O.

On Being Fragile and Calling 9-1-1

“Call 9-1-1”

Bethany had never told me that before so I knew this was serious.

“9-1-1, what’s your emergency?”

“Yeah, hi… my wife is on the ground and she’s experiencing some kind of chest pain. I don’t know what to do.”

After some basic questions about my location the operator asked: “How old is she?”

“Thirty-nine”

“What is she doing? Is she breathing?…”

“Yes, I think so… I don’t know. Yes… It’s hard to know. She’s breathing…”

“It’s OK. EMTs are on the way. You will hear lights and sirens. Make sure you stay with your wife… remove any pillows. Make sure the front door is open. Stay on this line.”

Just writing that brings me to tears. Because I don’t know exactly what I was doing or saying between that time and the arrival of the paramedics, but I remember being calm as Bethany turned pale and was in incredible pain. I think I asked my four-year-old son to help me unlock the front door and clear a path in the hallway to our bedroom, but it all kind of blurs together even just 36 hours later.

Don’t know why I took this photo, but I did.

Five EMTs made their way into our house. Bethany was still coherent, but in pain. They asked her a million questions, some of which I answered because she couldn’t. The one I remember loud and clear was “What is your pain level on a scale of 0-10, if 0 is nothing and 10 is the worst pain you’ve ever experienced?” Without hesitation Bethany said “8!” As they loaded her in the ambulance one of the EMTs said to me, “Go get her cell phone and charger.” I ran inside, grabbed it, ran back outside, laid it on Bethany’s lap in the ambulance, they shut the doors, and then they were gone.

I didn’t really cry until about nine hours later when I was driving home by myself from the hospital. Sure, I was tired. Yes, I was frustrated that the last time I had seen my wife that day was in the ambulance because Covid restrictions kept me out of the hospital. Yes, I didn’t love that most of the information I got that day was through Bethany having to text me because I couldn’t be there to get information directly. But it finally hit me… Bethany could’ve died.

By the time the ambulance arrived at the hospital Bethany’s pain had lessened, but she was still hurting. Her chest pain came and went most of the day. They ran EKGs and they were normal. They did a chest X-ray and found nothing. They did three rounds of bloodwork and saw “something” they didn’t like. Then Bethany texted me,

Spending the night😕possible start of a heart attack

“I’m really glad you told me to call 911” I texted back.

After a CT angiogram, it was determined that Bethany had a “spontaneous dissection” of one of her arteries. Without getting too specific here, it just means there’s something there that was restricting blood flow to her heart. Though uncommon, these can actually heal themselves and/or be healed through medication. Although relieved that we had some kind of answer, we recognized that this could’ve been worse and this entire day could’ve gone differently.

That’s why I cried on the way home. My friend Jeff called me and asked if Bethany was OK. I said yes, but… “I’m starting to get emotional. She’s doing great now, but I think it all just hit me.”

Life is fragile. We say it and we hear it said. I even preach it from time to time, especially to the high school students I get to serve at the church. But we forget it. There are so many days that go well, that run normal, and of which very little happens that causes us to consider just how fragile we are. I praise God for that in my life while I recognize that my experience is different than many even in my own church. Not everyone gets long periods of time where they are not reminded of their fragility. As a pastor I get a front row seat to the hurting and the long-term care that comes with it, both physical and spiritual. But because this is not my personal experience, and because life tends to just keep on going, I don’t always have to be confronted with the thin barrier between this life and the next.

Bethany is asleep right now in our bed. After spending two days in the hospital we were able to pull a Shawshank Redemption move and bust her out of there (OK, not exactly, but that’s how it felt!). Almost immediately after we got home she told our kids “I’m going to bed.” She was tired and weak and in need of rest. We ended up talking for a few minutes in bed before she fell asleep and Bethany admitted she was ready to meet Jesus. Maybe it was the meds talking, but I know my wife. She was and is ready.

I told her I’m glad it wasn’t today, but in the back of my mind I thought about what the the apostle Paul said, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Then he adds, “I am hard pressed between the two [that is, between living and dying]. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account” (1:23-24). He wrestled between his own impending death and the thought of being with Christ. He loved the church, but he loved Jesus more. That, I think, is what was behind what Bethany said. She loves me and our kids, but she loves Jesus more.

While studying the book of Ecclesiastes last year I came across a quote from a preacher who said, “None of us are getting out of this alive.” He was talking about this life and was just repeating essentially what Solomon wrote in chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die…” We all know this to be true whether we want to talk about it or not: there is a time to die. And that’s exactly why in Solomon’s wisdom he wrote this a few verses later,

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.

Ecclesiastes 3:11-13

Solomon’s advice is simply to enjoy life while you can. In light of the reality of death–whether it be today, tomorrow, or in the distant future–enjoy it all. Enjoy even the simple pleasure of a meal–this is God’s gift to man. That’s wisdom from God because you don’t know when the time will be.

A.

Avery Tried to Eat Money and Titus Broke Glass

Avery tried to eat a Czech crown today. Thankfully it was the smallest coin of the lot, but in her attempt to do so it caused her to throw up…all over our bed. Avery has been sick like the rest of us, and kind of like me, she’s slow to recover. I realize she’s only three years old, but when she gets sick it lingers. Today she found a little pile of coins on my night stand (I will often empty my pockets at night and leave coins there) and in the process just decided to see what it would taste like. As Bethany describes it, Avery immediately threw up and then told Bethany, “I ate the money! I ate the money!” and then it actually came out the second time she threw up just a few seconds later. Thankfully she didn’t swallow it and her body did what it was supposed to do–that is, reject foreign objects. Bethany gave her a bath afterward and she seemed to be feeling better. Crisis avoided, I guess. Well, at least the first one.

Later today, Avery was napping and Titus was having “rest time” after he had come home from school. Sometimes Titus will nap in our room while Avery naps in their room because it’s just easier for Avery to fall asleep. Titus doesn’t nap every day, but we still like him to have a little rest time even if he doesn’t fall asleep, which was exactly the case today. Bethany was in the living room when she heard a crash in the bedroom and upon arrival there Titus was sitting on the bed with a broken glass picture frame. It had begun to rain hard this afternoon and he got up to look out the window and when he did that he knocked the picture frame on to the floor, thus breaking the glass, but then he decided it pick it up (yes, even the broken glass) and put it on the bed. When Bethany got there he was crying, not because he was hurt (thankfully), but because he was sad about breaking it. He said to her, “Mommy, I’m sorry. I’m sorry!” She told him she didn’t care about the frame but wanted to make sure he was OK. He was and all was alright. I think it was just shortly after this event that I received a text from Bethany which read, “It’s been a rough day. Do you know when you’re leaving?” (as in, when I would be leaving the JV offices). I left the office soon after and came home.

Bethany is 39 weeks pregnant and she’s been pretty uncomfortable the past few days. Today was hard on her, but she still amazes me with her attitude in the midst of it. She wasn’t complaining when I came home, but just mostly tired and in need of help. I did my best to pick up the house and help get things cleaned up (including the glass) but my job was so minimal compared to hers today. I tried to explain this to Titus tonight when he wanted to play with me. I said, “Buddy, mommy has been taking care of you and Avery all day and now she needs our help. We need to work and help her and then if we have time we can do something else.” The kids did help me. They picked up different things and Titus helped me vacuum. They also recognize when mommy needs help, even though they don’t always know what that looks like.

Thank you, wife, for always being an example to me of godly character in the midst of life’s chaos.

A.

A Nesting Bethany

It was another day of sickness and lots of sleep. Not only did I sleep in today, but I ended up taking two naps, both of which were more than two hours in length. Avery, Titus, and I continue to hack and cough while sharing the Kleenex box which is running low. Thankfully, Bethany has been able to stay healthy thus far although she said she’s a little worried she might be sick by tomorrow. This is our life and for me it feels like I’ve written this same blog many times before.

Bethany Is Nesting (5/15/15)

Bethany has gone in to full “nesting” mode. I asked her today if pregnancy nesting was scientifically proven and she affirmed it so it must be true (plus, I’m pretty sure it’s scientifically proven that challenging a pregnant woman is unwise). This has happened with all of our kids, but right before she’s about to give birth (either a few days or weeks before), Bethany gets a little crazy with getting things organized, purchased, or whatever else may be required. With Titus I vividly remember running around Sears trying to find a new dishwasher for our house. Bethany was dead set on having a new dishwasher before that baby came. That same night she ended up going in to labor. I don’t remember the specifics for when Avery was born, but I think it had something to do with Christmas decorations or cleaning the house. For the past few days it’s been a bunch of the same.

Today she really wanted to make sure we went to the mall and got a few things that we’ve been needing. Even though I’m sick, we packed in to the car and off we went (I should be clear that she didn’t force me–I went of my volition). She also followed up on a tax accountant in the U.S. to help us with international tax law. She was working with the kids to make sure they cleaned up the living room and got things organized. She did all the dishes. She got a box out of the garage with baby clothes that she’s been wanting to loan to another family (which I hand delivered today). Earlier this week we were reorganizing our bedroom, throwing out old clothes, and even taking things down to the basement storage. Maybe some of these things sound normal to you, but I’m telling you things have ramped up around here. At one point she asked me if I wanted her to drive the car because I wasn’t feeling well and I told her I was too scared of her driving us because of her super nesting mode she’s in. Her response, “We gotta get this stuff done.” Yes, mam!

S.

Spring Conference Day 4

It’s weird that Saturday feels like Thursday. I’ve been thrown off with the days all week because the conference started on Wednesday night and the days have been full. Today was probably the fullest day yet, but it was another good one!

Last Full Day of Conference (5/9/15)

Today was just non-stop with two main session in the morning. During the first session this morning our friend Tanya Miller who serves in Poland did this incredible recitation of Scripture called The History of Redemption in which she literally was just quoting a series of Bible verses for at least twenty minutes straight, all set to music and accompanying artwork. It was a very moving and rich time of just listening to God’s Word being recited. The verses are all organized in such a way that it goes from Creation to Revelation and walks through the redemption story. Towards the end when she was reciting from Revelation I’m not sure there was a dry eye in the room including her own. It was an incredible thing to witness and both Bethany and I were in awe of the amount of work that must have taken, but more importantly with the truth of the Scripture.

After lunch today I went from rehearsal to a meeting and then to a larger “Communications” meeting that I spoke at. As the director of the communications team for JV I got the opportunity to speak to a number of different communication areas and get the whole JV family excited about different things we’re working on and serving them in. I had fun with them and hopefully they enjoyed the meeting and left with a few things that are helpful to them in the future.

Last Full Day of Conference (5/9/15)

Tonight we had a special worship night in the big tent that we’re meeting in and I again had the privilege of playing the drums and being part of leading people in song. It was a family-focused event and so all the kids were with us and I got the above photo of them singing and playing in the front of the room near the stage. A little later they all congregated on the actual stage and we sang worship songs that were for kids and then for everyone. It was a sweet time tonight and I had a lot of fun.

Bethany has been having a lot more discomfort today than previous days in this pregnancy. She has been an absolute trooper with taking care of the kids and other things while I have been involved with various things at this conference. I have been so impressed with her this week and she heart has not been one of complaint. She’s a model of sacrificial love to both me and the kids and that couldn’t have been more true than today.

I really haven’t had much sleep this week, but I believe the Lord has really sustained me and given me the energy needed to serve the Josiah Venture family this week. It was one of my joys to serve and support others and I have been blessed this week just to be part of the conference. I go to bed tired tonight but hopefully that’s because I spent my energy on others and not on my self. As I’ve heard said by others, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”

M.

Mommy Is Back

After 3 days away in Krakow, Bethany came back today around 4pm to the delight of the kids and me. I did my best to have the house clean and ready for her return because well, I think that’s some kind husband law. We actually left the house shortly after she arrived to take the kids to play, so I enjoyed hearing about her time with the ladies. They did a study through the book of Job on “Doing Hard Things Well” and Bethany was blessed. She also told me that the weather was pretty wild today in Poland with wind, rain, sleet, and snow coming down as they were trying to grab lunch and leave town. It’s never easy being pregnant and walking through an old city when its cold and miserable. Thankfully they all made it home safe and we’re happy to have mommy back!

Speaking of the weather, it’s been a little wild here in Czech. This afternoon we saw rain and hail, but tonight there were crashes of lightning, thunder, and heavy rains as we were getting the kids ready for bed. Like yesterday it was pretty gloomy and cold today, but the sun broke through late in the day and gave us a wonderful view from our kitchen. Above is a fifteen second timelapse video I did, but it’s actually tewnty minutes of footage that has been condensed down.

Before Bethany came home today we had some unexpected visitors. Zach and Kara stopped by late this morning because they were in town for a Czech conference. I actually didn’t know they were going to be in town, but it was nice to see them for a short time this morning. They moved to Prague late last year and they used to be only about twenty minutes from us. They brought the kids some chocolate and treats and even a few things for Bethany and me, so that was fun. One thing they brought are these caramel wafers that melt in your tea or coffee…mmm…can’t wait to try those. And with that, I’m out!