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Incurable Hope

It has been a long six years trying to find a diagnosis. Based on my symptoms and the way they have progressively worsened, we’ve known it was some kind of degenerative neuromuscular disease, but we haven’t quite known the prognosis. Early on it was thought to be MS, and I was able to work through it, making some modifications to how I did things, but vastly able to continue life as normal. Things continued to decline though, and I found myself losing the strength and endurance I needed to continue working as a paramedic. This is when I cut back to part time paramedic, and also took an office job in organ donation. As fulfilling as that was, I eventually found myself no longer to make the drive, or even remain upright for the hours that it required. Eventually I had to face that I could no longer safely work in any job, and I needed to save what little energy I had for my family and friends.

It’s been a frightening journey at times, especially with the unknowns, but we are beginning to have some clarity. A recent brain MRI showed significant damage to my brain stem, which is responsible for many of the automatic functions of the body. This information shed light on why I was having symptoms related to that area of the brain, like trouble regulating my breathing. All of these pieces started to fit together and pointed to Multiple System Atrophy. In some ways this was a relief, as the contenders like ALS have a very short length of survivability. MSA comes with its own fatal prognosis though, typically within 5-15 years. Being at year six, I already feel blessed for the time I’ve had and continue to enjoy. I’ve tried to stay in the moment and be continually grateful, although I’ll admit that sometimes my attitude stinks and I fall into a grumpy state of forgetting the gifts I’ve been given.

I know that God knows my heart and hears my prayers, and those of so many who love me. I know that He can take this from me if He chooses to. But even if He doesn’t, I will still choose hope and thank Him for every moment He allows me to have here.

I hope you’ll help me, dear readers, to continue to find Hope and Grace in the day to day. I know that it’s there, and sometimes I just need help to lift my eyes up for it. Please don’t treat me differently; let’s laugh and dance and do big and small things without fear of the future. I’m ready for today, how about you?

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New Wheels!

The past few weeks have brought me a fancy new wheelchair and an incredible mobility van to travel around in! I am still waiting for my headrest, but everything else is so wonderful and supports my body in a comfort I’ve not had in a long time. I am so blessed that insurance worked with us on this, and now Mark doesn’t have to push me around everywhere we go!

I know there are many people with the same needs as I have who aren’t as fortunate to have a nice chair to use, or even a vehicle to get the chair around. It is not lost on me how richly blessed I am. I’m so thankful to have these needs met in such amazing ways, and I hope to use them to bring more love and light to the world.

Here’s to more adventures in the fast lane!

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Life Expectancy

My 6 year old climbed into bed with me and let out a deep sigh as he laid his head on my shoulder.  His babyish fingers fiddled with the green beads on the bracelet I had given him when he asked for something to “remember me.” When I asked him what he was thinking about, the fears came spilling out.  “I don’t want to miss you mama, I want you to stay.” He echoed what my heart whispers every time I look into the eyes of my little people.  We all want more time.

My condition has a life expectancy of 5-15 years.  My symptoms started 6 years ago. I guess many would say I’m living on borrowed time.  It’s a heavy thought when you think of it that way. That’s the thing though; every one of my days  are already perfectly appointed, however many that may be.

It’s easy to get caught up in fear when you have something that has put an expiration date over your head.  I’m not going to lie and say my mind doesn’t wander there, wondering sometimes over how long I have.  The more I have moved and leaned into this season though, the more I am filled with an overwhelming peace that I will be here the perfect number of days.  It’s a painful belief we have that people are taken from us too soon.  “She was too young.” “He died too soon.” “She was taken from us much too early.”  Can any of us point to someone who died right on time?  I choose to believe that God allows each of us to die at the perfect time, regardless of the circumstances.  This gives me so much freedom.

Instead of focusing on my life expectancy, I’m choosing to live expectantly; expecting joy, daily graces, and the perfect number of days to do life here with my people.  I’m soaking up the snuggles, rolling with the grumpy mornings, and pledging to be present for the big and small moments of every day without fear over my future. What if you decided to believe that everyone is here for the perfect number of days? Who would you be?

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In the Waiting

I spent the morning with my little on our knees in the dirt, carefully setting tulip bulbs in the ground as the bite of the brisk air nipped at our coats. He excitedly flung dirt with a small trowel, and counted out the bulbs, mixing the colors and nestling them tips-up into each hole. As we carefully patted the dirt down, covering the evidence of what lays below, I was struck with the symbolism of it all.

These bulbs, cold and papery, don’t look like much right now. They are carefully keeping a beautiful secret which won’t be seen until Spring, after the Winter storms and bitter cold have faded. How true this is of our lives. You may be in the middle of a hard season, worn by the beating of the storms and weary from the gray that stretches on for days. In these hard moments though there is planting; the lessons you are learning, the faith you are growing, the hope you are clinging to… these beautiful treasures seemingly lost in the bitter winter of what you’re going through will bring eye-catching wonder on the other side. Don’t despair; keep sowing in the cold ground, even though you can’t see it now, something beautiful will come of what you’re going through. Let’s wait expectantly together for Spring!

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Missing…

“They say sometimes you win some
Sometimes you lose some
And right now, right now I’m losing bad…”

I am still going to bed having filled out my gratitude journal. I’m still whispering thanks for my multitude of blessings. I know tomorrow is a new day with new promise… but tonight, tonight it just doesn’t feel fair.

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone.
I know the sorrow, I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone.”

-Mercy Me “Even If”

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Let’s Talk About It

I have been trying and trying to write a post, but the words just won’t flow, so I’m just going to keep it simple. I’m sure most of you have already seen posts announcing that October is miscarriage and infant loss awareness month. Loads of people have been publicizing their take on 1 in 4, and trying to make the lives of their babies seen. It may have surprised you to see friends post about it that you didn’t know had been through this. The best thing I can pass on to you from my experience with miscarriage is this: it’s ok to talk about it.

We’ve had many people talk with us about the death of our youngest daughter because even though she was young, she was still here.  Our people met her and knew her and got to participate in her short life.  Our friends and family do not however, talk to us about the two babies we lost to miscarriage. That’s taboo, and people don’t think it’s ok.

Let me tell you something about people grieving a miscarriage. It is healing to talk about it.  One of the worst things about a miscarriage is that it feels like a baby that you pinned so many hopes and dreams on has slipped away unnoticed.  That mom and dad want their baby to be seen, known, acknowledged.  As soon as they found out they were pregnant they started imagining every event and holiday with that little one a part of it.  When that dream is dashed away, there are going to be holes. Remember that they are missing that little one when those special days come around, and don’t be afraid to acknowledge it.  A small token of your love, a text, a kind word… these things will go a major distance in helping to heal that mama and papa’s hearts.  Let them know you know they are missing their baby.  Let them know that you’re sad too that he or she isn’t here to celebrate.  Let them know that you care about their hurt.  I promise you these little things will be so much less awkward than you imagine, and will be soothing balm to a grieving heart.

 

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Gratitude

Gratitude

My heart is struggling with gratitude. It’s a beautiful season, and all around I see my people running races and taking hikes to see beautiful trees, and I have grumbled to not be able to do those things now. I had a procedure yesterday that was difficult for me, and stirred a lot of fear and unease. I can feel it tempting to swallow me. This is when I know I need to fight hard for a grateful heart.

Knowing this season has pulled hard at my mental health, I started keeping a gratitude journal. Not only does it force me to think about the best parts of my day, but it leaves a road map for me to look back on and remember all the big and small graces that have sprinkled my days. I gifted myself a Sprockett 😂, and I’m using it to create a daily reminder of all the things I have to be thankful for.

Have you ever found yourself in a season of life where you struggled with gratitude? Lets band together and make sure we are stopping to notice the little things, even when the big things try to overwhelm us.

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Partner

There have been a select few people who have stuck like glue through the somewhat turbulent stretches of my life. The more experience I have, the more I realize how rare and valuable that is. My wish for each of you, dear readers, is that you would have a friend like my fire partner, Michael.

A partner in Fire and EMS is such a multifaceted thing. You have to be able to trust them with your life, whether you like them or not. They can be your best friend, or your biggest annoyance, and sometimes you just hope for tolerable. Michael and I met at the fire station as I was finding my way as a new recruit, and him a seasoned member. He was always helpful and courteous, and before long we were pulling the same shift together. From the start he was the kind of partner who knew what I wanted without having to say it. That’s the best kind of partner to have. He was always willing to jump right into whatever crazy ideas I had to improve the department or the care we gave, even when that meant spending hours on a Sunday at the station to complete my projects.

I got to be the first person he ever poked with a needle, and he willingly sacrificed chest hair to my ekg patches so I could practice. He patiently taught me how to drive the giant water tank on wheels, and we spent many evenings scrubbing station toilets and floors together. He poked fun at me having to climb the giant tires to see into the engine compartment of our trucks, and he understood my desperate need to have a label maker always at hand. Whatever we were doing, we were the perfect team.

Unfortunately it wasn’t terribly long into our partnership that my disease really started hindering my ability to perform. I was eternally grateful for him picking up the slack for me where I needed it, but eventually I had to admit I couldn’t continue. This is where he showed his true loyalty. Instead of bidding me goodbye, he was visiting bedside when I was long days in the hospital, frequenting my house to love on me and my family, and was always a text or a phone call away when myself or my family members needed it. I learned this was the kind of guy who would literally give you the shirt off his back, no questions asked.

He and his wife Katie rose up to meet my family and I numerous times in our last months in Colorado. Taking the kids when we needed it, bringing us meals, picking up groceries, helping drive me to appointments when Mark had to travel. There was never a time they said no.

Relocating to Ohio didn’t change my partnership with Michael. Within weeks he was on a plane to come see us in our new home, and he continues to do so on a regular basis; having guy bonding time with my husband, standing in as help for my family when work takes my man away, and loving and caring for us in every way he can think of.

If he’s not cooking up our favorite tacos, he’s looking for things to fix or improve around our abode. He has cleaned up my messes, picked me off the floor, and sat in silence with me when that’s all I needed. He reaches out to meet my wingman where he’s at, offering love and camaraderie to the man who carries our family. He plays with my children, helps them with their math, and isn’t afraid to keep them in line when they need it. He will long be a trusted figure they know they can run to.

We giggle at how he can come up with a solution to most things we are clueless to fix, smirk at how the owners of our local hardware store recognize his face, and we make fun of him for nerding out over things we fail to understand.

Michael has loved my family through days of joyous celebrations, as well as walked with us through heavy and disheartening days, and that’s what makes him different than most. He has never backed away. He is a safe haven for any one of us, and it’s the most comforting thing to know you have a friend that you can trust like that. I know that in the weeks and years ahead he will continue to be a soft landing place and strong anchor for each person in my family, and regardless of what I’m capable of, he will always be called my partner.

Please leave me a comment, it lets me know you’re listening!