Love Your Little Ones

photo (61)Most of my day today was spent holding my 4-year-old daughter’s hand while she quietly laid in the emergency room hospital bed.  My daughter woke up early this morning, crying and screaming for me.  She was grasping the back of her head and crying out that something popped.  She was inconsolable.  I suggested that she must have slept wrong, and helped her change positions (she refused to move).

She settled down just a bit, and I stumbled back into bed.  Again, I was awakened to the same crying sound.  I gave her a dosage of Tylenol and started the process of deciding whether or not to take her to see a doctor.  Two hours passed and my daughter would not let go of her head.  She continued to complain of pain.  After a brief drop off of one child to a sitter, I phoned her doctor to set an appointment.

No sooner had I hung up the phone, the doctor’s office called right back and urged me to take her to the emergency room in case something neurological had taken place.  I quickly scooped my daughter up and hustled to the hospital.  The ER doctor suggested a cat scan of the brain and neck.  He simply told me in a rather non-emotional way, “I just want to check for anything possibly happening to her vertebrae, or a brain tumor.”  Um…or a brain tumor?  

This was not the first time these two words have been said to me in regards to my daughter.  When she was just 6-months-old, her skull grew so rapidly that her doctor ordered an MRI to rule out a brain tumor.  We were her foster parents at the time, and really had no idea what to expect.  Thankfully, it was clear.  We decided at that time that if the results were not what we wanted, and if she had a brain tumor, we would have continued fostering her.  We loved her so much regardless of what the future held.

Throughout the past four years my daughter has complained off and on of headaches, but usually they subside.  This one today though was completely unlike any other she had.  She literally held the back of her head in her hands all day and would not move.  As we waited a couple of hours for the results to be read, I sat next to her, holding her small, soft hand, and just thought about how many other mothers were in my position.  I felt fairly confident that the result would be okay, but still, the worry was there.  For just a brief moment I pondered the thought of her having a tumor, but quickly forced myself to “not go there”.

The doctor came in and reported that the scan was clear of any tumors, but that the radiologist found an abnormality in the top of her spinal column.  They called the neurosurgeon who took a look at it and reported that this was a congenital birth defect with her top vertebrae.  Apparently, the vertebrae did not fuse together completely.  There is a chance that it could repair itself, but otherwise, it should not be a problem for her growing up, and it did not contribute to today’s events.  The doctor advised me to watch her closely, follow-up with her pediatrician, and to report back should her situation worsen.

My drive home was full of thoughts about what had transpired today.  Again, I thought about all of the other mothers whose news about their babies had not turned out in their favor.  I also thought about my own mother who endured my childhood health problems.  I thought about those times she must have held my hand and endured through the sleepless nights of the month I was in the hospital following my hysterectomy.

One would think I should know this by now, but I learned, or better yet, learned again today that our health is not a guarantee.  Our children’s health is not guaranteed either.  One day we may be holding their hands walking them to school, and the next, we may be holding their hands waiting for test results.

My daughter is tucked in her bed as I’m typing this.  She is fine for now, and we are supposed to follow-up with her doctor tomorrow.  I’ll end this post with the following thoughts that occurred to me today:

Love your little ones.  Don’t take any day for granted with them.  Appreciate the moments, however small they may be, with your children.  These moments provide the fuel to continue doing the best job we can as a parents.  It is also in these moments that we can find subtle reminders of the blessing of children.

valley of death, Mercy of Life

The picture above is me during my last week or so in the hospital following my hysterectomy in 1983. I had escaped out of the valley of death . That smile across my face gives no indication of what had just happened but speaks volumes to the God-given resilience of children.

This is the only time I have come close to death. I was in the dying process before the doctors and surgeons decided to perform exploratory surgery as an effort to find out what was happening to me. I learned of this detail about two to three years ago. I knew I was extremely ill but no one ever told me that I was literally dying.

Following this disclosure by the doctor who performed my surgery, I sat there quietly with tears rolling down my face. I was so close to death as a child and never knew it. I grieved at that moment for my parents, family, medical staff, and for myself. Yet, the tears that streamed down my face were not just of sadness, but also of joy over the revealing of His wisdom that flowed through the doctors’ hands and of His mercy that kept me alive.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. – Psalm 23

I was in a Christian youth singing group called “The Sweet Spirits” for the first few years following my hysterectomy. The musical director specifically picked my solo to be a rendition of Psalm 23. My mom and other familiar adults got tearful when I sang this song. How apropos this song was. I had truly just walked through the valley of the shadow of death just a year or so prior.

From time to time, this Psalm flows through my thoughts and I find myself reciting it for days. It is rather morbid to think about walking through the valley of the shadow of death. However, as a Christian, it is comforting to know that the valley of death precedes the glory of His Kingdom.

I have been thinking lately that we are in some way always in the shadow of death. One wrong turn, one missed step, one random act, one diagnosis…the list goes on. I want to start living as though I am in the shadow of death, but I don’t want that to be my focus. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I do not want to take moments for granted. More importantly, I hope to live for His Kingdom and for the promise of eternal life in Christ.

There are many things that have died within me along this journey to Heaven. Old habits, lack of trust, thin faith, and disbelief…all of these have passed away so that I can truly have life in Him. The awesome thing about living a life of faith is that when things get difficult, or when the shadow of death seems to be getting closer, one can always look to the Lord and see His mercies through it all.

Lord, help me to see Your mercy not only when I am in the valley of death, but also when my cup runs over, when I am in front of my enemies, when the pastures are green and the water is still, and when my eyes are eternally fixed on You.

Dance before His Throne

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the girl I was before my hysterectomy. My surgery was not just another one chalked up in the history of who I am. It was a life-changing event. It was something that tarnished my rose-colored glasses view of the world.

I had not been a stranger to the hospital or illnesses before. At age two, I underwent an emergency appendectomy. At age seven, intestinal adhesions caused a blockage calling for another emergency surgery. But, the hysterectomy was a far more intense and dire experience.

This surgery affected everyone around me. It was not just about recovery. It was more than that. It was a game changer. My parent’s lives were instantly changed by it. My life, of course, was too.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed life. There was still laughter, new experiences, and friendships. But, after the surgery, sadness stowed itself away in me unbeknownst to many people.

Prior to this surgery, I was a dancer. By the time I was eleven, I had danced for eight years.  I danced competitively and dreamt of performing on Broadway. My ultimate goal was to be a choreographer. However, something changed in me following the surgery. My body did not move the same way. It took more effort. My muscles had been emaciated from the infection and, to be honest, my spirit had been dampened by it as well.

Within a few years after my recovery, I quit dancing. I don’t know why really. My dance teacher told me many years later that she believed if the surgery would have never happened, I could have been a professional dancer. She too thought that it changed my body’s ability to move and nearly wiped me clean of the strength I once had.

So, here I am now at age forty still thinking of the days I danced. I’ve decided to write a poem to the little girl I once was whose dreams of dancing went to the wayside. I know that when my walk on this Earth has ended, I will be dancing before the Lord.

Dance away, little dancer. Dance before His throne. Dance for all the pain you have once known.

No longer taste the salt in your tears. Feel the movement taking away all of your fears.

Dance your life into a story, and let it be all for His glory.

Point your toes with every ounce of grace. See the expression of love on His face.

Dance away, little dancer. The one who longed to know the answer.

The answer to why that fateful time came.  The longing for a life that would never be the same.

Your life interrupted with no fault of your own. In a single moment, your life’s tapestry was sewn.

Welcome home, little dancer. For now, you know the answer.

His love is your melody. Dance your praise for eternity.

You’ve danced your life into a story. And, it all has been for His glory.