Saturday, October 30, 2010

Guest blog from my wife

I asked my wife and daughters to share their perspective of the events of the passt few months by way of guest blogging. Here is Leigh Ann's ...

Mark asked me the other day what I learned through this experience. Wow…how do I put that in words and sum it up in a few brief paragraphs? Most people see this as something that just began in August when we found out that Mark would need open heart surgery. For me, this journey began back in June when Mark got pneumonia while attending a meeting in Orlando. Mark never gets sick…during our 26 years of marriage He has been with me through numerous surgeries for endometriosis, kidney stones (ouch!), premature labor with both children, two c-sections, a hysterectomy in my thirties, etc. He has always been right there beside me as my “rock”….I just assumed I was the “needy” spouse and He would forever be the healthy one. Then, one call from Associate Pastor John Duval telling me I needed to get to Orlando…he didn’t think Mark sounded good…changed the direction of our lives for weeks to come…we just didn’t know then how much….and how God would use a near death experience with pneumonia to make us aware of a more potentially life threatening condition that would require an extremely risky surgery in the future.

Before I go any furher, there a couple of things you may not know about Mark. He is the “stubborn” one in our relationship. (Couldn’t resist …He would argue differently!) As soon as he got sick in Orlando, I was calling every few hours begging him to go ahead and get to a quick relief clinic of some sort. Well, as most of you know, He did not listen to his wife’s advice (lol!) and ending up being taken by ambulance to a hospital in the Orlando area. He was trying to keep from me from realizing just how sick he was but thank goodness John Duval had the wisdom to put things in motion and get me on a flight to Orlando. When I arrived at the hospital in Orlando, I was met by a nurse who told me that Mark was being transferred to the Cardiac floor…his cardiac enzymes were elevated and they wanted to keep a close watch on him. We would find out later that this was really not even necessary, but was God’s way of opening our eyes to a life threatening condition which was discovered initially by the cardiologist and would eventually lead us to Dr. Prudoff here in Franklin who discovered the aneurysm and other abnormalities that would require a very complex and life threatening surgery.

One of the routine procedures that would need to be done before Mark’s surgery would be an arteriogram. I have seen both parents as well as Mark’s dad go through this with flying colors…so, no big deal, right? I mean, compared to the surgery he had coming, this was a piece of cake! I should have known something was wrong when the doctor came in and wanted to “pull up a chair” to tell me about a little problem they had…Mark had experienced a cardiac arrest, but they were able to “bring him back” and everything would be fine.

I remember a flood of uncontrollable tears which began at that moment and which unfortunately would stay with me off and on until after the upcoming surgery. The first compelling thought and question I had for the cardiologist was “How could this happen?” The next question was…”If this abnormality they discovered just caused a cardiac arrest during this simple procedure…how would he ever survive an eight hour surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm? Everyone around me was trying to console me, including my father-in-law who was trying to help me understand that Mark had a cardiac “arrest”, not a heart attack. At the time, the only thing I knew was that his heart had stopped and I had just been faced with the complex reality of Mark’s mortality. The man of my dreams that I thought I would grow old with just had a cardiac arrest of the age of 48! Mark’s Mom was there by my side trying to be strong for me even though she had just been faced with the reality of losing her only son. The cardiologist then looks at me, as if to reassure me, and tells me that what had just occurred is very rare and only happens in a very small percentage of the population Well, the surgeon that would be performing the upcoming surgery had already told me that Mark had a 10% chance of not making it through the operation. At the time, I remember thinking “10%”….hmmm….odds are WAY in our favor….but then another thought popped into my mind…..Mark’s newly discovered “abnormality” just placed him into a much higher percentage rate of potential complications!

You know, all these years I have watched people I love go through terrible tragedies and illnesses..but somehow, you think it will never happen to you. All of a sudden the little things that used to annoy me about Mark, didn’t annoy me anymore. (I know, none of your spouses have any annoying habits, right? I found myself watching him sleep at night and wanting to just make time stand still. I even tried to bargain with God during my quiet time….guess what, Leigh Ann was not in control of this. Maybe that was just one of the many things God wanted to teach me…that my hope was not in any earthly thing or person, my hope was in HIM. He would never leave or forsake me and He would never give me more than I could bear.

Shortly before the surgery, Mark and I had to take Brittany back to college. With the help of some church members, we loaded up a few cars and headed to Jackson. Mark and I were in the car alone for two and a half hours and boy, what an intense conversation it was. It was a conversation we needed to have…you know, the one about “what if you don’t make it through this?” I had been afraid to even talk about it but Mark knew we needed to talk about it…so, we did. We had a conversation that really brought reality home to me. With tears streaming down both our faces, we talked about the mighty God that we serve. Mark told me if God was ready to take him now…then He was more than ready to go. As much as he would miss me…once he got to heaven….there would not be one thing about life on this earth that he would miss. Ladies, I have to tell you…that was not one of the more romantic moments in our marriage…lol! But, you know…Mark was right! As much as I wanted to believe that He would miss me like crazy, I knew that he would be having WAY more fun there than he would be here with me. He wouldn’t have time to think about me…He would be too busy worshipping our Lord!

Well, I’ve already been too transparent, but there it is. I don’t know what seemed longer…the days we had to wait anticipating the surgery, or the actual day of surgery itself. The morning I kissed Mark good bye as they wheeled him off to surgery the day that followed was probably the longest 8 hours of my life. But there I was, surrounded by so many people that loved me…my precious two daughters, my Mom and Dad, my brother, my aunt and my best friend from Atlanta. In addition to them, Mark’s family was there…His Mom and Dad, his sister and his aunt and uncle. If you were looking at us from the outside you would have thought we were having a party in the waiting room. We had more food than we knew what to do with and took up half of the waiting room! But, we all made it through it together, with God right there by our side. I now know what It means to really depend on God. For those of us who think we really have it “all under control”….I’m here to share with you that God is on his throne and He knows what is best for us even when we don’t agree with Him!

Well, you know the rest of the story…Mark is back in the pulpit tomorrow and will be sharing from his heart what God has taught him through this experience …I can’t wait to hear his story! I’m also very glad that God has given me the “gift” of having Mark as my husband for a little while longer on this earth. I am truly blessed with a man after God’s own heart!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thanks Mom

My recent surgery (see posts below) has brought many blessings my way. I won't rehearse all of them in this post, but I do wish to highlight one that I will cherish for the years God gives me on this earth.

In late July or early August I made a phone call to my mom and dad to inform them of the news the cardiologist had just given me. We knew there would be a surgery in the near future that would require some time to recover. Within a couple of weeks after this initial call we had a surgery date (which would later be delayed 6 days).

My entire family (immediate and extended, including my in-laws) began clearing calendars for the days surrounding the surgery. They would all be here. What a blessing!

But there is one I have to mention especially ... my mom. When I left her in Georgia this morning to return to Franklin, it dawned on me this was the first time she has not been under the same roof with me (car or home) since I came home from my surgery almost 6 weeks ago. I REALLY don't want to go through an experience like this one again, but I am quickly reminded I would not have had a chance to spend that kind of time with my mom at my age (48). She has been by my side hour after hour and day after day for all these weeks. There is nothing I needed that she was not right there on the spot to provide it.

To say I am grateful for her help and loving care during this time is a dramatic understatement. I will always cherish the time we have had over these weeks. Sometimes in great conversation. Often I would awake from one of the many naps in the early weeks to find her sitting next to me keeping constant watch over me. Always making sure I got my meds on time. Driving me to get my blood drawn twice / week and to rehab before I was allowed to drive. But more than all of the things she DID, most important, she was just there!

I am not surprised by any of this because that's the way she has always been. We live far enough apart these days we only see each other 2 or 3 times each year. So I am grateful for this pause God put in my life that allowed me such precious time with the woman who raised me, has consistently prayed for me, spoken quiet wisdom in my life, and led me to Christ.

Mom, I know you will read this (that's right, my soon-to-be 70 year old mom follows my twitter, is on facebook, and reads my blog :-)). Thanks for everything. You know I love you (and I don't tell you enough)! And I will forever be grateful for this time we had.

Grateful to be your son,


P.S. We already miss you around here.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Scars and a new sound

There is a story found in Genesis 32 that I am sure I don't understand all of its implications and applications. It is a story I have been drawn to often over the past few weeks. The story is of the time Jacob wrestled with God. It was out of this unique encounter with God Jacob received his new name ... Israel. And the rest is history as they say.

The reason I continue to return to this story is that Jacob came away from that enounter with God with more than a new name. He definitely received a special blessing. But he also walked with a limp from that point forward. I imagine with every step Jacob took he was reminded of that night with God. He was reminded of a time that though he wrestled with God, he was blessed by God in a way that changed his life dramatically and permanently.

I have a few new scars I received from surgery just over 5 weeks ago. I look in the mirror now and realize I have some permanent reminders. I also have a new click. I now have a mechanical aortic valve. When the room gets quiet I sound like a clock ticking. It is the sound I hear as I drift off to sleep each night.

The scars and the clicking are sweet reminders of God's providence and blessing in my life. Do I want to go through any of it again? NO WAY! But what a time of wrestling with God. It is a time I will never forget ... and a time that has changed my life dramatically ... all for the better.

The story of Jacob ends like this:
30 Jacob then named the place Peniel, “For,” [he said,] “I have seen God face to face, and I have been delivered.”
Gen 32:30 (HCSB)

I will forever be grateful for the scars and the clicking!

Thank you God for your providence and protection.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A word to the people of ClearView

I came a across a passage of Scripture in my study today that I must share with the people of the church I serve. I was reminded that when a pastor goes through a trial like the one I have been walking through with my health, an entire group of people are affected. It is a test for more than just the pastor. Since the day I found out about the surgery I was to have this has been a truth that has been on my mind. I had to turn that over to the Lord early.

When you have a mission and a clear vision God has laid on your heart for a group of people, you don't want to go through a period that seems like you are simply spinning your wheels. You want to keep moving forward ... and the faster the better! No breaks. No waiting times. No times when you are not running on all cylinders. The pages of the calendar are turning and you are not seeing advance as you would desire as a leader. But, God had a different plan. My surgery and recovery has called for a different pace. I can only trust God is at work in the lives of the people for whom He has given me responsibility.

So many have prayed for me. So many have ministered to me through cards and meals. Saying "thank you" seems so inadequate.

As Paul ministered among those in Galatia he obviously suffered from some type of serious illness. Look what he told them in his letter regarding his illness and their responnse to it:

Galatians 4:12-14 You have done me no wrong. 13 As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. 14 Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself.

I want to thank the people of ClearView for your patience as I recover. "You have not treated me with contempt or scorn". Quite the contrary ... you have treated me in such a way as to spoil me :-). For all the cards, facebook messages, and other expressions of love you have sent my way, you have treated me "as if I were an angel of God ... as if I were Christ Jesus himself". I am honored to be your pastor. I will see you all soon!!