Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Wonder of It All



Dear Friends  & family,

The long awaited day is almost here!  Around our house, the anticipation of christmas is so thick and the magic so real that I wish this feeling could last the whole year through.  we talk it, breathe it, sing it, and, very simply, just plain love it.  The wonder of it all has captured the KID'S  little imaginations like nothing else.

All that said, it has been so easy to get so sucked into christmas...the gifts, the lists, the letters, the programs, the decorations...that I have to stop and remember who all this is truly for.  My wish this christmas is to anticipate Christ just as we have anticipated christmas.  I want to talk Christ, breathe Christ, sing Christ and, very simply, just plain love Christ.  I want the wonder of him to capture my heart like nothing else comes close to doing. 

We pray that your family can set apart Christ as king in your lives this christmas season and the whole year through:  Talk about that first christmas night, breathe      in his grace, sing praises to him and, very simply, just plain love him.  He is the reason for the season ; the one and only reason.

Merry christmas,

The smith's 2011
  




Treasuring It Up - Day 8

My 2011 Christmas Treasures

Day 8: The Toddler Proof Tree

No, you are not in a museum...it's hardly that.  Instead, you are looking at our family Christmas tree encased inside a metal baby superyard.   As unappealing as this massive barrier is, it is absolutley necessary if we'd like to box up our ornaments in one piece at the end of the season.  Yeah, I know it's boring and we could put the ornaments 3 foot up.  But, that wouldn't stop my little ones from just pulling up a chair.  So, for now, the superyard does the trick.  The tree can still be admired by little eyes; just not touched by little hands.  And, it's a constant reminder that precious little souls live here and that's just the way we like it :)


Monday, December 12, 2011

Treasuring It Up - Day 7

My 2011 Christmas Treasures

Day 7:  Christmas luncheon with the Women's Ministry team -- a group of the most wise, wildest about Jesus, women I know.  For eight years I have sat at their feet, gleaning every nugget of wisdom I can from them.  So many times I have felt terribly unworthy of being amongst these ladies.  But, God has continued to appoint me to this ministry that I love so much.  Our dinner question, "Why Do You Love Jesus?," and the ten different reasons that were shared reflect how all our hearts beat for the same reason...to tell just why and how much we love Him and, even better, to help you discover the mad, passionate love He has for YOU.

Regrettably, I did not take a picture of these ladies all polished in our Christmas best.  But, I have the next best thing:


{See, I told you they were wild!}


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I Bet You Didn't Know That



Did you know?

There were actually only 2 wisemen

and

the donkey and cattle had no hay to eat

and

there was a werewolf among them


the night when Jesus was born?



I bet you didn't know that.


Once again, life with toddlers, even at Christmastime, is always interesting.  I'm not sure which little one felt the need to include the werewolf but I think he makes a nice addition to the nativity. 

As for the third wiseman, the hay and the camel?  I'm sure I'll find them sometime this spring when I least expect it.




Treasuring It Up - Day 6

My 2011 Christmas Treasures

Day 6:  My Little Ballerina





Sunday, December 4, 2011

Treasuring It Up - Days 1 thru 5

"Mary kept all these things to herself,
holding them dear, deep within herself." 
Luke 2:19  (The Message)


My 2011 Christmas Treasures:

Day 1:  Having the entire inside and outside of the house already decorated since before Thanksgiving.  We have never been this on top of it before and it is so relaxing; like we get to squeeze every drop out of Christmas this year.

Day 2:  Lots to treasure up today...Eli's face when I showed him the Grinch shirt that I had bought for him.  Singing and dancing with Micah and Eli to the entire Chipmunks Christmas CD.  Micah is CRAZY about those furry guys!  And, snuggling up on the couch with the kids and watching Charlie Brown's "Happiness is a Warm Blanket" together.


Day 3:  After reading the nativity story, Jacob asked me, "So, how did they get babies out when Jesus was born anyway?  Back then, they couldn't cut open the mommy's belly like they did yours.  So, just how did they get Jesus out??"  Ummm..... 

Day 4:  Seeing Jacob up on stage, in his wheelchair, singing his little heart out in his children's Christmas program at church.  That was the ONE thing he said he really wanted to do before he even had surgery.  We promised him he would, although we did not know whether or not he'd feel up to the spotlight when the time came.  But, he sat up there, unashamed of his wheels, and we were so proud of him for it.



Day 5:  Receiving our first Christmas cards in the mail.  I heart Christmas cards so much!  My daily December trip to the mailbox is perhaps one of my favorite holiday activities.



28 Gifts

The God who placed every single star in the sky and who measured the waters in the hollow of his hand has lovingly tended to every single detail of our lives.  There is not one area of our lives that He has not arranged so perfectly during this season.  If we took pictures of the everyday moments of Jacob's recovery, this is what you'd see:

Photo One:
The many who have rang our doorbell with hot meals in hand. The early evening chaos has been completely avoided. Family dinners are a highlight once again.


Photo Two:
My two best friends have come to stay, to help out, to encourage and to remind me how dearly loved I am for me just being plain old me; not anyone's nurse, nor mommy, nor wife. Just me; a girl I sometimes wonder what she has to offer, if anything, without those other hats on.


Photo Three:
Other dear friends have brought their children by to sit with Jacob, play a game, bring him a construction paper card or just to share a smile.  That is the best therapy for any little boy.


Photo Four:
My husband, aka Super Dad, has proven over and over again that his family comes first, even on days where I fail to pat him on the back.


Photo Five:
The joy and excitement of Christmas. The Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas songs we dance to and the 5 musical Christmas toys going off simultaneously in the living room. Clear lights hanging everywhere inside and outside the house. The music.  The crafts. The presents. The baby. The manger.


Photo Six:
My blog and the ability to share our story. The people it has touched. The people who have touched ME through it. The people I am praying for continually who don't even know it. There are a half dozen of you whom I am asking God to reveal Himself to through your circumstances. I pray His peace over you. I pray for an intimate, undeniable moment with you. I pray that you will know Him better because you have professed this very desire to Jason or myself. While the original purpose of my blog was to be able to reflect, record and always remember, a greater purpose has emerged.  My pastor said it best today:  "Experiencing God's glory is one thing. Sharing it with someone is another; it makes the joy complete."  My joy is complete when I hear how the Lord has used my circumstances to speak to you.


Photo Seven:
The ability to have undivided time with my oldest. Last January, I wrote a very personal blog that I did not publish. In it, I was feeling that the two years of back to back babies and the busyness that they brought into our world had created a distance between Jacob and I. The five years that he was the center of our world was long gone. My arms were now full of two littles ones, leaving no place for him. I pleaded for the Lord to redeem the years that the locusts had eaten in our relationship. This time is that redemption. This time is ours. Tomorrow, although I have somehow managed to pile up another "to do" list, I am laying it down. This is the time for puzzles, and stories, and board games, and cuddling and getting into his world. Jacob and fun mom. Not Jacob vs busy mom.

I already know that come January 2, the day he will get released for physical therapy, I will be somewhat sad. Christmas will be over, my boy will be on his feet and busy once again, Jason will be back on the road and traveling with his work and this chapter will be over. New adventures in 2012 will await us. But, I've got 28 days still. 28 individual gifts; gifts that allow us the opportunities to redeem the time, restore our bodies, recognize His birth and reflect on all He is doing in our lives.

He's My Best Friend

When tucking Eli into bed tonight, we said the usual "Now I lay me down to sleep" prayer.  Then, I asked him if he had any other special prayers.  He said, "Yeah....Dear Jesus, my Jacob broke his legs.  He's my best friend.  Please help him get his legs better.  Help him walk.  Amen."

Simple words from such a deep little heart.

A calmer Eli has emerged in the 19 days since we've been back. Maybe it's because all five of us have been under the same roof morning, noon and night for each one of these days. Everything that makes him feel secure is right here with no threat of leaving. Or, maybe it's because the Christmas season has captured his imagination, fascination and attention just like I knew it would. Or, maybe it's because he is taking his role of caretaker very seriously. You couldn't give this little guy a bigger job than asking him to help push bubba's wheelchair or sit in the bed and play Legos or Mario Kart with him. 

Togetherness.

All 5 under one roof.

The Christmas season all around us.

Caring for his best friend.

The highest term of endearment that Eli understands is "best friends".  Some of his best friends are real and some are animated, but, the fact is:  if you're one of them, you are pretty special to him.  He protects and loves all his best friends with every inch of his 3 year old self.  When we told him about Jacob's legs, he asked if he could give Jacob some medicine to make him feel better. I said, "No, baby, but you can pray for Jacob."  He has prayed this very prayer night after night since then.  At least once a day, he'll ask, "Are Jacob's legs fixed?  Are his legs working?"  I always reply, "No, baby, but they're getting better." 

What a faithful brother, faithful best friend, he has proven to be.  Oh, the lessons I can learn from him.  I am a sister to 3, sister-in-law to 8 and a best friend to 2 but yet I don't practice that same commitment in praying for these people whom I am closest to.  If only my heart could be like his.



(I should add that, yes, even with two broken legs, Jacob still likes to sit Indian style. 
 And, yes, it drives us crazy!  The doctor said it was okay so what can we say??)



Eli Unscripted

Mommy:  Where is Jesus?
Eli:  The North Pole
Mommy:  No, silly.  Where does Jesus live?
Eli:  Tennessee
Mommy:  Where at in Tennessee?
Eli:  In my house
Mommy:  Where at in your house?
Eli:  In my room
Mommy:  Does he live in your heart?
Eli:  Yeah

Monday, November 21, 2011

LEGO TO GO

While at Vanderbilt, Jacob was not able to get out of the bed for 4 days.  Each floor has a playroom for the patients go to for entertainment but, with his confinement, he wasn't able to go.  He was able to get the mobile Wii rolled into his room on two of the days and one lady came by to do a science experiment with him and another to show him her dog.  Each activity really lifted his spirits and it showed us how important these moments were in his recovery.  He went the first 3 days without hardly talking (VERY uncommon for Jacob...I know some of you probably cannot even believe it).  As soon as the Wii was rolled in on the evening of the third day, he became animated for the first time and more interactive with us than he had been the whole time. 

It's completely understandable how children who are unable to leave their rooms cannot enjoy all the therapeutic entertainment offerings that the hospital has.  We were blessed with what he did receive but those resources are limited.  There are only 2 portable Wiis for the entire children's hospital and the in-room activities are based solely on volunteers coming in.  So, all this got us thinking about what we can do to brighten up the hospital stay for these children who are itching to get out of their beds but cannot.  Prior to his surgery, Jacob and I had already been brainstorming ideas of how we could help other kids in need this Christmas.  So, these two opportunities to give just fell hand in hand. 

I had kept thinking how much Jacob would've enjoyed having his Legos to play with. They would've been very helpful in getting his little brain stimulated after so much sedation.  This past summer, I had created these travel size containers that I had picked up on clearance at Michael's that I dubbed Lego to Go tins.  With all the doctor's appointments that were on our calendar, I thought this would be a great way to beat the waiting room crazies...child going crazy then mommy going crazy.  This little creation of mine only cost a few dollars but has saved me over a dozen moments of insanity while we wait.  The doctors were used to having little Lego pieces spread out everywhere and I'm sure they appreciated it, too, because it allowed us time to talk uninterupted.  That little 2"x4" tin has the power to keep my busy, busy Eli completely still for 45 solid minutes.  There's just something about those pint size little containers with their names on them that they love.  And, I love them, too.  

I also love to take something useful that I've created and recreate it for others.  The desire we have to help the confined patients and the joy over our little Lego tins have merged and on our follow-up visit right before Christmas, we want to take an armful up to the 7th, 8th and 9th floors at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital and hand out to these children. 

Here's where you come in....if you'd like one for your children, we will be happy to personalize one for you.  For every ONE that you purchase, we will donate ONE to Vanderbilt.  Jacob and I are working together....he already assigned himself the job of writing down orders, writing notes inside each one and distributing them to the children.  Since he's still confined to a bed until Christmas, that's about all he can do.  But, his heart is so into this. 

Please send me an email through facebook if you'd like one (or more).  By having only one method for ordering, that will help me keep track of them more accurately.  If you tell me in person or text me, I can guarantee you that I'll probably forget.  All the other details are outlined in the pictures that follow.  Any questions can be emailed to me as well.

So, doing a little shopping for your child, your neighbor, your nephew, (yourself, lol), and know that with each gift you buy, you will be bringing a little beam of joy into the hearts of the patients who receive them and into the heart of the little patient who will be giving them.









I can do custom orders for $3 extra per design:

 60 minute wait before his bloodwork:

90 minute wait before his biopsy:











Saturday, November 19, 2011

OPERATION

When I dropped Eli off at school the other day, his teacher told me that they were making Christmas Wish Lists by cutting pictures of the toys that the kids want for Christmas out of toy catalogs.  I laughed and thought to myself how Eli's page was sure to be a mosaic of every toy imaginable.

When he got home, I was very surprised to open up the supersized piece of construction paper to find not 25 different items like I'd imagined but, instead, only 3 little images gluesticked to the paper.  Each one was a surprise to me at first, since he's never mentioned any of the three.  But, after a second glance, they all made perfect sense.

Eli's Christmas Wish List

1.  Angry Birds - not because he really understands a thing about those birds but because his bubba is crazy over them.  That alone makes them tops in Eli's book.

2.  Monopoly - this is what we call the "grown up game".  He's gotten it out of the game closet many times and asked, "Mommy, peas play a game with me?"  I always say, "Eli, that's a grown up game.  Let's pick another one."  I'm not sure if this wish list selection signifies his desire to be a big boy, his desire to play a game with mommy or a little of both.

3.  Operation - {melt my heart} he knows his bubba broke his legs, was in the hospital and now has to stay in the bed.  Knowing the hero status that he places on his bubba, I think this is his little way of showing his concern.


After showing Jason the list and laughing over it, I went to the game closet and pulled out, not Monopoly, but Operation instead.  A benefit of being a little brother means that big brother already has most of the toys you'll ever want.  Not knowing we already had this game, Eli gets wide-eyed, lets out a little giggle and whispers, "Operation!"

We take turns trying to fish those little pieces out and Eli erupts into giggles every time I get startled after touching the side.  When it's his turn, he says that it 'cares him and says, "Mommy, you do it for me?" 

Never wanting to miss a good photo op, I pull out my camera and snap away as he finally works up the courage to operate.  With the nose lit up, the game vibrating and the little pieces rattling the entire time, he starts to fish out parts all by himself.  And, you can see from the pictures that he wasn't 'cared a bit!

This is what I'd hoped recovery would look like.  It's not always this quaint but it is allowing us moments of togetherness just like this one that we normally don't make enough time for.  Such a blessing.







We just happened to have this Operation shirt. Eli had picked it out for his daddy
to wear to his circus birthday party because he says, "It have a clown nose." 
Jacob declared that the winner got to wear it.  Of course, it was after he'd already won :)


Friday, November 18, 2011

The Voices of Many

I'm not quite sure where to begin....

Should I start with how amazingly well Jacob is doing since his surgery one week ago?  Or, should I start with how well the surgery and the 5 day hospital stay went?  Or, maybe I should start with proclaiming:

OUR GOD IS AWESOME!

Yes, I think I'll start with that one. 

Here are the facts: 
1. My son had both his legs broken and he now has 12 metal screws and 2 metal plates holding them together. The visualization of my child being broken in two was so.much.more than I could bear at times.

2. The surgeon admittedly said that he would not perform this surgery on his own child because the pain would be too intense.

3. None of the nurses caring for Jacob had ever cared for a patient with this type of procedure because it is that rare. One nurse told us that she had to google it and another nurse said that she bragged to all her nurse friends that she had a patient who had a femoral anteversion bilateral osteotomy and they all exclaimed, "Whooaa". 

Now, here's the truth: 
Jesus Christ, having overcome all pain at Calvary, is BIGGER than any pain and any fear that threatens to overtake us.  And, we are front row witnesses to His awesome POWER to take it away.  And, let me tell you...it is a pretty amazing thing to see.



We have finally quit waiting for the moment where fear or pain would take hold of Jacob.  Leading up to the surgery, we thought maybe he was putting on a brave face.  We thought, surely, at some point, he would succumb to the fear.  It never happened.  After surgery, I asked him if he was ever scared and he said, "No, because you told me that God was going to heal my feet."  Plain and simple.  My child was living out his faith in God's promised healing with such simplicity that will forever cause me to consider him one of the most courageous people I know...and he's 8.

Throughout his stay in the hospital, we kept thinking, "The pain is going to set in at any time."  We waited and waited and anticipated and anticipated and....nothing.  There were 3 moments of intense pain but we believe it was more in his head mentally than in his body.  Those three times showed Jason and I how incredibly helpless we were to help ease the pain.  Those glimpses of what our present reality could've looked like, and what we were told would look like, was enough to tell us that we were in no way prepared for it. 

While pain has not been a major factor like we'd anticipated, Jacob is still confined to the bed at least until Christmas.  His legs are difficult to move and he is under strict doctor's orders not to bear any weight whatsoever on them.  We have to pick him up very carefully because that's when the pain surfaces.  After 6 to 8 weeks, he will start with baby steps with the assistance of a walker until he can regain his lower body strength.  The biggest challenge now is keeping that smart little brain of his stimulated.  He does not object to all day tv watching so it's up to mommy to turn it off and turn on his imagination.  And, we are happy to have visitors!  He was smiling from cheek to cheek when his friend, Emma, came over the other night and played the Wii with him.  Our door is open, so come on over!

Another HUGE praise is that Eli's celiac results came back NEGATIVE!!  Praise the Lord!!  I think I was finally able to exhale when the doctor told us that.  He was diagnosed with Esophagitis because she saw excessive inflammation and irritation in his esophagus.  A biopsy confirmed this diagnosis, which means he's basically had heartburn his entire life.  The constant hoarseness of his voice is a result of this.  He's now on medication and we hope that it will bring him some relief.

All in all, I truly feel like God has moved mountains for us.  These two separate medical journeys have defined our lives the past few months.  Over and over, we have pushed anxiety back as we prepared for the worst case scenarios in both situations.  Had these two journeys occured at different times instead of simultaneously, I don't think we would've been so desperate for the Lord to intervene in such a miraculous way.  So very clearly, the day I received the unfavorable test results of Jacob's celiac labs, the Lord laid this verse on my heart:

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose."
Romans 8:28


I was amazed at the translation of this verse in The Message.  It perfectly summarizes our life during this journey:

"Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along.  If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good."  Romans 8:28

God has taken these two events and woven them together so intricately because He's up to something. I can feel it and I can see it; not in it's entirety but in what He's chosen to illuminate thus far.  The depths and the heights that it has taken me, taken us, to is all for the purpose of drawing us closer to the One whose path we so desperately seek to follow.  It has changed my heart and my purpose. 

I believe that we have seen the power of the Lord manifest itself in such a mighty way because of the words spoken by so many of you.  I have received so many heartfelt messages telling me of your prayers for Jacob.  Some have even written out their prayers and I have spilled tears while reading them.  While my sighs and groans prevented me many times from uttering a single word, you have acted as an intercessor and spoken on my behalf.  You have pleaded and proclaimed divine healing and I am here to tell you, our God listens.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you.  We will forever walk in awareness that Jacob's path was straightened by the hands of one and by the voices of many.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Unfinished Words

After a long day of surgery, I had sat down to blog about the day's events and to update everyone.  However, due to very little sleep the night before, the 4 1/2 hour surgery, the visitors, the curled-up-in-a-ball-on-the-bathroom-floor, sobbing, barely breathing mess that I was the moment I knew my child was being cut in half, and the surge of emotion when my child awoke and said, "Mommy, hug me", I was simply too tired to finish and I stopped mid blog.  Seeing that I hadn't finished, I was just about to delete this post but decided to re-read it first.  These reflections, so raw, cannot be recreated however unfinished my words were.  Never do I want to forget what the Lord has done.  So, here it is...


One thing God has spoken,
two things have I heard:
that you, O God, are STRONG,
and that you, O Lord, are LOVING.
Psalm 62:11-12

For someone who usually has so much to say, for once, I am simply speechless.  There are simply no audible words that can translate the sentiments deep within my spirit, tucked deep within the very core of me.  We have felt the consuming fire of the Lord.  We have been shaken to the point that what cannot be shaken is all that remains.  We have been kept safe in the cleft of the rock; have soared on wings like eagles.  We have fallen prostate before Him; have begged Him to take this cup from us. 


But, that was not His will. 



The Word of God has spoken and we will never be the same.  Never.  We are now on the other side, exhausted and exhilarated all at once.  Our first born will now find the healing that can only come through brokeness. 


And, he will never be the same.


When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought,
"Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it."
(Genesis 28:16)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

No Better Medicine

Well, the planning and preparing have come to an end and the big day will begin in 5 short hours.  All week, tears have brimmed the surface and spilled out at the most unexpected times.  I've waved people off who tried to talk about "it".  With one look at my scrunched up, I'm-about-to-cry face, they have kindly understood.  With every step that brought us closer to here...dropping Micah off, saying goodbye to classmates, leaving our house, hugging Eli one last time...the knot in my stomach tightened.  I can testify that walking by faith is not always easy, especially when your children are involved.  But, my hope remains set on knowing the pain has a purpose. 

With all the heaviness that this looming day has had upon us, I'm so thankful that tonight there has been such a lightness that could only come from God above.  We have laughed until we cried, acted silly and watched our boy in wide-eyed fascination like we hadn't in years.

In all His infinite wisdom, the Lord knew that there was no better medicine than to have Jacob spend the night with his best friend, John, the night before his surgery.  Best friends since 3 months old, this boy loves my boy more than anything else.  They have been wrapped up in their own little world and shared a night full of Chuck E. Cheese and swimming.  We've watched his little feet dance, run in a hamster wheel, pedal, flip, kick and run with such painful realization that, come tomorrow, they will be painfully still.

I had thought I'd be spending the night holding him tight while he slept and I silently cried.  Instead, he's with John, and his mom (my best friend) just texted me this message:

Jacob and John have not stopped creating or talking!  They haven't even turned on the tv.  John just said, "Jacob, you're like my brother, not in birth, but like in love." Jacob said, "So are you saying you love me?"

No better medicine. 

John had big plans to crawl up into the hospital bed with Jacob after surgery and has a bag of games that he packed, ready for them to play.  I'm not so sure that will be happening but the love that the bag represents is priceless to me.

Everything about this day has been perfect.  I couldn't ask for anything more.  My child feels so loved by so many.  He knows you are praying.  He knows that Jesus is with him.  He is ready for that next step, as broken as it may be.  His brokeness will lead to complete healing.  His crooked path will lead to a straight path.  The pain has a purpose.  Oh, God, please be near him.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Update

I just wanted to write a quick post to update everyone on the events of today. Let me first say that I have been BLOWN away by all the personal emails and comments that I have gotten over the course of the past few weeks.  Friends that I haven't seen in over 10 years reaching out just to let me know they're praying...simply blows me away. 

So, back to today...  It was as completely un-newsworthy as we'd hoped it would be.  Going into today, we knew it would go one of two different ways.  Dr. Gillis would either see scarred and damaged intestines which are obvious signs of celiac or she would see perfectly pink ones.  She saw the pink ones :)  This does not mean that there is no celiac disease, just that if there is, the damage is still microscopic and will have to be assessed under a microscope.  In her experience, she said it is very uncommon for her to see any evidence of celiac in a patient as young as Eli.

We will have to wait a week before the labs come back, which is nothing compared to the time since the word "celiac" first walked through our door back in the spring.  One thing I hadn't mentioned yet is that she had requested that we bring Jacob with us.  Celiac disease has a STRONG genetic component.  It is inherited from a parent, and, siblings have around a 30% chance of being celiacs as well.  While Jacob's bloodwork was not as alarming as Eli's, it is still questionable.  So, that, plus his short stature (20th percentile) along with Eli's blood results/symptoms raised some red flags.  After lunch, she met us in her office for 45 minutes as she examined Jacob and asked lots of questions.  She has worked it into her schedule to tag team with his pediatric orthopedic doctor next week during his surgery and will go in and do both an upper GI scope and a lower GI scope before his hip surgery.  Bless his heart!  The poor boy will be put through the ringer.  Also, she will deliver the results of Eli's labs to us at that time.  I think I'm safe in assuming that this hour will prove to be the one in which our little roller coaster car will have reached the peak and, in a blur and with a big WHOOOSH, it will come back down.

11-11-11

Does Eli have celiac?  To the naked eye, no.  To the lens of a high, powered microscope, possibly.  Our eyes are not designed to see the invisible but it doesn't mean it's not there.  I'm not going to pretend like I know what the plans that the Lord has for us are.  I often remind myself of something my mom said to me years ago during another time of uncertainty in my life, "Becky, the Lord has never failed to order every single one of your steps." 

I wish I could squint really hard and try to catch a glimpse at the darken path that lies ahead so that I can "be ready" for it.  But, there comes a time when I have to realize that my eyes, like Dr. Gillis' eyes, are not created with the ability to see the unseen, no matter how hard we try.  Only when the Lord chooses to illuminate what cannot be seen by our power alone, can we see the next step that He has marked for us.

We walk by faith, not by sight.

There is no room for fear.

I am getting tested today.  The results should  be back next Friday, 11-11-11...big day BUT an even bigger God.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Click, Click, Click...

Picture this:  You're at an amusement park and there in front of you lies the mammoth, fear-provoking wooden roller coaster.  The sight of it alone produces great anxiety within you.  After assessing the risk vs the reward, you decide to go for it.  Once you've made that decision, the fear somewhat dissipates as you wait in line.  The fear bubbles up again once you realize that there's only 2 or 3 people ahead of you and your turn is almost up.  Once you get into your seat, you tighten the seatbelt so tight that you can hardly breathe.  Then, you pull the harness down, exhaling in hope that it might go down another half inch.  Last, and all that you are really able to do at this point, you look over nervously to your partner, put on a fake smile and say, "Are you ready for this?"  The look on his face says it all.  There is no more room left in that tiny car for bravado so he doesn't even pretend to have it all together, and neither do you.

You start down the tracks with a white face and a death grip.  But, a strange sensation always seems to happen.  The fears that threatened to suffocate just seconds ago give way to the burst of light that comes once you're outside the loading station.  The elevated view, the breeze and the warm sunshine make you think, "Hmmm, this isn't so bad after all."  So, you loosen your grip and relax a bit. 


BUT, then it happens... 


What seemed like a fun, mildly thrilling ride all ends when you hear the click, click, click, indicating that you are now making the ascension to meet Goliath.  This sloooow climb takes you higher and higher. 

Click, click, click. 

You are reaching a point that is making you a bit too uncomfortable. 

Click, click, click. 

Your climb is slow enough that you can look over and see stairs running alongside the tracks.  Stairs??  Why in the world would there be stairs?  You're only a million feet up in the air.  Who in there right mind would climb those? 

Click, click, click. 

Your stomach is in knots.  You realize that there is no way out.  It is inevitable.  This thrill ride is not so thrilling anymore.  Up ahead is a 20 story drop and 2 loop the loops.  All you can do, since you can barely even breathe, is pray.

Tonight, I laid down next to Eli until he feel asleep.  He was curled up next to me, holding my hand and I started to think about what's to come in less than two days.  With each thought, I felt my stomach going, "Click, click, click."  The long climb that we have been on is nearing the tiptop.  Jason and I have waited and waited, buckled up, uneasily looked at one another with fake smiles on our faces, and found courage in knowing we're in this together.  I can't speak for him, but I know there have been many moments when I have wanted off this ride.  I've begged the Lord so.many.times to let me out of the car  and allow me to take the stairs.  But, ever the Good Shepherd that He is, His answer is always a big N-O.  The climb has been so looooong.  But, here we now sit, white-knuckled, less than two clicks away. 

No turning back. 

We will find out soon whether or not he has celiac disease.  I have so many emotions tied up in this child and this possible diagnosis that I can't even begin to type them all out in an eloquent way so I won't.  Like all the hairs on my head, the Lord knows them all and that's all that matters.  All I will say is that my sole desire for this sweet boy, who is so full of life, is to be able to enjoy it to the fullest for once.

After Eli was asleep, Jacob sweetly asked me to snuggle with him.  Oh my...my heart breaks within me to know that I only have 9 more days to do that.  How could I ever refuse?  So, we lie there and my stomach is going, "Click, click, click".  The anxiety almost seems like too much to bear.  We talk about his surgery and I ask if he's scared.  He tells me no but that he's worried about what will happen if he sleepwalks?  I want to both laugh and cry.  Laugh because he is so innocent and cry because he is so innocent.  He is so trusting in us and the decision that we made for him.  Once again, those doubts creep up.  Anxiety is great within me and I would love nothing more than to be on that set of stairs and leave this all behind.  However, the stairs do not bring any more security than where we are currently sitting.  In fact, there is much greater risk in taking the stairs.

I hear him breathing heavy so I know he's asleep.  When I get up, I take another look at him and the sight of him says it all, "Do not take the stairs.  Breathe."  In his relaxed unconsciousness, his legs have flopped over in such a way that would make the average person scream in pain.  As terrifying as it may be, I KNOW we are to stay strapped in and remain on this ride.


Make straight paths. 

Click, click, click...

I long to be pulling safely back into the loading station, coming to a complete stop, climbing out of the car and taking a full breath.  I long to be able to look at Jason and know that we have gotten through it and everybody came out okay.  But, we're not there yet.  The clicking of the car making the climb signals that the ride is still in motion and there is nothing left to do but pray.  Because we can barely breathe, sometimes even praying is difficult.  That is why I find so much comfort in knowing that it is not just Jason and I on the ride but, rather, there is car after car of friends and family, praying for protection on our behalf.  You have NO IDEA how much this means to us.  We don't need homemade meals or free baby-sitting (although we'd never refuse those either, lol).  We simply need your prayers.

As the clock clicks down for Eli's biopsy to

November 3 at 8am

and for Jacob's surgery and biopsy to

November 11 (11-11-11) at 6am

please remember us as you petition the Lord.  There is no greater gift you could give to us than your time spent on your knees.

May the fruit of your prayers result in this: 


Notice that everyone is holding on but my two boys.  Complete and utter fullness of life.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Make Straight Paths

This past Sunday night, our pastor preached a sermon on the power of the Holy Spirit.  In that message, he said something that gripped me in such a way that I don't think I'll ever forget it.  It was along the lines of, "The hardest decisions we make aren't a matter of right versus wrong.  They are left versus right.  You stand at the crossroads and both options are desirable.  How do you know which way to go?  Which is the better way?"  He continued, "There is a way that is more desirable to the Holy Spirit.  Sometimes patiently waiting for that answer is the hardest part.  But, the Holy Spirit will give you an answer if you seek Him."

We stood at those very crossroads one month ago.  And, I wouldn't say they were some countryside, light traffic type of crossroads either.  Whichever road we decided to go down, we knew we were going to desperately NEED the Lord to go before us because it would be some treacherous territory.  So, we did what we always do...we analyzed, listed out the pros and cons, flipped the coin and did the same for the other side.  We talked about the "what ifs" and the "if nots".  We talked and talked, mulled it over and talked some more.  We'd imagined ourselves going down one road and then we'd slam on the brakes because fear would jump into the backseat.  I knew that with our decision making abilities, or lack of, we'd be here til kingdom come with little progress.  This was getting nowhere and it was obviously time to give it over to the Lord.

As I prayed, I asked the Lord to tell us in His Word what we should do.  I had never done this before.  Because the weight of the decision was so heavy and would affect my child in a tremendous way, I wanted to see His answer in black and white so there would be no doubt.  I prayed, "Lord, please give us a verse in Scripture that reveals what Your will is.  Help me not to lean on my own understanding.  And, help me to be obedient to whatever You say."

That entire scene played out on August 31.  The prayer was said through tears, in the darkness of night while driving down the interstate.  We had spent the day with my oldest son at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital.  We had walked in hoping that the physician would do his little examination, tell us what we should do and  then throw the ball into our court so we could make the final decision.  However, there was a slight problem...there was no ball.  The doctor's opinion, advice or direction was never offered.  There was only, "I would LOVE to do surgery on Jacob, BUT I'm not saying you SHOULD do surgery."  Over and over, he'd say this line.  The only thing we were able to pull out of this man, when hard pressed after our asking three times, was, "No, I would not do this surgery on my own child.  It is just too invasive and I know how much pain he'd go through."  Then, he was quite honest in adding, "Normally, once I tell parents that this surgery is the only option to cure this problem, they hit the door."  He waited for our reaction and we just sat there; the door didn't move an inch.

I explained to him that we did our homework leading up to that day, we knew he was going to tell us this, the shock had run it's course and we were wanting to know more information.  So, he settled in and took our questions.  There was not a whole lot of information to give because, again, he honestly said, "I do this particular surgery on a normal (meaning non-cerbal palsy) child ONCE every over year."  Whoooaaa.  See what I mean...treacherous territory here.  The Lord must have filled that room up with His power and kept our minds calm because the doctor's track record of keeping parents in that seat and not already out the door was one set of parents every other year.  And, we were now the second.

Hoping he'd relent and take the bait, we fished around that tiny little room, probing for his advice, hoping for a nibble but got nothing.  As frustrating as it was at the time that the doctor didn't point us in either the left nor the right direction, I'm am now ever so thankful for his neutrality.  I know myself well enough that I would've allowed his decision to heavily influence mine.  Instead, it turned from Jason and I desperately seeking the doctor's direction to Jason and I desperately seeking the Lord's direction. 

I prayed fully believing that He would reveal that specific yes or no answer through Scripture.  I have to admit that I did tell myself, "It's not going to say, 'Jacob shall have thou hip surgery' in the Bible, but something along those lines will be good enough."  HA!!  I don't think the words "God" and "good enough" should ever be in the same thought.  How could God, who is perfect in every way, ever be linked with just "good enough"?  But, here I sit, guilty of believing His divine Word for us could not possibly give us a specific answer but it could give us a "good enough" answer.  I'm sure the Lord was thinking, "Dear child, you still have so much to learn about Me."

Jacob's surgery would be to correct an intoeing problem.  The medical term is femoral anteversion.  Once babies start walking, their feet rotate slightly inward.  This should correct itself by the age of 2.  However, this doesn't self correct in approx. 10% of children.  In those children, the intoeing should self correct by the age of 8 when children establish their adult walking pattern.  There is a teeny, tiny 1% of those children this doesn't happen in and Jacob is among them.  We thought it would just have to be something that he lives with and had resigned our thoughts to such.  However, this summer we noticed he was starting to fall a lot.  We thought maybe he was clumsy or not paying attention.  We'd scold him and tell him to be more careful.  Then, the falls started getting worse.  The black and purple bruises, falling down steps kind of bad.  The researcher in me started doing my homework to see how we could "fix" this problem.  Maybe some physical therapy, maybe some heavier shoes, maybe a little karate to help with his coordination...  With what little information is available on the internet, I learned that my small efforts would do absolutely nothing to correct this problem.  If the degree of the rotation is greater than 50 degrees, then surgery is the only solution.  Jacob is 70+ degrees.

The problem lie in the hips, not the feet.  The only solution would be a complete bilateral (meaning both) hip surgery.  The surgeon would have to completely cut through the femur bones, derotate them and reattach with plates and screws.  Now do you see why parents hit the door?  Do you see why we had to let this thought settle for several months before we could even sit and have a nice little chat with the doctor about it?  Had some bruises not been so big and so purple and so fresh on his little body while we were there, we might have bolted.  But, we knew that if we decided to be reactive further down the road and not proactive now, we could have a little boy who could get injured more seriously from a broken arm or a concussion or who carried emotional scars from the inevitable teasing that will come his way.  Also, once puberty sets in, this problem gets much worse.  The knees and ankles aren't designed to overcompensate for the work that the feet can't do.  Shooting pains start to set in and then joint problems.

The point of this story is not to medically enlighten people on femoral anteversion.  But, because we have elected to have our child endure this major surgery, we have gotten many questions regarding why.  The why is because we aren't just parenting Jacob for today.  If we were, we would never, ever think about this surgery.  The pain he will feel and the torture of helplessly watching him endure it will be more unbearable than I can ever imagine.  Jason and I both want to turn and run away in complete fear when we think about it.  We have gotten to know "the look" that washes across the other's face when we start to second guess ourselves.  We can see doubt in the other's eyes.  Without words, we know the thoughts that are being processed and the tentacles of fear that are gripping.   In those moments, we confidently remind one another:


"Make straight paths for your feet so that if any part is lame,
it will be healed rather than injured more seriously." 
Hebrews 12:13


We asked. 

We waited. 

And then we received. 

There IS a way that is more desirable to the Holy Spirit.  Make straight paths.  Give Jacob the confidence and the courage as a grown man to boldly profess the Gospel down all the treacherous roads he will travel.  He loves the Lord with all his heart.  He knows more about what the Bible says at age 8 then I did at 28.  Through His Word, written in black and white, the Lord has directed us to make straight paths for his little feet so that one day, those big feet will not stumble.

Unshakeable.

Undeniable.

Proof.

That God can and will speak specifically through His Word.  Ask and then wait to receive.  There was no neon sign, no audible voice, no revelation in a dream.  The answer came simply from picking up my Bible.  Not the left path nor the right path.  It is the straight path; the path that leads to promised healing.


(We are also on a second medical journey, one that is very different than the first but just as difficult, that I hope to share with you soon)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Unscripted

One day while playing kitchen, I started to wonder if Eli knows his last name so I ask him:

Mommy:  "What's your name?
Eli:  "E-I"
Mommy:  "Can you say, Eli Smith?"
Eli:  "E-I Smiff"
Mommy:  "What's baby's name?"
Eli:  "Micah"
Mommy:  "That's right.  Her name is Micah Smith"
Eli:  "Micah Smiff"
Mommy:  "What's mommy's name?"
Eli:  "Princess"

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Who Built the Ark?

Mommy:  "Eli, can you tell me who built the ark?"

Eli:  "PAPA!"

Mommy:  "No, not papa although he builds lots of things.  Tell me who built the ark."

Eli:  "YODA!"

Mommy:  (not quite sure what to say)  "Umm, not Yoda, silly.  Who built the ark with the animals?"

Eli:  "NOAH!"

I guess 3 times is a charm

Mother's Day 2011







Friday, May 6, 2011

SUPER Loved

Although Jason and I had read The 5 Love Languages many years ago, we hadn't read the sequel to it, The 5 Love Languages of Children, until recently.  Knowing my children oh-so-well, I would've bet money that I knew exactly how each one needed loved expressed to them.  So, I was surprised that my maternal instincts steered me wrong and I scored a big fat ZERO on correctly identifying Jacob's love language. 

To uncover your child's love language, the book suggests you give the child a list of options and ask them to choose which they would prefer.  My analytical brain wanted to make it so complicated when the solution was actually quite simple.  So, as I'm talking with Jacob, I say...

Me: "Jacob, if you could have any of these things from me, which one would you pick?"
Me: "A: Sitting down and playing a game with you?"  (Quality Time)
Me: "B: Cleaning your room and picking up all your Legos on the floor?"  (Acts of Service)
Me: "C: Surprising you with a small gift?"  (Gift Giving)
Me: "D: Cuddling with you before you go to sleep?"  (Physical Touch)
Me: "E: Telling you how great I think you are?"  (Words of Encouragement)
Jacob: "Oh, that's easy...snuggle time!!!"
(The 8 year old boy inside couldn't resist adding...)
Jacob: "Oh, and I'd kinda like a small gift, too....haha!!"

Here, I thought for many years that the way to his heart was with words of encouragement, when, much to my surprise after just a single minute of conversation, I discovered that it's actually physical touch.  Who knew??

So, we've been snuggling quite a bit these past few weeks.  I've even fallen asleep a couple of times with him wrapped inside my arms.  With 2 little munchkins, it has been so easy to shower them with physical touch because they always seem to be hanging off of me.  And, to be completely truthful, who can resist hugging, kissing and squeezing a little baby?  But, stopping and deliberately choosing to lavish that loving touch on my 8 year old, allowing him a moment to soak up the security and love that comes from my touch, has in return blessed me more than I would've thought.  Because, in that moment, I know that I am giving him exactly what he needs most...something that no words can convey.  Love, acceptance and purpose flow from my touch straight to his heart.  It creates a heart-wide-open moment when everything is right in his world.  Just this morning, I called him to my room:

Me: "Do you want to snuggle?"
Jacob: "Oh, I've been waiting for you to ask me!"

As we are half buried under the covers, I say,

Me: "Do you feel loved right now?"
Jacob: "Yes, SUPER loved."


Sunday, May 1, 2011

My Sweet E-I


Because Jacob was significantly speech delayed as a toddler, I'm not used to having a conversation with a child under the age of 4.  So, it blew my mind and tickled me to death to hear Eli (not yet 3) talking to me about his day after he returned from riding with his daddy to visit his grandfather ("Pops") in the hospital today.

Our conversation went something like this:

Me: "Did you have a good time today, Eli?"
Eli: "Go see Pops.  Pops at doctors."
Me:  "Really??  What else did you do?"
Eli:  "Throw rocks.  I pet dogs."
Me:  "What did you eat?"
Eli:  "I eat Chinese.  Man cook E-I's food.  Man cook E-I's noodles.  E-I eat cookie."  (Jason explained that they watched the cook prepare their food).

I will pause to point out 3 distinct characteristics of Eli's speech....he talks about himself in third person A LOT.  He says, "E-I (for Eli) do this," or "E-I don't like time-out...."  We call it Eli's Elmo talk.  Another thing, he adds an "s" onto the end of nearly EVERY word.  Everything is plural for some odd reason.  Last, he has the sweetest raspy or somewhat hoarse voice.  Whatever it is, it is 100% Eli and I can never get enough of hearing it.

Here's the rest of our conversation:

Me:  "Daddy said you were a good boy.  I'm so proud of you."
Eli:  "Grandma like E-I's Titans jersey.  Jacob Titans jersey, too." (They both wore Titans jerseys)
Me:  "What was your favorite thing you did today?"
Eli:  "I push Pops."
Me:  Thinking that maybe he wrestled with Pops, I turned to Jason and said, "Did he really push  Pops?"
Jason:  "Yeah, he pushed him in his wheelchair."

{Insert mommy's heart melting}

My sweet, sweet E-I...so many things you could've named as your favorite on this big day you shared with just the boys...your first taste of Chinese food, dressing like your brother (which THRILLS you), throwing rocks in a parking lot (which THRILLS any boy) or petting dogs.  But, you said it was pushing your Pops in his wheelchair.  What a reflection of your sweet little heart.  I'm sure seeing you and the sunshine that you brought into the room was Pops' favorite thing today, too.