Thursday, October 16, 2014

Houston, we have a (Constitutional) problem


There are multiple reports from across the nation about the insanity that is unfolding in my metropolitan area (Try:  Here or Here or Here or Here).  I pastor a suburban church, so until this blew up I was basically unaware.

Here is one man's perspective:

1.  This is a constitutional issue at its roots.  No government entity or representative should be able to demand, subpoena, or stomp their feet until churches do what they want.  The whole idea of the First Amendment is to let churches continue to be and do as churches see fit.

2.  The whole Separation of Church and State bit is a treasured Baptist principle (one of the good ones, as opposed another one like pronouncing their own names with two 'b's instead of a 'b' and a 'p').  But man, it needs some clarity these days.  The church is separated from the state so it can continue its important work of being the conscience of both culture and government.  Furthermore, by all accounts, IRS regulations allow tax-exempt organizations like churches weigh in on issue-related politics and even participate in petition drives.  So what's the problem in Houston?

3.  The Mayor's and City Attorney's stories keep changing.  Uh...no, it wasn't me.  It wasn't my hand in the cookie jar.  My hand was in the bubble gum jar.  Uh...wait, it one time was in the cookie jar.  I took a selfie while doing it.  Uh...hey, did you see the Texans game?  My bet is that they continue to hedge until the story falls below the fold.  Then people will basically forget.

4.  In our social media culture, I think winsome responses win more often than angry responses.  What if (as a few did but a little too late) the narrative of response to the subpoena was, "@AnniseParker can get my sermons anytime. I preach almost every Sunday and she's welcome! #InviteAnnise."  Being winsome so often wins (think internet memes).

5.  Being winsome isn't enough though and I'm glad the Alliance Defense Fund has stepped in to call the government of Houston to account.

6.  No one from the Mayor's office wanted the sermons and private correspondence pieces of liberal-leaning churches who supported their HERO issue.  Churches advertised for the HERO issue (like this one).  So yes, it was 100% about vengeance politics.  Let's not pretend otherwise.

7.  Ultimately, there are still various people of various stripes, persuasions, and orientations who need to hear the Gospel.  I hope none fall prey to the temptation to ride this outrage to a very temporary fifteen minutes of fame.  I hope instead we all speak to the First Amendment issue (like Paul appealing to Caesar, so we appeal to the Constitution) and then just get up and go about our business of sharing the Gospel.

There will come a day when preaching the Gospel will cost us a lot more.  I don't think that's today...but it's coming.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Bears vs. the Longhorns: Ugliness and an Implication

I'm a Baylor Bear.  Those words haven't always been as fun to say as they are these days, but it's true.  I am a Green and Gold kind of guy.  The Queen and I met there.  I still love the school.  We did ministry there.  We have friends there.  On and on.

We squared up against the Longhorns this past Saturday in Austin.  That usually ends up very poorly for us as a football team.

But not this Saturday.  Granted, it was as ugly as two aardvarks and a mud puddle, but we did walk away with the W.

At one point, I tweeted that we looked more like butter knives than steak knives.  We needed to be a lot sharper.  Outside of a blocked kick returned for a touchdown, we were anemic at best.  But we stuck it out.  Our team kept doing what they needed to do - defense, tackling, blocking, and so forth.  We won.  28-7, in case you're keeping score at home.

We won because we kept doing what needed doing.

Keep doing what needs doing.

Spiritually dry?  Keep doing what needs doing - prayer, Bible, service.

Marriage running on empty?  Keep doing what needs doing - talking, time.

Relationship frayed?  Keep doing what needs doing - forgiveness, mercy, blessing.

I could keep going but you get the idea.  Personally and pastorally, I know there are seasons of my own life and those I love in which things are easier, more fruitful, etc.  But in the hard seasons, just doing what needs to be done is how you keep walking, keep going, and stay faithful.

The emotions have to come along with it eventually.  The energy does too.  But just keep walking

Keep doing what needs doing.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Rock of Remembrance #7: A Story to Tell

Throughout the history of God's people, He has always left them with stories to tell.  The Red Sea splits open by an eastern wind and it's dry enough to cross, afterwards swallowing Pharaoh's army.  David bullseyes a loud mouth pagan, his ego being the only attribute of his that was larger than the target on his forehead.  Elijah trash talks the prophets of Baal and the Lord sends fire.  The only thing better than a single person escaping a lion's den is three of his friends escaping a furnace so hot it made Death Valley feel like a fridge.  

Or the second member of the Trinity, God in the flesh, conspiratorially invading the earth, living a perfect life, dying in the place of and for rebels and traitors so that the Father could turn them into sons and daughters, then rising again because death couldn't hold Him.  That's another great story.

Stories carry so much weight, communicate powerful truths, and impact memories because of their emotional content.  

And now we (for now) and the Minion (later) will have quite a story to tell.  Her journey from orphanage in China to the U.S. to our family to the hospital to her mother's arms to the PICU to other floors to the PICU again to other floors to rehab to the road to recovery is quite a testimony, a story that has touched many lives and caused many to think about how their lives are lived in light of eternity and ponder what's truly valuable and what really matters.

We don't want to relive the story.  Honestly, I still shudder at parts of it when I think about it.  But it's ours to tell and will be hers.

So a specific prayer request:  that we would be good stewards of this story.  I don't think it was meant to be contained to a family tree.  I think God wants it spread widely because of how awesome it makes Him look (and it does...and He is).  We need to be good stewards of it.

We're planning on sharing it in a few places, including a sermon series with our church family.  So for all the places that are planned and all the places that will come, you can pray that we tell it well.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Rock of Remembrance #6: Public Struggle, Public Joy

One of the great decisions we made in the process was to live this insanity out loud.  Frankly, we have such great friends that word would've spread without our knowing or willing, but we sent immediate texts and made a few immediate phone calls that guaranteed that this was going to be a public process.

I don't want to sound overly pastoral or be like the Clark Kent of the Kingdom or anything, but one of the reasons we went public and stayed public was because we believed Jesus was worth it.  Genuinely, we were willing to walk this in faith to the very end, whatever that end was, and do so in everyone's view because Jesus is worth it.  If it went well, we got to testify to Jesus' power and mercy.  If it didn't, we got to testify to Jesus' grace in grief and ability to sustain the brokenhearted.  We're so glad it went the way that it did.  But either way, Jesus is worth it.

This blog and the Queen's blog served as daily check-in points for people.  We wrote them for two reasons.  The first is fairly mundane but shows our mental incapacities:  we wrote because we wanted to remember what happened and what we were feeling.  Trauma has a way of burying those memories under mental soil, the soil that grows thoughts and feelings that are always ever-so-slightly tainted with what lies underneath.

The second reason we wrote is because people had been in the process with us to get Maggie.  And now they had the opportunity to stand with us and fight for her.  And man, we needed them.  The inclusion of people also includes Maggie herself.  Both the Queen and I believe that one day she will have the opportunity to tell her story, so working through this publicly means there's a record for her to draw from.

That public struggle had its drawbacks.  For us, it meant there were times when people showed up and we were in puddles or knots or shell shock or something else.  Those times meant that we had to engage people even though all we may have wanted to do was find a quiet place - getting attention isn't always all it's cracked up to be.  That's not a complaint on my part or my wife's.  We believe that God is big enough and kind enough to give us what we need during those times.  For those walking with us, living publicly meant that many of them hung on words that we typed, and they tied their lives to ours for all the good and all the ill those words might have borne witness to.  They rode the crazy train with us.

But man, the public struggle had its benefits.  We heard from people all over the country.

All.Over.The.Country.

People prayed.  We got cards in the mail from prayer rooms in churches that we had never visited but someone who knew someone had put Maggie on the prayer list.  Gifts showed up for her and us that made us uncomfortable sometimes because of the generosity poured out.  The Queen and I are fairly independent people, so receiving is not a strong point for us.  We got the opportunity to grow in this area.  Facebook proved invaluable for communicating what was happening and receiving back comments and encouragements and scriptures and offers to help and many more things.

It was a public struggle.  But that brought public joy with the public victory.

People have rejoiced with us.  They have fawned over Maggie.  My BFF from college's parents went out of the way to come to our house because they had been praying and wanted to see her.  Emails and Facebook messages have numbered in the dozens.  Letters and cards have easily topped a hundred.  Phone calls and text messages have broken AT&T, I'm sure, because there have been way too many to count.

No struggle is easy.  And living it publicly provides the opportunity to be selfish and worship the idol of others' attention or make sure that Jesus is accurately represented throughout.  Because He's worth it.

I hope we did that well.


Here's SAG's parents, stopping by our house, going out of their way, because they cared and prayed...

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Rock of Remembrance #5: Ministry

I offer this particular rock not because I was great during the midst of our trial but because I look back and see God at work even when I didn't recognize it.  Some of that lack of recognition is the fog of war, so to speak.  Some might be good old fashioned human sinfulness, selfishness, or some other S word which is probably not fit for print.

Like Paul and Silas in the jail, singing hymns of praise to God about midnight, we found ourselves in unique conversations along the way.  People were watching.  And they engaged us as they watched.  Doors opened.  Opportunities knocked.

We came to love some of our nurses.  We were grateful for all of them, but we really connected with a few.

We came to just about make idols of our doctors because they were God's hands and brains in saving the life of our child.  A couple took particular interest in our family and not just our case.

We were there so long even the guy who directed traffic outside recognized us.  He appreciated the Sprite I took him one night when it was particularly hot outside.

And somehow along the way those conversations turned toward important things, eternal things, things that have a gravity about them.  There were multiple conversations about adoption.  They varied from the mundane "Yeah, my husband and I thought about adoption once" to the serious "Why in the world would you knowingly adopt this baby girl with this heart defect?"  There were conversations about parenting amid crisis.  There were a couple conversations about marriage and how hard it is when the pressure is on.

And there were conversations about church.  Lots of them.  Being a pastor provides a simple segue, but people genuinely wanted to know about our life and faith and our church.  So many had seen the community surround us that it really was its own apologetic for the Truth of God.

Our new nurse friend from PICU said on multiple occasions, "Y'all have the best friends."  What she meant, but didn't know she meant, was "Your church rocks."  I think it might have made a few people a little jealous.  And I think that kind of jealousy is actually kind of good.  It provokes the "I want that too" spark in the heart.   May the Spirit blow gently on that until it's a flame.

I look back on all of that to reflect on these two truths:

1.  When the hard times come, people are looking to match vocalizations of faith with actions that look, smell, feel, and taste like faith.  If that consistency isn't there, it's not the kind of witness that impacts lives.  It's not that you can't be honest.  It's not that you can't feel pain.  Those things actually increase the validity and authenticity of your witness.  Frankly, it doesn't even have to be our faith being measured.  At times, the onlookers were watching our church's faith, not ours.

2.  Being willing to engage in ministry when the world is crumbling around is actually a helpful exercise of the soul.  The Queen and I both were able to step outside our circumstance for a few moments to speak about big things, lasting things, things undefined and uncontained by 200 sq. ft. of tile, wires, tubes, and a single window overlooking a roof.  De-centering from the self and the circumstance helped.  Somehow it helped gain some perspective, the larger nature of God's plan and work.

I hope that's an encouragement to all of you out there who are in the midst of your own mountain climbing experience.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Good gracious, I have a 12-year old


Just a personal note to all who follow along:  my biggest, oldest, smart, funny, insightful, pensive, courageous, tough first-born is now 12.

Wow.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Rock of Remembrance #4: Never Alone

In the horror movies, the one who always is about to get the axe (either literally or figuratively) finds himself or herself alone, and it's often dark.  You know the dialogue:

"Hello?  Hello?  Is anybody here?"  *feels around for light switch*

Cue dramatic music.

*Finds light switch*  Bad guy is right there.  Dramatic scream.  Screen goes black.

It's always in the dark.  And it's always alone.

Darkness and loneliness have a proclivity of cohabitation, shacking up like two hipsters who drink tea instead of coffee and watch indie flicks while wearing wool caps in August.  And much like those caricatures, the end is about the same:  loss, disillusionment, scars, and fear.

Oh the fear.

There were about three times in the inky fog of the past couple of months where I genuinely felt alone.  That has nothing to say about the Framily who was around us.  It's a spiritual issue.

The darkness crept in.  The dramatic music moaned.  The intonations of Alfred Hitchcock were probably in there too.

Man, it was a bad place emotionally, spiritually, relationally, and even physically.  You find yourself grasping for light switch in a dark room while you just know the bad guy is waiting there, breathing down your neck, ready to separate you and life.

It's a bad place.

Graciously, two things happened in those three times I felt the darkness.  One actually happened long before those episodes, but it's still grace.

The first thing that happened was a verse came back to mind.  Joshua 1.5 says, "No man will be able to stand against you all the days of your life.  As I was with Moses, so I will be with you.  I will never leave you or forsake you."  I remember memorizing that verse.  I remember drawing strength and courage (the very thing the Lord says to Joshua - be strong and courageous) when facing some other things in life.  But it came back to mind.  Just a pastoral hint here:  if you don't memorize Scripture, you don't have bullets in your gun.

The second gracious thing that happened was the Spirit spoke that over me and to me with authority.  That part I can't do or conjure.  The Spirit said, "I will never leave you or forsake you."  And He said it in such a way that gave me strength and courage to face whatever was happening.  I believed Him.  In my bones, I knew He would never leave us or forsake us.  No matter what came or hit the fan, He would be right there.

I was not alone.

And you're not either.  Ever.  Amen.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Rock of Remembrance #3: Framily

Sprint, not our wireless carrier of choice and therefore I have no stake in advertising for them, has a great little phrase of advertising these days.  They call it their Framily Plan.  It's a wireless plan for all family and friends to somehow divide the bill and share data and so forth.  Honestly, I don't know much about the situation, but I love the term.  Love.The.Term.

Framily is one of the things that I take with us out of the summer.  I take that there is family and there are friends and there are friends who are family.  Framily.

I'll only speak for myself, not the Queen.  But I can think of three men, in particular who are basically brothers.  They were just there.  All the time.  They showed up at planned times and unplanned times.  It's not that others didn't show up or love us or care.  They did.  But these three in particular were just...

Well, they were Framily.

Proverbs talks about a friend who sticks closer than a brother (18.24).  Most people apply that to Jesus.  Don't get me wrong, I'm glad Jesus sticks close.  But I apply it to these three men as well.

I have several pastor friends.  Many kept up with us and checked in on me multiple times a week.  I'm grateful for all of them.  One in particular just kept showing up.  In hand were Torchy's Tacos and Rudy's BBQ and Sonic Vanilla Dr. Peppers.  And laughter.  And worthwhile conversations.  And friendship.  And a sense of presence that didn't mind when things went sideways and he had to wait.

My Church Twin (so named because people mistake us for brothers) brought dinner umpteen times and just hung out.  I was grateful for the company.  He loved seeing Maggie progress and held her like I've seen him hold his little girl.  He even came and got me to run me to Target when I forgot socks one time.  I appreciated his practical, helpful friendship.  But it was more than that too.  Without divulging too much, I'll just say he's had some experience in kidville of the unpleasant variety.  So it wasn't just that he was there, he understood.  His was an experienced shoulder to carry the load with us.

The last guy was so above and beyond friendship that I can't even think of a nickname for him.  And if you know me, that's something.  He sat with Maggie often, giving the Queen and I a break every so often.  He took several shifts in the middle of the night that let my sleep extend to 6+ hours and let the Queen come to bed earlier and sleep longer.  Rumor has it from PICU nurses that he stood and prayed over Maggie several times and hour when he was alone with her.  They have some sort of special bond now - she even called him by name at church last night.  It wasn't just ministry to us.  It wasn't just ministry to her.  It was taking her (almost) as his own, her fight was his fight, our prayers were his prayers.  He groaned and celebrated along with us, but more than that - he groaned and celebrated apart from us too.  It was if she was (almost) his.

And again, I'm not highlighting these three to denigrate the other meal givers, lawn mowers, phone callers, text senders, prayer sayers, long huggers, money providers, or anyone else that jumped in.  All of them qualify as Framily too.  These three just stand out in my mind.

Here's the application for me.

We were loved so well.  The practical expressions of love were thoughtful and consistent.  The relational expressions of love were personal and heart-warming.  All of that love made me question whether I had loved that well.

And so Framily challenges us to love better - to be more thoughtful, more consistent, more relational, more helpful, more servant-oriented, more initiative-taking, and more prayerful.

We won't forget them.  Any of them.  And we want to do better to emulate them.  They loved us as they loved themselves.  God used that to see us through.  Amen.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Rock of Remembrance #2: Heart-Level Connection

Before truly beginning, I need to give credit where credit is due here.  As in most things in my life, my wife actually articulated this in a passing comment before I could put my finger on where I was being stirred.  Y'all just don't know how good I have it.

Let me begin with two simple but biblical truths that I want to tie together in a moment.

First, Jesus has a heart for the orphan.  You might more generally express this as a heart for the down and out and rejects of proper society, but specifically you see orphans and widows mentioned in the Scripture as those that God is serious about allying with, advocating for, and acting on behalf of.  There are serious warnings about messing with them.  And God proved He was serious by judging nations that did.

Consider briefly that we are spiritually adopted into God's family.  Outsiders who are now insiders because of His legal work (at the cross, where He dealt with the sin that separated us) that revealed His relational heart (that we would be brought into His family and He would be our Father).

I know Jesus loves everyone.  But there appears to be a special place in His heart for little defenseless ones.  The Advocate speaks up for those who cannot speak for themselves. I simply note that it appears to be a unique focus of His affection.

Second, the Spirit of Jesus lives in the heart of every true believer, in every follower of Christ.  This is not generically true of humanity, but a special expression of the relationship between Christ and His followers, between God the Father and His children.  This is part of what unites believers, that we are under the influence and sway of the same person, the Holy Spirit.

And now to tie them together.

One of the things we were blown away with was the number of people who followed Maggie's story. We quite literally heard from people all over the place.  Friends from days gone by.  High School acquaintances that followed us on Facebook.  People we hadn't talked to in years - sometimes people we haven't talked to ever!  They were all so very touched by what Maggie was going through and how she was doing.  Emails poured in.  Cards showed up in our mailbox from churches that prayed for her.  Multiple churches had prayer times for us during their services.  And on and on.

I think those two truths I mentioned earlier explain why.

I know we are loved.  And there are certainly people who wouldn't claim to be followers of Christ who were genuinely touched by the story or had a unique relationship with one of us.  My wife is reasonably well known in the adoption community.  I pastor a church.  In that sense we're mildly public figures.  Mildly.  But that doesn't explain the widespread grip of the Minion's saga on hearts in places we had never heard of and in people we still don't personally know.

But for those in whom the Spirit of Jesus dwells, the Spirit that the Bible calls the Spirit of Adoption (Romans 8.15), I think there's a unique and spiritual component to the connection.  The logic goes like this:
Jesus loves orphans in a unique way, AND
The Spirit of Jesus is in His followers, THEREFORE
The followers of Jesus will love orphans too, assuming they're given the exposure and chance to do so
And I think that's what we saw in these months that unfolded.  People who loved Jesus did tie themselves to Maggie's story uniquely, passionately, and generously.  There was some sort of Holy Spirit prompt in them that made their hearts either break or leap, but either way their hearts inclined toward a little girl from outside of Xi'an.

It was more than a fascination with her story.  It was more than a simple (though biblical) response to someone in crisis.  People prayed.  They gave.  They stuck with us.  They cried.  A few slogged through it all like it was their own kiddo.  Their hearts beat in rhythm with the Father's.

All of it came from a heart level.  Something doesn't reach that level without Spirit empowerment.  But that heart-level connection is exactly what He brought.

And here's the confession part:  I can be too busy doing "ministry" that I can't slow down enough for my life to connect with things happening around me on a heart-level.  A few less noises in my life and waking up a little earlier helps fight that off, but it's still a challenge.

I know it's probably just me, but just in case you know someone else who might struggle like I do:  take the challenge to live at a pace where your heart can beat in sync with God's.  It will most certainly result in good to you and others.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Rock of Remembrance #1: God is Faithful

I remember when I was a Baylor student and having access to a somewhat-mentor relationship with a minister whose name you'd probably recognize.  I remember some important conversations and some great sermons - he could preach lights out and still can.

Here's one of the big things I remember twenty years later.  He taught me about God's faithfulness from 1 Thessalonians 5.24.  Don't remember that one because you don't read the last few verses of the books of the NT?  Don't feel bad.  I didn't either...until 1 Thessalonians 5.24.

"He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it."  That's what 1 Thessalonians 5.24 says.

That shaped us and sustained us in our process with the Peanut.  It shaped us and sustained us in the process with the Minion too.

And boy, it was huge in the hospital.

We just kept clinging to God's faithfulness.  He had brought her home in record time.  He had placed her not only in a family, but in a hospital...and not just in a hospital, but in the best children's hospital in the southwest part of the U.S....and not just in the best hospital, but in the arms of her physical therapist mother when she had the stroke.  He brought her all that way.  All. That. Way.

So faithful.

I don't want to type this because it seems to betray all the victory of her story.  But the truth is that in some deep dark moment, some horrible place of blackness and sadness, I readied myself for her time on earth to come to an end, to be out of my physical arms and into pierced hands.

I'm quite literally sick at my stomach reading what I just wrote.  And there are probably tears.  Or it's raining on my forehead.  One of the two.

Where this ugliness intersects with beauty is in God's faithfulness.  He had called us to Maggie.  This we knew.  And He had called us to parent her.  This we knew too.  And He had called us to do all of this knowing about the anatomical time bomb.  Yep.  He knew it.  And had she said goodbye to earth for a joy unspeakable and full of glory, He would've known that too.

But even in the horror of the realities and the terror of the possibilities, I was convinced - knew in my very bones - that God is faithful.  If He had been faithful to see us to this point, He'd be faithful to see us through whatever the next step was.  Bank on it.

That prompts a single response in me:  my own faithfulness to Him.  I know that people turn their back on Him when things get hard or go awry.  I've seen it.  It just wasn't a temptation for me during those dark days, and I think that's because I was so connected at a heart-level to 1 Thessalonians 5.24.    How could I be unfaithful to the One who was so faithful to me?  To my family?

I'd like to think that had things gone differently, I'd still be writing the same truth about God's faithfulness.  I really believe I would.  Thankfully, I don't have to find out.  But I identify in a gut-level-yes kind of way to Daniel's friends in front of Nebuchadnezzar when they defied the king to stay faithful to God.  He can save us, or a little girl from China, but even if He doesn't...He's still faithful (see Daniel 3).

And I want to live that faithfully today...and tomorrow...and the day after that.  Amen.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Monday Morning, A Special Birthday, and an MRI

Well, it's Monday morning.  And as Monday mornings go, at least with the crew I run with, the Minion and I are back at the hospital - this time a planned trip! - for a follow-up MRI.  I note that immediately to ask for prayer that it comes back just like we like MRI's:

Uneventful.

That equates to no new swelling, a decrease in the areas affected by her strokes, no complications from the sedation, and so forth.  You know, the basic run of the mill Heart-Baby-Being-Sedated-After-A-Stroke-While-On-Asprin-Regimen prayer request.

Thank you.

On a second note, I have been trying to sift through the fog that still exists in my brain and heart to find the rocks of remembrance of the whole saga.  I hope to begin that blog series tomorrow.

Finally, it's the Queen's birthday.  If you bump into her, please tell her how awesome she is, how much she's appreciated, and how the world is a better place because she's in it.  And yes, please wish her a Happy Birthday too.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

8 Weeks

Today, almost to the moment, marks the 8-week anniversary of all the insanity that has been our lives as of late.  Even typing that seems surreal - 8 weeks?  Really?

Throughout, God has been faithful and the church - specifically our church - has been amazing.  In the days to come, I hope to be able to process some of the things I saw and in doing so learn something along with you.

Here are the big prayers requests of the week:

1.  The doctors have officially announced that Thursday, August 28th, is Homecoming.  Not with mums and uncomfortable manchildren in suits dancing to music whose lyrics are indiscernible.  We get to come home.  It's like March 5th all over again.  You can pray it happens (and against no weirdness to prevent it) and that the transition is smooth.

2.  The Big Three have gotten off to school two days in a row without much incident.  Maybe we're not so terrible parents after all.  But then again, it's only been two days...

3.  The Queen and I both carry a sense, now that the alleged finish line is in sight, that we are tired down in our bones.  I don't know how to recoup from that.  But we'll need to - physically, emotionally, spiritually, relationally, and every-other-ly you can think of.  She, who has blogged so eloquently lately, may be carrying more than me.

4.  We will have to continue both rehab (for an extended period of time) and nursing skills (for 2 1/2 more weeks) for the Minion when she gets home.  Specifically, we will continue on IV antibiotics for those 2 1/2 weeks.  It's a new skill set we'll need to learn and not mess up.  Pray that we can get the details right and pull together the schedule of rehab appointments.

Thanks to all.  We seem so close.  Talitha Kum.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Kind of a Big Wednesday

Today is the day that two pretty important things happen:

1.  The Minion will get her next MRI.

2.  We will have a family conference, the meeting wherein we see how we're doing, when we might get discharged, etc.

Here are specific ways you can pray for our Wednesday...

First, that Maggie's MRI will show that her brain and body are doing what they are supposed to do - reduced swelling, reduced cyst-like area where the bleed was, etc.  All good news, that's what we're praying for.

Second, that we get a clear picture of what does indeed lie ahead.  And that the communication between the various bodies of people will be clear.  The Queen has already had to address that issue with someone who might be involved in ongoing care.

Third, that the Big Three will hang in there, along with their parents.

Thanks to all.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Quick Update and Prayer Requests

Thanks for praying along with us.  Maggie seems to be getting better and better, though certainly it's a process (and sometimes a slow one).  I think in some strange combination of my medical ignorance and my natural inclination toward optimism, I was hoping we'd stun the docs with the pace of recovery.

Looks like I'm going to have to settle for stunning the docs with the fact of recovery, just not its pace. I'll be grateful for the former.  That she's recovering at all is a testimony to God's power in little bodies, medically attested to by docs who have seen her and never thought they'd see her in as good a shape as she's in.

We have a medical conference with everyone on Wednesday.  That's the big prayer request for the week.  We want good information, a solid plan, clear communication, and so forth.

Ongoing prayers for her white blood cell count and left-side recovery are always appreciated.  Thank you for walking with us, not giving up, and staying in the fight for our girl.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A father thinks about Iraq while sitting in a hospital

NOTE:  I wrote this a few days ago, but my thoughts haven't changed any.  I thought they might over the week but it hasn't happened.  It's published as originally written.

There has been so much going on family-wise that outside a comment in the sermon on Sunday, I haven't weighed in on the Iraq situation.  I'm not sure that anyone is waiting with bated breath for me to do so, but there have been a few thoughts that have stuck with me and I can't shake them.  And selfishly it's cathartic to think about something outside the room I'm currently occupying.

Okay, so here goes:

1.  This is not a political problem.  It's not a religious problem.  It's not an arabic problem.  This is a moral problem.  There is evil in the world and these people are perpetuating it.  There is an Evil One in the world and these people are serving him.  The more clearly we have that fixed in our minds, the more clearly we can think about addressing the issue.  And it has to start with using clarifying moral language:  this is evil.

2.  Some have questioned whether or not children are being beheaded in Iraq like the adults are.  It does seem like a fair enough question since there is a single source to the story.  Apparently some Senators have seen more pictures than we have.  However, what's not in question is that there are adults dying in gruesome ways at the hands of evil men.  It's also not in question that children are dying of starvation and dehydration as they flee the evil men.  It is ugly.  Moreover, having spent the last umpteen weeks in a children's hospital, my senses are acutely attuned to the suffering of kiddos.  Kyrie eleison.

3.  Christians have to do more than post about it on social media.  My humble suggestions:

(a) Pray for them - that their faith would be sustained and their suffering wouldn't lack purpose.
(b) Give - here's a legitimate list of legitimate avenues LINK
(c) Live - I argued on Sunday that the martyrdom of Antipas in Pergamum steeled the believers in Pergamum, inspiring them to live worthy of Christ.  Can these deaths in Iraq do less for us today?

4.  What took the U.S. government so long to engage?  Would it have been different with a different president?  Would it have been different if they had started with oil fields instead of people?  Instead of Christians?  I'm enough of a cynic to ask...enough of a patriot to hope not.

5.  I'm no geopoliticist, but it sure looks like Iraq should be 2-3 different countries, divided by ethnicity.  Our own country struggled with this.  They have neither a philosophical entrenchment from which to fight for unity nor an Abraham Lincoln to lead that fight.  We're way past We are the World and I'd like to Buy the World a Coke.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Six Long Weeks

It has been six weeks, almost to the minute from when I'm typing this, from the point where the Queen's best friend in the whole wide world Bec called my phone.  We had just made the switch at TCH and I was on the way home with the Big Three.  Her words were haunting:

"Trent, you need to get home and get a shower and get the kids settled.  And then you need to come back up here right away.  It looks like Maggie has had a stroke."

Ever tried driving when you can't see and can't breathe and everything is tingly?

In these six weeks, we have seen God prove Himself faithful to us.  We have seen Him work miracles, attested to by doctors' descriptions and statements like, "I never would've thought..."  We have seen the church rise up.  We have seen friends become family.  We have seen love get practical without losing its heart.

We have laughed some.  We have cried.  My how we have cried.  We have sat in very dark places.  We have seen sunlight peak over the horizon.  We have prayed boldly and barely prayed.

Somehow, in strength that God supplies and with infused courage from Framily, we have taken step after step, one at a time.

Thank you for walking with us.  Through it all, Jesus reigns over everything.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Monday Morning Update and Prayer Requests

The blogs have slowed down in pace because there hasn't been much new to report.  The fact that so many of you have expressed interest, care, concern, and desire to know more means the world to us.  Thank you.

The Minion is overall doing well.  She continues to recover and work at becoming the kiddo we brought to the hospital, a heart cry of ours from the start - that we'd bring home the same little girl that we brought up here.  Her left side is returning steadily.  Her vision seems to be better too, though I personally still think she has to work on focusing sometimes.

I saw her neurosurgeon in the hall a couple of days ago during his lunch break.  I reintroduced myself and he replied that he knew exactly who I was.  Then he said, "You haven't seen me because you haven't needed to."  That is encouraging.

I had a good conversation with a friend last night (he happened to be traveling on the Left Coast, so it was his afternoon) who asked how I was doing - really doing - and I told him this:  we are so grateful for where we've come and recognize that we have a long way to go yet.  I won't speak for the Queen, but depending on which moment you catch me in, you see me full of gratitude or in search of the strength and courage to continue the path.

The initial thought by the rehab team was to aim for late August for a discharge.  That's a floating date, we understand, and will be nailed down as we see progress.  So there are still prayers to pray and work to be done.

On that note, here are some prayer requests for the week:

1.  Ongoing recovery with her left side.  And no plateaus - just a steady climb out of this back to normal.

2.  That the God-designed body process that is dealing with the lesions in her brain will continue to do exactly what God designed them to do.

3.  For the Big Three to hang in there.

4.  For the Queen and I to continue to do what we need to do, to stay as connected as possible, and remind ourselves there's a day coming when all six people will sleep under one roof again.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Monday Morning and a Shared Email of Encouragement

It's been a few days since posting with good news to report.  The Queen has done the weekend updates, so if you missed anything you can find them on her blog here:  4 U Ruthie.

As to the Monday morning update, the Minion is doing great.  She's increasing in strength and keeps winning on the cognitive front.  Her vocabulary is back and she's even picked up a few new words.  She can identity people by name (the Big Three especially) and asks for things in ways that are understandable.  You can pray for ongoing healing, strength, recovery, and protection.

Everything keeps going up and to the right, and for this we're grateful.  I'm sitting on the rehab floor where other families are not experiencing the same.  It's a stark reminder that we're entitled to nothing.

A friend of mine sent me this the other day.  His name shall be held in confidence to protect the innocent, but he's a dear friend and good brother and always thoughtful.  His email has been edited below, but you'll get the gist.  I hope it encourages you.  Share as you see fit.

Trent,

I wanted to write you to correct you (just a little) because you had an error in logic in your sermon on Sunday (referring to 7.27).  You said something to the effect that if God had brought Maggie this far, surely He would see her through to the end.  Your point was well-taken that past movements of God inspire faith for a new movement of God.

While I contend that the probability is high that the end is not so soon due to the high prayer volume and value, the high probability of substantial positive Kingdom impact, etc., I do not think your logic applies here.

Why?  Because the scales that weigh this are wrecked by the value of The Good over the value of The Expenditures.

Expenditures:  prayer, money, time, gut-wrenching waiting, hair-pulling bureaucracy, people who think y'all are crazy, and others in a long line.  Tack on the train wreck of emotions, potential long-term harm to your family, and other costs that have been evident these past few weeks, the expenditure line is ridiculously high.

Good:  only one item goes here.  She had doctors.  She had caregivers.  But she didn't have the loving arms of her father around her.  Remember the picture you sent me when all this broke and we were on vacation?  It was you holding her.  Her father had his arms around her.

If you put that on the scale and look for a return on investment, it crushes the scale.  Breaks it.  Wrecks it.  It's over.

I tell you that to tell you this:  you have already won.  In a moment, y'all have conquered the naysayers, the world's valuation of sick orphans, the Chinese valuation of women, and many other things.  You have already won.

If you zoom in to see the broken side of the scale, you see a church on her knees.  You see daily sermons via blogs and witness to many who are lost.  You see moments of biblical clarity that are breath-taking.  You see people learning to live out their faith through their service.  You see people remembering and sharing the truths that help them through dark days.  The list is endless.  And there are new things to see each day.

But I never needed to see more than a single, priceless treasure of her in your arms.

As you pay the real and terrible price each day, please don't experience the price without looking again on what was purchased and clearly see what y'all purchased for her.

With ongoing prayers and overflowing thanks for the victory that is Maggie,

Your friend

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Thursday Morning Update and Prayer Requests

Just a very quick update for all those who are praying along with us and following Maggie's story:

We have an MRI in about 2 hours (10:30a).  We are hoping that it shows the miraculous intervention of God and that the lesions on her brain have disappeared.  We'll certainly take shrinkage.  We are praying against further complications.  Afterwards, we anticipate transfer to the rehab floor.

She is moving her left side even better and appears to have some right-side vision recovery.  Ongoing recovery would be incredible.  Her personality is back too - and that makes us smile often.

So, bullet form for all my engineer friends:

1.  Good results on the MRI

2.  Ongoing recovery on left side and right-side vision

3.  We get to the rehab floor today and can begin the intensive therapy that will bring God's full recovery to her little body.

4.  No bad stuff.

Thanks for all who are praying and standing with us.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tuesday Morning Update and Prayer Requests

I haven't had much to say in the last day or two, so rather than bore anyone with ramblings it seemed better just to keep quiet.  The Minion is pretty happily enduring hospital life.  We spend a lot of time on the mat on the floor hanging out, reading books, playing with toys, and so forth.  She's hitting some sort of schedule that is a good thing.

And I slept last night.  I mean, really slept.  It was my turn at the hospital and I still slept hard.  It's the first time in a month or more of good, hard sleep.  I have slept the same number of hours in the past month, but this was quality sleep.

It's the little things.

No seriously.  It's the little things.  I woke up this morning and simply said thanks for a good night's sleep to the One who didn't sleep while I did.  Gratitude.  Little things.  Amen.

Some prayer requests for the morning:

1.  Ongoing recovery of left-side and vision.

2.  No new problems.  No steps backward.

3.  We have an MRI scheduled for tomorrow that will involve her being sedated again.  Our experience has been about a 24-hour process of climbing out of that.  So, please pray that we get good news from the MRI and that the Minion is able to come out of the anesthesia and quickly come back to where we are now.

4.  We are ready to get to the rehab floor.  They are unable to do the monitoring she needs after the anesthesia so we had to wait until after the MRI.  You can pray for a smooth transition to there and great progress once we get there.

These are not roller coaster days, thankfully.  Thank you for standing with us still.  We are looking forward to the future.


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Saturday Evening Update: 4 Days in a Row

It's our fourth good day in a row.  The Bear and I landed four weeks ago yesterday after speaking at a camp when all this craziness started.  Since, we haven't had two good days strung together yet.  Now we have four.

Four days.

Four days of playing.  Four days of smiling.  Four days of snuggling.  Four days of therapy.  Four days of encouragement.  Four days of rhythm.  Four days of progress.  Four days of personality.  Four days of speaking.  Four days of cognition.  Four days of improvement.

Four days.

I don't remember being so happy about any particular four consecutive days in my forty years.

I know we're not entitled to a fifth.  The fear of all of that lurks like some specter in a Scooby-Doo episode, though without the neat little bow of unmasking the ghost or exclamations of "Zoikes!"  Having watched so much here, I know we're not entitled to a fifth day.

But man, I'm hoping for one.

Here are prayer requests for Saturday evening and Sunday:

1.  A fifth day.  Enough said.

2.  Bed space on the rehab floor for Monday.  Let the intense road to recovery begin.

3.  Lord willing, I will preach tomorrow morning.  I hope it's full of joy and gravity.

4.  We have the Wonder Twins back, while the Bear is still with Nana (formerly known as She Who Must Be Obeyed) and will be back early this week.  You can pray we all transition back to something that resembles our family before June 27th.

5.  We have had incredible care while here at TCH.  We also have had some great conversations about life, adoption, Maggie, faith, and so on.  For her sake and His, I pray her story goes far and wide - even wider than it's gone and with greater impact for the sake of His Kingdom than we will know this side of Kingdom Come.

Thanks for standing with us.



Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday Morning Update and Prayer Requests

If you haven't yet read my wife's reflections on yesterday, she has posted a redwood among saplings.  You can find it her:  Lenses.  Yes, it's that good.  Yes, you should read it right now.

Outside of two noisy nurses, it was a quiet evening with the Minion.  We had friends come by and visit.  I particularly love watching those who treat her as they would their own daughter.  She slept pretty well and all her numbers have stayed where they are supposed to be.  Yesterday was the second good day in a row, something we haven't had in this 4-week adventure.

Four weeks.

Four weeks ago, the Bear and I were flying home from a camp where I was preaching.  We were joking about delayed flights and delayed baggage and rejoicing in the cool things God had done at camp and the people we had seen.  Little did we know we'd have all of this out in front of us.

Picking up on my wife's post, my exhortation to one and all (ME most of all) is to take a moment and be grateful for what is because you never know what you're flying home to and what changes to life that might bring.  Whatever today holds, may God teach us to number our days so that we may gain a heart of wisdom (Ps. 90.10).

Prayer requests for the morning:

1.  A third good day.  Three in a row.  O, let it be.

2.  No bad news today.  We're back in the PCU and typically leave after a day or two in a rush to brain surgery or some other dark place.  We don't want any of that.

3.  If we can begin to hit stride with all of this hospital time and what remains of it, that would be great.  We're still slightly out of sorts and The Big Three are still not in our possession right now.  As part of good days and no bad news, it'd be great to hit stride as a couple and parents.

4.  This one is smaller and more personal, but I'm hoping to preach Sunday.  In doing so, I want to make sure what is said puts Christ front and center and not our family, certainly not me.  His Word is the one that matters here.  On that note, our staff (and a cadre of volunteers) has been awesome.  So grateful for them.

Thanks for standing with us.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Thursday Morning Prayer Requests and Update

There is, gloriously, not much to report overnight.  The Minion is asleep beside me, peacefully doing her thing.  The Queen even got a visit from a friend of ours from Chicago who just so happened to be down here for a medical conference.  You can the Queen's latest report here.

As I type, we just got the report from an early morning CT scan that it appears the Heparin has had no negative effects on her.  No new bleeds, no increase in any of the other lesions.  Thank you for praying with us on that.

We had such a great day yesterday, I am hoping for another.  We haven't really had two in a row.  So that'd be a great milestone.

Prayer Requests:

1.  Ongoing effectiveness for dissolving the superficial clot without causing other issues.

2.  There is talk of getting back to the intermediate care of PCU.  There are medical steps necessary to make that happen.  You can pray for those to be taken because that means we're making the right kind of progress.

3.  No bad news.  Only good news.  Like a second day of good interaction and attitude.

4.  She's gotten some personality back, some of her soul seems to be returning.  She's even snuggly at times, which is something we haven't seen in a while.  You can pray that she would be in good health and it would go well with her soul (3 John 2).

Thank you for standing with us so faithfully.



Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Dwelling Place

If you haven't read the most recent medical update in words that actually make sense, you should.  It's posted on the Queen's blog here:  Up-Down-Up-Down.

I have slept some weird places in my life.  Some of the more interesting include a shack on the side of a mountain in Ecuador, under a mosquito net in a full-size bed while someone next to me is vomiting so hard it's horizontal, and a brief nap at a train station that was interrupted when a machete fight broke out a few feet away.

And that was all on the same trip with my boy, SAG.

A little comedic memory relaxes my brain a bit, letting off some steam.  What's not funny is the stories we see around us and the people who are writing them.  We have stayed at the hospital all night, multiple nights, and encountered ugliness and hope.  We have stayed at the Ronald McDonald House a few nights, seeing cancer, despair, joy, and perseverance.  Some are inspiring.  Some are like eating too many jalapeƱos and the burn stays with you.  Some are simply nuclear in their devastation.

I read this last night and found the faith (and it's harder than it sounds) to offer a prayer:  Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.

"Father, I don't want to live in a hospital.  I want to live in You.  Whatever our circumstance are or become, please help You to be Home for us" (Psalm 90.1).

I couldn't shake the thought this morning after an early morning nap and even found the faith to pray it again.  Let it be.

Prayer Requests for the Morning:

1.  That the course of treatment with the Heparin would be just enough but not too much.  We want help in dissolving the clot but not too much so that we risk a new bleed.  It's quite the dance.

2.  Complete healing.  This morning, I'm still swinging for the fences on that one.  Thanks for joining us.

3.  That the Enemy would be chased away from this situation from every angle.

4.  For us to figure out which version of imaging is next.  MRI?  CT?  ABC?  XYZPDQ?  We have a good team following us and need to reach a clear next step for the next set of pictures.  Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

5.  The Big Three would continue to hang in there.  They are such great kids.


Thanks to all who are standing with us and staying with us.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Five Love Languages

The Queen has posted a beautifully written piece about inspiring people who have been through awful circumstances with their kiddos.  Check it out here:  Those Who Have Gone Before Me.

I can be a pretty selfish guy, the kind that has the proclivity to think everything already revolves around me and if it doesn't than it should.

I say that to say this:  I have been inspired by the selflessness of our Framily.  If you're familiar with Gary Chapman's Five Love Languages, here are examples of each...

Words of Encouragement:

We got the sweetest note from a college friend who helped me the night we got engaged.  She and her family gather to pray for Maggie every night.  I'm not sure the last time we've seen her, it may have been her wedding.  But social media has allowed us to stay in touch and they are offering prayers from the East Cost.  Wow.

Acts of Service:

I haven't thought about (or had to think about) our house or food for our kids.  People have mowed the lawn, fed the dog, checked on this and that, and lined up meals for the kiddos and whoever is keeping them.  Multiple people have cared for The Big Three like they were their own.  Some of those people are blood-related, but not all.

Quality Time:

Some people drop by just to see the Minion and us and hang about for a bit.  Sometimes they have to wait for quite a while because of something going on in the room.  One friend came by yesterday with Torchy's Tacos for lunch and waited probably 90 minutes while we got some things settled.

Physical Touch:

While not exactly what Chapman meant, caring for our physical needs is a gift.  One Framily member said he can't cook brownies (that's his wife's doing), but he can exercise his nocturnal nature at the bedside while the Queen and I sleep.  Outside of a few nights where it was medically necessary for us to be here, he has taken shifts that have let us both get 5+ hours of sleep on any given night.

Gifts:

There have been gifts show up from the most incredible places.  Friends of friends bring by stuff because they have been following the story.  Old acquaintances send words of encouragement and other gifts.  It's all been amazing - so much so that when OT and PT come by, they don't bring anything to play with because the Minion has so much at her bedside.  A beautiful quilt showed up yesterday from ladies who have been praying and following along.  Incredible.


We are well-loved and do not walk alone.  Thank you one and all, those whose examples are mentioned and those who are not mentioned.  Most of all, thank you for your prayers and persistence in them.  The barrage heaven is receiving about Maggie's life is making a difference, "not overcoming [God's] reluctance but laying hold of His willingness" (Luther).

Speaking of prayer, here are some requests for the day:

1.  She may have a secondary infection elsewhere that is causing her some pain.  Please pray for a clear diagnosis and quick treatment.

2.  Left-side return, right-side vision restoration.

3.  I had the best 45 minutes with her yesterday while the Queen went to eat dinner with the Judge.  I'd love that 45 to turn into 120 or more.

4.  No new bad anythings.

5.  Her story to make a difference in people's lives, no matter how the chapters are written or the plot twists.

Thank you one and all.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Saturday Update and Prayer Requests and the Power of Hope

The Queen has already posted about the incredible Friday we had.  Thank you, Jesus.  Hope has the amazing ability to steel our resolve and boost our energy for the task at hand.  We're grateful for an injection of hope when it was much needed.

Some quick prayer requests for the morning:

1.  Ongoing recovery in her left side and right field of vision.

2.  Another good, happy, moments-of-Maggie day.  There were spots when she looked like her, not the kid who's been hospitalized for almost three weeks.

3.  No new bad news.  Nothing.  Zip.  Zilch.  Nada.  

4.  For the Big Three to know they're loved and cared for just as much as the Minion.  

5.  We got some news yesterday that one of the things we'd been looking forward to as a family is not going to happen.  We're disappointed but understand completely.  A specific prayer request on that:  we'd find the right thing to do in order to replace it and make memories as a family.

6.  For all who prayed for our VBS at church, some 300 kids were involved and 22 of them trusted Christ.  Awesome.  Please continue to pray for our church.  We have a big meeting this weekend about bring a children's pastor - someone I'm ridiculously excited about having on board.  You can ask for God's leadership to be clear.

Lastly, before all the insanity, I used to chase the Minion around the house saying, "I'm gonna getcha.  I'm gonna getcha.  I'm gonna getcha!"  She would run and flail and then bust into laughter.  

Well...

video

Friday, July 18, 2014

I love to watch her sleep

It's whatever time it is in the morning, still dark as night outside, and I can't help but think how much I love to watch my baby girl sleep.  After quite a day of struggle and fight, some peace comes with deeper breaths and closed eyes and a super-soft animal blanket covering legs and arms.

Peace.

Some prayer requests for the day:

1.  They are able to remove the EVD, the tube which is implanted in her head and helps drain extra fluid.  Apparently, it won't be pretty when they do.  But we're all ready for them to do it.  And if we can get that out, we are probably freed from PICU (assuming no other complications) and can move to the Progressive Care Unit (PCU).

2.  Ongoing answers to the questions that are still out there.  Are we 100% confident we have a diagnosis?  What kinds of treatment options do we pursue to fight against this happening again?

3.  No more bad news - no bleeds, no reactions, no clots, no infections, no irritation, no fussiness.  No bad news.

4.  There have been at least two families here that have done The Parade.  That's my term for it but it's horrible, terrifying to watch. The Parade is the line of people who are allowed back bedside to say goodbye.  I see that, I watch...and my sympathy for them turns into prayers and I'm scared as @#%@#$ because of where my little girl is laying right now.  I don't know names or situations, but you can pray for them too.

5.  And I'm serious about this:  please ask God's blessing upon all those who have blessed us.  We have docs, nurses, therapists, Framily near, and Framily afar that have stayed with us, watched over our kiddo, come by to check just because they care, allowed the Queen and I to walk to the cafeteria together, sat up late so we could sleep a bit, sent the kindest words of encouragement, provided food, cut our lawn, entertained The Big Three, washed and folded our underwear, and a thousand other things.  And most of all, they have stayed with us and not grown weary.  May God bless them in return - they have taken Jesus seriously when He said that it's better to give than receive.  And now may they be blessed and receive His blessings in return.

Sprint has this commercial right now about Framily - friends and family and friends-who-are-family (I only wish I was creative enough to have coined the phrase).  We don't have to have a commercial about it.  We are living it.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

What a Day

There comes a point, it seems, when people in tough situations go numb.  I'm pretty sure that experience was mine today (or yesterday, depending on when you're reading this).

We started the day out with some discomfort from not being able to eat.  The Minion had a sedated MRI, TEE (an echo of her heart, but from the inside of her throat), and the installation of a PICC line scheduled.  That all got going around 9:30 and ended around 1:00.

I was sitting in the cafeteria eating Chick-Fil-A when the call came from Neurosurgery:  "Mr. Henderson, are you nearby?  We need to speak with you."

Never. Good. News.

The news, as the Queen detailed on Facebook yesterday, was that the site of hemorrhage on the right had grown.  For those following the details, that also points to an infectious process as the cause of all the drama here.  Brain surgery #2, here we come.

But we had to wait.  And wait.  And wait.

And it didn't even make me mad.  I sat there mostly numb.  I was grateful that they were pulling a tumor out a kid's skull.  I even managed a nap in there.  That helped with the numbness.  4:00 became 5:30 became 6:00 became 7:00 which became 8:00 which became 8:30.  About 8:40 or so, she was off to have a biopsy and fluid evacuation of the right side bleed.

The same dang neurosurgeon was there again.  Wow.

They brought her straight back to her room so she did most of her recovery here.  That was stressful enough because she was having trouble with swelling and mucus in her throat from the intubation tube being there for 12+ hours.  At one point, the Queen and I found ourselves bossing the doctors around and pointing to numbers on the screen that, looking back, I'm sure they were aware of.  None of the medical professionals in the room seemed stressed.  The only stressed people were the patient and her parents, one of those more than the other.

If my daughter has surgery ever again, I don't think they want us too close when she starts coming out from anesthesia.  Maybe there's a recovery room where parents aren't given immediate access for a reason.

After an hour or so and some pain meds, things stabilized.  It's 2:00am and she's soundly asleep, breathing great and looking beautiful.

I have no idea what tomorrow holds.  But here are some prayer requests for tonight.

1.  Some good sleep for my two girls up here.  By the time most of you see this, it'll be a retro-prayer.  I only ask that you pray it anyway, knowing that God can work out the whole space-time continuum bit.

2.  Good left-side and right vision recovery.  The neurosurgeons thought that evacuating that fluid would really help the left-side recovery.  May it be.

3.  Ongoing clarity on what it all means.  The diagnosis is beginning to come into focus.  We want it laser-sharp so that we can deal with it appropriately.  We'll have to trust God for the all the implications of it, but we won't borrow tomorrow's trouble.

4.  The last day of VBS at our church.  Again, I know life is continuing outside the 180 sq.ft. that we currently occupy.  I hope all the kids and the volunteers encounter the eternal.

Thanks for praying with us.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tuesday Morning Prayer Requests and Update

It's been a pretty uneventful evening and night.  Outside of some general fussiness, the Minion has been doing okay.  Not much to report on that front.  As a dad, I wonder and worry about the state of her soul in moments like these.  Will she remember any of this?  Will she always hate nurses?  Will she be glad for or hate when daddy stroked her cheek while yet another amount of blood was drawn?

Or will it all be lost in the glorious forgetfulness of being two?

Quick Prayer Requests for the Morning:

1.  No new bad news:  clots, pressures, problems, complications, infections, etc.

2.  Ongoing recovery for her left side and right vision.

3.  From a dad's heart, I'm ready to hold my girl in my arms again.  That's not possible with some of the medically necessary stuff attached to her.  I'm ready to get past that medical necessity to holding her.

4.  Ongoing rest for us and the well-being of the other three kiddos.  I miss not being together.


There's a whole lot I don't understand about most of this.  A friend and fellow-minister called last night and asked about how we were doing and expressed his gratitude for us walking through this without bitterness and with faith.

I'm sure somewhere in the grief stages when we have some more emotional space to process and it's not all adrenaline and lab coats, we will wrestle with anger.  I won't speak for the Queen, but I haven't really wondered about the "Why" question.  I just know this is the path we're on.

My friend, Brad, has written a great piece about our experience this past Sunday morning.  The verse I shared with him that I thought best described our situation and the state of my heart was Psalm 77.19:
Your path led through the sea, Your way through the mighty waters, though Your footprints were not seen.
First, I'm so grateful for the psalms because they give me language that I don't have to say what needs to be said and describe what needs to be described.

Second, it's hard enough following God when His steps are easily seen.  These days when His footprints are obscured by what we cannot control leave our faith threadbare sometimes.  But I come back to what our Student Pastor preached the first Sunday after it all happened:  "Where else are we going to go?  You alone have the words of eternal life" (from John 6).  That doesn't always feel like robust faith.  In fact, sometimes it feels like, "I don't really have any other options, so I guess I'm sticking with You."  Thankfully, mustard seed, threadbare, no-other-options faith still qualifies.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Monday Morning Update and Prayer Requests

My wife has posted a quick update here:  The Queen's Blog.

Overnight has been a very full-throated, "Meh..." (to get the full effect, say it, shrug your shoulders, and raise one eyebrow, all at the same time - it'll give you the emotion I'm trying to communicate.  What's awesome is some of you just tried that and a few more reread it two times to make sure you were getting it all down at once).

The Minion has an IV in her right leg that is apparently hurting some when medicine comes through. Medicine comes through regularly.  You get the idea.  We are trying to move all medicinal fluids through her left leg but run the risk of it getting swollen again, reversing course on her slow recovery usage, and in general not going forward.

But she's sleeping right now.  She actually looks like herself right now.

But other times, her little face scrunches and a frown creases those precious lips and tears fall.  It is heart-breaking.

But her numbers are all pretty good.  I'm looking at the monitor right now, a skill I have regretfully developed, and the inter-cranial pressure is below 5, which is normal for you and me and good for those who have had "brain insults" (hello, least favorite term ever).

So..."Meh."

Prayer Requests:

1.  Pressure stays low.  Brain recovers.  No new "insults," bleeds, seizures, or anything else that's bad.

2.  Her blood chemistry would stay where it needs to be.  Sodium, in particular, needs to be close to or above 140.

3.  Our kids would have a great time at our church's VBS this week.  It's not lost on us that the world is continuing without us.  But I am praying for our kids and our church and this week.

4.  That her story would impact lives.  We've already heard of a few.  It would be like our Father and Defender of Orphans to redeem so much pain with so much transformation in others' lives.


I'm ready to do this again...


By the way, that's the Forge "Esse Quam Videri" shirt I mentioned yesterday.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Esse Quam Videri

I was razzed (not inappropriately, I might add) by the Queen about the Mr. Rogers nature of my last post versus her last post.  Truthfully, I was thinking about the blissful and sleeping child before me and the good morning we had.  I hadn't toured the long-term inpatient rehab floor.  I hadn't known to be so dang worried about the PVC's with her heart.

Therefore, it was a pretty good day in my neighborhood.  But no, the Queen wasn't being Eeyore.  In fact, it was almost prophetic.

The Minion had more episodes that we later determined were seizures throughout the day Saturday.  It was evident that something was wrong and a CT scan quickly brought even my blissfully ignorant outlook into a collision with medical realities I wish I didn't understand.

There was more swelling.

Maggie was put back in the PICU, neurosurgery was brought in, and they relieved some of the pressure via an inserted tube.  I'm sure the Queen can do medical justice to this.  Look for her post later.  She's trying to catch a few zzz's right now.

It was scary.

So prayer requests as I see them:

1.  We need NO pressure, pressure-related problems, new clots, new bleeds, or anything else.  

2.  We want the body to work as God intended and heal like God designed it to heal.

3.  We desire full restoration of her left side and vision.

4.  We wish that God would bless the doctors and nurses who have been so kind and the friends and family who have been amazing.  Where people have poured out, we want them to receive.


A year or so ago, I went and spoke to the Forge at Pine Cove, the leadership development program.  They gave me a super-awesome t-shirt and on the back it says, "Esse Quam Videri" which means "To be, not to seem."  When I put that t-shirt on this morning, it was a prayer for Maggie and us.  That she would actually be better, not just look better.  And that we would be people who lived out what we said was true, even when it is hard and faith is as thin as sewing thread.  

May we all be, not just seem.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Overall a pretty darn good day

Thanks to all who have prayed, visited, brought food, cared, emailed, texted, called, and loved us.  All in all, yesterday was a pretty darn good day.  It was so good, in fact, that I haven't had a chance to give any updates.

The scoop:

  • Maggie was awake a good portion of the day, alert and doing pretty well.
  • She tolerated therapy (speech, physical, and occupational) over the course of a couple of hours.
  • She ate well.
  • Her left eye seemed to be tracking more consistently.  Still a little fuzzy on the right one, it seems.
  • She took a really good nap late yesterday afternoon.  That involved me asking the nurse for a Do Not Disturb sign on the door.  No.  Really.  True story.
  • Her sodium levels have remained steady via the oral sodium doses throughout yesterday.  This means no IV fluids.  Yay!
  • She can eat basically whatever she wants and drink whatever she wants.
  • Yesterday evening, she was using her left arm a little bit - specifically resisting me when I was working with her.  She also fired her left quad and, in addition, lifted her whole left leg off the couch.  Those are both new milestones.
  • She just seems more content.


Prayer Requests:

  • As usual, a clear diagnosis.  Hematology ruled out the blood-clotting factors.  That was good news today...and still leaves us without a diagnosis.
  • Continued healing for her left side and right field of vision.
  • No heart abnormalities.  These PVC things pop up that can scare some parents of a heart baby.
  • No more "incidents," "insults," or "events."  I'm pretty sure I now hate all those words that medical professionals use to describe the life-changing experience we are living.
  • Steady levels for all the stuff they need:  sodium, potassium, and the rest of the periodic table they keep tabs on.
  • And one that qualifies as "wouldn't it be awesome" - I have been scheduled for 18+ months to speak at Pine Cove's Family Camp in a few weeks.  I know that Maggie has some inpatient rehab ahead of her.  But the Queen and I were talking about how awesome it would be to be able to get out and have a week to recoup, ALL 6 OF US.  We love Pine Cove and giving back to them, and this week could be a ministry to us as well.


Hope has an amazing ability to bring resolve and a sense of capacity.  We have had a heaping teaspoon of hope over the past couple of days.  I think the Queen and I both have a sense of resolve that we're going to get through this and a sense of capacity that God will give us what we need.

May it be, or...Amen.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Overnight Update: Like Breathing Air

Some great things seem to be happening in our little adventure.

Yesterday afternoon, we moved from the PICU to the intermediate care unit known as PCU (Progressive Care Unit).  That means our room looks more like a hospital room and less like a holding area.  We had some sweet friends come pray with us about the spiritual side of this, however it might be related.  With the Enemy's agenda to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10.10), the Queen asked them up in order to cover our girl completely.  It was a great time of intercession.

I think the Minion had the best day to date yesterday.  She was more alert.  Her eyes were wider open.  She seemed to track to the right past her midline.  She was more vocal.  And it looked like she fired her left arm and leg a few times.  She even recognized and sang (?) along to Let it Go with our friend.  (the fact that he sang along is a different story, but he's a dad-of-gals, so that explains a lot).

There is a lot of hope in all of that.

On our honeymoon, the Queen and I went to Mexico before it became CrazyLand.  One of the things we did while there was tour the cenotes, sink holes of fresh water.  One of them was about 25-30 feet deep and while snorkeling I thought I'd just swim down and look at this cool rock formation.

That was a great idea at the time.  The problem was, I ran out of air in my lungs and then remembered that I had about 25 feet of water to navigate above me before I could breathe again.  Scary moment for me, but it felt SO good when I broke the surface and gulped air.

Yesterday, with all the hope, was like that.  Air.  Breath.  Hope.

Prayer requests for the morning:

1.  No new medical "events" or stuff like that.  Protection for her.

2.  Ongoing recovery of sight and left-side usage.

3.  She has a blood draw this morning to track down some genetics-related questions.  Drawing blood has not been easy on anybody.

4.  The genetics-related studies they are now embarking on may or may not lead to an answer as to an underlying cause.  I don't pray we have a genetic issue.  But I do pray for an answer, a clear diagnosis.

Thank you all for standing in the gap, being beside us, rejoicing with us, crying with us, praying with us.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A few solid places but mostly holes

My friend asked me yesterday how I was holding in there.  I won’t speak for the Queen, because she does that so eloquently by herself, but I told him I felt like a sieve – a few solid places but mostly holes.  The roller-coaster life of PICU seems to beat more out of us than we knew we had.

Prayer Requests of the Morning:

1.  The docs gave us tough news yesterday regarding Maggie’s condition and recovery possibilities.  We want to be emotionally honest enough to accept those as reality while faith-filled enough to pray to the One who defines Reality.

2.  No more clots, “events,” or other medical issues. 

3.  That we get a definitive, no-doubts-left diagnosis.  This is, hands down, the most frustrating part right now.  If we don’t know what caused it, how can we prevent it in the future?

4.  That God would pour out His goodness, kindness, mercy, generosity, and love on those who have poured out their goodness, kindness, mercy, generosity, and love on us.  I type this as a dear friend-who-is-family drives home at 3am because he wanted to let us sleep a little.  One of a thousand examples.

5.  That Maggie’s story, no matter the plot of the future chapters, would be a testimony to...
God’s love
His concern for physical and spiritual orphans
His power
The true nature of His redeemed people, the church, among a culture and narrative that is fraught with skepticism, cynicism, and defensiveness

On that note, I want to get to the place where Psalm 69.6 is a prayer, pleading that we would live faithfully so as to bolster and not upset the faith of others.  “Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel.”


Honestly, those moments are few and far between.  Mostly I’m living in Psalm 71.12 – “O God, be not far from me; O my God, make haste to help me!”