Friday, December 30, 2011

Family Goals 2012

Canaan, Emily, Alif, Malachi, Graham and Caris in November 2011

Because it's the end of the year, lots of people are starting to think about New Year's Resolutions. Well, maybe the super-organized have had theirs planned out for some time, and some procrastinators won't even think about it until January is officially here, but anyway, I've seen a few Facebook posts about those new-year promises we like to make. My favorite was my sister's, dug up from half a lifetime ago: Be happy ALL the time. Good luck with that one!

There are sure lots of things I can (and Lord willing, will) be working on personally in 2012, but my main push this year will be for some family goals. I wrote out a plan to work on some things each month. Here they are, in case you'd like some inspiration. I'll expand on each month as it comes along. I'd love to hear your ideas, too.

January: Spiritual health
-Set time for Bible reading
-Age-appropriate/topical Bible study for each person

February: Physical health
-Save sweets for treats
-Healthy snacks
-Fast food limitations
-Monthly meal plan
-Plan family activities
-Oral health
-Hygiene schedule

March: Financial health
-Family savings goals (Legoland? Family camp? Long-term, obviously)
-Donating/ministry ideas
-Yard sale

April: House health
-Yard: weed, plan, plant, clean, recycling center spruce-up

May: Emotional health
-Family fun nights
-SMASH journal
-Connect with extended family

June: Mental health
-Summer read-alouds
-Unit study as a family

July: Spiritual health
-How is Bible reading going?
-Plans for small group in the fall
-Age-appropriate/topical Bible studies for each person

August: Physical health
-Increase fruits & veggies
-Review everything else from Feb

September: Financial health
-Family savings goals - re-evaluate
-Donating/ministry ideas
-Christmas plans

October: House health
-Take in recycling
-Indoor project evaluation & list

November: Emotional health
-Same as in May

December: Mental health
-Christmas break read-aloud

Friday, December 23, 2011

Thankful for him and Him

 I have to confess something: I have been kind of having a pity party about some things. Our lives have changed so drastically that when I look at how things go these days, almost nothing is like it was a year ago. Alif is busy recuperating (read: sleeping, doing word searches, playing Wii, going on long walks etc.) and I am busy doing everything I was doing before as well as much of what Alif used to do (Christmas shopping, for example). It can get overwhelming, and I don't always handle it well.

In many ways, I feel like I lost my husband in April 2011. It's easy to focus on what we don't have, what is different, what's harder now. I told Alif last night that it feels like our life is divided: Before and After. I wondered aloud if it would always feel that way, and he said it probably will, though the differences are less drastic as the months go by.
 But then I think of Christmases past. Alif & I rising groggily from slumber to excited voices. Alif making coffee, Mama readying the camera. Smiles all around, albeit sleepy ones. You see, we'd been up very late, night after night, making our list and checking it twice, making piles of gifts and hastily wrapping them, making silly jokes that no one else would understand.

A couple nights ago Alif was resting on the couch while I wrapped gifts *my* way (not hastily but thoughtfully). I was so tired that I hit my deliriously silly mode and started to belt out, "Heeee's the boogie woogie bugle boy of company Beeeeeee!" The hilarity of it hit me and I started to giggle. First it was, "why in the world did THAT song pop into my head??" then, "Isn't it amazing the things we'll do in front of our spouse that we wouldn't do in front of anyone else?" Then Alif said, "C'mon, let's hear it again!" Ha! We were a sight.

Last night we stayed up way too late, wrapping again, talking, laughing. And then today I read about a friend who lost his Dad years ago today. It was such a precious reminder of what is left. There is much missing and our lives ARE very different today than they were a year ago. But oh, I'm so blessed. Christmas morning I will awaken next to my man. Our children will pad down the stairs and onto our bed. We'll tease them and remember baby Jesus, grown-up Jesus, and finally we'll rise groggily from slumber. Alif will make coffee and Mama will ready the camera.
Thank you, Father. Thank you.

Friday, December 16, 2011

april 23-24, 2011

On April 23, Alif continued to move his face (grimaces, etc.), head and left arm. This was not just a nerve thing - this was actual movement! One of our favorite nurses yelled, "ALIF. ALIF." and he opened his eyes!! I couldn't believe it. He actually showed signs of life! My heart began to soar - maybe things could turn around! Maybe we  wouldn't be considering turning off life support on Monday!

The next day was Easter. I was feeling many things, all hard to describe. What an unfathomable joy to celebrate the rising of our Savior, being in the midst of the biggest trial of my entire life, but also feeling closer to Him than ever before. There were so many practical considerations: someone brought over Easter baskets for my kids, and I would never have remembered to do that. I had to decide whether to go to church or stay at the hospital, sending my kids to church with someone else. I couldn't begin to think of facing people outside the hospital setting, but I also couldn't bear the thought of my kids having a weird Easter morning on top of the absolute chaos going on in their lives already. I made up my mind to take them to church, and my brother-in-law Jason graciously offered to go with us, acting as a sort of emotional bodyguard. Oh, I can't begin to tell you the love and respect I had for my sister's husband that day. He stepped in dozens of times, answering questions firmly but lovingly, so I never felt I had to answer questions I didn't want to, but also didn't feel like I was pushing people away. Thank God for such a man!

I had prepared my heart to simply not cry, period, because I knew that if the tears started, they surely would not stop, and I didn't want my children to see me in an absolute mess. It was quite a juggling act that first week or so, how to handle it all with the kids. Things were VERY up and down - one hour things looked pretty promising, and the next the situation was grave. I was barely hanging on through the roller coaster ride and didn't want my kids on it at all. I stuck to telling them that Daddy was very, very sick, but that he was in God's hands; God was taking very good care of Daddy and so were the doctors and nurses, and we hope he will be home soon. I instructed everyone else to say the same and for the most part, people were very tactful with my kids.

After church that day, as we left the sanctuary, I told Jason, "I have never felt the urge to literally run to my car after church, but it's all I can do to walk right now." But we made it. My kids got to go to church on Easter. It sure wasn't normal - Caris was wearing some random dress that wasn't at all Easter-like, but we were there. When I got home my Dad was at the house waiting to pick up the kids so they could spend the rest of the day at his house. Hooray for Easter egg hunts and barbecue and family, even if Mom and Dad were spending the day in the hospital! The first thing he said was, "have you talked to your sister?" Talk about gracious offers - Megan had chosen to spend Easter morning in the hospital with my husband so I could go to church in peace! Sacrificial love. I told my Dad I hadn't talked to her and he said, "I won't spoil the surprise, but get to the hospital. You're going to be happy."

The whole drive there, I just couldn't imagine what awaited me! Could my husband possibly be sitting up in bed, talking? Nah, probably not . . . maybe more movement of his left arm, maybe even his left leg? Oh, I was so excited! I got into that room as quickly as I could (which isn't very quickly, if you know how the ICU works - LOL) and what I found was my husband moving his left arm and leg! AND, answering questions with nods and shakes of the head!! He understood us! Oh, MAN! I was so excited!

Monday, September 12, 2011

What it feels like

So. My house is quiet for the first time in at least 6 months, and I have more than fifteen seconds to think - alone - so I thought I'd do a little post. Mainly because my counselor says I need to write.

I've been trying to process what emotions I'm having. There's so much going on right now that it can be tricky to put words to my feelings, even to my own self. It's a pretty confusing thing.

But the other day I got a mental image of exactly what it feels like to be me right now. I'm about to annoy you if you hate word pictures.

So I'm in a lake - well, Alif & I are in the lake together. Some days we're doing ok. We're exhausted, of course, because being in a lake nonstop is a tiring thing. But you know, on those ok days we're kind of swimming around and enjoying ourselves even though we might really like to be on the shore and not smack in the middle of this blasted lake for 6 months in a row. But it's alright and sometimes it's even fun and SOMETIMES it even feels almost normal!

But a lot of days we're really REALLY tired and it sort of feels like we're treading water. There's really no fun happening and we're both pretty irritated and Alif especially cannot understand why we can't leave the lake already and get back to normal life. But we can't. There IS no normal life. It's all lake, baby, and you either swim or you drown, but either way there is constant effort.

And then there are those days that are thankfully few and far between when I am really pretty sure we ARE drowning. Like, that feeling of being just BARELY treading water, and our faces are going under and we're sputtering and gasping for air.

God is our lifeguard and sometimes we invite Him in to play and other times we look up at Him on His lifeguard stand and wonder why He's not jumping in to save us.

Our friends and family are all close by but no one's really swimming with us any more. They've basically gone back to their normal lives, as they should, but they come around and dip their feet in from time to time and sometimes someone even jumps in and throws us a ring now and then so we get a little rest.

So. That's how it feels right now. Some days are good, some are bad, they're all exhausting and we're trying to find our way through this and figure out what today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year will be like.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Bible in 90 Days: Days 2 & 3

Genesis 18:14a Is anything too hard for the LORD? Let me just answer this with a resoundingly loud NO!

Genesis 19:16 And while he lingered, the men took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the LORD being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. I especially noticed the word "lingered" here. We are so inclined to wallow in our depravity, not realizing what God has for us - and yet God is so merciful. He takes us by the hand and leads us, if we'll listen!

Genesis 21:8 So the child grew and was weaned. And Abraham made a great feast on the same day that Isaac was weaned. Just giggled when I read this and thought that Alif would probably relate to that second part. ;-) Yes, Canaan is still nursing. Yes, he is four. And yes, I'm kidding - Alif doesn't mind a bit that the "baby" still nurses.

Genesis 24:12 Then he said, “O LORD God of my master Abraham, please give me success this day, and show kindness to my master Abraham."  I love this servant's heart! I want to be the kind of servant who is this faithful to her calling.

Genesis 24:50 Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, “The thing comes from the LORD; we cannot speak to you either bad or good. Heck yeah! Our opinion matters exactly zero. What God wants, however - that's what matters!

Genesis 25:32 And Esau said, “Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?” Ok. I put a huge asterisk on my notebook next to this reference, because this whole story jumped out at me. Esau traded his birthright for a bowl of lentil soup. I trade out great things for lesser ones every day. For example, every time I overeat sweets, I'm trading health and fitness for a temporary pleasure. Not a great trade, but it sure seems so in the moment.

Genesis 26:24 And the LORD appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham; do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for My servant Abraham’s sake.” If I were to name my number one struggle in life, it would be fear. Do not fear, for I am with you. Love.

Genesis 32:12 For You said, ‘I will surely treat you well, and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’ Jacob is praying to God here, and when I read this I thought right off of our Awana kids and how hard they work to plant God's Word deeply in their hearts. How important it is to know His Word - and not just to know it, but to speak it. Out loud!

Genesis 33:4 But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. Ohhhh. Jacob was so worried about Esau's retaliation, but here we see a beautiful picture of not only forgiveness but reconciliation. So inspirational!

Tip of the day: Be sure to pray before you read. Some of the things we'll read are awfully confusing! I remember one time I was telling a reading specialist that my oldest son would read and read in his Bible, but didn't seem interested in much else. She said, "Well, that's cheating! The Spirit is helping him." Cute - and true! He wants to speak to you. He wants to meet you where you are. Ask him to open your heart to what He wants to say! And don't stop there - as you're reading and you come across something you don't get, ask Him again.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

april 22, 2011

I really didn't even know what to do with myself when the neurologist told me that my husband's chances were terrible. There were so many thoughts battling in my mind. Faith demands belief, and I couldn't stop believing that God could do anything He wanted to no matter what those scans showed. But oh, those scans were bad.

I really felt like I was living in some sort of alternate reality. I felt absolutely protected by God and even amidst the circumstances I was able to rest in total peace. I didn't want to lose my husband. I definitely did not want my children to grow up without their father. But when you know your husband knows the Lord, there just is honestly something very sweet about thinking he may soon be with his Father.

My thoughts were random, to say the least. A song might play on the radio and I'd think how lovely it would be at Alif's funeral, and I would see a slide show playing in my mind. Alif with a baby in his lap, little toes pointing toward Daddy's bare belly. Alif kneeling next to three-year-old Canaan, proudly adjusting the toddler's stance for the best chance at a great t-ball hit. Alif in his fancy suit promising to love me as long as he would live. The six of us on the front porch, Daddy's face fading from the picture and leaving a widow and four fatherless children.

Tears came often, as they do now just remembering this time and the confusion that permeated every moment. Laughter was welcome, even when it was slightly manic. Friends and family showed the kind of support I could never have expected. God utilized each person's strengths, gifting and personality to bless us beyond measure.

But the reality was that we were facing a repeat brain scan in three days, at which time we would "need to make some decisions." I determined to spend those days loving my husband the best way I could and to not spend them mourning. I prayed over him many, many times a day. I stayed at the hospital, surrounded by loved ones. I went home in the evenings and tried to make life as normal as possible for our children. I set my alarm for two wake-ups each night, so I could call the ICU and get an update on the latest. The ICU nurses were absolutely angelic in giving me as many details as they possibly could.

On April 22, Alif had a few facial and left arm movements. There was some speculation that this could be just a nerve thing. I didn't buy it and soaked up every sign of life. He also had a fever, which was terribly concerning to me as we were now several days in with 5 or 6 tough antibiotics coursing through his system around the clock, and a few days out from a major surgery. I continued to pray for healing over every system in his body, for the nurses to be alert, skilled, caring; for the doctors to have wisdom and precision in their decision-making.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Bible in 90 Days: Day 1

I promise I'll continue Alif's story soon! We are home, praise the Lord, and adjusting back to normal life.

It's Bible in 90 Days time again, and this time I'm going to attempt to blog through it. I may not blog every day, but I think it'll be nice to have a record of the things God whispers (or yells!) through this process.

So here are my not-very-organized thoughts on the first day's reading, all in Genesis. Please note that all references are in the New King James Version, as that's the version I've chosen to read this time.

Genesis 3 - no wonder Satan is called the Father of Lies! So weird to be witness to that very first lie. It's so easy for us to scream at Eve and Adam, as if during a horror movie (which I do not watch. ever.), "don't listen! Don't buy it! You're gonna REGRET THIS!" But oh man, I get caught in sin at LEAST as easily, and when I have the benefit of hindsight, I always wish I'd chosen righteousness over temporary gain.

Genesis 3:8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. I do this too - "hide" from God and/or my family and friends when I'm involved in sin, when I'm depressed, when I just flat-out don't want to face reality. But man, seeing so visually here the amazing fellowship we have been afforded with our Lord, it really makes me scratch my head in wonder. Why in the world would I choose ugly over beautiful??

Genesis 3:14-19  So the LORD God said to the serpent:
      “ Because you have done this,
are cursed more than all cattle,
      And more than every beast of the field;
      On your belly you shall go,
      And you shall eat dust
      All the days of your life.

 15 And I will put enmity
      Between you and the woman,
      And between your seed and her Seed;
      He shall bruise your head,
      And you shall bruise His heel.”
To the woman He said:
      “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;
      In pain you shall bring forth children;
      Your desire
shall be for your husband,
      And he shall rule over you.”
Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:
      “ Cursed
is the ground for your sake;
      In toil you shall eat
of it
      All the days of your life.

 18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
      And you shall eat the herb of the field.

 19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
      Till you return to the ground,
      For out of it you were taken;
      For dust you
      And to dust you shall return.” 

We can make all the excuses we want to, but there's just no escaping the consequences of our sin.

Genesis 4:19 Then Lamech took for himself two wives: the name of one was Adah, and the name of the second was Zillah.  Hmm. Just curious - is this the first polygamy? If so, how did God feel about it? I mean, clearly he designed one man and one woman to be married only to each other, and one man taking two or more wives was not in his will for us.

Genesis 4:26 And as for Seth, to him also a son was born; and he named him Enosh. Then men began to call on the name of the LORD. Just curious again - what does this mean, the second part? Part b? THEN men began to call on the name of the Lord? Hmm. In my notes, I wrote a question mark with a circle around it. BI90 isn't the time to pursue every question, but when it's over I'll want to go back and research.

Genesis 7:10 And it came to pass after seven days that the waters of the flood were on the earth. Oh, there is just such a blessed peace in those words, "and it came to pass". God's words are ALWAYS true. We can count on Him always. Always.

Genesis 9:6 Whoever sheds man’s blood,
      By man his blood shall be shed;
      For in the image of God
      He made man.

There's a lot of talk in Christian circles about the sanctity of life, but this verse made me think about the less obvious ways we show a lack of respect for life. If I'm made in God's image, then is it right, for example, for me to ignore this earthly body and let it turn half to flab? Is it ok to snicker at someone's huge schnoz on TV? (No, it is not - that is one of my pet peeves, making fun of a person's actual physical makeup! God MADE that thing!) What about even LESS obvious things, like neglecting to hug my child when he stubs his toe? NOT kissing her little nose when she wakes in the morning? If we are made in the image of God, then friends, we are due proper respect and so are those around us.

And here's just a little practical note: for those of you who said things like, "I can't even keep up with reading the Bible in a year, much less in 90 days!" My personal opinion, having waded into - oh, about Leviticus - at LEAST 15 times on one-year plans? Is that it's actually EASIER in 90 days. Yes, it's a bigger time commitment. Yes, there are times you will want to pull your hair out at reading another genealogy or record of war or description of a temple. But guess what? You can do this for 90 days. You really can. It's quick, bam, and you're done. And I PROMISE God will speak to you.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

april 21, 2011

Sometime in March I started to talk to Alif about his Birthday.  I started by suggesting we have four or five families from church over for a barbecue. That was met with a resounding NO! Fine, I said, can we just have one family over for dinner? Still NO. He is not a person who likes attention, especially in groups, so his reaction wasn't surprising.

Well, he got his way. On April 21, 2011 he turned 37 and slept through the entire day. Then again, he did have lots of visitors that day, and my sister brought balloons and signs and we decorated his room. We also put cards all over the wall. Most were from children. Children of families where he'd done work ("thanks for making almost our whole house"), kids from Awana, of course from our own kids. I read him each one before putting it on the wall.

We talked to him as though he could fully hear us, because I truly believed (and still believe) that he could. It was so important to me to fill his mind with truth, hope, humor and love because I had no feedback - no way of knowing what he was thinking about and feeling. I think it helped to keep my spirits up too, especially the book I prayed over him numerous times a day.

I can't remember how it came about, but we knew on this day that Alif was having a CT scan of his brain. That evening around 6:00 Jan, Rabae and I went into the nurses' station in the ICU with Dr. H, our neurologist. He sat in a swivel chair and worked to get a computer screen to show the results of the scan. I stood nervously with my arms crossed, Jan's arm around my shoulders.

Finally the screen opened up and there I could see a brain. At first it just looked like any other brain, but then Dr. H started to scroll through different views and even my untrained eye could see that there were problems. Dr. H told us that when Alif's mitral valve had become infected, pieces of that infection - vegetation - had broken off, entered the bloodstream, and showered into his body - mostly into his brain, causing many, many strokes. One side of the brain showed a very large stroke. The other side showed a large bleed. There was damage to the brain stem. There was damage all over his brain.

I couldn't take in what any of this meant. I listened question-less to his descriptions, which he delivered matter-of-factly but with an obviously somber attitude. The gravity of the situation could not be missed. Jan spoke for me, asking questions that would help me to absorb what he was saying. I think I asked a question or made a comment to the effect of, "so? We can deal with deficits," to which Dr. H replied, "I do not believe he will be able to speak. Walk. Talk. Breathe. If he were my age, I would give him absolutely no chance at all. At his age, his chances are terrible."

His chances are terrible.

His chances are terrible.

Those words, combined with the images in my mind of the giant stroke(s) and bleeding, are burned in my mind forever. They bring tears to my eyes even now. It was genuinely the worst moment of my life. We had been fighting for my husband's life for five days. I'd been told two times already that he would likely not survive. This time felt much more final. He had been through so much, his body was so, so sick, so weak. And now his mind, too.

Jan, Rabae and I left the ICU and as we walked down the hallway the tears started flowing. The youth pastors from our church had just arrived, and as I made my way down the hall flanked by Jan and Rabae, the thought struck me that Cory and Mikey surely thought Alif hadn't made it.

The three of us went down the hall to a quiet waiting area. I let my chest and head fall and wept. I don't know how long I cried, but it was a long time. I was thinking of my kids - how would I tell my kids their Daddy would never be coming home? I thought of the special bond Alif has with Canaan and wondered if God gave them that because He knew they would only have four short years together. I begged God, "Please, please! I don't want this to be their testimony! I know you can do amazing things through this but it's not what I want for them, God! Please don't take their Daddy. Please!"

The youth pastors came in and prayed over us. I continued to cry.

That night I wrote in my journal, "devastating news about Alif's CT scan."

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Here by Kate White

I know I just posted these lyrics a few weeks ago, but I figured if I needed the reminder maybe you did too.

Here by Kate White

Here in this place
With emotion I will praise you
And here in this place
You embrace me as I am
Here without fear
I will climb into your lap
And cry
And here, bathed in tears
The unknown is put to rest

My life is overwhelming me
It's hard to see the things You see
Your Spirit comes to comfort me
I will praise You
I will praise You
I will praise You here

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

april 20, 2011

Every hour that passed after the surgeries, the weight seemed a little lighter, the breathing a little easier. One hour out of surgery and nothing has come crashing down! Two hours out and he's still alive! Three hours out and he's stable! By the time evening came we were all absolutely exhausted but relieved and thankful and ready to go home for some sleep.

April 20. Lynette's Birthday. We were supposed to go over to her house this night and have an early Easter dinner. Lynette had said no gifts and no Birthday celebration, but who follows directions like that? I had a cute idea planned out and couldn't wait to give it to her. What a different day April 20, 2011 turned out to be than the one we'd planned.

Let me go back a couple days, though, because as I write there are so many details that I want to remember and so if I forget some I'll go ahead and add them out of order.

The day the doctor told me Alif would not survive his lung infection, we cried out. Everyone who asked about his condition knew how bad his infection was, and "pray for his lungs!" was the main prayer request that day. Several times I asked God to heal him so completely that everyone would know that it was by His power and for His glory that Alif had been healed.

Imagine my faithless surprise when I walked in to his room the next day and the respiratory therapist looked thrilled! I asked how it was going and he said, "you're not going to believe it. He's satting (saturating with oxygen) so well I went to get his nurse and the charge nurse to come check it out. I've been pulling people in here all morning to look at him. I can't explain what happened - maybe some whole other pocket opened up or something? He's satting GREAT." Smile! That's our God!

So back to the day after surgery. It was nothing but good news all day. Alif was (and had been since the 17th) still intubated and sedated, but his numbers were looking good all day. It was bittersweet to see him doing so well but to only know that by looking at his heart rate, his blood pressure, his oxygenation. Alif and I talk a LOT. Many times throughout the day we call each other's cell phones and relay some little detail, check in, joke around. How strange and disheartening to know my husband only by numbers on a screen. "How are you today?" "140/80, 76bpm, 93%." Not normal!

Even still, it was a beautiful day to have no crises pop up. It gave me a few minutes to reflect on how grateful I was to serve a Master who loves us in an all-consuming way. There truly is not a time in my life I can remember ever feeling closer to my Father than in those first couple weeks. I felt completely enfolded by Him - shielded, comforted, loved. Every moment of quiet I prayed. Every minute in the car I prayed over every system in Alif's mind and body. I was so thankful not only for a good-news day, but for the ultimate Good News that even if Alif didn't survive this ordeal physically, he was in his Father's hands and therefore absolutely rescued from every kind of harm.

What a comfort, what a joy!

april 19, 2011

There was a dance happening between Alif's doctors - or as Jan says, the doctors were all having to play nicely together in the sandbox. The cardio-thoracic surgeon, Dr. P, needed to do surgery to replace Alif's mitral valve. That surgery needed to be done immediately. The infectious disease doctor, Dr. K, needed surgery to wait at least a few days so that Alif wasn't going into surgery so badly infected. The worst-case scenario was surgery immediately. The best-case scenario was surgery in a few days.

Surgery was scheduled for April 19, 2011. Almost immediately.

I asked Jan, "Do you think he will survive?" She paused. She said, "that's two questions. Do I think he will make it off the table, or do I think he will survive after the surgery?" She assured me that she felt confident that he would make it off the table. She was also compassionately clear that his chances after surgery were slim. We would be fighting blood pressure, infection, etc. etc. Getting him stabilized would be tricky.

I decided I would spend the night with Alif that night - have some time alone with him, say all the things I'd ever wanted to say, pray for him, sing to him. I delighted that no matter how I wracked my brain, there weren't many things I could think to say that hadn't already been said. I told him how much I loved him, of course, how proud I am to be his wife, how thankful for the years and years he'd worked so hard to support the lifestyle we have chosen. When morning came I was exhausted but thankful for having had the opportunity to be as close to him as possible going into the surgery.

We had finally gotten ahold of Alif's parents and they were due in during surgery. Alif was scheduled at 9:30-ISH (we were told not to put much stock in that time frame!) and family and friends started to show up pretty early. I think they finally took him back around 11, and Rabae and I were able to walk him out and give him last-minute hugs and kisses. Then the waiting began.

Looking back on the situation, this particular scene makes me laugh. There's a waiting room outside the ICU that's a pretty good size. It has probably 15 arm chairs and a table with four chairs also. We had moved the table aside and set up a full size air mattress. There were about 30 people in that room rooting Alif on, praying, laughing, crying, hugging, eating, working on laptops, pacing. Later in the day Jan came in and said, "there are families complaining that they have nowhere to wait." Megan said, "Oh! We haven't seen anyone!" Jan replied tactfully, "I think they've been waiting in the hallway." It was like the Big Fat Greek Wedding of hospital waiting rooms.

I'd asked Jan to promise me something. "If he doesn't make it off the table, Jan, please make sure I hear it from you. I don't want to see the doctor walking in here with that look on his face." She promised.

Sometime in the afternoon, Fred and Juanita came rushing in. About 3 minutes later, Dr. P came with the surgery report. "Everything went well." Rejoicing! Everything had gone well!

Very shortly after, a nurse (Jan? I forget) came in and pointed at me, Rabae, Fred and Juanita. "wife, sister, mom, dad." We went into the hallway and there were several nurses putting gowns on us as we walked in to the ICU. We had about 15 seconds to kiss Alif, touch him, tell him we loved him, and then they whisked him back into surgery. He was bleeding. WAY too much. The next day a nurse told me that when he was in the second surgery, it was the longest 50 minutes of her life.

But he made it through the second surgery too, and the bleeding stopped. Well, slowed to a normal rate.

Mitral valve replacement surgery. Age 36.

Monday, May 16, 2011

april 18, 2011

I finally went home to sleep. Jan made me promise I would get at least 2 hours of sleep but preferably 3.  The night before I'd put the kids to bed only to yank them out at 11pm and take them to Lynette's house when I got word that they were moving him to the ICU, so now I had someone spending the night every night just in case.

I laid my head down in my bed that night and to say my mind was swirling would be a huge understatement. The thought of lying there while my husband was so sick in the hospital felt ludicrous. The LEAST I could do was to be there with him - but I knew that if I didn't sleep I would crash, and that was certainly not a good plan. I knew at that moment there were saints praying for Alif and for me and it felt almost like a physical covering. My Dad was at the hospital and staying all night - that helped too. I finally slept.

When I awoke I called my Dad to see how things were going. He said there was a doctor in and I said I would go take a shower and head over. Not more than two or three minutes passed and my Dad called back and said, "Hon, the doctor said there's no time for a shower. You need to come now."

It makes me quiver inside just remembering that moment - the fear, the FEAR. I prayed the whole way to the hospital, if it can be called praying to cry out over and over, "Oh, Jesus. Oh, Jesus."

I rushed up to the ICU and the pulmonologist was sitting in front of a computer screen. He showed me a scan of Alif's lungs, slice by slice, as if looking down on each section. The lungs should have looked black, open. Instead they were almost completely white. In a thick accent the doctor said, "Everywhere should be black. All of the white is infection filling the lungs. We are pushing oxygen in but there is nowhere for it to go." I stared at him, arms wrapped around myself. He said, "mortality rate is very high in cases such as this." I responded, "my God is bigger than that infection."

Then I walked away and cried. I donned the gown, face mask and gloves we were required to wear every time we went in to be with Alif and I sat by his side, holding his hand, praying scriptures over him, crying.

At some point during the day it was determined that Alif did indeed have a staph infection. Not only that, but his mitral valve was infected. This is a day we had worried about all of the time I have known Alif. We knew this day might come. We knew he should have his mitral valve replaced. We knew every little cut was a potential breeding ground for staph. We KNEW this. Why didn't we every take care of it?? Why had we waited until now, when he was at death's door? It was a major struggle on this day to forgive myself for not having been proactive YEARS before.

During these very early days, we were absolutely surrounded by our family and friends. Alif's parents were in Egypt, of all places, and we struggled to get ahold of them and let them know what was happening. People stepped up to take care of my kids, my house, my meals, and I basically lived at the hospital. I wanted nothing to eat as I constantly had a pit in my stomach, but those around me made sure I did anyway. We were - and are - so well loved.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

april 17, 2011

I was glad when Alif was moved to a regular room because I knew he'd be a lot more comfortable in a regular bed than in a gurney. As long as we kept current on his pain and anti-nausea medications, he was very comfortable. As opposed to the emergency room, I had to ask for his medications "on the floor" (nurse-speak for being in a regular room). When I asked for them the first time they gave him the pain medication before the anti-nausea and that made him a little miserable. The second time I insisted he get the anti-nausea first and he said, "you are the woman."

By this point I had been awake for goodness knows how long. Let's see - I'd slept on Friday night, but was up all of Saturday night and now we were at Sunday night. I was tired. At one point Alif said, "you must be exhausted." He was also concerned about making sure I was eating something. It was so ironic that he was lying there suffering with who-knew-what and concerned that *I* might be tired or hungry. My husband is a caring man.

Meanwhile, I was getting very frustrated that something was obviously wrong and no one seemed to know what. I asked the nurse, "So do we basically have no idea what's wrong and we're just treating symptoms?" She said gravely, "yes." I asked when the doctor would be back and she said either that evening or in the morning.

Somewhere in here the prayer chain at church had gotten word that Alif was being admitted to the hospital. Our friend Jan got this request, e-mailed me asking "what hospital??" and the next thing I knew, she was there with us. When she came in she looked Alif over, talked to him and then turned to me, saying nothing. I asked her what she thought and she said, "I don't want to alarm you, but I don't like the looks of this. He looks septic." Pit - in - stomach. Jan knows what she's talking about. She's been a nurse for a long time. She works with the most critically ill patients.

Alif's sister Rabae pointed out to Jan that Alif wasn't moving his right hand. I asked Jan why his oxygen was only showing at 84%.

Next thing I knew Jan was whirling about, making things happen. Talking to the floor nurses, asking questions, wondering aloud if this and that testing had been done. A nurse brought in a nasal cannula and put him on oxygen. It didn't help. They moved up to the next step, some other oxygen machine, and that didn't help either. Repeat several times. The last machine I saw him on was some sort of forced pressure oxygen thing. It was completely covering his mouth and nose and all I could see was his eyes. They were wild, terrified. It was horrifying. I started to be really afraid. What is happening to my man?? Jan started to talk about the possibility of moving him to the ICU, sedating and intubating him. After seeing those terrified eyes, it sounded like a reprieve. ICU sounded like a safe cocoon and I was thankful they were moving him there.

Jan joked, "You're going to my house now, Alif!" He asked, "do I need directions?"

My journal entry that night read, "Oh God, help my husband! Please heal him, and quickly!"

Saturday, May 14, 2011

april 16, 2011

Wednesday night I slept in Caris & Canaan's room. Any flu that would take my super-healthy husband and turn him into a slug that quickly was not a flu I was willing to risk!

Thursday and Friday were more of the same. Alif sick on the couch, Alif sick in the bed, Alif taking Tylenol and Motrin and having a fever of 100-101. Pushing fluids, watching him lie there with muscle aches, headaches and just flat-out sick.

I was concerned when several days had gone by and he hadn't improved, and not only that but no one else was sick. It's not normal to have a family of six and only *one* person get a flu.

Saturday rolled around and it was busy. We had soccer games, Grand Prix and mama's hair appointment on top of Daddy Sick On The Couch. I ran the kids all around, leaving one with Alif to make sure he had fluids and anything he might need. I checked in after each event to make sure he was ok. At one point I freaked out on him a little, chastising him for not drinking ANY fluids while I'd been gone for almost three hours. He started crying. Alarms went off in my head. Alif crying about fluids did not seem like a good thing.

The last event of the day was Graham's soccer game. When we got back, Alif said, "I can't do this any more. I have to go." I said, "to the hospital?" He said yes, so I called Lynette, dropped the kids off and took him to the emergency room. I drove on the freeway so I wouldn't have to stop and go so much. It made me think of when I was in labor and how miserable that ride to the hospital always was. When we got there I dropped Alif at the door and told him to just sit down and I'd get him checked in once I parked.

We sat in that emergency waiting room for four long hours. Shortly after we got there he started to complain of abdominal pain. I will admit that I was relieved - I thought, "Oh good! He's got appendicitis! They'll do surgery and he'll be feeling so much better by tomorrow!" I approached the triage nurse three times, begging them to get him in and explaining that he was in excruciating pain. It was absolutely a nightmare watching my husband writhe in pain and being completely incapable of doing a thing to make it better.

They did finally call us back and once they did they acted quickly. The nurse did an ultrasound of his abdomen right at the bedside and said that while his liver enzymes were elevated and his platelets were low, his appendix and gall bladder looked fine. I was disappointed - if not his appendix or gall bladder, then what was causing him so much pain and illness? They gave him some morphine and almost instantly he felt better. Relief!! A couple hours later the doctor said he was going to admit Alif to keep an eye on him. I was so glad that I didn't have to take him home feeling awful and wondering what was wrong.

There was a really quirky and kind nurse that morning. She came in and said to me, "do you want something to eat?" I was beyond exhausted at this point, worried, not thinking clearly. I just stared at her. She said, "A turkey sandwich, maybe? . . . . Turkey? . . . Yummy yummy? . . . . . I'll just go get one." She came back with a full meal. Some people really are cut out to care for others.

After the decision to admit him, we waited for a room to open up. It was well into Sunday when they finally moved him to a room.

Friday, May 13, 2011

a month ago today

April 13, 2011.

It's hard to even write something after writing out that date. It's so ominous. It's the date our lives changed. Drastically.

It didn't start out like anything but an ordinary day. We all went about our morning like usual and Alif left for work. He called me mid-morning and we made arrangements to meet at the post office to apply for Malachi's passport in hopes that it would be here in time for the upcoming father-son missions trip to Mexico.

As usual, Alif was running late so the kids and I went to Burger King for lunch. Alif and his worker-pal Rudy met us and we enjoyed lunch together. Some Diana Ross 80s song came on and Rudy sang along in perfect pitch, complete with diva-style hand motions. It was nice having lunch with my husband! He's a busy man so we don't often meet for lunch like that.

After lunch we made our way over to the post office, swore with right hands uplifted that Malachi is our son and Alif wrote a check for the passport fee. The clerk informed me that the birth certificate I had was the wrong type, and when I asked in an irritated voice, "what??" Alif kept his cool and said, "No problem, we'll go get the new kind." My feet were hurting in new shoes, but it had to be done so we said goodbye to Alif and Rudy and the kids and I went to get the new birth certificate and return it to the passport clerk.

Finally we went home, late for our daily quiet time. The rest of the afternoon was peaceful, though, and at 5:15pm I was actually relaxing on the couch when Alif came through the front door unexpectedly - much earlier than he normally comes home from work. He didn't look good. At all. You know how you can just look at someone you love and see that something is very wrong? I can still see him clearly in my mind - he came in and stood there a second, just looking sick. His skin looked damp and his energy was gone. I said, "what happened??" He responded that he didn't feel well.

Alif went to his office and took off his jeans and button-up and came back to the couch and laid there in his sweats and t-shirts (yes, more than one LOL). He had a fever of about 100 or so. I thought he must have gotten a really serious flu and we treated it as such, giving him fluids, Tylenol and Motrin and lots of love. There was no way he could make it to Awana that night so I fretted over having to drive his truck to church - Grand Prix was coming up and Alif was supposed to be cutting cars for the kids that night, so he asked me to drive his truck with all the tools in it so that someone else could do the cutting. I did fine with the truck, though a friend from church followed me home and backed it into the driveway so I wouldn't have to attempt that.

After I got the kids into bed I went to check on Alif, who had gotten himself into our bed for the night. He said, "I'm scared that it's staph, Emily." I assured him that it was not staph at all but just a bad flu, but inside a fear started to grow. I went downstairs and started some internet searching. What I found was not reassuring at all: his symptoms matched up with a septic staph infection a little too closely. I called our nurse advice line and once she'd heard his history (he had a staph infection in high school that caused endocarditis, an infection of the heart valve) and his current symptoms, she advised us to stay home and continue our course of treatment - fluids and fever medicine.

I wish I'd listened to my gut - and Alif's - and gone to the emergency room.

Monday, May 09, 2011

26 days

26 days ago my husband could take his little girl dancing.

He could hug his kids, go to work, walk, remember what happened 5 minutes before.
26 days ago Alif was a soccer coach for Caris' indoor soccer team. He was excited about the father/son missions trip to Mexico that was right around the corner.

26 days ago he walked with a bounce in his step.

Today he can't walk. A staph infection took him down in a matter of hours and he's been sick ever since. Very sick. Critically sick.

I'm sure I will eventually process here, pour out our story, fill in the details. For now I just ask that you pray. Please and thank you.

Monday, April 04, 2011

The post I've been dreading

I started Bible in 90 Days on January 4, 2011. I was excited and had great hope, but I was also a little bit anxious - would I *really* finish the entire Bible? In 90 short days? Like you, probably, I'd started reading the Bible many times, many ways, but I'd never actually finished reading the whole thing at one time.

Still, BI90 offers great resources to help you finish, and I took full advantage. I bought the BI90 Bible, joined a mentor group and signed up for daily e-mails from the BI90 program.

And guess what? By the grace of God, I DID IT! I actually read through every single page of the Bible in 90 days!!

Now here's the part I've been dreading. How am I supposed to put this experience into words that make sense? Words that really capture how this changed me? Ah - well, I probably just won't do it justice, but I'm going to get some tea, pretend we're face to face and go for it.

Alright, peppermint tea is in the microwave (I know, very hillbilly of me but it works and it's quick) (also, did you know that peppermint tea is totally awesome for a tummyache? I had to drink some last night after eating almost 100% junk all day, and within minutes I felt better).

So ok. When I started reading the Bible this time, I really hoped I would be a completely different person at the end. I hoped to be free from my food addiction. I hoped to not yell at my kids any more. I hoped my house would be clean all the time and there would never be piles of laundry in my laundry room. I hoped to be a better friend, daughter, sister, mother, wife (not necessarily in that order) and thank-you-note writer. I guess I basically expected that reading all the way through the Bible would fix all of my problems.

It didn't! Imagine!

But it WAS an experience I wouldn't change and I am so glad I did it.

I knew just about all of the stories. I knew the major players. I'd read most of the Bible in bits and pieces before and had studied a lot of the books in depth. But there is something about reading a book cover to cover in a concentrated way that provides context I'd never had before. In fact, I'd say context was one of the first benefits I noticed, especially in the Old Testament when there's just a lot happening. I finally understand who goes with whom, why the events were happening, etc.

I was challenged. I folded a piece of binder paper into fourths and used that as a bookmark so that any time I had a question, I could write a verse with a question mark next to it. In fact, that bookmark is about to become my next Bible project: find those answers! What does this verse mean? What does it refer to? There were times I felt almost angry with God. Our God is no pansy, friend. He means business, and he is holy and righteous and just. I am whiny and pampered and when justice happens, sometimes it bites - ouch, God! Why did you do *that*?? My faith runs deep, though, and I know that I can trust Him even when it hurts.

I stand in awe. There are truly no words that will explain this one. You'll have to experience it yourself. To have read God's very words to me in a short amount of time and without really giving any feedback (filling in blanks, journaling etc.) - just listening - it provides a picture of God that is unparalleled. Everything means more now - worship, sermons, discussions with a friend.

I'm finally starting to get a picture in my head about what God's call might be on my life. Not the specific things as much as just having a more personal vision. I have mostly always filled the roles that are comfortable for me rather than the roles God might call me to. Watching as God called men and women out of their various circumstances and into a life He desired for them was inspirational and exciting! He will provide - I don't have to be enough or good at something or excited about it, I just have to listen and trust and obey.

Discipline has never been a strong suit for me. Reading the Bible in 90 days requires discipline. There were times I fell behind. Throughout the process, I never went more than two days without reading (a major feat!) but even 2 days puts you significantly behind. There was a point at which I was 13 days behind, because though I would read each day, I just wasn't prioritizing my day so that I could read enough. Reading the 12 pages required per day is a heck of a lot easier than catching up. There's my warning for those of you who might undertake this task. ;-)

And maybe the most meaningful thing that has happened is that I am hungering for God's Word in a way I really haven't before. Once you've read the whole thing and there aren't any scary, dark corners of the Word that have gone unexplored, it's more approachable. There were times I was thoroughly confused (hello Isaiah) and there were times I was surprised to have some sort of understanding (Revelation) but whatever the case, I have read every single word. And I can do it again! And again!

Ohhh girl. I am so excited. SO excited! About four chapters from the end, I teared up - partly in awe of my awesome redeemer, partly out of sheer excitement over reaching my goal. Gratitude, respect, fear - AM I one of God's chosen? Hunger, hunger, hunger - to really know him, to soak in His word, to memorize it.

To change.

The next BI90 starts on July 11. I hope you'll join me!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Super quick update on BI90

I'm going to take the time to write an actual post on Bible in 90 Days and what the experience has been like for me once I'm officially done. For now, here's my comment to my reading group about where I am today:

AAAAAAAAAAAAA Cannot BELIEVE how close we are to the end! I was hoping to be caught up by today but I'm 5 days behind as of right this minute. It's ok though - God graciously provided a very open week for me to read, and I am just *soaking up* the NT! Ohhh it's ever so much more beautiful to read after all that OT law and wrath and terror! Thank you God for sending your Son! Thank you Jesus for making a way! Thank you Paul for heeding God's call on your life! What a blessing this is!!!!

Can you feel my excitement? :-D

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Grief is weird. It doesn't move along at a proper pace like most things do. It clips along and then juts forward, falls back a step, spins in a circle, takes you up a mountain and plummets you into a ditch. I guess as it's whirling about, though, it does move forward. There's definitely hope down the road, evidence of healing as time passes.

It makes me think, too, about the way I see myself and my role in my little community. When I feel sad I don't want to leave my home. I was thinking earlier about why that is, and realized that it has a lot to do with feeling like I have nothing to offer. Which of course made me wonder what I thought the world needed from me.

Anyway, feeling a little melancholy over here. Sickness in our home for over two months now has played tricks on my sanity. I'm still a wife and mom but in a way it feels like life is passing me by. No church, no AWANA, no gym . . . just the very necessities like grocery shopping and kids' sports.

So enough of my whining. My smart, thinking, maturing, turning-into-a-man Malachi came along on Canaan's photo shoot. Little did he know that Miss Davi would snap some pictures of his sweet face too. I'm really looking forward to Malachi's actual Birthday Shoot in April, but until then, here's a sneak peek:

Monday, February 21, 2011

The real tale

First of all, if you read me in a reader, please click over and see the new design! Same old blog, fancy new updated look!  A HUGE thank-you to Barbie for designing the header and framed pics of the kids over there to the right. I love it!!

By the way, this is totally the look I'm going after for my home. That robin's egg blue (or whatever we might call it) really makes me happy.  Add in some red and some pink and it just feels so me!

So what I really came here to tell you is the real story behind the amazing pictures Davi took.  I have known Davi online for some time now, but hadn't met her in person. Well. Miss Davi was every bit as sweet and fun in person as I knew she would be, but I really could not have made a worse first impression if I had tried to.

The first thing was the money. It was tucked neatly into a zippered pocket in my purse that morning, but when I reached for it to pay Davi, it was gone. I panicked. Big time. Where in the *world* could that money have gone? I called Alif to see if any of the kids at home knew about the money, and he was quiet. Very quiet. Finally, he sheepishly admitted to having taken it out himself. "What? WHY??" He really had no explanation - I guess it was just kind of a joke, he said. A joke. Huh.

Davi wasn't worried about the money, thankfully, and we went ahead and got started. My precious Canaan, Mister Very Sweet Somebody, was awful. I mean, there just aren't words to describe how ridiculously obnoxious he was. I will try.

~ He ran away from us. I don't think I've had a child run from me anywhere ever, but Canaan ran.
~ He was completely contrary. If Davi said for him to show her his cute smile, he'd cover it with his hands. If she told him to peek through the boards, he dropped to the ground so we couldn't see him at all. Etc.
~ He was obsessed with a big (and not very photogenic) hole and simply would not leave it alone.

Oh friends, it was just mortifying. There was basically nothing I could do. My hands were tied, and boy did he know it. He took full advantage of the situation.

It was one of those moments in parenthood when you just know God is teaching you something. Can you guess what he was teaching me? Yeah - pride. It's not a good thing. My kids are really awesome people. They really are. I get comments everywhere I go with them about what wonderful children they are, and every time someone says something I'm so thankful. I know that in the blink of an eye it could all go horribly wrong. One child might say something annoying to another, or someone might interrupt me 10x in 30 seconds - you know what I mean. Kids are just unpredictable. But generally speaking, they're just really good kids. This situation with Canaan and the Pictures was humbling. So, so humbling.

But despite his insanity that day, the pictures are just adorable. Even the "outtakes" are pretty darn cute.
I should have seen from the start that we were in for Trouble! Look at that rascally smile.

Ooooh! A hole! What lives in there, Mommy? Is it big? Will it bite me?

A high-five to the person who guesses what nasty thing was going on here. A mother of boys will guess it, I'm betting. And yeah, he learned this from a certain older brother. Nice.

Can you smell it? Hee hee hee! (Oh, I just gave you a clue to the previous photo's basis)

No really, I want to get IN that hole. I just know there's something fantastic in there.

See this dirt clod, Mommy? I'm going to pelt it at you from above so you have dirt in places the public isn't privy to.

See those two scars on his bottom lip? He rolled off my bed when he was littler. There was a lot of blood.

So. I'm not even going to tell you the moral of the story. I think you already know.

And thank you again, Davi, for your extreme patience.

Canaan is Four

Have you met Davi at Little Band of Brothers? Her family photography is so amazing that I contacted her to see if she would be willing to take pictures of Canaan. She was willing! Yippee! Just wait until you see how precious and beautiful they are . . .

How old are you, Canaan?

Who can separate a boy and his dirt clods?

This is Alif's favorite - Canaan daydreaming.

Just absolutely beautiful, aren't they? And tomorrow you'll see the story behind the story . . .