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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Triumphs Through Sickness

Recently I've been experiencing several new life lessons through illness in our household. It has occurred to me that all sickness results in only two final outcomes: healing or death.  I fully believe that it is your faith, hope, and relationship support system that will determine the length of either outcome being reached (of course, modern medicine helps a lot too).

For example, I haven't been able to write a blog about my dear sweet Granny Em yet, but I can tell you that she fought stage FOUR breast cancer for over TWELVE years, and was Vanderbilt's longest living Stage 4 cancer patient.  Her sickness resulted in eventual death - but her strong faith in Jesus Christ, and hope that her life was still worth living, and the many relationships she was a part of (from loving her husband and children, to grandchildren, friends, and church family) - kept her alive and kicking for much longer than anyone would have ever believed.  She went to be with God when Jonah was 10 days old and we still miss her very much.  Her sickness, that nasty stuff called cancer, taught us all so much about living life with no regrets and loving the people around you unconditionally.  I will tell you more about her one day... For now, I'd like to share some ways God has been humbling and teaching me lately as our household has passed around a nasty cold/sinus virus.

I wasn't sure if I wanted to share this post or not, because I am embarrassed and more than a little ashamed.  However, it would be very cruel of me to only post and share my good times, when I actually get it right, or when I want to ask for help.  So, here is me, a flawed human, being transparent, sharing my sin in hopes that it may help someone else.  Please, don't judge too harshly.

I made a huge, grievous, mean mistake.  I was viewing many people in my life as more of a task, a chore, a job that needed "doing," rather than soul, body, and spirit who needed loving.  As God revealed this to me, I realized that it's not the first time I have done so.  When teaching got tough a few times, I viewed my little six year old students as more of a job than a group of little humans.  I have also connected that when I pray for a person by name, call out to God on their behalf, I am kinder, more patient, more loving, and I do not make the great error of mentally placing them in a "to do" list.  However, the day I stop praying for that person/those people, my fleshly mentality takes over, and I become the important one on a mission, and instead of viewing people in my life as part of God's mission for me to love, I view them more as obstacles to overcome.  When I prayed for each student by name daily on the way to work, I was a better teacher.  When I pray for each person in my household by name daily, in the morning, I am a better wife and mother.  My prayer to remedy this has become

John 3:30

New International Version (NIV)
30 He must become greater; I must become less.”

Oh God.  Please forgive me.  Please help me to stop doing this.  Please show me instantly when I begin this selfish thought pattern.  Remind me to love like you do.

Bonding with Baby
This is what both babies looked like for several days.
Minus being adorably Asian.
Pretty much just the snot and tears describes my babies.

We have a group of kids here at the Children's Home, the same group since we began in late September.  This group includes a baby who is slightly older than our baby, Jonah, but there is less of an age gap than would be possible naturally (they are less than 9 months apart).  I have tried to explain how odd/difficult this is before, yet many parents of "stair-stepped" kids still seem to think it's the same situation.  We had babies 10, 11, and 12 months apart before during foster care.  That is a reasonable age distance and is possible biologically.  10-11 months apart is much easier to deal with than 4-9 months apart babies.  When babies are unnaturally close in age they aren't far enough apart yet to understand that one baby is younger and needs to be treated more gently.  They aren't far enough apart to understand that the other baby is another little human instead of a pet.  When you have a child 10-11 months older, usually they are walking, eating solids, drinking from a sippy cup, understanding lots of basic commands, etc.  When you have two little babies who are not the same age but both under one - it is more difficult to feed them/bathe them/set up a sleep schedule for both of them because they have very different needs.  For privacy reasons, on this blog I call the other baby simply that - Other Baby, or Baby with an uppercase B for short :) .  Well, Other Baby was very difficult when the kids first arrived.  Both babies were much younger, and it was stressful. We were originally told we would not get kids under age 2, so it was also quite a shocker that once again we'd have 2 unnaturally close in age babies like we just had in Memphis.  I have to admit, I didn't really appreciate Other Baby very much because it made life far more complicated and difficult.  Of course, we took great care of this child, but did not feel particularly close or affectionate.  The older siblings were very playful with the child, and it got lots of carrying around from us - but not a lot of kisses back then.  A few months in, we were able to get Other Baby on a good routine sleep schedule and when it began costing us less sleep, it was easier to love.  Other Baby went from really wanting to pluck out Jonah's eyes any time we left them alone, to hitting him on the head with any object/toy available.  These were two difficult stages as well.  Now Jonah is finally old enough to start to hold his own, and even pulls Other Baby down to the ground sometimes as they fight over toys. Since Jonah is almost 11 months, and Other Baby is over one, it has gotten much better. All that to explain why my flesh viewed Other Baby as a difficult part of life.

About 3 weeks ago Other Baby got very sick.  Other Baby usually keeps a runny nose off and on, but nothing more.  After John and Jonah getting very sick, it was inevitable that Other Baby would too.  One afternoon this kid just quit playing and wanted to be held all afternoon/evening.  The next morning Baby had a cough and a rattle sound while breathing, and a fever.  We made a doctor's appointment for that day.  When I took Baby to the doctor they did a chest x-ray and said Baby needed to be seen by a pediatrician (yeah, this little town is so small there are NO pediatricians here), and treated aggressively.  I took Baby to Laurel ER where they said Baby had pneumonia in both lungs.  I held Baby on my lap, leaning against my chest sitting up in a chair for the first 3-4 hours.  Then they had to put in an IV and take blood, and that was pretty pitiful. Around 10pm I laid down on the stretcher/hospital bed with Baby laying on my chest and we both slept off and on.  We were finally admitted to stay overnight around midnight.  At 1am they moved us upstairs to the pediatric floor.  There is just something about holding a sick child to your heart for over ten hours, that softens you.  The sleepless nights, the long days of trying to protect Jonah from little fingers and big blows, the great annoyance of not being able to go places because its such a hassle to get two babies out of the house and off their nap schedule, all faded away.  I realized that I had viewed Other Baby as more of a trial to be persevered than a little baby to be loved.  As Baby lay against my chest, Baby began to grow in my heart.  God used pneumonia to bring us much closer together, to help me to love this Other Baby.  Kisses began to abound, lots more cuddles and hugs, and as Jonah is learning to call me "Mama" finally - so is Other Baby.  This was not my intention though, and I keep saying my name clearly like "Kel-Lee" whenever Other Baby calls me "Mama" because I do not want this to offend the siblings or the birth mother.  No matter what I am called, I can see a new love in Other Baby's eyes, and I return it. I asked God to forgive me for having a hardened heart toward this little one in the beginning.  I felt like He said, "Baby doesn't remember it, and now neither do I."  What a mighty God we serve! He loves us all the time, even when we're unlovable.  He casts our sins "as far the east is to the west."

I know that two antibiotics and a steroid helped that little body.  I also believe that me holding Baby and loving on Baby more than ever before over the course of 4 days straight (between the hospital stay and the next few days at home), also helped the little body to heal so quickly.  Baby was up and going at full speed, no snotty nose or anything, just 3 days after leaving the hospital. When we feel loved and at peace, we heal faster.  Many studies have shown that People with Positive Attitudes and Happy Relationships and a Practicing Faith in God do have fewer health problems and recover faster from the illnesses they do get.  Who can you heal with a little extra love today? Who do you need to view as a soul to love instead of a chore to be completed?

Finding the Bright Side of Sinus Congestion
Then, just when everyone else started to feel better and I was priding myself on staying healthy, I got sick too. Pride DOES go before a fall, my friends!  However, I didn't get a fever, just incredibly painful sinus pressure and nasal congestion to the point that I felt like my cheek bones, nose, and brow bone were about to explode every time I leaned forward.  I couldn't taste or smell anything for about 4 days straight. (My only consolation was in changing the nasty poo-poo diapers from both teething babies - I couldn't smell them at all!  Poo is really not that bad when you can't smell it!) I felt yucky and tired every day and my throat hurt from drainage. Because of all the stupid Meth-heads down here, it is actually illegal to purchase Sudafed in the state of Mississippi - no form of pseudoephedrine is available unless you have a prescription.  I didn't want to go to the doctor until it got really bad.  I went to the doctor on Day 9 of feeling like my face may fall off the next time I bend over to pick up a baby, because by then I was worried it was a sinus infection.  The doctor offered me a steriod/decongestant shot, and I declined, only because the more I research and learn about healthy/holistic living, (from educational blogs like Mama and Baby Love and The Healthy Home Economist) the less I want to put different chemicals into my body. I requested just some good ole Sudafed, and went straight to Walgreens to pick it up.  I know, that's a lot of chemicals too, but seriously, I was desperate.

Despite all of the ways I felt like I should probably just stay in bed and drink hot tea and chicken broth, I was not sick enough looking/acting for the rest of the household to think I deserved any special treatment.  I was very upset that I had to continue all of the normal daily tasks and duties although I felt sick and exhausted.  I became pretty bitter about this and began to be grouchy and rude to the people around me (Yes - just days after the realization that I need to pray for them all more and view them as people not chores - watch out because that flesh jumps back to take over so quickly!).  I didn't feel like exercising, but I wanted to go for a walk one day just to get outside because the weather was nice.  I pushed one of the babies and prayed. It's always on these wonderful nature excursions that I am able to pray and listen to God the best.  As I poured my heart out with my little pity-party, I felt Him saying,

"This cold is not an excuse."

What??? I'm sick! I'm tired! No one cares! I took care of them and babied them all back to health last week, and now no one is helping ME! I have a right to complain and be grouchy with them!

"You NEVER have a right to complain or be grouchy to anyone." Whoa.  Now, I'm not sure why I was expecting my Heavenly Father to pat me on the back and say 'There, there, it's OK.' But I was not expecting this.

That ever-so-helpful Holy Spirit brought these verses immediately to mind:

Phil 2:14 - Do everything without complaining or arguing.

It does NOT say "Only when you feel healthy and good and are having a good day should you not complain or argue." It just says "Do everything without complaining or arguing." Period.  No matter how you feel. Once again it comes back to love being more of an Action - less of an Emotional feeling.

Rom. 12:9 - Love must be sincere...

How sincere is my love if I only give it when I feel good?

Then multiple images from the movie "The Passion of the Christ" we watched with our kids just a few weeks ago flashed through my mind and I felt like God was saying,

"You have a cold and you think that gives you the right to be grouchy and mean.  When my Son was being tortured, beaten, and nailed to the cross, He had more of a right than anyone to be grouchy and mean, but was He?"

I cried a little as I pushed the stroller.  No, God, no Jesus didn't complain.  He didn't get angry.  Instead, He said,

Luke 23:34 - Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."

"Exactly.  Stop complaining and start loving them."

Yes, Lord.

Since then, I have been working very hard to stop complaining in general.  It's not helpful to anyone. It is really tough to stop complaining though.  It's a super hard habit to break!  I'm also trying to remember to pray for them all individually instead of just a general "The kids" type of general prayer.  Who can you pray for by name today? When can you complain less?

This is what God is working on with me right now.  Did this help you at all?  I'd love to hear how God is working on you.  If we haven't talked in a while, please call me or send me a message or e-mail! I'd love to catch up! I am trying to improve all relationships in general.  I hear it's good for my health... ;P

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