A few years ago I was presented with the opportunity to come back to Stratford, Iowa, to First Baptist church, as their pastor; for those of you who have followed this blog for some time, FBC in Stratford was my first pastorate. Let's just say I prayed about it as I was jumping at the opportunity. The church has a parsonage, so I could live there and not have to worry about a houe payment; and I needed to slow down, and this was a part time position (which, as a side note, allowed for me to get a greater disability from the VA than when I was working full time with St. Croix Hospice...) We love Stratford, and absolutely love the church; the people are wonderful and accepted us, again, with open arms. This was, for me, the perfect position: I get to pastor a church I LOVE, I get to do life with people I LOVE, and I have already had the opportunity to do weddings and baptism services for kids (adults now) that I have known their entire lives. IT IS GREAT. The longer I have been here, a little over 2 years now, I have come to this conclusion: unless the Lord changes my mind, I am going to retire from this church: if the Lord allows me to live that long, it is about 14 years. However, there is a problem: the good part of living in a parsonage is that you don't have a house payment; the bad part is that when you retire you don't have a house. So, my wife and I have decided to buy a house in Grand Junction, Iowa, about 30 miles from Stratford. I am going to continue pastoring this church, but, if I am serious about retiring from this church, it behooves me to buy a house now for retirement (have you seen the way housing prices are skyrocketing and interest rates are climbing????). I will be transparent for a little bit: I was a little depressed about this process; not because of tghe house, or the decision to retire from this church. Those are both great decisions. I was a little depressed because I know tha reason I am doing this now is because of my stroke; the reality is that I might not live long enough to retire, and if that happens I want my wife to have a house of her own. I do not want her to face the reality of having to find a place if I die while living in the parsonage. This house, as great as it is, and as wonderful as it is to have a place to retire to, is, in reality, a "just in case" house for my wife if I die before I get a chance to retire. Perhaps no one else thinks this way, but I do. I am an optimist, to the core, and I never, ever, think negatively; but, regardless, I do live every day of my life under the reality that I could die any time: I know anyone could die at anytime by getting hit by a car, I get it, but it's different when you lose your balance on a daily basis, it's different when you catch yourself drooling because the muscles in your face don't work right, it's different when you have to park in a handicap spot because you feel like your legs are weak today and it's different when you find yourself searching for words that should be second nature. Bottom line, buying this house and making the decision to retire in Stratford was the right decision, not just for me, but for my entire family; but, buying this house was a little hurful because it is a reminder that I might not live until retirement. Don't get me wrong, 95% of the time I feel great; but for that other 5% I feel like I am not worth anything...Let me end on a good note: WE BOUGHT A GREAT HOUSE!!!!!
On December 8, 2008, my life changed forever. I had a double sided cerebellar stroke with 2 brain stem compressions. It was not until December 10, 40 hours after my stroke, that surgery was finally done to relieve the pressure. Dr. Piper, the neuro-surgeon from Iowa Methodist hospital in Des Moines, told my wife that surgery was nothing more than an attempt to save my life, but that it would not erase the deficiencies as a result of the stroke. Although she admits that she did not really understand what Dr. Piper had just said, my wife, Laura, agreed to the surgery and the care team performed a decrompessive craniotomy, to hopefully relieve the pressure and allow my brain to function somewhat normally. For those who have followed my blog for the last 14+ years, the surgery was successful, I returned to the church and I now live a relatively normal life, although I do have some pretty severe, though not always visible, defieciencies. I really thought that life could not get any worse th