story

Jul01

Featurette: The Little Kite Runner

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Photo by Krista Law

It was one of those Chamber of Commerce  autumn days in Colorado – the kind that makes you know God loves you so much to allow you to live here.  The skies were crystal blue and there was a slight chill in the air.  The park near our house had a big open field and I thought it might be perfect to try out the new kite my 4 year old son had gotten from his Dad.  So I bundled up my son and his 2 ½ year old sister and we headed to the park, a short walk from our house. 

Having arrived with everything , I proceeded to explain to my son that he had to run real fast so the wind would catch the kite and the it would lift it high in the air.  The work of running had to be done first to get it to catch on the air.  This required help so after watching him try so hard to create the lift, I began running beside him and letting the tension of the string loose at the right time.

Finally, the kite caught on the air and up it went into the heavens, circling and dipping on the air currents.  A little thing brought such great joy to the little boy.

The perfect day was even better as we 3 watched the kite sail.  With a little persuasion from me, he even relinquished the string long enough to allow his little sister to hold it.

It’s funny how certain times stick in your brain and bring a smile to your face, 34 years later.  As I watched him continue to hold the end of the string and look with wonder at the kite caught on the breeze, God brought a thought to my mind.  My little boy was the kite, I was the string holding on to the kite, and God was the wind that lifted it into the air.  It was very necessary for God to hold my little boy up, to help him grow into a good man.  Running alongside him that day, I realized we were a team, God, me and the little boy.  What a joyful thought!

Psalm 127:3:  Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.

Submitted by LaRue Fleming

May28

Don’t Worry Too Much: Part 2

*A continuation of Shauna’s story which began in Don’t Worry Too Much: Part 1

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It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Not this time around. We were older now, wiser even and far more engaged in our own story together than ever before. Though we had always imagined we would have four children, life took some twists and turns when the youngest of our three older daughters turned two so we decided to hold off on solidifying that dream. We needed the waves of chaos to recede long enough to catch our breath and sort out where we were headed to next. It took us nearly six years of processing life, healing and rebuilding enough to determine that having one more child was indeed the desire of our hearts.

I don’t think I was surprised when the details of this narrative began to reveal that nothing would actually go according to the initial plans I had formulated and held loosely in my own mind. I learned early on that there would be no chance for a home birth given Colorado laws attempting to prevent high risk deliveries from occurring outside of a hospital setting. Having had a caesarean section with our second daughter relegated me to the non-negotiable high risk category. I was still hopeful at that point to at least see my midwife throughout my pregnancy as opposed to the standard OB/GYN Doctor. My last visit with her came shortly after I was diagnosed with placenta previa. I remember her reflecting on the early years of her midwifery work where she assisted countless catholic women who had multiple ceseareans. She was trying to comfort me with her assurance that it was unlikely that my placenta previa was a result of accreta (a condition where the placenta attaches too deeply into the uterine wall and in rare cases attaches to other organs outside of the uterus). This condition was treated like the plague by nearly every medical professional I had conversed with, but she didn’t seem all that concerned. She said in all of those years of working with women who had experienced numerous c-sections she had never once witnessed accreta. I tried really hard to find comfort in her words throughout the remaining 20 weeks of countless appointments, but every ultrasound remained inconclusive. So we simply had to wait. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The doctor responsible for performing the cesarean even said so that very morning. He was a specialist, trained to conduct these types of risky deliveries, and he affirmed what my OB had already indicated – that given the fact that my placenta never migrated up the uterine wall throughout the duration of the pregnancy there was a 25% chance that I had accreta. But he was feeling hopeful that morning and he said so as my three nervous daughters and terrified husband gathered around my hospital bed just before the surgery. He assured us that he was taking extra precautions that morning, however, and had ordered four units of blood to be ready if needed. But he was hopeful and I was prayerful.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. I could tell something was wrong. It was taking too long. The stated plan was that once he got in there and was able to inspect my uterus we would know if he’d be able to take the baby out while I was still conscious. We had already been in the operating room for nearly an hour and I hadn’t yet been able to lay eyes on my baby or hear those first precious cries. The doctor was sweating profusely and had quit making small talk. I looked at my mom, not wanting to worry my husband unnecessarily (he had already nearly passed out prior the start of the surgery), and asked her if she could tell what was causing the delay. It was only moments after I made that inquiry, when panic seemed to ensue all around me. Doctors and nurses flooded the room, the temperature rose dramatically and some nurses began furiously trying to adjust the thermostat, someone was calling for another anesthesiologist and then I knew…it wasn’t supposed to be this way. They ushered Brian and my mother out the door and all I could do was release a quick “I love you” in the midst of the chaos just before it all went black.

The next thing I remember was trying desperately to wake up so I could figure out what was going on. I was in a different room and I was hooked up to all sorts of machines making all sorts of noises. Everything was hazy…until I heard her name. Briella. It was the first time I heard her name spoken as an indication that she was really here. My mind was struggling to hold onto the reality that I had delivered my forth child and that she was another precious baby girl. I fought that cloud of darkness with a longing that only a mother can know. I wanted to hold her, to see her, to smell her, to know her. So I fought tirelessly to keep my eyes from closing and there she was before me.

She was real. She was alive. I was breathing through a tube and I didn’t understand why, but she was here. That is all that mattered in those moments that Brian held her up to my face. I stroked her head as best as I could with my own cheek and she began to coo. It was a miracle. She was a miracle. I was a miracle. Maybe it was supposed to be this way.

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Time became a strange thing that day. In moments it seemed to stand still, in others it raced right on by. I’m not sure of the passage of time that occurred between those blissful moments of greeting Briella and when Faith and Bailey entered the room, their eyes searching my own for reassurance. The ventilator robbed me of a voice while the drugs continued to cloud my mind. All I could think to do was give them a thumbs up and squeeze each of their hands three times – our code for “I love you.” I later learned that poor Krisalyn was too frightened to enter my hospital room. My poor babies. All four of them.

Eventually the propofol became too much for my tired and traumatized body to resist. It had to have been evening which meant that it had been a full day since I had arrived at 6:30 that morning. I somehow knew that my own mother was in the room, resting in a chair behind me. I felt comfort in her presence as I tried to surrender to that damn tube in my throat. The rhythm of the machines became hypnotic as I drifted to an entirely different state of consciousness. I thought to myself in that moment, “It is finished.” I still wasn’t clear on what had happened and why I was in the ICU but I knew that Briella was safe and that I was still here. It was enough peace of mind to welcome the sleep I knew I needed.

And then the gush came. There is no other way to describe it. It was a warm gush of fluid, spreading upon the bedding beneath my immovable body. But what was it? Hadn’t I already had a baby? So that meant it couldn’t have been my water breaking. And I assumed that since I was in the condition I was in that I must have had the dreaded accreta which would have necessitated a hysterectomy. Was it even possible to be bleeding if I didn’t have a uterus any longer? I couldn’t make any sense of the experience. Perhaps I was hallucinating – God knows I was on enough drugs to make that a likely scenario. But something inside of me knew it wasn’t supposed to be like this. 

 

May20

Community

Margot’s story has had a significant impact on others. This was evident through the comments on the blog, social media, and the personal conversations that have taken place since she shared. Through her vulnerability, we have witnessed almost a communal act. The way this new community supported and engaged Margot’s story was beautiful. Even though most of our stories differ from hers, we all seem to have formed a connection through her sharing. A huge thank you to Margot for gifting us with her story.

A Message for Margot;

Your willingness to share has inspired so many. Some you know, but many you don’t. We would love to honor you and highlight just a few of the comments that were made as a result of you sharing. Thank you for inviting us into a portion of your story. Thank you for touching our lives.

  • This is amazing! Thank you Margot! I now better understand the friend I want to be to my friends who share your battle! Thank you! -Stefanie
  • I love how connected I feel to Margot, even though I have not gone through anything similar. Her story has touched my life. Thank you for sharing it. -Courtney
  • Beautiful, she sounds amazing!!!! -Kacey
  • It amazes me how close I can feel to someone I don’t know. Thank you Margot for sharing your story, because I felt like you shared mine. I hope I can bless someone like you have blessed me. -Jennifer
  • My niece was recently diagnosed with MS and I wish I would have read this long before, and I would have listened more. Thank you for teaching me so much about love. God Bless you. -Beth
  • I’m sorry for your diagnosis Margot. Two years ago, I was diagnosed with CIDP. It is a disease similar to MS, but it affects only the peripheral nerves. I currently use a cane. These diseases are very scary, and I will pray that you will be restored to full health. -Abigail
  • In tears reading the story of my best friend Margot! She has endured so many hardships in this life, yet has allowed it to make her stronger! She is such a light in my life and such a constant support and encourager! She continues to love others well admits her personal struggles and her wittiness creates infectious laughter whenever you’re in her presence! Love you Margot! Thank you for your vulnerability in sharing your story! -Olivia
  • Inspiring! Thank you for sharing your story! -Heather
  • Margot. You are an inspiration to so many people! Thank you for sharing your story. I am so proud if you. -Patty

 

 

 

May16

Sweat Happens

At church this past week, I was given the opportunity to deliver some encouraging words to women on Mother’s Day.  I had taken a couple of days and consulted with a few peers and figured out exactly what I wanted to say during the three to five minutes I would be on stage.  Talking about anything and everything comes natural to me.  However, talking specifics does not.  So, I find it much more challenging to speak for five minutes than for fifty.  And because communicating a clear message in a short amount of time requires precise, ordered and efficient wording, I have to write down exactly what to say and then memorize what I wrote.

Having grown up attending Sunday School and AWANAs each week and private Christian schools through tenth grade, I was consistently asked to memorize verses with the promise of being rewarded lucratively with candy or trinkets.  And because I am part raccoon, I always rose to the challenge.  So, memorizing a one-page script is not new to me.  And yet, delivering words from memory is so much more anxiety provoking than following a general outline.

What if I forget and have to look at my paper and can’t find where I left off and I repeat myself or skip entire sections and stand there turning red and people stare with gaping mouths wondering what I’m going to do next?

So, to limit the possibilities of that nightmare becoming reality, I decided to get up early and walk the two miles to church so that I could have the time and fresh air to rehearse what I needed to say.  Seattle in the spring is beautiful and chaotic.  You never know from one day to the next whether you will be wearing your winter parka, a scarf and gloves like I did last week, or if you will be scrounging around for an outfit with the least amount of material so you can endure the eighty-degree heat and no air conditioning, like I did yesterday.  While I knew that it was going to be sunny on Mother’s Day, I also left early enough in the morning that I needed my scarf and jacket to cover over my thin dress and keep me warm.

The early morning stroll provided just what I needed.  I was getting Vitamin D, my endorphins were flowing, my memory felt crisp and sharp.  I walked a little faster than I planned and got to church a few minutes early.  So, I took one final lap around the block to practice one more time.  When I came around the corner and was then facing the sun, I finally realized that I needed to take off my scarf and jacket.  After I took off my scarf and put it in my purse, I unzipped my jacket to find sweat had pooled under the scarf on my chest and seeped into my V-necked dress.  There was a U-shaped dark spot right where the wrap of the dress met.  My zen-like state that I had just experienced was evaporated in an instant.  O, how I wish the sweat would have done the same thing.

I snuck into church unnoticed since it was still early and rushed to the restroom that is more like your bathroom at home than a public restroom.  I shut and locked the door and looked in the mirror.  To my horror, everywhere I had sweat was darker than the rest of the dress: my armpits, my chest, my back between my shoulders, and above my tailbone.  In mere moments, I was supposed to walk in front of a congregation with my back to them and present myself on stage.

Since I was alone in the bathroom, I took off my dress and started waving it in the air.  Back and forth, back and forth I was willing it to dry.  It was no use, even if it dried it would leave a stain.  I quickly called Karl and told him to come to church and bring me another dress!  Of course, he was at home getting the kids ready by himself while wrapping Mother’s Day gifts and prepping for our after-church celebration.  However, I thought he would still be able to get there before 9:30 AM when the service started.  I paced outside (in the shade) trying to keep my backside from being seen and covering my front side with my scarf.  Finally, at 9:31 AM, he arrived with a dress in hand.

I scrambled to change as quickly as I could and proceeded to the front of the church to wait.  Praise be to sweet Jesus, the worship music gave me enough time to practice my four-square breathing to try and calm myself and get back to the ease I had on my walk.  I tried to ground myself in gratitude and praise in order to think straight.

Thankfully, I was so passionate about the message I wanted to communicate that my delivery didn’t betray me.  My wardrobe failure didn’t rob me of enthusiasm.  Anxiety tried to win, but my heart rose to the challenge.  Sweat defeat? Nah…Sweet victory!

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May09

Twinkies and Ho Hos

Earlier this week, we were graciously blessed to have Margot Hale share her story with us.  She described how she discovered and subsequently was diagnosed with MS at age 27.  Take a moment to read about how a life full of struggle has yielded so much strength and beauty.

I was captivated reading her story.  And there was one particular paragraph wherein I could immediately identify myself.  When Shauna asked why people responded to Margot’s MS diagnosis in seemingly ignorant and callous ways, Margot says,

I get it. It’s hard to see people hurting. And it’s hard to not have something to offer. You feel dumb. But all I really wanted was for people to say, “I am walking alongside you.” I didn’t need people to tell me to be thankful for what I had and thankful for it not being something more life-threatening. I’ve learned that it is really hard for all of us to just be quiet, to listen, or to simply respond to the people we see going through pain with a heartfelt, “I’m sorry…this sucks!”

That’s me.  It’s a struggle for me to see people hurting.  I feel like a burden if I don’t have something to offer.  Saying, “I’m sorry for your loss” just doesn’t feel like enough.  And yet, I believe Margot.  I believe she has put words to what many can’t or don’t know to say.  Be quiet.  Just listen.  Bring your heart, not your words.

And I’d like to add, if you pass a grocery story on the way, bring Twinkies too.

While I have notoriously used too many words in the face of  loss, I can attest that one time, I did bring my heart…and a box of Twinkies.  When I was a very young adult, a dear friend of mine lost a family member.  It was the first time in my life that I had to watch a friend suffer the agonizing pain of loss.  I knew nothing other than I wanted to be near her and with her and offer comfort.  However, I’d learned by then that my words would not bring comfort.  But I thought, “What would bring comfort to me if I were suffering?”  And then it came to me: Twinkies!!!  I don’t know why I thought a yellow, capsule-shaped squishy pound cake stuffed with cream filling would be comforting, but I followed my heart and brought over a whole box.

Looking back, my heart was telling me to grab the box of Twinkies because if you’re eating Twinkies, you can’t talk.  I didn’t want to be a burden, I wanted to be a support.  I didn’t want to say the wrong thing, but I didn’t want to be absent, either.  Of course I couldn’t lessen the pain of loss by showing up with something as ludicrous as a trans-fattened, high-fructose corn syrupped, poly-sorbated chemical compound, but at least I couldn’t make things worse if I just ate and didn’t say the wrong thing.

Turns out, the Twinkies were for me.  My quiet presence in her home and by her side was an attempt to share the burden of my friend.  But I don’t think I could have had one without the other.  So, we do what it takes to offer the care, compassion and kindness someone enduring pain needs.  Margot reminded us, it’s our hearts they need, not our words.  And if Twinkies don’t help, try Ho Hos.