Category Archives: Must Reads

New Things Are Coming My (Our) Way

This Sunday July 21st, 2013, will mark my last Sunday in the pulpit as the pastor of Crossroad Evangelical Free Church in Earlham, Iowa.    After 17 years and 8 months as the pastor I can only imagine what it will feel like not to serve in this capacity any longer.  Our family has invested many years of our lives in this community and we have grown to love deeply both the Crossroad Church family and the Earlham family.  Three of our five children were born while we lived here on the corner of 3rd and Maple on the northeast corner of the park.  Benj was just a toddler when we moved here and Luke a plucky 4 year old.  Continue reading New Things Are Coming My (Our) Way

The most important posting I will ever write…and a Christmas greeting

(The following is a re-posting of a blog entry from December 2008…and it is still true…all of it!  My attention was drawn back to this posting because of Noel Piper including it in one of  ten or so articles she referenced in making the observation that Christmas is not a bundle of joy for many people who are in the throes of suffering…all kinds.  Whether it is a chronic physical condition or a piece of universe shattering  bad health news as we received nearly three years ago.   Her blog is way more popular than mine so I took notice when the blog had over 100 hits today! )

Some things in life are more important than outstanding health, but not many. Some things are more important in life than a well functioning family where loving relationships rule the day, but not many. Some things in life are more important than an AVM free brain, but not many. What follows is what is more important to me than all these things combined. 

Please watch the following clip from an ER episode…perhaps the single most powerful moment I have ever witnessed on television.

I’m not sure of the exact context of this clip. We didn’t watch this last season of E.R. All I know is that what this character was expressing near the end of his life was real. This is spectacular acting that sends chills down my spine every time I watch it.

Why? Because I know that what he was expressing was the undeniable truth of which Solomon spoke in Ecclesiastes 3:11 that God has set eternity into man’s heart. There are many ways to suppress this reality but in the end nothing can overcome what is.

The pablum that this liberal chaplain was giving to this man was less than worthless. It was a self-exalting agnostic mindless nihilism where all is meaningless.

This man was afraid of what was going to come next and the “professional” clergy had nothing to bring to the table.  He wondered if atonement was even possible and she answered that it was up to each one of us to interpret what God wants.

He had regrets. He wanted answers. He knew enough that he believed God was real and hell was real, but he wanted answers…someone who could look him in the eye and tell him how to find forgiveness because he was running out of time.

My calling in this life, besides being a husband and father is to be a pastor. My biblical job description as a pastor is, among other things, to preach and teach the whole counsel of God to the people entrusted to my care. My privilege is to provide answers from the Word of God to people who have real questions…like the man in the video clip.

It’s not that I have all the answers to life’s daunting questions, but I believe with every fiber of my being that truth does exist, that God is real, and that we can know with certainty the most important answers in life.

As my family and I walk through these interesting days I find it troubling that some are taking the news about the thing in my brain harder than I am or than we are as a family.

I’ve been open and honest in these postings so you know that we are not cruising above the clouds at 50,000 feet in some kind of cocoon of protection where the sun always shines. Not at all. There are anxious moments and days for us all.  We can bum out and be depressed.  We do bum out and are depressed on occasion.

But I assure you of this. There is no fear. I may have difficulty believing that this is all happening but I do not have fear about this upcoming surgery. I  have moments of anxiety in thinking through worst case outcomes… not a pleasant exercise with my vivid imagination. But we are not living in fear.

It is not because we are extra special people. It is not because we have an unusual fortitude about us. It is not because of any external thing. Rather, it is because we are followers of Jesus Christ, who gives true and lasting peace.  My Christmas present to all of you who read this blog from all over this world, from many different ethnic and religious backgrounds and educational levels is this:

I am going to let you in on what I might have said to the man in the video on death’s doorstep… who wanted real answers.

First, I would have explained to him how every single person on this planet who has ever been born of woman, except Jesus the Christ, has been born a sinner and thus separated from the life of God. Sin is simply missing the mark of God’s perfect demands. Only a complete fool would deny this reality about himself.

Second, I would explain to this man that there was a baby boy born to a virgin named Mary about two thousand years ago. Before this baby was born an angel appeared to Joseph (who was betrothed to be married to her) in a dream and told him not to fear. The angel also told Joseph to name the baby to be born “…Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). I would tell this man that the very name “Jesus” means “The Lord saves.” This is the reason Jesus, the divine and only begotten Son of the Father, came into this world.

Third, I would explain to this man how Jesus lived a sinless life in perfect obedience to all of God’s Law. I would tell him of Jesus’ roughly three year public ministry where He healed the sick, raised the dead, and loved the lost.

Fourth, I would tell this man with passion in my voice and genuine expression on my face that “Yes, atonement is possible.” At the end of Jesus’ public ministry He was brought before two kangaroo courts, convicted on bogus charges, and sentenced to die a cruel death by crucifixion, alongside two common criminals.

As Jesus hung on the Cross He cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In this moment the Father abandoned His Son. And as Jesus died atonement for sin was indeed made for all who will repent (have a complete change of heart and mind regarding their sin) and put their faith in Christ’s finished work on Calvary’s Cross.

In the perfect sacrifice of Christ’s death He paid the just penalty for sin that we could never pay ourselves. God’s wrath should by all rights have fallen on each one of us but it has been averted for all who surrender themselves to Jesus Christ. Redemption was accomplished, but it still must be applied.  There is no such thing as a universal salvation.  All people will not go to heaven in the end.  All paths do not lead to the same place.  All of the major religions of the world do not serve the same God.

As Jesus breathed His last the thick curtain that divided the Holy Place from the Most Holy in the Jewish temple was torn in two (Matthew 27:51). This signified that access to God was now available directly and only through Christ.

The Apostle Paul would later write in I Timothy 2:5 “There is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…” Apart from this one mediator reconcilation with God is impossible.

Jesus said, as John 14:6 records it, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.” It may not be popular. It’s certainly not inclusive, but that does not in itself render it untrue.

Finally, I would look this man in the eye and tell him that unless he repents of his sin and puts his faith in Jesus Christ, crucified and literally risen from the dead on the third day, that he will soon enter into an eternity of conscious eternal torment (Matthew 25:41-46) where he will live in a state of perpetual payment of a debt that can never be paid. That’s why hell exists.

I would beg him to consider receiving the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ and not to wait until tomorrow or next year, for no one knows what tomorrow holds. Today is the day of salvation.

I would encourage him, that if God has shown him his need and given him the desire, to do it right now…to pray aloud to God on the spot and tell Him the desire of his heart.  I would encourage him to confess that he is a guilty, lost, and helpless sinner, and with all sincerity ask Christ to save him and take His rightful place as the Lord of his life, enabling him to turn from sin and live for Him. That’s what I would encourage him to pray.

And finally, I would encourage him to begin immediately attending a Bible believing church where the Bible is believed to be the Word of God, where the death, resurrection, and Second Coming of Christ are believed to be literally true, and where the people are filled with grace and love toward one another and outsiders, and where the glory and grandeur of God oozes from its DNA. That’s what I would tell this man. Then I would give him a hug and say “See you later brother,” but only if he believed the biblical truths of which I had spoken and had received them for himself.

I share this with you all because it is part and parcel of who I am. Many of you don’t much about me at all. I’m just the guy with the bogus thing in the brain.   That’s not really who I am. I am first and foremost a redeemed sinner who is a child of the Most High God, who awaits an eternal home in glory, not because of anything I have done, but because of God’s mercy alone.  If nothing else this AVM has given me the opportunity to share with all of you my understanding of the real meaning of Christmas and to learn some new and cool big words.   Thanks for reading and thanks for your continued interest in our lives.

I, and my dear wife Karla, extend our desire for you all to have a Merry Christmas.  Please feel free to contact me by email if you would like to speak to me about these matters more personally. I would be delighted to do so.

Two Years Ago Today (on Feb. 12th 2009) I Had Brain Surgery

Click here and go to slide number 8 if you want to see a cool ultrasound picture of the blood clot in my heart and the PowerPoint Presentation for Grand Rounds

Ultrasound video of the blood clot in my heart!

This was my bogus AVM...all AVM's are bogus.
Evans Family in August 2010

It’s difficult to comprehend that two full years have elapsed since my brain was taken out of my skull and replaced with a new and better one.  Actually that didn’t happen at all.  What did happen was that two years ago today I underwent a seven hour surgery to remove an arteriovenous malformation (AVM).  An AVM is a confused blob of intertwined arteries and veins as the very name suggests.

Mine was huge by AVM standards…nearly the size of a peach.  I figure it took up about one-sixth of the total mass of my brain.  The surgeon didn’t remove any actual brain mass.  It was never there to begin with!  (: You figure out what that means.

Dr. Frederic Meyer, from Mayo Clinic in Rochester MN, performed the surgery using a state of the art million dollar microscope strapped onto his head.  And thus began the great adventure.  See the summary of Mike’s brain problem if you are interested in reading more about this 46 day stay at Mayo, the loss of speech and movement on my right side, the blood infection, the blood clot(s) in my heart and lungs, the emergency open heart surgery after I coded two weeks after the brain surgery, and the long, slow recovery, and the tick-tock…metronome  sound in my brain that no one else could hear that hounded me day and night for a time.  Yes, it is grand to be alive!  By all conventional wisdom I should not still be alive on this earth.  I am a blessed man!

The Evans family sitting on an old fence just before it broke

It doesn’t seem like two years ago…It’s all still very fresh…painfully fresh.  I wrote one year ago that I had hoped by this time I would be able to go an entire day without thinking about the trauma of those days.  I still wake up at night and my mind often goes right back there.   I arose at 4:30 a.m. this morning with my mind racing….that’s why I came downstairs to write the bulk of this posting.

A whole day?  Nope.  Mission failed.  Not even close.  I can’t manage to go even a single hour without being taken back in my mind to those harrowing days.  They are tattooed on my soul with indelible ink.  The tattoo is fading a bit but I suspect it will always be there.

Some seem surprised that it has been two whole years since the surgery.  Me too sometimes, but other times I feel like I’m Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day.  I don’t remember how it ends.  Does anyone out there remember?

I’m all but certain how mine will end.  According to Revelation Ch. 21 it will end ultimately in the New Heaven and New Earth with the glory of God being the all-sufficient light as followers of Jesus live forever in the proximate presence of a God whose imminence, rather than being terrifying, will be all-comforting.   There will be no more tears or sadness or mourning or death or AVMs or cancer or….you name it…anything that has to do with this fallen world will be forever done away with.

Karla has been amazing through this whole ordeal and is worthy, I think, of a medal of honor!  Thank you  to my children, the Crossroad Church Family who cared for my family in many ways, Dean and Kathleen, Ray and Connie, Pastor Rehfeldt, Dick and Marilyn, Kathy, Steve and Denae, and the three Randys each of whom were angels  (if  angels are “ministering spirits sent to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation”  as Hebrews 1:14 says), Kara and Eddie, Betsy and Brandon, Katie, Justin and Kayla, Justin and Cheryl, John, Holly and Taylor, Shirley, Steve and Marla, Tim, Bev and Jeff and Dad, Sister Cashel, Rebecca, Sarah, Stefano, and the rest of the truly amazing staff in the rehabilitation unit at Saint Mary Hospital, Connie, Dave, Dale, the Earlham Community, and all the Drs. and surgeons along the way to whom, in a sense…a very real sense, I owe my very life.

Below are some pictures that are vivid reminders of what a close brush with death I experienced just two years ago.   If you are having a bad day these pics should provide a cause for pause….and then praise to a God who still works wonders!

Thrilled to be alive,

Mike Evans

Blood clots from the left lung
Blood clot from my heart...no wonder it stopped! (numbers are centimeters not inches...but still)
Blood clot being pulled from my heart...I didn't take this pic. in case you were wondering

Pictures from this past year (that you can enlarge if you wish!)

Here are the pics that you can enlarge if you wish by clicking on the image you would like to see in greater detail.  I said this could be done with my last posting and it couldn’t.  Enjoy!  (By the way if you want to read the summary of this entire saga then just click on the previous entry titled “A synopsis of Mike’s brain problem and some cool pictures.”)
I’m curious.  What do you all think of  these pictures?

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A Synopsis of Mike’s Brain Problem and Some Cool Pictures

If you want to understand what the Evans family has been through in the past year (Oct. 2008-Feb. 2010)  without reading 200 or so postings, this is the posting to read!  I have summarized the events here in a single posting…sort of  a Cliff’s Notes version of our ordeal with pictures for those of you who are visual learners.  One year ago nearly to the day (Feb. 8, 2009) we headed off to Mayo and what would prove to be the most exciting year of our lives! 

  

  

  

  

 

The Evans Family (front left is Luke 17, Benj 15, me, Elisabeth 11, Jared 4, Karla and Gabbie 7

 

 

 

  

  

  The “real” Evans family

 

For those of you who have followed our story over the past year or so please join us in praise to our God for all that He has done!  Inserted into this post are the only pictures we have of the  nearly two months  spent in Rochester. 

In a weak moment of frustration just after the initial brain surgery I communicated to Karla that I wanted her to delete all the pictures that she had taken up to this point.  I was the one who    originally had wanted pictures.   I suspect that some of these images will gross some of you out and enthrall others of you…especially those in the medical profession. 

The images can be  enlarged by moving your cursor over the image and clicking (Actually that’s not true.  In order to enlarge these images you will need to see the posting just after this one.) I think they are cool.  Come on.  Be honest.  How many times have you seen a real live picture of your own heart?  

The picture of  me lying in the bed was taken by Dean Osborne from a cell phone the day of the emergency open heart surgery on Feb. 26th 2009.   He deleted the image after sending it to me…a sober  reminder from whence I have come. 

Now, I share it with you all… to give you all a picture of what the Apostle Paul must have meant in Second Corinthians 12:8ff. when he begged God (3 times!) to take away his “thorn in the flesh.”  I doubt they were blood clots. 

He wrote:  “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ  may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  If weakness is strength then this image represents a superhero.   I share it with you all that you may boast with Karla and I in God and what He has done! 

Thanks for standing with us through this past year!  Thanks even more for kneeling with us in prayer!  Thanks for the countless acts of kindness sent our way! 

Just before it all began...still not happy about the gowns

 

A Brief synopsis of events:
*October 23, 2008 seizure in the early morning leads to the discovery of a peach sized AVM, a blob of intertwined veins and arteries that has been there since even before my birth (see picture).  Neurosurgeon in Des Moines says that I am a “walking time bomb” and that he won’t even consider operating on it.  He suggests Iowa City.  We called the Mayo Clinic two days later. 

* November 11, 2008 Visit to Mayo Clinic where we are faced with a variety of options.  1. Do nothing and live with a 65-80% chance of a potentially debilitating rupture in my lifetime, 2. Staged radiation which is a non-invasive procedure which works well on smaller AVM’s  or 3. Undergo a craniotomy (resection) where there would be a 100% certainty that the AVM is gone forever….but also with a 10-15% chance of significant lifelong deficits. 

* Early November 2008 began blogging to bear witness to the truth of Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” 

* Late November 2008 Decide to go with option #3 and surgical resection.  This was a decision made by the whole family.  We talked honestly with our oldest sons about the risks and possibilities of a poor outcome.  We decided to move forward and accept whatever outcome ensued.  If Luke and Benj had not been on board with the decision I would not have proceeded with the surgery. 

*  February 8, 2009 Off to Mayo Clinic for surgery 

*  February 10th.  Admitted to neurological ICU for observation after embolizations on two consecutive days.  Embolizations are where pieces of sterilized plastic (and other materials) were inserted into the feeder arteries in my brain via a catheter which originated at the femural artery in my groin area.  Doctors blocked off what they said was a huge feeder artery on the first day and several smaller ones on the second day.  The embolization after the first artery was blocked off caused a seizure due to pressure changes from slowing the flow of blood to that part of the brain.  Later on they told me it was a good thing that I opted for surgical resection as this artery was much larger than they had thought, and said that had it ruptured I very likely would have been toast. 

*  February 12th Surgery to remove the AVM takes seven hours. 

*  February 12th-13th Post surgery unable to move my entire right side or speak a word.  The thought struck my mind ” What have I just done in allowing a man whom I barely know take an otherwise perfectly healthy man and paralyze him on one side and render him unable to speak?”  I also lay there asking myself how it is that a person can speak…and move.  As I lay there looking up at visitors I could speak words in my head.  I just had no idea how to get them out of my brain into intelligible speech. 

Unable to move the right side of my body I couldn’t help but think what a gift it is to be able to move.  I found this situation both extremely frustrating and yet fascinating at the same time.  After the brain surgery I just laid there and moved my left foot round and round in an endless circular motion.  When asked about this, I managed to communicate that the reason I did this was simply because I could.  Maybe in the back of my mind I also thought if I moved my left foot my right could learn from it. 

I have determined that neurosurgeons  have nerves of steel.  They have to have nerves of steel to do what they do day in and day out.  While they are often able to heal the hopeless they are also capable of changing  people’s lives forever.   During these sleepless nights I also experienced ICU psychoses where I imagined that the nurses were trying to murder me and I was helpless to defend myself.  Let me clarify: I was not dreaming.  Rather, I was seeing real people in real time.  But the words I heard coming from their mouths were most certainly not the words they were speaking.  Just a guess here…but I don’t think most highly skilled Intensive Care nurses moonlight as serial killers.  Less skilled ones…perhaps. 

I remember watching a tv station that was intended to be relaxing.  It was elevator music with graphics…like the old Atari Asteroids game if you can remember that far back.  It was not relaxing as I began to see aliens who were coming to traumatize me.  Wow!   In order to keep my blood pressure low after brain surgery a  psychotic drug was used.  It was made from slug spit…no kidding.   That gives me the willies even to think of it now.  Slug spit.  Who do you think was the first to find out that slug spit lowered blood pressure in human beings?
*  February 14th Spoke for the first time…just a couple of words. 

*  February 16th Rehab starts in ICU.  Moved to regular neuro floor the next day. 

*  February 18th Temperature spiked to 106 due to blood infection.  Back up to ICU floor for 5 more days and nights, three where I lay nearly naked on a cooling blanket in a room that was kept at 58 degrees. 

*  February 22nd Large blood clot found in lower part of my right leg.  A filter was inserted to keep the clot from going to my heart. 

*  February 24th Moved to inpatient rehabilitation for the first time.  Experienced seizures that night.  All appeared fine the next day…but I had an inner sense that all was not well. 

*  Feb. 26th Large seizures at 6 a.m. My heart stopped.  I ceased breathing.  I coded.  Thankfully Karla just happened to be in the room when this happened.  They performed CPR on me and also used pressors (Through further research in the past couple of months Karla found that in cases of cardiac arrest where pressors are used roughly 80% end in death).  Pressors are a powerful drug used to keep the heart pumping blood (and thus oxygen) to the brain while doctors try to figure out  how to keep someone alive.   I’m glad they used them on me. A team of doctors eventually determined that I had something in my heart.  At first they thought that the filter placed in me four days earlier had dislodged into my heart. 

The surgical waiver that Karla signed granted permission for surgeons to remove whatever was in my heart and lungs.  After opening me up and cutting a small hole in my heart they pulled out a  massive blood clot and 22 others from my lungs (empirical evidence that the filter had not been sufficient).  So, two weeks after the brain surgery I was back under the knife for emergency open heart surgery. 

There are numerous smiling Providences of God that had they not occurred in exactly the order they had, at precisely the right times as they did, I would not be typing these words right now.  Within 30 minutes of discovering the problem I was under the knife.   Dr. Sundt, who was the only surgeon on staff who would have been able to perform this surgery just happened to be between surgeries at that exact time. 

As I went into surgery my body was literally shutting down.  My kidneys were beginning to fail. 

*  March 3, 2009  Back to inpatient rehabilitation for the second time. That night I finally got some sleep (thanks to Ambien).  I was also very, very weak.  And very light!  I lost 50 pounds of body weight…all my muscle mass was gone.  But, some movement was beginning to come back.   I could move the big toe on my right foot and there was at least some movement in my right arm, though it would still be a few more days before I would be strong enough to lift my own arm. 

I will never forget the moment I was able to do my first “arm curl.”    I never imagined how glad I could be just to be able to lift my own arm by my own strength!  When I was finally able to bend my right leg a few days after this I was ecstatic!  For some reason, even before I had much movement in my legs (all I could do was bend my leg when I was in bed) I could walk.  I found great joy in confounding my physical therapists.  In fact, as I sit here typing these words just now I’m smiling. 

*March 27, 2009 Home on Benj’s birthday after 46 days away from home (Rochester is 4 hours from Earlham).  Minor modifications to our home were necessary for me to return.  Another bannister was added by a servant-hearted man from our church and it was necessary to have a shower chair as I was still unable to raise my legs enough to step over the edge of our tub.  However, after a couple of months all these helps were no longer needed. 

*  March 28- July 2009 Outpatient rehab  at Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines, 3 times a week.  Speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy.  Since Oct. 2008 until the present (Feb. 3,2010) I have only had a driver’s license  a total of two months. 

* June 2nd-4th 2009 Follow-up visit to Mayo Clinic shows good progress in all areas.  Doctors inform me that I must wear a compression sock on my right leg for anywhere from 2 years to life because of the damaged vein in my lower leg due to the blood clots.  Simple cat scan reveals that the IVC filter in my abdomen is doing its job of trapping  blood clots.  Docs take me off Dilantin (an anti-seizure med) but keep me on 1,500 mg of Keppra (also an anti-seizure med).  I’m also continuing on blood thinners, which is really just rat poison…seriously. 

* Sept. 30- Oct. 2, 2009 Another follow-up visit to Mayo Clinic.  After seeing that the IVC filter was not holding back any blood clots doctors suggested removing the filter.  I said ok, let’s do it.  Then I asked how they planned to retrieve it.  They said they would cut into my jugular vein on my neck, stick a catheter with a hook on the end and pull it out.  I was not fully sedated when they performed this surgical procedure and could feel the filter coming out as they pulled it up…after first having some difficulty in the retrieval process.  They had to make a bigger cut in my neck and use a beefier catheter as the filter was sitting nearly sideways in my vein. 

An EEG provided proof that my brain still functions, and more importantly that there was no apparent seizure activity.  I wanted to get off anti-seizure meds entirely so Dr. Meyer, because I pushed…or so Karla says anyway, said we could try to get off the Keppra.  He said to try cutting the dosage in half.  So we did that. But guess what happened 10 days later? 

*  October 12, 2009 Had another seizure 10 days after adjusting the Keppra (antiseizure medication) downward by half from 1,500 mg/day to 750 mg/ day.   I had hoped to get weaned off the anti-seizure meds entirely…but I recognize now that it may be long term…which is better than having seizures.  The top two side effects of this medication are  irritability and suicidal thoughts; neither of which provide much benefit for my calling in this life to be a pastor.  I haven’t had any of the second side effects. 

Since doctors never determined where the blood clots came from I am on coumadin (a blood thinner) long term and have to wear a compression sock on my right lower right leg each day.    The doctor said 30%  of those who wear compression socks need to wear them forever…unless the veins can heal themselves. 

My case (I) was presented to students (in a Grand Rounds) by Dr. McBane, the head of Vascular Medicine at Mayo clinic.  The hospitals associated with the Mayo Clinic are teaching hospitals and Grand Rounds provides an opportunity for students to be presented with “interesting” cases.   We received a copy of the Power Point presentation that Dr. McBane made to his students.  He is the Christian doctor who began a quest to better understand the relationship between the sovereignty of God and human suffering. 

With tears in his eyes shortly after the first surgery he entered my room (to explain how the filter was supposed to work) and asked “Why would God render a preaching pastor unable to speak and unable to move his right side?”  I managed to communicate with a shrug of my shoulders and a few words that I had no idea, but that somehow this was all for God’s glory. 

It’s been a wild year to say the least.   Looking back there are so many points at which, had God not intervened in the precise orchestration of events, I might….no would not be here today.  I’m so thankful to have found out about this oddity within by having a seizure instead of a brain bleed (Eighty percent of people find out they have an AVM through a brain bleed and not a seizure). 

Another smiling Providence of God is that Karla just happened to be present at all the most critical moments…like when my heart stopped along with my breathing.  Neither do I believe it was a mistake that we “just happened” to be in one of only two medical facilities in the U.S. (or so we were told by Mayo staff) where they were able to perform the cardiac surgery after assessing the nature of the problem. 

Neither do I think it was just coincidence that upon entering the hospital on Feb. 10, 2009 I was in the best physical shape I’ve been in for the past 20 years or so.   And it was particularly encouraging to have nurse Randy watching over me the first couple of days and nights.  Randy was a strong Christian man who had read my Patros Logos (A Father’s Words) articles even up in Rochester.  At every step of the way God was with us.  It is unmistakable. 

So what is life like for us today? 

I have regained much of my former self.  After a couple hundred hours of rehab including speech, cognitive, physical, and occupational therapies I have gained much back.  Physically, I now work out vigorously at the health club three days per week for at least two hours each session.  Neurological connections are still coming back.  I am aware of this even as I type this sentence.  But they are just the finest of the fine motor skills that have yet to return. 

I find it difficult to play the piano now which is frustrating…particularly on the right hand where the melody is played.   I have to tell my fingers to move and they are getting better at obeying my voice.  I never once went to church without wearing a shirt and tie.  Do you have any idea how frustrating it is to tie a tie, and button the top button on a shirt with just one good hand? 

There were  times early on after we had returned home that I spent 45 minutes just getting dressed.  I figured that if I took the easy way out even one time it would make it too easy to do it another time..so I have never done it.  I have tried to do everything in the rehabilitation process without taking any shortcuts.  Some might call it hardheadedness, which I think is the unspoken 10th fruit of the Holy Spirit from Galatians Ch. 5 …at least for someone fighting their way back from nearly nothing. 

I preached for the first time, with difficulty, on Easter Sunday, April 23rd, 2009 and then sat out another six weeks before preaching again.  Now, as of February 5, 2010, I am back to doing most of the things I had done previously. 

My family is still adjusting from this stormy season.  Luke, Benj, Elisabeth, Gabbie, and Jared all processed the events of this past year in vastly different ways.  Karla has been my constant companion throughout this entire experience.   My love for Karla has grown deeper and broader as I have been on the receiving end of so much grace and so much practical help .  She has borne the brunt of the agony involved in this whole ordeal.  And yes, we still spend hours each week talking about the events of the past year…each time with me walking away from the conversation having learned something new and interesting! 

Traumatic experiences are like this I guess.   The greater the trauma the longer it takes to shake the almost idolatrous and singular obsession with it…constantly reviewing things over in one’s mind.  If you didn’t ask you never would have known (had I not offered it up) that as of today (Feb.5, 2010)  I spend roughly 40% of every waking hour thinking about the events of this past year…which is a striking improvement from six months ago when it was probably 75% of every waking hour. 

Perhaps by this time next year I can go an entire day without thinking about it. There is so much more to tell which is why I think a book is likely in the making.  The “all things” in Romans 8:28 is true.  And Psalm 73:25-26 has been a great comfort for me from the day of the first seizure until now: “Whom have I in heaven but you?  And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”  Amen! 

It’s kind of funny really.  I don’t remember having lots of profound thoughts of God during the darkest hours of this trial.  Rather, the things I believed about God and physical suffering prior to this past year came to roost on the porch of my life in a big way.  I was seldom anxious and felt myself to be in a cocoon of protection…from snowstorms that raged outside to battles that could just have easily raged inside my soul.  I felt that my soul took refuge in in the shadow of God’s wings.  Psalm 57:1 says “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by.”   God was merciful to me.  He is merciful to me.  My soul did find refuge under His wings.  The storm of destruction has passed by.  And yet, by the grace of God we are still standing. 

Thank you all for your joining with us in our journey! I thank God for all of you who have prayed faithfully for our family (please don’t stop!), shown concern for our family, and helped out in countless ways. 

Overflowing with thanks to God for His constant care and you all for your love, 

Mike Evans