#177 God Goes Before Us

 Photo by Chelsea Jo Photography

It is the Lord that goes before us. He is with us. He will never leave or forsake us. Do not fear or be dismayed.

Deut. 31:8

I had memorized this verse a couple of weeks before heading on our trip to Alaska . . . not knowing that we would see this promise in action.

We left for our 50th anniversary trip on July 31, 2018. Ardon and I were in good health and looking forward to visiting this “last frontier” of beauty and nature. We first flew to Seattle, staying two nights to become accustomed to the time change. Before leaving, I had contacted an old friend. I knew she lived in the area, but as we did not have a car, I knew the likelihood of seeing her would be slim.

On August 1, we purchased an all-day pass on the Light Rail that went from the south side of Seattle to the north side. We rode all the way to the end, determining sights we would see on the return trip. When we got off the train, we found we were at the University of Washington Huskie stadium. I remembered that my friend’s husband was a professor there and guessed they wouldn’t live too far away. I called her and found out she had the time to visit, and she picked us up at the university. We spent time in her home, went for lunch, and caught up with hours of good conversation. This friend and I had not seen each other in 54 years. God went before us.

Our trip continued on a flight to Anchorage, a train ride on the Alaska Railroad to Denali, an eight-hour tour through Denali National Park, then back on the train to Fairbanks to enjoy a couple of days and a riverboat Discovery tour that passed Susan Butcher’s home and a native village. Now we were homeward bound to the “lower 48 states,” but our Heavenly Father wasn’t through with us yet.

The next day we flew to Anchorage for rest before heading home. But that wasn’t God’s plan. During Ardon’s first void of the morning, he passed a one-centimeter kidney stone. The pain, the bleeding, and the shock of passing something that large put him back in bed for a half hour. I asked him if he wanted to go down for breakfast. He did and so we did. During the time we were eating in a very warm dining room, I noticed that Ardon was beginning to shiver. I asked him if he wanted to go back to the room and he said yes. Fully dressed, he got under the covers and said he was freezing. I recognized the “shocky” symptoms and said I needed to go get help. He said, “No, let me rest for a little while.” I could see that things were not improving and finally said that I was going to the desk to get help. I went down and asked if there was a physician in the hotel. He said no, but asked if I would like him to call 911? I said yes but would need a wheelchair to get Ardon down to the lobby. They had a wheelchair, and a staff member came to the room with me. I gathered my tote bag and Ardon got in the wheelchair. When we got down to the lobby, Ardon was shivering violently. I asked for blankets which were kindly provided. The EMTs arrived and Ardon was sensing that his body was failing. The ambulance took us to JBER (Joint Base Elmendorf/Richardson AFB) where the only VA medical center in Alaska was housed. Our ER doctor was a graduate of the University of Nebraska, our home state. God had again gone before us.

The doctor recognized the signs of septic shock (blood sepsis) and immediately started two bags of saline as Ardon’s blood pressure was going down severely. The EKG indicated the heart was being attacked and a PIC line was inserted with two kinds of broad spectrum antibiotic administered via IV. Four IVs were running simultaneously. Urinalysis, chest X-rays, and blood tests were also being done during the next eight hours. Ardon was at that point stable but in very serious condition. Meanwhile, I was contacting children and siblings, getting all the prayer warriors on board. Within six hours, prayer warriors from coast to coast were praying. Another of God’s provisions.

Ardon was transferred to ICU that evening. The social workers came alongside me to find out how to help. We were to have flown home the next day, and our suitcases were still at the hotel where we had paid for two nights’ stay. The social workers provided taxi vouchers to and from the hotel and said that I would be able to stay at Fisher House (a ministry to out-of-town vets and active-duty military and their dependents) as long as needed. Praise God. The social workers took care of all the cancellations and were able to get a percentage of our non-refundable tickets and hotel fee returned to us. God had gone before us.

After checking out of the hotel and returning to the hospital, hearing from the doctor that Ardon was still in very serious condition, an appointment was made for me to check into Fisher House. When I left the hospital, Ardon said, “If you come back to just a body, know that I am more alive in Glory and I will be waiting for you.” The confirmation and assurance of that statement was affirming that Ardon knew his eternal home was waiting for him . . . but it was also a shock to me who was accustomed to seeing him attack all his “medical emergencies” with a fighting spirit. I walked to Fisher House, introduced myself, got registered, received a tour and my keys, and told them about Ardon’s comment and our hope in Jesus’ finished and redemptive work on the cross. The social worker said to me, “We are all believers here, too.” It was comforting to know that God was continuing to go ahead of us.

At the hospital, Ardon was showing a little improvement. His blood bacteria levels were going down, but now I was seeing swelling of his arms. The doctor said the swelling was a part of the process and that in three days it should go down. Later in the morning, I received a call from a young lady I hadn’t seen in 20 years, a grand-niece of dear friends back home. She said she was married, was a nurse, and lived in Anchorage . . . and would I like a visitor? Of course I said yes—if she could get on the base. She arrived after lunch with her little three-month-old daughter. We had a good conversation and she asked if there was anything she could do. With all these antibiotics going into Ardon, I was concerned that his intestinal flora was getting upset and that he might end up with C.Diff. I felt he needed some probiotic and/or Activia yogurt. She said she would be glad to get that for us. During the time she was gone, I went to Fisher House and returned to the hospital, caught my toe on the well-polished tile and fell, cutting my chin with the key on my lanyard. The young lady returned with the probiotics and promptly took me to an ER off base. She surely was an instrument of healing and ministry to us that day. God was indeed going before us.

On Sunday, Ardon got word that his blood was clean and would be moving to the general ward if he reached some of the achievement goals. I had been using the public restroom on the floor and had started reading the bulletin boards there. To my astonishment, all the boards contained protocols and articles for sepsis. What would be the chances that this hospital had just finished their staff in-service with instructions on sepsis?!! Another of God’s provisions.

Ardon was moved to the general ward that night. The next morning brought more news. The nurse told him he could continue recuperating for a couple more days in the hospital or he could continue recuperating at Fisher House. Needless to say, when he heard that news, he was determined to be moved immediately. But Physical Therapy had to sign off that he would be able to be at Fisher House and walk around it safely. When the therapist came in, his first question was, “Where in Omaha do you live?” I said the northwest corner. “No,” he said. “I was raised there. Where do you live?” I said, “156th and Maple.” He laughed and said, “I went to Kiewit Middle School and graduated high school at Millard North.” I said, “Stop, you are going to make me cry. That is where our grandchildren go.” Again, God was letting us know He was going before us. Ardon passed his PT test and was transported via wheelchair to Fisher House.

Over the next five days, Ardon recuperated, gaining a little strength each day. His appetite was poor due to the antibiotics and lack of exercise, and he lost 11 pounds. One of the residents was a chef and made some lovely breakfasts and suppers. So with better food, exercise, fresh air, conversation (he was able to share the gospel with this resident), and sleep, Ardon was ready to travel by Sunday. During this time, I was able to pray with one of the female residents, and Ardon and I befriended a young mother and her three-year-old daughter who were in Anchorage for surgery. May God get all the glory—for who He is, for His ever-loving kindness to us, and for His leading in our lives. We could not do life without Him.

Since returning home, follow-up visits and doctors have all confirmed that Ardon is way ahead of the healing curve, and his strength continues to increase. We are so thankful. We wanted you to know with total belief and trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ, that you can have a Heavenly Father who goes before you and with you wherever you go. His love is extreme, abundant, and free. Place your trust in Him today.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#176 Finding Safety in Vulnerability

 Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

Several years ago, one of my best friends died from cancer. I still go regularly to his family business and take care of the orchids in the reception area. A few weeks ago, I was there watering the orchids, and the receptionist asked me if I had enjoyed my vacation to Florida. I knew going down this road of conversation could be difficult, but I also knew that God would want me to be honest.

“We didn’t go on vacation,” I said. 

“Oh . . . why not?” she asked.

“We had a family tragedy.”

“I’m sorry. What happened?”

“My grandson . . . . We aren’t sure what happened, but we believe he committed suicide.”

The next Sunday I was teaching the young couple’s class in Sunday school. A new couple joined our class. I knew the man, as he had attended a Sunday school class I taught several years ago. He introduced me to his wife and said they had just recently gotten married. We began our lesson by talking about the scripture verse, and then I felt God leading me to share the conversation I had about my grandson. When I shared with the group what I had told the receptionist, the young bride of the new couple burst into tears. She finally composed herself and asked if she could speak. She shared with the group that she had attempted to kill herself three days ago. The other couples came to her, showing their concern and care. They prayed for her and encouraged her. It was very powerful . . . I could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in the room.

God knew this young woman’s pain. He knew she needed healing and support from others. God led me to a moment of honesty and vulnerability with the class, and that opened the door for her to feel safe to share her own pain. Now she has been brought out of isolation and has a community of friends who can love and encourage her. It is amazing the way God works.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.