Husband or Nurse?

“The nurse should be here soon.”

She could not have been more than 19 or 20 years old, staring back at me with a pale look on her face. She was of dark complexion normally, but now white as a ghost.

“We don’t have time to wait. It’s going to leak all over the wound. We can’t wait for that to happen.”

I am hoping to snap the young nurse-in-training back into reality, as I stand there with a mass of gauze on top of my wife’s ileostomy, preventing it from leaking all over her open wound, a wound so large it took up most of her abdomen. When I first saw it after surgery, I had to look away. I had never seen such a large, open wound. I cried that night, and asked God to get my wife through this somehow. Now it was months later, and the wound had made little progress because of the ileostomy that was created as a result of vascular disease. It forced surgeons to cut away about half of her gangrenous colon. The ileostomy was added above a large wound created when flesh from her abdomen had to be cut away to save her life.

The nurse is standing in a corner, like she is trapped there. She still has that deer in headlights look, and the gauze I am holding will not last much longer. The nurses had already told me not to change the dressing myself. The problem is that finding a nurse willing and able to do the work necessary was not easy. Most nurses don’t expect to have to deal with this, and no nurse wants to. The end result is that nurses tend to disappear when the dressing needs to be changed, which led to my wife’s mom and I having to learn to change the dressings. In reality, we become better at it than the nurses.

“Where is she?”

“I don’t know.”

“Ok, forget it. We have to do this ourselves. Get that bag over there with all of the stuff. Hurry!”

I am no longer the patent’s husband. I am the nurse, and the nurse in training is my assistant. My assertive voice brings enough clarity to my assistant that she follows my command. She gets the materials and drops them on the floor next to me, awaiting my instructions. I put on some latex gloves.

“Put on some gloves. Now take out plenty of gauze, the saline bottle, the scissors, and the ileostomy bag. I will also need that tape, and the cream for her wound.”

The nurse follows my orders, laying out all of the materials on the bed. For the next 10 minutes, I clean the area around her ileostomy. I cut the paper gasket into the right shape, and affix it to her skin around the ileostomy using a special adhesive. Using that same adhesive, I affix the ileostomy bag to the gasket, and hold it in place until it adheres. Now the leaking into the wound has stopped, and I can start working on the wound. I use saline and gauze to clean the inside of the wound. It is quite painful for her and she is crying. It was so hard to do this the first time, and it still breaks my heart. But to save her life I block out my feelings, while still trying to console her.

“I know it hurts. I am almost done.”

She understands. She has more courage than anyone I have ever met. How she maintains her sanity through all of this is beyond me. She has been in and out of hospitals for 3 years. Yet every time she goes in, she can’t wait to get out and go on with her life. She takes the time to buy gifts for the nurses who take care of her. Everyone in the hospital knows us by first name now, and cannot believe her resiliency, her bravery.

Many of them tell me they don’t know how I do it. They tell me I am a hero, or a saint, or a great husband. It actually makes me angry. I don’t want to be thought of as something out of the ordinary. The day I married my wife I made a commitment to God. I am doing what I am supposed to do, no more and no less. It angers me to hear people talk about me like I am doing something so rare. I did not ask to be a hero, and I am certainly no saint. I am just a man standing by his family, doing what God expects of a husband. I don’t want the job of hero, not this way, not for this reason.

Once I am done cleaning and applying fresh dressings, the pain subsides, and my wife thanks me. The nurse in training puts the materials away and quickly departs. I never saw her again. She either learned something and today is a better nurse, or she chose another profession.

My wife passed on September 14, 2007. Diabetes, Kidney failure, Gastroparesis, and Vascular disease finally won the battle. I wish I could tell you that before she died, I prayed with her. I wish I could tell you that I made sure she sought God. I did not. Even though I prayed often, we did not pray together. I was so caught up in trying to keep myself together, fighting with nurses, doctors, insurance companies, that I did not take the time to pray with her. Funny thing is, she found God in spite of me. A few months before she died, she knew what was going to happen. She called a family member. I know that day, she surrendered her life to God, and she sits in heaven today. I thank God for intervening, for reaching her when I could not.

God has a way of showing up at pivotal moments in our lives. I know He was there that day I changed her dressings, working through me. I cried that night, asking God to give me the strength to continue. For three years, my life was a blur. How I maintained my sanity would be a mystery, if I didn’t know now that God was carrying me. He had plans for me. He took care of me, gave me just enough strength to wake up the next morning and do it all over again. And I did, over and over again.

Three years after her death, I met another wonderful woman, and I married her. She has some of the same wonderful qualities of my first wife, even though they are quite different. I am at peace these days, knowing we did everything we could for my first wife. My new wife is the beneficiary of the wisdom I gained during those years. I value life so much more today. I am closer to God, and she helps to keep me on that path. So my wife and I move forward every day, having entered into a new covenant with God, knowing He has a path for our lives.

There was a time I cried out to God, not knowing if He was listening. I hoped, but I did not know. It took three years after my wife passed, while I wandered through life in a daze, for me to realize something. God was there every step of the way. I was no hero, nothing extra ordinary. It was God who worked through me, even when I questioned whether He heard my prayers. So today I KNOW what He did. I thank Him every day for the many blessings He has granted me, and I ask Him to continue to give me strength, to reveal His plan for my life.

“I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
–Philippians 4:12-13

My Love Hate Relationship with Golf

7:12 AM.

Shaking the sleep from my eyes.

Saturday morning.

Gooooooooooolf!!!!!

I spring to attention like an army private to the sound of revelry blaring. My mission is clear. I will play golf this morning. I will face 18 holes of fairways, bunkers, downhill and uphill lies, deep rough, doglegs right and left, water hazards, and hopefully plenty of pars and birdies. This will be the morning all becomes right in the world, the day I master this strange, Scottish game that has tortured many, and that few have conquered.

A quick shower and breakfast and I am ready.

Golf clubs – check.
Lucky Marlins cap – check.
Android phone golf GPS app – check.
Bottled water – check.
New and improved attitude – check.

I am driving now. I can feel the energy build up, the anticipation. Today is the day. I can feel it. All those lessons and practice sessions are going to pay off today. This morning is the culmination of all that hard work, all the sweat, all the blisters. Remember not to over think it. Don’t over analyze. You don’t have to think about 12 different things during the swing. The club pro gave you 3 things. Just think about that and you will be fine.

There it is.

As I turn the corner, I see it. The links. It is still early morning, and the sun is just starting to poke through. I can see the mist hovering over the rolling hills. There is a slight breeze and I can see the flag on hole number one as it flaps gently, as if waving to me, enticing me, luring me in seductively. As I roll down the window, I can experience it all, the sights, the smells, the sounds of nature. I am ready for this challenge. You will not beat me today, Scottish game of torture. Today I will persevere. I will not be beaten down. I will not be drowned in your water hazards, or sunk in your bunkers. There will be no barriers erected around those lush landscapes you call greens. Today, I will conquer you.

This morning, I love Golf.

I am on the first tee now. The excitement is unbearable. I am playing the perfect drive over and over in my head. In my mind, I can hear the crisp sound of my metal TaylorMade Burner as club head meets ball, then the sizzling of the ball piercing through the morning air as it flies straight, settling down on the fairway, about 250 yards away.

Darn…

Slice…

In the rough, about 190 yards.

I am not deterred. The morning is early. Even Tiger slices one every once in a while, I tell myself. The rough is not that bad, and I can recover. This is a par 4, with water halfway down. Since my tee shot was short, I dare not try to clear the water, so I will lay up just before the water, then go for the green in 3, and try to save par. You see, I am thinker, and today is my day. This course will not beat me. Not today. I take out a 7 iron, set up, and…

Shoot….

Hit it fat…

Ok, don’t panic. You are not in the water, and now you are on the fairway. Yes the shot only went about 40 yards instead of the 130 yards you needed, but all is not lost. A 4 iron should still get you to the green. Ok you don’t have to par every hole. After all, you are not Tiger Woods. The goal here is to have a good time. Relax! Relax! If you tense up, things will just get worse. Remember, do NOT let this course beat you! Think!

Keep your head down.
Relax the hands.
Swing on plane.
Turn the hips and shoulders.
Remember to create lag on the downswing.
Don’t swing out to in.
Don’t hit it fat.
Don’t hit in thin.
Hit down on the ball, not up.
Remember to follow through.
Keep your swing compact.
Avoid the “chicken wing” on the follow through.

Plunk!

Darn!

In the water.

What did your instructor tell you? He told you not to think of 12 things during the swing. I scored a 7 on that hole, and the rest of the round followed the same pattern. The Scots were victors today. I drowned in water hazards, sunk in sand traps, and greens were as elusive as the fountain of youth. Once again, my golf hopes and dreams were dashed. How depressing.

I hate Golf.

But I’ll be back next Saturday.

How’s That Latte?

I am sitting here, sipping on some coffee. It is pretty tasty. I like coffee. Any coffee. It is one of those luxuries we have in this great country.

There are so many things I take for granted. Here are a few, in no particular order.

  • Drive-through fast food
  • Rounds of Golf on Saturday
  • Sleeping in
  • A washer and dryer
  • Air conditioning
  • A completely different meal in the morning as opposed to lunch and dinner
  • 3 meals a day
  • Bottled water
  • A constant Internet connection
  • A constant source of electricity with no rolling blackouts
  • The right to vote
  • The right to speak my mind
  • The right to worship Jesus

And here is the one that stands out these days…

A food and water supply free of radiation.

Japan does not have that last one. The last reports I have read are saying that milk, water, and food are showing up all over Japan with radiation in it. So on top of a devastating earthquake and Tsunami, which already caused shortages of food, now they deal with a contaminated food and water supply.

This is real folks. There but for the grace of God…

There is no doubt that America gives more through charities than all other countries combined. We are a good people for the most part, and we do a great deal for the world. As a Christian body, churches are big part of that. For example, my church has 6 locations in Japan right now trying to help.

It is time for Americans to once more take the lead and help. How much are you going to spend on that caramel macchiato? How much will lunch cost today? Can you brown bag it a couple of days this week and give the difference to one of these organizations? Maybe you can choose a less expensive restaurant this weekend and choose to feed a family in Japan.

Below are a couple of links to organizations that are working hard to help those hardest hit in Japan.

Thank you in advance for your generosity.

http://www.calvaryftl.org/calvary-blog/pray-for-japan/
www.SamaritansPurse.org
www.CrashJapan.com

Japan



My heart breaks.

It actually hurts.

I can actually feel it pumping harder when I think of what is going on there.

There but for the grace of God go I…




How can we not be totally horrified by the catastrophe in Japan? An earthquake measuring 9.0, followed by a Tsunami 30 feet high, causing a nuclear disaster. How easy it is for us to sit in our comfy chair, sipping a latte, and watching the events unfold on TV or the Internet. It is surreal for most us, like watching the latest end of days movie from Hollywood.

But this one is real.

Real people are dying. Real people are hungry. Real people are homeless. Real people are facing possible contamination from radiation.

Why God?

Why does He allow this to happen? Surely no God who loves His children would allow such a horrific event to occur. I can imagine many in Japan right now, doubting His existence, or actually being angry with Him. And I can understand them. Mind you, less than 1% of Japanese are Christian, but regardless of their beliefs, an event like this can surely make one question the cause, the reason for it all.

“I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.” –Isaiah 45:7

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” –John 3:16

I have been trying to read more of the Bible, to try to get a grasp on events like these. These two passages stand out to me. I believe there are some things we should be reminded of as Christians. For one, we are not going to understand everything that happens in this world. God is our creator, and as the creator, he creates but also sometimes destroys. But his plan for us is always perfect, and goes well beyond this life.

Part of our sin and the affect of living in a fallen world is that the world is slowly decaying. So are we. We are only in this world for a blip of time. This world will one day go away. A calamity like this should serve to remind us how valuable life is, and also how fragile. What we do every day God has granted us matters. Every time we interact with this world, we get a chance to make a difference . We should never waste that opportunity.

As difficult as it is to understand, everything happens for a reason. Is it possible God allows a disaster to occur to teach us something? Is it possible God sees something in our world that breaks his heart? I can tell you that in my personal life, God has used trial and tribulation to teach me, to help me understand what is important, and to understand my role in this world. I feel closer to Him today because of it.

We are taught to be in this world, but not of it. A calamity like this should remind us that the material possessions of this world are not all that important, since they can be taken away in a heartbeat. Even more important than our material possessions, our very earthly life is but a temporary state. One day, we will all stand in front of our creator. What will we have to say for our time on earth? Who among us believes that we have plenty of time to answer that question? How many people in Japan waited? Are you waiting today? Maybe this great disaster will help us understand that surrendering our lives to God is not something to leave for tomorrow.

My hope is that from this great disaster, comes salvation. It is said that the angels in heaven rejoice every time one of us finds salvation. Wouldn’t it be something if the multitude of people watching the news reports realized that there had to be something beyond the struggles of this world? What if we decided that we were going to stop running from God? What if we decided that we were going to stop idolizing material possessions? What if we decided that we were going to stop following men, and start following Jesus?

I will pray for the victims in Japan, as well as for the souls of those that were lost.

But just as important, I will pray for the souls of those of us who survived, and that we are able to understand God’s path for us.

What will you pray for?

Why?

I can’t stop the rain
From falling down on you again
I can’t stop the rain
But I will hold you till it goes away

-Third Day, When the Rain Comes

This morning I was reading the news on the Internet as I normally do. The news is so full of negativity, but I look at it at least once a day to stay up to date. I will be honest that I don’t read every article. In many cases I just read the headline to know what is going on in the world. Then I read one of two articles that I am really interested in, and I usually don’t read the whole article. I think many people do the same. Hopefully you are not doing that with my blog though.

This morning, my jaw dropped as I read this headline.

Fire in Rural Pa. Farmhouse kills 7 kids.

The full article is here:

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/03/09/trooper-rural-pa-farmhouse-kills-7-kids/

Stories like these tear at my heart. How can something like this happen? Apparently, the fire took place in a rural area in Pennsylvania. The mother was milking cows, and the father had gone into town. One of the kids, a 3 year old, smelled smoke and ran to tell her mother. By the time the mother ran to get the father, the house was engulfed in flames and smoke. The 7 children died of smoke inhalation.

Every once in a while, a story like this can make one question this experiment called life. Why does God allow things like this to happen? What plan did God have for these children that could possibly include a death like this? Why would God put these parents through this horror? Why would God bring children into this world, only to let them perish in such a horrific way?

I don’t know. I don’t think any of us really do.

A few years ago, I questioned God’s purpose in my life. Day after day of fighting with doctors and Insurance companies had broken me. I was going through the motions. I was no longer participating in life. I was drifting. Every day was like a blur – work, hospital, sleep. My first wife was dying slowly day by day, and I felt numb. Shortly after her death, I looked back at the last 3 years of her life, and I actually had no idea how I made it. How did I survive day by day without going insane? It took me a good 3 years after her death to figure that out.

God.

He was carrying me. I made it because of His will. As hard as it was for me, there was a purpose. Today, I am closer to God, and I owe that in no small way to my first wife, and what we went through together. Then God put another woman in my path, just the right one to bring me even closer to Him. Today, my current wife keeps me on that path. She is the perfect person to stand by me as we take on a new path together. Together we walk into the future with God in our hearts.

So what is the purpose of this horrific event in Pennsylvania? Again, I don’t know. Maybe those parents will pray for their children together, which will bring them closer to God. Maybe the purpose of those children in this world was meant to teach us all something. Maybe we should all be reminded how precious human life is, and yet how fragile it is. I do know that God’s love for those children is unquestionable, and He has a plan for them.

We are here in this world for a blip of time. Life is too short for missed opportunities. I think God reminds of this over and over, and these events should be a reminder to all of us to take every opportunity we have.

Tell your kids you love them today.

Tell your mom and dad how much you appreciate them. To my mom and dad – thank you!

If you haven’t done so today, get on your knees and pray. Ask God for forgiveness, and surrender to His will.

What are you doing with your blip of time?