Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and I’ve been thinking…thinking about many things. But frequently on this eve of Valentine’s Day 2017 my mind has wandered back to eight years ago this morning when the ventilator was removed following brain surgery the day before to remove a large brain blob of tangled arteries and blood vessels (called an arteriovenous malformation (avm)) in the left frontal lobe of my brain. Continue reading On Not Taking Things For Granted
In September of 2014 a couple of friends and I traversed the Grand Teton Mountains on the popular Teton Crest Trail. After the first day of ,snow, rain, and wind, the days were glorious. Nights were chilly but we slept well, I tucked into my brand new zero degree 800 down fill sleeping bag that weighs less than two pounds.
On the morning of our first full day in we heard from a park ranger that a Grizzly bear had been seen in our camp area the previous day. That got our attention. I’ve been backpacking since I was 18 years old but have never had even one bear encounter, either Black or Grizzly. Moose, deer, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, martens,gray jays, and a large variety of lower mammals that have eaten my entire snack cache, we have encountered. But not bears.
As we began our second day in the Tetons it was a glorious day. September 19, 2014 is the day I snapped this picture. I remember because it is the same day I turned 50 years old. I turned 50 in style, out in some of God’s greatest handiwork that few people ever have the privilege of seeing first hand. Why? Because to get to some of God’s most majestic and glorious creativity and beauty, takes an extraordinary amount of effort to get there in the first place. Oh there are some places like the Grand Canyon, that my family was able to visit last year, that are both glorious and public.
But once a year I prefer to go where relatively few have ever been. Standing atop Mount Whitney (in the Sierra Mountains in California) at 14,494 feet in 2013 and gutting out the 99 switchbacks to get there is a feat that few can say they have achieved. Mt. Whitney is the second highest mountain peak in the lower 48 states.
Oh yes, it can be difficult getting to the heights. It is difficult, sometimes painful, blister inducing, occasionally experiencing freak snowstorms, windstorms, rainstorms…and other unpleasantries….so much so that I have to remind myself of why it’s worth it.
It’s worth it for the occasional breath-taking views. It’s worth it for the camaraderie that develops between the trekkers, each year with its own unique script. It’s worth it because when one is out in the wild one forgets about the troubles he has left behind. It’s worth it because I tend to think less of my problems when in the wilderness and think rightly about my family and the precious gift my wife and children are to me. It’s worth it because God’s creation is worth much and not to see it and explore it is to deprive oneself of something inexpressibly glorious. It’s worth it because it recharges my soul.
So as we continue to make plans to hike in Glacier National Park this next summer, I will remind myself again and again why it’s worth it.
When Karla and I were in Israel in 2011 I snapped this shot of one of the two possible sites near where Jesus was crucified. Matthew 27:33-34 says “And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull) they offered him wine to drink mixed with gall, but when he had tasted it, he would not drink it.”
Here are some pictures I took at the ancient city of Petra (which means rock) in Jordan when Karla and I had the opportunity to visit Israel and the surrounding areas in 2011. We were captivated by the colorful cloth and the reddish rocks….and this beautiful hidden city in the midst of a desolate climate.
It’s been a little over a year since I last posted on the blog. Two hundred and eighty-seven posts in the last seven plus years…but just one in the last year.
Seven years ago today at approximately 6:00 am I coded. I had brain surgery on Feb. 12, 2009 to remove the massive AVM in the left frontal lobe of my brain. The surgery was a success by neurosurgeon standards as the AVM no longer exists. But post surgery I was initially unable to move the right side of my body or speak a word. Scary stuff!
Two weeks later on February 26, 2009 I coded and if not for my wife Karla I surely would have died. She was in the rehab room with me when I coded. I don’t remember much at all from the night, just a nagging back pain.
The department heads from Cardiology, Neurology, and Vascular collaborated and soon discovered that there was a massive blood clot in my heart and many more in my lungs. So they did the only thing they could do and performed emergency open heart surgery…a procedure that is rarely performed. The doctors did not expect me to live, but they gave it their best shot.
And with the skillful precision of Dr. Sundt’s scalpel and the prayers of thousands of you (There were 5,794 hits on the blog that day alone) I made it through the second major surgery in just two weeks, and would end up spending a total of 46 days at the Mayo Clinic Hospital, St. Marys.
They were truly life altering, seismic shifting days in the life of our family…and yes we still feel the repercussions even today more than seven years removed. It was a very costly season for this family of seven, and by this I do not mean the $550,000 this whole venture cost the insurance company. That was a mere pittance compared to the greater tolls this did take and would eventually take on our entire family, and me losing my job (in July, 2013) as the pastor of the church I had served for nearly 18 years.
For the past two and a half years we have been attending a church in West Des Moines where we have connected with kind hearted people in a very profound way. We are experiencing true Christian community in a way that we had previously not known. We have all grown as we continue to heal.
Six months ago I completed the book I have written concerning the last six-plus years of our lives. The preliminary title is “When Your Mess Becomes Your Message.” As it sits now it is 200 plus pages long in a single spaced 12 point font in a Word document which would probably translate to 600 plus pages. So we are now going to begin the process of seeking out a publisher who might be interested. And if that doesn’t pan out then we will self publish the story.
Oh yes one more thing, earlier this evening Karla and I also submitted our official entry in the CBS reality show “The Amazing Race.” We have been talking about this for two years. We love the show and this would be a great time to run it together as we will celebrate 30 years of marriage this December.
There is just one letter difference between the Amazing Race and Amazing Grace. Our lives are both. In addition if we should be selected from the tens of thousands of applicants and win the millions dollar prize that would be twice what Karla would have received from my life insurance policy had I died seven years ago this very day.
This morning we awoke to a text message that said a friend of ours had died after a long bout with cancer. I had just visited with him nine days earlier. And now he is with Jesus, as will all of those who have truly trusted in Christ alone for salvation. I almost got to heaven seven years ago today. Jeb is already there.
Six years ago today on February 12, 2009 my family of seven had brain surgery…wait it was just I who had the surgery. But all of us continue to feel its effects…even today six years later.
I just finished reading an excellent book about the greatest Antarctic adventure ever undertaken. Alfred Lansing wrote the book Endurance based on the compilation of diary entries of men who were actually aboard the boat aptly named The Endurance. It is an excellent read! The purpose of this blog is to write about “the human condition and everything pertaining to it.” Endurance pertains to the human condition.