Friday, January 16, 2009

Sweetwater Gap

Wednesday I got a phone call from my mom letting me know that my Uncle Howard was going in to surgery and the doctors didn't expect him to survive the process, but he would die without it. I talked about Howard a few months ago after his initial diagnosis of cancer. I knew that he was ill in the hospital, but I was hoping to go see him on Saturday. It's a long trip from here to Iron Mountain, well over two hours. I really wanted to share God's word with him in hopes that he would come to Jesus so he and the rest of the family could be assured of his salvation, especially with his health failing. But with Mom's phone call, talking to him suddenly became an immediate worry. I rode up north with my mom, stepdad Jeff, and aunt Audrey. Before I left, I fired off two emails. One to my personal prayer warriors asking for them to pray for his health and his possible salvation. The other to my FIRST family of bloggers asking the same thing.

The mood on the way up was somber and seemed to last forever. We were worried that we wouldn't make it there before he was taken in to surgery, but we made it in plenty of time. That was just the first of the many ways that we knew God was with us. Howard needed surgery because he had displaced his feeding tube which caused septicemia to spread throughout his system. He looked awful when we got there, and they were holding off on the surgery until his electrolytes came back up through the IV. I brought my Bible along in hopes that I would have the chance to share God with him. I went in with my mom and aunt, but prayed to God that there was no way I would feel comfortable talking to him about it with those two in the room. God works in funny ways sometimes. Suddenly both of them were struck with the urge to go to the bathroom and left me alone in the room with Howard! :) I talked to him about God and His love and asked him if he wanted God in his life. He was in and out of consciousness, but for this, he looked at me and nodded. He couldn't speak because of the oxygen mask, so I asked him if I could pray with him. I prayed the Sinner's Prayer for both of us, and when I was done, I felt a feeling of peace about Howard and his health.

I am normally an emotional person, but before we got to the hospital, I asked God to give me the strength not to cry for my mom, and he answered. I didn't cry all day. If you know me at all, you know this in itself is a miracle. Another miracle: before he was taken into surgery, Mom, two of my aunts and I were alone with Howard, and I was suddenly struck with the need for prayer. I said, "You know what we need?" and my aunt answered, "We need to pray!" We held hands with Howard and prayed for the doctors and for his comfort and healing.

We were all praying that Howard's son Dustin would make it to the hospital before he went into surgery, but it didn't happen. After Howard was wheeled into surgery, I walked outside for a little time alone. Instead my phone rang, it was Dustin looking for the hospital (God coincidence #1). I led him right back to the waiting room and on the way, one of Howard's nurses came out and I introduced Dustin to her as Howard's son (God coincidence #2). A few minutes later, she came into the waiting room and asked Dustin if he wanted to talk to Howard before he went into surgery, because he had a little bit of time (God coincidence #3). It was such a blessing for the two to be able to see each other.

Initially after the surgery the doctors were very positive about taking him off of the ventilator the very next day, and we all drove home with joy in our hearts. I'm still feeling joy about Howard's salvation, but Mom called a little while ago to let me know that Howard is being helicoptered to a bigger hospital in Green Bay where they can provide some more care. He hasn't woken up yet and is still on the ventilator. So I ask for your prayers for Howard's healing from the sepsis, pneumonia, and cancer that are raging through his body. And please pray for our family. I'm heading down to the hospital with my mom as soon as I'm done blogging.

Sweetwater Gap by Denise Hunter is a powerful story about redemption and God's love for us. Josie Mitchell is forced to return home to save the family apple orchard. Her sister is pregnant with twins and can't do the heavy work that needs to be done to keep the business going. Orchard manager Grady MacKenzie isn't happy to see Josie who he views as a flighty, city girl with no business butting into his life. While this sounds like a normal set up for lots of Christian romances books, this book is anything but typical. Josie has been diagnosed with an illness that leaves her future up in the air, and the choices she's made are ones that will make the readers want to cry and tear their hair out. Josie is an extremely frustrating character at first, but when Hunter reveals the truth behind her self-loathing and despair, I was moved to tears. The scene in the cemetery was one of the most moving I've ever read, and I could hardly breathe around the lump in my throat. Who hasn't felt unworthy of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us on the cross? Anyone who has ever felt this way will ache for Josie. Grady is a great romantic hero, but it's his faith that makes him stand out (and Hunter describes his appearance as a bit like Sawyer from Lost). This is the rare novel that will stick with you long after you've put it down.

I'll give an update tomorrow on Howard's condition. Please pray. Today's pic is Howard with his wife Nancy and Mia.