Tuesday, September 20, 2016

When God's Strength is Enough

This summer did not go as planned to say the least.  In fact, it's been an intense, harrowing past 5 months!  Even as I sit here reflecting back on all that transpired these past several months, I can't help but shudder at the difficulties we faced and dread ever experiencing anything like it again -- Lord-willing, we won't!

The saga began in April when Tim injured himself pulling our dead lawn tractor, which had 2 flat tires, out of the shed all by himself.  If you read my post from May about the miracles God worked in Tim's life over those next few weeks, you understand how this frightful journey began.  His injury led to a ruptured appendix that we didn't realize was a ruptured appendix until 4 days after it ruptured which led to a 5 day stay in the hospital with doctors being amazed that Tim was alive not to mention not as sick as he should have been.  The doctors told us removing the appendix could kill Tim, so they instead inserted a drain into the abscess Tim's body had build around the appendix in order to drain the infection so that surgery could take place.  That began a routine 2-4 hour visit to the hospital first weekly then every other week to get the drain and appendix checked.  Our hopes of healing went up and down, and after another visit with the surgeon, we found out he would not need surgery but could live with the healed appendix.  We were thrilled to get that wonderful news since Tim was just starting to feel better and the thought of having surgery again was disheartening.  Then the wait began to hear the news that the appendix was closed and the drain could be removed.  We waited and waited and waited some more.  The hospital visits were starting to get old.  The hospital staff all knew us by name.  The routine that ate up a large part of a day every two weeks was starting to wear on us.

Then came the day we met once again with the surgeon and received the bad news that the appendix was not healing as expected, and surgery was a necessity.  The hope was that they could remove everything they needed to through laparoscopic surgery, but given the amount of inflammation, there was a chance Tim would need to be fully opened up. The surgery date was scheduled unexpectedly quickly once the decision was made, and Tim had an appendectomy on July 26, three days before we were supposed to leave for our Russell family vacation.  We were thrilled that the surgery was successful as a laparoscopic procedure, and Tim was discharged from the hospital the next afternoon!  We had decided to leave on Saturday instead of Friday for vacation to allow Tim one more day to recuperate at home before needing to sit in a car for 6 hours and endure the bumps.  However, by Thursday afternoon, Tim's fever he had been battling off and on since the night before, soared higher than we would have liked forcing me to call the surgeon who told us to come immediately to the ER.  We spent all evening in the ER talking with the surgeon and his staff and having another CT scan done as well as blood work, and IV antibiotics were started.  Things were not looking good.  Tim was readmitted, and the doctors were talking about opening him up again to try to find the source of the infection.  Thankfully, Tim's surgeon came back on duty the next morning and  decided to try taking Tim off the antibiotics and see if the fever would return since it had broken the night before.  He was hoping that if the fever didn't return, we could call it a fluke and avoid unnecessary surgery.  If it returned, surgery would have to be done.  Thankfully, God intervened, and the fever never returned, so after another day in the hospital for monitoring, Tim was able to be discharged mid-day on Saturday.  His parents had graciously taken the boys with them for our vacation on Friday.  By God's grace, Tim was able to endure the car ride down to Virginia on Sunday.  Even though he spent his vacation lying around and taking it easy, he was thankful that he was able to spend time with his family.

For 6 weeks after his surgery, Tim was not allowed to lift anything that weighed more than 10 pounds.  This became really frustrating for him once he finally felt back to his normal self, but I was persistent in being firm because I didn't want any other set-backs.  This drama had gone on long enough.  Last week, on September 2, Tim's weight restrictions were completed, and he was able to go back to functioning normally, and I felt as if I had been given my life back only to discover that I now had to pick up the pieces of my life to put them back together again.

Tim has always been the rock in our family.  He keeps us sane and keeps us functioning.  He's always there.  He has always been the healthiest of us all.  In raising two precious special needs boys together, Tim has been my supporter, helper, and teammate.  In everything he had to endure the last 5 months, I felt as if I lost all that I had come to rely on from him.  It scared me tremendously when it all began to know that he should have died - that I could have been a widow.  I'm grateful that God had other plans for Tim and so thankful to have Tim still at my side filling those roles once again.

As I struggled these past several months to care for Tim and his physical needs, keep the family going, keep up with our 1.8 acres of land, keep up with the meals and laundry and housework, continue to work part time as a nurse, and run my essential oils business, there were many times where I felt as if I would crumble under the enormity of the tasks resting on my shoulders.

With the 10 days total of hospitalization Tim had plus the 7 outpatient visits for drain checks, surgeon appointments, and repeat CT Scans, I had a lot of childcare arrangements to make.  It was so difficult to juggle caring for my boys and being at the hospital especially when Tim was so sick and in so much pain during his first hospitalization.  The emotional toll of Tim's near-death experience and continued issues and then surgery for the boys was really costly.  They both struggled to come to terms with why God was letting their daddy suffer so much.  They felt the void of not having Daddy be an active member of our family greatly.  It was exhausting for me to stay emotionally strong to help them become stronger emotionally.  The whole ordeal created a lot of childcare needs.  Finding childcare has always been an enormous challenge given Josh's special needs.  I am so grateful for Tim's mom and several of our friends who were so willing to step in and care for our children when I couldn't.  I'm also thankful for Josh's home health aide services which helped to fill in the gaps for his care.

With our special healing diet that we had started in March, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen making everything from scratch including our own crackers and yogurt.  I get all of our dairy, produce, and meat from local Amish farms on a weekly basis.  When Tim was in the hospital, we couldn't accept the offered meal help from church friends because the diet is just too complicated.  People would offer to make a meal and ask what we can't have.  I always said it would be easier to tell them what we could have.  So, I had to run back and forth from the hospital to home to ensure the boys would have the food they needed for their meals while Tim was in the hospital.  Several people encouraged me to just let the diet go.  I refused because we have seen such amazing results with the diet for Josh that there's no turning back!  Every minute I labor in the kitchen is so worth it to have a son who is thriving when he was predicted to be struggling.

Our property is beautiful.  We love every bit of it!  However, it's a lot to manage and has always taken all hand's on deck to help keep things under control during the Spring and Summer months.  Tim does the majority of the work.  With his being out of commission for most of this Spring and Summer, this put a huge hardship on us and our property.  We also had planted an extra large garden this year to help us financially manage our organic diet.  I will be forever grateful for our neighbor who so lovingly and faithfully mowed our lawn for us with the lawn tractor.  That was a huge task to take over and a huge burden taken off of our shoulders.  However, the parts of the lawn that needed to be push-mowed, the weed whacking and pulling, and maintaining and watering of the garden still needed to be done.  I gave it my best shot, but there came a time where we just had to let the weeds prevail.  I could only do so much in the limited 24 hours in each day.  The boys stepped up and helped also, but we couldn't do it all.  Thankfully, we were able to keep our garden going, and while it had more weeds than I would have preferred, it produced well for us providing ample food that we were able to eat fresh as well as plenty that I could can or dehydrate to keep us going until next year's growing season.

We love our house.  We love the ample space it has giving us the ability to minister to people.  However, the size provides plenty of rooms and space that needs to be cleaned on a regular basis.  Cleaning the house takes time!  Time that I did not have enough of.  Again, the boys stepped up to help share in the load, but just like the weeds overtook our yard, the dust overtook our home.  I can't tell you the number of times I wished I could have more than 24 hours in my day these past several months!  I made it a priority to keep up with doing the laundry because we do need to stay clothed, but sometimes, it would take a week before the clean laundry got folded and brought up to the rooms.  My family was gracious and never complained the countless times they would run downstairs to pull out needed underwear or socks or other needed clothing from the baskets waiting with laundry that needed to be folded.  Having the boys take over the responsibility of washing and folding their laundry over the summer also was helpful.  I am also grateful for two people in our church who graciously gave of their time to help me with housework when Tim was hospitalized and another who paid for me to get my house cleaned.  Just having someone help share the burden was a huge relief and a real encouragement.

I continued to work 18 hours 2 days a week unless Tim's hospitalizations required that I take off from work.  I also continued to run my essential oils business although I was getting sick of always having to apologize for the length of time it took me to respond to an email or phone call because I just couldn't do it all.  I'm grateful for the way God blessed my business during these tough months helping me to reach higher income than I've ever had at a time when I didn't have time to keep things going.  That helped keep us financially afloat as we dealt with missed work for Tim and me not to mention the unexpected medical expenses as we maxed out Tim's high maximum out of pocket expense medical deductible (No, Obamacare is NOT more affordable!), and the amount of gas we were spending in the countless trips to the hospital that was a 25 minute, mostly-highway drive from our house.

The physical and emotional exhaustion I experienced on a daily basis these past several months was overwhelmingly enormous!  The long hours I spent keeping our family going with the very little and sometimes broken up sleep I was getting at night was enough to kill me.  When I did finally get to bed, I would fall asleep in utter exhaustion the moment my head hit the pillow.  I have never found myself always on the verge of tears and feeling as if my legs were going to crumble underneath me on a daily basis, but that's just what I experienced these past months.  There were days that I felt as if I would never survive the day.  I truly have never been as overwhelmed as I have been these past few months, and I never want to feel that way again.

Through it all, God was so gracious to me.  I never would have survived had it not been for His help, grace, mercy, and largely, His STRENGTH!  I spent my days in a constant state of prayer asking for the same thing over and over again, "Please, God, help me to have the strength I need to do all that I need to do today."  I'm glad God never gets weary of hearing our petitions because mine were so redundant and desperate!  I had no strength to carry the burdens heaped on my shoulders daily, but God gave me His strength, and Jesus carried my burdens.  God's strength was my lifeline.  It helped me pull my weary body out of bed early each morning, work non-stop making sure the needs of all of my family were met, and brought me to bed even if it was for a few short hours.  God's strength kept me going even when I knew how impossible it was for one person to do all of the tasks set before me in a given day.  God's strength kept my heart from wallowing in misery, discouragement, and self-pity.  God's strength helped me be all He called me to be on a daily basis.  His strength never wore out.  It was fresh and new every morning.  Great is His faithfulness!

These past several months have helped me to come to love and respect God's strength.  It has drawn me yet again closer to Him helping me to realize I am nothing and must rely on Him for all things.  Feasting on His Word on a daily basis became so much more meaningful to me as it nourished my soul allowing me to keep pressing on each and every day.  This hard time has strengthened my belief in His promise that "I can do all things through Christ who strengths me" (Philippians 4:13).  I experienced daily what it was like to soar with wings as eagles and run and not be weary and walk (or even stumble) yet not grow faint (Isaiah 40:31).  God brought me through the waters, kept me from drowning in the rivers, and prevented me from being burned in the fire (Isaiah 43:2).  I never want to go through something like this again, but I am thankful for the refining work God did in my life as a result.  As I sit here letting my mind reflect back on all that I had to go through the last several months, my stomach is churning into tight knots.  I feel traumatized all over again!  However, God's goodness prevails, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God worked all of those hard times together for my good and His glory (Romans 8:28).  I want to forget the painful memories, and putting them into words will help me do that, but I want to always remember the wondrous comfort God gave me daily and the incredible strength of His that carried me through.

Through all of these hard months, one song continued to run in my head over and over again and still does.  I am trying to convince Josh to sing it with me sometime in church.  The words spoke to my heart over and over again reminding me of God's strength and the work He was doing in my life on a daily basis emptying me of myself and filling me with Him.  These words so eloquently and beautifully describe what I truly believe deep down in my heart and was so evident these past several months.  His strength is perfect!

His Strength is Perfect
I can do all things
Through Christ who gives me strength
But sometimes I wonder what He can do through me
No great success to show
No glory of my own
Yet in my weakness He is there to let me know
His strength is perfect when our strength is gone
He'll carry us when we can't carry on
Raised in His power, the weak become strong
His strength is perfect, His strength is perfect
We can only know
The power that He holds
When we truly see how deep our weakness goes
His strength in us begins
Where ours comes to an end
He hears our humble cry and proves again
His strength is perfect when our strength is gone
He'll carry us when we can't carry on
Raised in His power, the weak become strong
His strength is perfect, His strength is perfect
Written by Cedric Caldwell, Victor Caldwell, Cece Winans • Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group

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