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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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Hope and Healing?

Several weeks ago I had surgery to correct a problem with my VP shunt. A small handful of days before surgery my hospice company had been working on my recertification; that is getting everything in place for me to receive another 6 months of care. I was very anxious about surgery, but confident in knowing when I came home I would be in the good care of my hospice team. They have been so supportive and able to meet my needs no matter the hour.

Two days before surgery I got some very surprising news. My care team had collaborated, and they believed I have more like a year or two to live, rather than a number of months. On the day of my surgery, hospice would be pulling out of the picture and I would be transferring to palliative care, another aspect of comfort care.

At first we celebrated what that meant. The doctors seeing my condition stabilize and giving me a greater expectation of life was something to worship over! We had been seeking out some more natural ways of healing, and with the help of some friends also going before the Courts of Heaven to take ownership over healing for myself. This news seemed to be a nod that God in fact wasn’t done with me yet, and we had much to celebrate.

I am trusting God’s plan, but the transition has not been easy. When I came home from the hospital after surgery there was no one to come check in on me at home, and no one we could call at any hour if we needed more support. When my pain rises to unbearable levels we have to wait on a doctor appointment to address it instead of having immediate intervention from home. When I’m dry-heaving for hours on end and unable to keep my medicines down, we are on our own to fight through until relief is found. Instead of a phone call or home visit every week from one doctor who manages everything, I’m finding my schedule filling up with appointments I have to get to in order to see each doctor that handles each problem individually. That alone is exhausting.

I am dealing with infection from one of my incisions from my recent shunt surgery. Unfortunately because of where it is there is a risk of the infection traveling to my brain. It has taken many days and a slew of phone calls and my need to start IV antibiotics has still remained unresolved. These were the things that were easy when we had the hospice team at our fingertips.

While we celebrate that no more hospice means the anticipation of more days with my tribe, and perhaps even a complete healing of my body if that’s what God wihu, it has also been a bit of a challenge to adjust to. I did not magically feel better when I was given this news; instead I have continued to fight hard daily battles, only without the support I had grown comfortable with. I have had to fight harder with less support, and my capacity to do so taps out so quickly. It has meant long stretches with no relief from pain Sleepless night upon sleepless night. Indescribable fatigue having to make phone call after phone call to set things up or to get myself out in my wheelchair to see doctors in person.

I pray this will settle down; that we will eventually find a rhythm in which my needs are met and we can go longer stretches between doctor visits. I pray my focus can remain on living my days well and embracing the moments that will last. Right now I feel like there’s not enough left of me for my family at the end of the day, and I hate that feeling. I know God has a plan in this. Will you please pray that members of my palliative care team will rise up to take some of the burden from us? That I will find rest and restoration at home, and be able to extend myself further to my family?

I’m thankful for you, dear reader, and the support and encouragement you have graciously continued to extend to me. Please tell me how I can pray for and support you as well!

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War

“War is hell.”

-General William Tecumseh Sherman

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I am tired.

So tired.

Tired in the marrow of my bones and to the bottom of my weary and tattered heart.

I feel beaten by the daily battle of fighting for life and time. Battling the indescribable pain that ravages my muscles and bones. Battling against the constant nausea that the pain brings. Battling to feed a body that usually has no appetite. Battling to take breaths when even while awake my body forgets to.

I am tired of seeing the grief my children carry over watching me become so different from the mom they knew. I am tired of watching my husband grieve over the things we used to do but no longer can. I am tired of feeling like a failure because of the things I can’t accomplish anymore.

And then I flip open my journal and there, taped inside the cover is the reminder I left for myself…

And I look at their faces and feel my weary heart swell with the uncontainable love I have for them and the bottomless joy that they bring.

And I pull myself up and don my armor and push through each battle with renewed determination. Because no matter how tired I am they will always be worth the war.

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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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Difficult Days

I am fighting for good days. I dislike the desperation in that sentence, but it is the most accurate. The pain that used to be a whispering reminder is now a roaring force that seems to sneer at my attempts to quiet it. It mocks me as I try to plan time with my beloved friends, and it smirks when I have to scrub my calendar to prop myself among my pillows instead. I did not expect for pain to be the thing that makes me feel so desperate.

I wish I was kind and gentle even in my hurting, but sadly it makes me irritable with the ones I love, and makes me say things I know aren’t true to my character. There are medications to help, and some of them work quite well, but change my personality and bring out a mean streak in me. In my mind it will never be worth easing the throbbing at the expense of my family’s feelings.

The medication that works the best to take the edge off of my pain makes me staggeringly sleepy. I’m so thankful to have something that works, but I find myself having to choose between being comfortable and asleep, or being awake and in agony. Sometimes I choose one, some days I choose the other. Neither one of them feel fair.

I am trying to find a balance; staying present enough to love on my people, and allowing myself respite from the agony that threatens to break me. Will you pray for me? That my moments with my tribe will be multiplied, and I will have the strength to ride out the hardest parts with grace and patience for the better days that are coming.

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Being Here

Hello my faithful friends and loving strangers. Since wrapping up my blog, I have been receiving numerous requests for me to keep sharing my writing. I heard stories of how it has changed people who I didn’t even know were reading it, and how it has encouraged people who have needed that, and brought hope to others who have been feeling alone and hopeless. I felt God urging to me to continue sharing my story; so that many will know His grace and His hope. If God is willing to use someone like me to point others to Him, then here I am, committed to showing others the grace and hope I’ve found along some hard, long battles.

I was admitted to home hospice a couple weeks ago. They have treated me with such loving care, but it has also been a hard pill to swallow. I don’t like the thought of having a number on the expectation of my days. I know though, that every single one of my days is already planned, and nothing can change that. God knows.

Please try to ignore any spelling errors or mistakes you find in my writing. My disease has progressed to give me severe double vision. I have to close one eye to be able to see things like words very clearly. It must look comical to people seeing me typing (and a lot of backspacing) with one eye closed or covered. Otherwise I use voice-to-text, and I think we all know how that can turn out. So please be patient with me, try to get a giggle out of imagining how I am writing this, and try to pull out the meaning of what I’m really trying to say.

Despite Covid, we have managed to squeeze in some really fun things as a family. We drove to a nearby beach and had a wonderful time just playing in the ocean and sand, and since our room was right next to the beach, it was easy for me to take a break and just go up to the room and lie down. I could open the door to the deck and hear the constant soothing sound of the ocean. Mark is working on his doctorate, so that was pretty much the most relaxing way to do it. We were quite content just eating at home and staying in the pool and at the beach. It was just what all of us needed.

Shortly after we got back, my home hospice nurse came out for a visit, and she needed to send me to inpatient hospice because she was not able to get my pain under control. I have been there ever since, and while they’ve been a great help with some things, there is decline in others. It’s been a scary and hopeful experience, and I’m greatly ready to be at home in my own bed with my own loves snuggling me close.

We have been SO loved on. Our people from our small group have stepped in and cooked for us and cleaned for us, and visited me for hours of talks and laughs and all the most perfect treats they know that I love. My little sister even drove out from Kansas to pick up my kids and take them to her house for a week. While she already had 7 others. Who does that!!!We are so grateful to have people like all of these, loving us big. God is so kind to me.

Thank you for your thoughts and your prayers as we shift to this new season. We need your prayers and your visits and your reminders that God is faithful and good to us, and is holding us strong through each moment.

Thank you for listening. It brings strength to my soul.

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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?

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

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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”

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

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Mixed Media Self Portraits

When Mark travels for work we don’t do much. That can be tough for the kids, but without him here to drive us and to push me around long distances in my wheelchair, we just aren’t really capable of getting out. I try to plan special things for when he’s away that break up the time and give the kids something to look forward to. We almost always order pizza with all the topping he won’t eat (hello olives and peppers!), we rent movies, and come up with activities we can do while we are huddled in. Today I’m sharing with you a fun idea we copied from another family, and had so much fun doing it.

First I took a picture of each kid (and dog) against a white wall in our house. Then I printed them out in black and white, set out our crafting buckets, and let the kids get to work. The rules were there were no rules. They took scraps and stickers and colors and every creative thing they could rummage, and transformed their pictures into works of art. I did some with them, and we truly had the best time giggling and getting our creative juices flowing. The pictures are proudly displayed on our kitchen wall, until the next thing we come up with!

Try it yourself! It’s great fun for kids and parents alike!

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