Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Song of the Lifeboat

"Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats." - Voltaire

Two things I've learned in life: Every trial is simply training ground for a harder trial down the road, and undoubtedly a storm is brewing during a lull in the weather. When Jon came home from work a week ago Wednesday and asked, "how good is our health insurance coverage?" I felt the first drops of rain.

For the past two or three months, he'd been experiencing headaches, unexplained fatigue, and a general feeling of ill, much like he did prior to his CSF leak surgery 18 months ago. Because he wasn't having actual leaking, however, we tried to pass off the symptoms as sinusitis, even though I really knew it wasn't. Last Wednesday, the leak returned, and with it, the horrible memories of his pre-op and surgery.

As much as I wish I could say that I trusted fully in the Lord's care and provision, the truth is that I panicked. Jon's current insurance plan is horrible - basically, it's only catastrophic coverage in the event of a huge emergency or disaster. And since it's a work policy, we can only change coverage during open enrollment, which we first thought wouldn't come around until October (far too long for a CSF patient to go without seeing a physician).

Thankfully, Jon was much more level-headed about it all, reminding me that the Lord knew from the beginning that Jon would have this condition, and that He would provide for and take care of us now just as He had every time previously.

The day after the start of this storm, I woke up with a nasty heat headache that I so often struggle with during the first few warm days of Spring. That evening, we discovered that Lauren has developed a hernia. Add to all of that the indigestion Tyler's been struggling with and top it off with extended family struggles, and I was really starting to feel overwhelmed by the waves.

And then I found my Lifeboat.

Isaiah 26:3 played over and over in my mind: "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee." I don't remember memorizing that verse, but somewhere along the way I must have committed it to memory, and it has steadied my fried nerves and realigned my wayward focus.

Almost instantly, things started falling into place, starting with Jon's health insurance (he's on a different plan than the rest of the family). Open enrollment is in June, not October, and for an identical monthly premium, we can transfer him to a Kaiser plan with a manageable deductible. Since his surgeon works at Kaiser, this is an additional blessing.

I also decided that I needed to learn as much as I could on CSF leaks. We had no idea that it could return after the surgical repair, and I realized that I knew very little about this. What I've discovered has been shocking: repairs are only permanent 90% of the time, and when someone has a spontaneous leak like Jon does, the statistics are much lower - one woman reported having 14 repairs. This is a much more life-threatening situation than we'd ever understood previously, too. Ironically, instead of worrying me more, all of this information has helped me to feel more confident simply because I better understand what we could be facing. I've also learned that many of Jon's seemingly-random symptoms are probably all related to the CSF leak. It's definitely sobering, but it reveals just how blessed we are that his first 15 years with a CSF leak didn't harm him any more than it did. The Lord has been truly gracious.

Additionally, Jon's not had any more leaking since the Wednesday incident- another huge praise, because this might mean that it really was just sinusitis or that the leak has resealed (which can happen when the leak is small). While both of those scenarios are unlikely, I still find it encouraging.

We also learned that the kids' health insurance will cover an annual well-child checkup, so both Tyler and Lauren can be seen for their issues. Tyler is already feeling better as we reduce his sugar intake and increase his veggie consumption, and all of my internet research indicates that Lauren will not need immediate surgery for her hernia. And the the sunshine through the clouds is that my headaches have abated so that I can think and respond to things more Biblically and rationally.

I highly doubt that this succession of storms is completely over, but I am thankful for the reminder to sing in the lifeboat. I'm alive, and that in itself is something to rejoice about! I've also been reminded how minuscule these little waves truly are. When compared to the wife and four children who just lost their 20-something husband/father to cancer; the friend awaiting an organ donation; the uncle who just lost his job after over 30 years of service; and others struggling under huge, impending thunderheads, I really have very little to complain about and so much for which to be thankful.

Will I sing in my lifeboat? Absolutely. And the louder I sing, the sooner I realize that the Rescue Ship has already pulled me aboard. After all, He's the one who taught me how to sing during the shipwreck.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Child Rearing: The Missing Manual

Over the past few years, I've read several child-rearing books. Okay, make that LOTS of child-rearing books. Some I've loved; others I've hated; but I've learned something from each. Authors give advice on training, discipline, education, health, safety, and myriad other kid-related topics. There is one aspect of training up little ones that is rarely, if ever, covered, though, and I find it a little disconcerting.

I cannot think of any book I've read that delves into the aspect of children as gifts, on loan from God. It's mentioned, oh yes, numerous times and by many authors, but I've not come across anyone who's actually stopped to dwell on the issue.

When I hear the term "loan," I think of a bank lending money. After securing a bank loan, I may have cash in a bank account, but it's not really mine. In most cases, I can do with it what I choose, but the end result is the same: I have to repay not only the principal, but also the interest. What would happen if I were to raise my children with this same mindset?

Whenever I've borrowed items from someone else, I usually give great attention and care to the borrowed item so that I can return it in as good of condition as possible. While I'm not careless with my own belongings, I'm not as careful with them since I don't have to return them to someone else.

All too often, I get caught up in thinking that these three spark plugs belong to me permanently, wholly, and completely - well, to me and my husband. Truthfully, this is a very selfish and unbiblical mindset. I am merely a steward into whose care these gifts have been placed by God. I love them as my own, and I try to be the best mom I can be. If I were to continually remember that they are loans, though, I think I would become a better mother than I currently am.

During the moments when I remember that my children are on loan, I act differently. I'm calmer, more collected; I'm gentler in voice and action; I have more patience with petty things. Some day, I will answer to God regarding my child-rearing attempts. I am not responsible for saving my children's souls - only the Lord can do that. But I am responsible to raise them in a manner that honors the Lord and is in keeping with His word.

While there may be a gap in parenting books, God's Word perfectly fills the void. I will continue reading other authors on the subject, but I will rely most fully on the Lord's infallible teaching, knowing that it's the answer to the "missing manual."