Sunday, August 23, 2015

Year Five: A Letter

Dear Camden,

STOP the madness. I cannot believe that my little baby, the one that made me a mom, is now officially 5. FIVE! That's...ALL the fingers on one hand!

Camden has been up to a lot this past year. He started school, going to a Pre-K class that he LOVED. He was so disappointed to go to summer school that "wasn't the same". He is still a cuddler/hugger - giving good hugs at the most random times. He loves to be outside, "when the weather is so nice". He is a great helper, he has chores that he completes every week, he likes to help his dad mow the lawn, and he follows directions fairly well for a 5 year old. He likes to help feed the dog, change the trash, do any of the things I'm doing - especially if it comes to cooking. He can crack and egg like a pro!

He loves to swim, and this year he finally made the transition to swimming without floaties. He does great, and is a tan little fish. He gets to swim nearly every weekend, and some weeknights too over at grandma and grandpa's house. He still has sandy blonde hair, ridicuously long eye lashes, bright blue eyes and a tan that many girls would be jealous of. He is about 42 inches tall, and he weighs about 38 lbs, which is small compared to other kindergarteners in his class that are almost 6, and he's barely 5!

Speaking of growth - as he has continued to get older his toes are still turned in, causing his little hips to get out of alignment. God has blessed us with an amazing man of God and chiropractor who is helping us line his little body up right. We are adding little foot orthotics to his shoes to help his little feet turn out, and he is doing really well with them. We are believing in this miracle - that as he grows God will straighten him up!

He loves sleepovers at Grandma and Grandpa's, after church night on the weekends. He loves the sleepovers even more when his two cousins join him. He calls his cousin Kaitlyn who is 4 days older than him "my best girl". On some days, he will even ask if his brother can spend the night out with him because, "I really want him there".

He still prefers a morning sippy cup of milk in the morning, and a sippy of chocolate milk after school. He could live off of hot dogs and chili, I swear he might never get tired of that. He is a slow eater, but I hear that will change this year in Kindergarten, when they have about 15 minutes to eat their lunch. That will definitely be and adjustment, as he takes more time than my geriatric patients take to finish a meal. ;)

He sleeps well all night, and can still nap without issue. It's notable that during the school year he gets extra cranky by Friday's - because of staying up late and getting up when Mommy and Daddy leave for work, and there's just short "rest time" or "brain break" at school. On weekend though, he can still nap for an hour or two, especially on days when he has swam hard in the morning or been busy with the family.

His little relationship with the Lord is a precious one to see. He was helping his Dad mow the lawn not too long ago, and Dad asked him to push the mower that was turned off, to the front of the house. He started to push, quickly had trouble and stopped. He said outloud, "Hang on a second, I need to pray". He then bowed his head, said a silent prayer, and then looked up with a face of determination. Next thing I know, he's digging his toes into the grass as he's pushed forward with all of his little body weight to make that mower move, and by golly, he did it successfully, all while grining with accomplishment. It was one of the sweetest things to see! It wasn't that long ago that he was sick at school, and his teachers called to tell me they had changed his shirt that he got sick on, but were going to see how he did. I called and checked on him but he made it the whole day. When I picked him up he simply said "my tummy was hurting, but I prayed to God to help me feel better and then he made my tummy not hurt!". Faith like a child, so honest and pure.

Speaking of praying, we are working on praying about our whining and fit throwing. We are working on reminding him to stop and pray and ask for Jesus to help him calm down and ask respectfully for his wants or needs to be met - all without throwing a fit. He still has his good days and bad days at home, but overall, he's a great kid and is learning daily. He even told me the other day that he knew he could pray about his legs growing to be even lengths and that "God was going to fix it". Amen, little man; you definitely got this!

He is working on memorizing his first Bible verse, and pretty much has it down pat. Proverbs 12:22 is the verse. It was given to him at Gymnastics class and we talk about it as often as possible, and we repeat it in the car so he has it down pat.

Gymnastics is another new thing for him. He has so much energy, yet he could sit inside and watch his favorite TV show "Paw Patrol" for the entire night if we let him. So, we enrolled him in a gymnastics class for now. I think it's been good at teaching him to listen and follow directs, and in a large group setting. This will hopefully be something he will enjoy doing, and maybe he will want to try other sports and activities as we go on. He definitely loves swimming and has been asking about taking more swimming classes. We will see what develops over the next year for sure!

He's a smart little guy, always able to tell me different facts about things, and he is constantly learning. He still has some difficulty with speech, 'chip' and 'ship' tend to sound the same when he pronounces them, as do 'shoes' and chews'. Those darn "ch" sounds! Another thing is "think". It always comes out as "fink". I love it. And he told us that his grandparents recently took a vacation to "Alasaka" which - I didn't even WANT to correct him.

And oh, this little boy as a big brother. It is just heart melting. There are times when gets frustrated and pushes his brother, or takes a toy away from him, but you can tell he immediately knows it's wrong. As soon as Caysen starts to cry, he will be hugging him, apologizing to him and trying to get him to be quiet - and hurry! - before Mom and Dad hear! ;)

But in all seriousness, he is the BEST big brother. He is incredibly patient, he likes to teach him how to do things and get Caysen to follow his lead. He will pat him ever so gently on the head and talk to him, while Caysen "mm-hmm's" and nods in agreement with whatever he is talking about. He understands what it means to take turns, who goes first, who gets to watch a show and he is sure to make sure Caysen gets what he wants. Often times he will speak up for his brother, as Caysen will point to something and only Camden will see it, so Camden will speak up for him. He knows exactly what Caysen wants and is one of the best at reading Caysen's speech and motions! He is SO good at taking care of his brother! He will give him rides on his toys around the house, makes sure he has his blankie, and will always share a bite of whatever he is eating. Their relationship is really a sweet one to see. I pray that Camden will always be a great protector for his little brother.

Camden, I hope you know how proud we are of you as parents. You are smart, kind, honest and inquisitive. You have a tender heart, a beautiful faith, and a loving little soul. We can't wait to see what is in store for you, to continue to watch you grow, and to enjoy time with you while we have it. You are a blessing in more ways than can be counted, and we can't wait to see the ways God will use you in your lifetime. We pray you continue to deepen your faith and share with others, and allow God to mold you into the sweet young boy you are becoming!

We love you to the moon and back,

Mommy




















Sunday, August 16, 2015

That Trust Thing Again...


My thoughts have been swirling for the past few days, as it seems to happen after a discharge from the hospital. The whole stay went smoothly, but I was surprised at how much I missed two of my dear friends - one being Andi and the other a doctor friend who moved on to another state to practice medicine. I found myself reflecting back on the aloneness while in the hospital - feeling like those that I knew were in my corner were no longer there to "check in" on me, if you will. And the last time we were inpatient - I had just become close to Andi. At that time I didn't realize I was only going to have a short span of one year with her - but in that one year to be impacted in far greater ways that I could ever imagine. To be educated on so many things, supported in vital ways, and calmed with a level of understanding and expertise that was invaluable in our daily life.



Some days the void of her loss doesn't seem so black and dark;  or so deep and wide. But other days it's nearly impossible to crawl out of the expanse.









“For the LORD God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The LORD will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right. O LORD of Heaven’s Armies, what joy for those who trust in you.”


Psalms 84:11-12 NLT





This one verse right here. Been doing a lot of thinking on that trust word. 





I pray at the beginning of each year for a word.





A word that God wants me to focus on. One that I can learn to fully live by and focus on. In 2014 my word was trust. We had been through so much in 2013, and Caysen was SO sick, I knew that I was still learning to fully trust and grasp what it meant to do so. Trust was what needed to be focused on. Especially since Caysen's Comprehensive Stage 2 was coming up in March of 2014. I had to learn to fully trust in God's plan; the things I couldn't see. It was an incredibly tough year, but I thought I had picked up the meaning of the word. I felt that I lived it, breathed it and learned to completely trust Him with handing Caysen over for such a HUGE surgery. 





So this year, in January, I prayed again for my word. And I just could not shake the word "trust" again. I couldn't figure why I should have the same word, but each time I prayed, multiple times over the course of a couple of weeks, the Lord kept taking me back to that same word. Every. Time. 





Looking back, I know now that was God nudging me back to that word for a reason. He knew what was to come this year, that I would shortly lose my best friend Andi, and that it would be the hardest, deepest and most painful loss of a loved one that I had yet to experience. Sure, I've lost friends and family but it was different for those losses as it may have been expected or seemed like it was time. That was not the case with Andi. So sudden, unexpected and unfair to us left behind that it has been so very excruciating. This year likely holds a surgery we didn't expect to be quite so soon. The difficult decision to have a littler and younger kid do the Fontan surgery isn't an easy one, especially when there can be so many complications when they are smaller. God knew the difficulty of what was to come that I couldn't see and He wanted me to TRUST in Him, yet again. Because the tests this year have been bigger. Deeper. Requiring more strength.





And for crying out loud, that trust thing is the hardest to get a hang of. Trusting that Andi had bigger things to fulfill in heaven. Trusting that taking her now - someone so young, smart, full of promise and drive to help others. The most knowledgeable person I have ever met - that taking her now was indeed for the best. Trusting that the timing of Caysen's surgery is perfect for him and his little broken heart. Trusting that he won't get sick and we can do this surgery before fall and before sick season. Trust, trust, trust, in more ways than one. 





And just when i think I have it down, I realize that I might have wavered, or doubted. For trust walks hand in hand with faith. The faith that God will carry you through, that His ways are higher than our ways, that his plans for our future are better than we can imagine. Even when that involves heavenly plans for someone that we love dearly.





When you do finally fully trust in Him, it's like this verse says. He will withhold no good. Oh, what joy it is, to trust. So even though I'm still a work in progress at finding myself fully trusting, when one does succeed and see the blessings poured out hand over foot, or when you feel that comfort and peace knowing God has the future perfectly planned; it's like no other. And a little bit of trust, goes a long way. Once you start to trust Him fully with what you have, it becomes easier to give Him everything. And let me tell you, as difficult as it is - I KNOW, beyond a shadow of a doubt, I couldn't do any of this without Him.



God is good, even when I don't understand. God is good, even when I don't see a future - or a way out. God is good, even when I'm hurting, or when Caysen or my family is hurting. God is good. He relentlessly and beautifully cares for us so deeply, that we can't fathom what a joy it is to Him, when we trust him fully. Do you trust Him? You should definitely give it a  try. 












Saturday, June 27, 2015

A Letter: Caysen is TWO

Dear Caysen,



Well little buddy, you've made it to age two - which is quite the accomplishment considering all you have been through in your two short years. Looking back I never would have guessed we would go through all that we have, that I would have cried so many tears in the past two years, and know all of that and just how much you are THRIVING now.



It was two years ago today that my world was grey (literally!) and you entered this world screaming but with 'wet lungs'. Three days from that day, after just being discharged home, we went through more than we could ever guess, due to your half of a heart that was not detected prenatally or even postnatally.



Despite the warnings about the cardiogenic shock and the damage to multiple organs and resulting brain bleeds affecting your motor movement, your eating habits, and your overall ability to function; you continue to prove to everyone just what you CAN do. And if you get anything out of this letter or living with half of a heart, that is what I want you to focus on. Exactly what you can do.



These days you are still hovering around 21 or 22 lbs. You are getting taller, having gained an inch in the last month or so, measuring in at 32 inches. You wear anything from 12 months to 2T, 2T things swallow you up. Pants and shorts tend to range in the 12-18 month area. Your swimsuit is a 12 month size and we can barely keep it on you! You wear a size 4 diaper, a size 5 shoe, and a grin as big as Texas, with a single dimple in your right cheek that one easily gets lost in.



You continue to grow teeth in the most random of patterns, and are currently cutting some eye teeth. You still only have 4 bottom teeth, but have about 8 on top. Your eating habits vary greatly. On days where you have a fever from teeth, you don't eat at all. We end up using your g tube to push veggies and fruits in you. Otherwise you have a fairly good appetite. Some of your favorites are still hummus, salsa, avocado, hot dogs (you bring me the hot dogs from the fridge allll the time!), the soft and crunchy parts from Daddy's cajun trail mix, steak, most fruits, goldfish, and you really love pomegranate. You still get meds and soy formula through your g tube as your intake is still small in regards to what you need to eat to grow. We keep hovering around that 22lb mark!



You have the greatest laugh. I can't even describe how bubbly and heartwarming it is to hear your giggle. And when you laugh your dimple comes out and I just want to eat you with a spoon, you are just so adorable! You are almost always smiling (unless you are teething), and you LOVE to be outside. You beg to go out almost non-stop, especially now that it's warm.



Finally, you are starting to communicate more! You can say "bye" really well (which sounds like a southern bye-'bah'), mom, dad, brother, bubble (for Bubble Guppies the show - or to blow bubbles), Pearl, all done, more, thank you, bath, night night". Just this past week you started saying "no", and it sounds so cute when you say it (I'm sure that'll change, but for now - your tone is adorable!) I'm sure that I'm missing some, but that's a majority. You sign some words that you don't say, Like "please". Sometimes you will say "more" while signing "please". Even though you don't talk a whole lot, you get your point across. You will walk up to whoever you want to talk to and bang on their leg or arm with your open hand until they respond to you. Once you have their attention, you point. And let me tell you, you are the valedictorian of pointing. You can point at all sorts of things to get your needs met, or to get people to understand you. You answer most questions with "uh huh" in yes fashion, while nodding. It's pretty adorable, because we can ask you all kinds of things and you will mostly respond with a yes, with your slow and deliberate head nod.



Your memory amazes me. I can still show you a picture of Andi and you smile and point. I thank God for using you to allow me to meet such a beautiful person and have her in my life. She played a huge role in your life, and even though you won't remember her in the future, I have some priceless pictures of you two that I will always cherish! I will always talk about her to you, and I hope that you will always know what she meant to our family. We were so blessed to have her in our lives while we did.



You love the water. Showers, baths, swimming pools, puddles. You can't seem to get enough of the water to tide you over. You love being outside and that coupled with water - the swimming pool may be your best friend!



You also really adore your brother. You will talk about him, ask for him, point out things that are his. You know to take his blankie to his room and put it on his bed so he can find it after school. You love to do anything he is doing, eating or trying. He's extra patient with you, and your relationship is quite precious to see.



Another major milestone for you was allowing time away from Mommy and tolerating drop off at the church nursery. Now, you walk in proudly, eager to play with their toys. You will pop your paci out of your mouth, give me a little wave and say "bah bah" and you're on your way. You still love your Mommy comforts, but lately you have been more of a Daddy's boy than EVER! You ask for Daddy all the time, you call for him in the night, you want him to hold you, play with you, and you want to go with him EVERYWHERE. When I get home in the afternoons before Daddy, you almost always point out his mower and his blower and remind me that it's "Daddy's", and then ask to mow.



Your sleep schedule is still pretty whack. You do what you want to and when you want to! You are sleeping through the nights a little better, but some nights you are up and the only way for you to go back to sleep is to bring you to the center of the bed with Mom and Dad. Don't get too used to that buddy - it's just that Mom and Dad are desperate for sleep! You usually go to bed around 9/930 and are usually up to see us off about 545ish. Luckily your Cici watches you during the day so you can nap as you are tired. On a normal day you will nap about 2 hours at midday - but you're always switching it up on us, sometimes needing two naps.



Speaking of your Cici - how thankful are you for her? I can't think of a better way to have things for you. You get to stay home in your germ free environment if needed, and you can nap and eat on demand. It works out great because Physical Therapy and Speech Therapy still visit us at home, and Cici takes care of all of that. She makes you food, vitamixing healthy things to put in your gtube - like beets and kale, she rocks you when you're teething and need extra cuddles, and is there to give you round the clock Motrin and Tylenol when you are teething or sickly. She's been there for you through thick and thin, especially through the really difficult times. We are so thankful she can do this for you!



This fall should be an exciting time for you and Cici. Your dad and I talked seriously about putting you into daycare, but at the time you still seem to have so many demands and it's so expensive for part time care in two places. So far we have decided to keep you at home for a bit, and allow you more freedom. This fall you will start a gymnastics class, and you will also go to a daytime Bible Study Fellowship class once a week. You still get interactions with more kids, hopefully learn some more social skills all while still being able to care for you and your special needs. This will allow us to keep you close in case you get sick or aren't feeling well, without anyone having to miss extra work time.



We are so excited for what your future holds. Of course, in the near future is another open heart surgery to complete the palliative care, but other than that - seeing what else you can accomplish when something is put in front of you is rewarding to see. When I reflect back on everything, I get flash backs of Chris and I wearily dropping ourselves into bed at night after the long NICU days, interactions with doctors, doing everything we could to be a part of your care and getting well, as well as trying to care for your older brother. I vividly remember the outfit you wore that day to the ER, the staff gave it back to us to take home that night because there was no way you were going to wear it with all those lines. At the time, it was like a gut punch. Were you ever going to wear it - or anything for that matter, again? Your daddy and I took that little newborn sized onesie, and we put it on a baby pillow in between us in bed, along with a prayer blanket that was made for you. Nightly, we would clasp hands and pray over it - praying for you, for your future, and for all that God could do in your life. They were often clinging, desperate and begging prayers, but nevertheless, we prayed over that little white button up onesie with animals on it. Some nights, I would be home so late - I would wake your Daddy up to pray, or sometimes even clasp his sleeping hand and pray while he rested. We did that during your whole NICU stay, praying that you would get to come back home to us, believing in God's faithfulness and never giving up hope.



Just the other night, you cried from your crib in your room. Your Daddy went to grab you but before he got up he said "its already 4, can I just bring him here?". I mumbled yes, while he stumbled to get you. In that time I thought back, to the onesie. When it was just your clothing between us for 70 long days and nights, not knowing if you would ever make it home again. And now, you'll cry at home, and we get to put your little 22 lb self between us. Time can change so many things. In two years we went from a tiny and empty onesie to having you really there with us, and we have taken many steps and detours along the way. But hitting each milestone? Is such a beautiful blessing.



Caysen, you are living proof of what you CAN do. Of what God CAN do. You have had more near death and terrifying experiences than most people do in a lifetime. And here you are, showing what together you and God CAN do. You can achieve whatever you dream of! You have proven exactly what you can do by walking and now running after your brother. If you want to run a business, you can. If you want to help others (and I hope you always will), you can. If you want to play sports, I'm sure not going to stop you (cardiologist approved, of course!). But I want you to know, that living with half of a heart may come with disappointments. Be prepared for those. There are times where you may not be able to keep up. Where you will have to sit out. But I want you to remember that is momentary. Please focus on the fact that you CAN do whatever you put your mind to. And you have done it! You can walk. You can talk. You can eat. You can. You can. You can! Don't let the can'ts discourage you.



And that Caysen, is the truth. God is why you can do anything you put your mind to. You can! God is faithful. God is good. He will see you through. You may not always understand why or how or the path it takes to get there, but He will always see you through! The Lord will fight for you, and he already has. If you learn only one thing in this life, I hope that it is just that - faith and trust in the Lord, and just how far it will take you!



We love you so much Caysen, your hiccup laughter, your darling dimple, blond hair and ornery sense of humor. You, my little one, are a perfect example of mercy and grace and God's promises. We love you to the moon and back!



As long as I'm living, my baby you'll be,



Mommy











































































I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!

Psalm 27:13-14 NKJV

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Nine months

It was just yesterday that I was dropping of my big boy for his first day of Pre-K. And here we are, finishing up the year and I have a Kindergartener on my hands.

How exactly does it happen?

I reflect on just how much he has changed in that span from August to May. In all reality, 9 months is so short - its just the time it takes for someone to have a pregnancy, the time it takes for people to safely lose weight, and its the amount of time it takes to get a copyright. In that time though, big C has had a birthday, a few good holidays and all the seasons in between.

When I dropped him off for his first day of Pre-K, he was still three. He was shorter, ornery, and huggable. He liked extra cuddle time, he needed help making every little decision and he was learning about his personal choices and consequences. He adored spending time with my best friend, Andi. She would come and play angry birds with him on the iPad, give him hugs and build marble tracks with him. He loved it.

He's so big now, the boy that made me a mom.

So opinionated. He moves so quickly, is tall, and is four. He's a great big brother, often sharing with his brother or pointing out the new things his brother has learned. He prays nightly for his friend Andi that he misses, and prays for her family. Every. Single. Night.

He is the most tender hearted, compassionate guy when it comes to his loved ones. He loves stairs, thrives on routine, and still is addicted to his morning sippy cup with milk. (Daddy swears the milk doesn't taste the same if you take the sippy away, so I guess it will stay for now).

Caysen has changed too. He went from just learning how to walk, to trying to run. He went from no teeth, to 12 teeth. (only 4 on the bottom!) He went from super short and barely growing to gaining inches. He went from barely talking to nodding yes and no, signing more and speaking more clearly. He went from crying at drop off to church nursery, to walking in and waving bye, as he's ready to play with their toys. He went from crying in swimming lessons to begging for more, wanting to jump off the side over and over.

I look at how my life has changed. I stopped pumping for Caysen in that time, dealt with another winter, learned how to shoot a gun, took on an intern at work, and Caysen got his first real sick bug, which was super scary for a bit because of course all the signs of sickness are also the signs of heart failure. I learned the importance of a good strong hug. I learned the importance of appreciating others. I learned that I desperately love thieves essential oil to help with any sickies. And, I lost my very best friend, in an incredibly unexpected and painful change to the story that I had pictured in my head. Through her loss, I gained a new best friend. I researched more than you would imagine about health concerns and HLHS. I cried more than I ever thought possible. It's hard to describe the changes that are so small yet they seem like something insurmountable, but really, things are just SO different.

When I think back to where I was in August, I NEVER would have pictured this road. The way things have changed. Doing life so differently than I was before, yet still so similiar.

God has a plan. He knows what he is doing, and He knows better than I do about what will come and what is to be. I have to trust in Him. Trust in the path he is taking us on. Trust that this road that we are taking, this one that I didn't picture, is indeed the perfect path.
God always has different ways of drawing us near, bringing us back to Him. In those moments when we feel alone, those most painful nights, God is closer than we can imagine. He is over everything, walking us through it, by our side. Like it says in Exodus 14:14 - The Lord will fight for you, You need only be still. And in those dark moments, he is fighting to draw you close.

2 years ago in May, I started having health problems while pregnant with Caysen, including loss of vision. If you had told me 2 years ago that this is the road we would travel and the path we would take, if you were to tell me all the things that were to happen to us in that time, including heart defects, open heart surgeries and traveling across the country for medical care; I would NEVER in a million years believe you. I wouldn't believe the people that have come into my life. In the same respects I wouldn't believe the ones that have gone WAY too soon, jerked so painfully out of my life that the hurt remains. I wouldn't believe the things we have seen and done, or the things we have put our kids through. It would be hard to fathom what we as a family could survive and endure; and how we could grow our faith like we have.

But God is good, and always good. We will shout it from the rooftops, just what he has given us. Best friends that save our child's life. (I mean, how many people can say that?) A child that we can look at and just appreciate how far he has come in a short time, that is nothing short of a miracle. Friends, family, and another day to share His great love, and to love each other. Take it all in, friends. If you learn anything from me, please don't miss that! Time here is short, be thankful for what you have loved, and for what you have loved and lost.

It can be so easy to wall off, close up, shut everything inward. But no, we are supposed to share burdens, love unconditionally and speak life into one another.

So thankful for the last nine months. For the growth as a family. When I reflect back, I am sure to cherish each step. Because in those 9 months I learned just how quickly life can change, and how short our time is here.

So...how are you using your time?



First day:



















Last day:











Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Time. And thoughts...

May already? Where does the time go?

Time.

Time passes so quickly. Caysen is two months shy of 2. I can't believe it! I'm 3 months out from losing my best friend. It seems so short, yet like an eternity. Our lives are but a mist, as it says in James 4. Hard to keep that in perspective, but we will be reunited. Must. Focus. On. That. It's still so difficult, getting further away. You know, the distance and space of time. It's all really hard to wrap my brain around and to fully comprehend.


Pain.

Pain is still so strong at times, and at others leaves a smile on my face. It's weird how it does that. God doesn't protect us from the pain, but he calls us on these paths. And its on these paths that so often its incredibly painful before it's beautiful. It is hard to focus on the beauty in the midst of pain. I know there is beauty in the fact that she is happy, healthy, hearing, whole, loved. Doesn't mean it isn't still painful, though. This translates into many other parts of my life. It is incredibly painful to watch my child undergo procedures or surgeries and to not be able to take his pain. It can be physically painful for me to hold him down while he cries out wanting me to save him. But in the end, I can look at his journey and see how beautiful it has been. How strong and brave he is, the courage that he has. It reminds me what a testimony he has to share with others, and most importantly the new and valuable relationships he has brought to my life.

Trust.

A smart friend of mine said that "insecurity breeds lies and vulnerability breeds trust". Learn to be vulnerable. Be honest and open. It takes bravery, but it allows you to be restored in a way that only God can do. Trust is the single hardest thing to do, because when you trust, you have to believe in others. You wear your heart on your sleeve and risk being hurt much easier and deeper than others. But by trusting others, you are allowing yourself to see true beauty that you can't see if you are guarded and closed.


Loyalty.

Having those people in your life that you can count on. That you can call on to understand you or just "get it", are imperative. Knowing that no matter what happens, you have that person/people on your side, it's a true gift. Don't let those people go. The ones that fight for you, when you forget how to fight. They are a true treasure, with the God given ability to pick you up when no one else can.

And the greatest of these is Love.

Love and appreciation for those that have impacted my life is ever present. I am better able to recognize what is important in my life, my list of priorities has definitely changed. Don't take a single second for granted! Love is never wrong, and is always worth it, even if it causes pain or heartbreak. I love to love.  This includes people, friends and family, as unconditionally and strongly as I am able. Why? Becuase that is how God loves us. "His love is fierce, it is strong, it is furious". God's love for us is so deep, that we can KNOW that he never starts something without having a plan. We may not see the end, or understand it when we get to it, but He has his reasonings. Maybe its because he's saving us from a future we can't understand, or torment we don't deserve. God can help us to heal, He loves us. In His arms we can know the true meaning of love. I've learned the beauty of loving others as Christ loved us. It's one of the best things we can do, and despite the pain, the vulnerability, and the sacrifices, it's truly one of the most honest and rewarding things to do.

Just some quick thoughts on this Cinco de Mayo.



Tuesday, March 31, 2015

On Grief


Grief.

It's a tidal wave of emotions, a pool you can't seem to swim out of. You seem to have forgotten your life vest, and you do your best to just float.

Some days are good. You accept things, you realize why things are that way and the hurt is minimal. But other days...it hits you like a ton of bricks. It's so incredibly difficult and no matter what you do, you can't seem to get out of your funk. You question why repeatedly, and you just can't seem to understand. The hurt cuts so deep that you would do anything to get away from the pain.

I was watching Grey's Anatomy a few weeks ago they said a line about one of the characters who was undergoing a surgery and not expected to live.

"She's in my head, but I'm not ready for my head to be the only place where she exists." 


yeah, that. Do you think anyone is EVER ready for that? I can make a safe assumption here to say that in most cases, no. People aren't ready for that. I can think of all of the friends, family and co-workers of my dear Andi, and I can tell you in that instance? Beyond a shadow of a doubt, NO. Definitely not.

I've done a lot of reading lately, Bible devotionals, books, really anything. A few on the specific topic of grief and healthy grief. One thing that seems to come up repeatedly is that if you don't talk about it and deal with it from the beginning, it manifests in unhealthy ways and will continue to be a bother for years, even messing with your own personal health.

I read this particular exerpt in one of my Bible reading plans on YouVersion. It's called Deep Grief and is by Lysa TerKeurst:

Deep Grief

I stood at the side of a casket too small to accept. Pink roses were draped everywhere. And I watched my mom as she lay across the casket. Within that casket laid part of her heart, so quiet and so still. Her little girl was gone.

It was the type of loss that cuts a heart so viciously it forever defines you. A loss called "deep grief'.

I remember standing paralyzed at the funeral. Just days before we were doing everyday things; suddently it all stopped. People were everywhere. Soft chatter filled in the gaps of our stunned silence. Eventually people went back to their own lives, and we carried on with ours, bound in deep grief.

I desperately longed for God to fix things. To take away my bloodshot eyes. To take away my anger toward him. To take away my guilt for being the one that lived. I felt I didn't deserve to be happy, ever.

This is the reality of deep grief. Even when you love God and believe in his promises, healing takes time.

It takes wading through an ocean of tears.

It takes discovering one day that the sun still shines and it's okay to smile.

It takes prayer, and a decison to stop asking for answers and to start asking for perspective.

Then one day you take off the blanket of deep grief. You fold it neatly and tuck it away. You no longer hate or resist it. For underneath it, wondrous things have happened. Things that can only come about when Divine hope intersects with a broken world.

And finally you can see years stretching before you once again. You look up, blow a kiss, wipe a tear and find it's still possible to dance.


I just love how she worded this. It is so honest and true. Those are all of the initial feelings that one might feel, and it is just so hard to accept. She goes on to the part where she talks about taking off the blanket of deep grief. The first thing I noticed is that she didn't mention a time frame. Because, there is no time frame. It takes as long as it takes. You may wear that blanket for a LONG time. It may take a while before you feel comfortable without it. You get to a love/hate relationship with that blanket. It's almost like a security blanket, but at the same time it's not healthy. Because what grown adult takes their blanket with them everywhere? But that doesn't mean that it's a bad thing. In that moment, at that time, you do what you need to do to cope. To grieve. She gives hope, saying that eventually one day you will be able to step away from it. You won't have such a love/hate relationship with grief. The part where she mentioned that you will "see years stretching before you once again"? That part is SO comforting to read. When you lose a loved one, and especially unexpectedly, it seems like you can barely see until tomorrow. The thought of looking ahead is an impossible task. There is just no way to even think of seeing years ahead. It is just unfathomable.

It's good to know that one day it will be.

Even in the Bible, Jesus wept over the death of his dear friend, Lazarus.

It says in John 11:33-36; (we pick up where Jesus is speaking to Mary - who was the sister of Lazarus)

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. "Where have you laid him?" he asked. "Come and see, Lord," they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, "See how he loved him!"

How beautiful is this scripture? Jesus wept right along with them. Jesus was not above the painful and crushing emotion. Jesus wept. And so can we. It's perfectly normal. God wants to hear your heart, and by letting it all out he can slowly begin the process of helping you heal. God weeps along side us as we grieve our loved ones. He feels our hurt and knows our pain. And when we start to heal, he can give us hope and comfort. We may begin to realize what a beautiful place our loved ones have reached. To have all the things the Lord can bless them with in heaven, and to be perfectly healed and well, and rejoicing in His greatness.

But for now, it's okay to cry. Its okay to hurt, to be mad and sad. To be homesick to join those loved ones in heaven. Because they are experiencing one of the most beautiful things that anyone has ever been given, and to join them one day in heaven will be a glorious meeting. Our time will come, but for now we must carry on their legacy here on earth. And what an honor it is, to have the chance to do that!








Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What you need to know about.... PTSD.

PTSD.





Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. 





Most people don't know what that is, or the different levels of severity. I'm here to say that just about everyone out there has likely had some sort of experience with a traumatic event in their life. PTSD is all about those traumatic events and how we cope. Keep in mind, it can also be a reaction to a traumatic life stressor, and everyones stressors and how they handle them are different.



After my experience with Caysen, the last few weeks of pregnancy, the first few -- oh 10 months of his life -- I would say that I have a touch of PTSD. I always considered myself the opposite of a helicopter parent. I was laid back with Camden, letting him eat dirt based off the philosophy, "God made dirt, dirt don't hurt". I let him cry it out, a little bump on his head never hurt anyone, and once when he split his forehead open a little bit - I just super glued it together instead of rushing to ER.



Then Caysen came along, changed up my whole parenting style. Suddenly, I became a germ sanitizing freak, carrying a cart cover and hand sanitizer everywhere. I hover, and when he sniffles and I tend to worry about hospital stays, needing oxygen and watching for prolonged blue spells. Why? Because in the past when he tanked, it would happen so fast. And having watched your child fight for his life on more than one occasion, it tends to mark you.



Most of you all know that I work in the health field, specifically mental health. In all of my years of experience if I have learned anything, its that no one is spared from this area. Mental health is an interesting thing, really leaving no one untouched. PTSD from events can effect you and shape your future.



Life events can leave you scarred and scared. Scared to break down walls, to unnumb yourself, to share your feelings. They can leave you feeling isolated and alone, leaving you clammed up and in bed, not wanting to face the world.



People need to know that there is no shame in getting help when you need it. About talking about your stressors. Talking to friends, to counselors. There is nothing wrong with admitting that you can't do it alone. In fact, there is more strength in admitting you can't do it alone. That is admirable, admitting you need support and taking things in stride with your head up, determined to not let it win.



And most importantly, I hope people use this time to know that their one true helper and healer - is God. He's always on your side, he will never leave or forsake you. I read in a book about a golfer - and how they look to make shots. Do they focus on the trees they are trying to shoot through, or do they focus on the gap and what's beyond it? The gap. That. That's what we have to remember. Keep your eyes on him. Keep your eyes on the gap and what is beyond.



I have seen PTSD come in so many ways, shapes and forms. I have seen it attack loved ones in the form of sick family members or illnesses, to physical attacks, to a variety of emotional situations.



It can rear it's ugly head at any second. Caysen quits tolerating his feeds for two days and naturally I want to start getting jittery and analyze every waking move, take notes on every missed or vomited feed and try to figure what the root of the cause is. I tend to pray for fevers and diarrhea so I can chalk it up to a virus - and not something like poor heart function/heart failure. My life is so drastically different with child number 2, I never expected to pray for a virus to ease my mind.



This is just my own personal experience. But in my world, I have witnessed many different people battle PTSD and each battle is unique. Just remember, that you never know what someone is fighting. Be compassionate, live kindly. Encourage others. And when someone wants to open up to you to talk? Listen. Share. Encourage them to seek help however they may need. And remind them of their Heavenly Father who loves them so deeply, and so intensely and is the comforter to us all.



And finally - the why. Why does PTSD exist? I have no answers for you except that we live in a broken, broken world. And that is why our hope lies in Him.



Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand." - John 13:7



The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yes I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. -Lamentations 3:19-23



Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. -Luke 6:21