A few months ago, I started a much-needed sabbatical with plans for rest, healing, and scholarly projects. When COVID-19 stopped the world, I found myself on a different path, spending all my time with my husband, Richard, and my 89-year-old mother.
I quickly discovered it's easier to be busy working than to apply myself to others’ needs.
As Richard woke up after his traumatic brain injury, he thought he could return to medical practice. While he has made significant recovery, his diffuse axonal TBI resulted in permanent loss that can only be restored supernaturally (which God has not yet chosen…). Richard struggles with words, memory, and cognition. He struggles with purpose and meaning, hating that he cannot manage formerly easy tasks. I watch him struggle and I battle my own pain and sadness. How do I gently and patiently (not natural for me) come alongside him as we go over something for the zillionth time?
God offers me transformation through this unplanned journey. I am forced to look at myself in new ways--to let go of what I previously valued. I must work on accepting things I cannot change and coping with new distasteful realities. I catch glimpses of understanding: Jesus is my greatest treasure and making him first in my heart is the only way to real peace.
This is a deeper, beyond lip-service churchy commitment that I've not been challenged with before. I need to take up a very real cross, follow Jesus in every thought, word, and deed, and truly lay down my life. The journey is both agonizing and precious.
I wonder, What could God do through a husband and wife who have fully lost their lives to him? Through an NCF Director wholly committed to Jesus?
In mid-June, I return to full-time work leading NCF. I’m praying and asking others to pray that the Holy Spirit accomplish more life-losing transformation in the final weeks of my sabbatical. Richard and I pray daily about the purposeful choice to trust God. I have to keep asking Jesus to keep showing us the way.
Amazingly, NCF has continued to grow during COVID-19. We have offered Christian and professional resources during the pandemic and received numerous prayer requests for nurses impacted by COVID. We are working to add new ministry staff to support growth and pray God brings the funds.
And we pray and invite prayer that NCF can lift Jesus high and fulfill God's plan for ministry.
Kathy Schoonover Shoffner, PhD, RN, is the national director of NCF and the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Christian Nursing.