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!!  


Friday, August 23, 2019

Overnight

On the afternoon we left our house to "run to the ER", the picture in the IG/FB post was 3 or 4 small vines, wrapping around the bottom of this fencing. When we came home one week ago, the vines had completely covered the entire length of fence multiple times over, grown into the siding on the house and out into the shrubbery in front of the house. Although we were gone for quite some time, the amount of growth and change was remarkable. The vines were so tangled and intertwined that I had to cut the vines from both sides just to free them to be pulled out. These things often seem to take over, overnight. 

Reality is though, the multiplication and growth was happening continuously.  It was overlooked until "suddenly" it had taken over.  Many things in our lives often happen this way... missing a few days of our quiet time, our fitness, our commitment to a healthy lifestyle, our rest, our relationships, our routine and seemingly, suddenly, things are a mess! If we're not careful, the new routine takes over with such ease that we don't even realize the change until it too late for a quick fix. 

Sometimes, it's intentionally choosing other things that entangles us, but sometimes, it's just life that can creep up on you. The cardiac event leading to Mark's surgery, happened just this way.  Sure there were several symptoms along the way, but honestly, we didn't even see them as such.  Anything unusual was brushed off as a side effect of the stress he was under. The first day of July there was a definite "event" that happened and although I was deeply concerned and asked him if we could just find an urgent care (it was our "date day" for our anniversary which had been the day prior), he shrugged it off and said he would just try to rest a bit and see what happened. I chalked it up to an stress brought on by an unexpected message from earlier that day and tried not to worry about it. A little time passed and he said he was feeling better. This event or episode happened again a few nights later and then again once we were home and we decided to have it checked out at the emergency room. After a pricey overnight stay with an echocardiogram & nuclear stress test, the doc on his case gave him a shady answer about the test results, but sent him home to follow-up with his cardiologist. He was placed on a heart monitor for a 30-day observation. We began taking inventory of some things that were symptoms of a problem but we had not even realized it. In fact, we went all the way back to March with one of these episodes.... Less than a week after the heart monitor appointment, we were back in the ER. His heart rate had been high all day and he had felt terrible. He completed his work responsibilities for the day before allowing himself to go home to rest. But rest didn't bring the results we hoped for and his heart rate continued to climb into the 130s while laying down. He felt the company "watching" his heart monitor would call if there was an issue and since they hadn't he kept trying to rest. Finally he had enough and he was probably annoyed at my asking if we could go to the ER so we made arrangements for the kiddos and headed to Gainseville. 

There are so many facets of this trial that allowed more vines to quickly grow and could have lulled us into complacency, but God was so faithful in giving us the right questions to ask and sending the medical professionals we needed at just the right moment. The ER doc tried to convince us that this was stress or a panic attack but thanks to a cardiologist that happened to stop by the ER and just dropped in to see Mark, they decided to keep him overnight for observation again. Total deja vu from just 10 days prior but he went along with it and this time, planned for a heart cath the following day. 

The cath showed 6 blockages. SIX. Three of which were 100% blocked. Our story could end here and God would receive so much glory for keeping him to this point!  I know blockage placement plays a huge role, but there are folks that don't make it with one 100% blockage. Crazy to think that the ER doctor had shrugged his symptoms off as stress, the attending doc less than two weeks prior guessed that what they were seeing was his "normal", in their words, and that the two main tests they had run did not show a major marker of such a serious issue!! 

I'll share more of our hospital stay later, but for now, just know we are home, seeking quiet, rest and healing as well as making up for missed time with our kids. Every day, I give him two IV antibiotics through his picc line. Home health comes about twice a week to check on him. We have multiple doctor's appointments in the coming days to watch his progress in healing from the heart surgery as well as keep a close eye on the abscess. The goal is to do all we can to keep this infection under control and prayerfully shrinking so that there will not be another surgery in the future. We want to be aware of every little vine that may try to shoot up overnight and get rid of everything that doesn't line up with God's purpose and plan for our lives. If you've whispered even one prayer for us, we are overwhelmingly grateful. For all the blessings that so many have given to us during this time, we call on Heaven to multiply that back to you. We also hope that our story will encourage you to assess the vines growing around your life and keep them in check. God gives us the strength to do what seems impossible when we strive to do it in His strength, not our own! 

Friday, August 9, 2019

Clarity

So I know I've thrown up several posts the past day or two that may seem like every single diagnosis has been given to us, so I want to hopefully give some clarity on where we are and how to be unified in prayer with us over the coming days. It's a bit long, so if you just want to know where we are now or how we are praying, then skip to the last three paragraphs ;)

When we came in through the ER Sunday, the initial thought was pneumonia.  Any major surgery comes with a risk for pneumonia, especially a surgery in the chest cavity and the fact that they had to go back to the OR and open him a second time causing more soreness and a decrease in his ability to work his lungs really well. Add the fever and the fact that Mark's lungs were junky prior to surgery, it was a pretty obvious diagnosis, or so we thought. Then, because of the severity of the fever and the results of the x-ray and initial CT scan, then said it was likely sepsis and a milder case of pneumonia. Antibiotics were hung immediately and have been going almost around the clock since Sunday. 

Monday & Tuesday, fevers continued to be persistent and still pretty high which made the doctors question that the diagnosis of pneumonia and sepsis could be causing all the symptoms he was having at the time & not responding in a typical manner to the antibiotics. In the meantime, chest x-rays were being taken every day and labs drawn every 8 or so hours. They also felt the need to check for blood clots in his legs. Late Tuesday evening I noticed drainage from the top of Mark's chest incision. In fact, it worried me because it was mixed with blood, but if you know Mark, those things don't sit well with him so I didn't say anything, but did watch it, and even got up and looked at it during the night. The next morning, I noticed more coming from the surgical site and mentioned it to Mark. Shortly after this, the NP came in and we told her about the drainage, so she proceeded to see what she could get out of it. I'll just leave that there... poor Mark!  

Wednesday, the CT (cardio-thoracic) surgical team called in the Infectious Disease doctors to join the case and see if they had suggestions that could help us all get to the bottom of this. After they visited on Wednesday afternoon, a more detailed CT scan was ordered for that night. The first one on Sunday was looking specifically at the lungs, for pneumonia and blood clots, but this next one was for the entire abdomen and chest cavity. 

Thursday morning started by finding out that the blood clot test revealed a small clot that they will watch, but it is not in the deep vein, which is a very good thing. They also talked about their concern for the portions of both lower lungs that are basically collapsed and need to be worked to prevent from pneumonia. Then the NP for the CT team came in and gave us the results of the CT which definitely threw us. She said a mass of fluid had been found under his sternum which would likely mean a trip to the OR. In an attempt to process and understand what this would entail I asked, "do you mean like major surgery?" To which she responded, well it won't be like we're working on his heart..." Again, not what I wanted to hear, but I then understood she meant to open his chest for a third time. Our minds & hearts were reeling. All we could do was cry and pray. Mark said, please get people praying. And you did. And we can't express our gratitude. We had several hours of heaviness and emotion, but the peace of God truly came and filled our room, our hearts our minds. Just before lunch time, the CT surgeon came in with the NP as promised and we anxiously listened to every word he said, but there was a lot going on in the room. They began setting up for a bedside procedure to pull fluid from his chest to send off for a 48 hour culture. This was an absolute answer to prayer in that moment. Taking time to figure out what's in there as well as just time to process through prayer what could be, was what we needed. (Friday morning we were told they may wait for a 5-day culture before making a decision on surgery)

Later Thursday, the Infectious Doctor (ID) came back to visit and shared her thoughts and spent time just sitting with us and answering questions. We are thankful for the time she spent with us. So here's where things are... the fluid that was collected is from quite a large mass behind the sternum and was sent to the lab for cultures. The problem lies in that fact that he has been on strong antibiotics for 5 days already and the likelihood of something growing is slim. This is a septic infection that is responding to the antibiotics as it should. The problem is that this is basically an abscess and like an abscess in the mouth or on your skin, antibiotics will lessen or remove symptoms while you are taking them, but when the antibiotics end, the infection returns and you're back where you started. Typically, the entire abscess has to be removed to fully clear the problem and her greatest concern is that if it remains the bone itself could become infected causing far greater problems. We asked for another CT at the end of the culture time frame, just to see what things look like before making a surgical decision & she agreed that would likely be warranted. The CT surgical team has not had the same thought process on treatment as the ID team, so this is something they will have to discuss over the next couple of days. We are praying they will be on exactly the same page with the best treatment for Mark, because it will be God's plan, not just their education that leads them to his treatment!

We are asking God to supernaturally remove the fluid/mass/abscess. We are thankful they did not rush him into surgery and as much as we DO NOT want another surgery, we even more want to go home and stay home.  We do not want to go home just to have the infection rage again and us end up having to come back. Here's how we are praying and we ask that you join us in a unified prayer: 
God, we know that in an instant you spoke and everything we see came into existence, so we know that you don't need time, but for Your glory, would you supernaturally remove this fluid in the waiting. Whether the culture shows growth or not, let the CT scan show the mass gone. Let it baffle every person that lays eyes on the scans. Give us opportunity to share of your love and power at work in our lives! Please strengthen and encourage Mark as we wait. Help us take captive every thought that doesn't line up with healing and the hope of Heaven. Fill us with the mind of Christ. Give us rest in our minds and bodies. Healing for the blood clot. Healing for the lungs that are not wanting to function as your created them to do. Healing for every point of pain from the surgeries. Healing for our emotions. And blessing on every person that has called out our names in prayer, prepared a meal, loved on our babies or given to help us through this time. In the powerful, name of Jesus. AMEN!

My cousin texted her favorite verse, Exodus 14:14 to me last night. It is one of my favorites as well and one that I use often with my children. "The Lord will fight for you. You need only to be still!"  This is true clarity. Recognizing there is a battle, but relinquishing control to the One who holds the universe in His hands! Whatever battle you may be facing today is not outside the realm of His control - but only when you release your control over it. Situations like we are in right now cause us to feel totally helpless and out of control but can also help us readily see His ability, because we literally have to sit in an 8x10 room and wait. Everyday life can be tougher though. We want control. We want to fix situations or make them happen on our time frame... Whatever bump, hill or mountain you are facing - stop, be still and let God fight the battle for you. He will strengthen your frame to stand up to the "life" that flies your way, while He fights the battle! Be encouraged, Friends! 

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

What a response...

I would guess that if you're reading this, it's because you've heard that Mark is back in the hospital. Let me tell you, we are truly humbled at so many people praying with and for us, checking in through social media and phone. It is a true blessing to be connected to so many wonderful people! 

It is tough to keep everyone "up to date" so to speak and although we prefer to keep health situations private, I'm going to share with you all that's going on right now. We know the power of two or three agreeing and we have that already, but we need to take it to another level. We are speaking to these situations with the authority of Christ living in us and would love for you to join us in this. 

I know I still haven't really shared what brought us here to begin with, and I will, but some other time. Saturday night Mark started feeling really awful. He spiked a fever and we were up about every 10-15 minutes for almost the entire night. I really wanted to take him to the ER when I got the first 103.1 temp, but he declined. The next day, Sunday, was Trenton's birthday and Mark was worried about ruining the plans we had for him in celebration of this special day. He tried to be a tough guy and held out until candles were blown out and presents were opened. I know that deep down he was hoping for some vast improvement, but when I checked his temp at this point it was well over 102. We arrived at the ER around 4p Sunday afternoon and they quickly moved him to Trauma 7. Things moved quickly, hard questions were asked...hard for me to hear, but I knew the seriousness of the situation. Labs, blood cultures, x-ray & CT scan were all done in record time. The ER doctor said after his first brief exam and a temp of 103 again, "he will 1000% be admitted". He then put his hand on my shoulder and said, "thanks for bringing him in". 

He is currently in ICU in the cardiac area. His surgeon saw us mid-morning Monday and said, "The diagnosis, for now, is pneumonia and sepsis. But to be totally honest, I don't fully know what we're dealing with, because the labs & x-ray finding don't fully match up. We will figure this out though." He's had many lab sticks, more x-ray, tests for blood clots in his legs & help from respiratory therapy. We do know there is fluid around his heart, more than should be a week post-open heart surgery. There is also fluid around his lungs and very decreased lung sounds, similar to a partially collapsed lung on his left side, and some findings consistent with pneumonia. Two broad, yet strong IV antibiotics have been being pumped alternately, almost around the clock, since we came in. His fever is not quite as high, but he is not responding to these antibiotics like you typically would. He also received a blood transfusion yesterday and may get another today. He is weak and irritable. If you've been around him very long, you've probably heard the phrase, "I'm over it!" hahahaha, and he is definitely  over all of this. He mostly feels like sleeping and is having a tough time staying awake. Any noise or talking are not his friends - it's like every sound is amplified, so I try to speak very softly. I'm also using extra measures to cut down on germs. LOTS of hand-washing and hand sanitizer as well as not really leaving his room much to minimize my exposure to germs in the hospital.

A few days ago, I started reading Joel. I don't always read through all the "extras" that my Bible has in introducing a new book of the Bible...just depends on what I'm studying at the moment. I'm still early in my digging into this book because, well sleep deprivation, ain't no joke!  ;)  I can thankfully say that Monday night (the night I'm writing this) I slept from about 12:30 until about 3:30, straight! It was heavenly! But back to Jesus...Joel prophesied to the Israelites in the middle of a catastrophe that threatened their very existence on the earth. Here is Joel, and just like today, there are two very polar perspectives on suffering and they are not dependent on the setting, just on the mindset of the sufferers. When the pressure is turned up and struggles loom larger than life, we usually respond one of two ways...and honestly I don't like the extremes, but I find it true in most any situation:
      1. We turn to God and are brought into a deeper more intimate, even new, relationship with Him. Here we learn more about His character and discover new facets of His ability and love. 
or 
      2. We turn away. We blame Him or others for the situation we have found ourselves in and if we're not careful, we doubt His existence. 

It's a hard reality to accept that if, in the midst of chaos or hell on earth, we are not entering a new relationship with Him, it's likely we have turned away.  We can soften this or we can face it head on. Mark & I (and our families) are facing each moment of this incredibly difficult time in our lives as growth, new relationship and opportunity for God to doing big, new things in and through us! It doesn't matter if your "suffering" is big to someone else or not, if it is difficult for you, then God cares and it's an opportunity for growth! 

I will declare that God is Jehovah Rapha. That God is in control. That God has not and will not abandon us. That God did not bring this suffering on Mark, but that He sure can work through it. That we will walk out of this in a new season of relationship with Him, with a deeper love & respect for each other, with more grace, gentleness & time for our children, and with a greater passion & purpose in our ministry! 

Thank you for praying!!   

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Blurry

Remember pictures before the iPhone and digital cameras?  You never knew what you would get and often things came out blurry. Yet, we kept so many of the pictures because it was a memory, a special time that we captured on film. The past couple of days are blurry. It's been hard to focus on what day it is or even if it's day or night the past 36 hours. Hard to focus because of the strain of uncertainty and the fears that want to creep in, you know all the "what if" fears. Hard to focus because today's two and a half hour nap was the most sleep I've gotten, at one time, in an unknown number of days... But I don't want to forget these days. There are absolutely parts of them that I pray will fade into forgotten, but others that I want to remember for ever because I've seen God at work in amazing ways....Because we made vows to each other in marriage and those are being tested and through faithfulness to that, God is binding our hearts even closer....Because there are lessons to be learned through every single situation we face.

The past 24 hours have been tough. Mark is improving, but challenges continue to arise.
His BP is low and heart rate is high. That alone makes him feel crummy without having just been opened up twice in one day! He has had some minor bleeding issues that began just before bed last night and have continued off and on all day. He has been having an allergic reaction to one of his meds causing him to swell in his face, hands & feet. His lung sounds have been decreased. He spiked a fever tonight and has been going from extremely hot to freezing cold. They also found some previously unknown electrical issues within his heart that we're told are not causing any issue right now, but definitely something to watch. Pain meds typically lower BP so they have been quite hesitant to give him full doses and who wants that to happen two days post-op??!!  All-in-all, just a tough day.

We believe these are just obstacles that the enemy has put in out path. So we will continue to fight back against him and watch all things blurry come into view and Jesus makes a way for total healing with minimal pain from this moment on. I want to say to every person reading this, thank you for taking the time to follow-along and lift us up in prayer. Thank you to every person that has helped, in any way - meals, groceries, activities for our kids, taking care of all our kids - keep our home running.  We haven't heard any talk of a discharge date at this point, but are hopeful to hear something soon.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Wheels

    Have you ever felt like you were in a season where at any moment, the wheels might fall off, but there was still so much road to travel?? It's one thing to travel hard and fast and arrive at your destination and then see you made it and your worked you vehicle to it's max capacity and boom, the wheels fall off as you pull into your destination. I'm pretty sure I've seen this on something my kids have watched somewhere along the way. Like BUgs Bunny or something...Well, that's where I found myself Saturday night. The waiting intensifies the nervous thoughts about the approaching surgery for both, Mark & myself. Our minds are powerful and although we trust our Maker, we're still human and that is why the Bible says to take every thought captive. It's often a moment by moment battle and one that most likely every person reading this is in, in one way or another. Don't give up taking those thoughts captive!

I spent Saturday night at home with all my kiddos and some of the truest friends we could ever have. Thank you! And while I'm here, thank you to those who have stayed with our kiddos. Who have not only made sure they were safe, but made sure they know they are loved. You know who you are and your reward will be great! Also, to those providing meals so that those keeping things running don't also have to worry about cooking. What a blessing you all are!  It was not my idea to stay at home, but Mark was right, after Saturday, I won't be running home freely. So I had a night to run errands, read to my kids, wash clothes, pay bills, prepare the house, pack for the next week....so many little things!  My mind was still in the hospital with Mark; my heart was loving on my Littles at home & not having to do all the adult things, but my body just wanted to go to bed - to rest, but also to shut out reality for a few minutes. In those moments for me, it's so easy to be overwhelmed. When I get overwhelmed, if I'm not careful, I just sit down. I don't accomplish all that needs to be done or at least give it a go because the thought of all of it just seems too much....the wheels falling off with road left to travel, kind of feeling!

I've found that most stressful times, such as what we're in right now, bring me to this place of needing to constantly remind myself of John 14:1  “Don’t let this throw you. You trust God, don’t you? Trust me." I often, even in everyday life, think about Matthew 11:30, "For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light."  But what about those times when you feel you are truckin' down the road He put you on, you are living out the destiny He created you for and you feel as if you have taken His yoke, yet it seems too hard to carry, like the wheels are about to fly off?? I certainly don't have all the answers, but one thing I've learned is there is and will always be a gap between our humanity and the perfection of God, so anytime there is a struggle to carry what's been placed on us, it's an opportunity for us to close that gap just a little. An opportunity to evaluate our hearts and see what areas our trust can grow. These times can be like a pressure cooker and can do more in a short time to grow our faith or strain our faith, and the outcome is truly up to us. I believe that our choice in these times is often what makes us more or less aware of the yoke. Something else I've learned is to just speak your your own heart and remind yourself that if you've traded your yoke for His, then He is keeping you and holding things up that you may never know about and that He is truly holding the real weight of the struggle. He is interceding for us in the throne room of Heaven and that knowledge in itself helps you carry the burden and keeps those wheels rolling until you reach the place of rest that God has already planned for you!  

Thankfully Mark has had fairly uneventful days here in the hospital. No struggle to breath, no pressure in his chest, no extreme exhaustion - all things that he had been dealing with. When you look at the image from the heart cath, it is SO evident of God's protection and keeping in Mark and our family's life! Today, Sunday is a day that we are just determining to breathe. To enjoy all the moment together, to laugh, to trust. We are setting aside time this afternoon for our families, particularly our kids and we ask that we have time just for them. We still don't have any definite on surgery schedule, but it's looking more likely that it will be sometime tomorrow morning. We ask you to cover our kids & parents, cover our hearts from overwhelming fear and cover the medical team in prayer!  We're so thankful for every person that is walking this journey with us through prayer and encouragement!!

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Stones

Apparently 4am and I are new BFFs. Ha! It's a great time for me to think, pray, to write....

This has been on my mind so much the past two days and when I woke, it felt as if I was already thinking about it. Weird. But then again, if it's something God is doing then it's not weird at all. 
For those who don't know, Mark had bypass surgery 9 years ago - not open heart - but bypass surgery for sure. The doctors used a robot to perform the surgery. We would love for you to look back and read all the details in the archives of this blog. June 4th, 2010, the day of Mark's surgery, I came to a realization the the hopes of the past nine months had come true and I was more than likely, finally pregnant. Except, no. Now? Really? Uh, God.....?  Let me tell you, seven months later, that little girl came as a burst of joy and light that we needed in a tough time of ministry and well, just life. 

 I'll share more later in how this all started with Mark, this time around, but this week, after spending a number of hours in the ER and being moved to a cardiac observation unit, I realized that our first full day in the hospital was the anniversary (if you haven't noticed, I have a thing about dates - ;) of another really tough day. Looking back at the pictures though, it may have been tough, but it brings be joy as well. Our sweet, yet feisty, tiny two-year old had begun having Petit Mal Seizures. It came out of no where and boy was it scary! We went through months of testing and questions with little to no answer as to what was causing them or why they suddenly started. 

Joshua talks about stones of remembrance or memorial stones. Things from a certain event, in the Israelites case, large stones, that Joshua had them place specifically so that they could be used to remind themselves of the faithfulness of God. That's what this picture is for me - a reminder of the faithfulness of God. In fact, as I was driving to the hospital the same morning as realizing what had happened 6 years prior, the song Praise Before my Breakthrough came on in my car and it is perfect! The lyrics say:  I'll praise before my breakthrough - Til my song becomes my triumph - I will sing because I trust You - I will bring my heart - I will lift my song   //   When I'm living out my faith - When I'm stepping on the sea - I know You take my hand - And walk with me   //   He who came in power - He will come again - He who heals the sick - Won't He move again!
Let's be real here, the tears were flowing, freely and heavily. But I was trading my worry for worship, because this song was so real. It is so real. We praise before we see any signs of what we're asking God for in that moment in time. We praise because we know what He has done in the past so we can be confident about the future. He will come again!!!  

The picture of Kamdyn, although it still pulls the emotions up from deep in my being, is a "stone of remembrance" for me and brings peace. You see, shortly after this picture was taken we has a serious time of prayer and anointing this child to be healed; and for this situation to be a testimony and bring God glory. He did it!  He healed her. The doctor's had decided that we were going to have to go on some pretty heavy medications, even though we didn't know the cause. We would just try different things, and that just didn't sit well with me. I asked him to give us a bit more time before we had to start something and God did the work. One day became one week which became one month and she was seizure free and has not had one since October 2013!  No meds, just Jesus! 

Today, as we wait...we may be one day closer to things we don't want to have to do. One day closer to overwhelming emotions and facing fears head-on, but I can look back at these stones and see that we are also one day closer to God's healing!  One day closer to seeing Him move again and in fact we already have! For Mark to feel as good as he does with the blockages he has, and to take that even further by saying, to have not had anything more major happen than what we've been dealing with, is truly a miracle! 

Pre-surgery protocols have begun and I would be lying if I said each time they come in to add to that agenda or talk about it, it doesn't shake our insides just a bit. We don't have to say it to each other, we just know. Good thing we also know how God has shown Himself faithful over and over in our lives. I'm not sure if the lingering unknown of the actual surgery date & time is better or worse, but it is what it is. We were told to plan for Monday morning and that seems to be the direction this is going.

I'll be pulling up every stone of remembrance in my mind over the next two days to help myself. Maybe you need to scroll back in the filed away images and stories of your life to encourage yourself! God certainly uses His people to bring encouragement. So many of you have done that and are continuing to do that for us and we are truly thankful! But if you can't encourage yourself in your faith, ask God to help you. The enemy is so very cunning and seems to know right when to come at you, when your most alone or at your weakest, so arm yourself with some stones. Not only are they faith boulders for you to stand on, you can use them like David when he faced Goliath. There is no demon in hell that can stand against a stone collected from a past situation God brought you through!! Be encouraged! Keep praying for us. 


This was a sleep study done on Kamdyn, 6 years ago (July 24th).
It felt unbearable to watch the fear overtake her as fear welled up inside of me at what this study might reveal.
Not only was it hard in that night, but my amazing little sleeper who had slept through the night for almost two whole years by this time, went for a solid NINE months after this, never sleeping more that 2 hours at a time.
She would wake in a full panic, just like she did on this night. 

Little bundle of joy! I had to include this one too, because the other is just too sad.
This was right after she was hooked up to all the leads and prior to the stuff that had to go in her nose and over her mouth. The smiles faded quite quickly when those things were added.
We actually had very little sleep this night, and in a moment of exhaustion and frustration
[because at 3:55 am, they were mentioning bringing us back in another night to redo]
 I practically begged her to go to sleep and we could go to the park the following day.
I saw this sweet little grin reappear when we got in the car to go home about 7a and she said,
"Remember today is our park day!"
We celebrate the life God has given us!

Didn't Know How to LOVE

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