Year in Review 2019

December 31, 2019

Another year has ended and it’s time to look back at what the last twelve months have brought.

Joel in shorts by snow

January 2019 started off unseasonably warm for Iowa. The first weekend of the year was nice enough for a van picnic at Red Rock and even a brief time outside in shorts! Unfortunately, the weather changed and became a very cold, snowy start to the year.

I very rarely schedule anything during winter, but agreed to preach at a church in mid-February. The day arrived along with a winter storm, and every church in Pella cancelled services, except where I was serving. They eventually cancelled as well just a few hours before evening church. I was glad I could stay inside, but missed the opportunity to give God’s Word.

Camp 2018 was hard on my pressure sores and I had decided not to go in 2019. However, I have been encouraging a boy to go to camp for several years. His parents said this was the year he was going. I was very reluctant, but decided to apply so I could help through his first year. A week after sending my application, I learned he decided not to go.

Outreach TrainingWinter reluctantly turned into spring, but the cool wet weather continued. I did speak at one grade school and a college, but kept extending my winter hibernation. When Tulip Time arrived in early May, it felt like spring had just barely sprung.

As I have the last few years, I was able to work with a gospel outreach group. After morning classes each of the three days of the festival, we went out around town handing out gospel tracts and information about Pella’s history. I even got dad to help me with handing out a few, but I need to work on him yet.

Around this time, I had a pressure map done to test my chair’s seat cushion to prevent further skin problems. The first test showed a large pressure area under one of the sores. Thankfully, after a few months’ work and multiple appointments, all I needed were two rubber bands to tie off a section of my seat and all was well.

Elm CabinMy parents were also able to get away for a few days with Grandpa and grandma Vander Molen helping one evening to stay with me. I worked on my book while they were here and grandpa was intrigued. He told mom a few days later at work that he hoped he could read it before he died.

Summer slowly arrived as June came and time for camp. There were three boys in my cabin, two were new to me. All of them needed complete hands-on care, so I wasn’t sure how I could best help.

Unfortunately, the cold, wet weather was also in Indiana. By the very first night with counselor orientation, I felt extremely exhausted and ill. I can tolerate cooler temps for short periods, but it was too much for me. Every night for the entire week it felt like I couldn’t take another day. I prayed heavily for strength to endure and was thankful I had experienced help with me. I felt like I didn’t help the kids as much as I should though. My very first year at camp in 1993 was similar, and I’m afraid my 15th year as a counselor was my last. Fortunately, my pressure sores did very well though and didn’t get any worse.

Two nights after camp, my primary night nurse, who did four nights a week, told me she had resigned and would be leaving in August. Two days later, on Monday, I went to the dentist in Iowa City.

After nearly 18 months of work, I could finally get my decaying front tooth removed and replaced with an implant. After over an hour, all I had was a hole in my mouth, a bone graft, and a fair amount of pain. Over the next few weeks, I was very limited on what I could do with my mouth stick and watched way too many movies.

Fair 2018July turned into August with no new night nurse found. I knew my parents couldn’t cover four nights every week, so I guessed I would have to look into care facilities for placement by the end of the year. Therefore, I tried to do as much as possible while I could.

I volunteered at the Ark Encounter booth at the Iowa State Fair again. I was thankful I could give out gospel tracts and pray God used me to spread the gospel. Unfortunately, the van had axle trouble and I could only go one of my two scheduled days.

September came with no nurse finds, and my family unsure of what was to come. I didn’t contact my regular schools to schedule speaking times for fear of not having night help. However, I was finally asked to preach again after nearly a full year without the opportunity.

Mr. Joel SpeaksI was hesitant about going to schools, but decided to try to go, especially if this would be the last year I could. They all picked dates in October, just as I learned nine nights would not be covered. Some coincided with days I spoke, but thankfully none required much traveling.

As November started, my nursing agency was able to have one of their existing nurses start coming regularly. It greatly reduced the open nights and allowed my parents to get away for several days. My grandparents and infrequent caregivers helped in the evening and it felt like a return to our regular routine.

That changed quickly though as a week before Thanksgiving, grandpa Vander Molen was in an accident at home. After a weekend in hospice, he passed away the day before my 38th birthday. It was a shock to our family that we are still adjusting to.

December has been a full month with again getting work done on my tooth, or lack of one. I received an anchor for a new implant, but won’t get it until March. Another week of mouth soreness and preparing for Christmas and another preaching opportunity quickly ended the year.

This year, I was able to get my autobiography up to 2009, but not far enough to finish for grandpa. I plan to continue work on it, but will always have this memory in mind. I’m thankful that I had no hospital stays this year and to again have most nursing shifts covered. I pray that 2020 will go well for everyone and I pray for God’s guiding hand all!


Weekly updates are available on my blog, The Quad Life.

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