I am sitting in Starbucks enjoying Christmas coffee reflecting on the past year. I pick a family theme every new year. The 2017 theme was given to me from my late friend Larry Eifert, “Thy will be done.” (I miss him so much.)
In December of 2016 we moved back to Wisconsin from what I like to call ‘paradise’ Queen Creek, Arizona. We loved our short time out there and wanted to sink our roots deep. Yet, Thy will be done. (We moved back due to my declining health.)
We were welcomed with bone chilling cold air, yet, the warm hearts and hands of friends and family. We moved into my in-laws home and loved the extra help and the amazing smells coming from the kitchen everyday. Thank you Nana and Papa. So many people stepped in to help us every step of the way. I can’t thank each person enough.
Our children started yet another new elementary school and new sports teams. We joined another new church. We started slowly putting roots down again discovering the best place to take our car for repairs, where to get the best fades and beard trims, and where to find the best coffee shops. You know, the really important stuff of life.
I was entering the end stage of Cystic Fibrosis. I was looking death in the face with each infection flare up. My FEV1 dropped to lower than 12% at times. I spent over four months in the hospital on and off. The medical staff became like family.
My children knew the way to my wing of the hospital spending many weekends with me and having to choose time with Daddy in a small hospital room over other things kids get to enjoy. There was no playing baseball with Dad (mom can’t throw or catch, but did/does try hard), no wrestling around, no outings like family hikes, dates with Dad, sporting events, even church services. I am so grateful for my wife, Kendra, and grandparents filling in the gap.
As my lung function continued to decline soon I was pretty much confined to hanging out in my bedroom and watching the Brewers. Yes, I had some good days and weeks where I was able to get out of the house, which was a gift. I had oxygen 24/7 and extra help to sleep at night. I had a chair and handle bars in the shower for my wife to bathe me, even that tired me out. I was one infection away from getting to see Jesus face to face.
During this time I was evaluated and accepted to be put on a double lung transplant list through the UW Hospital. I had to have my cell phone on and ready to answer at all times. Each ring made my heart skip a beat. I received the phone call three times. The third time was the charm. It is normal to have what they call ‘dry runs’.
September 2nd, 2017, I received a gift, the gift of more life, because of the love and generosity of an organ donor and his or her family. I thank God everyday. I hope to meet the family someday and say thank you in person.
It has been over 2 1/2 months since my surgery. I have been home for over 50 days and getting stronger everyday. I am taking family walks, attending sports events, hanging out with friends in coffee shops and playing ball with my kids. I even gave my first sermon in almost a year. Yes, I have had some bumps in the road and I will continue to hit some bumps, but one of the lessons I have learned is to be grateful in any and every circumstance. You have heard it said, “gratitude is attitude.”
What is the secret to contentment?
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” - Philippians 4:13
During my second ‘dry run’ I was all prepped and ready for surgery. I said “see you later” to my family and was wheeled into the a side room near the operating room. I call it the ‘holding room.’ Each of the medical staff involved in the operation comes in and introduces themselves to you. The surgeon comes in last.
My heart was beating out of my chest, yet, my mind was at peace. I asked God, “Why is my heart beating out of my chest? I need you God, help me.” After the surgeon left the room and I was alone, just waiting to be taken into the operation room. Jesus, the Great Physician, let me know He was with me in the ‘holding room’. He calmed my heartbeat, an overwhelming peace filled the room, and He spoke to my spirit, “Jedidiah, I want you to fight to the very end until I take you home. I want you to use whatever medical means possible that I provide. Trust me.”
You have to understand at this time I really didn’t want a double lung transplant. I hate pain. My Cystic Fibrosis had run its course and I wanted to go the natural way. I was only doing this for my family, particularly my children (sorry Kendra).
This was the turning point for me. My life is not my own, it belongs to Jesus. I am His beloved. If He tells me to fight I will trust Him and fight. I was no longer going through the transplant process for just my family, but for me, for the glory of God.
Today, as I write this out, I am reminded to trust God no matter what the circumstance, in life and in death. My life here on earth is in His hands. I am to live everyday to the fullest. This is how to have contentment in any circumstance.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Are you grateful? Are you content in your circumstances? Can you have joy even when you are looking death in the face?
You can! I have been there. I can relate mighty warrior. Keep fighting, but not on your own, fight with the power and purpose of God. May Psalm 18:4-6; 19b encourage you today.
“The cords of death encompassed me;
the torrents of destruction assailed me;
the cords of Sheol entangled me;
the snares of death confronted me.
In my distress I called upon the Lord;
to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears….
…he rescued me, because he delighted in me.”
I love you! God delights in you!
- His beloved (I am Jedidiah)