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Perseverance

Recovery from this last brain surgery has been one of the most difficult obstacles yet. It was a big hurdle to get through having seizures and being on a ventilator and in the ICU right after surgery, but the challenges since I’ve been home have been a whole other beast. One that shook me a bit.

I was so excited and thankful to go home from the hospital, but I was not there long before we noticed something was really wrong. My short term memory was almost non-existent. Every day I would forget the day before, and often I would not even remember things from earlier in the same day. Entire conversations were deleted, things I had experienced earlier evaded me, and I often could not even remember what I ate for the previous meal, or IF I even ate. I remembered enough to know I was forgetting, and it was terrifying.

My husband is the very definition of steadfast. He would lovingly and calmly repeat things to me as many times as I asked, and would gently break it to me that we had already had this conversation or done that activity. Meanwhile I was curled up sobbing; broken that my husband was having to watch his young wife like this, and terrified that the rest of my days would be more of the same.

After a weekend like this my sweetheart reached out to my neurosurgeon, who unfortunately is a 2 hour drive from us. He has taken up my cause though, and would bend over backward for me, so it was no surprise that only a few minutes after leaving a message my hubs got a phone call from the doctor himself. Based on my memory problems and a handful of other symptoms I was experiencing my kind doctor explained I was probably continuing to have seizures, albeit small ones, but with enough frequency that it was throwing my mind and body into this blender of confusion. A treatment plan was initiated and they waited expectantly for results, but in my heart I was suspicious and saddened that this was truly the beginning of the end of my time here. I kept that fear to myself.

My love had a trip on the calendar way before any of this happened, so he somewhat reluctantly left me in the care of friends and family while he went on travel for the next week. That week was hell for so many reasons. It took several days to realize it had been a week since I had kept down any food. I switched to nutrition solely through my feeding tube, but quickly discovered all of the vomiting had displaced my feeding tube, so using it was not longer an option. I tried for a few more days to limp myself back to stable, but I could not even keep down jello or sips of sprite, I could only stand for seconds at a time before getting near to passing out, and my blood sugar was dangerously low. It was the last thing I wanted, especially without my wingman with me, but I had to go to the hospital for help.

It took some convincing for me to let them admit me again, but once I agreed to it they were aggressive about getting me sorted out, and I started to rebound quickly. With some IV nutrition and my feeding tube fixed, I quickly gained strength to be able to go back home. It was then that we realized that while fighting face down all week I had been too sick for us to realize that my memory was improving. Back home again I was able to remember things for longer and needed less reminders. One of my close friends had marched straight to the courts of Heaven and pleaded on my behalf, and God had honored her faith; he was healing the damage in my brain.

I will not go as far as saying that I am happy I had to go through all of that, but I will say amen and amen to my God showing his grace and great loving kindness in choosing to bring healing and restoration to me, and I do not believe he is done yet. I would not have chosen this path of suffering, but I will hold on because suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character hope. And hope has been the song of my heart through years of great challenges and life changing pain, and it will continue to be my heart song until my eyes finally gaze on the Giver of all hope.

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Mother’s Day Remixed

For days my kids and I chatted about what we would do on Mother’s Day. Sleep in…snuggle up to breakfast in bed… go out to a favorite lunch after church…stay in playing board games… go out to explore the beauty of a new park.

All week I had been hearing the excitement of my littlest guy as he earned his own money to create a project at school that his whole class were each making for their moms. When he came home from school Friday holding a beautiful flowered gift bag he was vibrating with excitement over getting to give it to me on Sunday.

Friday afternoon we got a call that would demolish all of our weekend plans. Ever since my shunt revision surgery nine weeks ago I have been fighting infection in one of my incisions. My neurosurgeon has kept in close contact with me as I know have done multiple rounds of antibiotics to try to clear it up, and sent regular photos of my incision to document its progress. Unfortunately on Friday it was obvious the infection has gotten much worse and was not responding to the antibiotics. It is a dangerous place for it to be located as there is a very small distance from the end of the tube to my brain. We have given ample opportunity for it to heal itself to avoid further intervention, but Friday it became obvious that my neurosurgeon was going to have to step in.

My kind and gracious neurosurgeon requested that I drive to Indianapolis to be admitted through the emergency room. They would immediately start IV antibiotics and plan to take me to surgery Monday to remove more of the shunt tubing and hopefully eradicate the infection. My heart sank at the thought of another surgery, but most of all at the thought of being far from my family again.

It felt like I had a boulder in my stomach when I sat Colby down to tell him the news. As expected, his face dropped as I told him I would no longer be home for Mother’s Day. He sat with his chin in his hands and big tears silently rolled down his cheeks. “This’ll is the worst Mother’s Day ever, Mom.” I had to agree. It was heartbreaking to see his grief over being able to plan a special day for me. We decided we would have a welcome home/Mother’s Day celebration on the day I get released from the hospital, so he was given the option to give me his gift before I left for surgery or to save it for when I came home. He said he wanted to give it to me now so that I could take it with me to the hospital.

My heart will forever have captured the picture of him walking into the room so carefully and proudly holding the flowered gift bag that he had chosen for my gift. He sat by excitedly as I unwrapped it. Tucked inside was a small wooden frame carefully decorated in butterfly and flower stickers, and holding an adorable photo of my precious eight-year-old, holding a beautiful bouquet of flowers. The tears hung in my throat as I lavished thanks on him and gave him all the hugs and kisses. It was the most thoughtful gift ever. He made sure I had room to take it with me to the hospital.

My sweet girl Baylie also gifted me: a delicate necklace with the word “Hope” on it. Boy does she ever know!

Late that night Mark took me to the store and I picked a small gift for each of my kids so that they would have something from their mama for Mother’s Day. It was so special the next morning to be on the phone with them as Mark handed them each their gift from me. Loneliness and disappointment turned into excitement and smiles as they each opened something from their mama 110 miles away, but right there with them at heart. It was not the Mother’s Day we imagined, but we found the grace to make it something special and memorable, and we still have a Mother’s Day celebration day to look forward to upon my arrival home.

My sweet boy Jacob surprised me yesterday and drove the whole two hours here to spend some time with me. I can’t even express my gratitude at how much it uplifted my spirit. These sweet babes have touched their mama’s heart in ways they’ll never comprehend.

Last night after Jacob left I had the kindest hospital tech taking care of me. He asked me about my kids and listened as I raved about them. He then sneaked off and brought me a delicious chocolate chip cookie, that I believe were supposed to be just for the staff! “Happy Mother’s Day,” he said. “I’m sorry you’re spending it here.”

It truly is each small kindness and bit of grace that keeps me going.

Today Mark will come down to Indianapolis to be with me as I’m taken to surgery. I’d greatly appreciate your payers for all to go well, and for there to be no more complications, only healing from this point forward.

Thank you for being my people and standing in my corner to hold my hands up when I’m too weak. It means so much to know I have an army of people behind me on the hardest of days.

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Reality Check

I have been struggling with some hard things lately, and I have felt very alone in the midst of it. It was while I was checking in on social media that it suddenly became so apparent why I feel alone. I was reading a post from someone who I know is having a very hard, very messy time at home right now. The posts they chose to write though were all sunshine and rainbows and gushing about how to love on people and praise Jesus. It hit me like the sharp sting of a hand across the face. Why can’t we just be real?

I /know/ that I am not the only parent struggling to find my way with the ups and downs of having 3 teenagers. I /know/ I am not the only one struggling with feeling like a failure because my body will not let me keep up with the things I want to do. I /know/ that I am not the only one who sometimes questions if I am doing my best to love my husband in the ways that he needs. I /know/ I am not the only one crying in bed at night over big, weighty decisions that need to be made.

Why then do we hold our cards so close? Why do we paste on a smile and pretend that everything is peaches when what we really need is the camaraderie of the souls who are also walking in our shoes? We need each other! We need to know we are not alone not the only ones walking these barren trails. The only way that is going to happen is for us to let our guards down a little bit and be willing to put our real selves out there. I know it feels uncomfortable, but think of what will happen when we join arms with each other and be willing to say, “me too.”

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Time

6 months ago my hospice doctor signed a paper that said if my disease continued at the current progression my life expectancy was 6 months or less. Welp, surprise! Here I am! Seriously though… I know that no man can put a number on my days and only God knows when that time will be. And it will be the perfect number of days, because He planned it that way.

Does it weigh heavily sometimes having that kind of thing spoken over you? Yes absolutely, but I have to choose to continually give my fears and anxieties over to my Heavenly Father, because I’m not meant to carry that kind of weight.

With the help of some insanely wonderful friends and even people I have not gotten to meet yet I have been able to try some more natural treatments for my body, and while I do not know for sure how they will work I know they are a gift from God and they do my body good. I know that I’m still here.

I am so thankful for more time. There are days when things seem scary and overwhelming, but we keep taking each next day and making it the best it can be, because it is truly a gift. The gift of time. The gift of more snuggles with my littles. The gift of more smiles, more memories, more treasured conversations with my people. It is not lost on me what an incredible blessing this is.

I remain in hospice care at home, and my team members are the most compassionate people you have ever met. I’m so blessed.

Some of my favorite people have moved mountains to span miles and spend time with me and check in on me and love me in all the ways. My home is a revolving door of my local tribe encouraging me, entertaining me, bringing me sweet love. After a long and hard period of extreme isolation and many prayers for community we have been surrounded in the most amazing ways.

Sometimes I look into my eyes and I see that it’s changing me and I get afraid. I wonder what’s going on in there and what my future days will look like. Then I remember I have not been given a spirit of fear, but a spirit of love and of power and a sound mind. That’s all I need.

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Teenage Musings

People warn you that the newborn stage and the toddler stage are hard and exhausting, but no one tells you that the actual process of them growing into older kids and young adults will simultaneously make your heart explode with pride and rip it out with grief for the things of the younger years. What a crazy wild journey it is! This week three, THREE of my children will be teenagers. How did this happen?!

Though my heart sometimes aches with longing for the days of binkies and Eskimo kisses, there are also so many amazing things I am experiencing as I watch my older babes blossom into who they are going to be. I’ve decided to share a few of these important and often amusing things you can expect to experience, so you will be less surprised than I was.

ONE. They clean their sneakers incessantly with baby wipes. They often choose all-white shoes despite my urging that a different color would be better, and then they panic over dirt and scuffs and are found with little piles of dirt covered baby wipes as they fervently scrub and buff their shoes back to an acceptable appearance. So, shoes are meant to be worn, but never look lived in. Who knew?

TWO. They will start calling you “bruh.” At first I was wildly offended by this and tried frantically to disallow it, but I soon learned that it is actually rather insightful into the emotions they are feeling but refuse to ever talk about. If you get a “bruh” they are likely to be displeased or annoyed at something or someone and it is best to let them vent it out. You are welcome.

THREE. They sleep. A LOT. Like all day if you let them. I remember being a teen and feeling exhausted all the time but I was not allowed to sleep in and I never understood it. I decided then that I would remember what that felt like and I would let my teenagers sleep when they wanted to sleep. And I do. Within reason.

FOUR. They will still sleep with their favorite childhood stuffed animal and then hide it when their friends come over which is just the cutest most heart-melting thing you could see from these strange people who most of the time seem tough and hard and perfectly disinterested in anything sentimental. I have more than one teen still sleeping with their childhood stuffie, and it twists my heart every time I see it. I got permission from one of them to post this picture.

FIVE. Seventh grade is literally the worst. Whoever invented it should be punished. At the end of sixth grade they should all be granted a hibernation that lasts until about the second quarter of eighth grade, and then they can reemerge. For the sake of them. And us. And world peace.

SIX. They eat an astonishing amount of food and your grocery bill will become the first priority on your budget as you strive to provide a constant flow of generous meals, hearty snacks, and midnight munching. Teach them to like eggs and Ramen because those things will become staples when you are scraping for pennies for the ninth trip to the grocery each month. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is just the teenage boys. Oh no, the girls are equally capable of becoming human garbage disposals, and you’ll just stare at them and wonder where on their bony little bodies they are hiding it.

SEVEN. It is a wonderful thing when your children start driving on their own and can A) go do things for you, and B) take themselves to their events. From picking up dinner to taking another sibling to their practice to picking up a gallon of milk for the fourth time that week, you will savor the ability to simply stay in your slippers and actually read a book or something because you don’t have to live behind the wheel of your minivan anymore. Life-changing.

EIGHT. Teenagers are the most interesting species on the planet. Their physical bodies transform frequently, they start having their own soapboxes and quests, they sometimes give you a fake hug and other times want to snuggle like a four year old, and they walk around making strange noises and generally being confusing. However, they will become like a really cool friend and they will still say “I love you” every time before they hang up the phone with you, and you will be proud of seeing them do all the adult things only maybe on a smaller scale because let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. Baby steps. They were just newborns like, yesterday!

**My teens previewed this post and ok’d it (and giggled reading it) before I posted**

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Giving Hope

If you are usually on our Christmas list and thought we forgot you this year, there’s a very good explanation, and no, we didn’t cross you off our friend list. We decided as a family this year that instead of giving gifts to each other we wanted to find a way to give to someone who wouldn’t otherwise get anything. We are abundantly blessed all year long, and wanted to find a way to bless someone else. We planned to adopt a family, providing their gifts and groceries for Christmas, but there was continued lack of communication and I began to worry it was not going to happen. We racked our minds for other ideas; taking stars off of a giving tree, handing out comfort packages to those experiencing homelessness… and we prayed that God would use us right where we were needed most. As I began to worry we weren’t going to find a place to serve, an email showed up in my inbox. It was a foster care agency I had been in touch with, and they had an urgent situation. They had already completed their gift drive for children in foster care; they had collected wishlists and sponsoring families had shopped for each child. Well now just a few days before Christmas an emergency placement was happening, and there would be 12 and 14 year old sisters brand new to the foster care system without Christmas gifts. She asked if we would be willing to sponsor them. I couldn’t think of a more perfect “yes!”

In a rare occurrence, we made sure everyone was off work and off school and we squished all 6 of us into the car and set off to go shopping. Mark’s parents also donated to the cause, and since we had a 12 year old and 15 year old girl of our own, we were well equipped to choose just what these sweet girls wanted and needed. We were given a short wishlist by the foster care agency, so we made sure to make a few of those wishes come true.

It brought so much joy to see my children excited about helping someone else, and instead of being sad there aren’t gifts under our tree, the absence has been a positive reminder that we got to do something wonderful for someone else. So if you didn’t get a Christmas gift from us this year, please smile in knowing you were a part of something so much bigger.

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Susan 🦋

My heart feels crushed every time I remember that a hard goodbye is just around the corner. I am grieving having to say goodbye to an incredible woman. An Angel among us. I have been so blessed in life to have been given friends who leave such important footprints on my heart.

I met Sue in a roundabout kind of way; we were both following the same blog, and the blog author had asked for prayers for Susan’s granddaughter, Delainey, who was having complications from Trisomy 18. In the end, we lost our daughter Ellianna, and she lost her granddaughter Delainy just a few months apart. Thus began an unexpected friendship; raw, real, beautiful, and based on the bare bones truth of treating people gently when they need to be loved.

Sue and I carried the heaviness of grieving our little ones side by side even though we were states apart. She was always accepting of whatever stage I was in, and gave me space to feel and express all that I needed to. Do y’all know how rare that is? It is an indescribable gift to have a person like that! Even in her own grieving, Sue found ways to speak to my hurts and mend my broken pieces with her gentle words and kind heart.

From right: Susan, Delainey, Delainey’s mom Christy

Susan is a relentless encourager. If I look at my “friendship” on Facebook I will be scrolling through page after page of scripture, encouraging quotes, and meaningful articles she would send on to me. And that woman must have liked and commented on every one of my pictures for like five years. She was always looking for ways to build me up.

I only got to be with Sue in person one time, and that makes me a little sad. She was traveling near my town and made it a point to stop and meet up with us so we could finally meet in the flesh and have a good meal together. It is a treasured memory, an experience that really made me realize how gentle and kind of a person she is. She is calm and sure of herself, content in the moment, unlike how I sometimes come roaring in in a hot frazzled mess.

How blessed I am to have shared in such an uplifting and encouraging friendship at a time we both so deeply needed it. My heart aches that this world will not have Sue anymore, but my soul rejoices wildly at the thought of her scooping up her Delainey once again, and snuggling her close for all of eternity. How happy she will be. Once again she will be paving the way for me through a new unknown.

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Above the Belt

I seem to frequently get told that I’m strong or brave or amazing, or any one of those pat-you-on-the-back kind of words. As flattering as that is, let me change your camera angle for a moment and show you what’s really going down. Behind, beside, blazing ahead of, or basically whatever direction I need to find him in is the most wonderful man that I get to call mine and do life with every single day.

It is true, I do a lot of fighting against my waves in life, but if you look a little closer you’ll see my Mark doing whatever legwork is necessary to keep us right-side-up. He is one of the most giving guys out there, frequently overlooking his own needs or wants in order to keep me comfortable and moving forward.

I can see it in my head; a boxing match. There is arm waving and whistle blowing and the boxer wearily plops themselves down in the chair in the corner, and that’s where you see him. He flies in fast as an eagle, but stealthy as a shadow and he surveys the damage and starts making it better before the rest of us have really even taken it all in. He’s icing swollen eyes, dabbing up bleeding lips, and all together just letting the sweat and the blood and the brutal grossness of it all drip all over him without a second thought because he is so focused on the goal of getting his fighter back out there to take in all the glory. Yep, that’s who my man is. Every single day.

He doesn’t complain. He doesn’t ask to share the winning Golden belt, he simply does whatever he can to make the circumstances better so his fighter can get back to doing what she loves, and be good at doing it. I’m not sure the official name that person is called, but for me, I call him Buddy. Whenever he hears me call that name he comes rushing to my side to help me battle through whatever next fight needs to be fought. He likes to stay in the shadows, and insists that anyone would do what he does, but I know better, I have the best of the best.

Will you say a prayer for Mark today please? He is such a hard worker. He gets up as daylight is about to begin cracking the sky. He gets ready to start his work day, but never before first checking on me; helping me get my morning medicine, and showering me with kisses. He always makes sure I am cared for and comfortable before he starts his own work. He puts in a solid day of work, but it is not just that. He is working through his doctorate, and he’s making himself available for all the 10 gazillion times myself or one of the kids will come knocking on his door to ask for his help that day.

He does work-work all day long, but he often splits into the time of his day to take me or one of the kids to appointments. He makes sure the little ones get lunch, and feeds all of us again at the supper hour. He helps with homework, does housework, and whatever else needs to be done, like picking up groceries, or taking our pets to the vet. He does it ALL, and he still meets each one of us with love and grace. And usually a silly dance; lets not kid ourselves.

My husband needs more strength right now more than ever before. He needs strength to keep up with work and school, and all the other things that still need to happen around our home because I am laid up in bed. I’m so thankful he has scuba diving as a hobby, because it allows him to find peace, refreshment. (and quiet) to keep fueling himself for keeping our family running. Please help me support and love on him right now as he carries such tremendous weight on his shoulders.

Thank you for listening to my heart!