Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wow, what a year!

It is December 31, 2008 and I can’t help but think “Wow, what a year!” Yes, I thought that I would be at a different point than I am, but in the same breath I know that God has me exactly where he wants me. His faithfulness to me and my family astounds me. The reason I can say that is that I have been reflecting on this past year. There are so many examples of answers to prayer, of people calling or writing just when I needed it, or of books or verses that I read just when I needed them. Amazing!! Tonight I feel compelled to start a new tradition. Tonight we will be remembering all the ways that God was faithful to us and reflecting on some of the miracles and answers to prayer that we saw this year.

Mimi Wilson wrote “when we have a record of how he has taken care of us, it builds our faith and strengthens our ability to rest in his capacity to take care of our circumstances”. I have no idea what the next year will hold, but I am confident that because he has so faithfully taken care of us this year, he will continue. Will it be easy? No, probably not, but I know he is faithful.
Mimi continued to say that “A thankful, contented heart is a gift we give to him” I want to give that gift not only to God, but also to my family. After all, we are so blessed.
Here is an exerpt from our Christmas letter that lists some of the ways God was faithful to us in the last year and half. For those of you that received our letter sorry for the repetition.

*One of the most obvious and immediate ways we saw God’s faithfulness was through the Christian community. Immediately after Rhonda entered the hospital we had visits, flowers and plenty of prayer support. Our church brought us meals at least a couple times a week for almost a year. We’ve also had various people wash clothes for us, clean or pay cleaning, take care of our children and drive us to various doctor’s appointments. They have been the hands and feet of Christ in the midst of our difficulties. I’m not sure how someone can go through a difficult time like this without the body of Christ.

*The week that Rhonda went to the hospital was also the start of Perry’s semester long research sabbatical. The fact that Perry did not have to teach classes freed him up to take care of Rhonda and the boys during the most difficult period of Rhonda’s illness. In addition, we’ve seen God provide for us financially despite having a tremendous number of medical bills. Some of the stories of God’s provision in this area would require more space than we have here.

*Although our families live far away, they also sacrificed their lives by coming to visit and take care of Rhonda and the boys while Perry took various research trips to study Christian higher education in Europe. It’s wonderful to have such a caring and sacrificial family that gives of their time and resources in the midst of our need.

* Despite Rhonda’s illness the boys have continued to thrive and grow. They have become great playmates. In many ways they have benefitted from a mommy who was not distracted but very available for hugs, cuddles, and stories. Yes, it was hard when Mommy couldn’t take them school or come to their parties, but in the midst of it they have surprised us with their empathy. For example, Bennett once told Rhonda, “Mommy, I’m sad for you that you’re sick. I know that it’s hard to be in bed a lot.” And Cody often tells mommy that when he gets older he’s going to become a doctor and a cooker and take care of his mommy. We’ve also seen them learn how to take more responsibility at home and help mommy when she cannot clean or vacuum. They’ve been an encouragement and a good distraction during this time. We’ve both appreciated Bennett’s gift of humor and silliness in the midst of the weight of illness. Cody amazes us with his compassion and profound thoughts (e.g., Why did God give us bodies? Why did God make mean dinosaurs? There are three people who will always love you—God, your daddy and your mommy).
* In our marriage we’ve seen God use this illness to slow us down for both times with him and with each other. Having to stay home and say no to the many good activities that can fill your time has allowed us to enjoy more time together as a couple and a family. Not being able to go out on dates for a while, also sure makes you appreciate the ones we have now!

* From Rhonda: “But as for me, it is good to be near God, I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds” (Ps. 73:28). This sums it up well. God has become a very close companion to me. Is it possible to have peace in the midst of adversity? Does having a relationship with God make a difference? Is the Bible applicable to our lives today? I can now confidently say yes, yes, and yes. Without God’s Word and others people’s stories testifying the same, I know that I would have easily been fearful, anxious, depressed, and discouraged. Instead, I have had to deepen my understanding of what it means to walk by faith, trust when I couldn’t see, and choose to remember the ways that God has and is faithful to me. Through this time my compassion for others has deepened and my prayer life is so different. Yes, right now I cannot physically serve people as I used to, but I have learned that it is just as important to serve them by interceding in prayer. In fact, it is a great privilege. I have become very thankful for the things that we often take for granted like going to church, driving, going out to eat, and even going to the store. My learning curve has indeed been steep, but I am grateful for all that I have learned and I am praying for grace, wisdom, and strength to apply it.

This Christmas we not only celebrate God’s faithfulness through Christ but also the many other gifts he gives throughout our lives. Thank you so much for your prayers

Friday, December 26, 2008

It was their idea

Both the boys and I agree that this is our favorite time of year for lots of different reasons. I have really enjoyed starting different traditions as they have gotten a little bit older. Bennett loves to decorate and of course they both love the count down to the 25th using our nativity advent calendar. They also look forward to advent. I grew up doing advent and I have a lot of fond memories related to it. I am so glad that my boys enjoy it too. We also love to read our Christmas books. When they were little I decided each year I wanted to give them a book so that when they are older they can take a Christmas book collection with them. This has become a great tradition that we all love.

Sometimes as a mother you don't always know if your ideas are going to be successful. This Christmas eve, I think I got it right. I decided on a simple supper meal starting with cheese fondue and ending with chocolate fondue (okay, it sounds fancy but it was really just our favorite chocolate chips melted). Bennett's response" Mommy, can we do this every year" and during the chocolate part Cody said " This is the life!

I was really proud of them and surprised when they suggested that the first thing that we would do on Christmas morning was read one of Bennett's favorite Christmas books called " The Legend of the Three Trees", do advent together and then open presents. I wished I could have captured on film them coming in at 7am in their robes and climbing into our bed and reading together followed by lighting our Jesus candle. I think they got the true meaning of Christmas for a few moments......until they were asking " Are there more presents for me? "

Probably the best moment this Christmas season was when we asked them "What is the best gift you can give Jesus?" and they both agreed "My heart" . What a great reminder!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A bit of relief!

The medicine is working! The last two weeks I have noticed a difference and I feel like I am finally getting to a level in which the Neurontin is helping the pain. Prior to this when I would do anything extra like going to the store or parties at Cody's school I would dearly pay for it in the next few days. I have noticed that I am pain, but it does not disable me as much. This is quite amazing for me and is such a nice relief especially before Christmas. Thank you for your prayers. It mean so much to me. Your prayers have certainly helped sustain me.

Several people have asked me if I thought I was progressing and healing from the Guillian Barre. That is such a hard question. I think so, but it is slow. I feel like I am more functional, but I am not sure if it is because I am taking more medicine or I am healing. I do notice that I don't have as much muscle fatigue as I once did and I am so thankful for that. There have been times when I have backed off on my Neurontin and have noticed my pain increases. So that leads me to believe that if I did not have the Neurontin I would be in more pain. I honestly don't dwell on it too much. I have had to learn to thank God for the gift of today and his provision for today. That is the focus that helps me get through.

A Great Day!

Today is a great day to celebrate God's faithfulness. My brother is graduating today from Penn State with his doctorate and I can't begin to tell how thankful and greatful to God for answering our prayers. After a very difficult journey he did it. What an amazing accomplishment for someone who has suffered so much. Oh, I wish I could be there to celebrate with them. However, it is probably a good thing because I would be a mess. Is is okay to carry a box of Kleenex with you?
For those of you who have prayed for him over the years thank you. Does God still do the impossible? Yes!!! I have seen it with my own eyes. Yes, he has improved, however he still has tremendous pain that I can't even begin to describe to you. With God's help and his medicine he is more functional and I am amazed at what he can do.
He really is my hero. Even before I got Guillian Barre he taught me a lot about suffering and now through my experience I totally get what he was trying to tell me. He continues to model faithfulness in the midst of a really hard experience. I will never forget the picture he gave me of God weeping with us during our pain. I have often thought of that and God's presence and compassion has certainly got me through the hard days.

So, I celebrate today with my brother and I give all praise and thanksgiving to God for hearing our prayers and allowing him to have this moment.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Very thankful!!

Thanksgiving was very meaningful for me this year and I have to admit that I often found myself teary. Here are a couple of the highlights of the last few weeks.

First, two weeks ago I was able to go to an evening mission meeting. This was a big deal for me. I felt really emotional that night because for one evening I forgot about my illness and remembered my love for missions. It was such a treat. Because my in laws were here to chauffeur, do laundry and make supper I was able to rest during the day and then I was able to go in the evening. Thank you Joe and Cynthia! Did I tell you that I even got to go out for supper with my husband. Yeh!

Second, I also got to go to our church Thanksgiving supper. It has been long time since I went to church in the evening. I realized how thankful I was for the ability to go to church. I was so thankful for my church family who has helped us so much during the last 16 months.

Thirdly, with my mother in laws help we were able to cook a Thanksgiving dinner and have a few of our Russian friends over. What a blessing! It has been awhile since we have been able to entertain. It was very special.

Traditionally every year the boys go out and get a branch and we put it in a vase. We write things we are thankful for on paper leaves and hang it on our tree. Our tree was full and it was a great reminder of how blessed we are.

1Thessalonians 5:22
Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

My sweet boys!

Here they are and so cute. They sure make me smile and definitely make me laugh. We recently started a new tradition at our house. Every dinner time is question time. Each person gets to ask a question and the rest of us have to answer it. We have learned a lot about each other and I think that the boys have had an easier time answering the questions than I have. ie. What is your favorite, favorite place to eat? What do you think heaven will be like? What is your favorite animal? and What was your favorite thing to do this week?
Bennett is our project man. He loves to be creative. Give him an idea or plan some kind of craft or project and he can hardly contain his excitement. Don't mention the project ahead of time or you may have to do it at 7am. He loves Legos and building things. He has reputation for taking random things and creating things with it. He also has a great imagination and goes on many adventures to get the bad guys of course. He loves Star Wars and I am convinced would love to be the next Jedi Knight. He is our morning guy and has an amazingly happy disposition. He is very affectionate and frequently stops playing to give his mommy a quick hug.
Cody is our compassionate and senstive one. He has frequently told me that when he grows up he wants to be a doctor and a cooker so he can take care of Mommy and Daddy. I would not be surprised if he did. He constantly surprises us with his profound thoughts. ie. Why did God make mean dinosaurs? Did you know that God still loves us even when we make mistakes? I am glad that there won't be any wasps in heaven! He loves a wide variety of things but his favorites are Star Wars, legos, and playmobil. Sound familiar? He loves his brother and often says "You are the best big brother ever!" He is a great playmate for Bennett and that has been a great blessing for me especially during this time.
So if you come to visit don't forget to bring your lightsaber, scissors, glue stick or in Cody's case you might even want to bring your sword because you may have to pretend that you are Goliath. You never know what kind of adventure you will go on at our house.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A good reminder

Every so often I get out my Guillian Barre book and I probably should more often because it helps me understand my pain. Perhaps it will help you too.
"Pain is an underappreciated symptom that may persist for many years after GBS. It may be neuropathic pain or the pain that results from oversuse of incompletely recovered muscles....Many patients complain of persistent discomfort in their feet. This discomfort may take the form of tingling, an illusion of swelling or tightness or aching pain. The symptoms tend to be worse in the evening or at night...Neuropathic pain is particularly annoying during the nights that follow days during which the patients have been on their feet. Pain improves with time in some patients, but others are left with annoying or disabling pain that persists for years. Even though most patients recover their strength following GBS, some are left with persistent pain. Treatment for neuropathic pain is a challenge. Complete relief is difficult to relieve. "

I have to admit that sometimes it is a struggle because yes I look normal and yes I am functioning, but I am sure uncomfortable. The crazy thing is that from day to day it varies greatly. Yes, I have realized just how much my medicine is helping, but I sure realize how much more I need. I am so thankful that we found something that works, and I am in the process of trying to increase it to a level in which the side effects are not disabling.

Thank you! Thank you! to those that continue to surprise us with meals or help. God is so good to us!! Honestly, there are times in the midst of my pain when it seems exhausting to have to think or call someone for help. We so appreciate your prayers!!

My goal for the next blog------ My boys. Some have asked for a recent picture, and so I hope to show you my sweet boys. They are so funny and full of life.