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Lea once said to our adult children, “We are going to simplify, simplify, simplify!” We led very busy adult lives. She had been vice president of a national mortgage company, and supervised a large staff. I had operated a number of businesses over the years, sometimes two at a time. We had been homeowners for several decades, accumulating all the “stuff” that goes with it, served our communities through service in organizations such as Lions International, and operated a Victorian-era bed and breakfast. And, we had no idea how prophetic her words would become.

           Former Asher Walton House B&B

Asher G. Walton built our twelve room home as a private residence circa 1868. Possessing many examples of fine European craftsmanship, the hardwoods used throughout the home, and the Bavarian marble fireplaces added warmth and charm to the breakfast, parlor and drawing rooms. Victorian baths featured claw foot tubs. We loved the house, and the business, but took a break to vacation with friends in Prospect Harbor, Maine in 2005.

While returning home from that vacation, a thousand miles away on the East coast, Lea was struck down with necrotizing pancreatitis and spent six months in Hartford Hospital. Three of those months she was in a drug induced coma, and on a ventilator to keep her breathing. She had 32 debriding surgeries to remove dying tissue from her various organs, while her body was being filled with intravenous fluids to weaken the acids that were attacking her body. When she was brought out of the coma she had a hip-to-hip ventral hernia that could not be closed up, was atrophied due to loss of muscle mass, and had to learn to walk again through intensive physical therapy.

Practicing using stepsFriends and family stepped in back home to move much of our household goods into storage so the B&B could be sold to help cover our expenses. Her Mustang convertible was sold, my life’s savings were depleted, and her group life insurance exceeded her lifetime limit and would cover no more expenses. We had to fly home on a commercial airline with her still draining pancreatic fluids through her abdomen, and too weak to take more than a few steps at a time.

Family and friends arranged housing for us in an assisted living facility in a town near our former B&B, the town where our household goods were stored. After a few weeks of recovery, my brother and sister-in-law purchased a home they could rent to us on very liberal terms. I worked part time delivering career consulting via webinars for Lee Hecht Harrison, while Lea’s long term disability income started, as she had reached retirement during her hospital stay.  We gave our family truckloads of furnishings from the B&B that had been stored, and had a couple of garage sales to clear out even more.

Recipes for morecooking.netAbout a year later, we moved into a three bedroom single-story home with a modest lawn. Lea had recovered enough that she tried a little flower pot gardening on the rear deck, and we got to do some babysitting with our infant grandson, which really helped her regain a lot of her mental acuity as her motherly instincts kicked in. During 2008, we decided that a good mental exercise for her would be to publish our recipes as a Christmas gift for our families. She had dozens of recipes that we had used over the years. and still others were developed while we had the B&B.

We started cooking, double-checking accuracy of the recipes, and photographing the results. At first she needed quite a bit of help remembering procedures and processes, but eventually, the Lord strengthened her and opened a door for us to cook for fellowship dinners for 50 or more attending bible study and/or choir practice on Wednesday nights. The church had a nice, though modest, commercial kitchen adjacent to the fellowship hall, designed so that we could prepare and then serve meals through a large pass-through window.

http://morecooking.net

We had already published our recipes at http://morecooking. net for that Christmas in 2008, and now we had the opportunity to scale them up for 50 and 100 portions for large groups and publish those at http://cooking4groups.wordpress.com.  But, b the fall months of 2015 she began to have severe pain in her lower back/hip area, and we had to discontinue cooking for the church. In March of the following year she had a hip replaced, and during physical therapy for that, she began having severe pain in her lower back that made her uncomfortable while simply riding in the car.

Downsizing 2016Meanwhile, the house we were renting had been sold, and the closing/move-in date was approaching. We had decided that we were going to have to move into an apartment which would require less labor, and had arranged to have an estate sale the month before the new owner’s move-in date. The week before the estate sale was scheduled to be held, the auctioneer notified us that he was going to have to cancel, leaving us with very few options with the amount of time we had left!  Discussing our options, we found that less stressful was to donate almost all of our household goods to our church family. We held an open house for them, and let them carry away everything that we hadn’t tagged for use in the apartment or to be stored.

Lea’s pain continued to increase, and she gave up driving. Eventually, she couldn’t even ride in the car without suffering. She had to hold herself steady by grasping tightly onto the handgrip above her seat. Just going to the doctor wore her out, and all unnecessary road trips were from then on avoided. During an exam for her annual physical, the doctor determined that her gall bladder was causing a lot of the pain in the general area of the hip that had been replaced, and sent her to a specialist to see about having it removed.

Danielle, Lea and Chris outside Hartford Hospital, November 14, 2005

The surgeon determined that she could not have abdominal surgery, and that her gall bladder could not be removed, because of the surgeries and subsequent healing that resulted from the necrotizing pancreatitis. He felt that potential peritonitis leading to sepsis and septic shock was just too great. Two additional surgeons we consulted agreed.  So, she was prescribed a gall bladder medication that is rarely used today because of the simplicity of removing the gall bladder endoscopically.  She was told that she would just have to tolerate the pain.

As the medication started to take effect, she noticed that her left hip was hurting in much the same way the right hip had before it was replaced, so we went back to consult with that surgeon. He discovered, through an xray, that it was not her hip that was hurting her, but her lower spine. An subsequent exam revealed that the discs in her back were, in some cases, only 20% of their original thickness, compressing the nerves. She was in constant, debilitating, pain. After a few diagnostic visits to a spine specialist, she was given an ablation treatment to temporarily kill the nerves between some of the lower vertebrae. The treatment reduced her pain by about 70%, and was the greatest relief she had experienced in the past three years.

We are told that the treatment works for up to a year for some patients, but, for others, the nerves grow back more quickly.  We hope for the former, but realize that it is all part of God’s plans, and that he is using us for His purposes. We probably won’t know what those are until we arrive in heaven and have that “ah hah!” moment when it all becomes clear. Meanwhile, we give thanks to God for his provision and guidance, and submit ourselves to be used according to His will.

When we allow the Holy Spirit to enlighten our hearts to know the hope to which He has called us, we become better equipped to encourage our loved ones faith and spiritual growth. The apostle Paul, who, while a prisoner, said, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4 NIV). We submit ourselves to the Lord’s sovereign plan and tender mercies, trusting Him to be faithful. After all, He did it for us: “Simplify, simplify, simplify.”

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Integrity is keeping a commitment even after circumstances have changed. ~ David Jeremiah

This is the right time for me to give a little testimony that, hopefully, will have meaning for you. I recently loss my employment as a content writer due to downsizing, and immediately went into damage control mode. Double checking our debts, liquid and fixed assets, and how long we should be able to “make it” until the Lord opens the next employment door for us.

We had run into dry spells before, where we felt a financial crunch, and had to adjust our budget. I had always abstained from reducing our tithe, because I told myself, “That’s God’s money.” We have conciously been living beyond our means in order to provide Lea with the lifestyle that makes her comfortable. Occasionally we would draw down on our savings to make up for the shortfalls.

Now, with only one more paycheck coming in, I felt I had to take drastic action. One of the things I did to control our situation was to stop the drafts on my checking account for my tithe. We then headed out for a long-planned visit to our oldest son’s home. The night after our arrival, he had a mid-week church function, and asked if we would give a five minute testimony. The audience was made up of young married couples, many with children, who had just finished a series of studies entitled, “The Art of Marriage.”

I gave a very high level explanation of the trials Lea and I went though in Hartford, and one of the revelations God gave me during that test; that there is a difference between the body and the spirit. I had always thought I was in love with Lea as a beautiful woman, and thought of that woman as a beautiful body. But, when she was in a coma for several weeks, I discovered that while her body was there in that hospital bed, and tended to it everyday, Lea wasn’t there. She was gone, and wasn’t back in that body until weeks later. It took the Lord beating me over the head, but I finally got it; It is her spirit that I am in love with, and her body is how I can love on her spirit.

That weekend, while attending services at their church, the pastor spoke on “control,” and how we try to take control instead of trusting in God to care for us. I felt a little twinge of guilt, because I had just stopped my tithes. He then stung me again, because he talked about our tithes being “first fruits,” and that we should give to the church first, so God can do his work, and that he will provide for us. Ouch! He stung me again! He said that we need to be able to trust in the Lord, step back, continue in our faithfulness, and let the Lord have control.

This reminded me of one of my favorite verses in times like this; 1 Samuel 12:24 – “Only fear the LORD and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you.” If you’ve read our journal pages here on the site, or listened to our testimony on our church’s website, you already know what great things he did for us in Hartford, and there have been many more blessings since then, as well. Praise God! Amen.

Our pastor, Dr. Ken Baldwin, says, “One of the ways for us to measure commitment is by what it takes to make us quit. There are some things we should never quit. Our commitment to Jesus…to His Church…to His work…to our family and our marriage…to telling others about Him; and, many more. Integrity is being the right person and doing the right things. Never quitting on both of those is true commitment. We each have weaknesses, but God is our strength. Is today the day that we start again to be and do the right things? God has never quit on us. We should keep our commitment to Him.”

The Lord put all these things in front of me just after I stopped the automatic tithe deposits. I got the message! I reinstated the payments, just as it should be, and now wait patiently for the Lord to open the next door.

Lord, you gave your all for me; can I do any less for you, and call myself a committed Christian? Thank you for showing me the error of my ways. Forgive me my shortcomings of commitment and faith. Use me according to your will. In Jesus’ name. Amen!

Today is our grandson, Benjamin’s, first birthday. It will be a day of celebration and joy enjoyed by many of his loved ones, with sweets and treats, gifts and tokens of love carefully selected to be special to him and his parents. There will be no gift, however, more touching, powerful, or stirring than that I will receive as God grants me the privilege of seeing my wife with my grandson; a blessing I had never even dreamed was possible.

I awoke early yesterday morning with thanksgiving in my thoughts. As I often do, when I realized I was awake, I also realized that I was praying, thanking God for the blessings He has worked in our lives, and for another day to be together. I also found myself thinking back on where we were three years ago; a time that is, gratefully, slowly beginning to lose its piercing pain and fade from its constant presence, and was led to go back and look at the photos from Lea’s time in Hartford Hospital, to remind myself of where we were just three years ago.

Lea was still struggling with regaining strength and control of her muscular system after having been in a coma for so long. She couldn’t walk or even hold a drinking glass. She couldn’t gather enough strength to tear the paper off a drinking straw. She was on a ventilator; her lungs hadn’t recovered from the collaspes caused by her course of treatment. She was trying to regain her memory and full use of her mental functions, although the surgeons said she might not.

Her nurse, Chris Watkins, had bravely lowered her into a cardiac chair, bundled her up, hooked all of her equipment to transmitters, and wheeled her outside the hospital for her first breath of fresh air in three months. She had just taken an overall turn for the worse, and her air ambulance transfer to an Indianapolis hospital had been cancelled for fear that she wouldn’t survive the ordeal. Another nurse, Liz Blair, had taken extra time to help Lea work through another panic attack caused by her recent weaning from the paralyzing narcotics that had kept her physical and mental capacities immobilized.

Our son Lance had just left for a flight back home after spending several days with us. He had brought several small games for his mother to help her regain her abilities, and spent countless hours trying to help her recall the difference between a cat and a dog, or to be able to manipulate her fingers enough to grip and pull two small magnets apart. He had gently combed her hair and put it in a pony tail for her. He shaved her legs, painted her nails, and talked excitedly about the upcoming visit from two of her dearest friends, Shana and Sherri, who were supposed to arrive in a couple of days. Unfortunately, her health took another downturn during their visit, and it was quite disappointing for all of us. It took another two and a half months to be released from the hospital.

As I was led to review the photos from three years ago, I was moved to tears and blubbered mouthings of gratitude and praise for our caregivers, our friends and family who helped in every way they could, the daily doses of strength the Lord provided me, and the release from the horror I constantly felt for those terrible six months. I cried as I recalled the helplessness of those days and nights, and yet, there were two photos the Lord put on my heart and moved me to share these thoughts in praise of His unspeakable love, kindness, grace, and benevolence.

As Lea and I prepare to attend the first birthday party for our grandson, we will be keeping in mind that he is much more than a blessing from our God, he is a reward! We had no idea that there would ever be a grandson in our lives. We couldn’t even think beyond the end of each day during those times. But, the joy we feel today when we are with Benjamin, the glimpses of God’s love we see in his eyes, and the soul-warming promise of his embrace are incredible! The effect on Lea’s mental acuity has been wonderful as she cares for and plays with him. I have been blessed over and over by seeing her recover much of her “old self” in the past year. Praise God!

The photos are of Lance with his mother on October 23, 2005 in Hartford Hospital, and of Lea on October 26, 2005, napping with the stuffed animal Lance had purchased for her. God’s sense of humor, and His hidden promise, are evident in these snapshots, because He knew there was a greater gift in our future.

I give thanks for each and every day Lea and Ihave together, and pray for God’s guidance in helping us better witness for Him. To God be the glory. Amen.

What a wonderful shower of blessings we have received in recent weeks, not the least of which is the fact that Lea is getting to spend Thanksgiving with friends and family. The past two years she has been hospitalized, so this is a truly joyful time for us. The photo is really special for us, because it shows our miracle girl napping with our latest miracle, grandson Benjamin. We have truly been blessed, and we give praise to our Lord and Saviour for the miracles He works every day! Happy Thanksgiving!

Lea and Benjamin

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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