First Public Speech

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Dear Family and Friends,
We have already been home now for about a week and a half from our trip out East. We had a wonderful time with our family and friends and got to enjoy the peak of the foliage season.  The trip back went almost without a hitch.  We did have a minor breakdown when our fan belt went on us.  Pulling off for that turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The mechanic checked our transmission fluid only to find that it was very low.  A hose was leaking it seems. Had we not realized that we could have lost our transmission. God was with us as we pulled off not far from a garage, and we were back on the road in 1 1/2 hours. Thanks to a gift from a dear lady in Harlan, Indiana 2/3 of the repair bill was covered.  God had us covered all the way.

Stuart was able to read a short speech I helped him prepare for our so Kaleb’s marriage vow renewal.  That went well for his first time speaking like that in public.  Many of our family members noticed an improvement in his speech.  However, maybe it was the coming back to normal everyday life that left Stuart a bit discouraged.  The other day he said he was depressed which came as a surprise to me.  He said he needs to get back to work.  We will have to find some tasks for him to do so he can feel more useful.  There are certainly plenty of things for him to do.  So, please continue to lift him up in your prayers.

Thank you again for your calls, letters and cards that still come in on occasion.  We appreciate your continued help.

May you all have a blessed Thanksgiving surrounded by your families and friends.  It will be nice to be here in Des Moines with 6 of our nine children and their families for this season.  We have so much to be thankful for.

Merrill's at Kaleb and Renee's renewal

Love in Christ,
Stuart, Valerie and family

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Almost 1 Year!!

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

Dear Family and Friends,
It’s hard to believe that almost a month has gone by since my last update.  I thought that I had better get one posted as soon we will be getting ready for a trip out East.  We will be going to Vermont for the month of October.  Our son Kaleb and his wife Renee will be renewing their marriage vows at the end of the month.  We will be seeing all our family who live on the East coast which we are really looking forward to.  Our visit will start with the October Retreat at the beginning of the month where we hope to see many of you our friends.

It is also difficult to believe that almost a year has gone by since Stuart’s stroke.   We are so thankful to God for bringing us through this time.   We also want to thank all of you for your prayers and generous financial support to help us through this.  We pray that God has been glorified as we saw the miracle of his healing and care for us.

We know that Stuart has come a long way which is so great to see.   He seems to be working a bit hard on his cognitive skills these days.   It’s that kind of work that will help him regain what he has lost.  This process is very slow so sometimes it can be discouraging to Stuart.  Hopefully, he can get involved in helping will church work soon working towards preaching again.   There is much work to be done here in the states, also.

Continue to pray for the church family we have been attending with at Rising Sun.  Since they got rid of the preacher many families have left. We would like to see what direction they are going before we would decide to go elsewhere.  The elders are going to meet with the congregation this Thursday evening to answer questions.  We pray that this will be done decently and in order.

I also want to post our phone number which I should have done long ago.  It is 515-276-4416.  Feel free to call us at any time.

Because of Christ,
Stuart, Valerie and family


All done with flying colors!

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

Dear Family and Friends,
Well, Stuart is all through his procedure with flying colors.  The doctor said it went smoothly and without a hitch.  They checked before they started to be sure there were no clots and found everything clear. There were only small restrictions put on Stuart.  He couldn’t drive for one day, and he cannot do any heavy lifting for one month.   He is a bit hesitant to get started up at the YMCA for some reason.  I am sure it is OK for him to do his walking and swimming.  We did go for a bike ride yesterday which he wasn’t sure he should have done.  We will call the doctor tomorrow to double check about his activities.

Hopefully, things will be pretty much back to normal so we can take a trip back East in October.

Please remember Kaylona in your prayers.  On Tuesday the 1st she has all four of her wisdom teeth extracted by the dental surgeon.  Two of the teeth are bone impacted so pray that this goes smoothly and that her recovery isn’t too painful.

Also remember the church we are attending in your prayers.  This past week they fired the preacher of 36 years.  They sent a letter out to explain the reason for this.  We are not sure they told everything. There are some of us who may be looking for another place to attend once we see what is planned. For many of the long timers there this seemed to be quite a shock. Please remember Doug Reymen in your prayers who is the one they fired.  He seemed like a man who stood for what was right, but we really didn’t know him that well.

Thanks again for being our prayer warriors in lifting us up before our God who is every faithful.

Love from us all,
Stuart, Valerie, Adrian, Zachary and Kaylona


Pray for encouragement!

Friday, August 7th, 2009

Dear Family and Friends,
Just checking in again though not much has been going on.  Before I forget, please lift Stuart up in your prayers.  He seems to be going through a time of discouragement.  His moods are rather low which could be helped by medication which he won’t take.   Pray that he will realize he needs to work harder to gain back what has been lost.  On the more positive side he tries to get involved in helping people out in the physical area. Last week he helped our son Justin do some work in his basement.  He also helped out one day at VBS.   Then he also went to the “On With Life” annual picnic.   He attended that without me as I was in Texas celebrating my Aunt’s 80th birthday. Doing all these activities is very good for Stuart in order to make him feel more useful.

We have a house guest for the next 3 months or so.  Kaylona’s very best friend from Belarus is visiting us.   Her name is Tanya.  Her mother is the one that has a congenital heart problem.  Please pray for Lena while her daughter is gone.  Tanya is a great help to her mother.   Lena’s son Sasha is also gone as he is with a family in California.   He is attending college there.   Kaylona is very happy to have Tanya here, and you can hear them chattering away in Russian day and night.

Stuart’s surgery is still scheduled for the 25th of August which will be here before you know it.   Pray that all goes well for that.   I will probably not put another update on until then.

We pray that all of you are having a great summer.  I wouldn’t mind hearing from some of you.  Our e-mail is merrillopenby@hotmail.com in case you don’t know it.   God bless!
Love from us all,
Stuart, Valerie, Adrian, Zachary and Kaylona


Still Here

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

Dear family and friends,
I haven’t forgotten all of you.  We have just had a crazy couple of weeks.  We were in Ottumwa last week attending a reception for our niece Kandy and her husband Jeff.  Stuart’s dad and wife were there so we visited for a few days.  Then we drove back to Vermont with his dad (Stuart drove most of the way back).  We are buying a mini-van from his dad and trying to sell our big old van.  We just don’t need one that big anymore. Now Stuart will have to drive all the way back home which we will do in 2 1/2 days.  Please pray that our trip will go ok.

We still haven’t scheduled the procedure on Stuart’s heart.  Between our schedule and the doctor’s we haven’t agreed on anything yet.  It will probably be pushed into August now.   The nurse said there is no hurry.

Stuart is doing ok, but we realized that he needs more physical training.  We are trying to get him into a special program at the YMCA.  We hope to get started on that next week.  His muscles need to get built back up from his inactivity.   For some reason the self-motivation to exercise is just not there with Stuart.   He tires out quite easily which doesn’t help.   Pray that as he gets started he will be more motivated.

We praise God that our son Adrian finally got a part time job for now.   He is still in the process of trying to decide where to go for Bible college.  Please pray for him in this decision making process.

By now most of you should have gotten our newsletter that our son Travis worked on.  Hopefully, we will get a more detailed one out in the near future.  We will try to get in touch with the men in Minsk to know a little more.

Thanks for your interest in our welfare.  You are a great blessing to us.

Love from us all,
Stuart, Valerie and family


No Stress for me…

Friday, June 19th, 2009

Hello again Family and Friends,
This week went well with Stuart passing the stress test with no problem which definately means a go ahead for the closing of the hole in the heart (PFO).  For now the nurse is trying to get a time when both of the doctors working with Stuart can do this.  We are looking at the second week in July.  He needs to start a blood thinner (Plavix) 5 days prior to this and continue taking it about 6 months after.  We know that God has been with us so far and will see us through this also.  We or maybe just I am a bit nervous.  There are always some risks involved but the doctors don’t anticipate any problems.  After this is done Stuart will be a bit restricted.  He cannot lift on heavy things.  He still isn’t real strong anyway so that shouldn’t present a problem.

Please pray that Stuart will not be so discouraged with the progress with his speech.  He doesn’t see much inprovement, but his speech therapist says she can see the difference.  Stuart just needs to put more effort into practice that will stimulate his brain to do what it did before the stroke.

This week we invited one of his friends from On With Life over for dinner with his wife (Walt and Kathleen).  He got out of rehab a couple of weeks after Stuart.  Walt had a right brain stroke and his left side is affected.  He cannot move his left arm and hand at all and walks with a 4 pronged cane.  Basically, he cannot be left alone.  Pray for him also as he struggles with discouragement.   He was a man who worked in building so he cannot work.  We enjoyed our evening together with them.

Pray also that Adrian, who is now with us, will be able to get a job.  Also, pray that Adrian will be able to decide what direction he wants to go with his life.

I am thankful that the lady who teaches our women’s Bible study Sunday morning asked me if I would like to teach a lesson a couple of times this summer.  That is something I will gladly do as I miss teaching the ladies very much.  Stuart has also been asked if he would like to teach, but he is not ready for that at this time.  Of course, he would love to.  He will do it again in time.

Any of you are welcome to come and visit us this summer.  We love to have company.  Stuart is not ready yet to go to camps and rallies.

We pray all of you will have a great summer.

Love from us all,
Stuart, Valerie and family


Can I drive!! Please??!!

Monday, June 8th, 2009

Dear Family and Friends,
Well, the word is go for the procedure to close the hole in Stuart’s heart.  However, he does need to get his cholesterol checked and do a stress test.   Those must be done before the final, final word on the operation.  Stuart is scheduled to go in for the stress test on the 11th of June. They wanted to do it this week, but due to some changes in his health insurance we needed to wait.  We are now going to have to pay for his medical insurance through Medicaid.  That change occurred when Stuart starting getting Disability.  Praise God the amount we need to pay is not too high with the same coverage.

Stuart has been driving our van since Kyle brought it out a couple of weeks ago.  The doctor asked him not to drive at night until he gets checked out by this special rehab program.   He is driving more cautiously these days but is doing a good job.  One disadvantage to regaining this privilege is that he is not walking as much.  I am having trouble getting him motivated to do this.  He really needs to get in a regular exercise schedule.  Our bikes need some repair work before we can ride them.  Pray that we can get Stuart motivated.

This week also saw another accomplishment that was a biggie for Stuart.  He prepared all the things for us to get our taxes done for last year.  He had some trouble pulling out the records he had on the computer and had to do things another way.  Praise God he got pretty well done this week and should get the information sent off to Howard Herdon who will prepare our taxes.   It is just exciting to see Stuart be able to do things like this again.  It is a much slower process as his typing skills have not returned but at least it got done.

I am sorry that I have not been getting updates on more regularly.  It should have been done since we haven’t gotten a newsletter out.   We are still hoping that will get done soon.  So, I will try to do the updates even if nothing much is going on.  We still appreciate your prayers and financial help.  For now we are still in need of both.  Thanks again for being there for us.
Love from us all,
Stuart, Valerie and family.