Friday, August 10, 2018

...but God

"Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
Matthew 19:26

Two months have passed since my last blog post.  Two months of provisions, results, gratitude, fear, anxiety, hopelessness, and tears.  How can all of those things co-exist?  Easy...

This all began back in January of this year with Caed's Nebraska team concerned with his lack of growth.  It is a very common need in Short Gut kids, so they encouraged us to get an appointment with a Pedi Endocrinologist as soon as possible.  That first step seemed "simple" enough.  (insert laughter)  Getting appointments with specialists, particularly when there is only one Pedi Endo team in the Lubbock area was...a battle in itself.  We felt "time" was our biggest enemy, so booking an appointment 3 months out was so disheartening.  From that point on, it seemed as though each and every step was not just an uphill journey, but rather a steep vertical climb that continually tested our endurance and belief that we would ever make it to the top.

For the past 2 months, insurance has continued to deny coverage for Caed's growth hormone shots.  "Short Gut is not an indication for the need for growth hormone therapy."  I wanted to scream!  And on more than one occasion, I had to apologize to the innocent drug rep for simply delivering a message.  I knew it wasn't their fault.  Yet I vented to them often!  "How can just being short stature warrant coverage, but when you've tragically lost 90% of your GUT and suffer from malabsorption...sorry, we can't help you!?" I was angry! SO very angry!

Maybe it seems silly in comparison to other major (life-threatening) issues Caed has gone through or others are currently fighting. Yes.  In many ways, it seems so.  It's "just growth."  Otherwise Caed is healthy and home and acting as any other normal 15 year old boy.  I knew there were worse things.  We've lived through so many of them. But...this time it was different.  This new issue was affecting him emotionally. We saw the change in Caed about a year ago.  His personality changed.  Instead of seeing a confident, energetic, funny kid...we began to see him withdraw.  The gap between he and his friends (physically) was widening by the day.  He knew....and it hurt.

A week ago we were told "the door had been officially closed with the drug company, " who had been working with us this summer while we waited for insurance to make their final decision.  Several appeals had been made, but to no avail. Caed had been graciously given 7 weeks of free shots this summer, roughly 42 pokes he's endured.  We have been so grateful!  And.....drumroll please.....he has grown 1/2 inch in the past 8 weeks!  :) May seem like a rather insignificant number, but it is HUGE to us!  You would have thought I told Caed he grew 5 INCHES this summer....the way he held up his head and chest and confidently walked away.  ANY growth means more to him than any of us know. Oh, how he has struggled!

Caed's next endocrinology appointment is this coming Tuesday.  What was supposed to just be a "3 month growth check," would turn into a PLEA from Todd and I to our doctor.  "Is there anything else you can do?  Any other avenue we haven't tried yet?  Please help us get coverage!"  This doctor would be our last hope.  I had already told myself that until she said the words NO...I would continue to have hope.  Yet, having heard that word over and over this summer, my faith was small, so so small. I knew in my heart that if this door completely closed, God was still in control.  Even though I couldn't wrap my brain around WHY in the world He would allow Caed to get 7 weeks of therapy started, only to be ultimately denied.  What would have been the purpose, Lord?

Caed has been amazing with his shots this summer!  Throughout his life, I have always been the one to do the hard stuff, the pain-filled necessities that he has needed (medically). Not anymore.  Our little boy has sure grown up.  I never once had to remind him to do his shot.  Every night he would gather up all he needed and administer his shot to himself (alternating between both legs and arms).  This kid is so used to be sticked and poked and prodded. Needles don't faze him in the least, but I was more impressed with the responsibility he took to do it all himself.  I knew the reason.  These shots were not just normal shots to him.  With every needle stick, it represented HOPE to a kid who is not just suffering physically, but more importantly, emotionally.

We've discussed in length with Caed that these shots aren't magic.  He isn't going to turn into the Hulk overnight...or ever!  These shots will help get him to where he should be genetically.  We have told him if he wants to build muscle and definition however, it's going to be totally up to him!  The past week we have seen a more mature, self-driven side of Caed than we have ever seen before.  He gets up early, eats breakfast, then has begun a pretty tough workout regimen (Insanity) in our garage.  Todd has been able to be his personal trainer and teach him techniques, etc...  Even when his dad is working, he still continues to get up every morning and push himself, alone.  He's a tough kid!  Outwardly he may not look it, but internally he is SO VERY strong.

We have watched Caed work...hard!  Yet my heart has wanted to fall apart.  I knew what was on the horizon.  No more shots!  How would we break the news to him?  Would he understand and believe that God still had him in the palm of his hand, and obviously had a "better plan?" Could we trust that God might be telling us "he doesn't need the shots...I'm going to help him grow MYSELF!"  Yes!  I knew I could trust God, period.  I have seen him move mountains for Caed the past 10 years.  I knew in my heart that everything would be ok....even though we couldn't see it.

My heart has been trusting God the past few weeks, not for the "YES, " but rather for the "NO."

...this morning my phone rang and it was the Endo dr.  My heart stopped briefly when I saw the number, yet told myself, "they're just calling to confirm our appointment on Tues."  (sigh...)

The nurse quickly said, "Hi, Lori, just wanted to let you know your insurance has approved the shots!" I sat silent and stunned.  I didn't understand.  Just last week I had several conversations with our case manager (as well as the denial letter that came in the mail) which all said "It's over.  Caed's case has been closed!" HOW?  WHY?  The nurse simply said "there was some miscommunication, but we got it all worked out."

I hung up the phone as my hands continued to shake.  Just this morning, Caed had "informed me" that he only had 6 days of shots left.  My heart sank.  I sat down and tried to explain to him that we didn't have anymore because insurance wouldn't cover it...and how we didn't have an extra $2000 a MONTH to pay for them ourselves.  I tried to encourage him that Dad and I would talk to his doctor and see if she could try something else with the insurance company.

One hour.  Just 60 minutes later God would show up BIG in our home today!  He would remind us that there are going to be times that by human standards we would be backed into a corner with no way out.  There would be absolutely nothing we, nor any doctor or case manger could do.  He would put us in a position in which we had no other choice than to just HOLD FAST, not to our prayers getting answered the way we wanted, but rather just to HIM. Plain and simple.

I have cried a lot this morning.  Tears of joy, yes!  But rather tears of just...God being God.  On Monday I posted something on Facebook that the Lord was showing me.  It wasn't easy.  In fact, it was down right HARD! When things around us seemed to be falling apart one right after another (trust me, we had a ((TOUGH)) week in many different areas in our family, not just Caed), I kept hearing from the Lord, through various people, the same message....

"Want ME!  Not just the things I can do for you!  Stop worrying about them.  Slow down and just SIT in my presence!  I can do exceedingly MORE than you can possibly imagine.  It just may not be done in the way you think.  Trust me."

I can honestly say that even though all the issues I had been worried about this week were still very present, I had peace.  Not because I knew God would "fix" everything, but rather...just began focusing on Him, alone.  Wow!  Is there ever tremendous POWER in that!

"And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 4:7

Thank you God for not just answering some of our prayers this week, but more importantly in HOW you did so.  It wasn't easy.  It hurt.  Yet in your infinite wisdom you knew...we needed a reminder of your POWER and SOVEREIGNTY.  You knew you needed to get us to a place in which we had reached a 'dead end.' You had the events and tiniest of details of this summer planned out impeccably.     Once again, with joy (and a little laughter), we can sit back and reflect on the past 8 months and see how it was perfect.  I don't believe you simply "intervened" into a hopeless situation, but were there in every detail, in every step of the way.  Your faithfulness has been abundantly evident in Caed's journey his ENTIRE life, yes even in the womb as you carefully and lovingly twisted his body into knots... You had a plan for his life!  Yes, there would be pain and fear and sorrow.  Lots of it!  But you knew.  You knew the magnitude of Caed's journey would impact so many people's lives.  Jesus would be made famous and you would continually show us just HOW MUCH you love us.  We have been face-down in the pit of Caed's journey so many times.  We could have never imagined all the twists and turns to this plot.  You are the author and YOU are so good!  Yes, with every tear shed, YOU have been good.  With every "no, " YOU have been good.  Every time we cried out to you and no answer would come, YOU have been good.  This journey has been long.  This journey has not ended.  In days ahead, more pain will come.  Yet, YOU will forever and always be our GOOD LOVING AND FAITHFUL FATHER.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Waiting on Pins and Needles

The last time Caed needed a medical backpack, the year was 2009.  It held his feedings/pump during a time when he needed 24 hr. enteral feeding via G-tube. This little blue backpack sits on a shelf up in our closet.  To see it, brings both smiles and tears.

Today,  the UPS man delivered a box to our door, and when I opened it, my heart stopped for a few brief seconds.  Not sure I was prepared to see another backpack!  The rest of the medical supplies packed inside honestly triggered nothing in me, but it was like deja vu staring at that bag.

Yet another chapter of Caed's medical journey will soon begin...

He has always been small, and of course Todd and I are neither one expecting any of our kids to be 6 ft. giants.  However, Caed has always been the one that has barely hung on the growth chart for years.   Finally this year, with him falling OFF of it, his doctors grew concerned.  Nebraska wanted us to go see a Pedi Endocrinologist.  This has not been our first rodeo with an Endo Dr.  We saw one in Dallas when Caed was 5 or 6.  At that time, they felt like he was growing well (considering...he was also being supplemented with tube feeds), and saw no need for any help such as growth hormone therapy, which most Short Gut kids need.

Now fast forward almost 10 years, and things have changed.  He has undergone several tests and the doctor feels he desperately needs help in growing.  Almost every Short Gut parent I have talked to (either in person or via FB support groups) have been shocked that we haven't needed growth hormones before now.  Most all of these kids need it due to the fact they are missing the majority of their bowel and cannot absorb nutrients the way normal people do.  Malabsorption has been our unwanted, evil houseguest for 10 years!  People are shocked when they are around Caed very long and see just how much that child eats!  "Where does he put it?" they ask.  ha!  I won't go there....  Let's just say 'what goes in, typically goes straight out!'

We have been on this new journey (concern for lack of growth) for most of the year.  We have seen changes in Caed.  Ones that have secretly bothered us.  Caed is different.  Sure, we still see that crazy, funny side to his personality when he's around those he trusts, but not as much anymore at school.  He seems more withdrawn and has struggled greatly with confidence.  (anyone who has ever known Caed, knows he has always had more than his share of confidence!)  :)

Things have occurred this year.  Awful things have been said/done to him either unintentionally by friends, etc....or intentionally from strangers.  Mama Bear has had to restrain herself on more than one occasion.  Some of it is just part of growing up. sensitive heart wanted so badly to shield him from hurtful comments regarding his size.  People (typically) watch their words with someone who is overweight.  Yet, I've found that no filters are in place when someone is underweight. Those who desperately want to GAIN weight, but can't.  Commenting to them about how small they are only deepens and twists the knife that is already stabbed into their hurting heart.  And no, "just eat more!" is not the answer.  At least not with someone who has lost the majority of their intestines.  Pain and frequent trips to the restroom will most definitely occur, but thanks for your "expert weight gaining tips." Lol  Caed's doctors always used to laugh and tell him "Hey, look on the bright side (of SBS)'ll NEVER have to go on a diet!"  It's true, and we are thankful for that.  I'm betting as a girl, that would be the best news ever.  For a teenage BOY...not so much right now.

There are still a few hurdles to jump over and we are praying (no pleading!) with God for a full green light.  Yet not forgetting all the ways He has got us to where we are sitting today.  We continue to wait (almost literally) on pins and needles, as well as pray for his body to absorb the hormones.  We honestly have no idea how well it will work or how much time his body has before his growth plates close.

This decision has not been made lightly.  I was terrified in the beginning.  Yet...the alternative (stop growing altogether) scared me more.  We didn't want to do anything that would cause him more harm.  Peace is now overflowing, and we are thankful for doctors who not only stay on top of his health (even though we are 1000 miles away)...but also just love our boy and want what's best for him.

So we wait.  Patiently, expectantly, and full of hope.

"He who began a good (miraculous) work in you, Caed, will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."

Thursday, March 1, 2018

10 Year Anniversary

It's March 1, 2018.  As I stare at the date, my mind instantly is overwhelmed.  Has it really been that long?  Caed is 14 1/2 years old today.  This afternoon you will find him sprinting and jumping in this year's first track meet of the season.  His coach called him the "Flying Squirrel" last year.  He's fast... and can fly.  Not only does he have 3 short months left as an 8th grader at Idalou Middle School,  more surprisingly...he will be in HIGH SCHOOL next fall!

Caed was 4 1/2 years old when his life instantly changed on March 1, 2008.  Trauma struck his body that day, as his surgeon shook her head in disbelief that he had survived it all.  Todd and I,  of course,  found ourselves sitting in the PICU in paralyzing shock over what had just transpired.

To reflect back over the past 10 years and everything this child (and our family) has endured is bittersweet.  On one hand, flashes of the most painful months/years of my life can literally suck the breath out of me.  Yet, to look back...also forces us to see where we are today.  For those that walked (no, belly-crawled) this journey with us from day 1 are possibly as speechless as I am finding myself now.   Are we really here?  Did we honestly survive that horrific nightmare?

The days were long.  The nights were even longer.  The separation of our family was almost too much to bear at times.  All we were....was instantly gone!  To adequately summarize the past 10 years of Caed's health is rather daunting; however, these numbers help put in perspective the magnitude of our miracle:

4 - years old when Caed's midgut volvulus surfaced
19 - days I had with my newborn son before "losing him" for 9 months
4 - days on the ventilator
10 - days spent in PICU
8 - surgeries
90 - percent of small bowel lost
40 - percent of colon lost
4 - blood transfusions
1 - NG tube
3 - catheters
23 - times under full anesthesia
15 - Upper and/or Lower GI's
7 - endoscopies
3 - CT scans
1- ECG
1- J tube
3- nasal feeding tubes
6 - G-tubes
5 - intestinal drains
12 - adverse drug reactions
7 - hospital rooms
73 - consecutive days spent at Covenant Children's Hospital in 2008
117 - days before Caed or I stepped foot back in our home (weekend visit only)
158 - consecutive days of vomiting up to 8-10 times/daily
9 - trips to the ER
164 - days on TPN
1 - Home Health nurse
2 - staph infections in his central line
4 - play therapy sessions for Post Traumatic Stress
84 - consecutive days living in Omaha, NE for Intestinal Rehabilitation
260 - days with a central line
44 - flights Todd took back and forth from Dallas to Lubbock to Omaha
278 - consecutive days away from our home in Celina
283 - consecutive days our family of 5 was separated
25+  - doctors caring for Caed
3 - times with c-diff
437 - days Caed wore an enteral feeding backpack
7 - more trips back to University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha
10 - weeks on antibiotic therapy for bacterial overgrowth
1- unbelievable Make-A-Wish trip
1 - hiatal hernia
1- ultrasound
1 - gallbladder removal
3 - incision revision surgeries
4 - bowel preps
13 - weeks burning his incision with Silver Nitrate
2 - open surgical wounds which had to be packed for 6 weeks
365 - days Caed's gallbladder/incision issue lasted
541 - days Caed was not allowed to swim or take a bath
1, 520 - approximate days Caed had a feeding tube
4 - bone scans
1 - ambulance ride to ER
150 - dollars Caed collected in his "penny bank" for his smiles
1,000 - dollars for 1 month supply of Caed's enteral formula
865, 000 - dollars of largest single medical bill
2,000,000 - dollars in total medical charges thus far...
600 - blog posts...and counting
1 - amazing MIRACLE who was chosen to walk an incredibly tough journey
10 - years the Lord has shown His Faithfulness in our new world of Short Bowel Syndrome

countless..... - abdominal x-rays
countless..... - syringes and other medical supplies used on a daily basis
countless... - vials of blood drawn over the past 10 years
countless..... -nurses who loved Caed deeply
countless..... - cries and screams in agony from Caed
countless..... - times Caed asked "When will I be normal again?"
countless..... - times Todd and I cried out to God to heal our son!
countless..... - tears shed from all who followed Caed's story
countless..... - family and friends who met tangible needs
countless..... - prayers, cards, gifts, visits (from strangers around the globe) which BLESSED us!
countless..... - ways God has and continues to show His Faithfulness...

"Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be."  Psalm 139:16

God continues to be so so good to Caed.  Not only has healing taken place in his physical body, but more importantly, the Lord has "healed" Caed's heart too!  More on that story later...

Currently, we are waiting to hear back from our endocrinologist.  Nebraska has been concerned with Caed's lack of growth (which is obviously very normal in Short Gut patients).  If he has a delayed bone age, that's a great sign!  He still has plenty more time to grow.  If, however, his bones measure that of a 14 year old....he is running out of time.  The doctor has a plan of action if that is the case, and we have felt nothing but peace after meeting her and discussing Caed's history.  Definitely an answer to prayer!

God's faithfulness continues.....

Saturday, December 9, 2017


My most favorite family tradition we have is our Christmas tree.  For 20 years the "theme"of our tree has been our growing family and my love for photography .  Each year I find a new photo frame with the current year inscribed somewhere on the ornament.  We either set the trusty tripod up or search for the just the perfect family picture from the current year.  I love looking at all 21 ornaments, remembering the exact day and time each photograph was taken. Our first photo ornament dates back to 1995, the year Todd and I started dating.  They take me back.  Back to various seasons in our family where both joy and grief dwelt.  Specifically over the past 10 years, as I have hung those priceless ornaments on the tree, two words always overwhelm me: "God's faithfulness." The longer our family unit exists, the more deeply I see it.  It is interwoven just as the lights and ribbon encompass our tree.  Its beauty takes my breath away.  Literally. 

Another favorite family tradition extends beyond the 4 walls of our home.  It dates back to 1998 and has continued every year since.  The quality has drastically changed, as well as the faces that are hidden inside.  It is our yearly Christmas gift to my parents.  At only $12.95, it is the one item they have said they would rush to if their house was ever engulfed in flames.  Why?  Why would these yearly photo calendars mean so much?  Yes, pictures are priceless.  Most everyone would agree with their sentiment.  But as I was pulling each one out of the box this weekend, I was expecting the usual joyous,  entertaining stroll down memory lane.  Instead I was struck with something far more powerful.  It was by no means the first time I had looked back through them in recent years...but this time I was all alone.  Just me, my thoughts, and my deep analytical heart. Our first calendar was made up of 10 people, including my parents' first 2 grand-babies (that number has now grown to 15).  As I closed one calendar and opened the next, and the next, and the next....18 times over, tears flooded my eyes.  A lump formed in my throat and the breath in my lungs seemingly was being sucked right out of my body.   I was consumed.  Overwhelmed by God.  Just as my own family's Christmas tree reminds me each year of God's faithfulness, these calendars represent the exact same thing, but extend to a larger group of people.  The joys of each new grand baby being born or adopted into our family from the other side of the globe....  From toothless grins to braces, first days of school to monumental graduations, Little League to college athletics, PICU to back flips, "playing animal doctor" to working for an animal doctor,  Cinderella crown to Prom Queen,  from Aiken to China to Brunei....oh my!   What incredible stories these pages could tell!  Yet, without fail, every calendar also spoke pain, uncertainty, and tremendous fear and sadness.  To see beyond the photographs, to remember the various seasons of life each family lived through and endured...was paralyzing.  

Psalm 100:5 "For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations." 

The overwhelming emotion I experienced looking at these photographs (chronologically) is hard to describe.  It was not just joy, yet my heart was bursting of it.  It was not solely sadness or grief, yet my heart also equally ached of losses represented.  Rather the faithfulness and love of my Father God stirred something inside me that was numbing.  It numbed every bitter/sweet memory,  forced me to stand back and visually SEE how He has never left us.  As I glanced quickly over the 18 years spread across the living room floor, peace covered me like a soft, warm blanket.  All the stress and uncertainty I was experiencing allowed me to stop, rest, and remember.  I was calmed by the fact that God has been so so good to our family. The days have not been easy, some have been down right scary.  Yet, time after time He has proven Himself faithful to us.  Not just the 18 years represented in the calendars, but for generations.  His love has been steadfast, never wavering. His provisions have been timely and perfect.  

As I sat and wondered what the next "18 calendars" might look like, a smile came across my face.  I know hard days will most definitely continue to descend upon us, days in which we will question whether we have what it takes to carry on, and pain-filled torrential tears will still crash to the floor.  New precious faces will soon make their debut into our calendar tradition, as well as the endless sweet days that naturally accompany them.   Even though we may not know what future chapters of the Everitt Family's Story will entail,  we confidently rest in the same mercy, grace, love, and faithfulness that has carried us this far.  

THAT is the most treasured gift my family has been given...and one that a house fire could never destroy.  

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Grace For Today

I am a planner.  Nothing makes me happier than having at least 5-6 separate calendars (which by the way all say the exact same thing).  Not only do I enjoy filling in the events of the new month, but if I could stretch it out for an entire year, I'd be in heaven.  Each summer when I buy a new lesson plan book for the school year, I love filling in every single school day.  I number off the different six weeks, as well as mark all holidays and teacher workdays with a bright fun color.  As much as I hate to admit it, will find my lesson plan months of April and May written on when school starts each August (eeeeekk, in lightly sketched pencil of course).

 I've always made lists, charts, and graphs.  Even as a little girl.  I once made a chart listing every stuffed animal I owed.  It seemed inhumane and cruel to only get to sleep with 1 or 2 each night, so I came up with a logical solution.   Each got their own special turn to sleep with me, and afterwards received a colorful checkmark on my homemade graph to document the occasion.

I know I come by this naturally.  My mom still to this day is the master list maker.  She as well has 5-6 separate calendars, as well as too many lists for my poor dad to keep up with.   It's inherited.  No telling how far back on either side of my gene pool it goes.

There are numerous advantages to being like this; however, the older I've gotten and now with my own family to keep track of,  I'm finding it almost crippling at times. I quickly get very overwhelmed each new season trying to organize everyone's separate schedules and commitments.  I'm so used to looking long term, and it's hard to break that horrible habit of needing control.

This summer I came across a video from an amazing pastor/author John Piper.  His message struck so deeply with me.  I listened to this excerpt from one of his teachings over and over and over.  He talked about 2 different passages that he felt were sovereignly intertwined.

Matthew 6:34
"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,  for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Lamentations 3:22-23
"The LORD's lovingkindness indeed never ceases.  For His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning.  Great is Your faithfulness."

Both verses were very familiar to me.  In fact the one in Lamentations had become my go-to verse during Caed's illness.  But how Piper wove the two together, were just what I needed.  Isn't it funny how the Lord does that? Verses we've known and memorized all our life...suddenly become new (specific to our current need).

We will all go through trials of various kinds. The Bible tells us this!  It says " not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you..."(1 Peter 4:12)  It also tells us that ..."He is faithful and His mercies are new every morning."  So how do these verses apply to someone like me?  Someone who looks down the endless corridor of a new school year and quite honestly says, "I can't do it, Lord.  I know what's coming, and I know I don't have the strength to walk it again.  My mind, my body, my spirit will give way.  I just can't."

God gave me this answer (through Piper's interpretation of Scripture):

    I love you more than you will ever be able to comprehend.  I don't like seeing you in pain.  I do not take delight in allowing trials into your life.  What I do desire is seeing you become Christ-like.  When you are able to see past the various troubles in your life and know confidently they are not there to harm you; but rather grow you, mature your faith, and deepen your reliance on Me.  In doing so, you are sharing in My sufferings. Yes, I allow tough situations into your life. I do have a certain amount of troubles planned for every one of your days.  Don't add to it!  Don't pile unnecessary troubles to your day that don't belong there. Just as I have portioned out those daily trials, I equally lavish upon you mercies to sustain you through them.  I do not give you mercy today....for tomorrow's problems. Quit looking ahead.  Of course you can't do it.  I haven't equipped you to handle yesterday's troubles and all of tomorrow's uncertainties TODAY.  Focus on ME.  Cling to ME.  Trust ME.  Today.  Right now.  Then...guess what?  Tomorrow morning when I open your eyes and allow you to breathe in a new day, all the mercies you will need for THAT DAY, will be there. Not an ounce more.  Not an ounce less.  When you feel overwhelmed, are trying to handle future problems with today's graces...or you have added your own troubles into the day that were never supposed to be there.  I am the master mathematician and trust me when I tell you it can't be done.  Just breathe.  Take every minute as it comes.  When you ask for strength in the moment, I will lovingly provide it to you.  When you need courage in the moment, I will place my armor on you.  When you need rest in the moment, I will miraculously fill you.  When you need peace in the moment, I will breathe my calmness into your lungs.  Cast all your anxieties on Me.  Don't try to conquer them on your own.  Simply worrying about them, will only add to the weight you are trying to carry.  
Quit looking at tomorrow.  Just focus on 

Be still and know...I am Your God and I love you!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Through the Fiercest Battle

If given the choice on a night out, I instinctively will always go with a chic flick, comedy, or anything Disney.  I love however true stories, whether it be in film or written form.  Although in complete anguish and covering my eyes through most of it,  sitting through movies like Saving Private Ryan, Braveheart, and American Sniper always captivated me.  It was real.  Not just Hollywood embellishing battle scenes to bank a buck.  In reality, I am always aware those gruesome scenes are probably mild in comparison to those who were forced to play those roles in real life.  

The WW2 Battle of Stalingrad has been noted as the deadliest in history.  Estimates conclude nearly 2 million casualties occurred during the 7 month siege.  That is equivalent to the entire population of Houston, TX and averages to 10,000 men falling to their deaths every 24 hours. 

What would it have been like?  To see the devastation day after day after day.  To continue fighting knowing the odds that you had seen the sun rise or set for the last time was extremely high.

The fiercest battle.  Picture it.  Engrain those images you have either personally experienced or simply seen on a big screen in your head.  The explosions bursting all around you.  The screams.  The adrenaline.  The sights and smells of death with every turn. The split second decisions.  The horror.  The ultimate sacrifices.

Psalm 46 reads:
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.  There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fail; God will help her at break of day.  Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; He lifts his voice, the earth melts.  The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.  Come and see what the LORD has done, the desolations He has brought on the earth.  He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth.  He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; He burns the shields with fire.  He says, “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Verse 10 is all familiar.  One you have probably memorized and seen written on t-shirts, coffee mugs, and framed art.  As I have thought of this verse many times in my life, it is usually during an overly anxious, hectic time.  As one sitting on a yoga mat, legs criss-crossed, eyes closed, pinky fingers pointing to the sky…silently chanting “be still and know that I am God.”  A calming of the spirit.  

However, after studying this verse in context, the picture I have in my head is now one of complete opposition.  Instead of a quiet calming reassurance from the Lord, I am picturing myself in the heat of a fierce battle.  The first 15 minutes of Saving Private Ryan.  Do you remember it?  As you sat in your comfy cushioned theatre seat munching on that buttery goodness, you became frozen.  A sickening knot formed in the pit of your gut, and you wondered if you had the endurance for the remaining 150 minutes.  THAT.  That is when the LORD Almighty powerfully walks into the scene from Psalm 46.  He utters a single word and the earth melts.  He effortlessly snaps the semi-automatic rifle in half and crushes the atomic bomb with his heel.  All air raid shelters are burned to the ground. 

In the midst of all the chaos, the terrors of the night, the arrows flying by day, He boldly commands, “Be still…”  Stop!  All of it!  Every military combat strategy.  Freeze right where you are.  Do you not see?  You have no power, no protection apart from Me.  Stay right beside Me.  I am your ever present help.  Your refuge.  Your strength.  I can stop this war in a single word.  But TRUST ME if I ask you to take ahold of my hand as I lead you THROUGH it instead.  I am God.  I am in control.  And I know what is best for you.”

This summer the Lord has providentially laid Psalm 46 on my heart.  Over and over again, He keeps bringing this passage of Scripture back to me.  Why?  (maybe only an extreme analyzer like myself would ask this question)  But do you ever get the feeling something is on the horizon?  That God is preparing you for a single event or series of them in the days ahead?  I absolutely have, and to be honest, it always scares me to death.  To have a sixth sense (or a gut feeling) that tough days are inching closer and closer.   That has been my heart this summer.  ( the way, I am a public school teacher in Texas if that helps explain my possible anxiety.  ha!  The Lord tends to use the summer months for this very thing, and I am grateful for the time to mentally, physically, and spiritually refresh.)

August in Texas equates many things, but one that probably trumps them all is…high school football.  It’s the beginning.  The past 3 days, standing at the sink in my kitchen,  I have casually watched our high school boys begin 2-a-days on the practice field across the street.  Although as a girl, I have never personally experienced the blood…the sweat…the tears…and even the occasional sickness that accompanies these highly intense football workouts, I did have 2 older brothers that did. So why do they do it?  What is the purpose of these grueling (seemingly) torturous workouts? Are the coaches just evil madmen?  

Of course not.  

They have a plan.  There is meticulous strategy and purpose behind every drill.  In 3-4 short weeks, the season begins.  Hard fought battles will occur every Friday night all across this great state.  The coaches know it.  The players know it.  The opponents know it.  As well as the onlookers, we call fans.  2-a-day workouts are quite simply…preparations for battle.  They are not easy.  In fact, I’m guessing 99% of the boys do not wake up early, nor are instantly pumped and ready to go each morning.  They are keenly aware of what will be required of them mentally and physically.  There must be great discipline to continue day after day after day, as they push their bodies to the extreme.  They also must have  knowledge of what the ultimate goal is by the end of the season and have the heart to do whatever it takes to get there.

Spiritually speaking, this is what I have felt the Lord walking me through this summer.  Preparing my heart and using great friends to speak truth over me.  And reminding me "this world is not our home...we are only passing through."

I have no clue what lies ahead.  I have no idea if this will be a year of immeasurable blessings or pain like no other.   Maybe even a combination of the two.   However, the Lord has used His words in Psalm 46 to give me great peace and hope and strength. 

You’re with us IN the FIRE!
…with us AS a SHELTER
…with us IN the STORM.
You will lead us THROUGH the fiercest battle

Did you catch it?  He does not say outside the fire, away from the storm, or around the fiercest battle.  We will walk in the fire pit.  Our feet will be burning.  Pain will be felt.  We will be caught smack dab in the middle of the worst Texas thunderstorm you’ve ever seen.  Large hail stones will hit you and be felt as 1000 bee stings all over your body.  We will be asked to fight from the front lines.  Injury and death will fall all around us.  

Yet, picture it!  HE will lead us.  Not around it.  Not over it or under it.  But right through the middle of it.  He never leaves.  He never lets go of your hand.  He shelters you.  He is your ever-present help.

It’s easy to be frightened of battles you see looming on the horizon.  The urge to want to run far far away is 100% normal.  Take heart and KNOW your God is in control.  Plead for His help and ask Him to prepare you now….not after the battle has begun or the whistle has been blown and the referee signals GO!  Preparation for war begins day one of boot camp, or if in Texas…day one of 2-a-days.   As Christians, I believe we should always have the mindset that if we are not currently IN a battle, we need to be self-disciplined and preparing ourselves (spiritually) for the NEXT one coming. 

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. “ 2 Cor. 10:3-5

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,  and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” 
Ephesians 6:11-17

Saturday, July 23, 2016

No Regrets

"In 10 years when he is walking across that stage, will you regret if you don't do it?"  Without any hesitation, I responded "YES!"

That was part of the conversation my principal and I had over a year ago regarding the idea of Caleb being in my 2nd grade class.  Prior to that, I honestly was leaning toward him not.  However, out of the blue one day (toward the end of his1st grade year), Caleb asked me, "Mom, are you going to be my 2nd grade teacher, like you were for Reagan and Caed?"  I stood frozen.  His question completely caught me off guard, and I was shocked he even knew I had taught Reagan (he was an infant).

When Reagan had finished pre-school...over 12 years ago, the Lord laid heavily on my heart the desire to homeschool.  It was wonderful!  I was able to teach her at home for 3 years (Kinder, 1st, and 2nd grades).  However, it was in the middle of her 1st grade year when Caed got sick.  We recognized immediately how the Lord had providentially planned her to be homeschooled during those awful months/year.  I can't even imagine what it would have been like had she been enrolled in school during that time.  God knew...and for that we are forever grateful.

After the dust settled from the worst 18 months of my life (Caed's illness), I recognized I was going through some post traumatic stress of my own.  I knew I didn't have the ability to continue to be a mom to a critically ill child, attempt to bond with my now toddler whom I had lost for a year, and be the teacher that Reagan (and soon Caed) would need me to be.

Fast forward several years.  Now both older kids are in public school (Reagan 4th / Caed 1st), and I am back in the classroom after a 10 year break.  When Caed was heading into 2nd grade, I knew (if allowed) I needed to have him in my classroom.  Caed was hospitalized during those crucial preschool/Kinder years of 4, 5, and 6.  He missed so much and it showed academically.  I wanted to see for myself as a teacher.  As his mother.   What were his specific struggles?  How could I help him?  Little did I know what lie ahead for Caed in 2nd grade.  4 (more) abdominal surgeries, continued enteral feeding through g-tube, 2 open wounds that had to be packed, pain, disappointment, fear, over and over and over...the entire school year.  God knew, once again.  My initial priority was his struggle academically.  Very quickly I learned I would not just be Caed's teacher that year, I would also need to be his private nurse for his struggles physically.

4 years have passed.  Now Caleb stuns me with this question.  What do I do?  With Reagan, I HAD to teach her.  I was the ONLY option she had at "Hollingsworth Elementary School."  With Caed...again the decision seemed to be such a no-brainer.  Now, with Caleb, I did not have a single reason I needed to be his teacher in 2nd grade.  He would thrive beautifully in any classroom, with any teacher.  That's just the kind of kid/student he is.  So when he looked at me with those big blue eyes wanting to know if his mommy would teach him too...I couldn't answer.

I struggled for months.  Not in my desire to teach him, but rather what everyone around me would think.  I have learned these past 6 years working in the same school as my children (all 3 campuses are connected), my main role shifts from mom to teacher.  Hugging, loving on, giving any form of "special treatment" should be avoided at all costs. First of all, I don't believe it's fair.  Not every child gets to have Mom with them when they go to school every day.  Secondly, it's not good for that child.  They must learn to deal when issues arise, like every one else, and not always be mom-dependent.

"What will people think?  Will they view me as a 'helicopter mom?'...which I detest.  Will my co-workers question my confidence in their ability to be a good teacher for Caleb?" (I do not, by the way!  They are all amazingly gifted, and Caleb would have thrived enormously with any of them!)  Over and over I continued to ask these questions.  Never once was I concerned with Caleb in my classroom, with myself as his teacher, or our relationship.  My fears were 100% based on the thoughts of others.

So, after my principal (wisely) asked me that initial question...I knew.   Deep down in my heart, I knew the opinions of others simply did not matter.  After this year, 99% would forget he was ever in my classroom.  They would move on with their lives, their families, their jobs.  And so would I.

This past school year, the majority of the days were completely routine.  He unloaded his backpack, said the pledge, turned in homework, sat in his desk, worked, tested, socialized, was both rewarded and reprimanded, had good days and bad, laughed, cried, was sent to the nurse with both injuries and illnesses, struggled, and achieved.  Unless you have been a teacher to your own child in a classroom setting, you may not fully understand this.  But personally speaking, Caleb simply became 1 of my 19 students.  I quickly learned his strengths, as well as his weaknesses...just like every other student.  As odd as this sounds, there were truly many moments throughout each day, I would almost forget he was my own child.  He just became 'Caleb' at school.  From my experiences with both Caed and Caleb, I will say the same was true for them.  I just became 'Mrs. Hollingsworth' at school.  (due from the fact BOTH boys called me that many times in class, as well as then raising their hand at the dinner table because they had a question at home.  ha!)

Then.. there were those moments.  Those fleeting memories of having Caleb taken from me at 3 weeks of age.  Those rare nights (I was home to put him in his crib) in which I cried with inconsolable grief because I did not know him.  This sweet baby did not know me anymore either.  We had been forced to become strangers.  Not being there for all his monumental "firsts" ripped my heart into a thousand pieces.  Even now, when Caleb asks me questions about things he did as a baby, I smile...I answer (typically making something up because I honestly do not know), then fight back a flood gate of tears from grief I still carry in my heart.  Those difficult memories would occasionally come to mind this past school year as I would watch him in class or on the playground.  I might even be in the middle of a lesson, when some rare haunting memory would come to mind.  It was in those brief moments, I would quietly whisper to God my utmost gratitude for giving me this "restoration year" with my Caleb.

Lord willing, I am confident in May of 2019, 2022, and 2026...tears will be falling as I watch each of my children walk the stage.  Those tears will represent many things, I'm guessing.  Enormous pride,  as well as disbelieving grief that the years flew by as quickly as they did.  But I also think my tears will be from unspeakable JOY, knowing I not only played a ((small)) academic role in their achievements, but also the pleasure of knowing I had the privilege to teach all 3 of my children.

Each of their experiences (as my student) were completely different.

Yet completely perfect...

Reagan in 2nd grade.  Univ. of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha became her classroom for almost 3 months. God knew how much her brother and I desperately needed her during that difficult time.

Caed in 2nd grade, going through 4 surgeries (including feeding tube removal!)  :)

The months in between surgeries were (for the most part) very good.

Caleb in 2nd grade dressing up for Costume Parade with his Teacher/Mom "Disgust."