Reflections on God’s Blessings in 2022

Lisa and I are so grateful for and encouraged by the many ways we have seen God’s blessings in the past year.

Launching HELPcare and helping to make HELPcare Clinic a reality in Austin has been a great adventure. Mostly exciting and stimulating for me, but Lisa is considerably less adventurous than I am, so for her it’s been more stressful.

Even as HELPcare has pushed her out of her comfort zone, however, she is 100% committed because we have felt God’s call to do this, and we have seen so many providential circumstances that have confirmed that call and encouraged us.

These aren’t happy coincidences. They’re God’s provision.

HELPcare is the management company for which Lisa and I are the majority owners. It provides management services for HELPcare Clinic (which is owned by the health care professionals) so Dr. Dave Strobel, Nurse Practitioner Stephanie Kimmes and six part-time nurses can focus on meeting the medical needs of HELPcare Clinic members instead of on administration.

A year ago right now our combined team for the two companies had just four members: Dr. Dave, Coleen Olmsted (our office manager), Lisa and me.

We’ve never advertised job openings for either company. God has brought us this team, often providing the person before we realized we had the need.

Of course none of that would have been possible (or needed) without our HELPcare Clinic members. When Dr. Dave and I met for coffee in October 2019 and were inspired to create what has become HELPcare and HELPcare Clinic, we hoped there would be interest in the community of Austin for this kind of health care alternative. We’re grateful that member support has materialized, as we now have more than 500 active members.

Another great blessing is that I now have a content marketing and social media team for HELPcare, and most of the members are my children or their spouses: Rachel (Borg), Joe Aase, John and Bella Aase and Jacob’s wife Alexi, along with Dr. Dave’s daughter, Madeline Holden.

Joe also is working in the clinic on Saturdays, our daughter Rebekah (pictured above…see if you can guess which one is her!) set up the lab and is Director of Nursing, and our daughter Ruthie, a missionary in Bulgaria, is even helping with some work that can be done at a distance.

What a great blessing to be called to this work, and to have all of our children joining with us in some way!

July was particularly eventful, as I had some numbness in my fingers and weakness in my legs that made spine surgery necessary. I wrote about that experience here as well as on the HELPcare site.

Just nine days after my operation, we welcomed Joe’s wife Amy into the family! It was great to have all six kids together with their spouses and 15 grandchildren (although one was still on the inside).

Some other key highlights of 2022:

  • Rebekah having our 15th grandchild (and her fourth son) in August. In September she and Andrew bought an old farmhouse with 3.5 acres just outside of town, where the Gatzemeyer guys will have plenty of room to explore.
  • My parents moving from the townhome they owned for 10 years into an independent living facility, just a few weeks before Dad was in the hospital with the flu, which led to discovery of gallbladder problems. He was in the hospital again later in the year to have his gallbladder removed, and has recovered well. The timing of their townhome sale and move was almost perfect. What a blessing to be 59 years old and to still have both of my parents!
  • Having Ruthie, Trevin, Noa and Frank on home mission assignment from the end of July through early December. They stayed with us for about six weeks altogether, and it meant we had the whole family together both for Joe’s wedding and for a day-after-Thanksgiving early celebration of Christmas.
Our 15 grandchildren at our Nov. 25 Christmas celebration
  • Starting HELPcare Foundation, recruiting Linda LaVallie as its volunteer executive director and getting IRS tax-exempt status. HELPcare Foundation’s mission is health education and providing partial scholarships for those who can’t afford the full cost of HELPcare Clinic membership.
  • Waking up at 3 a.m. October 17 with an insight into how we could open HELPcare Clinic in Rochester, several months earlier than I had previously imagined. We’re grateful for Dr. Bob Gustafson and his wife Laura, and their interest in the HELPcare Clinic model and their support for expanding this alternative into Rochester.

We’ve experienced so many other blessings and answers to prayer this year, too numerous to detail here, but the answer to one petition in the Lord’s Prayer has become more vivid to us: “Give us this day our daily bread.”

Having worked for a salary for my whole career until now, I knew I should be thankful for the jobs God had provided. But with a good job and a consistent biweekly paycheck, it’s easy to take these blessings for granted.

Perhaps the greatest blessing for Lisa and me in 2022 has been a renewed sense of His care and daily provision, giving us what we need when we need it.

Sometimes the waters have been choppy, but He has always kept us afloat. We have a wonderful crew and He also seems to be enlarging the fleet. Most importantly, He has strengthened our sense of calling, that what we’re doing is His project, not ours.

We look forward to what He will bring in 2023.

The Joys of Coaching

When my daughter Rebekah took a job as the girls’ varsity basketball coach for the Lyle-Austin Pacelli Athletics, she prevailed upon me to be her assistant (and JV coach), so since mid-November we’ve been having a lot of time together.

We’ve lost a lot more games than we’ve won this season, but last night we achieved our first winning streak, following Tuesday night’s win with a big comeback against the Schaeffer Academy Lions. After being down 30-15 at halftime, the Athletics girls went on a 25-1 run to start the second half.

That was fun!

Afterward, Bekah and I took a picture with my parents, Lew and LaVonne, who were there to watch their son and granddaughter coach a great-granddaughter.

The basketball season will be wrapping up in the next couple of weeks, so then I will be focusing on another type of coaching Lisa and I are doing as part of our new venture, HELPcare.

Through HELPcare we’re providing online education, community support and metabolic health coaching for people interested in making lifestyle changes to maximize their health, energy and longevity.

These services are available globally, but for people who become members of HELPcare Clinic they’re included at no extra charge.

HELPcare Clinic is the new direct primary care clinic I’m helping my good friend, Dr. David Strobel, open in our hometown of Austin, Minnesota. My new venture, HELPcare LLC, is contracted with HELPcare Clinic, his medical practice, to provide management services so he can focus on doctoring. We just opened last week.

This metabolic health coaching practice is built on what I’ve learned through my health journey over the last few years, and also the results Lisa has gotten. We started by coaching friends, and then the circle expanded over time.

I enjoy helping people discover their abilities to do more than they thought they could. It’s been really rewarding seeing people reclaim their health and even turn back the clock.

We feel better than we did 25 years ago, and are glad to help others looking to make similar changes.

And hopefully tonight we can make it three in a row for the Lyle-Pacelli girls!

A Year of Change and Blessings

2021 has been a year of massive change for Lisa and me, and as we look back we can see God’s hand of blessing even in the heartbreak.

By far the most difficult change was losing Lisa’s dad, Leonard Wacholz, in June. We all miss him and Lisa gets teary every day. But we’re thankful that he lived to be 90 and was able to stay at home on the farm until his last three months. Unlike so many who died alone during COVID, he had all of his children and their spouses as well as most of our children and grandchildren able to visit him in his last two weeks. And for those who couldn’t physically get there, we had FaceTime.

All of his descendants gathered in August for our nephew’s wedding, and we captured this photo that shows Leonard’s (and Lisa’s mom Arlene’s) legacy:

Here’s the Aase branch of the clan…

Behind us you see (L to R):

  • Rachel, husband Kyle Borg and their five kids, who live in Winchester, KS. Evelyn is our first teenage grandchild. Judah is badly outnumbered. Aletta, Mabel and Sylvia are enjoying dance lessons. Rachel homeschools all of them, and Kyle pastors the Presbyterian church.
  • Joe and his fiancée, Amy Wagner, who will be married July 30. We’re looking forward to that!
  • Ruthie and husband Trevin Hoot with daughter Noa and son Frank, who was born March 22. They’re Presbyterian missionaries in Sofia, Bulgaria.
  • Rebekah and husband Andrew Gatzemeyer with Griffin, Gus and Murphy. They live seven blocks from us in Austin.
  • John and Bella, married last year and now living in Roseville, MN.
  • Jacob and Alexi with Graham, Isaac, Clara and Julia. They live in Rochester and Jacob is a physical therapist at Mayo Clinic.

For Lisa and me, the changes in the last year have been breathtaking. So I’ll just take a breath now and reflect:

Leonard was diagnosed with heart failure in February and needed to leave the farm in late March. The following three months were pretty hard.

I completed my MBA in Healthcare Management on April 3. I decided to retire from Mayo Clinic May 3 and was originally intending to have it be effective December 31. A series of providential events made it possible for me to move it up to August 3.

That’s when I started an “Of Counsel” role with Jarrard Phillips Cate & Hancock, a communications firm based in Nashville. It’s very much part-time and lets me continue to use my skills and experience from 21 years at Mayo Clinic on behalf of Jarrard clients.

Given my newly flexible schedule, I also was able to arrange a significant increase in golf time, taking full advantage of my Meadow Greens membership.

Ruthie and family (including our newest grandson Frank) were back from Bulgaria in mid-August, which was another incentive for my August 3 retirement date. We enjoyed the company of Trevin’s parents and his sister Tiffany, too.

I’m also serving as the assistant coach (and JV coach) for the Lyle-Pacelli girls basketball team. Rebekah had accepted the head coach position and asked me to serve as her assistant. We’re enjoying spending time together, and the girls are great. It’s something I couldn’t have done without my newfound schedule freedom.

But my main focus since August has been development of our new health venture and what will be my third career. Here’s that story.

We’re blessed to be in position to start this new venture offering support to people interested in reclaiming their health, and also to provide management services to help my dear friend and high school classmate, Dr. David Strobel, open a new primary care clinic in our hometown. We’re on track for that to open in February.

Just after we signed the lease on the space for HELPcare Clinic, Lisa and I joined Dave and his wife, Lorene, along with our employee #1, Coleen Olmsted, to celebrate and commemorate the occasion.

Coleen, Lorene and Dr. Dave with Lisa and me where the new HELPcare Clinic sign will go.

As I look back, I’m astounded at how quickly this has all developed. We’re also gratified by the enthusiastic reception so far as Austin-area residents have signed up to become Founding Members.

We have been abundantly blessed!

Lisa and I wish you and yours a blessed Christmas, and hope your 2022 is characterized by personal growth and happiness.

THIS is why I’m pursuing a third career

After 21 years working at Mayo Clinic, including starting Mayo’s social media programs and leading the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network with Dr. Farris Timimi for the last 11 years, I retired last Tuesday to pursue a third career.

My of counsel role with Jarrard, Inc. will give me a great opportunity to build on what I did at Mayo, and I’m very much looking forward to that work.

In my announcement I also mentioned that Lisa and I (with a physician friend) are launching a venture related to our health journey, and inviting those interested in being one of our early participants to help us formulate the program to send me an email so we can discuss.

I’ve received several inquiries and will be having follow-up conversations in the coming weeks, but one of the emails and our subsequent discussion captures the essence of why Lisa and I are compelled to pursue this work.

I’m sharing this anonymized exchange with permission.

M.L.: Hi Lee. I’ve been following your and Lisa’s health journey and your advice – like Lisa the menopause hormones thing hit me hard and going keto with intermittent fasting finally helps me – down 45 pounds with more to go, sticking with it at 56 … I have no interest in sharing photos or name yet… but in 6 months who knows? Would love to be in the loop on whatever you have planned.

L.A.: So great to hear from you! Your story is exactly why Lisa and I decided to share ours, because we think it’s really important for people to hear about low carb and IF. Yet we did it with a little trepidation because we didn’t want to go out there and talk about what we had been doing, only to relapse. As it turns out we’re both 10+ lbs. under where we were when we started telling the story 18 months ago, so we can confidently say this works long term.

So yes, we understand about not wanting to “go public.” We have another couple I profiled anonymously who are down 35 and 20 lbs. respectively, and they’re in the same boat, although he and his brother-in-law (down 34 lbs.) just did a Zoom interview with me (recorded) that we’ll be releasing soon. I’d love to talk with you about what we have planned. Maybe we could catch up by Zoom in the next week or so.

M.L. Knowing and trusting you as a person and as an information source were what made me try out your suggestions- and looking into it myself (with your suggested resources to start) convinced me to give it a serious shot – especially since all 4 of my brothers and my late parents struggled with both weight related type 2 diabetes and heart disease- and Dr. Fung’s information was very compelling!

I wish I’d known decades ago how much more important diet (including what and when you eat) is versus just working out more and eating less – so much wrong, guilt inducing, widespread info out there!

I’m very grateful you and Lisa decided to share (to be honest, her even more so than you, as the struggle to do everything right and losing so few pounds when your hormones have gone kablooie really resonated with me and gave me that little, well maybe it actually COULD work push. Would love to chat.

We ended up having that conversation Saturday morning, and learned that M.L had started following the #BodyBabySteps in March, so she’s lost 45 lbs. in just five months!

Her story validated both why we started sharing our health journey story on my blog and also why we’re wanting to devote as much of our time to this effort as we can as I move into Career #3.

I can’t think of many types of work that would be more fulfilling than helping people like M.L. get health results they didn’t think possible.

Most importantly, it was M.L. getting the results.

She checked out my Health Sherpas.

She explored what I was saying to see if it made scientific sense.

Then she made the changes in what and when she ate that led to these great results.

We’re excited that we get to cheer her on and provide more support from now on.

If you’d like to make similar changes and turn back the clock on your health, the #BodyBabySteps are a great place to start.

And if you’d like some additional help and support to encourage you along the way, that’s what our venture is about. We’d be delighted to discuss helping you more directly, too.

Through the Years at Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic staff have an identification photo taken on the first day of employment and an updated one every five years thereafter.

As I was preparing to retire I asked Julie, my assistant, to retrieve my staff photos from the archive. Here was my evolution from 2000-2008:

I added the facial hair in 2003 when Lisa and I took our six kids (and a nephew) on a two-week vacation to Washington, D.C. With no need to shave, I let I grow.

Lisa liked my goatee and mustache and still won’t let me get rid of them. They had a distinct reddish/orange tint back then.

For some reason I have an extra 2008 portrait. Perhaps Mayo was putting in a new system at the time.

Here are the 2010, 2015 and 2020 editions:

That last photo at right was taken in March 2020, just before we all began working from home.

As I finished my work at Mayo this week, here’s my updated photo in my new home office. I guess I’m a graybeard both in career experience and in physical reality.

I’m thankful to have at least some of my hair remaining.

And looking forward to interesting work in my third career.