Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The Lights Flickered




You know when you're in the midst of a storm and the lights flicker, you wonder how bad the storm really is? Or if you've missed a weather report about something more serious? Maybe there has been an accident because of the wind and rain and you may lose electricity for some time? My kids always ask repeatedly, are the lights going out again? When will the lights come back on? And I'd say that I had all of those questions and more on this day in 2019. 

I grew up on the Gulf Coast and we were no stranger to hurricanes. In fact, my family never left home during a storm so I know the awe and fear these big storms can bring, especially as a child. I remember hearing of neighborhoods or areas nearby that experienced a tornado in the middle of a huge storm. This time last year felt much like that for us. We felt as if we had been in the middle of pounding wind and rain for some time and then on top of that this smaller, yet more powerful storm hit us hard even while the bigger, yet less power-packed storm still raged all around. Lights always flicker when storms come and it was no different for us on this day. It was a literal flickering of life though. Those lights don't often come back on, yet God, in His great compassion, brought light back. I can't thank Him enough!

I remember in the chaos of the moment, walking back by Mark's ICU bay from my tour of where I'd be staying that night, I thought I was about to get another sneak peek at him resting, recovering, beginning the healing journey. The picture I saw though was everything but what I anticipated. I felt fear grip me like I've never felt before. I had seen him passing in a dream or vision a few nights prior and prayed, begged & pleaded with God to return the light of life to Mark. During this night, I never saw the ending, so as the nurse grabbed me and pushed me close to his bedside, every possible outcome ran through my mind. Another nurse told me to get back and then I overheard the first nurse whisper, "she needs to say goodbye". I know she didn't think I heard. She may not have even meant it as a forever goodbye, but I did hear and I knew what the outcome would be without a miracle. 

Last night I was reading about Paul in 2 Corinthians. "That experience is worth boasting about, but I'm not going to do it. I will boast only about my weakness. If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I don't want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep my from becoming proud."...."Each time He said, 'My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness!'" I see these scriptures in a new way today. God has most certainly brought us through some stuff! Especially in the last 18 months... But we've in no way arrived at perfection or full understanding of His ways. Some days I want to put myself in time out for being petty in my thoughts or impatient in my ways. I say to myself, after all God has done, how can I question or wonder or worry. I have to remind myself that these are the very things, weaknesses, that allow Him to be bigger and stronger in my life - when I let Him. This time last year, I felt as helpless and weak as I'd everbeen in my life, yet I look back now and see His strength. I see faith in a truly fearful situation. I see provision when there was much to lose. I see new growth, even in a desert season. I see God. In His gentle yet powerful way, at work. God is the source of Light and of Life and I'm so humbled and thankful that He brought them both back so strong in Mark's life! 

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Didn't Know How to LOVE

What a downer title, I KNOW... 
Especially 2 flippin' days before Valentine's Day, right?  
I am completely undone tonight though.
 It feels like a tornado went through all the neatly organized rooms of my heart. 
Foster care isn't for the faint of heart. 
That's true on many levels...juggling schedules, mountains of paperwork, teaching and reteaching the most basic life skills like hygiene (for instance, my school-aged child didn't know how to wipe and dispose of the tp ten months ago - whaaaaaa???) but tonight I've experienced a new realm, if you will. 

I am familiar with the brokenness that just "IS" foster care. 
Once you join the first foster care FB group you can not escape it. 
Most every conversation with a case worker or DFCS staff leads to it as well 
(and major applause to them because they see, hear and experience far more!).  
When you feel like you've read or experienced all the scenarios, think again because as many people as there are in the world, there are that many ways of doing things. 
No two situations are the same! 

Let me first share a little history... 
in less than two months we have had 3 diagnosed cases of the flu, 2 strep, countless tummy issues and coughing like that's what all the cool kids do. 
Just prior to the start of this time, we added a brand, new, teeny, tiny baby to our crew. 
Put all this together for a slightly OCD, germaphobic Mama 
and just roll out the welcome mat for crazy Mama!  Hahaha! 
This past weekend FS8 suddenly started feeling bad, again. 
He has realized that he doesn't have to keep up the caregiver role 
and when he is sick his desire to be the one cared for 
has caused the pendulum to swing completely to the other side!  
In the middle of the night, he will run in our room, sobbing 
if he thinks he has a headache or may be getting sick. 
It's irrational and difficult because it's never been "anything" more than what it actually is - a little headache or a stuffy nose - but at the same time, he is wanting the care and attention so many sick kiddos get and he seems to have missed out on in his life. 

On to this past Monday - my sweet daughter had a headache at school and after a dose of meds felt much better so she stayed at school. 
Later that afternoon, she was a piping hot 103.7. 
I am a - let's pray, sleep, drink powerade & eat chicken noodle soup first
 kind of Mom, so that's we did. 
Then Tuesday afternoon, my fd6 hit 101 on the thermometer. Not our best week! 

Our foster babies didn't wash their hands much when they came to us. 
Not for meals and not even when they left the restroom, so needless to say, 
they are the ones that often contract sickness. 
So tonight, when I walked into what we've been calling the Sick Room 
to see one of the Littles sucking a thumb, I was completely undone. 
After all we've talked about and all the measures we take to stop the thumb-sucking 
and it's still happening here right in the middle of sick-city?!?!?! 

Movie time had to end and it was on to bed. 
My voice was stern. My brow furrowed. My tone was not chipper in the least. 
Once snug in bed, I went through all the reasons why thumb sucking equals a bad choice. All of which have been discussed weekly, some weeks, daily. 
Even the dentist said, do whatever you have to do to stop the thumb sucking. 
So it's not just a germ issue, but also a development issue for the mouth.
After my monologue, I asked if we could work together to figure out why it keeps happening, and this is where I broke. 
I asked why thumb-sucking started in the life before living with us and the sleepy, six-year old answer completely wrecked my world. 

"Because my _______ & _______ didn't know how to love me."  

It was stated rather matter-of-factly, but tore my heart nonetheless. 
My arms couldn't get around that little frame fast enough 
and my heart couldn't break more than it did. 

They didn't know how to love?? 
I know in this young age, really being able to grasp this is not likely but there is enough understanding to know that something was missing, and in a big way. 
How does a family make up for almost 5 years of not being loved in the right way? 
How do we make certain we are loving in the right way? 
These and so many other thoughts and questions filled my mind as tears filled my eyes. 

After a massive shift in the conversation, a smile crept across that tiny face 
and another hug to assure of love and value. 
Prayers for peace, healing & hope. 

As I left the room I made my way to the couch and just sat. Thinking. Praying. 
I was quickly reminded of these lyrics - 
"How deep the Father's love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure"

How deep His love! I find solace in the fact that outside of the Father's love, we are all left longing for more. The only TRUE LOVE is found in Him and His love can surpass and heal ALL missed or just misplaced love in our lives. Broken can be made beautiful in Him! Although He gives us people to fulfill the need for companionship and human bond 
here on earth, our greatest need is Him. 

I am time and time again humbled and tonight is the greatest humbling moment yet, that God would allow us to meet these little ones in their broken places and love them. 
Before our first placement began I read a quote that I took as our motto and how true it is...
" We don't strut into their stories with capes on our shoulders, we crawl into them with the Cross on our backs." (jasonjohnsonblog.com)

I think this quote could be applied to many situations. 
In what situation could you trade in your cape for a cross? 
How many of your relationships are struggling or strained because you desire to be loved in a way that must come from the Father first?
All of our fulfillment and deepest love should come from God, first.
The spouse, children, grandchildren, extended family and friends are just bonus blessings, 
He blesses us with and when we keep it in that order, we can feel whole & complete. 
Not receiving love in the way we desire from another human can no doubt be hurtful, but James 1:4 says, "So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing."
Those things in the line above, they come from God and God alone! 


#thesehardthingsareworthit #whitakerkrew

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

What.A.Year!!

Happy New Year!  I literally CAN NOT BELIEVE it is 2020?! 

My New Year's Eve festivities would not make most folks' wish list, but I'm perfectly fine with them... Overseeing 5 little people make their own pizza, making bottles and snuggling a 6th little one, the washer & dryer spinning all night, suds in the sink & dishwasher and getting an update that my favorite guy is heading back home after leading worship at a New Year's Eve service... these are a few of the things that made up my "wild night"!  


It's weird how we often get in auto-pilot with our answers or conversations. Mark & I were talking about this happening and I even heard the same scenario play out with our kiddos, that folks make such cliche comments about the ending year and we in turn answer in the same way. In our case, on more than one occasion it was said, yeah, it was a good year. Umm, reality check?! We had a tough year. In fact, I'd definitely say it has been one of the toughest years of our 14+ years together and most certainly the toughest year of our kiddo's lives. Most everything about 2019 feels like a struggle. Like a constantly dripping faucet or a cold wind that cuts right through you and doesn't seem to let up. In many ways it feels like a punch in the gut, and we seemed to get hit again each time after finally pushing ourselves back to standing. From health, to ministry to family life and so much in between...it's been tough!


I'm a complete romanticist. I want everything to always end well. To be peaceful and complete. To be wrapped in a bow and not just the curling ribbon kind of bow, I'm talking about wide, wired ribbon that makes a statement, kind of bow. Haha!  There are a number of things in my life that aren't wrapped in a perfect bow as the calendar flips to 2020 and time marches along and if I let it, it can really be unsettling. But then I look back to remind myself of God at work in our lives through some incredibly emotional and bleak moments of the past 365 days. In fact, I see how He carried me through so many of these days and even when I was walking on my own, I was never alone. He was there. In every moment I thought I had it figured out, as well as those that terrified me to think of a second ahead of where I was at that instant. 


God has specifically shown Himself to be Jehovah Rapha & Jehovah Jireh to our family throughout 2019! And as we walk into this new year, Jehovah Nissi is who we're leaning on. He has given strength that was literally un-human. He brought life back into Mark's body when things looked dim. He provided when we welcomed His little ones into our home as well as when resources have been stretched thin and so many times in between. He gave prophetic words over our children even as they walked through deep places of confusion & worry.  He filled us over and over again and continues to fill us with hope in His plan that can not be sent off course by any type of opposition! 


2019 - foster care, school struggles, lung cancer, 100% blockages, hip replacement, no place for you, too much blood loss, I'll always be your Mommy, sternal wound infection, not out of the woods, tantrums, new higher payment, home health, drug baby, bills, new normal, what next? - a few of the words and phrases we wrestled with throughout the past year.   

Romans 5:3 - We can rejoice too when we run into problems and trials for we know that they help us develop endurance. - Isaiah 43:31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run  and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. 

The year of 2019 was a year of immense spiritual warfare. Warfare brings scars, loss and pain, but it brings growth like nothing else can, tenacity, friendships, opportunities & new plans for the future when the landscape around has changed from the battle at hand. My humanity hopes for a year of peace & calm you know the Silent Night kind of atmosphere...of course I always kind of laugh inside at that song...what first night with a new baby is ever silent? (or any of the nights for the following weeks...haha!) Don't get technical on me - I know what the song is implying, but my thoughts here are - "Silent Night" literally or just figuratively, either way, I'm trusting that the lessons learned, doors that have closed, trials we've walked through, mistakes we've had to acknowledge & victories we've been able to sing praises over, will ultimately, propel us into every, single thing He has purposed for 2020 and that these experiences will never be wasted, but will be used for His glory for as long as possible!  Happy New Year, Friends!!  

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. 


The Lights Flickered

You know when you're in the midst of a storm and the lights flicker, you wonder how bad the storm really is? Or if you've missed a w...