Saturday, December 21, 2019

What was lost has been found. And we rejoice.

I wish the story that I'm about to tell you were one that spanned 2 weeks and not 2 years. I wish it had had an easier solution, but I am beyond grateful to recall our history with the desire that it will encourage, educate, and motivate those who are searching for solutions to struggles that seem beyond hope.

Let's rewind two years. Our entire family of six was violently ill for much of the month of December. It's a twisted family tradition we have. Christmas break arrives, and one or more of our bodies break down. Sometimes we take turns passing pathogens around, and sometimes we all drop. In this instance, pretty much everyone felt miserable for a week or so. Breathing treatments were going around the clock, the meds were recorded in columns on the kitchen counter, and Curious George's Christmas movie played so many times that "Christmas Monkey" was by far the most sung carol that winter.  To the best of my knowledge, our littlest girl Emily was the only one who needed antibiotics to clear an ear infection. Everyone else pushed through to health on the other side.

In January we started a new adventure, having a college grad friend live with us until her wedding in April. The children loved spending extra time with our friend, but gradually we started noticing Laura pulling away from everyone. After a few weeks, Laura became blatantly rebellious and had daily physical outbursts. I would hold her in "safe holds" that I learned working with at-risk kids as a camp staffer. I never dreamed that I would need this knowledge to protect myself, my other children, and my child from herself. As David and I talked, we decided we had probably just messed up the birth order by having an older gal in the house, making Laura feel threatened. We assumed that when our friend got married and moved out, Laura's behavior would fade. It didn't.

My memory is vague as I remember that summer. I don't remember how frequent the outbursts were or what they looked like. Our months have blended into a giant mush in my mind. I do remember that Laura started kindergarten that fall. While she loved learning and her teacher and had a great friend in the class, she would come home absolutely drained and overwhelmed by the drama of daily interactions and the hurts of her fellow classmates. She hurt with every student that was hurting. Every. Single. One. Empathy is one of her strongest gifts, but this burden seemed so much more than a five year old should bear. She would feel anxious about who might be mean to her or to someone else and would have what could only be characterized as panic attacks.

Each night it was as if we could see a switch flip as we started getting ready for bed. In an effort not to feel the tremendous anxiety she was feeling, she would manically fight us for hours. If you've ever met Laura, you know that describing her as athletic is an understatement. She is STRONG. On the day she was born, I placed my hands under her shoulders to balance her and watched her support her own body weight in a standing position. The day. she was born. She hasn't slowed down since. Once her anxiety started causing nightly attacks, restraining her became the only athletic program I had time for. I developed serious abs and arm muscles as I tried to keep Laura from hurting me, the other kids, or herself. If you're wondering where Dave is during this frenzy, he's putting the other kids to bed and getting ready to spell me when my muscles gave out. The other children got used to a "tornado drill" style bedtime where they went to sleep in rooms far away from Laura's so they could sleep and be safe while she fought.

These battles weren't merely physical either. The whole time she would fight us, Laura would spew lies about herself. About her worth. About us. About God. About her siblings. About the lack of reasons for living. Lies. So many lies. We learned more about spiritual warfare last summer (the summer after kindergarten) than we had in 7 years of working as camp staffers. Every night, we fought a shadow of the girl we remembered as our daughter. She was scared. She was anxious. She was trapped. She was exhausted. But she couldn't stop fighting. At school, she would hold it together. At home, she would unravel.

When she would finally break down and collapse after 10 p.m., sometimes she would share the hard or hurtful thing that had happened that day that she thought was making her emotions flare. Sometimes she would just fall asleep fighting, and we'd tuck her in. Every night, David and I fell into bed completely depleted. No one else could watch our children in the evening. And there was little time to process solutions. We started play therapy for Laura at a local counseling center, knowing that what we were dealing with was far above our ability to parent well. We were drowning.

During that summer... just this last summer, friends surrounded us to pray. To pray over Laura, over us, through our home, for our family. To pray pray pray truth, protection, and answers for our questions. They texted us Scriptures, poured into our other children, and loved us as the Body of Christ. David and I lived hungry for the Word of God, desperate for the truth of His Word to revive us. And it did. We learned to put on the Armor of God. We learned to pray truth over our family. And we saw the Word of God do what only it can do: defeat lies with Truth.

When I shared with one friend who lived far away how destructive Laura's words had become, she promised to pray. The next day she texted me saying she thought Laura had PANDAS. She saw a picture of another child with PANDAS in an article she was reading, and I'm going to say the Holy Spirit told her, "This is Laura." She told me to google it and I found this article, and it was like reading a description of Laura.

Laura could NOT sit still at home. Always moving. Always doing. She used to love to read. Now she was constantly on the go. She would sob and cry anytime I left home, even if I was only going for a walk with friends in the evening. She didn't want to go to church. Didn't want to go to school (though she was happy once there). Separation was so hard. Huge mood swings with anger/laughter/panic/sobbing all mixed into the same 2 minute span happened nightly. It was incredibly difficult for her to sleep, and she would complain of pain in her knees, elbows, and ankles every night. We just thought she was having a growth spurt. All of these things fit the description for PANDAS.

Now you're probably thinking... Isn't PANDAS just an animal from Asia? Well, yes. But it's also an acronym for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections. In simpler terms, we believed it was possible that Laura had had a strep infection that December (almost 2 years ago) that had never been treated with antibiotics, which allowed it to go systemic. As hard as it is to believe, Laura had been so externally healthy, she had had no reason for any cultures to be taken for almost 2 years.

Now the tricky thing about PANDAS... Very few practitioners actually feel comfortable diagnosing it. It's not common. Though many know that it exists, we don't have a lot of research to support its clinical treatment. Looking back, I wish I had gotten more aggressive about finding a doctor who would at least try to give Laura a strep test even though her throat looked fine and she had no external symptoms. To make a long story short, the doctor I trusted was on an extended leave when we finally put all the pieces together. We waited for her to get back to her practice, and then begged for a strep test. She looked at all the elements we typed up for her and immediately said, "I think this could be PANDAS."

The rapid strep test came back negative, and I was so deflated. Knowing we could not sustain this lifestyle, we agreed with our doctor that an anti-depressant medication was probably Laura's best hope for overcoming the crippling anxiety that was taking over her world. At this point, just a couple of weeks ago, Laura had given up eating more than a few foods. She never wanted to leave the house, except to go a couple of places. She would have panic attacks at home before church or in the car after we got to church. Evening fights were more infrequent since we started therapy and had found ways to speak truth over Laura and pray over her with more intentionality, but we were broken as we watched her world get smaller and smaller. There were so few things she enjoyed and so few safe places and people in her mind.

As we sat down to supper a week ago Wednesday, I thought it was a normal night. It wasn't. A phone call from my child's doctor's office came in. The nurse on the line told me that Laura's strep cultures had come back positive, and she would need to prescribe an antibiotic. I almost laughed when she told me not to send Laura to school the next day. Goodness knows how long Laura had been walking the planet with an active strep infection. I sat back down at the table, wanting to cry and not hope too much. We rearranged our evening to pick up the medication and fought a long battle with Laura to convince her that her body needed the sticky pink liquid.  That she needed it desperately.

Somehow we got her to take it. Somehow we got her to bed that night. Somehow she braved taking the next dose in the morning. And then came the resurrection on Thursday night. After school on Thursday I drove all four children directly to the dentist. I anticipated Laura's anxiety would be high. She had already had several panic attacks about this appointment even though it was a routine cleaning. Taking her directly from school was a tactical maneuver on my part so I wouldn't have to fight her into the van. We arrived and even though she didn't want to go, she walked right in. No battle. No yelling. She was super snuggly in the waiting room, which seemed strange for her. Lately she trusted no one. She smiled through her appointment, shared honestly when she didn't like something, and handled herself like a brave, kind 6 year old.

Then we got in the car afterwards, and I dropped the bomb that we would be driving to a good friends' house for a Christmas party next. She was not happy to not be going home, but once we got there, she hugged her daddy, found a cookie, and started up a game with a friend. It was lovely. It felt normal. I spent the evening enjoying people I have come to love dearly. I checked on her periodically, but she was always engaged in some activity so I never interrupted. Lurking in the back of my mind, I knew from experience I would be paying the price for having taken my introverted, panic-driven daughter from school to the dentist to a large social engagement. I was prepared for her to have a major physical battle at home. I regathered my strength as I drove home, preparing to fight well. And here's where I start to cry.

We walked in the door to the house that night, and Laura saw that all the shelf-stable groceries were still all over the kitchen from my trip to the store earlier in the day. She said, "Mom, I know where all of these go. Can I put them away for you?"         Say. what?   

The other three children ran off to put on pajamas, and Laura and I talked about the party as she put away boxes and cans and I poured everyone's allergy meds and set out vitamins. She came over to the counter and took her antibiotics with zero fight and said, "Huh.... that doesn't taste as bad as I remember." Then she brushed her teeth and went directly to bed. No fight. Just sleep. "Goodnight, Mom."

I sat down on the couch with my baskets of laundry that needed folding and just sobbed. Laura was back. And that night was only the beginning. Though she used to be a morning person as a toddler, the last 2 years had been constant battles trying to get a very sleepy Laura up for school. That Friday morning, even after a late night at the party, Laura was up as soon as her wristband alarm vibrated. She was dressed, breakfasted, and had her lunch and backpack packed before I even got out of BED. She smiled in the morning. Had hugs for all of us. She liked herself and us and her life. And she's done the same thing EVERY. DAY. SINCE.

During all of this, I was trying to get Laura a referral to Riley Hospital for Children. I wanted the best pediatricians in the area to give us the best counsel possible to help Laura fully recover, though we were definitely on the right track. I spent several hours on the phone to finally find out rheumatology and all four neurology departments at Riley would not see PANDAS patients. They just won't. PANDAS just seems like too shaky a diagnosis for them to touch. And you know what, I don't even care.

My daughter came home a week ago Thursday. She laughs and plays with her siblings again. She sleeps soundly and enjoys reading. She has dreams and goals that involve her mind and her body. She no longer has pain in her joints. She no longer cries when I leave the house. When she's upset, she tells me immediately what's going on so we can find a solution together. She comes over and gives me hugs, just because. She's started eating a variety of foods again and even referred to my taco meat as "delicious." My daughter is home. Glory be.

The battle is not completely over, I know. She has established patterns of panic during her formative years (ages 4-6) that will take time and effort to continue to unravel. We will not be quitting play therapy anytime soon. The strep infection may require numerous rounds of antibiotics to finally conquer. But we have named our enemy, and we have tasted victory. We are not giving up.

In all the good things, I'd also like the record to show that for as many moments of her life as she is sweet, Laura has quite a few spicy moments. She's strong-willed, able-bodied, and loves a good practical joke. As I see these spicy habits resurface, I realize we still have a fallen daughter to disciple and love; but I'm also having flashbacks to her four year old self, who loved mischief and laughter and dismantling my stuff when I thought she was sleeping. And I can rejoice as I disciple her heart, unhindered by crippling anxiety and OCD. My daughter who was once lost is found. And I beg you to rejoice with me.

As I type this, I know others are reading this whose diagnoses have not be found, whose pain is still great and unexplained. My heart breaks for you. I wish every struggle had a solution as simple as a free antibiotic. I wish every child who struggles with anxiety, OCD, and depression could be lifted out of those struggles by drinking a pink liquid for 10 days. These last 2 years have, I pray, forever changed how we as a family respond to other families with chronic struggles. If I tell you I'm praying, know that I am. If I ask you if I can help run errands or shuttle kids, I mean it. When my arms were weary, others in the Body of Christ held them up; and I'd be honored to do the same for you. We stand in hope with you, hope for healing and answers. Hope for better days ahead.

I also know there are some in our community that had no idea we were struggling. At all. Laura's story at the time felt too personal for us to share with many. Even now, sharing it feels like we are leaving her exposed for the internet to ridicule; however, our desire for God to receive all the glory for her healing and for others who are struggling with PANDAS to find their own healing has brought us to this post. May you see God's grace in our story as we most definitely do.

And to those who knew about the long nights and the tears, thank you. You cared. Texted. Prayed. Called. Came over. You wept with us. And I know you rejoice with us know.

Our daughter has come home. To God be the glory.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Taste and Hear

We are two days post-op from Caleb's right ear tympanoplasty. If that sounds complicated, is. I marvel at the hands that can operate on some of the smallest bones in the body with delicate precision through a hole that is the size of my pinky fingernail. Caleb had a cartilege-enforced graft created to replace his eardrum that had been perforated as well as a prosthetic earbone placed behind that graft to enable to him to hopefully correctly register sounds. And while the surgeon was working his magic, he also placed an ear tube to allow the pressure from Caleb's eustachian tubes to not pull on the ear drum quite so much.

Though everything looked great to the surgeon when he filled Caleb's auditory canal with surgical packing, put a cotton ball over it, and sent us home; we are now in a waiting game. In a little over two weeks, we return to Indy for the same surgeon to remove the packing material to see if the most important test is passed.  The look.

It happened last time when Caleb had the packing removed from his left ear.  The surgeon was steadily working to remove the material when all of a sudden my 11-year-old burst out with a "WHOA!" Sound finally was able to reach a fully functioning, freshly grafted ear drum. It was magical! His eyebrows lifted, his eyes lit up, and he kept telling us how loud the world was! In my mind, that look is more telling than the audiology report.

In addition to praying for his hearing to be restored, Caleb has had a new twist in recovery this surgery.  Did you know that there are nerves in your ear that control your ability to taste? Pretty wild, huh? I wondered if something was off when Caleb didn't devour all the chicken fries when he came home from surgery... when he said they tasted... different.

Then the next day Caleb said nothing tasted quite right. Most flavors seemed very much the same unless they were a dark chocolate bar. Now, you might be thinking, "Of course, the only thing he says he tastes well is dark chocolate. I'd say that too if you'd bring me a bar for breakfast, lunch, and dinner." That thought crossed my mind, but the louder voice in my head was that of a friend whose son had a similar surgery and struggled for a few weeks with an altered sense of taste.

Calls to both that friend today as well as the surgeon's office confirmed that we are now playing yet another waiting game...waiting for Caleb to regain his sense of taste. So far today, we've had a major victory in discovering that Caleb can taste eggs if I season them strongly. Bacon is also on the list of strong flavors that he registers. Ron Swanson would be proud. Odds are good that within a few weeks, he'll be back to enjoying his favorites; but until then we're pushing strong spices and flavors and giving thanks that nerves regenerate. Because...let's just be honest, if I had to pick between being able to hear in both ears and being able to taste, I'd be the partly deaf woman in the corner with ice cream slathered all over her face.

So tonight we had breakfast for supper, and this morning I dropped by Culver's to pick up some pints of dark chocolate frozen custard. If you have to wait to both taste and hear, why not live it up?

Also, I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for the texts, emails, posted comments, and prayers. We're grateful to know there are people praying when the journey takes a turn we didn't anticipate. So many of those messages came through at the exact right moment that we needed an encouraging word. Sometimes technology really IS useful. Blessings to you all.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

The Problem with Success

Have you ever had something go really really well? Like you nailed that proposal. People are going to write home about how amazing it was to sit in that meeting with you. Or you really parented that kid in public like a boss.  I mean... the moms in the next aisle over were taking notes and were amazed by how you got that toddler off the floor without messing up your hair, dropping your coffee, or raising your voice. Glory.

In Caleb's case today, he's wishing that his surgeon had been a little less successful about 6 months ago. At the end of May, Caleb had surgery on his left ear to repair a damaged ear drum.  It was a complicated procedure, but his recovery was phenomenally easy.  After two weeks, the surgeon removed the packing material, and what we've been waiting for for almost a year happened. Caleb heard. He could hear so well from his left, newly-repaired ear that if I whispered in his right, he would turn his head for me to repeat myself in his left.  It had achieved the sought-after status of the "preferred ear."

His personality altered drastically as he was able to hear what everyone around him was talking about. Amazing how easy it is to contribute to conversations when you actually can HEAR what others are saying. He played with his siblings more. He smiled more. He even became less self-absorbed since he could actually HEAR what people around him were feeling and needing.

An audiology test in October confirmed what we had been celebrating all summer.  Caleb's hearing in his left ear far exceeded his hearing in the right. Several options were presented to us (waiting, hearing aids, surgery), but David and I kept circling back to our desire for Caleb hear fully from both ears.  To be able to distinguish directionality of sound. To fully engage with the world.

Which brings us to today.  I'm sitting in the family surgical waiting room of Riley Hospital for Children.  We haven't met a person here that isn't top notch.  Their communications staff, their child life specialists, their nurses, and their doctors have done an incredible job of making sure we have all the information that we need to know Caleb will be well taken care of.  Caleb was completely calm and relaxed when he went back to surgery with the nurses, but let's just be honest... he'd rather not be here at all.

He'd rather be playing football or reading a book or even copying his spelling words than be here... because he's 11.  And the only thing he is thinking about right now is right now. At one point when we were talking about this surgery as an option, he said he would rather opt out. He made the fairly logical argument that it was his body and he should be able to choose if he wanted the surgery.  I then asked if we were to buy him ice cream if he would consider the surgery. He eager "yes" was a good teaching opportunity.  If you're still young enough that ice cream sways your major life decisions, you're too young to make major life decisions. So here we are.

We are 2 hours into a 3 hour procedure. A surgery updating nurse rotates around the room once an hour.  She's visited every operating room and gives updates on how each procedure is progressing.  It's truly beautiful to watch her extend grace and care to each family. 

Pray with us, please? That this procedure would result in Caleb having a functioning ear drum and that the ear drum will do its job rather than retracting into the middle ear. That Caleb would stay encouraged and find purpose in his 2-week recovery period of "no activity that works up a sweat." 

Update: The surgeon just came out and told us that the procedure appeared to be a complete success. He said that there was deterioration behind the ear drum that was causing a good portion of the hearing loss which they were able to repair with another prosthetic ear bone and a cartilege-reinforced ear drum graft, along with an ear tube to help the graft to not retract into the middle ear. So thankful. Thankful for this surgeon, this hospital, for Caleb, and for the guidance from the Lord to choose this road. Because what was successful once has the potential to be successful a second time. And, yes, we will be celebrating with some hard-earned ice cream.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

It's all in the timing

The last 10 years of motherhood have changed a lot in my life, including the speed at which I live.  Some tasks are just easier at this point, having done them so many times I no longer need to search for directions or even think about what I'm doing.  Bake the cookies.  Make the pizza crust dough.  Pay the bills.  Call the insurance.  Make the lunches.  Drive to therapy.  I am, by nature, a person who thrives with efficiency and dreads confusion and delay.  There are few things I appreciate more than a completed to-do list, yet there has been one thing on my to-do list for a very long time.  Scheduling Caleb's surgery.

Allow me to rewind a bit.  We were told in January that Caleb's left ear (the ear that has ALREADY had surgery) would need an invasive procedure to reconstruct his auditory canal after clearing out the unhealthy tissue known as cholesteatoma. This procedure (mastoidectomy) was supposed to be scheduled as soon as possible, but first the surgeon wanted to see Caleb's original CT scans from before his initial surgery last fall.  No problem, right?  Wrong.  

There are many things that have progressed in the modern age; however, the way that medical scans are transmitted from one office to another apparently is not one of them.  Caleb's scans had to be put on a disk and physically mailed from Fort Wayne to Indianapolis.  No problem, right? Wrong.  

After a few weeks, I called to see if the disk had arrived.  When the surgeon's secretary said it had not, she contacted the office in Fort Wayne again to have the disk re-sent.  A week later, I called her back.  The disk still hadn't arrived. Weird. So with a smile on my face and my efficiency alarms ringing, I got the phone number for the office that sent the scans and began the process of "helping things along." 

If you fast-forward 2 months, you would see that I am now on a first name basis with both the sweet gal sending the disks and the secretary for the surgeon.  Week after week, try after try, we couldn't get the disk to arrive.  I was just about to physically escort a disk to Riley when I got a call that they found a PILE of mail in the mailroom that just hadn't been delivered.  In that pile were three copies of my child's CT scans. Yay! Problem solved, right?  Wrong. 

Having now seen the scans, the surgeon wanted NEW scans taken at one of his offices.  So 2 weeks ago (yes, 3 months after Caleb's initial appointment) we traveled to Indy to have pictures taken of Caleb's ear canals. And having done that, a week and a half later, surgery scheduling called to put Caleb's procedure on the books.

While all the confusion and delay has been time-consuming and frustrating, it's also been peaceful. Yep. I said it.  Peaceful.  With the timing completely out of our control, we have had total confidence that the Lord was ordaining the days and masterfully planning the order in which He wanted Caleb's surgery to occur.  Not too soon.  Not too late.  His timing. No amount of "helping things along" would budge it.  And in the meantime, our family has walked through multiple complicated and difficult situations that would have been even more challenging had Caleb been recovering from a major procedure.  God has been so faithful and kind!

So we're prepping for May 28, the day after Memorial Day if that helps you to remember to pray. This procedure will be the first of two surgeries to improve Caleb's hearing in his left ear. It's a 3-hour surgery at Riley Hospital, and by God's abundant grace, a friend who is very familiar with Riley is planning to accompany me.  Would you pray for healing, for a successful procedure, and for courage for my son?  Having walked through a painful recovery last fall without successful results to show for it, my justice-minded son is struggling with why this needs to be a part of his story.  That Tuesday is also the first day of his summer vacation so having a week-long recovery of no activity or baseball games also wasn't in Caleb's plans. And if you think to, pray for David and me? We are truly resting in the sovereignty of God, but there are still moments when the delicate reality of what the surgeon will be doing makes my head spin.

You are a blessing to us. Thanks for stopping to ask me how he's doing, what's going on, where we're at.  I can't imagine raising my family without this mighty community both locally and through the interwebs.  You love us well.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Wrapping my kids in bubble wrap... or not.

It's hard to put into words how the last few weeks have wrecked my plans for order, simplicity, and quiet.  How, in some ways, the last few weeks have been better than I could have orchestrated.  How they have been harder than I would have requested.  But what has been... has been.  And I believe with all my heart that the Lord of my life holds my days and my loved ones in His very capable Hands.  That the same Hands that formed the stars also designed my children's bodies and hold my very raw heart.  And with this knowledge, I have hope!

Since my last post, we took a few weeks to coast, enjoy the Christmas season, and play a ridiculous number of board games with our littles.  Since my last post, the dishwasher has bit the dust and the furnace has frozen... multiple times.  Water has leaked through my living room ceiling and my pipes have frozen.  Since my last post, friends have prayed for my sanity, my safety, and the outworking of my salvation.  It's been a January to remember for sure.

On Wednesday, Caleb was scheduled to see a pediatric ENT (ear, nose, and throat) specialist at Riley Children's Hospital in Indianapolis.  Wednesday was also a day for record cold temperatures here in Indiana with the windchill being -50 degrees and below during the day. Leaving David at home with the youngest three (including the two girls with strep infections), Caleb and I bundled up in layers, loaded blankets and water into the van, and drove the hour and a half down to Riley for this specialist's appointment that we had been urged strongly to keep.

By the grace of God, we had no driving problems.  The van started every time!  And even though I wasn't sure of where I was going, we parked in the right place, were able to walk indoors to the outpatient center, and made it to the correct office on the first try.  That alone filled my heart with gratitude!

We met with this new doctor for quite a while.  He and a surgical student took a long look at Caleb's ears and thoroughly processed his medical history and past surgeries with us while also reading Caleb's previous ENT's charting. He was attentive to detail, patient with questions, and great with Caleb. Without batting an eye, this doctor just seemed to scoop Caleb's case up and formulate a plan.

If all goes according to the new plan (and that's a big if), the surgeon will start with the left ear (the same ear that had the previous surgeries). Caleb will have a mastoidectomy to remove his mastoid bone and allow the surgeon to reconstruct his ear canal with full access to remove unhealthy tissue from the ear.  Afterwards, Caleb will have a two-week period of rest and low activity as the beginning of a six-month recovery period in which his hearing in that ear will be negligible. This waiting period is necessary to allow swelling to go down before the surgeon goes back in to correctly place the prosthetic ear bones that will allow Caleb to regain full hearing function.  Three months after the left ear has had time to heal, we'll start looking at a surgical plan for the right which may be similar to the first.

I told a friend today that it feels like we just buckled up our seat belts for a much longer drive than we had originally thought would be necessary.  Caleb is struggling with just the idea of more surgery.  The recovery last time was painful and hard. And even with the surgeries, he won't be swimming for at least a year.  Just typing this makes my eyes water.  Something about jumping into a pool is just so inherent in being 10 years old, living wild and free.

The surgeon plans to do the first surgery as soon as possible, probably within a month. My logical side rejoices that there is hope, another option, and an extremely qualified doctor to walk us through this process. However, my maternal instinct wants to slam on the brakes, pull all of my children into my arms, lock the doors to my home, and never let anyone leave until I am guaranteed that none of them will have to experience pain, especially recurring complicated surgeries. In moments of strength, I can calmly talk my oldest through the problem of pain in this broken world, but my mom heart would really prefer to bubble wrap each of my kids and solve their physical, relational, and emotional struggles with a magic wand. So sometimes we talk about God's strength shining in our weakness, and other times we just sit and cry with our kids and say, "This just stinks."  It's like a pendulum swinging back and forth as we choose whether to trust what we know to be true or what we feel. And as I type these words, I'm just going to admit that my feelings are winning today.

Many days this year I have felt like my dreams and aspirations are buried under grocery lists and laundry piles.  Where the few things I want to do just because I am Krista are the lowest priority because what is necessary for the moment is urgent. Just when I think I'm getting a handle on the housekeeping, a leaking furnace causes me to have to move every plastic tote from my attic to my living room. Just when I think I might be able to finish reading that book, a child walks into my room with a fever or a rash.  Today, just the act of choosing what task to start first caused my anxiety to skyrocket, which is not the norm for me.

As everything feels like it is spiraling out of control, I want to grasp for control of something.  My house. My children. My husband. My church work. My friendships. My food. I have to...have to...have to lay all my hope in the same sentences that began this post.  What has been... has been.  And I believe with all my heart that the Lord of my life holds my days and my loved ones in His very capable Hands. That the same Hands that formed the stars also designed my children's bodies and hold my very raw heart.  And with this knowledge, I have hope!

There's more to write.  More about Ben's progress in vision therapy.  About Laura turning 6. About Emmie Jo starting preschool at home. About new dreams and possibilities for the future. And hopefully I'll have time to write more soon, but it's time to pick up the kiddos from school and then finish a very competitive game of Ticket to Ride.  Thank you for loving our family and caring enough to read through all this!  It's a privilege that we get to do life with each one of you!