Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Thanks Giving Post

Thanksgiving is tomorrow.  Every year, people are brought around a table of food, prepared with love, to remember all the blessings we are given in this life....both spiritual and physical.  There are too many blessings in my life to really name them all.  But there are the obvious ones. 
Mateo's continued health is something our whole family is very grateful for.  I know so many heart families are spending their Thanksgiving either in a hospital room with their little loved one or at the Ronald McDonald house, eating a meal so graciously donated by someone else.  Either way, they are away from family.  From one heart family to all the other heart parents, we know what you're going through and we pray for swift recoveries and that you'll all be home soon.

Our family is always thankful for all the support and love from our brothers and sisters in Christ at our local congregation.  God knew exactly where we needed to be, and when we needed to be there.  We stumbled on our local church one day, shortly after arriving in Florida.  We were out looking for a house on a listing we recieved from our realtor.  We never found that house, but we found the church home where we belonged.  We have had an over-abundance of care, concern, kindness and generosity since we set foot in the church in Brandon.  We know we are loved and while we're away from blood family year after year, we always have a spiritual family that we know we can count on.  They have been with us through every up and down since Mateo was born.  The waiting room was filled with concerned friends, laden with coffee and sweets, at every surgery Mateo had.  We recieved phone calls, cards, emails, facebook messages....all too many to count.  Our brothers and sisters went to God in prayer numerous times on our behalf...holding special prayer services for Mateo and our wonderful "drive-thru" prayer meetings.  We have been lifted up in prayer so many times by those in Christ, and God has heard. 

We've also had an abundance of support from friends in the community.  They also have prayed for us many, many times and are always quick with a text to see how we're doing.  The boys and I have had several invitations to Thanksgiving meals...everyone wanting to make sure we're not alone for the holiday.  Nearly two weeks ago, we participated in the annual Tampa Bay Heart Walk.  This is the 4th year we have participated and I think the event gets bigger every year.  There was an estimated 30,000 at the event this year!  Our little community team is such a big encouragment to me.  There are businesses that have hundreds, or maybe thousands, of participants for their company and raise tens of thousands of dollars.  Our individual team of 20 or so raised over $2500 in support of the American Heart Association.  I'm so proud of our team and feel so blessed to have so many people care about us as much as they do.  Our team doesn't consist of just those who came out to walk, but also includes all those that donated and helped spread the word.  They showed their support for us and an organization that will one day help cure, prevent or permanently repair CHDs.  I feel like my heart fills my chest with gratitude when I think of all our friends that have helped us out year after year.  I love you all so much.

I am thankful for my family in Wisconsin.  They are so far away but so close in heart.  My mom and I could chat on the phone for over an hour almost every day...we never run out of things to talk about.  She's the first one I want to call when ANYthing happens in life, good or bad.  My dad, while not much of a phone talker, is always with me in thought.  I am the way that I am because of much of what he taught me growing up.  Many of my decisions are based on some principle he taught me, which I know are also based in God.  Something I will always be grateful to my parents for is making sure that we were taught the truth.  They have definitely "trained up a child" with me and while I am trying to do the work to know God, they are the ones that set me in that direction.  

I love my sisters...and while they are going through their own trials now, I hope and pray they find their solution in Christ.  They are beautiful girls with so much to offer and during my visit last summer, I enjoyed every moment I got to spend with them.  My brother, who I don't get to talk to nearly enough, is funny and gives the best (and sometimes painful LOL) bear hugs.  He works hard for his family and also is trying to bring up his boys to know the LORD.

I have gotten to know my sister-in-law much better over the years that her and my brother have been married and I'm thankful for our relationship.  I hope that we can be closer as the years go on.  She has been a help to me by giving me great advice when I wanted it and encouragment when I desperately needed it.  She has inspired me by her diligence to grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord and has been a good example of what a Christian wife, mother and friend should look like.  One of the smartest things my brother has ever done was marry that girl!  I am really looking forward to being with them all for the upcoming holiday season.  I'm hopeful that when our family moves closer next year, we'll be able to see one another much more often and develop deeper relationships.

 I am also thankful for our most recent addition to our family...a healthy little boy we named Mason.  He is a red-headed spit-fire.  He is determined and stubborn.  He is also sweet and cuddly.  He is in to everything and can't wait to be just like his big brother.

He has such a personality.  He laughs at everything Mateo does and follows him around like a lost little puppy.  He mimics everything Mateo does too.  They have screaming matches on a daily basis...mostly just because screaming is fun.  They laugh together and play together.  So I'm also thankful for their relationship.  Mateo is SO GOOD with Mason.  There are not enough words to describe how good he is with Mason.  For a 4 year old, he is so patient and gentle, it amazes me every day.  I never knew a 4 year old and a "less than 1" year old could play so well together. And Mason ADORES Mateo.  The adoration in his eyes when he looks at Mateo is evident.  He watches him constantly and has to be near him all the time.  Its so sweet and melts my heart.
I also thank God for my husband.  Our marriage and relationship has been put through the ringer several times and we always come out of it stronger and healthier than when the trial started.  We love each other, we respect each other, and we support each other.  Mel balances out our relationship so well.  When I tend to be over-cautious, frenzied and impatient, he is thoughtful, calm and VERY patient.  We are a team and Mel has been there to keep our family afloat during some seriously scary times.  He is our rock and God has blessed me with one of the best out there.  I am blessed to be with a man that wants to know God more closely and wants to lead our family in that direction as well.  He is an amazing father who has an amazing love for his children.  
I know this list could go on and on but I'm going to end it here.  We have been given a wonderful life.  We've had our moments of trial, but even that is a blessing in disguise.  Through our trials we are able to really appreciate the good times.  Through our trials, we can bless others and comfort those who are going through something we've been through ourselves.  God tells us in James that our trials are to strengthen our faith.  Give us more endurance.  Make us complete and mature in Him.  He also tells us in 2 Corinthians that he comforts us in our trials so that we may know how to comfort others when they are enduring what we've already endured.  What a blessing.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Joy Comes With The Morning

"I hate heart disease.  I hate CHDs.  I hate HLHS.  Hate.  Hate.  Hate."  That's what was swimming around in my head this evening on the way home from dinner.  We had been having a great time together as a family, and the smallest of things completely stole my joy and left me with a bitter, twisted disgust in the pit of my stomach.  Mel has been home for a few weeks now from Korea.  We've been enjoying every second together, being able to be a whole and complete family again.  We had a fantastic dinner out with the kids and were headed home.  We had the radio on and Mateo's favorite song came on and he asked me to turn it up.  So I did and we all started singing along.  I LOVE listening to Mateo sing.  He has the sweetest little voice and he gets all the words wrong and it makes my heart smile so big, it shines.  And in the middle of that moment...feeling all shiny and happy.....I looked at Mateo's happy, sweet face and felt a stab to my heart.  Fear suddenly trickled out of my veins and into every cell of my body.  Sadness rushed in and I silently pleaded with God to let Mateo have several thousand more nights like tonight.  To just be happy.  To just sing and be happy.  To be innocent.  To be in the car with his family, singing and feeling safe and secure.  To not know another hospital bed anytime too soon.  And just as swiftly as the fear had come in, it was replaced with anger and hate.  And all I could think was "I HATE HLHS".  That it could so quickly come out of nowhere and rob me of that sweet innocent moment, watching my son just enjoy life, and leave me feeling sick to my stomach.  But its the reality of our situation.  We enjoy every second we have with our kids because we don't know if it will be our last.  If tomorrow is the day the other shoe drops.  We try not to live in fear.  We try to just enjoy the moment.  But it does catch up with us every now and the most inconvenient of times. 

I have blogged about this many times before....only because it is so very real.  It is scary.  To know that Mateo is growing up.  That he won't be my little boy forever.  That the bigger he grows, the harder it is on his heart.  And all we can do is hope and pray that his heart is strong, stays strong and holds out until......until what?  We really don't know.  Until they find a cure?  Until they find a permanent fix?  I don't know.  Just.....until.  It is hard not to fear the unknown.  Its a big, bottomless pit.  As heart parents, we just want to know that our children will be alright.  That even if the Lord does call them home too soon, that it will be swift, painless and not mean days, weeks, or months of fighting for each breath, suffering and enduring pain in a sterile white hospital room.  Its hard knowing that your child is NOT alright.  Yes, Mateo is fine and healthy and doing so wonderfully well right now.  But that is right now.  After all he's been through, he still only has half of his heart.  And its doing all the work of a whole heart.  Its bound to wear out at some point.  But when?  Next week?  Next year?  In 5 years?  10 years?  20 years?  Will there be a fix for it?  Will he live a normal adult life?  Will he even reach adulthood?  How many hiccups will there be along the way?  We KNOW there will be something to fix eventually...whether its a valve that needs replacing or a pace maker placement or an artery that needs widening.....or a million other things.  What we don't know, is if its going to be a major issue or just a bump in the road.  And so, again, I HATE HLHS. 

But then....we can always find a light in the dark if we look for it.  I so often have to turn to God's word when I feel like this.  I cannot crawl out of this pit on my own.  It threatens to swallow me whole and God's promises are the only thing I can cling to, even if I'm barely holding on...clinging to them by the tips of my fingernails. 

Tonight, I felt despair as we pulled into the driveway.  Of course, I was still smiling big and singing along with Mateo, but my inner joy was replaced by hate and despair.  And so after everyone is in bed, I turn my bible to Psalms.  There is so much hope in those pages.  Thank you LORD for including them.  I think a lot of people would be lost in their despair if Psalms hadn't existed.  How can these words NOT uplift me? 

"When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.  In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid..." 
"Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by.  I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me." 
"Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds." 
"Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!  For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm." 
"From where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds.....Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine.  Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.  For our heart is glad in him because we trust in his holy name." 
"Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!" 
"Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning."

These words mean so much for me.  God sees us.  He sees me.  He sees Mateo.  He sees my fears, my hopes, my despair.  He loves me and He loves Mateo.  He knows what we feel.  He created me and knows me inside and out.  And he has given us hope.  Joy comes with the morning.  He is in control. 

And so the fear melts away and I can begin to breathe again.  What a feeling it is to release all those negative feelings.  Let the Lord take them away.  Cast your cares on him.  To unburden yourself and give the control over to God is a life saver.  I know this is momentary.  It will last only awhile....until something else happens to steal my joy by reminding me that I'm not in control of Mateo's future and that I don't know how it will turn out.  But that's the wonderful thing about freedom of religion.  I have a bible in every room of my house and can even read it on my Kindle in the dark, while nursing Mason back to sleep for the zillionth time at night.  Its always there for me to turn to in those moments of despair.  So tomorrow, I will get to enjoy my Tuesday with Mateo.  I get to find joy in the little things again.  I love taking him to school.  I love watching him with his friends.  I love how his 4 year old mind thinks.  The things he says and the things he does have me grinning or chuckling almost all day long.  So my advice to you tonight......find your bible.  Dust it off if its been awhile.  Open it to Psalms....or any passage you enjoy reading.  Meditate on it tonight.  And in the morning, find your joy.