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jesus-anima.gif It’s Good Friday, 2008. Lea and I are together, and we pray thankfully every single day that we have been given the privilege to be together. Lea continues to make good progress in recovering from her time in “the hospital” . . . in Meriden and Hartford, Connecticut, Noblesville, Indiana and Kealakekua, Hawaii. During the past two and a half years there have been some very difficult times involved in her recovery from emotional, mental and physical challenges, but our Lord, God, has been with us every step of the way. We have never felt closer to Him, and pray each day that He will direct us in walking the path He has chosen for us.

Since the end of last year I’ve been following a little baby’s trials in trying to recover from a congenital diaphragmatic hernia, a defect or hole in the diaphragm that allows the intestine to squash the lungs and prevent them from developing properly. Only five pounds five ounces at birth, the hole in Anna’s diaphragm was quickly discovered, and she was transferred to Indianapolis’ Riley Children’s Hospital for treatment. She is still there today, and is preparing to undergo another surgery today. She has a journal blog at http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/annayutzy if you would like to keep up with her progress.

I have experienced many floods of emotion as I follow the ups and downs she and her extended family are experiencing. I have been through most of those same trials during Lea’s treatment and certainly recall the horror and helplessness I felt. It makes me feel certain that the Lord is working through Anna to reach out to all who will listen to help them hear the news of His good and great plan for each of us who have accepted Jesus as our Saviour and the doorway to complete forgiveness of our sins. Praise God!

As I read the journal entry posted by her parents this morning, saying that Anna was awaiting this next surgery, and they are hoping it will be a great step to achieving a normal life, I was just flooded by gratitude that our own grandson, now almost five months old, has been such a blessing to us! We have marveled as we have watched his mental capacity and eye-muscle coordination improve as he grows, and just absolutely melt when he gives us a smile.

We have praised God so many times for the blessing of this new grandchild, and I try to see in the pictures of Anna that are posted periodically that she, too, is growing in these ways. Each little baby brought into the world is such a wonderful blessing; a heavenly gift that can bring such joy! And, I am humbled that Anna’s grandparents are having to go through a different kind of experience, certainly a more difficult one, and my heart goes out to them. I can empathize with the pain they feel, and know all too well the helplessness one feels.

The Caring Bridge blog the hospital provides for Anna is a wonderful means to help loved ones keep up on Anna’s progress, but I also know that it serves as an excellent source of strength and support for her parents and family. In my own case, some of the best support I received came through emails that encouraged me, gave personal testimony, and lifted Lea up in prayer. It seemed to me that I always got just exactly the message I needed for that day, just in time. It was uncanny . . . each of the four times Lea clinically died and was revived, there was a message from God in my email!

I hope that I have learned to be more openly appreciative of His works, more expressive of His plan of salvation, and a better witness for the peace one can obtain by turning your life over to God. Hopelessness, I think, may be most evident when you have a loved one in critical care for an extended period of time. There is nothing you can do; you have to trust their caregivers to keep them safe. That’s when you feel totally helpless. They even control when and where you can visit your loved one!

his is when it’s time to get on your knees, or prostrate yourself in front of God, and say, “Okay, Father, I know You are in control here. I can’t do anything! I am powerless to determine how this is going to turn out. I can only say that I know you love her/him, and that you can work through her/him to reach others who need to receive The Word. I just pray, Father, that if it is Your Will that she/he be taken home to receive her/his reward, that You will give me the wisdom to understand that my personal loss might be a blessing to You and Your works here on Earth, and please give me the strength to be a good and obedient servant. Thy Will be done! Amen.”

We pray that the Lord’s will for Anna is that she be given miraculous healing to help her overcome this problem, and that she be granted a full and healthy life in His service. I pray that He continue the shower of blessings on our extended family, as we share His word; that He will always have His hand in the life of our grandson, just as He has for our delightful teen-age granddaughters, who have already given of themselves to minister for Him on mission trips.

What a joy it has been to see seeds planted long ago bear such bountiful fruit! Can you imagine how He feels as He watches us? Glory to God for all things, and may you receive a special blessing today, and each day of this Easter weekend, as you ponder the magnificent gift of life given us by the blood shed on the cross so long ago. And yet, He lives! I hope you saw Him here in this simple, humble posting. God bless!

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I just received an update from our friend Chris, who is on active duty making medical flights into Iraq and Afghanistan to evacuate wounded and sick Americans. In this latest note he describes a nostalgic trip to the beaches of France made hallowed ground during World War Two. His narrative, below, gave me chills:

“Greetings once again from somewhere over Turkey, It is hard to believe that we are already less than 4 weeks from heading home. Our replacements are due in sometime around the 12th of next month, give them a few days to get oriented and spun up and I would anticipate heading home sometime around the 15th or so. We are currently on our 10th mission and are on pace for 16 before it is all said and done.

The patient loads remain relatively small and much to my surprise the number of trauma related patients is down even in the last month we have been here. Of course we still have our share of medical patients, usually contractors who don’t have the best health to begin with. I truly believe that the health screen used by some contract companies is: Have you ever died from a heart attack? Anything more in-depth they might actually discover the uncontrolled diabetes, CHF or even a heart attack that they did survive. None the less it keeps us busy on the flights.

During our down time over the past two weeks I had the opportunity to take two very interesting and moving road trips. Our first took us to Bastogne, known to most as the Battle of the Bulge. (NOTE: The battle lasted from mid-December 1944 to January 1945). To see it on TV has always been inspiring but to actually go there and walk through the same woods and small villages and to see the monuments was truly great.

Over the course of a month back in 1945-6 over 19,000 Americans were killed and another 40,000 wounded, it is truly sacred ground. Our second trip took us to 450 miles to the Northwest corner of France, Normandy. The entire region is so rich in history that it does not take long to realize the prices paid by the “Greatest Generation,” and the toll of blood they shed some 53 years ago.

Our first stop was a small village called Saint Lo. My Grandfather’s brother fought in the same town during July 1945 to liberate it. We went on to visit Carentan, the first objective for the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, the Church at Saint Mere Eglise then on to the beaches. First stop was Utah Beach. It had been raining steadily all day since we set out from Saint Lo, buy the time we reached the beach it was torrential down pour. Realizing we still had two more stops we opted to cut this visit short and made our way to Pointe de Hoc.

Here the Rangers were tasked with defending the western side of the units that was going to attack Omaha Beach. I have read of some of the ordeals of the Rangers and have seen on TV the cliffs they had to scale just to get up to fight the Germans. That is nothing compared to seeing it in person. Relatively untouched since D-Day, the craters from the initial bombardment, some reaching 10 feet deep, riddle the ledge to this day. Destroyed bunkers and old fighting positions are strewn throughout the ¼ mile long area.

From there we headed up the road maybe 4 miles to our ultimate objective, the American Cemetery and Memorial at Omaha Beach. There is a very nice museum located there complete with memorabilia from years past, video accounts of the battle from General Eisenhower and much more. A small hallway connects two exhibition rooms and as you walk through there is a reading of the names of those killed and still missing from the invasions on D-Day.

It takes almost an entire day to read through the list.

While I was\hoping deep down that the rain would subside for the hour of so we spent inside the memorial it wouldn’t be. Having wanted to make this trip for many years I resolved myself to getting soaked in order to live this moment.

As you walk from the museum to edge of the cemetery you come across a statue, “Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves”, looking up toward the sky. The inscription on the back reads, “TO THOSE WE OWE THE HIGHEST RESOLVE, FOR THE CAUSE FOR WHICH THEY DIED SHALL LIVE”. For anyone who has been so blessed to visit these 750 acres of hallowedground, they would agree that it not a question of if you will cry, rather when you cry and how many times.

Just past the statue are the graves of 9,387 Americans. A generation past who did not know the meaning of fear, defines courage and whose bravery defies common sense.

The only bad thing about Normandy is of course that it is in France. The people of Normandy are very friendly, out going and still extremely thankful of what our Fathers or Grandfathers did for them years ago. The rest of France on the other hand, well that is best suited for another email at some other time.

In closing thank you for the number of request to donate to our unit fund (to prepare cookies and other snacks for wounded soldiers on the long flight home). I am sorry it has taken so long to get back to you so I will give it to everybody. Donations can be sent to: Treats for Troops, PSC 2, Box 50,000, APO AE 09094. I will talk to you soon. Chris”

Chris’ description brought to memory the many tales of that war that my family recalls. World War II spread to America when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941. The United States declared war on Germany, Italy and Japan on December 11,1941 and on Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary the following June. My father enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve while a high school senior, and was ordered to the St Louis Military Recruiting Station on November 26, 1942 to be shipped to San Diego Recruit Depot for basic training.

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He was honorably discharged only a few days later, on Dec 18, 1942, due to a severe allergic condition known as hay fever, or rhinitis, which is caused by pollens of seasonal plants. A person with rhinitis is not well suited for any type of combat duty where exposure to pollens, or dust, could trigger an allergic reaction and subsequent sneezing, which could give away an entire unit’s position, and the only treatment back then was mentholated inhalers, which were not very effective.

He returned to his young wife in Hannibal, Missouri and worked as a silk screen press operator at Hannibal Outdoor Advertising, and volunteered for duty with the Missouri State Guard as a radio operator. Many of my early memories about him are from his service with the State Guard and, later, with the National Guard.

My grandfather, William Thomas Vaughn, who later became a Baptist minister, served in France during World War I. My father had the photograph below in his personal collection, and was passed on to me by my mother. It shows my grandfather’s battalion posing in front of a building, somewhere in France during World War I.

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Above: U.S. Expeditionary Forces’ 84th Division, 325th Machine Gun Battalion, posing while posted to France during World War I. William Thomas Vaughn is front row, kneeling, fifth from the right edge of the photo. Date unknown – Larry Vaughn Collection

Below: I received this photograph from my Aunt Ruth’s (dad’s sister) collection, of Company A, 325th Machine Gun Battalion, in Place de la Concorde, Paris. I have no information on the occasion, but notice the different uniforms the troops are wearing, from combat helmets to headquarters uniforms. My grandfather is in the back row, just to the right of the fountain. Date unknown – Sharon Walley Collection

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Thanks to Chris for his notes on his trip to France. It brought back the reality of the sense of pride we have in all those men and women who have served our country in peace and war, today, and in times gone by. Their names are recorded in history forever. They will never be forgotten.

If you are able, could you send a dollar or two, or at least a note, to the address Chris gives above, to provide a little comfort for our sick and wounded troops as they are being transported to Germany for medical treatment? Our prayers remain with Chris and his team for a safe conclusion to their tour of duty and a safe return home to their loved ones.

Every once in a while one of those accursed chain emails comes across my desk that has a significant message in it. I received one today that inspired me to take it to the next level and recreate it as a slide show. I copied the graphics into a directory, and then used a suitable background to paste them into. The result is quite an attractive 25 slide show that has an appropriate message for everyone who from time to time feels burdened.

I named it The Cross You Bear. I don’t know who the original artist is on the graphics, but trust that this treatment of the material is another step in achieving the desired goal. This is dedicated to the glory of the Lord.

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In memory of my Aunt Jo, who, like a candle, spread her light through giving and caring for others. We rejoice that she is free of her earthbound troubles and now at home with our Heavenly Father. Still, her light burns on . . . . . .

My father, Eugene Vaughn, loved Christmas tradition. He instilled in his children, and eventually his children’s children, the blessings of family gatherings over the Christmas and New Year holidays. These times were always filled with one-on-one activities we just didn’t seem to take time for any other time of the year . . . card playing, piecing puzzles, playing Battleship, and, of course, on Christmas eve, reading of the Christmas Story from the bible.

In later years, Lea added a Birthday Party for Jesus to our Christmas eve traditions, with an elaborately decorated table filled with festive foods and snacks. It was also a time of wonderful, heartwarming, conversations, and building excitement for the youngsters present that year. Our granddaughters will never forget the excitement of receiving “Reindeer Food” that they could sprinkle in the lawn around the house, to attract Santa’s reindeer.

These traditions have great impact in the life of a youngster, and live on to bless future generations. This was never made clearer to our family than when our youngest son went off to college, and found himself yearning for those traditions. He expressed these things very eloquently in a short story he wrote and a subsequent Christmas Carol he composed to celebrate the importance of family during the holidays. Here is what he recently wrote:

“It was 1991, and I was a sophomore at Purdue University. When Christmas rolled around, I was painfully low on cash. I wasn’t sure what to do for my family for Christmas that year. I had been toying around with a bit of writing over the last few years, so I came up with the idea of writing a short Christmas story. Little was I to know that so many feelings… so much of me… would find its way into the story. When I read the story to my family Christmas night, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. It was a beautiful moment — one that I will remember forever!

Now, fast forward nine years…

It was the year 2000. I had spent almost every waking moment that year writing music for a studio band that I was in, so I decided to attempt writing a Christmas carol for my family’s traditional talent show that we do every year on Christmas night. Easy stuff, right? Ha! I was only able to write a couple of verses in the one or two hours that I had, but it went over really well. It was fun when I asked my family to sing along after having only heard the song for the first time just a few moments before! I wasn’t even sure what key the song was in!

Well, the next year, I had a little surprise up my sleeve. Starting in late July, I began collaborating with Brian Hazard of Color Theory to finish the song. It wasn’t easy writing a traditional-style Christmas carol — trying to capture the true warmth and magic of the season without being too cheesy — but it was incredibly rewarding when we finally wrapped it up! And what a wonderful surprise for my family that year! I couldn’t even wait until Christmas night. Christmas Eve hit and I was all aglow!

I had really started getting into the spirit of Christmas early that year and it was a long wait until December 25th! Since I had a bare bones recording studio in my home, I had also decided to create an audio version of my Christmas story that year. It had gone through a lot of small revisions over the last ten years, but it was time to finally put it in stone. So, while I was working with Brian on the Christmas carol, I decided to ask him to write a short instrumental to include in the audio version of my story. It was designed as a companion song to the carol, but was meant to capture the deeper, more personal side of Christmas. I swear there was such an amazing degree of divine intervention involved, because Brian created the song with very little direction from me; yet, as I began to piece everything together — layering his music in with my reading — I must have cried a dozen times out of sheer joy! The timing and overall feeling of the music matched the storyline perfectly! Bravo!

Please visit Brian’s site at colortheory.com — beautiful music from an incredibly talented individual!

I am sharing these two productions with you simply because I love Christmas and I hope they will somehow touch you the way they have me all these years. Please feel free to share this site with anyone and everyone — it’s a great way to help your loved ones find their spirit! Christmas is such a beautiful season! It brings out the best in us… reminds us of everything we take for granted.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Listen to the original Christmas carol and read the lyrics here: The Magic of Christmas

Read the original Christmas short story and listen to the audio version here: The Warmth of My Santa’s Beard.”

Lea and I shared a wonderful Christmas day with our grandson and his extended family, were able to do a webcam visit with our granddaughters and their parents in Hawaii, and had a joyous day filled with His bounty of gifts, affection, great food, reverence, and carefree light heartedness. Lea is in reasonably good health, it seems, and our quality of life just keeps getting better little by little. And, yet, there was a part of my thoughts that kept drifting to those who were so dear to us, but too far away to be together.

I had sent an email containing a link to the video I posted of Lea giving our grandson a bath a few days before Christmas to many of these loved ones, as a way to help them see how well Lea has progressed in the last two years, after miraculously surviving a deadly sudden illness. One of the persons I had sent the link to was one of the nurses who tended her during the 180 days she was in Hartford Hospital.

This particular nurse was one of the special ones to us. . . he was the first nurse who took Lea outside after four months in the hospital. It was cold in Hartford. Lea was still on life support. She wasn’t strong enough to sit up in a regular wheelchair. She had already had over two dozen surgical procedures. She was on constant tranquilizer and anti-depressent IV drips. Her vital signs had to be continuously monitored.

This nurse, Chris, and Danielle, a patient care assistant studying to become a nurse, moved Lea into a cardiac chair (at home we call these recliners), attached remote monitoring gear, portable oxygen and medications, and took her outside the hospital for her first breath of fresh air in months. The hospital has a nice garden area with a gazebo that worked perfectly for this little outing, and I snapped this photo on our way to the garden.

Outside HH 2005

Needless to say, Chris’ willingness to take her outside was an additional burden for him during already difficult work days, and our appreciation for this, and many other kindnesses he bestowed upon us, knows no bounds. Chris, by the way, is also in the reserves, and has been called to active duty a number of times. Shortly after this trip outside, he was called to active duty to assist with medical support, as a flight nurse, during hurricane Katrina. When he returned to work at Hartford Hospital, he continued caring for Lea as though nothing special had happened. He even stopped in to check on her after she had been moved out of the Critical Care Unit. He, and fiance Amanda, drove us to the airport to fly home, so we wouldn’t have to take a taxi.

He will always hold a special place in our hearts. And, my thoughts were on him during this Christmas day, because I had gotten an email from him Christmas eve, stating that he was back on active duty; this time in Germany, where his medical team flew into Iraq and Afghanistan to tend injured soldiers being flown back for treatment. I was humbled by his letter, and asked for special prayer for him and his unit at the Christmas eve service at church. I was also a bit ashamed that I get so caught up in my own day to day concerns I forget what others are going through.

Pasted below is Chris’ email letter, received mid-afternoon Christmas eve:

“Merry Christmas to all from cold and foggy Ramstein, Germany. We have had over a week to get settled into our routines and get our lives as normal as you can. Much to my surprise there seems to be a regular flight schedule which allows for a day of recovery, a day of standby alert and then a mission. We fly every 3rd day and get a true day off once every 10 days or so. My crew and I have been to Balad, Iraq twice already and our flight time is quickly adding up. We obviously land in total darkness and try to minimize our ground time which I am all for.

While I haven’t been officially tested for it I think I am extremely allergic to mortars, shrapnel and anything that might have missile like characteristics. The attached picture is three of us from Westover shortly after we entered Iraq on our first mission. It’s hard to see with the lighting but you have to take what you can get.

Chris in Iraq

The other picture is of me cooking up some cookies shortly before we landed back in Ramstein. I think they were pretty tasty but it is hard to mess it up when they are already made for you.

Chris bakes in flight

Our unit uses donations to purchase sweets for us to cook up when we get a chance and after seeing how much of a hit they were it is totally worth it. The days are extremely long and depending on mission location the duty time can easily approach 24 hours long. The crew I am with, especially the enlisted are truly awesome. On our last mission our patient load almost doubled, we had 3 vented patients added at the last minute and had to fly with equipment that I haven’t seen since flight school over 4 years ago. Without missing a beat the aircraft was totally re-configured and within 30 minutes we were ready to accept patients. Not bad considering that for most of them that was only their 2nd or 3rd live mission.

Our holiday today consisted of shopping earlier and dinner at Chili’s. We will try not to over do it. Christmas Eve and Christmas are huge over hear and there is nothing open off base. With another mission tomorrow nobody was up for a late night anyway. Our Christmas will be spent in the festive colors of tan and black, flying for over 16 hours and getting back sometime the following day. In all honesty if I have to be away for the holiday there is nothing more rewarding than flying wounded troops home on Christmas.

I hope that all of you and your families have a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year (just in case I am lazy and don’t write before then.) Remember to keep those in Afghanistan and Iraq in your prayers and world peace is one of my personal favorites when you are making your wish list. Talk to you soon, Chris”

Needless to say, Chris’ letter touched me, and reminded me how self centered we become, even when we think we are reaching out, and consciously seeking His will for our lives. So, I was already sensitized when I went to my email the morning after Christmas and found another email letter from Chris. This one brought reality crashing in, and I felt led to share this with you.

“December 25th, 2007.
Ramstein Air Base, Germany
Our mission was scheduled to leave within 90 minutes and our crew of 7 was sitting in a van waiting anxiously to get the day started and wondering what in the world we could be waiting on. Our mission was to take us to Bagram Afghanistan aboard a KC-135R, a 16 hour day and that is if everything goes according to plan. The earlier we get going the earlier we get back which will be sometime early tomorrow morning if we are lucky.

One distinct disadvantage to using this aircraft is that we need a specialized piece of equipment called a K-Loader in order to lift all of our equipment up so we can load it into the aircraft. With the lifter already 30 minutes late we sat and we waited and waited, and… Then going down the middle of the tarmac was not only one lifter but two! It was finally our turn, however the trucks never stopped, they just kept on going.

This sequence of events brought some curiosity on my part which quickly changed back into our meaningless conversations we
were having all along. I watched the loaders pull up behind a C-17 that had just landed and had parked only a few spaces from where we were. Like clockwork people prepared the aircraft after arrival, chalking the wheels, lowering the ramp, and moving vehicles.

After a few minutes I looked over again and was surprised to notice that everyone around the aircraft had suddenly stopped working. All of those people who moments earlier were hard at a work around the plane had gathered near the rear ramp and now they
were standing at attention, then they saluted. I now knew why we were waiting. Somewhere back home maybe a few hours before this, a family got the news that no family ever wants to receive; their loved one will not be coming home.

After a few more minutes, a slow moving blue truck with a blinking yellow light appeared from behind the C-17 followed by one of the
loaders we had seen earlier. On it was a single flag draped coffin, a hero heading home. As the small convoy drove the length of the tarmac other vehicles it would pass would come to a complete stop and turn off their lights, those who were working on the ground would stop what they were doing and render the time honored salute given to those on their final voyage home.

Waiting was no longer important anymore. Out of respect, the DOD and the Air Force strictly forbid taking pictures of these events and rightfully so. So, this is my experience to share with you.”

I am so ashamed of my selfishness! Oh, dear heavenly Father, forgive me my shallowness and self centeredness. Please give peace and comfort to those who are not as richly blessed as You have chosen to make me. Father, my heart goes out to those who have sick and injured loved ones on their minds, and particularly that family that received the horrible news of the loss of their loved one on Christmas Day. I pray for their comfort, Lord, and that You will hold them in the palm of Your loving hand, as they struggle to overcome their grief at this tragic loss.

Father, I pray, too, for those You have chosen to be our care givers. Bless them, Lord, as they go about tending to the needs of those sick and injured in their care. Tend to their own hearts and minds, that they might receive gratification from what they do to help others. Guide their hands that they might be steady and true. I pray for a circle of protection to be put around Chris and his team as they continue to be put in harm’s way to help those who need medical attention. I pray for all our troops, Father, wherever they might be; that You will always be present in their hearts and minds. Bring them home safely to their families to share a glorious day of celebration.

Continue to bless this Christmas season, Lord, protect it from those who would diminish its importance. Give each of us the moral strength to stand by, and fight for, the right to publicly declare our gratitude for the sacrifice made by Your son, Jesus Christ, that we might have eternal life. It is in the name of Jesus, my saviour, that I humbly lift up this prayer. Amen!

It’s amazing! Our loving heavenly father has, once again, responded to the power of our prayers, and delivered little Kora. Earlier this evening I received the following email from Lea’s sister, Kathy:

“We just got back from taking Kora to the doctor in St. Louis and it’s not cancer. They said it is a virus. That it will have to take its course. Praise God! They said that if the lymphoid in her throat would continue to grow that they would have to do a biopsy but it would have to get twice as big and they really think it will go away. What a relief. Hollaluja! Thanks everyone for all the prayers.    God Bless Kathy”

Our family has been SO blessed! And, once again, every one of us was given an opportunity to realize how much we can rely on His benevolence and love. It is when matters are beyond our control that we are brought closer to Him, as we seek His help. He keeps showing us The Path, and we step on it and walk it as long as we need His help, and then begin to stray as soon as the crisis is over. This straying from the path is dangerous, and can bring His discipline down on you and those you love. Take heed! This was another chance to change our hearts and minds and submit to His will. Don’t waste it!

Blessed be His name!

Thank You, Father, for delivering Kora. Please place a shield of protection around her and give her comfort as she recovers from this illness. And, Father, please keep Your guiding hand in her daddy’s life as he struggles to help his young family. You know our hearts and our needs, Father, and we pray for Your continued blessings. Amen.

Ah, Sunday. The Lord’s day. The day of the week set aside for rest, reflection and appreciation of all He has set before us. It’s a day of fellowship with friends and family, listening to His word with fellow believers, and giving praise for His glorious works. It is also the day for putting your life purpose in perspective.

As I sit at Lea’s hospital bedside day after day, standing ready to render what assistance I can to make her suffering more tolerable, I constantly remind myself to be open to the message God is sending. The message He is sending to me, and through me. Putting aside all other things to care for the most precious gift God has given me has taught me a lot about suffering.

Lance, my youngest son, wrote earlier this year, “Man! God sure is pouring it on, isn’t He?” I would have to say so. It breaks my heart to see Lea suffer so much. But, as we think about the significance of suffering in our lives, we have to recognize that everyone has suffering they are dealing with every single day.

We all know folks who seem to manage their problems well, while it seems other folks’ problems completely manage them. Just as a little boy who finally gathers the courage to stand up to the school yard bully, we learn and grow from confronting the challenges we face, and suffer through the battle to overcome them.

As I stated in my personal testimony, I walked through the valley of the Shadow of Death straight into Hell, and served a term there while Lea was hospitalized in Hartford Hospital. It was the most horrible thing I have ever experienced, and I certainly don’t want to ever have to go back there again. But, it was my Father’s way of getting my attention, disciplining me, and getting me back on track.

The important life lesson is not what challenges you are given, but rather, how you handle your suffering and any other trials that come. And, they definitely will come! I Peter, chapter 4, verse 12. “Don’t be surprised at the painful trials you are suffering as though something strange were happening to you.”

Sometimes something negative happens to us and we say, “Lord, this is so strange that this should happen to me! Why me Lord?” I asked that an awful lot in Hartford. But, you know what? Almost every single day of the suffering I was going through, I would receive emailed messages and testimonies from readers of the Hartford Letter dispatches that gave me just the right amount of support to lift me up and keep me going.

I learned through that to look around, and listen, to all the folks around me and understand that all those other folks around me were suffering through their own challenges. I often would thank God that I was not confronted with the problems others were facing.

I still do today; probably more frequently and openly than ever, uttering, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”( John Bradford) This famous phase helps us understand that things could always be worse for us, and that we should suffer according to God’s will, commit ourselves to Him, and continue to do good. (I Peter, chapter 4, verse 17)

Although everyone suffers, not everyone is suffering according to God’s will. Peter talks about three kinds of suffering; Common Suffering, the kind we all experience because we live in a fallen world. This includes things like sickness, conflict, heartache. Christian and non-Christian alike, some suffering is common to all of us, and much of it can’t be avoided.

Secondly, Peter talks about Carnal Suffering. That is suffering that we bring on ourselves because we disobey the laws of God or the laws of man, which are derived from the laws of God. This kind of suffering you can largely avoid.

But, did you know that if you’re a true Christian, you’re going to suffer for it? This is the third kind of suffering Peter talks about; Christian Suffering. A lot of people think if they join a church and show up for worship service pretty regularly, they have a ticket to heaven, and life will be trouble free. That’s not the case!

God uses persecution in the Christian’s life to purify him, unite him with Christ, empower him, and to persuade others to believe. Christian suffering is a definite sign that we are walking with Christ and in direct opposition to Satan. When you oppose Satan he will attack you directly. That’s why Peter says not to be surprised when you suffer as you walk with Christ.

When you are doing what God wants you to do you are going to encounter criticism and other types of suffering, because this is how God matures you and equips you to be a soldier for Him. For most of us that equipping doesn’t come easily. We often resist Him, preferring to think we can run our own lives just fine.

His plan, however, is for us to become Christ like. He usually has to work on each of us individually to get us there, and He uses suffering to perfect and purify us.

In Romans 5:3, Paul said we can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials for we know they are good for us. They help us learn to be patient. And, patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it.

This is a part of Common Suffering. Trials come, divorce comes, heartaches come, financial reverses come, struggles come, disappointment comes, depression comes and God uses all of it. Suffering comes because God is perfecting us and we are not yet what God wants us to be.

God uses suffering to direct you in your walk with Him. This was the case for me in Hartford. I had strayed from the Church, and had to be brought back in line. Sometimes it takes a painful experience to make us change our ways. (Proverbs 20:30) Sometimes God has to get our attention forcefully. Sometimes He has to let us feel the heat.

I remember my grandfather, Reverend W.T. Vaughn saying that we Christians often don’t change our lives when we see the light; we change our lives when we begin to feel the heat! That was certainly true in my case. God had to let me see what it would be like to lose my precious wife to get my attention. I truly suffered, and suffering never leaves you where it found you. Where it leads you, however, depends on how you respond.

We learn more through suffering than we do through success, it seems. God uses problems to correct and direct us. We can submit to Him, and accept His will for our lives, or turn to Satan. You learn the true value of walking with God when you resist His will, and have to be corrected. God uses suffering to correct us. He uses suffering to direct us when we are going the wrong direction. He uses suffering to inspect and perfect us.

In Isaiah 48:10, the prophet talks about the testing of Israel to see what was in them. God, he said, put them in the fire like a refiner puts precious metal into the pot and turns up the heat until the impure metal becomes so hot it becomes liquid. Then all the impurities that keep the metal from being valuable and precious rise to the surface, so the refiner can skim them away. The refiner knows the metal is pure when the only thing he can see is the reflection of his own face.

The same is true in our lives as Christians. God will turn up the fire of suffering in our life until all impurity has been removed. He’ll know we’re ready when He looks into us and all He sees is the reflection of Jesus Christ. How ready are you to be inspected? I know I’m not ready, but I continue working on it, and just pray that if that inspection comes today He will forgive me of my shortcomings.

Thank You, Lord, for the blessing of being forgiven my sins of commission and my sins of omission. Thank You for the incredible sacrifice of Your son who died on the cross that I might be forgiven. Please keep Your hand in my life that I might serve Your will. Bless my loved ones that they might find peace and comfort in You. In Jesus’ righteous name I pray. Amen.

Lea was bright and chipper when I arrived back at Riverview Hospital this morning, and she was looking forward to breakfast. I had gone home a little after midnight last night, since she had done so well the nurse was able to remove all of her telemetry. No oxygen monitor, no blood pressure monitor, and no pulse monitor. She was rebounding from surgery better than anticipated, and was tolerating pain quite well. So, I opted to go home where I could lay down on my own bed, rather than sitting up in a recliner all night.

I have had a lot of practice sleeping in a hospital recliner, and was prepared to stay with her overnight so she wouldn’t have to worry about staying awake to administer her own pain medication or remember to breathe deeply enough to keep her oxygen levels up. She rebounded so well, however, monitoring those things became unnecessary, so it was a good chance for me to get a few hours of horizontal time, knowing how important that rest was going to be over the next several days of recovery and rehabilitation at home.

We had a couple of bumps in getting our medical maintenance started yesterday, as the nursing staff had not received any pre-admission information on her diabetes treatment. I don’t know why the information didn’t get in the records, since we went over her treatment with the perisurgery nurse prior to admission. It was dinner time before I realized that they were not monitoring her sugar and administering her insulin as we have been doing. And then it took them a while to get the treatment course verified and ordered by Dr Miller, who had already left the office for the day.

We had also expected that she would have an ice machine circulating cold water over her knee implant when she came out of surgery, but the machine was sitting on the floor by the bed until well after dinner, when Lea complained that her knee was starting to hurt with a dull throb, and asked when the ice machine was going to be started. The reply was a somewhat startled, “Oh, it hasn’t been started yet?” It was started immediately, and seemed to reduce her pain significantly.

We have been hospitalized in Intensive Care Units so frequently I think we expect a higher level of attention than is normal. We were a little concerned after being settled in the new room that there wasn’t a rush of nurses and nursing assistants buzzing around getting things hooked up  and her treatment course started.

In fairness, however, she was in a regular hospital room, not Intensive Care or even a step down unit. She had been whisked by two surgical nurses directly from the Surgery Recovery room to her regular room with her meds and pumps already hooked up. So, her nurse in the new area may have expected the ice pump to be already in operation as well.

We also understood that she would have a machine, called a CPM, that flexes the new knee, very slowly, a few times each minute. We had gotten the impression that her leg would be placed into the machine for at least four hours the first day, but there was no CPM to be found. It wasn’t until the next morning that the nurse was able to contact Dr Cittadine’s office and confirm that the CPM had been ordered. Surprisingly, (not!) it showed up within an hour of the phone call.

At about nine o’clock this morning two physical therapists came into the room and got Lea out of bed for the first time to take a few steps on her new knee. She first sat up on the side of the bed, and after pausing a few seconds to get over a little lightheadedness, timidly stood up on her walker and took a few determined, though cautious, steps to the door. She experienced waves of nausea, but, with a little coaching, was able to focus her breathing to keep from getting sick.

She then sat down in her recliner and was permitted to sit up beside her bed for a couple of hours, watching the clock and depressing the self-medicating button at the earliest possible moment to get the next dose of pain killer medication. I told her that she holds onto that button like it was her new best friend. She didn’t deny it at all.  

Her intensity of her pain was higher today, and she wasn’t very comfortable after the first hour in the bedside chair, even though the nurse had earlier increased her dosage of painkiller. She called the nursing station when the pain became pretty constant and asked to be put back to bed. Another hour later she had not been moved back to bed, and I wasn’t any longer able to sufficiently prop her ankle or calf sufficiently to get relief.

About that time the Occupational Therapist came in to begin her evaluation of Lea’s therapy needs. Lea tried to respond to her, but kept weeping at the spikes of pain she was experiencing, her hands trembling from the intensity. After several minutes of trying to carry on a conversation, the therapist went looking for the physical therapists to get Lea moved, but they were not able to assist her at the moment. She decided to move Lea herself, and with a little help from me, got her back into bed. As soon as her head hit the pillow, and her knee straightened out, the pain began to diminish, and she was able to relax a little.

I will order her lunch in a few minutes, but want to let her sleep a little while to get over the pain. I have mixed emotions about physical therapy putting her on the CPM this afternoon, but know that it is a necessary next step. Until then, we’ll try to help her get as much rest as possible. Glory to God for this day of opportunities to be in His service.

Here are some photos of her enjoying her breakfast, taking her first steps with her new knee, and a shot of the CPM device.

postop1-brkfast.jpg postop1-firststeps.jpg postop1-cpm.jpg

Surgery has been completed, and Lea’s new knee installed, although the surgery took about two hours longer than projected. The surgeon, Dr Cittadine, said that Lea’s bone was unexpectedly soft, and that he had to progress very slowly in order to avoid making any disastrous mistakes. He said that at one point he could actually depress the bone with his thumb, which should not be possible. The seriousness of her illness in Hartford, and the length of treatment, is likely the cause of the bone condition.

Fitting the knee to the leg was more difficult than expected due to the severe angle her leg has had at the knee, which has let the muscles on one side shorten up. Those will now have to be lengthened through therapy and exercise to remove sideways stress on the joint, and she will still have to overcome the after effects of the drop foot she got in Hartford. The consequences of that malady is that the calf muscle shortened up, and because she hasn’t been able to straighten her knee, she hasn’t been able to stretch those muscles.

Dr Cittadine feels that Lea will be able to recover use of her leg in due course, but that her physical therapy is going to be longer than usual because of her extenuating circumstances. He is also going to recommend to Dr Miller that she be given an increased course of vitamins and calcium to strengthen her bone.

She was transferred to her room at about 2:45 PM, and was very drowsy, but chatty.  She is oxygenating just fine, so she doesn’t need oxygen. Her color is starting to return, and she is being quite conversational. Her first need was something to drink, and then she wanted to see the menu to order dinner. I am optimistic that she will be just fine.

ABOUT HARTFORD LETTERS

Experience the Miraculous Healing and Recovery of Lea Vaughn, and the incredible spiritual journey of her husband during 180 days in Hartford Hospital. Read his original daily emails in "Hartford Letters" above. ____________________________

In “Prayer,” above:

For Dave
Praise: Lea
For Bill and Jane
For Megan
For Charlotte
For Marnita
Praise: Gary
Praise: fellowship
For Herb
Praise: Joe
For Lea
For Unnamed

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