Monday, October 15, 2012

Such a time as this

The beginning of the end came a month ago.

That's when my father began to rapidly fade from this life. We had pursued every treatment option from radiation and chemo to dietary changes and supplements to drugs still in the trial phases; no stone was left unturned.

After four years, we finally had to face the fact that the time had come for him to leave this life.

Our hearts began to break.

For the next few weeks, friends and family came to visit, to pay their respects and say goodbye. Stories of good times were swapped with dear friends; childhood memories shared between siblings.

 With each story shared, the crack in our hearts grew bigger.

We watched as each morning brought with it a drastic change in his abilities and comfort. We found ourselves getting an education we never wanted in hospice care and nursing. Large hospital equipment filled the home. Meds lined the countertop and filled the fridge. Papers stacked everywhere: spreadsheets to keep track of medicines, lists of doctors' contact info.

We adjusted to the steady hum and click of the oxygen machine.  Days quickly became an endless job of figuring out how to keep him the most comfortable. He spent less time in the living room recliner each day and more time in bed.  Our time was spent doling out meds, peeking in on him regularly, and trying to keep our hands busy and minds distracted.

Each day brought a new development and more heartache.

Our strong, healthy patriarch was now a frail shell struggling just to breathe.  Each night we went to bed knowing we may wake up to find him gone.  Day after day, we sat watching his chest rise and fall, filled with an overwhelming sense of helplessness.

That last week of his life was very difficult for us all.  But at the same time, it was a tremendous blessing.  The time we spent together, my mom and sisters and brother and I, was irreplacable.  I can't remember a time when all of us were together as we were then: talking, sharing, supporting one another, just walking through it together as a family.  Each of us has our own struggles in life right now, but that week we were together for the mere sake of being together, being a family, loving one another, and honoring our father and all he has meant to us.

There are so many moments that I will forever treasure:

~Seeing my 8 year old son handle that week with so much maturity and grace, as he insisted on staying there with me.

~Watching him hold his grandpa's hand and tell him that he loves him.

~Hearing my husband tearfully thank my father for all he was and all he gave to his family.

~My mom, sisters, brother and I all kneeling around my dad's bed in prayer.

~As soon as we said "Amen," my dad speaking up and praying for each of us.

~The time we spent as a family reminiscing as we thumbed through boxes of old pictures.

The outpouring of love and support from friends and family was overwhelming:

~My mom's sister coming from Texas, taking time away from her family and job to just be there with us.

~A dear friend of mine packing up her three kids and driving all the way from Georgia to stay at my house and take care of my kids so that I could be free to stay at my parents' house that week.

~My circle of friends here in town joining together with her to help care for my kids and house.

~All the delicious meals that were lovingly made and brought to us so that we didn't have to use what little brain-power we had trying to figure out what to fix for dinner.

~All the calls and visits from loved ones near and far.

So many blessings to treasure...

It helps to remember those, as I try to process through the difficult memories as well:

~Seeing each new piece of medical equipment and each new, stronger medication, knowing that each one led us one step closer to the end.

~Watching my father drift in and out of consciousness and delirium.

~The sound of him gasping for air and moaning with each breath.

~The speed with which he seemed to deteriorate, even as each day passed agonizingly slowly.

~The contradiction of praying for his suffering to end soon while wishing we had more time with him.

~The permeating feeling of being stuck in limbo, unable to begin the mourning process, unable to move on, unable to do anything but wait for the inevitable.

And then, the inevitable came.  Sunday evening around 6 o'clock, my mom went in to check on him before we sat down for dinner.

He was gone.

Calls were made.  Tears were shed, tears of utter sorrow for us, tears of relief for him.  We watched as the hospice nurse went through her routine of verification and paperwork.  We watched as the morticians wheeled his body out to their van.  We stood on the front porch, holding each other up as they drove away, feeling the reality of the fact that he would never be coming home again.  We went inside and sat in silence.  The moment we all had been anticipating for what seemed like forever had finally come, and it was surreal.

Our hearts were broken.

Then, in the midst of the shock we all felt, my amazingly strong mother gathered us into a circle, and with hands joined, she prayed and thanked our Heavenly Father.  In the midst of exhaustion and sorrow and the myriad of other emotions we all felt, she wanted the first step we took to be one of gratitude to God.

After a long restless night, what had been life in slow-motion quickly became days filled with appointments and arrangements and people and plans.

God provided us with a beautiful day that Wednesday to say goodbye and lay our father to rest.

As we look back on those days and weeks, words cannot do justice to the gratitude and love we feel for all of our friends and family who helped us through them.  We will never be able to repay you all for your gifts of kindness and love.  Many of you said you wish you could have done more.  I want you to know that what you did was such an incredible blessing to matter how little or insignificant you felt it was.  Each phone call, each meal, each card, each prayer, each visit, each card game and coloring page, each moment you spent caring for us in every small way meant the world to us.

So now we embark on the journey of walking through our grief and discovering our new normal, of processing all we experienced and readjusting to life without our father and husband.  We said goodbye to his body two weeks ago...each in our own way.
"Dear Grandpa, We're so happy that all of your pain is gone. But the sad part about it is that we will miss you for our life.
By: Christian Parks"

And we continue to say goodbye to his presence each day.  Each time we are in a situation where he would have been, each time we are faced with the emptiness of something he would have said or done, we must say goodbye again.

It is going to be a long road.

But we have the strength of Jesus to get us through.

And we have each other, the family God gave us for such a time as this.

We love you, Dad.

You will always be a part of us.

Till we see you again...

Saturday, September 8, 2012

How do you say goodbye?

How do you say goodbye to a piece of who you are?

How do you let go of someone so dear?

Over the past few months, I have watched my father slowly decline.

Over the past few weeks, I have seen him wither away.

I have watched as so many family and friends have come to visit him and taken photos with him.  I admit, I have avoided doing that.  I want to remember him as he was a year ago.  Still strong.  Still energetic.  Still smiling. 

Still looking like my Daddy.

Our hearts are breaking slowly as we watch him fade away.  If only we could hold onto him longer.  If only we could breathe new life into him.  Revive him.  Strengthen him.

I always just assumed we had another decade or more with him.  After all, his parents were much older when they passed on.  But, I suppose even if we did have 10 more years, it would be too soon then as well.  The reality is, we will never be ready to say goodbye.

So we leave it in God's hands.

We trust in His sovereignty and His timing, even though we are filled with sorrow.

Soon, we will place our beloved father into his Father's loving arms. 

Until then, please pray that peace will surround us all during these difficult days.

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." 

~Philippians 4:6-7

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Spoon Theory

After sharing my story today, a dear friend sent this article to me.  It is from a great website entitled "But You Don't Look Sick".  I had never heard of it before and am so glad she introduced me.

As their website says, "The mission of is to help everyone with a chronic illness or invisible disability, in order for them to live their lives to the fullest and not feel isolated and alone."

If you are living with a chronic illness or invisible disability, grab a cup of coffee and sit awhile.  Read through this site.  It will make you laugh and cry, give tips on managing life and mostly make you feel truly understood.
I especially love "The Spoon Theory".  Whether you are the "sick" person or you know someone who is, you owe it to yourself to read this and pass it on.

It is very difficult to explain an unseen illness.  I often feel as if people think I am just lazy and faking it, or exaggerating it, at best.  Christine paints such a beautiful picture of what it is really like.  I could not explain it this well no matter how hard I tried.  So I will stop trying and just let you read her story.

written by Christine Miserandino

My best friend and I were in the diner, talking. As usual, it was very late and we were eating French fries with gravy. Like normal girls our age, we spent a lot of time in the diner while in college, and most of the time we spent talking about boys, music or trivial things, that seemed very important at the time. We never got serious about anything in particular and spent most of our time laughing.
As I went to take some of my medicine with a snack as I usually did, she watched me with an awkward kind of stare, instead of continuing the conversation. She then asked me out of the blue what it felt like to have Lupus and be sick. I was shocked not only because she asked the random question, but also because I assumed she knew all there was to know about Lupus. She came to doctors with me, she saw me walk with a cane, and throw up in the bathroom. She had seen me cry in pain, what else was there to know?
I started to ramble on about pills, and aches and pains, but she kept pursuing, and didn’t seem satisfied with my answers. I was a little surprised as being my roommate in college and friend for years; I thought she already knew the medical definition of Lupus. Then she looked at me with a face every sick person knows well, the face of pure curiosity about something no one healthy can truly understand. She asked what it felt like, not physically, but what it felt like to be me, to be sick.
As I tried to gain my composure, I glanced around the table for help or guidance, or at least stall for time to think. I was trying to find the right words. How do I answer a question I never was able to answer for myself? How do I explain every detail of every day being effected, and give the emotions a sick person goes through with clarity. I could have given up, cracked a joke like I usually do, and changed the subject, but I remember thinking if I don’t try to explain this, how could I ever expect her to understand. If I can’t explain this to my best friend, how could I explain my world to anyone else? I had to at least try.
At that moment, the spoon theory was born. I quickly grabbed every spoon on the table; hell I grabbed spoons off of the other tables. I looked at her in the eyes and said “Here you go, you have Lupus”. She looked at me slightly confused, as anyone would when they are being handed a bouquet of spoons. The cold metal spoons clanked in my hands, as I grouped them together and shoved them into her hands.
I explained that the difference in being sick and being healthy is having to make choices or to consciously think about things when the rest of the world doesn’t have to. The healthy have the luxury of a life without choices, a gift most people take for granted.
Most people start the day with unlimited amount of possibilities, and energy to do whatever they desire, especially young people. For the most part, they do not need to worry about the effects of their actions. So for my explanation, I used spoons to convey this point. I wanted something for her to actually hold, for me to then take away, since most people who get sick feel a “loss” of a life they once knew. If I was in control of taking away the spoons, then she would know what it feels like to have someone or something else, in this case Lupus, being in control.
She grabbed the spoons with excitement. She didn’t understand what I was doing, but she is always up for a good time, so I guess she thought I was cracking a joke of some kind like I usually do when talking about touchy topics. Little did she know how serious I would become?
I asked her to count her spoons. She asked why, and I explained that when you are healthy you expect to have a never-ending supply of “spoons”. But when you have to now plan your day, you need to know exactly how many “spoons” you are starting with. It doesn’t guarantee that you might not lose some along the way, but at least it helps to know where you are starting. She counted out 12 spoons. She laughed and said she wanted more. I said no, and I knew right away that this little game would work, when she looked disappointed, and we hadn’t even started yet. I’ve wanted more “spoons” for years and haven’t found a way yet to get more, why should she? I also told her to always be conscious of how many she had, and not to drop them because she can never forget she has Lupus.
I asked her to list off the tasks of her day, including the most simple. As, she rattled off daily chores, or just fun things to do; I explained how each one would cost her a spoon. When she jumped right into getting ready for work as her first task of the morning, I cut her off and took away a spoon. I practically jumped down her throat. I said ” No! You don’t just get up. You have to crack open your eyes, and then realize you are late. You didn’t sleep well the night before. You have to crawl out of bed, and then you have to make your self something to eat before you can do anything else, because if you don’t, you can’t take your medicine, and if you don’t take your medicine you might as well give up all your spoons for today and tomorrow too.” I quickly took away a spoon and she realized she hasn’t even gotten dressed yet. Showering cost her spoon, just for washing her hair and shaving her legs. Reaching high and low that early in the morning could actually cost more than one spoon, but I figured I would give her a break; I didn’t want to scare her right away. Getting dressed was worth another spoon. I stopped her and broke down every task to show her how every little detail needs to be thought about. You cannot simply just throw clothes on when you are sick. I explained that I have to see what clothes I can physically put on, if my hands hurt that day buttons are out of the question. If I have bruises that day, I need to wear long sleeves, and if I have a fever I need a sweater to stay warm and so on. If my hair is falling out I need to spend more time to look presentable, and then you need to factor in another 5 minutes for feeling badly that it took you 2 hours to do all this.
I think she was starting to understand when she theoretically didn’t even get to work, and she was left with 6 spoons. I then explained to her that she needed to choose the rest of her day wisely, since when your “spoons” are gone, they are gone. Sometimes you can borrow against tomorrow’s “spoons”, but just think how hard tomorrow will be with less “spoons”. I also needed to explain that a person who is sick always lives with the looming thought that tomorrow may be the day that a cold comes, or an infection, or any number of things that could be very dangerous. So you do not want to run low on “spoons”, because you never know when you truly will need them. I didn’t want to depress her, but I needed to be realistic, and unfortunately being prepared for the worst is part of a real day for me.
We went through the rest of the day, and she slowly learned that skipping lunch would cost her a spoon, as well as standing on a train, or even typing at her computer too long. She was forced to make choices and think about things differently. Hypothetically, she had to choose not to run errands, so that she could eat dinner that night.
When we got to the end of her pretend day, she said she was hungry. I summarized that she had to eat dinner but she only had one spoon left. If she cooked, she wouldn’t have enough energy to clean the pots. If she went out for dinner, she might be too tired to drive home safely. Then I also explained, that I didn’t even bother to add into this game, that she was so nauseous, that cooking was probably out of the question anyway. So she decided to make soup, it was easy. I then said it is only 7pm, you have the rest of the night but maybe end up with one spoon, so you can do something fun, or clean your apartment, or do chores, but you can’t do it all.
I rarely see her emotional, so when I saw her upset I knew maybe I was getting through to her. I didn’t want my friend to be upset, but at the same time I was happy to think finally maybe someone understood me a little bit. She had tears in her eyes and asked quietly “Christine, How do you do it? Do you really do this everyday?” I explained that some days were worse then others; some days I have more spoons then most. But I can never make it go away and I can’t forget about it, I always have to think about it. I handed her a spoon I had been holding in reserve. I said simply, “I have learned to live life with an extra spoon in my pocket, in reserve. You need to always be prepared.”
Its hard, the hardest thing I ever had to learn is to slow down, and not do everything. I fight this to this day. I hate feeling left out, having to choose to stay home, or to not get things done that I want to. I wanted her to feel that frustration. I wanted her to understand, that everything everyone else does comes so easy, but for me it is one hundred little jobs in one. I need to think about the weather, my temperature that day, and the whole day’s plans before I can attack any one given thing. When other people can simply do things, I have to attack it and make a plan like I am strategizing a war. It is in that lifestyle, the difference between being sick and healthy. It is the beautiful ability to not think and just do. I miss that freedom. I miss never having to count “spoons”.
After we were emotional and talked about this for a little while longer, I sensed she was sad. Maybe she finally understood. Maybe she realized that she never could truly and honestly say she understands. But at least now she might not complain so much when I can’t go out for dinner some nights, or when I never seem to make it to her house and she always has to drive to mine. I gave her a hug when we walked out of the diner. I had the one spoon in my hand and I said “Don’t worry. I see this as a blessing. I have been forced to think about everything I do. Do you know how many spoons people waste everyday? I don’t have room for wasted time, or wasted “spoons” and I chose to spend this time with you.”
Ever since this night, I have used the spoon theory to explain my life to many people. In fact, my family and friends refer to spoons all the time. It has been a code word for what I can and cannot do. Once people understand the spoon theory they seem to understand me better, but I also think they live their life a little differently too. I think it isn’t just good for understanding Lupus, but anyone dealing with any disability or illness. Hopefully, they don’t take so much for granted or their life in general. I give a piece of myself, in every sense of the word when I do anything. It has become an inside joke. I have become famous for saying to people jokingly that they should feel special when I spend time with them, because they have one of my “spoons”.

Doctors, doctors everywhere...

Spring was crazy this year.  Due to various uncontrollable circumstances, we had to take a few extra breaks from school in the fall and winter.  So, spring was spent plowing through our school-work so that we could finish by the end of May.  After what seemed like life-times of painfully long school-days, we finally made it.

Ahhh, summer!  How happy we were to see you!  Endless days of no obligations, no to-do lists, no stress. 

Well, that was the plan, anyway.  But then June came raging in.

My father has been battling cancer off and on for the past three years.  Cancer was found.  A few rounds of chemo and radiation later, the cancer was gone.  A few months later, more cancer was found.  This cycle repeated itself a few times.  Fortunately, the treatments were always successful at getting the cancer down to undetectable levels.  That is until this year.

Nothing they tried seemed to do any good.  At the beginning of the summer, his doctor told us there was nothing more he could do.

So we found a new doctor.

The new doctor was a blessing from Above!  He immediately started my dad on a type of chemo that had been successful in the past.  We had to attack this cancer quickly because within one month of no treatment what-so-ever, my dad's tumor had tripled in size.  Had he continued to go without treatment, we were told it would be a matter of weeks.

So we waited and prayed.  We worried and cried and prayed some more.  

 We had to wait six weeks for his next CAT-scan to see if the chemo was doing anything at all.  That was a difficult six weeks.  If the chemo wasn't working, he might not even live long enough to get the scan.

Thank God, he made it.  And the scan showed that not only was the tumor not growing anymore, it was actually shrinking!  A bright light in the midst of foggy darkness.

He has continued with the same treatment for the past couple months.  Unfortunately, it seems more and more difficult for his body to rebound after each treatment.  We are now back to waiting for the next CAT-scan, which will be this coming Monday.  Again the questions and doubts and hopes and fears come flooding in.

Is the treatment still working?  Has the cancer gotten more aggressive?  Or has the chemo significantly reduced it?  Will his body tolerate another couple months of this treatment?  Will the new, highly anticipated, promising cancer drug be released for use soon?

Not knowing what the future brings is difficult.  
Not knowing what the day will bring is excruciating.  

So we wait and pray.  We worry and cry and pray some more.

June also brought with it some more unexpected events.  I have had Lupus for over a decade and have managed to control it naturally for the past five years or so, with great success.  Apparently this summer, my time was up.  After a week of unbearable, unshakable pain, I finally made a doctor's appointment.  He ran some tests, and immediately sent me to a rheumatologist (arthritis doctor), who ran some more tests, and immediately sent me to a nephrologist (kidney doctor).  It seems that not only has my Lupus flared up significantly, but it has progressed into my kidneys.  After more tests and a kidney biopsy, the diagnosis is officially Level 3 Lupus Nephritis, meaning my Lupus is beginning to cause damage to my kidneys.  Luckily, the damage is minimal at this point.  If left untreated, however, it would eventually cause kidney failure.  

So we are attacking it aggressively to keep it from getting to that point.  I now have a bag full of medications I must take all through-out each day.  (Thankfully, Walgreen's has a great app for my phone that keeps track of all my meds and reminds me when to take them!  I would be lost with that!)  The goal is to have the Lupus Nephritis "in remission" after six months of taking a dozen or so pills a day.  If that is successful, I will be down to only two maintenance medications for the rest of my life.

I don't like medications.  I have worked diligently over the past five years, completely changing my lifestyle, in an attempt to avoid the meds.  Don't get me wrong...I am very grateful for the technology and the amazing "healing" power of medicines.  I very much understand and appreciate the fact that were I living in another time or another place, I would not have a good prognosis.  That makes dealing with the horrendous side effects a little easier to do.  But the reality is, my body is not working like it used to.  I cannot do the things everyone around me can.  There are times, sometimes days on end now, that I can do little more than make it to my recliner.  And now we get to add on to that the unknown factor of how my body will tolerate all these new chemicals I am pumping into it.  

So I wait and pray.  I worry and cry and pray some more.

After giving me the results of my biopsy and going over the plan of attack, my nephrologist told me that I was handling this exceptionally well.  I don't know that I agree with that.  All I know for sure is that none of this is a surprise to my Father in Heaven, and He will not let me go through it alone.

In the midst of the craziness that was June, God dropped a little life-line to me.  He knew what was coming, and He provided me with a perspective-changing blessing before it all began.  I have a Kindle Fire and I tend to check the list of free Kindle books every few weeks or so.  In June, there happened to be a book entitled "A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God's Sovereignty" by Joni Eareckson Tada.

Amazing, incredible, divinely timely book!  I have read it through once and am starting it again.  The message of her book can be summed up in these quotes:

"What a waste of an illness or injury if we read--or go on talking--day and night about that illness, that injury, and not about the God who allowed it for His own sovereign reasons." 


"Don't waste your suffering by retreating into yourself."

God has a plan and a purpose.  We need to trust that.  It is not always pleasant walking this path, following Him with abandon.  It can be emotionally and physically painful.  But we need to trust in His wisdom and His plan, and not let go of our faith when times get tough.  Trust that He is doing a mighty work in our lives.

"Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day."   
~2 Corinthians 4:16

Whether we are watching someone we love fight for their life, or we are fighting our own battle daily, we are being refined by fire.  I kinda like how Joni puts it.  She compares our trials to the process of turning coal into diamonds: 

"The only difference is how time and pressure (a lot of pressure) will change this earthly garment into something so bright, so precious, so perfect, so multifaceted, that it will shine like a star in the night sky."

I want to shine.  I want to trust Him and rest in Him during the times of extreme pressure.  Some days that is easier than others. 

"Any such crisis is meant to awaken us to the reality of God, His nearness, His care, His presence, and His ever-present help."

"Affliction has a way of jackhammering our character, shaking us up and loosening our grip on everything we hold tightly."

Please Lord, open my eyes and heart to see what truly matters.  Help me to let go of the insignificant and focus my life on the eternal.  Help me to hold on to You with all my strength in those times when everything is crumbling around me.  And when my strength is gone, fill me with Yours.

Summer came roaring in this year.  So far, it shows no signs of easing up.  But I know He has me in His hands, and there is no other place I would rather be.

"Yes, I pray that my pain might be removed, that it might cease; but more so, I pray for the strength to bear it, the grace to benefit from it, and the devotion to offer it up to God as a sacrifice of praise."


Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Think of a person who has had an impact on your life.

What do you picture about them?

For me, I see the Bible.

I don't have a great long-term memory; I tend to forget things about the past fairly easily.  

But I do hold on to a few very vivid images of my childhood.  

Namely of my father.  

I remember him sitting in his tan recliner in the living room, reading his tattered and note-filled Bible.  I remember him going to his room to pray for long periods of time each day.

My dad is not a loud person. 
He is not showy. 
He does not make himself the center of attention.  
He never does anything for the purpose of others seeing him.  
It is just who he is.  It is how he lives his life.

He does not compromise on his beliefs.  He holds firm in the face of opposition.  
God is everything to him.

He and I may not see eye to eye on many theological points.  That fact has caused some heated debates over the years.  But it has never reduced my respect for him.  If anything, it has sharpened my own beliefs as it has forced me to dig ever deeper so that I can "always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks (me) to give the reason for the hope that (I) have. But do this with gentleness and respect..."  I Peter 3:15

I am so very grateful that I grew up in the atmosphere of devotion.  I am so blessed to have been given such a great example of always turning to God, always talking to Him and reading His Word in good times and bad.

I am so thankful to have this wonderful memory of a father who loves his Father.

My dad and I will likely never fully agree on many Biblical details.  But we will always share a respect for one another, a love of the Word, and a desire to know and understand God more fully.

Still to this day, I occasionally sneak a peak into his Bible.  I peruse the scribbled notes, highlighted passages, questions in the margin, and sticky-notes pasted as tabs all throughout.  I hope one day my own children will enjoy doing the same to my Bible.  

I pray that my boys grow up with the memory of me sitting quietly in my chair, a tattered Bible on my lap, my mind focused on my Saviour.  I pray that when asked to give a brief description of me, "Godly" is at the top of the list.

I am so grateful to have been given a legacy of loving God. 
I pray I am able to give that same legacy to the generations to come.

by Nichole Nordeman

I don't mind if you've got something nice to say about me
And I enjoy an accolade like the rest
You could take my picture and hang it in a gallery
Of all who's who and so-n-so's that used to be the best
At such'n'such ... it wouldn't matter much

I won't lie, it feels alright to see your name in lights
We all need an 'Atta boy' or 'Atta girl'
But in the end I'd like to hang my hat on more besides
The temporary trappings of this world

I want to leave a legacy
How will they remember me?
Did I choose to love? Did I point to You enough
To make a mark on things?
I want to leave an offering
A child of mercy and grace who
blessed your name unapologetically
And leave that kind of legacy 

I don't have to look too far or too long awhile
To make a lengthly list of all that I enjoy
It's an accumulating trinket and a treasure pile
Where moth and rust, thieves and such will soon enough destroy

I want to leave a legacy
How will they remember me?
Did I choose to love? Did I point to You enough
To make a mark on things?
I want to leave an offering
A child of mercy and grace who
blessed your name unapologetically
And leave that kind of legacy 

Not well traveled, not well read, not well-to-do or well bred
Just want to hear instead, "Well Done" good and faithful one.

I want to leave a legacy
How will they remember me?
Did I choose to love? Did I point to You enough
To make a mark on things?
I want to leave an offering
A child of mercy and grace who
blessed your name unapologetically
And leave that kind of legacy 

I don't mind if you've got something nice to say about me... 

Saturday, April 21, 2012


UPDATE:  The Bowser's ChipIn account started at $425.

It is currently at $1150!!! 

Click here to help it grow, so that they can get their daughter before its too late!  You will be directed to Holly's blog, where you will see a "ChipIn" button in the top right corner.  Every little bit helps!  I will continue to update the number here so we can watch it grow.


In yesterday's post, I shared links to a number of blogs from amazing families who are stepping out in faith to be used by God in various ways.  Each one of them inspires me.

Today, I want to share with you a family who is different than all those others.  You see the families that I have been "following" are strangers to me, or acquaintances at best.  This family is different.  They are near and dear to my heart.  I am honored to introduce you to the Bowser family.

Holly and I met years ago at college.  Carefree young ladies having a great time.  As often happens, we fell out of touch as our lives took us to different places.  The wonderful world of Facebook brought us back together.  But reconnecting did not take place right away.  You know how it goes.  Old friends you haven't talked to in years show up on Facebook.  You "friend" them, say hi, and don't actually speak to them again.  Am I right?

This is where our friendship was holding the "friend" world.  Until God began opening my eyes and heart to the children in need worldwide.  As I was finding organizations such as Reece's Rainbow and sharing what I was learning on my blog and through Facebook, Holly and her family were being prepared for the biggest journey of their lives: they were being led to adopt.  Holly noticed all of my posts regarding orphans and she contacted me.  Since then, our friendship has grown into one that I treasure.  She is one of those people who make you a better person.  

She encourages you when you are down.  
Celebrates with you when you are rejoicing.  
Prays with you in all circumstances. 

A true treasure.

And her family's story will bring you to tears.  You can read their full adoption journey here on her blog.  I encourage you to do so, as she can explain their journey so much better than I.  But for the sake of introduction, I will summarize.

Their journey began with Reece's Rainbow and a precious little girl.  They were in love with this precious life (and still are), however another family committed to her first.  Shortly thereafter, they received three referrals.  One of those precious children was their daughter.  So they started down the long path to bringing her home.  But, God was not done with their family just yet.  He had even bigger plans in store for them!

Through an orphan hosting program, they found their other daughter, a teenager who is dangerously close to aging out of the system.  Now they are desperately trying to get all the steps completed and funds raised so that they can bring home their two daughters from two different countries as soon as possible!  

This is where you come in.  Here is a family who is stepping out boldly in faith to rescue not one, but two precious girls from a hopeless life.  How brave and wonderful and amazing!  If only we could all step out in that way!

Unfortunately, not all of us are able.  I am fairly certain, however, that all of us are able to help those that can.  You are able to give $10, $25, $50 or more to help Holly and Jeremy go get their daughters.  Really.  You are.  You can sacrifice a couple lattes.  You can eat sandwiches one day for lunch instead of that fast food meal you were planning.  You can forgo the new gadget that you don't really need right now.  You can contribute to the ransom paid for these lives.

You can.

The question is, will you?

Will you be a part of this amazing journey?  Will you help rescue these girls?  Will you see beyond your comfortable life and let your heart break for the sake of these treasures?

Or will you be content to forget what you have seen and continue to spend your money on the temporal things? 

Where is your heart?  

Where is your treasure?

Holly and Jeremy have two treasures half a world away.  They have all they need at home to care for them, love them, show them Jesus, give them amazing lives.  They just need help getting the girls home.

On April 1st, they began their fundraising effort.  They have donated items for a give-away.  You can visit Holly's blog here to see the items and read a quick blurb of their story.  Please take a few minutes to do so.

Read through their story.  There are so many heart-felt posts that will bring you to tears.  Adoption is not an easy road.  It is not a quick process.  It is long and difficult and expensive.  But when we step out in faith to follow God's leading, we can be sure that He will provide. 

Will you be a part of that provision?

Over the last two weeks I have seen their ChipIn account rise only slightly.  I want to see it skyrocketing!  I know we can do it.  It really doesn't take much from each person.  It just takes many people stepping up to help the Bowsers step out in faith.

Go donate.  Then share this blog with others.  Post a link to Holly's blog.  Spread the word. 

Let's bring these girls home.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Duggar-bashing and Kid-hating

This morning I read yet another article slamming the Duggar family.   Now before I continue, I must confess that I used to feel the same way.  I felt they were entirely too fake.  I mean no mom of more than one child could really be that calm and peaceful, right?  It's not normal to truly enjoy children that much...especially that many children!  She has to be on something!  

But my heart has changed over the past two years.  

It was two years ago that God began to break my heart.  He showed me the millions of precious children around the world who are in need of love and family.  MILLIONS!

So that you can have some facts at a glance, here are some from the Show Hope website.

What is the need?
* Over 130 million children have lost one or both parents.1
* Every 18 seconds another child becomes an orphan, without a mother or father.2
* At least 16.2 million children worldwide have lost both parents.3
* Every 14 seconds a child loses a parent due to AIDS.4
* Conflict has orphaned or separated 1 million children from their families in the 1990s.5

Where are they?
* 43.4 million orphans live in sub-Saharan Africa, 87.6 million orphans live in Asia, and 12.4 million orphans live in Latin America and the Caribbean.6
* 1.5 million children live in public care in Central and Eastern Europe alone.7
* At any given point there are over 500,000 children in the U.S. Foster Care system.8
* In some countries, children are abandoned at alarming rates, due to poverty, restrictive population control policies, disabilities or perceived disabilities, and cultural traditions that value boys more than girls.9

I don't know about you, but facts such as these seem so sterilized to me.  The numbers are alarming, but still, they are just cold, hard facts.  They might slightly surprise you, but don't necessarily break your heart.  They're just numbers.  As God was leading me to learn more about the "plight of the orphan," He led me to the personal stories.  The stories of families who are out there walking the road, helping the children, struggling to bring home one or more of the children, and/or helping others to do so.  Stories of families who gave up their "American Dream" to go to third-world countries to help these precious little ones.  Stories of families who use what they have to help in any way they can.  Stories of families who are stepping out of the imposed expectations of "marriage, two kids, a dog and a white picket fence" to help the "least of these."

Incredible stories of faith and struggle, love and tears, appalling circumstances and Divine deliverance.

Stories of faith, like the Fulp family.

Stories of amazing love, like the Salem family.

Stories of perseverance, like the Davis family.

Stories just beginning, like the Bonnet family.

Stories finally coming to fruition, like the Abell family.

Stories of advocacy, like the Rice family.

It is these stories that have so touched my heart and changed my soul.  And how could I watch the short video I shared in my post entitled Sweet Babies, and not be moved?  How could I read all the amazing personal stories and not be changed?

Children are a blessing.  

We all hear this.  We all say this.  But do we really, truly believe this and live this?  Sure, we can argue with the people who advocate for zero population growth about the value of children.  Sure, we can get all kinds of worked up over child abuse atrocities.  Sure, we can have a lengthy debate about why the murder of unborn babies is a horrendous tragedy.  Sure, we complain about those parents who are always complaining about their children.  Sure, we can admire those who open their homes to an orphan or two.

But at the same time, we find families like the Duggars absurd.  We find reasons to hate them and pick apart their lifestyle.  We don't understand why they would possibly want that many children.  I mean, one or two or even three children is ok.  If you have four or five, you are pushing the limits of rational thought.  Six or more and you are just plain crazy. 

And the funny thing is, it doesn't seem to matter if the number is six or sixteen.  Large families are viewed as ridiculous and weird.  An article I read just this morning criticizing the newest season of "19 and Counting" uses words such as "creepy" and "freakshow" and refers to Michelle Duggar as "the broodmare".  Another article I found (penned by Margaret Sanger) starts off with this statement, "THE MOST serious evil of our times is that of encouraging the bringing into the world of large families. The most immoral practice of the day is breeding too many children."  In it she implies that having more than three children puts your children and society at risk for a number of issues.

In many articles that have come out recently, we see this mentality.  Children are viewed as inconvenient burdens.  They take up all our time, money and sanity.  We have better things to do than raise kids, right?  It just isn't worth it.

Unfortunately, even Christians have this mindset.  Tell the truth.  If you saw a family with six kids walk into your church, what's the first thought that would go through your mind?  Probably not "What a beautiful family!"  Or what if the family had twelve kids?  Your thoughts would probably be closer to "Don't they know what causes that?!"  (As if they accidentally had a dozen children...)  I cannot tell you how many times I have heard this phrase, whether it be at church or the grocery store, "My! You sure do have your hands full!"  And I only have three!

Recently, Michelle Duggar experienced a miscarriage.  That, alone, breaks my heart.  The loss of a child is heartbreaking, regardless of the circumstances around it.  What breaks my heart even more are the reactions of so many.  I heard the same sentiment from numerous sources: this family should be happy with the children they is absurd that they would be mourning the loss of this baby.  "Sure, losing a baby is hard, but they brought it on themselves" seems to be the average opinion.  As if they deserved to lose the baby because of their desire to have as many kids as God will give them.  Do you see the absurdity of that?

As Christians, we should view others in the same way Jesus did.  Jesus did not look down on children.  In fact, He welcomed them.  Mark 10:13-14 is my favorite version of this story.

"People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them.  When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.'" 

The disciples felt that Jesus had more important things to do.  Children were not important.  They were not valuable.  The disciples were merely trying to prioritize all the requests, and children weren't even on the list!  But what was Jesus' response?  He was indignant. INDIGNANT! defines indignant as "feeling, characterized by, or expressing strong displeasure at something considered unjust, offensive, insulting, or base."




That is how Jesus felt about restricting the children.  He didn't view them as burdens.  He didn't view them as a waste of his time and energy.  The mere implication that He would view them that way was offensive to Him.

Do you get it?  Do you really get it?

As Christians, we should not look down on large families.  We should not criticize those who truly do welcome the little children, whether those children be biological or adopted, "perfectly healthy" or have special needs, whether it be six children or sixteen.

Children are a blessing. 

And that should be more than just a platitude.  It should be our firm belief.  And as such, it should change the way we react to large families and children in general. 

I'm not telling you that your family needs more children.  That is between you, your spouse and God.  I am telling you that if you claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ, then you need to love and welcome the little children, as He did.  Encourage, rather than criticize, those who are welcoming children into their homes.

In my attempt to find opinions on both sides of the matter, I came across this article which so eloquently and accurately assesses the situation.

"Why are people impressed that Jay Leno owns 20 motorcycles, but disgusted that some religious families choose to have 10 children?
Let’s not finesse the response. We all know why. A world that has lost its innocence has trouble appreciating beings who are innocent. A world that has become selfish has soured to the idea of leading a life of selflessness. A world that has become grossly materialistic is turned off to the idea of more dependents who consume resources. And a world that mistakenly believes that freedom means a lack of responsibility is opposed to the idea of needy creatures who 'tie you down.'”

We know that we are supposed to be in the world, but not of it.  And I'm sure that many of us feel that we are doing a good job of that.  But take a minute and ask yourself, when it comes to children, am I "of the world"?

We should be setting the example of love.  We should be a shining light for the world to see.  We need to realize that this Babylon has seeped its way into our psyche and made us look and act just like the world around us when it comes to children.  And we need to change that.

Children are a blessing.