Sunday, February 15, 2009

God’s Foot Soldiers

When I wrote the blog below on February 4, I had no inkling that eleven days later I would still be sitting here in the hospital watching my husband try to recover from that emergency surgery. The surgery, in fact, happened two weeks ago today. Those two weeks have included times of walking in a fog, moments of wondering if I would ever get my life back, and days of waiting for a digestive system to give up its unexpected vacation and get back to work. They have included horrendous hiccups every waking moment, confusion both comical and disturbing, and now a shrill cough that triggers gagging and nausea. We have had challenges to our patience and our faith.

Through it all, God has been here.

His presence has been experienced most clearly through the love and concern of His people expressed in willingness to help in any way needed. A friend gassed the car for me, a couple picked up and delivered a prescription, and another brought me lunch from the cafeteria. A neighbor drove me to and from the hospital a couple of times, including the morning after I got only ten minutes’ sleep. Several have visited or called faithfully to inquire how things were going, always asking what they could do to help.

Local family members took care of our pets, saw that I had something to eat, and took a turn to stay as often as they could. Distant family members have called, advised, sent flowers and stuffed animals, and shed a tear or two because they couldn’t be here. A daughter dropped her responsibilities to come and help when it became clear the whole thing was going to last longer than expected. The other daughter is standing by to come next week if needed.

Thanks to e-mail, I’ve been able to keep friends and family informed almost daily of what is happening, and prayer partners in a dozen states have held us up in prayer. They’ve confirmed it by cards, notes, e-mails—even an occasional phone call. Nurses and hospital staff have been kind and helpful.

So God not only had Advanced Operations to prepare the way, He has had foot soldiers along the way to hold up our hands and lift our burden when they could. All have helped our “faith in walking shoes” to keep pressing forward, one step after another. We’re confident God has a Rear Guard that will see us through to the end.

The latest word is that that may happen tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

God’s Advance Operations

This isn’t where I expected to be writing my next blog—sitting in a seventh-floor hospital room watching my husband of fifty years recover from emergency major surgery three days ago. But none of this took God by surprise, and that is so good to know.

The beauty of faith is that in my sixty-five years of walking with God, I’ve seen Him go before in many amazing ways. In the military I think it is called Advanced Operations, or Advanced Ops (Ad-Ops? Who knows in these days of “hurry and say it as briefly as possible”?) In multiple aspects of life, it helps immensely to have someone scout out and prepare things in advance. Sitting here, I’ve looked back, and it hasn’t taken much rummaging in the memory trunks to make a list grow.

Perhaps the biggest example of this happened with my becoming a teacher. I didn’t grow up with any plans to be a teacher, and I went through college that with attitude. I realize now that I probably had no desire to teach because I had never been much around children. Most of my growing up was on an isolated mission post in central Africa during World War II. My brother and sister were the only other children of my culture around. My theology tells me that God understood that, and He didn’t push me. It wasn’t until ten years out of college, with the beginnings of a family and early experiences working with children in church that I was surprised to discover I liked working with children. I started to work on a teaching credential, and exactly three years later, when I was finishing up, God started the wheels rolling for our going to South America where I would be a school teacher. I’m still stand amazed.

Eleven years later the speaker for our annual conference on the mission field was a trained counselor, and he chose “Dealing with Stress” as his topic. Well, that was a blessing and all very interesting, but I remember wondering why God had led him to that focus because, frankly, our life was fairly nice and peaceful at that mission outpost. Yet within a week after the speaker left, one of our coworkers was kidnapped and seven weeks later executed. Clearly God had known something we didn’t know, and His Advance Operations had laid some groundwork ahead of the experience.
One of our daughters had a yen to be a nurse, but she wasn’t sure she was cut out for it. After she helped care for her dear grandfather during the last summer of his life, both at a hospital and in our home his last fifteen days, she was hooked and wanted to get the training. At that very time, her company phased out her job, and that left them required to pay for her training for another line of work. God’s Advanced Ops had perfectly set up that timing.

So it hasn’t been surprising that He was still performing special tasks for His children this week, and what a comfort it has been. For starters, our daughter-in-law’s parents were in town, which has made it possible for her and (when he was in town) our son to spend more time at the hospital with us/me. It has been more than a blessing because we have minimal drivers in this extended family, and an extra one wasn’t just convenient but next to necessary. Our dear neighbors have been in a “light” time in their work, so they’ve been avail to help in a number of ways. The fact that my car was already full of gas shows that the Divine Advanced Ops doesn’t deal in just the big things.

At the moment, my Tangled Strands story focuses on the other side of this issue—on God coming in to clean up what has been left behind in a mess. How comforting that our amazing God can handle both with equal divine perfection.