I’ve Read This Book Over and Over and I Can’t Find a Mistake

It was just a post-it note with cursive lettering and less than twenty words, but it somehow felt like a sucker punch to the gut when I read it.

I was checking my eight-year old in to the Emergency Room and these words whispered the strangest mixture of hope and fear into my heart:

Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials. {James 1:2, KJV}

My immediate question was: what trial have I just fallen into? Am I about to lose my son? I’m not ready for that trial. I don’t want that trial. I’m falling into a trial and I should consider it …. joy?

I thought that was asking an awful lot of this Mama sitting, trembling on the wrong side of the desk.

The words flashed into my mind again on the helicopter ride to the next town over. I wrestled and furrowed my brows and closed my eyes until I could finally open my palms and lay them face up on my lap. I was trying to say, “Lord, I trust You. And Lord, I am holding onto You.”

Palms up. I am Yours. Palms open. Blake is Yours.

But, Lord… please.

I revisited that verse again in the days that followed and found it was an abbreviation of a full and beautiful promise:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. {James 1:2}

We found in ourselves a kind of steadfastness — powered by prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit — that walked us through, day after day. Night after night as we traded places, walking the halls of the hospital or putting the rest of our children to bed at home, we found we could keep putting one foot in front of the other. We could. We did.

And the funniest thing happened, just two nights before our sweet Blake came home.

Our sweet six year old, Arabella, had a clementine (a “Cutie”) from the fridge in the afternoon, and afterwards told me, “It was squishy and tasted funny.” Having spent 46 days traveling back and forth to the hospital, I really had no idea how long those little orange balls of goodness had graced our fridge, so I suggested she perhaps not eat a Cutie if it tastes funny or feels squishy next time.

Around midnight, the Cutie made a not-so-cute reappearance, all over her bed, and the three dozen stuffed animals she sleeps who are her nighttime companions.

Six years, ago, the hubs was on a trip, out of town, and I was home with two little fellas, when one of them decided his dinner didn’t agree with him, and made its way to the carpet and bed and floor.

While he sat in the tub and a dear friend visiting sat with his baby brother, I scrubbed the carpet and found myself praying these three words, through tears: Teach Me, Jesus.

Yes, I sat and cried over the spaghetti and juicy juice, feeling sorry for myself that the Hubs was out of town and I was cleaning up vomit.

Fast forward six years, loads more parenting, and a fast track to steadfastness, also known as kid-in-the-ICU. Once again, the vomit is here and the hubs is not. I follow the girl who’s been sick in her bed back up to her room, settle her into bed in another room, remove sheets, throw those sheets and three dozen stuffed animals into the washer and hope for the best, and laugh as I scrub her mattress. 

This too will pass. I am okay. It will be okay. 

The next morning, I had to delight in conversation with the Creator, remembering my tears and my Teach Me, Jesus moment. Maybe I am learning!

I wrote, “Six years later, I got up, worked to solve the problem and didn’t let self-pity overcome me. Maybe just MAYBE, thanks to Your goodness, I have more steadfastness now than I did before. This trial has birthed good things.”

I can’t tell you exactly how many times I’ve read the Bible, but I can tell you I’ve been through it again and again from Genesis to Revelation, slowly and carefully, a few chapters at a time.

And I have yet to find a mistake.

Those words in the Emergency Room, the careful cursive on that post it note? It was Truth I had to live to understand. 

Yes, we endured this trial with a kid in the hospital and life on hold and fear on our shoulder every waking moment. But also? We found this crazy joy. We found out what it feels like to have a whole community wrap you up in their arms. With meals and gifts and care and love. With prayers that wrap up you and your whole family. With blankets of prayer that you can literally cover you with prayers from head to toe.

With watching your eight-year-old walk up a flight of stairs, and witnessing a miracle.

It was true after all — when we met this trial God had joy in mind. And He cultivated a steadfastness, proven in midnight hours with sick kids. Proven in hard places when the enemy whispers fears that rattle the soul.

Don’t make it a hobby alongside gardening or surfing or decoupage. 

Let it be the treasure that you hide in your heart. Let it speak to every part of your story, from struggle to triumph and back again. It won’t return void. It won’t lie. 

God’s Word is the Book you can read forever, and you will always, only ever find truth. Search it and hold onto it and find it, friends. When things fall apart, it will hold you together.

xCC

I hope you’re encouraged today, friend. If so, I’d love to welcome you to subscribe here for a weekly dose of encouragement.

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Update on Blake:
What a joy to say it is to say our Blake came through last week’s CTA and arteriogram and Gamma Radiation very well. On Saturday it was hard to believe he’d had such significant procedures done just the day before. He radiates joy, is cuddly and loving, and is just such a precious gift to our family. We are so grateful.

We would be grateful for your prayers — his AVM still poses a potential risk of re-bleed until it is obliterated, and the Gamma Radiation will take time to do just that. Please pray his AVM would disappear very quickly and there would be no complications on the road to its disappearance. An MRI in about 12 months will let us know how that process is going, but it could take two to two and a half years. While Blake is improving leaps and bounds physically (he basically just has the slightest deficit in his left hand and a bit of a limp), he is otherwise doing so incredibly well and continues to amaze us. However, his vision is an issue as he continues to seem to see nothing on the left side of his field of vision. We will visit a neuro-ophthalmologist on November 20th and hope some progress will begin then, if not sooner. His short term memory also needs a great deal of strengthening, and we continue with exercise and prayer to trust that, like a muscle, it will return to full strength with time. We’d be grateful if you’d pray for Blake about these things — his AVM, his vision and his short term memory.

Thank you for your prayers and support. And PLEASE if you are nearby and would like to join us, we would LOVE to have you at our celebration on November 23rd at 3:30 pm in downtown Washington at Festival Park, where we will Raise a Hallelujah of thanksgiving and praise to God for what He has done for us. And perhaps enjoy some fun together and watch the sun set on the Pamlico! Please join us!

How to Tell You’re Not Following

I scurried across the room during our homeschool community’s morning assembly at the request of the sweet lady in the doorway. One of those ladies who knew my Mama by her maiden name, bearing a gift for Blake. We chatted for a few minutes and she talked about how she’d been praying for Blake:

“I think I’ve told you before, I like to pray, ‘Lord, Your will be done, but let me tell you how you need to do it.'”

We giggled together at that.

I returned to the meeting with the bright and thoughtful package, and some food for thought at the same time.

One evening while Blake was in the hospital, I was praying and asking the Lord to help me rest in Him, and follow Him, and walk with Him as Blake’s journey continued. And I was so struck by a thought, I had to scribble it down immediately, where I found it in my prayer journal this evening.

If one of Your followers tried to walk ahead of You, he would no longer be ‘following’ and would not know the way to go. Let me be covered with the dust of Your feet as You lead me, Rabbi Jesus.

We love to go for walks and hikes with our children, and the Hero Hubs and I are often frustrated by their desire to run ahead and lead the way… when they have no idea where they are going.

Skipping and picking up pine cones and stopping to examine interesting artifacts, I often wonder where they might lead us if we decided to let them just go ahead and blaze the trail. We frequently have to reel them back in, and Mark often makes the declaration: Walk beside me or behind me, please!

And yet I imagine we so frequently want to blaze a trail ahead of Jesus. I picture an eager disciple on a dusty road from one village to another, lifting his tunic a bit to stride on ahead and prepare the way, only to discover Jesus headed in a different direction and he will have to backtrack and catch up.

The momentum of our sweet boy’s recovery has been incredible, and we are eager to do our part to keep things moving. But there is a difference between walking alongside the Rabbi — where you are close enough to hear Him teach — and forging ahead of the Rabbi, hoping you’re plowing your way forward in the direction He intended to go. 

So if we can’t make this therapy session or that appointment happen with a phone call or five, perhaps we need to make sure we are not trying to run ahead of the pace, and we must trust that the Author of Blake’s healing, and Blake’s story, has this in His hands, too.

Lord, show us, your sometimes over-eager children, how to be faithful.

How is it in your life right now, friend? Are you perhaps unwittingly praying some “Your will be done, but here’s how You need to do it” prayers?

Soak in these words again for a moment:

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.
He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light,
And your justice as the noonday. {Psalm 37:3-6}

Trust requires relinquishing control. Committing your way to Him means You’ll follow Him down the trail.

We’ve enjoyed some long walks by still waters, and we’ve endured some steep climbs and tough trails together. But we’ve led our kids to places where they’ve seen waterfalls and sunsets and beauty they would never have seen if they weren’t willing to follow us on the trail.

God can do beautiful things. Trust in the Lord. They take place in His beautiful timing. He can bring it to pass.

The best choice you can make is always?

Follow.

xCC

 I hope you’re encouraged today, friend. If so, I’d love to welcome you to subscribe here for a weekly dose of encouragement.

***

Update on Blake:
We hope and pray that this Friday will mark the end of a season of adventures at Vidant Medical Center for Blake. He is scheduled for a CT Scan (to reexamine the state of his AVM) and an arteriogram (to get imagery of the AVM’s exact status and location) and possibly, if necessary, he will also have Gamma Knife Radiation to “zap” the AVM away. {If you need a reminder, “AVM” is an arteriovenous malformation — the little cluster of vessels in his brain that were formed improperly and caused the aneurism on September 1st.} If the AVM has completely disappeared (which is what we are praying!) the Gamma Radiation will not be necessary.

Blake is doing incredibly well at home. He is enjoying his siblings and able to play with them inside and outside. His balance continues to improve and going up OR down stairs seems to be just about “no sweat” for him. His left arm and hand aren’t 100% yet, but we continue to see such wonderful improvements we feel so sure they will recover completely! He is not sleeping particularly well, but we are seeing improvement in that regard. Our main concerns at the moment are his vision issues and his short term memory loss. We continue to pray and hope we can do our part to help him recover. He is a laughing, giggling, joking, reading, walking, talking, jumping, running miracle!

Please pray for our sweet boy’s 100% recovery! We look forward to sharing the good news of his progress again next week! And please mark your calendar for November 23rd. We plan to Raise a Hallelujah in downtown Washington that afternoon to give thanks for God’s goodness to our family! Please join us!

Blind Spots and How to Find Them

As he held onto a little clicker, I watched the flashing lights and I could see from across the room that he was completely missing what was right in front of him. We thought our sweet boy, roughly eight weeks post major brain aneurism, was having trouble seeing, and this fun little test at the optometrist’s office was confirming it right in front of me. 

Outside this weekend with his Daddy in the backyard, I found him in tears because he’d walked into the little toddler basketball hoop he and his brother used to play with. He just plain didn’t see it. 

He was skipping the first few words on a page. Missing the food on the left side of his plate. Turning his head to try to see things at a distance. The brain is a marvelously miraculous but incredibly funny thing. It will somehow fill in the gaps until you truly don’t know what you’re missing. 

Blake’s blind spots have meant he can’t see the turtle walking by out the window, only six feet away. They’ve also meant he has walked into a few door frames. And every time, he is startled and surprised: he still really doesn’t know he’s missing anything. 

His blind spots have made me start wondering what blind spots I might have in my own life. Yeah, I think I still have 20/20 vision, but how well is my soul seeing? 

Am I aware of the pride I struggle with — because all of us humans have pride that shows up in different ways? It’s at the root of every sin and around the corner at every turn. Because we think we know better, right? What pride hiding in my blind spot?

And…What else might be there? Am I allowing fear to direct my steps instead of faith? Am I going to shadow this second son of mine into his twenties, or gradually, carefully learn to let go again because I trust that God brought him through this and His plan is better than mine?

I imagine sometimes we have to walk into our own walls to realize we are missing something. When we bump into something that hurts or challenges us, we have an opportunity to realize we need to tilt our head a different way, maybe even pause and squint, and see something we’ve been missing. What could God be showing us?

What don’t we realize about us… or Him… that we really need to know?

Prayer is a beautiful place for blind spots to become places where we see more clearly. Digging deep into Scripture and reflecting on what God might want to say to you? Might turn a blind spot into a spot where you’re seeing in 8K — the superior quality, see the speck on the speck kind of resolution we probably need to help us realize 1) how much we don’t see and how sinful we truly are and 2) how gloriously full-color incredibly beautiful God’s Love is for you and me anyway. 

One beautiful technicolor promise of God is that the Truth brings freedom—indeed Jesus said Truth could quite literally set you free. So I’d love to encourage you today to fearlessly press forward in faith and ask, “What blind spot would you like me to see today, Lord?” 

I imagine having Him gently and graciously letting you see what you’re missing will be so much better than walking straight into the little basketball hoop in your backyard. 

xCC

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The Latest on Blake

We are AMAZED at how well Blake is doing! His left arm and hand are constantly improving, closer and closer to seeming like there was never an issue! He is walking without assistance, running and even jumping with so little struggle. Taking stairs going up like a champ, and improving daily on the strength to come down without much concern. His short term memory is an area of concern we continue to pray for: it is hard for him to remember he has just said something or done something, and I think that leaves us all frustrated at time. We are doing best to encourage and strengthen this ‘muscle’ in different ways, and we are seeing encouraging improvement.

Blake will have what will, we pray, be the final procedure related to this AVM for a very long time — perhaps ever — soon. On November 8th, he’ll have a CTA scan, follow by an angiogram, and — only if necessary — that will be followed by Gamma Knife Radiation treatment. We pray that last step will not be necessary, and also give thanks that, either way, at the end of the day he will NOT be spending another night in the hospital but will get to come home to us when the procedures are all through.

We have confirmed our concerns about Blake’s vision with an optometrist and he is not seeing, in fact very much missing, so much in his left field of vision. We pray that as his brain continues to heal and all swelling reduces this will no longer be an issue, but we are also going to follow up with a neuro-opthalmologist to find out what steps might be necessary to help this specific part of Blake’s recovery.

And last piece of news, but by far the most amazing — after repeatedly being told we were not likely to be eligible for Medicaid, Blake has been assigned Medicaid coverage effective September 1st — meaning his medical bills are completely covered. We are flabbergasted, and just so extremely grateful. God has provided for our family in every way possible and worked things together for good in ways we could never have foreseen when everything was just so hard and scary on the first of September! We have contacted GoFundMe to begin sending refunds to the generous friends who wanted to bless us in this trial, and have been overwhelmed with friends telling us not to refund them, knowing Mark was not working and we have expenses ahead as the therapy and recovery process continues.

We plan to Raise a Hallelujah in downtown Washington to celebrate what God has done on November 23rd and would love to welcome you to join us. Details to follow… Thank you for your prayers, your love, your support and encouragement… God is worthy of more Hallelujahs than we could ever give, and we are so grateful. 

The Already, the Not Yet, and How to Set Your Compass Accordingly

If I had to describe the past 52 days, I might use a word like hurricane.

If I had to describe the past three days, I would probably liken it to holding your breath for as long as you possibly can, and then coming up for air at the last moment possible.

Air is filling our lungs and we are breathing again — glorious good air, air full of hope and joy fills our lungs — but we are also probably exhausted.

There’s a hard thing I’ve observed about life. And it’s that I do the most learning when things are hard. I do the most growing when I’m being stretched. It’s as if maybe the strongest trees are the ones that get started in adverse conditions and have to push through hard dirt, or drought. And maybe they also learn to intertwine their roots with the trees around them, because they know somehow they’ll be stronger if they stand together and grow together.

Our precious eight-year-old son is home after 48 days in the hospital. We’ve been eating meals as a family. We’ve been cuddling on the couch and reading books again. We’re in the early stages of figuring out a temporary new normal as we watch our boy progress day-by-day and it is nothing short of glorious to behold. To think just a few short weeks ago we really weren’t sure who would wake up — and what he would remember, what he would be capable of, how his future might be severely limited — and instead to find it seems there are no limitations. No boundaries. No ‘no’s’ or ‘impossibles’ even being whispered. 

Instead we are experiencing what we fought tooth and nail to believe all along: With God, nothing is impossible.

Jesus looked at them and said,
“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
{Matt. 19:26}

We don’t know exactly where our story is going. We don’t know how God is going to author the chapters yet to come. We have already seen the beauty of knowing that so many people have been encouraged out of this journey, and that is a gift we are incredibly grateful for.

Today we watched the video of a precious seven-year-old that wanted to send $11 to help with Blake’s medical bills. I am confident in the kingdom of heaven, that is the very biggest gift we have ever received.

We are fully confident our precious Blake is moving toward 100%, and he will get there. We are fully confident God will provide with exceeding abundance for our family and those medical bills. We will get there.

And all of life, all of our existence as fragile, amazing human beings on planet Earth? Is exactly this — we live in the already, and we live in the not yet.

Christ has already died for us. We are already forgiven. We are already blessed, redeemed, chosen. But we are not yet who we will become when we are fully, face-to-face with our Creator, the heavenly creatures He intended when He first dreamed of you or me at the beginning of eternity.

Already, Blake is so very healed. But in some small ways, not yet. And in truth — even our beautiful eight-year-old is going to live his own precious life and grow old and his days will come to an end. He is not yet the glorified creature he was created to be.

The best is yet to come!

How do we settle into this already and not yet way of living? It reminds me of being at the beach and letting your feet sink into the sand as the water washes over you again and again. You stand for a while. You soak in the sun, the cool of the water, the splash of children nearby, the good salty air that fills your lungs. You let gratitude be what you feel and breathe more than anything else. 

And then, you wriggle those feet out of the sand, and you keep going. You keep going because not yet. You keep going because you are still here for a reason and there is still so much for you to live. There are even more storms for you to weather. You will learn more. You will grow more. It will be hard and it will be beautiful.

And you’ll return to sink your feet into the sand again. You’ll stop and smell those roses and give thanks. And then you’ll start walking again. 

Set your compass in the direction of faithfulness and you will not get off course. Can you really live a faithful life? Can you really do it all for the glory of God?

Well, with man, this is impossible. But? With God, all things are possible.

xCC

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I hope you’re encouraged today, friend. If you’re visiting this site for the first time, I’d love to welcome you to subscribe here for a weekly dose of encouragement.

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Thank you for your prayers for our precious Blake! He is adjusting so well to life at home. Sleeping better. Making great progress. We are watching him do something new with his left hand every day! He is more and more steady on his feet every day. He is more lucid, more himself, more sure of himself all the time. We’d love to ask you to pray for his full healing, his vision, his headaches and tummy aches, the further treatments that may be necessary (that we pray will not be necessary!) and for the Lord’s hand on our family as we continue to navigate this journey together. We have so many hallelujahs to raise! God has been so good to us! We want to live this story with faithfulness.

You can get regular updates on Blake at With Love, From Here on Facebook or on our GoFundMe page. And if you’re looking for an awesome new t-shirt, I think there’s about a week left on our t-shirt Fundraiser right here. Please keep lifting up our family, and please Raise a Hallelujah to the God who is so worthy — He has done such great things for us!!

Piecing Together Who’s Behind the Curtain When Affliction is on the Stage

My days as a Theology student wrapped up at the University of Edinburgh a decade ago, but the circumstances of life being what they are at the moment, finding the Theology to help me to process and understand the hard things has been a part of the process of dealing with what my family has walked through. {If you don’t know what circumstances I’m speaking of, you can glance at this post on the blog for a recap.}

I’ve been wrestling with understanding how the Lord fits into the puzzle of hard places in life. Not exactly the “Where are you now?” question, but more like the “Lord, are you the Author of this affliction, or are you more like the Incredible Being who saw this coming from the beginning and knew how you would catch the ball when it was flung, and how you would begin juggling it and turning it around for good, and still not drop any of the other millions of balls you are juggling?” 

I thought about how Job’s affliction seemed to get started when God said, “Have you considered my servant Job?” to the devil. So I wrestled and prayed and asked — Are you the Initiator of the sufferings? 

And my reading led me to Lamentations:

For no one is cast off by the Lord forever.

Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love.

For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.
{Lam. 3:31-33}

That word willingly — in the Hebrew it has to do with the heart. Another translation could be “from His heart, He does not afflict.” 

And I found my way back to Theology that comforted my soul years ago: that God has a sovereign will. There are ways He moves. Things He ordains. And He also has a permissive will. Things He allows but doesn’t necessarily prefer. If He took the complete control He absolutely has the power to take, and everything happened exactly the way He wanted? We would be automatons, robots — beings without the free will to choose, for better or for worse.

John Gill commented on those verses above, “For all afflictions are from God, but they do not come from the mere motion of his heart, or are the effects of his sovereign will and pleasure, as the good things he bestows upon people do, without any respect to any cause or occasion in them; but sin is the cause and occasion of these…”

What does this mean to me and why does it give me comfort? 

I’m reminded of two things. One, we live in a broken world. And the consequences of the brokenness that started right back there at the beginning with the fall, are the things we tend to dislike very much in the world. Abuse, Neglect. War and hurt. Poverty and hatred and racism. All these things are born in brokenness. We are the hurting people who hurt people.

But Two! Two, there is a God who loves us. Who shows compassion and has unfailing love. Psalm 92:15 says, “The Lord is just! He is my rock! There is no evil in him!” My dear friend Shelley loves the translation that says, “There is no wickedness in Him!” And it is true!

The fall has affected us right down to our DNA. We are not the creatures we were created to be. Before sin, there was no death! No hatred, no sadness, no eight-year-olds with inexplicable AVMs that cause intracranial bleeding. The fall set into motion the proverbial chain of events that led to every hurt you or I have ever or will ever experience on this Earth.

But God! He is in the business of using everything for our good and His glory! So when an eight-year-old does have an inexplicable AVM, He may answer the prayers of thousands of people and show up in a mighty way to bring healing and miraculous goodness in ways that will change many, many lives for good. I’m pretty sure He might do that — because in our situation, He already has.

So hold onto these two truths for whatever you’re facing, friend. First, that we live in an imperfect world and God’s permissive will allows things that are not His sovereign will — not His plan or what He wanted or how He hoped for things to go. But second, and more important, He is just. He a rock to hold onto through every trial and storm, and there is absolutely no wickedness in Him. 

Hold on, and hold on, and keep holding on. Know that whatever valley you trudge through, you will see glory if you do not lose hope. It is in His nature to answer prayers, to show compassion, and to make everything beautiful, and He cannot do otherwise.

xCC

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I hope you’re encouraged today, friend. If you’re visiting this site for the first time, I’d love to welcome you to subscribe here for a weekly dose of encouragement.

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Update on Blake

Thank you dear friends for praying for our sweet boy lots and often! He is doing so well. He has regained control of his left arm and hand, is walking with more strength and less assistance, and cognitively is improving in leaps and bounds. Counting in Spanish. Reading aloud. Writing in short bursts. He is still on a number of medications that are slowly being weaned, and he is working hard through lots of therapy to give him the best possible outcome. That has been hard for him, but we know the best things in life usually come from hard work! The best part of this update has to be that he will get to come home with us on Friday, October 18th. We are absolutely ecstatic to have gone from uncertain of his survival to excitedly planning his homecoming 48 days later. 

He will need continued outpatient therapy and we will begin to figure out what life looks like in this temporary new normal, but we are so excited by the very promising steps toward recovery he has taken so far, and we continue to pray for his 100% head-to-toe healing. Please join us in praying for Blake, specifically for him to continue to regain motor function and balance and strength on his left side, for wisdom for his doctors, for 100% healing, and for his AVM to completely disappear and need no further treatment. 

We have a gofundme right here with a little video documenting a snippet of Blake’s gorgeous personality and our journey here in the hospital which we’ve created in hopes of fundraising to help with the very significant costs associated with living at the hospital for 48 days!

My friend Katherine also designed Raise a Hallelujah t-shirts as a fundraiser, and we are hoping to have a big fat celebration wearing those t-shirts and rejoicing sometime after we have our sweet Blake home!

Thank you for your prayers, friends!!

The Tricksy Thing About Hope

The past couple of days have perhaps been quite a bit rougher than any other 7th or 8th of October I’ve faced in my few decades on Planet Earth. Our eight-year-old has been in the hospital for 38 days, and golly pete, I have experienced a whole new “thing” — I had no idea what it would feel like to have a kid sick with much more than a passing virus that takes them down for a couple of days. Just these two days have been a mix of exhilaration and exhaustion as we’ve watched him grow stronger and recover, but also we’ve watched as we struggle to figure out his medications and help him keep them down and get the sleep he needs… and it feels like there are wins and losses, and my heart is on a roller coaster.

Early on, certainly as the result of the prayers of many people, I had this important insight that has steadied my gaze on this journey with our sweet little Blake. I can remember the moment when it hit me and I clarified the thought in my mind, while walking the halls of the hospital and speaking with a friend on the phone. Our boy was in a medically induced coma in the Pediatric ICU upstairs, and I was downstairs walking and breathing and talking and praying and hoping when it hit me.

“I can’t put my hope in the outcome of this situation. I can’t put my hope in Blake being okay. I have to put my hope in the goodness of God — that somehow He can make this good no matter what.”

Back when we didn’t know whether our boy would wake up and still be some semblance of the child we rushed to the ER on September 1st, I was trying to clarify for the sake of my own heart exactly what I was going to put my hope in.

Yes, we pray like crazy for the outcome we long for. 

But I also had to get to this excruciatingly painful place in my own soul where I was willing to say, “Lord, I’m yours no matter what. I don’t have anywhere else to go. No one else is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

Those prayers often ended with something like, “Lord, I trust You. But please, please heal my boy.”

I don’t know why, but I had to come to a place where I could say and mean it — Lord, I really do love you and I will follow you no matter what. 

I’m so grateful God has answered my prayers and the prayers of so many others. But I know that I cannot put my trust in things always happening the way *I want* — because that is not life, and that is not faith. Instead, I think the challenge is to have these two different things going on at the same time: we ask, and ask, and ask again for exactly what we want, but then we also lift our hands to a God that is wiser than we are and say, “Nevertheless, not my will, but Your will be done.” 

Oh how hard it is to live — palms up — willing to give what He takes and take what He gives, as Mother Teresa put it!

A few weeks later, I read these words in my devotional (a perfectly timed gift from a friend during this trial!) and I immediately began scribbling them down to remember:

“It really is true, that peace in times of trouble is not found in figuring out your life, but in worship of the One who has everything figured out already.” {New Morning Mercies, Paul David Tripp, Oct. 3rd}

So this is the tricksy thing about hope: if we place all our hope in an outcome, we are likely to be disappointed. If our hope is in getting that job promotion, or this relationship not falling apart, or yes, even in not losing this loved one, we are setting ourselves up for heartache. Because even if you get that job promotion, it will not satisfy you forever. And our earthly relationships, as beautiful as they can be are not eternal. And we cannot have each other forever this side of heaven.

So I keep circling back to this one passage that is enough:

“You will keep him in perfect peace, 
whose mind is stayed on You, 
because he trusts in You.
Trust in the Lord forever,
for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.”
{Is. 26:3-4}

Hope in God is the hope that does not disappoint. We trust His character — we trust Him to weave things together for good. We trust Him regardless of the outcome — because He is in the business of redemption, of creating beauty from ashes, of taking something that seems like it cannot possibly be anything other than horrible and somehow turning it into something gloriously beautiful. 

We have witnessed that these last 38 days.

So hope, yes, hope, hope and hope some more. Keep hoping to see the goodness of an unfailing, unfaltering Father who loves you to pieces and has incredible plans for you. With Him at the Center, you will always get more than you could ever hope for.

xCC

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I hope you’re encouraged today, friend. If you’re visiting this site for the first time, I’d love to welcome you to subscribe here for a weekly dose of encouragement.

Update on Blake: 

Blake is getting stronger every day! He is now completely tube-free — no IVs, NG tubes… just a big band-aid on the back of his head from a pressure wound that is still healing. He is relearning to walk and the therapists are so pleased with his progress. He is still struggling under the weight of a brain injury and lots of medications (and we do not know what is what and that is hard) but we do know that he has come very far! He can write his name, count in Spanish, and smile to light up a room in a heartbeat. We are praying for his continued head-to-toe healing, and specifically for him to regain strength in his left arm, and continue making progress, including the management on the medications that are a necessity for him right now.

So many of you have asked how you can help, and now that we have a grasp on what this looks like for us in terms of finance, we have set up a gofundme page as a fundraiser. Even if you can’t give, please visit it to enjoy the beautiful video Mark created to give you a better glimpse of this journey. Thank you for your prayers. Our hope is in the God who has all this in His hands!!!

 You can also follow With Love, From Here on Facebook for daily updates. 

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Nobody Wins When You Lose It

In a month like this one, I’ve been reminded on almost a daily basis how glorious it can be when a husband and wife have personalities that help balance each other out. There have been dozens of moments where we could’ve absolutely fallen apart, but somehow we’ve managed to hold it together…together. 

One of the challenges of having your child in the care of the medical community is being able to trust that things are being done “the way they should be.” Especially when you’re not a trained medical professional, and don’t know your ICPs from your EVDs, you’re at the mercy of trusting that you’re being given the correct information and the right decisions and judgement calls are being made.

We’ve been so fortunate to feel like we’ve received fantastic care at just about every turn, but in the few places where we felt uncertain or uncomfortable or even frustrated, the Hero Hubs set a precedent early on  that stuck with me through every twist and turn. He said something to the effect of:

“Blake is not going to get better care if we freak out or get angry or yell at people.”

Getting angry and yelling at people isn’t something we commonly do, but when you’re under stress and your kid is in critical condition, you might be tempted to break down crying over a dirty diaper or a nurse tripping over a stand attached to an EVD.

We quickly found ourselves in a place where we realized we were going to have to trust that somehow even the things that seemed wrong or delayed or rushed too quickly or unsatisfactory in some other way could still work out for good for Blake. 

A couple of weeks ago, Blake pulled out his feeding tube (the nasal kind) with three adults in the room standing just a few feet from him. It happened so quickly the decision was made that he needed a restraint to prevent this happening again. The reinsertion process was very difficult for him AND the people doing it.

Later the hospital decided to discontinue the restraints, but as parents we thought, “Hmm… I think we need to keep using them…” or else we will have to figure out how to hold his hand for absolutely every second of every day.

Somewhere along the line, someone decided to assign a sitter to Blake twenty-four hours a day. The ‘sitter’ is an individual responsible for literally sitting near Blake, helping care for him and most importantly making sure that (since the restraints have been discontinued) he does not pull out any stitches or tubes with those clever hands of his.

This evening Blake went to sleep and while the sitter wasn’t watching stirred and pulled out his feeding tube again. 

I wanted to lose it and freak out. I wanted to say “You had one job!!!” Or, “Why don’t you just head out and I’ll take it from here.” But in the back of my mind, I remembered that Blake wouldn’t benefit in ANY way whatsoever from me losing my cool. So I stepped out and took some deep breaths and trusted that it was going to be okay.

Do we need to speak up and ask questions if we are concerned that things are being done incorrectly? Absolutely. But won’t handling things with kindness endear us to the people caring for Blake and for our family so much more than rudeness or meanness or harshness or freaking out?

And how much of life does this principle apply to?

Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Whether we feel like we’ve been unjustly treated at work, cut off in traffic or treated unfairly at any turn in our journey, we are so much less likely to improve our situation if we set out to be harsh or rude or even just dang unpleasant.

But as we’ve done our best to choose kindness and goodness and gentleness, we have received exactly that in abundance in return from the caregivers that have walked us through this rollercoaster of a month.

As I continue doing my best to learn in this hard place, I hope these thoughts encourage you that life just plain feels better when you decide to face it with a smile and kindness and a good helping of self-control.

Mother Teresa often said, “Take whatever He gives and give whatever He takes with a big smile.”

When we trust Him to work everything together for our good and His glory, we truly can live our days doing exactly that.

xCC

I hope you’re encouraged today, friend. If you’re visiting this site for the first time, I’d love to welcome you to
subscribe here for a weekly dose of encouragement.

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Update on Our Sweet Blake
Thank you for your prayers, dear friends. I am so happy to say Blake is making wonderful progress and we feel closer and closer to that beautiful day when our boy will get to come home with us. He is beginning to speak more and more, and we have seen so many beautiful glimpses of his personality, still definitely in tact. He still has that pesky feeding tube and perhaps some weakness on his left side, but we are watching him get stronger every day. He has begun walking with assistance, is able to write his name and guess letters and still even remembers how to count in Spanish! We are praying for his 100% head to toe healing and continue to Raise Hallelujahs for all the Lord has done and all He still will do! Thank you for joining us. 
 You can Follow With Love, From Here on Facebook for daily updates. 

The Best Thing to Do With the Thing You’re Most Afraid Of {+Blake Update!}

I have an incredible secret to share with you today. Lean in close and let me share from experience, if you will.

Sometimes the only thing you need to do to shake off the power of something you’re really afraid of?

Is say, out loud, that you’re really afraid of it. 

I can’t promise this will work for a fear of spiders or snakes or bridges or canned tuna, but when the enemy of your soul is whispering hard to try to corner you in a dark place where you’re nothing but plain scared, those thoughts, brought into the Light, seem to somehow lose their power.

If you’ve got a moment, I can explain what I mean.

So. If you’re reading this post, you may already know my lovely eight-year-old son has been in the hospital for three weeks now. A very traumatic brain aneurism unexpectedly changed our lives in an instant on September 1st, and we spent the better part of his first two weeks in the hospital just living with a scary fear that our boy might never survive, might never come home to us, might make our family of six suddenly one little fella short at the dinner table.

Once we were past the stage of simply fearing whether or not we would lose our boy, we quickly discovered (as is often the case with worry and fear) we had something new to be afraid of.

Blake has had a traumatic brain injury. And I guess in some ways TBIs are kind of like life and Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.

Enter the biggest, scariest thoughts possible, stage left.

Perhaps for a few days, or more than a few, the Hero Hubs and I danced around this conversation. And since we’re taking turns staying at home or at the hospital, it is easy for us to dance around conversations if we want to.

But finally one evening via FaceTime, tailored perfectly into our topic of conversation, he wisely said, “I think the thing we’re really not talking about here is that we don’t know what Blake is going to be like when he wakes up.”

That was the truth of the situation — the sum total of the greatest fear — and now it was no longer whispering in the recesses of my mind while I tried to shush it and put on a brave face.

So we faced that fear head on, and talked about it. Together. Out loud.

And then a funny thing happened. It somehow didn’t seem as big or scary anymore. We thought about some important things, like the fact that Blake is still with us. We almost lost our son — but we didn’t. He is ours. We do and will continue to love him to pieces no matter what.

The next day when the fear started whispering again, I shared it with a trusted friend in a good long commuting-to-the-hospital conversation. And she encouraged me, and I eventually found myself thinking: if our sweet boy is changed by this, maybe I should be careful about automatically assuming that’s bad.

I remembered a verse I’d been clinging to during this storm:

For the Lord God is a sun and shield,
the Lord will give grace and glory.
No good thing will He withhold
from those whose walk is blameless.
Psalm 84:11

Together we pondered that verse, and Romans 8:28, and how God promises that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. 

On both occasions, bringing something scary into the Light diminished its power and lightened my load. 

I decided to remind myself again, and again, how I’ve seen God’s hand in the past, in what seemed like the hardest of hard places, and I’ve seen how they worked together for my good. Like the time we were in a hard place in ministry in South Africa and felt it was time to return to North Carolina sooner than we’d originally planned, and I had eighteen months with my Dad before he passed away. Eighteen months I would never have had had we not be so hurt that we knew God was closing a door to open another.

God is in the business of making beauty from ashes. Last week, I was blessed with an incredibly sweet, thoughtful birthday party. It’s been a long time since I had an actual birthday party. This one was complete with homemade food and cake and flowers and decorations and gifts — and it was thrown for me by the nurses and medical staff right here in the Pediatric ICU, where my son currently resides. I will treasure that birthday party for the rest of my days! People who’d known me 18 days chose to so selflessly care for me at such a hard time.

Like flowers pushing their way through dirt…What glorious beauty!!!

So friend, I don’t know what finds you here, what you might be hurting from or afraid of, but I encourage you to bring those fears into the light. Remind yourself that God is good and He can strengthen you to walk through anything. Anything. ANYthing. And He is in the business of redemption — always turning brokenness into beauty.

Trust that you’ll see it. Say it out loud! Don’t let whispers of fear steal the joy you should have because God’s life in abundance is what Christ died to give you!

xCC

I hope you’re encouraged today, friend. If you’re visiting this site for the first time, I’d love to welcome you to
 subscribe here for a weekly dose of encouragement.

***

Update on Blake:

Thank you so much for Raising a Hallelujah, and lifting up our precious Blake! He is still in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, but those days are numbered! Both of the drains which were removing excess blood from his brain have been removed. He was extubated last Wednesday and has been breathing very, very well all on his own since then. While having his PICC line removed today, he said his first word, “Ow!” We were sorry he was hurting, but so blessed to hear him speak!

He is beginning to give thumbs up and thumbs down to communicate with impressive understanding. Today the nurse asked if he was six years old, and he gave a thumbs down. When she asked if he was twelve, he gave a thumbs up and a cheeky grin!! (He is eight and this is totally his personality shining through!) The medical team that has cared for him (and his family) so incredibly well is working together to slowly and carefully reduce his medications, and with less and less sedatives on board we are able to see more and more of Blake shining through. 

He does have a journey ahead with regard to rebuilding his motor skills and recovering from the TBI and the time in a coma… but he’s already been in a hurry and we feel sure his fighting spirit will serve him well. He could be transferred to the Pediatric Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit later this week. (Our minds are reeling at the thought of that! Wow!)

We’d be so grateful if you’d continue to lift up our sweet Blake, as well as the rest of our family as we continue walking this journey together. Rotating nights in the hospital is a challenge, but we are grateful to say we’ve been so well cared for and supported by our community, those tangible efforts and prayers have made our burdens so, so much lighter. I look forward to sharing more news with you soon — perhaps from Rehab next week! You’re also welcome to find With Love, From Here on Facebook for daily updates. Thank you for your prayers and support friends!!!