Thursday, October 8, 2015

Old Fashioned Words

Due to the advent of the internet and just the world of visual images being a continual presence in our lives, more people have fallen in love with some of the old classic literature.  I know I have.  

Movies like Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Sense and Sensibility, Jane Eyre, and other similar titles have brought old literature alive for this generation of people who may have never read the books by the same name.  I love these movies and many more like them because they have wonderful stories which depict people from another epoch of time where manners and culture were much different from ours.  Even their language was much different from ours today. 

But there is more than one thing we can learn from enjoying these gems of yesteryear.

Today I was reading a devotional that used a word that I often hear in those favorite movies of mine:  constancy.

You don't hear that word much these days and I think it is a shame that we don't use it because maybe if we did there would be more of it.  Constancy I mean.

You see in those grand old stories that word was used to determine if someone was worthy of friendship, business, courtship or marriage.  It was a very important component to understanding if a person could be depended upon to ride out the storms of life's ups and downs.  

Imagine if our world used that as a measuring stick today.  Would our relationships in family, friends, work and marriage be better?  Not just because we used the word but if we truly lived it out.  

Sarah Young uses it in today's selection in her book Jesus Calling: "The human mind cannot comprehend God's constancy." (name mine)

Our world, our culture, has forgotten what benefits this quality calls into existence because we have become a society of inconstancy.  Nothing lasts anymore.  We throw away everything even if it is not disposable.  I know this because my generation throws away things that my parents' generation would have saved or fixed for decades.  I'm not saying that everything should be saved or fixed but the mindset of throwing things away is damaging to our hearts. Because of this mindset we throw away relationships just like we do old bread wrappers.

Hebrews 18:8b says:

"For God has said, 'I will never fail you. I will never forsake you'."

Going on to verses 8 and 9a:

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. so do not be attracted by strange, new ideas. Your spiritual strength comes from God's special favor" 

Jeremiah 31:3 says:

"I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. with unfailing love I have drawn you to myself."

Exodus 15:13:

"With unfailing love you will lead this people whom you have ransomed. You will guide them in your strength to the place where your holiness dwells."

Deuteronomy 33:26,27

"There is no one like the God of Israel. He rides across the heavens to help you, across the skies in majestic splendor. The eternal God is your refuge and his everlasting arms are under you."

Can you think of anyone in your life today who can do that?  Certainly we love our children and our spouses with fierce love but NO ONE can compare to Jesus when it comes to true constancy.  There are no other arms that are everlasting.  Eventually everyone we love will die or be incapable of holding us up. But not God.

Today I'm going to go through my day thinking about constancy and being thankful for all the old fashioned words that don't need to be considered old fashioned if we choose to live them.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Gift

It has been there now for almost 10 months.  Just lying there for me to read and it had become almost forgotten.  

The gift.

Last Christmas Craig and I got an envelope from Adam that was to be our gift for the season. He had not been able to come up with anything tangible to give us so he gave us this envelope.

You can see that it has become almost lost amidst the receipts, boxes and other miscellaneous stuff on our closet shelf. 

But I see it every single day.  Most days it has reminded me that we have not been able to redeem it.  Inside it says:

It's always tough figuring out what you guys want since you strategically don't tell us.  This is good for a dinner at Texas Roadhouse (or Willows if that's what you want) on any date of your choosing FREE OF CHARGE [NO GOING EASY ON THE MENU]  :) We all appreciate and love you both very much.

As I said, most days I see it I am reminded that it has not come to pass and it has made me sad.  But the past few days it has gotten me thinking differently.

I realized last night as I was flushing Adam's drains for the upteenth time since bringing him home from the hospital that without realizing it and not intending it Adam has given us a completely different gift. 

He has given us the gift of taking care of him and loving him all these long 8 months. Now, to be sure, I haven't always seen it as a gift.  There have been many, many days that being in those different hospital rooms, intensive care units, seeing him being placed in a helicopter  and riding in the ambulance with him did not feel like a gift.  Don't get me wrong.  It has been extremely hard and sometimes felt overwhelmingly impossible.  And there have certainly been days that he hasn't been the easiest person to love, to care for and to serve.  

But this experience has changed us and that is the part of the gift.  

I have spent more time with him than I ever would have had this never happened.  Sure I have seen things I never wanted to see but it has brought us closer and bonded us in a way that probably nothing else could have done. 

We have seen more of our other kids than we would have otherwise and that has been a blessing along with them spending time together loving and serving a brother even when it was difficult and sacrificial. 

It has helped me to put aside my selfishness and to realize that even though I don't want to do a particular thing sometimes I must do it for the good of someone that I love. 

 This is life.

 Of course, this isn't the first time in my life that I've had to do this but it has been good and needed.  

You can be sure that I'm never going to get rid of that envelope!  It will forever remind me that it is the people we love who are the greatest gifts and not the things they give us.

Friday, September 18, 2015

How Could I Forget?

Today is kind of a big day in our lives and I almost forgot about it.

Last night while I was flushing Adam's drains very late in the evening he mentioned that today was the day.  So many emotions came rushing back to me.  

It was 17 years ago TODAY that we drove to KU Med and checked him in to get a liver transplant.  This morning I looked at the clock at 9:35 and realized that was about the time all those years ago when we were driving and God just HIT me with the realization that I needed to pray for the donor family right then.  I found out later that it was almost the exact time that they were "procuring the organ". ( Medical speak is so dehumanizing.)

Every other year I have remembered this day and anticipated it's arrival.  I guess my mind is still so numb from the past seven months that it evaded me. I really don't know how it did because every single morning I get up and start a new sheet of paper for the day with the date at the top in order to record all of the meds given and the flushing amounts/drain empties for the doctors.  

Nevertheless, today is the day of so many memories which at times seems so surreal--as if it were someone else experiencing them.  And now we have the events of the past months to add to it which also seem as if someone else has lived them and we are just reaping the exhaustion from it.

I wish I could go and place flowers on the grave of the young woman who gave so much of herself so that others could live normal lives.  Her family's day of rememberance for this time is not the same as it is for us.  I wish I could wrap my arms around her mother and say thank you in person and let her know that someone out there is remembering her daughter today.

We had a conversation last night about many things, Adam and I.  He's having a hard time seeing the good which the rest of us see in these past many months of his suffering but then he is the one who has suffered the most.  I remind him that he had 16 and half years of no problems whatsoever.  I remind him that he is alive. I try to let him know how difficult it was to watch him suffer and go through so many near death instances these past months and yet to have come through it.  But I can't change what he is feeling and that is okay.  I can only pray that God will work him through it in his own heart and show him how loved he is by God and by us.

If you want to read about 17 years ago you can go here and here.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Take A Look, It's In A Book

Reading takes us to worlds we have never imagined.  I've always loved a good book that will take you somewhere that you could not go outside of your imagination--history, autobiography, fiction, even fantasy, surprisingly.

I never thought I would be a person who would enjoy a fantasy/science fiction book but when I read the trilogy of RED, BLACK, and WHITE I fell in love with the writing style of Ted Dekker.  He has written dozens of books and I have read many but certainly not a majority of his writings.  Usually they are intense with stories that you cannot put down. A couple of his books have been too much for me and I wish I hadn't read them.  For instance, there was a follow up/prequel (that alone was hard to understand) to the Trilogy called GREEN that I didn't enjoy AT ALL.  But that doesn't diminish Ted's skill as a writer.  He can write a thriller that will keep you breathless and not able to put the book down until you are finished. 

It has been a few years since I have read anything that was written by Dekker.  A couple years ago I discovered the wonder of audio books.  It started with a desire to help my daughter who struggles with reading and enjoying it.  I was reading books to her myself to help her comprehension but I would get sleepy and start yawning and my voice would tire.  Then I decided to look into audio books.  Since I have a membership with Amazon Prime I decided to try for her.  It has helped stories in good books to come alive for her in a way that I could not have done.  But I got hooked too.  

I bought a few books on CD to have in my car for long drives alone and thoroughly enjoyed them.  Book Radio used to be a favorite of mine on XM radio in my car while driving but for some unknown reason XM took them off their repertoire.  Having really enjoyed getting to listen to new and interesting books and stories in the car and at home I really missed it when it was gone.

About a year and a half ago I finally left the stone age of technology and got my first smart phone.  Suddenly, I could take my love of reading with me in the form of an audible app.  I love it!

I "purchased" the book A.D. 30 a few months ago and didn't start "reading" (listening to) it until a long time after.  The first 10 or so chapters were good but didn't have me hooked, so to speak. I think I had too much on my mind to truly enjoy it.  But then one day while I was sewing I played the book again and really got into the story more deeply.  I feel like it is the best Ted Dekker book I have ever read and I am not alone.  If you go to some of the reviews on the book other people think so as well.

It is the story of a woman from Arabia whose life fascinatingly intersects with a man she is introduced to as a mystic whose name is Yeshua, or as we know Him, Jesus.  I'm still listening to the book and I truly don't want it to end which is what a good book does when it captures your imagination.  

I would highly recommend you read this book.  Or better yet, LISTEN to it on audible.  The woman who "reads" the book (which is really more of a dramatic performance) is part of what is making this book so intriguing as she truly feels like the voice of the character whom she is portraying.  

This morning I looked online to see what new books I have missed by Ted and I see that he has a sequel to this book  that is coming out in October called A.D. 33.  My heart leapt with joy to see this.  

If you haven't had a true adventure for a while, whether in real life or through reading, take a look in a good book!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Broken Hallelujahs

What is written in the following paragraphs will be a mulling over of my heart.  This very public forum for my very private thoughts may not make much sense to someone else, but may be more of an exercise of my inner contemplation. You have been warned.

The weather is so fresh and cool here for this time of year.  I guess it is going to be September in a week but that seems so crazy.  Last night and tonight I went out and took a walk--not very far and certainly not enough to make a difference in my health.  But it felt so good to be outside and to be silent while my mind tries to sort out so much brokenness from the past many months.

Many times I have bragged to people how I cannot see even one of my neighbors' houses from my house.  I certainly do like that about living where we live in the countryside of hilly eastern Kansas.  During the past several months though it has felt somewhat lonely, not so much in my neighborhood, but in my soul.  I'm not really sure any human could stand to deal with all of the thoughts, concerns and flaws that are warring in my brain most days.  So I take them to Jesus often.  Other times I eat my cares in the form of a favorite food.  I know.  It feels like the worst kind of sin because there is no way to hide it. On other days, I hide myself in front of the computer and just try to read my way through not dealing with all that is in my heart and mind.

Right now I think I can almost empathize with parents who have lost their child or other loved one to death.  That seems very bold to declare and if I am way off base please call me on it.  We've been through such a long and weary road of difficulty.  I'm sure that most people think we are near the end of our trevail and they have gotten busy with their lives as they should.

School has started.  Summer activities are put aside for the more serious business of work, studying and family life.

Everyday I get up and am reminded that my 27 year old son is living in my dining room. We still do all the pill taking and wound dressing and drain flushing.  A nurse still comes by a couple times a week to draw blood.  Strangers still come in and out of my house to do physical therapy and occupational therapy.  We will be making our third trip, in as many weeks as we have been home, back to see doctors in that place where so many unhappy memories lie.

It is lonely.

And it makes me think of a friend who lost her husband not quite 2 months ago. Or the sweet family who lost their precious toddler boy just a couple weeks ago.  Not to mention my neighbor whose husband died suddenly soon after they moved into their home just up the hill from me years ago.

I think, 'What can I do for them?'  I can barely haul my tired self into bed each night".

But here is what I can do.  When I see them I can ask them to tell me what they miss most about their loved one.  I can remember that the person that is missing from their lives lived and loved them and that I haven't forgotten that it has left a huge hole in their lives.  Because if you feel like everyone else has moved on and you are still in that place of heartbreak and exhaustion it is so lonely.

Maybe that is the very lesson I needed to learn in all of this.

My heart aches for my son.  He longs to be back at work, go out to eat, even just to go anywhere besides the hospital.  To see people other than doctors, therapists or nurses and especially his parents! And most of all, I want him to be missed by others.  That sounds so needy.  But I know that is what people who have lost loved ones want as well.  To know that their family member is missed and remembered.

This is just one of the many thoughts jumbling around in my heart and my brain these days.

  I heard a song Sunday morning on the way to church called Broken Hallelujahs.  It ministered to me because I want so much to praise God through everything but I struggle.  I've had the sacred privilege of leading worship with our church's band for some years now.  When I sit at that keyboard and sing with the congregation I long for them and for me to meet God somehow in the music, the quiet, or the message of the morning's service.

But I realize that many of us there, perhaps most of us are like one-winged birds who are longing to fly into the heart of God in worship.  Some weeks all we can offer Him are broken hallelujahs.

That's where I am in my life right now.  Aside from the trials of Adam's illness I have other things going on in my life, too. They are all my broken hallelujahs.

I'm thankful that whatever I offer to God--He can make into something I could never dream about. I guess I'll go to bed and try to let Him sort it out.

Psalm 139:1-18, 23,24
O LORD, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. 
You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my every thought when far away.

You chart the path ahead of me and tell me where to stop and rest.
Every moment you know where I am. 
You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD.

You both precede and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to know!

I can never escape your spirit! I can never get away from your presence!

If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the place of the dead, you are there.

If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.

I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night--but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
Darkness and light are both alike to you.

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!

Your workmanship is marvelous--and how well I know it.

You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.

You saw me before I was born.

Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God!
They are innumerable!
I can't even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!

And when I wake in the morning, you are still with me!

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Unexpected Mercies

Yesterday was a HUGE day for countless reasons.

Tuesday evening Adam and I headed out for the big city in order to be able to get up extremely early and be at the hospital by 7 a.m. on Wednesday.  

We arrived at the admissions office a little early and got checked in fairly soon.  They sent us to the wrong clinic first so once we filled out a little paper work for that one we headed up to IR.  I'm not sure if it is a good or bad feeling when the nurse who comes to the waiting room for you knows you by first name and your son acknowledges him by name as well.  Actually, it was kind of comforting to me to know that all of the staff in IR know him well and care about him in a sense.

The nurse who was checking us in yesterday was the same nurse that Adam had in IR the very first time we ever went down there with him to get work done while he was hospitalized.  Who could forget her?  She is a soft spoken, kind person who treats you so professionally as well as with loving care.  

We jumped right in to the plan of the day for their particular procedures and we began the litany of staff telling us what orders they had and the two of us responding with what we were told we were going to have done.   Those two scenarios don't always match.  It didn't seem as though the drains would all be coming out according to her account and that caused some consternation in both of us.

An IV team person was brought in to start his IV and let's just say it didn't go well.  It has been terribly hard for nurses to get a needle in Adam's veins since coming home.  His veins are tough from months of medications and his body is so depleted of nutrition that it is just extremely hard to get a good stick.  The team member decided to give him a break and left the room.  

In the meantime, a resident doctor from GI kept coming in (at least 3 times) and asked us to give consent to them doing an ERCP when it came time for us to go down to the endoscopy clinic.  Each time he came in and asked us for consent we both said NO.  You see, the ERCP procedure is the very one that gave Adam pancreatitis in the first place so we were prepared to say no to that no matter what.  Plus, at one point in his hospitalization I remember a conversation with a nurse who had told me "oh, he will never have one of those again."  

Well,  both Dr. G and Dr. O came down eventually and explained to us that the procedure would be called an ERC and that it would somehow be different which I will not go into here.  So with trepidation and my heart begging God to please help us, we had him sign the consent.  He had to do it prior to his other procedures as he would be heavily sedated and after that he would not legally be able to consent.

Another IV team member came in and put an IV in while nurse R finished telling Adam what drugs he could expect during the procedure and when.  At one point, Adam and I had had some "words" with each other and with the difficulty of the IV going in and watching him suffer I was crying a bit.  At that point God really stepped in for me.  

We were about to send him back and R had said she would personally go into the procedure with Adam and take care of his medications as he needed them best even though she was not really scheduled to do that.  At that point she asked us softly, "Would you be okay if I said a prayer for you?"  OH. MY. YES

I had wanted to pray for him before he went back but my emotions were already frazzled and I didn't feel I could do it on my own.  God stepped in and used R to give both Adam and I comfort and to ask Jesus to be with us.

And off he went.

During that procedure they took out the very uncomfortable final back drain, repositioned the two front ones and took out the biliary drain leaving a wire for the GI docs to work with later.  They also did a thoracentesis which is putting a needle through his back and into his right lung to draw out fluid.  They removed 2 liters from his right lung.

Before he was fully awake and around noon (which was our appointed time for his ERC) the nurse from endoscopy came down and transported him up to their clinic.  Of course before this happened they had already done two chest X rays in his bed to see if the thoracentesis was successful.

After consultation with the nurse anesthestist and the anestheisiologist he was taken back for his second round of procedures around 12:30.  

I got a snack and went outside to sit for a while and walked around a bit while I waited.  My dear, lifelong friend Sheila was texting me throughout the day and made it so much better than being "alone".  I finally decided to go back to the waiting area and sat in there for a while more.  It took about 2 hours and all of a sudden I heard a page that said "Dr. XXXXXXX XXXXXX please call #### STAT."  Then it was repeated. 

My heart dropped.  Was there something going wrong?  Why would Dr. O page him during the procedure.  I threw God some desperate prayers.  Then before I knew it, Dr. G came bounding into the waiting area and said that they were not going to put a stent in after all because it wasn't needed, etc. and then off he went.  (That is how he always operates.)

Then a couple minutes later, Dr. O was standing next to me and asked me to come out into the hallway to talk with him.  I was a bit worried but figured he was going to tell me they were done in private.  Then he told me the most amazing thing.  He said, "We went to put in a stent into the bile duct but when we looked in there, the duct was already the right size. In fact it is bigger than if I had put a stent into it.  I can't explain it.  The stricture has disappeared.  I don't know what happened.  I don't know what made that happen." 

 I said, "Maybe it was God."   

He said, "Maybe. I just don't know how to explain it.  And I don't think he will get pancreatitis."  I assured him that I didn't think so either even though deep inside I was really hoping and praying that we were both right.

After a bit more of a wait they came and got me and I waited with Adam back in recovery for a couple more hours until he felt he could travel.  

We stopped on the way home and he got a crispy chicken sandwich from Arby's and ate it all happily with no bad results.  Praise Jesus!!!!

South of Sabetha we met Craig in a parking lot and Adam got in with him and headed home while I went on to worship band practice.  When I got home late I got Adam's wounds all redressed where he needed it, flushed his drains and got him set to sleep and went to bed myself well after midnight.  

It was a day of many things, but for me there were several unexpected mercies, not the least of which was the miracle of my son not needing a stent and therefore probably not needing any surgery when in the past months things were certainly more bleak looking in regard to his health.

Thank you, Jesus, for your daily unexpected mercies!  They are new every morning!

Thank you, Friends, for your faithful prayers!  We love you!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Just So Thankful

Wednesday mid-afternoon we got a call from the liver transplant nurse at KU saying that Adam needed to go down the next day and see his doctor because some of his liver numbers were up and wonky.  Stressed?  YES!  

Our regular appointment that had been set up when we left the hospital was for this coming Monday.  "Why can't we just wait until Monday?" I asked.   They said they needed to see what was going on right away.  Disappointed?  YES!

Craig took him down since I had an appointment elsewhere and they left yesterday morning after we did flushes and dressings.  I truly felt that it was not going to be the emergent worry that it seemed they were making it out to be, but we wondered nevertheless. 

He had a CT scheduled and they said they would set him up in IR after 5 p.m. if that was a necessary procedure.   The day loomed long thinking in those terms.

Around 3:15 I got word from my guys that they were leaving the hospital and that everything was GOOD!  More than good, actually.  

The doctor said the CT showed that all of the collection areas of infection had collapsed and were NO MORE!!!  Remember "don't stop on 6"?  Well, those walls have come tumbling down!!!!!

On top of that, he said that it was a miracle that Adam didn't get some other condition which I can't recall the name of now.  But for THAT doctor to call something a miracle is, well, kind of a miracle!  He then went on to say that NEXT WEEK Adam will get all of his drains removed (unless one needs to stay--we'll pray) and they will put a stent into his bile duct and fix that for good.  The numbers being wonky was merely an immunosuppresant drug adjustment that we are fixing with a simple change of dosage.

I cannot describe to you the feeling of knowing that we will be done with this in one week.  It is like tons of weight off of our shoulders.  

God is so good.  He would still be good if none of this was happening, but He is so, so good for bringing us to where we are today.  

I cannot say enough thanks to all of you who are continuing to pray for Adam and for us.  This is still a journey we are on for a time as he strives to gain weight and strength to be able to go back to work.  We are so thankful to God and to God's people who are praying for us!!!!!!

The procedure to do all of these things will take place next Wednesday and they said it will be  a 3-4 hour surgery.  Please uphold us and carry us to Jesus once again.

Praise be to God for His wonderful mercy!