Friday, July 30, 2010

He gives and takes away...

Yesterday had its ups and downs. We {me most of all} feeling that we had had enough of our share of hurt and just too many 'not fun moments' especially considering what we were remembering. The road of suffering is sometimes long and winding and as much as I like to look for the silver linings along the way, some days they just don't shine and sparkle as much as one would hope. The overwhelming feeling that hit me was just how much we "try" to rise above the stuff that threatens to drag us down over and over again... only to feel like it's not even worth the effort some days.
That's what poured out in the form of tears from me last night after our plans for a simple family dinner out turned into "drama", as we often call it, as Wyndham got sick all over her plate/table just as her meal was served. Chip and I mumbled and grumbled as we cleaned and quickly left the establishment and then sulked in some really great pity the whole ride home. That's the honest truth. I had reached the end of my "seeing the beauty through the ashes" rope by the time we got home, which is why I ended up shaking and letting tears pour as Chip just held me and didn't say a word. Because frankly, after 9 years of living with grief we have learned when to speak and when to be silent. I think it's been one of the gifts that God has given each of us and truly has helped hold us together, rather than tear us apart.
So the emotions were kicked into high as were the stress levels, and I imagine at this point in my pregnancy certain hormones are not helping the situation either. =)
The words and prayers and encouragement left by so many 'strangers' and friends through facebook and this blog and email were a comfort though. I wondered what our day would have looked like had you all not been praying and caring for all of us. It would have likely been much worse! We so appreciate that many of you reach out and are moved or touch in a way to look at your own life a bit differently, or look forward to Heaven a bit more knowing that God has His hand in all our lives.
Today marks the day we made the decision to gift some of Teagan's organs in hopes of helping someone else needing a little miracle in life this side of Heaven too, and it's also the day I held her hand and pinky promised to love her forever for the very last time. (Teagan was hooked up to life support for 36 hours after the incident.) I've never forgotten that promise. My love for her has never changed; in fact sometimes her death has inspired me to want to live life to the fullest. I never expected that to come from grief, but I think it's a gift as well.
We went to bed feeling pretty down and out about life and all that we went through and continue to go through. After last week's ER visit for Wyndham and then last night another round of sickness, not to mention that she just had a filling fall out, we just felt like she of all people deserved better than what life hands her. Our pity-party is often more directed at what we feel we can't give our kids more than it is what Chip and I have to endure. We wish we could shield them from the "drama" and hurt more than we can so many times and that just burdens our hearts. The fact that we can't change our circumstances, and even as much as we try there will always be issues in our lives.
When I wakened today I crossed my fingers that Wyndham's bedding would be dry when I checked in on her... and thankfully it was. It seemed a small thing to wish for, but it's always the little things that pile up and push us back one step at a time. The air felt a bit cooler and I just asked God to give me more peace and maybe a bit of joy too, if that wasn't asking too much for my day. So far it's been much better than yesterday.
We let Wyndham sleep in and after a long, leisure brunch she seemed to be perking up- back to her usual self. I had my camera handy and went to snap a few photos of her smiling with me. My thoughts as I looked at her were mixed- thinking back to the picture from yesterday's post and just what she's been through- to see her smile is exactly the kind of joy that God reminds me is a gift that only can be explained by the healing He has done in her life. Yes, she suffers and does so more than anyone else I know and love and care about so much. But she also has an inner spark that dissolves any pity I feel when her face lights up the way it does so many times around here.
I know I haven't written as much or as often the past several months, and I think sometimes I feel like it's because my "stories" always sound the same.
We have our ups and downs; our highs and lows; joys and sorrows. They come in waves and I guess today I am writing to remind myself that God is always faithful to us. He lifts us up when we are down, and even though our valleys don't always seem to have a purpose to us, HE can bring purpose to them if we let Him.
After Wyndham and I snapped a few pictures I looked at the photos and realized I have a big grin on my face that 9 years ago I never thought I would see again. It was sort of a light-bulb moment of reflection and one that led me to snap some more photos. Of me and the growing baby belly I am carrying around with me too. Nine years ago I never dreamed that I would be counting down the days to our 7th baby. I don't think I could have been convinced back then that I would ever have more kids again. With 3 weeks or less to go until we welcome another life into our hearts and homes I am blown away at how God has moved in our lives. His ways have not been our ways- that's for sure, but they have taught us many things and brought us to a place where we know God can be trusted no matter what. He is a God who gives and takes away. We don't know what His reasons may be, but we know that His love will never let us down.
The smiles that He sends to Wyndham's face and to our other kids faces despite all the stuff we do go through is a testament that God cares about the details of our lives. He knows what we need and His timing is spot on every time. Even when it doesn't feel like it.
I can't help but think that Wyndham getting sick at dinner and my tears that flowed openly last night were actually tools that allowed me to grow even moreso today. It hurt at the time, but it sure made our smiles that much sweeter today. Who am I to question the tough stuff- even though we do when we're in the midst of it! I just want to tell myself today to hang on- to keep seeking the Joy that's out there, and never quit trying- even when it feels like we've hit bottom for the hundredth time.
God is always deeper than the bottom of our pits anyway. And I'm so glad He's there too; to pick us up, shake us off and help us start anew. I know we have more struggles that lie ahead. But thankfully God already knows that future too and I am going to cling to Him to help lead us through the bumps along the way.
And speaking of bumps, if you want to see just how big my baby belly has grown the past several weeks, just click on the photos above to enlarge. =)
Thanks again for "listening" to me here as I pour out my thoughts and heart on this blog. Our family appreciates your thoughts and care for us so much. Whether joys or sorrows... you are gifts too!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

We never did get to eat pie that day.

These images are horrifying to look at and yet I am compelled to 'put them out there' today as our family marks the 9th anniversary of these days events. July 29, 2001.
We simply had plans to enjoy a family brunch at this restaurant called The Old Depot. We had never been there before but had heard that the pie was outstanding and we happened to have some extra time in our day that Sunday as Chip's boss had told him he could come into work at the golf course a bit later than usual. It was turning out to be a glorious, bright and sunny day.
But then something went horribly wrong.
Without warning the door and the wall and ceiling began crashing down in and around our family and some of the other guests at the restaurant just as we were taking our first few bites of breakfast. It was a scene unlike any other I have ever witnessed and one that will never be erased from my mind as I flew through the air, banged into things and finally landed in a pile of debris without ever losing consciousness. I had no idea what had just happened- but do remember that it felt as though a bomb had just exploded around us.
I quickly jumped to my feet and as I looked around the first person I saw was Teagan. She was laying where her chair should have been and I could see blood trickling out just beneath her head. I scooped her up and carried her out the hole where the door should have been.
That would be the last time I ever held my little girl.
* * * * *
Today I awoke and some of these images and others were on my mind. I would give anything to erase them and wish that July 29, 2001 was just another family day in which the events of that day blended into the next without much cause to remember. I never realized what a gift it was to live ordinary days that held simple joys and happiness- but once they were over they were soon forgotten because the next day held something just as easy and carefree.
But that was not to be.
Today when I woke up I felt angry. Even all these years later.
Wyndham had soaked through her pull-up and so I had to change her bedding and start some laundry... all because of her brain injury that will never fully heal from that day.
I tossed the sheets into the wash machine and felt my insides growing hot.
I thought of all the times I've had to wash her bedding from wetting or illness and wondered how many more times I will have to do it in the future- and the sting of unfairness burned stronger.
It's not fair.
We didn't even get to eat the pie we had heard so much about until nearly a year later when the Old Depot reopened its doors- having been rebuilt from the ground up.
Lives were changed in an instance that day.
Hearts were shattered; bodies torn and broken- inside and out; happiness replaced by sorrow and pain.
* * * * *
I post these photos and remember and wish it all different today, but at the same time I feel that burn and sting inside and remind myself all over again how it is a choice- sometimes a daily struggle- to live beyond the hurt, to rise above the self-pity that threatens to swallow me up if I think too long and hard about this reality, and most importantly, I am reminding myself to choose Joy again today. I want to remember the good times I had with Teagan, and to look back on all our family has overcome. It's been a long and winding path for us in 9 years, but all along the way there have been blessings beyond what I could have imagined life would hold for us through the years.
I was still feeling the ache inside when I said a quiet prayer- one I've prayed many, many times since I stood at the scene of these photos and that is this,
"Lord, I give it to you. I pray for peace, for comfort, for Joy in the midst of suffering."
It's not an easy thing to surrender and to invite God to hold the hurt for me, but I have learned and am still learning that it is the way to peace and even to forgiveness and that in turn frees me to feel happiness and Joy once again.
I know my suffering and pain pales in comparison to many of the hurts and struggles other people have lived through and continue to carry with them each day. I thank God that He has shown Himself faithful to our family in ways we never dreamed, and that He has healed us in so many ways and restored our Joy at times too.
* * * * *
The timer is just about to buzz on my oven letting me know that several loaves of zucchini bread are done baking. My swollen, pregnant belly has been slightly jerking from baby hiccups inside me the past several minutes. Crew and Brock are eating popsicles together outside and Bella and Ava are talking and laughing as they play Uno downstairs- a game they just learned how to play yesterday. Wyndham's bedding is about to be tossed into the dryer and I will start another load of laundry too.
Life today is simple and ordinary and sprinkled with bits of laughter too.
It's just the kind of day I wish July 29, 2001 had turned out to be. One not all that unlike all the other days that blend from one into the next.
The hurt is real... but I know even more than that, the Joy is far greater and definitely worth fighting and living for. If I could, I would invite you all over for coffee and fresh baked zucchini bread right now and I would tell you that although I don't know what the future holds for our family or for anyone, there is One who is in control who loves us all more than we would ever imagine and who has a plan to bring justice and glory from any pain we experience here on earth. One day because of our trust in God our sorrow will be forgotten and our tears will be wiped away and there will be only rejoicing forevermore.
I am seeking to trust in God's plans and His ability to bring forth Joy from any circumstance and trial we endure. It's not easy and I openly admit I don't even like the way He causes our path to turn at times... but there's no doubt in my heart or mind that it will be worth it all. One day!

Monday, July 26, 2010

So much for the 'wide open' calendar...

My mom called in early June and asked how our July looked if she and my dad wanted to come for a visit. I told her, "July is basically wide open". We didn't have too many events or activities planned. It was going to be a simple month of summer around our house.
Well, it has been a little busier than we had thought- a mix of more fun and even a bit of stress we didn't plan on.
A couple of weeks ago we were able to enjoy the company of our friend, Roxanne Robbins and her [soon-to-be] son Wasswa, who are visiting the States from Uganda, Africa this summer. Our kids hit it right off with Wasswa and hopefully he feels he made some lasting friendships too. We introduced him to a few things- like golf, Pop-Tarts and blue Jell-o. He didn't care for Jell-o but seemed to like all of the other food and activities we threw at him. We look forward to another visit from them in the future; or maybe our family will just have to travel to Uganda someday. Now that would be interesting!
Chip has been very busy working at the golf club this summer. We've had a lot of nice weather which makes for plenty of rounds of golf by guests and members at his course. His boss (Dan Rooney- founder of The Folds of Honor Foundation) and family were in town for a week and we hit the beach together (9+ kids between our two families so far) and were glad to see how well the local Michigan Patriot Golf Day event went while they were here too. In that top family photo we were out at the course for the night's closing events and I somehow managed to talk Chip into a family photo on the putting green- despite the fact that he had been up since 3:30 that morning and had worked all day long. I think maybe the trick to a casual family photo is to first wear everyone out and then make them sit for a quick minute. It worked once! =)
This past week my parents were at our place for a visit. We only see them about once a year as they live in Minnesota. I was so glad they offered to come and take on that 12 hour drive so that we didn't have to do it this summer. Crew hates to sit in his car seat for more than 10 minutes, and I hate packing for 7 people- and riding all that way in my third trimester of pregnancy, so it worked out best for all of us. Poor Wyndham though... she got a touch of something that caused a mild fever and made her quit eating or drinking for almost their entire visit. Chip took her in to the ER for IV fluids/lab tests one night and still she wasn't herself for several days. She is just starting to perk up back to her normal self, but that bit of stress and illness made the rest of us tone down our plans for fun and activites all week.
We did make it down to the waterfront/park one evening and we celebrated Bella's 8th birthday just a bit early so that Grandma and Grandpa could get in on the cake and homemade icecream too. Sometimes you just have to go with what life hands you and make the best of those times- even when you wish they could be a bit different.
In just a few more days we mark another annivesary of our family tragedy and loss of Teagan. I know for me it is such an emotional time and one where I get reflective and wishful all over again. But I continue to try to challenge myself to see some bits of happiness and good in what life continues to give us. Somedays I do better than others; other days I wish I could just rewind the years and chart the course of life myself. It always comes down to a matter of faith and trust that God sees the 'wide open calendar' and is writing the events of our days just as He planned them to be. I know He has our best at heart and that is the best comfort to me- no matter what comes our way!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Update to previous post...

Thanks so much for your thoughts and prayers for Wyndham today. She received a great report for now- no growth hormone shots needed for at least another six months! We're so happy for her to continue to be able to skip these nightly injections and we're going to keep hoping that her body will keep doing what its doing and stay on curve with her growth.
The short story is that her pituitary gland was damaged in her initial brain injury and for the first year after the incident she didn't grow at all. She has been behind on her growth and been playing 'catch up' for several years and just this past year showed a nice pace on the growth charts. The doctors feel it may be early puberty that is the explanation for her body being able to maintain this growth (even though it has slowed some the past 6 months) and they are going to keep an eye on how things continue to go. Thus, no need for shots right now. Hooray!
This report made me think back to one of the first scrap pages I ever made- one about our hopes and dreams for Wyndham despite all she is up against. I am humbled and grateful- yet again- that God has brought her this far and it is just the little bit of "good news" I need as we face her major surgery in just a couple of months. I am dreading it for her- but again, I know the best thing we can do for her is pour out our love and care and most of all never stop hoping for the best!
Finally I just have to ask... is it just me, or does Wyndham have an amazing smile?! I love it on her so much and feel blessed to see it on her every day. =)

Monday, July 12, 2010

"Because we don't know what to expect..."

Tomorrow Wyndham has a doctor appointment with her endocronologist. There was a time in my life when I had never heard of an endocronologist. Now I am hoping that she gets good news from him- again. Several months ago we were able to stop giving Wyndham her hormone shot each night for the first time in 7 years. It's been so wonderful to not have a shot be part of our bedtime routine. She hasn't missed getting them and we've been relieved to not have to give them. It just seems to make the bedtime ritual that much easier without the hassle and pain of shots. However, tomorrow may be the day we find out if she has to start back on them. We are hoping for the best for Wyndham once again. I'd love if you'd hope along with us too!
Ever since the day she was discharged from Hurley Hospital in August of 2001 we have hoped for the best for her. We have always hoped for the best for all of our children, but Wyndham has had the most frequent and extreme medical needs for hope out of all of the kids. This month makes me think back to how things were, how they might have been, and just how our reality is different than I ever imagined it to be as a result of our tragedy. It doesn't take much to bring me down or for me to start feeling sorry for myself or the rest of my gang. We have been through a lot and it seems there is always some sort of reminder of that. It even happened at dinner tonight.
Chip called and said he would be home in time for dinner and I then turned off the pan of water I was starting to boil for macaroni and cheese and instead I got the kids together to get their flip flops on and take a quick bathroom break. We had a luxury family dinner at our local Perkins- two of our kids even got to eat free with our adult purchases. =) But the part that hit me was when we had them circle the picture on their kids menu of what they wanted to eat for dinner. Three of them picked chocolate chip pancakes.
That just happens to be the last thing Teagan ever ate in her life. I'll never forget it.
So, that's just one of the things that can bring a wave of emotion back into my heart and mind. I have learned to embrace and live with these "waves" and accept them when they come. Most often they make me smile more than choke up- because for me to have instances where memories and reminders of Teagan come rushing back is a good thing. They sort of feel like little heart-tugs/hugs from her. I remind myself that I am lucky to have had time with Teagan and luckier still that I haven't ever fully let her go. She's still a part of my life- no matter how much time passes.
But I will admit to you that I do hurt over the loss and the pain and the troubles that Wyndham continues to carry with her every single day. Most days she gets along well and seems to be as happy or happier than the rest of the kids in our family. Even on the days when things don't always go well for her she still has a smile or a twinkle in her eye or some sort of silly thing to show us through her use of sign or just by being her. She has major delays and can't talk or run like the others, but she somehow manages to keep her chin up.
I credit her for being the inspiration and drive behind me wanting more out of life when life was giving us a whole lot of hurt. At the time of her hospital discharge her team of doctors couldn't offer us a long-term prognosis of any kind. In fact, I even remember some of them saying they didn't know what to tell us, because the truth is they didn't know what to expect. They were surpised that she had survived her inital injuries and brain surgery and none had any experience with the recovery process from such traumatic injuries. She just sort of left them all speechless and amazed. We sort of felt the same way, but as parents we were the ones to take her home to "wait and see what happens".
We've been watching her heal and grow and change for almost 9 years now and in almost every respect we've been blown away at just how much she has been able to overcome. So tomorrow as she heads to yet another doctor appointment, we don't know what to expect. But we're going to do what we always do and that is this: we will pray and thank God for all He has done in Wyndham's life and we will hope for more of the best. Goodness knows she deserves it!

Friday, July 09, 2010

Summertime and siblings and smiles...

It's really summertime- July already! We had a great Coke Float night as a family but didn't really get the best photos out of our time together. The mugs were frosty though and the kids were happy to sip their drinks and get cart rides at the golf course as well. Thanks to so many of you who emailed me notes and/or photos of your family celebrating together too! It always feels like the official "kick-off" of remembering Teagan from now til the end of the month. There were lots of great times that July of 2001, and of course, there is the sorrow and hurt that always lurks as the 29th and 30th approaches. Thankfully, we have lots of smiles to recall and new ones we're capturing right now too, and so it goes in summertime for us!
The past week or so we have been enjoying the heat, sun and air conditioning too. =) We've gone through lots of popsicles and ice pops and the sprinklers run to keep the lawn watered and the kids happy at the same time too! I was just looking through some of the photos I snapped this week and recalling how Ava and Crew had a special connection being the youngest and at home together when he was first born. It's amazing to me just how quickly the age gap closes and they find similar interests {like sprinklers and popsicles!} and develop a unique bond even at this young age. Crew has taken quite an interest in posing and looking right into the camera, so that makes me happy too. I will admit that I am sensing some "fear" as I try to imagine how he will react to a new baby and suddenly join the ranks as an 'older kid' just like his other siblings. I am hoping for a smooth transition and we've never had jealousy issues in the past, but as I know full well, there's a first time for everything, so we'll have to wait and see! We're approaching the countdown and already are only about 6 weeks away from meeting our new baby face-to-face.
With this month of July in full-swing I do find myself emotional, thoughtful and always grateful that God goes ahead of me and knows exactly what is planned for us- being mindful that He is love and is never taken by surprise! Whether or not you need encouragement or comforting from life's hurt, or even Hope for something that is spinning out of control in your life, I hope you can sense that God is bigger than all of it and when you trust Him in everything He never lets you down!
I've lived and learned that lesson more than once in my lifetime, and hope that no matter how much disappointment or joy my family experiences in life, that they will rest in the promise of God's unchanging character. He is good. ALL the time.
Right now we are fortunate to be enjoying "mostly good" and we're so grateful for summer, blessings, and the promise of things yet to come!