Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Heartfelt Celebration

This week I celebrate an unusual anniversary: Two years ago I underwent open heart surgery to replace my ascending aorta, along with several arterial bypasses. An experience like that you never forget.

Unaccustomed pressure in my chest while power walking one morning had led to a stress test, followed by an arteriogram. I had anticipated needing stents to correct some blockages, but was surprised to discover my aorta was enlarged, twice normal size. Suddenly major surgery loomed.

An hour later I met my cardiothoracic surgeon, who assured me that given my age and overall physical condition, my chances of successful surgery were “about 95 percent.” My initial thought, however, was this meant 5 percent chance of it being unsuccessful.

Where do you turn when unexpected adversity presents itself? Years of experience had taught me to turn to God through prayer and the Scriptures. And when they learned of my situation, friends around the world began praying as well.

Admittedly, the first couple of days awaiting surgery were difficult. It was not the specter of death, but the strong sense that I had many good reasons to continue living, including my family. The second morning I came across this Bible passage that I embraced as God’s assurance: “The Lord will sustain him on his sickbed and restore him from his bed of illness” (Psalm 41:3).

He did bring me through the surgery, and today – through exercise, healthier eating and medication – I’m recovered and doing well. I now greet each new day as a gift. I realize more than ever the incredible privilege and responsibility of stewarding the abilities and opportunities God provides for me daily.

One day I will die, but until then my hope is to live in a way that makes a positive difference in the lives of others

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