returned to work, trying to pick up where I left off the week before Ed's death .
Before I left for work that morning, I went downstairs, only to find Jim sleeping on the couch. I got him to lie down, kissed him goodbye and went to work. Little did I know, the next time I saw him, just a few hours later, our lives would forever be changed and I would be on my knees begging God for his life. Change had come.

(to be continued)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

My cell phone rang insistently as I waited on my last customer at work.

Since Jim's accident, the cell phone and I have been inseparable. It is my one link between good news or bad news about my husbands state of health. Going back to work after 5 weeks of living at the hospital was wrenching. But, true to who I am, once there - I try to be totally devoted.

The continuous, shrill ringing of my phone, jangled my nerves as I fought to concentrate on answering my customers questions. It had rang a couple of times before. From the corner of my eye, I could see my daughter in law(also our office manager) walk quickly towards me with a phone in her hand. Handing me the phone with concern on her face she said, "Sue, It's your sister, about Jim. The hospital has been trying to get in touch with you."

I excused myself and looked towards my boss, standing off to the side. Without hesitation, he was by my side in an instant.

" Sue, you go take that. I'll take care of this gentleman."

Shooting him a grateful look, I took the phone from my daughter-in-law and said "Hello"

It was my sister, Patty. "Sue, the hospital has been trying to reach you. When they couldn't get you, they called mom and she called me. I knew you would be at work. Call them right away. Jim is talking!"

"What?" Was I hearing right? He hadn't said a word since he was first in a coma in January. In fact, we were not given much hope for his recovery, much less talking. Thanking my sister, I quickly dialed the hospital number and reached his therapist.

"Sue, I'm so glad they reached you. Jim's talking, hurry, get down here!"

Signaling my boss I was leaving, I ran to my car. Much like my ride to the hospital after my kids called to tell me Jim was seriously hurt, I don't remember the drive getting there. Upon entering the therapy area of the hospital, I could sense the excitement among the staff. Within seconds, the lady who called me to tell me the news, threw her arms around me and gave me a hug. " I couldn't wait to tell you. I was in his room and his music was playing. He seemed to enjoy it as he waved his hands to the rhythm. I asked him something and in a clear voice he said "I believe."

"What did he say?" I stuttered, looking at her in amazement.

He said, "I believe, and a few more small words. "

Still in awe, I looked past her and several other therapist and caught the smiling face of my husband, sitting in his wheelchair, very alert and aware of his surroundings. Walking towards him, his eyes focused on mine and his smile warmed me.

As much as they tried, the therapist could not coax another word from him that day. Although I longed to hear his voice, my heart was at rest, knowing he was back...and Our Mighty God, performed yet another miracle on our behalf.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Sue

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

This week has been adjusting to a new schedule. Go to work, go to the hospital, go home, make phone calls, research brain trauma information and try to keep up with things at home.. There is some comfort in creating a routine. It may not be a routine I know or would choose, but it's somewhat predictable. After several weeks of riding the roller coaster of life and death...I will definitely take this.

Jim is working hard at learning to sit up, walk, talk and put thoughts to words. He is challenged everyday by his team of therapist at Select Hospital. It is so hard to see him struggle now, to do the simplest things that he did before, without any effort. The energy it takes to lift his foot up and move it a few inches to walk, is enormous. The sound of groaning radiates from his newly capped trach. This is the first sound I have heard my husband utter in almost seven weeks. I want to weep and laugh for joy at the same time. Sitting up straight and balancing the halo, while trying to concentrate on what he is asked to do, takes the grit of a prize fighter. My Jim has it.
The damage the fall imposed on his brain wants to rob the man who resides in the once muscled, refined body. I can see in his eyes, this will not happen without going to the mat to the finish.

It takes everything in me not to run and comfort him and make his therapy team stop imposing this new pain on him. But I mustn't. I can't. It's the only way to bring him back, to give him a fighting chance at a life , again. So I stand back, shifting my weight from one foot to the other, walking behind him, lest he see my tears. He always said 'I cry at the drop of a hat'. But this is not a 'drop of a hat'. This is gut wrenching pain. Not only physically, but mentally and emotionally. I want it to end, I want it to continue. Hurry, hurry...get it over with and let's get on with our life.

What will that life be? Only God knows. Maybe that's best. Today has enough to think about and deal with.

It is finally over, his therapist helps to put him back into his chair and wheels him to his bed for a rest. His body relaxes and his eyes close. I collapse into the chair next to the bed, feeling every bit as tired as if I did his workout.

The coughing racks his tired body, brought on by the activity and change of position. Respiratory nurse arrives with her bag of goodies to help him clear his airway. With time, sleep comes.

Looking out over the city through his window next to his bed, I see the sun fading over downtown. I know how it feels. Picking up my bag of mail, I've yet to go through, and throwing on my coat, I bend to give him a kiss goodnight. Eyes barely open, the smile of the man I've spent my last 36 years with, warms my heart and gives me the stamina to walk out the door and have hope for what tomorrow will bring.

Monday, March 05, 2007

45 days ago, my life, as I knew it, came to a screeching halt. I am now in the 45th day of my new one. My husband, Jim, fell down our basement steps, cracked his head, broke his neck and had a heart attack. The ICU ward of our local hospital became my new home for 4 weeks until we were sent to another local hospital to begin the slow process of rehab. He has a sustained brain injury.

I can't begin to tell you all the ways it has affected our(Jim, our kids and extended family) lives. I am just now awakening to realization that I have to plod a new life and a new way of living it.

Brain injuries take their own path. Unlike a kidney, stomach, or other vital organ injury, where you can be advised on the prognosis and what course the healing may evolve, the brain is so personal and complex, it defies boundaries and predisposed patterns. The term, "watching grass grow" was given to me early on in the injury by Doctors and medical staff. It hasn't left me, nor, has it proved to be incorrect. The progression of healing is found in the most minuit accomplishments; a smile, movement of a limb, a look, a blink. Everything could be something...or nothing.

I try to be thankful for every bit of hope we are given, knowing, it's a miracle he is alive. But now that he is in a stable condition, my mind is filled with the "what now?' questions.

I am thankful I have a "resting place" to go and take a breath. I go to the Rock, my source of comfort in the storm, my safety. All my hurt, confusion and anxiety, I lay at the feet of my savior, the Lord Jesus. I know, I must take residence there, in order to survive. I will survive.

Susie