Monday, May 31, 2010

Today I have been thinking about words. The dictionary is full of them and what they mean. Yet, all by themselves they are simply words and the meanings are just more words too. You can string many of them together with little effect. Or you put a few words together and make a great impact!
Sunday was a day of words for me. It began with me catching a ferry in Bridgeport to Long Island. It was full, full of people and noise. The boat itself makes all kinds of interesting sounds. There were the sounds of chains and ramps being pulled in and up to ready for departure, the creaking of the vessel, the PA system blaring some sort of directions and the clanging of the door, as people went in and out, which they did regularly!
Above and among all these sounds were the many voices of the ferry's passengers. Snippets of face-to-face conversations, of phone conversations, of questions called across the aisle, of parents correcting their children and on and on and on they swirled. There was one conversation that made me smile. A dad, mom and their three children sitting at the table behind me were playing a game. As they played, they talked. It was a conversation that did a hop, skip and jump from subject to subject. Some of the topics were silly, some more serious. Throw in some squabbling and you get the picture. Through all of it both parents spoke with respect and love and did not make light of whatever thoughts surfaced. This family enjoyed being together and were comfortable to be themselves. They used words to strengthen their bond and built into one another.
Leaving the boat at the dock I proceeded to one of my sister's homes to spend my day with all three of my sisters and some of their extended family with a few friends thrown in for good measure. Some individuals I hadn't seen in years, others I never met before. There was no lack of words to be sure!
I usually enjoy chatting with different people. At this point, however, I am finding it a little trying. No matter where I am everyone, one by one, wants to know how Ray is doing. I truly appreciate the concern, but it does grow wearisome having to rehash and repeat over and over.
After a while words become a burden.
People are well-meaning. They often truly care. Some just feel obligated to say something.
"You are in my thoughts." What does that mean?
"Hang in there." Any suggestions as to what I should be hanging by?
On and on.
Well, Papa reminded me that I am in His thoughts constantly. That has great meaning for me!
He also reminded me that whether I hang onto Him or not, He's got a strong grip on me! Ah, rest!
Jesus calls me to cast my burden on Him and invites me and all who are heavy laden to come to Him. It's all Yours, Precious Savior!
Here it is Monday and the words have quieted down, but not ceased.
This afternoon I went to visit Ray and found him parked in front of the nurses' station. Whenever a patient is in their wheelchair and has no one visiting, they get to hang out with the nurses. My husband greeted me with a big smile and whispered, "I thought I was abandoned!" He said it with a smile and there was no accusation behind the words.
We spent some time in the garden together and I filled him in on the latest happenings, including the Long Island trip. He enjoyed the update of every individual.
I also told him of all the blessings we continue to experience. This morning a friend's husband came over and power washed our house!
Ray's response? "God is so good!" Now those are words with weight!
When he speaks, he coughs, but he had something to say and with much effort got enough words out for me to understand their meaning. My dear husband said that he had sat and looked around and realized he could be worse off. He also said he had reflected on what he could do to change what happened to him. He realized that the answer is: nothing. Ray said he is simply turning it all over to God. He is letting go and letting God.
My husband is resting in our great and mighty God! Now the words he spoke are words of impact! First on his own heart and mind and certainly on mine also. Our sons too find joy and peace in knowing that their father is looking to and resting in God. Everyone of you dear ones, who are lifting Ray and our family before the throne can take joy in this too. Isn't amazing how Papa is answering our prayers to Him?
Oh, Ray had something else to say to me. He loves me!! What sweet words! Words I hadn't heard in almost seven weeks! Lovely, precious words!
Opening the Word this morning it occurred to me that this book is filled with words of impact. No words strung together to no avail, but words that are "living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12)
I was reading Hebrews 12 and the words "Consider Him" struck me. As we consider, reflect upon, mediate on who this Jesus is and what He has done for us, how can we be other than amazed? Amazed by Him and His love. Amazed that He has called us into relationship. Amazed that we can come before the Throne of God and entrust all our concerns to Him.
Keep trusting!!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

My son, Tim, his girlfriend, Becca, and I attended the wedding of two precious souls today. It was an intimate affair attended by close family and friends. The setting was perfect. They were married with a lovely gazebo behind them, a beautifully manicured lawn that swept away from them and down to a wooded area with beautiful gardens scattered throughout. It was the bride's parents' backyard.
The ceremony touched our hearts and tears were shed. My tears were ones of joy. Joy for this precious couple and how Papa has woven their hearts into one and joy for marriage itself. It truly is a mystery. You often do not realize how deep the connection goes and what a blessing it is until you face a sudden separation.
Once the cake was cut we headed to visit with the one who married me over thirty-one years ago. His eyes lit up when he saw us, but especially when he saw our son.
We got a few words out of him. He didn't have his speech valve on, but spoke anyway. His voice was raspy and the first words we heard were, "This is getting old really fast!"
We are very proud of Tim and tell him often. In the past two years we have seen much growth and maturity taking place. I was especially proud of him today.
Tim prayed for his dad and then shared a few thoughts with him. He encouraged Ray to remember this is temporary and that God has big plans for him. Tim said he believes that everything we go through gives us the ability to help that many more people. He asked him to not give up because we need him and want him home again.
I watched my husband's countenance change and soften. The brief light that we saw upon our arrival returned and was still there when we said goodbye.

Flesh and Blood

Many years ago, when we still lived in New York, Ray was in the throes of alcoholism and our oldest son was well into his rebellion. On a day where I was struggling over these issues I encountered a fellow Christian, of sorts. She asked me how I was and I replied, "Oh, okay." Her response? "Oh, no, no, no! We have Jesus! We can always rejoice!!"
I walked away from that brief exchange feeling like a failure. What kind of Christian was I to not be overflowing with joy every second of my day? How dare I struggle? I must not be trusting my God!
Lies, all lies!! The LORD knows full well what we are made of and He is not the one who forgets! Often we are harder on ourselves than He ever would be.
I am reminding myself of this as I struggle. I am choosing to NOT listen to the voices that say, "How can you be anxious? How can you grow weary? Aren't you trusting your God?
Oh yes, I am trusting Him and I know beyond knowing that He is tustworthy! However, I am flesh and blood. My husband, also, is flesh and blood. And in our skin we are struggling.
This is Ray's worst nightmare. As I have said, he actually spoke of his fear of ever being in such a condition. Though he is progressing; wonderfully, it doesn't seem so to him. Remember he just really woke up.
What a gift that he wasn't truly aware for the past six weeks! Yet, he is now and it is very difficult for him on many levels.
Helpless. Don't we all love that feeling?
Bored. Really helps pass the time, doesn't it?
Confused. What month is it? What was our life like before this? What is that object?
Scared. How much will I recover? Will this left arm ever respond?
I am sure there is more, but that is what I see when I am with my husband.
I share some of those concerns and more. The past six months have been the best of our marriage. We had been beginning to really enjoy each other. We both had mellowed and I had been seeing Ray rest more and more in our great God. He had moved from struggling with religion to embracing relationship. A joy to watch unfold!
Will our relationship be as good or better after we get through this or will we have to regain ground?
A few years ago Ray's dad came to live with us. His health, both physically and mentally was not good. Though it wasn't easy, it was a blessing. We learned much through the experience and grew. And Dad came to be able to receive love; our love and that of Papa!
As I spend time with my husband, I feel like it is my father-in-law I am seeing. The mannerisms, the responses, the childlikeness. It is scary.
I know we are on a journey and it hasn't all unfolded as of yet, however, these are some of the thoughts that scramble for attention in this head of mine.
Ray wore his speech valve for our entire visit yesterday and spoke a few times. I called his mom and she was able to speak with him for a moment. It made her day!
Mom told him that she loved him and Ray responded with a "I love you too." Wonderful.
Oh yes, wonderful, but it stirred a longing in my heart; a longing to hear him say that to me. Each day I tell him over and over that I love him and he nods, but no words.
Papa reminded me that Mom wouldn't have seen a nod and Ray definitely conserves his words. Imagine that!! Ray conserving words!!!
He also reminded me that the nurse said he had asked for me all morning. I asked him if he had missed me and he, once again, nodded!
There was an email waiting for me this morning that is a brief devotional thought. "Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD and whose trust is the LORD." Jeremiah 17:7. The comment was that it is easy for us to start looking to a man and seeking to please them instead of God. When we look to man we will be tossed about to and fro, but trusting in God makes for solid footing.
Something I have had to work on for years is my habit of "people pleasing". We codependents do that. This is what has fueled my thoughts this past day or so. How can I please Ray and make our relationship what it was? Oh please! Thank You, Papa, for getting my attention!
Will I continue to have my struggles? Of course! I'm still breathing, aren't I?
A comment by David Jeremish really spoke to me today. "Even the darkest threads in the weave help to provide the overall beauty of the tapestry." The tapestry called my life is in Papa's Hands.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I timed my visit today so that I would be there for Ray's speech therapy. Guess what my reward was? I heard my honey speak! It brought tears to my eyes and even more so because of what he said. "Hi, take me home....Please!! If I could, I certainly would!!
His therapist, Deidre was so pleased and informed him that he is a miracle!! Imagine that!!!! He certainly has come a long way in six weeks. Our God is so gracious!
Deidre is working on getting Ray adjusted to the speech valve. Right now he can only use it for very short periods of time, as he gets very tired. He doesn't get as much air through the trach when the valve is on and he has become accustomed to breathing through it.
She is also working on swallowing. A few ice chips were welcomed by Ray, but left him coughing. Next week he is scheduled for a barium swallow. This will check his throat and make sure it is not swollen or blocked in any way.
His OT and PT were cut short. The goal for today was to get Ray to sit up on the edge of a platform. Positioning him there caused his blood pressure to drop. Before his accident he needed meds to keep it down, now it is just the opposite.
Once he can sit comfortably the next step with be to help him adjust to being upright. There is a special chair for this. Once a person is seated it begins to straighten them into a standing position. It is amazing to see all the equipment that is available to help someone in their rehabilitation! Papa has made some very creative people whose ideas become practical appartatus that is used to bless so many.
Many have written to say that they are amazed by my faith. It is extraordinary in that it comes from God, but as for me, I am ordinary. Faith is a gift and it is available to all who would have it. He says that if we seek Him with all our hearts, we will find Him.
For a long time I thought I had to do it all myself. Admit I was weak? Forget it! That would make me vulnerable. Little did I realize, but I was vulnerable and weak. We all are.
I have learned that in my weakness and vulnerability His strength shines.
This morning He gave me 2 Timothy 1:7 and 12. "For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and sound judgment." "For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day."
Yes, I know all that I have trusted Him with is safe; my husband, family and including me are in Good Hands!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ray grinned today!! And what could have caused that? His good buddy, James, came to visit! Our dear friend simply filled Ray in on what he's been up to these days, which always includes a multitude of adventures! He told him that they each were owners, once again, of a pig. James likes to acquire stuff, good stuff, mind you; stuff that he can fix and turn into a little profit. When he started mentioning a few of these items, that is when Ray grinned!
Yes, Ray is awake and he indicated that he is bored! He is not someone that sits around very well, but needs to be occupied. When I think about what he usually would be busy with, most of it involves working with his hands. Whether fixing someone's computer, repairing and maintaining our home, organizing ACTS 4's warehouse or helping someone in need, he was on the move, using his hands.
Even when he wasn't physically involved with something or someone, he usually had something to say. Nobody will disagree with that, I am sure! So there my honey lies, his mind awake, but not able to express himself as of yet; no real talking (yet), no fixing or helping (yet), and not able to even do for himself (yet!). Ask Papa for ideas that I can use that will help relieve the boredom.
Ray's mom, Shirley, is so frustrated that she has not been able to be here. I think it is a blessing, as it would have been very difficult for her to see him in such condition, especially until the past few days. It also would have been exhausting for her. I know it wears me out! Mom has been in pain with her back, some sort of thinning of the discs, she received a cortezone shot yesterday and so far, no good. She needs a touch from Papa.
The focus for Ray now is to be able to swallow on command and to become at ease with speaking with the trach. I heard him say yes today, but it seems to take a whole lot of energy on his part. He would not say anything beyond that one word.
Speaking of words our Gracious God had some encouraging Words for us today. In 2 Kings 7:3-11 four lepers discovered a treasure trove and after a time realized that they had to share this good news and not keep the blessings to themselves. Papa is blessing us and, I believe, it is only the beginning. He is going to raise my husband up and work through him to share the blessings!
This morning He reminded me that His love it truly incomprehensible; it is so deep, it is fathomless; so wide, as far as east is from west in its breadth (think about it); so high, it reaches far beyond the heavens! If God is for us, who can be against us?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Today was a day of milestones for my honey. This morning they changed his trach to a smaller one. Afterward the speech therapist came in to work with him and got him to whisper a few words! He responded to a couple of questions first with a yes and then a no. Then the PA came in and asked him his name and he told him!! While working with the PT he moved his left leg a little!!
This afternoon I accompanied Ray to his second session of OT, which was followed by more PT. During OT he was asked to write something, anything. He wrote, "I feel good." ALRIGHT!!
The therapist then asked him to write the answers to a few questions she had written down. What month is it? March is what he wrote. He could answer everything else. What hospital are you in? Gaylord. What is your wife's name? Deborah. (Getting a little formal are we? I don't think he has ever called me that!) Your sons names? It took a little time, as I think he was getting tired, but in the end he answered; Eric, Matthew, Jon and Tim!
His writing was tiny and all scrunched on the left side of the page and sometimes on top of other writing, but he wrote!! He seems to be having trouble with his vision, possibly the peripheral.
When we met up with the PT, she was bubbling over with how he had made her day by moving his leg that morning! Then we crossed paths with the ST, who was nearly dancing with joy that he had spoken! This place is wonderful; the staff is so encouraging!! And encouraging is what a person needs when they are in such a position.
Ray is still adjusting to the condition he has found himself in. Imagine that you wake up what feels like tomorrow morning and discover it is nearly six weeks later and you cannot do anything for yourself. You can't eat or drink a thing; there's a tube directly into your stomach that feeds you. And that's just for starters!
After Ray had written his first words saying he felt good I asked him if that was physically and he nodded yes. I then asked if that went for his mental state also. To this he responded no. When I look into his eyes I can see that he is struggling. I told him it must be a shock to wake up and find himself in such condition. He grimly nodded yes.
By the end of the afternoon Ray was growing uncomfortable and said that he was experiencing pain in his throat and chest. He had also reached his limit of sitting and was eager to get to his room and his bed.
Back in his room we prayed and I again read a devotion to him. It was discussing John 5:1-9 where Jesus healed the invalid of thirty-eight years and was entitled "Becoming Whole." It was a good reminder to both of us that Jesus is the healer of not only the physical, but of spiritual, emotional and mental brokenness also.
Papa keeps bringing two different scriptures to my attention: 1 Corinthians 2:9 and Ephesians 3:20. He has so much in store for those of us who love Him and it is so much more than we can ever imagine!! What is He saying to me? Well, I think Brennan Manning says it best in his "Reflections for Ragamuffins"- Hope your wildest hopes, dream your maddest dreams, imagine your most fantastic fantasies. Where your hopes and your dreams and your imagination leave off, the love of my heavenly Father only begins!"
So today's milestones are nothing in comparison to what we will see in the future! What a joy and privilege to be able to entrust today and tomorrow to such a loving God!!

Monday, May 24, 2010

I am feeling very selfish at the moment. I miss my husband and all that means!! There is the companionship; Saturday date nights, at the moment, are boring! There was never a lack of things to talk about. Now these one-sided conversations don't last very long. I certainly can't tell him that the lawn needs tending or that the lumber for the screens is strewn about his garage..and wouldn't he love to see the splinters of wood and sawdust that cover part of our driveway.. Honey you should see the lovely streaks on the house; you see our son started to powerwash, but ran out of time....He is working six and seven days a week..Oh it'll all get done, don't you worry! (Matt is coming!!) Then there was the mess up by his "favorite" teller at the bank....or how about the confusion with disability that had to be straightened out?! Dear, want to hear what our errant granddaughter is up to these days?? Oh no, I stick to cheery items and smile.
All of this will pass, just like the neighbors dog who won't stop barking and their kid who is riding his four-wheeler, sans any muffler, up and down the road!!
Did you think I couldn't rant or pout? Well, anyway, I am over my hissie fit! It felt good to spew. Thank you!!
I do think I caught it from Ray today. We are one, you know! He was not well-pleased.
He has a way of setting his jaw that goes along with a certain look in his eyes that says "I am extremely annoyed! When I arrived that particular look greeted me. It seems to me that he is much more aware and he isn't liking what he is becoming aware of!
There wasn't much connection today. He simply wanted a shave, a drink and the miserable neck brace off! And to get out of that chair!! That is where he was stuck. He was very tired from therapy and sitting in the wheelchair for a few hours. My poor dear. I prayed with him and read the devotional, but don't think he really was able to concentrate. It is such a comfort to know that our Gracious God never has a problem concentrating on us!
When the nurses moved him, Ray looked so relieved to be put to bed and fell to sleep shortly afterward. I listened to his steady, deep breathing for a little bit, kissed him and left for the day.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

This journey is often like a rollercoaster ride more than a simple drive down any road. Through all the ups and downs I choose to hang on to my God. I was reading in Philippians 4 this morning and was reminded that I have much to rejoice in. My God is near. I can entrust everything to Him and in exchange He gives me His peace!
Today was one of the "ups". Ray was very much present and aware of his surroundings today. Praise God! This is in such contrast to how he was just yesterday.
I brought push pins so I could put up some of the many cards he has received. It only took me a week and a half to actually remember these pins! Too many details for my poor brain!
When I had arrived in his room, Ray was sleeping, but awoke while I decorated his board. I turned to find him watching me. It is still so strange for Ray to be so quiet. Words, many words are part of the package that makes up my husband. I wonder if he is even filled with all those words now. In a way I hope not. It would make this challenge that much more difficult, I would imagine.
The nurses got him into his wheelchair and we went exploring. Ray and I left the in-patient wing his room is in and stopped for a while in a small lobby just outside that wing. It gave us a view of the Japanese Garden below us.
I ran down the list, as usual, of who asked to be remembered to him along with naming each of our family and friends and how they regularly call, write, text, etc. to check on him. He listened in earnest. After a short bit he lifted his right hand and moved his pointer finger in a circle. He was ready for some new scenery!
We worked our way through both the first and second floors and their respective lobbies, stopping for a little visit at each one.
Earlier it was overcast and chilly, but the sun broke through and that brought the temperature up enough for us to venture out to the garden. Before each relocation Ray would raise and circle his finger to let me know it was time to move on.
I am trying to remember to only ask questions that require a yes or no answer and also to ask just one question at a time!
Our son, Eric, called while we were in the garden and he was able to speak to his father for a minute. Ray tried to hold the phone himself, but his hand did not want to go all the way up to his ear. This is not because it can't, but just that his brain was not relaying that particular message right then.
Shortly after this he wanted to go back to his room. He was uncomfortable; two hours in the chair is about his limit, as he isn't able to shift his weight around to get into a more comfortable position on his own.
One of the highlights of our visit today was his ability to kiss me back and even pucker up to request more! :) I also noticed that he is able to hold his head up on his own. It is still not straight, but it is getting there!
While we were waiting for the nurses to move him back to bed I could see he was feeling a little frustrated. I saw and heard another patient pass by; one who is perpetually grumpy and is always challenging the nurses. I mentioned this to Ray and he gave me a look that seemed to say, "He's not the only one who is grumpy!" I asked him if I was reading him right and he assured me that I was.
I asked him if he'd like me to pray with him and he did, so I did! He also wanted me to read the devotional "Our Daily Bread" to him, along with the designated Scripture. The reading was from 1 Corinthians 2:6-16 and the commentary focused upon the fact that the Bible is more powerful than any of the high tech communications of our day or any other day. We were reminded that it is God speaking to us through His Word. All true and all good stuff. However, verse nine had really spoken to me and I reread it to my dear husband. "But just as it is written, "Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him."
What a promise! I told Ray Papa wants us to remember this truth and watch and wait on our God. He is faithful and will fulfill all His Word! Ray nodded! That was the best sign I saw all day!!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

This morning found me, joined by my loving brother-in-law, Jeff, and his thoughtful wife, Audrey, visiting a number of convalescent homes from the 'approved by insurance' list in anticipation of Ray's future move. I had been counseled by a nurse to just show up; do not make an appointment, just pop in. This helps you to get a more accurate picture of what goes on. We did just that and found that the first one was terrific. We gave it four stars out of five and withheld the additional star because we can't give anyone a perfect score. Besides we didn't taste the food!
The following two that we visited should be burned down immediately!! Jeff felt like urging the residents to wheel themselves to the curb immediately and take a ride with anyone who stops!
There is one other home that I feel is on par with our first choice, as I visited a friend there not too long ago and was impressed with what I saw. She was very pleased with the care and recommends them highly.
I had passed the list to my pastor, as well as two friends; all of whom have resources that can give some insight into the quality of care a patient receives at the different facilities. Well, as I am the King's daughter and Papa takes care of his girl, He gave me confirmation of our choices this afternoon. My pastor called to tell me what he had learned and it just confirmed what we were thinking!
So we have two solid choices to pass to Ray's case coordinator at Gaylord, which I will do on Monday. All accomplished in one day! Hallelujah!!
We were able to spend the afternoon with Ray, though he probably won't be able to vouch for us. He was sound asleep when we arrived. It seems that he was restless for much of the night and then had a busy morning. Simply being readied for the day is very tiring for him. He also had therapy this morning, so that was enough for him!
He did wake to some degree for a while. For most of this time he wasn't able to focus on much, but he did seem to acknowledge that we were there. The three of us sat with him chatting and joking. Just hearing voices of those who love him and who he loves must be comforting.
The nurse came in to ultra sound his bladder to see if he needed to be catherized again. She told him it would have to wait a bit longer. I am sure he was sorely disappointed!!
Today my Gracious God has been speaking to me about my expectations. For thirty-one years I have seen amazing answers to prayer; some that took years to come and others that happened just about as soon as I said amen! This time around I have been resting in prayer more than going after any particular answer. I do trust Him and know He is in control and this gives me great peace. I know He is faithful and loving and everything that comes from His Hand is good, because it is motivated by who He is.
However, I do believe He has said to me that it is time to become more involved. This morning I was reminded through Andrew Murray's words that prayers of faith are answered, by Brennan Manning that faith is active and by David Jeremiah that I should ask big!
Okay Papa, I am not going to go through the day simply resting but moving forward. You say that You are "able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us." Yes! "to You be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen!!" (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Turns in the Road

This adventure certainly is an elephant of a different color. It is not taking me where I thought I'd be going and it definitely is a far cry from anything this blog has been about. But is it? No matter where the road turns isn't it about trust? Isn't it about faith? Throw in a little character building.. At this rate we are certainly going to be characters!
I do find myself in a strange place. When is the last time I felt lonely? Can't remember. When is the last time that I felt so dependent? I am realizing that I have been dependent all along, but never had to really look at it.
Separation from your life-partner is doable when you know that it is for a specific period of time. You miss them, but deal. When I was in Asia, I certainly missed Ray, however, I was busy experiencing and doing all sorts of new things. This separation is different. It feels like a part of me is missing and it is! And with no end in sight. Ah Papa, hold me close.
Enough about me. My honey is stirring. He is more aware in some ways and some of what he is aware of is bothering him. The nurse told me that he spent a good bit of today trying to remove his neckbrace. His nurse commented that he is definitely getting stronger. Good, but oh-oh!
He is also thirsty, poor guy and cannot drink anything, as he would choke. When he wants a drink he is given a lemon swap. Definitely not what he is looking for!
Something I meant to mention yesterday was that he is not voiding on his own, so every three to four hours he has to be catherized. No fun!
Well, woven through these comments I am sure you can find things to pray for us. Please do!
This morning as I read Colossians 3:5-13 I started to journal my thoughts and can summarize them this way: Let Go and Let God. Whatever wants to trip us up; let it go and then let God replace the junk with all the new blessings He wants to fill your life with. Actually, He wants to fill our lives with Himself. What a joy and privilege!!