Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Weekend in the Windy City

This past weekend, I did something crazy and fun. My friend Angela and I flew to Chicago on a last-minute package deal. As it turns out, we spent the majority of our weekend using various forms of mass transit, but we still had a great time.

We flew out of Love Field in Dallas on Friday evening. It was my first time flying out of that little regional
airport, and I loved the local flavor. We were delighted with the thick southern accents, so much more pronounced than what you hear at the larger D/FW airport just a few miles to the west.

What we did not love was the tiny plane, little more than a puddle jumper. We shared a bit of wine to take the edge off, and we actually held hands during the bumpy landing at O'Hare. I loved it that for once I had some company in my usual hand-wringing. Despite our fear, we jabbered the entire two hours; it was great!

We stayed at a modest Holiday Inn Express right by the Midway Airport. (I do realize that it is crazy to fly into O'Hare and stay by Midway, but it was the cheapest hotel/flight deal I could find.) The room was adequate and seemed pretty quiet, at least at the time. We lay on our queen beds and talked until we couldn't keep our eyes open.

A Rude Awakening
The plan was to wake up at 8:00, have breakfast, and head into downtown, which was only 8 miles away. As it turned out, we woke up MUCH earlier. I was startled awake at 4:00 A.M. when I heard a woman's muted scream. "What was that?" I wondered. Surely it couldn't be... oh, yes. It was! I was listening to some very passionate loving. It literally sounded like the famous scene in When Harry Met Sally. But who would have sex at 4:00 in the morning? A prostitute? (It wasn't THAT cheap of a hotel!) Maybe her husband was shipping off to Iraq on an early plane, and this was their goodbye? Whatever the reason, the amorous sounds became very annoying as time drug by. At 4:20, the heater came on and masked the noise so I could fall back asleep.

At the time, I was dying to know if Angela was awake because I wanted to laugh my head off. But just in case she was lucky enough to sleep through it, I didn't want to risk waking her. Well, when the alarm went off at 8:00, the first words out of her mouth were, "Did you hear that woman??" Then we had our good laugh. We went through all the possible scenarios, and we decided that the woman and her lover must have been out all night and were just then coming to bed. We joked about the experience throughout the weekend; we just had this junior-high fascination with the whole thing. We said we would play some Barry White for her through the wall if it happened again; maybe that would speed things along!

We had a surprisingly good free breakfast featuring hot cinnamon rolls. Well, Angela just had coffee, but I ate enough for both of us. It was a good thing, because we had quite a grueling day planned: trains, buses, taxis, and LOTS of walking. I was proud of my prior experience on the Chicago Transit Authority system, but it really didn't prove all that helpful.

Angry Subway Guy

We shuttled to the Orange Line at Midway and rode the elevated train into downtown.
Within five minutes of getting on the L, we witnessed a scary interchange between Angry Subway Guy and a seemingly oblivious fellow traveler. Based on the angry young man's disjointed complaints, it seems he had offered cigarettes to the other young man and had been rebuffed and accused of "pushing." We studiously kept our eyes averted and inwardly prayed. The poor man was probably harmless, but it was pretty scary!

Over all, though, we were impressed by the kindness of strangers in Chicago. The CTA employees were most helpful, and many people along the way helped point us in the right direction. It really seemed that Chicago residents are more caring and solicitous than Dallas people. But then, we've never ridden mass transit in Da
llas. (It's not nearly so convenient as Chicago's.)

We got off the L at the correct stop and then ran to catch the first bus we saw--which was headed the wrong way. We caught our mistake a few blocks down and got off, and then we walked back and caught the correct bus to Navy Pier. That bus was absolutely packed, and I found it very awkward to be standing right in front of strangers and lurching back and forth and practically falling on them. Each time the bus stopped, a large group of people would force their way on. I kept thinking there was no way anyone else could fit, but I was wrong. It ended up being as crowded as those clown cars at the circus.

Navy Pier

The highlight of our visit to Navy Pier was seeing countless dogs in hilarious Halloween costumes. Our favorite
was Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean, complete with dreadlocks and a triangular pirate's hat. There was a chihuahua in a hot dog bun, a Shih Tzu with a pointy princess hat and flowing gown, and a terrier in a black spandex body suit with a skeleton on it. Unfortunately, we had both forgotten our cameras, or we would have taken pictures of all of them. I bought an $11 throwaway camera and then only took a handful of pictures. I was hesitant to "waste" pictures since there were only 24 shots on the roll. And I hated not being able to see if each picture turned out well.

Magnificent Mile

After a couple of hours, we hopped on the bus again to go shopping on the Magnificent Mile. I studied my crumpled CTA map and determined that we should get off at Michigan Avenue. This bus seemed even more crowded than the last, and we wondered how we would fight our way to the door. Angela was acutely uncomfortable because a rather smelly man was leaning way closer to her than seemed absolutely necessary.

Suddenly I noticed that we had passed Wabash, and that didn't seem right. How had we missed Michigan Avenue, I wondered aloud. A kind local explained that we had gone under Michigan, and we needed to get off immediately and walk back about three blocks. This was getting to be a pattern!

We did a bit of window shopping and bought some undies at Victoria's
Secret. We went through a small art gallery in an old chapel, the same one we'd visited on our last Chicago trip five years ago. We just had time for a cup of hot chocolate before we hurried back to the hotel; we didn't want to violate the rule about traveling on mass transit without male protection after dark.

Pizza and Politics
I was so glad to get back to our modest, usually quiet room. I think Angela would have loved to go back downtown for dinner, but I was already starting to turn into a pumpkin. So we took a cab to nearby Giordano's and had some unbelievable deep dish pizza. We also had a glass of white wine, and that was fun. I'm not a drinker, so that one glass had me feeling a little tipsy. In fact, my legs felt sort of tingly. We ended up talking politics, a first for us, and the wine made us much more opinionated. We found ourselves pounding the table to emphasize our points! Between the two of us, we couldn't even finish half of the small pizza, though we gave it our best effort. Still, we couldn't resist ordering tiramisu to take back to the room. (We never did eat it, though.)
Angela, me at Giordano's

Two Hour, 28-Mile Commute
We started our trek back to O'Hare at 9:00 Sunday morning. We shuttled to Midway, rode the Orange Line into downtown, and wandered around until a kind woman pointed us to the Dearborn entrance to the Blue Line, which goes straight to O'Hare.

It all seemed pretty simple from that point, but what we didn't know was that the Blue Line was ending at Belmont, nine stops before O'Hare. We had to catch a shuttle to Montrose and then get back on the Blue Line to the airport. We had decided to find a cab at Belmont, but we allowed ourselves to be herded onto the waiting express bus instead. We ended up making it by 11:15, well over an hour before our flight. Then we teased each other about being so worried. I had been close to tears at one point, and I think Angela felt the same way.

I thought it was all worth it because our total cost for this commute was... (drum roll) $2.00. Yes, only $2.00. Isn't that marvelous? If we had it to do over, however, I think Angela might have splurged on a cab.

In any case, we had time for a sumptuous McDonald's lunch. After a short wait, we settled gratefully into our seats, thinking our adventure was finally coming to an end. But, as you may have guessed, there was just one more adventure in store.

One Last Adventure
Toward the end of our flight, a flight attendant handed Angela a folded sheet of note paper. It read, "To 16D... At the risk of making an a*s of myself, are you married? Do you live in Dallas? 6B." We were both astonished. We couldn't even catch a glimpse of the man because he was up in first class. I must admit that I felt just a teeny bit like chopped liver, but mostly I was proud of my gorgeous friend, who turns heads wherever we go. She was quite flattered and didn't know how to respond.

The flight attendant was so curious that he couldn't resist asking what was in the note. "I was a good mailman," he explained. "I didn't read it." Angela handed it over. "Will there be a response?" he asked. She said she needed a minute. "Should I ask if he has millions?" he asked. Angela said that would not be necessary.

She tore the sheet in half and wrote her answer in her beautiful, flowing script. "I must say I'm very flattered, and you've certainly made my day. I am not married, but am in a commited relationship. Thank you for your kind note. 16D."

Our hilarious flight attendant was waiting with bated breath. "What did you say?" he questioned. Again, Angela handed the sheet over. He smiled his approval and carried it up to 6B. We kept a watch for the rest of the flight, and he did get up once to let his adolescent daughter (we assumed she was his daughter) out of the row. It was like those tantalizing, annoying glimpses of the neighbor Wilson on Home Improvement. We saw a brief side view and a back view. I could see that his hair seemed puffy, sort of mushroomy. But he wasn't a bad-looking guy.

We had a nice, smooth landing, and Angela didn't even glance in the direction of the mysterious stranger because she was so intent on her impending reunion with Tim, who was meeting us at baggage claim, and whom she hadn't seen in nearly three weeks. I was hoping to witness a passionate airport kiss, maybe with a dip, but they just exchanged a hug and a perfunctory kiss. I think Tim is very proper, though Angela, to quote one of the Chicago cab drivers, is "the wild one." (We were mystified as to why he had characterized her as wild when both of us were wearing jeans, black jackets, and highlighted blonde bobs. She was a little offended by his remark, and so was I because it made me feel stodgy.)

Home At Last

Anyway, we enjoyed our girls' weekend (an entire weekend!) immensely, but we were so ready to be back home. I collapsed on the couch as soon as I got home and was snoozing momentarily, lulled by the soothing sounds of my family around me.

We'll have to have another girls' weekend, hopefully before another five years have passed. We're thinking a cruise might be nice--no mass transit involved! Anyone care to join us?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I Love Holding Your Hand

On Friday, Dad had his endoscopic ultrasound, and we were elated when they were able to remove his tumor without a more invasive surgery. Although we knew he'd need to return frequently to burn off the recurring precancerous lesions, we were quite happy with the outcome.

So it was like a kick in the stomach when we learned yesterday that he had suffered a heart attack. He went to the ER on Monday night with excruciating stomach pain, and it turned out he had a gallbladder full of stones. In the workup for that, they discovered that his ventricles were not functioning well. Maddeningly, we know very few details, only that there seemed to be a problem with his heart rhythm.

When I walked into his room yesterday, I was startled by how frail and old he looked. His legs, which stuck out from his blanket, were painfully skinny and pale. He was too weak to lift his head off the pillow. My mom was leaning over the bed and holding his hand, and this brought tears to my eyes, but I was careful to keep smiling so as to encourage Dad (and myself).

I sat down on the other side of the bed and clutched his hand. His grip was strong, and his hand was warm. I was delighted at how much I enjoyed this simple connection with him, and I said, "Dad, we should hold hands more often. This is nice!"

"I always like holding hands with a pretty girl," he replied, and we both chuckled.

As I sat there hand-in-hand with my dad, there were so many thoughts I wanted to express, but I was afraid to say them out loud because I didn't want to imply that I thought he might die. I wanted to say, "I'm so thankful for the example you and Mom set for us.... I'm so proud of your integrity.... Thank you for the sacrifices you guys made so we never had to do without anything that mattered."

But I said nothing. I just sat there and squeezed his hand and telegraphed my love. And I think he heard me. The good thing is, I'm pretty certain he knows how I feel, though I know I should voice my feelings anyway. I'm so thankful for the many weekly visits I've had with him and Mom since I've been home with Allyson. I have bonded with them so much more these last two years.

Dad could only have two visitors at a time, so I alternated with my two sisters and Mom. As we sat on each side of his bed, always holding his hands, we talked and laughed a little. We also enjoyed visiting in the waiting room and watching Emily's kids. I made it a point to hold Mom's hand, too. Her hand was cold like mine, but it was still nice.

When visiting hours ended, I prayed for Dad, along with Mom, Amy, and a family friend named Bonnie. It was peaceful and comforting, and I was thankful for this common bond. I kissed Dad's bald head and murmured "I love you," and then I was on my way.

I didn't expect to enjoy my time at the hospital so much. I love the way life surprises me with unexpected joys in the middle of sadness!

I had to rush to make it to Bible study, and I was so glad I went. We studied the rest that God promised the Israelites (Deuteronomy 8:6-9), the same rest that is available to us today when we obey and trust God. Even better, we studied the rest and joy that awaits us in heaven (Revelation 21:1-4, 22:1-5). Although I really want to keep Dad around a lot longer, it is so comforting to know that I don't have to fear his death--at least not for his sake.

Today I am reveling in the rest that must be the result of so many prayers from my family and friends. Dad will probably have his gallbladder removed tomorrow despite the risks because the infection is more dangerous than his heart problems. Please keep him in your prayers!

Monday, October 20, 2008

I've Been Tagged

I've been tagged by Kristi at Trenton, Kristi, & Kendall. Here's how to play:
1.) Go to your 6th picture folder
2.) Attach the 6th picture in that folder
3.) Tag 5 more friends

This picture was taken on November 7, 2002, on my dad's 72nd birthday. Ethan was 5 and in Kindergarten. We all gathered in my parents' small dining room and had cake and, of course, homemade ice cream. I most likely ate three bowls and then had agonizing indigestion that kept me up half the night.

When I saw this picture, I knew by the outfit I was wearing that this was the occasion when Bill and I announced our engagement. Isn't it funny how women seem to associate events (especially happy ones) with the clothes they were wearing? I can tell you the outfit I was wearing when I met Bill, when we had our first date, and on the evening he proposed.

At Dad's party, we decided to keep our surprise until the end of the evening so we wouldn't take the focus off his birthday. It was so exciting to keep such a delicious secret all evening. I kept my ring turned backward, with the diamond against my palm.

I don't remember exactly what we said, but I'm sure we both had bright red faces. The whole family cheered when we shared the news because everyone else had fallen in love with Bill as well. I beamed as everyone clustered around to admire the ring.

It was a happy, happy day!

Now it's my turn...
Well, I don't have many friends who blog yet (at least not many whom I know well), and one of them is the person who tagged me. So I guess I'll just tag four:

Mindy at Bella Inizio
Jennifer at Matlock Family Blog
Jenny at Keep Listening
Ariel at My World

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Stop Trying So Hard!

At tonight's Bible study, we talked about how Moses asked to see God's glory, but he could not see his face; God only allowed him to see his back:

Exodus 33:18-3:

18 Then Moses said, "Now show me your glory."

19 And the LORD said, "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live."

21 Then the LORD said, "There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen."

This reminded me of a time when I asked to see God's face, and instead he showed me another vision....

Excerpt from my journal, Saturday 7/10/04:
I was reading Jenny's book this morning.... What resonated with me was Jenny's shame over her obsession
with her "earthly tent." God told her it didn't matter at all what shape her earthly tent was in--that she is weak and utterly dependent on him, and she needs to remember that.

And then she felt that she was swaying in Jesus' arms, and that he told her to lift up her head (which was bowed in shame). She looked up into his face. She let him look on her with love even though she was crying.

That awareness of Jesus' love is what I need so desperately. I know I must still be thinking that I must work harder to earn his love. I know with my mind that Jesus loves me no matter what I do, how I perform. Yet my heart can't seem to fathom that truth.

Jesus, I wish I could see you in my mind's eye as Jenny does. I have never been able to truly picture anything, let alone your face. Would you give me that gift, Jesus? I long to look upon your face, to see the love in your eyes. I believe it would transform me....

I tried to picture Jesus then, but I didn't see anything. Just red and black through my eyelids. I imagined standing and facing Jesus, with both of my hands held in his. I looked up, trying to see his face as he looked on me in love. But I couldn't see him. I had a deep sorrow and frustration over this. Why can't I see him? For a moment, I wanted to throw down my journal and say, "Forget it! I've been imagining the whole thing. I can never know Jesus."

But I don't want to do that. I know faith isn't based on what I see or what I feel. It's based on the knowledge of Him. And I know he's been teaching me over these last weeks....

I did end up seeing something, but not what I had asked for. It was basically a vision, though it was based on a childhood memory. I didn't just remember it, but I lived that moment over again with adult eyes....

I was small, about 5 or 6. I had gotten a jump rope for my birthday, and I was trying to learn how to jump. I kept tripping over it. I was sobbing uncontrollably, anger and frustration surging through me. I threw down the jump rope and said I didn't care about the stupid thing anyway.

I can't remember if this actually happened in real life, but in this vision, my mother was holding me close and telling me it was okay, that it was supposed to be fun. I felt so loved and understood and chagrined, and I knew it was Jesus hugging me with my mother's arms.

Now I feel the same way I did that day, ready to throw in the towel because I am so impatient. And Jesus is standing by, ready to comfort and encourage me. "You'll get it. Keep trying. Don't give up."

I run to him. I bury my head in his chest and cry. He strokes my hair and says, "It's okay. I love you."

And I say, choking on sobs, "But I wanted to do it. I tried so hard." And I realize that is the problem. I am trying too hard.

He says, "Let me teach you."

Thank you for speaking to me, Jesus. I see now how very childish I am emotionally and spiritually. I realize that I can't grow up overnight. But if I trust and obey, you will teach me and train me. You will transform me....

When I was closing my eyes, trying to see you, I thought I heard you say, "You are mine." I'm so glad you love me, that you aren't put off by my tantrum.

Four Years Later
I still struggle with trying too hard, but God continues to reveal little pieces of himself to me. I have moments of sheer amazement at his character and weeks of doubt. I can see that I have grown. I still haven't seen Jesus' face, and it turns out Jenny hadn't either. (I'd misunderstood her words.) I guess it's like God told Moses; no one can look on His face and live. I guess we will have to wait until we see Him face to face in heaven.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Family Connections

Last night we went to my brother Rick's house so that I could work on a project with his wife Diane. We are putting the finishing touches on the second edition of my grandparents' autobiography.

We printed the first edition in 2005. I transcribed my grandparents' life stories, and Diane scanned and inserted pictures from their 70 years of marriage. When we printed those first coil-bound copies at an office supply store, we never dreamed how popular the book would be. Grandma has since printed dozens of copies for people in their retirement center, people she meets at the doctor's office, old family friends, etc. So we recently decided to publish the book online to make it easier for people to get copies.

We've been working on this second edition for several weeks, and I've really enjoyed it--most of the time. Last night I stayed until almost midnight because we were having trouble with section breaks and page breaks and floating text boxes. It was maddening. Still, we were enjoying ourselves on some level. We sat at the kitchen table for hours, our heads bent together over the laptop screen as we contemplated different fonts and header styles.

I decided it must be time to go home when I had perhaps the dumbest thought of my entire life. We were choosing a new picture of Grandma and Grandpa for the back cover. Grandpa passed away just after Christmas last year, so I started to say, "Make sure we pick a picture that was taken while Grandpa was still alive." Here we were, looking at pictures of them as a couple! I closed my mouth before I said such a ridiculous thing, but Rick and Diane wanted to know why I was laughing all of a sudden. I repeated my silly thought, and Rick said, "What, did you think we would put in a picture of Grandma next to Grandpa in his coffin?" We had a good laugh over it.

It reminded me of the many hours we spent working on a scrapbook for my Mom and Dad's 50th anniversary. All of my siblings gathered periodically at Rick and Diane's long dining room table to work on it--sometimes one at a time, sometimes in groups. Chronicling our life like that was so rewarding, and we did some of our best bonding while we:
  • Marveled over what a beautiful young woman Mom was (not that she isn't beautiful now!).
  • Discovered family resemblances that go back several generations.
  • Laughed at our crazy 80s hair.
  • Made fun of Rick's crazy 70s clothes and hippy hair.
  • Argued over what color schemes to use for each decade.
  • Reminisced about family vacations, holiday traditions, and long-dead pets.
  • Cried as we worked on the layouts for our two sisters, Monica and Michele, who passed away before we youngest three were born.
Christmas layout in Mom and Dad's scrapbook

We presented the book as a surprise gift at the open house for the anniversary. Mom was relieved to finally learn why we'd all been spending so much time at Rick's without inviting them. It was so fun to see groups of relatives and friends gathering around the book and sharing memories.

Diane and I share a passion for documenting family history. She loves the genealogy, and I just love the stories. I've greatly enjoyed working on family histories for my grandparents, parents, and even for strangers that I met through a nursing home visitation program. I can't get enough of their stories, and I love the way my little microcassette recorder breaks down the barriers and allows us to communicate so comfortably. (Before this project, I could scarcely converse with a stranger.)

As for scrapbooking, I have to admit that my hobby is actually buying scrapbook supplies; I rarely get around to actually using them. I love looking at Diane's vast library of scrapbooks, all beautifully coordinated. On the rare occasions that I go over to their house to work on Ethan's scrapbook, I labor over one two-page layout for an entire evening while Diane completes four or five. I agonize over the paper color, the shapes, the stickers--as if these decisions will be crucial to future generations. And I never have enough room for all my journaling. I carefully trace pencil lines to keep my writing neat, but my handwriting inevitably shrinks with each successive line of the stories that I really must capture.

I am always so proud when I complete a layout; I don't know why I can't seem to do this at home on my own on an idle Friday night. I guess it's just as well that I have to work at Diane's table. I love having our families around me even though we aren't really talking to them. I love the way we stand around talking on the way out the door, and sometimes even halfway to the car.

Typical family gathering at Rick and Diane's
Diane, Sammy, Ethan, Hillary

I love the sense of connection I feel when I spend time with family, and I'm glad we're working to preserve our heritage for the future.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Painful Lesson

I've had this entry swirling around in my head for a couple of days now, and I've been waiting for my thoughts to settle down into something coherent. Maybe writing about my experience will help me make sense of it.

Earlier this week, a kind woman commented on my post about Ethan's dinosaur impression. In that post--which I've since removed--I made a thoughtless comment that Ethan looked like a child with special needs. I had also described the way he smelled like pee and wore ill-fitting clothes because of a nap-time accident. To me, it was a hilarious story, and I didn't realize that I had basically made it sound as if I equated special needs children with smelling like urine and wearing shabby clothes.

The woman who commented told me that she has a son with special needs, and my comments were very hurtful. She said she could tell from my tone that I was not trying to be hateful, but she wanted me to know that the story could be offensive.

I was devastated. The last thing I want to do with my writing is hurt someone. There were two things that really hurt:
  • Her words were true. I couldn't believe I had been so insensitive. I couldn't believe that I, a person who wears her heart on her sleeve, could wound someone else so casually with my words. If her words had not been true, or if she had said them in a hateful way, I could have shrugged it off. But it hurt so much because it was true.
  • My pride was wounded. I didn't want other people to think of me as a cruel or insensitive person.
My initial response was to think, "Who am I kidding? What made me think I had something worthwhile to share on this blog?" But I knew that wasn't right. I have a lot of stories to share, stories that can make people laugh and love and learn (I hope). I have stories that have given me hope, and my prayer is that they could bring hope to others. So I'm not going to be silent.

I immediately commented on this stranger's blog to tell her how sorry I was to have hurt her, and I told her I would remove the offensive material right away.

I had to pray about this quite a lot because my heart just kept hurting, even after I'd apologized, talked it over with a dear friend and with my husband (also a dear friend, incidentally), and asked God's forgiveness. I just felt I needed to beat myself up about this, which is so typical for me.

Why am I so hard on myself? Why is it so easy for me to extend grace to others, but not to myself? Maybe it's because I'm such a perfectionist. Believe me, I want to be free of that, but I haven't learned how yet.

In any case, I prayed that God would use this experience to teach me, to change my heart, to help me see these special children (and adults) through his eyes. I also prayed that he would comfort this woman, if she was still hurting. And he has already answered! The same woman responded to my comments on her blog. Ironically, she was feeling down about having hurt me with her comment. I told her again that I was thankful that she had given me honest feedback. I felt she had spoken the truth in love, to use a cliche.

Since then, I have been enjoying her blog, in which she shares her experiences with her children--including Shawn, a beautiful toddler who has Down Syndrome. Now I can see a special needs child through her eyes, and my heart is already changing. I find that we actually have quite a bit in common: our love for writing, our faith in Christ, our sense of humor, our desire to shelter our children from pain.

I think it's amazing how God works. He can use my mistake to connect me with someone who can teach me something valuable. This is Romans 8:28 (another one of my memory passages) in action!
"And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
How awesome is that? Even the painful things, even the mistakes, even the sins (!), can somehow be worked for my ultimate good.

I wish I could believe that I will never hurt someone that way again, but I know that I will hurt and be hurt over and over again. I just pray God keeps teaching me to see through his eyes and love with his heart. And I pray I learn to let go of my need to "earn" my forgiveness; grace is a gift, and there is nothing I could ever do to deserve it!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Please pray for Mark

Thursday 10/9/08 1:28 PM
Here is an email from Mark's wife Heather, with more detail on Mark's condition. If he is up to making a joke, he must be feeling better!

His neurosurgeon ordered an MRI with contrast this morning which showed that he has an abscess on the lower part of his spine that is caused by a bacterial infection. We are waiting on blood cultures to come back and tell us exactly what kind of bacteria we are dealing with but in the meantime they are treating him with some high-power broad spectrum antibiotics to start attacking the infection. The infection is ‘septic’ which means that it’s in his bloodstream and is traveling (and attacking) all over his body, throughout all of the organs and has caused a few problems. He’s having trouble keeping his oxygen levels high enough on his own so they have him wearing a mask (which is driving him crazy!) and he also has some fluid in his lungs that they’re watching closely. He also has some apparent heart function issues, but we won’t know details about that until the cardiologist reads the echocardiogram (another test) in the morning.
They moved him from his regular room to ICU around 330 this afternoon so they could really monitor him closely. No word on how long he’ll be in ICU or the hospital for that matter. They want to get the infection under control before they even think about what they are going to do about the abscess.
He’s been very very uncomfortable. His back has been hurting regardless of the pain meds (he’s got a pump that doses him regularly and he can dose himself every ten minutes if the pain get’s bad...he loves his “button”!) and he’s had a fever almost constantly. All of those things have caused him to be really ‘out of it’ and he’s slept almost non-stop.
He finally took a turn for the better tonight. Before I left ICU tonight (visiting hrs ended at 10) he had started talking more and was more coherent than he’s been in two days. He was holding up his finger with the red light monitor on it and saying “ET phone home”... very funny Mark! He had started to get a little color back in his face and just looked a million times better, which was a great way to end the day!
So I’m home now to get a little sleep. I’m sure I’m leaving out many details, but I wanted to get something out tonight... I am just in awe of how many wonderful friends we have and how many people care about us...each and every one of you are a blessing!...
Love to you all...and keep those PRAYERS coming because they are WORKING!


Thursday 10/9/08 6:14 AM
Very good news in an email from Michelle's husband James. I checked my email as soon as I woke up because I had been dreaming about Mark all night. Each time, I would pray (maybe in my sleep?). I'm glad to know he's doing better, but he still needs prayers.

Our God never ceases to amaze me even though He continues to remind me of how awesome He is. From the time I arrived at the hospital to the time that I had left, Mark had seemed to do a 180. Yes, Mark was receiving the best possible care and medication, but what I saw was more
than a person responding to hospital treatment. It was my Christian brother being strengthened by God through the prayers of his brothers and sisters in Christ. Thank you to all of you who have been praying for Mark, and praise God for reminding us of the power He gives us when
we pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Mark is not "out of the woods" yet. This infection was very aggressive, and he still has an abscess in his back that the doctors need to treat after the infection subsides. Please keep praying for Mark and praising God.


Wednesday 10/8/08 11:15 PM
I didn't get this update until this morning. Michelle emailed at 11:15...

Mark is doing much better. It is amazing what the power of prayer can do. We will know more in the morning but just in the last few hours from all your prayers he has started looking much better and was even talking and laughing a little bit. I will continue to keep you all posted and please keep praying that he continues to respond to the meds.

Praise God!

Wednesday 10/8/08 10:39 PM:

Here's the latest. At least now they know what is wrong. The following is an email from our friend Michelle:
I just spoke to James who is at the hospital now and it turns out that Mark had an abcess in his lower back that has spread through his whole body. His heart has already gone into arrest once and the Dr.'s are basically pumping him full of antibiotics. If he does not respond to the drugs then there is a chance his body will start shutting down. Here is some scripture I found that I am meditating on. "The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the
Lord will raise him up." James 5:15

Wednesday 10/8/08 9:07 PM:
I don't know who will see this, but if you do, please pray immediately. This is a request for Mark Lauden, who is part of our home group at church. Here is what I know. This is an email from our friend Michelle:
I just received a call regarding Mark Lauden, one of the members of our Home Group from the Met who has been in the hospital with back pain and high fever. I don't know the details other than that he is now in ICU, they don't know what the cause is, but that the infection he has has spread all through his body and the next 24 hours are crucial. Please pray for his healing and for the doctors to find out what is causing this and how to treat him. Thank you all so much and if there is anyone I left out on this email please forward.

Love in Christ,

Friday, October 3, 2008

Happily Ever After

Recent excerpt from my journal, the day after our pastor introduced a sermon series about marriage, called "Happily Ever After." I had been feeling hurt over something fairly trivial, but it didn't feel so trivial to me. After stewing for several days, I finally sat down with Bill and told him what I was feeling...

Monday 9/22/08
It was 10:30 when Bill sat down by me and turned on the television. I asked him to turn it off, and he looked as nervous as I felt. I told him why I'd been feeling sad, and I cried quite a bit. I told him my insecurities feel much worse lately, and it feels dangerous....

We talked for about 30 minutes, and I don't know that we got anywhere.... We agreed that we do have different love languages. He asked me to put myself in his place. As difficult as I find it to think of and carry out loving acts of service, he finds it just as hard to speak words of admiration. We agreed that we need to plan more date nights, and he suggested that we start saying no to some things on the weekends.

Bill reassured me that he loves me just as I am, that he's not going to be scared off by my emotional outbursts. I told him I want to love him with Christ's love, which is patient and kind and not jealous or anxious.

I felt hopeful after our talk, and the hurt had receded. It was a relief to get it all off my chest, and the torrent of tears left me ready to sleep like a baby.

My last question was, "Is this what you pictured when you imagined marriage?"

"Oh yeah," he said sarcastically, but not unkindly.

"I mean, did you think we'd just live happily ever after?"

"This is happily ever after," he replied. "You just don't realize it yet."

You know, I think he's right. Love isn't just being wildly passionate with each other. It's loving each other from day to day, in happiness and sadness. It's being free to be my basket-case self and knowing my husband will love me anyway. It's snuggling in his strong arms when we finally crawl into bed, little leftover sobs escaping now and then. Yes, I think this is happily ever after indeed.


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