Heart Surgery, ALS, and a 12-Year Old’s Birthday Request

For my last newspaper article, I wrote about the idea of encouragement.  You can read that article here.  It is no secret that there are many many things in this world that can get us down, and it is also not a secret that if we do not look for the good in things, then most of the time the negative is going to win out.  It is just the nature of the way things are.  I wish it was easier to find encouragement, but you know as well as I do that it is not easy at all.  You can have multiple people telling you what a good job you have done on something, and that one critical person pops up.  Then all the positive things go right out the window, and we focus on the negative.  For some reason, it seems that it is human nature to care more about what someone is criticizing us over than to remember all the positive reinforcements we might get.

Over the last few days, after writing about one of the ways that I look for encouragement (notecards that others have written to me over the years), I have come across a couple of really  encouraging stories, both of which have continued to help me see that there is good still in this world.  We just have to look for it.  Let me share these stories with you.

I want to write about the most recent one first.  We have a couple in our church here in New Mexico that for the last few months were not really sure what the future would hold for them.  They are in their late 70’s or early 80’s, and he was going to have to have a stint put in one of his arteries last October.  When the doctors attempted the stint, they were unable to complete the procedure, and he was then scheduled for a single bypass to fix the blockage in his artery.  The concern was his age and the fact that he had had a bypass 10-years before, so the surgery was somewhat of a risk. 

The surgery went better than expected, and he was then expected to make a full recovery without complication.  That is until he ended up with a very serious infection in his digestive system.  Months and months of antibiotics and a couple of other procedures took place, and we were all praying and hoping that he would pull through.  He did, and has been back faithfully at church the last few months, saying he has not felt this good in a long time (Praise God!).  That is encouraging in and of itself.

This past Sunday, however, this couple came into the church carrying a couple of good size boxes, and he stopped me and asked that I make an announcement that no-one leave without seeing them after the service.  It is not unusual for them to do something like this, as they bring candy for everyone on a few different holidays throughout the year, so I did not think much about it, even forgetting that on the monthly newsletter I had recently published I had noted that Sunday was his birthday.

Well come to find out, the box contained a variety of very large, and delicious pieces of birthday cake.  They had brought cake to give out to everyone because it was his birthday.  Isn’t it usually the other way around?  People give you things for your birthday, not you giving others gifts because it is your birthday!  Here is the encouraging part, however, and it almost brought good tears to my eyes that morning (and now as I relive the moment).  Tearfully, with a catch in his throat, he stated that over the last year, this birthday that he was celebrating was many times doubtful, but that it was through the encouragement, prayers, and support of our faith family that he was still here to celebrate it with us!  Yes, the doctors faithfully and successfully treated him, but he also was giving glory to our God for bringing him through the last year. 

Now, for the second story.  There is a man in East Tennessee that I have had the pleasure of meeting and hearing speak on a couple of different occasions before moving to New Mexico.  His name is Josh Wandell, and a few years back he was diagnosed with ALS.  At the time, Wandell was the principal of a local elementary school, and a very active person.  He has been using his battle with ALS to bring awareness to the disease, but more than that, he has been traveling to local churches, speaking about how he may be losing control of his muscles, but the battle of this disease is strengthening his faith in God.  Wendell is a role model for anyone that is facing struggles in their own lives (which is all of us). 

He has since had to retire from working, as he just physically cannot do the job anymore, but that has not stopped his influence.  Wandell’s story is encouraging enough, however, seeing how his influence has spread is what I want to tell you about today.  There is a page on Facebook called Team Wandell.  Find it here or their website here.  Over the weekend, the Team Wandell page relayed a story that completely blew me away.  There was a student turning 12-years old.  In lieu of presents for his birthday party, this young made made a simple request.  Make donations to “Team Wandell”.  How incredible is that?  A 12 year old wanting do help someone else out through donations instead of receiving birthday presents for himself.  It just blows me away, puts a huge smile on my face, and warms my heart. 

May we all find encouragement in this world.  There are good things taking place everywhere, we just have to look for them.

Thoughts From a Crosseyed Jesus Freak

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