Be Still and Know

As of late, it seems as if our family has suffered one crushing blow after another. Job losses, medical emergencies and lots of financial uncertainties. It seemed like things were beginning to settle down a bit and then we had a couple of setbacks and it felt like we were starting at square one all over again. 

What were we doing wrong? Were we too dumb to figure things out the first time, so here we were facing the same challenges all over again?

I needed to process things, so I took the kids to the playground down the street and as they played I walked and listened to an audio version of the Psalms. Then the strangest thing occurred.

Normally when I read verses where the psalmist is talking about being forsaken or  abandoned it resonates with me. But this time when I heard about the Lord answering in our distress, I didn’t feel like that described the current state we were in.

Were things bad?! Sure. We have these crazy medical bills, no job security and I had just sent the most heartbreaking text about a situation I felt like God was closing the door on. Could that be considered being in “distress”? Absolutely! Last year’s me would have chalked it up as just another awful thing happening to our already terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year. But today something was different.

Instead of dwelling on the insurmountable challenges that lay ahead, my thoughts were flooded with the innumerable ways in which God has provided for our family recently. I have never been so utterly humbled at the way God has lavished us with such kindness from our friends, family and even complete strangers.

God brought to mind something I had read just a few days earlier in my Restoration Year devotional by John Eldredge about resting in God’s love. In that moment, I felt like God was telling me to just rest in Him and He would take care of everything. Hadn’t He already proven Himself trustworthy?

Of course God is trustworthy, but rest?! In a time like this when my whole world is falling apart? Doesn’t God know that I don’t “rest” very well?! It is so unnatural for me to be still. Not like physically still, but in my spirit still. I’m a hard worker by nature. If there is a problem I try to solve it. If something is wrong, I try to fix it. So when things in my life aren’t “right”, I get to work.

Psalm 46:10 talks about being still. It says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Another translation says, “Cease striving and know that I am God”

Being still means I must stop striving; stop devising my own plans; stop doing things in my own strength; stop forging ahead and doing things my way. It means I must trust that He is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do. I also need to abide in Him and saturate my heart and mind with His promises; it’s His promises alone that will preserve my life.

So rather than spinning my wheels and going nowhere or having to start all over again from scratch, this time I just need to rest in God’s love and let Him take care of everything else. He has already proven He is more than able; I just need to rest, trust and abide in Him. Three of the simplest, yet hardest, truths He desires in a surrendered life.

Hatchimals Birthday Party

Last night we celebrated our youngest daughter’s 4th birthday! I just can’t believe that our baby is no longer a baby anymore. She decided that she wanted to have a Hatchimals birthday. In fact, all three kids want to have a Hatchimals party this year, so I’m definitely going to reuse as much as I can.

My fail proof birthday party plan that I’ve used the past couple of years wasn’t going to work this year. In the past, we’ve just gone to Chuck E Cheese’s. I don’t have to worry about decorations, food, clean up, entertainment. Nothing. It’s the perfect place to go and not have to worry about a single thing.

But…the morning of the party, my oldest woke up with pink eye. What?! Chuck E Cheese’s is like the absolute worst place to take a kid with pink eye, so I did the next best thing and decided to bring Chuck E Cheese’s to the birthday party. I planned some simple games (i.e. whatever games I already had on hand), created a prize wall (i.e. took out books from a bookshelf and stuffed prizes from Walmart in it) and heated up a couple of frozen pizza. The best part…the kids loved it, and dare I say possibly even better than Chuck E Cheese’s!!!

The night before, we had “the professionals” (what my daughter calls our friends who made the Jurassic World birthday cake) make a Hatchimals birthday cake. I can’t say enough about what a great job they always do. What I appreciate even more, is how they involve the kids and let them help. So grateful to have friends who invest in my kids!!!

Ellie with “the professionals”

I ended up going to Walmart to get the decorations and prizes. The thing I love about January birthdays is that they are right after Christmas, so I usually head over to the clearance section and find things that have been discounted from Christmas. I really lucked out because they had a whole bunch of Hatchimals that were on clearance. Then I headed to the seasonal section and found a bunch of the Valentine’s goodies to use as prizes.

When I got home, I set up the games and prize wall. I just picked games that would be easy for them to win tickets for. What I really would have loved to do is recreate Chuck E Cheese’s games, but considering my time constraints, I think that might have been overly ambitious. For the prize wall, I emptied out one of our bookshelves and organized it by the amount of tickets needed to win each prize. I also randomly already had raffle tickets and just gave them those each time they won at a game.

Chuck E Cheese’s “party games”
Chuck E Cheese’s “prize wall”

The decorations were mainly store bought, but I also had big sister, our budding artist, draw some Hatchimals on our dry erase board with a special birthday message for her sister. She was so proud of her work! I think it’s good to encourage the gifts and talents of your kids and also try to involve them in what you are doing.

Ellie the artist.
The food (minus the pizzas) and finished cake.

It was such a fun night! So much fun, that we’ll do it in another five months for Hatchimals party #2!

For the Birds

There was a huge mound growing on my desk and I knew I needed to take care of it, but I just kept putting it off and putting it off. But before one of my children got swallowed up into the Black Hole of a mess that had accumulated over the past few weeks, I knew it was time for me to tackle the Mt. Everest of junk and do the KonMari Method on the items that didn’t bring me joy.

Besides my expert procrastination skills, I knew there was another reason I had put off cleaning my desk. I was trying to ignore it and make like it never existed, but no amount of denial was going to make it disappear. I had a stack of bills from Shelby’s hospital stay that I knew I needed to take care of. I knew those things definitely weren’t going to bring me any joy, but unfortunately, I couldn’t KonMari those.

So, I took a deep breath, said a prayer and started going through all the paperwork. And then the panic started to creep in. Bill after bill, dollar after dollar. They all began to add up, and I’m pretty sure we haven’t received all of the bills yet. Plus, Shelby hasn’t worked either since the incident.

Yet, God reminded me of the abundance of His provision especially over these past few weeks. So many people have displayed such kindness and generosity to our family during this whole ordeal. People made us meals, took care of our kids, and have even donated monetarily to help us pay for our bills. Some are from people we don’t even know. Can you imagine?! Complete strangers blessing our family. I don’t think I’ve ever felt such an overwhelming amount of love and support from so many people. It has really restored my hope in the goodness of mankind. My heart could just burst when I think of all the people who have been so amazingly generous and kind to us.

I am reminded of a passage in the Bible that talks about God’s provision:

If you know me, you know that I detest birds. Sorry if you are a bird lover, but birds majorly freak me out. They are dirty and gross and poop everywhere. A flock of birds is like my worst nightmare, and yet as much as I can’t stand them, God takes care of them. He feeds and provides for them. And how much more will God care for me. He places far more value on me than on a flock of birds.

So even as the bills add up and there’s uncertainty about our future, I know that I don’t have to worry. God will provide. He already has provided. And even though the future may look uncertain, I know I can place my trust in the only One who is certain. And how amazing is it that God sees my true value. To Him, I am totally worth it. I need to just rest in that today.

The Night that Changed Everything

I had just gotten home from taking Ellie to her last American Heritage Girls’ meeting of the year. To celebrate, I picked up some hot chocolate before we dropped off a friend and made our way home. Ellie said her throat was a little sore, so I gave her some Benadryl hoping it was just allergies and that a good night’s rest would do the trick. Who would have know that this was God’s way of protecting her from the events that would occur later that evening. After Ellie had gone to bed, I laid on the couch exhausted from a long day and feeling nice and cozy after having just finished my hot chocolate. 

Shelby wanted us to do yoga before we went to bed because the day had been stressful with the two little ones bickering. I told him I would just watch because the hot chocolate had done me in. So I watched him from the comfort of the couch do downward dog and all the warrior poses, but the combination of the soothing music and hot chocolate made me call it a night and head to bed early. I had only been asleep for maybe an hour or two when I heard a distant “thud”. Not knowing what it was, I went back to sleep not thinking anything of it. A while later, another “thud”, but this one sounded closer. It’s hard to say just how much time had passed between the two thuds because it was the middle of the night and I was dead asleep.

I got up, walked down the hallway and noticed the kitchen light was on. It seemed strange since it was about half past midnight when I awoke. And then a sight that still shakes me to my core. Laying on the floor, right outside the kitchen, was Shelby. He was as white as a sheet, sweating, shaking and with fists clenched above his head. I thought perhaps he had had a seizure. I began screaming, “Shelby, Shelby”. 

I looked around trying to gather my bearings. I was barely awake, and didn’t notice that our weary-eyed three-year-old had come out of her room and sat next to her daddy as he lay on the floor. At this point he had regained consciousness and was taking deep breaths to help slow his heart rate. As I scanned the room, I noticed a bright red pool of what I thought was frozen strawberries on the kitchen floor.

“He must have been making a fruit smoothie,” I thought. But who in their right mind makes a smoothie at midnight. I also noticed the same bright red liquid on his leg. “He must have dropped the bag on his leg and spilled it all over himself and the floor.” My thoughts were disjointed and didn’t make any sense. None of what was happening made sense. And then a sane, yet scary thought crept into my mind and out my mouth,

“Shelby, are you bleeding?”

A nod and a breathy, “Yes”

Then the panic set in. “He cut himself chopping up strawberries for his smoothies,” I thought. I began racing around the kitchen and bathroom looking for something I could create a tourniquet with. I finally found some towels in the bathroom. But wait, I don’t know how to make a tourniquet and I didn’t even know where he was bleeding.

“Where are you bleeding?” I frantically asked as I tried to locate where the cut was.

“My butt”

“What?!” I said with probably the most puzzled look on my face.

“I need to call 911”

I ran back into our bedroom and grabbed my phone. It’s times like these that I wish I never had a passcode on my phone. I was losing precious seconds just trying to unlock the only thing that stood between me and getting help. In hindsight, I’m pretty sure you can make emergency calls on a locked phone, but when the adrenaline is pumping and you’re not thinking clearly, your brain just goes into autopilot and starts entering in any combination of numbers.

I’d seen shows on TV of recorded 911 calls, so I thought “I got this”. But I remember the dispatcher repeatedly telling me to just calm down and breath, so I must not have had it as under control as I thought. I remember telling her, “there’s blood and I don’t know what to do.” She asked if I needed an ambulance and then put me on hold for a brief second. The next voice on the line asked me the same questions I had just previously answered, so I was a little annoyed that I had to repeat myself all over again. Didn’t these people know I had dying man lying in my hallway?

And my children. I needed to find someone who could watch them. I wanted to put 911 on hold while I called my parents who had just arrived several days earlier to spend the holidays with us (more evidence of God being in the details of this whole ordeal). I needed them to come over and watch the kids so I could go with Shelby. I needed to be with him.

The dispatcher wouldn’t let me hang up and I grew more agitated until I heard Shelby whisper from the floor, “call your parents on my phone”.

Great idea! But by the time I got to Shelby’s phone the ambulance had already arrived. They came in, and because he fell, took him out on a gurney and also put on a neck brace. They would take him to the hospital while I waited for my family to arrive and watch the kids so I could be with him.

My sister-in-law ended up driving me in what seemed like the longest ride to the hospital. It felt like an eternity, but once I finally got to the ER they sent me back to Shelby’s room.

Doctors and nurses were coming in and out of his room. Each one asking all the same questions, “Was he in pain, had he complained of bleeding before?” To each a definite “No.” All of this was such a mystery. There was no history of him bleeding or being in pain. I had even asked one of the nurses if maybe he had a high tolerance for pain. She said it was highly doubtful.

The ER doctor had ordered two units of blood because when Shelby arrived he had already lost half of his blood. Later the surgeon would tell us that he could have bled to death had I not found him when I did.

While in the ER, they ordered several tests to determine the location of the bled, but both the CT scan and Nuc Med exam came back negative. They also stuck an NG tube down Shelby’s nose to see if there was any blood in his stomach. One of nurses that performed the procedure said that they normally do it on unconscious patients and it was going to be very uncomfortable. But in true Shelby fashion, he took it like a champ and only complained that it felt irritating.

Initially, there was no blood from the NG tube, but after coming back from the Nuc Med test, blood started to appear which meant he was still bleeding and he would have to be admitted into the ICU until they could determine the location of his bleeding.Before going to the ICU, he was scheduled for an endoscopy. As I sat in the waiting room while he had the procedure done, I kept seeing images of him laying on the floor. Thinking to myself, what if I had only woken up the first time I heard a noise, maybe he wouldn’t have bled as much? And then a much more frightening thought, what if I hadn’t woken up at all?

In the middle of my thoughts, the GI doctor came out to tell me Shelby’s procedure was done. The good news was they didn’t find anything. The bad news was they didn’t find anything. They would have to schedule a colonoscopy to see if they could find anything. She was gracious and kind and showed me to where Shelby was.

Apparently the drugs they gave Shelby to put him under were pretty good, because he was chatting it up with the nurses asking them if they wanted to run a marathon with him even though he hates running. It was comical, but my heart was heavy not knowing what was the cause of his bleeding. A million fears flooded my mind. What if they couldn’t find where he was bleeding, what if it wasn’t curable, what if it was cancer or something life-threatening. And then a single, quiet thought entered my mind, “God is our refuge and strength an ever present help in trouble.” 

That was it. Those simple words, like a salve on my anxious heart. Breathe in. Breathe out. It will be okay. God will see us through this.

We finally arrived on the ICU floor the next morning. I knew this place. I’d been here many times before. It was where my grandfather would spend the last two months of his life before eventually going to be with the Lord over twenty years prior. My mom had also suffered nearly the same fate in the ICU, but God was gracious and spared her life. We passed by each room, most of the patients were unconscious with tubes running in and out of their mouths, noses and arms. ICU had become a place that was as close to death that you could possibly get, but it had also become a place that gave back life.

Since they had given Shelby a blood transfusion in the ER, his levels were back to normal and he was feeling great. The color had returned back to his face and for now things had stabilized. The hospitalist even said Shelby could have been one of the 85% of people who have issues like this that resolve on its own.

This didn’t bring me any comfort because there was no way I was going to let them send Shelby home until they figured out what was wrong. I didn’t want to find him on the floor again because they had missed something and just chalked it up to him being one of the 85% of cases that just resolve on its own.They had scheduled his colonoscopy for 9 am the next morning and so Shelby was placed on a liquid only diet. Later that afternoon he would have to drink 4 liters of GoLYTELY, which cleaned out his system so they could get a good look at his colon to see if that’s where the bleeding was. When I left the ICU to go home, Shelby’s levels were all normal so I had a little peace of mind knowing that he was okay and he was in good hands should anything go wrong.

The next day I planned on heading back to the hospital before his 9 am colonoscopy and as soon as I got in the car, Shelby sent a text saying they were going to take him in early. I rushed to the hospital hoping I would get to see him before they took him in. I arrived at the ICU only to find his room empty, but his nurse took me down to the GI floor where he had just taken Shelby. He hadn’t gone in yet and said that after I had left the night before, he started bleeding again and his hemoglobin levels had dropped.

My heart sank, but I was also grateful that he was being taken care of by medical professionals who could provide him with the best care. They wheeled him back for the colonoscopy and I headed for the waiting room again.

More waiting. And yet earlier that morning, as I drove down to the hospital, my prayer had changed. Instead of asking God to take away my afflictions, I asked Him to help me accept my challenges with grace and humility and to give me steadfastness.

Soon the GI doctor came out with the same good news/ bad news as the day before. They didn’t find anything in his colon, but when she looked into his lower intestine she could see some bleeding. She wanted to do another CT scan, but unfortunately the only way they could detect something was with an active bleed. She sent us back to the ICU to wait.

On the one hand the doctors didn’t want him to bleed because of the amount of blood loss he had earlier and yet they needed him to bleed in order to perform the scan. It’s moments like these that you realize your life is completely in the Lord’s hands.

So we waited and waited and waited. Aside from the fact that Shelby was pretty bloated from all the liquids he had been given, it was a pretty uneventful day. I left the hospital that night thankful that he wasn’t bleeding, but we were no closer to finding out what was wrong than when we first got there. It’s so frustrating when you know that something is not right, but you can’t figure out what’s wrong. The thought that they could send him home without discovering what was wrong terrified me. What if this mystery disease struck again but next time he was at work or driving or I wouldn’t find him in time. It was unnerving to say the least.

The next morning as I parked the car in the hospital parking garage, that same small whisper said, “this sickness will not end in death.” It was as if God was preparing my heart for what was to come. When I got to Shelby’s room, he told me that his blood levels had dropped again and so they had given him another unit of blood and meds to help his blood clot. Shortly after I arrived, the GI team comprised of four doctors and nurses came in and said that since he hadn’t had an active bleed for them to do a CT scan, they were going to a CT enterography which he’d have to drink contrast to enable them to get a good look at his lower intestine.

When the results came in, the GI doctor called and talked to me on the hospital phone. Shelby’s scan showed a pea sized spot on his small intestine where they suspected the bleeding was coming from. Because of the amount of bleeding he had, they wanted to remove the spot and the surrounding area. Since they were unable to get to the spot with a scope, the GI doctor had contacted a surgeon who was on his way over to talk to us. She didn’t want us to be alarmed when he arrived and wanted to give us a heads up as to why he would be there.

The surgeon arrived and showed us the tiny spot that showed up on the scan. It wasn’t until he zoomed in that I could see what he was talking about. He was pretty amazed because the area they discovered the spot in is usually a grey area that they typically can’t detect issues, but the fact that Shelby had bled made things very black and white as to determining the exact location where they suspected the bleeding was occurring. Also, the fact that they found it while it was still relatively small was a very good sign. The surgeon said he just came up from seeing a patient downstairs who they discovered had a massive tumor that was inoperable. There was nothing they could do. She was going to die.

It was important that they perform the laparoscopic surgery as soon as possible since they didn’t know if or when Shelby would have another bleed again. He currently wasn’t bleeding and so they wanted to do it before there were any complications that would prevent them from performing the surgery.

I was so grateful that they determined where Shelby was bleeding and they had a possible solution to take care of it. It also amazed me that the things that seemed so horrific were the very things that would save his life. Had it not been for the fact that he bled, they might have never been able to discover the source of his bleeding. In order for them to administer the proper treatment Shelby needed that awful night needed to occur. Another nurse also said that it was a good thing that I heard him fall, because had he just stayed in bed, I might not have woken up and he could have just bled to death.

So much of the time we view the tragedies in our lives as these horrific occurrences that we wish would have never happened. But God, in His sovereignty, knew these things needed to occur in order to save our very lives. How many times do I wish I hadn’t gone through heartache and sorrow, but maybe God was actually allowing these things to happen in my life for my good. Those were the very things that saved me. That was His way of rescuing me from something far worse.

I arrived at the hospital early the following morning. Our former neighbor and school chaplain showed up and waited with me the entire time Shelby was in surgery. The attending nurse in the OR said that at a minimum the surgery would take an hour and a half. They would post updates on the board in the waiting room that showed when his surgery began and when it finished.

At 8:13 am, the first post read that they had begun surgery. The cell phone reception in the waiting room was horrible, so I went up the elevator into the lobby to update our family and friends on how things were going. When I got back to the waiting room, it didn’t take long before there was another update. It read, “8:49 am, closing up patient, should be finished soon.”

In my naivety, I figured that meant things must have gone well. There were no complications and everything went well. It wasn’t until later that I was told that quick surgeries could also be a sign that the situation was so bad that there’s nothing the doctor can do. Thank God for my ignorance.

The surgeon came out and said that things had gone better than expected. Because of the scan, he was able to go to the exact location where he discovered a Meckel’s diverticulum, a rare congenital defect in 2% of the population. They were doing a biopsy, but the Meckel’s most likely contained stomach tissue that was secreting acid straight into Shelby’s small intestine which is what was causing the bleeding. They were able to remove it and were pretty confident that it was what had caused the bleeding. 

Later that day, Shelby moved from the ICU into a normal room and his blood levels kept going in the right direction; up rather than down. He was soon walking and eating solid foods, but they didn’t want to release him until he went to the bathroom. He was so anxious to come home. Basically running laps around the surgical floor hoping to get things moving. Nothing.

The kids wanted to see their daddy for some time and I thought maybe if I brought them over for a visit it would brighten his day. We stopped by CVS first to see if we could find something that would cheer him up. What luck when we found little “poop” emoji stuffed animals. 

We walked in his room ready to give him our surprise only to get an even better surprise.

“The doctor released me. I can come home,” is what we were greeted with when we walked through the door. Oh the joy! We were all so thrilled to have daddy come home with us that afternoon. It was the week before Christmas and the best gift we could have ever received. Having Shelby come home in time for Christmas was better than any present I could have ever asked for. 

From our nightmare before Christmas to an early Christmas miracle, our hearts were filled with so much joy and gratitude. There were so many wonderful people who loved on our family in countless ways.  It was truly amazing to see such generosity and kindness on display. It definitely restored our hope in the goodness of people. And our hope in Christ could not have been made stronger. I truly believe our God is in the fine details of things. In his providence He provided for us in so any ways that I’ve lost track. That week I experienced God in a very real and powerful way. He was comforter, refuge, strength, provider, sustainer, and healer. I saw promises I had only read about in the Bible become realities. I’m so thankful to serve a God who is good. Even when things seem so awfully bad, He is so undeniably good. Even in our darkest moments He is there, constant, steadfast and true. My heart couldn’t be more full. Right now, everyone is home and that is enough for me.

He Will Restore

My prayer for the new year is that God will restore that which was lost. All my hopes and dreams. Every hurt, every pain, every loss, every gain. Every broken thing that’s been turned into ashes, God can redeem and use it for His glory. He can heal. He can provide. He can forgive. He can restore.

Does something in your life need to be restored? Maybe it’s a relationship, finances, job, or health. This new year, I want to purpose to place my hope in the only one who gives hope; trust in the only one who is trustworthy; and have faith in the only one who remains faithful even when I am faithless. 

I want this to be a year where I see all the broken things of the past restored in Him. I want to allow Him to revive, restore, redeem and make all things new. 

I don’t often read the Message version of the Bible, but I stumbled across this the other day and thought it was a beautiful way to put into words what my prayer is for this year…well, everything except the part about having more babies and calves.

God, your God, will restore everything you lost; he’ll have compassion on you; he’ll come back and pick up the pieces from all the places where you were scattered. No matter how far away you end up, God, your God, will get you out of there and bring you back to the land your ancestors once possessed. It will be yours again. He will give you a good life and make you more numerous than your ancestors. God, your God, will cut away the thick calluses on your heart and your children’s hearts, freeing you to love God, your God, with your whole heart and soul and live, really live. God, your God, will put all these curses on your enemies who hated you and were out to get you. And you will make a new start, listening obediently to God, keeping all his commandments that I’m commanding you today. God, your God, will outdo himself in making things go well for you: you’ll have babies, get calves, grow crops, and enjoy an all-around good life. Yes, God will start enjoying you again, making things go well for you just as he enjoyed doing it for your ancestors.

Deuteronomy 30:3-9

The caveat is that God demands my total obedience. He wants all of me; nothing halfhearted. It’s not out of my reach and not too much for me to handle.

So here’s to holding nothing back this new year!

Pressed but Not Crushed

When I think of this past year, one word comes to mind—brutal. We’ve experienced one valley after another and to be quite honest, there’s not much about 2018 that I’m going to miss. Part of me wants to just forget this past year and all the things we’ve had to endure. I’m ready to fully embrace forgetting what is behind and looking forward to what lies ahead.

I asked Shelby if he would change any of the things that happened this past year and his response was, “No, they have made me into the person that I am today.”

And as much as I hate to admit when I’m wrong; he’s right. I am the person I am today because of all the things that I’ve been through. As much as I look forward to what lies ahead, I can’t just forget about the things that have happened in the past. 

These dark days have been some of the richest in my walk with the Lord. Every hardship has been met with an abundance of His grace. Every fear has been stilled with with His gentle tenderness. Every insurmountable obstacle has been defeated with His unceasing faithfulness.

I would never have experienced such a sweetness in my life had it not been for the bitter hurt that this past year has brought. It seems like the darker the night, the brighter His light has shone.

So while I’m looking forward to the new year, I’m also grateful for what this year has taught me. 2018 came at me pretty strong on all sides, but I’m still standing…barely. But I’m not crushed, not in despair, not abandoned, and not destroyed.

All in all, I’d consider that a win!

Mermaid Birthday Party

We had so much fun surprising our friend with a mermaid birthday party before she and her family move back home. Here are a few pictures from the fun festivities!

Need help planning a party or event?! Give us a call 🙂

The spread
Cute mermaid plates and napkins
Sweet treats
Cupcakes with swirl frosting and a glitter mermaid tail
Nilla wafer clam shells with frosting and pearls
Jellyfish with a little paint, bowl and trash bag (a fun project all the kids helped with)
Under the sea

Because He is Sovereign

Shelby and his awesome wife (hehehe).

I’m lying in bed next to Shelby as I watch the rise and fall of his chest. A beautiful sight considering just a couple of weeks ago I found him barely breathing on our kitchen floor in a pool of his own blood. And while I am so grateful that he is home now, a part of me knows that there are so many others whose story didn’t have the same happy ending. Their loved one never made it out of the ICU, their prognosis ended up being cancer, their child was never cured.

Why does it seem like God answered our prayer and not theirs? Why did He spare my husband’s life and not theirs? Did we figure out the magic formula to get God to finally answer our prayers? Did we have more faith, more righteousness, more Jesus “brownie points?”

What was it that made our Christmas a celebration and others another painful reminder that their loved one must continue to suffer or is gone?

Yet, this past year hasn’t been all moments of rejoicing. We’ve had our share of heartache and sorrow. We’ve prayed prayers that seem to have gone unanswered. We’ve had our moments of doubt and anger. Our lives have been anything but the ideal of a faithful follower of Christ. At least to my knowledge, we haven’t prayed any differently this time around than with the other trials we have gone through. In fact, I know of others whose faith is stronger and lives more righteous than ours who have been touched by unspeakable tragedy far worse than anything we have gone through.

So why did God give us this undeserved gift of having our daddy and husband home in time for Christmas this year?

The only thing that keeps coming to my mind is that God is sovereign.  

Yours, LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.

1 Chronicles 29:11

He sees and He knows all things. To some He grants life; to others death. To some sickness; to others health. To some fruitfulness; to others barrenness. To some riches; to others poverty. Both are for our good and His glory. Both are still God’s will. Both are still Him answering prayer, maybe not in the way we want but He sees our tears and He hears our cries. He continues to work all things for good, even though how we feel seems like the farthest thing from good.

I’ve learned so much about God’s glory in the midst of suffering that to be on this side of things is unfamiliar territory. I keep wondering, “would I still be able to rejoice if the result was different?” Would I still say that God answered my prayer if the surgeon came out with a different report? Would I be able to say as Job did, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Oh that those words would be true of me whether the Lord gives or takes away. I don’t flippantly want to say that the Lord is good all the time. I used to think that the only people who said that were those who hadn’t gone through trials in life. But I’ve had my share of trials this year and through it all I can undeniably say that God is good. all. the. time. He is sovereign. No matter what my circumstances are, He never changes. He is forever the same. In Him, I can rest in a God who is who He says He is. . . because He is sovereign.

Learning About Peace from a Little Child

Ellie receiving the Fruit of the Spirit Peace Award

Last week, our eldest daughter received the peace award at school. You always rejoice whenever your child is recognized for something but considering everything we have been through this past year, peace was not one I thought she would have been chosen for.

There hasn’t been much peace in our lives lately. Between me quitting my job and my husband being let go from his, there has been anything but peace in our lives. Things have been so chaotic and uncertain, and I’ve had many anxious moments and sleepless nights not knowing what the future will hold for our family.

And yet, our child is recognized at school for exemplifying peace. I’m so glad that everything I have been dealing with lately hasn’t had an effect on my child having peace in her own life. She has been the calm in the midst of my storm and I can learn a whole lot about having peace in my life from my child and also from a child that was born over two thousand years ago in a lowly manger.

When the angel appeared to Jesus’ mother, Mary, his greeting to her was, “Peace be with you! The Lord is with you and has greatly blessed you!” (Luke 1:28). The news of Jesus’ birth to his mother, was ushered in by peace. 700 years before his birth, the prophet Isaiah even called him the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

He comes in peace. He ushers in peace. He is our peace.

When I feel like I just cannot handle one more thing in my life, may I remember that Jesus IS my peace. That in Him is a peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7); a peace that is not as this world gives (John 14:27); a peace that causes winds to cease and a great calm to come over the sea (Mark 4:39). Just as He can bring peace to a storm, He can be the peace to the storms in my life.

It must have been providential because I even choose a scripture verse about peace for our Christmas card this year. I thought that in the crazy chaos of life this was something our friends and family needed to hear, but it is really what I needed to hear.

So no matter what you may be going through in your life, let Him be your peace. May you take heart, because He has overcome the world!

My Mom Came Back to Life on Black Friday

First time my mom and I had a girls’ night out in over a decade.

No, my mom didn’t actually die and resurrect three days later. She’s not Jesus. She didn’t see a bright light or have an out of body experience, at least not that I am aware of. She went shopping on Black Friday with my dad. Something she hasn’t done in over twenty years. You might be thinking, “what’s the big deal? I don’t go shopping on Black Friday either.”

I was only twelve years old when our family’s lives were dramatically changed from a life of relative comfort and ease to one of heartache and sorrow. It started when my mom had trouble seeing. At first she thought it was her contacts because she was seeing double, but after multiple visits to her eye doctor, the results came back inconclusive as to what was wrong. Her double vision soon became the least of her worries when she started having fatigue in her arms and legs. Bathing and feeding herself became more and more difficult and my dad would have to help bathe and carry her in and out of the bathtub on harder days. It finally became apparent that something was definitely wrong when she woke up in the middle of the night because she couldn’t breathe. She thought she was going to die.

Then came the news no one wants to hear. A rare and incurable autoimmune disease- Myasthenia Gravis.

Years of doctors visits, different combinations of drugs, alternative medicines, homeopathic remedies, wheatgrass (yuck), essential oils, plasma transfusions, trips to clinics with the best doctors and newest treatments. All with the same result…little to no change.

I grew up with a mom who spent most of her time resting in bed when she wasn’t struggling with her double vision or with some sort of pain or fatigue as either a result of her disease or a side effect from the medication she was on.

I learned to do a lot of things without my mom. I either did it with my dad, which was a blessing in disguise, or I did it alone. I remember missing out on simple things that daughters do with their mothers. Going shopping or out to lunch together. Seeing a movie or taking a trip somewhere. I wasn’t upset about not being able to do these things with my mom, I just accepted that that was the way life was.

My mom once told me that because I grew up “without a mom,” it made me tough. But, I don’t view it like I didn’t have a mom. She may not have been as physically available as other moms, but I have gained so much more in her absence. I have learned about how to have compassion for those who are hurting, persevere when all you want to do is throw up your hands in surrender, fight when the odds are stacked against you and remain faithful in the face of great opposition. Her illness has been a great source of strength and growth to me.

When I was a junior in college we actually almost lost my mom to what was supposed to be a “simple procedure” to remove gall stones. There were complications from the in and out surgery and she ended up in the ICU with pancreatitis. They say you can tell how bad a patient is by the number of doctors who are on your case. My mom didn’t have one or two, she had twelve. She was placed in an induced coma, hands strapped to the bed railings to prevent her from pulling out the tubes running in and out of her mouth and arms. A horrible sight. When she regained consciousness she communicated to us by writing in a composition notebook. That year, we celebrated Christmas and New Year’s at the hospital.

I remember those days vividly. Not with the same fear or anxiety, but with gratitude because she made it through that difficult time. Yet, her health would still struggle. She suffered from the side effects of being on powerful medication for two decades. More surgeries, more drugs, more fatigue, more aches and pains. It seemed like things just weren’t going to get better for her…ever. Can you imagine that after suffering for over twenty years with your debilitating disease there was still nothing doctors could do that would alleviate your symptoms? How hopeless you would feel? How bleak the future would look? Yet, you get out of bed every day and just keep on living life. One day at a time. One painful step after another.

This was my mom’s existence, until she got her life back on Black Friday. What amazing news to hear that she was slowly regaining some normalcy back into her life. Even though she didn’t beat the crowds at the mall, she could actually be in the crowds for the first time in over twenty years. It brought tears to my eyes when she told me that the doctors think her Myasthenia Gravis may even be going into remission. Oh the joy!

This year I got the greatest deal on Black Friday…my mom getting her life back!