Gifts in the Desert

If you remember, in my very first blog post about Jeff, I talked about the Israelites fearing for their lives, as Pharoah was pursuing them. You can read it here.

Continuing on with that story….

After crossing the Red Sea and watching Pharoah and his army sink into the waters, Moses and Miriam, not only sang songs of praise and admiration, but they also had timbrels and danced, praising and exalting the name of the Lord. The very God who was questioned just moments before is now being praised and exalted!!

“I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea. The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name. Who among the gods is like you, Lord? Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling. The Lord reigns for ever and ever.” (Exodus 15:1-3, 11, 13)

But, the exaltation and celebrations come quickly to a close….because in about 10 more verses Mose is going to be crying to God again, begging for His provision.

“Then Moses led the people of Israel away from the Red Sea, and they moved out into the desert of Shur. They traveled in this desert for three days without finding any water. When they came to the oasis of Marah, the water was too bitter to drink. So they called the place Marah (which means ‘bitter;’). Then the people complained and turned against Moses. ‘What are we going to drink?’ they demanded.” (Exodus 15:22-24)

In this moment I believe God was testing them. (Do I believe that God uses situations to purposefully make us trust Him? No). But, this situation the Israelites had to know that God was trustworthy. That He is who He says He is. And, that He can do what He says He can do. So, He was testing them. But, through Moses, He provided a way for nourishment.

“So Moses cried out to the Lord for help, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. Moses threw it into the water, and this made the water good to drink.” (verse 25).

And, the Lord continued to bring them: Gifts in the Dessert.

“After leaving Marah, the Israelites traveled on to the oasis of Elim, where they found twelve springs and seventy palm trees. They camped there beside the water.” (verse 27).

  • Were they still in the desert? Yes.
  • Is it a place where they wanted to be? Probably not.

But, the Lord continued to provide for them–an oasis of refreshment, the necessary strength to continue moving forward.

A question I get a lot (from those who know about Jeff) is: “How’s Jeff doing?”

Well….to answer that question I would say: He’s receiving Gifts in the Desert. Little bits of nourishment to offer him strength for the next day.

Gifts in the Desert:

  • A good shave
  • A good shower
  • Being able to “play” a game with his daughter
  • Being given the “OK” to use a straw
  • Standing up a little straighter during therapy

As an update from my last post, my parents were able to fly home (back to Texas). They got home on Saturday night, after leaving Hawaii on Friday night. It was a LONG trip, but they made it home without any problems.

This picture is from Sunday.

20151025_143852Jeff had not had a shave since he went into the hospital on October 11th, so this is him clean-shaven and all showered up!

On Monday, October 26th, he had an appt. with the surgeon (back at the hospital). They removed the staples from his head, and the surgeon said it is healing nicely. (I’ll spare you that picture)….

The skull is still detached (sitting in a freezer, waiting for the “go ahead” to be put back on). Marcy said it could be 3-4 months before they put it back on. The surgeon said the swelling could continue for up to another month, so that’s not really cause for concern, at least not right now.

On Tuesday Marcy and Kainani went to visit Jeff at the Rehab Center. He and Kainani “played” chess.

imagejpeg_0_4

Jeff cannot remember the rules to the game nor can he remember the names of the pieces, but he CAN move the pieces with his good hand, so at least that’s progress. This is something he and Kainani enjoyed doing before the stroke, so Marcy said they planned to try again soon.

***A “not so funny but still kind of funny” story from Wednesday. Jeff got mad at Marcy on Wednesday (about something) and cursed at her. That’s pretty unusual for Jeff because he usually doesn’t cuss, but nonetheless, he spoke! 🙂 So, Marcy had to count that as a positive sign (and she had to “record it” so the S.T. could know what words he is learning to say….again).

On Wednesday he had therapy (as he does almost everyday). This picture is off him standing up, lifting his “paralyzed” arm up, over his head. The P.T. is trying to get him to stand up straighter.

imagejpeg_0_5Marcy said she is small, but she is strong! (I think he looks so good here)!!

He was also cleared to use a STRAW on Wednesday. Apparently, that is is BIG DEAL in therapy. He can eat on his own, but still needs to be watched; he tends to eat too fast and has to learn to finish chewing what’s in his mouth, before putting more food in his mouth.

This next picture is of him is from this past week, I think, because he still has facial hair. (He got shaved on Sunday).

5631cc0f8b5cd37a381917afHe looks like himself. There’s a little bit of glimmer that seems to be lost in his eyes, but it’s there–we just have to draw it out!! It’ll come back; we just have to be patient. 🙂

Many times in our lives, no matter WHO we are, we feel like giving up because we are waiting on God to DO SOMETHING!! Just something, God. Anything to let us know that you are still with us. We feel along and forgotten. And we don’t like it.

We don’t like waiting. But, all the while God has a plan for us while we wait. In the book of Psalm, David tells us, “Wait patiently for the LordBe brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14)

Too many times our focus is on the wait, and God’s focus is on the work. (excerpt from One More Step by Rachel Wojo)

We must learn to listen to His direction by trusting that our Creator desires the best for us. Standing still, listening to His voice, and having our hearts open to His Word–these waiting activities provide and build strength. (One More Step)

As I mentioned before, when all else fails and the world closes in around us, the Lord is still on His throne.
Still providing a way for us. Despite our circumstances, He is still there, lighting our path to a better tomorrow.
And in Jeff’s situation, tomorrow is all we have. Small victories. Baby steps. Gifts in the Desert.

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Fall in Illinois

I’m taking a break from updates on Jeff–primarily because I don’t have any. My “source of updates” (my mom) is back in Texas, so I’m afraid updates won’t be quite as detailed or as often as they were when my mom was there….

Illinois is always so pretty in the Fall. The leaves really started changing a couple of weeks ago.

a tree in Lacon #no filter

a tree in Lacon
#no filter

our backyard #no filter

our backyard
#no filter

Shannon took this picture of the pond

Shannon took this picture of the pond

the bridge across the pond

the bridge across the pond

group on the ropes course last week

group on the ropes course last week

The pictures don’t really do it justice (on how pretty it is), but trust me….although the leaves are beautiful, they can be pretty annoying, too. I’ve tried raking, but it really is a lost cause. Instead, we’ll just continue to track leaves and mud into the house, until it freezes consistently.

About a month ago, Jim was trying to find a leak in an underground pipe (on our side of camp). Well, he couldn’t find the main water line, so he decided to dig up our driveway (because he knew it had to “T” somewhere to the water pipe). So, this is what our driveway looked like for about a week!

1443652884746 1443652884822 1443653666269We had about an 8-10ft. trench in our driveway. It’s fixed now, but instead of having gravel on our driveway, we know just have dirt, which makes a tremendous mess when it rains!!

Earlier this month we had the Annual Great Oaks Banquet. Darryl Strawberry was the keynote speaker…

Paul and me with Darryl Strawberry

Paul and me with Darryl Strawberry

Tyler and Shannon

Tyler and Shannon

Darryl Strawberry and Dr. Washington (Dr. Washington is about 5'4'' and Darryl Strawberry is 6'6'')

Darryl Strawberry and Dr. Washington (Dr. Washington is about 5’4” and Darryl Strawberry is 6’6”)

Those first three photos were taken in a room with good lighting (and with a “professional” camera. The rest of the pictures were taken in the banquet hall, which had HORRIBLE lighting!!

Paul and me

Paul and me

our Great Oaks family: Graham, Shannon, Tyler, Paul, me, Jim, and Ember

our Great Oaks family:
Graham, Shannon, Tyler, Paul, me, Jim, and Ember

Shannon, me, and Ember

Shannon, me, and Ember

We had about 220-230 people there, which was fine. We invited about 20 people to come (all from our church). They are very supportive of our ministry and Great Oaks.

Rita Waller, Scott Montgomery, Angie Hentrich, Tracy Born, Stan Born

Rita Waller, Scott Montgomery, Angie Hentrich, Tracy Born, Stan Born

Jon and Diane Wier

Jon and Diane Wier

Now that the banquet is over, Paul can start working on summer camp….for next year!! 🙂

One Small Step for Man….

Every little step Jeff takes is a big deal (“step” being a figurative word, considering he can’t walk yet)….I never knew how exciting it was to hear about someone petting a dog or eating a Rice Krispie Treat! 🙂 But, the little things matter.

frank-howard-clark-writer-everyone-is-trying-to-accomplish-something (2)When there’s a 5–hour time difference there’s a little big of lag in getting information. So, this is just an update from the past couple of days, as I have received them.
1). Tuesday they moved Jeff to another room (in the Rehab Center), one with a security camera, so they could better monitor him. (Apparently on Tuesday morning he pulled his feeding tube out, which was frowned upon). In this room, he is monitored a little closer. 😉

2.) Yesterday a therapy dog, Gracie, came to visit him at the Rehab Center; he really liked petting the dog. Marcy thought it was a Labrodoodle, but she wasn’t sure. (It was a big dog, regardless)

3). Apparently, at work, Jeff has a co-worker that always brings a box of Rice Krispies to share with everyone. Well, this particular co-worker came to visit Jeff yesterday and brought him a box of Rice Krispie Treats. The nurse said it was OK if he ate them, as long as they were torn up into small pieces. So, he enjoyed that treat! 🙂

4). Yesterday they did a little bit of “object therapy” with him. They would show him a pen, write the word “pen” on a dry erase board and then have him answer, “Is this a pen?” (Yes/No). Then, they would erase the board, hold up another object, i.e. a ball, and say, “Is this a pen?” (He would have to answer Yes/No)…and then continue this exercise with different objects. This is just an exercise to continue to “trigger” those words in his brain–the doctors and nurses have said all along, “He has all the knowledge SOMEWHERE in there; we just have to get it out!” And, so they are trying.

5). Although the swelling has not continued, it has not gone down either. Therefore, Jeff has an appt. with the surgeon on Monday to further monitor the swelling.

My parents are TRYING to fly out tonight, but we’ll see how far they actually get. Texas is having some torrential downpours, severe storms, and tons of flooding, so they may or may not be able to fly into Dallas. After one flight being postponed, one flight being re-routed and another one cancelled, they are trying to fly to L.A. tonight and then from L.A. to Dallas (and then Dallas to Waco). We’ll see if they actually make it into Texas tomorrow! If not, they’ll hang out in L.A. for awhile!
I’m afraid this maybe my last DETAILED update for awhile. Mom has been faithful to call me each day, to let me know what’s going on. I’m afraid Marcy is not going to be as upfront and detailed about the activities of the day. So, we’ll see. 🙂

But, I know that Jeff is a fighter and a fixer. So, he’s gonna try–he’s gonna work his butt off and not give up–I just know it!!

Take Heart

Well, as it is with any severe medical trauma, there are a lot of uncertainties and many days where forward progress just does not exist. Tuesday was one of those days for Jeff. In my previous post I stated how well Jeff was doing–and he still is–it’s just that Tuesday was kind of a disappointing day.

Wednesday morning, around 11:30AM, my mom called me to tell me that Jeff had had a really bad day on Tuesday. He was having some more swelling in his brain. If you remember, the swelling had subsided over the weekend, but it came back on Tuesday. And, for the first time, he was complaining that his head hurt. (He has had no previous pain over the last 10 days). So, that was discouraging. (And, of course, I know Jeff had to feel terrible). Marcy and my mom were concerned he would have to go back to the hospital because of the swelling, so it was a waiting game on Wednesday morning to see what the surgeon was going to say. (Our hope was that the swelling was occurring because they pushed him so hard on Monday: moving him to the rehab center, starting therapy, etc., so if they just let him rest for the day, maybe it would go down)….

So, Wednesday afternoon was spent wondering how he was doing, and if this was, in fact, a major set back or just a small bump in the road. Throughout the day this verse kept running through my mind:

john-16-33-i-have-overcome-the-worldHonestly, my dad has been having a really rough time with this whole situation. My dad is “a fixer,” and when something is broken, he wants to fix it. And, he wants it to be easy. (Difficult things are difficult for him)….he has questioned time and time again, “Why do things have to be so hard? Why is everything so hard?”

I can’t get the right battery for the car…It’s too hard.

I can’t get the rental car for the right amount of days, and it costs too much….It’s too hard.

I can’t fix my son-in-law….It’s too hard.

Yes, Daddy, I know. It is hard. It is unfair. And, it just plain sucks sometimes. But…Take Heart.

For HE has overcome the world.

We don’t know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future. We know, in a world filled with uncertainty and sin, that Our God, the God of Light, is breaking through the darkness to bring something forward, something unimaginable, something we could never dream of–when life is at its worst, God does His best work.

Everyday_Easter_article_tcw_blogWe just have to wait and see….

So, Wednesday morning the nurses at the Rehab Center called the surgeon to discuss it with him. He didn’t seem to concerned and said it was very likely that the swelling was because of the recent strenuous activity. Instead of doing therapy on Tuesday, Jeff was able to take his helmet off and rest.

Isn’t it such a peaceful reminder for us–to take time to rest. To pause for a moment or for a day and rest. Did you know that even our Lord, the Savior of the world, took time to retreat and rest?

9750545fc9f7cd14988feba0f43fe07aFor Jeff, physical rest was important on Tuesday. (It may be the same for you, as well). For most of us, though, I think it is so vital to take a mental rest–to withdraw to a lonely place, a place of solitude, and rest. Rest and pray. And find strength for another day. Jesus reminds us, in the book of Matthew, not to worry.

258fddbe433718f066ebd9d324d93181(I picked this particular picture because of the ocean in the background)….

So, with Jeff staying at the Rehab Center (and not moving back to the hospital), he had another day of therapy on Wednesday. My mom said that Jeff is doing remarkable well feeding himself with the fork/spoon. He is, also, certainly enjoying eating!

He is still improving on following certain commands. Yesterday Marcy said, “Kiss me,” and Jeff puckered up! 🙂

I have to believe the Lord is doing mighty things in Jeff’s life. He is moving and working in ways we will never understand. Twelve days ago he had a stroke. Now, he is in a Rehab Center, feeding himself and kissing my sister!

Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow! And take heart because God has an amazing plan for Jeff’s life!

Jesus Remains

Jesus remains in control. No matter the circumstances. No matter the challenges. No matter the rejoices. No matter the questions. No matter the blessings.

Jesus Remains….

He is worth it all. He is under the steeples and in the wilderness. He is in the megachurch and in the spiritual conversation at the bar. He inhabits our certainty and also our doubt. He is every good thing that ever was or will be, and He is still in the business of saving our lives. Really, that’s the thing. It is our hope and salvation, and everything else is just details. -Jen Hatmaker (foreward, Out Of Sorts).

Jesus saved Jeff. That’s all there is to it. Six days ago Jeff was having a life-saving surgery, removing part of his skull (because of swelling in his brain) and now he is out of the hospital, at Rehab of the Pacific, a rehab center, already learning how to walk again.

Yes, ask me if Jesus is in the miracle-making business. We have overwhelming evidence to say that He is.

You cannot witness the speed of Jeff’s recovery and not believe in a God of miracles. He is improving so much. Yes, they are baby steps. And yes, there will be setbacks, but God has done some amazing work in his life in such a short amount of time.

After his life-saving surgery on Tuesday, October 13th, there was still some thought that he might not make it through the night. Wednesday was a day of uncertainty but also a day of questioning…wondering what was going to happen next. What will he be able to do? How much brain damage will there be? Will he ever recover?
Sadly, some of those questions are still not answered. And may not be answered for quite some time. But, in the large scope of things it doesn’t really matter. At this point, praise Jesus he’s alive!

Over the weekend they were able to “unhook” him from everything, meaning he was breathing on his own, no catheter, no IV, etc. So, that was great news.

**A little funny side story: On Saturday the nurse came into his room to put socks on his feet. These particular socks had “grip strips” on the bottom. She said, “Everyone has to have them, so they don’t slip and fall.” Well, I hate to tell you, but he’s paralyzed on his right side and can’t leave the bed; I’m pretty sure he’s not going to SLIP on anything!” (This made my mom and sister laugh)!!

Also, on Saturday. one of the nurses was changing the bandage around his “open skull” and mentioned that it wasn’t as tight as it had been. So, my mom took that as good news; that the swelling had subsided. (Once the swelling goes down they will be able to reattach his skull—it’s sitting in a freezer right now, waiting for him).

On Sunday the occupational therapist came and taught him how to get food onto his fork and bring it up to his mouth. (He is right-handed, so it’s unnatural for him to use his left hand to feed himself anyway). **He passed his swallow test on Friday, so he is able to eat soft, solid foods. He just can’t chew on the right side of his mouth.

Yesterday they moved him to Rehab of the Pacific rehab center (a place away from the hospital) to start his in-patient therapy and rehab. This is where he will live and stay for a while, until he’s ready to go home. My sister was very encouraged by the center and thinks this will be great for him. They will do therapy with him off and on for 5 hours a day: speech, occupational, physical, etc. It’ll be a hard, grueling schedule, but it’ll be exactly what he needs. In fact, yesterday, they already had him standing at the parallel bars, “walking.” (It took 3 therapists to get him up, but he was UP, nonetheless). Marcy also rolled him outside, onto the lanai, and then told him, “OK, you roll yourself back inside.” (So, he used his good hand-the left one-and tried to push the wheelchair. He went around in a circle for a bit, but he tried)!

It’s amazing how far he’s come in just a week. A week ago, at this time, he was facing a life-saving surgery, and we weren’t sure if he was going to make it. And now he’s up and “walking!!”

Dan left on Sunday to go back to Houston, and my parents are leaving on Thursday night to fly home. The original plan was for me to fly out to Hawaii, once my parents left (in other words, I would just switch places with them). But, Marcy said, because he’s doing so well, she feels like she doesn’t need anyone right now. I will stay home and just see if she needs me later on, down the road. She is going to have to try to find her “norm,” a routine and a schedule that works for her, without having people there all the time. (And, if it doesn’t work out, and she needs someone; I can go whenever)….

***Another funny story from Monday.
Jeff was transferred over to the Rebab Center, and Marcy followed in her car. Well, by the time she found parking and figured out where to go, Jeff was already inside. She walked in the front door and asked the lady at the front desk where she could find Jeff. The lady responded, “Well, he’s in Admissions, probably filling out paperwork.” Well….Jeff is wheelchair bound, cannot talk, and cannot write, so I’m pretty sure he’s not filling out paperwork! 🙂

Jeff has been covered in prayer over the last week—our friends in Illinois, our friends in Washington, my other sister in Michigan, our friends and family in Texas, our family in California, their friends in Colorado, and countless others—all over the states, people have been praying for him. And, it is evident! The Lord works through those who are faithful in their admittance that they are not God….and that HE is!!

IMG_20151020_200029 I will continue to pray for him, his family, my sister, the therapists, etc.

As I’ve said before….where there is Light, the Darkness cannot overcome it. (John 1:5)

IMG_20151020_195912I believe the dark days are behind us. God has and will continue to work in Jeff’s life, and I pray he can be a witness to those around him.

And, above all else, no matter what, Jesus Remains.

And if not, He is still good…

And if not, He is still good….

I know and understand what that means.

• I lose my job; He is still good.
• Paul loses his job; He is still good.
• I get sick; He is still good.
• Paul gets sick; He is still good.
• I wreck our car; He is still good.
• Paul wrecks our car; He is still good.
• A family member gets sick; He is still good.
• A family member suffers a terrible disease; He is still good.

Above all, the Lord is still good. And yet….it’s so hard.

On Sunday night, October 11th, my brother-in-law, Jeff, suffered a severe stroke. On Tuesday night, October 12th, he had a life-saving surgery to remove part of his skull because of the swelling in his brain. (Without that surgery, he would’ve died). He is completely paralyzed on his right side and has permanent brain damage, but to what extent, we do not know.

But through it all, He is still good.

Jeff’s life will never be the same. He may never surf again. He may never sail again. He may never paddle again.

And yet, He is still good.

In the fourteenth chapter of Exodus, as the Israelites were fleeing Egypt, the Lord brought them around the desert road by the Red Sea. As they were traveling, Pharoah was in pursuit.
“As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord.” (vs. 10)

Not understanding that God was in control, they cried out to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” (vs. 11-12)

The Israelites, the very people who had just escaped slavery from Egypt, were now crying out, pleading for their lives, wishing to go back to the familiarity of Egypt, willing to go back to slavery, instead of trusting in God’s Way. They were so afraid of what was to come; they were not even willing to trust in the One who had brought them out of their place of despair. The Israelites wanted to stay in their comfort zones. For fear of something bad happening, questioning whether the Lord would come through for them, they wanted to stay where they knew they were safe.

But….great things never come to those who stay in their comfort zones.

Am I saying God allowed Jeff to have stroke to pull him out of his comfort zone? Absolutely not.

Am I saying Jeff’s stroke happened because he was too comfortable? No.

But, am I saying Jeff’s stroke can and will be a way for our family to draw closer to God and strengthen our faith, pulling us out of our comfort zone to learn how to completely rely on Him? Yes, I am.

I don’t know what He’s doing, but I know who He is.

I know He is a God of Love.
1 John 4:8- “…..God is Love.”
I know He is a God of Compassion.
2 Corinthians 1:3-“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort”
I know He is a God of Healing.
Psalm 107:20-“He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave.”
I know He is a God of Restoration.
Romans 8:18-“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
I know He is a God of Miracles.
Psalm 50:15-“and call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”
I know He is a God of Deliverance.
1 Samuel 17:37-“And David said, ‘The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.’ And Saul said to David, ‘Go, and the Lord be with you!”

And I know that even if things don’t go our way, He is still good. And, He is still God.

As the Israelites were complaining, Moses responded, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (vs. 13 and 14)

• Do not be afraid.
• Stand firm.
• The Lord will fight for you.
• Be still.

See, in one verse the Lord promises come through.

Every fear. Every doubt. Every concern. Every question–Can all be wiped away with one verse.

And the Lord continued to stay with them. Despite their grumbling and complaining, the Lord still provided a way.
Exodus 14:19 promises the Lord will always be with us….“Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long.”

This verse is a promise that Darkness can never overcome the Light, as long as our faith is in the One who goes before us to provide a way.

As Moses was growing old and no longer able to provide leadership to the Israelites, he commissioned Joshua to lead. In his last charge to the Israelites Moses commanded them to “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble…for the Lord your God is the One who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

When all else fails and the world closes in around us, the Lord is still on His throne.

Still providing a way for us. Despite our circumstances, He is still there, lighting our path to a better tomorrow.

And in Jeff’s situation, tomorrow is all we have. Small victories. Baby steps. We don’t look at the future beyond tomorrow. And, in some moments, we haven’t even looked at the future beyond the next hour. And, that’s OK. Living in each moment and celebrating every small victory is proof that God is still on His throne.

And, because He lives, we can face tomorrow.