Dear Parent of a Sick Child (letter #2)

Dear Parent of a Sick Child,

You are still there, aren’t you?  You are still at the hospital awaiting for results, for your child to wake up, and for any glimpse of good news…anything that will settle your heart to the hope of a new day without sickness.  You are tired, but you do not want to show it.  You put on a strong face, but you wonder sometimes if you can keep this costume of strength on.

You have found yourself to be a superhero of sorts,  During those quiet moments, you feel like Clark Kent.  You feel vulnerable, weak, and absolutely human.  Yet, during those strong moments where your sick child is watching, you adorn yourself with that cape of strength that you have uncomfortably worn for a while now.  You become Superman or Superwoman.  You stay up all night watching the monitors next to your child.  You make a list of questions for treatment options, expectations, and possibilities.  That brave mask you wear that shows no sign of weakness or vulnerability is rarely taken off, especially around your sick child.

Yet, you sneak off to the isolated corners of the hospital where no one can see you.  You weep with the agony of a desperate heart.  You cry out, “Please, please. Heal my child.”  You bargain with God.  You tell Him that you would gladly trade positions with your child.  You would shorten your life in order to lengthen the life of your baby.  You, dear parent of a sick child, are a weary soldier.

Dear Parent of a Sick Child, be still now.  It is okay for you to weep in the quiet corners of the hospital, and to bargain about extending your child’s life.  It is okay for you to yearn to swap places with your sick child.  You are only human, you know.  But….

You are a warrior.  You hold your child with an incomparable measure of strength as he or she gets one more treatment, one more I.V. that cannot seem to find a vein, and one more painful test. You stay up all night in order to catch your child opening his or her eyes for the first time in several weeks.

Your shield has become one of hope.  It may get dings in it, but you never stop carrying it.  It has become your defensive weapon against those who bring you bad news.  Although dampened at times, it still reflects a light that others catch when around you.

You, parent of a sick child, are one of the toughest kind of parents.  You are a survivor of a war waged on the one person you would give your life for.  You did not ask for this.  You did not expect this.  You were barely able to stand when you received the news that broke your heart, but, you stood for your child.

Yes, you are a Superhero of sorts.  You are a warrior.  You wear the mask of bravery, the cape of strength, and the shield of hope.  

Dear Parent of a Sick Child, do you want to know something?

Your child knows you are there.  Your child sees your brave face.  Your child does not know that you disappear to the isolated corners of the hospital.  Your child does not realize that your knees buckled at the devastating news.  Your child also does not know that you bargain with God on his or her behalf.

Do you want to know why?

Because while you are busy being a non-glorified superhero, you step aside so that your child becomes the warrior, the fighter, and the one who receives the praise for being strong.  

Dear Parent of a Sick Child, your kind of strength only comes around every so often.  Most parents will (thankfully) never know the depths of exhaustion mixed with a sliver of hope that you have gone through.

Sneak off to the quiet corners of the hospital if you need to.  Pray, and plead with God about the life of your child.  Advocate for treatment options, keep your mask of bravery, cape of strength, and shield of hope on.  

For your child…

the one you pray over,

the one you bargain for,

the one your knees buckled in despair over,

the one you put on a mask of bravery for,

the one you wear your cape of strength around,

and the one you carry your shield of hope for,

will also wear a mask of bravery, a cape of strength, and a shield of hope.

Dear Parent of a Sick Child, you are a warrior.

Related Posts:  Dear Parent of Sick Child

What are you eating?

Image:  www.latoro.com
Image: http://www.latoro.com

After feeling a little distracted by the busyness of life, and after the nudge from a friend, I decided to re-read the book of John.  I have read this particular book in the Bible before, but this time I was reading with the intent of focusing on the words of Christ.

Highlighting my way through it, I read the words:

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” – John 4:34

I continued to read, but decided to go back and take another look at this statement. I have never noticed it before, or maybe, it has not caused me to pause like it did this time.  Several days later, I find myself thinking about these words.  At the same time, I think about the emphasis put on food in our society.

We are either complaining because we ate too much, or complaining because we are hungry.  We either choose to spend way too much on overpriced meals at restaurants, or we spend a few dollars on “non-food” food because it is quick and cheap.

We worry about our food, talk about it often, and plan our days around the meals we eat.  We question if it is organic, or even close to being organic.  What about gluten-free or dairy-free or high fructose corn syrup free?  Does it have GMO’s or additives, or whatever else mankind has introduced to our crops?  What should be fixed for dinner?  Did the kids get enough in their lunch boxes?

We celebrate with food.  We comfort with food, we grieve with food, and we show love to strangers with warm meals.  We compare recipes, plan meals, and sometimes spend all day over a hot stove.  We share news about where to find good meals in town.  We even judge each other based on the food we eat or refuse to eat.  Sometimes, we even have a love/hate relationship with it.  Yet…

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” – John 4:34

The nutrient rich Word provides us directions and insight into life that no menu could provide.  It gives us the recipe for this faith-walk.  It possesses the ingredients of mercy, justice, love, forgiveness, humility, and accountability.

Could it be that the food of our Savior is the very same desire that we should be waking up to every day?

The fullness of a life lived with deep intention to do the will of the Lord, is far greater than one lived with the self-leading desires that often leave us empty and hungry. To emerge onto each new day enamored with the Lord, and the intensity of a life lived with the challenge to fulfill His works is enough, actually more than enough, to feed the soul.

I have asked myself, “Am I really desiring to do the will of God, or am I just wanting Him to fulfill His will according to my desires?”  There have been times in the recent months that I have been angry over decisions and situations, even though, I prayed for God’s will to occur.  I have had to face the realization that my will did not equate the Lord’s will.  I wanted something to happen, and when it did not, I felt starved and dissatisfied.  Yet,

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” – John 4:34

After reading this particular verse, I have looked at the food I’ve eaten these last few days through a different set of lenses.  While I enjoy good food, (and some junk food in between), what Jesus said has played over and over again in my mind.  I have been reminded that the food I eat may sustain my body, but the only source of nutrients that will sustain me is the keeper of my soul, the weaver of my dreams, the One who quenches my desires, and the source of my substance.

The only thing that feeds my heart is waking up knowing that each day is one day closer to meeting my Father in Heaven, and one more day to choose to seek His will and His works.

My diet plan for 2014 is to engage each day with the hunger for doing the Lord’s work, and abiding by His will, not mine.  I suspect this is a life-long challenge…sort of like dieting, and eating healthy.  We may fail miserably one day, but the next, we purposefully seek out the life-sustaining energy that comes from the conscious decision to listen to the One who feeds our souls.

What diet are you on, friend?  What are you eating?

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” – John 4:34

Hollowness to Hallelujah

HannahHannah was very bitter. She sobbed and sobbed. She prayed to the Lord.  She made a promise to him. She said, “Lord, you rule over all. Please see how I’m suffering! Show concern for me! Don’t forget about me! Please give me a son! If you do, I’ll give him back to you. Then he will serve you all the days of his life. He’ll never use a razor on his head. He’ll never cut his hair.”

As Hannah kept on praying to the Lord, Eli watched her lips. She was praying in her heart. Her lips were moving. But she wasn’t making a sound.

Eli thought Hannah was drunk. He said to her, “How long will you keep on getting drunk? Get rid of your wine.”

“That’s not true, sir,” Hannah replied. “I’m a woman who is deeply troubled. I haven’t been drinking wine or beer. I was telling the Lord all of my troubles. Don’t think of me as an evil woman. I’ve been praying here because I’m very sad. My pain is so great.”  -1 Samuel 1:10-20  

Wow.  I’ve read these words before, but tonight, they seemed to jump out at me. The words Hannah exclaimed before the Lord are ones that most of us in equal pain have exclaimed.   The pleading, begging, and deep sorrow is one that is so poignantly written about in Scripture.  The feelings that Hannah expressed are ones that have been and still are translatable for many women throughout our history.

Bitterness, sorrow, sadness, suffering, troubled hearts, and painful days are all descriptive of the walk that so many women who find themselves barren are struggling through. They are told not to be bitter, and that their sorrow will turn to joy, but many find themselves without the sweet ending to their bitterness and sorrow.  They know their heart is troubled and that they are suffering, but still, they walk each day in faith with a heaviness unlike any other.

And the pain, oh the pain…They walk each step as if their hearts are being ripped out.  It is a deep and hollowing pain that comes along with barrenness.  It is one equal to the agony of a broken heart.  It is hard to describe, yet, so obviously felt by many.

As I read the words of Hannah tonight, I thought, “I once prayed just like her.  I once felt her bitterness, and her sobering sorrow.  I once suffered.  I once was troubled, and I truly pleaded with the Lord.”  

As a matter of fact, I distinctly remember calling out and surrendering to the Lord in my anguish with the words, “Father, you know my heart’s desire.  I trust Your will, Lord, but I just want a chance at being a mother.  I just want to experience what it feels like to hold a baby in my arms as a mother, if just for a moment.  Father, I want this.  I need this.”

Soon after this prayer, we received our first foster care placement of an infant boy whom we ended up adopting nearly two years later.  It was not long after this tear-filled pleading that I held a baby in my arms and felt the all-encompassing love of being a mother.  It was not long after this surrender that my heart stepped outside of itself, and suddenly, my entire world changed.  Everything changed.

The Lord has stifled my anguish three times over through the adoption of two sons, and one daughter.

If you are a Momma-in-Waiting, a modern-day Hannah, or a soul that is in despair, I know your pain must be great.  It is one that is held within the silent walls of your beating heart.  It is a heaviness that is rarely felt, except by others who are walking the same road.  I want you to know, though, that our Father in Heaven hears you. He sees your pain.  He knows your desires, and He has already prescribed your future.

Our God is the same God who heard the pleadings of Hannah.  He answered her prayer when she became pregnant and delivered Samuel.  The miraculous love of our Father is that He continues to answers the pleadings of His children.

He is not deaf to the misery of your heart.

I do not know what you are going through right now.  I do not know how the Lord will work it all out, but I know that faith during this difficult time is essential.  The footsteps you walk while you are facing the all-encompassing loneliness of infertility are ones that need to be taken in faith.

If you are overwhelmed in grief, lift up your heart and your hands to the Lord. Remind yourself of how the Lord answered Hannah’s prayer, and the prayers of a multitude of fellow sisters throughout history.  Remind yourself that YOU, my dear sister of an empty womb, YOU are precious in the sight of Your Father in Heaven.

May the Lord bless You.  May His glorious light rescue you from the darkness you are feeling surrounded by.  Like Hannah, may the God of all creation, answer your prayer, and create a miracle in your life.  Through the light, love, and promise of God, may the hardship of hollowness be turned to one that exclaims, “Hallelujah!”

Lessons Learned Growing Up Barren

In the late summer of 1983, I became gravely ill and ended up needing an emergency hysterectomy. I was just eleven-years-old, and did not fully understand the implications of this type of surgery.  That fateful moment in time changed my life in a drastic way.  Infertility became the shadow to which I danced around, but could never get away from.  Going through this experience taught me some vital life lessons that are translatable to other aspects of life.

Lesson #1 – You really cannot understand what someone has been through unless you have truly walked in his or her shoes. Unfortunately, I learned this vicariously through the things that people would say to my parents after my surgery. For example, my mom returned to her job at a local retail store after being gone for several weeks to care for my needs. A co-worker said to her, “Well, at least you don’t have to worry about her getting pregnant as a teenager.” My mother bit her tongue and kept on working, but I know these words stayed with her for many years. The woman would have been better off by either not saying anything, or letting my mom express her feelings about what just happened to her daughter.

I think about this often, and use this lesson to remind myself that I never really know what someone else has been through. It also reminds me that everyone has a back-story to life.  We live in a world of comparison.  We live in a world that expects nothing but the best.  Behind comparison and ideals are the battles that we all face. Everyone has a story.  Let us not forget that.

Lesson #2 – Infertility is a topic that most people avoid like the plague. I was always so amazed at how very little my circumstance in life was talked about. Even medical professionals would ask why I had a hysterectomy, but then the conversation would fall off or end with the statement, “You can always adopt.”   I learned that the whole subject made people very uncomfortable, and in many ways, it still makes people uncomfortable.  In particular, churches do not offer enough support for church-goers who are deeply struggling with God’s plan for their parenthood.

Within the past few years, there has been an increase in public awareness about infertility. Thousands of bloggers hit their keyboards noting their very painful and poignant journey to become parents. They seek comfort from strangers while feeling completely isolated from those closest to them. My advice after living with barrenness for thirty years is to talk about it with anyone who is able and willing to listen. There is nothing to be ashamed of, so unload your secret struggle on those who will provide you authentic support.

Lesson #3 – Adoption and infertility are two separate experiences.  We need to stop blending them together.  People used to give me advice on how to handle infertility. Most of the time, they ended up talking about adoption. I never understood the equation of woman minus being able to get pregnant equals adoption. It is true that a lot of couples who are unable to have biological children seek and become adoptive parents.

I, too, am a mother through adoption, but my adoptions do not represent my infertility; nor do they erase the grief I experienced through the years.  On the flip side, barrenness does not damper my experience as a mother.  If anything, it may just enhance and enrich it.  My hope is that society gets to a place where we recognize the authentic and deeply wounding loss of infertility, AND, that we can see adoption as a separate and remarkable experience – not just a band-aid for infertility.

Lesson #4 – Traumatic events that take place in childhood can linger throughout adulthood, but they do not define who you are. Trauma, whether through abuse, loss of significant person in life, or serious medical illnesses such as mine, stays with a person for the rest of life.  The flashes of memories while in the hospital, and recovering at home still play in my mind. The reality of the great loss that I suffered has never really gone away, and it probably won’t. I keep it tucked away in a corner of my heart.

I suspect most of us who have gone through traumatic events remember a life in the “before and after”.  Yet, (and this was a very important life lesson I learned) my surgery did not define who I was, and it certainly did not declare my future.  I encourage anyone who is going through a traumatic experience to please remember that what you are going through does not make up who you are.  It impacts you.  It changes you.  It even sculpts you in a way that is a little different from who you were, but, it does not constitute the rest of your life.  Do not give it that much power. Cling on to who you were before sadness visited your life, and celebrate who you will be in the future.

Lesson #5- Infertility is both an emotional and spiritual battle.  It is hard, sometimes, for me to express just how much of a spiritual and emotional battle that I have walked through the years.  Before I became a Mommy, I dealt with deep loss and confusion about what God’s will in my life was.  I wondered why I was born a woman if I could not give the world what is considered to be one of the most precious gifts.  I’m not sure if people fully understand what having a hysterectomy means to a female; especially one like myself who had the surgery at a time when every other girl I knew was having a period.

From a spiritual sense, I thought that God must have never wanted me to be a mother.  I was taught to trust His will, but when it came to being a mother, I often questioned why the will of God would include infertility.  Looking back at the years long ago, I know that I was battling a spiritual battle,

I thought for many years that I deserved what happened, and that somehow the Lord must have known that I would make a terrible mother.  I figured that I must not be capable of caring for a child, or that for some reason, I was being punished by the sins of those before me.  Hear me when I say this – these thoughts were real, all-encompassing, and took a long time to heal from.

While I went about being a typical teenager, twenty-something, and young adult, I battled the silent war of my own emotions and sense of spiritual longing.  I know many others who are battling this secret war behind closed doors, and through unseen tears.  It is a very real.

Lesson #6- Women complain about pregnancy….a lot.  Now, I don’t mean any disrespect by this, and I’m sure that at times, pregnancy is extremely uncomfortable.  Please remember though that while you are complaining about swollen feet, hot flashes, and back pain, there might just be a woman around you who feels a twinge of pain with each of your words.

There is nothing more uncomfortable for an infertile woman than being around a pregnant person.  Again, I mean no offense by this.  Do you understand what it means to not carry a child?  Do you understand that it is a deep longing that may never be fulfilled?  If so, then please, stop complaining about pregnancy.  I know it is uncomfortable, but at the same time, it is miraculous, beautiful, and incredible. Please treasure the nine months, and understand that there are millions (literally millions) who would trade places with you in an instant.

Lesson #7 – Life is unpredictable, but our reactions are not.  Life tends to throw us curve balls.  I was born a healthy baby girl and within eleven years, I underwent a hysterectomy.  I became the youngest female known to have this surgery.  This was the absolute last thing my parents would ever expect when raising me.  Honestly, it is the last thing probably any parent of a school-aged girl would think.

It took many years, and there were pitfalls, but eventually, life got back to normal. My parents raged in silence, and grieved even more, but they continued to show me a sense of stability and hope for the future.  Their reactions were what I expected – steady, loving, and what I needed.

Initially, when we are struck by incredibly traumatic events in life, we may falter a bit. Our knees may buckle.  We may feel like curling up in a ball, and wishing the world away.  After some time though, we can choose to get back up.  We can choose to react in a way that shows the world what we are made of, and better yet, where our faith is in our lives.  This a life-lesson that stayed with me.

Lesson #8- Hope is one of the most powerful human actions.  I always wondered with an excitement, and even a little bit of fear, what the Lord had in store for my life.  I remember thinking that maybe I could adopt some day, but, I really did not understand it at all.  I just knew that eventually life would make sense. Eventually, even if in Heaven, I would come to know the reason why all of this nonsense took place.  Eventually, I would know the answer to what my hope clung to.  And, do you want to know something?  I have found that answer in a two brown-eyed boys, and one blue-eyed girl.

Whatever you are going through in life right now, please do not give up hope. Hope is the confirmation that you declare a brighter future.  It truly is an incredibly powerful human experience.  It is one that has set many people free.

Lesson #9- Conception and birth are miracles, but the greatest miracle in life is love.  I knew that there was something quite special that I would miss out on. I knew that giving birth to a baby was a precious and vital part of being a woman, and that this had been tragically taken from me.

I also remember thinking at age twelve that birth is miraculous, but love is even more miraculous.  I found myself immediately defending love as being the most important miracle in life.  Without love, life would cease to exist, or at least the life that we all know.

Love causes us to be moved in ways that require selflessness.  It asks us to participate in moments that we otherwise might avoid.  It calls us to be the one person that makes a difference in another’s life.  It pulls us out of empty places, and commands us to re-position ourselves to the benefit of someone else.

This lesson of love helped me to survive the battle of barrenness.  I knew that one day, I would be able to pass on the love I received from my parents.  Out of love grew the desire of my heart to become a foster parent, to show kindness to my children’s birth parents, and to adopt.  And, it was love that called me back to my faith.

Love is truly the greatest miracle of all.  Love replaces barrenness.

Lesson #10- God is faithful.  I look around my house now as it is over-run by children’s toys, and pictures of smiling kiddos.  I enter into my children’s rooms while they sleep and see the love that lies before me.  I get up each morning to the sounds of needy and active children.  I feel frustration over their messes, bad choices, and just plain hardship of being a parent.  I cry at their successes, and their struggles.  I live life thinking about how I can make their lives better.

I look at life now as a mother and believe wholeheartedly that the God I believe in is faithful.  Of all the lessons I have learned in this unique walkabout, this lesson is the one that I cling to the most.  It is the one that delivers me from whatever hardship I am going through, and it is the one that my soul is able to rest on for the future.

These are the life lessons learned while growing up barren.  These lessons are ones that molded a life that went from barren to blessed.  These lessons are ones that have added depth to my Earthly experience.

In many ways, perhaps, I was not so barren after all.

Big Boys {words of advice from the mother of a little boy}

We had our typical New Year’s Eve meal of “little smokies”, veggies with dip, chips and queso, and Quiche tarts with our children to welcome in the New Year.  We talked about what our favorite parts of 2013 were, and what we were looking forward to in 2014.  The kids stayed up a little later than usual, but were still in bed by 9:00 pm.

Big BoyAs I was getting my 7-year-old son ready for bed, he said, “Now, I’m ready for my big boy stuff!”  By big boy stuff, he was referring to the mouthwash we bought him to assist with his dental care now that he has adult teeth.

As he turned around to show me how he could swish the mouthwash in his mouth, I noticed how small he still looks in his pajamas.  He said the words “big boy”, but in my mind and heart, he is still my little boy.

When he turned around to face the sink, I started to tear up just a bit.  Odd, I know.  Normally the vision of my children brushing their teeth does not cause me to cry, but this time, I took one look at him, and realized that another year has passed in raising this wonderful little boy.

The thought of releasing him to the world one of these days terrifies me.  Truly, the thought of releasing any of my children to the world is frightening.  Yet, I know that I am experiencing the same feelings my parents, my parents’ parents, and my parents’ grandparents must have felt.  With each passing of a New Year, I am brought a little closer to my children growing up, a little closer to the day when they will be out of the house, and a little closer to the day when they too will be navigating the journey of raising children.

I’m asking, on behalf of all mothers and fathers out there, for us to all stop and take a look around at the world we are leaving for our babies.  Those of us around my age and older remember a world free from technology, digital anything, texting, and searing statistics of broken families.  I wish I could bring my babes back to the world I grew up in – back to a world that seemed a little more kid friendly, or maybe even, safer.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I know we live in a remarkable time.  Just the fact that I’m sitting here from my laptop in Southwest Missouri and sharing my thoughts that will reach other countries, is astonishing.  I know this.  As a mom though, I wonder where all of this is going.  Are we continuing down a path of technology marvel while pulling away from actual relationships?

My “big boy” in his slightly too-big Lego’s pajamas is not ready for the world.  I’m not ready to let him go.  I’m not ready for the times he comes home heart-broken over being picked on, turned down, or disappointed.  I fear the day he walks through the doors, nearly grown, and announces that he’s ready to move out.

Sometimes, I just want to roll back time, and hold him a little closer.  This part…this part of watching children grow up and become less dependent…is both wonderful and heart-breaking at the same time.  And yet, my children are still so young.  I suspect I will feel these emotions with each passing of the New Year.

As the mother of a little boy who thinks he is big (and of a little girl, and infant boy), I have a few words of advice that I would like to share with all of the Big Boys out there:

  1. We were not made to be the same.  The beauty of you, and your friends, is that each of you are uniquely created with talents, ambitions, and inclinations.  My son has quirks, talents, and struggles that make him who he is.  You will never see or even like my son the way that I do, but please, let him be who he is, and I’m pretty sure he will let you be who you are.
  2. Don’t do anything stupid.  Your mother loves you, and worries about you – even though you are bigger.  No matter your age, she will never stop.  Try to go easy on her.
  3. Your role as a man, brother, boyfriend, husband, uncle, father, or grandfather, is vital.  YOU are vital.  Your God-given role is equally important in the lives of children.  I have worked with many children who grieved for a relationship with a father.  Please don’t under-estimate how valuable you are in the lives of little big boys (and little big girls) in the world.
  4. Please know that little big boys look up to you.  They watch all that you do, and say, and they are impressed by it.  Try to make positive, life-affirming impressions on all of the little boys you come in contact with.
  5. Remember, you were once a little big boy.  Think about that.

I know I still have many more years to raise, train, discipline, and enjoy my children. I also know that parenting is a life-long venture.  As time passes, I see that moments of parenting go by quickly.  I will wake up one of these days to an empty home that is not filled with the busyness of children.  There will no longer be lunches to pack, school work to help with, middle of the night wake-up calls, or early morning bed jumpers.  There will just be me, my husband, and the memories of raising our children.

For now, though, I am going to sneak off and give my little big boy a kiss while he sleeps….