A few months ago, I had a stroke and did not even know I was in this world. I finally came to myself in the ICU at the hospital and my wife Joy began to tell me about my very eventful day in the Emergency Room with the Stroke Trauma Team that I knew absolutely nothing about.
In the past several months as I have worked to recover, I have learned many lessons about many things. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is just what a precious gift we have been given with this thing that we call life.
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. -1 Corinthians 15:52
One of the most meaningful lessons that I am learning is the preciousness of moments and how careless and flippant I have often been with them in the past by simply taking them for granted.
The reality of this human existence is that we are not guaranteed the next moment and if we don’t get the next moment, then the last moment was it, so we better allow every moment to unfold and learn be grateful for the gifts it brings.
One day last week, I was sitting in our living room and there were toys scattered all over the place. In the middle of the floor was a wooden bowl, spatula and a little car. When I looked at them I smiled inside and out and then began to cry tears of joy as I thought about my Grand Daughter Addi Jo stirring up some “make believe” deliciousness in that bowl and then offering me a bite. I was still getting blessing and joy from the moment even after it passed.
Life is a series of moments strung together by memories, so make sure that you are cherishing each moment as the special gift from God that it is, because we never know when this moment might be our last…
Some of you know what has been going on with some of my health challenges and some of you may have missed part of the story”, so I thought I would try to clear things up and let you know “the rest of the story as one of my favorites Paul Harvey would say.
The first part of the story, I do not remember and I will have to tell you based on what I have been told by those that were standing by. I want to thank everyone for your prayers, love, support, encouragement, patience and understanding. It has been and continues to be a learning journey and has grown and is growing me in so many different ways.
On Monday May 30th after suffering with a three day headache, I discovered that I had sinus infection that was making my ability to swallow difficult and my talking sound funny because of a swollen tongue. I of course started my home remedies, because even though I am not a doctor, I could play one on TV. On Wednesday evening, I preached, recorded and uploaded my Wednesday evening message and it sounded like I had a button or piece of candy in my mouth the whole time, I promise I didn’t, so on Friday, I decided after everyone’s coaxing to do a virtual visit with the Doctor. The Doctor prescribed Mucinex D and a nasal spray, which I started late Friday evening. Friday was a pretty normal day, other than sore throat, drainage and swelled tongue. I went to bed Friday evening just wanting to feel normal again.
This next part, I don’t remember, so I am going from Joy’s telling of the story. On Saturday morning June 4, 2022, I woke up, came into the living room and ask Joy what was going on? I told her that something was not right, that something was off. She got worried and started asking me all kinds of questions to see if I knew who I was, where I was, what our Granddaughters name was and when I couldn’t answer that, she got on the phone with my sister and My Brother In Law told her to call 911. During this time I was wide awake, talking, shaking hands and supposedly just trying to get my bearings. I am thankful for my Brother In Law Bill Cantrell showing up Johnny on the spot and Joy’s Mom Nancy Jo being here for Joy and the girls. There is a lot more to the story, and I was there, but I wasn’t there, so I’m not going into all of that, except to say: Praise the Lord, I did not say or do anything too embarrassing.
The rescue squad showed up and rushed me to the hospital with stroke like symptoms, where they did a CT Scan upon my arrival. Our good friend Julia Ellison Nicols made sure that I was well taken care of and was my Guardian Angel. The Doctors felt like my short term memory loss was due to the extremely high blood pressure and started me on a drip of medicine to try to start bringing it down and continued a barrage of tests, poking and sampling whatever they could get from me.
I can remember bits and pieces of the Emergency Room. I recognized Dr. Lutz from previous meetings when visiting parishioners, but it all just seems like a dream and I thank the Lord for that, because I have never been afraid to die, but I have never wanted it to hurt.
In the afternoon/evening they moved me into ICU and for the first time that I can remember, Joy and I talked and she filled me in on what all had happened, what was going on and what the plan of operation was. She informed me that I would not be able to preach the next day and that she had already sent messages and taken care of all of that and so I laid there and we talked and I slept and we talked and I slept They eventually brought me supper and I was trying to come up with a plan to get someone to break me out of there and take us to the Peddler, my treat. I told Joy to go home and get some good rest in a good bed. I actually rested pretty decent, although I am not a back sleeper and I was all wired up.
Sunday morning June 5, 2022 found me still in ICU, trying my best to come up with an escape plan. They were monitoring my blood pressure levels and decided to get rid of my drip and try me with a pill and see if they would stay stable, this was the key to my getting into a regular room and going home. I honestly was in pretty good spirits the whole time and kept thinking about how grateful I was that things were not much worse. Supposedly the meds that I took for the sinus infection cause my blood pressure to jump into the danger zone and I honestly was very blessed that things were not a whole lot worse. On the agenda for this day would be more test, particularly a MRI of my head, throat and chest. You will be pleased to know that I do have a brain and a heart.
Sunday afternoon they moved me to a regular room and we waited for results of the MRI. The MRI revealed that I had a small stroke on the back left side of my brain. It also revealed that totally unrelated, I had an aneurysm on the right side of my brain, but not that they were overly worried about. They also noticed that the arteries going up my neck were a little twisted, which they called Fibromuscular Displaysia, but they should be okay, because it did not seem to impact the flow of things. My heart looked good, other than some thickening of the heart wall, which was probably a result of the high blood pressure.
All I could think about was holding my Granddaughter Addi Jo, walking around our yard in Cheddar, seeing our family/friends and getting back to my Pastor/Preacher work and ministry, especially with my dear Eureka Baptist Church.
The good news so far is that there does not seem to be any permanent damage. I should not require any surgery, but I do have a slew of specialist that I now have to see, a few medications that I have to take and Joy thinking she has been promoted to General. (Haha)
On Monday June 6, 2022, I spent most of the day just waiting. We had to do an echo on my heart, just to make sure things were clear and my nurse assured me that no matter what time they gave me the clear that she could and would get me out of there within 20 minutes. Later in the late afternoon, we finally got the news that we could split and split we did.
God and everyone has been so good to us. The major thing I am learning is that I am not going to bounce back from this like I would anything else. I have good days, where I feel like I am back to normal and then challenging days where I feel like a very old man, who can’t do anything for himself. I believe this is just my body adapting, adjusting and getting used to a different way of living. I have prayed about it and I am trusting God to bring me back better than ever.
“For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” -Isaiah 41:13
Today as I was preaching, I felt more back to my normal self. I am still having some sinus challenges that is impacting my throat, tongue and speech, but I trust that in God’s time, God will take care of it, because I know without doubt that He is taking care of me!
This letter is from Michael Joe Harvell, servant of Jesus Christ, to all the Saints in Christ Jesus, who make up His beautiful congregation at Eureka.
May God’s marvelous gift of grace and peace embrace you through your relationship with Jesus Christ.
I am so thankful to God for you and every time I think of you, I become even more grateful.
You are always in my thoughts and prayers and I consider it one of my greatest joys to get to pray with you and for you.
Since the moment that God brought us together in fellowship as Pastor and Congregation, it has been one amazing love story from then until now.
I am more confident than ever, that God has begun a good work in you and will continue that work until the day that our Savior Jesus Christ returns to take us home to Heaven.
It does my heart good to think these thoughts, because the Spirit has woven you into the tapestry of my heart. The things I go and grow thru, I do not go thru and grow alone, because the Gospel makes us family all sharing the same amazing grace of God.
Only God knows how much I love you and miss you, how greatly I want to be with you and Jesus.
My prayer is that our love may continue to grow more and more everyday, just as we continue to grow in our knowledge of God’s Word and the judgment it brings; not to beat us down, but to lift us up and above the challenges of this world in which we live; so that we may find and live the excellent life and live it in a way that brings a smile to the face of our Creator and Savior.
May God continue to grow an beautiful garden among us with His sweet fruit of the Spirit, enabling us to live a righteous life that brings Him even greater glory and praise.
This thing that has happened to me is a part of this life and I want you to know and believe with me that it has as it’s purpose the furtherance of the gospel; so that my challenges in Christ are just a part of life that we all must face and overcome with God’s help and blessing.
There are many opinions on why this happens or that happens and some love to pontificate to make themselves sound smarter, holier, but it is not about how we sound, it is about how we live and who we live for.
There are many versions of Jesus that are being preached today. Some preach Jesus as envious and causing strife; and some preach a Jesus of good will and happiness.
There are those that even preach a Jesus of contention, not to help others, but to hurt the cause that really matters.
The real Jesus is love and this is the Jesus I know and was created and spared to share.
So at the end of the day what really matters? That there is a God, who loves us and who wants relationship with us. A God, who has made a way where there was no way, thru the gift of His Son Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. This is the truth we preach, live and rejoice in.
For I know where my salvation comes from and I know the power of your prayers and I know and trust in the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
I don’t just say I believe, I know that my belief is real, because when I have nothing or when I have everything, it is because of Jesus. I am not ashamed to admit that I am nothing without Jesus, but with Jesus, I am unlimited potential. It is my prayer that Jesus may be lifted up and magnified in my body, by life or by death, that is His choice.
For me to live is Christ Jesus and to die is gain for all He has promised.
If I continue to live in this flesh, then this is the fruit of my labor and while I want to live and enjoy all the blessings around me, it is not for me to decide.
If I am honest, there is a part of me that wants to stay and a part of me that wants to go, but the most important thing is to be with Jesus and I can do that here or there and that is a decision for Him to make.
If He sees my living in the flesh as beneficial to others, then I believe He will allow me longer in this wind torn tent of flesh.
Whether I am in the flesh or the spirit, I will always abide with you and continue working for your growth and joy and faith;
That your rejoice in Jesus may grow into an abundance not explained with human words. Jesus is coming again to carry us all to our Heavenly home.
So, until that day, make sure that your conversations be salted with the Gospel Of Jesus Christ, so that if I am with you or a part from you that I may hear of your growth and how you stand fast and firm in one spirit on the Word of God, with a single minded pursuit of what really matters and that is faith in the Good News Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Do not be afraid of any enemy, because what I know and believe even more now than before is that God has got us, because we are His. You have nothing to be afraid of if you are a born again, saved, child of God.
God has given us an amazing gift, don’t take it for granted. Life will not always be easy. Challenges and suffering can be expected, but we never face it alone. Jesus is with us every step of the way.
There is still so much for us to learn, so enjoy your journey today, while it is still today, because tomorrow will take care of itself…