Wow! I can hardly believe that it's 2017 already. Though I must admit the holiday season was full of a million mixed emotions. One day I even sat and cried and asked the Lord if we could just fast forward a couple weeks! We have so many blessings to share and God's been so good to us! For weeks the children asked what the Christmas plan was, but I was struggling with decisions. (The last couple of years we loaded up gifts and spent the morning at the nursing facility.) I wanted to venture out and take Pastor home but was wavering. One of my sons encouraged me to do it. That week after about four weeks of being capped and not having oxygen, which, praise God, was such an answer to prayer and tremendous progress, he ended up on the T-bar a few times and back on light oxygen. He also woke one day with fever and a heart rate double the normal. I also received a call Christmas Eve saying the feeding tube had come out, so I told everyone we'd play it by ear. That morning he was on T-bar and oxygen, but the tube had been replaced and X-ray done. I decided to take him as he was and for the first time in three years Pastor Esposito was home. That was the best gift God could give us. I'd always thought that it would be too emotional taking him home and then back to the nursing facility, but after a couple hours he was ready to go back and be put to bed.
We've been praying for a long time to have the trach removed. The pulmonologist came and talked to me about this. There had been a lot of mixed opinions, but he said it's the first time he felt it close. However, the illness was a little setback as Pastor had a lung infection, was vomiting and was on IV antibiotic and sleeping much. (Back to the pulmonologist…) A couple of things the doctor said were potentially the trach could cause some of the problems that prevent its removal. He said that it could be argued a month down the road if he gets pneumonia that we shouldn't have, or he may keep it and get pneumonia and some would argue it's the cause. He said that it can be a double-edged sword, and sometimes there's no right or wrong answer. He said we'd talk again in a couple weeks. Pray for right timing, pastor's healing, and wisdom to make the best decisions. The main question still is whether he can manage secretions adequately without it.
Our daughter Susanna who has served for almost two years as part of our Team Southeast Asia was home for several weeks that was a special treat. She spent a lot of time with her dad and me at the nursing facility and taking her dad to therapy. We surely enjoyed it. Pastor Esposito laughed and had a fun time on Fridays with Susanna and Joanna. He has improved in communication. He is able to talk more. I was playing a sermon for him by Dr. Jeff Fugate entitled "Sometimes You Just Have to Outlast the Storm." My husband said, "Make sure I listen to this." I think he meant don't let him fall asleep. Then twice he pointed to it and said, "This is good!" Later, I was discussing with him a tournament in which the boys were participating out of town. I told him that if I had someone to take good care of him that I'd go with the children. He pulled his arm out of the cover and pointed three times at me and then motioned his arm to the side as in to say, "go."
Another really big blessing I'd like to share is that while at High Hopes in the rolling walking frame, Pastor Esposito began to move a leg forward on his own in the walking frame. That was so very encouraging. We are so thankful for High Hopes! It seems too that his right side is "waking up" more. He is pretty efficient with his left hand and arm like scratching his head, rubbing his eye, trying to use his own version of sign language, etc. High Hopes just got new therapy equipment that works individual fingers and Pastor was able to be on that today. We realize any therapy, medicine, etc. is a tool to potentially be used of God. That's how we pray.
Someone asked me this week if I think my husband will pastor again. I said I don't know. I know God is able if He chooses to do so… but I don't know how God will best fulfill His purposes in our lives, our family, our church. My heart sincerely wants God's will. Though my husband was the most humble man I know, I referenced Nebuchadnezzar totally out of his mind roaming the fields like an animal seven years and then ruling the kingdom again. God raised him up, took him out, and raised him up again. It's in God's hands. But we'll keep praying and doing all we can do in the mean time.
On the note of wishing for the holidays to end, God did change my heart. He reminded me what Christmas traditionally means to us, a celebration of the birth of a Savior not only a baby in a manger; but the bigger picture of the death He came to die to be the sacrifice for our salvation. I also thought of Mary and the privilege to be mother of the Savior, but also the sword that would pierce through her own heart as she watched her first Son die such a horrible death. The privilege was not only being His mother, but being used for the greater purpose of God which needed to include sorrow. Here again is Romans 8:28b. His purpose… I think this was the mentality of the disciples who rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for Him…. joy in being used by and part of the plan of God. Thank the Lord for counting us worthy to be used to fulfill His purpose to bring glory to Him which includes the sunshine and the storm! I know my trials don't compare even minutely to the Lord, to Mary, or to the disciples!
Thank you once again for your long-time prayer. It certainly means a lot to our family.
The Esposito Family
P.S. Some have asked about the insurance. Things still aren't quite settled, but God graciously provided for a very big expense I need to pay for October the month he lost coverage. Please pray for wisdom to know whether or when I should take my husband home or if I should continue trusting the Lord to provide as is while allowing him more time with sub acute level care. Times like last week when he's sick and struggling make me question the wisdom of thinking I can do it on my own. They immediately did X-ray, labs, a throat culture, put him on the IV, etc. Now today he seems to have some type of urinary tract infection and will have tests again.
As Thanksgiving approaches, I wanted to take a moment to give thanks to the Lord and so many people who have been a blessing specifically over the last three years during my husband's illness. I'll give a bit of an update at the end, but intend specifically to give thanks.
Last week was our annual Couple's Retreat. Of course, it's normal in times like this that thoughts come causing sadness at what isn't as we wish things could be the way they used to be. The temptation is to cry and feel sorry for oneself. Honestly, these feelings pop up frequently and probably always will. While thinking about Couples' Retreat, I remembered a saying I heard recently. "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened." God reminded me of Thanksgiving season and all He's given me. How abundantly blessed I have been and am today! I thought of Job's saying to his wife when she wanted them to just curse God at the heartbreak they were facing (and it was very great). Job basically asked if they should expect to receive only good from God and that hard times would not come. Should we curse God for trials in spite of all the blessings we've experienced? God blesses so greatly; but if we let ourselves, we forget the blessings and focus only on what we wish to be. I was convicted from Revelations recently by the martyrs who "loved not their lives" unto death. I asked God to forgive me for loving MY life too much or wishing at all for it to be as I would rather it be. I do want His plan and His glory.
That day I began to think and weep and pray with thanksgiving. I decided to write my thanks to the Lord and share it as an update.
Thank you Lord for the many years of Couple's Retreats we got to attend together—what sweet memories. I have those memories. It happened. Thank you Lord for 28 years of Monday night dates. Thank you Lord for all the walks in the country clubs holding hands, talking, dreaming and planning our version of what the future would hold. Thank you for regular walks with the children and for all the family times with Dad. Thank you for the family fishing trips. Thank you for letting us rear 8 children together for all those years and for Joe's wisdom and the foundation he set like David who couldn't build the house for the Lord, but he did all the preparation work for his son to do so. Thank you for allowing me to be Joe's wife and helpmeet as we started Pacific Baptist Church and for allowing us to serve there together 25 years in the greatest church with the greatest people. Thank you for Pastor Meyers for all he and his wife have sacrificed through all the years here in the ministry but even more so the last three years. Thank you for using Pastor Meyers to lead our church forward through the hardest days while missing Pastor himself who was not only his pastor but also his close friend since childhood. Thank you for the faithfulness of the members—one of the things that encourages me more than just about anything else. Thank you for the miracle of your church—not missing a beat—continuing to grow and reach a dying world for Christ.
Thank you Lord for sons and daughters and now the best daughters-in-law and son-in-law we could ever have asked as well as five grandchildren. Again, sometimes comes one of those "I wish moments" as I look on the wall beside my husband's bed where I have the grandchildren's pictures. I can instantly cry if I think of how badly Joe wanted grandchildren. His dream he called a multigenerational vision for the family to serve the Lord for generations. Instantly I can have a flood of tears if I dwell there on why Joe doesn't get to enjoy them. Then I can stop and thank the Lord that the vision is being fulfilled, and even that they ARE what gives Joe pleasure when he can't enjoy much else. (Last week we had two of the grandchildren during Couple's Retreat. I am sure my husband enjoyed playing doctor with Mary as she gave Grandpa shots and exercised his hands, etc. I am sure he enjoyed it as we played school with the marker board and I asked in turns her and him to name letters and numbers or name pictures, and they both got 100% on the test. I am sure he enjoyed little Joseph flopping himself on Grandpa's stomach and kissing his cheek, checking out his mole, and momentarily trying to uncap him. It's not what I'd wish, but it's good and thank God for the blessing of grandchildren. How it cheers my heart to walk in the house and sometimes Mary says, not, "Hi Grandma" but "Grandma, do you want to plan hide and seek or tag?")
Thank you, Lord, for children who haven't become bitter at You but have continued to trust You and live their lives for You. I remember Sarah saying in the early days that at least she could say she did have a loving and godly dad for all those years—something many girls didn't have the opportunity to have. I am sure she had fleeing thoughts of what the future held, who would help her finish through her courtship and walk her down the aisle. But she chose to look at the blessing in those difficult early days. And all of our children have. Of course, they miss him and too must have the "I wish" flood their hearts in many situations, but they don't dwell there. And I can't either. Thank you Lord for children who have stood by their Dad and Mom in the midst of growing families and busy lives in ministry – sacrificing personal time, and encouraging us so. Thank you again for adding Cindy and Bruce and Jennifer and their love for the family. You'd never know they weren't original members of the family! Each of the children would make their Dad so very proud of them.
Thank you for our faithful mission's team—another of my greatest joys. I can hardly put into words the gratitude for the willingness of our team to go and give their lives and allow God to do the great work He is doing there. It's one of those "no greater joys" every time I read an update and see pictures. Thank you for the folks there who have been reached whom most I have never met who encourage us from around the world by their prayers and love for us.
Thank you for Pastors, missionaries, and people all over the world who have prayed for us and sought to encourage and bless us in so many ways an occasional text or gift or simply letting us know they still pray. Thank you for even using people we've never met many times when we most need encouragement so that there's no doubt it's YOU Lord.
Thank the Lord for my great family (my parents and other family members) and all they've done to encourage me even from afar and for the long trips my parents have taken to be here and do all they can do to lighten the load. Thank you for my husband's family and the blessing they have been to me and to Joe and for their love of family and for making me feel I'm one of their own siblings as well.
Over these years, I have found that during those longing of the heart times—I have but to thank you Lord—to pick a few songs of thanksgiving to play (the songs we've always sung as a family long before this trial) and through thanksgiving you cheer and change my heart. It's your plan like the old patch song where they sing and the prison walls break open. Thank you for thanksgiving—something that we feeble humans can give as a gift to you but which is just as much for us to remind us of your bountiful blessings in our lives. Thank you Lord!
"Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
It's been three years and one month today since the night Pastor went into the hospital. Sometimes it seems hard to believe it's been so long, and sometimes it seems an eternity. I began an update on October 3rd that stayed on my computer open all month. I'd open it and add to it, change it, or delete from it without ever finishing it. The month of October was perhaps one of the hardest thus far for me personally. But God's been very good to us all. He continues to show His love and care, to give strength and encouragement through His Word and His people, and to provide for needs in unexpected ways. Pastor continues to improve in small ways, step by step. Bro. Schonrog stated it well yesterday in giving an update to a gentleman from our insurance company—if you look at the last week or month you'd say not much improvement. If you look back from the start, there's been a whole lot of improvement! We've come miraculously far, for which we praise the Lord.
In spite of trying to work in advance to assure Pastor would still have coverage (and being told everything was fine), October 1st, he lost all coverage. Someone asked me, "What are you going to do?" My response was that the question isn't what I am going to do since I could do nothing but "What is God doing" or "What is God going to do?" I kept saying, "He's taking us somewhere. I just don't know where." I definitely couldn't just take my husband right home. Our home is surely not handicap accessible, and I have no medical equipment. That's not to mention whether or not I have capability, strength, knowledge to properly take care of his needs 24/7 in a way that he would continue to stay healthy and progress. At the same time, I want so badly for him to be home that I began wrestling with the hope and possibility, along side of the fear of it not being a wise decision or being able to do so in reality, or how I could even make it happen logistically, etc. I was crying to the Lord and begging Him to make His will clear. I don't want to make a wrong move. At the same time I was searching for a policy I could purchase that would give him needed coverage. I hoped that if I got a specific policy I could get the 100 allowed days per year on a general insurance policy for skilled care to take me from now through March to give me time to learn and prepare if coming home is right. But I was told it can't be billed as skilled since he's custodial. Though he's made tremendous progress, they said a patient on a trach for 3 years can't qualify for the therapy needed to qualify for that 100 days per year. I tried all different avenues while praying. Though nothing is solidified yet, I applied through the state for long term coverage. It carries a huge share of cost—which practically speaking is impossible for me to pay going forward (though size of cost makes no difference to God). But it would prevent me from receiving the entire bill for October and November, so I did it for now even though it's not what I wanted.
Please pray God gives wisdom. Please pray that God reveals to me His perfect will and timing. Please pray that I don't make a decision based on either emotion or fear, but that God will help me to do what's best. If bringing him home is best, and God thinks I'm able—I want that. If not, I want to continue being patient in the present situation as he continues to recover little by little while still praying for a big miracle.
Now for some practical updates! High Hopes is going very well. We continue to go Monday through Thursdays. Pastor has definitely made progress. Pastor is able to stand for 45 minutes in the walking frame. He is very alert with no problem with oxygen or blood pressure. He's alert and able to look around. They move the legs for him to help him try to walk again. They'd like for him to stand more at other times as well as sit up in a chair, but it's not practical under the present situation of care. It takes a Hoyer Lift and two people to get him up and put him back to bed. He weighs almost 190 pounds and that's dead weight. I am trying to teach him to lift his hips while lying flat and turn side to side again. Recently, he became able to lift the right knee to bent lying flat. He could pull the left up for a while now. I do feel a "try" in there. Hopefully as God allows him to continue at High Hopes he will become physically stronger and stronger. The RNA at the long term place notices difference for sure.
Pastor's speech has improved. He is quicker at response, and uses more voice. He's very sharp and can go through three pages of questions accurately. The other day I asked what was wrong as he was very sleepy. He clearly said, "I just don't feel good." It's a blessing for him to be able to communicate when he needs to. Thank the Lord. We continue to feed by mouth just a little each time, but he can take a lot more bites and swallow than before.
We backtracked on the capping and trying to eliminate the trach. The RTs decided to try to eliminate oxygen all together. He has not been on a respirator since the first week he went into the hospital. He just had supplemental oxygen when not capped. Everything was very sporadic. At night he was only on a T-bar – breathing in and out the trach with oxygen attached. In the day time we put on the PMV/speaking valve along with oxygen so he was breathing in the trach and out the mouth. When he was capped the oxygen wasn't used at all and he was forced to breathe in and out the mouth (Sometimes ok, sometimes he struggled and it was taken off). Now he's been going 24 hours with the PMV and most of the time with no oxygen. Occasionally, it gets low and they put it back on. Twice while I had him out for therapy it dropped and I got a bit worried (I am alone and driving) but was able to get it up quickly. Overall though, he has been consistent. I want to ask if we can resume capping soon.
Overall, please pray for more energy and wakefulness. I am not sure the balance of needed rest to recover and how much to push him in various activities. Also, please pray that his short term memory continues to improve. Sometimes I believe it's God's mercy and grace that the last thing to recover in a brain injury patient is the short term memory. It means that each day is a new day. I can't imagine if the memory of three years was clear to him. The first indication Pastor has given to me of any desire to go home or get out of the hospital happened in the midst of my October struggle. One morning out of the blue as I was about to shave him – he said, "I want to get out of this place." I asked him, "Why, I am sure there are lots of reasons, but why do you say that now." He replied, "I just want to live a normal life." When my brother-in-law was there he asked him the same "why" to which he replied, "This place is not like home." (Now the next day he didn't remember saying that, and I suppose to some extent I am glad. It was positive as it was a new awareness on his part, but sad as of course I don't want him to be where he is, and also that the reality is that normal in our lives will never be the same again barring a great miracle from the Lord.)
The night of October 2nd as I was lying in bed thinking about the next day being the three year mark of Pastor going into the hospital, and wondering how God would want me to face the day. God gave me the perfect verse upon which to meditate. I can't think of another that could have been just for me that night! Romans 12:12, "Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer…" Praise Him we do still have hope. Be patient. Keep praying. Simple and exactly what I needed. God is good.
Thank you for your continued prayer!
Thank you once again for reading our updates and for praying. We so appreciate the continued prayer and as always it means a lot to us.
Pastor has completed a month at High Hopes Head Injury Rehab. (I recommend looking at their website to learn more about them and see what they do there. They have some video on the home page that's very encouraging with testimonials. It's a pretty amazing place.) I am so thankful that though it seemed just a dream or hope—God has actually brought it to pass! I am also thankful for the way God has provided financially in unexpected ways.
I arrive to Huntington Beach to help get my husband ready in the mornings, and at 8:45 I get him into the medical transport van to leave to Tustin. Initially we were scheduled for 4 hours, but there was a mistake in the initial acceptance letter stating the hours and funding (somehow it was thought he was being sent there from somewhere else that provides the funding), so we've cut it down to 2 hours. For now, that is probably good for him. High Hopes is being so generous still to give us scholarship to cover the majority of the therapy. Few people could afford this level of therapy without the scholarships offered there through fundraising.
Upon arriving at High Hopes, Pastor goes to Physical Rehab. He is in equipment that works the legs and arms at the same time and also works with the brain in what's called "patterning." It's a solid 45 minutes of work out. He grips the handles on his own but occasionally gets tired and slips. Then we just put his hand back on. Some days they get him in a standing/walking frame. They work with getting his weight on his feet and moving the legs. As he better tolerates being up longer periods of time, he will go in the equipment that completely walks the body—moving the legs for him.
Next, he is in a machine that moves the arm in patterns while the patient focuses on the computer screen. The screen shows the pattern along with sound to hopefully connect everything back and awaken the movements. It's called Reo Therapy if you wanted to look it up and see how it works. This is also 45 minutes. In between is orientation.
The speech therapist at Huntington Valley has been working with Pastor twice per week for about 8 weeks. I surely appreciate HVHCC allowing this much time with him. He's definitely improved. I believe this is to be the last week she said. Please continue to pray for strengthening and energy. He can talk, it's just hard work for him.
Please continue to pray for capping and removal of the trach. It's been sort of up and down. I hope to find an Ear, Nose, Throat Specialist that might have some answers for us on what holds him back.
Pastor is gaining too much weight though consuming few calories. I am hoping to present a natural diet plan to the doctor soon, but I want to find or create something that will show calories, nutrients, etc. It will probably need to be fruit and veggie juices (I bring that already) along with some broth for protein needed for healing of the brain. Please pray for wisdom and God's will.
Lastly, our insurance is very up in the air. We could potentially lose coverage as of October 1st and need to find other insurance. Please pray for God's will. I also may need to change my husband to a different facility within LA County since he's presently in Orange County. Please pray for guidance and wisdom. I trust God is leading as always—His will His way. I was sharing with a Respiratory Therapist that traveled with us to an appointment in Pomona on Tuesday that God has brought me to a place to realize that God being in control means that though we don't always understand what He's doing or why, we can rest assured He is doing something within his plan and purpose. The "no's" and the "wait's" fulfill a purpose as much as the answers we desire, so we pray and we trust Him.
Thank you for being part of our lives through prayer!
Thank you for praying for approval for speech therapy. Pastor has been doing this for the last couple weeks and has done extremely well. He doesn't talk much daily, but he will answer questions. If he really needs something he may say a few words, but in speech therapy he works hard and can answer a couple pages of questions. It is just really hard work for him. We are working on quick response as well as exaggerating words and projecting voice.
Praise the Lord! Monday Pastor Esposito will begin the outpatient brain injury rehab for which we've prayed. We are excited to see how the Lord will use it. Please pray for Pastor's endurance and alertness, and that we will be able to make it the entire time each day without having to return to the facility where he stays for any type of physical care. There are still details to work out on getting him up and ready and feedings, etc. Tomorrow I will drive the van from Huntington Beach to Tustin to time how long it will take. I also need to practice putting my husband in and out of the van since I will most likely transport him alone much of the time. I am excited and thankful but nervous! I also want to thank a couple of folks who gave to help with the financial cost. I won't mention the specific names since I haven't asked these folks if it was okay, but it was a surprise, a blessing, and an encouragement. We applied by faith, knowing that if it's what God wants, He'll provide in every detail.
Please pray for our new schedule and for wisdom in restructuring everything. On a daily basis there are so many things we've tried to work on (a full sheet checklist front and back). Personally, I want to work on everything every day, but it's not that practical. Imagine losing the ability to do everything for over two years and trying to regain the strength and know how. It takes lots of time and lots of work. We look forward to seeing what will be accomplished at the rehab! Also, please continue to pray that one day God will just wake him up and heal him completely. In the mean time we'll keep praying and working.
I also want to praise the Lord for His loving kindness and mercies. He is so very good to us. He knows how to encourage us exactly when we need it most and many times from unexpected places. It's so easy to become discouraged or to fail to see the rainbow in the clouds. Our emotions (mine especially I think) bounce this way and that. Last weekend following a wedding of two of our young people who'd pretty much grown up at PBC, I was weeping greatly, wishing my husband could have been there. It was such a beautiful wedding and testimony for the Lord of the reward of faithfulness on the part of the bride and groom and of a church that preaches what's right no matter how unpopular it is in today's culture. It was one of those rewarding days where you say to yourself, for this we've given our lives to serve the Lord through PBC. Then God reminded me of a card I'd unexpectedly received the night before. I hadn't eaten dinner that evening, and it was about 9:30 pm as I was leaving from Pastor's. I decided to buy something to eat nearby. The place was closed, but a worker rushed to the door to say that one of the ladies who worked there left me something as it was her last day working there.
Here are the words written on a beautiful card addressed to "Joe and Mary" and accompanied by a beautiful plant:
Mary (My favorite customer),
Thank you for being a wonderful customer and a friend to us all! You have made my life so much brighter. Every time you come in, I feel the love. I have never been so blessed to have known someone. I was not raised in a religious home and I don't go to church on a regular basis. There have been times in my life that made me question my beliefs. You have impacted my life in so many ways I can't express. Ever since you told me about Pastor Joe I've started praying every night. I pray for Joe and your family. I am constantly checking the updates on Joe. The progress that he has made is AWESOME! You have brought so much light love and happiness into my life.
You don't know me, but I feel like I know you from the updates and what Mary has shared with me. My name is Sam and I work (at a restaurant) where she goes to. I have been watching the videos of your sermons online and have faith that one day I will be blessed to see them in person. I read the updates almost everyday. You have come so far, and I pray that you heal quickly. You have a beautiful family and church. Oh, and happy very belated 30th wedding anniversary! Sending you lots of love and prayers.
The next morning, as I went to open up our nurseries, I found another card on my desk from out of state. It also was addressed inside just the same, Dear Pastor Esposito and Dear Mary on the other side. Some words stuck out to me… to my husband it said, "It would seem right now you and your family's witness and testimony include the wonderful people who are caring for you in the nursing center, but it goes way beyond that throughout the world as we read updates and pray for you all…"
That weekend, I felt the Holy Spirit remind me "My church is fine. There are others I need for your lives to touch right now." And again as I often feel the Holy Spirit speak to me, "Be patient, wait—I am DOING SOMETHING you can't always see (thank the Lord at moments like this he gives me glimpses). Trust me."
Thank you so much for reading our updates and for your prayer that encourages our hearts!
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.