Monday, June 9, 2008

My Dad: New Challenges

Dear Family and Friends, June 9, 2008

It is now Monday and Dad is in surgery. I wrote last night as well and the "new challenges" are described below. I'm just writing a quick message now to give an update on how surgery is going. The nurse communicates with us every hour and a half and is telling us that everything is going well. Dad is on the bypass machine right now which is kind of like an artificial heart. His heart is not beating nor are his lungs taking in oxygen. The bypass machine acts as his heart and the ventilator acts as his lungs. The nurse said that surgery should be completed in another hour and a half. Mom is very excited to hear that and has just now gone to lunch.

Dad was in good spirits this morning. Was joking with the people who shaved his chest, asking them to transplant the shaved off hair onto the top of his head. My aunt remarked that Dad just seems relieved that someone can do something about his health issues.

Ok, well I have a little boy who needs some attention. The kids are both here and doing well, but I'm hearing the word "bored" right now. I think we will go to the cafeteria for a snack. Thank you for praying. We are so thankful for the support of family and friends!

Lisa (Dan, Rebekah, Will, and Dad and Mom Riebkes)

Dear Family and Friends, June 8, 2008

We were confronted with new challenges today - physical, emotional, and spiritual challenges. We received results from a test that indicates Dad's creatin level continues to stay around 1.6 but they are still planning to do surgery tomorrow. The most disturbing news was that he no longer has a right kidney as the blockage to that kidney was so severe that the blood flow was cut off and this kidney has died (hence, one of the reasons for his uncontrollable blood pressure). His left kidney also has a blockage, but will not be operated on until he has recovered from heart surgery. If this kidney fails, he will need to go on dialysis. In addition, Dad was diagnosed today with diabetes which was also new information for everyone to absorb.

My reaction to the news today was anger. Anger at the many doctors he has been working with throughout the past couple of years who did not look more closely into why Dad's blood pressure was so high and so hard to control. One of the medications he was taking was "hard on the kidneys" and at one point last year, his creatin level was at 2.8 and we were told that when levels reach 3, renal failure can be expected. He's been on so many different medications; two of his older brothers have had heart bypass surgery and his sister has had heart surgery as well; but, he was told that he just needed to eat right, exercise, lose some weight. Well, you get the picture.

So, I've described for you our physical reality. I am reminded that there is also a spiritual reality. It is interesting to me that as I've been planning out the personal sharing that I've been doing, the next one on the agenda is "My almost 40 something sin".
This sin just so happens to be "unforgiveness". I'm thinking that by the time we reach 40, God has supplied us with a number of opportunities to learn what it means to forgive people and to love them unconditionally. However, I've found that in different situations - especially those situations where I've been dealt with unjustly - I want to "enjoy my mad" because there really are some benefits to being a victim. So, here I am again. The question is, "Will I choose to surrender this situation to God and trust Him with the outcome?" I find this to be no easier today, than I have in past situations like this. However, I have learned a few things about forgiveness and unconditional love over my four decades. They are as follows:

Forgiveness needs to be immediate, but trust needs to be rebuilt over time. God does call us to forgive those who sin against us, but He does not command us to step back into the same level of relationship without seeing repentance and change in the life of the other person.
Harboring unforgiveness takes a lot of time and energy to maintain. During seasons when I have harbored unforgiveness, I find myself to be very preoccupied which negatively impacts my relationships with those closest to me. My energy level is lower and I find less joy in life.
Unforgiveness distorts my vision and my hearing. I'm blinded by the unforgiveness and cannot see the good in the unforgiven person. I also interpret everything they say and do through a "lens" that is smudged by a critical spirit. I've found that asking someone - who has a good relationship with the particular person I'm having trouble with - to share with me about what they appreciate about the person has helped me to refocus and to see the good.
When I am unforgiven, there is nothing I can do to change someone else's mind about me. This one has been one of the hardest lessons for me, because I value closeness in relationships and in the past I would work very hard to try to restore a broken relationship regardless of the person's reaction to me. However, I am learning that when someone refuses to forgive me, it is not within my power to restore the relationship. It is something that is then between them and God, and my role is to pray and be available when he/she is ready to take steps toward reconciliation.
I experience incredible freedom, peace, and joy when I love people unconditionally. There have been times when I have been fuming mad at someone, and then the thought crosses my mind, "Lisa, this is another opportunity to love someone unconditionally." And when I act on that thought, I am amazed at how God can change the momentum of my passion from anger to a grace-filled love that I know is not my own.

Thank you for listening. This was good for me to think through tonight - I'm feeling much more at peace. Another interesting part of this story is that I am finishing the "Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World" book this week. And the next book that I have planned to read is called "Total Forgiveness" by R.T Kendall. A friend recommended this book to me a couple of years ago, but I did not buy it until a couple of months ago. I should never be amazed at God's perfect timing, but I always am.

Thank you so much for your prayers for our family. My mom said that she and Dad are experiencing the peace that comes when we are lifted in prayer. We appreciate you!

Peace to you,
Lisa (Dan, Rebekah, and Will)