Saturday, September 26, 2009

Running for a cause

Have you ever wanted to help support something that truly makes a difference in the world? Well, here's your chance. As you know, St. Jude's has played a huge part in our lives over the past year that our little Chunk has been a patient there. I know a lot of people have seen their commercials or telethons, radio-thons, etc., but I am not sure most people realize how amazing this place really is. Let me just tell you. They provide families with free housing in a place called the Target House, which is just 7-8 minutes from the hospital. The Target House is, by far, the most amazing place I have ever been to. They have a decked out playroom for the little kids, an amazing outside playground, a music room that is complete with every different video game system you can possibly imagine, a state of the art workout room, a pool table, dining hall, a constant stream of celebrity guests and individual apartment-like rooms for the families. They provide free shuttle service to all sorts of different places for those who do not have their own form of transportation. They give you a Kroger grocery card worth 100$ each week or a meal card if you are inpatient at the hospital. Their food court is amazing and includes but is not limited to a fish bar, mexican bar, gelato station and weight watchers selections. They provide any and all prescription medications at no cost to the patient as well as complete medical care at no cost. And, well, that's really just the beginning. I mean, I could go on and on about this place, it is simply amazing. And here's the thing, in the midst of all of this they have the top researchers desperately trying to find a cure for childhood cancer. They are constantly making huge advances in the world of medicine and their passion for these kids is astounding. Because they provide all of their services free, fundraising is their main avenue for income. Here is where you can make a difference. There is a marathon coming up in December called the Memphis Marathon. It is a fundraising effort for St. Jude's and goes right to the research that is needed to find a cure for these children that are battling through cancer. I signed up for the half-marathon, which is 13 miles, and have been training for about six months now. I have a fundraising page and you can donate to St. Jude's with just the click of a button. It is fully tax deductible and you also have the privilege of knowing that you are helping children just like our little Chunks-a-lot. So, whether it's just a couple of dollars or 50 dollars, it doesn't matter....every penny helps. Please check out our fundraising page and help make a difference! McKaylee's Miracle

Monday, September 21, 2009

The mosquito

Sometimes God works in small ways, not always the big, obvious, in your face kind of, sometimes it's something so simple and subtle you can just about miss it.

Throughout this journey through sickness with my little Chunks-a-lot, God has shown Himself to me in enormous ways. The fall off the bed that led to the discovery of her tumor which, in turn, actually saved her life. Yeah, that's pretty big and obvious and humbled me to my core. And there were countless things, too many to list, that happened while we were at St. Jude's that were undeniably the Hand of God intervening on behalf of our little girl. But as I get lost in the everyday ho-hum of this new "normal" life that I have come to know, sometimes I forget to notice the little ways that show me how very present Jesus Christ still is in our lives.

My little Chunks-a-lot has a problem. Well, she has many but this particular problem involves a particular annoying parasite. The dreaded mosquito. She seems to have some sort of over-reaction to the bite of a mosquito; I have been told this is called "Skeeter Syndrome" but I'm not sure how accurate that really is. Well, skeeter syndrome or not, when she gets bitten, an enormous welt appears and can grow to be as big as her little hand. The bite actually bubbles up so big that it eventually pops and leaves a scar behind. The itching she experiences is extremely intense and actually brings her to tears. A mosquito bite is, therefore, a big deal in our family. Being unusually attracted to her, if I see a mosquito around, I go nuts slapping my hands together, trying to kill and destroy. Yes, I can get quite intense when someone or something tries to mess with my children.

Last week, my husband noticed a small mosquito that had somehow made its way into our home. We spent a ridiculous amount of time "hunting" this tiny insect, but to no avail. I actually got angry about the situation knowing that it would find its way up to her room and attack her while she slept. I am not just imagining the worst case scenario, this has actually happened before....just so you don't think I am totally nuts (debatable). We finally gave up trying to win this battle against the sneaky mosquito, put the children to bed and plopped on the couch for a movie. As ten o'clock rounded the corner, we decided to clean up and call it a night. As I was going around picking up left-behind toys and library books, I noticed my husband's ice cream bowl still sitting on the floor by the couch. He had devoured it, so nothing was left but the sticky residue that now lined the bowl. I reached down to pick it up and a smile crept upon my face when I looked inside. That pesky little mosquito in all his greediness had gotten himself stuck in the ice cream residue inside the bowl and had died there. And it was kind of one of those moments where you don't say anything out loud because you really can't put into words what it is you're feeling.....but it's something. And for me it was this odd feeling of knowing that God was still protecting her. And maybe that sounds silly, I mean it was something as simple as a mosquito, but to me it was just a reminder. We might be far removed from the battles we fought at St. Jude's and we might not fight through every day the way we used to but that doesn't mean that He's not still there---watching.... guiding....protecting. And it made me realize how often little things like this probably happen all the time and I just don't even notice them. My life is too normal, she is so healthy, things are so simple now and I don't look for the presence of God the way that I used to. But He is still there and I felt like He wanted me to know that. For in the hard days, He came to our aide in the form of peace, healing, comfort and mercy and those moments in my spiritual walk have changed my life forever. I mean, He was there, He was with us, He was holding our hand each step of the way and we knew it. But now as we settle back into our routines, as life becomes busy and our biggest fear is potty-training, we might not feel that overwhelming presence; but only because we sub-consciously think we don't need it as much anymore. And I think it's just awesome that even in our every day lives, He's still there watching over us. Sometimes giving us little reminders that He is not just watching over us during the darkness, but He's protecting us in the light, as well.
" Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place, No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone. You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot. Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, And show him My salvation.” Psalms 91:9-16

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The power of pain

As much as you would think this wonderful normalcy of life would help me forget the tragedy of cancer that still surrounds me, I just can't seem to let go of my memories, my fears and my pain. There is not one day that passes that I do not consider the sobering reality that I might lose my precious little girl one day. I know that sounds pessimistic and probably a little depressing, but it's true. I look at her, at her smile, her beautiful blue eyes, her chunky little rolls and it just hurts my heart. I often think, "How long do we get to keep her like this?", so happy, so healthy so amazingly "normal". The other day while Talks-a-lot was at school, I dropped Chunks-a-lot off at her grandma's house so she could play. I had some errands to run and was a little excited at the prospect of actually having some alone time. But for some reason, as I sat in my car, the silence overwhelmed me. All I could think about was, "this is what it would be like to not have her". No laughter coming from the backseat, no imaginary princesses, no made-up stories about butterflies....just utter silence. I got really choked up and a little irritated that I was experiencing this rush of emotions. It was my time and I thought that meant escaping reality for a moment and refilling my "mommy patience meter". Instead, I found myself face to face with the reality that I often deathly fear. The pain was overwhelming, the lump that formed in my throat seemed to almost burn a hole in my breath, tears streamed down my face as I quietly questioned God's timing on allowing me to feel this pain. I guess there's a part of me that thinks I should get to control when I feel things. I often think, "We've been through enough, we need a break.", and as true as that might be, God's intentions for allowing pain in our lives is for our good.....and ultimately for His glory. This is a concept I have wrestled with a lot lately. How can something be for God's glory if it physically and emotionally hurts so badly? How can this glorify Him? And the answer to this question came to me in a way I would have never seen coming.

Talks and Chunks-a-lot had been playing on an indoor playground at Chick-fil-a the other day and after making many climbs up the plastic slide, Talks-a-lot had quite an impressive raw spot on both of his knees. Later that evening, as he got in the shower, I heard a yelp followed by loud crying coming from our upstairs bathroom. I ran up to see if he was okay and realized that when the water from the shower hit those raw spots on his knees, it burned and he was not too happy about it. With much whining and moaning, Talks-a-lot made it through his painful shower and had a bone to pick with me afterwards. He told me that he wished he didn't have to feel physical pain. I understood this remark but reminded him that pain helps to alert us that there is something we need to pay attention to. A strained muscle alerts you to take a break from exercising, the pain from breaking a bone helps you to make the decision to go to the hospital, and on and on the examples go. Talks-a-lot did not seem satisfied with this response and kept pushing the fantasy of not having to feel anything. The conversation went back and forth for awhile and finally I said, "God created us this way for a reason. He knew that we needed to feel pain to help us......" my voice trailed off. Have you ever seen someone throw a brick into somebody else's face? Neither have I, but that is exactly how I felt at that moment. Boom....thud. It just hit me like a ton of bricks. All of this pain and trauma that God has allowed in our lives is for our own good. To shape us, to change us, to bring us into a closer communion with Him. And maybe that all sounds like a "sunday school answer" but it's not. I can look at my life before all of this happened and compare it with life as I know it today and there is a stark contrast. God has managed to gain my vulnerability, my trust, my faith and my conscience. And I believe that the tragedy we are going through right now is the only way any of this could have been accomplished. And as much as it hurts, as much pain as it brings to my heart, I know that one day I will look back and see how God used this pain to forever change our lives. Sure, it has broken us down, made our hearts grow weary, created a raw spot, but this pain makes us keep fighting. It reminds us of the battle we are in, it keeps us from growing too content in our everyday lives, it always leaves us hungry for a deeper walk with Christ. We are weak with this pain, we are fatigued from this fight and that is just how He wants us. For in our weakness, He is strong. It's like I finally understood what that means and it sent chills down my spine. He allows this pain to bring us to Him so we can share in the beautiful eternity He has created for us. And in that reality, there is love in the pain He allows and something about that comforts me.
As I sat back with this brick of knowledge that God had so creatively placed in my lap, I felt so thankful for this journey. The tears and pain it has brought will never compare to the lives it has changed, mine included. What's a little raw spot if it means you get to follow your Savior home?
This pain has created weakness in my once-thought ability to be self-sufficient and so I turn to Him. Knowing that there is no way I could ever do this on my own, finally realizing that His strength, His grace, His mercy are made perfect in my pain.
"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." II Corinthians 12:9