The lumpy, bumpy road…

This road we’re on sure has a lot of stones in it. The narrow path can be hard to navigate. Trying not to fall to the left or the right is tough when this road less traveled never seems to stay straight. Instead, we’re full steam ahead on a journey that has more twists and turns than the county fair roller coaster. I heard someone say once that if you’re bored as a Christian, you’re not doing it right. If there is any Truth to that, I have to believe we’re really rocking this following Jesus thing.

But the really cool thing I’m finding about maturity is that my reflexes have greatly improved. Usually, at a new bump or bend at break neck speed, I start with crying out. Right away I know to approach the One Whose stamp of approval has been placed on this detour. I occasionally start with the “Why me”, followed by (a little bit whiney), “What is it about me that requires THIS much correction?” Or maybe “What am I NOT learning?” and sometimes, “How long, Lord?”. This is a much quicker stop than it used to be. Because, well, reflexes. Muscle memory? Practice?

Next, I move on to remembering. Because when I’m nervous or scared or just plain tired, I know that I fail to practice some basic safety measures like looking in the rearview mirrors. Looking at where I’ve been reminds me of how I’ve gotten through, and Who is always traveling WITH me. Over every rough patch, through every close call, I can find strength in remembering that those situations seemed precarious at the time too, so surely there is hope yet for this one.

Then I slow down and remember to check those side mirrors and watch my blind spots. Because, in remembering, I’m reminded that this is when the enemy delights in trying to destroy. Destroy my peace, destroy my calm and destroy my deep breathing exercises. A bit of defensive driving here is absolutely crucial. I grab hold of that manual, that map, that Word of God and speak Truth to myself where lies threaten to sneak up on me.

This last couple of weeks I had some difficulty navigating. We hit a few bumps. The A/C went out in my van. Which isn’t such a big deal unless you have a kiddo that doesn’t regulate their body temperature well. Then, there’s the water heater that suddenly quits. And in the midst of a cold shower, another bump. Or rather, a lump.

In my breast.

And if any of you have experienced this kind of bump in your road, you may know the kind of road I traveled this week. It took a twist at the ultrasound, after the mammogram, when the radiologist ordered the core needle biopsy. Though I’d been in regular prayer over all our bumps lately, I will admit that the big medical words like radial scar and inter ductal carcinoma had me doing more of what would be considered, praying continuously.

I prayed continuously as they prepped for biopsy. I prayed continuously when that room looked more like a crime scene than an exam room. I prayed continuously that I would not lose my lunch, that I would remain conscious, and that they would finish soon. And as it was all over, I prayed for wisdom for the staff that would interpret the results.

Curled up with a couple of ice packs that evening I was still praying. My busy mind in direct contrast to the stillness of my living room, I made a familiar stop at “Why me”. Because I was feeling a bit…. afflicted.

Why us? Why finances? Why always medical problems? Why SO HARD? Why can’t we have “those” problems instead? You know, the ones those other people have? How much longer, Lord? And this whole pity party collided with gratitude for a Father that tolerates the questions of His struggling children.

So I finished my devotional. I finished my daily reading and I prayed for the ability to hand it all over to Him. For a peace that surpasses circumstances. Because I knew He could provide it, I turned off all the lights and crawled into bed.

When Psalm 41 flashed insistent through my head.

I don’t know Psalm 41. Is that in the first book, or the second? I’ll look tomorrow.

I tossed, turned, fluffed and got back up to take some more Motrin. Then tried again.

Lord, I know You already know those biopsy results and You’re already ahead of our every need. Please help me remember that and rest in You.

Psalm 41

1, 2 & 3…

That seemed rather specific so I picked up my phone and looked it up quickly on Blue Letter Bible.

Psalm 41
Blessed are those who have regard for the weak;
the Lord delivers them in times of trouble.
2 The Lord protects and preserves them—
they are counted among the blessed in the land—
he does not give them over to the desire of their foes.
3 The Lord sustains them on their sickbed
and restores them from their bed of illness.

Giggling and crying, because that’s how I roll when the Creator of the universe lowers Himself to not only hear my prayer, but whispers comfort in illuminated text. I shut my phone off and went to bed. And slept.

The air conditioning is still broken, the water heater still needs to be replaced and biopsy confirmed what’s called a radial scar. Benign, it should require no treatment, but will at least need to be removed.

But I have it on good authority that we are being protected and preserved and we will be delivered in our times of trouble. Not to mention being sustained and restored. I’m feeling far more peace about the road we’re on.

Surgery and Procedures: A Guide For Caregivers

There are oodles of articles, brochures and pamphlets on how to prepare a child for surgery or procedures. I know, I’ve had the pleasure of reading many of them. They’re extremely helpful. What I’ve found over the last few years though, is that they’re not extremely helpful in preparing the adult that is accompanying and caring for the child. So, as we’re headed in for a procedure today, I thought I’d provide my own list of things I’ve found the most useful to know as the caregiver accompanying a small person for what can be a very stressful time.

What To Bring

The hospital should have what’s called a “Child Life Specialist”, or something similar to keep your child entertained during the endless waiting and to lessen their anxiety with activities and electronics. You’ll likely have your hands full doing the same. But, once they’re wheeled in, you will find yourself with plenty of time on your worrying hands.

First, bring your people. Family, friends that are family, church family, whatever. Bring a person that can run for food if you need it, grab some tissue if you need it, enable you to run outside for some fresh air and most importantly, distract you when the hands on the clock don’t seem to move. These people should also ideally be positive, easy going and good at waiting. This goes for a hospital stay if you have one afterwards too! If you’re looking at an extended stay, come up with a schedule ahead of time. I’d really recommend this if you have a large number of people so that both you and your child are well supported, but not overwhelmed.

Bring easy brain activities. I wouldn’t recommend any difficult novels, studying, or important work you can’t make mistakes on. I’ve often wished I knew how to knit. I think that would be a perfect waiting room activity. My personal recommendations are adult coloring books, your Bible, and conversation.

I’d highly recommend dressing in comfy layers. Temperature often varies drastically by the room you’re in and no matter the procedure or surgery you’re waiting on, it’s going to be a long day.

Bring a cell phone charger and let family and friends know ahead of time you may not be able to update at regular intervals. Depending on where you are in the hospital will depend on what kind of cell phone service you have.

On Your Way

On your way to the hospital, allow extra time to stop for your favorite coffee/ tea/ beverage and several snacks. For you. Since your little one likely can’t eat anything, you’ll feel bad consuming a large breakfast in front of them.

Or, if you’re like my husband, maybe you won’t.

But, either way, there are usually few decent food options in the waiting room, if any, and you may not want to make a run for food for fear of missing an update. Also, a muffin from the grocery store is far cheaper than the $5 dry and tasteless muffin wrapped in cellophane you’ll likely get at the hospital.

While You Wait

Once they’ve been wheeled away from you and you’ve said your very brave goodbye, you will get to experience the phenomenon of “hospital time”. The clock that, at times, flies by or stands completely still.

Now is when you want to take any opportunity to eat, drink, and use the restroom. I would advise against too much of the waiting room coffee, however. I still don’t understand why they provide every poor quality diuretic known to man. Not only does the caffeine not help anxiety, but about ten minutes into waiting I’m already too worried about missing an update to use the bathroom. And the only thing worse than anxiously waiting to hear how things are going, is anxiously waiting while simultaneously holding a full bladder.

This is the point I’m currently at. Doing my “busy” stuff, having a snack and trying not to watch the clock. Whatever you do, sit somewhere you can’t see a clock.

Sometimes, depending on the hospital, you’re back in the waiting room and sometimes you’re waiting in the pre-op room. I actually prefer the waiting room, if you have an option.

Here’s why. Look around you. Nothing helps distract you like connecting with other families in a similar situation. One of my best waiting room experiences was an all day affair during which two of my children were having surgery at the same time. Why? Because while I was waiting I was able to talk to another brave, waiting momma. This sweet lady was several states from home, by herself, with a medically complex kiddo while Dad was at home caring for their other young child. She’d been staying at a hotel for a week to have access to specialists, testing and surgery not available where they live. Things practically in my backyard that this particular anxious momma can forget to be grateful for.

Finally, try not to panic about time frames. You are literally at the mercy of the schedules of dozens of medical personnel. It rarely goes according to the schedule you’re given. If you’re worried, never be afraid to ask someone. They’re used to soothing worried parents, especially in a children’s hospital.

Do you have any helpful advice you’d add for caregivers? Please comment with it below!

Know a caregiver concerned about an upcoming procedure or surgery? Feel free to share!

Do you have a procedure or surgery coming up for a loved one that you’d like prayer for? I’d be happy to pray for you.

Birthday Suit

Trigger Warning!

If you fear aging, or vague references to female anatomy, this blog post may not be for you.

If, on the other hand, you are brave and have a sense of humor, forge ahead!

Today I’ve turned 38. I’ll wait for the applause to die down.

I know, big stuff, right?! Believe you me, I’m as surprised as you are. (This is even more shocking for anyone that spent time with me as a teenager.)

Unlike some people, I’ve always really enjoyed my birthday. Even as I’ve gotten older. Maybe it’s the cake and presents. Maybe it’s because I value life a little more than I once did. Kind of strange, but I even love the lines by my mouth and eyes that prove years of laughter. Even my many scars come with great stories. I truly desire the wisdom gained by experience.

Now, this doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t take both the 18 year old body as well as the wisdom if given the opportunity, but since I live with a teenager it is very evident to me that one cannot have both a youthful body and wisdom. What I am saying is, that normally I’m very content with the trade off.

Now, all this to say that this is the first year I may have freaked out a little as my birthday approached. I believe it’s completely warranted but I’ll let you decide what you think.

For the past several months I’d been experiencing pain on my left side. As there was a lull in the kids’ medical care, I decided it would be a good idea to get it checked out. After a couple ultrasounds, a CT scan and plenty of bloodwork, it was determined that I had a cyst that needed to go, along with some girl parts that were no longer required (Congratulations, you survived the vague female anatomy reference). After some watchful waiting and discussing and a lot of sitting on the couch with a heating pad we decided laparoscopic surgery was necessary. I’ve had a few surgeries over the years so this was less upsetting to me than it was to Hubby. (Maybe because he knew he’d be mom for a bit?)

Surgery was a same day affair and really went off without a hitch. I generally have no issues with anesthesia and have actually been told I’m kind of a good time while sedated. After a little trouble getting my bladder to shake off the anesthetic, I was discharged and sent home that evening. This is when things sort of went downhill.

I was sitting on the couch, propped up with a half dozen pillows a day later when I started to cough. If you’ve ever had abdominal surgery you likely just winced and recoiled a little. And you’d be right. I drained a couple more glasses of water coffee, soda and juice as I tried my best to brace with a pillow for each cough but as the day wore on, the coughing grew worse. At this point, I am mentally cursing every drug addict that has been part of the opioid crisis that has left me without pain medication after surgery. I’m short on sleep and long on sarcasm. Not a great combination when I call the surgeon’s office begging for a cough suppressant. I may or may not have been a bit unkind when the very helpful nurse asked if I’d tried hot tea, bracing with a pillow over the incisions and a humidifier. She called in a cough suppressant.

Fast forward a couple of days and the cough has turned into the most horrible cough you have ever heard. The very helpful nurse calls and gives me the good news that the pathology of the cyst was benign. Yay God! But that endometriosis was confirmed. (Ha! Tricked you with another female anatomy reference! Don’t Google it. Trust me.) This did not make me any more kind.

Now, I’m gingerly “rushing” around the house to get the kids ready and out the door for school when it happens. The most horrible cough starts up. And this time won’t stop. Literally one after another, until I can’t breathe. My chest is actually sucking in as I’m clutching my sides in a vain attempt to stop the searing pain. I’m pretty sure I’m a goner. When I realize I’m going to throw up. I actually do run to the bathroom and almost make it. Almost. While I’m steadying myself to try to get down onto the floor I’m sucking in breath like a fish out of water. I know at least my eyes are bulging. And tearing. And because it can always get worse, my poor little over worked bladder decides it has also had enough.

So, there I am, gasping for breath, shaking, exhausted, in pain and covered in my own bodily fluids. I give up on the idea of getting the kids to school and stick them in front of the Xbox. I climb into the shower and I start to cry and pray and cry some more. When I’m done, I call the clinic for an appointment.

My sleep deprived brain goes right from the city of Molehill to the top of the mountain. I spend the remainder of the day looking around my house at all of the mess. The overflowing laundry baskets, the piles of stuff EVERYWHERE, the stack of unpaid bills, the children going on 6 hours straight of electronics and am certain that I’m worthless. I am falling apart. I can’t clean, cook, drive, do laundry or paperwork. I can’t even hold my bladder! By the time Hubby gets home I’ve just about taken the train all the way to Crazy town. He can’t possibly be attracted to me. Half my girl parts are gone (Sorry!) and of course I’ll just end up losing the rest of them because, well, endometriosis. Sigh. Hubby does his best to annoy distract me and I make it to my doctor appointment the next morning.

Insult to injury, I’ve accumulated another 4 lbs. Apparently even the most horrible cough and the vomiting are no match for my couch and church lady cooking. Feeling bad for myself, I was texting a sweet friend about my body falling apart and feeling a bit worthless when she re-reminded me of something.

“He can ONLY use a broken you.”

And when I got to the exam room:

I started thinking about how He couldn’t use the put together me. The had it all figured out me. The didn’t need anyone else, I’ll do it on my own me. The whole body works well me.

I started thinking about how focused I’d been lately on how the world saw me, instead of how the world would see Him in me.

This very sweet lady came in next and gently reminded me that I’d just had major abdominal surgery, with a complication of bronchitis. That I needed to give myself, and my body, some grace. Not to mention time. She sent me home with instructions to REST.

So, here I am, resting. In God’s grace. In His presence. And thanking Him for the present of a rather damaged birthday suit. He can work with that.

Rest

This last month I’ve been tired. That kind of body, mind, weary that drags at your heart and your soul until your eyelids want to follow. Sometimes at about nine in the morning. It seems no amount of sleep helps. Every morning I wake up and it’s still there. Dragging eyelids down creating fuzzy edges and slowing what seems like my every move. Unfortunately, the world keeps moving at a break neck pace and I’m left with the feeling that I’m never fast enough. Never getting enough done. Never ENOUGH.

I pray for more strength. For more endurance to run this race. For more patience. For more of me to go around. Enough for a family of five. For enough of me.

A dear soul, a sister in Christ, a friend, pointed out to me that I have indeed, been running a race. For two years. With every new symptom, test, appointment, and endless mountain to climb I’ve been running to find an explanation, a diagnosis, a way to make it through the latest roadblock and hold onto Jesus.

I know that our brand of suffering is very rare, but suffering in itself is universal. I know that I’m not the only one surrounded by it in this fallen world. I have only to check my text messages, social media or catch a tidbit of the news for my heart to be further weighted down by the heaviness of broken hearts and broken lives of everyone around me. Aren’t you TIRED?

Does it feel like it’s just too much and we’re just not ENOUGH?

Yesterday I hit the wall. Not literally, but figuratively. Test results came back for our oldest son and he has not responded to treatment. In my beloved kitchen, staring at his results I got a return phone call from the ophthalmologist to make an appointment to check his vision again for signs of damage from the CTX because he’s having vision problems. My toddler is screaming because I cut his strawberries and he wanted them “big”, and our daughter is asking me for the fourth time that morning what day it is so she can figure out how many days to her play date and we need to be out the door for therapy in ten minutes. The dishwasher is running for the second time today and the twelve year old is panicking over a double booked Saturday and can’t decide what he wants to do more. In a stellar parenting moment, I tell the nine year old with the short term memory impairment, “I just told you five minutes ago it’s Friday!”, tell the toddler, “Fine! Don’t eat them!”, and the anxiety filled twelve year old,”I’ll decide for you and you won’t go to either!”. Holding my head trying to hold in the tears I schedule the appointment with the sympathetic secretary and hang up in time to realize the time I picked means I’d have to miss my Bible study that week. We’re five minutes late leaving, everyone is upset and I look down to see a toddler still in pajamas in need of a diaper change I meant to do when I switched the laundry….a half hour ago.

I’m not enough.

I step outside trying to fill my lungs with air, my soul with peace. As chaos ensues inside, I pray. For MORE of me. Resigned to being late, I stare at a yard filled with scattered toys and discarded shirts from a water fight the night before and I’m blessed with a reminder.

I’m NOT enough. I’ll NEVER be enough. I shouldn’t be praying for more of ME, but more of Him. I will never find rest in myself.

Father, please help me to rest in YOU. I am so very tired and on my own I’ll never be able to run this race with endurance. Help me to make more of YOU, and LESS of me! images (1)

I’ve had it backwards lately. I’ve forgotten that He is enough for me, for my family of five, for every chaotic moment. He alone can redeem every parenting fail, every scheduling mistake, every exhausting day. And with that reminder, I can dry my face, walk back in amidst the chaos, apologize to my children and accept the amazing grace poured out on me every day. I can herd unruly cats into a van in five minutes with a bag of “big” strawberries and answer questions again. I can listen to a perfectly timed song, “Just Breathe”, and remember that I can truly rest, just be, at His feet. Thank you Jesus!


images (3)Matthew 11:28

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.