Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Lessons Learned

This is another old post from my blog in August 2007. As 2009 comes to an end I have been thinking about lessons learned and Ebenezers built so I thought I would share this one again.

In the time of Moses when a nation went into battle they sent a banner bearer ahead of them. The banner was announcing the nation coming to war. I imagine it was often intimidating to the nation being attacked to see who was coming. The banner said these warriors come in the name of the king.

In Exodus 17:15 the Lord is described as Jehovah-Nissi which means the Lord is my Banner. For a long time I wasn’t sure of the significance of this description. However, once I understood the purpose of the banner my eyes were opened. God is telling us He is our banner; He goes before us in battle. No matter what happens in our lives, God has already been there.

In 1 Samuel 7:12 we see Samuel setting up a memorial stone. The Israelites had just been delivered from the hands of the Philistines by God. So, Samuel set up the stone as a way of remembering that thus far God had helped them. He called the stone Ebenezer.

I have always loved these two passages of scripture.

Today as I was cleaning carpets at my house I was contemplating all that has happened in my life in the last year. I have walked every step of the road from there to here, but I was totally astounded when I looked back and reflected on it.

Last year this time I was in a sweet situation. I had lost a little bit of weight. My employer had just closed the local office and set me up with a home office. I had also just avoided being laid off for what seemed like the hundredth time, although I think it was closer to four times. With my notebook computer and cell phone I could work from my house or my parent’s house, or the local Starbucks for that matter. This was a great setup for me as it allowed me freedom to help my parents while continuing to work.

In January 2007 all that changed. Just days after the holidays I found out I was being laid off. As traumatic as being laid off can be I was thrilled to have an opportunity to take some time, regroup and decide where to go from there.

Early in February 2007 I came down with a common cold. I was miserable, but figured in a few days I would be good as new. Well, in a few days I was in excruciating pain, my eyes were throbbing, and my neck was so stiff I could barely move. I decided it was time to be seen by my doctor. Hours later, after having a spinal tap done, I was in isolation at the local hospital with a life threatening illness. I had bacterial meningitis and sepsis. I spent the next six days in a hospital bed. My insurance had just run out at the end of the previous month. I was hoping I had COBRA coverage, but wasn’t quite sure how I would pay the mounting bills.

Because of my illness I missed a writers conference I was scheduled to go to. The registration fee was non-refundable. Despite an effort to convince the organization that it wasn’t by choice that I backed out at the last minute, they would not refund the money.

During my time off I spent much time with my parents. My Mom’s illness has slowly robbed her of the ability to do much at all. She needs constant care and Dad willingly, patiently, and lovingly provides that care. I was able to help lighten his load by being there.

As June came to an end, Dad went for a routine stress test which led to a heart catheterization. It was during the cath that they found massive blockage in five arteries. He was not allowed to leave the hospital and had open heart surgery two days later. The recovery time has been extensive and I have been ever present to help in the last two months.

Today, I am physically half the person I was this time last year. Having struggled with my weight all my life I decided last fall I needed to get healthy and make changes to help prevent heart disease. In the aftermath of Dad’s surgery I am acutely aware of how important those changes are to my well being. The benefit of making these changes has been a slow, steady, safe weight loss.

Nine months later I am still looking for the right employment situation. It has been a sometimes frustrating experience. Often I have trouble finding opportunities suitable to my education and experience to apply for to meet my unemployment requirement. There have been interviews where I knew I wasn’t the right person for the job. And there have been interviews where I hoped to get the job and didn’t.

Looking back at the path of the last year I see strewn along the way the Ebenezers. I see how my illness coming in the COBRA election period allowed me to have insurance coverage for my hospital stay. I see how my being off work and spending so much time with my parents made the time Dad was in the hospital easier for Mom, she was used to having me around. I see how God protected my father. Dad could have had a massive heart attack at any time. Thankfully, we found the problem before that happened. I see how being inspired to get healthy has changed my life. And I see how God’s timing and planning has allowed me to be free from employer obligations during this time of my life. So, I have built my Ebenezers to remember how much God has done for me.

Today, because of my Ebenezers, I proudly wave the banner of Jehovah-Nissi. He has been there in every situation this past year. Without His presence and protection the situations of the last year would have overwhelmed and defeated me. Loving God hasn’t meant I don’t have problems in my life. Loving God has meant I do not face those problems alone. I envision Him riding before me along my life path with His banner proclaiming, “She is mine. You can try her, but you can’t beat her. I stand with her today and always.”

My year end wish for you, dear reader, is that you have Ebenezers in your life to look back on and that you ride confidently into 2010 knowing that God has gone before you. Happy New Year!

Photo copyright 2009 Thomas H. Fickas, Jr

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