Monday, June 29, 2009

Did I Mention That I Get to See My Daughter?

I get to see my daughter today!! I get to see my daughter today!! I get to see my daughter today!! I am ecstatic! I miss her so much, but I have come to realize it was so good to leave her with my mom for a couple of weeks. It became especially clear to me during my recovery from surgery.

I was so naive about that. I thought I was going to be good to go by Friday night. I had made all sorts of plans for the weekend. I was even going to take the local helicopter ride with my husband on Saturday. Yeah right. What was I thinking?

Sunday morning, I woke up and couldn't swallow or talk very well because something was touching my throat. I called the doctor to see if that was normal, and he said it wasn't and wanted me to come into ER. He was concerned it could be a blood clot. As it turned out, there was a blood clot, but it wasn't big enough for him to need to open me back up and drain the area. Hmmm...I am very thankful for that decision. Ouch. So, he gave me antibiotics and told me if it got worse to come back in. Well, it has actually gotten better since then, so that's a relief.

I got to take a shower today for the first time since Friday. Is that too much info? It's very exciting news to me. I just had to share it.

All in all, today is a great day. Now, I must go get the house cleaned and do some of my homework before my family arrives, so I can spend lots and lots of time with them.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Draw Me Nearer, Precious Lord

I thought I might share some of my favorite verses, poems, hymns, songs, and other such things on the weekends when I take a little break from blogging.

Here is a hymn that I didn't come to appreciate until recently. I heard it done in a blue grass style in the movie "Bella" and thought that was a nice touch.

I Am Thine, O Lord by Fanny J. Crosby

I am Thine, O Lord, I have heard Thy voice,
And it told Thy love to me;
But I long to rise in the arms of faith,
And be closer drawn to Thee.

Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,
To the cross where Thou has died;
Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,
To Thy precious, bleeding side.

Consecrate me now to Thy service, Lord,
By the pow'r of grace divine;
Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope,
And my will be lost in Thine.

O the pure delight of a single hour
That before Thy throne I spend,
When I kneel in prayer, and with Thee, my God,
I commune as friend with friend!

There are depths of love that I cannot know
Till I cross the narrow sea;
There are heights of joy that I may not reach
Till I rest in peace with Thee.

Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,
To the cross where Thou has died;
Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,
To Thy precious, bleeding side.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Literature, Drama, and Medicine

I recently read a short story by Flannery O'Conner entitled "A Good Man is Hard to Find." In it, a conniving, manipulative, vindictive, and otherwise annoying grandmother is held at gunpoint by bandits after they have murdered her children and grandchildren. All of a sudden, as she stares death in the face, she changes her tune and gains a whole new perspective on how one should live their life. After she is shot, the thug comments to the rest of his gang, "She would have been a much better woman if there had been someone there to shoot her every day of her life." The point being, we become different people when we realize that death is imminent.

There is something about going into surgery that causes a drama queen to think she is going to die on the operating table. 'Tis true. I was preparing to die in my own melodramatic way. The good news is that I was totally at peace with that. Now, that's a huge switch for me. I expected to be frantic and frightened and wanting to back out, but no, I was at peace. Not that I wanted to die. It is a huge unknown, and I really want to watch my daughter grow up for a little while longer. However, I was okay with whatever happened. Maybe that doesn't mean much to you, but knowing myself, it just thrills me. It's called growth, and I like that.

I have to tell you something funny. I called my daughter right before I was going into surgery (because I wanted to leave a few last words with her). Just as she answered the phone, my doctor walked by my room and waved at me. That happened to coincide with me greeting my daughter with a soft and sweet, "Hi Honey!" The doctor did a double take, and I hurried to clarify that I was talking to my daughter on the phone. For those of you in the south, it might not seem too out of the ordinary to call your doctor honey, but we just don't do that here in Minnesota.

The surgery went ever so wonderfully. No big long name procedures. Just a little old excisional biopsy. Now we will be waiting to hear back on the tests in the next couple of days. The doctor is pretty sure that it will be papillary thyroid cancer. I wonder how many tests they will keep taking to keep coming to that same conclusion. I asked, "What's up with that?" And they gave me some kind of answer that I don't remember because I was taking happy pills. Anyway, I will keep you posted. My post-op is Tuesday.

As I left the hospital, I felt like I was starting a brand new life (drama queen, remember?). I was having the best conversation I ever had with the sweet, little volunteer who wheeled me out. I thought the flowers were the prettiest I had ever seen, and the waterfall was simply marvelous. My husband was sexier than ever, and I just felt like life couldn't be grander.

Of course, I am on pain meds, so we will see what life looks like when they wear off. Overall though, God is so good. No matter what, he is good. I am overwhelmed right now by his goodness. It leaves me speechless, which is saying a lot.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Squeemicels

Just a quick note to let everyone know I made it out of surgery and am doing great. There was not squeemicel (I totally have no clue how to spell that so I am spelling it phentically) cancer, so they only had to remove the lymph node for biopsy. That is the best news! I am on pain meds right now, so I'm a little goofy and don't trust myself to write much. I will post more over the next few days as I feel capable. I am doing great though and just want to shout really loud and jump up and down and be so excited.

GOD IS SO GOOD!!!!!!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

It's All Greek to Me

Right excisional biopsy with the following possible procedures: Right neck dissection, direct larengoscopy and esophoscopy with biopsy with micro vocal chord stripping. I can't even spell it, but it sounds delightful.

Please pray for peace in my heart. I don't really care about healing right now. I just want peace for whatever I have to go through. Of course I think I'm going to die in surgery because I'm dramatic like that. Van and I went out for lunch, and I told him everything he needed to know if I died. He kept laughing at me.

Good night. 6:00 AM comes early. Love you all!!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Adventure

I have a tendency to want Jesus to be my savior, but I don't want him to be my Lord. I'm okay with letting him be in charge long enough to save me from myself and the trouble I get into, but it becomes more difficult to let him lead me through the hard places on the way to my ultimate haven. In essence I am saying, "Thanks for helping me through that last one. Now, you can be on your way. No, I do not want to go there with you. I am just fine staying here. I will call you when I need you. I think I can handle my own decisions."

I don't want to live that existence though. I want to follow my King and submit to him in all that he asks of me, even when I don't always understand it or agree with it and would not have chosen that path for myself.

Sometimes we think we are serving God, but we are serving our own gods. We have created an image of who we think God should and shouldn't be, and we expect the Creator of our lives to fit into the mold we have made for him. We have reduced God to a formula or a recipe. If I do this and this and this, then God has to do this and this and this. So, we practice our little rituals at the alters of our agendas in order to appease the gods we have deceived ourselves into thinking are the Creator God. Then, we get angry when our formula didn't produce the desired outcome and blame God because he didn't adhere to our limited perspective of life, goodness, and happiness.

When will we see that he is so much bigger than we are? When will we see that his goals and dreams for our lives are beyond anything we would ever even imagine for ourselves? We think we know what is good, but we only know what pleases us and makes us happy. Often, the very things that make us happy are destroying us in the process. God knows this. Just like parents sometimes have to take candy away from their children before they make themselves sick, God sometimes has to cause pain to keep us from getting sick or to heal us from the sickness to which we have already succumbed.

His greatest concern is for our complete union with him. That is where we will finally feel totally loved and accepted for who we are. That is where we will feel true peace and safety. That is where we will find purpose and meaning to our existence. That is where we will wake up and realize we have finally come home. That is where we will wonder why it took us so long to get there and why we resisted going because we thought we were safe in our own selves.

God will do whatever it takes to bring about our spiritual wholeness. He will even cause physical pain. It is not that he enjoys it any more than a mother enjoys holding her child down for an inoculation. But just as the mother knows what is best for her child in the big picture, so God knows what is best for us.

It is important to clarify that God does not cause evil. That is another spiritual realm that exists apart from goodness. However, he does cause pain. This is not a popular belief. People want to make it go away by saying that Satan causes pain. However,you have to come to grips with the fact that God actually inflicts pain on his children. It is a difficult thing to embrace. Can you trust a God who causes suffering? That is a question you will have to answer for yourself.

I have answered it with a resounding yes! I can trust that kind of a God. I can lay it all before him. I can surrender my family, my husband, my daughter, my career, my religion, my dreams, my life to this God. I can make him the Lord of my life and let him call all the shots without fearing that he will ruin it and make a mess out of it. I can do this because I know he is good and faithful and just and righteous and love. I cannot explain it to you, but I am not making it up. I know. I wish I could convince everyone of it, but I can't. It is their choice. They have to put all their eggs in one basket. They have to let go of their desperate need to control all their circumstances and outcomes. They have to decide that they are willing to make whatever hard choices he asks of them.

The good news is he saves us from mediocrity and a sub-par existence for the most fulfilling, centered, exciting life we could never dream of. If you want to pray a really scary and exciting prayer, ask God to do whatever he wants with your life, and then make the choices he asks you to make and go to the places he asks you to go.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bethany, Part III

In order to understand this post, it might be helpful to read the last 3 posts.

I'm having a really hard time with this post. It was my intention to sum up all our emotions and the things we have learned through this experience. Well, that was a little unrealistic. However, since I can't keep this going indefinitely, I will try to cover some of the really important things that I would like to leave with my daughter. So, here goes...

Faith and trust are a choice. Neither one are a feeling. When I got the news that Bethany was dead, I remember making a deliberate choice that I was going to lean with all my might on my heavenly father. I was going to trust his decision and believe that there was a better reason for her to die than for her to live. I was not going to turn my back on God in anger for what he had done. It was not a feeling. It was not an experience. It was not an emotion. It was a choice.

This does not mean I did not get angry. This does not mean I did not get depressed. This does not mean that I never wished she hadn't died. It simply means that I chose to walk through those emotions with Jesus Christ at my side. Although I couldn't always make sense of what God was doing and took a good blow to what my theology had been up until this point, I was not ready to throw everything away that had transpired between me and God.

I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning most nights wrestling with whether God really loved me, and if he did, what did that love mean. Did he really keep me and my family safe or was that an illusion I had created? If it was an illusion, where was there any security? How could I reconcile what had happened with the verses I knew promising safety from God? If I was going through a time of testing, what other things would I have to experience? If I passed the test, would God use me to bring more glory to himself? Did I really want to be someone used by God to bring glory to himself? What was he going to do next? There is a verse that says the eyes of the Lord are roaming to and fro about the earth, looking for a man through whom he can glorify himself. That verse scared me so badly because if I was faithful and glorified him in this, would he use me for all sorts of other crazy and difficult things? People think being used by God is an honor and a privilege. What they may not know is, it can also be extremely painful.

People would try to tell me that God wouldn't give me anything I couldn't bear. That is exactly what scared me. I knew I could bear anything God gave me. I was not about to ever turn my back on him. I had made a choice long before anything happened that I would serve God no matter what. Like Job said, "Though He slay me, yet will I still hope in Him."

There were so many conflicting emotions going on inside me. I totally loved and adored God and wanted him to be glorified in my life. On the other hand, I was scared half to death of what he was going to accomplish in and through me. My wonderful Christian counselor told me I had a "Job complex."

I'm almost afraid to share some of my thoughts during this time because you would think I was crazy. The truth is I was!! I was literally going crazy. Furthermore, I think it was completely normal and healthy to be going crazy at this point.

One way my craziness displayed itself was I couldn't be by myself for many months after her death. Either I went with Van everywhere he went, or he didn't go. He was so patient and loving toward me during this process of grief and Post Traumatic Stress. He would also stay up all night long with me until I went to sleep because I was afraid to be alone with the whole house sleeping. Sometimes, that meant 4:00, 5:00, or even 6:00 in the morning if I had a really rough night wrestling with God and my grief.

Another thing I did was check on Allika every 5 minutes. Sometimes, I was convinced that for one reason or other I was going to find her dead. In those instances, I would beg Van to go check on her for me. Once again, his patience in this area amazes me.

One day, I was sharing all my fears about my future in God's hands with a friend. "Tanager," she said, "God doesn't give us grace for our hypothetical fears. He only gives us grace for the task he has called us to." Wow. Yep. You're right. I am letting fear steal my joy in the moment because I am trying so hard to anticipate the carpet being pulled out from under me around the next corner.

I knew what God's grace for the moment felt like. I had experienced it first hand. He had been so good to us in so many ways following the death of our daughter. For instance, the song "Held," which I shared in my previous post, was a gift from him. I had heard that song even before Bethany was born, and I fell in love with it. I mean, I absolutely loved it! My husband got me the CD for Christmas and I played track #9 over and over and over and over. There was something about that song that grabbed me and held me (so to speak). It was no coincidence that it was the song playing at the moment we left the hospital. It was also no coincidence that a man we never met, who had heard about what happened, walked up to us the day after she died, gave us the CD, and said, "I don't know if you have ever heard this song, but I thought it would bless you." It was like God was saying, "I am right here with you. I am holding you. I will not leave you."

His grace was also displayed through our family and friends who came around us in such an amazing way. Since we couldn't bring ourselves to sleep in the house the night after she died, some friends put us up in a motel room. As they were dropping us off, we formed a circle, held hands, and prayed together. That night was so hard. I sobbed through the night. My chest hurt so badly, I thought I was having a heart attack. Van called the Emergency Room, and the nurse talked him through everything and determined it was just grief. It seriously hurt so bad.

The next morning, I knew there was no way I could go on living with the pain like it was. I wanted to just get a drink and drown it all out. I went to church instead. Good choice. It was there I was ministered to in such an enormous way that no amount of alcohol could ever touch. As we sang songs of worship to our awesome God, I lifted my hands to heaven and felt the comfort of my father envelope me.

My family started arriving as soon as church was over, and for the next two weeks they surrounded me and loved me through the deepest pain. God is so good. His grace is truly amazing.

I am not finished, but I have to break this up again. Sorry. I really wanted to finish this whole story by now, but there is too much to share. Thank you for your patience. When this is all over, I will write a bunch of froo-froo, frilly, fun, happy, silly, nonsensical stuff for a while.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows." 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Friday, June 19, 2009

Bethany, Part II

To follow this story, read the previous post.

At the hospital I was still not in my right mind. The admissions lady wanted to know Bethany's birth date. I told her it was 2003, no 2004, wait 2006. The lady smiled and said she would figure it out. They escorted me to a private room off of the main waiting area. I know the reason for that now. I told them not to tell me anything until my husband got there. I knew I could not hear any bad news by myself. They asked if I had any friends or family I could call. I couldn't remember phone numbers, and I thought my mom would be at work because I forgot it was Saturday.

My husband and daughter finally came. The doctor came in and said they had tried everything they could and had given her their strongest medications, but he was sorry to tell us, our daughter had passed away. My husband was stunned. He had not had the previous drama to prepare him for this. I was in shock. My husband made a few calls, and several of our friends arrived. He gave some numbers to the chaplain to call our family and tell them the news. Hospital chaplains are my heroes, too. He spoke such soothing words to us. He read a verse right then about how Bethany had been formed in my womb for a purpose. Her life had been for a reason, and so had her death. He said that God knew what it meant to lose a child. At first, I thought that was a really dumb thing to say because God knew all along that his son would be re-united with him in a few short days. Then, I realized that I knew I would be re-united with Bethany someday, too.

They asked us if we wanted to go see her. At first, we were repulsed by the thought. We didn't want to see her with all the tubes in her. They said they had to leave them for the coroner to determine cause of death. Eventually, we decided we wanted to see her and say goodbye. We wrestled with whether or not our other daughter should come. We asked the hospital staff what the effects would be on a 3-year-old. No one really knew. We decided that this was part of her life, and as difficult as it would be, she would have to grapple with all of this. It was reality for her.

The three of us made our way down the hall. Nurses were laughing and talking about their weekend plans as we passed their station. People with cuts and illnesses were waiting behind curtains to see the doctor. Then, we saw her. She was laying in her little diaper on a cold, hard table. She had a tube taped to her mouth and bandages on her body where they had started I.Vs. Apart from that, she looked like she was sleeping. She was so perfect and beautiful; I couldn't believe she was dead. I stroked her hair and kissed her temples like I always did. Allika and Van touched her and kissed her and told her goodbye. The chaplain said a prayer, and the nurses wiped tears from their eyes.

We returned to the lobby, and many of our church friends were there. I was so thankful for them. Several of them had taken off of work to come be with us. That meant so much. They loved us and prayed with us and hugged us and took care of details regarding the rest of the weekend.

My husband and I were questioned separately regarding Bethany's death. We were both so scared that we would be blamed for it. I had heard the horror stories of kids dying and parents going to jail for child abuse. I had laid her on her stomach. I had used a fluffy quilt to cushion her. I had left her for hours without checking on her. I had botched up the CPR. I had been by myself with no witnesses to my account. I couldn't stand the thought that I might go to jail and my daughter would lose her mother at this crucial time in her life. I know it might sound silly now, but I was scared half to death.

When the questioning was done, they said we could leave. I said, "That's it? We just walk out of here and leave my daughter lying on that table?" They looked at each other and seemed a little at a loss. Then, they said they would move her to another room and we could have all the time we needed to say goodbye.

We sat in that room taking turns holding her and saying goodbye. Suddenly, a nurse flew through the door. "Has she been seen yet?" she asked. I was a little confused. She continued, "Has anyone treated your daughter yet?" I told her she was dead. She got a horrified look on her face and apologized profusely. I told her we understood and it was okay.

It was time to leave. We could not hold her forever. It was so weird walking out of the hospital as if life was just as normal as it ever was. People were coming and going. Nurses were taking smoke breaks and laughing. The sun was shining. And my heart was still in the hospital with a little baby lying on a cold, hard bed.

As we all got in our cars to go to our friend's house for supper, this is the song that was playing on the local Christian radio station at that very moment:



To be continued

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bethany, Part I

This will be a really hard post to read. No, seriously. This will be a really hard post to read. I have contemplated not writing this, but I know that future posts will depend on the telling of this story. In fact, I have wanted to post about other things, but they all seem to need the context of this story to make any sense. I've thought, "Oh, I'll talk about that." Then I realize it will need to be explained in light of something else, and eventually, the explanations will lead to the story I am about to tell.

I also know how important it is for my daughter to know these things. Since this whole blog is really for her, I will write with that in mind and may offend some of the rest of you in the process. Sorry for that in advance.

Bethany was born to us on December 17, 2005. She was a beautiful baby with dark black hair and big, dark eyes. We bonded right away, her and I. My other daughter fell in love as soon as we brought her home. She was an amazing big sister, constantly wanting to hold, rock, play with, and comfort "baby." As with most men, it took my husband a little while longer to form that bond, but I think he was falling in love more than he even realized.

Bethany was a sweet baby. Anyone who knew her will tell you that. She was just so content to be held or swung in her swing, and never cried unless she wanted to be held, fed, or swung. I catered to her need to be held more than I probably should have. I worried that I was really going to spoil her eventually because all I ever wanted to do was hold her and do whatever it took to make her stop crying. Sometimes I would just sit on the couch, holding her, while all the work that I should have been doing went undone.

Life was normal and sweet and fun and everything we ever wanted it to be. We couldn't have asked for more, and sometimes, I felt like we were blessed so much I couldn't take anymore. We were such a happy family with our two little girls who were going to grow up to be the best of friends. We imagined that Allika was going to be the bubbly, vivacious one who was always hatching some new plan; Bethany would be the quiet, steady sister who went along with everything her big sister wanted to do and sometimes provided a certain degree of restraint. Allika would have tons of friends and never meet a stranger. Bethany would be shy and have a few close, fiercely loyal friends. We had it all figured out.

Exactly 8 weeks after her birth, I nursed Bethany at 9:00 in the morning. My friend came over at 10:00 to help me make pies for a fundraiser we were having at church. I said goodbye to my husband who thought, for some reason, he wouldn't be able to study as well with three kids running through the house, screaming and tearing cushions off the sofa.

We got to work on the pies while Bethany sat in her swing and cried. After a little while of that, I couldn't stand it any longer. I picked her up and held her until she fell asleep in my arms. She was so precious, laying there sleeping in my arms. I lowered her into her cradle and laid her on her stomach, cushioned with a soft, yellow and pink quilt.

My friend and I were amazed at how well she slept after that. I couldn't believe she hadn't woken up yet, especially when the kids went banging and clanging into the bedroom where she was sleeping and were swiftly redirected elsewhere. I thought she would have been demanding more food by this time, but figured maybe she was exhausted. Plus, we really were getting a lot of work done while she slept, so I left her there until we were done.

After my friend left, I cleaned everything up, straightened all the couch cushions back out, put Allika down for a nap, and put the last pie in the oven. By now, I knew I had to wake Bethany up because she had just been sleeping for so long. I got a glass of ice water and a magazine to read and went in to get Bethany and nurse her while I relaxed on the couch.

When I reached her cradle, I knew something was dreadfully wrong. She was laying perfectly still with her face pressed down into the quilt. I hurriedly put my water and magazine on the dresser and picked her up out of her cradle. She was blue and purple and blood was coming out of her mouth. Surprisingly, I didn't freak out. I went into an automatic mode and just kept whispering, "No, no, no, no, no," over and over again.

I put her under my arm and raced into the kitchen to call 911. As I was calling them, I raced back to the bedroom and laid her on my bed and started blowing in her mouth and administering chest compressions. The operator told me I had to check the airway first. Oh yeah, you forget these things when you are frantically trying to breathe life into your child. I tilted her head back and reached my pinky into her throat to clear her airway. I pulled out a bunch of blood. I wiped it on her cute, little pajamas and continued CPR. Now her chest was rising. Now she was getting oxygen. Now she would be okay and start breathing again.

I heard the sirens and didn't wait, even though the operator was telling me to keep doing CPR until the paramedics got there. I picked my baby up in my arms and raced to the front door, throwing it open just as the startled fireman reached it. I thrust my baby into his arms, yelling, "Save my baby."

He immediately laid her on the floor and started mouth to mouth with no protective gear and while blood was still coming out of her mouth. To this day, I am amazed at his compassion and willingness to do that. I love first responders. They are my heroes.

The rest of the emergency personnel arrived, and that's when I fell apart. Now that they were there to take care of my baby, I sat on the couch and rocked back and forth, praying that God would save my baby. The paramedics asked me if I had any other children and told me to go and take care of my other daughter. While I was in the room with her, the whisked Bethany off to the hospital.

My husband had not taken a cell phone with him when he left, and I had not idea where he had gone to study. Plus, he was running some errands afterward, so he could be anywhere at this point. We can only reason that God led him to call from a pay phone at this exact moment. I told him to hurry and come home because Bethany wasn't breathing and they were taking her to the hospital. The poor guy said traffic had never been slower in his whole life on his way trying to get home.

Another ambulance was waiting to take me to the hospital while I left Allika at home with complete strangers until her daddy got there. I was so flustered and out of my mind I ran right out into the traffic without looking to get in the ambulance. A policeman yelled at me to be careful and snapped me out of my daze.

I thought I was in the ambulance by myself for a few minutes before the driver came, and I started crying and pleading with God to save Bethany's life. I told him I would do whatever he wanted me to do. He could do whatever he wanted with me. Would he please just save my baby's life.

To be continued

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ladies and Gentleman May I Present - The Crazies!!!!

Here is a sample from our Family Talent Night 2009. Please excuse the screeching and laughter which tends to interfere with the artistic process.
video
The Pratt's have never really been known for their dramatic expression.
video
We are such retards. It drives me absolutely insane that the last chord is not resolved.

Coming Soon

When my dear, sweet technological wizard of a husband comes home, I will be utilizing his skills to post some video clips. So, check back in a little while if you would like a good laugh.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Boat

A little channel ran behind the cabin my parents rented. It was wide enough to fit two good-sized boats passing each other. It had plenty of room to take the paddle boat, kayak, and row boat and putter around a little. There were lots of little fish the kids loved catching off the dock. They even got in the boat and tried to catch a few while paddling around.

As you floated up and down the channel, there were certain areas where you would catch a whiff of something dead sometimes. Once, we saw a dead duck just floating in the water bottoms up. The water was dirty and shallow, and we even disposed of a fish head in there, so we could enjoy seeing its beady eyes staring up at us every now and then.

In spite of the fact that this little channel was no Hawaiian beach, we all enjoyed ourselves nestled in our quiet cabin overlooking this functional and adequate little waterway. I had several thoughtful moments sitting at the dock with my legs dangling over the edge, watching the water and observing nature around me.

But the time came when my husband and I got in a boat and slowly (very slowly) began to make our way down the channel. We passed beautiful summer cottages along the way and drooled over the various water toys tied to the docks. We noticed the trees, stretching their lush, green branches over the bank. We felt the breeze in our faces, and laughed at our inept attempt at boating.

We looked ahead and saw that the channel was coming to an end, but the bushes and trees were blocking our view of what would come next. As we rounded the corner and went through the opening in the greenery, we just sat there in awed silence. We were on a beautiful lake, filled with see-through water, surrounded by mountains on all sides. The sky was brilliant blue above the green mountains, and the water stretched for miles and miles. The sun was setting, and we quit paddling and let our boat just rock back and forth as we sat and took in the picture God had painted for us.

As I thought about the stark contrast between the channel and the lake, I began to realize that life is a lot like that. We are content to sit on the dock of our tiny, little waterway and watch our small world go by. We think we are where we want to be because we are having so much fun playing in our dirty water.

Yet, God has so much more he wants us to experience. He knows what our lives are supposed to look like, and he wants to show us true beauty if we would let him. We cannot see it yet because we are too content in our dirty water. If we would trust him, get in the boat, and let him take us for a ride, we would come around that bend and never be content with the channel again.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Wonderfullest is a Word

I just got back from the most wonderfullest vacation with my family. It was so nice to get away for a while and pretend like I didn't have any responsibility. I got to spend time with my parents, two of my sisters, and my husband and daughter. I also got to see several friends who I grew up with and haven't seen for a long time.

My parents rented a cabin on the lake, so we spent a lot of time playing games, eating, visiting, and relaxing in the cabin. The kids loved swimming, fishing, going out on the lake in various boats, and lighting fireworks. I realized how citified my daughter had become when she saw lightning bugs for the first time at 6-years-old. I am horrified at the thought.

I said goodbye to my grandmother for the last time on this trip. It was really sad seeing her and knowing it would be the last time. I kept saying goodbye and going back and saying goodbye again. I finally had to tell myself that at some point I would have to just walk away and be done. She is the sweetest, most positive woman. Even in her state of dementia she maintains her class. When my mom asked her if she remembered my husband, she very sweetly said, "I regret to say that I don't." When he asked her if she had very many visitors, she said, "Oh, just loads of them. Piled high to the ceiling." At an earlier time, when my dad asked her how she was feeling, she said, "I'm getting better and better every day," even though she is terminal with leukemia. What a beautiful lady. What a beautiful legacy.

We decided to leave my daughter with her Grandma and Grandpa for two weeks until my mom and sister come out for a visit. I will be having surgery in the next two weeks, so we thought it would work out well to have her stay. I left my mom with strict instructions on how to take care of a child. I don't know if I will be able to handle this. It's only been one day, and I already miss her something fierce. It was harder on me leaving her than it was on her. She kept insisting that she wanted to stay. I kept trying to make sure she understood exactly what it would mean. I informed her that I would be having surgery while she was at Grandma's (she had told me to make sure she knew when my surgery was). I told her several times because I thought she might not understand. Finally, she said, "Mom, why do you keep saying surgery? Surgery, surgery, surgery, surgery, surgery, surgery, surgery!!!" I laughed and said it was because she had asked me to make sure she knew when it was. She said, "Well, you only had to tell me once." She is just the neatest little kid in the whole world.

So, keep me in your prayers. They will be doing the first surgery on June 26th. Thanks for all your prayers and support. I came home to some very, very sweet cards in the mail. That was so nice. God is so good to me through you.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Vacation

Just a quick post to let you know I'm on vacation right now, so I will try to post when I can. I don't have a lot of time right now, but I'm having lots of fun relaxing with my family. Lots of thoughts to share later.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Putting Life in Perspective

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

A friend of mine posted this verse on my facebook wall, and it reminded me of how much I love it. It helps me to keep everything in perspective. I know that what I am going through is making me a better person. God cares more about my attaining spiritual wholeness than he does my physical wholeness. It is a process that requires the continual molding and shaping of my will until it becomes perfectly aligned with his. If you could see inside my heart like he can, you would see all the areas in which I am so held back by fear. I still try desperately to control what I cannot, and it only ties me to things that drag me down and make me less of the person I was created to be. I thought I had won a lot of battles over my fears, and I have, but God is showing me that I still hold on to so many things that paralyze me and keep me from living life to the fullest. I want to love more deeply, live more abundantly, and serve more passionately. God is working in me to help me fulfill the desires that he has for me. I will trust in that even when I do not enjoy the process.

The other thing I like about this verse is it kind of shows me how absorbed I have become in my own problems. We are all wasting away in our bodies. No one is getting out unscathed by pain and death. I am not the only one going through hard times. The hardest part of this whole thing is pretty much self-inflicted by all my worrying and borrowing trouble. The other day, I sat in my driveway and told myself to get a grip. There are a lot worse things that could happen to me than having surgery or no thyroid or radiation.

I think of all the people around me who I know and love and all the struggles they are going through. I am trying to help a Liberian friend obtain her legal immigration status. She came over to America legally during the war in Liberia but was not aware enough of the system to keep her visas renewed. It breaks my heart to hear the things she has been through. She was actually shot by rebels while praying in church. I cannot even imagine the Post Traumatic Stress that would come from that. What is even harder to watch is her disappointment as we both become more and more aware that there is no way she can be here legally. We have tried everything. The lawyers are advising her to stay here as an illegal citizen and hope she does not get deported. In the meantime, she struggles to make ends meet. I have not even begun to know that kind of pain, frustration, and hopelessness.

I think of my other friend who is fighting substance abuse and domestic abuse. It is a long, sad, and very tangled up story. It plays itself out at the same time that I sit here with a loving, supportive family and the hope in life that keeps me from drowning my pain in superficial solutions.

I do not tell these stories to say that I am more blessed than they are. I tell them to remind myself that we all have our stories of pain and suffering. I'm sure others look at me and are glad that they do not have to go through what I go through, and I probably look at them and am thankful I don't have to fight their battles. No matter who we are or what we are going through we all have one thing in common: pain. We are all dying, but Jesus came so that we might have life and have it more abundantly. God is doing a work in each of us to bring us closer to himself because that is the place where we were always meant to be.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Nodes and Lighter Notes

So, I went to the doctor today to figure a bunch of things out. I felt like throwing up sitting there waiting for my appointment. My poor husband came with me and had to put up with my nerves. The doctor showed me the scan and biopsy. It was kind of cool. Anyway, I guess the first step is going to be to take the irregular lymph nodes out. There is one test they will do on the lymph nodes during the surgery, because if it's a certain kind of cancer (cannot remember these long names for the life of me), they will have to remove all the lymph nodes right then and there and go into my throat and mouth and stuff. If it is not that long-name cancer, they will close me up and run extensive tests on the nodes after the surgery. If it turns out to be the thyroid cancer (which is what they are 80-90% sure of), they will do another surgery to remove the thyroid, and then, I will have some kind of radioactive iodine therapy. Another possibility is lymphoma. Anyway, we'll burn these bridges when we get to them. He wants to do the surgeries within a few weeks.

On a lighter note, we are flying to Vermont on Friday to spend a week with my family. I get to see my sisters and parents and spend a week just relaxing in a cabin in the woods. I am so excited, even though I am flying and there just was a plane crash on Sunday that no one knows the reason for. Okay, that was my lighter note.

On an even lighter note (for real this time), I went to see my niece graduate from kindergarten tonight. So cute! She had a little cap and gown and got little diploma. How sweet is that?