Soar We Now

Written by: Stan Key

Easter 2016
Almost the whole crew on Easter morning.

Worshiping together on Easter Sunday morning is a powerful moment but this Easter was the best yet. For the first time since her stroke on December 14, Katy went to church… and her entire family (all 11.5 of us) went with her! Anna, Sarah & Adam (plus four kids), Elisabeth & Ben (pregnant), joined Katy and me on the front pew of First United Methodist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. It took an act of congress to get everyone up, washed, fed, dressed, and into cars for the trip to Lexington. Moving Katy in her wheel chair is still an art that we are learning. But once the music began (orchestra, choir, pipe organ) we knew it was going to be a hallelujah morning.   Senior Pastor Mike Powers is a long- time friend and he and his wife Sherry visited Katy many times during her 84 days in the hospital and rehab facilities. The service was glorious and the grandkids were thankfully well-behaved.

I sat on the end of the pew next to Katy, sitting in her wheel chair in the aisle. The closing hymn was Charles Wesley’s majestic “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today.” As the music began, everyone was invited to stand and sing. I remained seated so I could sit beside Katy stuck in her wheel chair and so she could see the words in the hymnal I held for her. As the congregation sang, Katy leaned close to my ear and whispered loudly above the music, “I’m going to stand up!” “Not possible,” I thought to myself, and kept on singing. Not to be turned off, Katy repeated her message, this time more loudly and with greater insistence. “I’m going to stand up!” We were almost at the fourth verse and I could see that Katy was skootching toward the front of her chair readying her good arm to push herself up. Though Katy has been “standing” for several weeks now, it is always with assistance and someone nearby to balance her. I realized that she was going to do this with or without me! I quickly put down my hymnal and slipped to Katy’s good side. Putting my arm around her back and providing firm support, I gently assisted as Katy stood to her feet. Tears made it impossible to sing but that didn’t matter. The congregation was explaining what was happening:

Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!

Foll’wing our exalted head, Alleluia!

Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!

Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

I knew that Katy wanted to raise her arms in praise and worship but her good arm was holding on to me for balance and Wilson (her paralyzed arm) wasn’t cooperating at all. But neither arms nor voices were needed for God to understand. The message came through loud and clear!

A Good Day

-Written by Stan-

Many times in my life I’ve been confused about what is good and what is bad.  Things that seemed to be bad turned out to be good and things that seemed to be good turned out to be bad.  This struggle to discern what is best is as old as the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve ate fruit from a tree named “the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. 2:17).  They mistakenly believed that not eating the fruit would be a bad thing but that eating it would be good.  “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil” (Isa. 5:20). Ever since that day, we children of Adam have struggled to discern the difference between good and evil.

Most of what has happened in our lives during the past three months has seemed to be bad, very bad.

Who would dare to deny that a stroke, paralysis, pain and suffering are anything but bad?  And yet, never in our lives have we been more blessed with the goodness of God and indeed the goodness of life itself!  Though malevolent forces in spiritual places may have meant all this for evil, God meant it for good (see Gen. 50:20).

You would think that at 62 years of age, I would have learned by now to discern the difference between good and evil, but honestly, I still often get confused.  “Lord, was that bad thing that just happened really a good thing? Was that good thing really a bad thing?”  I keep praying that I will one day reach that level of spiritual maturity where my powers of discernment will be sufficiently trained so that I can “distinguish good from evil” (Heb. 5:14).

Today was a good day!  Yes, I realize that I’m capable of being wrong about what seemed so right about the past 24-hours.  Over the past three months I’ve been wrong on numerous occasions. So, I guess I’m a bit gun shy and hesitant to categorically call today a “good” day.  But regardless of how I analyze things, I can only come up with one conclusion: today was just a good, good day.

For one thing, spring is bursting out all over!  Birds are singing, flowers are blooming, trees are budding, the sun is shining and the grass is turning a vibrant shade of green.  Sitting with Katy on the back patio and just breathing deeply is an exhilarating experience!  The darkness of Good (!) Friday is passing and the reality of Easter is dawning.  Oh, that’s good.

Last night, I wheeled Katy across the street to see her dad for the first time in three months.  He too has been struggling with health issues and at age 93 we thank God for each day he is alive.  As they embraced from their two respective wheel chairs, it was a moment of holy pleasure and joy.  Oh, that’s good.

Papa

A dear friend who pastors a vibrant church in Virginia drove to Wilmore to visit us and this morning made a pastoral call on Katy.  We met Pastor Troy and his dear congregation through a camp experience in the Blue Ridge Mountains where I preached for the past two summers.  Our hearts were warmed and we were blessed.  Oh, that’s good.

Troy Keaton

This afternoon, Anna and I loaded Katy in the car and drove to Lexington to visit the neurosurgeon who had performed her craniotomy.  Looking at the incision he said, “Let’s take out those 40 staples.  Things look great.”  Yippee!  This means Katy can wash her beautiful red hair and begin to feel like a woman again.  Oh, that’s good.

Stitches removed

Driving home Katy was specific: “I want fried chicken for dinner!”  As we sat at the table tonight eating chicken, we told silly stories that made Katy laugh so hard she almost slid out of her wheel chair.  Oh, that’s good.

Yes, it’s been a good day!  We know that many challenges remain and there are still battles to fight, but when a day like today comes along, you just want to lean back in your chair and take a deep breath and smile.  Thank you, Lord, for a very good day.  And Lord, regardless of what tomorrow holds, we know that for those who love you, “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to (your) purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

Two thumbs up!

-Written by Stan-

The Limerick Contest of March has come close to matching the Milk Shake Challenge of December for eliciting both the creative genius and the competitive natures of those who read this blog.  Calling forth our most eminent team of judges (who will remain anonymous!), the awards are listed below.  We have chosen not to attach the authors’ names to each limerick for fear of embarrassing you, but be assured, we know who you are!  Our apologies for not being creative enough to come up with an appropriate reward for everyone who submitted an entry.  Thanks for your participation and especially for your wonderful expressions of love.  We have read all of your limericks to Katy and she loved each one!

 THE GRAND PRIZE (a limerick of three stanzas)

The stars, they decorated her head

Anytime she got out of her bed;

She did not give up,

With her straw and her cup,

And to Jesus many people she led.

 

Oh Katy, you’re proving God’s great,

His power and His might never late,

He shines right through you

In all that you do

With Stan as your faithful helpmate.

 

You’re home at last, what a feat!

God’s resources never deplete.

He’ll guide you today,

Yes, he knows the way,

Without Him life’s incomplete.

 

BEST FRENCH LIMERICK

Il y avait une reine très unique,

Sa couronne était bien magnifique;

Des étoiles – toutes couleurs,

Protégeaient à toutes heures

Mais il faut la jeter tout de suite.

 

BEST THEOLOGICAL INSIGHT

Our Katy will endure the ache,

For the glory of Your name’s sake.

With staples and flap,

The scars, and the map,

Of the Saint, in Your image, you’ll make.

 

MOST ENCOURAGING

The road to glory is found,

By those willing to lay their lives down;

To honor their King

Has become the chief thing

And to them Christ has promised a crown!

 

CUTEST

I have a queen cousin Katy,

Whose crown was very weighty;

So the doctors arrived,

And soon they contrived,

To remove it!  And asked, “How’s milady?”

 

HONORABLE MENTION (four winners)

Seasons come, seasons go, it’s true,

Ask Katy; she’s had quite a few.

From this bed to that,

(With a cool starry hat)

Now “home” is finally in view!

 

A lady in love the Lord,

Is one who never gets bored.

With petitions and prayers,

Katy lifts all our cares,

To heaven where treasures are stored.

 

Dear Katy, sweet daughter of the King,

Is teaching us all how to sing;

Sweet praises to God,

Whether life’s easy or hard,

Let us always give thanks to our King.

 

Katy the lady and Stan the man,

Walking with Jesus the best that they can,

Holy thankful for what they’ve got,

Rather than focus on what is not.

 

Home

-Written by Anna-

The last few days have been very full! Mom did not feel well for most of the week. We learned that our insurance had run out and began making preparations to bring Mom home. The days have been exhausting, the stress level at times high and yet tonight I can only say in spite of it all, He has brought Mom home! Tonight, exactly 12 weeks after this journey began we brought her home! A true miracle! Pray for us as we transition and adjust to a new normal once again. And pray for His continued healing touch on Mom!

WelcomeHome (2)
Rejoicing!

Just for fun

-Written by Stan-

When we lived in Albany, New York we made the trip to visit Katy’s family in Kentucky dozens of times.  We became intimately acquainted with the 820 miles of highway that separated our house from that of our children’s grandparents. Because the trip was so long, we established certain landmarks to help measure our progress. For example, Ashtabula, Ohio was the half-way point and the Dutch Village Restaurant meant that two thirds of the journey was complete.  And when we crossed the Ohio River we knew that we had only two hours more until we reached our destination.

Similarly, on this journey with Katy, we find ourselves measuring progress by noting certain milestones that indicate we are getting closer to our destination (full recovery).  Moving from the neuro-ICU at Saint Joseph Hospital to a room on the 5th floor on Christmas Day was a huge milestone for us all. And then the move to Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital on January 1st was another important rite of passage as was the m

ove to Brookdale Skilled Nursing Facility one month later.  Yes, these milestones reassure us that we are making progress.

But on Monday, February 29, we celebrated one of our biggest milestones yet when we said goodbye to Katy’s helmet!  For the past two months, because of the craniotomy and her tender head, Katy has had to wear a protective helmet whenever she gets out of bed.  But surgery on Monday replaced the bone “flap” so that now we no longer need it. Katy’s head is round and solid again!  The 40 staples sewing her skin together cause quite a headache but seeing Katy whole again makes it all worth while.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote of his experience in the soviet gulag, that though his years in prison were long and painful, he learned to be grateful for all the wonderful life lessons that he learned while there.  He wrote:  “Bless you, prison, for having been in my life!”

I guess I feel that way about Katy’s helmet.  Though I’m happy to put it aside as a relic of the past, I’m thankful that it was part of our lives.  Helmet

  • The protection it provided.
  • The decorative stars that were the gift of a special friend.
  • The reminder of the many who suffer with physical handicaps far worse than this.
  • The way children would look at Katy’s head gear with jealous envy.
  • How cute Katy was when she wore her helmet.

I wrote a limerick to commemorate the passing of a milestone. (Katy often referred to her helmet as her crown.) For those of you who are aspiring poets, I’d like to invite you to write a limerick to Katy as well.  And if it’s good enough… we may share it with the entire blog community.

A princess who’s royally bred,

Must wear a gold crown on her head;

      But never was seen

      A lovelier queen 

Than Katy the Great in her bed. 

Update: Katy moved back to the rehab yesterday. The staff seemed as pleased to see her as we were to see their familiar faces. The pain has become more manageable but continue to pray for no infection, no seizures, or set backs of any kind. Continue to pray for wisdom as we make decisions about the next step and bringing her home. Thank you!

Healing

-Written by Anna-

As I pulled into the all too familiar hospital parking lot, saw the lady that I bought coffee from everyday, ran into a Neuro ICU nurse we loved, a neurologist that had cared for us, walked into the very same pre-op room, waiting room and consult room I found myself fighting back tears. Eleven weeks ago almost to the hour Mom had walked into the hospital and Dad and I kissed her goodbye, waited in a waiting room, rejoiced as we received the good news that the nodule was not cancer and then a few hours later all of our lives changed forever!

While the trauma of those days still feels very fresh, I also found myself in awe. Awe at the fact that we lived through those days by the grace of God! Awe at the fact that God spared my Mom. Awe that even in the valley of the shadow of death HE WAS THERE! I have to admit to moments of wondering if He was, yet as I look back it is evident! And today we felt Jesus’ healing power not only in Mom’s physical body but also in our hearts as we all faced some of our greatest fears.

What a different experience we had today! Surgery and recovery went well! She is not in ICU and while she is battling pretty severe pain, she has had a reprieve from the nausea! And when the nurse brought her a glass of water just hours after surgery and asked what she wanted for dinner I almost did a happy dance. Last time it was 15+ days of ice chips, feeding tubes and swallow tests. The Lord has brought us a long way! The reality is that we still have a long way to go but tonight we feel overwhelmed with gratitude for ALL that He has done! And for each one of you that has walked this journey with us! We have had to trust Him in new ways and with the unexplained yet He has been faithful every step of the way and we know will continue to be faithful!