For many, Christmas is just as painful and sad as it is a happy time. This post and a few others to come is about our sad Christmas days back in 2010. The following comes directly from my diary, unedited for this blog so that you can get the full picture. But the reason for making my diary public is so that if you are sad this Christmas, for whatever reason(s), or you know someone who is, then may my thoughts and meditations on scripture, the nature of suffering, and God’s providence help guide you through this Christmas season.
Here is a pic of us singing Christmas songs together at Loyola Hospital. And here is my first diary post.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
It’s 11:30 p.m. and I’m just now getting around to sharing what is happening with Cheryl and what God is doing in our lives. First, to my church family and friends who are praying and serving us in various ways, we thank God for your love and compassion for us – your prayers are wafting up to our Lord like sweet perfume.
Beginning today I will be writing a daily entry to update you on how Cheryl, myself and our family are doing. If this is your first time hearing about our circumstances please forgive me – I have thought about many of you who may not know what has happened to Cheryl and have wanted to call and tell you but I have been consumed with the urgency and seriousness of this trial. Let me begin.
“At your right hand are pleasures forever more,” “why do you not hear me?,” “you have been our portion for many years Lord – why do you crush her?,” “when I am afraid I will trust in you – please, I beg you Lord, save her life.” These and many more psalm-driven prayers have been my cry in recent days and I will never read the psalms again the same way; the next time we worship together singing, “The Lord Is”, I’m going to dance in the streets as David did.
What is going on in our lives causes me to shame my past worship of God in the psalms. But God is good to this sinner and child-like as I am to approach him, “for he knows our frame – he knows that I am only dust.” I’ll share more about the Lord’s heavy hand upon me and what he is doing to me with the psalms, later. Now to Cheryl.
Since coming home from Thanksgiving Cheryl has been feeling sickly like she normally does when she returns home from being away. She has always suffered with a variety of ailments that she attempts to manage on a daily basis. In the foreground are these daily symptoms but sneaking up on her in the background was a vicious infection in her right kidney, harboring a mushy 5 centimeter stone that had swelled the kidney to three times its normal size. It came to the foreground like an unsuspecting beast over a hill. By Friday night, Dec. 17, we went to Rush Copley Emergency. They discovered the problem and began to drain the infected kidney. This was the right thing to do even in hindsight by all attending physicians. By Sat. afternoon Cheryl’s body was septic. All of a sudden, her vitals plummeted and an emergency response team was on her within seconds. I could not believe what I was watching – I thought I was going to die as I saw Cheryl’s life barely hanging on.
Over the next 12 hours, having been transferred to the ICU, every minute was life threatening. Even today, one of the chief urologists here at Loyola said, “you were a ticking time bomb.” But by God’s good grace, by Monday morning she had made progress. The Infectious Disease Control doctor did a fantastic job at stunning the infection into sterility – for now. With even more improvement by Tuesday morning and after three days of round-the-clock testing, sticking, scanning, sucking, draining, injecting – she was transferred to Loyola by ambulance this afternoon.
Where do we go from here and what is the challenge
The team of physicians here are facing a challenge because: a) Cheryl’s right bottom-lobe lung collapse that comes each month; b) the infection spreading by trying to remove the stone; c) wait too long to remove the stone thus giving the infection time to regroup and attack her; d) her body is not capable of enduring a surgery – not yet. By tomorrow her team of doctors are going to decide what to do to save her life, either by removing the stone safely, or removing her kidney safely. The safety issue is keeping the infection from getting loose during and after surgery. We thank God that it is contained at this moment but the when and how to get Cheryl ready and strong is the tricky part. This is why Rush moved her here to Loyola.
How to Pray
First, that Jesus Christ would reign supreme over everything, from rogue bacteria to the rise of the sun – his name is great and will be great in all the earth! Second, as the minds and hands of these folk at Loyola touch Cheryl’s body, God’s mind and hand would be on theirs. Third, that God would spare her life for his glory, for as the psalmist cried, “how can I praise you if I go down to the grave.” Fourth, that our hearts would trust him for whatever comes.
Our Present Condition
Cheryl is improving by the hour in all her vitals, including the most important one: her white cell count on Sunday was over 70,000, on Monday – 51,000 and for today – 27,000. Normal is around 12,000 so she’s heading in the right direction! One of the attending physicians came in her room here at Loyola (#3136), and after reviewing her case and talking to the gang at Rush Copley, could not believe how well she looked and how vigorous her body was responding. In happy disbelief, “you don’t look anything like I expected.” Her hope is steady as I read and pray the psalms to her each day. As for myself, it just doesn’t seem appropriate to say that I am exhausted in every way – but I am. And yet, there is no other reason on earth that would be more appropriate and godly than to be exhausted for Cheryl’s sake. This is not a contradiction with doing all things for the sake of Christ, for when I love Cheryl to this degree it is the most Christ-like thing that I could ever do. I wish I could say that I have always loved Cheryl as Christ loves her – to my shame, I cannot. In fact, I have never loved Cheryl as Christ loved and continues to love her. He alone has died for her sins and raised himself for her justification and will never sin against her with selfishness and pride – but I have, and as my sinful inclinations have a track record, I will sin against her again – pathetic . . . isn’t it? But, this is the grace that is happening in my heart as a result of this trial. I’ll say more about this and other grace-filled dimensions of this episode later. For now, my heart rejoices to know the love of Christ and you cannot say that you know the love of Christ until you lose your life for the sake of another.
Cheryl and I are truly blessed to have a church family and friends like you. We would not have made it this far without you. Your prayers and acts of kindness are the means by which God is sustaining, literally by the hour. Please keep it up – we need you. I am in contact with Thomas Payne, the deacon board and a few others to express specific needs. They will contact you if I am in need. If you want to speak with me by email, please do so at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And now, I must go and cry out to God psalm 27, bringing the psalm to our context: “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” vs. 1
Thank you for your honest sharing. We followers of Jesus also have our crosses to carry – some physical, and some emotional.