Sunday, December 1, 2019

Getting ready...

It's late. I have so many things I'd love to finish before I climb into bed, but I know most will have to wait. I have however been able to check a few things off my to do list...yay! Coming home from five days away, with 7 people is not for the faint of heart. Haha! Amidst my unlit Christmas tree, laundry pile and sink of sippy, travel & coffee cups, I just had to take a minute to stop and write. 

My heart is heavy tonight. I have a laundry basket of freshly washed baby clothes, a car seat sitting in our living room and a bassinet ready to be moved into my room. There's a pack a diapers and wipes in the baby bathtub and a can of formula in the cabinet. I have all these things ready, just in case, but tonight I've been wondering if another mom across town has been preparing too?? Foster care is such a roller coaster. You see, sometime soon, the mom of three little ones, that also call me Momma, will be having her 4th baby. She hopes to take this baby home with her. I've been told to be ready for a baby. It's hard to be prepared when you have so many other things that could use your time, energy & finances, but at the same time, how can I not do these things to be "ready"?!  I've often said that foster care causes you to do so many permanent things for such temporary situations - and let me tell you, they are totally worth it! Washing the clothes, collecting things from family or friends and purchasing the vehicle big enough for us all are just small steps to truly being "ready"

My husband often says, that I get myself worked up over things that may not be reality. That the way I think of situations and settings is quite possibly not that way a bio mom or dad may be thinking about the same situations. While this may be true, I know that this mom is wanting her baby to go home with her. But what if that doesn't happen? Does the crib sit empty? Does a car seat get moved to the corner to collect dust? Do tiny baby clothes, hang in the closet just to be surpassed by a rapidly growing babe? If so, for how long and what does it do to that Momma's heart?!  My husband is likely right about many thought processes being different, but this one, this one is tough and my heart aches for the mom facing labor and the uncertainty that will immediately follow. My heart aches for this brand, new life that may not go home to be snuggled near the heartbeat that was the soundtrack of "home" the past 9 months. My heart aches for the situation to be different, but I am not the one that can change that. 

I am not completely powerless though...many moments have been filled with prayers whispered under my breath for this little one that is starting out quite differently from most. Prayers for protection from harm, for a safe delivery, for a smooth transition to whichever home has the honor of welcoming the life just starting out! I can provide love, security and care. I can pray not only for these little ones, but also for the mom or dad that needs to work hard to reunify with their children. 

This situation is not so different from many we face each day. We may be powerless to change the cause of our struggle or challenge, but we aren't actually powerless. God wants to use us to bring hope and healing to every person we meet.  He wants to give us the strength to overlook the hurt or wrong and see the heart. To see what He sees!  
I pray that today, we will seek to see what God sees, love like He loves and open our hearts to whatever He allows to cross our paths!

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Thankfulness

Today is Thanksgiving Day. I have looked forward to this day for weeks now. Not because I wanted to wait until today to be thankful, but because it's a day when the everyday routines get to go on pause and I can truly reflect on the many things for which I can be thankful! It's the holiday we typically get to spend at my parent's house and I've really been looking forward to that as well. Me and the crew of 5 Littles set out a day ahead of Daddy, to get on to Florida yesterday morning. Atlanta traffic did not disappoint ;) and Auburn and Montgomery got in on the fun too, so our 6-6.5 hour trip turned into more of a 9-9.5 hour trip. Today I have really been under the weather but it has given me lots of time to think as I rest. To thank God for the many things He has done this year and the special people He has worked through to bless and encourage me this year.

My thankfulness this year is far greater than years past!  Part of my realization this year is that at all times, we have so much to be thankful for...many times things that we aren't even aware of and always, things that we don't take the time to acknowledge or choose thankfulness about!  Most of all, I'm thankful that the Creator of this world loves me and sees me right where I am! That He is not turned away by my questions or fears and that He is continually working all for my good as I trust Him.  

I am more thankful than words can express that God kept Mark and that we are able to celebrate this Thanksgiving together! I remember sitting by his hospital bed, praying for his healing, yet simultaneously wondering what was ahead.  It was a bit like creeping into a dark, unfamiliar room as I allowed my thoughts to go to the 'what if God doesn't choose to heal him the way I'm praying?' What will my life look like then? I remember trying to see the Holidays - Thanksgiving & Christmas - and wondering how could we even face them if God didn't choose to heal Mark here on this earth?? It was a test of my trust in God for sure, but also a moment when I chose to stand for healing and believe that God could do what seemed so difficult. I'm so thankful that He chose to heal Mark!! I have a new passion for standing by Mark's side and serving God together, in whatever way He leads!

I'm also thankful for the multitudes of people, literally around the world, that prayed and stood with us, in faith, for healing. The body of Christ has blown me away this year and the timing of it, is not wasted on me. I am humbled and thankful for every single person that prayed, cooked a meal, brought a gift, took care of our children, gave financially and asked, "How is Mark?". Seriously, each one impacted our lives far beyond that moment. I am still drawing from those blessings today and still thanking God for how He works through His people! So to each one of you that fall into any of these categories above - THANK YOU!

I'm thankful for my children. They have faced some really difficult situations through 2019 and although it's not easy, it's an honor to call on Jesus to take all these things and use them as fertilizer in their soul. To help positively mold and shape their calling and use them to touch others who will face difficult situations as well. I'm thankful that even in the midst of the weeds of working through all their struggles, God gave us a Word about His purposes for them and it was the boost we needed to continue just standing alongside them, helping them work through emotions, fears and frustrations. God's plans for them are incredible and I'm so thankful I get to watch it unfold from the front row! 

Stepping into foster care this year has opened my eyes to an entire world of thankfulness that I never knew before. None of us choose when, where or to whom we will be born. We can not choose or change those situations, but can always find God in them if we look for Him (much like every other situation in life). I'm so thankful that my parents worked hard and led me to Jesus, not everyone has that blessing. I'm also incredibly humbled that God would choose to use us to stand in the gap for kids who's parent's are facing tough situations. God has taught me so much about His care for me when I mess up, His forgiveness & His plan through these three little ones He has blessed us with this year. It's brought many struggles, especially with all of Mark's health struggles, but we wouldn't want to be anywhere else that here, in the midst of God's plan for our lives. 

I'm thankful for God's peace and healing for family. Even through some scary diagnosis and situations. Some of them He has resolved already and others we are still standing in faith for healing. We know He can and trust Him to do what He sees as best!

I'm thankful for God's calling on my life. Although it's taken me through some situations I never dreamed of walking through, it's all been for Him and because of that good can come from every mountaintop or valley experience, equally!  The old song, Because He Lives, comes to mind... anything and everything can be faced, because He didn't just die for us, He defeated death and rose again and is preparing a place for us, even now!  For that, I'm unequivocally thankful!  Happy Thanksgiving, Friends!

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Who's Your Boss?


I'm already posting again...Crazy I know.  Haha!  Life is so busy and I often have great intentions to write an update or share something I've been thinking over, but then sleep overtakes me. Thankfully we are sensing a bit more settling and that is a welcome thing!

The past week has been tough though. From car problems, to the stomach bug {me being victim #4} to heavy thoughts & decisions needing to be made, to just parenting 5 children - 3 if whom have been through so much in their short lives, to another ER visit for Mark, yesterday. Whew!  Life comes at you like that from time to time. 

Yesterday, Mark had a pain issue that has been building and suddenly was pretty severe. Like 10 out of 10. You're probably thinking, well why did you let it get that bad?! I would likely be thinking the same thing....but it's something we have spoken to a couple of his doctors about on several occasions and they blew it off as a symptom of his picc line. Well, the picc line came out two days prior to this intense pain, so that could no longer be the source and it really amped up as well so we figured we should get on in to see what the cause might be. Mark suspected pleurisy, but some of the symptoms didn't seem to match up, and regardless of the cause, he needs relief. 

*This post is not intended to put down any medical system or professional* but y'all, our medical system in America is not good. The heart of my post is what we as Christians should do with low work ethic around us, and declining standards of care whether in healthcare or otherwise...

Yesterday, I called Mark's doctor's office and spoke with the sweet lady at the front desk who was generally concerned. She said because of the nature of the need and issues he has had and is currently having her computer wouldn't allow her to schedule him. I'm assuming because of liability - when the patient says "chest pain", you can't just schedule them for next Friday and hope all is well until then. 👀 She did say, let me transfer you to the nurse and if she thinks it's not urgent, then she can give you an appointment. Call is transferred, but no one answers. I left a detailed message explaining what is currently going on as well as what he has just been through. I still haven't received a call back more than 24 hours later. This is sad. 

We decided that waiting may not be in his best interest so we just headed on the ER. Although quickly placed in a trauma room, he was able to get a fantastic nap because no one came to the room for well over an hour. Now, I will certainly tell you, we were in no way in need of a trauma room, but because of his history and the recentness of his surgery and infection they placed us there but didn't follow through. When the doctor came in, other than listening to his heartbeat and a quick push on the place of pain, there was no exam and no real attention to any details of what has been going on. As he left, I whispered, "Wow, he didn't seem like a doctor at all", and Mark replied, "No kidding!  He really reminded me of a taxi driver".  Hahaha!!  And he was right!  


All of this got me thinking about a number of similar situations in the hospital and in working with doctor's offices over the past few months. It all really made me wonder...for who or what are all these people working? Then, I asked myself the same question?? Who am I hoping to make proud? From whom am I hoping to receive promotion?  As followers of Jesus, our mission is to make His name known and to bring honor to God our Father through ALL of our work. Not just the service project from our church or the money we give to missions. NO! Mommas, it's through folding our laundry, making lunches, balancing work and family, getting up at 3am again, going to the grocery store, listening to our kids as they walk through tough times, and on and on. And Dads, it's going to that job that is such a drag, or heading to your second job to get your family ahead, it's being engaged in mealtime or game time when you would rather do most anything else, it's putting together your child's toy or the broken gutter or a broken heart, it's keeping the yard in order....students, it's doing your school work as unto the Lord - as if He is the only one asking you to do it.  And why?? God's word says to do EVERYTHING as unto the Lord. EVERYTHING!!  Not the things you enjoy, or the things labeled as spiritual. It's the things you enjoy least. It's your secular job or maybe your church job. It's the thing He has called you to do. Or maybe the thing you are doing right now as you wait on His timing for what He has for you next! It is whatever He has placed right in front of you today!  But how can you motivate yourself to keep this up on days that it's really, really hard?? The simple phrase - "Great is your reward in Heaven"  

If every Christian working in healthcare worked their job fully as unto the Lord, then no government breakdown or restriction could keep it from improving. If every Christian teacher worked as unto the Lord, then our school system could be changed for the better. If every person in ministry could recognize when they step across the line of this thing, big or small, could make a difference in someone's eternity to I have to get this done before Sunday, then our churches could see revival!  We could go through every industry in America and say the same thing and every single one could be touched by the passionate work we could accomplish, as Christians, when we stop seeing our earthly boss as the one watching and the one we're working for, and see Jesus in that position!

Not only does our work improve when we have this mindset, but our expectation of the outcome of our work improves as well!  We begin to see Jesus in situations we may have missed Him in before. I've challenged myself today, to fill up the dishwasher with a great attitude, to smile as I sweat while putting out all my fall flowers and decor in 98* weather, to stay patient when bedtime lingers and the stalling tactics grow stronger, to give hugs before discipline when I'm frustrated at attitudes that are crummy. I want to see Jesus in everything I do, and do everything for Him!  

I'm thankful for His hand on Mark and trust that He can work through this new medication whether we're really treating the real issue or not!  😝  Who knows, maybe taxi cab drivers make good doctors too??!  Happy Thursday, Friends ~

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Fading


I just love when lights fade smoothly on a set or music is faded so smoothly that at first you don't even realize it. It's such and easy transition from one thing to another and I'm all about that life. Most of the time though, actual life doesn't play out that way. It's lights flipping on at the end of a much too short night of sleep, or music bumping to a screeching halt of silence. Our life has felt a bit like that over the past few months. Although it wasn't the very first time he's driven away since his illness, I couldn't keep the tears from forming as I watched the tail lights on Mark's car fade as he drove to work for the first time today. The last time he drove to work was in July...today is crazily, October. OCTOBER! We are different people now. Our kids have been changed as well and some days, like today, I wonder if their little hearts will ever feel secure again. I know it takes Jesus and often, just lots of time, but the change is hard in many ways. Our old lives seem to have faded away and walking confidently in the new way of life can be tough.  

At the beginning of all of this for Mark, I knew and I think he did as well, deep in our deepest place that something was seriously wrong, but who wants to believe that or accept that?! The room I walked into following his heart cath had a huge window with sun streaming in, yet it felt incredibly dark and cold. Not only was the news not what we wanted to hear, but it was way, way worse. A thousand questions went through my mind, while trying to hold it together for him because I knew so many more thoughts were running through his. All the fears from his first surgery returned to me, fears I thought I had laid to rest. The weight of not one child at home, but now five tugged at me with a swirling chaos. Then the uncertainty of his wishes regarding an impending surgery felt crushing. You see, after his first surgery, he said, I won't do this again. If it happens again, then it's just my time to go. Let me die. 
I could not even allow myself to go through that phrase in my mind, yet I could not get it to leave. I silently prayed that my legs could continue to hold me up and that my face could remain calm, even if everything inside me wasn't. 

The night after this, I began waking up several times a night, in a complete panic. I couldn't explain it and yet couldn't stop it. After this happened sometime late Thursday night, I did my usual prayer and declaration of peace and God's best not only for Mark, but for myself and our family, but I couldn't go back to sleep. I grabbed my phone and read through some scripture and a devotion then curled back into my chair in hopes of getting another hour or two of sleep before someone popped in for blood pressure, labs or another x-ray. I didn't feel like I went to sleep, but I also didn't feel fully awake but I began seeing scenes play out in my mind. It was much more real than a dream. I saw us at the hospital, I saw us hugging and saying see you later, I saw myself sitting in a room and then I saw Mark start to rise up into the air. I was then outside watching him and he continued to go higher and then stopped and was just suspended in mid-air, surrounded by beautiful, puffy, white clouds. Then I saw a blinding light and knew it was God our Father and Mark then looked away from me up toward Heaven. I began begging God to give us more time on earth together. I felt like I should say something really spiritual, and wanted so badly to do so. Something like Your will be done, or it's okay if You have another plan, but in my vision, I didn't. I did however hear, Him say something to me about words. Something along the lines of it's in your words. Everything went black. I had no resolution or promise of what may happen.  I "woke up" literally sobbing like I had been in this vision. A deep, aching began inside me that I couldn't shake. I wanted every moment we had together because I didn't know how many might be left, and then I realized that every day on this earth is like that. Sometimes we get the gradual fade of a long life, lived well, but other times we don't. There isn't a fade. It's light and then it's dark. My outlook on everything during those days changed, yet it should have already been this way, really, but it's tough. We don't often live life in true light of eternity. Humanity causes us to live as if this life is the pinnacle, but really, we're just beginning here. 


I didn't know what to do with what I had seen, so I just asked God for wisdom. SO.MANY.TIMES I wanted to climb up on the bed with Mark and pour it out to him and just cry, but something stopped me - Let me insert this here, that if you are unsure about the work of the Holy Spirit in your life, this is a fantastic example. He kept me from speaking as the Lord began to show me some truth. - As surgery day drew closer, my dread grew stronger.  The day before surgery didn't go at all as hoped. I wanted us to have a special time with our kids and talk about life and love and that didn't happen. When our children headed home, I almost told Mark why I was so upset about not getting to spend that time with them, but the phrase, power of life and death kept replaying in my mind and I stopped again. Every moment alone, in the restroom, the elevator, the waiting room or the car brought uncontrollable tears and prayers for Mark to come through this, for hope and faith that God's best could be accepted as "the best" in my life, no matter what it might be.  

Surgery day.... what a day! It started earlier than they had said it would which added to my chaotic thoughts. I've been in pre-op rooms many, many times and this was so different. 
It felt rushed. They did very little durin gour brief time there and the doctor didn't even come by, so when they suddenly said, give your hugs and kisses, everything in me wanted to scream, it's not time!! I could barely even get I love you out because of my overwhelming emotions. I felt selfish in that moment for not being able to say more or even stand there and watch until they faded down the hallway, but I knew I could only hold it together for so long and I didn't want to fall a part in front of Mark, so away we went. 

Waiting on anything is hard...for Christmas to come, for your name to be called at the doctor's office, for school to end, for your grandparents to arrive, for your baby to be born, for morning to come...waiting is almost always hard. For me, waiting in a surgery waiting room with lots of chatter and jokes and laughter is so very difficult. I know folks mean well and it's not something I love about myself, but it's part of my make-up. In this situation with so much weighing on my mind, it was even more difficult. I needed to stay on top of my thoughts. I have said it so many times throughout the past few months, but it was and sometimes still is a constant battle to take thoughts captive. It is as if, my thoughts continue to build, even while carrying on other conversations, then I suddenly feel buried under them. I sat by the window in the furthest corner of the waiting room and watched the sun rise. It was a beautiful day, but I kept seeing the image from a few nights before replay in my mind as I watched the clouds move. When surgery was over and the doctor spoke with us, I was relieved, yet felt something restraining my feeling of relief. After briefly seeing Mark, then a time of waiting, a volunteer took me to see the area I would be able to stay for that evening. He was an older gentleman who was so gracious and kind. He said, oh, lets walk very slowly so you can see your husband, as we neared his room. We did, and it was wonderful. The nurse gave me a smile and nod as we went past. As we returned about 15 minutes later, he again said, we can walk by very slowly, but a nurse interrupted his words as she ran out of room 10 in ICU. She looked at me and said, "Oh good, we need you to come in here right now. Remember when you saw him a bit ago, we talked about more than 250cc of blood lost in an hour? Remember how we said, that would be too much? Well he's lost 200cc in less than 15 minutes. They're clearing the OR and he's going into surgery now. Say your goodbyes, we have to go." 



That vision came back, fiercely, in that moment. I kissed his pale face and they unhooked things faster than I thought possible and they began wheeling him away. A surgeon I had never met walked up and said, "We are going to do all we can. We will have to open him back up and we will try to find the source of the bleeding." And suddenly a very busy room, was empty and things were all over the floor. It felt like I couldn't even make my way out, because all I could see was Mark, suspended in the air between Heaven and earth. My feet were lead, but somehow carried me back to the waiting room. There was still family and several friends there in the waiting area and we all began to pray. They held me up and interceded for me and for Mark when we needed it most. The next few hours we mostly sat in silence. Waiting. Every imaginable thought went through my mind... Gracious, what a story God was writing... How would I tell my children that their Daddy went to Heaven?... What lasting effect might he have from this complication?... How does a person leave the hospital without the patient and without ever coming back to get them?... And a hundred and one other questions.... Today, marks a day we can finally say, we are on the "other side of this", but it hasn't come without challenges and even new worries, just tonight. The enemy is relentless in his attempt to derail our thoughts from what God has to what could be. I pray we never let go of the lessons we've learned, the struggles we've made it through and the strength we have received from Jesus!! 

The Holy Spirit taught me some things through all of this and even more as we went back into the hospital a week later for an infection that could have also, easily taken Mark's life. When we allow it, He works on us while God the Father works in us. I learned a new facet of the scripture in Proverbs 18:21 - the power of life and death are in the tongue. I always understood it to mean, in very simple terms, speak positively. Although I knew this vision wasn't of my own imagination, especially when he began to bleed out, I felt restrained from speaking it to anyone else. Not "giving life" to this by telling Mark or anyone else gave me something that just God and I knew. I could intercede for this, specifically, without letting my emotions get out of control. And I had to do it. Not just for Mark, but for myself as well. In doing this I also realized that the Holy Spirit had gone before the situation and although I didn't expect something bad to happen, I did expect and know with certainty that whatever did happen that day, in the days following or even in days still yet to come, God would not leave me and would be carrying me through moments that felt unbearable. He had prepared me for the unexpected; for the moment I felt as if everything in my life as I knew it might be fading away.

The moments following the call back to give me the report from the second surgery were excruciating. They led me back to an area that looked much like the picture above. It was called the Quiet Room. A room in which I had not previously met the doctor. Post surgery #1, he met us and talked freely in the hallway...this time they led me to this doctor's consult room, quietly asked me to take a seat, then shut the door as they walked away. On our way there, we walked right past ICU room 10. It was empty. The lights were off. No nurses buzzed around the room. My heart may have stopped beating for a moment. Even as I type this, I feel a weight in my chest that makes it hard to breathe.  I honestly have no idea how long I sat there in that room. It felt like hours, yet may have been a mere 5 minutes. With every breath, I asked God to calm my mind and heart. It was the only way I felt I could continue breathing.  After speaking with the doctor at that time and another surgeon a couple hours later, they both spoke grimly and said, it's still touch and go. Words so hard to hear, yet as I replayed the things that had happened throughout the previous few days, God filled me with strength in those moments and in so many following. 

I always try to wrap up with thankfulness but also with something I pray someone will be able to take away and be encouraged by or challenged personally. Our thoughts can run wild day and night, but be aware of what you give life to through your words. Even jokingly, our words carry more weight than we realize. I'm sure most have heard the phrase "battlefield of the mind" and it is absolutely true, but you have the power to give life to it or to kill those thoughts that try to run wild by what you speak and what you hold back. When you don't see it or can't understand it, whatever "it" is in your life, speak the words of God and watch life come to yourself or the situation you are facing. Trust the work God is doing around you. Allow it to prepare you for what He sees is ahead even when it makes no sense. Seeing those images made no sense to me. I hated them, in fact. I wished with everything in me I could unsee them. A few days later, they were the very images that pushed me to pray like never before and trust in what I could not see.



Our story is still being written. Our journey to healthier living is far from over. If I'm being honest, the challenges of this disease aren't gone now and will likely always be unless God supernaturally heals. Through it all, we will speak life. We will allow God to prepare us, as He sees fit, for what only He knows is ahead. Some days recovery has felt like we are fading away into the unknown, but we trust that what may be the unknown to man is always known to God. We will continue to thank God for folks, literally around the world that prayed on Mark's behalf as well as those who tangibly touched us during this time of illness. 


Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Strength AND Weakness


There is a psychological syndrome that stands out so vividly from my studies in college. I had never heard of it until that particular day in class and immediately felt like all eyes were on me or like I was in a spotlight when we began studying the ins and outs of this problem. It is known as impostor syndrome.  I know that there are physical challenges and changes that can happen in our brains and/or body systems that cause true & serious mental and psychological diseases. I also fully believe that because of this, satan lies to us and fights a battle in our minds that often causes us to believe we are captive to issues that aren't really there. Please don't misunderstand my point - there are many real, diagnosable mental or psychological diseases that can affect any one of us, just like physical diseases...but unlike physical diseases, the enemy can mask things in our minds because a scan or blood test can not prove or disprove it and cause us to be crippled by what may be, within our minds. 

In no way do I "claim" to have impostor syndrome, but there are times, that the enemy wages a war in my mind that causes me to doubt every positive work, accomplishment or calling God has for my life and family. Many of you have spoken such kind words to me over the course of Mark's illness that have encouraged me and put a smile on my face as I share the things we have seen & felt. We've had the privilege of hearing that others have been challenged in a good way and motivated to keep the faith through troubles they are facing as well. That blesses us and makes me thank Jesus that He is bringing so much good out of this bad situation we've been walking through. There are still days though that I'm overcome with emotions, that I struggle to keep balance, that I don't lay my frustrations at Jesus' feet & don't always think before I speak. 

Those times, cause me to doubt. I ask myself if I've even really felt all the things I've been able to share through this blog. And then, on top of that, I can get down over doubting myself and the work God has done in me through all of this. I often think of and fear, in a good way, being like Jonah. Enduring a major struggle {living in the belly of giant, swimming creature seems pretty overwhelming and then being a part of projectile vomit seems like a pretty rough "rescue"}, then finding a way to complete the task God has in front of you, receiving a reward {huge vine growing up before your eyes to provide you shade and rest}, yet throwing it all away because of wrong attitudes and motives...this is NEVER how I want to live my life.

Yet, when I walk through difficulty, stay strong in faith, and then struggle, I wonder how different am I from Jonah?? Then the enemy piles on the lies and guilt, and feelings of being an impostor flood my mind. As I was reading a devotion earlier today, God gave me a beautiful picture that I hope I can convey to you clearly. My happy place is the beach. I literally feel like I breathe better, I think more clearly & peace flows more freely. I love to watch sea oats and after growing up near the Gulf, I feel obligated to protect them when I see them. Just ask my kiddos how I act if they even get near one...I'm sure they would say I act like a crazy person...haha! Sea oats do a huge job, yet even a gentle breeze can sway them and give them the appearance of being weak. These small stalks though, have roots that do an irreplaceable job. Without these weed-like structures, our beaches would never be able to with stand the continual battering they take from the wind and the waves. 

This morning, God so graciously showed me that being blown, feeling emotions and even struggling to stand is not a failure and certainly not an admission of being an impostor. If my roots are deep in Him, then when my emotions show or my frame becomes weak, I'm able to show my weakness and His strength. He is holding onto my roots because I've allowed them to grow deep in Him and He desires that we do everything we can to keep that growth going deeper and deeper.  There is no limit to the depth we can go in Him. There is a limit to the physical abilities we can accomplish and the length of life we can live on this earth, but there is no limit to what is unseen, to what happens in our quiet place, that only He and I know about. 

If you're swaying in the wind, look within, and check your roots. If they are showing, don't give up and allow yourself to be uprooted and fly away. Focus on your roots and on pushing them deeper into our Maker. When we can be honest about our weakness, He can be stronger in us than we ever thought possible! 


This week is truly an opportunity to put some more depth on our roots.We are hoping and praying that this will be the final week of IV meds for Mark. How will we respond if it isn't? How will we respond if it is? Then there are still several things ahead that we will just have to continue to pray and wait for the answer and the plan. One being the incision that just doesn't want to close. Another, will the pacemaker be necessary or not?  I often pray that I will live with stronger awareness of so many things that God has shown me over the past couple of months & I trust that just as He has kept us and worked through the unexpected, the near death & the unknown for us, He will continue, no matter what may come. A new phase of recovery is on the horizon, and we are thrilled to finally be at this point. We know that cardiac rehab will have it's challenges, but they are worth it for improved physical strength for Mark and knowledge to walk out the future plans God has for us in greater health!

I feel like so many of my endings are the same, but the feelings and heart behind them are always sincere - we are so thankful for all the prayers as well as tangible signs of love and care that have been shown to us. We feel unworthy of it all, but receive it with deep gratitude and pray that the reaping of those seeds sown by so many, will be far greater than imagined! 

Monday, September 16, 2019

40%

The return address on this manilla folder was not legible and I had no idea who sent it or what might be inside. As I pulled these papers out, it felt as if I was seeing our situation for the first time and tears flooded my eyes as I sat in car line. It has been 8 weeks since we first went to the hospital, yet in this moment, it felt like I was hearing all the difficult conversations that had happened over the month of Mark's hospital stay, all over again. 


Often times in the middle of the struggle, you are simply in a position of survival. You don't always view the entire road map, so to speak, just the part currently being traveled. I believe God helps us through painful, dark places this way, but at some point, reality comes. The vantage point shows not only where we are, but where we've been & occasionally a glimpse of what is ahead. This was an intense moment of reality for me. Reality of what has been, reality of what can no longer be, reality of not knowing what could be ahead...but also reality of God's goodness. 

Those realities brought uncontrollable emotions. Three 100% blockages. 100%. That in itself is hard to grasp, plus three more significant blockages just blows my mind. I couldn't help but think of all the "what ifs" and lately, I do this often. In this situation, I believe it's okay. It's proof of God's protection. Just a few days after hearing surgery was our only option for treatment, we faced the immense difficulties of surgery day. Those are still for another day. Some other time when my heart feels more prepared to open up to that, but there were moments of breathlessness, moments of overwhelming questions, moments of waiting upon waiting upon waiting, moments of emotional heaviness that literally became and still does give an actual physical heaviness in my chest. As we tried to settle into home, I felt an uneasiness and as I watched Mark, I knew something was not as it should be. When we returned to the hospital and the ER doc grabbed my shoulder and thanked me for bringing him when I did, I knew this wasn't an ordinary fever/infection. Again, so thankful for what I didn't know at the time, but as we began to feel that we were climbing out of this pit we had fallen into, and more information became available, I realized a bit more why the ER doctor has made that statement to me two weeks prior... 40%. 
40% chance of rain typically means go ahead with your outdoor plans. 
40% battery life on your phone doesn't warrant rushing to plug it in. 
40% off is a decent sale, but it doesn't grab my attention. 
But a 40% mortality rate is HUGE. How can the same percentage have such a different weight?! The type of infection that Mark has been fighting off has a 40% mortality rate. This number sunk deep within me. With all the other complications he has had, I had a moment of just curling up in bed and crying out to God. It wasn't some deep, faith-filled prayer, it was just a cry of heaviness. A cry for help, for peace & for healing. I read something recently though that put a spark in me and can be applied to big and small situations the same...Being certain of the wrong things is what makes faith fall apart, not simply doubt. 

In my moment, I felt doubt about our situation and doubt that I could adequately care for Mark as he needed for proper healing as well as keep up with all the other needs of a household of 7. But what I was certain of in that moment, even with my doubt, was that God would not leave me. That He saw right where I was and exactly what I needed! What's even better is that I was certain that whatever came, God was in control and would work through it all if we allow Him to do so! I love this quote from George Mueller - we say and sing about walks of faith yet so often do everything in our power to fight the "opportunities" we face that could do more for our faith that any sermon or Bible study could ever begin to do!  Be certain of the goodness of God today. You may have doubts about how things can or may turn out, but you can be certain of God's nearness to you, no matter how low the valley may be, how fast the waters may rush around or how dark the night may be. 


We are continuing the walk in the certainty of His goodness and plan for our lives, even when the road ahead is blurry. The ups and downs are visible, but the road we've already traveled gives us assurance of His faithfulness. The past week has brought a very welcome shift. The worry of every feeling "normal" again has lessened as Mark has had several days of feeling more like himself finally. His body reminds him fairly quickly that it's still healing, but he and we, are so thankful for this shift. He is still receiving IV antibiotics daily and we pray that his incision will close back up so that when we see the doctor again at the end of the month, he will not need to continue the IV meds. We simply can't say how blessed we are to have so many folks reminding us daily, that they are standing in faith with us and lifting Mark's name to Heaven for total healing.
We are thankful!

Friday, September 6, 2019

Transparency

Transparency is the quality of being easily seen through or, in a business/work setting, is defined as honesty and openness. I've started to blog recently, numerous times, only to shut my computer and set it aside or even shove it under the bed....why? Because transparency is hard for me. Honesty is not hard. The part about being able to see through, to see what's really going on... that is hard. I am a private person in many regards and in our current situation, it's hard for quite a number of reasons. Openness leads to many more questions, unsolicited opinions & concerned thoughts from others that just bring weight or worry and the problem lies in knowing it's most always well-meaning, precious family or friends reaching out to try to help bear the burden during this time. I find myself wanting to sequester with my little {or not so little} crew for an open-ended amount of time and just be. I know that through all of this, God has been working on me. Makes me think of a song I loved to sing as a little girl - "He's still working on me, to make me what I ought to be...

As I've processed through some of my own insecurities and struggles in these areas, I thought about my transparency with God. So often I tell myself that I'm pouring out my heart, but in reality there is some cloudiness to this declaration of "transparency". God knows it all, yet we so often try to sugar-coat or even overlook things that we need to be open and honest with Him about. Just today I read in Obadiah 1:3 "You have been deceived by your own pride". Pride is definitely an area I'd guess that most people have a hard time being transparent about and here is says that this is the very thing that deceives us!  If nothing else, I've certainly noticed my need to more transparent with the One who created me and knows it all already! That brings so much freedom!!  I pray that if you find yourself in a similar place of clouded transparency with God, that today, you will begin to clear your thoughts and conversations with God so that He can also bring an openness and flow of His blessings into your life!  

So in all transparency :) I'm going to share some of what's been going on. This is not a totally transparent account. There are still many moments and thoughts that have happened since July 24th that I'm working through. Processing. Asking God to help me see His goodness and purpose in every difficult moment. Also praying that God will use those situations and help me share them in a way and at a time that He can receive the most glory!  

We've been home {again} for three weeks. In that time we've had five doctor visits, weekly home health visits, weekly medication deliveries, twice daily infusions of IV antibiotics taking 4-7 hours each day, vital signs every morning & evening and that's all just for Mark. We've had to work through some major struggles that our children internalized over the course of this illness as well as some not-so-great habits they created during our time away. We started homeschooling our 6th grader and it has been quite a learning curve for both our now middle schooler and myself. Our foster kiddos came back to us two weeks ago and it has been like starting all over in many ways, except they are comfortable with us and willing to push the limits on most things. They've also had a couple of doctor visits as well as other standing weekly appointments....add homework, kids chores and just the everyday household duties of a family of 7 and some days seem like living in a pressure cooker. We are so thankful to all be back together though and wouldn't change it a bit....well, except for all the laundry ;) I'd be fine with less of that. Hahaha! 

These are the things that are hard for me to share. I'm a bit of a control freak and I admit it...that's the first step to recovery, or so I'm told ;)  I know that sharing this often sparks offers of various help and for a control freak, that's hard. I'm still looking for socks and washcloths that my Littles "helped" put away while Mark and I were gone. Hahaha! I mean, how many places in our house could they be hiding. There are also a number of things I feel I'm behind on completing like thank you cards and homeschool schedule, meal plans and my "summer" clean-out. Then I'm reminded of the scripture that tells me to "be still" - "be still and know that I am God". Not in the sense of kicking back and binge-watching 4 hours of netflix when my kids still need socks or there are boxes of meds waiting to be put away or wet laundry has been in the machine for 6 hours, but just in taking a moment, often throughout each day to breath in Jesus. To refocus on Him and what He needs me to do in that moment. What my family needs in that moment. Not the crazy, plan an activity for two weeks out and make a list of all supplies needed kind of need, just simply what do I need to do today. Since we've been home, I've been starting (most days) praying a prayer I've never prayed before. It's kind of become my focus and theme - "Jesus, help me leave nothing undone today, that YOU desire for me to accomplish." I've noticed a great difference on the days I forget to start by making that declaration over myself and I'm thankful for this little phrase that the Holy Spirit brought to me in this time. Nothing undone! In conjunction I'm striving to be totally transparent with myself and with Him each night on how well I accomplished the "undone".

To wrap up, we've had so many sweet folks, asking for updates and wanting to know what's going on...all the above are largely why I haven't posted yet, but also because we wanted to get through both doctor appointment this week before we passed anything along. So here's a brief health update on what we've been dealing with, or really what Mark has been dealing with - He is slowly getting stronger. SLOWLY...and that part is hard. Patience is hard at times and in a recovery setting can be so discouraging some days. He still doesn't have much feeling except intense pain in his right foot, which makes walking very difficult. We're on some new meds to try to help with this, so just waiting to see the relief they bring. Last week, his incision opened back up. Not a good thing. We have had two doctors look at this and will be seeing another about it this next week. Due to this and some drainage at the incision site, they have extended his IV meds through most of September rather than ending them this coming Monday as originally scheduled. The picc line that he received medication through has begun to give some problems, the worst being a great deal of pain for Mark in the right side of his chest. We are praying that this will settle down so that we can stay at home and continue to use it for the remainder of his time on IV meds. His CT scan of the abscess looked really good in response to the meds so far, and makes this opening of the site so strange, but man are we thankful that the abscess is so much better. Our visit with his cardiologist this week was an overload of information about changes we need to make as a family, plans for cardiac rehab and potentially placing a pacemaker. We are super thankful for him and know that God chose him just for Mark!  I can not express how thankful I am for those that have brought meals during the past three weeks!  It seriously has been the greatest blessing as I've been able to spend time with all the kids in the evening and we've gotten back into some sort of routine. It seems so inadequate, but thank you!  Also, huge thanks to those that have sent cards of encouragement and financial gifts during this time!  You guys have also blessed us tremendously and we honestly pray for God to return the blessing to each of you many times over!  We are thankful for all of your prayers, they do far more than anything any of us could ever do!!  


Getting ready...

It's late. I have so many things I'd love to finish before I climb into bed, but I know most will have to wait. I have however been ...