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We are a family of fifteen: eight already with Jesus and seven in desperate need of Him. This is the story God is writing in our lives. Proverbs 16:9

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

If Only I...

One of the first things I did last week while grappling with Eliana's febrile seizures was google "febrile seizures". Isn't that what we all do these days? I read from so many different sites. Medical information comes in a few of different forms. There seems to be a divide between the traditional and the natural, if one could be so discerning to differentiate the two. If you want to revisit my thoughts about natural stuff, see this blog here. There is so much information from so many sources, it is overwhelming.

I read quite a bit from the Mayo Clinic. I also received information from the ER and Ana's Pediatrician (who I like so much, by the way). There is nothing like speaking to a person who has spent his or her adult life caring for children and has personally seen and treated a multitude of illnesses. I truly appreciated the counsel I received from others who have witnessed and cared for a person having a seizure. On top of the seizure, we were looking for signs of a rare disease--- one that would need to be treated swiftly. I needed the guidance of a physician who had seen this disease before or could confidently say Eliana didn't have it.

While we waited on a diagnosis, I also employed some things deemed more natural to bolster her immune system. Lets be honest, when my kids are sick, I will do anything to help and not (knowingly) do more harm.

In the middle of one sleepless night, I did some reading on a site that promoted other ways of treating--- or not treating--- fever. There were opinions that directly condemned my understanding of fevers and seizures (together, not separately). There is nothing like being told you did and are doing everything wrong, especially when it means you have harmed your child. It hit me like a stab to the stomach. In my own medical-background mind, the information still didn't jive with my understanding of anatomy, physiology, and disease/treatment process. Let me assure you, I understand the body's way of dealing with disease and, for God's common grace in it, I am thankful. But the way the writer was speaking, I questioned whether or not he or she had ever seen a child have a febrile seizure. My biggest criticism of most of the information directed at the masses assumes a normal, healthy child. Most times, there is a caveat or exception---  and usually my children (and many times me as well!) fall in that category.

Talk about causing anxiety. Then, there was even more information linked to that particular site that added more anxieties in the illusions to systemic problems caused by environment, diet, laundry detergent, carpet chemicals, plastic toys, preservatives, ozone, etc. (do you get where I am going here?). All I have to say about that is "ya think?" I don't mean to be snarky. Still, there are no lions lying down with lambs here people. And, to quote one of my favorite singer/songwriters, no one is getting out of here alive (except for the ones who see Him coming--- and boy, I hope to be in that company).

I get it though. I want to feel well. I want the energy to care for my family. I want them to be healthy. I never want to see my little girl going through what she did last Saturday. But sometimes, wanting something is not enough. There may be a better way and there may not. I may do something that helps her and I may make a choice that ---God forbid--- does her harm. And knowing that produces all kinds of anxiety.

There are so many differing opinions all claiming to be the one that is right. What is right today will be disproven tomorrow. There is always another article to read with another expert opinion.  I am bound to feel condemnation from one direction or another. Then there is the insinuation if my kids get sick ---or if I get sick--- that I am just not doing enough. Or willing to do the hard thing. Or another thing. Or this thing. Or that thing. That feeling is discouraging, completely exhausting, and isolating. I get tired of conducting science (or anti-science) experiments on my children. Am I the only one? (I know I am revealing something about myself here.) I am so glad that some things help some people, but we are all not the same. What should happen doesn't always happen. Many of the information-givers want to be helpful. Some are selling something. Some want support for the decisions they have made. I know I have been guilty of not listening for the sake of needing to speak out of my own experience.

My contributions to different brands of apothecary are substantial. I have never been more thankful for Tylenol suppositories, epinephrine, coconut oil, and Elderberry as I am right now. The one time in many that a child needed help for a fever, I was so thankful for an ER full of doctors and nurses who were absolutely all in to help. Aren't we so fortunate here with access to so much that is completely unavailable in other parts of the world. But the masses of information can be unhelpful and it is absolutely not our ultimate hope. I have to remind myself of this all the time. I am so thankful that God gives us stuff to help us in human weakness but so often I forget the Creator and in essence, begin to worship the created. God help me, I am the worst. I would do some pretty crazy stuff to avoid suffering. Everyone with built-in self-preservation can sympathize. Even Jesus sympathized. When faced with ultimate suffering, He asked that it be taken from Him.

This life is full of opportunities to pray and do the best I can, knowing I may not always know everything. You and I can sit down and talk about what we have learned and it may be a help and it may not. I will never be omnipotent or in control as much as I might like to be for you or for me. But I can sure speak to the One who is all knowing and ask for a deepening of faith to see that He ultimately sustains and will redeem. He is bigger than what is in my pantry, medicine cabinet, or skill set right now. His hand reaches out when I lose all sense of what I should do, confronted by my biggest fears, and gives a where-with-all that must be supernatural. He sure did last Saturday.

When I am convicted of unbelief or more specifically, hoping in information, medications, or other things, He is faithful and just to forgive me. All of confessions of anxieties are met with perfect trust and faithfulness at the cross. And when the results of the fall hit home, He hears my cries of anguish, cries with me (John 11:35), and answers my sufferings--- not by belittling --- but with a response that mirrors the depth of pain with the promise of redemption. Even that seems too good to be true sometimes when His choices aren't what I would like. In all things, I believe, help my unbelief. In a few weeks, when the flu season is almost over and Easter Lilies are in bloom, it will be good for me to remember the cost of a future hope.


One of the best speakers I have heard that addresses the anxiety brought about by social media is David Zahl. I would encourage you to listen to his thoughts here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Andrew Turns 11

Andrew had quite the birthday this year. It was bigger boy initiation really. It is fun to party and all but sometimes there are some birthdays when all the hoopla is shrouded in real life. I guess it is fitting that at this age, he is just the right amount of boy and just the right amount of man. We have still not taken him for his requested birthday steak at his (second) favorite restaurant but we are waiting on wellness to do it.

What is Andrew up to these days, you may ask? He is tackling fractions, declining more Latin nouns and learning sentence translations, playing basketball, building unique and complicated Lego creations, reading loads of Calvin and Hobbes, unabashedly cheering for UK, and continuing to take us to task in staying on track. When I asked Andrew what he might want the world to know, age 11, he said, "Jesus is alive." Amen brother. Then, I asked what he might want the world to know about him, age 11. He replied, "I like being a leader. I have a lot of ideas. I have a lot of feelings, too, and I feel ok about that."

We feel ok about that too. We are thankful for another year and another birthday, whatever the circumstances, with Andrew.

Brother Photo Bomb

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Life This Side

On January 12, our Andrew turned 11 years old. It feels like the first 10 years were the climb up the clinking hill part of his life and now we enter the free fall. Stay tuned for a post about him very soon. 
On Christmas Eve, I awoke with Isaac staring at me from the side of my bed. He was pale and upset. One look, and I immediately thought of his asthma. I ran him downstairs and Micah prepared a breathing treatment. He has never looked this way without having some breathing difficulty so I assumed he was somehow struggling. His lungs sounded clear and I heard no wheezing. I began the treatment anyway. After a couple of minutes, his lips started turning blue--- and he complained that his tummy hurt. He was lethargic. Even the soles of his feet were pale. Clearly, asthma wasn't the culprit. 
I had no idea what was wrong with him. The paleness and lethargy was so pronounced, I told to Micah call 911.

The ambulance arrived and assessed our boy. His vitals were OK overall but his demeanor was not improving. We decided it was best to have him looked over. On the way to the hospital I suggested to our EMS escort that maybe his blood sugar was low. Sure enough, it was indeed. He gave him glucose and when we arrived, he drank juice and returned to his normal, energetic self. 

For some reason, on this particular morning, Isaac's blood sugar lagged well below normal. After a good visit with his Pediatrician, we are confident this was a one-time episode. Isaac had fallen asleep early the night before and had slept in that morning. His body should have regulated his blood sugar better, but this time, it didn't. This is definitely something we will be more mindful of for him in the future. 

On another note, his "asthma" (although they are still hesitant to officially diagnose) seems to be under control. When he saw the doc, he had had a cold for over a week and an ear infection. Even given his upper respiratory ick, his lungs were completely clear. The doc was pleased at his progress. It was just last year that he got ill and ended up in the hospital with pneumonia. Praise God!

Not too much time passing and another child, another concern. This past Saturday, Eliana woke up with swollen, bloodshot eyes. She looked really sick--- and had been sharing Isaac's cold (sharing is good, right?--- not always). I took her to an urgent care center in the afternoon. She was diagnosed with a sinus infection and conjunctivitis. I brought her home and started medication. She also felt a little warm, so I gave her ibuprofen. She was very tired having missed her nap so she quickly fell asleep on the couch. She had been very still for about half an hour when she woke up abruptly. I remember saying out loud, "I think she is having a seizure". Some of the details are a blur. Somehow, Micah loaded all the kids up in the van, I gathered her in my arms, and we again headed to the ER. On the way there, she had two more seizures. 

Those minutes have made an impression on my soul that will not be erased. They settle among others that have altered the fabric of my soul. Suffice it to say, I thought she was going to die in my arms. I was speaking aloud--- words to calm her, asking her to take breaths, trying to get the pulse oximeter to read something other than *panic*, prayers for God to intervene. I sang to her. The ride was so long. There was a person that had pulled out in front of Micah that surely thought he was just impatient and decide to go slowly to make a point. From now on, I will consider the hurried driver a bit more graciously--- you never know what may be going on that might make them move with more urgency. 

We finally made it to the ER. I ran her inside and tried to say something that would give them the information they needed to help. We were seen by the doc in less than a minute. Her temperature was well over 104. The nurse gave her acetaminophen in suppository form. It helped very quickly. I fed her a popsicle. At some point, Micah and the other children came back to see her. 

For a good while, she and I sat on the bed. The nurse brought her a sticker sheet with a winter scene complete with snowflakes (how appropriate). The doctor came back in the room and began going over information regarding febrile seizures. I heard about half of what she said. 

The doc left and Eliana's nurse entered. I felt like I had been pummeled by a stream of relentless waves. The adrenaline subsiding, I felt sick to my stomach. I kept closing my eyes trying to reabsorb tears and act like I was somewhat succeeding in assimilating the information I had been given. The nurse stopped, put her arm around me, and gave me a safe space to cry. Since Eliana had stabilized, we went back home. 

In the days afterward, she remained very sick. Her fever continued to spike, sometimes going from completely normal to almost 102 in just 10 minutes. With the seizure episodes, I have been very careful, watching her temperature. With her eyes swollen and a crazy shade of bright red we made two more trips to the doctor. He finally narrowed down her diagnosis. Sinusitis was not the whole story.

There were groups of symptoms that would move us toward a more clear diagnosis. He began looking for signs of Kawasaki Disease and a type of Adenovirus, giving me instruction on how to differentiate between the two. One is more rare and threatening than the other. It has been frightening for her to have been so sick without knowing exactly what we are treating, whether what I have been doing was helpful, and if she is in real danger or simply following the course of a virus. After watching her all week, it seems as though she has had an Adenovirus. After days and days of high fevers, she is getting better. Her eyes are less red and swollen. She still isn't at her best, but she is definitely better than she was. 

Fever Finally Broken

Today, I have learned a little more about Isaac and Eliana. I have also learned about Andrew, Elijah, and Isabella in the ways they have responded to their siblings. I know a little more of the ills of life. But ultimately, I know that I may not always know. There are mysteries here that will also be my companions. There are best guesses and at a given moment, they may be wrong and may be right. It makes me uncomfortable, sometimes to the point of discouragement. I don't like it, especially when it comes to my little ones. 

In the moments where the veil is thin between this world and the next, the only thing that remains clear is that Hope still remains outside of us--- outside of our understanding--- outside of our frailties--- outside of our limitations--- and enters in to those spaces that threaten to undo us. I need the One who has conquered death to continue in life. True hope does not deny hard things but sees them as they are. Suffering is real. Sometimes it feels like it may consume. But of all that I am sure and more that I am not, it does not win. I say this with confidence because it absolutely does not depend on me. The ultimate suffering and the thing most feared is death. Jesus made the end of all things ---not death---but life--- where seizures and illness do not exist for those He loves "for we will be like Him, because we will see Him as He is."  Since that day is not today, keep reminding me. I so often forget. I am completely serious. And I will keep reminding you.