Because We Love Our Life

I was buying our groceries on Sunday afternoon (alone… which is another glorious story entirely, even though I only had 30-45 minutes round trip… can all the mama’s say amen!?) and the checkout girl asked me if I had any plans for the evening.

“Yes, I do, actually!” I said, “I’m going on a BBQ on a ship!”

I was surprised at her reaction, “Really!? That is SO cool! You just don’t hear about people doing THAT every day!”

And you know what!? She’s right!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what we do. (Might be in part due to the stretches of time I’m awake in the quiet of the night with a certain baby girl).

The good news is, I’ve re-decided that I really do love it.

Jared is spending early mornings down at the ship and has had some late nights and Saturdays as well. We didn’t have “a weekend” this week and that’s not uncommon for us.

But what we did get to do was take our kids to the National Youth Week event put on but our Youth Teams on Saturday night. This means that Max got to watch skateboarding teenagers doing cool tricks on a half pipe, dance to some awesome tunes, and eat pizza. Hello!?? Does he not have an awesome life!?

As for us, we got to watch some of the fruit of labour in action as we saw hundreds of young people swarming our centre finding a positive place to have fun… and maybe learn a lesson or two about life or maybe even their purpose! It was particularly amazing to see Kate Martin perform… this girl was a youth street crew herself years ago and now she’s starting to get pretty popular in the Australian music scene. Ummm… awesome?!

And for Sunday, we had a BBQ on a ship getting to know 20 new students who have just arrived for the YWAM Medical Ship DTS. What a delight to meet a heap of new passionate young people who are not only eager to learn how to serve the people of PNG, but also to hold our babies and be-friend our family. We are blessed.

Last week I was teaching on our Staff Internship and sharing with them about some of our values and culture here in YWAM – how its not just an 8-5 “job”. Its a lifestyle.

And the reality is, despite the fact that I get tired, sometimes feel like I’m not doing a great job, feel torn between family and community, or “work” and “kids”, miss home, etc… I really am grateful God gave us this lifestyle.

Because its not every day you get to go to a BBQ on a ship…

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Our Boy Is Healed.

My eyes teared up as I watched a four year old boy crying in his mama’s arms as Max played happily to the tune of the prayers of friends and family around the world. They found a brain tumour last week in the little boy; he had tubes in his noses and his arms and he was done with it all. Over it. “Everybody here is very mean mama. Everyone hurts me. I can’t stay here any more and you can’t make me. There is nothing you can do or say to make me feel better I’m going home.”

My eyes welled up as she bravely held a very articulate little boy, probably wishing she could make it all go away even more than he did, trying to find the words to explain, the courage to lend him, and the strength to keep herself going.

The next morning it was my turn. In the early hours of the morning, after a particularly challenging night when Max spiked a post-surgery fever and was up with blood tests, medication and cranky roommates for more than half of the night, I sent Jared home for a nap and let my little boy take his turn melting down.

He wailed in my arms and every trick I knew didn’t work. He just wanted to go home.

And as sad as that moment made me, my heart welled up with joy. We desire to cultivate a home that is a place of security, of peace, and of the presence of God. And in that moment, as heartbroken as I was, my heart soared because to Max, that’s what our home has become. It felt good to hear it and to know it. A parenting high in the midst of a heartbreaking challenge.

There may have been some tough moments during our time in the hospital, but for every challenge, there were a hundred blessings… at least.

Not the least of which is that our boy is healed.

I prayed God would do a miracle and I remember one moment in the wee hours of the morning, weeks ago when I couldn’t sleep, I heard Him whisper back, “What if I want to use surgery to heal him, Rebekah?”

And it appears that that is what He’s done.

The infection is gone. It was a nasty one, embedded deep and strong and resistant. The team involved were confident that this was the very best course of action.

In addition to this miracle, we saw so many moves of God’s grace along the way… the fact that Max was a near perfect patient. At each shift change the nurse would ask why he hasn’t had more pain medication and the other would say, “He’s been content so we’ve held off.” The wound care team said, “I kept expecting him to jump but he just laid there. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

No, he wasn’t perfect. He got emotional. He couldn’t sleep to the tune of emergency buzzers going off every half hour and children screaming in pain and discomfort. The bandage hurt coming off. And sometimes he just reallyreallyreally wanted apple juice.

But that’s when the grace turned up too. A nurse just who popped over with the apple juice just in time… and some tylenol. The cleaning lady who kept bubbles in her cleaning box. Surprise visits from our favourite nurses who have been seeing Max throughout this ordeal, even though it wasn’t their job to pop by. Friends arriving with treats at just the right moment.

They may seem minor. But in a Children’s Ward full of aching families, every bit of joy and hope we experienced was acknowledged with deep gratitude. There were challenges… but we were so blessed in the midst of them.

When we got a visit from the lead surgeon who has been seeing Max, we saw the wound for the first time. It was bigger than I expected… but we learned that one of the larger abscesses had popped during the procedure and the fact that he didn’t have an infection already was a surprising result. (Lord, is that You?)

We also learned that there was indeed some minor nerve damage. That would explain the slacking we had noticed on the left side of his lower lip… the one I had been hoping was the bandaid pulling his skin… I saw the look of relief on the surgical assistant’s face when she said, “I wasn’t sure the extent of the damage. I was so relieved when I heard he could eat and talk completely normally.”

Just one more moment I counted our blessings.

We were there longer than anticipated. And though we were very well taken care of, we are ALL glad to be home – in our place of refuge and peace.

Max spends most of his time asking to run outside or sing and dance inside. He is visibly relieved to be back. He melts down every now and then – we give him some pain medication and he seems to morph back into himself within around 20 minutes. I think he is still hurting more than we realise … or even more than he is willing to admit.

Playing football with daddy is just too much fun. Its a good thing the paediatric outreach nurses are doing a house visit tomorrow. Seems he popped open part of the wound during a tackle. Oops.

We’re all catching up on sleep, enjoying a relatively lazy weekend, bursting into spontaneous prayers of gratitude to God because it truly could’ve been a different result in many ways.

Thanks for so many who prayed. We are grateful for you all.

Our boy is healed.

There is Rest for the Weary

Have I mentioned its been a big year? Well, it has. We knew it would be a big few years as we help get this ship up and running to service PNG…

We haven’t always known how big, though.

The last few months alone, since the ship has come back into port here in Townsville have been incredibly full. With tight deadlines, Jared & the team bit off a lot – stripping the ship back to steel, repairing rusted areas, and repainting with a top quality product, removing some of the bulky storage areas to create a better waiting room and deck for socialising after hours… and creating new, more efficient storage areas for all of the medical supplies we’ve been donated.

It was early mornings… late nights… and long weekends. Max kissed a picture of daddy goodnight most days.

But we’re finished. (For now.) And she looks BEAUTIFUL!

We’re really happy to say that we have been able to host lectures on board with one of our training schools as well, making this truly a vessel for mercy and for training, exactly what we’ve been planning for. Don’t you love when the dreams God puts on your heart come true?

There’s more where those came from… but for now we wait! 🙂

But this isn’t just about being busy. Its about resting.

And let’s face it… rest is what we’ve been needing.

We had a wonderful week with Jared’s sister Amy and dad visiting. There’s just something special about having family… but even more so when you see your child interacting with his auntie and grandpa. Somehow he just knows that its someone special… and he adores them… and I love that.

We skipped naps and walked around waterfalls instead. Jared played adventure guide on the island and up north. It was delightful.

We even got a few more days off just to recoup at home. I wish I could list off all of the amazing things we got done around the house but I can’t. Having a holiday at your house, which is part of a ministry centre, means that many people stop and ring by with “just one question” making for some surprisingly busy days! So instead of enjoying lots of rest, we mostly just enjoyed each others company and Max enjoyed having his daddy put him to bed most nights for a change!

But then we were invited to head down to the Whitsundays for a couple of days and let me tell you – you couldn’t revive us out of relaxation mode if you tried! I kept catching myself silently staring into the ocean. It was divine. Max loved it too.

So even though there are a few more opportunities to maximise before the end of the year, and of course a little girl to prepare for, and CHRISTMAS to celebrate, we are well on our way to feeling rested and refreshed.

Now… if someone could do something about this humidity!? 😉

 

Waiting for Our Christmas Miracle

On the way to the hospital last week, I asked Jared, “What’s your guess? Surgery or no surgery?”

My guess was no surgery because last time the doctor said that if there’s no improvement, he was indeed going to do a surgery; however, he also seems to change his mind a lot based on the treatments and second opinions we’ve been getting. I always seem to get the guess wrong so even though my natural inclination was to go for “surgery,” I decided to go with the opposite and guess “no surgery.”

I was wrong… again.

Max is booked in for surgery on January 25. Unless there is marked improvement between now and then, he will be having surgery on two sites on his face and neck.

My favourite nurse knowingly looked at me and said, “Don’t worry – we have lots of treatments to minimise scarring.” (Shallow thoughts, I know, especially in light of the fact that this surgery could leave him paralysed in his face, but how did she know they were swimming through my mind? I love her. She has been my grace from the first day I turned up in the office throwing up.)

In some ways, I feel moments of fear or discouragement. In other ways, I know that we still have nearly two months for a Christmas miracle.

So as my belly grows and we await our little girl miracle in just 10 short weeks, we also continue to pray for a miracle for our happy little boy and the smile the puts a spring in our steps every day.

PS – thanks to our friend Tiffany from Red Owl Photography for the photos she took while she was visiting. If you’re in the Bend, OR area (or not… she travels a lot and I’m sure she wouldn’t mind some extra cash if she’s in your area!!), chat to her. She is a natural with kids. I’ve known her for a long time now and never known a kid who didn’t adore her. These just happened to come from a few moments hanging out in our living room.

I Hate Buts…

We had a great meeting with our new infectious disease doctor, and yes it feels kind of cool to be able to say we have an infectious disease doctor. I mean, as long as we have to be in a situation like this, might as well feel like we’ve been in the presence of Dr. House, right!?

He was again a wonderful doctor and we were really grateful that he took ample time to answer all of our questions, affirm our parenting, and do his best to empower us to make good decisions.

Our favourite comment he made was that Atypical TB always goes away on its own.

Umm… HELLO!? Why didn’t anyone tell us that earlier!? I guess its because our “Dr. House” happened to be on holiday when we were asked to see him a few weeks ago.

Unfortunately, this was also followed by a but… (I hate buts…) okay, several buts…

  • It may take an indefinite amount of time (possibly into his teenage years…)
  • It may continue to grow & multiply (to the size of a baseball…)
  • And it may start oozing (to drain and heal…)
Everything else we knew he reaffirmed…
  • Surgery is the best treatment option. (Our surgeon wants to avoid that as long as we can do to the risk of paralysis in his face)
  • Antibiotics are really harsh (And he would prefer Max doesn’t continue longer than this month as it is really dangerous for the liver)
So what does this all mean?
  • Max continues to be monitored monthly to determine whether the lumps are growing or multiplying. (The good news is while they haven’t shrunken at all, they don’t appear to be growing or multiplying anymore!)
  • We continue to pray that God heals our little man and a potential paralyzing surgery is not necessary and act on the wisdom He gives us to help him fight this infection.

Happy, Happy, Happy!

That’s what this little man kept saying today as we walked the trails to one of our area’s more secluded beaches.

“Happy! Happy! Happy!”

I smiled and all I could think was, “Me too, kid; me too.”

We’ve had lots of happy news lately. It was the first weekend that I was able to do a full clean on the house (a top to bottom clean and on my own) since getting so sick. I turned a significant corner at the 16 week mark and though I was still puffing a bit on our short hike to a secluded beach today, my fitness is coming back faster than I thought it would after laying flat for so long.

More importantly, we got happy news from Max’s surgeon. We left the hospital with tears on our cheeks after being told we would almost certainly be returning for surgery three weeks ago, but as we prayed we began to think that God is up to something else… something miraculous, maybe?

And so it was last Tuesday that while our favourite nurses teased that maybe we were optimistic parents thinking that perhaps those lumps were getting smaller, the surgeon himself wondered if it was a possibility they were starting to break down. The past week and a half Max has been symptom-free on the meds, so he suggested we keep going for a couple of months and see what happens. He also asked us to meet with the infectious disease doctor who is overseeing Max’s case to confirm, but we are feeling confident that something has changed… that a miracle is happening.

And while we don’t love going to the hospital every week for checkups, we are excited that on Tuesday we will not only be visiting the infectious disease unit; we’ll also get to see our new little baby too! A few more days and I’ll be half way through this pregnancy, and we can barely wait to see if this is the little girl we’ve been suspecting or another precious little boy.

Oh, and in case you wondered, in the midst of our craziness, we’re still doing our work with YWAM. And we’re still loving it. And we’re still seeing lives changed. Stories to come! Good ones.

Happy, Happy, Happy Ones!

We Have A Diagnosis.

We have a diagnosis for Max. What an answer to prayer.

We noticed the new lump on his jaw line growing consistently after our last appointment and happened to be at the hospital so we stopped in to the paediatric clinics. The nurses noticed significant growth as well and booked him in to see the surgeon asap.

On our way into see him last week, Max pointed to his neck and asked, “Ne!? Ne!?” Yes, Max, we’re here to look at your neck… again.

This time, however, instead of pokes, prods, a kind smile and out the door, we got our answer; and while it was one of the scary words we were sort of dreading… hearing them wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be.

Atypical tuberculosis.

No one suited up in infectious disease rocket suits this time because Atypical TB is not contagious from person to person like the “standard” sort of TB you hear about in prisons or developing nations. Its found in many places and comes from dirt, contaminated water, and certain bird poo… mmm… yummy.

You know how some moms freak out if their kid accidentally eats a bit of dirt? Apparently I should’ve been that mom because that’s probably what happened. Max just happens to be one of the 1 in xxxx number of kids who got the raw end of that deal.

You’re welcome to all our mom and dad friends out there for taking the statistical bullet! 😉 I’m well aware the next time we see your child drop an apple slice on the ground we have lost all authority to say, “Just let him eat it.”

During our long morning at the hospital, we learned that surgery is the best way to get rid of this TB because it is notoriously resistant to drugs.

We also learned that the infection has spread through several glands already (its normally in just 1 or 2) and as we all know, is continuing to grow. The problem is, they seem to be all lined up perfectly right along this long, u-shaped nerve that happens to control the right side of his mouth and the lower right side of his face. The surgeon told us in no uncertain terms that we need to get rid of the infection but that he is not confident he will be able to do it without damaging that nerve, leaving our son paralyzed forever.

We opted to have a go with some really aggressive antibiotics. We were warned they could take quite a toll on his little body, but now several days in, he has only had some sluggishness, fever and diarrhoea – all within the “normal” range of his body growing accustomed to the drugs and closely monitored by our favourite paediatric nurses. Another answer to prayer.

Our hope is obviously that the infection recedes quickly. Our surgeon has warned us that he will most likely recommend surgery if there is not marked improvement in three weeks, as the risk of it spreading and causing more damage is too high.

I won’t lie. Even though we know other parents face much more difficult circumstances, the thought of surgery and potential paralysis was very, very confronting for us. At the same time, as we deal with those emotions before the Lord, He has been so gracious and kind to us, reminding us that it does not matter what Max looks like or what physical abilities or disabilities he may have – his destiny and purpose and value in life remains the same.

He has also reminded us that His heart is that none of us have sickness or suffering. I wonder if sometimes we see it so much junk in this world that we forget its not His ultimate plan or our ultimate future.

All along, God has spoken to us not to worry. As others have begun to pray for us and with us, this seems to be main theme.

And you know what?

We feel wise, aware, sad, grateful, disappointed, compassionate, and so many other things… but we are genuinely not worried. That whole peace that passes all understanding thing really is amazing.

Will you join us in praying for our boy? That his body would continue to accept the drugs well, that the infectious lumps would dissipate completely and that he would be healed and well? Would you pray that we continue to have peace and also the wisdom to know how to care for Max under these unusual circumstances?

And will you thank Jesus with us? For bringing this issue to light? For a surgeon who has speculated this is what it was all along and has made Max a priority as a result? For the kind community that surrounds us and reminds us of truth?

We have a LOT to be grateful for and one sweet little man to care for.

Sweet boy fighting off his fever and just couldn't keep those eyes open...