Friday, May 26, 2017

We're Going Home


Luke 6:37
Do not judge, and you will not be judged.  Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.  Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

When people are facing a severe illness or a major surgery, that may be one of the most significant opportunities for spiritual transformation that they will encounter. ~Allan Hamilton (Quote borrowed from my blogging friend, Jean Wise, at Healthy Spirituality)

This is the final installment of the Asheville misadventures.  If you are just joining us here, please begin with "The Voice of the Lord" featured under Blog Archives to the right of this page.

Danny and I entertain a host of medical professionals who will be in the operating room with him.  The anesthesiologist, her assistant, and the device technologist describe their roles in the procedure, and give us confidence that Danny is in good hands.  Enter Dr. S., the doctor who will actually be doing the surgery.  He embarks on what I've come to call the Litigious Litany; you know, just like all those drug commercials on television that feature an endless, and alarming, list of side effects.  Not in the least reassuring, but most likely required by law.

I look down at the Bible resting in my lap, and say a silent prayer of thanks to God for its presence.

For His.

When we are told the operation will take between two and three hours, Danny urges me to return to the hotel instead of sitting in an uninviting waiting room.  I leave my cell number with the nurse assigned to Danny's case, and head out to summon yet another Uber.  As I have to make many phone calls once again, the privacy of my hotel room is just what the doctor ordered.  (Yes, pun intended!)

I spend the next two-and-one-half hours contacting folks and perusing my new Bible, but most of my time is spent in prayer that all goes smoothly for Danny.  God continues to assure me that I should be anxious for nothing.  Danny will come through with flying colors.  What can I do at this point but trust completely in Him?

When call from Dr. S. finally comes in, I answer immediately.  "Mrs. Orlando, your husband is out of surgery and in recovery.  Everything went beautifully!  A text book case if I ever saw one.  I couldn't be happier with how things turned out."

"Oh, Dr. S., that's marvelous news!  When should I come back over to the hospital?"

"Don't leave your hotel for another hour or so," he advises.  "It will take him a while to come to himself.  By that time, we should have him back in his room."

More texting!  More calls!  More prayers of thanksgiving!!!  The success of the surgery means the doctors will release Danny tomorrow, and we can enjoy one night at the cabin before having to head home!

My arrival at the hospital could not have been better timed.  As I approach Danny's room, they are just wheeling him into it.  What a tremendous relief to see him awake.  Alert.

Alive!

Once the staff departs, and we are alone at last, we shed grateful tears of joy.  That's when Danny takes my hand, looks into my eyes, and says in all solemnity, "There's something really important I have to tell you, Martha.  Just before they put me under, I forgave her.  I forgave Pastor Diane, and I meant it with all my heart."

Tears spring anew to my eyes.  "Oh, Danny, I'm so glad you could, that you finally did!  This is such a blessing!"

"And you know what else is a blessing?"  Danny asks as he squeezes my hand.  "When we get back to Kennesaw, we can quit looking for another church.  We're going home."


~

For those of you who have been faithfully following this saga, you know that Danny faced some overwhelming complications during the ensuing weeks.  The pacemaker, successfully implanted in Asheville, became infected; we were advised by Dr. S. that there was a 15% possibility of this happening.  Consequently, Danny underwent three surgeries in the span of six weeks:  Pacemaker installed; pacemaker removed, and new device placed on the right side of his chest, not over the heart as before.  He now has a matching pair of scars, both of which are healing perfectly, thanks be to God!

All your prayers, your notes, your comments here and privately, have meant the world to both of us through these stressful ordeals.  We truly felt God's presence and peace throughout.  So now, allow me to leave you with some gorgeous photos that Danny managed to take at the cabin on the Sunday we arrived, and on the Thursday evening when at last we could return.  May the glory of God's creation bless you, my friends, and may you always remember how precious you are in His eyes!












Amen!


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

"Only to Find Gideon's Bible . . ."


Psalm 119:105
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

This post continues our recent misadventures in Asheville.  If you are new here and want to catch up, look at the Blog Archives to the right of the page and begin with "The Voice of the Lord" published on April 7th.

Not long after Chaplain James departs, the head nurse stops by.  "I just want to let you all know that the surgeons are running behind schedule over at Mission.  They can't confirm when the ambulance will be coming to take you from St. Joseph's to there, but I'll stay on top of things, and tell you as soon as I'm notified.  So sorry for the delay, but these things happen."

This isn't what Danny wants to hear, especially since he has fasted since midnight.  I feel so badly for him, but I can't even give him a sip of water; at this point, we want this operation over and done with, and would never dream of doing anything to jeopardize that!

Time drags as we wait for word.  And I begin to wonder, too, if James has forgotten all about that Bible he promised to bring me.  Does he even know we're still here, way past the scheduled time for Danny's surgery?  This train of thought is unexpectedly, but delightfully, interrupted.

"The ambulance is on the way," the head nurse announces as she enters the room, a beaming smile on her face.  "All set?"

"I've been all set for over two hours," Danny declares, a bit grouchily, but who can blame him?  His stomach has been growling non-stop the entire afternoon.  Luckily, the nurse is not one who is easily offended.

When Jenny and Juan, the EMTs, arrive, they waste no time getting Danny transferred to the gurney and hooked up to the monitors so his pulse and blood pressure can be checked along the way.  Unlike my first experience (and hopefully my last) in an ambulance, this journey is short, sweet and well within the speed limit.  An added bonus?  I get to sit in the back with Danny!

We arrive without incident, and Jenny and Juan expertly lower the gurney from the ambulance and have us on our way to the pre-surgery rooms in no time.  We have to wait outside the one designated for Danny for a few minutes.  That's when I see Juan, who has been eyeing the heart monitor, do something that Jenny finds surprising.

"Why are you printing out the patient's heart information?"  she asks her partner.

"I've been in this business for over twenty years," Juan says, "and I've only seen two third degree heart blocks in all of that time.  I want some proof this go around."

Danny and I can't blame Juan for wanting a "souvenir," but the revelation doesn't offer us much comfort as surgery looms.  Is Danny's condition that rare?  Are the doctors going to be able to fix him as promised?  Lord, I really need Your Word right about now!

Finally, Danny's room is ready, and he is quickly settled in.  Now we wait to be visited by the pacemaker technologist, the anesthesiologist, and the doctor who will perform the procedure.  Before any of them make an entrance, and unfamiliar face appears at the doorway.

"Hi," the man says cheerfully.  "I'm Mark, the chaplain here at Mission.  My friend, James, told me you all requested a Bible?"

"Yes, we did!"  I say enthusiastically.

"Well, then, here you go," Mark says as he places the Bible into my hands.  "A complimentary gift from the Gideon's!"

I can't help but chuckle.  These Bible-delivery fellows may not have made it to Homewood Suites, but they sure did make it to Mission.

And not a moment too soon.

To be continued . . .

Friday, May 19, 2017

Amazing Company


Philippians 1:18b-19
Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know through your prayers and God's provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.

Surgery day has arrived at last!  I hurry through coffee and breakfast so I can get over to the hospital no later than mid-morning.  With the operation scheduled for 12:30, I want to have ample time with Danny beforehand, and I need to make arrangements for the hospital chaplain to pay us a visit.

I can't help but recall Danny's previous two surgeries - one to install the original defibrillator and the other to replace the battery - when our former pastor, Wallace, arrives in time to pray with both of us, then stays with me throughout the entire procedure.  What comfort this gives me, and what peace of mind it gives Danny to know I won't be waiting out the ordeal alone.

This time around, everything's different.  Though we feel, still, the incredible calm generated by the prayers of so many, there's simply nothing like having a believer physically present, to join hands, and pray aloud over us.  I can't help but wonder what the St. Joseph's chaplain will be like.

About an hour after I make the request, a middle-aged man in a wheelchair appears at Danny's doorway.  A warm smile engulfs his bespectacled face.  "Am I at the right room?"  he asks in a voice as pleasant as his expression.  "I was told you all wished to see the chaplain."

"Yes, yes," says Danny eagerly.  "Please come in!"

James, as he introduces himself, rolls into the room and settles his chair near the foot of Danny's bed.  He wants to hear our story, of how and why we came here, where we are from, and what we do at home.  As we speak in turn, James listens empathetically and with genuine interest.  A born pastor, I think to myself, and perfectly suited for a chaplain's role.

When James hears the part where we leave the cabin in such a hurry, I don't think to bring my Bible, he regards me kindly, and says, "I'll see to it that you get one today before the surgery.  That's a promise."

I am grateful beyond words!

James lingers much longer than we expect, and we are both so happy he does; he is amazing company!  Finally, we join hands and, though I can't remember exactly what James speaks in prayer, Danny and I are instantly filled with God's peace and assurance.

And in the midst of uncertainty, we can rejoice.

To be continued . . .

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

"I Say a Little Prayer for You"


James 5:16b
The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

In the midst of my recap of our "vacation" in North Carolina, my husband, Danny, suffered a setback with his new pacemaker due to a severe infection.  I simply could not continue with the story here until we had some positive resolution.  Praise the Lord, we have!  After enduring two surgeries in a week's time, Danny is back home and improving every day.  And even though you now have a sneak peek at the final outcome, I hope the encounters and revelations from our North Carolina experience shared here will inspire and encourage you in your walk with the Lord.

I am back in Danny's hospital room after my successful Walmart run, delighted to see that Dr. H. has arrived with good news.  Surgery for the needed pacemaker is slated for 12:30 tomorrow (Wednesday)!  Having a definite time frame at last, I am anxious to contact family and friends to keep Danny in prayer, and though we haven't attended our church in months since the dissolution of our band, I'm still active on the prayer chain.  I promptly email the coordinator all the information.

"But are you sure that's all right to do?"  Danny queries after I tell him the prayer chain has been alerted.

"Honey, just because we haven't been attending church doesn't mean these people don't care about you, about us," I assure him.  "And don't you agree that we need all the prayers we can get right now?"

"I can't argue with that," he says, and adds wistfully, "I wish we could go back there, but there's no way I can.  Just can't let go of the hurt, you know?"

I squeeze his hand understandingly.  "It's hard to forgive, isn't it?  But hanging onto the grief will only end up harming you."

"I know, I know," Danny says, not without some frustration.  "I'm just not ready.  Not yet."

We chat away the afternoon as the friendly nurses come and go at regular intervals.  Although he doesn't want me to leave, Danny urges me to get going around five o'clock so I can once again indulge in the complimentary food and beverages at the hotel.  I don't want to leave him either, but with as much money as this "vacation" is costing us, who am I to argue with free?

Back at the hotel, I happily run into Claudia again in the dining area.  It is such a joy to reconnect with her, and not have to dine alone.  We talk about family and work like we've known each other all our lives.  I can feel the mercy of God reaching out to me through her kind company, and I do hope my presence is as much of a gift to her.

I return to my room after dinner, still wishing the Gideons hadn't let me down, but so gratified to have clean pajamas to sleep in and fresh clothes for the next two days.  And unexpectedly, but oh, so welcomed, a deep, abiding sense of calm settles in my bones.  Worries about tomorrow, subdued in Claudia's companionship, completely melt away.  Is Danny sensing the same?

"How are you feeling, honey?"  I ask as soon as Danny answers his phone.

"Believe it or not, peaceful," he says.  "I'm not concerned about the surgery at all.  What will be will be."

"It's the prayers!"  I exclaim.  "We're covered with them!  I feel that same peace, too!"

And if ever either of us doubted the immense power of intercessory prayer in the past, those doubts vanished that day as morning mist in the sunlight.

Thanks be to God!

To be continued . . .

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Pray!


1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

My friends, I'm not sure when I will share a new post here at Meditations of My Heart after this one.  The day this is published is the day my husband, Danny, undergoes surgery to remove his pacemaker because of infection.  The doctors will have to give him an external device until he is completely healed, and they can then give him a permanent pacemaker, so he will likely be in the hospital most of this coming week.

What we need at this time is prayer.  Lots of it!  Prayers have already been pouring in, and both Danny and I have felt the comfort and peace of God through the intercession of others on our behalf.  

But we know we need continued prayers to see us through the coming week and you, my dear friends, are exactly the right ones to do this!  Oh, and please feel free to share our needs on your church prayer chain or Bible study group, and share my blog to your Facebook feed.  Any word, breathed in prayer, is a blessing to those being prayed for.

We don't understand all that is happening and cannot fathom the "why" of it all.  It isn't a circumstance that immediately elicits a urge to be thankful, yet we are called to be thankful in all things.  To rejoice always.  To pray without ceasing.

Because Christ Jesus is our Savior, the One who laid down His life for our transgressions, and was raised to life that we might live eternally, and forgiven, with Him; that is reason enough for us to be glad and grateful to God no matter where we find ourselves.  It is why we have hope even on the bleakest of days and under the most crushing of circumstances.

Know that Danny and I thank each and every one of you for your love and your prayers.  If you leave a comment below, it might take a day or two for me to respond, but rest assured, I will get to all of them.

May God's peace reign in your hearts, and may His blessings continue to flow in your lives, dear ones!  You are all precious children of God!





Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Surprise!


Romans 8:26
The Spirit helps us with our weakness.  We do not know how to pray as we should.  But the Spirit himself speaks to God for us, even begs God for us with deep feelings that words cannot explain.

God's surprises heal with a loving tenderness, especially in the times we are most vulnerable.  When I realize I can't do it, I have nothing left - God comes to where I am, in my greatest need.  He meets me in my weakness, takes me in his arms with astonishing love and mercy.  ~Jean Wise, Healthy Spirituality 

This is the sixth installment in my series about our recent "vacation" in North Carolina.  You can read the previous five under April in the Blog Archives on the right hand side of this page.

I wake.  I shower.  I dress in day-old clothes.  I need coffee.  Now.  Before breakfast.  I need fresh air.

I need to pray.

The words are not there.  I do not know how to pray as I should, but God, through His Holy Spirit, hears my groans.  He intervenes and prays for me when words are inadequate.  This experience is more humbling than I care to admit.  Didn't You give me the gift of writing, Lord?  Why wouldn't I have the words?  Why would You withhold them?

Because He is the God of surprises, healing me when I am the most helpless, meeting me in my weakness, finding me in the lowly place, and calling me to look up.  Up to Him.

I do, but then close my eyes.  A tear escapes.  Is this another day of waiting, or will Danny have surgery?

Saying thanks to God and trusting in His plans, I hastily eat the hotel's breakfast (the bacon rates a 10 on the Martha Meter), then it's out the front doors to call an Uber and return to the hospital.

Danny is chipper and upbeat, unlike the plodding of his heart, and we are elated to be reunited.  We chat about our previous evening's experiences, and he is so glad to hear how well I am being treated at Homewood, and that I've made friends with Claudia, who will be staying the this week on business.  "It makes me feel so much better knowing you have someone to talk to in the evenings," Danny says.  "Let's hope we'll hear some good news about the surgery soon.  And no matter what, you need to take an Uber to the nearest Walmart for some new clothes and phone chargers.  We can't keep borrowing them."

"Tell me about it," I say.  "It's disgusting to have to wear the same outfit I had on yesterday, but I'm sure the hospital staff has seen and smelled worse!"

"No doubt," Danny says with a laugh.  "But you always smell good to me."

It isn't long after this exchange that Dr. H., the cardiologist, pays a visit.  "We couldn't schedule for today," he says regretfully, "but we have you slated for tomorrow at 12:30."  We are disappointed, but not disheartened.  It will all happen in God's timing, the only timing we can trust.

I am off to Walmart, and miracle of miracles, this store is in the midst of a refurbishing; every associate, it seems, is out there on the floor and ready to help for a change.  More angels?  Yes, indeed!  I am guided to every aisle and assisted in every need, especially when it comes to the phone cables.  I have no clue!  But by the time I reach check-out, I've been helped more times than I can count, and am feeling so blessed to have found the exact items we need to ride out our Asheville stay.

As I board the Uber, with my first female driver, a person still attached to the "Flower Child" lifestyle, I'm given the opportunity to share my faith with her as I describe Danny's situation.  She seems receptive, open even.  And we exchange hugs once she has delivered me safely to St. Joseph's.

Oh, Lord, I hope the witness I gave makes an impact upon this one dear soul!

Because isn't that what we're called to do?  Bear witness to the love of Christ for this sinful and broken world?  It isn't easy when the words escape us.  When we have to depend on the Spirit to intervene on our behalf.

But He, the God of surprises, will shine through and shine forth.

And sometimes, hugs speak louder than words.

~

I have every intention of completing this series in the coming weeks, but because of a new situation Danny and I are currently facing, I'm going to have to take a break.  Although the original surgery went well, Danny has, unfortunately, developed an infection around the wound site and will have to have a second surgery this coming Friday.  We would most appreciate your prayers, dear friends, for a successful operation and perfect healing this time around.  Thank you!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Angels We Have Heard . . . Right Here!


Psalm 91:11-12
For He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you in all your ways.
In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.

Hebrews 13:2
Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.

This is the fifth installment of my series regarding my husband, Danny, and our most unexpected "vacation."  You can find the first four listed at the right side of this page under Blog Archive, April.

It is almost 6 o'clock in the evening.  Danny has made phone calls to his family (not his mother as she would be worried witless) and work about our sudden turn of events, and I've reached my mom at our 5:30 daily rendezvous.  She is, needless to say, in shock, and so sorry to hear of all that has transpired.  It takes every ounce of will power I have not to dissolve into tears while speaking with her.

Danny notices my distress after I hang up, and takes my hand.  "This has been a long day.  You need dinner and rest.  Don't worry about me.  I'll be fine."

As much as I hate to leave, I know Danny's right.  I really need to eat.  I would love a glass of wine right about now, just to help me relax, and let the worries and pressures of this most eventful day take a back seat, if only for one evening.  I kiss Danny good-bye, promising to be back as soon as I can in the morning.

And I realize, as I stand outside the hospital entrance, summoning an Uber, how vulnerable I suddenly am.  A woman alone, in an unfamiliar city, relying upon the kindness and assistance of strangers, is not at all a comforting feeling.  I find myself wishing with all my might that this is just a bad dream, one from which I will wake up any minute and find myself in the cabin with Danny, sitting on the porch rockers, gazing at the breathtaking mountain views.

God knows I'm on the verge of a full-fledged pity party.  That is not in His plans.  I've got you, Martha.  Everything is fine.  I'll never leave nor forsake you.  Just watch . . .

I watch, but I don't see them at first.  It's not until I'm about ready to turn in for the night, opening every drawer in hopes of finding Gideon's Bible, when the light breaks through.  Angels!  God, You sent angels, one after the other, all evening long!  Have I entertained them, unaware?


  • The Uber driver, who upon hearing my plight, promises to pray for Danny and me, and share our situation with the prayer group he leads at his church.
  • The clerks at the Hampton Inn, where I mistakenly think I'd booked my room, only to find out it is at Homewood Suites on the same road.  They, too, hear my story as tears well in my eyes, and quickly assure me that because both hotels are under the Hilton umbrella, a shuttle will be sent for directly.
  • The shuttle driver, who is also a concierge at Homewood, is not just sympathetic, but guarantees me that her staff is ready to help in any way possible.  "We have a complimentary buffet with free wine and beer going on right now.  There's only about thirty minutes left, so don't worry about checking in until you've had something to eat and drink."  Free???  Did she say free?  Now I don't have to leave the hotel yet again to find dinner!  "And there is a complimentary breakfast in the morning, so don't miss it."  Can we say, "Heaven?"
  • As I'm enjoying a savory meal and a glass of cabernet, I notice this same woman saying something to several members of the buffet staff.  I think nothing of it until a young server brings me a to-go cup with its lid on right before dinner closes.  Curious, I open it only to find it filled to the brim with wine!  Uh-oh!  This is going to be an all-evening sipper!  Another miracle at the wedding at Cana?
  • When I finally get around to checking in, the young woman at the desk makes me feel right at home, and will procure a toothbrush and toothpaste for me momentarily.  Lifesaver!
  • Once in my room, I make a few short, but necessary, calls to family, trying to conserve my cell phone's power.  The conversations are comforting, but emotional.  I feel I need some fresh air.  Teary-eyed, I press the elevator button.  When the doors open, there is one woman inside.  I press the "G" for ground, but up we go!  We both laugh when I admit I must have pushed the "up" button instead of the "down."  Later, when I'm sitting outside on the hotel patio, this same woman shows up, introduces herself as "Claudia," and asks if she can join me.  As God would have it, she is also a Christian.  We talk for over an hour, and I'm so grateful for her company on an evening that was fast beginning to feel unbearably lonely.
Yes!  God, in His great mercy, sends me angels this night; little do I know then that He would continue to do so throughout our stay in Asheville.  But now, I understand how to watch for them, to be aware of their abiding presence.

I might not see wings, but God grants me the grace to see their hearts.

We're Going Home

Luke 6:37 Do not judge, and you will not be judged.  Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.  Forgive, and you will be forgiven. ...