Monday, December 21, 2009

The Perfect Moment

My best memory of this time of trial was when I was driving back to the hospital from checking into my new hotel. I had wanted to stay on billeting on base, but they would not be able to allow me to stay the whole time. There were several thousands of troops being deployed in the area, and most everything was full.
The problem was that the medical orders I was on only gave me $55 per night for a room. That would have been fine if I had stayed on base. However, off base the rooms were $118 plus tax. If the military did not pay, I would have to pay over one thousand dollars out of pocket.

The lady at the hotel did not think it was a problem. She said that what she was quoting me was the going military rate.

However, I had talked to a military liaison person who works with families who have loved ones in the hospital. He was fairly sure that the money I got was all I would be given. He was trying to get me into the Fisher House, a place for families to stay close to the hospital.

Frankly, I did not care where I stayed. I just wanted somewhere clean and safe with a bed and a bathroom.

After I heard the fellow tell me that I probably would not get the extra money, I was a little anxious. Well, frankly I flat out said “I am NOT paying the difference.”. At this point I was too tired, too DONE to even think about playing a game of pennies.

I went ahead and checked into the new hotel, figuring I would just deal with whatever comes. I always could argue the bill with the military later, but it was low on my list of priorities that day.

I remember that I was thinking about how the Lord provided for everything so far. So far, everything had been the hardest, but easiest thing I had ever done. The Lord provided my every need in miraculous ways. I remember praying in the car “Lord, You have done so much. I know You are taking care of me. I trust You to take care of this too.”.

That was a perfect moment for me. My prayer was not desperate, not pitiful, not hurried. It was a simple statement of fact from a soul that ABSOLUTELY KNEW THAT I KNEW that He would provide abundantly. I did not have to worry or be concerned. I did not have to lift a finger. He would take care of this as He had taken care of everything else.

I do not know where that faith came from. It was the Holy Spirit assuring my spirit. It was not me, it was all Him. It was not that I was trusting as much as He was so faithful that I could not deny His presence, mercy, kindness, grace. He was more firm than the earth and more prevalent than the sun. He was faithful and perfect, and I could do nothing BUT trust Him. To not trust Him in that moment would be like not trusting gravity or suddenly believing in tooth fairies. To not trust Him would be to deny reality. THAT is what it was! Faith, in that moment, was reality. I did not have the “Lord, I hope this works!” sort of faith, but the rock solid, “of course it is going to work. This is reality. His mercy is more reliable and less requiring thought than I would need if I dropped a ball. I know that the ball would fall to the earth with gravity, and I know He will provide just as faithfully.”.

No, even those analogies are not quite right! How can I explain when His mercy is SO perfect and SO there and SO visible that even the assurance of gravity pales in comparison to the assurance of His taking care of me? I do not have the words. I pray the Holy Spirit makes this clear to you, as it is an incredible faith builder.
So I prayed and knew with NO doubt that He would provide. It was one time where my mind could not overthink me out of faith. My doubts, so numerous in my life, could not overcome my seeing His perfect faithfulness. Nothing could shake me in that moment.

And faithful He was. I prayed, called Stephanie Roland, and sure enough, the paperwork was cleared up without a hitch.

I think of that moment. I pour over it like a first sweet kiss from someone you know you will marry. I linger over it like remembering the feeling of scoring the winning point. I love to think of it and remember my feeling of solid faith. It soothes me. It calms me. It literally eases my physical tension or stress. I hope that I can get that solid faith again. I want to live every day in that peace and faith. It was so perfect, so strong, so peaceful, that it makes it easy for me to let go of every single hurt, pain, irritation, anger, frustration that I have had. I just want to let every earthly, worldly thing go and dwell in that feeling of faith and peace and assurance.

Monday, November 30, 2009

ICU 2nd Night

I stayed with him the first night and no one said anything. The second night, I expected to stay with him again. It did not occur to me to leave him. I could not leave him there all alone. My fatigue numbed mind conjured up the idea that I was useful, that my presence could mean the difference in seconds if he stopped breathing or something. While the nurses took exceptional care of him, they were not with him every second. I was there though. However, now that I have had rest and am thinking clearly, I know that the Lord had it all in His hand—whether Ash lives or dies is not up to me, but up to Him.

Anyway, at some point she came in that second night and pulled the curtain between me and the window to the nurse’s station…
“Could you do me a favor?” she asked.
“Sure”
“Could you move back into that corner? “ I realized that she was trying to hide me. They were going to try to make me go home.
“Is someone upset that I am here?” I ask. I am sorrowed both that someone is upset with me, and that I might have to leave.
“Yeah, but don’t worry about it. We will just put you here—out of sight, out of mind.” She said cheerfully. It was not so easy for me though, I am very much a rule follower and she had been so nice, I did not want to get her in trouble.

“I do not want to get you in trouble! I can leave if you need me to.”
“Oh no, you stay. The charge nurse is just being grouchy. He gets that way. Don’t worry about it.”. I miserably pulled my chair to the corner as she left. I could not handle this, and prayed. At least I think I prayed. To be honest, I cannot remember, but I am sure I must have. I was out of strength, out of resources and He was the only link I had to lean on. I had nothing left.

She came in a little while later and talked to me about it. I told her again that I could leave. She said “No, in fact I made a husband stay with another patient. I moonlight at xyz hospital and I like the way they do it. They call it family care, and they bring beds in for the family to stay, and kids can come in and everything. I do not agree with the policy here.”.

While I was relieved that there was another rule breaking spouse in the ward, I was a bit worried. What if I needed to go to the bathroom? I would have to go past the nurse’s station, then be buzzed back in.

“Do I need to just hide here til morning?” I asked
“Oh no! “ she said “Come and go as you please. Do not feel that you have to not go to the bathroom or something. I talked to him and told him that you were staying. He knows. I asked him if it was his time of the month.” She chuckled a bit there, but not unkindly. Then she continued “He said to me “Who do you think you are breaking the rules?” and I said “I’M FAMILY CARE!”. She laughed again. “And then I gave him some chocolate. No problems. He just gets this way sometimes.”.

So I stayed that night. I sat in the chair by Ash's bed with a pair of heavy hunting socks and sandals, trying to keep warm and getting snatches of sleep, but terrified that I would be asleep and Ash would stop breathing or something.

However, early the next morning, the past three days started catching up with me. I had only slept about 5 hours of the past 72, if that. My last food of substance had been one scarfed down piece of pizza at home before the flight on Monday, and this was Thursday morning. I noticed that my ears sounded hollow and I was slightly dizzy...I just felt unwell as I roused from sleep.

Jolene came into the room, and I started to become more awake. I also started struggling mightily in my spirit.

Sometimes it seems like there are two "me's". One was the "me" who really loved and depended on the Lord, and the other was a bad, cold, disbelieving "me" who rejected Him or something. I cannot explain it well. It was a spiritual attack, a continuation of what had plagued me Monday morning before Ash had gone for the CT scan. I prayed hard, felt alone, felt cold, felt close to Him, felt a million miles away. I struggled and prayed. I had no strength for this. I realized that I was feeling faint and sick. I was not sure what to do. I did not want to tell anyone that I was feeling so bad—I wanted to seem neither weak nor whiney nor take attention from Ashton. I just felt ill. I was utterly spent.

“We are going to give you a bath” Jolene told Ashton. “you can help” she said to me. I honestly could not manage any stimulation at that point, but thankfully she was busy doing something.

“I’ll be right back. I am just going to run to the bathroom,” I said in as calm and upbeat a voice as I could muster. My thoughts were not logical or reasonable, I was afraid that I would be sick. I was afraid that I would pass out in the bathroom and no one would come in to find me for hours. I also did NOT want the attention of someone who falls out on the floor. I did not want to hear myself mutter “No, really, I’m ok” as they take my blood pressure and give me IV fluids. I would be mortified, embarrassed. They would make me go home, and maybe not come back to be with Ashton. I was afraid to leave the bathroom, as it was a place of quiet and safety, but I also needed to get back to Ash and help.

“Lord, please. I feel so bad. Please, please do not let me be sick. Please let me feel better. I cannot do this with You.”. I said as I made my way to the bathroom. I noticed that the bathroom had been recently cleaned, and I was grateful for that. Public bathrooms are not my favorite thing.

I started feeling slightly better after using the restroom, however, I knew that my strength was totally gone. I did not even have enough mental or emotional energy to will myself to press on. I was dull of mind and weak in body. As I walked back to the ICU, I googled “Severe exhaustion”. I wanted to see if I was reaching a dangerous level of exhaustion, if there was such a thing. Is there a time where your exhaustion is so bad that your body starts to shut down? I was not sure. I was afraid that I would snap mentally or collapse physically. I thought about how my immune resistance must be gone. I was afraid that I would pick up some terrible germ through the cut on my toe that I had gotten before Ash went to surgery (I read way too much about resistant bacteria).

Please understand that I did not dwell on me for me! I just did not want to be weak, be a casualty. I wanted to be strong. The Lord had allowed me to be strong so far, and people thought I was. I did not want to fail.

The only things I found on severe exhaustion were either mentioning adrenal problems or were quasi medical sites talking about wholeness and wellness. I realized that it did not matter anyway--what would I do even if I found out that I was severely exhausted? I would not leave Ash, and I would not tell the nurse “I googled severe exhaustion and found that I have many of the symptoms”. Yeah, right.

So I walked into the room, and again the Lord provided me strength I did not have. I helped Jolene bathe Ashton, and was no longer nauseated or faint. I forgot that I had even felt that way! The Lord had provided supernaturally the strength I needed. I now understand what Paul meant when he said “When I am weak, then I am strong”. That spiritual battle was over. I was ready to help my husband. The Lord made me capable when I was not. He sustained me.

First night in ICU

Dr. Ha led us into ICU. There Ashton lay with tubes and monitors and a big white bandage on his head. I expected more blood or more bandage, but he looked neat and comfortable. His left eye was a bit bruised, but not terribly, and the swelling was less than I expected. All in all, I was pleasantly surprised.

Ash’s folks and I came up to him and talked to him. He opened his one eye groggily and answered our questions in a voice that was soft but not terribly weak. His folks did not stay long…they were exhausted from a long flight. However, I think they went back to the motel greatly relieved to see that Ashton pulled through the surgery.

I stayed, though. Ben was the first ICU nurse. He was a tall fellow with warm brown eyes, but a manner that seemed to be both tender and guarded at the same time. I wondered if something had happened, if he was hurt by a girlfriend or something in the past. It did not seem to me like he was just maintaining a professional distance, but rather it seemed like a struggle to him…like part of him wanted to be open, but part of him insisted on maintaining a bravado or a guard. I am probably wrong, but that is how it seemed to me.

He was very patient with my questions. All of them. I was very thankful.
At one point, he had to do a neuro check on Ashton. These checks involved telling ashton to push down with his feet, pull up with his feet, grasp a nurse’s fingers tightly as he could, and follow a light. They also asked him questions. The first night we were talking about what day it was. I mentioned that it was Wednesday. Ben looked straight at me with a raised eyebrow and said “No, it’s not.”. That unnerved me a bit. I mean, I could have sworn it was, but I was so exhausted, that it was entirely possible I was wrong. In fact, the only reason why I thought it was Wednesday was because I thought I remembered us watching After The Catch on discovery channel the night before his surgery, and that comes on on Tuesday.

“No, I think it is Wednesday” I said confused and desperately trying to sort my days and nights in my head “I thought we watched deadliest catch last night.”.
“No, its Thursday” he said, going to his computer.
“Are you serious!? Did I lose a whole day?” I asked. It really was bothering me. He typed a bit on his computer and then said “Oh, no, you are right, it is Wednesday….you have to excuse me, I have been on nights for two weeks straight…” he seemed a bit embarrassed.

“Oh no problem” I said, secretly relieved that I had not lost a whole day.
I engaged Ben in light conversation—my usual questions of where he was from, how long he had been there, etc. I wish I could tell you more about him, but I do not remember anything he said. It was a total blur.

I do remember watching what I came to call “The Ashton Show”. It was a monitor that he was hooked up to. It measured his heart rate, his blood pressure through an arterial line, his temperature, his breathing rate, and his breathing rhythm. The first day, sometimes an alarm would go off when his oxygen level would go down. I was not sure if that was ok, but I knew the alarm was going off in the nurses’ station and no one else seemed to be troubled by it. Eventually his oxygen rate would raise back to normal. Soon I realized that this was par for his course—his apnea had gotten to the point where his oxygen level would go in the 80’s until he sputtered or stirred. “We need to get this taken care of. This is out of control.” I made a mental note to myself. I cannot imagine how exhausted he must be every day if every few minutes of sleep he was not getting enough oxygen. If he pulled through this, I wanted him to be able to rest well.

I even considered that maybe this is why his tumor has grown. I read at one point that people will try to boost their oxygen level in their blood to keep cancer at bay. While I prayed this tumor was not cancer, it would not surprise me if somehow the apnea played a part in it.

I did not know what to do with Ash when I got in the ICU. I asked Ben “Should I let him sleep or keep pestering him?”.

“What would you want to do if you just had brain surgery? Let him sleep.”.

“Ok.” I said. It might seem like a stupid question, but I was wondering if it would be better to keep arousing him. I was afraid he would slip away into a coma and we would not know it. That makes sense, right? Well, maybe it doesn’t, but it did to me at the time.

Right before 7 pm, Ben started making his last chores before he got off duty. I was bummed that he was going off duty. I was not “bonding” to him, but he was becoming familiar in such a strange, scary time.

For the night shift, a new nurse came on duty. I will be honest, I was hoping that it was not a female. It sounds bad, but sometimes I do not get along well with females. I tend to get along better with males. I like females, but I tend to put women off. However, this little Chamorro girl named Jolene was our new nurse for the night. I soon was praising God for her, as she was kind and open and friendly. She and I talked about Alaska, as she had been there. She was also from Guam, so she and I had that in common as well, as my dad had been stationed there when I was in high school.

I watched her through the night, happy when she stayed to chat with me. Her fingers were short and slim, and they moved with a quick, odd movement, almost like they danced.

Another female nurse came in, and I expected the old “two against one” thing. You know how a group of three girls can get. When there are three, generally one girl ends up being the goat, or at least that is my experience. I figured that they would chat and laugh and I honestly expected thinly veiled hostility. The new nurse had the beautiful skin of a half black, half asian, though I do not know if she was. She had black hair with big curly waves and a t-shirt that I think said “I <3 miami”. Her name was Michelle.

However, again the Lord worked kindness in my life. She was very attentive to me. They brought me a chair, and she brought me a stool to prop my legs on. I had declined a comfortable chair at first, but they insisted later. They also brought me a heated blanket. I cannot tell you how much I was not expecting this. They both talked to me about Alaska, and I got excited to share interesting tidbits about my state.

At one point, I was in the midst of talking about how the sunlight changes through the year. Suddenly Ashton started to cough and then vomited blood. I must say, I am very squeamish about throwing up—when I get sick, I get faint and shocky feeling. In fact, if I know someone is sick, I will stay away from them for a week or two until I know they are FULLY recovered. I flat out tell my friends “If you or your kids have a cold or a fever, feel free to come over. But if you have a tummy bug, I will see you next spring.”.

However, the Lord gave me peace in my mind, even seeing my husband spitting out his own blood (a picture that is burned into my mind). We all came quickly to his side. I gently wiped the blood from his mouth and shirt as Michelle and Jolene suctioned and cleaned up behind him. I was afraid for him, as vomiting blood never seems like a good thing.

However, Michelle, probably seeing my face, quickly and casually mentioned that it looked like old blood, and Jolene (also quickly) agreed that it was probably drainage from the surgery. That made perfect sense, as he must have swallowed quite a bit during the repair of his sinuses.

His tummy stayed tender for the next two days. They tried to get him to eat with very little success. He was miserable. He would try to eat a bite then have to breathe through the nausea through pursed lips. Dr. Ha talked about how he needed to eat protein as each day laying down, the body would digest its own muscle, not fat. He told us that even morbidly obese patients will be nutritionally deficient as they are bedridden (NOT that Ash is morbidly obese!). I felt so bad for him, but there was nothing I could do but encourage him to eat as much protein as he can and hope it stays down. They tried zofran and reglan, but nothing seems to do much for long. They also tried to get him to take percoset instead of morphine, but they thought that was what was making him sick the first time, so he stayed on morphine.

I was surprised at the low level of his pain. They had severed a muscle in his cheek, had unroofed his eye socket, rebuilt a sinus, and removed part of his skull, but he kept saying that the pain was just a 3 or 4. His bad headaches were an 8 or 9. I was sort of hoping that he would back off the morphine and go to Tylenol. I know that was silly of me, but I was eager for him to be better. Come to find out later that that would have been a good idea—it was the morphine that was making him so ill.

Back to Jolene….I noticed that she wore no makeup, but was beautiful. I felt very comfortable with her. Even more so on the second night. The official rules of the ICU (and the med surg ward) were to maintain visiting hours. However, in the med surg ward before his surgery, no one told me I needed to go home. I think it was because they realized that this might be our last night together. It makes me sad to think of that, but thankful they let me stay.

I did not want to leave Ash alone in the ICU either. To me, he was still touch and go. Dr Ha said that the first 24-48 hours were where most of the bad stuff would happen, if it was going to happen. My husband was still in the path of danger, and I did not want him to be there alone.

The Surgery Pt 2

The Surgery Pt 2
The surgery was going to take hours. I had to leave to go meet Ash’s folks at the gate to the base to sponsor them. I hated leaving…I mean, what if they needed me for something? But I was also eager to see his folks.

I got to the visitor’s center and waited for what seemed to have been forever. I finally saw them drive up and walk to the door. Then his dad said “There she is…there’s Sister”….I know this sounds weird but that meant so much to me for him to call me sister, to be recognized as more than just the woman their son married. They have not EVER made me feel badly, not at all! They are godly, wonderful people. I just was very insecure. Then they gave me a huge hug. I was so thankful to have them there!

And then I cut them off driving and almost ran them off the road. Sheesh.
Understand that I live in NORTH POLE, ALASKA. It gets about as much traffic as one might think a place called “North Pole, Alaska” gets. I remember we had lived here for a year or so and had some out of town guests that I had just picked up from the airport. “Aw man, we hit rush hour” I muttered apologetically. My guests burst out laughing. See, our “rush hour” lasts about 20 minutes and means that you have to slow down to 45 in a 55 mph zone for about ½ mile along this one stretch of highway.

So imagine me as driving like a bumpkin in my little non-descript go-cart, and them following in a nice rented Cadillac. We had to cross multi lanes to get from one side of the road to the access on the other side. To be honest, I have NO idea what I did, but I was crossing suddenly I looked behind and realized I was swerving in front of them on the on-ramp. Thankfully they either did not notice or did not hold it against me!

We got back to the waiting room, but this time it was pretty empty. I was afraid that we had missed the call and that he was in recovery without us there to support him. His parents and I talked for a while, showed pictures of nieces and nephews.
It was about suppertime, so I offered to show them where Anthony’s was so they could get a bite to eat.

Unfortunately, it was closed. I know it is silly, but I was quite embarrassed by that…as if I had not provided for my guests (in a place I had never been to in a situation I was unprepared for…yeah, it is silly, but it still was embarrassing).
Thankfully the chow hall in the hospital was open, though they did not have much at that time. Carlos got food for him and Nola and brought it back to Nola who had stayed in the waiting room.

I do not remember how much time passed, but eventually Dr. Ha came in to the room. That surprised me, as I was expecting the wall phone to ring. He told us first off that Ash had done well, and then proceeded to explain what was done.

This is where he brought out ALL of his analogies. He talked about elephants and rooms and babies and I do not know what else, all to describe how they removed the tumor. He greatly impressed all of us, even Ashton’s dad. We found out that they had to unroof the eye to get some of the tumor off of the bone, but that the tumor was not at the optic nerve yet, thank the Lord! He told us about bone involvement in the cheek, and how he did not think the tumor had infiltrated the brain, but that the pathology report would tell more.

Then he led us to the ICU to see Ashton.

The Surgery Pt 1

Ashton's surgery was for about....either 1 or 2 in the afternoon. Dr. Ha had another similar surgery that morning. That was difficult as it left ALL DAY to fret, but also good because we had time for the events in the previous posts.

They came to get Ashton and I to prepare him for surgery. We walked in and saw Dr, Ha talking with other doctors. They were laughing and joking. It is good to see doctors relaxed.

The room was large and had several bays, most with people in them that I could see. I wondered what everyone was "in for" (Ash calls me nosy, I prefer the term "concerned" hee hee). Who was sick? Who was hurt? Who was looking at their own mortality, and who was in there to get a thumb operated on? Seriously, I did not try to pry, but I also felt an urge to go around talking to everyone, seeing if there was any comfort I could give.

They brought a child who was going to have surgery. She was being wheeled around in a big red wagon filled with blankets and toys. I thought that was brilliant. She looked a lot calmer than we felt.

The fellow who came to put in the IV's etc was a man with really beefy hands. His fingers looked knobby and calloused and I wondered what hobbies or illness he had to make his hands look that way. Guitar? No, that would not make calluses on the knuckles. Hmmm. I was a bit disconcerted by the fact that he did not use gloves. I had heard someone mention about working in the ER and if there was no break in the skin, there is no danger from disease.

Ash was scared, but quiet. He did not appear frightened, but I could tell. Thankfully the pre-op preps were quick and soon the man said "Kiss your wife, we are about to go". Ash gave me a kiss and they wheeled him down the room. Ash later told me that whatever they gave him, he remembers the kiss, and then nothing.

It is weird to be standing there, after they wheel your loved one. I had no idea what to do, where to go. Ash was where I could not go, and the surgery was going to last many hours. Ash's folks were due in, but not for a while. You just sort of feel lost, left out. Well, I did, anyway. It was almost like if Ash was not there, then I had no reason to be there—like he was my ticket and without him, I was just taking up space. It was odd.

Someone told me where the waiting room was, though I am not sure who. It was a medium sized room with a tv in the corner and a phone on the wall. The phone would ring and whoever was closest to the phone would answer it. On the other end was an operating team. They would ask for one of the folk in the waiting room. The person who answered would call out the name for someone in the waiting room. It was an odd sort of phone lottery—when the phone rang, we would all look expectantly, hoping the phone was for us, telling us things were ok.

Near to me was a group of young people. I remember them talking about their displeasure with the new uniforms. Complaining about new uniforms is practically a sport in the military, but in this case they were right—using Velcro to fasten pockets (where maps and flashlights and rounds are kept), which makes a big RRRIIIIIPPPPPPPPP sound when you are trying to do covert maneuvers is ridiculous.

I was so envious of that group of young people--supporting each other, laughing and joking. They were obviously there supporting a girlfriend or young wife of whomever was in surgery. I was pretty much by myself at that point, just me and God. I wanted to join in their conversation, but I was too shy to even attempt it.

Now, to be honest, I would rather have the Lord than a bunch of people, but I am also human and sometimes I just want people around me. But that also seems to sum up a lot of my experience--the Lord puts me in positions where I have to focus on Him, not on a lot of people around me. I like it, it works well and keeps me focused properly.

However, soon I struck up a conversation with a lady sitting close to me. She was a very devout Catholic and noticed my headcovering. She and I talked about her life (she had had surgery decades ago for the same brain tumor that Ash had! In fact, I met MANY people who had that tumor or knew someone who did), as well as various missions and feasts. Because of my talk with the Catholic priest, I was able to mention a feast that she had forgotten about. I am not sure of the significance of that, but it was too perfectly orchestrated NOT to have been from the Lord. I mean, really, when does a hospital mess up enough to send you a Catholic priest who happens to mention a saint before he realizes you are protestant and needs to leave, and then just a short time later you strike up a conversation with a VERY devout Catholic woman who had forgotten a feast for a saint? Hmmm…. This is the first time it has ever happened to me! I am a firm believer in the Lord, not in coincidence! Somehow that needed to happen for some reason…I am just not sure why and I cannot WAIT to find out when I get to heaven!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Day of Surgery—The “Promises Land” Flows With Milk

When I got back from my errands of finding a place to stay, Ash was not in the room. He had been taken for some tests.

His roommate was a man of 74 years. He was healthy as an ox and sharp as a tack. He biked 15 miles a day or something like that. Anyway, he was in the hospital for some digestive problems.

The first night Ashton was checked in, he did not know that he even had a roommate. Ash’s bed was closest to the door, and the curtain was drawn, so Ash did not know that there was another person there. Mind you, it was like 2 am. The nurses were checking Ashton in and were speaking loudly, turning on all the lights. When Ashton found out that there was a patient, he felt AWFUL for keeping him up. It was not his fault, of course, but he apologized anyway.

This man and his wife were wonderful. They even came to see us in the ICU and I am irritated with myself that I did not get their contact information.

Anyway, the day of surgery, Ash had been getting tests done, etc. I wanted to talk to the fellow some, though he was obviously considering watching a DVD. I feel badly, but I just ignored the DVD player and chatted for a few minutes. Not my most selfless moment, but at that point, I was not my best.

Because that man had digestive issues, they had put him on a full liquid diet. They kept pushing him to drink as much milk, juice, soup, etc as he could. Later the day of surgery, before Ash was taken back, the man asked me if I had eaten. Frankly I had not. I had had a piece of pizza on Monday and some candy and cokes and the biscuit that the clerk insisted that I eat from the hotel. I was just too wound up. I was running on fumes, and I knew it.

However, I assured him I was fine. Thankfully, he was not convinced. He had seen me in the room and knew I had not had any meals. He said “Here, why don’t you take this?” and offered me a carton off of his tray. I smiled politely “Oh, thank you so much, that is very sweet of you, but really I am fine.”. He insisted again. I assured him I was fine again, but he would not hear of it. So then I said “YOU are the sick one, you need this more than I do!”. He said “I have had enough, I cannot drink anymore.”. Then I laughed and said “The nurse is going to get mad if I eat your food.”. Then he said “Here, how about this: you drink that, and I will drink this” and he handed me a carton and gestured to a bottle of ensure that he would drink. That seemed a decent compromise, and frankly I was out of arguments. I took the carton. It said “Might Milk” on it. I was afraid it would taste like a vitamin shake, but I was going to drink it.

Now, typing this, I literally get tight in my chest and tears come to my eyes when I think of how wonderful that mighty milk tasted. Please understand that it was like drinking a liquid miracle. My body was so terribly desperate for nutrition. Every sip of that was a blessing, every drop was strength. Not only was it sustaining, it was delicious.

I polished off the carton in a matter of seconds. The man then offered me his milk. At that point, I firmly declined, with a smile, and said “Thank you so much. This was just what I needed. You go ahead and have that.”. He did not argue with me, but he did not drink it either.

Not very long after that, he was discharged to go home. After he left, I noticed that the carton of regular milk was sitting on his tray. I asked Ashton if I should take it. I knew that they would not give it to another patient, that it would be thrown away. I knew that I needed more nutrition. I knew that it was the Lord providing for me, so I drank that too.

The Lord fed me, literally fed me, using a wonderful, sharp, stubborn man with two extra cartons of milk. The Lord provided for my spiritual needs, my physical needs, my every need. That milk was just enough of what I needed to get through the 24 hours. In the Bible, the Lord said that the Promised Land flows with milk and honey. Apparently the milk comes in cartons and is delivered by 74 year old men :)

In all seriousness though, I muse if the Promised Land is not always a physical place, but a place with the Lord. That can be in heaven, or on the ocean, or in a hospital room. The Promised Land may be where we see that the Lord’s promises are sound, good, and here for us. Maybe I can call it “The Promises Land” and know that it is where my spirit and heart and mind and body are being provided for by the Lord God Almighty, creator of Heaven and Earth. That Place where our needs are so overwhelming that only He can provide. That hallowed ground of desperate need and His Perfect Provision.
The Promises Land.

Day of Surgery—Ash calls the children

On the day of his surgery, Ashton called the children to talk to them. It occurred to me that my camera has a video recorder on it. I thank the Lord that He reminded me of my camera, that I could record this precious moment.

Without being overt about it, I recorded him talking to the babies. I did not tell Ash why I recorded him, but he knew. This might have been their last talk with their daddy.

I figured that if something happened to him, the babies would have a recording of what he had said to them. They would have his voice, his face, his expressions to look at. They would not have to try to remember, and then be sorrowed if they could not. They would see his eyes mist with tears, his voice gentle and sweet.

Surgery Day pt 1—No room at the Inn

During this time, while we were at Madigan, the base was preparing for thousands (literally) of troops to deploy. There were family and friends and young troops everywhere. They were coming in from all different bases and using the army base as a staging point. There were AF folk, army folk, etc.

Well this meant that hotel rooms were in pretty short supply. The hotel I was staying at did not have any more room for me after the 2nd or 3rd night, until the following week. So the day of Ash’s surgery, I had to go find another place to stay. His folks were also coming in that day.

I tried to get a room at billeting (the military hotel on the base). In Seattle, there are two bases close (literally next door) to each other. One is the Air Force base, and the other is the Army base. The army base was full, as I expected it to be. However, billeting at the AF base might have had some openings. I went to McChord, at Ashton’s urging, to see if I could find a room.

Driving into McChord was amazing. It is an incredibly beautiful base, especially around the gate. The pine trees are the tallest I have seen. When I stepped out of the car, the air was sweet with the fragrance of them. I just wanted to breathe it in for hours. It smelled better than Christmas trees. There was a road (that probably went to housing) that was fully canopied by trees, so it was like driving in a tree tunnel. I so wanted to drive down that road! Every time I passed that road, I tried to look down it and imagine being in that green tunnel. The grounds were perfectly manicured around the base, and there were tons of little hills, little hollows, and huge trees.

I got to billeting and walked in. Now, for you to fully understand the incredible grace of God in this moment, I have to give a little back story. You may or may not have spent time with me, but frankly I am a bit of a dork. Well, not a dork (geek is probably more accurate lol), but I have never blended well in groups. I put people off for any one of several reasons: either because of my turned in eye, my vocabulary, my manner, my dresses, my headcovering, whatever. It does not matter, there is always something about me that does not quite fit in well. I am used to that, have been that way since I was a child. Oh I am not generally treated badly (at least since I became an adult)! People are generally not ugly to me at all anymore. They just do not….warm up to me. You might have felt this when sitting at a table in school or in a bus and knowing that the other people there are not going to be mean, but they did not really welcome you in either. That is pretty much how it is for me normally. Do not feel sorry for me; I do not feel sorry for myself! The Lord gives each person strengths and weaknesses to do His will.

Now, understand though that I did not realize the truth of the statement I just made until this trip—the LORD enables each person in the way He would have them. There is a Bible verse in Psalms, I believe, that says “He makes even his enemies live at peace with him” (meaning the Lord makes the righteous man’s enemies live at peace with the righteous man). So the Lord can change the heart of people.

Ok, back to billeting. I walk into billeting to see if they have room for me. I soon realize that everyone is acting as if I was their only reason for getting up that morning! Their HEARTS were turned towards me. I have never experienced anything quite like that. It was like I was a celebrity or something. People were not bowing and scraping, but rather acting like I was THE most important thing they had that day, that there was NO OTHER REASON for them to be there. When I thought back, I realized that everyone that I had to interact with personally (except the one girl at the car rental place) acted that way—like I was their reason for being. I cannot express how that made me feel.

It made me humble and grateful. You know when someone is truly happy to be with you, truly wants to help you—you can feel it in your soul. THIS was my experience. It has only happened that once, and I do not know if it will happen again, but I am thankful to the Lord for it. It was beautiful and tender and buoyed me.

I checked in at billeting and they were able to give me a room key for that day. They were concerned about what room I had, probably because my husband is an officer, but I told them “I just want a bed and a bathroom, it does not matter the size.”.

The room key was one of those plastic, slide-in-the-slot things. There was a paper wrapper that the key fit in that had a coupon for 10% off of a purchase at the BX (the store on base…kinda like a small walmart), and half off a meal at the food court. When the clerk pointed that out to me, I was tickled and said “Oh thanks!”. (this will come into play later).

However, the problem was that I would only be in that room one or two nights, then I would be having to wait and see if someone cancelled their reservation and move rooms. If I had to do that, I would but really, at this point, I knew that I just wanted ONE place to stay for the rest of the trip. The front desk clerk said that I needed to wait for the manager, to speak to her, and that maybe they could work something out. I sat in the lobby and waited for a while.

After about 20 minutes, the manager was available. I told her my dilemma, and told her I did not care what kind of room it was. Unfortunately, they did not have a room for me that would go the whole time. What she could do, though, is give me a “non-availability statement”. This is a note that basically tells the military “We could not fit her in, so she had to stay off base”. See, because I was “on orders” (meaning officially covered by the military to travel), they would pay for my hotel room. However, they, of course, want me to stay on base as it is basically just their same money going back to them. If, though, there is no room on base, they will pay for me to stay off base—they do not just say “Sure hate it for ya”.

However, in order for them to pay for me to stay off base, I needed the non-availability statement, as billeting is much cheaper than off base hotels. The manager, Anne, was more than happy to give that to me (her heart was turned to me too!). I asked her if she knew of any place off base I could stay. I was worried that I would end up being in an unsafe, unsanitary motel somewhere. She called a couple of places that she knew well (as she seemed familiar with the people she was talking with). She did find a place for me further down the highway, but not too far. It was called “Shiloh Inn”. She asked me if that was ok. I had never heard of it, and asked her if it was relatively clean and safe. She assured me that it was a nice place. I really did not have a whole lot of choice at that point, so I said ok.

Now, remember, I am rather at wits end at this point. I had been going relatively non-stop for about 2.5 days. I asked her what I need to do with the room they already assigned me. She asked if I had been in the room and I told her no, that I had just been in the lobby. She said just turn the key in. So I went back to the front desk and explained what had just happened. I assured her as well that I had not gone to the room, had been in the lobby of billeting the whole time. She said it was no problem and took the key BUT handed the little cover back to me so I could get the coupons. I tried to give it back to her, as I felt it was a little unfair since I was not staying there. But she insisted that I take it. Honestly, I about cried right there. I know that half off a burger from burger king might not seem like much, but to me, it was the world. It was provision and kindness and mercy and love. It was the Lord providing and people being wonderful to me. It meant….everything—it represented all the kindness and mercy I had been shown. I did not cry at the desk, but thanked her profusely and walked to my car with my eyes filling with tears. I still have that little paper sleeve. It is in my wallet as a small testament to yet another of a million miracles of this day.

Day Before Surgery pt 2 Priests and Prayer

It was the day before surgery…at least I think these events took place the day before surgery. To be honest, I am trying to remember if these in this blog happened on Tuesday or Wednesday.

In any case, let’s just say Tuesday.

One thing I wanted to mention was that Ashton’s room had a huge picture window that overlooked Mt Ranier. WOW that was beautiful! However, I have also watched entirely too many disaster movies and was hoping that it was not going to erupt. Yeah, I know, ridiculous.

At one point a Catholic priest came in to talk to us. He was a VERY old man. He was part of the hospital, was coming to see how we were doing. We talked for a long time. He mentioned a Catholic holiday of some sort, some sort of feast day was on Wednesday. I asked him a lot of questions about his work, his faith. I apologized for being inquisitive, and mentioned that I do not know a lot about Catholicism as we are protestant. He looked a little taken aback. Apparently he had been told that we were Catholic. It was not too long after that that he left. He was mostly responsible for the Catholic patients in the hospital. I was a little saddened, but I understood.

The Lord moves in ways I do not understand. While it seems that this conversation might not have been as….fruitful as I might have hoped, this conversation with the priest will have repercussions later that I still do not understand the significance of BUT am convinced is not coincidence.

After this, later on that day, I went to the chaplain’s office in the hospital to let them know there had been a mistake. I also went into the chapel. I so wanted someone to come in from the chaplain’s office and talk to me. I wanted to tell more people about what was going on in my life, how my husband is having brain surgery. I just wanted to talk, to hear someone talk to me. However, no one came in. I noticed the flower arrangements were looking pretty dismal. I picked up a petal from the floor. I wandered around the room a while, praying and waiting. Then I finally left.

See, the Lord knew I did not need someone to talk to because the Lord wanted me to focus on Him. He has been teaching me that what I think I “need emotionally” is generally not what I REALLY need. The spirit overrides the emotions. Emotions are fickle, changeable with blood sugar levels, sleep, hormones. What I WANT in my heart cannot give me what the Lord gives me in my SPIRIT. If someone came in, I would have poured out my heart, but the Lord wanted to fill up my soul. My strength is not from getting what I want in my heart, but allowing the Lord to strengthen my soul. Does that make sense?

Day Before Surgery--Meeting Dr. Ha

Day Before Surgery pt 1

On the day before surgery, that Tuesday, I got to meet the doctor who was going to perform Ash’s surgery. His name was Dr. Ha.

What can I say about him? First of all, he is incredible and I am thankful that the Lord brought him to us.

Dr. Ha is a young man…maybe my age (no snickers from the peanut gallery! Hee hee). He is pleasantly intense, quick, sharp, bright. But the oddest thing about him is that he talks just like me. I never realized or thought of how I communicate until I heard him, then I recognized how his mind was moving, as it would move just like mine would have in his shoes. I had never heard anyone talk like I do—rapid fire, pause to think of an analogy, rapid fire, change subject mid sentence, rapid fire, pause, etc. Talking to him cracked me up.

For example, one time he came in and started talking about something about the surgery, then interrupted himself MID SENTENCE and said “Did you know that Sarah Palin is resigning as governor?”. The change was SO abrupt, as if I said “I took my care into the shop and it needs a new…hey did you know that Eggo came out with a different flavor of waffle?”. I realize now what Ashton experiences when my brain moves faster than my mouth lolol!

Plus Dr. Ha had so many analogies to explain things. I am sort of a medical wannabe, so I could follow what he said, but he is used to talking to people who do not know anything about medicine, so he used examples and analogies liberally, likening taking out the tumor with various ways of getting an elephant out of a room, etc.

Now, while this tickled me, it greatly reassured Ashton. Dr. Ha was familiar to him because he talked like me. I am thankful to the Lord for this tiny detail that meant so incredibly much to both Ashton and me. I got to see myself from the outside, and Ashton got a Dr that he was already familiar with, though they had just met. Amazingly wonderful blessing from the Lord!

I remember one conversation, though, with Dr. Ha that was very sobering. I knew that this was a brain tumor, but that it was between the brain and the skull. I was taking a bit of…false encouragement. I asked Dr. Ha what the risks are: behavior change? Cognitive problems? What about…well… you know. And he said, looking at me plainly and boring into my eyes “Yes.”. I said “Really?”, because he seemed so capable, the tumor seemed not to be IN the brain. I just was thinking of this like a…a higher stakes mole removal. He said again “Yes, everything. All of that could happen. This is the riskiest surgery there is.”. I said “REALLY?” again, thinking that this is not like open heart surgery. He said “We are operating on the brain. That’s [that area in the brain they were operating on] where speech and personality are.”. He went on for another sentence or two.

It was an odd conversation. He was not jovial as I had come to expect. He did not seem to intend to be reassuring in the least. He was very very frank. He looked at me without blinking as if he was willing me to understand. I understood. I definitely understood.

My husband is such a blessing to me. His personality is what the Lord has used to mold MY personality. Ash and I are polar opposites…literally hot and cold. We share the same values in our spirit, but our minds and our personalities could NOT be more different. He is very much an introvert, I am EXHILARATED by people, and in fact have more energy AFTER a party than before.

He is organized, methodical. I am random and disorganized. He is detail oriented. I am “whole picture” oriented. He has to have everything put away. I have to have everything where I can see it. He is meticulous. I am messy. He is pessimistic, I am the ETERNAL optimist about most things, with an “Oh I can do that” attitude (whether I CAN do it or not). He is a planner. I do not even know what day it is most days, and I am not comfortable with structure. He is logistic. I am holistic. He is calm and easy going. No matter what emotion I am feeling, I am feeling it 120%. I am hot tempered, he is almost NEVER angry or upset.

That cool, capable, unflappable, easy going personality is what the Lord has used to back me down from so many crises and anxiety disorder. He is a rock that I constantly crash against, and he does not seem to resent that fact at all. In fact, it almost seems to me that he relishes being strong enough to be still against my emotional ocean. I flatter myself to think that maybe I bring a little color and excitement to his life with my ways and habits, but maybe not.

Anyway, I have learned so much from him. It frightened me to think that he might change, might be different. What if he became more volatile? What if he did not like me anymore? What if his emotional center was damaged and I had to be the calm one? What if his personality changed so much that he did not want to be married to me anymore?

To be honest, I feared that a LOT more than I feared him dying. I feared that he would wake up a different man than I married. I have a degree in psychology, I know a little bit about traumatic brain injuries. I know that sometimes people can emerge totally different than they were. I knew I could handle him being physically damaged—paralyzed or something. That was not a problem. I knew I could handle if he was mentally impaired—not as brilliant as he is. That was a little more difficult, but still something I was ready to handle. I could even handle the pain of him dying—it would have been excruciating, but I knew it could happen. However, I begged the Lord for him not to be changed in who he is. THAT was my greatest fear, that he could turn into someone who hated me or our kids, or who was abusive or cruel.

I will say now, since I have wandered down that awful path of “what if” with you, that the Lord was again more merciful than I deserve and Ash DID change, but only for the better. He did not change in terms of personality, but rather in terms of realizing that life is precious and fragile. Things do not bother him at work like they did. He has better perspective. He does seem to forget a detail here or there, but really no one else would notice but me, and frankly that could just be my imagination because it is so slight. The Lord brought him through intact.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Our first day….

Ashton was up in the nurse’s tower. I parked on that side of the hospital and carried our bags up to his room.

I will be honest, I do not remember a whole lot about that first day. I remember that Ashton’s roommate was a 74 yr old man who was in excellent shape and sharp as a tack. I remember that the room had a large picture window that looked at Mt Ranier.

The nurse assigned to us was a ...jubilant young man. Jubilant is the only word that even comes close to describing his character. He was a little scruffy, and had a personality that was barely contained in his small frame. He was a mountain climber and he and his wife worked in the hospital. We met his wife later, and, while he was definitely the more outgoing of the two, she was very sweet and open. I loved how they seemed to be so perfectly at ease with each other.

I got a phone call later that day from a woman named Jennifer Carlson. She is a friend of my sister in law (also named Jennifer). She said that she had something for me and could she drop by the hospital. I met her in the lobby and she said “This is from Jennifer (my sil)” and she gave me a big hug that went on for a long time. I was so grateful for that hug!

She also brought me a gift bag FILLED with all sorts of treasures, a few of which would prove vital to my wellbeing in the days to come. There were magazines, games, pens and paper, snacks, and drinks. I was delighted with all of that, and especially touched that a woman who did not know me, but lived in the area and knew my sil, would spend that much time and money to take care of me.

She asked me if I had had supper (this was about 9 pm). I said no. She asked me if I had been eating much. I hemmed a bit. Frankly I had been too busy and too anxious to eat much. She offered to take me to supper, but it was late, so I declined. She gently urged me to let her get me some food, but honestly I was too anxious to eat. I realized later that every bit of my anxiety was manifesting in what I would eat. I could be perfectly calm as the doctor would give a report or caution, but would panic trying to decide if I should have an orange juice or a coke.
We said our goodbyes, she told me to contact her if I needed anything, and gave me a hug and left.

I also remember that no one said anything to me about visiting hours, either me staying late or me coming in early. We figured that they knew it might be our last night and were not going to push the issue. However, Ash suggested that I go back to the room that night for a few hours to try to sleep.

This is where the night gets a little weird. It was dusk when I was leaving, but the sun sets very late that time of year. Earlier that day I had seen a man and a woman in an elevator. We made eye contact, said hello, and then went on our way.
However, later that night I saw the same man again. He seemed to be paying attention to me as I was leaving to go back to the room. He walked ahead but also seemed to be trying to keep tabs of where I was at the same time. It really made me nervous, but also made me defensive and slightly angry. I can be a fighter when I need to be.

So I ducked behind my car on the passenger’s side and watched him. He got into his car, but then did not leave. I was tired of feeling “stalked”, so I got into my car and drove deliberately by his car to get a license plate number. I was not sure that he was up to no good, but I wanted his license anyway. I drove into another adjacent parking lot and waited to see if he would follow. I pulled in where I could see him coming if he did, and I called Ashton. I told Ashton what was going on, though I hated that I was giving him stress the night before his surgery! I just did not know what else to do. We waited for several minutes, but the guy never came by.

Ash was calming and said to just go to the hotel, park in the front, and not open my door to anyone. I figured that by the time I got to the hotel, I would know if the guy was following me.

I drove off base, watching for his car. It was a several minute drive to the hotel, and I never saw his car, though by this time it was dark. I decided to take an earlier exit, thinking it would get me to my hotel more quickly. It didn’t. I ended up getting lost. This did NOT help my skittish nerves any at all.

I knew the direction of my hotel (it was right off the highway) and knew that I was probably less than a mile from it…I just could not seem to get there from where I was. I slowly picked my way through residential streets when suddenly I saw a deer in the road. It just appeared so quickly! I was not going fast, but it was wholly unexpected. Not too long after that, I saw a cat that looked just like my cat sitting in a driveway.

Seriously, I wondered if I was losing the road in a mental sense, not just literally at that point. The stress of the past week (both happy stress from the frantic getting ready for the tea party and then the life or death stress of Ash), very little sleep, almost no food, dehydration, and the stranger in the parking lot was certainly a lot for me to handle. I thought if I saw one more odd thing (like any other animals that looked like my pets!), that I would say that I had mentally reached the end of my rope.

However, thank the Lord, there was nothing more odd that night. I finally found my hotel, circled the parking lot looking for that man’s car, then quickly went into the hotel. I told the front desk lady (not Mercy this time) not to give my name or room number out, that I had seen a stranger. She assured me that they never give that information out. I went into my room and called Ashton. I took a super quick shower (I always feel vulnerable in the shower because I cannot hear anything) then got into bed. I set my alarm for a few hours later and fell into a deep sleep.

Thinking more rationally now, I have two more plausible theories about that stranger in the parking lot. The first is “Coincidence. He was not waiting for me, was not hesitating for me. Had his own things going on and I just misread the situation.”
The second is that I had been wearing my headcovering, and he had a large cross hanging in his car. I wonder if he was just curious and wanting to talk to me, as I got the idea from seeing him earlier in the day that he was a gregarious type of fellow.

Madigan

I do not know if I mentioned much about the tumor itself I promise I will not get too graphic in this description!). It was the size of a ping pong ball, and was between the skull and the brain and down into the left eye socket. Because of the size and area, everyone was prepared for emergency surgery on Tuesday (remember, we flew down Monday night.). The neurosurgeon had said “Get him here NOW”.

However, when they saw how healthy Ashton was, the neurosurgeon, Dr. Ha, decided to wait one more day. This allowed them to get better tests and proceed carefully, not hurriedly.

I called Ashton when I got into the room that first night. He had been in-processed (an ordeal in itself involving a few missteps which required him to get multiple blood tests and an apology from the hospital staff!), and had been informed by Dr. Ha that the surgery was postponed. So when I called, Ashton suggested that I try to come in at 8 am, and that I should get some sleep until then.

I drove up to Madigan hospital that morning. It is a beautiful, healing place—truly you can feel the healing in the air. It has an outpatient “medical mall” that is very reminiscent of a 2 story shopping mall. The ceiling of the mall is all skylights with light diffusing fabric billowed across the mall. Each specialty (peds, immunization, neuro, etc) are tucked along each side, both upstairs and downstairs, with groups of chairs in front of each specialty desk. There is a large escalator in the middle of the mall.

The medical mall connects to what I think is called the nursing tower. It is 7 stories of offices, OR’s, and wards. The two are connected with a tall, narrow passage that is glass on both sides. Outside of the glass is a courtyard. The courtyard is a beautiful, wonderful place! It has a meandering little stream strewn with small rocks and grassy parts. This stream goes between the buildings and out the other side into a quiet “botanical garden” looking area with weeping willow trees, lots of green grass and wonderful flowers, and many different benches and areas that are tucked here and there. You can tell it was designed not only to heal the body, but provide soothing environments for the spirit and mind as well.

The highlight of the courtyard is the two swans that inhabit it. They are the classic, breathtaking swans with the graceful arched necks. They paddle around in the stream, then doze and preen on the grass. There is a sidewalk that you can walk on through the courtyard, and the swans will be napping just inches from your feet! There are no fences, no barriers. Just a little touch of soothing nature for the broken and wounded soldiers and dependents who come to Madigan to be treated and convalesce.





Oh and there is an Anthony’s pizza too hee hee. For those of you who are not in the military, anthony’s pizza is a staple of most, if not all, bases across the globe. Tis a hard, remote assignment that does not at least have an anthony’s pizza! It is not gourmet pizza, but it is familiar and the slices are big. It was in the basement of the nurse’s tower with the mess hall, a shoppette, and a barber shop.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Finding Mercy

I made my way through Seattle and Tacoma without incident. I was afraid I might get drowsy driving that way in the dark, but I didn't. The Lord refreshed me, kept me clear and alert.

I was not sure what my hotel was going to be like. It was not a chain that I had heard of, so I was afraid it might not be clean. When I was a kid, we were traveling with some friends and ended up at a motel that was dreadful. The bathtub was only about 2 feet long, there was commotion and chaos, and the room was so filthy that I imagined rats were climbing on the bed. I ended up spending most of the night in the bathroom with the light on. Ever since then, I have been wary of hotels I had not heard of.

I needn’t have worried. The Liberty Inn was a beautiful, new, shiny hotel. It had a huge, tastefully decorated foyer. It was nestled in the town center of one of the upscale little hamlets in the area, where the main drag is all posh coffee shops, book stores, and wood-fired-oven pizza restaurants. The wait staff were smiling, friendly people, and you almost expected them to break into some sort of song like in a Broadway musical.

I was amazed that the room had stone counters by the sink. Stone! I am not sure if it was granite or what, but it was beautiful. I remembered turning on the water and the blast of chlorine smell hit me. We are on well water here in Alaska, so chlorinated water was quite a shock. It smelled much stronger than it tasted, and it was easy to drink, so it was not a big deal. It just startled me.

The person I remember most at that hotel was named, perfectly enough, Mercy. Honestly, I wonder if she was yet another angel the Lord put in my path. She worked the front desk there. As I checked in, I told her about what was going on. You know me, I have very little in terms of filter between emotions and mouth, so I am pretty much an open book. She listened so attentively to me, with gasps of sympathy and expressions of care. I found out later that she told other ladies that she worked with my story, so when I walked through the foyer on my trips to and from the hospital, I always encountered sympathetic looks and murmurs.

She asked me often how Ashton was doing. She also noticed that I was not sleeping in long stretches, nor eating much. One morning she insisted that I get something from the continental breakfast to take with me. She then turned to the lady setting out the food and told her to get me anything I needed. I loved Mercy, she was yet another person that the Lord put in my path to take care of me. When I ended up having to move to another hotel, I missed her terribly! Please take a moment to pray for her, that the Lord will bless her for being a faithful, kind woman. Thank the Lord for her for me, as I do not feel that my prayers of thanks are enough for the kindness she showed. She earned the name she was given. Thank You Lord!

Landing in Seattle

As soon as the plane touched down, Ash and I were talking on the phone. He had landed not too long before I did, but he landed at Ft. Lewis with the med evac. He was going to be checked into the hospital. I was to call him when I was settled in at the hotel. I had to make my way from the airport in Seattle to my hotel on the other side of Tacoma.

To be honest, I was not sure how to even rent my car! Thank the good Lord again for Stephanie Rowland—she had everything set up for me. The airport was quiet for as busy as Sea Tac usually is. I made my way to the car rental counter. There was a young woman working there. She must have been having a bad day or something as she was so very sullen! I would have thought she was taking offense at my headcovering, but she was wearing a small cross around her neck. I was not sure what to say to her. Not that I am trying to be judgmental at all! This is not a dig against her at all…I cannot imagine what must have been going on in her life to make her so thoroughly unhappy. It seemd that it was not just a “late night tired” sort of thing, but something upsetting her. I just tried to be as smiling and gentle as I could as she got my paperwork done. I left her wishing I could have done something to help.

I found my car—a non-descript, dull grey, sub-sub-sub compact buggy. Oh that car cracked us up! It TOTALLY ruined my parking skills (ask Ashton, he’ll tell you!). It took me days to figure out how to park that car, then took me weeks to relearn how to park my suburban at home! We joked that that car was small enough to parallel park in a straight parking space. It also had very low ground clearance, so I invariably ended up scraping the bottom of it on the curbs. It only drove up to about 59 mph comfortably, and started a very disconcerting shiver at 60 mph. The great thing about it, though, was that it could zip-zip in and out of traffic with ease, like a little mouse scampering around 18 wheeled cats. I even found myself making “zip zip” sound effects when changing lanes or pulling into traffic. I told Ashton that it was good that it was maneuverable, as that was its only protective feature—if we were in an accident, we were toast. Our only hope was to be able to skitter out of the way of danger.

I do not know what time it was at this point. I want to say 2 am-ish. I had about 45 minutes of drive to go in a town that I was wholly unfamiliar with. I should probably mention now that I have a very loose association with direction. I never worry when I am lost (I am optimistic that “eventually” I will find my way), but I am also rarely certain of where I am. I have lived in Alaska for over 10 years and am still not sure what some of the main roads are called.

With map in hand, I start driving towards where my hotel is (at least I think I am). It felt kind of good to have to take care of “grown up things” like car rentals and finding hotels, though really I was not doing it, the Lord had everything taken care of. It still seemed like a “big girl adventure”.

The Plane Rides

I had to fly down to Anchorage, switch planes, then continue to Seattle. I will say that the plane rides themselves were the only parts of the trip that I remember where people were not as open to me. I remember wanting so much to talk to someone on the flight, to let them know just a little bit about what I was going through. However, no one on the flights were very open.

While that is sort of odd, especially in light of how the rest of the trip went with people being very receptive and kind, I know that the Lord knew what was best. I needed time with Him. I needed to be alone. Sometimes we think we need people when what we ALWAYS need first is Him. He gave me several hours of being alone, surrounded by people, to just settle down and be in His presence. The next two weeks were going to be full of people and events. I would not have another block of hours that would be empty for a couple of weeks. This is what I needed, though at the time I did not realize that.

At The Airport

Jennifer dropped me off at the airport and said she was going to park the car. I was running late, so I RACED to check in. I flew through the check in process, and the lady behind the counter was friendly and sweet. I noticed later during this trial that the Lord made it so that everyone’s heart was turned to me. It was weird. It was like everyone was my best friend trying to make my situation better. I had never had that before from so many perfect strangers! I wonder if He lined my way with angels.

I waited as long as I could for Jennifer to bring the babies in so I could say goodbye to them. However, I was late for the plane and had to hurry through security. I realized that I would not get to hug my babies goodbye as I stood there in the TSA line. That thought broke my heart. I was hoping, hoping, hoping that I could just see them, that they would suddenly appear and I could say “Wait! Let me go hug them quick and get back in line.”. There just was not enough time.

Then TSA found two multi-tools that I had forgotten I had in my bag. Now, we are in Alaska, as I mentioned. EVERYONE carries something. However, I had thought that I had gotten all of them out of my bag. I carry a large backpack (a habit I got into when I was in middle school and never quite stopped doing). In the rush, I forgot to check all the pockets and left a leatherman and a “guppy” which is sort of like a carabiner with little screw heads, a small knife, I think it has a flashlight or something too. Anyway, both of those were gifts from Ashton. I was getting more upset by this time (not angry, just trying not to cry in front of the TSA folk). I was afraid I was going to get in some sort of trouble, but the TSA lady was SO nice! She suggested that I could just put those in an envelope and mail them back to myself, but I did not have time. I told her just to take them and went to my plane.

I sat down in the plane and called Jen before we took off. I got to hear my precious children’s voices, and I said I was sorry I could not give them a hug before I left. I told them I loved them and to be good. I asked Jen to please hug them for me…it was VERY important to me that the kids got a hug—like life or death important to me. Probably because life just seemed so fragile at that point, had been turned so upside down. Everything was uncertain. I just begged her to please give them a hug from me. Then I said goodbye.

As I sat back in the seat, I cried just a few tears. Not many, as I was afraid that the emotions of the day were such that if I started crying, I would not be able to stop or control my emotions. If they got out, they would be impossible to put back, I was afraid. So I cried a few tears, prayed more to the Lord that I would get to come home to my babies, that I would get to hug them again, and settled back for the flight.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Lord provides more help for us

I came home after leaving TWS to med evac. They had talked that he might get the Leer jet to Seattle, but the King Air was the one that was available. As I mentioned previously, they had to fly below a certain altitude because it could have been bad for him if they had depressurized. He said they were flying through the valleys, with mountains on both sides. I bet it was a beautiful flight.

He seemed to handle the flight pretty well, but the nurse saw that his oxygen rate would fall if he started to doze off. So they kept him talking. They told him that he was the "healthiest sick person" they had ever had to travel with!

They gave him some trail mix that a nurse had and he drank a coke that I had brought for him. In fact, when I was frantically packing his stuff I remember hollering out "DADDY NEEDS A COKE!" hoing one of the kids would hear and bring one from downstairs(chuckle).

They were able to meet up with the Leer jet in Ketchikan, which was good because the King Air takes a LONG time to fly. What should have been a 4 hour trip would have been 7 or 8. I would have beat him to Seattle, even though my plane took off a couple of hours later (he had already landed by the time I got there later that night).

I went back home again, trying to get my thoughts together. I had typed numerous notes on my iphone, which I was so thankful to have! Ashton had bought it for me because he said that it looked easiest to use....sometimes being technologically inept works in my favor :).

Maj Rowland was working out all my paperwork, and arranged my flight for 7 pm that night. When I got back to the house, Jennifer was making rice in the kitchen and had my kitchen cleaned. The laundry was almost all done, and the kids were so proud of the work they had done. I was so proud of them too!

I had called my neighbor Jeanne and she offered to take care of the cat for me. Though many people offered to take the kids, Jennifer had already decided to take the kids AND the guinea pigs to her house. I shoved stuff in a suitcase as quickly as I could. Jeanne stopped by, as did Stephanie Rowland. I tried to eat a piece of pizza, but I did not have much of an appetite.

Suddenly it was PAST time to get to the airport. Jennifer managed to get kids, luggage for them and myself, and two guinea pigs in her explorer. I have no idea how...the Lord must have altered the laws of physics just for me lolol. On the way to the airport, I tried to organize my purse and take out my pocket knives—I am in Alaska, we have TONS of pocket knives. I still missed two of my favorites which ended up being confiscated by the TSA :(.

TWS’s father had once given us some emergency cash and I was so thankful to have it! I split it up into cash for me, and then gave the rest to Jen for her to use and take home.

On the way to the airport was when I talked to my mom about how I felt. I know I mentioned it in a previous post, but I just want to reiterate: Ever since I was a child, the Lord had been teaching me, guiding me, having me endure things that tested and stretched my heart and mind. Every bad thing that happened since I was a child was now working FOR me. The hateful, cruel bullying I endured as a child gave me the defense mechanism of being able to isolate, to wall off emotion. The thoughts of an overactive imagination of a child about the end of the world, of death, of war were a constant training for a REAL battle. I was facing a crisis in my life, but I had faced crises in my head for years. It was not new ground to me.

I think that boggles my mind the most. When a crisis hit, it was not new, it was not novel. It was....familiar. I had been in that moment before, though mostly in my imagination, dreams, nightmares. I had also faced crises in real life: tornadoes spinning over my house, earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, typhoons, accidents, etc.

So when I found myself facing another crisis, the Lord had already strengthened me for it. He had already prepared me for this battle, by arming me and training me from childhood.

In fact, when I came home, long after the surgery was done, I found myself restless. Honestly, I felt better being challenged than I did at rest. Being at rest makes me restless, if that makes sense. I DEFINITELY do not want any more harm to befall us! NOT AT ALL! But I wonder if maybe I might have been good as a paramedic or search and rescue or someone else who spent their lives in the middle of crises.

I know I am belaboring this point. I had basically said all this in another post. It just is so important to me. It is a key that puts order in my life. This is helping me learn that the next time tragedy befalls, that I need to try to look at it through the eyes of faith to ask "How is the Lord going to use this for my good? How can I glorify Him in this?".

A Poignant Picture

In the ER, we were in a quiet room. Jeff somehow got on base and was able to sit with TWS as I was at home getting his things together. That meant a great deal to me. Jeff is an ordained pastor, and, while he is new and not our pastor, it was so interesting to me to think of Jeff as being there in a pastoral mode, providing comfort to TWS. I don’t know, it just meant a lot. I was disappointed when he left, though I am sure he just wanted to give us some time alone.

I remembered that my cell phone takes pictures. I wanted to take a picture of us together, as this might be our last one. I did not say that to TWS, but I think he knew. We knew a lot more than we were saying at that time, mostly about fear and what we were feeling. I am still amazed at the calmness of the whole thing, as if they had told TWS that he was perfectly healthy, just needed a check up or something.

The med evac team came. They were wonderfully sweet and loaded him up onto a gurney. I had been afraid that they wanted me to come on a helicopter with them, or in a cramped plane. I would have in a heartbeat, but it made me nervous. However, there was no room for me, so I would have to fly commercial. I hated being away from him, but he looked so healthy and normal, that it was not a major stress for me to take a different plane.

He was wheeled out of the ER and I went home.



What I was afraid might be our last picture together.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Lord Provides Good Babies

I then called my folks and told them. My dad, in a bit of uncharacteristically rough vernacular said that “This scares me poopless.”. I chuckled a little and said “That’s funny, because it makes me want to tee.”. For some reason, that interplay of words still strikes me as funny.

They were visiting my brother in Virginia, but they offered to fly out, to do whatever they needed to. However, at the time there was nothing for them to do. I was not even sure what *I* was doing at that point.

Now, during this time, I was driving down a road that was posted for 55 mph. But for some reason that I cannot fathom, the two cars ahead of me were only going 45. Now one was a truck filled with roof trusses, but I assumed that we would go faster when they turned off. NO! EVERY car was going 45 mph THE WHOLE WAY HOME. And when I say the whole way home, I mean one slow car even turned down our street! I have never experienced that before in my life—no traffic to speak of, no weather, midday, and no reason to go 45 mph. I honestly wondered if perhaps I was just losing mental ground from the shock and was just imagining that cars were going that slowly. Was I going crazy?

What do I tell the kids? I had always maintained that honesty was the best policy, and I would not say “Oh daddy is fine…we are just spontaneously flying out to Seattle for a checkup.”. No, that would not do. I never lied about Santa, the tooth fairy, or the Easter bunny, I was not going to lie to them about something so important.

I walk into the house and, still mindful that his med evac plane could arrive at any moment, talked to the kids. I told them that daddy has a brain tumor, that we have to fly to Seattle to get it removed. I told them that I had to pack for daddy and that I needed them to help with the work. I told them to pack as if they were going to Seattle for a week, to clean the guinea pig cages, to clean the cat litter, and to start the laundry. I put on my best, encouraging, coaching/drill sargeant voice--upbeat and caring, but no-nonsense and brisk.

They were amazing, thank the Lord! It was as if the Lord kept all of us calm and relaxed. No tears, no hysterics. They were shocked, of course, but then jumped into action in the middle of the crisis. They were just as brisk and businesslike and upbeat as I had tried to be for them. They were incredible troopers.

Leaving them downstairs to get organized, I got the bag out for TWS's stuff and started packing. I soon realized that I put NINE pairs of gym shorts in there for him. Nine. Like he was going to go to the gym nine times after brain surgery. Plus I was going to rapidly run out of room! I removed some of the shorts, and raced around looking for the other clothing and books and electronics that he had requested.

Jen had not arrived by the time I was ready to leave. I hated leaving the kids alone at this time, but I had to get the stuff to TWS. They were doing well, though. I drove back to base.

The Lord Had Brought Training

I had told TWS that I would call his folks, but was afraid. How do you tell a mother that her only son has a brain tumor? Even now, weeks later, I feel my pulse quicken and the pit in my stomach just thinking about it. However, I could not get a hold of them. I tried their home number, and could not reach them. I think I tried his dad's cell as well, each ring of the phone making my stomach more nauseated with sorrow and anxiety for them. I was frustrated by the fact that I could not reach them, and mournful, and honestly, a little relieved.

I hung up, and I thought of how I was going to react, what I was going to do. The one good thing about being someone who both majored in psychology AND fancies themselves scientifically minded is that you automatically take quiet moments to rehash, rehearse, and analyze crises and your reactions to them.

Sometimes this just means that you spent your whole day staring at your belly button with nothing to show for it. But this time it was powerfully helpful. I asked myself: "How am I going to handle this? What are my feelings? What are my choices?".

I also asked myself "How would my parents handle this?". I knew the answer: they would be strong, be faithful. I had seen their faith in God in time of crisis. When my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 breast to bone cancer, they were strong. My mom endured without complaint, with dignity, courage, and faith that the Lord was in control. For my father, the battle was harsher. Honestly, it is one thing to be the sick person, it is another to be the well person watching your mate, your life, your love laying in bed and in pain. It is helpless and awful to be the one who has to watch as your world crumbles around you. My mom is my dad's world, his entire world.

I remember coming in to the study just a couple of weeks after her diagnosis. We had just moved in to our house in Alaska, but they flew me back immediately, as they did not think she would last two weeks. My dad had been crying. His eyes were wide with torment and begging as he turned to me and said "What am I supposed to do? Tell God that I do not trust Him now? I have to trust God now. If I don't, then all of my teaching is a lie. All that time teaching cadets about God was wasted. Faith in good times is NOT faith.". Even in his anguish, he understood that the Lord is the Lord of all. (Praise the Lord that He had mercy on us and she is happy and healthy to this day!).

No, they would not fall apart. Mom probably would be the most stoic--steady and calm. Dad would be a force of nature, trying to make things HAPPEN, to try to MAKE the universe obey his will. They would handle this crisis with grace and power and determination. I had to live up to that. I could not be less than what they would have been, it would have been too shaming.

It was this moment that the Lord was bringing me to a culmination of my life. A couple of hours later I would realize this consciously, but right then, instinctively, the Lord had me choose well. I could separate the emotion from the duty. Or rather, I could choose the emotions of faithfulness and determination over the emotions of terror and sorrow.

I had a choice, but really I didn't. I had been trained by Him through my parents. Once you know there is a choice, that one is better, you are morally bound to take that choice. I am not a great person, but the Lord showed me right from wrong, and gave me parents who insisted I choose right from when I was a kid. I was raised in a household with incredible expectations and examples of behavior.

The thing is, though, that I am not a strong woman. Stubborn? Oh yeah :). But not strong, not noble, not self sacrificing. I am weak, selfish, petulant. But *HE* made me able to endure, gave me strength. There is nothing good in me, nothing at all, that the Lord did not put there. I deserve no credit at all, and I speak this from the position of someone being in that moment and had seen clearly what He has done in her life. It was not me at all. It was Him. I have spent many years of my life agonizing, literally, over what glass in the cabinet to drink water from. I do not have faith enough for daily life sometimes!! But He gave me faith and strength for this crisis. He trained me for this.

Later when talking to my mom, I would try to explain this. I told her "I was created for THIS moment. My whole life was planning for this. This is the culmination of my existence. This is what I was made for.".

All of this "training" started when I was young. There are many things in my childhood that had left deep and painful wounds that had never really quite healed (until now, that is). I was brutally teased as a child...even to the point where two teenaged boys burned the back of my leg with a lighter as a joke. I was spat upon, had things stolen from my hands. I was mocked and betrayed. I had no defense because I had no idea that you could build walls, put on a game face. I was, by nature, transparent through and through. A bully saying "I hate you" went just as deeply as my parents saying "I love you". I had no filter, no discernment. And when you hear "You're ugly, we don't like you, go away" every day...well even if you did not know the person who said it, their words were just as hurtful as if they had been your best friend. There were times when I would come home crying every day.

I had no defense to keep the barbs from piercing my heart, but I subconsciously did develop a way of distancing myself after the fact. The emotional wounds were still there, but I knew how to splint the wound enough to keep functioning. I learned how to take a punch and keep walking.

(I do have to say here that the Lord was merciful, even during this time. He always made sure that I had at least one TRUE friend who loved me. I was never utterly alone.)

The Lord also showed me how another part of my childhood was a training for this moment. Many people live their lives in a relatively comfortable and stable setting. They are born, live, die all in the same area. Their parents have regular jobs. They have a home, and they live there, and it is pretty safe.
The world is what happens on the playground, in the home, in the town, and war was something very far away.

For me, war was on my front step every single day. I mean, you already can see that I am an overthinker, and was extremely sensitive :). Imagine that coupled with the fact that the rhythm of your family's life was set to the drumbeat of war. Instead of life centering around homecoming queens, it was centered around heroes coming home. My dad's "business trips" meant that we might not seen him for months. I was used to armed guards patrolling behind our house and the whine of alert klaxons. Our bookshelves were filled with Sun Tzu and Clauswitz. Wars, past, present and future, surrounded me every day since birth.

Millions of other kids grew up on military bases. Probably most children never thought a thing about it. I did. Some people shrug off, but I tend to want to stare into the abyss that is staring at me. The same transparency and vulnerability I had at school, I had in this. This upbringing was normal to me, but it left me no protective bubble of life. There was no "home", just another place to live for a year or three. There was no same set of people I knew for years. There was no peace, only a temporary cease-fire. There was very little stability. Other people have roots in the land, I had feathers in the air. I was not tied down, but I was also buffeted by every wind current.

However, I was not upset like I was at school. It made me proud, made me feel like part of something great--freedom and justice for those who could not protect themselves. I felt that "small town 4th of July" pride. There are few jobs that call for more sacrifice than the military, for both the military member and the family. It made me strong. But it also made me understand that life was fragile and precarious. Again, there was no ideal of "birth, graduate, marry your hs sweetheart, have babies, retire, then die in bed when you are 90". Life was so much more complex than that. It was politics and casualties and mercy and rescue and honor.

Maybe this is why I had been so fascinated with crisis. When I was...oh probably younger than 8, I started collecting first aid and catastrophe pamphlets from the Red Cross tables at fairs. You know, those ones with stick figure drawings telling you how to duck and cover during an earthquake or how to treat a broken arm? I kept them in a big bag and that was my pleasure reading. (yes, I was a weird headed little kid! lol)

There was a constant current in my childhood of the threat of the Russians attacking, of war. Many Sundays we would be in chapel, and suddenly the aircrews' radios would go off. We would stop and watch as they would file out slowly and somberly and quietly from their reserved pew in the back of the chapel. Sometimes my dad would be with them too, if he was on alert. We would not know if it was real or an exercise, we just knew that something had happened. They drifted out of the room like ghosts, leaving us there to wonder, fear, and pray in earnest. Can any child see the men leave, to know what that meant, and not be affected? I never knew if they were leaving due to exercise or to fight, and as a child, your thoughts naturally go to fear. How many times did I watch my dad go off to war, find that it was an exercise, only to have him go off to war again another time?

Or I think of when we would visit my dad at the alert facility where the aircrews stayed so they could scramble quickly to the airplanes if there was a threat. On Sunday, after church, the families could come. We would bring food from the base bowling alley: truly the most awful hamburgers ever made (ugh I hated those things!), and the most wonderful fries. We would gather at a plain, cinderblock building by the runway. The adults would stay inside and chat, while the kids would play in the small yard enclosed with high fences topped with razor wire. Such a familial gathering in a setting that was a constant reminder of of war, fear, and the transience of life. I can remember the smell and taste of the hamburgers, how I would scrape the soggy bun from the patty with my thumbnail, and how I could usually not bear to eat it, but would just eat the fries. I remember the flat of the ground, the blue of the sky, and the wind. I remember thinking it was beautiful but also....weighty? Poignant? Expectant? Sobering.

In both cases, the men going straight from church to war, and being a child visiting her father in a concertina wire rimmed yard, there was such an unreasonable juxtaposition of life and loss, family and war, faith and fear. No separation between. No clear battle lines, and behind which, safety. Not loss and then life, not fear and then faith, but fear upon faith, loss upon life, family upon war. A Cold War that raged in the experiences, the sensations, the mind and heart of me as a young girl.

It is the same juxtaposition of our experiences the day of diagnosis. A tumor upon a sinus infection. My husband, the picture of health, save a few headaches, being med evac’d from Alaska a thousand miles away. Him strong enough to build a deck, but too fragile in health to come pack his own socks for the trip.

In fact, the doctors all marveled at his robustness. They would pop their heads in the ER. They came to see the man who should be seizing or in a coma, but was strong and healthy. Mostly these tumors are caught in the ER when the patient is brought in tragically ill, not through a half moon infringement upon the CT scan of a strong man’s sinuses. (the tumor was the size of a ping pong ball, but only the side of it was visible in the CT scan--another miracle of the Lord! If it had been somewhere else, they might not have caught it!). He was, as the med evac troops put it, "the healthiest sick person they had ever transported". He was healthy enough to walk off the transport by himself, but too sick for them to fly above a certain altitude, so they had to wind their way through the valleys and canyons of Alaska wilderness.

And then there is me. So swayed at one point by OCD and panic disorder that I had been housebound for months in my life years earlier, yet so full of strength through the Lord, that I could fly down to Seattle with barely a thought. Later on my father would tell TWS "She handled this better than she handles her day to day life!", and he was utterly correct. The crisis was extreme, and so was the preparation that the Lord put me through for it. I had not known why the Lord had me endure so much strife until that VERY MOMENT when crisis struck. I had already lived through a million crises in my imagination, in my dreams, in my life. When the time came, His molding of me had been so complete that my reaction was automatic. The Lord ensured that I could be capable, able, strong FAR beyond my ability to be so.

I could see then how He had created, fashioned, molded my life for this moment. It was like a scene from a movie where the amnesiac has a sudden rush of memories and understanding of who they are. THAT was me. I did not have amnesia, of course, but there was that same rush of memories and understanding.

The Lord showed me that He DOES work everything out for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28). Every hardship that I had endured, that we all endure, prepares us for some time later in our lives. He never lets anything be wanton or useless in our lives. Even things that the enemy is trying to use to hurt us, the Lord, in His kindness, allows even those things to be used for good.

Not only that, but the pain that haunted me for years, even until this year, was erased. Those wounds healed instantly when the Lord showed me how He had turned that pain into strength. I was weak, now I am strong. I was wounded, now I am healed. I was broken, but He made me whole.

Please think about that. Think about your past hurts and understand that the Lord will bring about good in your life from those things. You might not have a spouse with a brain tumor or anything like that, but hopefully you will get a chance to see how the Lord has taken every hurtful thing in your life to create good for you. You will see the culmination of your life. You will pull sweet fruit from a bitter tree!! Suddenly nothing will be meaningless. Nothing will be useless or unfruitful. Suddenly you are not a victim anymore. No, you are no longer a victim. You are victorious in Christ. You will understand and praise the Lord. :)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Lord's Provision of True Friends

I could not get a hold of Ash's folks, so I called our friends, Jeff and Jen. I could not get a hold of Jen, so I ended up calling Jeff at work.

He immediately said he was going to leave work and get on base. I was not sure how he was going to get on base without a sponsor, but he said for me not to worry about it, he would get on somehow. I will be honest, I was hoping he was not going to try to sneak on or anything. :) He also gave me Jennifer’s cell phone number.

Just two days previously, she and I had taken the girls to this year’s botanical gardens tea. The theme was 50’s for the 50th anniversary of statehood for Alaska. I had two dresses that I had bought that she and I wore (same style, different colors), and I had made all three girls coordinating poodle skirts. I had sewn for days making crinolines and skirts and dolling up gloves and making scarves for pony tails. My house was a mess, but the tea had been a blast (though it was very cool and rainy that day!).

She had mentioned that she wished there was something she could do to repay me for that (she will probably rethink saying that in the future! lol). Truly she did not need to, it was my pleasure! However, I did think of something she could do. My house was in dreadful disarray, and I had this horrible vision of my folks or TWS's folks coming to my house. When I called her, I said “Hey Jennifer, remember when you said that you wanted a way to repay me…did you mean it?”. She said she did, so I said “PLEASE come clean my house!”. It was such a mess as I had not done any cleaning, just sewing, for days. Fabric was still strewn everywhere. I had rolls of tulle that my cat had played in. I had laundry backed up because I was sewing. I hated to ask, but I was desperate! She promised she would load up the kids and come help me.