Sunday, December 23, 2012

2012 - A Year of Strengthened Hope

Christmas - a celebration of HOPE incarnate and in our hearts!
For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God's truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,
“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles,
and sing to your name.”
And again it is said,
“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.”
And again,
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
and let all the peoples extol him.”
And again Isaiah says,
“The root of Jesse will come,
even he who arises to rule the Gentiles;
in him will the Gentiles hope.”
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
(Romans 15:8-13 ESV)
We have hope because Jesus Christ was born, grew up a sinless man, took our punishment for our sins through His death on the cross, and rose again victorious to be our King - our Savior!

As we reflect over the events of this past year, we realize that it is our HOPE in Christ that has brought us through a very dark and difficult year.  A hope in God as our deliverer through the shadows of death, the miry pits, and the deep trials of our souls.  We have been made to "Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer" (Romans 12:12 ESV).
"Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live, and let me not be put to shame in my hope!" (Psalm 119:116 ESV)
It has been a challenging year for David with his health, but we have also seen God work in wondrous ways answering our prayers.  From March-August, David had several major bacterial infections despite his weekly antibody transfusions and daily antibiotic use.  The amount of antibodies infused into his body was increased without an improvement.  Finally, after the 11th tonsillitis infection in a year, David had surgery in September to have his tonsils removed.  We feared his infections would move lower to his lungs since his previous surgeries to remove problematic areas only caused the infection to move elsewhere.  However, God answered our prayers.  The surgery was a success, and David has been infection-free since the surgery.  He is a very active, happy, tender-hearted 6 year old boy.  He is in first grade at West-Mont Christian Academy.  He has been playing the violin now for a year and is doing an amazing job.
My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word. (Psalm 119:81 ESV)
Joshua has had a very difficult year but in other ways.  Still struggling with the anxiety over my migraine illness, Joshua's mental health became very unstable.  Joshua struggles with Pervasive Developmental Disorder, an Autism Spectrum Disorder.  This year, he has also been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Mood Disorder (aka, Bi-Polar) and ADHD.  He had to be hospitalized in a child's psychiatric hospital in February for 12 days and in November for 14 days for re-stabilization and medication adjustment.  He has been doing very well since his last hospitalization, and we are praising the Lord for the wisdom of the doctors and success of the therapies.  We still have therapists who come to the house to work with us and Joshua and a team of doctors caring for Josh.  Mental illness is not for the faint of heart.  Our hearts grieve to watch Joshua suffer so much, but we know that God is working all of this for Josh's good and God's glory.  Joshua is now 8 years old and in third grade at Franklin Elementary School.  He plays guitar and is learning the recorder this year.  He loves to write music.  He continues to excel in academics.  Joshua loves to tell others about Jesus and makes us so proud of him when he tries so hard to obey and glorify God.
You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word. (Psalm 119:114 ESV)
I have now been struggling with migraines/headaches now for over a year and am still without a diagnosis or any answers.  A repeat MRI in April showed the brain lesion has grown slightly and 2 new spots are forming in a different part of the brain.  At this point, all of the life-threatening/altering diagnoses have been ruled out.  I will have another MRI in April 2013 to monitor for changes.  We are praising the Lord that the head pain has lessened considerably since I began taking Vit. B-12 and magnesium supplements in October.  Despite the pain, I continue to advocate for Josh's special needs and care for David's health needs while continuing to work part-time as a pediatric special needs nurse for Personal Health Care, Inc, a home health agency.
Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you. (Psalm 33:22 ESV)
Tim continues to be the anchor of our family, caring for our spiritual, financial, physical, emotional, and psychological needs with God's strength.  He has had another successful year as a financial adviser for the Life Financial Group.  To celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary, he arranged for us to have a few extra days alone in Istanbul when we were in that area for a ministry trip.  He also organized a family vacation in New York City this summer.  These were 2 highlights of the year for our family.

As we look to the future we resolve with the psalmist: "But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more." (Psalm 71:14 ESV)

We encourage you to reflect on the hope we have in Christ.  If you don't know about this hope, please ask us.  We would be happy to share this blessed hope with you.  If you already know this hope, don't lose hope!  Cling to the unfailing promises of God!

May this always be true of you:  “'The LORD is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I will hope in him'.” (Lamentations 3:24 ESV).
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Lesson Learned

This week, as I continue to read the book Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change by Paul David Tripp, I learned a great lesson about myself and the trials of this past month.  I thought I would share it in case anyone else is like me and needs to learn this lesson.

The difficult struggles we had with Josh this past month and the consequential repercussions in which we were dealing with David, Tim and I found ourselves in pure survival mode.  We talked about how wonderful Heaven will be when all of these struggles will be behind us.  We longed for the Lord to return and take us from our misery.  My prayer each morning was, "God give me the strength and grace I need to get through this day."

Tripp says in his Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands book the following:
Many people in the midst of a struggle live as if they were spiritually homeless.  They live the same survivalist, distracted, fearful, escapist, and "for the moment" existence.  They do not think about growth and change or pursue the good things that are their inheritance as children of God.  They just get through the day.  They live as if they were poor, when in fact, they are amazingly rich.
When we live with a poverty identity, the problem is not that we ask too much of the Father, but that we settle for too little.  We settle for hammering together some kind of spiritual survival with the hope that things will be better in eternity.  But the Bible never presents our life on earth as a meaningless time of waiting for the good stuff that comes later.  The biblical model of waiting is not simply about what you will get at the end of your wait, but about who you will become as you wait...(p. 263-264).

Tripp is talking about me!  I had the survivalist, distracted, "for the moment" existence for the month of November.  I walked, lived, and breathed in my survival mode.  Instead of praying that God would use the current struggles to grow me in Him, make me a more usable instrument, or teach me truths about Him, I just prayed that God would help me survive and that the trials would end sooner rather than later.

I pray that this lesson I have now learned will stick with me, and as we continue to struggle through various issues with our boys and life, that I will remember to access the wealth that God has to offer NOW and ask God to use my trials to make me more like Him and use me in other people's lives to help point them to Christ.  I am glad that despite my failures and weaknesses, God can still use me and grow me.  He is at work daily in my life crafting me into a masterpiece!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Laughter in the Midst of Sorrow

Once again, I have been silent on the blog front because of the trials that continue to bombard us from every side.  I decided it's about time I write down my thoughts.

After battling for David's new health insurance to cover his antibody blood transfusions, we finally got things settled and calmed down by the end of October.  We saw God work a miracle first-hand in getting the infusion supplies covered only causing David to get his next transfusion 1 day late instead of 4 days late as circumstances had determined.  Another exciting praise is that David remains HEALTHY!  He has been infection-free since the end of August--right before his September 7 surgery.  This means his surgery was successful, and our prayers have been answered.

Our greatest struggle has been with Joshua.  As I mentioned in my last blog post, we and his doctor took him off of one of his medications since it was causing his behaviors to worsen instead of improve.  However, we didn't replace it with a different drug.  Because he struggles with a mood disorder (which the doctors believe is bi-polar, but he's too young for the official diagnosis), he needed to remain on a mood stabilizer but be on one that didn't make his behaviors worse.  After he stopped the problematic drug, he got so much better, and we saw the old Josh for the first time since I had begun my battles with the chronic migraine over a year ago.  However, after a little over a week, his behaviors worsened again as he became emotionally/psychologically unstable.  In November, we put him on a different mood stabilizer, but it was too late.  He went into crisis mode.  In addition to episodes of paranoia, his melt-downs were becoming extremely violent and very long.  Tim was no longer able to control him which was very scary for the safety of our family as well as Josh's.  On November 13, we made the very difficult, heart-wrenching decision to admit Josh into a psych hospital for the second time (he was hospitalized in Feb. 2012).  He was hospitalized for 14 days and did really well on new meds and in the controlled environment.  He came home on the 26th.  He started to struggle with falling asleep in the middle of class as a result of the new medications.  When I called the hospital psychiatrist about it that Thursday,  he told me to give Josh's am dose with his bedtime dose.  The next day, I did not give him his am dose, and he saw his outpatient psychiatrist who told me Josh looked way too sedated and that his dose needed to be decreased by half.  By the afternoon, he fell over asleep while standing up and dancing during a music assembly at school.  The school nurse called me because they couldn't get him to wake up, and it was hard for her to tell he was breathing.  I picked him up and took him to the ER where we found out he was having drug-induced narcolepsy-like symptoms.  He was also wheezing, so the doctor chose to give him a double albuteral nebulizer treatment to slam his system into overdrive and open his airways.  The treatment worked, and his vitals remained stable afterward, so they discharged him.  Since then, after dealing with some severe melt-downs, things have finally seemed to stabilize, and Josh has been doing much better this past week.

Josh's hospitalization was very difficult on us because we felt like failures in being able to help Josh even though we were reassured that we did everything possible to help him and that mood disorders are very difficult to treat.  We missed Josh greatly.  We were allowed to visit him 4 days a week.  Some visits were really discouraging but others were encouraging.  Poor David suffered the most without having his brother, best friend, and play mate with him.  All 3 of us had heavy hearts as we went throughout our days leaning on God's strength and grace to get us through each day, for that was the only way we survived.

We are concerned about David as a result of everything he has witnessed and experienced with Josh and his issues.  Since Josh's hospitalization, David has become very emotional and is having a difficult time focusing.  We thought things would improve when Josh got home, but they have only worsened.  David is usually the first victim of Josh's anger melt-downs.  He has been kicked, punched, bitten, and leveled to the ground.  He has also witnessed his mom and dad getting violently attacked and has heard some awful words coming out of Josh's mouth when he would verbally abuse us.  No 6 year old child should have to experience these things.  He does not like to talk about his feelings, so we are having a hard time understanding what is going on inside of him.

Needless to say, in all of this, our hearts have been extremely heavy and filled with great sorrow.  Many tears have been shed.  Reminding ourselves of God's promises has been the only thing to keep us from being swallowed up in the suffocating darkness of our grief.  God never stopped holding us.  Even in the midst of our deepest sorrow and most difficult days, He provided times of laughter and gladness to help us carry on.

We experienced the truth of Proverbs 17:22 (ESV) firsthand:
"A joyful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones."
 We happened to capture two particular incidents where God gave us laughter in the midst of our sorrow on video, so we share those times with you:

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!
(Psalm 30:11-12 ESV)
I find great hope and comfort as I relate to the Psalmist's words in this wonderful passage (with emphasis added:
I love the LORD, because he has heard
my voice and my pleas for mercy.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
The snares of death encompassed me;
the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
I suffered distress and anguish.
Then I called on the name of the LORD:
“O LORD, I pray, deliver my soul!”
Gracious is the LORD, and righteous;
our God is merciful.
The LORD preserves the simple;
when I was brought low, he saved me.
Return, O my soul, to your rest;
for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.
For you have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling;

I will walk before the LORD
in the land of the living.
(Psalm 116:1-9 ESV)