Saturday, December 5, 2020

Compassion, Pick Your Risk, and Covid-19

"Pick your risk"

This phrase has helped us so much during this 2020 craziness.  

 A few years back I came the closest to losing my husband than I ever have.  He had the flu, which turned into bacterial AND viral pneumonia...and sepsis.  I sat by his bed....and when he lost his sense of humor, I knew it was serious.  My amazing punny, doting, loving husband stopped laughing.  I feel a bit ill remembering it.  That was NOT my husband.  He was sicker than I've ever seen him.  His face was gray.

Then there was little Grace, she brought home from China a version of the flu that the U.S. hadn't seen in awhile.  Her less than twenty pound (3 1/2 year old) body ended up in the hospital with pneumonia.  

Fall is my absolute favorite and also when we are the sickest.  If you didn't know, there's A LOT of us in this household (go ahead and laugh, I am).  We typically (prior to 2020) are fairly social.  All the kids going different directions have led to someone ending up with a bug each holiday.  

So picking our risk? It just makes sense to us.  This year especially, everyone has to wade to so much information (and misinformation).  Truthfully, it seems that those "in charge" are changing their minds daily (as they too wade through this).  

So, in working on health AND mental health, that's exactly what we've done.  Obviously, we aren't all the same though.  We are going to make different decisions (for different reasons) in our families.  

We've chosen to keep life small, socializing with a few families that are particularly careful.  We stepped back from our BIG WONDERFUL AMAZING home school co-op this year (we genuinely LOVE them).  We chose for four to go to a tiny one at a friend's house.  We did so, not out of fear at all, but just trying to "pick our risks".  

Recently they had a mini "program", showing us what they learned this year.   Let me tell you, they can whip me with some of the knowledge they've gained.  My friend Lindsey has a gift of teaching (actually many different gifts) and she's blessed our kids so much.

It was so nice to feel "normal" briefly, in a time that normal doesn't seem to exist a whole lot.  The kids had huge smiles as they piled in the car to head home.   

Once home, a teen came to me and said, "I need a hug mom.  I'm just so sad.  I miss grandma so much."  I wrapped them in my fluffy arms (ya, we are trying to overcome stress eating...chuckle).  The sadness was heavy on me as well.  

Then I realized what triggered this wave of mourning.  

During Covid-19 and all the quarantining, even though we were moving forward, it really didn't feel like it.  It felt like the world had hit a big ol' pause button.  This little tiny recital felt "normal".  It felt like the earth was spinning again.  It actually FELT like life was moving forward....without my mom...without the kids grandma.

We know where she went, but our loss is huge.  She knew me longer than anyone, except God.  Her smile made everything feel like it was going to be okay.  

This is why, when several friends shared with me what's being said to them, I needed to try to gently respond.  

"You shouldn't be afraid, you should be back at _______.  If anyone in your family dies, you know where they are going."   

I admit, I gasped the first time (not the only time) someone shared with me that this was said to them. 

It's NOT that it's untrue, but it's painfully minimizing to many who have experienced loss this year.   

This is not to judge, but to explain. 

I need to go back to the Bible to do this.

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, 

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he

was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.  “Where have you laid him?” he asked.   “Come and

see, Lord,” they replied.

Jesus wept.

Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance.  “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”  Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”  So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.  I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”  When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”  The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.  Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

John 11:32-44

Whether our Savior wept because of the pain of missing his friend, or the pain of all those around him, Jesus wept.  He hurt.

He hurt AND he knew (better that ANYONE) where Lazarus was going.

Knowing where we are going doesn't mitigate the pain and the years we will live on this earth without our loved one.  Knowing where we are going doesn't exempt us from loss.  

Knowing where we are going also doesn't have us saying that we no longer have to be "wise as serpents, harmless as doves"(Matthew 10:16).   We don't start running with sharp scissors.  We start figuring out (for 2020) what our sharp scissors are.  It doesn't mean fear.  It doesn't mean we've forgotten who we are and WHO has saved us.  It also doesn't mean we've forgotten where we are going.

We put on our seatbelts, not because we expect to get into an accident, but because we know accidents happen.  
We put on a parachute while jumping out of a plane, because we know gravity happens, not because we fear gravity. (Well, except when we are aging maybe.)
We lock our doors at night, not because we expect an intruder, but we know the fallen state of man.

No matter what the choices our neighbor makes about how to "handle" 2020, it's not necessarily fearing it.  Truth has not been forgotten.  It doesn't make someone who thinks differently a bad person, but a human who's trying to make the best of a very confusing history in the making.  None of us have walked this before.   We pick our risks for ourselves and for our very unique families.  

Should it so foreign to us that we all may be making a mistake in how we handle this? Is it not possible for us to comprehend there is more than one right answer?  I'm so amazingly human, that I'm sure I don't have this perfect.

Some may have sit by bedsides at the hospital, as we have done many times.
Some may have had the mental health struggle, beyond what they have put out there publicly.
Some may have professional friends telling them different that our friends.
Some may trust this news source and some may trust that one.  
We all must wade through this differently.

Lets stop minimizing other's experiences though.  Let's give each other permission to come to a different conclusions than we have.  Let's have compassion.


As I've said before, I am human.  Very honestly, I am talking to my nurse friends/medical friends and wading through the same information that is being thrown at us from every side.  There are things I trust the accuracy of and things I don't.  Please forgive me if I don't always say things right.

I do ask for prayers though. 
*My friend Sunday's parents both are seriously sick with Covid-19.  One has been in the ICU (newly home) and the other, back and forth to the ER.  
*Another friend from high school (Ben) is trying to recover from a long bout of it.  
*A little girls that was a playmate (and daughter of a friend), had her husband recently diagnosed (and symptomatic) with  Covid-19 (Ashton).
*I ask for prayers for our friend Sherry A. and her family, who lost her 29 year old son to Covid-19.
*Please pray for our friend Candy, who has a serious wound on her ankle that is not getting better and is intensely painful.  She needs healing.
*Please pray for the missionaries out there, all over the world, who don't have the same access to medical care...but may be facing the same thing we all are.  Please pray protection from Covid-19 and other illnesses specifically for my missionary friend/beloved friend Frances. She is at higher risk.
*There are MANY countries with few hospital beds out there, let alone any ability to fight all the "extra" that is out there this year.  Please pray that people are raised up to help. Please also pray healing for those in battle all over the world with Covid and other illnesses and a lack of resources to fight.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Still Here


Several of my friends are sick with Covid-19.  People I loved more than I can express in words, have died of it.  I have friend's whose family members are in battle with this horrid virus right now.  Guys, if I know of you, I'm praying for you. I'm praying for your family members.  Contact me and let me know how I can pray for you.

If you see us and we are wearing masks or not always giving hugs, know it's NOT FEAR that drives this.  We wouldn't have traveled the world, been through baboon stampedes and communist protests, if we were big on fear (though not perfect, there are occasions).  Truthfully, in the beautifully deep conversations I've had, most of my friends are not fearful, even those that are a bit more cautious. There are times during flu season that we stayed home because of several sets of compromised lungs in our family and a few narrow airways.  Maybe it's the reality of having personal knowledge of life and death too many times.  We choose our risks, which may be smaller than most.   I look forward to the day we can safely be back at Church (the building).  I miss hugs and LOVE worship, but then this family can TOTALLY worship (even at home). I'm glad the Church does not just reside within four walls.  Church is so much bigger than that.  (Happy sigh....)

Anyway, all that is to say that we are praying for those of you we know are sick and that (to those we don't see) we miss you all.  I'm confident we will all get back there. Yes, the world has changed.  Yes, some are choosing division.  I say "Pffttt" to that though.  This world is crazy enough without division.

Please keep our friend Sunday's parents in your prayers.  Both of her parents have Covid.  Her mom is in ICU and her father is very sick as well.  Also, a friend from high-school, Ben, is trying to recover from Covid-19 as well.  We appreciate all prayer.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Shelter in Place - Beauty and Loss in the ICU - My Mom

The grocery stores had begun to feel like we are playing Pac-Man.   Masked bandits, trying to stay six feet away from the invisible virus chasing us.  Wait...we are too close to the next person...turn! Turn! Turn!

The craziest feeling for me has been the silence.  The streets are silent, except for the singing of the birds. The stores have instructions interrupting the quiet.

On a funny note, shopping for the ten children still at home has been interesting.  I have had more questionable looks at my one overfull cart (that will last us one week).  We have been very cared for by our village here though.  Diapers have been regularly delivered, as well as toilet paper, Lysol, food, etc.

Everyone is safely working from home, though we've had to be out of the house more than many, taking my mom to dialysis.

The last couple weeks, my mom has been joyful.  I don't know how to explain it.  It's like most of her worries were just gone.  It was a healing couple of weeks.  If you know my mom, she is such a kind person.  She loves others so much.

Last Saturday, my mom got a bit sick to her stomach, but she wasn't confused and none of the other big worrisome signs.  Allergies are in full force here, so we figured it was the lovely pollen in the air.

Easter morning came and a call came from our oldest daughter Sarah. (She and her family live with my mom and help care for her.)  My mom was confused, her blood sugar, blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen level was way lower than it needed to be...and her speech began to be affected.

We got many of her "rates" up and loaded her (she could still move to a wheelchair) into the van.  Thomas took her to the ER.  In the van, her speech became clear again.  Thomas talked to her about watching our preacher (Richard) speak about our amazing Savior and how we made the kids little Easter bags.   My mom smiled and turned toward Thomas.  "They liked it?"  Her concern, on the way to the hospital, was her grandchildren loving Easter.

As Thomas drove up, my mom passed out.

Thomas called me.  He was met at the door by people in hazmat suits and not allowed in.  He was broken.  My strong, always knows what to do in an emergency husband was broken.

For the first 15 minutes the ER didn't even know who she was.  They were wonderful people, fighting an awful virus, and couldn't let others in.  They got mom's information and Thomas' phone number.  He stayed there as long as he could, but there was no entering the building.

That first night my mom was moved to a Covid ICU unit as a "possible positive".  She was put on a ventilator.  Her numbers improved throughout the next 36 hours.  She's come back from much worse.

While this was going on, a friend that is like a sister kept hearing in her spirit, "Help Kat with her mom's homecoming."  She knew things were improving, and well...that's just not something that is easily shared when your friend's mom is in the hospital.  My friend had never used a word like "homecoming" odd.  She tried to push it out of her mind, but our Heavenly Father wouldn't let it retreat.  She felt in repeatedly in her spirit...again and again.

For three days, we couldn't see my mom. She was a "possible Covid patient".   She was in the ICU on a ventilator and we couldn't be by her side.  The hospital was wonderful, communicating often and putting the phone to my mom's ear.  She tested Covid negative and again at 48 hours.  On Wednesday they moved her to the non-Covid ICU wing.  

I got a call early Wednesday morning.  My mom's numbers had plummeted.  The dialysis couldn't clean the acid out of her blood fast enough.  She had sepsis, pneumonia, and several of her organs were shutting down.  We were told we needed to have a very difficult conversation. Each of our immediate family members and children called and told our mom that they loved her, with the phone held to her ear.

 The nurse called and said they had gotten permission for one of us to be with her one at a time for up to three hours.  When the nurse started crying, we knew that we were losing our mom.

I don't know how it got to this point.  Everything had been encouraging and our mom had recovered from the ICU before.  It was unreal what was unfolding so quickly.

We gathered everything we could to keep us safe (we were walking into a hospital).  We found our masks, our hand sanitizer, and climbed into my brothers Jeep.  The ride took only about 20 minutes,but seemed like an eternity.

I walked into the hospital first.  As I told them my mom's room number the tears exploded from me.  I had it somewhat together until then, but having to say out loud why I was being called to the hospital just about broke me.

This is my mom.

When I walked into the room, the nurse looked up.  She said, "I know you.  You look familiar." We both had masks on at that point.  I took off my mask.  "You have thirteen children.", she smiled with heartfelt emotion.  She took off her mask.  It was the "nurse that prayed".  She had my number in her phone. A little bit over three years ago, my mom was fighting for her life in the ICU.  One nurse was planted in our hearts, Crystal.  She had prayed with us, shared what we needed to be praying for medically, and supported us when we thought we were losing our mom.  Crystal from three years ago, was my mom's nurse as we faced one of the hardest and most beautiful events in one's life.  The likelihood of this happening was very small...BUT GOD.

Thomas, I, and my brother Steve rotated though.  The "shelter in place order" had my brother Ralph and his beautiful family in California.  It all happened so fast.

The doors to the hospital locked at 6pm.  You could get out, but not in.  It was about 4:15 pm when I walked in the first time.

I went in first.... and I went in the very last.

I was honored to be with my mom in her last minutes. I asked to be. My brothers and husband were gracious enough to let me.  It's painful and beautiful at the same time. I got to be there when she had her homecoming. The doctors tried to convince those in charge to let all of us, but the rules were strict with the pandemic.   My husband, my brothers, my sister-in-law, and my niece were on speaker phone.  They were there with me.

At home, Bekah sat outside on our second level, knowing what was coming.  About two feet away a Cardinal landed...then a sparrow right next to it.  They started playing together, not fighting, playing.  Bekah crept even closer.  For those of you that know us, you may know Cardinal's are meaningful to us.  They mean, "It's going to be okay."  (It's a long story for another time.) We had also recently (never before in twenty years living here) had Lark Sparrows join our feathered friends.  They have a very distinct song.  If you know the verse from the Bible...

 "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.  Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."                    Matthew 12:6-7

They reminded us of not only God watching over us, but also God's provision.  Not ONLY did they join us at our house, but one had been perching every morning at my mom's house on the highest point of her roof.  ONLY GOD....

We all talked to her.  Told her we loved her.  Laughed at crazy memories.  I sung to her a verse...

This world is not my home I'm just a passing through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven's open door
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore

Oh lord you know I have no friend like you
If heaven's not my home then lord what will I do
The angels beckon me from heaven's open door a
nd I can't feel at home in this world anymore 

When they pulled the ventilator tube, she didn't take one breath.  She's was ready to be home.

That night, Sarah opened my mom's Bible to where my mom was reading last.  
Revelations 12:11

"They triumphed over him
    by the blood of the Lamb

    and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
    as to shrink from death."

Monday, January 13, 2020

Your Trial

This verse has always meant a lot to me.  It was my verse of the day today.  I always picture my Savior saying this in front of a classroom.  There I am in the back of the class waiving my hand wildly and saying, "That's me! ME!"  
Today I was dwelling on the first part of this verse. 
"My Grace is sufficient for you."  That's a hard one sometimes.  We fall back into sin or bad habits.  We fail again and again and again....or at least I do.  I don't know about you guys.  My mind goes where it shouldn't.  I act remarkably bear like (picture growling).  I flat out sin.  I arrogantly feel like I've done too much for grace to cover.  That's a lie.  We only have to let so many names in the Bible cycle through our brains to know that.  The hard part is believing that, or really getting your heart to believe that.
One phrase has come back to me over and over and over again these last weeks.
Your trial will become your testimony.
Think about that.
It's truth.  It will be what grabs hearts and makes people listen when you begin to tell them about Jesus.  It will be what helps them to realize you are not all unicorns and rainbows.  It will help them to know YOU are real...gritty...and scarred too.
So....I hold onto those two things today in my failure.  
"My grace is sufficient for you"
Your trial will become your testimony.
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