Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Decline Continues - Christmas Edition

I mentioned in the previous blog that Nicole’s kidney function had declined from 25% to 20-21% during the three month period ending in November.  This decline caused the doctor’s to increase the regularity of her blood-work from every three months to once a month.  Nicole had her December blood-work a couple of days ago and her kidney function slide has continued, unfortunately.  She has slid from the 20-21% range to the 18-19% range.  This indicates to me, a total medical novice, that the rate of decline has continued.
The extremely important level for kidney function continues to be 15%.  It is at this point that Nicole will feel extremely ill and also where a kidney transplant is desired.  Fortunately, the donor testing with Tiffany is progressing quite well.  So far we have not heard of anything that would keep Tiffany from being the donor.  The transplant board needs to give the final approval for Tiffany and we are praying that this happens shortly.  With this approval we should be good to go and it will just be a waiting game for Nicole to reach the magical 15% threshold.  Please pray that Tiffany is approved as the donor and that Nicole’s kidney function remains above the 15% threshold long enough to get everything in order.
I would like to express my thankfulness this Christmas season for several things.  First of all, I am thankful for my wife.  She is reasonable and steady while I tend to be more impulsive.  She brings a great balance to my life and she is certainly a “suitable helper”.  I am also thankful for my children.  Nathan, Nicole, Caleb, and Katelynn are all a blessing from the Lord.  I have at times wished Nicole would have been born without BOR but I know she was fearfully and wonderfully made.  Therefore, I am thankful for her just the way she is.  She truly is a gift from the Lord! J  I am also thankful for my job and the ways in which the Lord provides for me and my family each and every day.  We lack for nothing that we need and have an abundance of things that we want.  I am also surrounded by a wonderful network of close friends and extended family (you know who you are J).  These individuals are a rock and a fortress during unstable times.  I know Nicole and our entire family are lifted up in prayer on a daily basis.  This is so comforting.  I can literally pick up the phone and call any number of families and I know that every need will be cared for.  It is often said that if a person can make one true friend in their life then they are blessed.  Well, I must be have been given a double portion of that blessing J.  Finally, I am thankful to the one and only God who has seen fit, by his grace and mercy, to call me His child.  Without getting overly theological I will just say that I receive full family benefits when in reality I am soooooo undeserving.  These benefits are enormous.  All of us, just and unjust alike, receive a great many blessings from the Lord whether we believe or submit to Him or not.  He does this….”just because”.  However, as a full blown child, the blessings overflow.  For that, I am thankful.
Have a blessed and joyous CHRISTmas season.
And oh, I would be remiss in not quoting one of the great theologians of the past 40 years…Linus from the Peanuts gang J

“‘8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. 12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and
goodwill towards men.’” (Luke, chapter 2)

“…And that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown” – Linus


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Setback

As of my last blog Nicole was doing amazing and because I have not blogged in awhile everyone has been assuming that Nicole is continuing to do well.  Unfortunately, that is not the case.  We have had a setback...  unfortunately, a substantial setback.

About a month ago Nicole went in for her regularly scheduled bloodwork to check her kidney functions.  She had been hovering around 24-26% GFR (a measure of kidney function) and her bloodwork came back with a result of 18%.  These results caught us entirely off guard.  This was a substantial drop in a 3-month period.  The doctors requested a retest and fortunately the results were a little better at 20-21%.  This was still a huge drop but not as bad as it had been.

A result of 15% GFR is an important threshold according to Nicole’s doctor.  It is the point at which a kidney transplant needs to take place and also the point where Nicole will begin to get noticeably ill.  Thus, a drop from the 25% area to the 20% area in just 3 months implies that if things continue at the same rate (of course this is a major assumption) then we would have just 3+ months to get things together for her transplant.

Nicole at her 7th Birthday Party

The nephrologist informed us that we need to make a selection for the donor.  So we did.  Titia’s niece, Tiffany Smith, is the primary donor.  We also contacted our backup donor and a final backup to make sure that they were still willing and available, if needed.  Everyone is still onboard.  Praise the Lord and what a great blessing to have such willing servants available to minister life to our daughter.

Tiffany happened to be in town over Thanksgiving and she sacrificed almost 2 complete days in Cleveland performing a substantial number of the required tests.  Not only did she perform testing but also met with the surgeon and so on.  Titia and I got a chance to thank Tiffany in person for her great sacrifice.  She took it all in stride and demonstrated amazing humility.  She really does have a servant’s heart and wants to genuinely help out Nicole.  I really felt like there were not enough words to express my thanks.  I think she understood. J

The great challenge is this.  If at any point in the donor testing process there is a hiccup then we have to start over with another donor.  If Nicole’s kidney functions drop too low then it will be necessary to start dialysis.  We REALLY pray that dialysis will not be necessary.  Pray for two things to occur; first, that Nicole’s kidney functions remain above the critical threshold and second, that the donor testing with Tiffany goes smoothly.  It will require both of these things to occur for us to avoid dialysis with Nicole.  That is our desire.  We covet your prayers.

Once again, I am reminded things are really completely out of our control.  We cannot control Nicole’s kidney functions and we also cannot control how the testing goes with Tiffany.  We literally must live a life of faith in this regard.  I understand the requirement to live a life of faith because of my relationship with the Lord Jesus.  He calls me to die to myself daily and to sacrifice the strong desire to control outcomes and to turn every aspect of my life, small and great, into His loving hands.  This just happens to be a GREAT matter and it is easy to worry.  But Why?  The Lord has been faithful in every matter and this will be no different.  The just (those that are justified…declared innocent before a Holy God) shall live by faith.  That is my life calling and in this matter things will be no different.

If you do not live a life of faith I would encourage you to do so and to commit yourself to the sovereign Lord of the Universe who loves you more than you know and demonstrated that love by sending His only Son to sacrifice Himself on your behalf.  Hmmm, appropriate to think about these things at Christmas time (even if we all know He was not born on December 25th).  Giving up control to Him is really not that difficult to do.  After all, neither you nor I actually control anything at all.  So what is there to lose?


Friday, September 23, 2011

Back in the Saddle

Summer is over and I am back in the blogging saddle.  I took a few months off because the days here in North Central Ohio were MUCH longer and one needs to take advantage of the much valued sunshine.  As I look out my window right now what I see are clouds, clouds, rain, and more clouds.  With that, it is officially fall in Ohio.  No need for a calendar here.  Just look outside and it will be all too obvious to those of us lucky enough to live close to the shores of Lake Erie.  Grrrrrr.  I can honestly say though, summer in Ohio is just about as beautiful as it gets anywhere in the country.  It is just from mid-November to mid-April that you want to throw yourself off the nearest bridge.  J  This too shall pass.

I have received so many warm-hearted questions concerning Nicole during my sabbatical from writing.  It has been encouraging to know that so many of you have continued your prayers for her and not hesitated in letting our family know.  You all are so amazing and thank you.  You will never know how much it means to us.

Now an update

Nicole is doing amazing.  When I first started my blog back in February Nicole was at around 21% total kidney function and sliding fast.  The doctors were estimating that a transplant would most likely be in the works in 6 months to a year.  They asked us to find potential donors.  Wow, did the donors ever come in.  Praise God.  We eventually reached 18 potential donors who volunteered for Nicole and the hospital made us stop.  Now, a mere 6 months later, Nicole has a total kidney function of 25-26%.  Yes, that is right, things have improved!  Not by a ton, but they have improved and stabilized.  She stopped dropping and even starting inching back up.  This reprieve has made Nicole feel so wonderful and she is doing amazing (relatively speaking).  She started kindergarten this year at Mansfield Christian School and is doing great.  Her growth is still anemic, but all in all we give praise to God for the progress!  Keep praying, you never know what might happen!

We also have a little more time to assess where we are at in the donor process.  As you know, Titia and I were “matches” to be a potential donor for Nicole’s kidney.  Titia’s niece, Tiffany, and Krista, from Florida, also came in as matches.  So far, all 4 people that have been tested are potential matches for Nicole.  The doctors have asked us if we want to pick from those that match so far or if we want to test any more of the potential donors.  If we pick from one of the four then a whole series of additional tests will be performed on that individual.  We have been praying about this and we believe we are going to test 2 more individuals before making a final decision.  We believe we have decided on who one of the two individuals will be.  The second choice is a work in progress, if you know what I mean.  We need clarity on this and would ask that you would remember us in prayer as we make this decision.  This will be the next step in the process.  Because of Nicole’s improvement we have a little time.  However, we don’t want to take that for granted because things could turn on a dime and we would be scrambling.  That is not where we want to be.

Don’t give up

Now, a final thought.  The title of this blog reminded me of a quote that I recently heard.  It went something like this…”It is no sin to get knocked down, but it is a sin to stay down”.  A scripture related to not giving up:

Galatians 6:9

9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

I have to be honest, there are times when Titia and I get tired and frustrated, like everyone.  Nicole is not growing fast enough.  Nicole is not learning fast enough.  Nicole is always more tired than everyone else.  Nicole..Nicole..Nicole..Nicole.  There are times we feel like giving up and that our labor is in vain.  Then, I look into her beautiful blue eyes and realize what an amazing gift she is.  What an amazing little girl, full of life, love, so trusting, and in need of so much.  She is like a field that Titia and I are sowing seeds of love and life into.  Hoeing the field, preparing the soil, and planting the seeds sometimes is back-breaking.  The harvest we are looking for is a godly woman who is a blessing to everyone she knows.  She can be a loving wife, mother, and anything else that God has prepared for her.  We have been given the gift of laboring in this field and it is worth every last minute of it.  We will reap a beautiful harvest if we do not give up.

What field are you laboring in?  Are you laboring?  Are you tired and want to give up?  Look past the difficulty and look forward to the harvest.  Don’t give up!  It will all be worth it when, at the “proper time”, you reap the long-awaited harvest.

For His Glory,

Friday, June 24, 2011

Taking the Baton

Warning...long blog warning.  :)

Have you ever had one of those weeks?  You know the type.  You are reflective, even melancholy.  Well, that is me this week.  If this blog turns out to be just a little bit reflective it is probably because it is.  Like I said, it is just one of those weeks and the rain outside is reflecting my mood.  Thank you very much.

First of all, Nicole.  She continues with doing wonderful.  Next week we have an appointment to perform tissue matching with the next two potential donors, Tiffany and Krista.  Everything is lined up and we are ready to go!  The more I think about this process the more I am convinced that I really, really do not want Titia to be the donor.  She is a very good match, which is wonderful.  However, she really needs to just be “mommy”.  Titia is more than willing to give a kidney…it is just not ideal.  I am praying that one of the other potential donors is the perfect match.  It is out of my hands and we will just have to wait and see.

Nicole is such a trooper.  I will not go into details, but yesterday we had an incident with Nicole that would have sent the average kid (or adult) over the top.  She just took it in stride.  Amazing.  She has been blessed with such a calm, little spirit in the midst of difficult circumstances.  I am so thankful because I know that she will be a calming influence when the time for the transplant actually comes.

Keep praying for the tissue matching to find the perfect donor.

Now, back to my week.  I know this blog is about Nicole but since I have the keyboard you also get some of me fished in.  Okay, okay, a lot of me.  It is a package deal, I guess.  As I said, I have been a bit reflective.  Maybe this is because Nathan, my oldest, is in Puerto Rico on a missions trip for 2 weeks.  Whenever he is gone I wander around like a lost puppy.  It really is pathetic.  I love him dearly and I pray he is doing well  ministering and being ministered to.  There are worse things for a 16 year old to be involved in…I know I was at 16.  I will spare you the details.

I have been thinking about everything in my life that has not gone perfectly.  The proverbial pity party, so to speak.  My father passed away in 2001 and it was Father’s Day on Sunday.  I know, I know, it is a Hallmark holiday, but it still makes me reflect upon my dad and how much I miss him.  He was a wonderful man and I wish my children could have known him and that I would have had more time with him.  Next, my mother passed away last year very suddenly.  Our relationship was always a bit rocky, but I still loved her and miss her.  All of my blood grandparents are gone, except one.  Grandma Thomas.  I received a call last night from my sister telling me that they have brought Hospice in for her.  She is on her way out.  My childhood, though good, was greatly influenced by my parents perpetually unstable relationship.  I was born in Ohio but we moved to Florida when I was 12 at the tail-end of my 6th grade year.  Have you ever switched schools towards the end of a school year?  What a weird and awkward situation.  However, some of the kids that I met that 6th grade year at Lee Middle School in Ft. Myers I am still friends with today.  Though we rarely, if ever, see each other I still consider them friends and I know deep down that if I needed something I could call them in an instant and they would be there for me.

Prior to moving to Florida my memories from Ohio are mostly playing baseball, chasing girls on the playground at Plain City Elementary School, going to the pool during the summer, hunting and trapping with my dad, playing outside with Terri and Brad (my sister and brother), hanging out with my cousins, and going over to Grandma Thomas’ house.  She always had those Sherbet Push-up frozen treats in her freezer (and still does) and every other type of junk food that would make her young grandson happy.  We had family picnics where the whole family would gather, throw horse-shoes, romp around, and just generally have a good time.  Not all, but a lot of those family members we used to gather with have passed on.  Now Grandma Thomas is going to be heading home very soon as well.  She is a believer and follower of Christ.  I am thankful.  I just recently saw her and she is at peace with the creator of the universe.  (Are you?)  She knew she would not see us again.  She gave some advice to my son Nathan to hold on to his girlfriend, Shelby, because she is “just perfect”.  I agree.  She asked me to pray with her…I did.  She is ready to go and on she will go.

It all kind of makes me sad.  The previous generation is dying off.  It happens to all of us sooner or later.  The baton is passed on from generation to generation and we all take our turn at running the race until we just can’t run any longer.  It seems to me from watching a lot of older people pass that by the end of the race most of them don’t want to run any longer.  I get that.  Running can be a lot of work.  However, I will continue to run.  It is my turn.  I have a lot to run for right now.  I have Titia, Nathan, and my three children that are 6 years old and under.  They all need me and it is my responsibility to provide for them…emotionally, spiritually, physically, and so on.  As I have said before, I take that responsibility seriously.

Which brings me to my grand conclusion.  All of this thinking about the passing of generations to the next has made me refocus on something I know to be true.  That is, “what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?”  Let me reword this in a way that is a little more close to home for me…”What does it gain Nicole to get a new kidney and lose her soul?”.  Not to be all doomy L, but at the end of the day Nicole is going to end up in the same place as Grandma Thomas, my dad, my mom, and everyone else on the planet for that matter…with or without a new kidney.  Don’t get me wrong.  She has a ton to offer this world and she needs that new kidney.  No way am I implying that getting a donor kidney is not important.  That is not what I am saying.  However, seriously, what will it gain her if she gets a new kidney but fails to have a relationship with the creator of kidney’s?  Or to have a life that is apart from the creator of life?  That sort of existence is like the old Kansas song, “we are all just dust in the wind”.  (An 80’s blast from the past there).  Not really worth a whole lot.

One of the scariest verses in all the Bible is this…

Judges 2
10And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.

This was the generation after Joshua.  Joshua had wandered through the wilderness and seen countless miracles.  God had provided for Israel while he had taught them the infinite message of trusting in him, ONLY.  He had seen the previous generation die off because of unbelief without ever experiencing the reality of God’s promises and he, like that entire generation, knew first-hand the importance of knowing and trusting in God.  So how, I ask you, did “there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord.”?  How could this be?  Did they just not tell them.  Did they tell them and a hard-hearted generation just not listen.  Words spoken, but not heard.  How?  I don’t know for certain.  However, I do know this.  If I get to the end of my life and my children arise to take the baton without knowing the Lord it is NOT going to be on my hands.  I speak in faith.  If I preach a thousand sermons, write 100000 blogs, spend literally months in church, feed the poor, minister to the needy, take care of the widows, and give my body to be burned and my children not know about the Lord and his blessings in my life then may I suffer a 1000 hell’s.  I am dead serious.  My life will have been in vain regardless of the works I have performed and the lives I have touched.  I don’t control my kids lives and I rarely preach to them, though sometimes that is necessary.  However, they will know and I will testify about God’s provision for sin and of His great salvation.  If they hear nothing else, they will hear this.

Nicole needs a kidney and thus this blog.  Even greater, Nicole needs to know the Lord and no doctor can give her that.  The greatest earthly teacher she will have of the Lord will not be a pastor, it will be her mom and dad.  Titia and I.  That, my friends, is worth running for.

For His Glory,

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Being Thankful for the Common

Well, spring has sprung here in Ohio and as usual we have been catapulted right into summer with temperatures up near 90.  Nicole is doing incredibly well.  She wakes up early (too early most days J) and is going to bed later than normal with tons of energy in-between.  Her favorite things to do are play in her sand-box, jump on the trampoline and, of course, terrorize her younger brother and sister, Caleb and Katelynn.  The sun comes up early these days around 6am and sets at 9pm or later.  There is plenty of daylight for her to romp around our 15 acres that is spread between our home, grandma’s home next door, and the greenhouse land across the street.  In my opinion, it is a little chunk of paradise here in north-central Ohio, even with the winters.

With all the busy schedules it has been a challenge scheduling the next set of tissue matching with Tiffany and Krista.  If there is one thing that I am learning through the process of coming up with a kidney donor it is patience.  When we were originally told that we were going to start the process of finding a donor back in January / February I had in mind a sprint to the finish line.  Instead, the whole process goes in fits and spurts and it is a enough to drive a “type A” mad-man like me insane.  Breathe Brian, breathe!  It will get done and all just in the right time.  Worry.  Really?  What does it accomplish in the long run?  Not much.  Not much at all.  We do what we can and then we should relax.  Usually, if we are diligent, things will get done and there is no sense in sacrificing the great for the good.  A good friend of mine I don’t have much contact with now taught me that saying…do not sacrifice the great for the good.  The great things are time with family, friends, faith, hope, acts of service, good deeds, quietness, rest, a peace that passes all understanding, and above all, a sacrificial love.  The good things are work, busyness, house work, cooking dinner, and so on.  Too often I (and others) sacrifice the great for the good.  It is a bad trade.  The toys that clutter the floor because the kids have been busy playing is not a bad thing.  How about the dirty kitchen floor because Nicole has been tromping in and out all day playing in her sand-box.  Once again, would I rather have a clean kitchen floor or a daughter that is playing hard and doing well?  When it is worded like that there is really no choice at all.  Perspective.

I wanted to bring up one more thing.  I mentioned above that the days are longer and the nights are shorter.  “Big deal”, you say.  After all, it is spring and almost summer.  It happens every year.  Au contraire, it is a big deal.  The 4 seasons we have here in Ohio happen right on schedule every single year as if designed that way.  Hmmm.  Maybe they were! (wink, wink).  Each day there are things that happen that we call common or ordinary.  The sun rises, the sun sets, it rains as it did this morning and the earth fills our wells with water to drink, trees and plants grow for our food, and so on.  On a more personal level, I roll over in the morning to see my lovely wife.  I come home from work to see my kids playing.  I enjoy watching my oldest son Nathan play soccer like I have done a 1000 times before.  I text a friend who is always there for me.  I could really go on and on and on with the ordinary, common things that are in my life each and every day.  The longer days and the increased sunlight has made me cognizant that too often the common goes without thankfulness.  If “absence makes the heart grow fonder” then what does that say about the things we experience every day?  Does it imply that we take them for granted without an ounce of thankfulness?  I pray not.  Every year with the lengthening days Nicole feels better because of her increased exposure to the sun.  I am convinced of it regardless of whether or not the doctor’s say it is relevant or not.  I would like to make a public declaration that I am thankful to the Lord, the creator of the heaven, earth, and its magnificent order.  Not only am I thankful to Him for how the seasons work, but also for every little single thing in my life that happens every day.  One day, a sad day I would imagine, I might wake up and things might not be the same.  Give thanks for the common…while you can.

For His Glory,

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Giving Thanks in All Circumstances

Two weeks has passed since the last blog entry and there is a lot of good news to report.

At the time of the last entry Nicole was extremely tired and not eating.  She continued to spiral into the weekend and reached a bottom on Saturday, May 14th.  (May 14th just happens to be my birthday for those of you who wish to send me a belated birthday gift/wish J.)  She was pale, extremely tired, and unable / unwilling to eat or drink anything.  She had reached the point where she was gripped with fear with the thought of eating or drinking.  Specifically, she was afraid of the pain associated with swallowing.  This fear led to inaction and her inaction was making her extremely sick.  So how do you get a kid to eat or drink when they are gripped with fear after you have tried everything?  Well, Saturday afternoon I walked into her room to find her lying on the floor covered with a blanket.  She was very sick, it was obvious.  I lay down next to her and began to talk in my most soothing daddy voice.  (You dad’s know what I am talking about.)  I decided that the approach I would use, though not my first or favorite, would be to conquer her fear with fear.  I informed her, in that soothing daddy voice, that if she did not eat or drink that she was going to have to go back to the hospital.  This was not a lie.  She sat up.  I repeated myself once again in a little bit more serious voice only with the small addition that she would most likely have to get another “pokey”.  She stood up and began walking downstairs.  I gave her a glass of ice-water and asked her to drink every drop.  She did.   I made some chicken noodle soup, puréed it into broth, and spoon fed it to her all the way to the bottom of the bowl.  This continued all the way through the remainder of the weekend and on into Monday.  The fear approach, though not my desire, worked.  I felt like I was mentally manipulating Nicole.  However, sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures.  The important thing was the nutrition she was receiving.  Mid-week, and Nicole was nearly back to normal eating and drinking everything in sight.

Since the above, Nicole has improved drastically.  She is already eating better than I have ever seen her.  She talks more, her speech is drastically improved, and her hearing is definitely improved thanks to the better sinus drainage.  She just had a doctor’s appointment today and she does not even need hearing aids!  Praise God.  She still has some hearing loss, but not enough to justify the hearing aids at the present time.  Her nephrologist also stated that she is doing wonderful.  All of her blood work is fantastic and she is at full strength.  We can once again carry on with the tissue matching.  We will go in Wednesday of next week, perform blood work, and then if the results are still OK then we will perform tissue matching with the next two potential donors.  The next two to be tested are Tiffany Smith, Titia’s niece, and Krista Ruska, a potential donor from Florida that we have never met but has felt led to give of herself on behalf of Nicole.  (Thank you Tiffany and Krista!)  Pray that Nicole’s blood-work goes well so that this process can indeed continue.

So as of right now, it is all good news!

Nicole 05/26/2011.
No ear tags and scars on her ears / neck from the removal of her branchial cyst and ear pits.  Isn’t she cute!

Though the process of going through tissue matching, kidney transplants, and other smaller surgeries is absolutely no fun and a great test of faith, things could always be worse.  This past month I was introduced to a wonderful family of faith from Washington with a little boy, Endurance (what a great name), that required a rare and risky heart surgery.  This family uprooted their entire family to come to Columbus, Ohio to have the surgery performed.  There were not a lot of surgeons in the nation who were even willing to perform the necessary procedures because of the associated risk.  The baby Endurance initially survived the surgery but passed away shortly thereafter.  The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.  Endurance ran his race, fought a great fight, and now has an enduring peace that will last an eternity.  I am not sure what this family is going to do now, but I do know that their faith rests 100% in the Lord.  It was a great privilege to meet them and it was also very inspiring to my faith.  As I said, our situation, though challenging, seems small compared to what this family has gone through.

I believe there are sometimes in our life that it is necessary to stop, reflect, and be thankful for our situation, regardless of what that situation is.  We may believe that it is bad, but remember, things could always be worse.  There are some peoples moccasins that I would not want to walk in for a mile.  Mine are just fine Lord.  Thank you Lord for giving our family the opportunity to bring glory to your name through Nicole’s kidney transplant!

1 Thessalonians 5:18

18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

For His Glory,

Friday, May 13, 2011

Hot Fudge Sundae and Sprite

The house needed work done, the other children needed my attention, plumbing and plants needed my attention at the aquaponics greenhouse, and I needed some rest.  Sip, lick…2 minutes…sip, lick, sip…3 minutes…sip, lick…2 more minutes.  This went on for quite a long time at McDonalds as Nicole alternated between playing with her Happy Meal Chinese piece of junk toy and sipping on her Sprite and taking her spoon and licking some of her Hot Fudge sundae.  Isn’t it funny how when we are where we should be, doing the things that we should be doing, our minds drift off to the other things that we could be doing at that moment.  Where is the focus?  Priorities!

Nicole’s recovery from her surgery took off at a rapid pace but about Tuesday of this week things hit the skids.  She stopped eating…I mean STOPPED eating!  Titia even stooped to an all-time low.  She called me in disgust at her own purchase.  Corn-dogs.  That’s right.  Corn-dogs.  A pig wrapped in a blanket all geared up to give it’s next victim some strange disease.  That didn’t work.  Soft vienna sausages, bacon, hotdogs, spaghetti, mashed potatoes and gravy.  You name it, we tried it.  She just would not eat.  Drinking.  No problem, thankfully.  Nothing to eat but a bite here and a bite there.  Definitely not nutrition that would restore her strength.  That’s for sure.  Things got even worse yesterday when Titia called me and told me that Nicole had a fever of 102.  Titia called the doctor and he told her that it could be a secondary infection that can hit after the scab falls off on her tonsils.  Oh, I see.  A secondary infection.  Great.

So when I got home from work on Thursday there Nicole was laying on the chair watching VeggieTales Bad Apple for the one-millionth time.  (How many times can you hear the song Temptation without going insane?  That is the real question.)  After wandering around the house aimlessly for awhile I decided to look for Nicole and bribe her with McDonalds.  I found her in her bed laying down for the night.  It was only 6pm.  She is so weak.  She seems so frail at times and I can’t help but wonder if “this” is how she is doing with a smaller surgery, then how will she do with a kidney transplant.  It makes me worry.  Worry, a subject for another blog.  I leaned over her bed and asked her if she wanted to go with Daddy to McDonalds to get a hot fudge sundae.  I knew if the hot fudge sundae would not work then nothing would.  She loves them!  Afterall, what’s not to love.  Heavily processed ice-cream, whip-cream, and hot fudge.  The perfect combination.  She smiled at me, her head still hot with her fever, and climbed out of bed.  It worked!  We made the 10 minute trip to McDonalds, purchased the hot fudge sundae, along with a Sprite and some Non-Chicken McNuggets (we all know why the word non is in there) and proceeded to sit down.  Sip, lick…3 minutes…lick, sip.  She took forever.  I mean, forever.  This was where I needed to be.  Nicole and I at the local grease pit trying anything and everything to get her to eat something.  Anything.  It was taking so long.  I had other things to do.  Other responsibilities.  A wife, other kids, home chores, a greenhouse to attend to.  You name it, I could have been doing it.  Outside the day was warm and the breeze lightly blew.  The breeze reminded me of the Lord.  Why, you might be asking yourself.  Because in scripture the wind is symbolic of the Lord’s Spirit.  His invisible presence and power in our lives.  Something we think about so very little, but without it our lives would be miserable.  The wind.  The Lord.  Peace.  Rest.  Quietness.  As the wind blew I quieted my mind from all of the other distractions, thought of my little girl, and realized I am not omnipresent like the Lord.  I cannot be all places at one time.  I am limited by this flesh that I am trapped inside of.  And because of that choices need to be made.  Where am I going to be now?  What am I going to do and how am I going to spend my time?  The question is not what COULD I be doing.  Instead the question is what SHOULD I be doing.  What is going to have my focus, attention, and energy.  At this moment, as the wind stilled my thoughts, I knew my attention needed to be with Nicole.  One of my 4 children who are all my “heritage from the Lord”.  Nothing else mattered except the little girl with the fever sipping her Sprite and licking the ice cream from her spoon.  (The non-chicken nuggets almost caused her to throw-up…so I ate them J)  After we came home she curled up on my lap, snuggled in nice and close, and said, “Thank you daddy”.  Nothing else needed to be said.  I knew that, at least for last night, the correct decision had been made.  My time was spent wisely.

Take a few minutes to ponder these inspiring words from Psalm 139.  They will quiet your soul, give you rest, and help you to remember that the Lord is always near.  Today, even with all you have to do, you can rest.  So rest.

Psalm 139 (New International Version)
 1 You have searched me, LORD,
   and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
   you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
   you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
   you, LORD, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
   and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
   too lofty for me to attain.
 7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
   Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
   if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
   if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
   your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
   and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
   the night will shine like the day,
   for darkness is as light to you.
 13 For you created my inmost being;
   you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
   your works are wonderful,
   I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
   when I was made in the secret place,
   when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
   all the days ordained for me were written in your book
   before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
   How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
   they would outnumber the grains of sand—
   when I awake, I am still with you.
For His Glory,

Friday, May 6, 2011

Surgery Results…and…”It is More Blessed to Give than Receive”

The doctors, nurses, specialists, “life-skills” coordinator, Titia, and I all surrounded her bed.  All the while Nicole clinched tight to her stuffed bunny.  They wheeled her off, mom walking closely behind the bed, while I watched.  I half expected Nicole to cry or go into some sort of hysteria, but the opposite occurred.  It was like she went into self-preservation mode (almost stoic) as they prepped her for surgery.  This continued all the way into the operating room.  Not a sound.  They put the mask on her and she did not make a peep during the 20 seconds she waited to drift off.  Her eyes rolled back in her head as she began the almost 3 ½ hour surgery.

3 ½ hours; the longest 3 ½ hours of my life as we waited patiently in the waiting room.  We knew there were risks.  The doctor had warned us that because of her kidney there could be complications, especially with maintaining her blood pressure.  The nurses asked us ahead of time about the possibility of a blood transfusion.  This would severely complicate the kidney transplant preparations.  We prayed that none of this would be required.  Thank God is wasn’t.  Everything was fine.

They first removed her tonsils, then her adenoids, followed by the ear tags, ear pits, branchial cyst, and finally the insertion of tubes in her ears.  The surgical team stated that she had “thick, thick” fluid on her ears (the words of the docs).  She is hearing noticeably better already.  That is a big Praise the Lord!  Her branchial cyst did not extend all the way up into her throat and that made the removal a little simpler.  The ear pits were also not that deep.  So the surgery went quite well.  As good as could be expected.  It was still a very long time!

When we finally got the call that she was done and ready to see us we were delighted to see her clutching a popsicle in her hand…but she was not smiling.  As we approached the bed she whimpered as if to say, “Why did you let this happen to me?”.  I don’t seriously think that is what she was thinking, but it was what I was feeling nonetheless.  I could not help it.  It is hard to intentionally send your little princess into a situation where pain is going to be the result, even if that is what is best or necessary in a situation.  (I had a twinge of guilt.  I don’t really know why.  It just is what it is.  I presume there is going to be more of this to come.  Oh well, I guess I had better get accustomed to it.)  She quickly fell back to sleep, still holding her popsicle as it dripped down her arm and onto the bed sheets.  30 minutes later she was in her room.

She recovered well that first night, at least until the administration of some necessary medicine.  She threw it up.  Then they had to check her kidney function and a “pokey” was required which resulted in her getting completely worked up and throwing up her medicine again.  The surgery took its toll on her kidney function.  Her creatinine levels increased from 1.8 to 2.0 during the course of the surgery.  This was most likely due to being dehydrated, or at least low on fluids.  It was not altogether unexpected, but the reality is that if these levels do not bounce back it will only accelerate the necessity of the kidney transplant.  Another pokey in the morning reconfirmed that her kidney functions remained in the weakened condition.  They pushed fluids through her IV to no avail.  We shall see if the levels returns to their prior surgery levels.  I pray they do.

Nicole is now home recovering.  She is starting to eat a little better and return to some sense of normalcy after getting some much needed rest.  It has been a hard week…one of many hard weeks for Nicole and us, I am afraid.  Tiring.  Very, very tired.  Especially Titia.  Isn’t this the beauty of having children though?  You give of yourself for the good of your children and in doing this you learn that it is “more blessed to give than receive”.  After all, if you are the one giving then it means that you have something to give.  That is the blessed position to be in.  I will repeat that: is “more blessed to give than receive”.  After all, if you are the one giving then it means that you have something to give.  That is the blessed position to be in. 

If you are the one receiving it means that you are most likely in the position of weakness.  This is not the enviable position, though sometimes necessary.  It is the ebb and flow of life.  Sometimes we can give, and should.  Sometimes we must receive.  Let us receive with thankfulness.  Better late than never in learning some of life’s valuable lessons.  Thank goodness the Lord is patient with my/our incessant selfishness!

Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers.  It helped sustain us during this week and your continued prayers will be coveted as we press forward.

For His Glory,

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tuesday’s Surgery

Well, Tuesday is Nicole’s surgery for her ear pits, branchial cysts, ear tags, adenoids, and tonsils.  Surprisingly, Nicole is excited about it.  Oh, to be a kid again!  She really has no idea what is about to happen, and praise the Lord for that!  (The divine provision of innocence and trust in children is something to be modeled in our lives as adults.)  What I am really afraid of is the post-surgery let-down and questioning about what has happened and why we allowed it.  I am dreading that.  I distinctly remember Nathan going in for surgery so big and brave and coming out feeling violated.  I cried when he went in and I cried when he came out.  I expect nothing different this time with Nicole.  I cry at Charlie Brown’s Christmas, so what do you expect?  Kind of pathetic, actually.  I am sure she will do fine.

Titia went to the library and got her a book on going to the hospital.  It talks about packing your bags, including the all important pajamas, blue teddy bear, hair brush, tooth brush, and so on.  Notice the teddy bear has to be blue!  Nicole will have no other.  When a 6 year old goes to the hospital for surgery and an overnight stay and wants a blue teddy bear then you get her a blue teddy bear.  That is all there is to it.  She also keeps talking about how the doctor is going “to remove these”, as she tenderly points to her ear tags.  I will miss them, as I have said before L.  Oh well, I will get used to Nicole without the ear tags.

On a more serious note; this is a big deal.  Sure, many kids have their tonsils and adenoids removed.  I know that.  But this is a much longer surgery because of the other things that need to be done and we have been told that it will be close to a 3 hour surgery.  Plus, it is the surgery before her kidney transplant.  Nicole is going to have an incredibly difficult year.  There is no doubt about it.  Any surgery is no small matter under any circumstances but this is anything but minor as far as I am concerned!  My little girl is going to be cut on and that is enough to send me head-long into “protect my daughter mode”.  Tonight she curled up on my lap and said, “I am daddy’s girl”.  THAT’S RIGHT!  She is a daddy’s girl and praise God for that.  That is the way it is supposed to be.  One of my roles as a father is “protector”.  All I could think about as she said that was how I wanted to protect her from every bit of pain and hurt that she might ever go through.  I know this is unrealistic, but nonetheless it is my desire.  I desire this for all of my children.  I believe many men have abdicated their God given roles as men.  This is the paramount calling in my life; ministry and service to my family.  Protector, provider, teacher.  These are divinely appointed tasks and I take them seriously.  My dad used to have a saying that went something like this as he nostalgically remembered the past, “Yes, son, that is back when men were men and women were glad of it”.  J  I love it.  Simple, yet profound.  His point was there was a time in our past when men were masculine and the ladies in the world were glad there was a difference between them and the men.  Not everybody strove to be equal in every way and God-given differences in people were embraced instead of becoming points of division.  Men/Women, Black/White, Jew/Gentile, Rich/Poor.  I could go on.  The point is to accept who you are, how you were created, and stop trying to be someone or something you simply are not.  You were made who you are for a reason.  A divine reason.  Embrace it.  Think about this one for awhile and you might be surprised where it leads you.  Anyway, I am a man.  My dad taught me to walk road-side with my wife and daughters when on a side-walk.  Why?  Because in that position I could protect my family from potential road hazards.  He taught me to shoot a gun in self-defense and for the protection of my household.  He taught me to never, under any circumstances, to ever strike or hurt a girl under penalty of death (and a very large switch from the tree).  He taught me to open doors, pull out chairs, and every other act of practically dead chivalry that you can imagine.  Silly?  I don’t think so!  I think it is important.  Very important.  And just as the saying goes, “women were glad of it”.  I think it is still this way.  Maybe I am old-fashioned.  Who knows?  However, I do know this; my daughter is going in for surgery on Tuesday, Lord willing, and I am going to be there at the hospital.  Just being a dad.  I would be no where else in the world.

Nicole, my prayer for you is from Number 6:

25 the LORD make his face shine upon you
   and be gracious to you;
26 the LORD turn his face toward you
   and give you peace.”’

The Lord will have mercy to a thousand generations and upon Nicole on Tuesday.  Thank you for your continued thoughts and prayer for Nicole.

For His Glory,