I find it is often the case that God’s timing simply amazes me. I can go through life ignoring this fact and counting everything to chance, or I can acknowledge that God has his hand on every minute detail of my life. Many times, I simply miss the connection between God’s providence and my current situation. I don’t see His hand in it and therefor I conclude that my life is just rolling along like a ball in a slot machine, bouncing with wild abandon. I can’t seem to wrap my head around the fact that God would bring me to the ups and downs that fill my life in order to show me my weakness and draw me to His will. I think to myself that this sequence of events is just a coincidence – surely God could not have brought them about, or been in control through it all. But then I look back and see how carefully He brought them together to help me understand that I need Him more than I know.
This truth became so evident for me over the past two months. On June 22 I received a phone call from a lady named Anna. She explained to me that she was a counselor working with a company called Able To. This company had contracted with my Medicare Advantage provider to bring their program, free of charge, to a select group of its members. I had been randomly selected out of the thousands who are on this plan. The program consisted of eight weeks working with both a counselor and a coach to help me look into myself and understand more about why I do the things I do and make the decisions I make. These sessions would each be 45 minutes long, and the counseling session would always precede the coaching session. I took very little time to determine I wanted to embark on this journey with them and we set up a schedule. I would talk with Anna every Tuesday morning for the counseling session and Iesha every Thursday for the coaching session. Anna did an assessment of my current situation and the results were positive, which I figured, but showed a level of anxiety that I was surprised at. We would start the following week, June 29.
The first week was goal setting. What goals did I have for this program, and for my life in general? Well, I am all for goal setting, so I set a bunch of them. Lose 10 pounds during the eight-week program, walk 12,500 steps a day, read an hour a day, turn off all electronics an hour before bed, eat healthier meals, get 7 hours sleep a night, adjust my schedule to be more like my wife’s. All good goals. We also discussed things that trigger different moods in my life. What caused me to get upset when I did? Why did I get discouraged over certain things? Was I feeling depressed or anxious over situations in my life? I am a very positive person and could not get a sense of these particular emotions, but the discussion was interesting. The coaching session reinforced these things but also led me through some breathing exercises that would help relax me if any anxious moments arose. I cam out of those first two sessions knowing I was going to enjoy this program and headed out to reach my goals.
All went well for the first two weeks. I was losing the weight (5 pounds in two weeks), I was walking over 15,000 steps a day, sleeping better, turning things off and generally rolling along. But then July 12th came along. I woke up that Tuesday with no drive, no vigor, which is so unlike me. I just didn’t want to do anything – I was tired. I could not identify anything wrong as far as physical symptoms except just a slight fever, I talked to Anna about it, and my wife was very sympathetic. Speaking of my wife, she learned that her workplace was moving 39 miles away in Mid-July, and she was not going to commute. At this time, we were also in discussions at out church about closing the doors due to lack of attendance and finances. There was a lot going on in our lives. But this tiredness persisted Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, when I finally went to the doctor. She found nothing wrong and I went home to face a weekend when I continued to feel the same. The coaching session with Iesha contained more breathing and calming therapies.
Early Monday morning I woke up with pain in my chest that I just knew was pneumonia. I told my wife I needed to go to the emergency room where they confirmed my suspicions and put me in the hospital. I’ve had pneumonia 4 times before this so knew what it was when it came. When I talked with Anna Tuesday morning, the realization came to me that I had been way to aggressive in my goals. I told her I was the type that liked to impress others, and that pride was a big problem in my life. I had stretched myself too thin in order to reach my goals and impress her with my enthusiasm. Now I was feeling a little down and blue. We discussed the moods and triggers that brought them on and I felt good about the discussion. She thanked me for my candor. I was out of the hospital the next day and told to take it easy. There went my goals – out the window.
The program continued as I slowed myself down and did what the doctor said. A few sessions on meditation were very helpful. One particular one was a joy to me. It was called guided meditation. The aim was to take my mind to a place where I had learned to relax and enjoy life. This was simple for me. I knew immediately where that place was. It’ the Old Stone Church in West Boylston, Mass. (Look it up online). To me, this is about the most beautiful place in the world, and it brings tears to my eyes every time I see it. This was my calm place – a place I could take myself to anytime and be at peace.
On July 24th, out church closed its doors. We had been going to this church for 25 years and had many friends there who lived up to an hour and a half away. This not only hurt us emotionally, but financially, as I had been preaching every Sunday since the first of the year. We did not know where we would go after this, but decided we would take some time to decide and enjoy the campground, where we are the hosts. This also hurt us emotionally as. we were not asked to become the pastors of the church, but instead they chose to give up trying. Having the counselor and coach in place right now was very helpful as I had someone to talk to about all these things.
On August 9th I woke up with a nasty cough, fever and runny nose. On top of that my breathing was very shallow and it was hard to catch my breath. I made an appointment with my doctor and when I got to her office, she immediately sent me to the ER. My blood pressure and heart rate were both high. I had never experienced symptoms like this before. It was pretty clear I would be admitted to the hospital. and I was. I had what is called a COPD flare-up. Several years ago, I was told I had marginal COPD, but I had never had any kind of issue with it. This was nasty and took 4 days in the hopital to get regulated. At the same time, my mom went into the hospital with a twisted bowel. At 96, she decided to have the surgery to fix that problem, but she now had a much lower quality of life and would have to go to a nursing home. Talking to Iesha that Thursday morning from my hospital bed was soothing as I talked out what I was feeling.
Friday brought release from the hospital and my entire family to my house. All three daughters, 6 grandchildren and a boyfriend came to spend the weekend. It was a joyous time although I had to wear a mask most of the weekend and could not do a lot of activity. We only get together about once a year, and I was so glad I got out of the hospital in time to enjoy it. They left on Sunday, except for my oldest daughter, who stayed until Tuesday morning. We always liked to walk and talk, but I was limited to ½ and ½ mile stretches. But we sure enjoyed having them all and got a great family picture.
Tuesday morning when I talked to Anna, I finally realized how amazing it was that their counseling came along at this time. Our spiritual life had been attacked with the closing of our church. Our finances had been attacked as we lost $800 a week in income between my wife and I. My physical life had been attacked with two stints in the hospital and new restrictions on activity. Emotional tolls had been taken as well. These emotional tolls were exacerbated by my mom passing away on August 22nd. Although her passing was expected in a way, it still put a hole in my heart. I would soon learn that she had left some inheritance that would help us greatly in our financial position.
God has a way of bringing things into our lives when we most need them. This Able To program was one of those things. All the events that happened during that time I had the program available is just incredible. Tow hospital stays, loss of a substantial amount of income, church closing, mom passing all in an eight week stretch. These were two of the most difficult months of my life, ranking right up there with my cancer treatments. In fact, they were in many ways harder than going through cancer. But God, in all His wisdom, brought Anna and Iesha into my life when I needed them the most. He knew what was coming – He always does! In the final assessment of the program, it turned out my anxiety level was down from where it had been in the beginning. Imagine that! With all that had happened, I was less anxious about life. God surely had His hand on me!
I love the writings of Fenelon. If you have never read His work, I highly recommend it. In one of His books, “The Seeking Heart”, He makes a statement that we all should take heed to. He says “See only God”. In these simple words, He shows us what is the best way to have victory and joy at every turn in life. When we see God working in everything that comes into our lives, we will always feel victorious. It reminds me of my favorite passage of scripture. Proverbs 3:5-6. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and he shall direct your path.” In all your ways, in everything that comes along, know that God is there and He is bringing you closer to Himself. Acknowledge this at all times and you will find yourself in His arms even in the hardest of times.
If you’d like to learn more about Able To, visit their web site at www.ableto.com. If you’d like to know more about God, well, you know where to look.