Monday, November 25, 2002

Rebecca's Journey - 12

Greetings Friends,

It is Sunday afternoon again and I'm sitting in one of the consultation cubicles across the hall from Rebecca's room, listening to billows of feminine hilarity coming from her quarters. Each year around this time 7 ladies celebrate 3 of their birthdays together. It has become a kind of tradition. So this year china cups, plates and a teapot were carted to room 3301, along with some of the most scrumptious and sumptuous desserts Brussels has to offer. (I arrived before they finished and decided that a masculine presence wouldn't add to the festivities.)

Yesterday we had a mini-milestone. When Rebecca was put in her wheelchair she said, for the first time, that it felt good to be up. That may seem small, but it is a significant step. Some background: When a patient has been immobile and prone for long periods (and Rebecca was 5½ months in ICU, in addition to the subsequent hospitalization) the blood vessels loose their elasticity and are not able to keep blood in the upper parts of the body; this, in addition to metabolic changes, makes sitting up most difficult. In Rebecca's case this results in nausea, etc. So, for sitting up to actually feel good, even for the first few moments, is a long way from where she has been in months past.

This week we've had the joy of a visit from our friends, Timothy and Sharon Henry, and their son Peter. Timothy is a medical doctor working in the interior of Congo. They are en route to the US for a couple of months.

While in university, Sharon spent time studying in Rome. A couple of days ago she spoke of the Roman love for fountains - the city is full of them, many dating back to the time of Christ and before. In that era there were, of course, no motors or pumps. How did they provide the pressure to enable plumes of water to spring up? They constructed the aqueducts high above the city. The water plunged down from above, forcing it way up in the fountains.

You see the application, I'm sure. This illustration was sparked by a comment made by one of Rebecca's nurses last week. The nurse had said, with some amazement: "You know, Rebecca, you are stronger, laying in that bed, than I am standing here." A remarkable observation! Rebecca shared with her that she had a source of strength outside of herself, coming from her relationship with Jesus. "There is a river that makes glad the city of God." Our strength comes from higher up.

We pray that the spiritual strength that flows into Rebecca will strengthen her physical body as well.

May His strength be yours this week. Thank you for your continued prayers.

Our love, in Him,

Paul and Rebecca

Monday, November 18, 2002

Rebecca's Journey - 11

Greetings Friends,

Once more it is Sunday afternoon. We're back at Pellenberg; Rebecca is napping, regaining strength after yesterday's adventure.

The ambulance pulled up at our home right at 11:00. Stephanie & Matt had arrived earlier from Germany for the day with their little dog, Lew. Thirteen months ago, when Rebecca left us, the house had been under construction. Yesterday she entered what was to her a "new" home. After some tears, shed by all of us, we pushed her bed from the dinning/living room into the kitchen, which she had designed but had never seen. Everything was a delight. Her great compliment to me: "You've decorated it just the way I would have." (That had been my goal.) You can imaginethat the three dogs created a small riot. Hope, our 15-year old little mutt, soon settled herself on Rebecca's bed, where she spent the remainder of the day.

Stephen had lit the fire, and then cooked Judy's Birthday lunch. About 2:30 the nurse arrived for her duties. After a nap, we shared together around the fire and Judy opened her gifts as the afternoon sped away. Seven o'clock came all too quickly. And again, tears at her departure. What a lovely day - one that glows in all our memories!

On the practical side, it became evident how very small our rooms are. It is still not at all clear if the house will be workable for Rebecca. My mind keeps returning to this subject (no surprise for those of you who know me). There are significant pros and cons to each of the options before us, and all, at this moment, seem un-doable. This morning I returned toProverbs 3. I just now read it in "The Message": "Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don't try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He's the One who will keep you on track." One of the French versions says (translated of course): "He is the One who will act".

A friend of mine recently sent me two tapes by Henri Nouwen on "The Spirituality of Waiting". He identifies my struggle with this waiting process - particularly since the decisions before us seem so pressing. But the gift of this moment is uncertainty - not clarity. Nouwen says that waiting means being "present to the moment". For me that mean being "present" to the unknown, to the inability to act, or decide, or prepare the future for Rebecca - not a comfortable place. But He is the One who must reveal, and who must act. For now, waiting is what is given me. "My soul waits for the Lord...for with the Lord is mercy, unfailing love, and with Him is full redemption." Ps. 130: 6-7.

Rebecca joins is sending all of you our love,


Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Rebecca's Journey - 10

Dear Friends,

This is Paul. It's Sunday afternoon, and Rebecca and I are looking at a Belgian winter scene out her window. It has been delightful watching "her" trees turn their golden, autumn colors, and now their leaves come blowing by the window.

Yesterday Rebecca sat up in her wheelchair for two hours - the longest stretch she has yet had. (Regaining elasticity in the blood vessels to maintain blood pressure, after months in bed, is one of the big challenges in rehabilitation.) Next Saturday, she will come home for the day and we'll celebrate Judy's birthday together in our own dining room.

From Rebecca: "I am excited! I know Stephen is planning a fire in the fireplace and Paul is working on the birthday dinner. The only family members not excited yet are the dogs, and they will probably be the most enthusiastic greeters.

This morning, as the nurse set me up with my pen and journal for my quiet time, the Lord gave me 2 prayers: 'Teach me to climb, and teach me to listen.'

~Teach me to climb! This prayer, as you know, has been growing in me for months. Many of you have sent cards and encouragement comparing rehabilitation to mountain climbing. Two weeks ago I received a beautiful card with a mountain on the front that I placed on my bulletin board as a daily reminder. Then the other evening I came across this poem by Amy Carmichael. I had forgotten that in her latter years she compared her life to climbing a mountain.

Teach Me to Climb

Let the stern array Of the forbidding be a constant call To fling into the climb my will, my all. Teach me to climb. (I've put a 2nd Carmichael poem on this theme in an addendum for you poem lovers.)

~Teach me to listen. This prayer was no a surprise to me. It seems the Lord has been calling me to listen to Him for 30 years. [ I wonder what that says about me? :-) ] Once again one of Amy's poems came to mind.

What do I know of listening? O my Father, Teach me in silence of the soul to gather
Those thoughts of Thine that, deep within me flowing, Like the currents of a river, guide my going.

I'm grateful that the Lord has given me a focus to begin these days seeking Him, flinging my will, my all, into the daily climb, and allowing His thoughts to daily guide my going.



Thy Way Is Perfect (2 Sam. 22:31)

Long is the way, and very steep the slope; Strengthen me once again, O God of Hope.

Far, very far, the summit doth appear; But Thou art near, my God, but Thou art near.

And Thou wilt give me with my daily food, Powers of endurance, courage, fortitude.

Thy way is perfect; only let that way Be clear before my feet from day to day.

Thou art my Portion, saith my soul to Thee, Oh, what a Portion is my God to me!

Saturday, November 02, 2002

Rebecca's Journey - 9

Greetings Friends,

Today is All Saints Day - a national holiday in Belgium. I was in the States for a week and a half, and returned two days ago. Annie came up from France to help Judy while I was gone.

It's been nearly 2 weeks since you've heard from us. Rebecca's Chronic Fatigue has flared up again, so the doctors are reducing her therapy to two sessions a day for the next while. Rebecca and I have both experienced some discouragement with this.

Arrangements have been made for Rebecca to make a trip home - the first for 13½ months. On Saturday, 16 Nov., the ambulance will bring her home for the day. We'll have a hospital bed set up in the dinning room, and a fire in the fireplace. A nurse will come several times during the day to do the nursing "things" that need to be done. We're also planning for another couple of weekends at home before Christmas, and then 5 days over Christmas. The family will all be together. It is good for Rebecca to have things like this to look forward to and to plan toward.

There is a new "patient mover" that we have discovered that may work in our house. It is a device, a little like a ski lift, which moves along a track attached to or suspended from the ceiling. Rebecca would be suspended in a "hammock" and could be moved from bed to bath, up and down stairs, and deposited in a wheelchair. The architect is looking into the feasibility of this in our house. (What a high tech world: ski lifts and motorized chairs.)

I've been meditating on the different seasons in life: times when we act (are led to take initiatives) and times when we are acted upon. In Jesus early ministry He took initiative, lead His disciples, confronted the Pharisees, doing what He saw His Father doing. Then the season shifted and He was moved along by others, by events. He saw this too as part of the Father's plan; the Father had "delivered" Him into this new circumstance. Jesus told Peter that he would also later face this. A time would come when he'd be led where he did not want to go. The Apostle Paul certainly
had that experience: seasons of great initiatives and latitude, then seasons of limitation with things imposed upon him that he would not have chosen.

It is important to know which season we're in, to know whether the Father is giving to us to be active, or to be acted upon. Different seasons demand different responses, different anticipations, and a different exercise of faith.

Rebecca and I have obviously experienced the change from taking many initiatives to being carried along by unforeseen events. Jesus navigated these waters motivated by His love for the Father, and His love for us. He was serving the Father, not His own life and ministry. Paul said that he went through difficult seasons with a view to the benefit they would be to others, not to the effect on him personally.

The last couple of verses of a poem I read recently help me in this perspective:

"For Strength to bear is found in duty done; And it is best indeed to learn to make The joy of others cure one's own heartache."

Each season has its particular service. Please pray that I'll be able to be a consistent source of strength, and joy, to Rebecca and our children. They are the first ones who need my life and love.

We both send our love and gratitude,