Saturday, September 29, 2007

For Love of Settee

Since moving to England last summer, Matt and I have noticed a few things the British are passionate about. The clear, overall favorite is football, i.e., soccer. Think of the love that Americans have for baseball, basketball and our version of football combined. Then multiply that by fifty thirty hundred (Jack's favorite, "most highest" number). It's true, the British also love their chips, i.e., french fries. Teenagers on the street eat them as an afternoon snack on their way home from school; grown-ups eat them for lunch. In fact, the potato is practically omnipresent in the British diet. But to our outsider view, one more thing runs closely behind these two. Apparently, as Matt says, these people be lovin' their couches.

What is with UK television commercials for sofas? You heard me. Sofas. Matt and I are sitting here watching The X-Factor (the British version of American Idol), and Every. Single. Break! shows at least one commercial for a BIG SALE (always in capital letters) on sofas in one furniture store or another. The strange thing is, this is not unusual. Similar ads are constantly on the telly. Adverts are dropped through the mail slot in our front door on a weekly basis. Full-page ads are taken out in local newspapers. And there are two massive sofa showrooms within three miles of our small town. There is absolutely no telling how many sofa sets are being bought and sold in the UK's bigger cities.

We have yet to figure out this love affair with the couch. Any insight? (Anyone? Anyone?)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Longest Dream

A friend once told me: “When your kids are young, the years go by fast but the days go so slow.” It’s true, isn’t it? For all of us, I mean. No matter how old we are or what we’re going through, part of the human condition is that the here-and-now seems to inch along and the future stretches out endlessly ahead of us, while the past is... Gone. Instantly.

I suppose I’m thinking about the passing of time because Matt’s godfather died this week. Uncle Charles battled numerous illnesses in his life, beat cancer twice, survived several surgeries and was finally overcome by an infection that spread throughout his body from the portal for his third barrage of chemo treatments. Even then, when the doctor said he had anywhere from a day to a week left, Uncle Charles held on longer than anyone expected that he would. The hospital staff called him the Iron Man because of it.

Uncle Charles was one of those strong-and-silent types. In the few times I’ve been blessed to spend time with him and Aunt Sue, he sat quietly in the big group, smiling while the ladies talked (and talked and talked and talked). But one-on-one, he had some mighty strong convictions, and he didn’t hesitate sharing them. His favorite statement in recent years was, “I don’t know what the future holds, but I know Who holds my future.”

I think that’s what I’ll remember most about Uncle Charles: The only thing stronger than his will to live was his faith in Christ.

Keith Green had this great song where he described his experience of accepting Jesus “like waking up from the longest dream,” and I’ve often thought that dying will be the same way. This life certainly feels real, and I don’t doubt its importance or its relevance, but in the eternal scheme of things, what we go through on this earth is only one dimension of the life that is to come.

That comforts and inspires me. Because just like my dreams, there are lots of things in this life that don’t make sense. Just like my dreams, I get caught up in thinking that what I’m experiencing right now is all there is. And just like my dreams, I have to remind myself of what’s really real and what only feels that way.

I’m thankful for Uncle Charles, for all that he meant to Matt's family and for his example of hope and humility, faith and love, determination and strength. Since his death, I’ve been picturing him in Heaven, waking up to a bigger, brighter, bolder reality than any of us can imagine. Even in our wildest dreams.

* * * * *
Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in Me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with Me where I am. (John 14:1-3 NLT)

No eye has seen, no ear has heard and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him. (1 Corinthians 2:9 NLT)

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea... I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light... Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations... No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His servants will serve Him. They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 21:1, 22-24a and 22:1-5 NIV)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

You Know What They Say About Spilled Milk

I’m wearing two small stickers today: a kitty cat and a leopard. Jack came and put them on my sweater and said, “These are for you, Mommy. One is for doing a good job in the garden, and one is for taking good care of us.”

Moments like that make me even more thankful for this short, magical season of life at home with two little ones. Mind you, it doesn’t always feel so short. Or so magical.

Yesterday it seemed like every single thing I tried to do either took forever or was undone by Sophie the minute my back was turned. I’d been up since 5:30 and before it was even midmorning I was feeling weighed down. When I checked the clock at 9:25, I was sure that we’d be on the way to the grocery store five minutes later, but I was still trying to get out the door at 9:45. (With Jack at nursery in the mornings, it was just me and Sophie! This should not be a problem.)

Finally, everything was ready. Keys in hand, I was just about to scoop Sophie up and carry her to the car. Oops, I’d forgotten to get a sippy cup of milk to ensure a more cooperative toddler on our adventure up and down the aisles at Sainsbury’s. I went back to the kitchen, poured milk into the mug, put the mug into the microwave, checked over my grocery list while it heated, then reached to get the mug and... I still don’t know exactly what happened, but suddenly I was surrounded (and had been splashed) by warm milk. What a mess! At first I just stood there and stared at that crazy puddle of milk. I think I even said out loud: You’ve got to be kidding! It had been one thing after another all morning, and now this. I closed my eyes. (Breathe in. Breathe out.)

After a long moment of absolute stillness, I turned to the kitchen sink for a sponge and happened to glance out the window. The sun was shining, and the bright, happy colors of a few late-summer flowers peeked at me from the garden. In the next room, I heard my baby-not-really-a-baby- anymore playing happily on the floor. And just like that, the frenzy was gone. That dark, ominous I’m-only-as-good-as-my-to-do-list-is-done cloud was gone. I felt lighter, freer, and I was smiling. In fact, I laughed -- mainly at myself for getting so worked up about such inconsequential things and then at how good my life truly is.

By the time the milk was cleaned up, I was a new woman. Relaxed instead of stressed. Grateful instead of frustrated. The rest of the day can be described by one simple word: FUN! I played with the kids, read lots of stories, sang lots of songs. Matt came home to a sink full of dishes, a basket full of laundry and toys e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e, but he also came home to a really happy family. What I've got to remember is that it doesn’t matter whether I feel successful or not. In the eyes of the ones who matter, I’m doing a good job.

And I’ve got the stickers to prove it.

* * * * * *
A wise woman builds her home, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands. (Proverbs 14:1 NLT)

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God. (Psalm 42:11 NIV)

(Jesus said) “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me -- watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 The Message)

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father encourage you and strengthen you in every good thing you do and say. (2 Thessalonians 2:16 NCV)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Goodnight Moon

Tonight Jack not only joined Sophie for her bedtime stories, for the first time he “read” them to her, too! I’m not sure which one of the three of us enjoyed it more or who was more proud...

I’ll try to post some new photos of the kiddos soon. They’re growing up much too fast!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Elijah Update (September 14)

For new readers to this blog, the following update is about a strong and brave little guy named Elijah, born February 6, 2007. His mom and I worked together at Rift Valley Academy in 1996-1999. Elijah has Hemophilia B, but more importantly, he has a worldwide prayer support team! Since my initial post about Elijah and his mom's initial update the very next day, posting updates from Elijah's parents on this blog is a small way I can give support from far away and generate much-needed prayer for Elijah's continued growth and healing. So please, join the praying!

Dear Elijah Warriors,

Thank you so much for all you have done for us over these seven months of Elijah's life. During my pregnancy if someone had told me that we would be going through all of this, I think I would have had a nervous breakdown. God never gives us more then we can bear, and He has given Joel and me the strength to make it from day to day. We are so grateful for each other, grateful we have the other to share all these trials and joys. We have been SO blessed!! Elijah is so much fun to have around. He keeps us smiling and makes us laugh more often than cry. We love to watch him get excited about doing something new. His little mind is thrilled to be able to have a new skill.

Last month Elijah had some shots. These shots caused a lot of turmoil and
sleeplessness in the house. Joel and I were concerned about Elijah and thought that we should get him an infusion of Factor IX in case there was bleeding that we could not see. During the process of getting the infusion, Elijah developed a severe bruise on his hand/wrist. We were in Kansas City on business and had someone come and check Elijah.

Her immediate response to us was, "You need to take Elijah to the Emergency Room at Children's Mercy. This looks like Compartmental Syndrome."

Speaking of Emergency Rooms, did you know that they are now called "Emergency Departments"? No more ER, just ED. Anyway, I was not looking forward to heading back to the hospital that has so many hard memories. Aughhh!!! We learned all about Compartmental Syndrome.

The way we understand compartmental syndrome is this: Muscles are surrounded by tissue to keep the muscles nicely grouped together. If the muscle is damaged and oozes blood and if the tissue surrounding the muscle is not damaged, the blood has nowhere to go so the oozing blood starts to put pressure on the muscle. It can put so much pressure on the muscle that great pain ensues, and it can even damage nerves and everything else that is getting squeezed. In normal people a surgeon can cut the tissue to relieve the pressure, but this isn't a good idea for people with hemophilia.

We were told that we may be at Children's Mercy for several days. If this syndrome is not treated in children it can lead to amputation and all sorts of bad things. We got to the ED and were taken right in to be checked. A doctor came in and decided that Elijah was not experiencing the symptoms of Compartmental Syndrome and all we needed was an infusion of Factor IX. A nurse came in and infused Elijah, and we then waited for two hours before we were allowed to leave. The staff told us that the Hemophilia Clinic would probably want to see us the next day to check on Elijah, so we went back to Joel's sister's house to spend the night once again.

We went back the next day to Children's Mercy and met with our Hemophilia nurse and doctor. This is the first time they have seen Elijah in person since we left Children's Mercy in March. They were excited to see him and watch him respond to his mom and dad. They watched his eyes as he followed us wherever we went and laughed at us. Joel and I remember the "team meeting" we had before Elijah had his Superior Vena Cava Syndrome and we were told for the first time that Elijah had "severe damage to his brain tissue". We praise the Lord that there appears to be no effect from the damage of the hemorrhage. Elijah is doing very well. Attached is a photo of Elijah with his Hemophilia Nurse, Judy. She has been a great encouragement to us over the months as she shares our belief in a God who heals. We are grateful for the people the Lord has placed in our path throughout this journey.

We were so excited to finally get home again with our little boy that we have not wanted to leave.

Due to Elijah's history, he qualifies to be evaluated by a local group who helps children who may have developmental problems. A speech therapist and physical therapist have been over to evaluate Elijah, and they do not see a huge problem. Praise the Lord again! They will continue working with him but feel that he is doing GREAT. During his PT, his therapist said, "Well, I was expecting to come over and see a little boy who could not do anything, but you are doing great!" Elijah is about 3 months behind physically which is wonderful considering he was on his back in a hospital with wires, chest tubes, breathing tubes, etc. for almost 5 months. We keep working with him every day to help him get stronger. Helping him get stronger holds both joys and worries. He has a higher chance of needing Factor IX once he begins to get mobile, but it is so much fun to watch him smile when he can stand or sit up with help.

The other day at church I heard a little kid hit her head on the pew. How many times in my lifetime have I heard that sound? It never bothered me before, but I began to think about that happening to Elijah and how he may need medicine after doing something like that. We would have to watch him for days to see if there was a problem. So many things, yet we know they are minor when we look at all Elijah has experienced in this life.

During August we were also in Tupelo, MS, for business, and Elijah was with us. He handled the trip very well and with several more stops then we are used to, he made the trip with flying colors. Every furniture showroom we were in, people asked about our boy. People wanted to ask about his shunt, but some just walked by him several times and did not say anything. Others asked if he was premature, if he was going to be okay, most just said that he was the cutest boy they had ever seen... "What BIG eyes!" We met several people who have lost children. One lost a little girl at two days old, one lost a daughter at 18 years old. So many stories out there, and Elijah is allowing us to hear them, allowing people to share their pain and sorrow and allowing us to share our faith with them. One man told us of the anger he had toward God when his child died, but he is over that now and cannot imagine life without a Savior and a relationship with Jesus Christ.

We met a man in his 60s who has Hemophilia A, and we shared stories. We thanked him for all that he had to go through so that Elijah's life may be easier. This man had both knees replaced, both hips, etc. The older generation of men (and a few women) went through so much. An entire generation lost their lives from HIV/AIDS after receiving transfusions with tainted blood. He told us of a story of a friend of his who has had so many problems from his Hemophilia. Later in life he also had to have his liver replaced and said, "I have so much wrong with me now, but at least I don't have Hemophilia anymore!" (The liver is where the clotting factors are produced.) It sure would be wonderful if replacing the liver was not such a huge deal! Continue to pray with us that the research and medicines will become better and more cost effective.

Work has overwhelmed us at times, but Elijah helps us get our things done. The other day he sat in his stroller while his daddy set up flowers for a funeral service. I am sure he shared his opinion on the positioning of the flowers. He goes to work with his mommy at the flower shop and sometimes slows the work process down, but overall he plays very well by himself.

What an amazing few months we have had with Elijah at home. Thank you again for praying us through!

In Christ,
Joel, Judy and Elijah

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Brotherly Love Plans Ahead

"Mommy, when I grow too big to live here with you and Daddy, can I take Sophie with me to my new house?"

Monday, September 10, 2007

Excuses, Excuses

My, my, my... It has been a while since I’ve written on this blog. That’s not to say there hasn't been anything to write about. It’s just that my best stay-focused, think-coherently on-the-computer times are later at night, and since I started getting up early again, I absolutely cannot stay up as long as I could when I slept until the kids woke up. So I’ve traded prime Blog Time for a more consistent Quiet Time.

I needed to reassess my routine now that Jack’s in the morning session at nursery school. The good news is, I have Sophie all to myself in the mornings and Jack all to myself in the afternoons (while Sophie naps). The bad news is, time to myself seems to have disappeared entirely, making those early morning quiet times even more of a priority.

So I’m not ignoring this blog, just trying to find my balance.

I'll be back soon!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Most Important Meal of the Day

"Mommy, for my breakfast I want Crack, Snapple, Pop."