Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Visiting Grandpa

I went to visit my grandpa Monday evening, the first evening of his admission into the nursing home. I have to admit that I procrastinated as long as I reasonably could, afraid of what I would find, nervous that I would be alone. I had originally planned to bring the whole family, but Shawn and I decided that if Grandpa was really out of sorts that it would not be good for the kids to be there. Mom, Grandma, my aunt, and my uncle had left just before lunch, and I got there around 5:00 that evening. I'm not sure what he did in the intervening hours, but I think he may have been looking for a way home. An orderly escorted me to Grandpa's wing and told me that he had been wondering when someone would come to see him. When I got to him he had his hat and jacket on, ready to leave. He was standing at the nurses' station, holding his drivers license in his hand trying to get someone to help him go home.

He was not agitated, but he was upset, confused, and disoriented. He didn't recognize me. This was the first time that he didn't know who I am. He seemed to think that I was someone who worked at the facility, and that I would be able to take him home. He kept telling me over and over that he needed to get home and he appreciated that I was taking the time to listen to him. I had to slowly redirect him. I got him to talk about his time in the Navy, his father, his uncle, and I read Psalm 23 to him. Through the course of the conversation he started to calm down. We talked about who I am, and how I am related to him. Then they brought in his dinner tray. Before he started eating I got him to take off his hat and jacket, but he never seemed to resign himself to the idea that the bed on which he sat was now his.

I read Psalm 119 to him while he ate. Several times he would stop eating to listen. He seemed to be deeply moved by the passages. He asked me to repeat a few of them. He told me several times that there was something so special about God's Word, that it moved him in a way no other book could. I got him to tell me about the time he gave his heart to Christ. One thing I forgot to mention the other day is that my grandfather is long-winded. :) But honestly, I had forgotten about that particular trait. He has remained mostly silent when we've been together for so long that I forgot how much he can talk about one topic. (Or should I say preach?) In the past it really didn't take much to get him rolling. There was a running joke in my family that the food would be cold by the time Grandpa got done saying the blessing. I remember squirming through many blessings, waiting for Grandpa to finish so I could eat. The other night he seemed to be exceptionally long-winded. He kept repeating the same thing over and over, forgetting what he had just told me. It was good to hear him talk for so long about something again. A trait that for years had been an annoyance has become a blessing.

He never did fully recognize me. He understood who I was, but that understanding seemed to be only on an intellectual level. Yet I was still very blessed by the visit that I had dreaded. It was very upsetting to see how he was when I first got there, and there were several times I had to choke down the tears, but by the end of the visit I was so thankful for the priceless time we'd had. The Holy Spirit was in that room, and the three of us had a wonderful time together. Before I left I asked him if I could pray with him. He said he would love it if I prayed with him. I prayed for his peace of mind as he transitioned into his new home, yet in my heart I was still rebelling against the thought of him staying there one night, let alone many. He just doesn't seem to belong there. That is not his home. The people there are not his family. But I know that as hard as it is, it is for everyone's best.

I may have been wrong when I said that the future meant spending less and less time with him. It may actually mean spending more and more time with him. I'd like to try to see him once a week and read the Word to him. I probably would have never taken the time to do that if he were still at  home. The relationship we have now is different, but in many ways it could become deeper, richer. As I was getting ready to leave he told me that he would keep me right in there as he pointed to his head. He said he would think about me all week. I hope he can.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Grandpa's Moving Day

Today is a tough day for my family, and we would really appreciate your prayers. On one side of the family my father-in-law is having knee replacement surgery today. On my side of the family, my grandfather is being put into a nursing home. It is my grandfather that I want to talk about today.

My grandfather has Alzheimer's/dementia. We have watched him deteriorate for several years now. It's like watching someone die, one memory, one character trait at a time. Before the onset of dementia, my grandfather was a strong, opinionated, stubborn, witty, funny man. He had, and still has, a strong faith that runs deep and influenced every choice he ever made. He isn't overly affectionate, but you know he loves you by the way his eyes light up when he sees you. From my memories, his great delight was his grandchildren, of which I was the first. He loved taking us for rides on the tractor, showing us the cows, or telling us stories of the gigantic snake that carved out the road the farm was on. My favorite part of that story was when the snake stopped by his house for a drink of water. He told us that story over and over again. Now when we get together as a family he mostly keeps to himself and stays quiet. Still at times he has amazing moments of clarity. At the last family reunion he told us about a rooster they once had that figured out how to jump up and knock food out of the bird feeder. He said, "That rooster was doing exactly what God designed it to do. He was taking care of his hens." I've been fortunate to have him only an hour's drive away most of my life so I've had many wonderful times with him.

The house he lived in was the house he grew up in. That house was as much a member of his family as my mother and grandmother. It was his constant worry and love. Not long after the onset of dementia he became extremely paranoid about the house -- that it would burn down or someone would break into it. He is leaving it today. Most likely he will never live there again.

Of course, the greatest love of his life, other than Christ, is my grandmother. He was a hard man to live with, even before he became demented, but she faithfully loved him through the years. She is more intimately acquainted with his deterioration than any of the rest of us. She has had to put up with all the daily difficulties of his disease, and she has done so with dignity and grace. Her devotion to him has been flawless. She is my hero. I cannot imagine being in her shoes, watching the love of you life diminish in that way, the man you invested your life in slowly dying. Her kids have given her several opportunities to take some time away from grandpa. I can only imagine the mixed emotions she must feel in those times - relief to be away, guilt for feeling that way, anxiety for his well-being when she is not with him. And his devotion to her is just as binding. She is his security, his comfort. One weekend recently they were staying with my parents. The aggressive tendencies brought on by the disease had gotten to the point that my mom and her siblings were no longer comfortable with the idea of grandma being alone with him for more than a few hours, especially at night when he is most restless. My dad and grandfather were sitting in the living room and my mother and grandmother were in the dining room. Had he known where to look he would have been able to see her through the doorway from where he was sitting. He asked my dad where she was, and dad said she is right over there. He then said, "I don't want to live if I have to live without Carol." My grandmother has said that she would rather the Lord take grandpa on to heaven than to have to put him in a home. Today they will be parted. She will be with him as often as she can, of course, but they will most likely never be together in the same way again.

My mom and her brother and sister have done what they can to help grandma and grandpa through this time. They have supported them as much as they can and helped figure out the details of his care. I know that today is a very difficult day for my mom and I'm sure it is for her brother and sister as well. They are all going to the home with grandma and grandpa to help with his transition, though I'm sure none of them want to be there. I can't imagine the turmoil of watching one of your parents disintegrate in this way. I think the hardest thing of this for my mom has been seeing his mental deterioration while his body continues to be strong and healthy. Unfortunately this fact has made the need to put him into a long-term care facility inevitable. His body refuses to quit, even at the age of 86, but his mind has not withstood the passage of time so well. It has now gotten to the point that his needs are beyond my family's abilities to care for. So the fateful day has now arrived. The future means spending less and less time with him, and going to visit him in the nursing home with the noxious smells, and unnerving sights and sounds. I have many memories of visiting great grandparents in nursing homes, few of them pleasant.

I wish we could have grandpa back, the way he was five or ten years ago. I wish his mind had stayed as keen and strong as his body. I wish he could have died with dignity at home. But that simply isn't the reality. I cry and I grieve. I will move on. This Thanksgiving I am so thankful for the times I have had with my grandpa, even the difficult ones. I'm grateful for the investment he has made in my life. I'm grateful for the legacy of faith, love, and perseverance that he has passed on. I hope my life can be a tribute to his legacy.

Friday, October 1, 2010


Fear is not as big as it looks,
Nor is it as frightening as it tries to appear.
God is bigger. God is safety.
God is Love!

Perfect love casts out all fear!
Go to God. Go to Love.
Go to Him.
Let Him love you. Let Him be in you.
Let Him be through you.

Rest in Him. Rest through Him.
Let Him refresh you.

Love in Him. Love through Him.

Do not fear.
Rest. Love.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Faith of Hannah

"For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted my petition made to Him.Therefore I have given him to the Lord; as long as he lives he is given to the Lord. And they worshiped the Lord there. HANNAH PRAYED, and said, My heart exults and triumphs in the Lord..." (1 Sam 1:27-2:1a AMP, emphasis added)

As I was reading the Word this week, God took me to 1 Sam 1-2, the story of Hannah. I pray for faith like hers. Can you imagine leaving your child to be dedicated to God's service, the one you had prayed for, wept for, and desired for years, the one who ended your torment, the one you love with all your heart? She would only be able to see him once a year for the rest of her life. That fact must have torn her heart to pieces, yet she followed through with her promise, and she rejoiced! I was in tears as I was reading it. Such an amazing and powerful faith... a faith that can change the world!

The prayer she offered when she left Samuel with Eli (the most inept High Priest in Israel's history, by the way) was absolutely amazing and beautiful. She was so full of faith in that moment she even prophesied about King David and the Messiah. Here is the prayer in it's entirety:
1HANNAH PRAYED, and said, My heart exults and triumphs in the Lord; my horn (my strength) is lifted up in the Lord. My mouth is no longer silent, for it is opened wide over my enemies, because I rejoice in Your salvation.

2There is none holy like the Lord, there is none besides You; there is no Rock like our God.

3Talk no more so very proudly; let not arrogance go forth from your mouth, for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by Him actions are weighed.

4The bows of the mighty are broken, and those who stumbled are girded with strength.

5Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children languishes and is forlorn.

6The Lord slays and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up.

7The Lord makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and He lifts up.

8He raises up the poor out of the dust and lifts up the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with nobles and inherit the throne of glory. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord's, and He has set the world upon them.

9He will guard the feet of His godly ones, but the wicked shall be silenced and perish in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail.

10The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces; against them will He thunder in heaven. The Lord will judge [all peoples] to the ends of the earth; and He will give strength to His king (King) and exalt the power of His anointed (Anointed His Christ). (1 Samuel 2:1-10 AMP)
I cannot even begin to imagine the struggle Hannah went through when the time to leave Samuel at Shiloh was approaching. Perhaps she had second thoughts. Perhaps she was tempted to break her vow to God (see 1 Sam 1:11). Those are the things that I would have struggled with had I been in her shoes, without the extenuating circumstances she had endured prior to conceiving Samuel (see 1 Sam 1:1-8). Honestly, I am not sure if I would have been able to go through with leaving my son at the tabernacle. But Hannah did go through with it, and her son became one of the greatest prophets in Israel's history. Because of Hannah's faith Samuel became a great man of God despite being brought up in Eli's household . Eli did not have the greatest track record with raising children. His sons were immoral and evil, even though they were priests (see 1 Sam 2:12-36), but Hannah's faith was able to supersede everything Samuel was exposed to. She had dedicated Samuel to God's service, and a true servant of God he was.

Hannah never forgot Samuel (not that any mother can truly forget her child). Each year she lovingly made a robe for him to wear. The time and expense that went into those garments would have been enormous, but each one was her way of showing Samuel how much she loved him. Her love for him endured and prevailed. She had other children, but Samuel would ever be her first-born.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

What I Learned from Hachi

This post started out as a blurb I put on an email that I sent to a few people this morning, but after I hit "sent", God kept talking to my heart, so I decided to share it with a bigger audience. :)
Last night we saw the movie "Hachi: A Dog's Tale." (Spoiler alert!) Based on a true story, it's such an amazing tale of love and loyalty. The dog waited for his deceased owner for over nine years at the train station where he had waited for him everyday since he was a young dog, until he himself died at the train station.

God reminded me of Heb 13:5: "for He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]" (AMP) I love the emphasis in the Amplified! Obviously the dog didn't understand that his owner wasn't coming back. But, what God reminded me was that, like that dog, He is always there for us, in everything, in every situation, in the parts of our hearts that are warm, and at those parts of our hearts that we're still learning how to open. He is ALWAYS waiting to receive us with love, loyalty, and patience. He is always there to support us, and He will never relax His hold on us, not even to the smallest degree!

Okay, first off, for you parents out there, this really is a great family movie that could easily lend to a discussion of what it means to be loyal and patient. Okay, now that that's out of the way, let's get back to Heb 13:5b. At the risk of sounding like a Bible teacher, I want to break down this verse phrase by phrase because each phrase is so powerful!

So, here's the breakdown:
- "for He [God] Himself has said..." That means God said this. No one made it up for Him. He said it and He does not lie!

- "I will not in any way fail you..." He will not fail us in any way! Yes, obvious, but profound. We fail ourselves and each other constantly. In our finiteness and sinfulness (that we're learning to overcome) we mess up. Sometimes from one second to the next. But God will never ever fail us!

- "nor give you up..." No matter what we do or say or how deep our sinfulness, His infinite, powerful love is greater! He will not give up on us.

- "nor leave you without support..." He promised to give us the Holy Spirit as our guide and comforter, and He has placed us in a body and set us in families. No matter what we are facing we are not without support. We can turn to the people He has put in our lives, but when they fail us we can turn to Him. Even before they fail us, before we turn to them, we should turn to Him. He should ever be the One to whom we first turn. "I lift up my eyes to the hills..." (Ps 121). God, the Maker of heaven, earth, and all things good, the One who is always watching over us and never sleeps, that amazing God is our Helper!

- "[I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless..." As if a singular statement is not enough, here it is stated three times for emphasis. He absolutely will not, under any circumstances, to even the tiniest degree, leave us helpless. He will always walk beside us. He will always lift us up and carry us. He will daily feed and nurture us, encouraging our growth and maturity. He will ever guide us, love us, care for us. He will not leave us alone. This is how we know the Deists were wrong. God is not a great watchmaker who after creating the thing, winds it up and lets it run its course without his interference. That is a god who leaves us. That is not our God. This is the acid test. If someone presents to you a god who is willing to stand by and watch and not be involved in your life, then you know that god is not the one true God. Again, God is our Helper!

- "nor forsake..." So what does forsake mean, exactly? It's not really an everyday term. Well, according to it means, "(1) to quit or leave entirely; abandon; desert; (2) to give up or renounce;" and to completely decline, deny, refuse. God is not going to do any of that. Remember the emphasis, ("[I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree...")? He is adamant. He simply won't do it!

- " nor let [you] down..." He will never be a disappointment to us. Now there may be time when we feel hurt or confused or disappointed, but He will never let us down. Remember this phrase also comes after the emphasis. Even when it feels like He has let us down, He hasn't let us down! There are lots of reasons why we may feel that God has let us down. To this day I still feel disappointed at times that I had three C-sections when my desire was for natural birth. But despite the enemy's best efforts to convince me otherwise (and believe me, at times he had me convinced) I know without a shadow of a doubt that God did not let me down. I still don't fully understand why things happened as they did. I know some of it was related to choices I made, some of it can be contributed to the fact that we live in a fallen world, and there's probably a dozen other contributing factors. Regardless I know that God did not let me down. He was there with me through it all. He felt my pain and held my heart. Even when I couldn't feel how near He was to me, He was there. Just because something feels true does not mean that it is true. I have realized that the more I dwell on the negative of a situation, the more likely I am to believe that God has let me down. There are times when He has to let us go through things that are difficult. Recall that I said that He is daily encouraging our growth and maturity. Maturity does not take place in the absence of challenge. Just as there are times we have to let our kids struggle with something so they can master it, the same is true for us. Sometimes God has to let us struggle with things so that we can master them. There are also times when the greater good is at stake. What would have happened if God has rescued Jesus from the cross? You may be thinking, "Yeah, but He is God." Well, then what would have happened if John hadn't been exiled to Patmos. What would have happened if Daniel hadn't been taken into the king's service in Babylon? What would have happened if Joseph hadn't been taken into captivity in Egypt or Moses hadn't been exiled to the wilderness? And of course, there are countless other examples that prove my point. Adverse circumstances are the fertile fields into which God's glory is planted and eventually revealed. Tertullian said, "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church." The fact is we do live in a fallen world. Bad things will happen. The world will let us down. People will let us down. But God will not, will not, will not in any degree let us down.

- "nor...(relax My hold on you)!..." He will always hold us tightly, close to His heart. He values us. He treasures us. Where your treasure is, there is your heart. That's as true for God as it is for us. He treasures us, so He makes His home in our hearts. (Eph 3:17) He will not relax His hold. Another thing, this is the final phrase after the emphasis, and the sentence ends with an explanation point--even more emphasis! It's not often that you see an explanation point in the Bible. I think God really wanted to drive home just how deeply He meant His promise that He won't leave us. He will always be with us. He always has room for us.

Hachi and Parker (Hachi's owner) had a regular meeting place where they met everyday. Hachi was waiting there for Parker. So, where is your meeting place with God? He is waiting for you there. Go to Him!

Psalm 121 (AMP)

A song of ascents.
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?

2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;

4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;

6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;

8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Ephesians 3:17 (AMP)

May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love, (Take the time to carefully read Eph 3:16-21 in the Amplified. It will blow you away!)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

My Pride and Joy

“Mommy, are you proud of me?” That’s what my oldest daughter asked me yesterday. Of course my answer was a resounding, “Yes!” Not that I need a reason to be proud of her, but she is so very amazing. She is smart, beautiful, and sweet. Right now she’s reading, learning Spanish, learning Sign Language, and helping out at home. She has an unswerving faith, as she prays every night for my arm and doesn’t question why it’s not completely better yet. She’s making this transition to homeschool really well so far. She asked me almost everyday since school let out, “When are we going to do my homeschool?” I gave her about a week and a half before starting the language sampler we’re doing this summer, thinking it would be good to give her some time off. She would have been just fine if I’d started the day after school let out. She was so excited when we started yesterday that she did three lessons! She’s been reading everything she sees with words on it and it’s not uncommon that I have to tell her to stop reading so she can finish whatever task she’s meant to be about at that particular moment. School has only been out two weeks, yet already I can see some amazing changes in her.

My girl is very cautious and timid, especially with unfamiliar or uncomfortable situations. One of those situations is being in the water. She is very afraid, and though we’ve worked with her as much as we could, we could get her to relax only a little. Going to a pool was usually not the most enjoyable activity for us. We’ve wanted to get swim lessons for her in the past, but just have not been able to afford it. This year our city is giving free swim lessons! You’d better believe I had every intention of taking advantage of that deal! I went to the sign up at one pool (early, I thought), and couldn’t get her in. I was so desperate to get her into the free lessons that I rushed home and started calling other pools to find an opening. Despite the massive line at the first pool I went to, no one had signed up at the second pool, but they were closing the sign ups in 15 minutes. You had to be present to sign up, so I rushed back out the door to get her name on the list. When I got to the second pool I realized why no one had signed up there. Let’s just say it’s not the greatest of neighborhoods, though it’s adjacent to one of the city’s major tourist attractions. It’s not the worst neighborhood either, but when I saw the depressed surroundings I definitely had second thoughts about signing her up there. But I knew she needed it, and God was using the city to provide it for us, and we can be a light in that dark place. As much as possible, my husband takes her to the pool (which is called Happy Hill, ironically enough). I do believe it’s pretty safe, despite the surroundings. I’ve worked in some really bad places in the past and this neighborhood is like a quiet, peaceful meadow in comparison.

So though we’ve had to contend with some obstacles (like her having pink-eye the second day of lessons), she is getting the instruction she needs to help her begin getting comfortable with the water. She was a bit apprehensive about the lessons at first, and that first day she was not the most cooperative student. But in the days that have followed she has become excited and looks forward to the class. She wants to practice as much as she can, either by going to the pool, setting up our little backyard inflatable pool, or even trying to float in the bathtub. Each time she gets in the water she becomes more comfortable and relaxed. Last night I was watching her “practice” in the bathtub and I could see a confidence in her that I haven’t seen before. She was talking to her daddy and me, and suddenly she seemed a bit grown up and sophisticated (as possible as that is since she was in the bathtub and was wearing swim goggles). She was presenting herself well, her voice took on a tone I’ve never heard from her before, and despite her vulnerability in that instance, I knew she would accomplish everything she was talking about at that moment. She is doing something that is uncomfortable for her and is finding her comfort zone in the water. She is trying something new and difficult. She is overcoming her fear. And that is the confidence that I saw coming out of her last night, the confidence of someone who is facing her fear and defeating it. And for that I am immensely proud of her.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

What I Learned at the NCHE Home Education Convention (Part Three)

This is the final installment of this particular series of posts. For this final installment, I want to leave you with some of my favorite notes, often things I heard over and over again from several different speakers. I feel that this information is so valuable I just have to share it!

(Regarding references: the lack of quotation marks does not mean that what I have written is not a direct quote. I may simply have failed to mark it as such in my notes. Other items are paraphrased. Since I have no way of knowing at this point what is a direct quote and what is a paraphrase, I am just referencing the speaker(s) for each item. I will reference full names and websites, when applicable, only once and put their initials by subsequent items.)

- “You are a life changer, a legacy leaver, a memory maker! What are you going to do about it today?” (Jennifer Schmidt)
- God has given your children to you to exalt you, not burden you. (Hal & Melanie Young)
- Prayerfully get insight from God that gives purpose to what you are doing. (Bonita Lillie)
- Begin with the end in mind. (B. L. and M. Y.)
- Get your husband's input. (Ronda Marshall, and B. L.)
- The end goal is to train them to make the best choices that are pleasing to God...and to train them to follow Him, not you. (Ned Ryun)
- Instill in them a desire to be like Christ. Show them all sides of Christ. (H. & M. Y.)
- Disciples become like the teacher. Who will you allow to disciple your children? (M. Y., J. S., and Brian Ray, PhD)
- What makes homeschooling better? We've gone back to the Word & we promote character above all else in education. (Kevin Swanson)
- Focus on discipleship & character development rather than academic achievement. (R. M., J. S., B. L., H. & M. Y., and K. S.)
- Proverbs is God's theory on the education of a child. Pr 1:7 – The beginning of knowledge is the fear of God. All education should be brought back to the fear of God. God should be recognized in every aspect of education. (K.S.)
- Provoke a love of learning in your kids. (M. Y.)
- Home education is life-integrated education. (K. S. and M. Y.)
- The heart of home education is relationships. (K. S., H. & M. Y., J. S., and R. M.)
- Relax and have fun learning with your children! Cherish the time you have with them. (R. M. and M. Y.)
- Start living intentionally. Teach as you live. (M. Y., J. S., and R. M.)
- Eat together as a family and use meal times to talk about what they're learning. (J. S. and M. Y.)
- Instill the value that our worth comes from Him. (J. S.)
- Don't compare yourself (your family) to others. It's the death of contentment. (B. L.)
- Do what works for your family. (M. Y., B. L., and R. M.)
- Get your husband's input. (Vicki Bentley)
- “Blessed are the flexible because they shall not be broken.” (B. L.)
- Flow with the seasons. (B. L. and R. M.)
- Homeschooling means individualized education that fits each child. (R. M., B. L., and M. Y.)
- It's impossible to standardize your children. (K. S. and M. Y.)
- Get the perfect day out of your head & do what is doable. (B. L.)
- Take the time to celebrate what you've accomplished rather than focusing on what didn't get done. (R. M.)
- Get your husband's input. (N. R. and M. Y.)
- Don't set goals about things you can't change. (M. Y.)
- Organization is a means of functioning effectively. It doesn't mean an immaculate house. (V. B.)
- Break things down into components. Make measurable, obtainable goals. (V. B. and H. & M. Y.)
- Cover the basics first – Reading, Writing, & Math. (B. L., J. S., and M. Y.)
- Train them to be autonomous, independent learners. (M . Y. and B. L.)
- It's not what you expect. It's what you inspect. (R. M., M. Y., and V. B.)
- Explain the vision to them & show them how their education fits into the vision. When they complain, give them purpose for what they have to do. (H. & M. Y.)
- Give them an opportunity to fail while they're still at home, while it's still recoverable, and we can still help them understand what happened and how to adjust. (H. & M. Y., and J. S.)
- Get your husband's input. (J. S.)

Friday, June 4, 2010

What I Learned at the NCHE Home Education Convention (Part Two)

The time has come to end your suspense. I know you were all sitting the edges of your seats, biting your nails in anticipation of this post. Well, agonize no longer, because as this post unfolds I will give you the answers that you seek.

So, how did I find my footing that crazy Thursday afternoon? Once I got into the right session and began to listen to Kevin Swanson, God immediately started confirming that my husband and I are making the right choice for our family. The speaker talked about the statistical differences, in terms of testing and grade level, between home educated kids and those who attend school in a typical classroom setting. Prior to the conference I had heard that homeschooled kids typically perform better on standardized tests than their peers, but I found out that this statement is supported by the research, even for kids whose parents have only a high school education. After revealing the statistical justification for homeschooling, Mr. Swanson began to cast vision for home education. I began to see homeschooling not only as a way to protect my children from the many negative influences in the public school setting, but as a way to emphasize and instill godly character in them. Prior to the conference I knew that educating my children at home could foster a close bond with them that would be more difficult to maintain if they were away from me six or more hours a day, but during that session I began to see homeschooling as relational in nature. I began to see it not as a clandestine dispersal of academic information, but as a way of teaching children about life through the everyday struggles and experiences of life. Mr. Swanson also reminded us that the fear of God is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7).

Now, are my kids going to learn the fear of God in a typical classroom setting? Definitely not in public school! Because of “separation of Church and State” (which is not even in the Constitution) it's not allowed. Perhaps in a private school they may be directed to the fear of God, but there are no guarantees. Even in Christian private schools academics has often become the emphasis above all else. What about church? While not a typical classroom setting, it is a place where kids learn about God. And it is very true that my kids will learn about God at church. The problem is they are at church, at most, six out of 168 hours per week. Fearing God happens moment to moment in the daily activities of life. It's not a practice that's isolated to a small segment of life. So the best setting for them to learn the fear of God is in the day to day activities at home, seeing it modeled by me and their father. Wow! What a responsibility! But it is a challenge I want to take on.

What I learned and the vision I received during that session was the foundation for the rest of the conference. What a foundation to build on! I certainly felt informed, confirmed, encouraged, and enlightened after I left that first session. Each session that followed continued to clarify what home education is and what it is not. For example, it is a chance to give children a rich education through real-life experiences as opposed to simply relying on what one is told in a book that may or may not contain truthful information. Of course, books are greatly utilized in home education, but a book cannot give you the same type of tangible information that a life experience can. Through homeschooling we have the opportunity to go as often as we can where history was made, where science is practiced, where art is seen, heard, and touched, and where occupations are exercised. Real life experiences are very limited in a typical classroom setting because of financial restrictions. My daughter's class was only allowed four field trips this year, and they only went to places within the county because of cost. Where better to learn about the Battle of Gettysburg, than at Gettysburg?

Through the course of the weekend, my excitement continued to build as I continued to learn. Not only was the information philosophical. There was also lots of great practical information. And the camaraderie I felt with other members of the body of Christ was amazing. I've never had an experience quite like that before, even in church. I think the reason was that even though we were from various parts of the state and country, and hold to various types of Christian ideology, we had a unified goal: to raise children in the nourishment and admonition of the Lord. And for me, that is what homeschooling is all about.

So where did the confusion come in? That was in the curriculum arena. In the book fair there were so many curriculum vendors. In fact, the vast majority of vendors sold curriculum. The sheer number of choices was very overwhelming. So, I pretty much avoided those booths. I was pretty sure that I already knew that I would be using the online-based curriculum from However, in talking to people before the conference, I learned about Charlotte Mason methods (this is only one of several websites about her methods), so I went to a session about it. I must say that I was really intrigued. I even talked with the speaker after the session. That meant that now I had a decision to make. Was I going to stick with the original plan, or would I try something different? For the fall, at least, we have decided to stick with the original plan, at least to help me get started. I am certainly not opposed to incorporating additional books or methods when I feel it is appropriate, however. This type of flexibility is part of the beauty of homeschooling.

Last year I was so scared to homeschool. But, God has brought me from fear to faith. I am so excited, I can't wait to get started! We're going to do a language sampler this summer and I, Miss Unorganized herself, have even laid out a basic schedule already! I am usually the person that can't think clearly about an event until it is right on top of me, and I was able to sit down and hash out a schedule a full month ahead of time! God has taken my fear, confusion, and feelings of being overwhelmed and has endowed me with faith, confidence, excitement, grace, ability, peace and strength. Of course, I am fully aware that everything will not go perfectly – that there will be good and bad days. But a course has been laid out before us, and, as a family with God's help, we will follow it through to the end!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

What I Learned at the NCHE Home Education Convention (Not Yet)'

I knew I had a busy day in store yesterday, full of appointments and meetings, and might not have time to work on a post for today. So yesterday when I said, "Tomorrow I will..." what I meant was "In the next post I will...." I'm aiming for tomorrow, but this time I won't promise you tomorrow. The truth is I just wanted to increase the suspense. ;) So, till tomorrow (hopfully)!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What I Learned at the NCHE Home Education Conference (Part One)

I wasn't originally planning on writing this post, but my dear friend, Flo, told me via facebook that she couldn't wait to hear about what I learned last weekend. So, you can thank her for this post! ;) Actually, it's a very good thing for me to write this, because I know it will really solidify in my mind what God showed me this past weekend. I must say that it was an amazing time! It was overwhelming, encouraging, enlightening, confirming, confusing, and clarifying! I don't think I can fit it all in one post, so I'll make this another series. (I do so like writing serial posts!)

I found out about this event about three weeks before it happened, and I've never been to one before. Let's just say I had no expectations for this event because I had no idea what to expect! So I arrive downtown last Thursday afternoon, and of course it's at a convention center that has no parking of its own. I'm running late because of picking up my daughter from school, and I was prepared to drive around the city (a part of the city I've rarely been to) on the hunt for a parking space. I had emptied our trusty coin jar for just this situation. But, glory be to God, I found a space in a free public lot one block behind the convention center!

So I'm praising God under my breath while I'm walking to the door while still feeling a bit on the nervous side, not knowing what I'd find in that big, ominous building that filled an entire block. I approach the first door I see with my heart lightly palpitating, reach out for the handle, pull, and... NOTHING! The door was locked! Of course that didn't make me feel like a dork, especially since there were about five people who saw my pointless effort! So I kept going about ten more feet and saw an open door! Oh, the joy! I quickly ducked inside the door, acting like it was perfectly normal to try to open a locked door when there's another one standing wide open. Then I tried to find the Registration table. So I circled the entire lower hallway, ducking people, kids, rolling carts, strollers, tables, chairs... looking for a booth, sign, or anything that would show me where Registration was located. Again, nothing. Finally, I saw a volunteer who was eying me suspiciously, and asked him where I needed to go. He politely pointed me in the right direction. So I had to turn around, go in the opposite direction from whence I came, dodge the people and things again, go up the escalator, dodge more people and things, and then I saw a table that looked like it might be Registration. So I inquired of the people who were sitting there, and was somewhat patronizingly informed that it was actually the Volunteer table, and that I needed to keep going. So I continued my trek, hiking around the many obstacles in my path, when, finally, in the distance, I saw it! I spied a giant "REGISTRATION" sign with several booths and people, and I heard angels singing! I went from joy to ecstasy! I knew I was right where I was supposed to be! I did the dance of joy in my heart! (Okay, maybe the reaction wasn't quite that exuberant, but I was relieved, at least, to find Registration.)

So I found Registration, and you know what I did next? I registered! I know! Smart, huh? Then I had to figure out what to do next. I looked in the program, and during each session, there were eight different speakers covering eight different topics in eight different workshops with no repeats! I had to fight to keep my eyes from crossing when I looked at the agenda. With some effort I figured out which session I would go to at the appropriate time (I had already missed the first session) and then decided to go check out the book fair. Now, apparently this book fair is a big deal. They charge 30 smackers just to get into the thing. But, even armed with that knowledge I was still completely unprepared for the behemoth I was about to face (not that the book fair is monstrous – it's just really, really huge! And when I say really huge, I mean REALLY HUGE!). I walked into the exhibit hall, as innocent as Eve before she met the serpent, took one look around, and was completely dazzled by the vast quantities knowledge tempting me to take a taste. That room (which is bigger than a football field) was so completely filled with vendor booths that I didn't know which way to turn. So I just picked a direction and went with it. Well, there were well over 100 vendors, so I certainly didn't see them all before my first session started. I left the exhibit hall, knowing I was destined to return, and went to my session.

Well, I thought I did. I got in there, and the person talking was a woman, and I had picked a session with a male speaker. I realized something was amiss. I had to sneak out and find the right room, and then sneak into the my chosen session. At least I didn't make that mistake again!

So I think you get a picture of why I was overwhelmed. And all this happened just within my first 60 minutes at the conference! Tomorrow I'll talk about the wonderful things God showed me. It's amazing how He can move you from a place of being overwhelmed to a place of confidence!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

To Homeschool or Not to Homeschool? That Was the Question, Part Two

Like I said in the last post, I would love honest input from anyone with any sort of experience with homeschooling, whether that's as teacher (past or present), future teacher, or student. Feel free to answer as many or as few of the questions as you'd like. So let the brain picking begin! If you only answer one question, could you answer this one: What is your best piece of advice for a successful homeschool experience? Here are my other questions:

For past/current homeschool parents-
1. Why did you choose to homeschool?
2. How did/do you manage it all without going crazy?
3. Any advice on paying for it?
4. What benefits have you seen from homeschooling?
5. What (if any) are the disadvantages of homeschooling and how do you compensate for those?
6. What about socialization?
7. If you no longer homeschool, why did you stop?
8. If you took your kids out of brick and mortar school in order to homeschool, how did you get your kids on board (especially if they liked school)?
9. Any advice on setting up your school space?
10. If you or your spouse had any reservations about homeschooling, what were they, and how did you address them?
11. How did/do you manage your child if he/she didn't want to cooperate with school time?
12. If you had/have more than one student, how do you manage teaching more than one at a time?
13. What are your favorite homeschooling resources?

For future homeschooling parents-
1. What are your reasons for homeschooling?
2. What is your plan for managing it all?
3. Any advice on paying for it?
4. What are your favorite homeschooling resources?
5. What are your concerns or hesitations?

For past or current homeschool students-
1. Why did your parents choose homeschool for you?
2. Any tips for managing it all?
3. Did/do you like homeschooling?
4. Did/do you ever wish you were in a regular school?
5. Were you in a regular school before homeschool? If so, how did your parents bring you on board?
6. What are the advantages you've seen from your homeschool experience?
7. Do you feel there are any disadvantages to homeschooling?
8. What about socialization?
9. For those who graduated from homeschool, do you feel you were adequately prepared for college or a job?
10. What do you wish your parents had done differently in regards to homeschooling?
11. What are your favorite homeschooling resources?

I am so looking forward to reading your responses. Thanks for your input!

To Homeschool or Not to Homeschool? That Was the Question, Part One

Long time, no blog! I know... I'm not sure why life seems to be so much busier this spring than last fall, but my time has been more limited, so it's been harder to find time to blog. As far as Cat Scratch Fever goes, I'm doing very well now. My arm still bothers me some, but the doctors said it can take months to go completely back to normal. The important thing is that I am healing!

So there's a lot going on in life right now, as I said. I've got a beautiful little organic veggie garden going that I'm very excited about. It's been a nice little sanctuary for me – a little time away from it all in my own backyard. I'll have to blog about it soon. I've also been trying to get another developmental evaluation for my son so we can get the therapies he needs from the state and to get funding for his services. We're having to do this all on our own, and it's really hard and time consuming! (I'll blog about this later, too.) And, of course, the school year is winding down so there's a lot going on with that. Which leads me to the next big thing, and the point of this post... (*Fanfare*) Dum du du du Dum daaaa! (*drumroll*): We're homeschooling next year! (*More fanfare*) Dum da da daaaaa!

My original desire for my kids' education was to homeschool them. The more I've learned about public school, the less I've wanted to have to do with it. It was bad enough when I came up through public school, and that was in a small, sheltered mountain community. The education and opportunities were fine. Most of my teachers were at least okay, and many of them were excellent. There was the occasional difficult teacher, but I got through those years okay. I think I got a pretty good, well-rounded education. However, I was teased incessantly from 3rd grade through middle school, as well as bullied on the bus until I started driving myself to school. The things I was exposed to from my peers would probably have made my parents' hair stand on end had they known. But, we had no need for metal detectors, drug-sniffing canines, or even a resource officer on campus. Really, what I was exposed to was pretty tame according to today's standards.

Of course, it's today's standards that frighten me about the state of American public school education. I'm frightened not only by what the kids are exposed to from their peers, but what they're exposed to from their teachers, the curriculum that is used, and the terrible stuff they disguise as food in the cafeteria, among other things. We have a friend whose son was in a local charter school in the third grade, and they had to have “The Talk” with him because of what another boy at school told him. The history books of today have huge holes, and are more concerned about “political correctness” than accuracy. Science (if it can really be called that when it denies any of the potential causes for phenomena) tries to destroy any possibility of God in the kids' imaginations. Teachers are required to expose kids to topics that should only be taught at home. Our own daughter had to listen to a story about non-traditional gender roles during her Guidance special in Kindergarten. Of course, unfortunately, a lot of kids would never receive moral education at home–and parents are a big part of the problem with public school education. You should hear some of the horror stories my mom, who teaches public middle school, tells about parents. And when it comes to nutrition, well lets just say I did some scary reading recently in my daughter's school cafeteria when I looked at the back of a food package label that was served there.

So why not private school? Well, affordability is a big factor. Then there's still the nutrition, peer, parent, and even teacher problems. I know a lot of people that went to private Christian schools that have a lot of horror stories. I also believe that according to Deut. 4:9-10, 6:7, 11:18-28, and Prov. 22:6 that God's ideal for education is in the home.

So why did we put Korrynn in public school this past year? Money was a big reason. We constantly had more month than money and couldn't really afford to buy curriculum. And, to be honest, I was scared to death. I am not very good with the whole organization thing, and I have a tendency to get very overwhelmed with the kids and housework. I was a Pampered Chef consultant for a short while which I had to give up because I wasn't able to take care of the kids (and we only had two kids at that time), the house, and the business. We also felt that brick and mortar school could have some benefits for Korrynn. She didn't go to preschool and was very timid in many ways. Eliciting participation from her in new activities, especially away from home, was very difficult. We thought school might toughen her up a bit. So we prayed about it and felt released from any obligation to homeschool this past year. I felt like God was telling me He was giving me a year to get my act together. That was a very hard decision to make. I felt guilty, like I was giving up, and I felt like a hypocrite.

As we got into the school year we did see Korrynn begin to open up and blossom socially. She lost a lot of that timidity that held her back so often (though it's not completely gone). One thing she's good at, despite the shyness, is making friends. She could make friends with a tree if it would play with her once she is comfortable with her surroundings. She has really enjoyed her friends at school. She is also very smart. Her teacher told me that because of everything Korrynn knew when she started school, she had no idea that Korrynn didn't go to preschool. She has learned a lot, and is one of the top students in her class. I also saw school as a great way to meet people, network, and as a great way to be available to people to bring the Gospel to them. And, of course, going into it we didn't know that I was going to get sick, but there were a few weeks when I wouldn't have been able to be her teacher.

So now we're coming to the end of the school year, and I have to admit that it is tempting to let her go back to school next year. In a lot of ways it is the easy way out. There's little upfront cost. And to be honest I don't want to hurt Korrynn's feelings by taking her out of school. She likes school, and she really likes her friends, so I don't like taking those things away from her. But, frankly that's a consequence I need to deal with. I know God is directing me to homeschool next school year. Everywhere I turn He is putting people in my life that homeschool, or He is giving me messages through media. I've had to say, “Okay, God, I get the message! No fleece needed!” Shawn has been a little hesitant, partly because of the expense, partly because of my tendency to get overwhelmed, and because he says that most of the homeschoolers he's ever met are “strange”. (That's his word, not mine.) But, he has taken the time to get on the internet and do some research to “educate himself” (his words again). He is supporting me, and is helping me choose curriculum, work on a schedule, and figure out how to cover the cost. He sees God's undeniable leading in this, too, despite his reservations.

So, the decision is made. We've found an online curriculum, highly recommended by Dr. Dobson, that we like that does a lot of the organization for me, and seems to be very high quality, called It is more expensive than most, but the cost is worth it if it gives us a greater chance of success. So, I'm really excited about bringing my daughter back home! One thing I've realized is that school can be really divisive because it takes her away from me and there's so much in her world right now that I'm not a part of. This year has really solidified the reasons to homeschool in my heart and mind, and has removed any doubts for me. I'm so glad for the people I know that have experience with homeschool. In the next post I'm going to be looking for input. I have a list of questions I want to ask because I can use all the support I can get!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

If it Walks Like a Cat and Meows Like a Cat it Must be Cat Scratch Fever, or Much Ado About Nothing

Yes, as the title confirms, I have officially been diagnosed with Cat Scratch Fever. I saw the Infectious Disease Specialist last week, and he said that my symptoms are classic, and even though I wasn't scratched, everything fits the profile for the disease. We basically came to the conclusion that the bacteria must have entered through that boil in my arm. I do pick up my cats, so it is quite possible.

The thing that concerns me is that if I had been given the correct antibiotic in the first place the disease most likely would not have progressed to the point that I needed surgery. Neither person that I saw at my family practice even mentioned Cat Scratch Fever. My husband was the first to bring it up after doing internet research, but of course we dismissed it because I hadn't been scratched. The surgeon, the third person I saw, was the first medical type person to even mention Cat Scratch Fever. Now, I am very glad that the first LNP I saw got to work on ruling out cancer, because if it had been cancer I wanted to start treatment as soon as I could. But, it turned out to be “much ado about nothing”. Lets not be so hasty looking for big problems that we overlook the simple solutions. The disease I actually have is easily treated under the correct course of treatment. According to the Infectious Disease Specialist, the antibiotic the LNP prescribed me wouldn't even touch Cat Scratch Fever. And it didn't. She could have started me on the right course of treatment for Cat Scratch Fever while I underwent the testing to rule out cancer, because apparently if Cat Scratch Fever is left untreated, it can get pretty serious, even more so than what I experienced. The Infectious Disease Specialist said that it can migrate to the brain and cause some major problems. Wow, am I ever grateful that something like that didn't happen. (If it had, it would have been good material for an episode of “House”.) I think it pretty much goes without saying that I will not be returning to that family practice. I actually found an Integrative practice through Wake Forest University that I'm pretty excited about. They take the best of conventional and alternative treatments and use them in combination, and they take my insurance!

Of course, this whole situation hasn't been all bad, and I continue to be grateful for the lessons I've learned through this. I am now on the correct antibiotic, and my arm is getting better everyday. I will not need any more lymph node surgeries. My energy level is almost back to normal. And, this experience did give me a very valuable kick in the pants! I now have the motivation that was severely lacking to get control of my health. I have also learned to value my husband in a way I never have before. Also, we have had so many people stand with us in faith and prayer. It's always a wonderful privilege to observe the family of God at work. Amazing things always happen! Thank you to everyone who has stood with us. I really can't express how much that means to me. And, finally, as I've said before, I know God has been with me through this entire process. Despite it all, this situation continues to be an opportunity for God to be glorified!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Cat Scratch Fever? We'll See...

Insomnia... Man it drives me crazy. It is, unfortunately a regular night-time visitor. Not every night. It comes and goes. Usually it sticks around a couple of weeks at a time and then doesn't show up for another six weeks or so. Well, this time it took up residence for a week. So for a week I've been sleeping later than normal, so for a week I haven't blogged. But last night... well, last night I slept so well that Shawn couldn't wake me up to see Shaun White dominate the half pipe! I probably would've slept on till 6:30 if the little boy hadn't woken up at 5:20. But, then I wouldn't have had time to blog if I had.

So here's the lymph node drama update: Last Wednesday (after my blog posted, of course) I got another call from my surgeon. She said that the pathologist said that the lymph tissue they removed from my arm “showed the pattern of Cat Scratch Fever.” Well, other than fatigue, and my lymph nodes enlarging, I haven't had any other symptoms of Cat Scratch Fever. And, I haven't been scratched by either of my cats in so long, that I can't remember the last time I was scratched. As for the swelling, the plan was for me to come in this past Monday for my follow-up appointment, and she would drain off some fluid from my arm. But when I got there she said that she expected the swelling to be at the surgical sight, not in my tricep. She said that my surgical site actually looked really good, and was healing well, but the swelling in my arm wasn't normal. She referred me for yet another ultrasound to determine whether I had another swollen lymph node or a blood clot. Well, thank God, it's not a blood clot! It is another swollen lymph node, however. I see an infectious disease specialist today, so hopefully we'll get to the bottom of all this soon. I will be very happy to have full use of my arm again!

Through all this I've had the opportunity to see how amazingly valuable my husband really is. He has taken such good care of me for the last three weeks! He has taken time off work to take care of the kids. He has done extra work around the house to help me get ready for my Pampered Chef party on Friday (stoneware's on sale this month, yay!) He's trudged through when he wasn't feeling so well himself. He was feeling achy for a couple of days, but he did it all anyway. And, probably most importantly, he has encouraged me to start resuming some of my household duties as I've been able to without being overbearing. I really don't deserve him, considering all the stuff he's had to put up with from me. I've never been the best roommate. He's put up with a lot of stuff when others would have bailed. I'm so thankful for his commitment to our relationship. He's certainly not perfect, he is a man after all, but he's a good man, and I love him!

I'm also very grateful to God. This all would have been much more difficult to face without Him. I know I would have been full of fear if I hadn't been able to cast this care into His amazing hands. He has encompassed us with peace and has strengthened us. He has enabled us to wait through this time with grace. He has surrounded us with people that have stood with us in prayer and have supported us spiritually, emotionally, and practically. And, of course, He is the one who gave me my wonderful husband in the first place, not to mention the most fabulous kids that have helped to keep my spirits up. If God hadn't taken the time to instill a new level of character in me in the past few months, depression probably would have set in from the stress of dealing with illness. But, instead of going to despair, I've been able to rest in His peace. Even with all the pain and frustration and exhaustion, this really has been an amazing time! As I said before, this situation is an opportunity to glorify God, and He is glorified!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Pathology Report

My pathology report came back on Monday. So why has it taken me two days to blog about it? There's really not a very good reason why. I'm still not feeling 100%, but my wonderful husband has taken a couple of days off from work so I can get plenty of rest. He's been faithful to take care of all of the kids' needs so I wouldn't have to. So I've had the time to blog. It's that same old thing... if I don't get it done, or at least started, before I go downstairs in the morning, it just simply doesn't happen. I get caught up in other things and blogging goes by the wayside for the day. So...

Oh, but you probably don't really care about all that. You're probably wondering the results of the pathology report. You're also probably wondering why I'm stalling like this and wishing I would get on with it. I can totally understand that. That's probably how I'd be feeling, too, if I were in your shoes right now. What? Get on with it already? :D Sorry, I had to build up the suspense. Let me just say that we're praising God because the report was BENIGN!!!!

So what was the cause of all the trouble? I don't know. I was dozing off when the doctors office called, so I didn't have the presence of mind to ask at the time. I'll just wait to find out at my post-op appointment next week. Seeing as the report was benign, though, my suspicion is that the whole thing started with a boil that came up on my arm, just above my elbow, shortly after New Years. One of the things I read is that when lymph nodes get infected it's usually with the same bacteria that causes skin infections. The boil was very slow to heal, but it was just a boil, so I didn't think much of it. Of course, I also didn't think of mentioning the boil when I saw the first LNP about it, so it's possible that a different antibiotic would have been more effective in combating the infection. There was also another thing that seemed to complicate matters was as well. The day after my appointment with the first LNP, I was peeling an orange for the kids and something tiny and sharp lodged under the fingernail of my right hand. Yep, my infected lymph node was in my right arm. I tried to treat the wound, but it was burrowed in the fingernail bed, so I couldn't really get to it. I tried to keep it clean, but it got infected. The day before I called the doctors office after hours because my arm was so painful and swollen, my finger was throbbing. It's so strange to me that two seemingly small and unrelated incidents could come together to create such a big problem.

So, now, going forward, I'm getting my energy back. However, my arm is still pretty swollen, making it tender and hard to use. The surgeon told me that usually when they take out a large lymph node, fluid will pool in the area for several days until the body adjusts. I'm so ready for my body to adjust. I can't fully extend my arm right now, which is very annoying to say the least. But, I have realized through all this that I'm not as healthy as I had assumed. I've known for some time that I need to put more effort into being more healthy. Despite my desire to get my family eating the way God has designed us to, I still let myself eat things that I know I shouldn't. Sometimes I justify it with the “altruistic” motivation of making sure the kids get the healthiest stuff, but when it comes right down to it, that's really nothing more than an excuse.

I have taken the time to implement some healthy measures in the last couple of weeks. I've started doing “green” smoothies (though my end up looking purple because I like to add blueberries). I've also done some research, trying to determine the most cost-effective ways of obtaining certain healthy foods and supplements, as well as trying to determine which local CSA to join, and to work these things into the budget. (For those that don't know, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. If you'd like to know more info about CSA's, just let me know. I'll be happy to answer any questions.) We're also planning out a garden and looking at growing our own mushrooms (no, not magic mushrooms), and maybe even raising chickens for eggs.

I think I've finally even found the motivation that I was lacking for exercise. I've known for a long time that I need to exercise. I've known that it's good for me, and that it will help me lose weight (or “waist” as Korrynn says), but exercise and me? Well, we've never been very good friends. Even when I was playing tennis in high school I hated the warm ups. I always felt like I was on the verge of passing out. God chose not to grace me with athletic talent, so exercise has always been a major struggle for me. (You're probably wondering how I managed to play tennis in high school, then. Well, it's simple. I was on the first girls tennis team my school had. The team was desperate for players.)

For some reason, though I never voiced it this way, I've always felt like poor health would never happen to me. I've known since I was a teenager that it's important to take care of my health now or I'd pay for it down the road, but I really haven't lived that way. As my pastor in Virginia Beach, Steve Kelly of Wave Church, says, I was living on "Someday Isle". I always assumed that "someday I'll" take better care of myself. Well, this incident has been the wakeup call that I needed. I don't want to miss out on any part of my kids' lives. I want to be there for them whenever they need me. I want to be a part of their lives as long as I can. I want to hold my grandkids. This little scare has shown me that tomorrow truly isn't guaranteed and I need to take control of my health for my family's sake and my sake. I'm going to be 35 this year. If I don't start now, when am I going to start? I'm not old yet, but I'm not getting any younger, either. I need to start taking better care of myself TODAY! The fact that the scale at the doctors office told me that I'm over halfway to 300 lbs adds a bit more fuel to the fire, too. I'm the heaviest I've ever been, and I don't plan on getting any heavier. So, I'm anxious for my arm to heal so I can use it. It's hard to exercise without using your right arm, and the jiggling created by aerobic movements is painful (in my ARM, people!).

So, while I hate the pain, and everything I've dealt with in the last couple of weeks, I'm also grateful for it. This whole thing is ushering me to the next level in my life so that I can be the best me that God wants me to be. Soon there will be less of me to love! :)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Operation

Okay, so I had intended to blog on Friday, after my surgery, but, I simply didn't feel like it. So, I was going to write a post yesterday, but, frankly, I procrastinated. So I'll update you today.

Thursday, when I went to the hospital for the pre-op appointment I was running late, and for once it wasn't my fault. My husband had a work luncheon that went long, so he didn't get home until after I was already supposed to be at the hospital, and, as you may recall, I couldn't take the kids to the hospital with me, so I had to anxiously wait for him. Poor thing, though, he didn't even get to eat his entrée. They had to box it up for him, and he had even arrived at the luncheon 15 minutes early, so it wasn't really his fault either, just one of those things. Well, of course, since I was late for my appointment, I had to wait and wait to be called back. When I finally was called back the nurse was going through everything with me fairly quickly at first, and then she had to leave to find out when I was scheduled to be there for the surgery on Friday. (She couldn't have found that out before she called me to go back with her?) Well, once again, I waited and waited and waited. When I finally saw what time it was I realized that if the appointment didn't end soon I was going to be late picking the oldest up from school. So I got another nurses' attention and told her the situation. Because of rushing out of there I didn't even really finish the appointment. I was supposed to have a chest X ray, but that had to wait till the next morning. I've never understood why medical personnel seem to think that patients have all the time in the world to sit around and wait, and we never have anything else going on in our lives other than waiting for them. But, I digress.

As I reported in the last post, I found out during my pre-op appointment that I needed to be at the hospital the next morning at 5:45, childcare and crazy weather not withstanding. To be quite honest, I panicked a little at first. By the time I left the hospital, I had less than 15 hours to find childcare. I'm not sure why they couldn't have given me my appointment time before I went to the pre-op. I guess they just wanted to keep me on my toes. Well, it worked. I was driving down I-40 like a bat out of... well, you know, calling my mom in a panic, hoping she could make arrangements to come down that night, and spend the night. Who else was I going to be able to get to be at the house by 5:00am on such short notice, right? My parents live just over an hour's drive from me, and my mom teaches 8th grade English Lit. They were calling for a winter storm starting that night, so I really didn't expect her (or my daughter) to have school the next day. But Mom said she wouldn't be able to come because she wasn't going to be able to make arrangements for a substitute on such short notice. Let's just say I was a bit disappointed, and in an even greater panic, and it would be another half hour before I could do anything else about it.

After I got home with Korrynn, my husband and I tried to brainstorm about what we could do about the little childcare problem. Everyone we know either has kids or jobs, so to try to get them at our house at 5:00am seemed to be expecting a lot. I tried to rearrange the appointment time, hoping for a later appointment on Friday, but the next available time wasn't until the next Thursday. I finally just put a panic post on facebook. My neighbor, immediately, and graciously, called and told me I should have called her. Well, I ate my humble pie while we talked and made arrangements for the next morning. In spite of me, God was aware of every detail that needed to be arranged, and all I really needed to do was trust Him instead of panic. The funny thing is, Mom was planning to come down Friday after school to help me out on Saturday morning. (Well, that's not really the funny part, I'm getting to it.) She called me back later that evening, in a bit of a mild panic herself, because she realized that if the weather got bad overnight she wouldn't be able to make it to my house on Friday. She decided that she could make arrangements for a substitute if they did have school on Friday after all, and that she would go ahead and come so that she could definitely be there.

So with all the necessary arrangements made, we got up at the lovely hour of 4:30am on Friday to snowy weather. We got ready quickly. It was pretty easy for me since I wasn't allowed to have anything to eat or drink after 11:59pm on Thursday, I had already showered the night before, and I wasn't allowed to wear makeup (not that I was too concerned about looking beautiful while I was passed out on the operating table, after all I wasn't appearing in a soap opera). So we had plenty of time to get ready and head out the door with enough extra time to drive carefully on the snowy streets.

They finished up my pre-op stuff when I got to the hospital, and I still had plenty of time to wait and wait and wait before I was finally pulled into the outpatient holding room. Guess what happened in the holding room? That's right! I waited and waited and waited till they finally pulled my into the operating room (well, I did see the OR nurse, the anesthesiologist, the nurse anesthetist, and the surgeon, but all of those visits may have taken a total of 5 minutes). The only thing that kept me from anxiety at that point was praying. They pulled me into the operating room, helped me shimmy off the gurney and onto the operating table, told me to put my hands down by my hips, and I remembered no more. All of a sudden I was back in the outpatient holding room with a big bandage on my chest, someone calling my name, asking me if I was okay, and a very groggy feeling.

I was wheeled back into the recovery room where my husband was waiting for me. He told me that the surgeon had called him and told him that she took out one large lymph node and several smaller ones that were also inflamed. He also said that we should get the biopsy results by Monday. Of course he didn't ask any questions that would give him a better handle of the details. He was told the basics, so that was enough for him. The nurse went through some post-op instructions with us (good thing it wasn't just me there because I barely remember a word she said), and we waited for a wheelchair, then we went to the pharmacy and waited for my prescription to be filled, and then we went to the valet parking area and waited for our car. After all that waiting, we finally went home in the now rainy weather.

Through all this, I know God's hand was in it. Not only were the childcare details worked out, but the timing of the weather worked well for us, too. The nasty, icy weather came while we were at the hospital, and by the time we left it was all rain, and a balmy 33°F, so we never encountered really bad roads. Shawn has good benefits at work, and since this took place at the beginning of the year, there's plenty in our FSA account to cover the out-of-pocket expenses. Shawn has also been able to take some paid time off work, even rescheduling a trip out of town so he could be home with me. I have felt pretty good since I've come home other than being a little tired and sore. My mom has helped some with meal prep and housework (such a relief because I've been fatigued a lot lately and haven't been able to get the house as clean as it was before Christmas), and my neighbor and Todd's preschool director have volunteered a couple of meals. Plus, the peace I've had during this time has been absolutely amazing. I have to admit that when I first found the lump a couple of weeks ago, I was scared. I even cried when I called my dad to tell him about it. But once we prayed and I got that out of my system I have had an amazing sense of calm about this whole situation. I have been able to leave it in God's hands, and I know that God will get the glory through all this. He has given me this gentle assurance that He will take care of me and my family. I'm definitely believing that tomorrow I will get a benign report, but even if I don't, I'm not worried. God WILL be glorified no matter what news I receive tomorrow. So, now I'm waiting again, waiting to hear, waiting in God's hands knowing I can trust Him no matter what. Sometimes waiting is a good thing.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

My Procedure

I found out a little while ago that the surgery to remove my lymph node will be at 7:30am tomorrow. They want me at the hospital at 5:45am (UGH!), and my husband has to be with me the whole time. We also can't take the kids with us because of flu concerns (not that I really look forward to the prospect of getting them up at the crack of dawn, anyway). God, in the form of my neighbor, has taken care of childcare arrangements, even though it was very late notice. Of course, the biggest concern now is the crazy weather we're supposed to get here in NC overnight & in the morning. Prayers for safety, as well as healing, are much coveted and greatly appreciated!

An Opportunity for God's Glory

Wow, what an amazing journey I've been on since last September! Pretty much all of my “extra-curriculars” were stripped away, either by someone else or through my choice, as I felt God telling me to take a time of rest. I have always been involved in church service from childhood, so to sit in the congregation without any responsibilities seemed odd at first, but as time progressed I found a new depth in my relationship with God that I have never had before. I am so grateful for this time I've had with Him and even for the circumstances that brought me to place. I've learned so many things through those cirumstances and the resting time. Things that I probably could not have learned otherwise – things that busyness had distracted me from. I am certainly a better person for the journey of these few months, and so many things have changed in me. The way I see God is different, the way I see myself is different. The way I see my family and those around me is different. The way I pray and conduct myself is different. It's as though I've been born again, again. I'm not negating my original rebirth experience, nor am I saying that my relationship with God was poor before the time of rest. I'm simply saying that it all has gotten so much better. And now I'm ready to rejoin church service with renewed vigor and vitality.

One of the things that I learned during this time is that I don't need anyone but God. Don't get me wrong, I desperately want my husband, children, and family. They are the reason for so much of what I do, and I dedicate much of my life to them. But, God forbid, if one or all of them were taken away from me, as painful and difficulty as that would be, I would survive, and I would continue to serve God. This realization has given me a lot of freedom in my life. I'm free to love my husband and kids in a way I never have before. I'm free from worrying about what other people think. I'm free to be myself, the person God created me to be, without having to prove to other people that I am acceptable. And, I'm free to walk in unity with those around me. Am I perfect in all these areas yet? No, I'm still working on breaking old habits, but I always return to Christ as my center. This is a new thing for me. Christ was always a part of me, to the point that when I've tried to deny Him the past I was unable to. But now He is so much more than just a part of my life. He IS my life. My desire is to seek Him first before all else and let Him take care of the rest. My desire is to do everything that my hand finds to do for Him and not for men. So, when I'm doing laundry, making bread, changing dirty diapers, talking to friends, blogging, or singing His praises, it's ALL for His glory.

That brings me to the present. Two weeks ago I started having mild pain in my right armpit. I felt for a lump, but found nothing at first. Then Sunday came. I had fallen asleep on the couch, and my husband lovingly woke me up to go upstairs to bed (as he does most every night). I was in a lot of pain when he woke me. Before I went to bed that night I felt in my armpit again. This time I felt a lump, very deep, very hard, and very painful. Monday I called the doctor and made an appointment for Wednesday morning. I saw the LNP, who said that my lymph node was enlarged. She ordered bloodwork and an ultrasound (she orginally recommended a mammogram, which I refused). The bloodwork showed no sign of infection. On Thursday the ultrasound tech had a hard time getting a good image of the lump because it was so deep, so a CT scan was ordered for Friday. The CT came back confirming that it was my lymph node, and that it was infected. I was prescribed an antibiotic and told to check-in after 10 days to confirm that the infection was gone. The LNP also said to keep checking the area to make sure it didn't change.

In addition to the Keflex, I have also been taking garlic, echinacea, green tea extract, and 5,000 IUs of Vitamin D. For several days I was able to take a couple of ibuprofen every once in a while if the pain got too strong, but at most that was once a day. Then came this past Monday evening. Instead of receding, the lymph node got larger and the swelling spread into my upper arm and down into my chest. The pain is excruciating at times. I was having to take three ibuprofen at a time and the pain usually came back in a couple of hours. So I called the doctors office back after hours Monday, and was told to come back in on Tuesday. I saw another NP on Tuesday. She gave me Vicodin for the pain (which I try to only take at night) and referred me to a vascular surgeon, who I saw that afternoon. The surgeon said that my lymph node, which should measure at 1 cm, was measuring at 3 cm. She said that it needs to come out. The danger is that the infection could easily spread to my bloodstream, and become fatal. She also said that once the node is removed they will biopsy it. There are three possible causes for the enlargement: infection, inflammation for unknown reasons, or lymphoma. We'll find out 24-48 hours after the procedure. She did say that if lymphoma is the reason, we've caught it very early, as it hasn't spread to any other lymph nodes yet, so it should need minimal treatment in that case.

After the appointment with the surgeon I went straight to Whole Foods and got unpasteurized, unfilitered apple cidar vinegar, which I'm taking three times a day, as well as colloidal silver, which I'm also taking three times a day. I wanted to get colloidal gold, too, for the pain, but it is a little too far out of reach for our checkbook right now.

Well, as wiped out as I was from the medicine yesterday (I will NEVER take Vicodin again!), I was determined to get to church last night. I knew I needed to be surrounded by people of God, and I needed to participate in corporate worship. I solicited prayer from a few people to stand with me, because, “If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.” (Mt 18:19-20 NLT) Needless to say, I don't want surgery. I am believing that the swelling and pain will dissipate, and I will not need to be cut open. Whatever happens in the next few days, I know there is purpose in it, because what the enemy has meant for evil, God will use for good, and He WILL be glorified.

Back to Blogging

Well, it's been quite a bit longer than a week. I apologize. I have finally found a way to work blogging back into my life. If I don't do it in the morning it won't get done, and I have had trouble fitting it into my mornings. Most likely I will post a couple of times a week instead of daily because right now I only have a couple of mornings to blog each week. Thanks for your patience!