Revelation

When we built our current home, my favorite room was the kitchen. After leaving my career as Electronic Data Interchange Coordinator for Chief Executive Homemaker years before, my kitchen had become my “office”. I spend most of my time there so I put a lot of thought into the layout and décor. Ten years later, I still love this space, even if it’s probably getting a little dated. The pale, warm, butter yellow walls, light oak cabinets, and accents of sage green, cream, and tan never fail to relax me. My favorite time of the day is (late) morning when warm sun pours in through windows dotted with sticky fingerprints, reflects off those yellow walls, and fills my kitchen with a sense of calm that belies the chaos it’s usually in. The counter tops are a magnet for things like forgotten homework assignments, chapstick tubes, and Hello Kitty erasers. The refrigerator is decorated with masterpieces created by grade school artists on one side, and the front sports a hard working calendar that schedules five precious souls. My “drop spot”, well organized with slots for unpaid bills, things that need to be filed, and hooks for keys is usually overflowing and accompanied by an assortment of chargers and their accompanying electronic devices. The sink is full of evidence of a well fed family and my stove top constantly needs to be cleaned because of pots that have boiled over during busy evening meal preparations. My oven is never clean for very long and the proof is the smell of apple pie drippings when you turn it on because as soon as I clean it I am guaranteed to forget to put a cookie sheet under my next pie or overflowing casserole large enough for our family. My office is not perfect. It is well worn, hard working, well loved, and the center of our home. I can only pray that it is a reflection of me, as it is the place I am most comfortable in.

I know some amazing women who diligently spend time with Jesus, every morning, in their “cloffice” or “war room”. If you’ve read some of my other posts you will know that I’m not talking about myself. My current Valley finds me with three young children and two of them now with medical concerns. I spend much of my time on the “needs” of my little family but I am slowly learning to incorporate Mom’s time with Jesus. And what I’ve discovered is that there is something special about my kitchen. Maybe because, as the esteemed Homemaker, this is my office. Or, maybe it is simply because I spend so many hours there surrounded by dirty dishes, school work, meal preparation and clean up, and the never ending scheduling required of a family of five. Or, it could very well be because it’s the place my children often avoid for fear of being put to work. Whatever the reason, I realized yesterday this seems to be the place He comes to me, and I to Him, most often.

As I’m prone to do, I was doing my morning chores, undoing the damage to my kitchen the night before, and worshiping while I worked. This time, I was singing and dancing to Third Day’s “Revelation” while emptying, filling the dishwasher, and washing pots and pans. A quick peak into the living room confirmed the toddler was content with important robot building. I had a moment to pray.

Father, please show me what to do. I can’t see the completed work of this valley, but you do. Tell me, please, do I stay or do I move? I truly need a revelation here Lord!

And once again, I was brought to the floor of my beloved kitchen. Staring at those hard wood floors Hubby labored to give me, which were currently covered in dog hair, cat hair, a few crumbs, and a Lego I would find again later with bare feet. This time though, it was with grateful tears streaming past lips curved into a smile on a face upturned in gratitude to my Father.

Child, I’ve been telling you. You just haven’t been listening.

I sat on the floor shaking my head as the pieces that had been eluding me for months rolled around and miraculously fit themselves together.

Thank you, Father!! I am so sorry for not listening. Thank you for once again pursuing me. For pouring out yet more grace and love and meeting me where I am to gently and persistently open my stubborn eyes!

You see, He had answered my prayers. Several times it turned out. But, because it wasn’t the answer I was looking for, one of the options I had in mind, I didn’t see it.


Psalm 23:3 (NIV)

    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.

Psalm 17:6 (NIV)

I call on you, my God, for you will answer me;
    turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.


Toddler robot construction completed, he was hungry. He may have been a little surprised to find Mom on the floor, crying and smiling. He may have even been questioning my sanity. I set him up with his lunch at the  kitchen table. As usual, he ate his pickles first and asked for more. I assured him I hadn’t lost my marbles and that he still needed to eat the rest of his lunch before he got any more pickles. Two minutes later, maybe testing my mental status, he asked again. I told him we go over this every time, just because you are looking for a different answer, doesn’t mean I’m going to change my mind. I don’t know where he gets this from?!

 

Blessed

I ran into an old friend this morning in the line at Caribou. And because I hadn’t seen her in years, I was unshowered, devoid of a stitch of makeup, and wearing whatever was in reach as I rushed to get the kids out the door for school. If I hadn’t been plagued by a kidney stone all night I might have made a quick exit before she noticed me, but I had, and I was just desperate enough for caffeine to forgo vanity in exchange for it.

“How ARE you?! I was so sorry to see your last update.”

She had seen my Caring Bridge update the day before. The one in which I shared that our oldest son had also now been diagnosed with cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis. But, low on sleep, I thought she was referring to my Facebook post about the current battle being waged somewhere between my kidney and my bladder.

Self consciously zipping my coat up higher over my rumpled clothes, “I still haven’t passed the darn stone. Which is why I look like I just rolled out of bed. I did manage to brush my teeth though…you’re welcome!”.

“You have a kidney stone on top of everything else?! You guys just can’t catch a break, can you? I can’t believe everything you’re going through. I’m impressed you’re even out of bed!”

“Oh, it’s been a very long year and a half, for sure. But we’ve been so blessed too!”

Looking at me now like I’ve sprouted a fancy new pair of horns out of my unbrushed hair, “What?”.

“Well, I can tell you that I really can’t think of another thing that would have literally brought me to my knees as swiftly and completely as something happening to my kids.”

Confused stare.

Trying to clarify, “Well, my salvation is a pretty big blessing.”

“Oh. Sure.” She was clearly looking for a blessing a little more short sighted.

“I can assure you, if He hadn’t given me the grace to see all the good in this, I am positive I really would be in bed. Curled into the fetal position, drowning in all of the ‘What if’s’ and ‘Why me’s’!”

As understanding passed across her face, the line moved and she grabbed her coffee. “Well, I hope you feel better soon! It was nice to see you. I’ll be thinking of you guys!”.

“Thank you! Nice to see you too!”.

I was thinking about this conversation after I got home and was a little more awake. She’s not the first person that has commented on my mostly positive outlook. It occurs to me that though I update the Caring Bridge site regularly I’ve tried to keep it strictly about the facts and about the kids. So, I haven’t shared on there WHY I am hopeful and the details on how I know we’ve been blessed. I feel like I could write a book on all the ways He has demonstrated His sovereignty, grace and love to me in the past year and a half.

Let me count the ways He has loved us …

1. My salvation. This is pretty self explanatory. Though He’d revealed the Gospel to me some years before this, and had been working in my life for some time, the surrender of the things I held most dear and my dependence on Him had been slow in coming. Nothing makes a person realize their own limitations like illness!

2. Hope. My hope in eternal life.The knowledge that even if this life under the sun was crazy hard, even if He chose not to heal our daughter, even if one of our other children were effected,  EVEN IF His plan was different than mine, I could hope in my forever home.


 

James 1:12

12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.


My hope that no matter what the tests, specialists, and research says, our God is bigger than all of that. That the One who made the heavens and Earth had made these children as well and loved them more than a whole flock of sparrows.

3. Knowledge. Now, I’m not claiming any great IQ or anything, but He did bless me with enough intelligence to wade through hundreds of websites touting words and statistics that would make your head spin. I have a system of printing out research and case studies, highlighting the medical jargon, and translating it into layman’s terms in the margins to be able to go through and read it. I have found, with very rare disorders, that arming myself with information and verifying it with specialists has been highly beneficial.

4. Wisdom. Also, I don’t claim to any great wisdom of my own. He has not only led me to important people and information, but given me the discernment to know what I need to, when I need to know it in order to get the right care at the right time for the kids.

5. Truth. Time and time again He has poured Truth into my life. Through messages at church that seemed directly poured from His lips, to my ears. Through faith filled fellow Believers that have encouraged me and repeatedly pointed me to His word. Life giving bits of love and hope everywhere I looked! Even in the middle of the night, when pain and worry plagued me, He led me to my Bible and my knees.

6. Anxiety. Yes, the anxiety I diligently prayed relief from. So often I confessed to this anxiety, asked for forgiveness for not trusting Him, and begged that He would fill me with faith and peace. But even this, I know He made good. That anxiety fueled many sleepless nights of research, pressed me to dig deeper, look further, and to be diligent and persistent in finding medical answers. I truly believe He left this with me for our good, and His glory. Further evidence? He took it away. We’re not even close to done with hurdles and specialists, and testing, but I was on my way to our last appointment and it was gone. Now, I’m a mom, I still have a Master’s in worry. But not the anxiety that daily threatened panic attacks, headache and nausea and kept me up all night. Just gone. Because it’s no longer for our good, and His glory.

7. His Timing. The blessing of seeing His intricate weaving play out over the past year and a half has been absolutely awe inspiring!! He is The Master Weaver! Some things, of course, were not apparent at the time. But He was always working, whether I saw it or not. Let me share the basics…

Master Weaver

When I noticed our daughter’s tremor, I brought her to her pediatrician. He immediately referred us to a neurologist. To my dismay, they were booked out three months! The pediatrician agreed this was too long to wait, and referred us to Children’s Hospital. They fit her in in two weeks and did testing to look for life threatening causes. When those tests came back okay, the neurologist said he knew of a neurologist that specialized in movement disorders and referred us to him. This neurologist was great and immediately started extensive testing. As each new symptom developed, more tests. No answers. When he had exhausted all modern medical testing he referred us to a geneticist at the University.

We received her first diagnosis six months ago. That geneticist sent us back to her neurologist .After extensive research, I questioned the amount of symptoms not explained by this disorder and much of the information was from research done by a doctor who was currently at Stanford. When we saw her neurologist he said he had actually worked with this doctor previously and would contact him for his opinion.

The doctor told her neurologist to have us contact the genetic counselor involved with his research, who happened to still be at the University! I ran into a road block trying to contact her via the labyrinth of menu options on their phone system and no one was calling me back. Explaining this to a friend, she said her daughter actually had that same geneticist and genetic counselor when she was diagnosed years ago…and got me her direct phone number. She called me back the next day and after hearing of our daughter’s symptoms, diagnosis, and age, recommended that we continue with the full genetic panel.

We were warned, that patients that had undergone the amount of testing as our daughter rarely got answers from this testing, but it would be a good idea to just make sure that we weren’t missing something treatable, as many of the patients with her diagnosis had multiple disorders. She did. When the results came back, this genetic counselor consulted with a neurologist that had, amazingly, seen two other patients at another facility with this disorder. Since it is extremely rare, 1 in 200,000, and maybe only around a hundred current cases in the United States, we were elated. Until we found out our oldest son had it too. But, this neurologist already knows where to find the medication, that it needs to have special approval by the FDA, and is looking into how to get it to us.

I was led to research that proved to me that the kids diagnosis at 8 and 12 is nearly unheard of. That  because of our daughter’s atypical presentation, our vigilance and persistence, they may be the youngest in the country receiving treatment. They literally don’t yet have a pediatric dose! Average age of diagnosis is 37, when they are disabled by mental retardation or psychiatric problems. Life span without treatment is 40-50 years. Many cases are diagnosed post mortum. Sobering. I don’t know why He allowed this into our lives yet. But I do know that He has given them the best possible chances of a good outcome. We suspected nothing with our oldest until getting Joelle’s diagnosis and reading about it. Without God’s perfect work in carefully weaving this together, we could very easily have had a much more awful outcome. Now, would I have liked Him to cure these babies? Absolutely. But that’s because I can’t see the finished work. We are just a strand in it. But He can, and what a blessing is that?!

The Gift In The Concrete

The  last year and a half has been hard. Really hard. Watching your once “normal”, healthy, eight year old decline and helplessly standing by while dozens of tests and specialists tell you they don’t know what’s wrong has a way of slowly turning a parent inside out. You know it’s something serious, and you relentlessly pray for answers, but when you get them, you’re still grossly unprepared for the reality of it.

We now have TWO answers and I don’t like either one. The first is called Spinocerebellar Ataxia Type 8. Rare, genetic, degenerative, and would slowly rob her of her mobility over about fifteen years. You can see my blogs, The Dark and Alibaster Jar if you’re interested in seeing where that brought me. The second, newest, is Cerebrotendinous Xanthomatosis. I held it together slightly better (growth?) the second time around. See Hope . Also rare, genetic, and progressive, this one explains her cognitive decline, personality changes, leg pain, etc. The good news is that this one has an available treatment. The idea being to replace what her body isn’t making and pray that we can maintain normal numbers and stop the progression. The bad news is that each of our boys has a 25% chance of having this disorder as well and we are waiting on their genetic test results.

I’ve blogged a lot about the pain, loss, and grief over this journey but He has faithfully brought me through and given me so much love, truth, and hope. Everything I need, when I need it most. Thank you Jesus! The last couple weeks I’ve been struggling through something a little less dramatic. Sadness. The kind of sadness that hovers silently in the shadows of my mind while joy, excitement, hope, love, fatigue, frustration and worry bump around the rest of the space in there, jostling for position. It’s heavy presence is always there. Waiting. Just waiting, for worry or frustration to bump up against it, form an alliance, and squeeze hot tears out of unsuspecting eyes. I’m finding this happens most often when I come face to face with our present reality. Without having a chance to brace myself first.

The other day we were tackling 3rd grade homework when frustration and worry ganged up on me with sadness. We spent an hour repeatedly going over which hand was the hour hand and which hand was the minute hand. Something she had mastered in first grade. Abstract concepts are next to impossible with her short term memory impairment. Twenty minutes later, her newfound impulsiveness led to a screaming toddler and crying 8 year old because she had gotten frustrated, pinched him, and immediately felt terrible. At bedtime, she told me she didn’t want to go to Sunday school because she got confused. There was truly less light in my baby girl’s eyes! By the time I went to bed, I was in tears.

Father, PLEASE! Please don’t let us lose the compassionate heart you blessed her with too! Please don’t allow this disorder to rob her of the ability to understand the huge faith you’ve given her! This heart, this faith, that have been such a source of hope and comfort. Such a gift of grace to us!

Sadness dogged me the next morning and followed me through her occupational therapy session which left her tremor worse, her body sweating and exhausted, and her complaining of the pain in her legs. And as I broke out the Motrin:

“Mom, I’m sad.”

She has a few things to be sad about. “Why are you sad, baby?”

“I’m sad for all of the people that lived before God gave us Jesus.”

Her compassionate heart! But that’s a pretty abstract concept to grasp. Does she really get it?

“I wish He could have helped them get to Heaven too. But I’m sure happy that we were born after Jesus!”

Smiling through tears. “Me too baby girl, me too.”

Tear filled eyes closed and lifted to a bitterly cold Midwest winter sun, being covered in His grace and love, my heart cried out my thanks for a gift so beautiful!

I have little difficulty with the abstract. I’ve been blessed with an exceptional memory. I have no physical challenges. I’m pretty sure I aced third grade word problems involving reading a clock. But, I didn’t know the Gospel until I was in my thirties, and I struggled to understand and accept the love of my Savior for longer than I care to admit. (It really is a kind of illogical love, isn’t it?!) And I’m too embarrassed to disclose how long it took my heart to bleed for those that were, and are, perishing. Her existence in the concrete, the present, has apparently not hindered her faith, or her compassionate heart in the slightest. It begs the question, which one of us truly has a greater challenge?!  He will make clear to her all she truly needs to know, just as He will for me.

Baby girl, you bring that beautiful heart and concrete faith, I will bring the abstract, and we will grow in Christ together!

 


1 Corinthians 12:4-11New International Version (NIV)

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,[a] and to still another the interpretation of tongues.[b] 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.