Sunday, September 9, 2018

My Mother, The Lighthouse

If you’ve ever been to my mom’s house, you could tell instantly she has an affinity for lighthouses. But did you ever realize that my mom, herself, is a lighthouse?

The first lighthouses, for instance the Pharos in Alexandria built in 200 BC, indicated where the safe harbor was located. As transatlantic crossings became more popular, lighthouses were built to guide ships along the coastline. There are even directional lighthouses, that when you are lined up perfectly, they appear as if on top of each other. We typically think of lighthouses that warn sailors of rocky shoals or dangerous cliffs in a storm.

My mom was all of these. Before she married Ernie, our home used to be safe harbor for women who needed a place to live while they got back on their feet. We lived in a humble 2 bedroom apartment, so the women would sleep in my bedroom, on the bottom bunk. And a few weeks/months later, they would move on and someone else would come live with us. My mom was a safe harbor to those who were experiencing stormy seas.

You learn a lot about lighthouses when you live with Mom. You learn that lighthouse keepers would wind up a mechanism that rotated around the light source. As this mechanism rotated around the light, it reflected the light so much so some beams would reach 20 miles out to sea. My mom was a lighthouse. She reflected the Light that was in her.

I mentioned lighthouse keepers. Before engineers found a way to automate the lamps, oil, and  lenses, lighthouse keepers kept grueling hours. First and foremost, they lit the lamp at sunset and put it out at sunrise. If you ever bunked with my mom, you know she keeps strange hours. I’ll never forget the first time I realized this. We were still in the apartment and I woke up early and went to her room. She wasn’t there. Being still young, I admit I was a little afraid. I went downstairs and found her, sitting in front of the fire, already reading her Bible, well before sunrise.

When she married Ernie and they bought the house, she still kept her early hours. We didn’t even check in her bedroom anymore in the mornings. No matter how early you got up, Mom was already on the patio, reading. Reading her Bible, reading her devotionals, writing in her journals, or praying. If you went out to be with her, she never said a word. You never said a word. You didn’t have to. You just knew she was praying someone through a stormy sea or praying for guidance and direction for a lost soul.

She never did any of this for praise. The lighthouse doesn’t stand as a testament to itself. In Matthew chapter 5 we read,  “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” My mom did these things to reflect the Light that was in her. May her lighthouse-life be a testimony and give glory to our Father who is in heaven.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Fixing Our Eyes

Even though we are home, our "race" is not over. This is more of a marathon than a sprint.

I know marathons. Just last year, I ran a half-marathon. While in training, God gave me a verse to meditate on.

Hebrews 12:1, Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with endurance the race that is marked out for us.

I committed that verse to memory and wrote it on my heart, as well as my race papers. I repeated this verse at least one-hundred times while I ran that day. I had arranged for the announcer to speak this verse when I crossed the finish line, for all to hear.  I ran with endurance the race set out for me!

And now, I am running another marathon. A much different race. This time, with my husband. Oh, we've had journeys together already. Just three years ago, we walked through the valley of the shadow of death, but we feared no evil. For His rod and staff comforted us.

This marathon is a marathon of recovery. It is not a sprint. We realize there will be weeks, if not months of therapy and rehab and strength building.

And during this marathon, I have been brought back to Hebrews 12:1. While Joe was in brain surgery, I was comforted by the verse. Two of my sisters in Christ sent me encouraging messages with Hebrews 12:1.

But, there's more to that paragraph. Keep reading and you will hear Hebrews 12:2,

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith...


Many of you have commented on my faith. Thank you. However, look past me, to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of OUR faith!

May I comfort you today, in your race (because we all struggle with problems). Brothers and sisters, run with endurance the race that is set before you. Personalize the verse. Insert your name:

Let ____ run with endurance the race that is set before ___, fixing ___ eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of ____ faith.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Miraculous News

Want to hear some miraculous news? Joe has improved so much in one week. To think that one week ago, he had nauseating migraines due to his brain herniating that he couldn't stand and blacked out for 2 days. Now, he is off oxygen, he eats solid food, he takes meds orally, he uses the restroom, he WALKS, he talks, he remembers (most things), his kidney functions, and his brain maintains proper fluid levels! Praise God from whom all blessings flow. I am honored to be married to such a valiant, strong man.

His brain drain has been removed and the neurosurgeon has signed off on him. He has determined that all this was caused by his anti-rejection meds. We have been cleared of any guilt or shame as to what we could have done to prevent this. Thank you Jesus for that gift.

OT and PT gave us the BEST NEWS EVER right now. When he is discharged, he can go straight home. No "go to the 24 hour rehab center" nor "stay here in a rehab center", but HOME. Since the brain drain was removed late today, they will probably keep and observe him until Saturday. Not sure on that part yet, but that's our best guess. It will be so good to be reunited with the boys. It's been so hard to have the 4 of us separated. They are such a joy to us and inspiration for Joe. Children are most definitely a blessing from the Lord.

He will have some restrictions when he gets home. Doc says he should be able to take the special driving test in about a month. Until then, no golf, fishing, chainsawing, weed whacking, painting on a ladder, chopping veggies while talking, etc.. He would benefit from friends and family popping in to say hi and chat for awhile.

Thank you all so very, very much. We were uplifted by your prayers (in person and from a distance). I was encouraged by your scriptures. There were moments of physical weakness and that's when darkness whispers in my ear. Your scripture was ALWAYS spot on for what I needed to hear. Thank you for heeding that prompting. May I be a blessing to you as you were to me.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Test Results, Praise Reports, and Mountains

Today has been filled with praise reports and a few new challenges.

Joe's genetic kidney disease did attack the new kidney "aggressively". We knew this was a possibility 3 years ago. The good news is that the doctors have stopped the attack on the kidney. The bad news is that the damage is permanent and cannot be reversed. We are saddened by this news as this kidney was such a wonderful gift.

A month ago, Joe's kidney function was approximately 65%. Friday, it was 27% and by Sunday, it was 20%. Dialysis starts at 15%. The good news is that the doctors think they can stave off dialysis for another few months. They want to get as much mileage out of this kidney as they can. This is great news.

Once a patient starts dialysis, they start the process for a transplant.....if they are eligible for a transplant. This was perhaps my biggest concern. The doctors told us that Joe might not be eligible for another transplant if his genetic condition attacked the new kidney. They discussed it and looked at test results and have decided he can have another transplant!

There is talk that the "brain drain" might come out tomorrow. Joe is supposed to be able to get out of bed tomorrow and walk a little bit. We are hopeful he will be able to go home Wednesday.

We waited until we had more answers to tell the boys. Immediately, Joshua said in his sweet voice, "Daddy can have my kidney". Out of the mouths of babes.

Jack was trying to comfort Joe's sisters when he saw them crying. When they explained they were crying because they were happy with the news, Jack did a fist pump. "Yes!"

As of right now, we still have unresolved neurological issues but are awaiting test results and answers. We have another mountain to climb. But if we learned anything from the first mountain, it's that to ascend a mountain, you put one foot in front of the other. We will take this one day at a time. The mountain is big but we serve a bigger God.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

This is the Man She Married

It started with a whisper. A faintly spoken word. A gentle nudging.

"This is the man you will marry".

Two strangers sat in the corner of the Mountain Room Restaurant. An intimate table for two. I'm sure some strings were pulled to get the table with the absolute best view of Yosemite Falls.

As they sat and talked, he quietly folded the napkin into a rose and gave it to her. She reached across the table and they prayed, holding hands.

And that's when she heard it. Barely audible, yet with such resonance in her heart. "This is the man you will marry".

One year later, as she prepared for bed, she received another sign. This time, she was sure it was visible to everyone around. She shook her head and sat straight up. No gently nudging this time around. Loud and clear. "This is the man you will marry".

Unbeknownst to her, earlier that day, he had asked her father for her hand in marriage. I guess you could say, the rest is history.

But, history is his story and it must be told.

She has heard whispers since then. Nudgings. She has been faithful to them, knowing that God speaks to her in a still, small voice.

And that's exactly how they ended up here. A nudging.

The past year has been a year of pain for him. Migraines kept him down, asleep, in the dark, in a funk. She has been strong, maybe too strong for some. Her hard exterior only served to protect her heart, which was daily breaking.

It didn't seem possible the migraines could get worse, but they did. To the point he was nauseous daily. He tried to function but struggled to just maintain. Until.....Until, she felt the nudging.

It promised to be another beautiful summer day. Their boys were full of energy and running jumping around, but she.....she felt "somehow". Normally a strong person, she vowed to just work through it. Push past the.... what is that feeling?

She went to work but felt drained. Achy. Chilled. Recipe for flu, one would think. Her co-workers sent her home with well-wishes. One wonders, did they feel a nudging too.

She was scheduled to work all day, and all night. She had an important meeting that night and probably would not return home until 8 or 9 o'clock. But, now, she couldn't. She didn't feel right.

She went home and found him. Found him very sick. She cancelled her meeting. She needed to be home. But why????

Because he needed her. He started losing consciousness and fell, multiple times. She was there to pick him up and dry him off. She was there to hold onto his arm while he slept so he didn't fall out of bed, again.

She was there.....and not at work.....nor at the meeting.  Because she was sick, herself? Amazingly, her symptoms went away when she got home. So, why was she home?

Imagine the alternative. Imagine if she had stayed at work and gone on to the meeting. Imagine if he still lost consciousness and fell repeatedly. Imagine their boys finding their daddy, slumped in the shower.

But, that's not his story.

She debated back and forth, whether to take him to the walk-in clinic or to the emergency room. And then she heard it. Nothing gentle about the loud thud from the bedroom. She found him on the floor, confused.

She woke their boys to assist in getting him dressed and safely into the car. Her only thoughts were of  his kidney. His one good kidney. The amazing gift of a friend 3 years ago. What treasure lies behind that scar. Lord, please save the kidney.

Blood draws and vital checks are the norm but her mention of his repeated falls prompted the ER team to do a CT Scan. And that's when they found it. A mass. His blood draws came back and they weren't good either. His kidney function had dropped from 65% a month ago to 27%. Lord, please save the kidney.

The local hospital is good and the staff is top-notch, but they don't specialize in transplant patients and this was proving to be a complicated case.

They ordered the helicopter and Mayo agreed to take him. Again. The same hospital that took him into their loving arms 3 years ago (almost to the day). They told her she would have to drive and meet him there. But... driving would take an additional 3 hours. He was so disoriented, he didn't know the year, the president, his could he possibly answer life-saving questions in this state?

She nudged this time. She refused to drive and asked to fly with him. She would advocate and fight on his behalf. After all, this is the man she married.

The first thoughts were that he was losing the kidney, either through rejection or infection. His numbers had dropped dramatically in the past month.

As they slid him into the helicopter, the hospital handed a large envelope to the flight nurse. All his records and a CD of his CT Scan were in the envelope. Upon landing, the flight nurse handed it to the admitting team.

CT Scans are good for detecting but not so good with identifying. They ordered an MRI immediately.  They had to install a "brain drain" to remove the excess fluid on his brain. The fluid had been creating pressure, which is not good. The doctor said if it had continued for about one more week, it would have been fatal.

Now that the migraines have ceased, the doctors turned their focus back to the kidney. They see three possibilities (but there is always the unknown as well).

  1. Rejection. Not good but not horrible. The doctors could take steps to stop it. The thought is that this is a possibility because he has been vomiting so much for the last month that he might have vomited his anti-rejection pills and his body started to reject the kidney.  
  2. Infection. Also not good but could be treated and dealt with. This prompts more questions, such as how did he get an infection, how to prevent in the future? 
  3. His genetic kidney disease is attacking the kidney. This is pretty much the worse scenario. We knew going into the transplant 3 years ago there was a 40% chance of that happening. He has a genetic condition that does strange things to his kidneys and blocks them from absorbing any protein. He passes a lot of protein through his urine. How much protein? Normal protein levels for a healthy individual are about 30 units. His levels on Friday were 10,000 units. If you know him, you know that he has never been a big guy and can not for the life of him "bulk" up. 
So, we sit and wait. His biopsy results will start to come in today. They will know today if it was rejection. The other two take a little longer. 

As we wait, the two celebrate their wedding vows. Remember, this is the man she married. And the two have become one.
For those who have joined our journey in the last three years, you can read our story here:

T-13: It take a Village

Friday, June 19, 2015

A New Chapter In My Life

Play this song while reading this post.

The breeze is swirling my hair into my face. The perfume of pine needles envelopes me. The warm sun makes my eye lids heavy. Suddenly, the music rushes me back in time, to a different place, that's not really all that different.

Fifteen years ago, I worked and lived in Yosemite National Park. Although I worked full time and spent as many of my waking hours hiking, there were times of solitude. My favorite locale was about a quarter mile from my dorm. I would take my chair, my discman (yes, this was pre-iPod days), pencil, and paper. I would sit near the mighty Merced River and write.

Between prepositional phrases, I would raise my eyes to the grand granite cliffs. A dragonfly would dart in front of me and divert my gaze. The breeze would loosen tendrils from my ponytail. The aroma of pine needles and sunscreen greeted me. The music echoed the sounds of birds in the forest, blurring the lines between digital and reality. And I wrote on.

I wrote to heal. I was still healing from five years in an abusive relationship. I had been stripped down to the core and left with no self-esteem, confidence, love. Writing helped me. I mostly wrote notes of encouragement to myself but I did occasionally write notes of encouragement to others. You see, helping them heal helped me heal.

And here I sit, today. Instead of granite cliffs, my view is of a beautiful pine-covered mountain. I still smell the sunlight on the pine needles. Birds echo the sounds of digital birds from my CD. And I'm still writing.

But, I have started a new chapter. No longer do I write prose to restore what was lost. Now, I write lesson plans to restore what was lost.

I have been called out of the public education system and into behavioral health (and healing). I write lesson plans for teachers, to show them how to embed Social Emotional Learning into everyday lessons. To help them restore what was lost.

The sun is the same, as is the breeze. A dragonfly just darted by. The view is similar, as is the writing. A new chapter in my life. But, not really all that new. More like an extension of a work begun fifteen years ago.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Run With Endurance

Meet my friend Kate.  
Oh, you've never heard me talk about Kate before?  
Well, that's because I met her on the trail.  
After running/walking 13.1 miles together, we're besties now.  

The morning started cold.  Real cold.  My toes were actually numb in my running shoes.  
Before the racers lined up, the announcer told us about how she ran this trail 8 years ago.
And fell.  60 feet.  And shattered her pelvis.  And spent 2 sub-freezing nights alone.
"Stay focused", "follow the orange ribbons", "be careful" they told us.  
We would soon find out why. 

Here is a topo of the trail.  Notice the first 4 miles are uphill with a gain of about 1,000 feet.  
Notice also the sheer drop from mile 8.5 to 9.5.  We'll look at that later.

What they don't tell you is, the first four miles (uphill) are in sand. Sand!  
From this pic, you can see that we had just come up the canyon.  It was still cold in the shade. 

At about 0.5 miles, we could hear the sound of a flute.  A Native American flute.
Turns out, it was Kokopelli, the figure you see on petroglyphs in the Southwest.  
Kokopelli is thought to be the god of fertilization.  Legend holds it that if a woman hears
Kokopelli's flute, she is to run, lest she become pregnant.  "Run!" the flute was telling us. 

Look at the tops of those canyon walls.  Soon we would be running atop them. 

This pic shows the trail coming out of the canyon, onto the top of the mesa.  
It was at about this point that the trail became very rocky, full of boulders.  
We had to scramble over some boulders five feet tall.  

We came around a corner and spotted this beauty.  

After we summitted the Saddle, the trail was relatively flat, but still sandy.

Around another corner and we spot these beauties.  

Soon after we left the arches, we came to the edge of the canyon.  Look down.  
Do you see a "trail" on the right side?  Yeah, that's a road.  

Yeah, yeah.  It's a marathon.  We should have been running.  
But with views like this, how can you NOT stop to take pics?!

The trail ran so close to the edge.  It was easy to see how our announcer had slipped and fallen.
From here, we started our steep decline.  
From here to the road, it was pretty much jumping down from boulders.

Some of the boulders were so big, there were volunteers on hand to help us make it safely.  
Speaking of volunteers, they were the best!  
As you could see from the pics, the trail was pretty remote.
Some volunteers had to travel to their aid station the night before and camp out in order to be ready for us by race time.  Thank you volunteers!

And here's the road.  Really?  Uphill at mile 10?  
We really didn't think this through, did we?

After we crested the road, we turned off and entered the river. 
Yes, I just said "river".  We were told the river would be knee-deep.
Um yeah.  The water was up to my rear end!
And cold.  And it lasted for one entire mile.
Did I mention it was cold?  
Kate and I yelped every time it got deeper. 
Once again, my toes were frozen.

Going Home!
Disclaimer: NOT our pic!
Unfortunately, the race photographer is taking FOREVER publishing the pics.
I would love to show you a pic of Kate and I as we crossed the finish line, 
holding hands high above our heads.

Janine and I at the Finish Line Party.  What fun!  
Good food.  Live band.  Smiles all around.  
Can't wait to do it all over again.

where Glory meets my suffering