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.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Week 3 Update: still here but maybe (?) some light at the end of the tunnel

Two days ago, we rolled three weeks of very unexpected stay.  So far, my girl has been here longer than most anticipated, had a chest tube put in, pulled out, and put back in, and made friends with just about everyone she can.

Oh yes.  And her dad can take "See your child have a seizure" off his bucket list.  Check that box.

She makes nothing easy.

Overall, her spirits are good, she still smiles a lot, giggles hilariously at times, orders people around, demands people look at her when she's talking, and acts like she runs the joint.  She's a three-year old CEO.

On the medical front, there is a heart cath coming early this week which will hopefully reveal something that we can fix.  That is hands-down the best option.  Option A, as I've been telling my friends.

The condition that is causing her problems is that the pressure in her circulatory systems is higher than in the lymph system.  That's important because the lymph system typically dumps its excess and some other stuff (a highly technical medical term, I know) into the circulatory system.  So if the pressure is too high in the one, the lymph system will back up and put its extra elsewhere - like a little girl's lung.

Option A, then, is there is something anatomic causing her circulatory system to carry higher pressures, and a stint / suture / cardiovascular magic will fix it and she will stabilize quickly.

There are other options, but let's stick with praying for Option A right now.  The others get pretty dicey pretty quickly.  Patience is not in high supply but it is in high demand.

So here's how to pray for our little Minion CEO...

1.  Pray we can get into the heart cath procedure quickly this week.  The more quickly we get this looked at, the more quickly we have answers.

2.  Pray it shows an easily fixed Option A.  That would be catching a divinely orchestrated break, one which we would frankly LOVE to catch.

3.  Pray she comes through all of that fine and isn't too messed up by the anesthesia.

4.  Ongoing strength, positive outlook, and mental toughness for her.  Heck, you can pray that for all of us.

5.  We have been blessed by so many in so many ways.  Please pray that God will pour out His blessings on those who have blessed us.  They have given of themselves without thought or seeking something in return.  So I'm asking God to pour out in ways that they never would've anticipated but will thoroughly enjoy.

Thanks for staying with us.  We are still in the fight.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

So, it's been two weeks...

We’ve been here two long weeks.  I don’t say that to gripe but to give it perspective, because two weeks has felt like a LOT for this unexpected, replan-the-holiday, keep-a-three-year-old-busy kind of stay.

I came up with another way of measuring this:  we have been in the hospital more than out since her surgery.  4 weeks in post-op, out 4 weeks, 2 weeks back in.  In case you’re keeping score at home, that’s 6 out of the past 10 weeks.

People ask how it is and my response typically is, “It’s a grind.”  And without the support of many and the prayers of many more, we would long ago have cratered.  So thanks.  Even yesterday morning, two friends dropped by during the brief time I had in the office and took time to pray.  I told them afterward how much I appreciated them and went to hug them, resulting in what was possibly the most awkward three-way-man-hug ever.  But hey, I was grateful.

Here is our current status:

She continues to drain from her chest tube.  We work hard throughout the day to keep it from kinking and twisting.  It appears to me that when we keep it untwisted and unkinked, the drainage is down a little more each day.  But then again I might be living in Half-Full Land.

Her spirits are good.  Outside of the tube and bubbling box, you wouldn’t know she’s sick.  On the outside, she looks great.  It’s what’s going on inside that is messy.  There’s a spiritual application there.

We’ve switched from IV to oral diuretics.  That’s one step closer to us getting home.  We have to keep the drainage going down while on the oral meds to stay on the right path. 

There’s been more talk about more surgical procedures but we’re trying to push them off as far away as possible on that stuff.  The Queen actually had that conversation yesterday.  Our favorite doc up here (who saved Maggie’s life two summers ago) told us to be sure and be patient.  We’re being patient.  Home is not better if there are more and painful surgical procedures that get us there.

By all accounts, we’re here through the Thanksgiving holiday.  That ought to be interesting.  And a good exercise for us, as a family, to find things to be thankful for while sitting where we’ll be sitting.

If you’re the praying type, here are ways you can hold us up…

She would continue to improve and we would have exactly zero steps backward.  All the medical stuff they’re trying needs to work.

She would continue to be able to find joy in the 250 sq.ft. that we are occupying.

The Big Three would hang in there.  Signs of strain are already present. 

Thank you.

Friday, November 13, 2015

One week in #MountainsForMaggie

We are officially in one week.  One week ago, I had just gotten Maggie settled into the room we were in then and hoping for a non-operative, medicine only, 2-3 day stay to get her pleural effusion squared away.

We received none of that.

Instead, she's had surgery, is on higher meds, is still connected to a vacuum box, has a chest tube, and is not going home anytime in the next couple of days.

Sometimes it goes exactly like we want it to.  And then there are times like these.

I honestly don't know why God hasn't answered the prayers we've prayed in the ways and timing that we've prayed them.  I have given him plenty of reason to do so.  So, it takes a little faith to sing, "You're perfect in all of Your ways to us" on Sunday mornings.  But it's still true.  And I still believe it.

As a quick update, she's doing well, sitting up, going on walks, seeing the fish, eating like a champ, and funny.  Her output is decreasing and changing to the right kind of color.  We have days ahead of us but hopefully not weeks (plural).

Some thoughts I've had since being here:

1.  We have our challenges, but there are others with much worse.  It's good to remember.  And humbling.

2.  I'm grateful we live locally.  I met a family from Mexico City whose little girl says hi to the Minion every time we're out and about.  They are close to discharge but get to stay in Houston for 2-3 more weeks at the Ronald McDonald house to ensure the health of their little one.  When we get out, I will sleep in my own bed and so will Maggie.

3.  We have great friends.  Thank you.  For everything.

4.  The medical staff here is top notch.  And smart.

5.  I have the briefest of sketches as to what happened in Paris today.  And a big earthquake in Japan. And other stuff here and there.  If Jesus rent the eastern sky tonight, I could not be happier.  In the word of the Apostle,