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Giving it Up

This week I had a pretty hard doctor appointment that revolved around the words “severe muscle impairment,” “tracheotomy,” and “ventilator.” The same day I received an email reminding me it is nearing time for me to recertify my national Paramedic license. It was a sobering day.

For these past couple years, I have let my husband’s encouraging words and glass-half-full spirit spur me on in believing that I will walk in my Medic boots again. He was always reassuring me that we would get through this; I would get strong again and go back to the career that I love. During that time I have struggled with who I am when I’m not a paramedic or a firefighter. It became such a big part of what motivated and moved me that when it was gone I struggled with depression and wondering who I was. I still do at times.

Being a paramedic and firefighter is unlike any job on earth. To get to walk into people’s lives at the time they need you most, it’s indescribable. It was a privilege and an honor to get to show up in homes, cars, churches; all the places people have built their beautiful messy lives, and serve them at their most vulnerable moments.

I know that I am loved and cherished as I am. I know I am still me, and the people that matter the most will accept me as I am, but it has been a painful walk to slip further and further from my polished boots, the distinctive smell of bunker gear, and the smooth weight of my stethoscope around my neck. Like most folks in my line of work, I am a strong type A that likes to have everything under control. It is extremely humbling, and sometimes discouraging to see that I have lost much of that control, and have to surrender to something that controls me, rather than myself controlling it. What an important lesson in life though; one I undoubtedly needed to learn. We are not our own, and the power is not ours.

Most nights I don’t dream, but when I do it is of being back on the streets alongside my cherished partners, rushing toward the danger and the opportunity to help save a life. I know they are just dreams, but until I can’t anymore, I will keep clinging to them with a smile.

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The Long Goodbye

Today I am remembering my pastor’s wife, and sweet friend Kara, on the day she left this world for the Heaven she so joyfully believed in. She is missed, and the legacy she left behind is one of great encouragement and grace. I know I was honored to learn from her about life, family, and faith.

Today her documentary came out. I encourage you to watch it and learn what made this woman such an inspiring friend. I am still challenged by many of our conversations, and always striving to love big like she did.

Click here for a link to the trailer.

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Goodness

It has been two years since I’ve taken a shower. Until today. Well, a normal one anyway. Because of having a central line in my chest that can’t get wet, it’s been a lot of top half/bottom half showering, or sponge baths and then washing my hair. Well last week my central line was pulled, and replaced with a port that sits under my skin. It’s accessed once a week, which means Monday morning I get to pull it until it is replaced by my nurse later in the day.

Today I sat in the shower and marveled at how incredible it feels to have hot streams of water pouring over my head and down my shoulders. I washed my face and then got to rinse it off in the steaming spray. It!Was! Glorious! I may or may not have had to push my emergency button for help getting out because I overdid it a little. My bullet journal got an early update today, because I don’t even care what happens the rest of the day, this is a wonderful, excellent, outstanding, very good day.

If you can’t reach me, you know where I’ll be! Enjoy this picture of me deaccessed, sparkly clean, and oh so happy!

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Vacancy

After another night of tossing and turning, I woke this morning with my heart feeling heavy, raw. A strange, sick-butterfly feeling tumbled in my stomach. It’s funny what the heart remembers before the mind even has a chance to catch up. Today it has been five years since I was woken by the call that my little brother had unexpectedly passed away.

I suppose it still feels so raw because in the years that have passed there have been many curveballs to handle, which have left little time for the grieving process that I know is still to come. Even so, my chest squeezes tight and my eyes pool with watery thoughts as I ponder back on the special friendship I shared with my brother. There is so much I wish and need to talk to him about right now, and it’s crushing that I can’t.

I want to work on the streets again with him side by side. I want to drive to Kansas to cheer through his epic fourth of July firework extravaganzas. I want my youngest to know his Uncle Ben as he grows. All these things in a beautiful, painful tangle of joy and heartbreak and anticipation of an eternity.

The rhythm of life continues to ebb and flow, even with these hole-shaped pieces of my heart unfilled. Someday, all will be new, but while I am waiting I’ll never stop missing him here.

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Cheering You On

This brave beauty of mine, she has something to teach all of us. During her time in her new middle school, she has tried out for many things. Student council, solos in choir, cheerleading. Each time she has been turned away, and yet I have never heard a word of complaint on her lips. She simply picks herself up and keeps going. She has learned something most of us adults still struggle to grasp; our identity is not in what we do, but in who we are.

She has been pushing herself hard for months in anticipation of trying out to be a cheerleader when she starts her freshman year of high school next year. She’s been working daily in physical therapy, in tumbling, and at home to learn the skills she needs to have, and to push back physical limitations that the other contenders don’t have.

She’s been at clinics and tryouts every evening this week, giving it her all. Friday she will find out who has been chosen. I’m so dang proud of her. I’m pulling so hard for her to make the team this time, but regardless of the outcome I’m fiercely proud of who she is and how she teaches me to always keep pressing forward.

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Twists

Yesterday started out with a heartbreaking phone call, and ended with me back in the operating room having one of the procedures from Friday needing to be redone. For a Monday, it was a doozy. I kept finding myself wanting a break long enough to have a hard cry, but the day was just non-stop happening, and there was no time for that. For a hot minute I was angry. I was complaining, and I didn’t think it was fair. Maybe it wasn’t, but grace still showed up. It showed up in my mother-in-law being able to handle the details of the hard morning news for me so I could get to the doctor, and my angel of a neighbor not only driving me back and forth to the hospital, but also showing up to make sure my little people were doing ok, and receiving a homemade meal for them, cooked by someone I’ve never met. Even when I painfully eased into bed last night, my pillow didn’t need to catch a single tear, because while my husband is away on work this week every little body in the house has taken up residence in my bedroom to be close to me. It’s just the cutest thing. I don’t deserve such gifts, yet they flow so freely.

Today I’m a little shell-shocked. My heart is sad. My everything is hurting. My mind and body are exhausted. But there is an unusual amount of sun today, tiny sprouts pushing up in my windowsill, and my kindhearted nurse will come by to care for me and make me laugh as he always does. I hope that on every hard day I continue to be reminded to look for the gifts, and I hope that as my children grow they will learn to do the same, because it sure makes the worst of Mondays more bearable.

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Murphy

Today I am headed in for a double surgery. It’s been one of those “if it can go wrong,” weeks. Not to worry though; we’ve got this.

For a few weeks and a few wasted doctors’ visits, we have been trying to get to the bottom of a fever and severe pain from my J tube. It was finally just discovered that I have what’s called a Buried Bumper. So I will be going in to have it removed from where it’s imbedded, and hopefully they will be able to place a new one right away.

Not to be outdone, yesterday the central line in my chest started infusing everything in a big balloon of swelling on my collar bone, instead of into my heart. This access is very important for me on a daily basis, so they’re going to be removing the old line and giving me a new port at the same time as the first surgery.

Here’s to things always being an adventure, to a good long nap, and to knowing that I am well loved and cared for, even when my middle name seems to be Murphy.

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Glimpses

If you’ve known me very long, you know how special purple, rainbows, and butterflies are to me. Purple was our Ellie’s color, and on the day we buried her, her sister’s butterflies hatched way earlier than expected under the most perfect full rainbow painted across the gray July sky. Every time we see these things now, they are like a sweet hug from our girl, reminding us of her footprint on our lives.

As we celebrated her 8th birthday a few days ago, the mundane parts of a winter day were punctuated amazingly by the sweetest gifts, seeming to be perfectly placed just for us.

As I lay watching a movie with my loves, we all turned to grin at each other knowingly as a conversation about rainbows erupted in the middle of a suspenseful plot. My husband turned to me. “How many movies do you suppose they start talking about rainbows in,” he grinned. It was true. Specific, beautiful reminders of Ellianna Grace were purposely left in plain view for us on the anniversary of her birth. The others I was able to capture, to look back and remind myself of the goodness.

Purple and rainbow, in a dress fit for a princess!

A photo that popped up in my Instagram feed from Pitter Patter Art.

Life is sweet indeed.

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Brave Beginnings

Today we are celebrating the 8th birthday of Ellianna Grace, and I can’t help but smile. Four and a half months seems like such a short time to get to have a person in your life, but eight years later, she is still making a difference and changing lives. From the relationships we have formed because of our journey with her, to the hearts we have gotten to relate to and bring comfort to because we have been there. Her story reaches on.

This week for her birthday we raised money for Brave Beginnings, an organization which provides life sustaining medical equipment to NICUs in order to support these tiniest of babies. With the generous help of our family and friends, we surpassed our fundraising goal within hours. Our little girl, making waves and bringing change. Couldn’t be more proud. My Jesus who promises to hold her, also promised that her story didn’t end with her death, and it most certainty hasn’t.

Happy birthday, baby girl!

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The Other Side

Foster care runs deep in my family. For different reasons and in different places, we are no strangers to the many children needing a home and a family for a night, a month, a lifetime. It began in the summer of 2012 when Mark and I took in a beautiful 9 year old girl who had lost her parents in a country far from here, and found herself in a heartbreaking situation once stateside.

Since then, my extended family has been through the hours and months of training and preparing and opening their hearts to many different children who for varying circumstances have needed a soft place to land. We have been witness to heartbreaking trauma, soul-challenging obstacles, and mind blowing accomplishments. One of the most surprising moments however, came more recently. I suppose there is a certain stigma people imagine when they think about foster care, but it really hadn’t occurred to me until these words pierced me like a jolt of lightening. [Summarized] “I could never do it. I would want to hurt the parents for hurting their child.” That was the moment I realized that perhaps the world is under the misunderstanding that an abusive parent is the only reason for foster care. I don’t dispute there are cases like that; we know of many, but let me take a few moments to show you another side.

There is the story of the children whose parents have tragically passed away; the children who have no living kin, and have nowhere to go but the sacrificial arms of a foster family seeking to fill those gaps, but there is another story closer to my heart. There is the story of a child so deeply and irrevocably loved by his parents, that the only way to save him was to say goodbye. There is a boy who despite the caring and stable home he was raised in, saw and felt greater trauma and loss than his tender heart was ever meant to bear. There is a boy who couldn’t seem to grab the lifeline of hope and healing in the middle of his grief, and his heart straight cracked in places no one knew. The only way he could figure to make the hurting pieces less jagged was to force himself to stop feeling. There is a boy who saw his parents call and reach and beg for him to let them help carry his burden, but his fear of losing the people he loved most caused him to run blindly in the opposite direction.

This boy built unscalable walls to hide his bleeding, and though he knew both parents stood on the other side of those walls, willing to take him back again and again, he continued to run faster, desperately seeking any possible means to numb the throb that he felt. Repeatedly this resulted in his ensnarement in traps far darker and more painful than the imagination cares to venture, but every time he found this bottom he also found his mom and dad there, waiting and ready to pick him up and dust him off again. It was no light work on their part; they sacrificed their own comfort, friends, reputation, money, jobs, and homes in hopes that this time would be the last time. They repeatedly showed up to gather his sharp edges again, even when the razor sharpness sliced into their most tender places.

There is a boy in foster care not because his parents were too neglectful or abusive, but because after years of the boy’s broken heart pushing him farther and farther to prove that he was incapable of being hurt again, he reached a place so far they could only stand by and watch in horror. Yet they did; they stood there. In the pouring rain of the deepest, most painful valley, they stood as close as they could get, nothing left to offer but to cup their bleeding hands around the cutting edges of his brokenness and quietly say, we will never give up fighting for you.

He wasn’t carted off because of parents who refused to care for him, rather his mom sat heaving deep, excruciating sobs in the dark after she was told he wouldn’t be able to come home, and she wondered over how to tell his siblings. They don’t fail to show up for visits because they can’t be bothered, rather they drag themselves beaten and weary to his side every chance they are allowed, so that together they can help him as he wakes to his reality and begins the long journey toward victory.

There is a family who cries and clings together to comfort each other in the moments that pass without their son and brother in their daily lives. There is a family who still drags themselves to standing, fresh scars catching the daylight as we keep fighting for the boy we still call our own, until the joyous day we get to say, welcome home.

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