With all my heart

As any parent will tell you, tummy pains aren’t uncommon when raising kids. Jacob has them often. Usually, a successful trip to the bathroom fixes the problem. (Sorry for the TMI.)

But Monday, his stomach pains were worse than usual, even after an extremely productive bathroom trip. (Nope, I wasn’t really sorry about the earlier TMI either.) And he was so specific about where the pain was “all around my belly button and on my side,” (while touching his right side, of course), that I made the call to the doc. They scheduled us an appointment for early evening, so I had the whole day to let him rest, watch his symptoms, and pray and trust that God is in control worry myself sick thinking of every possible horrible scenario. (And you know where the worst case scenario fears lead. Always. I swear, in their combined 11 years of life, my children have died 5,327 times in my worst case scenario fears.) (Yes, I realize that this is not a constructive way to spend my time.)

After his fever spiked to 103.3 and he was bent over in wincing pain when I tried to get him to go to the bathroom, the nurse recommended I just take him straight to the ER. After all, if his symptoms were the same at the doctor appointment that was still 2 hours away, they would be sending him there anyway for further testing for appendicitis.

I took a few deep breaths to calm myself down and made a call to a friend to see if she could watch Annalise. With the rear-view mirror tilted so I could see my red-faced feverish boy alternately head bob and wince in pain, I headed to the hospital, calling Matt and the grandparents on the way. My sick boy had gone from having one worried mom bargaining with God to 2 sets of grandparents praying, a family of 6 praying, and both his parents praying with all their heart as the situation seemed more and more serious.

As I held my silent boy on my lap in the waiting area, I prayed that it would not be appendicitis or something worse. Jacob was still a bit restless, and he opened his eyes as I whispered my prayer. I told him he didn’t need to worry, that this was exactly where he needed to be. The doctors would know what to do, I assured him. Funny, I can’t seem to convince myself of these things when I’m terrified and picturing him on his deathbed.

By the time we got called back to a room, I could tell he was starting to perk up a bit. As you might guess, the absence of noise coming from his face is usually a pretty good sign he is either asleep or feeling pretty awful. (It has to be pretty bad for him to be silent. Just not feeling well means he might be laying down, but the mouth still moves.) After being quiet for most of the day, my little buddy had a lot of stored up words to get out. As I laid him in the hospital bed, he began to use them. Sure enough, his fever had gone down, and he was excited to play with the toys our friends had given him in a get-well-bag. He told me about all the characters in Star Wars, even though he’s never seen the movie. He argued with Matt about how to pronounce Han Solo. He asked questions about every. single. thing. in sight. He repeated over and over how funny it was that “they want to do a test on my pee! I had to pee in a cup! That’s so funny that they wanna check my pee!” And when there was finally a moment of silence – as in maybe 10 seconds – where nothing was being said, he just blurted out one word – the thing that is always on his mind… “Bottom.”

I’ll admit it. It sent me into a fit of giggles. Here sat my boy, previously down for the count at home with a ridiculous fever, the only sounds coming out of him were groans of discomfort and “ow ow OW OW-OW-OW”s when the sharp stomach pain would return. Now, at his most expensive doctor visit ever, he was full of life and ever-flowing words, making us laugh through it all.

On the other side of the curtain separating the two beds, I heard a lady giggle, then sigh and say, “I think I’ll take a break and walk the halls.” By “take a break,” she meant her ears. Not even kidding. Welcome to my world, lady on the other side of the curtain. Only you’ve just experienced 10 minutes. Try 10 HOURS A DAY.

The nurse offered him a popsicle. I asked her how much that was going to run us. “You don’t want to know,” she replied and handed him a blue one. Somewhere, a hospital administrator cackled.

10560283_10203719614923948_8362239337092174015_o

It was pretty clear at this point that we were done and just waiting to be given the release to go home. Sure enough, the doc headed in and said, “Sounds like he’s doing much better. I’m just going to check him over real quick, then you’ll be out of here.” Except as he felt his abdomen, he felt a bulge around the appendix area, and Jacob winced when he touched it. We couldn’t leave just yet.

The lady on the other side of the curtain returned to her father’s bedside. Jacob and I waited. He talked. I listened. More giggles from the other side of the curtain. The lady who had left earlier whispered to another lady – her mother – “Well, he is sure one very happy boy.” I could hear their quiet conversation about how much he had to say, and that it was all so happy.

I was thankful he was so full of joy, but I was dying of embarrassment just a wee bit. We really had no business being in the ER. Clearly, this kid was fine.

We headed to ultrasound, his mouth still constantly moving to the ultrasound tech about the “fun ride” he was getting as she pushed his bed through the corridors. On their way back, the tech asked Jacob how many siblings he had. He didn’t even hesitate. “I have 3 sisters. Annalise is 6, and the other 2 are Madison and Taylor. I won’t get to meet them until I get to Heaven. How old are they again, Mom?”

He’s never responded this way, so I was quite surprised, but not as much as the ultrasound tech was. It was clear she didn’t know what to say. “It’s ok,” I explained while holding back tears, “We had premature twins before he was born. They would be 8 next month.”

“Yeah.” He continued. “They are 8 in Heaven.”

They are 8 in Heaven. How come I still can’t seem to use the present tense when I refer to them? How come my kids keep showing me up on their wisdom and faith?

Back in our room with the same 3 people still on the other side of the curtain, the ultrasound tech awkwardly tripped over her words about the doctor coming in and us going home. I wondered if she was uncomfortable with the topic of Heaven, or if maybe it just got her thinking. Either way, while she was very well spoken earlier, she clearly stammered in that moment.

A few minutes later, the doctor and a nurse came in to discharge us. “It’s not appendicitis. Probably just a virus.” he said.

In my head, I thought about the insanely expensive doctor visit we just had. How much are these unnecessary tests going to cost us? I wondered. At least it’s not appendicitis.

“Nope!” Jacob stated matter-of-factly. “It’s not, because my Mom prayed it wouldn’t be!”

I just stared at him. In his hazy state, Jacob had heard my prayer in the lobby. While I was relieved it wasn’t appendicitis, my grown-up brain immediately assumed it never had been, followed by thoughts of the useless and pricey ER visit, and a little bit of embarrassment that we came to the ER for “no reason.”

His thoughts – and boldly flowing words right from his heart – immediately went to answered prayer.

I’ll admit, I don’t understand how prayer works. Our own personal tragedy is evidence to the fact that more people praying doesn’t necessarily guarantee desired results. We had hundreds – maybe even thousands – of people praying on several continents for our twins to survive. I also don’t believe that if we had just had more faith, our prayers would’ve been answered. My dad is a funeral director. I’m quite aware of the personally devastating results of unanswered prayer.

But I do know this: We are commanded to pray. In fact, we are to do so continuously (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and faithfully (Romans 12:12). We are to trust God, who is sovereign. And while God does not need our help to accomplish His will, He gives us this opportunity to cast our cares upon Him, to join Him in His works, and to acknowledge our total need and dependence on Him. And I fully believe that if we submit ourselves in prayer to Him, we will witness miracles and the mighty works of His hand.

I also know that in God’s sovereignty, He knows each of our needs. He allows people to cross paths, experiences to happen, things to be said that will bring glory to Him.

I wonder if that ultrasound tech needed to hear of Heaven on Monday night?

I wonder if a doctor and a nurse, and three people who sat anxiously on the other side of the curtain needed to hear the faith of an ever-so-happy 4-year-old boy who contributed his lack of appendicitis to answered prayer?

I don’t exactly know how prayer works, but I know that a little boy got sicker and sicker while his mom worried herself into a tizzy. But then she finally set aside her anxieties and began to pray presenting her requests to God (Philippians 4:6). Around the same time, 11 other people also got word of the sick boy and began to pray, and that sick little boy ended up perfectly fine in the ER. And I know that he used his words to brighten the day of everyone he talked to and spoke his faith boldly where no fewer than 6 strangers heard.

I’m not mentioning any names or anything, but I wonder if a certain mom of a certain four-year-old boy needed to witness that kind of faith and boldness?

Incidentally… while in the ER, I found myself explaining to everyone who came in the room just how sick Jacob had been earlier. I was feeling like a total idiot with a super healthy chatty kid sitting there eating the most expensive popsicles known to man. Three ER nurses responded the exact same way. “Don’t feel bad. It happens all the time. People come in and have been so sick for days. They get here, and they’re suddenly all better.” At the time, it just served to make me feel like less of an idiot. But now I wonder… How many of those people did exactly what I did – waited until they started their drive to the ER to really begin to pray and ask others to do the same? How many people’s prayers began to be answered as they finally submitted their requests humbly before God?

I don’t know why some people are healed and others aren’t. My aunt – who has been in remission 3 times for her Leukemia in the last 13 years – just found out some of the “bad cells” have entered her spinal column. I know that last week, as she had part of her head shaved for the port that was put in her head so the chemo can go directly into her spinal fluid, she was trusting Jesus. And now, as she sits recovering from a surgery that left a “Frankenstein” jagged cut in her head, she is glorifying Him to those she comes in contact with in person and on Facebook. And I know that God has allowed her to be the 79th documented case of this in the world for a reason. For His purpose. He has a big job for her to do, and she has said that through it, God has given her amazing peace and strength.

I wonder, how many nurses, doctors, techs, other cancer patients, friends on Facebook, or friends of friends of friends, need to see that kind of strength come from a woman who has difficulty standing and walking on her own two feet as a result of these cells in her spinal column?

I don’t know what you’re going through, or why. And I certainly don’t know how it will turn out.

But I do know this… For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. ~ Jeremiah 29:11-13, emphasis my own.

Advertisements

Some days are just like that

Dad and daughter drove off to an early morning coffee date on their way to school. I set the two breakfast plates on the table and called for the boy to join me. He hustled in and climbed up the big chair while chattering away, too-long pajama pants dangling to his pudgy toes.

He stopped mid-climb and mid-sentence and made a face. “Just peanut butter? But I wanted jelly. Or Tunella!”  That’s his word for “Nutella,” a once-in-a-while treat that I have forever regretted purchasing.

I calmly sent him to his room, since he knows the rules very well: Complain about what you’re served? Sit on your bed until you have a thankful heart. That may sound harsh to some, but this is an on-going issue with the boy. He has developed a bad habit of this. To your room is now the immediate consequence, with an opportunity to re-enter and join the meal appropriately. And good grief, the kid asks for peanut butter nearly every time I serve him something else. UGH.

A few minutes later, he moped back in. If you’ve ever seen this boy mope, you know he does it well. Face hung, shoulders hung even more, so much so that it looked like he might actually topple forward. Slow walking with shuffling feet. Head swinging from side to side with each step.

He climbed back up in the chair, put his elbows on the table, and dramatically flopped his long-but-adorably-chubby cheeks into his hands with a sigh.

“So?” I asked. “What’s up?”

“I’m trying to decide,” he said with the saddest voice he could muster.

“Trying to decide what?”

“If I’m gonna choose joy or the grumps.”

I tried not to chuckle. “Ah. Looks to me like you’ve chosen already. But the great news is, you can still change your mind.”

He rattled off a few whiny remarks about his food, and how hard it is to choose joy when you really feel frustrated or angry or tired or don’t feel like eating something.

How thankful I am for a boy who can clearly communicate his every thought. Sure, sometimes it’s exhausting, but in moments like this, I so love that he can articulate exactly what he feels. It makes talking through his thoughts and feelings so much easier.

And it usually provides great teaching moments for both of us…

“Yep, I know, Bud. It’s hard to choose joy when you feel all those things. But that’s why joy isn’t a feeling. It’s a choice.” He looked up at me but didn’t respond – which is unusual – so I continued. “The Bible says to be joyful always. That means that even when we don’t feel happy, we can choose to be joyful…”

“I don’t want to choose to be joyful,” he interrupted with his down-in-the-dumps-voice. “I choose the grumps.” Without me saying a word, he slid off the chair and headed back to his bed, this time not as a consequence, but because he felt the need to sulk. At least he’s honest, I thought. And I can relate. I don’t always want to choose to be joyful, either. 

I decided to eat my breakfast alone and give him time to think and calm down. After clearing my plate, he came back in, face still hung, shoulders still hung more, feet still shuffling along slowly. “Mommy, I just don’t want a peanut butter sandwich.” His face was pained.

“I know. And so you chose the grumps. What happens when you choose the grumps?”

“You get in trouble.”

“What else?”

“I don’t know.”

“Did you get something else for breakfast?”

“No.”

“Did you get to eat with me?”

“No.”

“So you didn’t get what you want. You were just miserable. And now you have to eat alone, so your problem got worse. What happens when you choose joy?”

“I don’t know. Because I still don’t know how to do that when I feel so mad.Have you ever seen someone talk with their whole body? Flailing arms, face, torso all showed me the frustration of this comment. I’m sooo mad, and I have NO IDEA how to be joyful when I feel this way.

We talked about what it meant to choose joy. Be thankful for the many blessings we have. Be thankful for a special time with Mommy. Be thankful for getting your favorite green plate and not having to have eggs. Focus on the things that you can be thankful for, and remember that they are gifts from God. We talked about the rest of that verse. Be joyful always. Pray continuously. Give thanks in all circumstances.

He flashed his wide smile, and for the first time since I made his breakfast, his cheeks looked round again. “YEAH! And know what else I’m thankful for? Behind the man-cave (the play area he loves at the Krause House) there are some blackberry bushes. And when it’s Next-tember, I want to go PICK SOME!”

He chomped into his sandwich and started rattling off a list of things he was thankful for. “Mom, know what? I decided. Today, I’m gonna choose joy.”

And my heart smiled.

Cute story, huh?

Well, too bad it didn’t end there. But this is not Leave it to Beaver, and I am not June Cleaver. This is reality, people.

Maybe – hopefully – some of you can relate to what happened next: He chose the grumps every 2-3 minutes for the rest of the morning. Time to get dressed? I choose grumps. No snack? More grumps. Pick up your toys? Epic-ly grumpy grumps coupled with wailing and gnashing of teeth.

And in the meantime, I’m having to choose joy a million times every minute so I don’t lose it. <—– This itself is an absolute miracle right from Heaven, and likely happened only because I was doing my best to teach him about choosing joy, which is kind of hard to do when you’re screaming about it.

After much ignoring-with-a-plastered-smile by me and multiple back-and-forth to the bedroom by him (mostly his choice, unless of course “the grumps” resulted in a mini-fit in which case he went by my direction), I decided I’d help distract him…

I attempted a tickle fight, which resulted in a fair amount of giggles. And just for fun, I brought out the big guns… the squirt guns. (This possibly could have been more to get my own aggression out than to make him laugh, but whatever. Two birds, one stone.) After I totally kicked his 4-year-old-sopping-wet-tail, the grumps returned yet again.

Some days are just like that, right? We have to decide to choose joy in each moment. Not just once when we wake up. Not just after the first frustrating moment. But all along the way.

Today, I choose joy. Even though my head hurts. Even though my favorite shirt is dirty and the kitchen is a mess. Even though I’m about to run out of gas on the way to work and then I’m late and then I forgot my lunch in the messy kitchen and then someone makes a rude comment and I can’t find an important document and everything seems to be falling apart. And not to mention, my head still hurts.

I will choose joy. Because in your presence, Oh Lord, there is fullness of joy.

Joy isn’t about the circumstances I hold, but who is holding me in my circumstances.

I guess I just needed that reminder today.

Priestman Home Stage

After a great – barring one minor ER trip – (who am I kidding? THAT was great, too) 4-day family stay-cation, Matt and I got another treat tonight… THE PRIESTMAN HOME STAGE. It was the perfect way to end a couple of snow days.

Matt set up the photo booth backdrop and the kids used it as a stage curtain. They took turns performing, and each introduced the following act for their sibling. Having been to a few High School plays themselves, they knew enough to turn off lights before removing stage props, such as stools. Super cute overload mixed with some serious hilarity and multiple knowing glances at the hubs. I love it when we can make eye-contact over the littles and just know.

Tonight’s performances particularly highlighted the kids’ different personalities…

HER Performances (all while holding a mic, of course):
1. Dramatic Reading of A Hippopotamus Ate the Teacher
2. Dramatic Reenactment/Singing of “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” (from Frozen)
3. Dramatic (and beautiful) ballet performance
4. Dramatic Lip Sync/Singing of “Let it Go” (Also from Frozen)
5. Dramatic Leap Pad Demo of a Measuring/Cooking Game (Dramatic? Really?? Yes. It’s all in the facial expressions and vocal inflections.)
6. Passionate Singing performance of “Steady My Heart” by Kari Jobe*
(It was at this point that I BAWLED LIKE A BABY. Because there is nothing – nothing – that gets me more than my kids singing full-on TRUTH. IT IS MY FAVORITE IN ALL THE WORLD. I just sit there, weeping and stifling loud sobs, begging God that this will be buried deep in her heart forever, and thanking Him that she is so passionate about it right now. And of all her Dramatic-with-a-capital-D performances, this is the ONE that was NOT acting. I would’ve videoed it for you all, but I couldn’t FOR ALL OF THE TEARS.)

HIS Performances:
1. And I quote, “Rockin’ out” to “We Built This City” by Starship circa 1980s (Due to a little stage fright, this performance only continued when he could get his sister to share the stage with him. She – of course – was happy to oblige.)
2. Roaring (i.e. Like a lion. With a James P. Sullivan mask on)
3. Growling (i.e. Also like a lion. with a James P. Sullivan mask on)
4. Leap Pad Demo #1 (With sister sitting next to him on stage)
5. Leap Pad Demo #2
6. Guitar Solo (That lasted 15 seconds, because while he loves to talk, he does in fact get embarrassed while being the center of attention. Love him and his sensitivity.)
7. Bonus Performance after the show ended and he was no longer on “stage”: Dramatic Falling (He is all boy, after all.)

My heart is full. I love these people. Times one billion.
And now I am weepy again. Geeze louise.

*These lyrics. Sung Belted out with passion by my 6-year-old. May she remember this truth all her life.

Steady My Heart
Wish it could be easy
Why is life so messy?
Why is pain a part of us?
There are days I feel like
Nothing ever goes right
Sometimes it just hurts so much

But You’re here
You’re real
I know I can trust You

Even when it hurts
Even when it’s hard
Even when it all just falls apart
I will run to You
‘Cause I know that You are
Lover of my soul
Healer of my scars
You steady my heart (x2)

I’m not gonna worry
I know that You’ve got me
Right inside the palm of your hand
Each and every moment
What’s good and what gets broken
Happens just the way You plan

You are here
You’re real
I know I can trust You

Even when it hurts
Even when it’s hard
Even when it all just falls apart
I will run to You
‘Cause I know that You are
Lover of my soul
Healer of my scars
You steady my heart (x2)

And I will run to You
And find refuge in Your arms
And I will sing to You
‘Cause of everything You are

You steady my heart (x2)

Even when it hurts
Even when it’s hard
Even when it all just falls apart
I will run to You
‘Cause I know that You are
Lover of my soul
Healer of my scars
You steady my heart (x2)

I’m not gonna worry
I know that You’ve got me
Right inside the palm of Your hand

Lesson(s) Learned on a Snowy Day

This is the backyard where the snow fell. (And fell and fell.)

photo(89)

 

This is the bush in the backyard where the snow fell. (And fell and fell.)

photo(90b)

 

This is the husband who swatted snow off the bush in the backyard where the snow fell. (And fell and fell.)

photo(96)

 

This is the thorn that stuck all the way through and broke off inside the finger* of the husband when he swatted snow off the bush in the backyard where the snow fell. (And fell and fell.)

photo(91)

 

This is the husband at the ER because of the thorn that stuck all the way through and broke off inside his finger* when he swatted snow off the bush in the backyard where the snow fell. (And fell and fell.)

photo(92)(He looks so happy, doesn’t he?)

 

4 shots to the finger later…

This is the surgery – complete with neon green tourniquet – performed on the husband in the ER because of the thorn that stuck all the way through and broke off inside his finger* when he swatted snow off the bush in the backyard where the snow fell. (And fell and fell.)

photo(94)

 

This is the finger that STILL harbors a thorn AFTER surgery was performed – complete with green tourniquet – on the husband in the ER because of the thorn that stuck all the way through and broke off inside his finger* when he swatted snow off the bush in the backyard where the snow fell. (And fell and fell.)

photo(95)

 

This is the husband soaking his hand because of the finger that still harbors a thorn after surgery was performed – complete with green tourniquet – on his hand in the ER because of the thorn that stuck all the way through and broke off inside his finger* when he swatted snow off the bush in the backyard where the snow fell. (And fell and fell.)

photo(93)

 

This is the lesson learned by the husband soaking his thorny hand because of the finger that still harbors a thorn after surgery was performed – complete with green tourniquet – on his hand in the ER because of the thorn that stuck all the way through and broke off inside his finger* when he swatted snow off the bush in the backyard where the snow fell. (And fell and fell.):

Never judge a bush by its “cover.”

 

Other versions of this lesson:

A soft and fluffy exterior may hide a world of thorns.

Never swat at snow unless you know what is underneath.

Sometimes, beauty is only skin-deep.

 

Other lessons learned yesterday:

  • Never ever bring kids to the ER. Ever. (So thankful for friends who came to the rescue so we didn’t have to! WE LOVE YOU, friends!)
  • Winter gloves are great for keeping your hands warm, but they don’t do much to protect you from sharp objects.
  • When going to the ER with a thorn/stick broken off inside your finger, be prepared for the receptionist to say something like, “So. You’re here for a… splinter?”
  • Be grateful for the nurse who says, “Not a splinter. More like an impaled foreign object.” Yes. That sounds much better, thank you.
  • Just because something doesn’t show up in an x-ray doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
  • When you’ve been impaled by a foreign object, one that enters your finger on the palm side and is visible just under the surface on the top side, you might think it is best to cut into the top to pull it out. And you might be right. Or you might just create a crater in the top side, so now you have matching holes on both sides of your finger. And the impaled object still stuck inside.
  • Just because a scalpel can tap the impaled object so that you can actually hear the click, doesn’t mean that the surgeon will be able to retrieve said impaled object.
  • When you go the ER with an impalement and they do x-rays, give you Benadryl, 4 numbing shots in your finger, a tetanus shot, and perform minor surgery on your finger, yet they do not remove the impaled object, you still have to pay for the x-rays, Benadryl, 4 numbing shots in your finger, the tetanus shot, and the minor surgery. Bonus: You go home with a hand that hurts worse than when you went in.
  • Sometimes, in order to get a date night, you have to impale your finger. (JUST KIDDING RHONDA! And lots of others. We know you’re willing to babysit.) 🙂
  • You know you have a good relationship with your spouse when you spend 4 hours in the Emergency Room, laughing the whole time, leave with the same problem you had when you came, and are still laughing together by the time you drive home on snow and ice covered roads. I love you, my brave husband! (This is, by far, my favorite part of the “lessons.”)
  • Oh yes. And never ever bring kids to the ER. Ever!!

*Summary: A stick/thorn pierced his glove, entered his finger on the palm side, went all the way through to the opposite side, and stopped just underneath the outer layer of skin. We could see it. His finger turned red and hot and was painful to the touch, not to mention had some serious swelling. The broken thorn still stuck in his glove. The remaining chunk of thorn was inside his finger.

The end.

Fall Changes

Last night, as we drove down a windy road lined with colorful trees, I said to the kids, “Look, guys! Look at all the beautiful fall colors!”

Jacob started in with one of his long one-sided conversations. The kind where he asks lots of questions but answers them himself. The kind where he pauses often, but you can tell it’s only because he’s working so hard at figuring something out. Here is the monologue he gave…

Yeah! I see them. And you know why it’s called fall, Mama? (Pause) Because da leaves change colors and den fall from da tree!

And you know why they fall, Mama? (Pause) Because it’s called fall!

And do you know why it’s called fall, Mama? (Pause) Because da leaves change and fall.

And do you know why they do? Because it’s called fall.

(Long pause)

I guess… I guess when things change, they dist fall.

(Long pause)

Da road doesn’t change, and it doesn’t fall.

(Long pause.)

A bush and grass doesn’t change, and dey don’t fall.

(Really long pause, then he perks up and says excitedly…)

I fall when I change my undies!

(Pause, then he wraps up his monologue with this concluding statement…)

Yep, only things dat change fall.

 

And there you have it. The answer to the question “Why the Leaves Fall.” Wisdom from my three-year-old.

And be careful next time you change your undies.