Lessons from COVID-19: In the Words of a Survivor

Gratitude Day 468

Wed., June 3, 2020

3 John 1:3 – Some of the brothers traveling by have made me very happy by telling me that your life stays clean and true and that you are living by the standards of the Gospel.

I love to tell stories. I cherish capturing a sliver from a person’s life and exploring how this snapshot speaks of something that can be inspirational and encouraging for others.

Today’s story, I pray, is such a chronicle. One that will speak to you, as well as be a storyline that maybe, just maybe, you will share with someone else.

This is Linda Johnson. She is a COVID-19 survivor.

And she is ready to share her story.

This 70-something-year-old woman lives in Fond du Lac, WI with her husband, Jerry, who is currently doubling as her nurse. Historically, Linda has been a healthy and highly active woman. She exercised regularly, had a calendar full of activities that included groups and causes she enjoyed, as well as warmed lots of bleachers while attending her grandchildren’s events.

Mid-March, all of this came to a screeching halt before much of the country went into stay-in-place mode. By then, Linda was in a hospital and just trying to breathe. Literally.

In early March, Jerry provided transportation for family members who had just returned from a cruise. Jerry and Linda spent a couple hours with these folks. They shared hugs and handshakes. Unbeknownst to them, these loved ones had come in contact with passengers from another cruise ship that had people who tested positive for COVD-19 onboard.

Following the visit, Linda developed every symptom of the coronavirus, except a sore throat. On March 13th, a long swab tested her for the virus. Before the results were officially confirmed, she was admitted to a hospital because of escalating symptoms. This hospital would be Linda’s home for the next 19 days; nine of which were spent on a ventilator.

Never able to physically enter the hospital throughout Linda’s hospital stay, Jerry also tested positive for the virus. He cared for himself while under quarantine in their home.  Other family members had symptoms and tested positive for the virus. In other like situations, family would gather together to encourage and support each other. With COVID-19, everyone remained quarantined in their own home.

“The most challenging aspect of this entire experience was looking at my husband’s face when he had to go home from the parking lot and leave me at the hospital,” Linda says. “I realized that I was going to have to do this without an advocate, which challenged me to never give up hope.”

Amazingly, the hospital staff provided not only physical care for Linda; they also cared for Linda’s and Jerry’s emotional needs as well. Hospital staff never complained about having to change personal protective equipment (PPE) each time they left her room, even if their only purpose for entering the room was to give Linda a glass of water. Staff sat with her, held her hand, read her cards and provided regular updates to Jerry and the rest of their family.

“They (health care providers) performed such courageous acts, in caring for me as well as the other COVID-19 patients,” Linda says. Hospital staff were learning about the virus on the fly because the Center for Disease Control (CDC) was also gathering information from early cases. With no established guidelines to follow, the staff constantly explored different regimes to bring comfort to Linda and other COVID-19 patients.

Going on the ventilator was a huge decision that the Johnson’s and their three adult daughters did not take lightly. Linda spoke with her entire immediate family before going on the vent. Just in case.

“Throughout my hospital stay, the only time I specifically asked God for something for me is when I went on the vent,” Linda explains. “I didn’t want to remember the days I was on the vent … and I don’t.”

Unlike many patients, Linda never felt anxious while on the vent. People often experience hallucinations from the sedation medication. Linda did experience hallucinations. Yet, her memory of these hallucinations is very relaxing. Calm. They were filled with music, vivid colors, stars, and swirls in the sky, which helped her remain calm while on the vent.

In fact, Linda says throughout her entire hospital stay, she remained uncharacteristically calm and non-anxious. She attributes this to the army of prayer warriors around the globe who were committed to lifting her up in prayer. Familiar with the “Footprints in the Sand” writing before her coronavirus journey, the words from this saying take on enhanced meaning these days. “I have discovered that during troubled times, Jesus literally carries us,” Linda shared.

Completely helpless in fixing her own situation, Linda placed her heart and soul in God’s hands, willing to accept whatever the result. Since the “bus didn’t come and pick me up, I’m confident that God has a plan for me,” Linda says. “Now at home, I’m doing a lot more listening these days. I’m paying more attention. We can’t just expect God to listen to us. We need to put ourselves in a place where our hearts and souls can listen to God.”

While on the vent, Jerry and Linda were not able to communicate. Throughout Linda’s hospital stint, Jerry kept a detailed log at home of her medical situation based on his many conversations with medical staff. “She never felt far away,” Jerry says, “as she was always in my heart.” Hospital staff kept Jerry and his daughters informed and spent extra time to help them fully understand the challenges of treating an unknown disease.

Linda clearly remembers the first time she spoke with Jerry after getting off the vent. While she couldn’t really “talk,” these high school sweethearts feel this whole experience has drawn them closer together.

They know this journey has changed them … for the good. “During the months of the safer at home order in a normal year, I would be doing spring cleaning,” says Linda. “This year, a physical spring cleaning didn’t happen. Instead, I had a spring cleaning of my life; one that cleaned my heart, my mind and my life in general.”  

Linda challenges herself to maintain the peace and calmness she experienced while in the hospital in her current daily life. As she feels better and becomes more able to do things, distractions creep in. Early on, she struggled with survivor’s guilt. While hospitalized, Linda didn’t watch the news. Once home, she became aware of COVID-19 patients who didn’t make it, including people with young children. Linda questioned why she was spared … and these people were not. Her purpose now is to wait for God to reveal what God has in mind for her life as a coronavirus survivor. “I need to be gracious and accept the grace that I survived this pandemic. Now, I wait and see what is in store for my future,” Linda says.

These days, the Johnson’s appreciate their marriage, family, and neighborhood a lot more. For weeks, their friends and neighbors provided meals for Jerry and eventually for both of them. A natural hugger, Linda wanted to assure her grandchildren that she was okay. Once home, she drew herself on butcher block paper and mailed a copy to each of her grandchildren to symbolically hug them. Unsure when she will be able to physically hug loved ones, these days, she uses the COVID kiss; bumping elbows.

Aware that some people downplay the severity of COVID-19, Linda hopes that sharing her story changes this. “First, I needed to let my body physically heal. As my body gets stronger, I know that it is now time for me to deal with the emotional side of being a coronavirus survivor. This includes sharing my story,” says Linda.

In 2019, her spring calendar was packed full of sporting events, concerts, exercise class and volunteering. May 2020 only included two priorities: visits to the COVID clinic and donating plasma. Jerry has donated plasma four times. Just last week, Linda cleared the many necessary tests which allowed her to donate. They are optimistic that their plasma will help other COVID-19 patients.

Committed to making sure this “spring cleaning” is purposeful and significant, Linda relies on God to help her achieve the right teeter-totter balance point between listening and serving God versus the world’s distractions. She yearns for a clean heart that seeks the Lord in all that she says, does and lives. “My work is not done,” Linda concludes. “I pray that I will be enlightened with how I can do God’s work after coronavirus.”

For Linda’s lessons from COVID-19, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Healing God – thank you for the physical healing that Linda and so many other COVID-19 patients have experienced. Hold those families who have lost loved ones tightly in your palm. May they know Your healing presence in a different way.  Bath us with emotional healing as well, drawing us closer to You so we can have a spring cleaning of our hearts and souls. Amen.

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Getting Creative with Relationships

Gratitude Day 424

Fri., Mar. 20, 2020

2 Corinthians 5:18: All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. 

Last week, Hubby Rick was going through an album with some old family photos. A cousin had loaned it to us, and he was enjoying a trip down memory lane.

When it came time for lunch, Rick showed me this photo. It is from when he was a young boy. And then, he asked me who it looks like.

Let me help you with this riddle. Here is a picture of our grandson Dylan.

Notice any resemblance?

For years, I have reiterated how much Dylan looks like Hubby Rick. What makes it even more interesting? It’s not just his physical looks and cheeky grin that resemble his grandfather. It’s his personality, his mannerisms and his quick-witted comebacks.

This is the same grandchild that burst into his house one day after school, looking for his Grandpa. He saw our car in the driveway and was so optimistic that Grandpa Rick was the one who would be there when he and his siblings got off the bus. His big smile changed when he saw me. Immediately he said, “Why can’t Grandpa Rick be here when we get off the bus? Why does it have to be YOU?”

Yep, sometimes we are just chopped liver.

Among all of the aspects of life that has recently changed … and changed quickly … is community. Relationships. Our ability to interact, encourage, support and be there for other people. As we are encouraged to keep safe distances from other people and limit our time in public, the amount of daily interaction with people we love and care about has changed. Dramatically.

Think of the older person who hasn’t gotten out of their living situation … for DAYS.

Think of the family who has a person with a compromised immune system. They are limited their social interactions to keep their loved one SAFE.

Think of those couples getting ready to have a baby. Many hospitals are instituting a one-person only rule while the expectant mama is at the hospital. And if that one person, say the expectant mom’s partner, is sick, well, they are escorted to the door and sent home. It may seem harsh, but this is the REALITY we live in.

Then, there are the parents who are able to work from home and have become the defacto part-time teacher, part-time lunch person, part-time PE instructor, part-time parent who is trying to creatively engage kids who are missing their friends and their normal routine.

Even if that person looks a lot like you or another family member, let’s be real. Our patience can sometimes get thin … even with the people we love the most and who are most precious in our sight.

Yes, we have technology which allows us to Facetime and Skype and Zoom with other people. We can sit outside a window and wave and hold our hands to opposite sides of the same window. We can send cards and letters and texts and e-mails. But it’s not quite the same, is it?

I pray we take extra time and steps to engage and be “present” with other people who are struggling with increase isolation and social distancing. I pray we develop extreme levels of patience and understanding with each other. I pray that we allow ourselves to be more positive and implement more slowness to anger than quickness to anger.

Yesterday, I baked a big batch of biscuits. Yes, I could have whipped up half a batch rather than a full batch. But these biscuits? I hope they will spur me to put a few on a couple plates and encourage me to check in on some of my neighbors. Yes, they are only biscuits … but they are a lifeline to checking in with those who live in our neighborhood who may be feeling a bit lonely, isolated and on an island right now.

It’s time for us to be creative with relationship. Find new ways of connecting with those around us, near and far, that are special to us. Commit to reaching out to just one person each day and checking in on them. You may be pleasantly surprised how much joy this little random act of kindness will bring into your life.

Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, we all need COMMUNITY. Community is created with interactions with other folks. Maybe our tried-and-true go-to methods aren’t as easy right now. But certainly, we have opportunities to creatively touch base with those we love and care for. They don’t have to be blood. They don’t have to look anything like you. Their personality may be completely different from yours.

You just have to love them. Nothing more. It’s really that simple. Now, go and create some community and re-enforce your relationship with them. TODAY.

For valued relationships, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – thank you for so many special people in my life. Thank you for bringing in so many different and unique people who enhance and make my life special. I pray that we embrace creative and unique ways to connect and encourage and support those around us right now. May we maintain and grow strong relationships and community in our lives. Amen.

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Embrace of Life of “Do’s” Rather than ” Don’ts”

Gratitude Day 409

Thurs., Feb. 20, 2020

1 Thessalonians 2:12: We appealed to you, encouraged you, and pleaded with you to live lives worthy of the God who is calling you into his own kingdom and glory.

It is SO. EASY. TO DO.

When I’m with our grandkids, I often hear myself saying, “Don’t do that!”

And I feel like an old lady. A cackling hen. The type of person I prayed that I would not become.

Yet, sometimes, she comes screaming out: “Don’t …”

Don’t pick on your sibling.

Don’t burp.

Don’t use that word.

Don’t. Don’t. Don’t.

On a really good day, I may throw in, “Please don’t …” But those are the rare days.

This same thing happened to Jesus one day. A very rich man came to him and said, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus reminded the man that he knew the commandments. Don’t murder. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t steal. Don’t bear false witnesses. Don’t be dishonest.

The rich guy told Jesus that he had no problem doing these. In fact, he had been doing them for as long as he could remember.

Jesus gave him one other thing to do. Do go and sell everything you have. Do give everything to the poor. Then, your reward will await you in heaven.

Do one simple thing. Just one thing.

But it was too much. The rich man was shocked. Dismayed. Overwhelmed. There was no way that he could sell everything. He just couldn’t do it.

While we often look at this story and question whether or not we must give all we have away to the poor, there’s really more to this story. Too often, we think of our faith in terms of don’t do this or don’t do that. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t.

But when it came down to what was really important, most important, Jesus didn’t use the word, “Don’t.” Jesus implied the word, “Do.”

Do. Do. Do.

Like the rich man, we applaud ourselves for following the don’ts … when what Jesus really wants us to embrace are the do’s.

Do help the poor.

Do wash each other’s feet.

Do give all that we can.

Do love your neighbor.

Do love your enemy.

Do. Do. Do.

Why is it that we often want to put up walls and borders and boundaries that embrace the don’ts while ignoring or overlooking the do’s Jesus highlights throughout his ministry? I think we would be amazed at what would happen in our communities, our country and our world if we put half as much energy into the do’s of this world rather than focusing so much energy on the don’ts.

Do clothe others.

Do feed the hungry.

Do embrace those who are different from you.

The do’s of God’s kingdom are worthy of God’s calling. The do’s are worthy of God’s kingdom and glory. The do’s seem to be pretty important to Jesus. Maybe, just maybe, they should be important to us as well.

When we focus on the do’s, we stop being the cackling rooster or hen that we pray we would not become. It allows us to be our best energy into the areas of God’s kingdom that are deeply meaningful and important.

I pray that we can embrace God’s kingdom as a place where we focus on what do’s God yearns for us to embody. And leave the don’ts behind.

For a God who focuses on the do’s rather than the don’ts, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Lord God – Why is it that we too often focus on what don’ts we want in your kingdom rather than embracing all the do’s you lay before us? Inspire us to leave the don’ts behind and become people who focus on the do’s of your kingdom. Amen.

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Jesus’ Role in Your Life

Gratitude Day 385

Thurs., Jan. 2, 2019

John 14:6: Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Understanding YOUR role is pretty important.

As an employee, a spouse, a parent, a volunteer, a grandparent, a caretaker … each of these roles has different responsibilities.

Right?

Right.

Sometimes, how we view our role … and how someone else views our role may not be the same.

One of the joys in my life is getting to help regularly with three of our grandchildren. Sometimes, their Dad, Hubby Rick’s son Darran, will not be home from work when the kids get off the bus. My role is to be there when the kids get home, see if they have homework that needs to be done, and take care of anything they might need some help with. Usually, I make sure they are fed, or supper is ready when Dad gets home from work.

I view my role with the kids as part of my responsibilities of being a grandparent. Often, grandparents step in when parents aren’t able to be available for their kids. They fill in the gaps or pick up the slack. We take grandkids to practices, attend their games, plan a special activity, make cupcakes, take them on adventures, make sure they have a special outfit for the Christmas program and bless them with treats.

At least this is how I view my role as a grandparent. This is what my grandparents did with me. It’s what I want to do with our grandchildren.

A few weeks ago, when I was with the kids, 8-year-old Dylan wanted me to agree with something. I nixed the idea as I felt this was something he should not be doing. He came back with, “Dad would let me do it.”

I replied, “Dad’s not here, so we’re not going to do this.”

Dylan quickly replied, “But your Dad’s assistant.”

Hmm … my role was now defined as an assistant. Based on my experience, assistant’s can have a whole bunch of roles. Often, they take care of details for someone else, which in reality, I often do. Yet, I also hope my role as a grandparent means something as well.

Fast forward a week or two. Again, Dylan and I were discussing something. This time, his reply went like this, “You’re just Dad’s babysitter.”

This immediately received a reaction from the other two siblings. Older brother Waylan quickly said, “She’s more than our babysitter.”

I get it. Sometimes, roles can be confusing. Challenging. Unclear. Thank you, Waylan, for understanding that I want to be more than an assistant or a babysitter. I want to be their grandparent.

We’re in the midst of the Christmas season which runs for 12 days after Christmas Day. On the eighth day after his birth, Mary and Joseph presented Jesus at the synagogue for official naming. They follow the instructions given to them in advance and name him Jesus.

While his official name is Jesus, his role is often reflected in a variety of names: Messiah, Savior, Christ, Wonderful, Counselor, the Word, Redeemer and others. Each of these names reflects a slightly different nuance of Jesus’ role and purpose on earth. Sometimes, we get hung up on how one man, Jesus, can have all these roles and purposes. We get confused on Who Jesus was and What his purpose was.

Just like Dylan and my role.

Take a minute. What roles does Jesus have for you? In your life, how do you see Jesus making a difference? Who do you want Jesus to be for you in this year? This decade? Today? Tomorrow?

Write those words, those roles on a sticky note. Place this note someplace were you will see it EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. May it become a reminder of Whose you are and Who you long for Jesus to be in your life.

On those days when you struggle with who Jesus is? Take Waylan’s advice. God is more than your babysitter.

For discovering Jesus’ role and purpose in my life, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – sometimes, we aren’t clear of Your role in our lives. We want to assume roles for ourselves beyond our capacity. Help us pick words that reflect how we want to view you for this next year. Amen.

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The Captured Moment

Gratitude Day 345

Thurs., Oct. 24, 2019

Ezekiel 10:10:  And as for their appearance, the four looked alike, something like a wheel within a wheel.

Once in a while, a moment is captured that is priceless.

This is one of those moments.

Let me introduce you to the two participants. On the left is our youngest grandson, Dylan. He is 7, soon to be eight. He’s in second grade. He repeatedly tells me that he DOES NOT like school. Yet, he also recently told me that he’s doing third grade work because second grade work is “way too easy.”

On the right is Hubby Rick.

I’m not sure what the conversation was about. Or who was talking smack to whom. It was just one of those moments that I wanted to freeze and keep in my memory bank forever.

Maybe I am biased, but there just seems to be so much said in this photo without a single word being uttered.

Love.

Trust.

Respect.

Admiration.

Usually, when Rick and Dylan are jangling back and forth, there’s lots of one-upping each other. This day, there’s a break in the conversation; just long enough for the moment to be captured.

Sometimes, I look at Dylan and anticipate that he is so very much like Rick at that age. Yes, they look alike. But it’s their similar personality, mannerisms and word choices that about do me in.

Each of our six grandchildren are unique and special. I wish I had more individual shots of each one from this day to show how their Grandpa pulls out their unique personality. For now, we’ll just have to let this one be sufficient.

This. This is what makes me laugh and smile and brings joy to your heart.

Look on your phone or camera. Find a photo that brings joy to your heart. Show it to everyone you see today.

And they will smile right back.  

For captured moments that bring great joy, I am grateful. 

Holy God – May we truly appreciate the smallest and most cherished moments of today. Help write them on our hearts and minds, so when we’re having a challenging day, they will put a smile on our face and joy in our hearts. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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