Thursday, October 17, 2002

Rebecca's Journey - 8

Dear Friends,

(This is Paul taking dictation. I've put a PS at the bottom with a progress report.)

In the early days after my accident I felt the Lord refer to my being His "prisoner", and that my body, in many ways, was for me His "prison cell".

This week my sister Judy has been meditating on the Apostle Paul's years in a Roman Prison. She was struck with the fact that, probably, the believers around him prayed for his immediate release, having no idea that the letters he was writing them would become the foundation of our faith 2000 years later. The Apostle Paul was indeed "God's prisoner".

In the late 1600's Madam Guyon, a French noble woman, was imprisoned because of her faith. She spent 10 years in solitary confinement, in a prison that I can hardly imagine. This week I received from a friend, a poem that she wrote. This is just the first verse:

A little bird I am, Shut from the fields of the air, And in my cage I sit and sing, To Him who placed me there; Well pleased a prisoner to be Because, my God, it pleases Thee.

In the early 1900's Amy Carmichael, missionary to India, became an invalid as a result of an accident. She was bedridden for the last 20 years of her life. Much of that time she was in great pain, and yet produced some of her most profound writing and poetry. She, too, saw this limitation as her prison. The last two verses of her poem, "Light in the Cell", (Acts 12:7) read:

Light of Love shined in the cell, Turned to gold the iron bars, Opened windows to the stars; Peace stood there as sentinel.

Dearest Lord, how can it be That Thou art so kind to me! Love is shining in my cell, Jesus, my Immanuel.

I would not in any way compare myself to these who have gone before me, but their example this week has given me fresh courage, and encouragement. I've thought of the different "prison cells" that the Lord has given me in the past, which I failed to recognize and receive from His dear hand. What a privilege and joy that He is my Jail Keeper, and His name is Love. As the Psalmist says, He has stored up goodness for me today.

I pray you've had a good week, full of His life. Thank you again for the encouraging notes and e-mails. He has called us to this adventure together.



PS From Paul: Rebecca is driving her new wheelchair with ease and confidence - even going in and out of elevators. Her nausea has substantially diminished, allowing her more extended times of therapy. We pray that it will not again become a limiting factor. She has extended her time sitting up in her chair to 1 hour and 20 minutes at a stretch. Today, for the first time, she used an exercise machine, kind of like the wheel of a bike, for the strengthening of her legs (her right leg is still quite

Also yesterday the doctors stopped the night feeding through the stomach peg. She is now eating enough on her own to sustain herself.

These are all answers to prayer. The progress is "little by little", but progress none-the-less, and we are grateful.


Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Rebecca's Journey - 7

Dear Faithful Ones, (This is Paul taking dictation)

"Well, I don't like to ask personal questions, but why are you wearing one brown glove?" It was the evening nurse coming into my room who noticed, for the first time, my gloved left hand.

My day is made up of many practical details that we thought might be fun for you to share. My one brown glove is a good beginning.

Upper spinal cord injuries play havoc with one's thermostat. Judy said it well the other night. "You're hot in the middle and freezing on the edges." So my left hand, which is my best hand, gets cold and stiff. Our solution: one left glove. It looks silly, but it's working very well. (I remember putting this same glove on both Phillip and Stephen when they were little.)

Tomorrow, Monday, I will need special prayer. Stephen, my occupational therapist, has been determined for some time that I would again drive an electric wheelchair. You may remember hearing about my first efforts last spring: would catastrophic be too strong a term? I ran into the cleaning man, and the walls, and barely missed several other patients. When I drove through the therapy room I overheard someone saying he was terrified. Now, I think that was a bit extreme, but you can imagine it was a negative experience. Shortly after that we went to London for the surgeries -- and you know the rest. Stephen now has a new wheelchair for me. I begin tomorrow. I actually feel rather excited about it.

On Friday afternoons, at 2 o'clock (14h00), I have a new handwriting class. This past Friday I made my first entry into my journal. It is rather scrawling, but completely legible. Surely, it will only get better.

At meal times, we put a pillow and towel on my lap, (the towel completely covers all my upper body). I have begun to eat by myself. Now, I am not ready for fine dining just yet, since I'm eating only with my fingers. Occasionally I use a fork to spear something, but it can get kind of messy. Like the writing though, it is a good first step.

Sunday night is my special night. Our son Stephen comes to visit, and our treat is "frites" (Belgian French fries) while we watch "Songs of Praise" and "The Antiques Road Show" on the BBC.

My daily therapy continues: physical, occupational, and speech. I am again often experiencing nausea, and sometimes vomiting, during my therapy sessions. I feel in those moments like I "hit the wall" and must just press passed it. I'm continuing my climb of "Mount Kilimenjaro". Thankfully, I do not climb alone!

All my love, Rebecca

PS As Rebecca has begun journaling again, she has been reading some pre-accident entries. One seemed particularly interesting, so I've copied it here for those who might like to read it.

July 17, 2001: "Lord, there are so many 'perspectives' - so many points from which to view the day. Each person, each family, has their own priorities, activities, and tragedies. And each can change so quickly; life can be a kaleidoscope. Whether we go from planned event to event, with ordered transitions in between, or whether 'unwanted', catastrophic events are cast upon us by Providence, the only way to remain at rest is to fix our eyes on You. Thomas Merton says Providence is God's love worked out each day. Surely You, Lord, are my Providence unfolding.

There is such a tiny slice of reality that is mine - so limited I am by time and space. And that little slice is all I have. 'The sacrament of the present moment' is all that is mine to give to You. And it is only here, in this moment enshrined, that I can find You as well.

I can only loose when I determine, or endeavor, to control my reality by judging and choosing with my puny opinion what 'I want' or what 'is best for me'. Help me, Lord, to leave my days and times in Your good hand. You are turning our kaleidoscope, and as You turn, great grace will surely flow."

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Rebecca's Journey - 6

Greetings Friends,

On the anniversary of September 11 I wrote some thoughts that I'd like to share with you now.

"Today is 9.11. I just arrived home and turned on the BBC. It is Remembrance Day! Like most of us, I remember where I was when the Twin Towers were struck - Rebecca and I were in Kinshasa. The cell phone rang. It was Mary, my secretary, asking if we had heard what was happening. We had not. She began describing, live, what she was watching on CNN. I was gripped with a certain horror, and surrealism. As the day progressed we travelled across town to the home of friends who had access to CNN. Glued to the events, watching with incredulity, our senses rejecting the reality we were seeing, there was the knowledge that the world, as we had known it, was changing.

In many ways, October 4 was, for us, a reliving of 9.11. It was the day our lives were changed - the day of Rebecca's accident. As I called each of our children from the hospital that day, there were similar emotions of incredulity and surrealism, a similar visceral rejection of the reality into which we had just been plunged, and the same sense: life will permanently change because of this event.

America has gone on, and faced the processes of recovery with hope and determination. Our family, likewise, has gone on, with the determination to hold to the One who is the source of hope.

Many things have changed for us. The wife and mother who is so central to our lives, hasn't been in our home for a year. Her function has certainly changed. But some things haven't changed. First and foremost, the love and goodness of God, rooted in His good and loving character, haven't changed. My, and our, love for Rebecca has only deepened. Though she is not here in our home, she is still central to our lives, and home is where she is.

Yesterday, in the hospital, I said to her: "Whatever it holds, the future will be good, and we'll face it together with anticipation." It will be a different kind of "good" than we had imagined, but good none-the-less. There is a song that says: God is good, all the time. That can be construed as superficial and unrealistic - or it can be the testimony of eternal reality. In our minds and lives, the latter is true. He is indeed good - all the time."

One year on from Rebecca's accident, we want to thank God for His faithfulness and goodness. Our focus is on the future. We find joy in the One who is our life. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead, that brought His broken, lifeless body surging back from the grave, is the life that also lives in Rebecca. We pray that that same power will serge into her physical body, continuing the restoration process. We "wait in hope".

I want to close with a passage from Colossians 1 that has become a reality in us: "We pray that you'll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul - not the grim strength of gritting your teeth, but the glory-strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy."

Our love to you all,