Thursday, October 11, 2018

When "Bad" Things Happen to "Good" People

If you're reading here, most likely it's because of a connection you have with Down Syndrome. I mean, that's why this blog was started. My sister set it up for me, because she said I should share my stories of our life with Joshua. It's been a great outlet for me, and has brought some encouragement to others who are walking a similar path.

If you don't know, we got the "surprise diagnosis" of Down Syndrome when Joshua was born...meaning, we didn't know about his diagnosis before his birth. Because of my age (26), and the fact that he was my first child, very little testing was done during my pregnancy. I pretty much had a picture perfect pregnancy, with no red-flags, and no reason for concern.

What I don't write a bunch about on here, is that 10 years later, I gave birth to our fourth child, Clark, at just 27 weeks, 4 days. It was a pregnancy full of complications. Even tho he was very premature, and weighed just over 3 pounds, he was relatively healthy, for his gestational age. After 7 1/2 weeks in the NICU, he came home, and all was well...chaotic, with 4 kids...but well...for almost 2 years.

A few weeks after Clark's 2nd birthday, I was lovin' on him, like Mommies do...and I felt a hard place in his abdomen. I told Jim about it, and he said, "it's probably just the way he's sitting." Well, I sat down, and I didn't feel a hard place like that in MY belly...but Clark wasn't acting like he felt all that bad. I remember him being a little fussy, but I blamed it on teething. I mean, who goes straight to thoughts of cancer in a perfectly healthy toddler? Still, later in the week, I was at the pediatrician with one of our other kids, and I casually mentioned it to the doctor, and asked him to check it out.

Fast forward to that night, after a day full of rushing around having tests, we were admitted to Arkansas' Children's Hospital for surgery. Clark, our baby, had cancer. He had a malignant tumor, the size of a man's fist, growing out of his liver. He had surgery to remove the tumor, and part of his liver...and began his chemo regimen a couple of days later. His cancer was contained, but it was it was treated aggressively.

It was during this time that the questions and comments started...people asking "why?"

Why do bad things happen to good people?
Why do believers have to suffer?
Why do children have to suffer?
Why would God allow this?
It's too much.
Does God still heal?

In 2010, a sweet, young couple in our church were expecting their first child. She'd had a miscarriage or two, but this one seemed to be "sticking," and we were all so excited. But, after an ultrasound, their world came crashing down. Their child...their son...was deemed to have complications "not compatible with life outside the womb."

They were presented with their options. We all knew what their choice would be. They believe that life begins at conception...and that God is in charge of life and death. They chose to carry Karston...that's what they named term, knowing that, unless God intervened, their son would die at birth.

And they prayed. Oh, they prayed. We all did. The parents were in ministry at our church, and the students really rallied around them. Our church, our community...we all banded together for one common goal: we prayed for God to heal Karston.

Karston's parents were so faithful. They were vulnerable, hopeful...and raw. Many times during our worship services, I would see Karston's big, ol' dad...arms stretched wide, face up to Heaven...pleading with God for a miracle.

What a testimony it would be if God healed Karston. It would have lit our community on fire for the Lord, no doubt. I could just imagine the lives that could be reached for eternity!

This was all the stuff I was telling God...the reasons I was giving as to why He should heal Karston. I'm sure He loved hearing my opinions on what He should do.

I remember a conversation with Karston's Dad. We were talking about trials...and the different people we knew who were facing extreme difficulties in their lives. He said, "I'm just glad that my trial is only for 9 months."

I took that to mean that he was thinking it would all be over then: the anxiousness, the sleepless nights, the waiting, the pleading, the unknowing, the would all be done in 9 months, and then they could move on.

But you and I know it's not that easy, right? There are scars that come from trials that stay with us forever. And over the next few days, weeks, and months, my heart ached as I watched them come to terms with that. Like, I ACHED for them. I think, for me, it's easier to go through something myself...than to watch someone I love go through it.

Does that make sense?

The big revival I imagined would happen if God healed Karston? It didn't happen. But what did happen was like what happens when you fan an ember. It was slow...steady...quiet. Lives were changed. Friendships were formed. Hope was rekindled. Faith was renewed. Strength was evident. Relationships were created. Seeds were planted. Jesus was found.

And we are still telling this story today...of two parents who recognized the sovereignty of God in the most difficult of situations...who remained faithful in the midst of a great trial...who were able to praise God after experiencing the unimaginable...who tell this story over and over, and point to Jesus as the source of all good things...and who continue to give God the glory for the son who took one breath, and was whisked to Heaven.

Why do bad things happen to good people?
Why do believers have to suffer?
Why do children have to suffer?
Why would God allow this?
It's too much.
Does God still heal?

You know, it's okay to not know all the answers. It's okay to answer, "I don't know," or "I agree...I don't understand that, either," when someone starts asking these questions around you.

I don't know how a plane works, but I get on one, and trust it to get me to my destination. My husband works for a utility company, but I don't know how electricity works, really. I just know that when I flip a switch, the lights come on. I don't know how medicine is made, but I take it if I need it. I didn't make that chair...but I trust it to hold me. There's a lot in life that we don't understand.

I don't know everything about God. What I do know about Him, about His character, I know from what the Bible says. It tells us that God is good...that He loves us...and that He has a plan for us. It tells us that a thousand years is like a day to Him. It tells us that our lives are like a vapor.

One of my most favorite passages is the Bible is found in John 9: 1-3: As Jesus was walking along, He saw a man who had been blind from birth. “Rabbi,” His disciples asked Him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him."

And this is what I believe about this, in a nutshell: some things are caused by God, and some things are allowed by God...I don't know which things, and I don't understand it all. Sometimes I don't agree with it, and sometimes I don't like it. But I came to a moment in my life when I had to lay it all will, my way, how I think things should be...because my will is easily influenced by my circumstances, and my way is many times wrong, and because there are situations when I really DON'T know what is best. Because I believe in Him, I believe that He loves me...and I believe that He is "for" me, and wants the best for me.

I believe that God doesn't waste any of our experiences...He is refining us, teaching us to depend on Him in all situations, strategically putting us in places where He can use us to bring comfort and encouragement...places where we can share our stories...places where we can point to HIM. He is bringing us in line with His will for our lives. These trials we are facing? He will bring us through them, or He will bring us home. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Power of ONE-October 9, 2018

I'm kind of slacking in the blogging department, I know. I still LOVE it, and I still long to leave some things for my children and grandchildren to read...but life is keeping me on the go!

Or maybe I just need to be more disciplined.

Probably the discipline one.

Anyway, this is October: Down Syndrome Awareness Month.

Or, as we like to call it in our family: The Month of Joshua's People.

Every day I am trying to post a thought or a memory about our Down Syndrome journey. I should just link it to the blog, or link the blog to Facebook...but this blog is the last avenue I have to share from my heart. Now that Joshua has Facebook and Instagram, I have to be more careful in the things I know he will read...because I never want to hurt his feelings in any way.

Anyway, if you want to keep up with the daily posts this month, you can follow me here.

I know I post a version of this every year in October, but I can’t help it. Every time I think of how God went before us in this He was working on our behalf, even when we couldn’t see it...I can’t help but share this story. 

Because it’s all so unlikely. 

Unlikely that a little Kindergarten girl would befriend a very different little Kindergarten boy...and that they would be friends all the way through school. 

During Joshua's 2nd year of Kindergarten, he met Lindsey Walker. Lindsey's mom was a teacher at their school, and they lived in our neighborhood. I don't know how it happened, or why, but Lindsey Walker latched on to Joshua...and would not let him go. She became his friend, confidant, protector and helper. 

Her family also went to our church, so she and Joshua were in Sunday School and children's choir together. He couldn't get away from her if he tried! 

Lindsey Walker told him what to do and when to do it. She helped him when he needed help...and even sometimes when he didn't! She fought WITH him...and she fought FOR him. She was a friend to Joshua, and a blessing to this Momma for sure! 

Joshua and Lindsey Walker stayed friends all the way through school. I think they were even football managers together in the 7th grade. They graduated together, and Lindsey headed to be a TEACHER. 

Joshua's life would've been quite different without Lindsey Walker, I'm certain of it. 

If you are a parent, tell this to your kids...if you're a teacher, tell your students...if you're a student, understand this: never underestimate the influence you can have in the life of even ONE other person. 

All that Joshua accomplished in school first started with ONE teacher who believed in him...and ONE little girl...who took a chance on an unlikely friendship with ONE little boy...and it made ALL the difference in the world. 

"The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense." Proverbs 27:9

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

On Moving Kids to College

This is for everyone who's asked if it gets easier...moving kids to college.

This was Logan's first year, 2010.

Jim had a conflict on the scheduled Freshman move-in day, so we got permission to move Logan's stuff in early (so Jim could help us with the heavy stuff), and then Logan came back home for a couple of days.

This picture was taken the actual morning he was leaving, driving to his stay.

I think my face says it all.

Although Logan was so happy, I felt like my heart was ripping wide open.

I guess that's kind of part of parenting...where you give your whole heart, and pray like there's no tomorrow; where you train them up the best way you know how, leaning on God, and looking to Him for wisdom and guidance...and for strength each day.

And then you let them go.

Over and over again.

That part, for me, never really got that much easier.

After all, when this picture was taken, Holly was starting her senior year of college, so I'd already been through this drill 4 times!

All you Mommas (and daddies) out heart is so tender for you this week.

"So the Lord answers, “Can a woman forget her own baby and not love the child she bore? Even if a mother should forget her child, I will never forget you." Isaiah 49:15

Monday, September 10, 2018

Our Kids and The Tackle Boxes

When our kids were little, my mother-in-law got them tackle boxes, similar to this one, to hold their favorite toys. She thought they were the greatest gifts ever, and they really were! 

These “toy boxes” went EVERYWHERE with visit the grandparents, to the beach, to fancy (and not fancy) hotels. They held all the army men and Star Wars toys. 

I remember one year...we all tagged along on one of Jim’s business trips, and we got to stay in NICE hotel. The lobby was beautifully decorated with flowers and plants, and there was a huuuuge tower of fancy glasses on a table. All I could think of was, “please, Lord, don’t let my kids knock that over!” 

Jim was up at the counter, checking in, and trying to act like he didn’t even know the hooligans behind him. I was trying to corral 4 kids, who had been cooped up for hours in the car. They were crashing around the lobby, each carrying those plastic toy boxes...dropping them on the marble floors every time they stopped running. 

Quite a different scene from the professional men and women, with the matching luggage, and the leather briefcases...who were milling around the lobby; men and women wearing dark suits and dress shoes, sipping fancy drinks on their way up to their rooms. 

Because then there were: THE GARLANDS. 

Jim kind of groaned when he turned around and saw all of us. He couldn’t get us to the elevator fast enough. Our luggage cart was stacked with mismatched bags and totes. We also had a box that said “blow-up bed” on the side...because even tho we got a room for 4, we were a family of SIX. I remember we had one of those inflatable duck things kids use to float in the pool...hanging off one side of the luggage cart. 

One of us was not amused at the situation, but the other one of us laughed til she cried...because this picture was everything that Jim was trying hard NOT to be in front of his colleagues. The big kids were carrying their plastic toy boxes, and crashing into everything. They were fighting over who got to push the elevator button...and I’m pretty sure we left a trail of goldfish all the way to our room. 

The staff asked us if we wanted a complimentary drink. I was thinking, “you have GOT to be kidding!” Who looks at a scene like that, and thinks, “we should really offer these parents alcohol?” I mean, if they really wanted to make our visit pleasant, they would’ve offered to watch the kids. 

Because what we really wanted...was a NAP.

"Let my soul be at rest again, for the Lord has been good to me." Psalm 116:7

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

The Insight of Joshua: Jesus is the Scarlet Thread

“He won’t ever...He will never...He can’t.” 

These words have been said to me about this one...many, many times. 

Well, you know what? 

I’ll iron his clothes, if he’s afraid he’ll burn himself. I’ll cut up a piece of meat for him, if there’s ever a situation when he can’t. I’ll figure out how much change he should get back, or how much to leave for a tip. 

I will do my best to make sure he always feels comfortable, safe, and welcome in our home. 

And I will drive him anywhere he needs to go, every day for the rest of my life, for as long as I am able. 

Because this insight right here? I’ll take it. “[God] used a Passover lamb to represent His future promise of deliverance.”

"In the beginning [before all time] was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and [b]the Word was God Himself." John 1:1 (Amplified Version)