Keep fighting

The Big C, cancer attacks our lives in our own bodies or the ones we love. I lost my mother to lung cancer several years ago. My mother-in-law is in the midst of her battle with cancer. Renee recently underwent surgery to remove cancer and the surrounding organs it was impacting. My best friend is dealing with his father’s terminal cancer diagnosis.

Whether we like it or not, cancer will impact our lives in one way or another. Let’s not stop fighting it in every way possible.

Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
I Timothy 6:12 NKJV

Who can it be now?

The 80’s song by the Australian band Men at Work comes to mind as loss once again comes knocking on our door. The longer we exist on earth, the more frequently this unwelcome visitor appears at the threshold.

I lost my parents in 2009 and 2017. My father-in-law passed in 2014. Recently, two classmates passed as well. In November, I had to put down our 16 year old feline family member after being diagnosed with renal failure.

Over the weekend, my sister-in-law called to inform my wife that their younger brother was no longer with us. He was only 46 years old, but had lived with diabetes since childhood. My wife looked at me and said “now there’s only 7 of us” referring to the four members of our family, her sister and spouse, and her mom.

While longevity is certainly what we all wish for it does come with this caveat. The longer you live, the more frequent visits from loss will occur.

But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
I Thessalonians 4:13‭-‬14 NKJV

Year end reflections, the 2021 version

In past years, we would alternate each year who would write the Christmas newsletter that would be included with our Christmas card. In 2017, that traditon ended as a result of two painful losses we suffered that year. They were always a great way to wrap up the year and look forward to the coming year. It is in that spirit that I write this blog post.

2021 began with us in Texas assisting Renee’s mom following major back surgery. I was able to telework from there for the IRS as a Contact Representative. That is just a fancy way of saying tax collector. At the end of the month, we returned to Utah for a few days before the family went back to help mom while I remained. February passed with us spending our anniversary and birthdays apart for the first time.

As Easter approached, the family would return and this time only Renee would leave to help mom. The rest of us stayed in Utah until Mother’s day when we would all remain under the same roof for the first time since January. Renee spent 6 months helping her mom and was happy to be back together in Ogden as was I.

Summer was filled with swimming lessons which Karri enjoyed greatly. In June, we met up with Jim as he traveled from San Diego to his new home in Colorado with his pups. We would pay them all a visit in July to see the new place and spend some time together. Summer ended and Karri began kindergarten.

As Fall arrived, changes began to occur professionally. Jesse and I would both start new jobs. I reapplied to the school district after the part-time job I had previously held was made full time. The position with the IRS which allowed me to telework was moving to the next phase where I would begin placing levies and liens against taxpayers. I was not looking forward to that and was grateful to be offered a position as Site Tech at a nearby high school.

In November, we traveled to California to attend San Diego Comic-Con after missing it for several years. It was the largest crowd we had been around since the onset of the pandemic. With all attendees required to be fully vaccinated and wearing masks, it was good to be back amongst the fans.

As 2021 comes to close, we hope the challenges we faced in the past year will not be repeated and that many new blessings await us in the new year. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours.

Heart to heart, 12 years later.

Today marks twelve years since the fateful morning of my mother’s desperate call to me while paramedics worked to resuscitate my father following a heart attack. He was 67 years old when he passed that day and had suffered a heart attack almost thirty years prior outside my bedroom door. I saw paramedics in the hallway working on him from the bottom bunk while my younger brother slept in the bed above me.

Yesterday, I met with my cardiologist’s PA a year after my own heart attack to check my progress after a stint was placed. I was told I am doing great with good blood pressure, pulse and having lost 15 pounds. I was cleared to stop a few prescriptions, but still have two arteries with blockage percentages that will keep me taking some of the meds.

I miss you pops and wish you had done more to make sure you were around longer to see your grandchild grow to adulthood. I will do all I can to make sure I stick around as long as possible to be here for my grandchild.

Shrinking my social footprint

I bit the bullet and opted to reactivate my FB account. However, in doing so I chose also to reduce the number of “friends” as well. Having been unfriended myself without notice, I am certain their will be unintended hurt feelings. It is an odd thing how we allow people we have shared a common experience with at some point to have continued access to your life. Does being a classmate, coworker, sharing a common interest or bloodline mean I grant you continuous unending visibility of the details of my life?

If anyone is upset about no longer being a “friend” on social media, my apologies as that wasn’t my intention. I just realized I had allowed far too many people a window into my life. I spent a year away and during that time, only a handful made contact. Some on social media were only in my life for a short period and have not been a continued presence since our paths separated. I am still available should they decide they need to talk, but most didn’t miss me while in my exile.

If my life touched theirs in some significant way on our journey to eternity, it gives us so something to talk about at journey’s end. I am not pursuing large numbers of followers or friends and hope those that remain are there to contribute to my life and not just stand by and obseve.

No turning back

Giving a commitment to follow Jesus involves turning away from one’s past and embracing the promise of redemption through Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross. You pursue holiness and conformity to the message and lifestyle he demonstrated for us. You understand that it is through His pardoning of our sins that we are able to stand blameless before a Holy God. We have no ability to cleanse ourselves from the ugliness and corrosion of this world on our own. He cleanses and then empowers us to overcome as we rely on Him and the power of the Holy Spirit to transform and renew us day by day.

Yesterday, we returned to visit the congregation that we met in when I was a GI and Renée was a high school student. It was a bit of a time warp and also a bit of a reckoning on how far we have traveled on this journey of faith. The message was one we had heard 30 years ago and the cultural influence was also dated. Although our faith sprang from that soil, it could not grow there now. There were political statements made that we didn’t agree with and mocking of Covid19 that was troubling as well. Add to that a pistol packing pastor and we all knew that we were making our only and possibly final visit amongst them.

An Indian missionary penned the hymn “I have decided to follow Jesus” which concludes with the line “no turning back.” I don’t think we can return to where we once were after committing to follow Jesus. We aren’t who we once were and cannot turn back the clock to do what we once did. Growth involves shedding of old ways and conforming to the image of the Savior.

“And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you].”
Romans 12:2 AMP

A heritage of service

When it comes to military service to this country, there is a significant heritage in our family. I was told growing up that on my mother’s side, I descended from John Paul Jones, father of America’s navy. Closer to my generation was my father and siblings service to our country.

My Uncle Jim served in the US Coast Guard while my Uncle Bill, Harry, Ray and Ed all served in the US Navy. My father chose to join the US Marines straight out of high school. He met my mother while stationed in San Diego and spent a year of my early life in Vietnam at Khe San during the Tet Offensive. He was reassigned to Barstow, CA where he exited the service and raised my brothers and I.

I chose to enlist in the US Army at 19 years of age to escape Barstow only to return twice to train at nearby Ft Irwin National Training Center. I also participated in the Cold War exercise REFORGER(Return of Forces to Germany) in 1987 to keep East Germany and the Warsaw Pact at bay. My younger brother would follow Uncle Jim into the Coast Guard and served 10 years while I left the Army after only 4 years to pursue ministry. Later in life, he joined the Oregon Air Guard as well.

Additionally, I would meet and marry an Army brat whose father retired from the Army and was a member of rival unit where I was stationed at Ft Hood, TX. My best friend Jim enlisted in the Navy serving 30 years and retiring as a Command Master Chief.

Many of us have taken the oath pledging our lives to the defense and protection of our countrymen. Serving the United States of America is our heritage!

Time keeps slipping away

It’s funny how your observation of the passage of time changes as you have more miles behind you than ahead of you. Growing up, you don’t spend any time reflecting on where you have been as you know you have so much more lying ahead on your journey. After reaching the half-century mark, dates on the calendar remind you of significant moments more frequently.

Today is the 27th of September and one month ago I had a heart attack although it went undiagnosed until the following day. I have changed my diet and have increased my physical activity. I have dropped a few pounds with a goal still to meet. Renee has been alongside every step of the way.

One year ago was the eve of my first day of work at Ogden School District. I worked as an Office Assistant at Bonneville Elementary School tracking attendance. I stayed in that position until Spring Break when I became Technology Site Specialist at Ogden High School. I now work for the Internal Revenue Service.

Six years ago today, I stood in front of my son and his bride leading them in their exchange of vows. Their relationship would end three years later and we now live with him and his daughter in Utah. We had no idea the heartache ahead of us that day, but we are so very grateful for the blessing their relationship brought into our lives in the form of the Precious. She brightens our lives each and every day we share with her.

I have no idea what this day may bring in the future, but I am glad to be with my loved ones to share this one. We have a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. We can’t change the past, but we can join arms as we go forward into whatever may come our way. Slip away if you must time, but we will keep our eyes upon the keeper of all time, the Lord God Almighty.

Anxiety of heart

On August 27th, I was preparing to start my day of telework when I began to feel pain in my chest that radiated up into my neck and down my left arm. Knowing that my father had a heart attack at 38 and died after one at 67 (on this date 11 years ago), I promptly made my way down the hall to awaken Renee. She drove me to the ER where the pain intensified. I spent several hours there while the doctor ran multiple tests concluding that there was no evidence of heart damage. I was prescribed aspirin and nitroglycerin for emergency use. While picking up the prescriptions, we decided to get a flu shot as well.

The pain was less intense, but continued until the following morning. At that point, the pain disappeared and I felt like a rung out towel with very little energy. My BP which was normally around 130 over 90 was registering at 90 over 60 all that day. Renee consulted with a virtual nurse who recommended a return trip to the emergency room.

Upon arrival, the staff ran the same tests as the day prior. However, this time the reaction was much different as I was told to strip and was connected to IVs and had defibrillator pads placed on my chest and back. The electrocardiogram and blood enzymes now showed that I had suffered a heart attack. I also had a fever which puzzled the doctors who hadn’t considered the flu shot I had while having a heart attack the day prior. I was admitted and moved to the cardiac care unit.

The following morning, I was given an echocardiogram and saw Renee for a moment before being taken for an angiogram. The angiogram revealed that I had an artery that had closed causing the heart attack. The artery had reopened and the cardiologist decided to place a stent to restore proper bloodflow. There were also two arteries in another part of my heart with 60% closure.

I spent 24 hrs more in the hospital before being discharged with new prescriptions and lifestyle changes to make. I was given two days off of work and told to avoid stress for two weeks. My manager allowed me to watch colleagues instead of diving back into my workload the 1st week after the heart attack. The following week, windstorm damage kept me from picking up a full workload. The building my phone was tied to was without power all week long.

A full two weeks after the heart attack, I resumed a normal workload. The 1st day seemed to go quite well. The 2nd morning I was to continue working brought about a very different outcome. Even before I could start my day, my nerves were on edge and I had a pit in my stomach. Anxiety began to consume my whole being to the point where my hands started to tremble. As someone who usually has very strong self confidence, this was out of character. Fortunately, I had a very understanding manager that gave me a day to relax and observe a colleague for the day. I had heard of heart attack victims suffering from depression, but this anxiety was highly unsuspected.

The next day I resumed a normal work schedule with the knowledge that anxiety like depression could be lying in wait for me. I got through the day ok again. I never considered that a physical distress might prompt a debilitating mental distress. There is a history of mental illness as well as heart ailment in the family tree.

I must now work on both my physical and mental well being as part of the recovery process I find myself living out. The Bible sheds light on my heart health and this new battle against anxiety. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23 NIV