Tuesday, April 18, 2017

On The Road Again

A couple of years ago we took a long trip around the country, travelling more than 12,000 miles, going all the way to Southern California and Seattle, then making our way back across the country. And as of yesterday, we're on the road again!

We loaded up the Suburban (a rental), and have begun our road trip, this time around the eastern part of the country. Al will be working, doing training in various cities, and once again I'm along for the ride.

We've packed our clothes and some snacks for the trip. We have the chargers for all our electronic devices. We've tried to anticipate what we will need while we're away and what will need to be taken care of here while we're gone. All that planning and anticipating is much more challenging in my "post-stroke" world, but as much as we are able, we are prepared for this next adventure. 

Of course, it is impossible to fully anticipate everything that we might need. In fact, we already have a list of things we forgot! But that makes me very thankful for our loving Heavenly Father who sees all and knows all, and who will be with us all the way. Even when we are forgetful!

I'm excited about the places we will go and the things we will see as we travel. I'm looking forward to the adventures we will have. I'm praying for safety as we travel, and I'm praying that, wherever we go and whoever we come in contact with, we will shine the light of Jesus.

So, we're on the road again, as the old song goes. Let the adventures begin!

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer."  (Psalm 19:14 NASB)

Saturday, April 15, 2017

What If? Something to Think About this Easter Season

This Saturday between Crucifixion Friday and Resurrection Sunday is a good time for some deep thinking. Some pondering.

What does it mean to ponder anyway? It means, according to dictionary.com, "to consider something deeply and thoroughly; to meditate; to weigh carefully in the mind; to consider thoughtfully."  

Exactly what is it we need to be pondering?

A well-known hymn calls us to "ponder anew what the Almighty can do."  Certainly that's worthy of some pondering.

But here on this Saturday between Crucifixion Friday and Resurrection Sunday, there's something else to be pondered. We ponder not just "what the Almighty can do," but what He has already done. This is a good time to ponder what has been done for us. To ponder the price paid for our salvation.

How many times have you gone to the grocery store with shopping list in hand, only to leave the store without purchasing some of the items on that list? You didn't make the purchase because it cost too much.

You went to the mall and found a dress or a pair of shoes you loved. But you didn't make the purchase. It cost too much.

Have you ever stopped to think about - to ponder - how different things would be if that's what Jesus had said? What if, when confronted with the price He would have to pay for our salvation, He had said "no, that costs too much.  I won't pay that." 

Have you ever stopped to think about - to ponder - exactly what it cost Him to purchase your salvation?

As we are celebrating the resurrection, it's a good time for some pondering. Think about - really think about - ponder - the price that Jesus paid. For you. For me.

As you're making your preparations, and shopping for new clothes, and doing your grocery shopping and cooking and baking, and planning your table setting, don't miss the most important part of Easter. Don't forget the price He paid. And why He was willing to pay it.

Where would we be? What if He had said no? What if He had said it cost too much? What if?

"He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; he was despised and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed." (Isaiah 53:3-5 ESV)

"Then Jesus said to them, 'My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.......' and going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, 'My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.'"  (Matthew 26:38-39 ESV)

"For Christ died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God."  (1 Peter 3:18 NASB)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Diary of a Knee Replacement - One Year Later

I decided, on the day before my knee replacement surgery last spring, that I would keep a diary of the experience. I made a few entries that Sunday night before surgery, and then caught it up after I got home from the hospital. Each morning I made notes on the previous day. As I was reading over those entries this week, I made an interesting discovery. Diary of a Knee Replacement could just as easily be titled Diary of Stroke Replacement!

There are strong similarities between what I experienced last spring and what I have been experiencing since November. A different set of aches and pains, to be sure, but many very similar life lessons! As I was looking back over what I wrote last spring about my experiences with knee replacement, I realized that the high points of that experience are very similar to the high points of my current journey. In each case, the still, small voice of God spoke to my spirit exactly what I needed at exactly the time I needed it!

My knee replacement journey began on a Sunday, the day before surgery. Although I was actually looking forward to the surgery, or at least to the end result, there was at the same time that natural apprehension about "going under the knife." It was during those moments that the Spirit of God whispered these words into my spirit:

"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusts in Thee."  (Isaiah 26:3 KJV)

I don't remember when my stroke recovery began. I have no memory of the stroke itself, and only snippets of memory for about two weeks after. But, interestingly, my very first "real memory" after the stroke was early one morning as I was waiting to be taken to breakfast. At that point in time I was not thinking clearly or understanding very much. Even so, these words came very clearly to my mind:

"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusts in Thee."  (Isaiah 26:3 KJV)

On the morning of surgery, our good friends Max and Becky arrived at the hospital to pray with us before surgery.  In his prayer, Max included this verse, one of my favorites:

"Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.  Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life."  (Psalm 143:8 NIV)

Those verses went in to surgery with me, giving me a sense of peace and calm to replace the apprehension. While I was in rehab, Max and Becky visited again, and once again prayed over me. I have no idea what words were prayed that day, since I was not yet understanding or remembering very much. Even so, their presence and their prayers had the same calming effect.

On Tuesday after knee replacement, I awoke feeling a little queasy and experiencing some pain, as might be expected. Even so, the physical therapist arrived to get me up and walking, which I confess I dreaded. I had a horror that the leg wouldn't hold me up and I would fall over in a heap, or that I would pass out, or that some other terrible thing was going to happen. And I just knew it would really, really hurt to stand up.  (It didn't!)  In the middle of all that came these words:

"Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."  (Joshua 1:9 NASB)

In my days in Rehab, that verse often came to mind. At that point I wasn't dealing with pain, but with a right side that was very wobbly. I was working to get my strength back. One of my worst moments was the day the therapist wanted me to ride what I refer to as a "table bike". (I have no idea if that's what it's really called!) I was asked to sit at the table, put my hands on the pedals and ride the bike. But my right hand kept falling off the pedal and I couldn't pick it up. It was a really frustrating day, one of the days I think I may have cried. But later these words gave me strength:

"Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9 NASB)

There were other challenging days. Days that were frustrating. Days I couldn't remember or understand or speak. But that verse helped me through those days. Just as it helped me through that first day after knee replacement, and all the days after.

On that day after knee replacement, even though I threw up in the process, I managed to be strong and courageous, and to get out of bed, walk across the room and back to the chair. Later that day, I was once again strong and courageous as I walked down the hall to the nurse's station and as I learned how to deal with steps.

Throughout stroke recovery, on good days and bad, I have managed to be strong and courageous. Remembering that verse got me through those early weeks, and it gets me through even now.

I recovered wonderfully from knee replacement. And I am recovering wonderfully well from my stroke. There were challenging moments following knee replacement surgery, and there are challenging and frustrating moments in my current journey. Moments when I'm aware of just how much right now I, a very independent person, have to be dependent on others. Moments when I realize that this current journey will take time, perhaps a long time. When I realize that I may never fully regain the life I had "before".

In those moments, this verse comes to mind:

"Be still and know that I am God."  (Psalm 46:10)

I didn't recover from knee replacement in just a few days. It took time. And that will also be true of my journey to stroke recovery. Because this is a process. A process that can't be rushed.

Through the process, God is at work in my physical body. But also in my spirit, bringing the peace and comfort that only He can give.

And so I am reminded over and over of this verse: "In every thing give thanks, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NASB)

On the good days and on the challenging days. When things are going well, and on days I just wish I could turn back the clock. On those days, and all the in between days, God is good and I have so many reasons to be thankful!

"When I understand that everything happening to me is to make me more Christlike, it resolves a great deal of anxiety."  (A. W. Tozer)

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Happy Birthday, AJ!

Where has the time gone? Today is the anniversary of the day I became a Nana. Today my grandson AJ is 11 years old!

I can still so vividly remember that day, just a couple of weeks after we had moved to the mountains, as I waited for the news that he had made his appearance in this world.  What an exciting day that was!

And then, just a few days later, we met for the first time.

We spent some time together.
He was dedicated to the Lord.
Since then, time has just flown by!
There have been lots of adventures.


It's really hard to believe it's been 11 years since we welcomed this little guy into the world! 
Happy Birthday, AJ! Nana and Opa love you so very much!

Monday, March 27, 2017

So Many Reasons

This morning began as another gray, gloomy day. But now the sun is shining and the birds are singing! Definitely a reason for being thankful.

This morning I have already walked more than 2000 steps, according to my Fitbit, just back and forth around the house doing the usual Monday morning things. Another reason for being thankful!  On this day one year ago, I could barely walk at all as I was waiting for knee replacement surgery the following day.

A few days ago I had my one-year checkup for my replacement knee and received an excellent report from the orthopedist. Such a good report that I don't need to have it checked again for five years!  That's another reason for being thankful!

This morning I did some simple addition and subtraction, and I did it correctly! That is a huge reason for being thankful! You may not be aware that since my stroke, anything to do with numbers has been a huge challenge for me, and even basic addition and subtraction was not something I was able to without a calculator. Even then, it was a struggle. But this morning I did it! Yes, it was very simple math. But I did it! And I am so thankful!

I'm so thankful for the therapists who have helped me through this challenging period in my life - the physical therapists and the occupational therapists, and most especially, my speech therapists. Deb, my therapist when I was an in-patient, and Julie, who I'm working with in outpatient therapy, are definitely two reasons for giving thanks this morning. When I think back on those days when I couldn't read or write or communicate, I am overwhelmed when I think about how far I have come. Thank you, Deb and Julie! Thank you, God!

So many people who have strokes don't have good outcomes. I'm reminded of that every time I go to therapy. And I am reminded how blessed I am and how good God has been to me!

Every day is a precious gift! I would like to be able to tell you that I never whine or complain, but that wouldn't be honest. But what I can tell you is that I whine a lot less than I used to in my "previous life"! One of the great blessings of this experience is realizing that ever day is a gift!

Even the less-than-I-would-like-them-to-be things about life are gifts. Aches and pains. A snoring husband. A neighbors loud car. All these are reminders that I can feel and I can hear. When I'm tired, it's a reminder that I am able to do the things that make me tired in the first place. All these things are precious gifts. The good things. The challenging things.

And I am so thankful!

"In everything give thanks, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
(1 Thessalonians 5:18 NASB)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Four Months Later

It was the day I didn't expect. The kind of day that happens to other people, not to me! But it did happen to me. Four months ago today, I had a stroke. Four months ago, life changed.

It seems like much longer. But it really has only been four months.

This morning I went to therapy. In fact, I'm really not sure what I will do with myself when I don't go to therapy any more! This morning, as we were working on reading and writing, we also talked about how far I have come in these four months.

If you didn't know what had happened to me and saw me out and about, you would have no idea what I have been through. I don't have the physical issues I had immediately following the stroke. I can walk as well as I did before, and I am regaining my strength. Most of the time, unless I'm really tired, I can carry on a perfectly normal conversation. Looking at me, or listening to me, would leave you completely unaware that anything has happened to me. It's remarkable, and I am so grateful for how God has brought me through this!

There are still issues. My therapist refers to them as things that need "fine tuning". I still struggle with numbers. Sometimes I get colors mixed up. And reading is the biggest struggle of all. My reading is improving, but it is much slower than it once was. I have to pick and choose what I try to read. For example, when I'm on Facebook or reading e-mail, I can only manage short sentences at a time. Interestingly, it's easier for me to read from my Bible than from any other book I have attempted.  When I do try to read from a book, it needs to have large print and certain fonts work better than others.

All of this is part of the process. I'm learning what I can and can't do. What works well and what I find too overwhelming. I still don't answer the phone, for example. I don't write checks. I don't pay the bill when we go out to eat. I could pay the bill with my debit card, but I can't figure out the tip and I can't add the tip to the bill and come out with the correct total. Right now, anything with numbers is just not in my wheel house.

Yes, there are things I can't do. But there are so many more things I can do! I am doing so much better than I would ever have dreamed possible in those first few days in rehab. And certainly far more than I would have believed based on what I've been told about those first few days in ICU.

I still have struggles. And I struggle more when I'm tired. But I'm doing well and adjusting well to my new normal.

I am a very blessed, very grateful woman. I certainly never expected to have a stroke. And in the first few weeks after, I never expected I would recover so well. Stroke recover is a process, and I still have a long way to go, but I am so very grateful for all the ways God has blessed me through this process.

From now on I suppose I will always be thinking about life as "before stroke" and "after stroke". Here in the "after stroke", life is different, but life is good. Each day is a precious gift. Perhaps that's once of the greatest gifts of this experience - viewing each day as a gift, as part of a new lease on life.

I don't do all the things I once did. I need a lot of naps and I run out of energy pretty quickly. But life is good, and I am blessed!

"I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth."
(Psalm 34:1 NASB)

Monday, March 13, 2017

Prone to Complain

I hate the time change.

There. I said it.

Even in my pre-stroke, didn't need nearly so much sleep, days. I don't understand the point of Daylight-Savings Time. We aren't saving any time. There are still only 24 hours in a day. What's the point of all this anyway?

So I find myself singing Prone to complain, Lord, I feel it........

And I suspect I may not be the only one.

Add to the time change the fact that we have been suddenly jerked back into Winter (it's 24 degrees as I am typing this post), I'm feeling a little out of sorts. Which has turned me into a bit of a whiner. Which means I need to redirect my thinking. Turn my thoughts in a different direction.

That happens to all of us from time to time, wouldn't you agree? It's really easy to focus on the things that annoy us, the things that frustrate us, the things that have us out of sorts. Things like the time change, or any number of other things.

But I'm tired of being out of sorts. I don't want to be cranky. So I'm choosing to redirect my thinking. 

I can't control the time change. But I can choose not to let it control me.

Today, I choose joy. I choose praise. I choose worship.

"Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name."
(Psalm 103:1)