June 22, 2014

For my friend.

Hey! so, I bet you're wondering what's going on with my Tabitha/Priscilla Story? Well, truth be told it's slowed to a snail's pace; and in thinking about it, I think one of the major factors is I'm getting to a part of our story that includes some characters that I feel like my writing skills have trouble describing. I just do NOT think I can do them justice!

However, this month marks the birthday of my friend KJ.  This is kind of a special birthday for KJ; for one, he's going to be a teenager and two, it's his first birthday in heaven. I really want to do something special to celebrate such a big birthday event, and I want you all to join me, so I put aside my inability to express myself fully to tell you this:

I met KJ a few days after I went to live in the Ronald McDonald House in Houston, TX. My husband Brett and I had both been praying that my time at the House would be well spent and that I would be able to make some friends while I was there (I was pregnant with twin girls-one who’d already gone on to be with Jesus and the other who was still fighting for Life), and KJ and his mom Jane quickly became part of the answer to that prayer. It's strange to meet a person when they're in the middle of something as life-altering as cancer treatment. I realized quickly as I met people and started to live life with the other families at the RM house that we were all living in a very strange little bubble. A bubble of diagnosis, prognosis, treatments, pain, sickness, good news/bad news, choices and decisions and all that was messily piled on top of the day to day realities of being parents and kids. I could say much about the effects that bubble had on us all but I mention it here only because KJ was unique. Unlike many of the rest of us, the bubble did not seem to affect or define KJ. 
An 11 year old little boy from rural Kentucky, and yet he was really so much more. When I met KJ, he had experienced more difficulty in treatment and prognosis than many of the others at the house at the time. He wore the battle scars of brain cancer and he could have had every reason and excuse to live those scars out. But he didn't. He was so incredibly patient. Cancer treatment is unique in that it has the rare ability to be almost equally as ravaging and brutal to the body as the disease it is made to fight.  I would have dinner with KJ and Jane almost every day, and there were days when his treatment left him exhausted and in even more pain but I never ONCE saw him complain. Not once. He would take phone calls from family members and talk to adults that volunteered at the RM house with a maturity and consideration beyond his years. He made people feel special. He was able to see past his own suffering-and that was a gift.

KJ also had an awesome sense of humor. His wit was quick, so quick that you almost knew that his mind was always looking for ways to make light of situations, he did not let the difficulties of his current state bog him down, and it was almost like he was working hard to make sure it didn't bog down the people around him either.

KJ also had a Hope about him that was Other Worldly. I cannot imagine going through the things he was having to go through with the dogged faith that he did, but I can only say that it HAD to be the supernatural. That kid had such a calm peace about him! In fact, I can honestly say that he was the calmest, most at peace person in that place, and he'd be the first to say it was because of Jesus. He and his mom were continually sharing that they fully believed that Jesus could do All Things and KJ lived that faith out. It is True that Jesus can do All Things, because I saw Him do it in KJ.  

When I met him,  KJ was 11. I say that because he was so very much an 11 year old little boy. You know, the type of 11 year old boy who was super excited about the news that they were going to make more Star Wars movies and who liked to go to Comic book stores to buy just a few more Storm Troopers for his collection. He was an 11 year old boy who would tell me how he'd get up and try to get to the TV rooms before anyone else on Saturday mornings so he could watch the cartoons he wanted to see. He was still the 11 year old boy who loved Olive Garden, especially their pasta and bread sticks. Sickness had not touched these things about him, and it made me love him all the more! 

KJ and Jane and I were buddies, getting through our days in the “Bubble" for a little over 2 months. I was so grateful for Jane's friendship during that time and those 2 months together often feel much longer to me, especially the impact that KJ had on my own life as a mom and just as a person. I was in the very throws of mourning the loss of our yet-to-be-born daughter Priscilla, and watching KJ and Jane’s daily walk through life was balm to my sensitive heart. It was yet another reminder of the fragility of life. The remarkable Gift we are all given each day when we wake up. We all have a choice of how we live that oh-so-special day, and I wanted very much to live it a little bit more like KJ. 

After our daughter Tabitha was born ( healthy as can be, I might add!) I was excited to get back to the Ronald McDonald House for a day or two because I knew KJ was itching to meet her. He'd been eagerly waiting for her birth for days (as we all had!) and having him hold her and tell his mom, later, that maybe one day he'd like to be a Dad was maybe one of the greatest privileges of my life and( to me) made it totally worth it to be away from my own son and hubby for so long. As I headed back to my "regular life”, I'd get phone calls from KJ (he'd gotten his very own cell phone!) and we'd chat about the goings on at the Ronald McDonald House and he'd ask how Baby Tabitha was doing. 

A few months later when KJ had some major setbacks in his sickness and our conversations stopped,  my prayers for him didn't. I would often look at my healthy little baby girl and marvel and then I fall to my knees pleading for a miracle for my friend. And when KJ passed away in  September 2013, I was heartbroken. The letter I wrote for our daughter Priscilla (which you can read here) carried many of the same sentiments I felt about KJ, the loss of someone that I knew the world would miss! I knew that an awesome son and friend and future dad were lost to us all and it hurt.  And my hurt for his parents who lost their only son- was an indescribable ache. What to do with such hurt and pain?  
And after much prayer and asking of the Lord,  I've decided the only way to deal with them is to try and acknowledge them-not to push them away-understanding and experiencing the Pain of life is to hopefully point us to Heaven. They point us to Christ. He is the only One able to Hold our suffering when we can't. I also want to use that pain to motivate me to make this life, this world, a little bit more liveable because honestly, KJ taught me that life is a beautiful and a delicate gift and that gift is meant to be share with others. He taught me that while he was alive, and I hope that I can carry that with me and honor him in my actions now that he can't do it himself. 

As I celebrate his birthday on the 24th of June, I’d like to honor his life with a little "acts of kindness" movement.  Big or small, I hope that you will join me in honoring my dear friend's life by showing love to those that cross your path on his birthday. I also hope that we can use his birthday to remind his wonderful parents what a fantastic son they raised.  Remind them that his impact lives on and his many fantastic qualities were passed on and shared. If you decide to join me in doing an act of kindness for KJ, will you document it on your social media of choice? I know we usually try to stay anonymous when it comes to doing nice things, but this time its not for us, its for KJ and his parents. His parents have Facebook and I will do my best to transfer any instagram and twitter submissions to Facebook so they can see them. But, wherever you choose to share your act, would you mind using the hashtag:  #kindnessesforKJ  

(If you aren't familiar with hashtags all you have to do is type it out JUST LIKE THAT -no spaces please- on your Facebook status or on your tweet or instagram comment and it will automatically be "categorized" so that when you click on it, it will take us to ALL the acts of kindness that have been done. )

And feel free to use the picture above if you'd like, if you want to share this story on your own blog or social media! Thanks dear friends! xoxox

June 21, 2014

Heart in my throat

So, things have been a bit tenuous lately. And after the most recent developments I'm going to share about it here. Mostly because I'm selfish and I covet some extra prayers. And I definitely say selfishly because I know there are much greater needs to be prayed for-because the bottom-line I know that we are covered by a lot of Grace around here and that He will not desert us.

Ok, so now to my crazy tale:

At the end of May I developed a case of Strep throat. It was uncomfortable to say the least but I was able carry on daily activities of caring for kids and going to a play dates at Chick-fil-A and having house guests etc. However, very suddenly, I couldn't do any of these things any more. Within an hour ( as in in the middle of our oven blowing up-quite literally- and dinner needing to be on the table I told my poor husband-bless him.... I had to go to bed). While I lay there in bed wondering why I couldn't even swallow without excruciating pain, I got a text from a friend in our ministry here saying "Great news! We met a few ladies while out giving out cookies and praying for people, who REALLY want to learn about Jesus, can you come with me tomorrow night to share some Stories of Hope!?!" -
I was so bummed, this was a long long long awaited answer to prayer, but by the next day I found myself at the ER. Where I was diagnosed with a Peritonsillar Abscess. In a way I felt justified for feeling so bad and a little mad that the ER had so clearly laughed at me and left me without even a triage for over 4 hours. But I was given a steroid shot, some much needed pain relief, and some strong antibiotics to hopefully get rid of the Abscess. I felt better within 12 hours. But I'd missed my chance to go share with those ladies, something I'd been praying I'd get to do for....well...basically a year.

But there'd be another chase the next week! The ladies were hungry for Truth and I was excited about their next meeting. It turned out they meet again within the next two weeks. The day we were planning to meet, I had finished my round of antibiotics and my throat returned to fire. The abscess was back. I was back on antibiotics and I was once again missing a chance to meet with the ladies.

However the doctors were positive. They figured it would just take a "bit longer" for the antibiotics to work on the abscess. So I took the medicine, felt better pretty quickly and didn't think much more about it. I was even able to finally  meet with the ladies! It was great!  I even packed up those antibiotics and headed off on a lovely vacation with my parents and sister's family. And finished up all my meds a few days before heading home. And then....

The night I returned I got a sore throat. I knew it was coming back. It was a classic repeat of the time before, and the time before that! But this time I figured I had one difference!! I wasn't schedule to meet with the ladies again for 3 days! I had time to get this taken care of!! I headed to the ER* again the next morning. It was 7am, the ER was empty. I was in and out again in an hour. With nothing. I was told it was "probably a virus" and that I just needed to suck it up. They did give me a steroid pill, so I figured they were right and started the "sucking up process". I made it another day and a half. But by day 3 ( you guessed it, right on time to meet with the ladies) I was literally in tears from the pain.

Which brings me to my latest and hopefully last ER visit. I INSISTED on seeing the ENT, and was finally given a CT scan of my throat. Sure enough I've got myself a rocking abscess that just doesn't want to go away. My options were all pretty gruesome and all included antibiotics so we've decided on a "compromise" of sorts. I will be taking ANOTHER round of a DIFFERENT antibiotic in the hopes that this one will actually work without invasive actions. And if it doesn't, I'll be finding out ( as in finishing the meds) right before we leave on our long LONG awaited vacation to see Brett's Dad's side of the family up in  Maryland.  The plan is that if it doesn't work this time, I'll see the Ear Nose and Throat Doctors before we leave, get more antibiotics and schedule a tonsillectomy for when I get back. Which sounds all well and good except that I know how tired my body already is. I know that antibiotics are great, but they seem to be doing more and more harm to my body in side affects than good, even now two days into this round, my throat is still struggling-which is not a good sign. The thought of dealing with that struggle while also dealing with the added stressors of travel is a disappointment. And I also know that Brett is leaving for a 3 week training exercise in Indiana when we return from Maryland, and therefore it will require other family to step in and help me out in my recovery from surgery.

So, friends, to sum up, its been crazy around here. And I have been left feeling weak. Weak emotionally, spiritually and definitely physically.  But, I've also been here before. In fact, we've been in FAR greater straits then these! And we've always had a Heavenly Father to pull us through! I look forward to seeing His Mighty Hands at work. I'll keep you updated....

*You may wonder why I go to the ER and not my "regular doctor"? Because its nearly IMPOSSIBLE to get appointments with my regular doctor. I've called in extreme pain and told the next available appoint was 3 weeks away. Such is military medicine. If you live with it, you know what I'm talking about. The rest of you refrain from talking about ER abuse around me.

June 16, 2014

Reach out and touch somebody....

As part of my bible study a week or so ago I came across something that I don't think I'd noticed before. And being a verbal learner it took two discussions with two different groups of people for it to even start to set in....so, I figured, why not seal the deal and "work it out real good" here on my blog....

So I was reading in Mark 5: 21-43. Which in my Bible is captioned "Jesus Heals a Woman and Jairus' Daughter" but what I wish the people who translate Bibles had titled something along the lines of, "Jesus is all about the Journey" or something equally cheesy. Maybe we can count on that for the next version of The Message, but I digress...what I mean, to say, is that here's Jesus and this super important man ( Jairus) comes along and says "My daughter's super sick, please come quickly and heal her!" and so Jesus slowly makes his way with a GIANT crowd of people following him.
Fellow disciples ( not just the 12! He's got a LOT of disciples!), curious bystanders, and sick people clambering to be healed....that makes for a pretty large group! I can only imagine that walking with that kinda crowd would be hard and so, it only makes sense that Jesus would be touched by a woman who wanted so desperately to be healed by him. He then STOPS and asks "Who touched me?!" ( you can read all the details in Mark-and you should! Its so fabulous!) and spends time talking to this woman-and enough time passes that Jairus' servants come to tell him that his daughter has passed away.
Of course, the disciples and the rest of crowd are like, "Fail Jesus!" you totally missed out on healing a major spiritual leaders daughter and thus gaining the correct notoriety that we all hope to receive. ( you know, more legit than just the Crowd). BUT as you will know if you continue reading in the chapter that Jesus actually proves them all wrong by telling everyone to stay put and he and only three of his disciples go to Jairus' house where he proceeds to raise the little girl from the dead!

Now, up until recently I'd looked at these two events as connected only in the sense that the healing of the Woman was cause and effect for raising the little girl from the dead! But I now think it might be so much more!

As someone who's trying really hard to reach people for Jesus, I can go hurdling through my week until I reach the next "Christian milestone", either our planned family outings to go take cookies to neighbors and offering to pray with them, or bible studies, or church, or accountability groups....these are all things I can put on my calendar and I put my head down and "do business" till I get to the next one.

When I look at this story about Jesus, I can see how Jairus' daughter is kinda of like one of those Big Deal events of my week. ( "Heal major Jewish Leader's daughter" ( check!) ), but unlike me-who would have probably IMMEDIATELY sent away the crowd and only had my 3 best buds come along for the journey to make it all go smoother and so I'd get there in a timely fashion to do my healing-Jesus didn't. He walked along, with all those people clambering around him. Kinda like an almost 4 year old, and maybe an almost 18 month old, perhaps? Or maybe a lot like the annoyingly slow guy in the check out in front of me at the grocery store today? Or maybe the overly chatty lady at the library when I'm trying to get us home for lunch, maybe?
Basically, I was convicted that, to Jesus, ALL of the people were important, not just the "important" ones-or the ones who he'd made a commitment to....How many "hemorrhaging" people do we pass up on a daily basis because we're all too busy rushing on to our next part of our day, and then we only spend time loving on people for Jesus at certain set aside times?! This is craziness! And maybe I'm the only one, but I am so glad I noticed this little truth in my readings. As wonderful and important as the set aside times are ( because lets be honest, if Abigail doesn't plan, than she starts to go a little crazy), but I want to have an ATTITUDE of Love and Kindness for all those who cross my path each and every day!