Jehovah was not in the wind. And after the wind, an earthquake: Jehovah was not in the earthquake.
And after the earthquake, a fire: Jehovah was not in the fire. And after the fire, a soft gentle voice. (1Kings 19:11-12)

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Friday, February 5, 2016

Grace That is Greater {One Thing Our Marriages Desperately Need Today ~~ A Husband's Heartfelt Words as His Wife's Heart was Weak—for #HeartMonth.}

{To read Part 1, the beginning of the series:
click here first.}






Typically a patient who has had open-heart surgery is in cardiovascular ICU for a day or two and then transferred to the cardiovascular surgery unit for 3-4 days and then discharged home. A week after surgery I was still in ICU and although the doctors and nurses assured us they were seeing progress they were concerned that I was not stable enough to be transferred.

By this point, all the medication, ICU psychosis, and elevated CO2 was not only causing me to see things, I was also constantly "hearing" music. I begged and begged Jon to turn the music off, but he assured me there was no music playing. As clearly as I could, I explained to him how to turn it off on my computer as I believed that was from where it was coming. He insisted my laptop was not in the room. I mentally tried to stop the music, but it just kept blaring.

Jon slipped out to the hotel to get a few hours sleep while my Dad stayed by my side.

In the wee hours of the night, I could not handle the confusion and confinement any longer and started screaming, in my weak and feeble state: I just want out of here! I accused my nurse and the rest of the staff that had rushed into my room—to check on the crazy lady, I'm sure—that they were all trying to kill me and that I hated them all and that I wanted to go home. My nurse persuaded me to calm down.

I finally broke and my Dad encouraged me to allow the tears that I had been holding back to fall down my cheek and onto my blue one-size-fits-all—except for my size—hospital gown.

As I calmed down I attempted to find a position on my bed so I could try to rest. Shortly after I had settled, Jon returned to give my Dad a break and then I was able to rest.

Later, when I realized what I had done and said in my confused, agitated state, I was horrified and utterly ashamed of myself and days later when I saw that nurse again, I apologized to him. 

Jon had also assured him that this was not how I normally behaved and expressed how sorry I was to him. Jon was not really sure who his wife had become.

I don't know how I managed to yell as breathing was very difficult. The breathing exercise with an Incentive Spirometer—to help keep the lungs healthy after open-heart surgery—that I had been given instructions to do regularly was almost impossible for me.

Again, it was clear that this was a new and unfamiliar territory and all we could do was take it moment by moment, and only by resting in the Lord, believing that His grace is greater than anything we were to endure. 

Jon sent an update that day, Friday, September 5th, hopeful that he had seen a glimmer of progress:
Walking behind Rebekah slowly down the hall this evening. It was a week ago now at this time when she arrived here straight from the operating room.

Many nurses here recall seeing the breathing tube coming out the next morning [following surgery] and as Rebekah, through the heavy narcotics, realizes she is still alive—yells: "Thank You - God!" 
Being here at the hospital since 1:00 am this morning I've seen progress today. The staff here seem to be pleased with Rebekah's heart progress overall. Just seeing fewer and fewer bags of liquids hanging there each day, fewer lines attached, removal of IV inputs in her neck and arm, removal of heart pacer wires in her chest— it all tells me we're moving forward. 
As her sleeping, eating and exercise habits improve this will affect her breathing positively too. This is the current struggle sometimes, to calm her so she has good sleep—keeping numbers low and not have her gasping for air in panic and confusion. She has enough oxygen but gets agitated and frustrated at times. So her breathing gets harder. 
Let's pray that the mask [bi-pap] machine keeps working for her tonight in this regard because if not, they will seriously look into intubating again with a breathing tube and narcotics and back on antibiotics. We don't want to go back there again.

With aid of the breathing mask last night Rebekah got 3-4 hrs of sleep and has had productive naps today too. 
Physiotherapy did some movement with her this morning and I got some jello, some juice, a few spoons of porridge and a breakfast replacement shake into her. 
Her voice is weak—she can barely talk or visit yet but tomorrow will be another new day to celebrate positive change.
"The LORD is

my STRENGTH,

my DEFENSE,

my REFUGE,

my SANCTUARY,

my GOD of MERCY."

~~Psalm 59:17~~


—Jon




~.~.~.~.~.


This is part 4 of a the series:
One Thing Our Marriages Desperately Need Today ~~ A Husband's Heartfelt Words as His Wife's Heart was Weak
{for #HeartMonth.}

You can read Part 1, the beginning of the series here.


Part 2


Part 3


Come back for Part 5 or to receive these updates in an email subscribe to A Soft Gentle Voice.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

In all the Craziness {One Thing Our Marriages Desperately Need Today ~~ A Husband's Heartfelt Words as His Wife's Heart was Weak—for #HeartMonth.}

{To read Part 1, the beginning of the series:


"What is your name?

What is your birthday?


Where are you?"


Three very simple questions that each and every nurse would ask me as they began their shift.


I wondered why I found answering them so incredibly difficult. My reply came slowly, surely and proved to me that I really had not gone crazy.


The days following open-heart surgery were a cycle of confusion and restlessness. Jon would hand me my iPhone, but I could not figure out how to use it.


The staff put a movie on for me to pass the time and help me to get some rest and I wondered why they were trying to make me watch something so absurd! The animals in Homeward Bound were talking to each other. I kept thinking: This is absolutely insane! Animals do not talk!!! 
I also believed they were running a test on my intelligence with the movie and so they displayed the captions on the screen, but my vision was blurry and I was frustrated that I couldn't read them and that I was going to fail the test. It was hardly a restful way to pass the time, but rather left me further agitated. 

As the carbon dioxide rose in my blood I struggled more and more with delusions. I would slip into a restless state and the Respiratory Therapists would fight to put a breathing mask on me and I would panic.

During one of these episodes, when my CO2 was elevated and it along with the ICU psychosis and the medications 
were causing me to be delirious and affecting my clear thinking, that I was not even aware that I was in the hospital.

I thought I had died.


I had come to the end of my life when the most terrifying thing occurred.


My life flashed before my eyes: "Google" had a record of my whole entire life. I was viewing my life from start to end on an enormous computer screen.


Then, I became aware of a panel of judges and an audience that was split into two. One section was cheering for my entrance into heaven, the other section was cheering for my banishment into hell. Whichever side cheered the loudest would be how the judges would determine my final destination.


I protested.


The heaven side cheered loudly for most of my life.


The good things I had done in my life were replayed.


The heaven side cheered. 

The sins I had committed were replayed.

The hell side cheered.


The cheering went back and forth from side to side until false accusations began and the side cheering for my entrance into hell erupted into deafening cheers.


I cried out: it's not true! It's a lie. I did not ever do that!


The false accusations rapidly increased and the wicked cheers escalated.


I could stand it no longer.


It was all wrong. That is not how it is determined that one goes to heaven or hell at the end of one's life. I tried to expose this false gospel.


I waved my arms and demanded this stop.


I had to proclaim the truth.


I boldy declared:


The only way to enter heaven is by grace through faith in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. It's not about what we did or didn't do; it's about what Jesus did for us and Him calling us to Himself and redeeming us. If we trust Him he removes our sin and places His robe of righteousness on us. There is only ONE way to heaven and it is by faith alone in Jesus Christ, by His grace alone!


I tried to articulate the true Gospel more clearly so that they could understand.

The judges demanded I stop speaking. They yelled for someone to crank up the heat in hell. They were going to wait to send me there until the heat had risen to full intensity.


I watched helplessly as they stoked the fire of hell.


In a final attempt, I yelled for this madness to stop.


But, no one was listening to me.


I resigned.


Opened my eyes.


I realized I had not died. But that the people in this place were asphyxiating me!


I had to get out of here!!




Then, I saw Jon and my dad all dressed in protective garb and I thought they were patiently waiting for me to die. I tried to get their attention and begged them to get this mask of my face. They refused. I could't believe it! They wanted me dead, too!


I finally took my hand and cut it across my neck, indicating to them that these people were trying to kill me.


They finally understood my panic and talked the truth to me and helped me to understand the reality of the situation. I was not dead. No one was trying to kill me; they were all here to help me. I needed to rest and keep the mask on.


No one truly understood what was going on in my confusion. Jon was researching the medications and was reassured by the staff that these are common side-effects and occurrences in ICU. 


In the middle of all this craziness, Jon sent an update on September 3rd:

I was wanting to ask Tim Hortons if they supply double doubles in an IV drip. I just might sign up if they do. :)

Rebekah is sitting in her chair. She is getting a bag of blood for strength and top up to boost blood pressure too. She's having a chocolate ensure meal replacement milk shake now and pills for thyroid and Cumadin for blood thinner. Still on heparin too, but they hope to ween that off once Cumadin kicks in tomorrow.

She spent two hours on a bi-pap machine to reduce CO2 levels in her. She was panicky with this initially because of the air mask and thought they were killing her, but it has stabilized her again now.

The psychiatrist doctor looked into her Meds today and I questioned some of them. She has removed some of her drugs now. They want to keep minimizing them into tomorrow too.

Thanks for continued prayer as her body heals and adjusts and strengthens.

Another meeting here now with psychiatrist who controls and adjusts medications related to confusion and delirium and 3 other doctor specialists are forming a new plan for tonight. A new light sleeping drug and some excercize here today will hopefully allow Rebekah to relax and finally sleep after 3 days. She's exhausted.

Please pray this plan will work for her tonight.

Thank you.

{Clearly, prayer was needed.


This was a horrific battle in my mind. It was the delirium that was causing the strange, vivid dreams and delusions—NOT that I was experiencing a "near-death experience".  It was unfamiliar territory for both of us and we deeply appreciated the people praying and the Lord interceding for us.}


~.~.~.~.~.


This is part 3 of a new series:
One Thing Our Marriages Desperately Need Today ~~ A Husband's Heartfelt Words as His Wife's Heart was Weak
{for #HeartMonth.}

You can read Part 1, the beginning of the series here.


Part 2

Come back for Part 4 or to receive these updates in an email subscribe to A Soft Gentle Voice.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Trusting God {One Thing Our Marriages Desperately Need Today ~~ A Husband's Heartfelt Words as His Wife's Heart was Weak—for #HeartMonth.}

{To read Part 1, the beginning of the series:


My surgery was on a Friday afternoon.

Family and a few friends came in to visit over the week-end of which I have no memory. It was decided that it would be too traumatic for our youngest two children to see their Mama in such a fragile state and so only our eldest came in for a very brief visit. Apparently the conversations that weekend in my cardiovascular ICU room were hushed tones of humbled prayers mingled with some laughter and talk of my nicely pedicured toenails. 

I recall having to get up out of bed and being told to cough even though it was painful. The nurses reminded me to pump the controller in my palm for the pain medication and then an inner battle ensued: my fear of becoming addicted to the medication to incessantly pumping it because the pain in my sternum was so intense (which is why the pain medication is capped at a safe amount).

I woke up from surgery with anxiety that I had never experienced in my life before. I had no idea where I was: it was dark—except for lights coming from the computer and monitors, I was alone and terrified and repeatedly cried out for help. Eventually my nurse appeared and told me to calm down and gave me the roughest, coldest sponge bath I have ever had, but it was a relief from the heat in the room and made me fully aware that I was alive.

Between all the medications, the trauma that my body had endured, elevated levels of carbon dioxide in my blood, exhaustion, and ICU psychosis I experienced hallucinations and delusions so vibrant that made distinguishing reality from the hallucinations and delusions extremely difficult. I would "see" bugs crawling and red dots everywhere, and my youngest daughter sitting at the end of my bed with her arms reaching out for me and I would respond to her only to realize I was "seeing things" again. 

My parents devoted their time and energy to help care for me at the hospital and were a comfort for me as well as Jon. My siblings and their families all lovingly looked after our children as many others generously provided for Jon to be able to get a few hours sleep in a hotel close to the hospital.

We were about to begin a part of this journey that we did not prepare ourselves for other than having totally submitting ourselves to the ways and work of God in our lives. 

It was a terrifying time for both of us. God was calling us to trust Him in a way that would further deepen our faith in Him. Our fears were legitimate and the only way to combat the fear was to rest fully in the presence and protection of our God.

Jon found some quiet minutes amidst the beeps of monitors and IV pumps to share a few words—these were the first of over 10, 000 words he would send from his iPhone —on September 1st, the holiday Monday:
Rebekah is stable today. 
She is having a fair bit of discomfort because she is more alert. Her vision is better today.  
Her heart rate is at 133 still high but better than parts of yesterday. It elevates quickly with movement and exercise or coughing. 
Her draining is going well and they hope to take some of her chest tubes out today and get her moving around more once they speak with Dr. David. This is likely a source of a lot of her pain. 
Her heart blood pressure is in the 90's. She is looking better today. Still on drugs to support right side of her heart. I want to know more about that issue. 
My overall feeling is that she is slowly improving. 
Trusting God.


~.~.~.~.~.


This is part 2 of a new series:
One Thing Our Marriages Desperately Need Today ~~ A Husband's Heartfelt Words as His Wife's Heart was Weak
{for #HeartMonth.}

You can read Part 1, the beginning of the series here.

Next in the series, Part 3 is here.

To receive these updates in an email subscribe to A Soft Gentle Voice.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

One Thing Our Marriages Desperately Need Today ~~ {A Series of} A Husband's Heartfelt Words as His Wife's Heart was Weak {for #HeartMonth}




February is heart month.

The heart is a one of the most important organs in our bodies. It is a muscle about the size of your fist that pumps blood to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the rest of your body. If the heart is not functioning properly the whole body will be affected. A healthy heart is vital to a healthy body.

At the age of 37, with a husband and three young children to care for, my heart was in a desperate place physically. It was not going to keep on pumping for much longer without medical intervention.

God provided that medical intervention for me. My story is being shared this month for heart month at the major teaching and research hospital in Toronto where I received the medical care I needed.



God has also made new a heart that was spiritually dead in sin and made it alive in Christ by the one final act of atonement of Christ's death and resurrection. God heals physical hearts but He regenerates dead hearts and takes hard hearts of stone and gives us new hearts, hearts of flesh; undivided hearts that are tender to the love and grace of God. A healthy spiritual heart is vital to a healthy spiritual life.

Of the two, the spiritual is so much more important. Has God made your spiritual heart alive by the grace of God, through faith in Him? We are living here in our physical bodies that are wasting away, but our focus must be on that which will endure forever. The physical things are temporary, but the unseen things are eternal.



On August 29, 2014, I underwent high-risk open-heart surgery to attempt to repair my physical heart—damaged and calcified due to the radiation therapy I received to treat childhood cancer. Due to further complications I faced an extended stay of 80 days in the cardiovascular intensive care unit. My husband, Jon, stayed by my side during this time and loved and cared for me in a faithful and devoted way that was humbling and strengthening.

This was an incredibly difficult journey for Jon as he watched me fade and reminded me to keep on fighting this fight. Many people were praying for our family at this time and he kept them updated as best as he could.

This month, for heart month, we will be looking back to those updates.

These words are from the raw emotions and details from the perspective of a man who loved his wife in sickness, while her physical heart was failing and her mind was altered from medication, elevated levels of carbon dioxide in her blood, exhaustion, and ICU psychosis and anxiety, and how he surrendered himself to our Sovereign God for God's will to be done for His glory alone.



Undergoing a physical trauma leads to emotional trauma and healing of both the physical and emotional are both a long, hard road of recovery.

But God. . .

"Is able to do able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen."
After almost seven hours of open-heart surgery Dr. Tirone David, walked into the waiting room and warned my husband that after what my heart and body had just endured on the operating table I may not make it through the night.

My sister refused to leave my side the whole night and in the morning of August 30th she reported:
"'she has made it through the night. She's awake. She can breath on her own, but the nurse wants her breathing to be a little stronger before they take out the tube. They were attempting last night, but she was too tired. Keep praying.' 
She has a long road of recovery ahead of her. She is still in ICU. As Rebekah says, 'God is faithful.'"
On day 2 of recovery, the last day of August, my sister-in-law had been in touch with Jon and sent this update:
"Please continue to pray for Rebekah Hughes. The update from Jon is that they have moved her to a larger room and she seems to be more and more alert. Her heart beat is high, but she is stable. He is asking for prayer for a better night tonight, but also specifically for healing in the right ventricle area of the heart as the artery and veins that supply this area of her heart are very small and could be blocked. 
This seems to be the big issue right now - to lower and stabilize her heart rate so that the left side doesn't work so hard to compensate. 
Please continue to pray for healing for Rebekah, as well as strength and peace for Jon and the children."
From then on the updates came from my husband thumbing words on his little iPhone 4, at times with tears streaming down his face, at times with an uncertainty of what was happening, and at times with a word of celebration, but always with a sure hope in God. These updates were shared for the many people earnestly praying for God's purposes to be accomplished.

God has done amazing things by His grace and for His glory.




Join us this heart month as we share how God did amazing things in my physical heart.

May your heart be tender to who God is — faithful, compassionate, sovereign, holy, all-powerful, all-knowing, incomprehensible, steadfast in His love, gracious, merciful.

Be encouraged to grow in your love and commitment with your spouse. Marriage is under attack today. One of the things we need today is husbands to love their wives; to nourish her, to care for her, to pray for her, to love her as their own bodies, to give himself up for her. Marriage requires commitment, hard-work, and considering another above yourself. It requires respect and submission to one another. It means a growing in love with someone who is not always lovable. Marriage is affected in one of two ways during life's traumas and difficulties and trials. It will either strengthen or will crumble.

By God's grace, he has used this time in our marriage to strengthen our commitment and to grow in love with one another and to be strengthened in the Lord and increase our trust in God.

These words testify to the grace of God and how one husband has loved his wife and what God has done in our hearts and in our lives.

"we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."


~.~.~.~.~.




This is part 1 of a new series:
One Thing Our Marriages Desperately Need Today ~~ A Husband's Heartfelt Words as His Wife's Heart was Weak
{for #HeartMonth.}

Read part 2: Trusting God, here. 

To get these updates in an email, subscribe to A Soft Gentle Voice

Friday, January 29, 2016

That Day He Proposed to Me on the Anne of Green Gables Bridge

Oceans of water has

flowed


under the bridge


since


in our young love

Seventeen years ago

today

He sang to me the love ballad

inscribed on his

heart

and 

He tenderly took my

hand

IMG_7813

and 

We boldly walked

out 

on the battered bridge

together

and as he opened a red velvet box


the diamond danced in the light

on a golden band


IMG_7792

and the

words

He declared down on bended knee

I will never forget

IMG_7816

and the

one blazing word 

I breathed

to my beloved

I will never regret.

Forty of the Endless Ways to Help Others When They are at the End of the Rope




The year I would turn 38 my cardiologist told me I was to stop all strenuous activity as my heart could not and would not hold up to any kind of strain and he was not sure how much longer I had to live.

It was a hard pill to swallow. I had fought hard up to that point and to be told to stop was like being told to give up.

I soon realized, it wasn't giving up, but it was surrendering to a whole new level of trusting God to fulfill His purpose in me to the praise of His glory.

We want to be self-sufficient. We don't want to be dependant upon anyone else. We don't want to be vulnerable.

God used many people in my life to teach me a humbling lesson in life.

In opening up my hands to surrender what God had ordained, I had to open up my life, my world, to those who desired to come alongside us and care for us in this time of crisis.



Not only did doctors and nurses and my husband and family help me when I could not help myself, we had countless others who poured out into our lives in varying ways and degrees.

We can not repay anyone for the kindness extended to us, but we are ever thankful to God for revealing His steadfast love and faithfulness through others.

As we continue on in this journey we are grateful for the opportunities that we can pour out the grace we have received to others in times of need.



There are endless ways to extend practical love and it may be as simple as reaching out a strong arm with a warm hug.

Or as empowering as humbly bending the knee with an earnest prayer.

You may bring comfort when you with come with a listening ear and a silent tongue,

a sincere smile,

a simple meal, a pot of soup, a frozen casserole,

or when you weep with those who are weeping,

and laugh with them when the mourning turns to joy.

Your demonstration of compassion may be as mundane as scrubbing their toilet,

mowing their lawn,

washing their laundry,

sweeping their floor,

weeding their garden,

caring for their animals,

or hiring them a housecleaner.



A little goes a long way when you drop off a sweet treat,

or deposit a monetary gift for the mounting expenses,

set up an online community to provide steady help with a myriad of needs,

deliver their mail,

shovel the snow off their driveway,

knit them a shawl,

take them for a pedicure,

email a Starbucks gift card or two.




Don't underestimate the impact you will have when you hang a wreath on their door,

wash their windows,

write them encouraging words,

drive them to a medical appointment

or their children to school or extra-curricular activities,

repair their vehicle,

surprise them with a completely unexpected gift,

fill their fridge with groceries

or their van with gas,

plant pansies in their urns,

mail them a book with a scarf,

or a cheque,

or come to fellowship with them when they are shut-in and can't participate at meetings at the church.

The way you generously love and care for their children:

teaching them,

feeding them,

shopping for them,

comforting them,

hoping with them

 . . . will be a blessing far greater than you will know.

These are only a small handful of the ways that will encourage those who are
hanging on in hard times and will remind them that they are not alone.

For although suffering is often a lonely road,

no one ought to ever suffer alone.


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