Treasures of Darkness

December 14

By Stan Key

I will give you the treasures of darkness… (Isaiah 45:3).

One year ago, it was today
(Or was it ten? It’s hard to say);
A surgeon’s knife, a tragic stroke,
It seemed our lives went up in smoke.
We thought perhaps that death had won;
But the real war had but begun.
How should we then commemorate
The day that ushered in this fate?

It’s not easy to recall
What life was like before the Fall;
When Katy walked and drove and cooked,
And hugged our grand-kids, read a book.
She had her life, I had mine,
Our ministries were doing fine.
Though we were one we lived as two;
We each had separate work to do.

But now life’s different, things have changed,
Our whole world’s been rearranged!
A wheel chair now defines our life;
I’m an appendage of my wife!
I wash her hair and count her pills,
I tie her shoes, pay doctor bills.
I dare not leave her lest she fall,
It seems I’m constantly on call.

At times I want to kick and scream
And wake up from an awful dream.
At other times I bite my lip
And tell myself; “Stan, get a grip.”
If stoic-like I do my work,
I manage not to go berserk!
And duty-bound I do my chore,
And keep self-pity at the door.

Lord, isn’t there another way
To help commemorate this day?

“I thought you’d never ask,” God said,
“Why not praise the Lord instead?
Yes, things have changed and life’s not fair
But I’m still sovereign everywhere.
And in the place where pain abounds
That is precisely where I’m found!
So stop your grumbling and receive
The grace that comes when you believe!”

And so I humbly bowed to pray:
“Give grace, O Lord, help me obey.”

Though my condition hasn’t changed
My inner world’s been rearranged!
I’m learning to receive his grace
And in my pain to see his face.
Yes there are treasures in the night
That bless and fill us with delight.
But we must find them, that’s our task,
He’ll help us if we only ask.

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Celebrating life, courage, and love with family – December 14, 2016

 

One Year

-Written by Anna-

While being acutely aware of the one year mark looming I have felt strong and ready to face it. Yet tonight while (of all things) brushing my teeth I looked up to see tears streaming down my face and there was no stopping them!  Many of the emotions of the last year caught up with me once again and surprised me with their depth! There have been more losses than I can count in the last 12 months of our life as a family. We have shared many of these with you over the last twelve months and we are eternally grateful for your love and prayers through this year. You have been a gift and blessing to our family! 

This is a journey we never asked for or wanted, yet it is one He entrusted to us. Our prayer has been and remains that He would find us faithful of that trust!

One year ago today is a day none of us will forget.

One year ago today we went from the highest of highs (successful surgery with no signs of cancer) to the lowest of lows (a large complete stroke), all within a few hours. None of us could have imagined the journey that awaited us.

There is a fog that surrounds those initial days and yet at the same time a traumatic event brings all of life into sharp focus. You see very clearly the things that matter most in life. In those dark first days we experienced the love of family, friends and even strangers in ways we could never have expected.

  • Cousins who came to sit with Mom after putting their own kids to bed so we could rest.
  • Aunts who cried and prayed with us.
  • Uncles who took night shifts and explained what doctors were saying.
  • Grandfathers who loved and prayed from a distance.
  • Doctors and nurses who fought for Mom.  
  • Friends who drove me home and stayed with me in a very empty house that first night.
  • Friends who brought practical gifts like delicious food, soft blankets, extension cords for charging our phones, a small Christmas tree to decorate the hospital room, etc.
  • Family and friends around the world who prayed so faithfully for us!
  • Strangers in the waiting room who quickly became friends as we each waited on news of loved ones, sharing the good and the bad news of each day.
  • A sweet aide who lovingly washed and dried Moms hair on Christmas day. Due to a drain and 40+ staples in her head, it had been a while and she talked about it for days.
  • A hotel clerk that sweetly and patiently worked with me when I could hardly recall my own name and started crying as I explained that this room was being gifted by friends so we could sleep in a real bed and shower and still be near Mom.
  • Hundreds of e-mails, texts, cards, phone calls from people all over the world letting us know of their love and their prayers
  • And I could continue on…

I recently told my Mom that my only wish for Christmas is that it not be spent in the Neuro ICU! Truer words have never been spoken! And yet, in a way that only a God who takes on flesh and enters the world as a baby in a manger can do, last Christmas felt more real than any we have ever experienced. Her hospital room became like a stable. Immanuel, God with us!

Life is forever changed, there are many losses to grieve, many victories to celebrate, many obstacles still to overcome, and yet I find myself asking Jesus to help me remember those dark days. I want to remember the way we loved each other. I want to remember the way we were loved by others! I want to remember so I can praise Him for all the answers to prayer we have seen! And there are many! 

But most of all I want to remember because on the darkest day of our lives, Jesus was THERE! Isn’t that the message/miracle of Christmas? God came near! I have been taught and have taught that fact my whole life, but on December 14, 2015 I experienced it! It is something I don’t ever want to forget!

I close with the words from an old hymn that my Dad used in opening this blog a year ago.

William Cowper“God Moves in a Mysterious Way”

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

We have been the recipients of His blessings and His amazing grace this past year. And as we look back we see His smiling face even in the midst of the pain.

Words fall short as we humbly thank the Lord for sparing Mom’s life! 

Words also fall short as we humbly thank you for walking with us through the last year. You have been the hands and feet of Jesus and have allowed us to see His smiling face through your love and prayers!

We know that we are not alone in experiencing pain, grief and loss this year! It is part of life this side of heaven. But whatever it is He has entrusted you with our prayer for you is the same as our prayer for ourselves.  May we be willing to know Him, not only in His resurrection power, but also in the fellowship of His sufferings, becoming more and more like Him (Phil. 3:10).

 

In Everything Give Thanks

(Although Thanksgiving is over, allow me to share some of my blessings this Thanksgiving season)

At Thanksgiving our thoughts turn to giving thanks. There is a verse in the Bible about giving thanks that has always been a bit hard for me to swallow, “In everything give thanks.” It’s one of those verses that has provoked me to want to say,”God, you can’t be serious.” I have often tried to twist the words or their meaning so I could interpret it differently.

However, since my stroke, I have had a different response to this idea of giving thanks in everything.

Perhaps God is commanding us to do something that He knows will help bring healing. Perhaps the best thing about thanksgiving is that the focus is not on me. In order to give thanks, or even feel thankful, my focus must turn outside myself, to someone for whom or to whom I am grateful. Perhaps this is one reason for the verse in scripture that tells us to give thanks in all circumstances, for all things. Perhaps this is more a prescription for our own health and well-being, since gratitude can be a sort of spiritual and emotional therapy.

So I would like to express thanks here. If “faith is focus,” as my brother once wisely said to me, my faith will be strengthened by focusing on the blessings of my circumstances! I would like to name a few things for which I am thankful in this Thanksgiving season of 2016:

  1. I am thankful it is Thanksgiving 2016 after my surgeries/stroke instead of 2015 before these health traumas.
  2. I am thankful I am about to come to the end of my first year post stroke (December 14)
  3. Though slow, I choose to be grateful for the progress that His grace and strength have made possible this year.
  4. IMG_0258I am eternally grateful for the chance to live longer in order to love longer the very ones who have loved me through this journey, of whom my husband is the first. When I stop to think what we have learned to do together, I am overwhelmed with gratitude that he has been with me all the way. In 11 months of this journey through dark, deep, uncharted waters, He has never left my side. I thank God for my husband who took his vows seriously, to love in sickness and in health.
  5. I am thankful for the good hard laughs we have shared, more than ever in our married life.
  6. I am grateful that, through God’s power, I have been able to embrace the humiliations of this new normal for me.
  7. I am thankful for God’s mercies in allowing me to see another Thanksgiving and Christmas.
  8. I am grateful for the miracle of being present at the birth of my grandson and img_2126namesake Josiah and for the opportunity to love on and be a part of my grandchildren’s lives.
  9. I am grateful for all the times I cried out to the Lord for help and He sent a person, whether a medical professional or aide, a family member, care-givers at home, new and old friends, therapists who brought the perfect skill sets to my places of need.
  10. I’m thankful for my children and their many expressions of love to me in meeting my needs as they have arisen through these months. I am thankful for their genuine prayers and their belief in me through the darkest of days in this journey.
  11. I thank God that I have never suffered boredom, even in months of disability.
  12. I thank God for a friend who baked pumpkin pie and spice cookies for me during Thanksgiving. And for her sweet and talented daughter who has helped to redecorate my home with new ideas and new seasons.
  13. I thank God for Becky, who takes me on outings and errands. No errand is too small, no outing too big.
  14. I am thankful to the Lord for His unimaginable provision for our financial needs.
  15. I am thankful for the faithful support of friends from our past church, and from the Chinese church of Niskayuna, NY! We have been able to pay medical bills, purchase equipment for a handicapped lifestyle, pay for services of others to meet physical needs. This has all made it possible for Stan to even continue working and traveling.
  16. I am thankful for the healing of my scalp and the regrowth of hair after two surgeries.
  17. I am so grateful for the many visitors I have had from near and far. Two of the more recent ones have been the Collins and the Mackeys. The Collins were a huge source of encouragement and inspiration to us as they understand our reality in ways that few can. And what joy to see the Mackeys even if only briefly. I am grateful for both these families.
  18. I am thankful that one year after my stroke I can sit, stand even take steps with minimal assistance. 11 months ago just sitting and holding my head up felt like Mt Everest.
  19. I am grateful for those dear friends who saw a need before I was even out of the hospital and gifted me with an iPad that has made life so much easier as I can no longer type on my computer.
  20. And most of all I am thankful to the One who entered into the mess of this world as a baby in order to redeem us! The One who willingly took on flesh and understands suffering, loss, and pain. The One who never leaves us or forsakes us! Immanuel, God with us!