Thursday, July 13, 2017

July 13th is a good day

July 13th is a good day around our house.

Actually, it's a GREAT day.

It's a miracle reminder kind of day.

We were in the middle of the longest wait in human history.  Olympics.  The flu.  All sorts of craziness was keeping us away.  Pins and needles.  Frustration and tears.  General anxiety.  We called and were told that if our papers arrived by July 3rd, we'd be good to go.

And it arrived.  On July 3rd.  Just like we prayed.  Bam.  God moved.

Except the office was closed that Friday because the 4th was Saturday.  It's admittedly hard to worship on Sunday when you think your life is on hold waiting for paperwork and permission.  Especially when God came through but the office was closed.

So the Queen called on Monday at 8am.  One thing you do not want to do:  get on the other side of the Queen when she knows she's right.  Believe me.  I've known her for 23 years.  I've been married to her for 19.  Don't do that.

She said to the nice lady:  "Hey, so we're good to go, right?"

Nice Lady:  "No.  Sorry.  Our office was closed and we can't get the arrangements made."

The Queen:  "Uhm.  That wasn't the deal.  You said if it's there by the 3rd, we're good.  It was there.  God moved.  We're going, right?  You're going to hold up your end of the bargain, right?"

Nice Lady:  "Well, all I can do is try to see if they'll make these arrangements.  We've never done it on such short notice."

The Queen:  "Great.  I look forward to your phone call in the morning."

Tuesday at 9am, the phone rings.  We are headed to China to get our baby girl.

In less than 48 hours, we packed, bought plane tickets, and were out the door.  In four short days, we had her in our arms.

Happy Gotcha Day, Peanut.  You are a gift to us from God.  And a reminder of His miracle-working power.  Mommy and Daddy love you very much.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

What I'm Learning about Patience

Here's the setting:

Son comes down to eat his 87th snack of the day at 10:00pm.  I'm wrapping up, locking up, and turning off lights.  He sits down at the kitchen table.  I do too.  

He eats like a sloth on barbiturates.

Every cracker gets divided into 64ths.  Chewing is like glacial activity.  The peanut butter between the crackers gets licked off...every microgram of it.


Me-to-him:  Hey bud.  Tell me about camp.  What was the coolest thing you learned or had reinforced? (while still steaming on the inside)

Him-to-me:  Some thoughtful responses, some late night blather.  

Me-to-him:  What's one thing you need to do to reinforce all that?

Him-to-me:  I need to _____________.  (a solid action step)  Hey dad, you want one of these crackers?

Me-to-him:  Nope.

He finished just short of 22 hours later (it seemed), washed his hands, brushed his teeth (again).  Then, at the top of the stairs as he was headed to his room and I was headed to mine...

"Hey dad.  Thanks for sitting with me.  It was really great to talk to you.  Goodnight!" *big hug*

Me-to-myself:  Thank you God that I didn't say out loud all the impatient things I was thinking...

Here's what I'm learning about patience:

I'm only patient when things don't go as I planned in either direction or timing.  That's the only time I get to exercise patience.  When it goes my way, no patience is needed.

Be smart enough not to say everything that I'm thinking.  And be gracious enough not to hold other people to what they said but may not have meant in the heat of the moment.  Parents.  Kids.  Spouses.  Bosses.  Employees.  They all apply.

I can't think of an example in my life or those I know where someone says, "Gee, I wish I would've been less patient there."  The payoff for patience can look like a life-giving hug at the top of the stairs or something meaningful to you.  But it almost always pays off.  To be clear, I'm not talking about passivity here - sitting and doing nothing and expecting God to sort it all out.  I'm talking about patience - the kind of intentional and active waiting (or sitting at the table conversing over peanut butter crackers) that the Bible describes.

Here's hoping that helps someone today.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

3 Years

I have kept myself busy today with helpful chores around the house, but The Shadow has always lingered back behind me somewhere.  It's 9:00pm and I figured it's time to look it in the face.

Today is three years since The Phone Call came.  "Hey Trent.  It's [Queen's Best Friend].  You need to get the kids settled and get back to the hospital as soon as you can.  Maggie has had a stroke."  I can take you to the place on the Gulf Freeway where I answered.  It's not etched into my memory.  It's more like seared.

Let me tell you (and The Shadow) what I've seen in the last three years...

God's faithfulness in saving the life of my little girl and bringing her back to health.  He'd still be faithful if it had gone a different way, but I'm glad He chose to display Himself in this manner for her.

God's strength in our lives and life.  Thank you, God, for seeing us all through.

Resilience in my kids.  They bounce back like rubber balls.  I don't doubt that they've been marked by these three years.  I think they consistently show how resilient they are.  And not because we're perfect parents, but I think love, attention, and some intentional investment keep them bouncy (in a lot of areas of life).

The church is the greatest institution in the world.  I serve as a pastor, so I know it's not perfect.  But it's great.  And I have a legion of stories - chapters that were written by the love and selflessness of others - that prove it.

Faithfulness.  Strength.  Resilience.  Church.

I hope that encourages someone who has their own Shadow that's in pursuit.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Zombie Response Vehicle and a Warfare that is much more REAL

Dropping the Bear off at school the other day, I took a different way home because I was grabbing gas for the Queen's minivan extraordinaire.  Yes, I am that good of a husband, I know...

On the way home, I ran across an old ambulance made up in Halloween garb that declared itself a Zombie Response Vehicle.  Not exactly this, but something like it:

I laughed a little, judged the people who owned it for being strange, and kept driving - wondering how in the world a TV show like The Walking Dead could affect people's vehicle choices.  And then the thought crept in.  "What if Zombies are real and we just don't know it?" (** Please note:  I don't believe in zombies.  I just hadn't had enough coffee to be sane **)

But here's what hit me (after another cup of black liquid sanity):  we do have an Enemy who is real and is yet unseen.  His effects are genuine.  His power legitimate.

I look around my world right now - much less THE world right now - and see the craziness that exists and seems to be contagious.  I don't know the ins and outs of the recipe, but I do know that spiritual warfare plays into it in more ways that (a) we can see and (b) we acknowledge.  There is not a demon under every rock, but there are demons who wreak havoc and create all sorts of trouble for people.  There are Tempters who invite us to do everything but the right thing.  There is a real spiritual bondage that comes when people reverse the polarity of their moral compass.

It's real, dear reader.  Be aware and be on the alert.  A roaring, proud lion seeks people (and marriages and teenagers and reputations and ministries) to devour. (cf. 1 Peter 5.8)

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Back to Blogging: Transformation

Well, it's more than a little odd to be sitting here typing since it's been about a billion years (in blog years, of course) since a new post has gone up.  The truth is, after quite a run with hospitals, etc., I just didn't have much to say.  I was committed to saying exactly that.

A long time ago I heard a guy say that if I concerned myself with having something to say, God would provide the opportunities to say it.  I have lived by that credo ever since.

So I'm back because I think I have found my blog-voice, so to speak.  And the word of the day is transformation.

Chipper Gaines loves #DemoDay.  He loves it so much he even prints shirts about them that you can buy at Magnolia Market.

If you're not a Fixer Upper fan, sorry.  Because of our Waco connection and one of their first houses being two doors down from us when we lived there, we're fans.

The thing about #DemoDay that no one glorifies is the pain involved.  There is so much to be destroyed, taken down, beaten out, rolled up, carted off, hauled out, and trashed.  Sinks.  Floors.  Sheetrock.  Wood.  Cabinets.  Appliances.  Some come out pretty easy and some take more than a little bit of elbow grease.  There is blood.  There is sweat in buckets.  And there is loss.  That's what #DemoDay is.  Removal of the old to make room for the new.

You see what I did there, don't you?

The most painful part of transformation is the #DemoDay part.  There are times when, in order to build something into us, God has to take something out of us.  There is blood (His...since we don't have to resist to the point of shedding ours according to Hebrews 12).  There is sweat - most often ours as we worry about and work toward the cleansing.  And there is loss.

If you're in the position where it's mostly Sledge Hammers instead of finish work, I want to encourage you that God has "far, far greater things ahead than anything we leave behind" (C.S. Lewis).

Thursday, May 26, 2016

One Baylor Alum's Reflections on a Dark Day

First, let me say that I'm just a single voice and others will speak more eloquently and possibly more accurately.  Part of blogging for me has been a method of saying things that I couldn't get to without writing them.

I am so sad.

Baylor has fired Coach Art Briles, demoted President Ken Starr, and sanctioned A.D. Ian McCaw.  A damning report by an outside law firm has crushed many in the Baylor family.  Baylor failed - the kind of failure that all of its constituents feel.  We were not who we said we were.  My wife, the Queen, will tell you that I'm a cup half-full guy.  I was on this too.  No way my beloved Baylor was as bad as the rumors were.  The truth will win out and it will turn out okay somehow.  But no.  We were worse than most imagined.

We didn't learn much from Dave Bliss, apparently.  Athletics trumped righteousness (in the biblical sense of that word).  We valued disproportionately what was (and is) not all that valuable in the end.

And that's not the worst of it.

The worst of it is that there are ladies who are scarred for life whose stories are now interwoven with a national news cycle.  Anonymity and healing will be a lot harder now.  May God have mercy on them.

I am mad.

I am angry that athletes were allowed to treat others like this with impunity.  I am angry that there was no clear-headed person who could call it what it was.  I am angry that there were assumptions and arrogance and absences of judgment.

I am wary.

I am wary because, according to the report, there was a systemic failure of good-natured people.  I'm not talking about those who dismissed or failed to do their duty.  I'm talking about the people who thought that it wouldn't happen at Baylor.  I'm talking about the people who should have been working to put the appropriate Title IX systems in place but slow-rolled it because either (a) leadership above them didn't prioritize it or (b) they had other things on their plates or (c) some combination of both.

It's a terrible leadership lesson to learn.  Let me be clear:  as a Christian university, I actually think it's correct for administrators and other leaders to expect it not to happen at Baylor.  We ought to expect men not to act like animals, especially those who claim Christianity.  But just because we expect one thing doesn't mean we don't guard against another.  And that's the leadership lesson:  expect the best but have guards in place against the worse.

On a personal level, I know I've implemented this in my own life.  I expect faithfulness to God, my wife, and my family for life.  However, I have also built in some personal legalisms that guard against the dreaded "what could be."  We've taken steps recently as a church to do something similar regarding facility usage, etc.

O!  My heart hurts.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Follow ups and catch ups

Thanks for all who have stayed with us and prayed for us in these days.  Below are some notes that will hopefully catch everyone up to speed on where things are.

Currently, Maggie is home and doing well.  She was discharged Tuesday evening because she was holding stable on the medicinal regimen she was taking and they were willing to take "stable."  What that means is she still has her pleural effusion (the fluid around her lung) but it didn't appear to be increasing.  The hope is her body will catch up and clear it now that we've plugged the leak in the dam, so to speak.

And that leads to today.  She has a follow-up appointment today close to noon.  The blood work and x-rays will tell us a lot about how she's doing.  That's definitely a point of prayer.

So many have asked about her seizure on Sunday.  Because of her prior strokes in 2014, she has a lower seizure threshold where her brain activity can overcome her brain chemistry leading to bad things happening.  This can be caused by dehydration, exhaustion, fever, and a myriad of other stimuli.  In her case, we **think**, it was the extreme nausea from the potassium supplement she had to take.  Maybe.  But honestly, no one knows.  They have upped her anti-seizure meds to hopefully help her with these struggles.  It was and remains a scary part of her medical makeup.  

Out of the many people we have met during our tenure at TCH, the conjoined twins from Venezuela have captured our affection the most.  They are so sweet and genuinely joyful, matched by the sweetness and joy of their parents.  The Queen and I have coordinated (well, mostly the Queen) an effort to try to get them some items that would be nice to have as a sign of God's love and favor for them.  I'm amazed at how generous some of our friends are and how God typically provides in advance what we can pass along.  In one case, an iPad was sitting around waiting to be given away by one of our friends.  And...boom.  The twins have an iPad with Spanish movies.  So fun to see how God works and moves even in the midst of a very difficult situation for their family.

In addition, we've had conversations about Christ with a Muslim nurse, conversations with one of our favorite nurses about adoption, a long conversation with a doctor about following Jesus as a professional, and a conversation with another favorite nurse about being real while being people of faith.  The Kingdom is still worthy of pursuit - even when my circumstances aren't easy (Matt. 6.33).

Throughout, we have known we are loved (evidenced by so many of you who have loved us well for the sake of Jesus).  Our circumstances have never changed His love and disposition of mercy toward us.  I have a quote from a Puritan pastor under the glass on my desk that reminds me of this.  And so I leave you with this from Thomas Wilcox (1621-1687) and his sermon Honey out of the Rock:

Judge not Christ's love by providences [circumstances], but by promises.  Bless God for shaking off false foundations, for any way whereby He keeps the soul awakened and looking after Christ; better sickness and temptations, than security and superficiality.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Status Update for Day 44 (but hey, who's counting)

We have entered into our 7th week of time here at the fine institution of Texas Children's Hospital.  I really was told it was just going to be "a day or two" back in early November.  Those seem like far away words from a far away time.

Good stuff happening:

1.  Her chest drainage appears to be down along with a positive x-ray yesterday (Sunday morning).  Those are two markers we keep an eye on.

2.  She is her same bossy, demanding, center-of-attention self.

3.  We have on the radar a downgrade in her diuretic treatment (going from IV to oral).  All this assumes we keep going in the right direction - see below.

4.  Cousins came to see her yesterday and apparently had quite the Frozen karaoke moment.  That video may come back to haunt them on their wedding days...

5.  She got to see her older brother on Sunday and may get to see the Wonder Twins this week if they lift the visitation restrictions.

6.  They have eased her fluid restriction by 100ml.  That makes a girl happier because she can drink (even a little bit) more.

7.  Our friends adopting in Nicaragua have completed their journey.  A few forms at the US Embassy and they are homeward bound.  That has nothing to do with us but Maggie is a big part of their adoption story - and it's good to talk about events occurring outside the hospital room.  Especially happy ones.

Points to pray on:

1.  As of Sunday night, the Queen expressed some concern about her O2 saturation and some fear about Monday morning's x-ray.  You can pray both are fine.

2.  No steps backward.  Only forward progress, please.  The roll-out of IV-turned-oral-turned-reduced dosages is a long road.  And the longer we're on it, the harder it is on the rest of her systems.

3.  More Kingdom-related moments in the hospital.

4.  Everyone would get to be together at Christmas like we were at Thanksgiving (even for a few brief hours).

5.  The Big Three would continue to hang in there, know they are loved, and somehow feel secure in the midst of the world-rocking pattern we live right now.

I woke up Sunday morning trying to spark faith by reminding myself that Jesus reigns over everything and so it'll all be okay in the end.  I believe it to be so.  Sometimes more than others.

Thanks for staying with us.  We cannot say thanks enough.

This is the picture of her in the van on Gotcha Day.  From that point forward, I am forever smitten.  I'm her dad.  What can I say?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Wednesday morning update

I have to type this very quickly because there are people coming for my girl at any point.  Forgive whatever brevity and choppiness you encounter.

Yesterday was not awesome.  She had multiple complications from the re-accumulation of the fluid on her lungs.  It was the kind of not awesome that makes doctors furrow their brow.  When they get worried, I do too.

Yesterday was totally awesome.  My sweet niece and her friend came by and hung out for about 3-4 hours and the Minion had the absolute best time with them.  She laughed and giggled and took selfies and just enjoyed the interaction.

This morning is not awesome.  The x-ray looks like a blizzard broke in to her chest and had a party right over her left lung.  Our other three are feeling the strain of it all.  If they do a heart cath, the two structural things they're looking at are not easy fixes.  And I just resorted to asking a friend for some magic fairy dust to fix it all and then fly us to Hawaii.
Here is her medical status of the day:
They will reinsert the chest tube this morning.
They possibly will do some combination of the following:  MRA/V, heart cath, hokey pokey, the electric slide, or none of the above.
She feels better than yesterday but is diagnostically worse.
This morning is totally awesome.  I married *the* most incredible girl.  I have a great job with great people that has provided me fluidity, not just flexibility.  My oldest made an A in math without much help from his dad this go-around and after being sick last week.  Our friends don't seem to fade but actually grow in strength as this craziness extends into the 6-week realm (not to mention how endeared we are with them and indebted to them).  And, where we root our hope, Jesus still reigns over everything and has this under control and hasn't been impeached or abdicated. He sits enthroned today with a disposition that is for us.  I'm really buoyed by that this morning.  His attitude hasn't changed.  He, along with hundreds and hundreds of others, is praying for Maggie right now (Heb. 7.25).

Thanks for hanging with us.  I'll try to update more later today.

Picture of the blizzard in her left lung...

Thursday, December 10, 2015

5 weeks long and 10 Random Thoughts

We've been here 5 weeks now.  Here are some thoughts in no particular order.  Feel free to skip to the end to pray if you'd like...

1.  Hospital and hospitable have the same etymology but not the same experience.  I'm not complaining.  I'm merely observing.

2.  When she asks to go home, my heart doesn't break.  It crumbles.

3.  Hands down, we have some of the greatest friends in the world.

4.  Donald Trump is to American politics what Sponge Bob is to cartoons.  They both epitomize everything that is opportunistic and freaky.  If my 13-year old can diagnose a charlatan, it's bad.  At some point, we the people have to get serious enough about the problems and solutions and not be in love with our rage anymore.

5.  If they can come for Muslims in mosques, they can come for Christians in churches.  Either the First Amendment applies or it doesn't.

6.  The more complicated the world gets, the simpler and saner the call of Jesus sounds:  "Be faithful to the end, I've got the rest."

7.  I told a friend today our church is in the midst of a hard season but is doing great because the church has basically sucked it up and said, "Let's walk it together."  I stand by that 100%.  I'm not sure an outsider would see it because there's no griping or fussing.  It's a steely-eyed, gritty joy.  And I love them for it.  I draw inspiration from it.

8.  Texas Children's Hospital cares for a lot of sick kids and kids who are a lot of sick.  Every time someone punches the elevator to 9, I pray for their family.  Kids ought not have to see an oncologist.  Jesus, come quickly.

9.  There are tons of stories in the nursing core and doctor teams.  I like asking questions and getting answers about T's bracelet with the saints' portraits that he wears to remind him to pray or J's music selection that includes R&B slow jams and the gospel sounds of Fred Hammonds or E's allergies to basically the entire world yet a tenderheartedness that has prompted her to bring Maggie two hand-sewn blankets or ribbing a doc about his new baby's first Hanukkah and me reminding him that Jesus was Jewish too (he about busted a gut laughing, so don't get offended).

10.  Sometimes my prayer life feels more like John Candy in his movie The Great Outdoors.  In the scene I'm thinking about, the bear busts down the door Candy is holding back and bounces on top of it.  At one point, Candy just starts saying, "Uncle!  Uncle!  Uncle!"  That's about all I have some times.

Just a few quick prayer points:

- We need the strategies they're trying now to work.  No more guessing would be awesome.

- I think her soul is starting to feel the weight of this.  The Queen said she asked for home about 10+ times today.

- Endurance.  I have told multiple people:  what we're doing isn't hard, it's doing what we're doing over and over again that's hard.

- Security for the Big Three.  Their world is abnormal, and I don't want that to become normal.