It’s been a while (almost 2 months) since I’ve blogged so I guess an update is in order.
Well, a lot has happened. It seems like just yesterday that I was reviewing my schedule for November and December. Although the small group Bible study I lead two times a month was postponed in November, I had two opportunities to preach which “bookcased” a planned ten-day respite care at the VA hospital in Richmond, Virginia. I also planned to do some writing for Pastor in Residence Ministries during my hospital stay. December however looked to be particularly challenging: blog, biweekly Bible study, begin a 12 week Sunday school class starting the first week in December, preach one Sunday morning at another nearby church and preach each Sunday evening at still another local congregation – Pretty demanding opportunities! I prayed that the Lord would give me wisdom and strength for this challenging time. My plan was to put my hospital time to good use in preparation for ministry commitments.
What I didn’t realize was that God’s plan for this arduous time was different from what I had envisioned. The 10 day stay in the VA hospital morphed into six weeks which ended December 23 so that I was just able to return home for Christmas with my family. I knew that I had been fighting an infection in my left foot and that it would require some attention. I was surprised to learn that the infection (osteomyelitis) was worse than had appeared. After x-rays, examinations and an MRI I was advised that the best treatment would be to amputate the small toe and adjoining metatarsal on my left foot. The surgery was scheduled and completed the day before Thanksgiving but I would remain in the hospital for another four or five weeks of intensive intravenous antibiotics.
In addition to the predictable but unanticipated effects of these harsh antibiotics, my living situation in the VA hospital also proved to be difficult. Four men in one small room left no space for my laptop computer. Further, my Dragon software is very sensitive to extraneous noise. Study and dictation was impossible. Thank the Lord for my iPad which was mounted on my wheelchair. I could read the Bible, check email, etc. It wasn’t ideal, but I got used to it. During this time my life was brightened by the faithful and cheerful visits of my wife Judy. Several other Christian brothers and sisters made their way up to Richmond – I appreciate their friendship and encouragement.
I know I said that all this seemed like it began yesterday but on the other hand six weeks in the hospital is a long, long time. I suppose it hit me most right after the surgery. 10 days had already expanded to two weeks. The surgery itself was interesting – minimum local anesthesia was all that was required and I was awake and alert for the whole process. Before we began I led the team in prayer, giving thanks for the gospel in detail.
The next week was the hardest. I was bedbound for seven days so that a “wound VAC” could expedite healing. I missed the benefits of my wheelchair which not only allowed me to change location but also position. I missed the sense of independence and mobility. I also missed my iPad and the opportunity to read. Once again Judy to the rescue – she read Scripture to me on her visits! So, between not feeling too well, being out of touch and immobilized my “regular” hospital routine was severely disrupted. Then, after seven days I was able to get out of bed! Plopped in the chair with elevated feet, I motored out of the room and into the hallway.
My renewed sense of freedom was met with an overwhelming joy. The usual mundane hallway and nurses’ station had been transformed. The Christmas tree with bright balls and shining lights stood in the hallway. Christmas wreaths donned the partitions. A long string of Christmas greeting cards hung from the wall. Christmas was coming! Even though the decorated hallway showed no trace of the Savior’s birth, I was reminded that Christmas is when we remember the incarnation. Jesus has come and impacted the world. Jesus came so that I and others like me would have hope. Jesus came to provide forgiveness for rebels like me. Jesus came to give hope. Not only did he provide believers with acceptance and reconciliation with his Father, he also promised to come again. When he comes, he will renew all things, this includes even me. There is a better world coming.
Since my return, I was able to enjoy a wonderful holiday season with my family. By God’s grace I preached on two occasions the Sunday after Christmas and have been settling back into my home routine. It’s taken a while, but I hope I’m getting back to normal.
Meanwhile, my bride has been struggling with her health. Bronchitis, colds, sore throats, eye infection combined with the traveling back and forth to Richmond have worn her down. She is not alone. You are probably experiencing the ups and downs of life in this world. Jesus told us to expect this: “in the world you will have trouble. But fear not, I have overcome the world.”
As believers in Jesus. We look forward to a bright future with him. The curse will be removed. Death will be defeated. Sin will be vanquished. It will be way better than Christmas!
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”” (Revelation 21:1–5, ESV)