One of my Worst Moments

It is one of the worst moments of my life.

I was six days shy of my eleventh birthday and, as my six-year-old brother would say later, though the day was called Good Friday, it wasn’t a very good day for us.

Instead, there we stood in a sterile hospital room with our dad. We had just taken an awful ride in a police car as we followed an ambulance carrying our mother to the Emergency Room. Our mom had collapsed suddenly and shockingly at the kitchen table that evening and we had just been told by the doctor that she had died of a heart arrhythmia.

The pain I felt was indescribable.

Now the four of us were in a room alone together for the last time. My dad, even in the deepest grief of his life, had the wisdom to ask the doctor if we could see our mom’s body and so there we stood around her. And though it may sound morbid or scary, it was actually just the opposite. It was helpful.

My dad, my little brother and I were able to say goodbye, although my dad reminded us that what we saw was just my mom’s body and not really Mom. We held hands and prayed together, and my dad told us that even though we were heartbroken and we didn’t understand this, he believed God was still in control.

To say that the evening of March 24th, 1989 impacted my life is a gross understatement. The loss of a mom to a preteen girl is full of impact. I was so very sad.

Yet, I had hope.

The conversation with my dad in that horrible room where my mom’s body lay changed me as well. I was taught a deeply profound lesson in a few minutes’ time, and it has helped me in the days, months, and years since that night.

By pointing me to a God who is unchanging in a moment when my entire world had just been completely thrown off its axis, my dad gave me hope that God could not only handle the change, but was in control of it.

By reminding me that God is sovereign in a moment where everything seemed so utterly unfair, my dad gave me hope that I can trust that God not only knew about my mom’s death, but that He was still in perfect control of her death and my life.

By leading me in prayer around the bed where my dead mother lay, my dad reminded me that I can always turn to my Heavenly Father for comfort, hope and love.

It has been 24 years since that night. I’ve grown in stature, maturity and faith. I’m now a wife and a mom and have now lived longer on this earth than my own mother did. I’ve had other hard moments since that night too, and I know I’ll have more to come.

Yet, I have hope.

When I graduated from college and was in a season of life where everything was changing and there was so much unknown…

When I desperately prayed for a godly husband and didn’t know where I would meet this guy or when…

I was able to trust in an unchanging God who knew my desires and needs and was able to faithfully provide for me what He knew I needed and when.

When I miscarried two babies and struggled with surgeries and issues that caused me to not get pregnant…

When I was told by a doctor that because of these issues I would most likely have a small family…

I was able to turn to my God who I believe is sovereign and I cried out to Him for his comfort, love, hope and mercy. He was faithful. …and He not only blessed us with hope and peace, but has blessed us with children.

When our two-year-old son was diagnosed with leukemia and we struggled through three-and-a-half years of chemotherapy and treatment…

When my days were full of dark moments of seeing my son suffer…

I was able to turn in prayer to a God whom I believe is real and not only knows my pain but also cares deeply for both my son, and me. And just like his Word says, He gave me a peace that passes all understanding.

The evening of March 24th, 1989 was one of my worst moments. And yet, through the pain and darkness I was reminded of a sovereign, loving God who offers hope and peace.

And even out of one of my worst moments of my life, God was able to bring good.

And I trust He’ll be faithful to do the same in every moment of my future.

Daddy Loves You

IMG_4051 2My memory of the moment is both crystal clear and fuzzy at the same time. It’s hard to explain, but yet if you’ve ever been in shock, you’ll understand.

My body felt numb and weak and apparently that was obvious to those around me because a nurse pushed a stool underneath my legs and helped me sit down beside my son’s hospital bed. I hadn’t even realized until I sat just how much I needed that support.

My two-year-old son, Karson, was laying on the bed along with Lyle the Lamb, his stuffed companion. My husband, Kraig, stood on the opposite side of the bed and rubbed Karson’s little back. Our heads were reeling with the news we’d received just mere hours before. Doctors were telling us that our toddler had cancer. Now we were crammed in a small procedure room at a children’s hospital watching them prep our son for a bone marrow biopsy.

I was experiencing feelings of denial and shock. Our son had been limping for a week and he presented only mild cold symptoms. Why were they suddenly throwing around words like, “leukemia,” and “chemotherapy?” Wasn’t this just a virus that would pass on its own? Do we really need to do this procedure?

But deep down I reasoned that if these trained medical professionals thought there was enough evidence of cancer from a small bit of blood work, then I must allow them to proceed with further testing of Karson’s bone marrow. They had explained that leukemia starts in the marrow and they must take a look to find out what type of leukemia we were fighting.

And so, in what was literally half a day, we went from a normal morning routine to that dreaded procedure room in a hospital two hours from our house. I can still smell that moment and feel the sterility and darkness of that room. It was awful.

To be completely honest, I’m not even sure I want to draw up those memories or that emotion ever again. I wrestle sometimes with the watershed moments that were burned into my mind in the coming three-and-a-half years of my son’s chemotherapy and treatment. Some memories can bring the sting of tears in a matter of seconds. I used to see them often when I closed my eyes at night. Now it’s much less frequent, but the pain is just as raw. It hurts. So you may ask why I write about it or even bother to relive it at all?

I guess I don’t want to waste it.

As awful as Karson’s cancer was, there was so much good that came from it as well. Most of that good came in the form of God’s gentle presence in the midst of the rough storm. Kraig and I learned so much and felt like we were matured in our faith in a way that would otherwise not have been possible.

And on February 9th, 2007, as we took the first shaky steps into that journey, my husband… my son’s father, told me of how he now understood the love of our Heavenly Father in a deeper way. It was the first of many things we would learn along the way.

Kraig recounted the horrible moments of having to physically pin Karson down on that hospital bed as doctors used a large and painful needle and tools to extract bone marrow from our little boy’s hip. Karson was awake and acutely aware of the intense pain. As he lay there on his stomach, his face was turned toward his daddy who was firmly holding him still and talking to him. Karson was screaming and crying for the pain to stop and looking at Kraig with questioning eyes as if saying,

“Why, Daddy?”

“Why are you letting them hurt me?”

“Please make it stop!”

And oh, how we wanted to!

Kraig and I would have crawled onto that bed in a heartbeat and taken that pain instead of watching our son have to experience it. But we couldn’t. We knew that we had to allow to the doctors to proceed. We had to allow them to extract bone marrow so that they could determine what course of treatment would be most effective for fighting this cancer. But we couldn’t explain all of that to a two-year-old. Even if we had, he wouldn’t have understood.

And so as Karson screamed and pleaded with his Daddy, all that Kraig could say in response was,

“I love you, Karson.”

“I love you, buddy.”

“Oh, Karson! Daddy loves you so much!”

It was heartbreaking and profound.

And as Kraig shared with me later, he thought about how many times in life our Heavenly Father has had to hold us down through pain, trial, sin and ugliness. And we don’t understand it. And perhaps even if He told us, it wouldn’t matter. All we need to do is look into his eyes and hear His words.

Daddy loves you.

1 John 3:1 says,
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

I don’t get it. I can’t mentally grasp it or figure it out. I don’t know why my Heavenly Father has allowed pain in my life or my child’s life. I simply don’t know.

Yet the lesson Kraig learned in that moment, I continue to learn as well. I submit to my Father’s hands holding me firmly through the pains of this life, and listen to his almighty and loving voice reminding me of His unconditional love.

I know my Father’s love. And that’s all I really need to know.

For Crying Out Loud!

The cry floated down the stairs and into my ears where I sat at the kitchen table with my husband and another couple. The other couple are friends who happen to also be cousins. They are about our age and have two little girls who were upstairs playing with our three children.

We grown-ups paused in our after-dinner conversation to listen to the cry. I quickly detected that it was our middle daughter. I then also interpreted the cry and surmised that I could stay put in my chair and resume our chat. “Is she ok?” my friend asked. “Yes,” I responded, “I think that cry just means that someone found her in a game of hide-and-seek in which she didn’t want to be found.” My husband agreed with a nod and we all changed the subject.

A few minutes later, the five second-cousins came noisily bouncing down the steps. We asked if they were all doing alright. The oldest said “Oh yes! Karly was just crying earlier because we found her in hide-and seek.” Then, off they all continued, already submerged in their next group activity.

I looked across the table and we all smiled. My friends were impressed that I had completely nailed the reason for my daughter’s cry …but not that impressed. They’re parents too and they understand that I’m not really brilliant, just a mom.

When you become a parent you somehow also become an interpreter of sorts. It took me four years of high school Spanish to feel confident in interpreting the menu at a Mexican Grill, but seemingly overnight I was able to interpret my children’s cries.

When my daughter cried that evening because she had been found, I wasn’t lost about how I should respond. I knew her cry was not one that required me to move. I understood from the sound of the cry that she was the one who needed to move. She needed to step away from a bad attitude and resume proper play or she would be left out of the game.

Once again parenting has opened my ears to hear God’s teaching.

As I have been reflecting on that evening, I’ve been disappointed in myself. Not in the relationship I have with my children, but in the relationship wherein I am the daughter crying out to my Heavenly Father.

The last couple of months I’ve cried out to God, but embarrassingly most of my cries have been with a bad attitude. I’ve been ungrateful and worrisome when instead I should have been thankful and trusting. My cries have been weak. Forced, even.

God is not fooled. He knows my heart and he not only interprets my cries but he is the one who placed them within me. My recent cries have not required his response. He’s already doing everything required of Him. I’m the one who needs to move.

I realized this recently and echoed Psalm 51:10 as I prayed for God to create in me a clean heart and to renew a right spirit within me. I felt better. It was not only a relief to know that God was moving into action to cover me with his mercy, but it was also comforting to know that King David himself had once needed an attitude adjustment.

I was not out of the game of life, but I had been playing with a bad attitude. Thankfully when my cry became sincere and I sensed my real need for God’s mercy He was quick to come to me. My Heavenly Father comforts me as his daughter in the most perfect and loving manner.

I hope to hide this lesson in my heart as I seek to cry out to my Father with a proper attitude. And I’m not going to be disappointed when I’m found in His mercy!

Do As I Say, Not As I Swim.

I have nothing against fish.

I understand that fish are a natural part of the food chain. I can appreciate their swimming abilities and their love of school. And while I don’t personally care to eat fish, I’m truly happy for others who enjoy their flavor. So be it.

But here’s the thing: I don’t want a fish to touch me.

Call me crazy, but when I’m swimming in a body of water wherein there are also creatures who, according to Wikipedia,  “lack limbs with digits” I get a little antsy. If a fish happens to bump into my leg, for example, I… oh, how should I phrase this?… freak out? Yes, I admit. I freak out. In spastic fashion I flail my limbs and digits. I believe the technical term for the infliction that fish cast upon me is called the “Heebie Jeebies.”

I know this fear is silly. Rationally I tell myself that I’ve never known of anyone to be killed, or even maimed, from bumping into a large mouth bass. But I don’t see the need to take any chances, either.

This presents a problem when I spend a week of family vacation swimming in a large lake. I love to swim, but how am I to cope in such an environment teaming with scary blue gill and their cousins. Cleverly, I have developed the skill of smacking the water (when no one is looking) so as to scare away any creature who may or may not be lurking beneath my toes. I think it works. I came away from my week of vacation with all of my digits attached.

But I did get a slight nibble on my ego.

One particular sunny afternoon I was swimming with my son and husband. My son looked over at me and said, “What if a fish touches me, Mom?” I smiled sweetly and lovingly stated, “Oh, you don’t need to be afraid of fish, sweetie!”

The precious moment was ruined when I looked over at my husband who was rolling his eyes with such force I think he created waves in the lake. Sarcasm and water dripped from his face as he said, “Actions speak louder than words, Mommy!”

Humph! I opened my mouth ready to spew my justified and witty response. Nothing came out. I took a deep breath and tried again. Nothing. Apparently the catfish had my tongue.

Deflated, but still afloat, I thought about the entire scenario. Don’t you just hate it when your spouse is right?

He had me. Hook, line, and sinker. It’s bad enough to know you’re not perfect, but what’s worse is when you see your children inherit one of your weaknesses.

Unfortunately, my fish fear is not the only weakness I’m presenting to six little eyes and ears. I must remember this truth. And more importantly, I must keep my eyes fixed on The Truth.

I’m not perfect, but my Heavenly Father is. As I strive to live as Christ I will set the best possible example for my children. And amazingly, Paul even states in 2 Corinthians 12:9, that God’s “power is made perfect in weakness.” That really takes a lot of pressure off of me!

Sometimes I swim, and sometimes I sink. When I’m struggling to keep my head above water I can trust a God who gently reaches out to me, takes my faults and turns them into a marvelous display of His power.

And that pleases me to the gills!