Saturday, August 25, 2012

Interrupted By Love

Over the last week or so, I felt I was winning the battle against my ongoing personal struggle. The key was praising God for my circumstances. Each time I felt hurt or resentful, I immediately praised God for the work He's been doing in my heart. I praised Him because I trust His plan, and I know He can bring something good out of everything that happens in my life (Romans 8:28).

On Thursday morning, I reflected on the victory I'd experienced over my negative thinking and wondered whether I was truly changing my thought patterns, or just suppressing my negative emotions. "I want to keep praising you," I prayed, "but I don't want to stuff down all my emotions. Help me find the balance."

It was that same day that I suffered a big setback. My heart hurt all day long. I felt alone, angry, even bitter. I tried to praise God and thank Him for continuing to conform me to His likeness, but it didn't work. That is to say, maybe praising God made some difference in the spiritual realm, but my thoughts and emotions continued to spiral. I even knew that I was being disobedient to dwell on these negative feelings instead of surrendering them to Jesus, but I felt powerless to stop.

I was up most of the night on Thursday, and on Friday I felt a deeper, duller sadness as well as a tightness in my chest that signalled the old anxiety returning. It was a busy day with no time for moping because we'd taken Allyson to the Hawaiian Falls water park to celebrate the last day of summer break. She was fearless, riding the steepest water slides without hesitation, flushed with triumph when she reached the bottom. I enjoyed seeing her have fun and also enjoyed riding the slides myself on some level, but the stone in my heart just felt colder and colder as the day wore on.

Last night, Bill had hockey, so Allyson and I spent some quality time reading The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and then comparing the scene of Aslan's death and resurrection with Jesus's crucifixion and resurrection story in the book of Matthew. This was a precious time to me, but I was still looking forward to some quiet time in my prayer closet.

Naturally, Allyson's willingness to settle down was inversely proportional to my desperate need for some alone time. I prayed with her, cuddled, with her, brought her drinks, and finally started threatening to spank. Nothing helped.

At her request, I stayed in the TV room, a stone's throw from her bedroom, instead of going into my closet to pray. Instead of praying out loud, I poured out my heart in my journal, writing out my prayer for God to help me let go of my own desires and submit to His will.

All the while, Satan harangued me with lies: "You haven't made any progress at all.... You haven't changed one bit.... You're back at square one.... You don't have what it takes to follow Jesus. Maybe you should just give up."

"I can't give up," I thought. "What other hope do I have except in Jesus? Please, God. Please."

Just then, Allyson hollered, "Mommy, please come cuddle me again!"

I groaned. "No," I yelled. "I already cuddled you."

"Please!"

"Go to SLEEP!!"

"Please, Mommy. I'm really scared."

I stomped into her room. "Okay, just for a minute, but you need to go to SLEEP. I am so tired and it's been a long day and I'm sad and I really, really need to pray and you keep interrupting."

When I heard my own harsh words, remorse pierced my heart, and I started to cry. Through all of my struggles for the last three months, I've tried to shield Allyson from my sorrow and not burden her with my pain. But there was no holding these tears back.

I collapsed onto my knees and laid my forehead on the edge of her bed. "I'm sorry," I whispered, and then I just sobbed.

Gentle fingers rubbed at my scalp, tangling in my short hair. "Everything's going to be okay, Mommy."

I sniffled. "That feels nice, Allyson."

"It feels nice to me too. I love to rub your hair."

As she rubbed my hair, Allyson kept up a stream of soothing words that no doubt came straight from my Father. "Everything will get better, Mommy. It doesn't feel like anything is changing, but remember how you told me that God does things in His own time? We just have to be patient and keep believing. And we need to rejoice and feel in our hearts like our prayer is already answered."

"You're right, baby. Will you pray for me tonight?"

"I will if you'll start."

So I repented aloud for clinging to my self pity and desiring my own will. Allyson piped up then and prayed that God would help us feel His love settling over us. We took turns praying whatever came to our hearts.

After we said amen, Allyson tugged at my arm. "Come up on the bed with me so I can really cuddle you."

I climbed in obediently and pulled her to my chest. She nestled under my arm and nuzzled my neck. And then she started to chatter. Part of me figured I should tell her to go to sleep, but I didn't want to spoil the sweetness.

"I think it's hard for people to change," she said. "Especially adults, because they've been the same way a long time."

"Yes, it is. Especially when we want to go our own way. But going our own way brings us heartache. I know this from experience, Allyson."

"It's like when we go to Canada," she mused. "Think about us flying all that way, and when we're almost there, I remember that I left Allum at home. We can't go back for him because we're almost there."

"No, we couldn't go back." I smiled, wondering where she was going with this cute analogy.

"It's like that with you, Mommy. You've gone a long way on this path with Jesus. You can't go back now."

Chills ran down my arms. There was no way she could have known my thoughts of giving up. Surely God was speaking directly through my six-year-old daughter!

"Thank you for reminding me of that, sweetie. You're right. I can't turn back now."

Just then I heard Bill's truck pull into the driveway. "Okay, no more tears," I said. "I don't want Daddy to find me crying."

But Allyson wasn't finished. "Remember what you told me. Sometimes you have to let your tears out. If you hold them in, it makes you sad much longer. But if you let the tears out, you'll feel better."

"Yes, baby." I kissed her cheek, but then she puckered her lips for a kiss on the mouth, and we made a smacking sound. "You are such a treasure, Allyson. I'm so thankful to have you in my life."

"Me too, Mommy. Now will you ask Daddy to come snuggle with me? I've been waiting and waiting for him to come home."

While Bill snuggled with Allyson, I tucked myself into bed. Heeding Allyson's advice, I let the tears pour out in a torrent as I whispered my prayers, surrendering all of my desires and asking God to change my heart, to make my heart want what He wants for me. It hurt so much, but as I cried and gave up on my own hopes, a peace settled over me that truly surpassed my understanding. And I slept like a baby.

Today, I can't stop smiling over how God "interrupted" my prayer time to shower me with love through my sweet girl. Oh, how He loves me!
My Treasure and Me This Afternoon

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Back to Bacon in No Time

Today was just a wonderful day, all around. We were amazed at how much better Dad looked, and at his good spirits. When Rick and his daughter Mindy went to his room, he tried very hard to communicate something very important. They found a piece of paper and a pen and held them out for him to write...

Base?


Somehow they figured out that he was talking about baseball, but what about it? He gestured to Rick's phone, and after some discussion they realized he wanted them to check the Rangers' scores. "I'm not sure you really want to know," Rick warned. "It was pretty bad."

He nodded that he did indeed want to know, so Rick broke the news. The Rangers had lost three straight games to the Yankees.

When Rick recounted the story back in the crowded waiting room, we were all encouraged. If Dad was well enough to wonder about baseball, that had to be a good sign.

Amy and I went in next, and the smile that lit Dad's eyes at the sight of us warmed my heart. He reached for my hand and I clutched it for the duration of my visit. When Amy left the room, I stood quietly and watched his eyelids getting heavy.

"Dad," I said, "I'm going to pray some scriptures over you now, but you don't really have to listen. You just close your eyes and rest."

He nodded, eyes closed.

I prayed all of Psalm 139 over him, with two minor modifications. "If Dad goes up to the heavens, you are there. If he goes into the operating room, you are there.... When Dad awakes from surgery, you will still be with him."

At that second tweak, Dad squeezed my hand firmly. He hadn't been asleep after all. We just grinned at each other then. "I love you so much, Dad. I'm thankful to be here holding your hand." He nodded.

His ICU nurse, Sarah, came in then. Very short and jolly, she appeared to be Indian. She rubbed Dad's bald head and looked in his eyes. "You are such a sweet baba," she said. "You are going to be just fine. You know that, right?"

He smiled.

"He's always smiling, this one. He is always a sweet baba. Yes, you will be fine. You will be back with me very soon."

My eyes filled with tears. "We appreciate your kindness," I said.

She beamed. 

Sarah's predictions were correct. Dad came through the surgery with flying colors. His blood pressure was good, his bowel tissue was healthy, and they were able to reconnect the cut sections. The surgeon told us afterward that he has lost very little of his small intestine, and his nutrient absorption will not be affected. Everything should work just as it did before.

When he asked for questions, Mom informed him that Dad has been eating bacon three times a week. "Shouldn't he stop that?" she asked.

He laughed. "If your husband makes it through all this and gets back home, I think bacon will be the least of his worries. Yes, he should be up to eating bacon again soon."

"Let him eat his bacon, Mom," several of us said.

When Mom and I went to his room back in ICU, we were surprised to find him wide awake. His breathing tube had been removed, and he was anxious to talk after two days of enforced silence.

First he described two dreams. During his first surgery on Tuesday, he dreamed that I hit a grand slam for the Rangers. During today's surgery, he dreamed that Rick's son Mitchell was pitching for the Yankees.

After that, he gave Mom instructions about several of his weekly mowing customers. "Tell them I won't be able to mow for the rest of the year," he said. I smiled at the implication that he'll be back out there mowing next spring. I have no doubt that he will.

Next he told us how he felt when he was wheeled down the hall for his surgery. "I got very anxious," he said. "My whole body got stiff, and I didn't want to go into surgery."

I imagined the horror of feeling that anxious and not even being able to communicate. But I was wrong. Dad was perfectly able to communicate with the only One who could help him.

"I prayed, 'Lord, help me. I don't want to go into surgery like this. Help me be quiet and have peace.' Immediately, I became perfectly calm. I wasn't afraid at all."

My eyes grew wet. Dad had found a treasure in the darkness! "Praise the Lord!" I said.

When Rick, Mindy, and I went in to say goodbye this afternoon, Rick happily informed Dad that the Rangers were leading the Yankees by four runs in the ninth inning. "But the bad news is the Yankees are now up to bat."

"It's okay," I said. "With Mitchell pitching, we have nothing to worry about."

It was so good to see Dad laugh.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Please Pray for Dad

After three days in the hospital, my dad had emergency surgery last night for a bowel obstruction. He was supposed to have a second surgery today to reattach the cut sections of his small intestine, but his blood pressure was too low.

Here are the details that I've posted on Dad's blog:


8/14/12:
Dad was in surgery for only about an hour and had a successful result, so far. They resected two segments of bowel, one which was kinked and dead, and another which had adhered to his abdominal wall. Both were due to scar tissue from his previous gallbladder surgery. The dead section perforated when they touched it, but no damage was done. The doctor told us if they had waited until tomorrow as originally planned, it might have perforated and caused systemic infection. So we are very thankful.
He came through the surgery quite well considering how sick he is. His blood pressure was good. The doctor remarked that, given how sick he is, it's a wonder he was able to sit in the hospital bed for three days.
They didn't close the incision yet because they need to watch his small intestine. There was a large section that they were very concerned about at the beginning of the surgery, but once they untwisted the kinked section, it started looking better. If they don't find any other diseased sections in his small intestine tomorrow, they will do surgery in the afternoon to reconnect his bowel.
In the meantime, he is on a respirator and they are keeping him sedated so he won't get agitated. They plan to take him off the respirator in the morning, briefly, so his lungs won't get used to not breathing.
Please pray for his heart and lungs to stay strong and pray against infection, which is the biggest danger. And pray for a successful surgery tomorrow afternoon. After that he will likely be in the ICU for at least a week and will remain in the hospital until he is able to eat again.
This could be a very difficult recovery for him, so please pray that Dad's spirits remain good.
Thank you.

8/15/12:
Dad was doing much better today, off the ventilator and intermittently awake and alert. He smiled and squeezed our hands and wrote notes on a tablet. He was unable to speak because he still has a breathing tube.

They were not able to perform the second operation today because his blood pressure was too low. For that reason, they reduced his sedation to help bring it up and also are giving him medication to increase his blood pressure. 

His doctor told us they will have to operate in tomorrow regardless. They will be able to reattach his bowel under three conditions:
1) They don't find any more dead tissue to remove.
2) His blood pressure is high enough.
3) He is off the BP med or on a very low dose. This is because the medication is a pressor, which restricts his blood vessels. In order for the bowels to reconnect and heal properly, they will need good perfusion (blood flow).

If they have to keep him on a higher dose of medication, or if they have to resect more bowel, they will not reattach it but will create up to three ostomies. This means they will pull the detached bowel sections up to the surface of his abdomen and he will no longer have normal bowel function. This would be a permanent arrangement as it would be too dangerous to perform surgery again later. 

So please continue to pray for dad:
-protection from infection
-blood pressure to come to a safe level
-relief from pain
-a successful surgery

We are not clear on the time of his surgery tomorrow, most likely mid afternoon. Thank you for your love and support!

Mom and Dad at one of Dad's Favorite Places - Nov 2011


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