Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Grasping the Magnitude

Until just a few days before Christmas, Jon and I weren't certain what we were going to give the spark plugs for Christmas.  As we waffled between ideas and tried to keep down expenses, circumstances transpired to provide Jon with a brand-new, high-end video game console - something completely unexpected but greatly appreciated.  I don't know a lot about gaming systems (last I knew, Nintendo was still a buzzword, but apparently that fell out of fashion decades ago), but I did know enough to realize that this was a costly gift and was something that we would not have been able to give the kids on our own. 

As expected, the spark plugs - especially the older boys - were ecstatic when they opened their present.  As excited as they were, however, it was also obvious that they didn't - in fact, couldn't - fully fathom the magnitude of the gift they'd just received.  For children who have a miniscule monthly spending allowance, hundreds of dollars is an amount beyond their current scope of understanding (although T might be getting close to comprehending it as his math skills improve and as he squirrels away his allowance for larger items). 

As Jon and the kids worked on plugging in and setting up the new system, it dawned on me how alike this gift was to that which was given on the very First Christmas.  Can we, as humans, fully grasp how much it cost the Heavenly Father to send His only Son as a sacrifice to save us?  Is it possible for us to understand the depth to which Jesus had to go to offer a ransom?  Just as the kids couldn't understand completely the worth of their Christmas gift, neither can we totally comprehend the Gift that God gave in the form of His Son. 

Despite their limited understanding, it still brought us great joy to see their glowing faces.  They still attempted to adequately thank us (although we didn't have much to do with the gift other than to wrap it), and seeing their appreciation was reward enough for us.  So, too, we can thank the Lord for sending His Son, even though we won't fully know the extent that the gift of Salvation is until we are with Him forever in Glory.

Merry Christmas!!  

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Loving My Lazarus

Tyler after being moved from PICU to regular care

Throughout Scripture, we see time and again how Jesus worked through hopeless situations in order to display the Father's glory:  the man born blind endured 40 years without sight before Jesus opened his eyes; a sick woman suffered for 12 years before touching Jesus' hem for healing; and countless parents went through untold agony watching evil spirits attempt to kill their children before the Lord cast the demons away.  Even Jesus' close friend Lazarus died before the Lord performed a miracle and raised him back to life.  As unpleasant as suffering is, often it serves to heighten the relief when it does come.

When the blind man was a child, I'm certain he had no clue that one day he would meet the Son of God or that He would restore his sight.  The blind man had to wait nearly a lifetime before he fully understood the purpose of his suffering.  So, too, when Jesus' friend Lazarus died, many asked, "if Jesus could heal all those people, why could He not have prevented his friend from dying?"  Of course, those who questioned Jesus' ability did not yet know that the best was to come when Jesus, instead of healing Lazarus' illness, raised him from the dead.

This past year has been the hardest for me to date (2008 takes a close second when, 2 months after we bought the house, Jon lost his job, the car died, and we found out that Lauren was on the way - all within the same week).  Although I would give anything to change the fact that Tyler has diabetes and has to inject insulin multiple times a day, I love what this year has taught me about trusting in God's sovereignty and seeing just how He works everything together for my good and to His glory.

When life began unraveling this summer, I couldn't see past putting one foot in front of the other.  When Lazarus grew sick and died, I don't think Lazarus' sisters Mary and Martha could have predicted that they'd see their brother alive on earth after he died, either. 

For each difficulty this year, God provided me the measure of grace needed to get through.  His timing was perfect.  He had plans bigger than any I could have imagined.  When He allowed Lazarus to die, He permitted it that His glory might shine more fully and so that more people would put their faith in Him.  When the frustrations of this summer hit us, it was so that we would more fully comprehend the greatness of our God and would better understand His kindness and grace, so that we would trust more readily that His way is far superior to our own.

A familiar quote from C.S. Lewis appropriately sums up the lessons from this year's suffering:  "I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer.  You are Yourself the answer.  Before Your face questions die away.  What other answer could suffice?"  I didn't necessarily question why He allowed the trials that He did, but I am finding that He Himself silences any questions that might try to surface.

I don't have to love the fact that Tyler has diabetes or that Jon thought he would lose his job (it's now going much better).  But I do love the Lord more for His care for me during these and other trials that we faced this year.  I can love the lessons that each Lazarus experience brings, because they bring me closer to the One Who brought back Lazarus from the dead. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Our Week in Pictures

 Aunt Kaits reading Stone Soup

Last month, the four spark plugs and I spent a wonderful week with my parents and siblings.  It was great to get away for a bit and to enjoy time with my extended family.  We went swimming, enjoyed pizza with out-of-town friends, watched another friend go sky diving for his birthday, and did lots of visiting.  My mom documented much of our activity with her camera, and she was happy to share some of her photos!

 Baby D sleeping under the fan

T playing Hopscotch

Uncle Stevie entertaining K and L
 T in the pool
 K with a diving fish
 L relaxing poolside
Baby D wishing he were in the pool
 Me watching all the waterlogged Spark Plugs
 Who needs the beach when you can surf in the pool?  
(Don't tell Daddy; he couldn't live without the ocean nearby!)

Uncle Stevie loves his nieces and nephews!
 Baby D happy to be held by Aunt Kaits
 Me with Baby D at Pizza

Baby D's "Catch of the Day" shirt from Gramma

After we returned home from our fantastic week, I figured that Mom and Dad sighed with relief to have so many noisemakers out from underfoot.  However, we'd not been home two days before Dad texted to ask, "You guys wanna come over for another week?"  
I have the best family ever!
And, yes, we will be going over again very soon!

Friday, June 28, 2013

A Place Prepared

Tyler on Christmas Day.  
You can already see the lines under his eyes and the hollowing of his cheeks, 
though we didn't realize at the time what these were indicating.

"And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God..."  Revelation 12:6

Despite having taken a semester course on Revelation, there is still much of this book that eludes me.  However, I've always loved the above verse where God prepared a special place of protection for the woman described in the preceding verses.  Looking back on the events of the past three weeks, I can clearly see how the Lord has done the same for my family.

It's a little-known fact that when Dylan was born, a very misguided pediatrician accused me of parental neglect when I mentioned that we'd not had to take a child to the doctor for illness in over two years (we had taken them in for well-child checkups).  She told me that it was impossible that none of our three older children could be so healthy and therefore concluded that we were denying sick children a physician's care.  As a result, she called in Social Services on me.  I was dumbfounded, hurt, and angry that she would say such an outlandish thing.  I cannot begin to imagine what would have happened if my parents had told me I couldn't go to the doctor when I had those awful, double ear infections as a child.  Memories of those ear infections are enough to ensure that I would never, ever avoid taking in a sick child.

For several weeks after, I wrestled with the injustice of it all.  What should have been a very happy occasion - the birth of our beautiful baby - was marred by the terror of possibly dealing with Child Protective Services and the threat of them coming to my home (once we left the hospital, we never heard from them again, thankfully).  How could any good come from this?

I believe that God allowed this atrocious woman to say what she did as a prevention.  When Tyler got sick, his symptoms did not initially warrant an expensive trip to Urgent Care - he was not so violently ill as to convey the possibility of dehydration; the lack of fever seemed to indicate a mild illness (although the oddity of that was what eventually caused us to take him in); and his weight loss could have easily been attributed to his being under the weather.  However, I could not shake the accusation of parental neglect, and I think that ultimately inspired us to action more quickly than we might have otherwise done.  While I hope to never see that pediatrician again, I can see how the Lord used a seemingly-horrible experience for good.

When I did take Tyler to Urgent Care, I asked for a pager so that we could sit in the car to wait instead of collecting more germs in the waiting room.  For reasons unknown, the pager never went off, resulting in our having to wait even longer to see a doctor.  This was frustrating at the time, but it ultimately caused us to see a different doctor than we would have if the pager had worked.  This doctor's bedside manner was amazing:  he did not needlessly alarm me, but once he was certain about the diagnosis, he was very direct, thorough, and calm when he explained what was about to happen.  I cannot imagine any other doctor handling the situation better than he did, and I am also certain that had the pager worked, we would have been seen by a different doctor who very likely would not have been as good.  Also, the delay meant that the diagnosis came around 5:30PM, just a few minutes after my dad had gotten home from work.  When I called to ask him if he and Mom could come get the middle two Spark Plugs, he was home and available to jump in the car right away.  Any earlier, and we would have had to wait for him to arrive home. 

I can even see how Jon's CSF leak prepared us for Tyler's diabetes diagnosis.  We were already accustomed to a life-threatening medical condition (though thankfully, when both CSF and diabetes are closely monitored, the health risks are greatly reduced); we knew how frequent sick days affect daily life; and we've experienced dealing with the frustration of insurance issues, frequent doctor's visits, and the other headaches that often accompany such health problems.

All of this isn't to say that things are easy or that we've sailed through this with shining colors.  We have to take everything a day at a time, and we continually need the prayers of everyone around us.  Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) is the second most common childhood disease (asthma is the first), which means that the doctors know exactly what to do for Tyler (as opposed to Jon's CSF leak, where doctors are, at present, completely baffled).  As wonderful as that is, he is more prone to illness in general, and viruses will also be more problematic for him than for the other Spark Plugs.  We're currently awaiting test results to see if Tyler also has Celiac Disease, and we'll also have to get the rest of our family tested for genetic markers that may indicate the likelihood of anyone else developing T1D.

I know that the Lord is already preparing us for the future, whatever it may hold, just as He prepared us for everything we've recently faced.  It really doesn't matter whether or not we'll be dealing with Celiac Disease or multiple T1D diagnoses. He is working out everything for our good and His glory, and knowing that brings the peace that surpasses any earthly peace we might have formerly known.

As a friend of mine likes to say, "God's got this," and that's all that really matters!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Update on Tyler

Thank you all for your prayers, encouragement, phone calls, and offers of help. This past week has been the hardest we have yet encountered, but it was made easier because of everyone's support.

A little background: Tyler started noticeably thinning out about the time that Dylan was born. We assumed he had hit a growth spurt, but when he began vomiting last weekend without running a fever, we grew concerned. I weighed him and was shocked to see that he'd lost 6 pounds in 3 months. We made an appointment with our family doctor for Wednesday, but he lost another pound on Tuesday and we took him to Urgent Care. There he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes with blood sugar over 400 (normal for him should be under 120) and diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). This can be fatal if left untreated, so he was taken by ambulance to Lucile Packard's Pediatric ICU. There he was slowly rehydrated and given insulin. Wednesday he was moved out of PICU and we began an intensive training course in caring for a type 1 diabetes patient.

We were discharged Thursday afternoon with a binder full of needed information. Over the next two weeks, we will be constantly adjusting Tyler's insulin dosages as we determine how his body responds to treatment. This is far from a one-size-fits-all regimen, and as he grows, we will adjust further. We've been told that even if we follow everything perfectly, he will still have good days and bad days. Viruses will be particularly hard on him, just as they are for Jon because of Jon's cerebro-spinal fluid leak.

Many have asked how we're holding up. The initial diagnosis was devastating, but each day gets a little better. Because of my phobia of sickness (vomiting in particular) and dislike of blood and needles (I've passed out at blood drives), all of this appeals to me as much as a pet tarantula would to an arachnophobiac. Despite my squeamishness, I sense the Lord's peace more than I have ever before. Jon is doing amazingly well, though he says he still feels very stressed. Tyler is taking everything in stride and is even doing his own blood sugar checks.

Tyler should not have any lasting health consequences from his weight loss or DKA. The doctors say that he will regain the weight in about a month and that his increased appetite will adjust back to normal in a few weeks. Likewise, his teeth will correct the decalcification that was taking place as his nutrient-starved body took minerals from anywhere it could.   Once we've gotten his insulin dose tailored to his specific needs, he should be able to participate in any activities he wants to and will not be limited in life (aside from not being able to join the military - can't have a pilot with bouncing blood sugar up in the air!).  We are grateful for this prognosis!

Our greatest need right now is for prayer: for Jon's coming layoff; for the rough days ahead; for finding better health coverage for the high cost of Tyler's ongoing care; and for our continued trust in the Lord's mercy. Time does not permit me to share the numerous ways in which we have clearly seen God's grace in all of this. There is too much to be thankful for.

As a final thought, we would like to make a photobook for Tyler with pictures of those who have been praying and with the many verses that everyone has shared with us. If you would like to be included, feel free to email me a picture. Also, if your church has been praying and you would like to include the name of your congregation, feel free to send that as well. Our goal is to have a tangible reminder of God's goodness. This will be especially comforting during the rough times we are bound to encounter.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Birthdays and Birth Days

Even though Lauren and Dylan were both due on April 12th, I didn't think that they would end up sharing the same birthday.  As April 6th drew closer, though, I realized what a perfect delivery day it would be:  Jon's mom had an engagement in the Central Valley (where my family lives) the weekend of the 6th, and since she was our primary babysitter and since Jon's dad was working very extreme hours at the time, we arranged that if Dylan hadn't come by then, she would simply take the three big spark plugs over to spend an extended weekend with my parents.  I liked the idea of not having to drop off kids before heading to the hospital.  The only down side to this plan was that it meant we wouldn't be able to be with Lauren on her 4th birthday.

As it turned out, Jon and I enjoyed some take-out - just the two of us!! - Friday evening on the 5th after the big kids were gone, and by midnight that night we knew Dylan was on his way.  What timing!

I really missed Lauren on her birthday, but it was wonderful to spend it celebrating Dylan's arrival.  And it helped to know that Gramma and Grampa were loving on Lauren in our absence, as evidenced by the big smiles and stack of new board games with which she came home.  (Cupcake Race, anyone?)  She was elated to have a new baby brother for her birthday, and it will be fun to celebrate them together in the years to come.

Many have asked how Dylan compared to the others, so here are each Spark Plug's arrival stats:

Tyler:  9lbs., 8oz., 20.75"
 Kyle:  8lbs., 10oz., 20"

Lauren:  8lbs., 13oz., 20"

Dylan:  8lbs., 10oz., 20.5"

And here are some fun sibling look-alike pictures:

Kyle, top, 1 week old; Lauren, bottom, 1 week old

Lauren, top, approximately 3 weeks; Dylan, bottom, 4 weeks

It's fun to see how similar or different each of the Spark Plugs is from his siblings.  Dylan is a good blend of the older three's looks and personality (or hospitality, as Tyler keeps saying), but he is definitely his own person with his own likes and dislikes. 

I'm grateful that Dylan usually sleeps well at night.  He's never really had his days and nights mixed up, and even though he's on the fussy side, it's almost always easy to figure out what he needs, and he calms down quickly most of the time.  He loves being held but is content to be put down if I need to.  

Dylan's arrival has been a great blessing to our entire family.  The older three love to dote on him and are super willing to help me with anything I need.  I'm often asked, "How do you do it with four?"  I reply, "I don't know how I would it without four; I need all the help I can get!" 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Cultivating Contentment

After we announced Dylan's pending arrival, I was surprised by the number of comments we received regarding our new "need" for a bigger home.

"Will you be moving to a bigger home, then?"

"Too bad your house is so small.  You're going to need more space now."

"Where are you going to put the baby once he's here?"

Truthfully, I'd never considered our home to be on the small side; at nearly 1350 square feet, that's approximately 225 square feet per person, including the baby.  We've known many larger families living comfortably in much smaller quarters.  The catch, however, lies in the fact that our home only has two bedrooms, which is somewhat limiting for a family of 6.  Had all of our spark plugs been of the same gender, we could easily put two sets of bunk beds in a bedroom and be fine.  But once the kids are older, L will eventually need her own quarters. 

I will admit that, after about 15 weeks of morning all day sickness, I began to grow frustrated with our house.  I was unable to keep up with cleaning; the boys' room was a pile of box springs floating among a foot-deep river of toys; the baby's crib was smushed up against the couch in the living room while L's mattress languished on the floor beside it; and the general atmosphere inside our home was overrun with piles of dishes and laundry.  I began to think that, perhaps, our home WAS too small for us (the first time any such thought had ever crossed my mind).

In reality, I simply needed to change my perspective...and rearrange some furniture.  

My brother and his wife lent us a set of bunk beds for the boys, which could not have come at a better time.  My parents graciously drove the set over and hauled away the broken-down twin beds that the boys had been using.  We scooped up the river of toys and books, reshelving, reorganizing, and rehoming as much as we could.  Suddenly, I could walk across their gorgeous, bare carpet without stepping on Legos as I went.  They had access to all of their books, shelved and arranged for easy perusal, and all of their toys now live in their closet within easy reach of short arms and where, if someone comes to call spur-of-the-moment, I can simply pull the doors closed.  We were even able to store an extra mattress under the bunk beds in case L wants to stay in their room until the baby sleeps through the night.

Since the boys' closet became the toy room, we were able to clear some of L's toys out of the living room to make better use of the space there.  We put her mattress up on a bedframe (salvaged from the boys' captain's bed) complete with drawers, where we were able to store blankets, toys, and a few outfits.  Her bed and the crib now fit nicely out there, and in a sense the entire space has now become a third bedroom.  If we feel really motivated, I think we could even partition it off later on when the need arises.

One of the biggest aids to sorting the bedroom shortage has been the development of our family closet.  I first learned of this idea from a blog post I stumbled across a few months back.  I already had some open-faced cubicles, so I bought one more set and combined them in the master closet to make an easy-to-access clothing storage system.  I can fold all of our clean laundry on our bed and then simply put it away on the shelves.  Each spark plug has his own row where he can easily grab socks, shirts, shorts, or whatever the day's activities demand.  Everything is visible, and since I can now oversee everything, we've yet to run into the annoying, "but I have nothing clean to wear!" argument that used to crop up so often prior to the family closet.  Spark plugs cannot hide dirty clothing in the back of dresser drawers; mis-matched socks no longer go missing under the bed.

I'm once again content with the size of our home.  It may not ever be as clean and organized as I would prefer, and some day I'd love an actual school room, basement, or sewing room, but those are definitely wants and not needs.  I wonder how often our wants could be satisfied by making do with what we currently have on hand?  I know there are times when things desired are also things of need, and there's nothing wrong with upgrading.  How grateful I am, though, that we were blessed with a few things that helped me to regain my contentment.

Imagine my surprise when, just the other day, I read about a family of five who believed that their 4-bedroom home was too small for their lifestyle!  It's very likely that their home was small on the square footage despite the number of bedrooms, though, so I cannot say for certain that they were wrong in thinking they needed more wiggle room.  I did get a good laugh out of the article, however!