It has been a month since the last update. The first couple of the weeks were very uneventful. In fact I must admit I was tempted to be a bit discouraged. I was asked about updates, but didn't feel that I had anything new to report. (Maybe the strong emotions of a son getting married and a daughter going to the mission field, though both good emotions, made my husband need a couple weeks of rest.) Anyway, I was encouraged by a CD that one of our families gave me by the RU Joybell Singers. One song was especially encouraging, "Hold On." One verse reads, "Hold on through the dark times, hold on though the way seems too long. My grace is sufficient for thee…" But what was more encouraging about the CD was that most of the songs sung on the CD refocused my attention on God's goodness and faithfulness, and all He has done for me. I was reminded that God truly has been very good to me.
Now over the last couple weeks, very much has happened. Let me share some of these steps:
Though we do many things to try to "help" Pastor improve, we know that he is in God's hands, and we ask God for His will. We know that any steps forward are from the hand of God, giving him the capability of taking the steps, so we PRAISE HIM for all of these and continue to ask for a miracle.
Thank you so much for praying long, and for continuing to read our updates. You are a blessing to us!
It has been a calm couple weeks following the wedding, fine arts competition for the three younger children, and three of the children going to visit our team in Cambodia. My daughter Susanna who is twenty-two will be staying in Cambodia for a while and serving with the team there. Susanna will be staying with my brother-in-law and his wife and daughter.
Since the last update--praise the Lord--I was able to hear Pastor Esposito's voice! This was the first time for me. It was only once, but he is still trying. He tries to speak and is able to form the words (though he isn't initiating speaking much). Please pray that everything connects together. Pray also for strength/energy. Pray that he doesn't get discouraged. There were a couple weeks where I felt maybe he was discouraged and just seemed tired a lot. Now he seems back to "normal" in trying to progress again little by little.
We are presently in the midst of our building giving campaign. I wanted to share the testimony of God's provision that I was asked to write. At the end I tell of God providing for me to have the neuromuscular therapist come see my husband again. It's not that I couldn't have figured out how to do it some way or another, but I wanted to see God's hand in it. Here is the testimony, which I pray God receives glory from my sharing:
During times like this (building campaign time), I can't help but be emotional. Our building is a vision Pastor Esposito, my husband, believed with all his heart was from God to help further the vision of reaching our Jerusalem, Judea, and the uttermost parts of the world. Bro. Johnny asked me on a couple of occasions, "You don't have to answer this, but did Joe (he called his brother Joe to me) ever one time imply that he thought we shouldn't have gotten into this building program?" And each time I answered, "Never, not once." He believed with all his heart it was a vision from God to reach more people for Christ here and abroad."
Last Saturday, Bro. Meyers did a wonderful job with our Building Kick off, and my heart was burdened again, and I longed to do more to see our building complete. I barely could contain my emotions as he spoke, as in my heart I said to the Lord, "I want to be a part, but I have nothing to give. You will have to as Joe used to say, (I call him Joe to God.) 'give through me.'" I have NOT stopped giving what Pastor and I committed to give weekly before he became ill, and also an increase on that amount last building campaign; but I want to do something more for the cash offering. The truth is I don't have it. The next day, I took Pastor on a walk, and prayed while I pushed him in his chair as we often do. We prayed again that God would provide something I don't have that I can give. I told Pastor about having spent quite a bit for the kids to go to Cambodia, and tires for the car as I'd had a blow out on the freeway a few weeks ago from waiting too long to replace my tires (The tow man was surprised I was able to make it safely to the right shoulder.).
Add to this, the fact that our van was sitting in the driveway in need of much repair. I told Pastor that I was simply going to retire it! Sarah had been driving the day before on the busy 710 freeway to Monterey Park (actually following the building kick off meeting), and we still don't know exactly what happened, but the tire was torn up, wheel well off, electrical wiring was hanging out and exposed as if it had gotten tangled, and the bumper was cracked. Something got caught on something – that's all we know. Praise God He kept Sarah safe, she made it to the left shoulder just before the shoulder ended, and at that moment the car died completely. So this added to my feeling of being unable to give.
That Sunday night after walking and praying with Pastor, Bro. Ros preached about miracles. He made mention of a miracle of a car over a cliff on a youth activity, and I remembered mine and Sarah's close calls recently and God's protection. He IS taking care of us. Somewhere in the sermon, he made mention of God being able to provide a miracle for us to give toward the building. Again, I prayed, telling the Lord I want to give, but don't have anything to give and would need one of those miracles.
That Thursday, Bro. Pineda text me to ask if I would write a building testimony. I felt the same emotion again. I wanted to ask, "Can you wait until I have a testimony to give?" But I knew the right answer was, "Yes, sir." I continued praying.
That afternoon when I got back to LB from Pastor's place I first went to the house. My van was moved forward a bit, but I didn't think too much of it. Then Jen told me that her parents had put tires on the van. Bro. Robert had also reconnected the electrical wires, and found that the engine started fine. (Bro. Jesse also came and gave stitches to my bumper and ordered the part that fits above the tire.) As I pulled out to come over to the finance office, I wept and thanked God for His care and provision. When I arrived at the desk in the office, there was an envelope on the desk. It said, "Brad and Diana Quackenbush". If you receive Bro. Johnny's e-mails, you may remember that Brad was Jeremy and Joshua's little league coach when they were small, and we had been praying for his health. Brad went to heaven recently. Because I had e-mailed Diana both while he was in the hospital and after he went to heaven, I expected to open a thank you letter. In a card, Diana wrote that while praying for me on Tuesday morning, the Lord had laid it on her heart to send me a check. The check was in the amount of $1000. Wow, God used a new widow who was praying for ME. I closed the door and cried and thanked the Lord for showing Himself real to me again and for allowing me to receive my first $1000 for the building offering (after a tithe, of course). (It seems that just at the time I most need to see God's hand in a visible way, He shows Himself real to me.)
God has done so very many miracles from the start of our building to now from the city meeting, to ground breaking though a nationwide economic down turn to where we are today. He has taken us step by step, never once has the building stopped. We have come a long, long way. It hasn't been easy, but it really is HIS BUILDING. I believe if we trust HIM and pray He will give us many more miracles and allow us to finish. I can't wait to see how HE provides more for our family to give this year. My boys already started selling candy over spring break to be able to give while also praying for God to provide in other ways.
Let's all pray that God gives us many miracles so that we can see HIS building built!
P.S. I had also prayed the same week that if God wanted me to have a specific therapy for Pastor that He would provide specifically $300 that was needed so that I would know it was an answer to that prayer. When my son came home from Cambodia Friday, he gave me an envelope with a note from the Keo's written on the outside. When I opened it; it contained exactly 3 $100 bills.
God was showing me one more time that I can trust Him and that He can provide through prayer. "Let your requests be made known unto God" personally and for His building. Don't think that people are often passing me money that is not the case. These were specific answers to prayer, from a God Who wanted to show HIMSELF strong and real to one of His weak children that was just willing to go ahead and ask and to provide for me and for His building.
Thank you once again for your prayer, folks who encourage us through notes, gifts, e-mails. Again, it means a lot to us!
PLEASE KEEP PRAYING FOR A MIRACLE. God is still able, if it be His will, as able today as on the first day. We want only His will and glory whatever that may be. And for now we realize we are exactly where He wants us. This poem recently was an encouragement to me:I asked for strength and God gave me difficulties to make me strong.
Greetings once again. Thank you for your faithful prayer and to the many who have e-mailed, sent cards, etc. You are a great encouragement to our family.
For our son's wedding, we were able to use FaceTime connected to a monitor in the hospital's conference room to allow Pastor to watch the wedding live. My daughter-in-law Jennifer's parents, Robert and Jane Ramirez, graciously stayed with him during the wedding until we were able to get there. After taking pictures and a bit of fellowship, the entire wedding party came to Pastor's place still dressed in wedding clothes, spent some time with him in the activity room, and took a few pictures. He was very alert and seemed to enjoy it. Cindy's parents from China came that day and also earlier in the week. Her dad was assured that he is "there" after spending some time with him.
I think I mentioned previously that we were going to try to purchase an eye tracking device that would allow my husband to communicate with his eyes. It's like typing with the eyes. You could design your own pictures that he can look at and it would capture what he is focusing on and speak for him. We thought that if he could communicate better, we might be able to progress faster. Our church people graciously took up an offering for a tilt in space wheel chair, but the insurance ended up paying for most of it, so we plan to put the money toward this device if it seems he is able to use it. The first day when they came, he was so sleepy he couldn't keep his eyes open—much less track and focus—so we rescheduled. The second time they were able to capture his glance and calibrate his eyes when they had a large circle that moved and he followed it on the screen. However, when we tried to get his focus on the keyboard screen or pictures, his eyes moved too much. In other words, he couldn't keep his eyes still long enough on each letter to capture it. The lady said that the eyes are muscles, and just like the rest of his body, they need to be strengthened. She e-mailed some of the pictures and said we could design our own. She told us to specifically work on staying focused longer in different parts of the vision field. So this has been one thing we have been working on more recently. We have also been using scrabble letter cards to have him look left or right at specific letters, and moving the tv to different spots while playing Baby Einstein type videos where he can focus and track specific objects like a balloon. Please pray for improvement in his ability to not only track, but also maintain still focus by strengthening the muscles in the eyes.
Another thing we have been working on is keeping in the PMV valve for extended times. Some days are good and he keeps it in most of the day. Others he struggles. This morning he was laboring very much while trying to breath through it, so we took it back off. The respiratory therapist said it seemed that he was trying to breathe out the trach instead of out his mouth and nose, but there is only a small amount of space thus the labored breathing. He asked if I wanted to keep trying, and I asked what he thought. He said only if I was staying by his side to watch. When the therapist put the PMW back in, he continued the same. We decided to take it out and try later. He also has seemed the last couple days to have a bit of confusion when trying to project a sound or blow out, which is supposed to strengthen the vocal chords. It seems he is trying to make sound while breathing in rather than out. Please pray that his vocal chords become strong, that he has enough strength to use them, and that he is coordinated physically and mentally to put it all properly together. He has not spoken audibly since we last reported that he did, though he has tried here and there. He lips sometimes, but more often when asked to do so. Yesterday morning was the first time in a bit that he'd tried to say (lip) something to me on his own. (Though I couldn't read it still, which makes me so sad, I just keep telling him not to quit trying.)
Praise God that Pastor's overall health has remained good. We are giving him fresh vegetable juice daily, along with a reduced amount of the formula feeding he was on already. In a few weeks we will do lab work to see how it has made a difference in iron, cholesterol, sugar, etc. levels. I hope it will be like Daniel in the Bible's test!
Please pray for continued wisdom in various decisions. I often consider moving him closer to home, but am not sure I want to risk the move to a completely different place. Pray for continued progress as well. And as always, please pray for God's glory and that we'd have opportunity to be a blessing to others because of this trial. My son Daniel was able to present the gospel to a patient here this past week. I awoke the other night thinking of several folks who had recently passed away here, and of how short life is. Don't pass up any opportunity the Lord gives us to share Heaven with any. Please keep praying for a miracle!
Thank you once again for coming to the site to read Pastor Esposito's update. Please forgive us for taking so long. There is very much to report—ups and downs, praises, and prayer requests.
Monday of this week Pastor Esposito had a follow up visit with the physiatrist. I let him rest in the morning and skipped his exercises we do. He did extremely well, and the doctor was so very positive about his progress even calling it "amazing." I took the speaking valve along, and she asked him to tell her his first and last name. Though it only sounded like heavy air, he said, "Joseph Esposito." She asked his wife's name and with air again but a for sure attempt to speak he said, "Mary." Then she asked his age, and we understood, "I'm fifty…" She told him he had to keep trying.
We discussed how after Pastor spoke, there was, as would be expected, much excitement, many visits, etc. Prior to speaking he had been doing a lot of trying to lip words to communicate. For the last few weeks since, however, he mostly stopped lipping words and only on a few occasions tried to lip when asked to do so. He has also been extremely sleepy. He was simply out of energy. I had thought that maybe he got discouraged because I wasn't understanding, but I talked with him one day about how he'd have to just keep trying to speak even as frustrating as it must be. Then he lipped "I love you" at my request. I try to balance/reserve requests to conserve his energy for daily routine, while trying to get him to take new steps. (For example we are doing new things like blowing a tissue while wearing the PMV to strengthen the vocal cords.)
He certainly enjoys visits with folks and obviously does his best to try to "be there" with folks and smiles. You can see his interest and excitement in his facial expressions. The physiatrist said we just need to be careful and limit his visits to only once per day to keep promoting progress in all areas. Previously, though we were just saying yes to visits at any convenient time, but we will need to be careful. I for sure do not want folks to stop coming. I believe he needs that too (to know he is missed and loved) and "a merry heart doeth good like a medicine."
The doctor said that we definitely need to do what we can to keep the progress up. She gave two specifics that she wants us to work on diligently in the next two months. She wants us to begin in the morning and to try to work our way up in using the PMV (speaking valve). We will do it as long as he can tolerate it and as long as nearby suction, and under direct supervision. The goal is to be able to tolerate it all day. She recommended we postpone walks and prioritize this. Secondly, she wants us to increase time up in the chair as much as possible (which of course has to be done carefully to prevent pressure sores as one of the nurses reminded me; but praise God he just got his own tilt in space wheel chair which if used properly can prevent sores). The goal again is to be up most of the day.
She chose not to change any medications or anything else. She emphasized time and steps and progress again. She said in the future she'd like to have him go to their therapy program, but he'd have to tolerate it for 3 hours at a time. She said he's "not there yet."
For so many who have asked about Pastor Esposito's potential attendance at my son's upcoming wedding (February 28). I want to give an answer including what the physiatrist instructed. We have made the decision not to attempt to have him attend the wedding. First of all, I want to say that it hurts us very much to think of Pastor not being at Timothy and Cindy's wedding. I am sure I am not alone in the many tears I have cried while struggling over this decision. And of course a decision for him not to be there will make the wedding bitter sweet (even his being there would have as he couldn't officiate the wedding). That is the truth of where God has us right now. It isn't going to be the first bitter sweet, and I am pretty sure it won't be the last; but it is where God wants us right now. I typed a list of many diferent considerations we have struggled over, but omitted them.
We are praying for God to give a clear answer on what was best for Pastor Esposito because that's what we all wanted. So considering the physiatrist is supposed to be the expert in coordinating care and developing the best plan for someone in my husband's condition, I asked her. She said no, that it was a bad idea. She said, "Your husband has a brain injury." His perception and ability to cope and energy levels, etc. at this point in recovery is different from what it once was. She said that just the emotion alone of being at his son's wedding would be too much at this point. Then add being in a place, his church, where he hadn't been for a long time, and add 100 people on top of that (and I am sure it will be many more). She said he is doing so very well and that this could be a huge setback to him. I then asked her also about maybe a trip home here and there for a short while. And once again she told me, "He's not there yet." (Be patient.) And again let's focus on the steps at hand and then reevaluate after two months.
I was encouraged a couple days ago while reading in Numbers where God spoke of leading the children of Israel out of Egypt. Having read through my Bible at least once per year since age 12, I still had always pictured the people sleeping at night and getting up to go in the day time and moving forward daily (though it does say he led them at night with fire as well). I never noticed verses 22-23 "Or whether it were two days, or a month, or a year, that the cloud tarried upon the tabernacle, remaining thereon, the children of Israel abode in their tents, and journeyed not: but when it was taken up, they journeyed. At the commandment of the Lord they rested in the tents, and at the commandment of the Lord they journeyed."
God's leading was sometimes stop, sometimes go, sometimes short, and sometimes long; but His will, His way, His time.
Cindy said too that selfishly she'd like to have him there but also questioned if it were best for Him. We do plan to figure out a way to live stream the wedding into his room, then possibly have the wedding party stop in to introduce to him "Mr. and Mrs. Timothy Esposito."
Though I know this is a long update (making up for missed ones), I also wanted to give an explanation of the tracheotomy. This is another area about which quite a few folks have asked. Basically, when my husband had the initial brain injury, the brain stopped operating most of the body. (Praise God his vital organs didn't stop working, even the respirator was only a few days, and he showed to be breathing his own breaths early.) However, folks in a coma, sometimes stroke, etc. aren't swallowing or coughing their phlegm or saliva. Just as the hands and arms and legs stopped working, so did the muscles in the throat. The airway could become blocked, or fluid could be going into the lungs, causing serious pneumonia if there was no way to suction it out. The trach allows a direct way to suction the lungs/airway. I have been told my husband is definitely not ready to remove it. I have looked up multiple internet sites for the "criteria." He is "not there yet." Now the longer he can tolerate the PMV, the better and closer he gets to that point. However, the onsight doctor has said in the past that until she sees him able to very clearly communicate, "I am in distress!" she wouldn't order it. And again, "he's not there yet." What we need to pray is for him to become stronger in his swallow and cough and for his brain to always tell him to do it automatically. He still needs some suctioning, and doesn't automatically swallow when he should. Often I tell him he needs to do so. The man in the next bed speaks and even eats now, but had an emergency the other day where he couldn't breathe and needed to be suctioned for a blockage. The RT told me of another patient that had gotten his out, then became very ill with pneumonia and then they didn't have the option to clear the lungs and easily treat the pneumonia. I hope this gives some clarification. Basically, he still needs it and isn't ready to remove it at this point. Pray, please for progress and strength.
Last, I wanted to take the time to give a prayer request for a gentleman, named Raul, and share how God used it in my own heart. First, I want to backtrack to my son's Sunday School class lessons. The previous Sunday, God had spoken to my heart as Joseph taught about Esther and making a difference. One of the points was that though she was comfortable in the palace, she was willing to allow her heart to be stirred. Then that following week, he spoke of ways to take a stand and make a difference. He gave one point that I didn't take too personally, having been saved 37 years and reading God's Word from the start. It was, "Be ready to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason" (He talked about at work, etc.) The final point was, "Win souls." (With that I was convicted thinking that I hadn't noticed any specific situations recently at my husband's place and thought certainly I just wasn't looking!) That second Sunday, I was walking my husband down the street right by the facility where he stays. A big gentleman in a big truck turned the corner, and rolled down his window and shouted to my husband, "Keep on fighting!" Then he turned to me and said, "You better get the most out of life, it doesn't last long." I don't remember my exact response but I thanked him (thinking he was just trying to encourage us) and said something to the effect of wanting to fulfill a purpose greater than just getting what I can. (Whatever it was it seemed the right answer at the moment and from the Lord.) At that, right in the middle of the street in his vehicle he began to greatly weep. He told me how he is dying from a disease and hopes his wife can get to the USA from India before he dies if he doesn't get a transplant. He asked what is purpose, and why do we live to die. He told me how he cries himself to sleep every night (crying to God). I told him sometimes that's the purpose that we might cry to God in Heaven and know Him, because life is short here, but there's an eternity awaiting us. I was able to talk with him quite a while, and he had to go, but asked that we come by his home around the corner. Several of us have stopped by. Please pray he would personally accept Jesus as his only way to Heaven. He doesn't have long.
What went though my mind driving home weeping was the point about being stirred. I thought of how God uses pain to "stir us" but sometimes it's easy to feel weary and as if the burden is too heavy to carry and want a break from being stirred for a while or more accurately to close our eyes for a bit. Sometimes it seems easier to be a bit numb. (Though deep in my heart I do cherish the lessons God has taught me.) Then I thought of the other point that we may give an answer to every man. This broken dying man didn't stop us on the road because everything was ok with us. It's because God is using something in our lives to stir us so that we could "give an answer" to such a one as this. I thought how a year and a half ago, I couldn't have answered many of the questions because I hadn't gone to the place where I'd be able to give those answers. And I even thought of questions I still struggle with, and how I can't stop allowing God to teach and stir me, or I will never be able to help someone else who hurts and struggles with the same. (I know I am not supposed to struggle but take consolation in the fact that David, the man after God's own heart did, and Job, the one man God pointed out as perfect and upright, struggled with their trials.) I thanked the Lord again for bringing me here, and for opening my eyes once again to a purpose for pain. Somehow it makes it worth it. Please pray for Raul.
Thank you for allowing me to give a long update, and thank you for continuing to pray.
Here are a few specifics:
Thank you so much again!
PRAISE THE LORD, PASTOR ESPOSITO SPOKE HIS FIRST AUDIBLE WORDS TODAY!
"That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the Lord hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it." (Isaiah 41:20)
"Help me , O Lord my God: save me according to thy mercy: that they may know that this is Thy hand; that thou, Lord, hast done it." (Psalm 109:26-27)
Thank you so very much for praying over the past fifteen months for Pastor Esposito. And thank the Lord for His goodness and His mercy. For how far Pastor has come—God gets ALL the glory.
Someone asked me the other day if I think the changes are due to a new medicine. I said, "No, it's God." (Really he'd started two new medications, and one natural remedy that I'd been seeking approval on since the start and also a different method.) I replied that anything that "works" is because of God.
I have written this before, but humanly speaking, Pastor Esposito wasn't supposed to make it off the operating table, wasn't supposed to "wake up", wasn't supposed to move, and I am sure speaking was never anywhere near a slight possibility in any doctor's mind. We were given no hope (well, no more than a 10% chance on waking from coma, but not with functionality.) From the start and along the way, anything at all anyone could do, any therapy, any medication, any method—none of it was ever promised or expected to make any significant difference.
A long while back in the earlier days, while praying about a certain decision the doctor was waiting for me to make, I was really struggling on what to do at that moment. I picked up my Bible, and I read, "In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good." At that moment I felt that God impressed upon me to go ahead because who knowest whether shall prosper? I sort of made a decision along the way that anything God sent my way that seemed right and safe and reasonable and I was able to get a doctor's counsel and okay on, I would try. We've prayed that God would direct me in this way. (For minor type things, I didn't think it was necessary to bother the doctors, like a certain cream. We just added those to the daily routine on our own.)
Every day, there are a multitude of different things on the schedule we follow. (Honestly, there are so many ideas we have found by researching or folks from all over have sent us that some are still on the waiting list!) Even this diet, we've sought approval to change, but it was a "no" many times. Then due to high blood sugar, it was changed. Now today due to other circumstances, it seems a good possibility we may be able to get a "yes" on our prayer. We just trust that God knows what's best at the moment, and trust His timing as well. (I'm not pretending that we don't feel impatient many times or that God doesn't have to bring us back to that place frequently as we seek Him.)
As Pastor has already progressed so much further than predicted, we have no idea what God has chosen to use physically speaking. We simply know that a whole bunch of you have joined us in prayer that God would work a miracle, and we have seen God little by little bring bits of healing at a time and many miracles. It doesn't matter to us what He's chosen to use. We know that He alone is the Great Physician, so to God be the glory.
Now I know folks want to know the specifics of what happened. As I stated in the last update, Pastor has been trying to lip words and even trying to get sound out while unable to get more than air out. Today, my soon to be daughter-in-law was there. I had tried to explain the new method to her and the underlying philosophy of helping his brain to become aware again of the working of the body. She decided to experiment with the method (We are always trying to do something new and creative to "wake up" the neuron connections!). She talked to him about the logistics of breathing when she took flute lessons and the working of vocal chords. She placed the back of her fingers against the vocal chords as she asked him to do "ahhh" and out came the voice! She was so excited that she wanted to ask a real question requiring an answer. I had told her that this morning as I was playing a speech video for him (they were going through colors), I had asked him what color my hair is. He had looked up and said, without any sound, "brown." So she asked, "Preacher, what color is my hair?" And in an audible voice he replied, "black." She was excited and went to the hall to get the RT outside the door to come hear him say something. She also asked him to say, "Mary" and "I" "love" "you" (practicing for me), and he did each. Soon he was tired, so she let him sleep. A while later, Bruce came in to replace Cindy and also the RNA. Cindy said, "I want to show you something." I don't remember all the details, but Bruce asked Pastor how he is, and in a clear audible voice he said, "I'm fine." That's when Bruce called me and said, "Preacher spoke, he said, 'I'm fine.'" I text the family at that point without knowing the whole story. Eventually, many staff were in the room and heard him say words. Cindy said he had a big smile. AGAIN, Praise God. This was our main prayer in the last update (that he'd make sound). Thank you all for praying.
You might also like to know that last night my son Timothy told Pastor he was going to do something different for his finger exercises, so instead of "lift this finger or that" he asked him to put up the right number of fingers. He asked him simple math questions like 2+2, and Timothy and Benjamin said that he got 100%. How neat! It's exciting to see that God has allowed him to have various levels or areas of cognizance like distinguishing color or the reasoning required to do a math problem. (The three younger children were actually playing the "Bible Challenge" DVD game a couple weeks ago and said he was trying to use fingers to answer the multiple choice questions, but I hadn't watched him as he did.)
Another exciting thing was on Sunday afternoon some out of town guests came up the sidewalk outside and said, "Hi Preacher, how are you?" He lifted his hand way up with a "thumbs up."
A Few Specific Prayer Requests
Thank you again for laboring for us all in prayer! God is good…all the time.
P.S. I do want to thank all of the doctors, RN's, RNA's, CNA's, RT's, Neurosurgeons, Neurologists, Physiatrist, Pulmonologist, therapists, and a host of others (I am sure I am missing some) that have done all that they could do to care for my husband and advise us the very best they could under what has been a worst case scenario. I fear in some way I may have at times sounded ungrateful for all of the effort and care many, many have given to my husband at points when we've wished they could give us some hope that really only God Himself could give. I am sure that many are the times that family members like ourselves want you to be miracle workers and have all the answers! We are very grateful for each of you! We don't know what we'd have done without this huge team of people that have taken part from the first night when no doubt God gave us some of the best neurosurgeons there are to save his life to where we are today. I believe God hand-picked each of you and used you in the way He has seen fit. Thank you for being used of the Lord!
I read last night from Colossians before going to sleep, "Epaphrus, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, ALWAYS LABOURING FERVENTLY FOR YOU IN PRAYERS, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you." (Col. 4:12-13) I was reminded how important my own prayer for others is, and also reminded of so many folks that "labor in prayer" for my husband and family and our church. I wanted to take a moment once again to say, "THANK YOU, SO VERY MUCH!" One of the greatest encouragements we have is to know folks are praying. It means the world to us.
I hope your holidays were good. We spent Christmas morning, after going to breakfast with the children, with Pastor Esposito. We packed up our gifts for him and one another, and set up "Christmas" under the gazebo on the patio at the facility. We enjoyed it, and I believe he did as well. It was a great idea that my daughter-in-law had as we were trying to plan out the day.
I also went to the mountains for our annual teen camp with the children New Year's week as is our custom. I missed it last year, and we decided it would be good for me to go last minute this year. I think it was very good for me to get away those few days. I also had a lot of alone time to take snowy prayer walks in the forest and to plan for the new year. My daughter, who is a senior this year, said spiritually speaking it was the best camp ever.
Daily, I am amazed at how very far God has brought us over the last year. Lately, I have been telling my husband, "Joe, do you realize that a year ago you could do nothing? That doctors never expected you to wake up? God has brought you SO FAR you are doing so well." Yesterday, when the nurse came in to bathe him, he was exercising his own left arm, bending it at the elbow up and down as if lifting weights (it's one of the daily exercises we do with him). I told him just a little over a year ago he was in ICU, and his hands were lifeless and cold as ice.
A couple of days ago our own missionaries, the Vong Family, came to see Pastor. (What an encouragement they were to me!) Bro. Vong told Pastor that they were done with deputation and leaving the following day for Cambodia. He said they had traveled over 100,000 miles. Pastor was looking at him and listening intently, and to that he mouthed, "WOW!" Not just a simple "wow." It contained all of the expression and personality of Pastor Joe Esposito. That was a big "WOW" to all of us. (I remember our excitement when he first raised his eyebrow a tiny bit—his first facial expression.) Lately, he had been repeating, "I love you" if I asked him, and often trying on his own to lip things we can't figure out; but this was so clear and so expressive. The Vong children spoke to him one by one, and he looked to each of them in interest. What a blessing! Thank you, Vong family. Our church folks who have been to visit, have also been excited at the increased responsiveness and ability to turn his head and eyes and be attentive. He has responded what looks like "fine" and "good morning" to nursing staff as well. Praise the Lord.
He is doing well with holding himself up straight when we sit him up with minimal support. He is getting stronger, it seems. Last week, I asked him to tilt his head up and down putting his chin to his chest, and he did it very well. This is a big step. He is also turning his head while sitting. He still seems to have some sort of balance problem or something that causes him to tense greatly on his left side. We can get him very relaxed and looking out the window, then when we tilt him forward and side to side he tenses up—particularly his left arm stiffens and pushes. We continue it each week day, and it seems to be helping him. I am hoping he will be allowed to stand again soon.
Most everything that we ask Pastor to do (reasonable requests that push him just a little bit as the physiatrist encouraged), he will try to do like with bent knee – tip it in and out, put your tongue out to the left or to the right, push my hand away, etc.
We are continuing daily with the PMV valve, and he is doing very well with it. He doesn't act distressed as he used to, only for a moment. His cough and swallow seem much better and more reflexive. He tries really, really hard to make sounds when I ask him to do an "ahh" or "mmm," but thus far no voice has come out. I hear the voice in the cough, so I know it's still there. Please pray for him to be able to make some sound. The speech therapist had said a while back that it would be good for him to hear his own voice and maybe motivate him to do more.
I plan to have the practitioner that I mentioned in the last update come again. I waited for the holidays to pass and e-mailed her yesterday to see when her next available time is. We are also checking into getting the device that will track his eyes and allow him to communicate. Joseph asked him yesterday if he thinks he can do that, and Joseph said he lifted his head way up and looked right at him and nodded in a big way. Joseph also practiced having him look at different places on the computer screen to test how he thought he'd do with it. Hopefully, we will be able to do this very soon. I joked that he will finally be able to communicate with his wife that probably really frustrates him on a daily basis—not knowing what he wants to communicate to me and guessing wrongly. Sarah had said we needed to buy the 20 questions game. Sometimes I know he's trying to "tell me something," but I can't figure it out; and we both give up eventually after I ask him many things and he shakes his head no to all of them.
On New Year's Eve, I glanced back through my Bible at verses I had marked where God showed me something. I came across Psalm 109:26-27. "Help me , O Lord my God: save me according to thy mercy: that they may know that this is Thy hand; that thou, Lord, hast done it." Like Isaiah 41:20 that has been hung above my husband's bed for the last 15 months, this is our prayer. That God would do something extraordinary…that all would know that it was HE who had done so…that He'd receive the glory. Thank you for joining us in this prayer.
Pastor's family would love to know if you're praying! Your name or e-mail will not be added to any ministry mailing list. This is not a fundraiser. This is simply to let the Espositos know you are standing with them in prayer.