2008 was the hardest year yet in my life of 39 years and counting. At the end of it I felt ran over by a train (if you missed our Christmas blog-post last year, you can read it here). The one word that sticks out to me in 2008 is perseverance--it's what I feel like God was teaching me about as I stumbled through that year. And stumbled I did. I just felt like I was trying to keep my head above water and survive. During it all, God continued to remind me to persevere in His strength. I can look back now and know that is what took place. He got us through those times.
As I reflect back over 2009, it is a year of coming out of a tunnel and being restored. God can't change the things that happened in 2008 but He promised to walk with us through it. And that He did. It's true; time does heal things and God restored in us a spirit of joyfulness and happiness in 2009. The word that rings out to me when I think back over 2009 is 'thankful'.
Let me start out with the most recent event that occurred in our family that left us breathlessly thankful. My father-in-law, Jerry, unexpectedly had to have by-pass surgery. It was a very sudden thing. He had a few episodes of chest and arm pain and decided to pay a visit to his doctor. His EKG was basically normal; however, due to what seemed a minor abnormality, his doctor sent him on to a cardiologist (as a precaution). The cardiologist ordered a stress test. Just minutes into the stress test, Jerry began having chest pains. They then did a heart catharization. We were shocked to find that he had 80-100% blockage in three of his arteries. I mean, just days before this transpired he had been golfing and raking leaves! They immediately hospitalized him and prepared to do a triple by-pass.
During these couple of days, God kept showing up. As my mother in law (Sheila), Eric and his siblings made phone calls and tried to determine the best surgeon to use, every recommendation came back to the same name. As they made a phone call to a friend whose job takes him into stint surgeries, the friend just happened to be standing beside the recommended surgeon. He was able to ask the surgeon right then and there about the possibility of performing Jerry's surgery. Some might call this coincidence; we call it divine intervention.
The day Jerry went into surgery, it was hard to believe that he was going to have a triple by-pass. He looked like a very healthy, fit sixty-five year old. And his coloring looked so good. It seemed surreal that a team of doctors were getting ready to cut open his chest. It still amazes me that such a surgery was figured out and exists! It's amazing that they can saw through the chest, stop the heart, hook you up to a heart machine that does the heart's job, take a vein out of your leg and chest and make new arteries in the heart to circulate the blood, take you off the heart machine and restart your heart. WOW. UNBELIEVEABLE. It's beyond comprehension.
Shocked and still trying to absorb the fact that Jerry had to have a triple by-pass, you can imagine our reaction when the doctor came out after the surgery to inform us that he had performed SEVEN bypasses. Excuse me??? SEVEN? Is there even such a thing? Yes, come to find out, there is such a thing. It's rare, but it's done. We've decided this was just one more way God wanted to make Himself known to us and especially to Jerry that day. So He imprinted His number on him forever, a memorial stone that will remind us forever that He was there--the number SEVEN. A number to remind Jerry that God's not quite finished with him yet.
The surgery was about two and a half weeks ago. He is at home and is recovering remarkably. God gave Jerry a new heart for Christmas. We are so thankful and are rejoicing in that!
Secondly, we feel extremely thankful and blessed to be at our church--Fellowship Louisville. We had been meeting at the Holiday Inn since services first began a little over 2 1/2 years ago. But at the beginning of December we moved into a building and this has been so exciting. Our first service in the new building can only be described as 'one big smile'. That is what everyone was doing that day--smiling from ear to ear. It was such a joyful day and no one could contain it--it was just overflowing from everyone's faces! We are thankful to be a part of a body of believers that are earnestly seeking God, earnestly care about one another and earnestly care about those outside the walls of our church. We look forward to seeing God's plan unfold through Fellowship in 2010.
There are so many other things throughout this year for which we are thankful: celebrating Eric's 40th, our family vacation, our Community Group, running in our fourth annual Turkey Trot, watching our kids in their various sporting events, going on our church's first women's retreat, new friends, reconciled relationships, babies being born, our marriage retreat at Torch Lake with friends, best-friend Florida fun, Sophie's baptism, Wes' decision to follow Christ....these are just some of the highlights of our year!
Yes, 2009 had more ups in it than downs when compared to 2008. Or, maybe, after experiencing a year like 2008, we have learned how to appreciate and savor the 'ups' so much more? Whichever it is, we are trying to be thankful these days for the blessings, both big and small....and to remember that--no matter what--
THE JOY OF THE LORD IS OUR STRENGTH! (Nehemiah 8:10)