Monday, December 30, 2013

An Uphill Journey

  "I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
     and in His word I put my hope" Psalm 130:5

Recently I spent over an hour reading a friend's online journal chronicling the saga of she and her husband's life during the last year.  Sometimes I wept, sometimes I chuckled, but all the way through, I marveled at their amazing, Spirit-filled testimony and faithfulness to God.  It has truly challenged me in my own Christian walk.  I want to share just a bit about her story in hopes you too might be challenged to view faith and God's plan for our lives in a new and fresh way.

To represent Sandy and Scott's journey of faith, I chose this picture that I took a few years ago in the town of Charlotte Amalia on the island of St. Thomas.  These stairs are called The 99 Steps - they lead from a lower street to an upper street with a beautiful view.  The stones were brought from Denmark as ballast in the sailing ships and the stairs were built in the mid-1700s.  The steps are steep and often uneven -- and it's a tough climb to the top.

Sandy and Scott's last year and half has truly been an uphill, exhausting climb, but it is the attitude of their hearts that has made all the difference.  Here's a synopsis of their story:

In 2007, Scott was diagnosed with liver disease.  He was a healthy young man -- a Christian who neither drank alcohol nor smoked, but lived an active lifestyle.  It was not until 14 months ago that he began having real problems from this disease and he, his wife and two young daughters began the uphill journey that still continues.  In March 2013, he was approved for a liver transplant at a University hospital in the state. 

I won't go into detail about all the ups and downs of his health during that next five months, but it was deteriorating.  On August 17, he received a liver transplant.  That should have been the turning point, but their uphill journey was only beginning.  Scott nearly died on the operating table primarily from excessive bleeding and had to have 100 units of blood.  Since then, infection, bleeding problems, blood clots, collapsed lungs, kidney dialysis and other issues have combined to make recovery a dream they continually pray for. 

They have now been at the hospital for 19 weeks - most spent in the ICU!  In spite of this, Sandy consistently writes in her journal, "We continually remind ourselves that God is in control.  He knows the desires of our hearts and He is not surprised by any of this.  God knew this would happen."

At the end of most entries, Sandy includes a verse and praise to God.  Here's one that reflects the attitudes of their hearts in spite of the many setbacks:  "O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago" Isaiah 25:1.

Two days ago, Sandy was praising God that Scott's blood count was looking good and that he had been able to take 10 bites of food.  They're hoping he can be moved to Rehab in a few days.  Her verse that day was in Isaiah 12:2:  "Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.  The Lord Himself is my strength and defense; He has become my salvation."

In closing, I want to share what Sandy wrote about a chance meeting (planned by God, no doubt) in the cafeteria with the daughter of another patient.  When Sandy asked the young woman how her Christmas had been, she began telling her how difficult it had been with her father in ICU and how tired she was after nine days spent at the hospital.  Sandy said I just stood there, listened, and told her I'd pray for her dad's recovery.

Then the woman started asking about Scott and if he'd be home by New Year's Day.  Sandy said, I told her a little about Scott and casually mentioned that we'd been here for 19 weeks.  She was shocked and then apologized for complaining about being here 9 days.  I told her the same thing I've told many people...I don't thing God has given us a bigger burden than anyone else - just a different burden.  I said her dad being here for 9 days was just as big to her, as our journey is to us.  Then I was taken back by her next statement - she said, "You're a Christian aren't you?  I can tell your faith is what's keeping you going right now."  I was thankful that a perfect stranger noticed Jesus in me. Although I was surprised at first, I shouldn't be surprised that HE answered my prayer - I've been praying I can stay strong and people here would see Jesus in me.  Thank you for praying that I daily maintain my testimony - people are watching.

As we begin this new year of 2014, I just wanted to share this story about two of God's choice servants and their family who are still climbing that staircase, but praise God, they know that God is right there beside them and that He has a goodly plan for them and a beautiful view at the top of the staircase. 

Please pray for Scott and Sandy, and their precious young daughters, Paige and Sidney, and for Scott's parents who are helping with the girls.  What an honor to have a part in praying for such warriors of God in this battle.  I thank God upon every remembrance of them and pray God's richest blessings on their lives -- and their continued testimonies.

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