Monday, December 6, 2010

And A Little Child Will Lead Them

"Christmas, my child, is love in action." Dale Evans

Last November Olivia, our then 14 year old, approached John and I and said,

" For Christmas I want ALL the money you would spend on me to go to sick kids in the hospital. I mean, there are parents and kids who have nothing and I have everything. Please?!"

After John and I picked our jaws off the floor and made her wait a day to make SURE she really wanted to do this. I made a phone call.

Stephanie is the Child-life Specialist at Kaiser Hospital Sunset. She helps both parents and children cope when they are in the hospital. She has helped us numerous times while Yverline, our other daughter ( story here ) was hospitalized. She told us they were making a FREE to the parents Christmas store at the hospital.

Toys from 2009 Christmas Shop:

We knew from past experiences with Yverline in the hospital at Christmas time that going Christmas shopping for your sick child and other children just isn't a top priority. The result is parents and kids are alone and without presents on Christmas morning.

Stephanie and her co-workers set up a a store and wrapping station. Parents come into a special room in the hospital that is FILLED with toys and *shop* for their children. They can then choose to either give the presents to their children themselves or have a live Santa delver them on Christmas morning.

Having a sick child in the hospital at anytime makes you feel powerless, depressed, exhausted and bored. We know this from experience. The Christmas store provides parents a dignified way to shop without having to leave their sick child alone in the hospital and gives them much needed control, even if it is just in the area of choosing a gift. Besides being a fun distraction, it preserves an important cultural tradition. It also helps parents feel a little less guilty about money that may need to be spent on hospital bills rather than Christmas gifts.

I had Olivia and Stephanie work out the details and they came up with a plan.

Stephanie asked Olivia if she would be in charge of the teen section of the store. Knowing what teens want for Christmas was hard and usually the donations that came in for the Christmas store focused on younger kids.

Teen girls section Shop 2009 collected by Olivia:

So off to the mall Olivia and her friend Rachel went. Bath and Body Works in the Galleria Mall found out what Olivia was doing and helped her by giving her discounts, which made her money go further. Then their employees got involved and made a donation box and collected items for both boy and girl teens. They even donated shopping bags! NICE!!

Bags donated by Bath and Body Works:

Only once throughout this process did Olivia waiver. As we walked through the mall she turned to me and said " Holding all this money and shopping is making me feel tempted to want to buy stuff for me. You hold it Mom and let's hurry up and finish" I took the cash and we finished the last of the Christmas shopping as fast as we could.

Rachel and Olivia with toys from 2009 Shop:

We then drove all the donations up to the hospital on the 23rd to set up the Free Store. Olivia , Rachel and the staff at Kaiser began organizing the gifts by age and sex to make shopping for the parents easier.

Olivia and Jessica the Social Worker 2009:

Shopping for the parents was private and we didn't stay for the the store's opening. Olivia was so happy to have participated and the only people that she told were her brothers and a few close friends.

Olivia, Stephanie and Rachel after setting up the Christmas shop 2009:

In fact she inspired her brothers to donate their Christmas gifts as well.

James gave his money to help buy an ambulance in Haiti to transport pregnant women to the hospital through our friends at Heartline's Ministries (see here) It was also used to help transport earthquake victims to the hospital they set up to meet the overwhelming need post-earthquake.

Peter gave his Christmas gift money to a family in the Dominican Republic whose daughter has a heart condition.(see here)

On Christmas morning we kept the tradition of stockings, this was the one small concession to gift giving. They contained the usual ornaments for each child and candy. We had our "Happy Birthday Jesus Coffee Cake" and watched little Yverline open her gifts , after all she was only nine and this was her second Christmas with us since she came home from Haiti. That night we all went to the movies.

Yverline and Olivia Christmas morning 2009:

It was one of the most relaxing and worship-filled Christmases we have ever spent as a family.

James, Yverline, Olivia and Peter Christmas morning 2009:

This year Olivia approached her youth leaders Kelly and Rocky at our Church, Kings Harbor, and asked if they and the students wanted to help provide some of the gifts to this year's store. The response was overwhelming as over 75 gifts were collected.

A small portion of the toys collected by the youth of Kings Harbor Church 2010:

Seventy-Five teenagers and two adult brothers giving of themselves as a response to what one girl started the year before. "A Little Child shall Lead Them." Isaiah 11:6

Merry Christmas

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Hiding from God

Every night since Yverline has come home to our family she lies in bed and wants us to come find her while she laughs and squeals. We kiss her goodnight and say prayers while she smiles, giggles and snuggles with us. EVERY night for 2 1/2 years.

I think about Adam and Eve hiding from God in the garden not wanting to be found; not wanting to be close and intimate. Shamed by their misdeeds and hiding.

Then I think about Yverline and all she wants is to be found.

God help me not to hide from your love even when I'm shamed, but to delight and run to you.

Psalm 119:76, 77
Let your steadfast love comfort me
according to your promise to your servant.
Let your mercy come to me, that I may live;
for your law is my delight.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Finding God at a Time-Share Part 3

Click here for Part 1

Click here
for Part 2

There was your brother’s accident and the exhaustion from talking care of him. And your sister’s brain tumor and her three surgeries since January, followed by her daily radiation treatments. But I think at the top of my list, or scorecard, was watching both of them suffer and struggle in pain. Seeing anyone suffer is difficult, but even more so when it is your very own precious children. All parents want to protect their children and I’m no different, so this was very, very, very painful.

After watching the film and spending time alone with God I didn't have any real answers other than I knew I wasn't alone in this. I’m not the only person who has felt like everything was wrong and would always be wrong. There are very few situations in life that others haven’t felt almost the same feelings you have or they have gone through something similar . I also took comfort in knowing Jesus shared similar feelings on the worst night of his life.

He was facing torture, separation from His Father, betrayal of friends and death. All He wanted was His closest friends to stay up with Him while He prayed for help, release and ultimately surrender. But more then once He was disappointed.

Matthew 26:36-38,40 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me."........ Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?" he asked Peter.

Even though I didn’t know what to do with everything that had happen in the last nine months. I knew what NOT to do and how NOT to act. Perhaps when you are stuck sometimes it’s enough to stop what you are currently doing. I think this bought me enough time to think what I could do to make it better.

It really isn’t that complicated. Often in life you know what to do, but you lack the will or motivation to do it. Like I said I was in shut down mode. It was almost if the accident was system crash that God allowed so I could re-boot .

I knew the first thing was I had to start re-engaging life. I needed to get up and read my Bible, even if it was just a verse or two. Like I said earlier it isn’t Bible reading that helps in itself, but the act of listening to God and putting myself in a position to hear His voice and think about the things that matter to Him. Prayer is the same thing; this is the part that is always harder for me. I guess because when I’m feeling guarded the last thing I want to do is share my deepest longings and hurts.

I also knew I need to ask for forgiveness.

I’m sorry I’ve been shut down or angry. I’m sorry I set a bad example by trying to go it alone and “handle” this on my own. It wasn’t working. (Duh) ! I know that there were times when I wasn’t there for you and that makes me sad. I hope in the future should times become difficult you will remember what not to do. Remember that when life is complicated and out of control the simple things are best. Rely on God, Family and Friends to get you through. And you can always, always turn around even if you have gone way off course.

I’m thankful for all that I’ve learned, or really re-learned in the last 9 months. I’m even thankful for my accident and the opportunity to start over, because IT IS a Wonderful Life.

I love you, Mom

I never finished my letter to my children while I was at the time-share. I prayed, read my Bible and tried to be quiet and listen. I also watched more movies. I finished the last 1/3 while writing this post. I decided to finish the letter and make it my first blog to honor them. Along the way I discovered that I liked writing, even if I wasn’t that good at it and that has been a gift, to me anyways.

When I came home I kinda looked like this this:

Or maybe like this:

But really like this:

It has been 2 months since I’ve been home from the time-share and God was definitely there. I have tried to implement all the things in this letter with the additions of, exercising and blogging. So far it’s going pretty good, not perfect but good.

I often think of the man I hit in my car that day. I’m praying there are no lasting effects from the accident. I’m praying that he is healed and finds peace.

I hope that even now he looks like this:

Monday, July 26, 2010

Blogging while A.D.D.

Why would anyone need two Blogs?

I blame A.D.D.

Click here to find out and see my other Blog.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Finding God at a Time-Share Part 2

Click Here For Part 1

I had pulled out of the driveway, thankful to be leaving and wanting God so desperately to show me the way. Not unlike George when he prayed in the bar.

As I backed the car up I prayed “ God please meet me at the time share and help me. Help me comeback better then when I left”.

I stopped at a red light about a block from our house, when BAM………..I ran into the car in front of me that was also stopped. I was distracted and when the left hand turn lane next to me went I accelerated into the car in front of me. Since I was already stopped I would guess I was going about 5 miles an hour when I hit them.

I turned the car off, jumped out and I approached the car in front of me. I saw there was no damage to their car, maybe some small scratches from my license plate. A women and a man immediately got out of the car and the man started to scream at me. As I was apologizing he yelled

“How could you be so stupid. I have cancer, I HAVE CANCER. !!!!!! “

“”I need an ambulance!!!! I want the police!!!.

“ Of course you are sorry , YOU HIT ME!!!! I have Cancer and you hit me!!!”

The woman was also upset and angry, but I don’t remember what she said as I was astounded by the man in front of me.

He was waving his arms and holding his neck and moaning in pain. Thankfully across the street was a police car and she came over and asked us to pull aside and exchange information in the parking lot. When we pulled over the man kept insisting he needed an ambulance that he was injured. The paramedics and the fire department were called. While we waited for them to show up I began to cry.

I felt terrible. I did feel stupid and sorry and sad. I felt bad for the man and woman and I also felt something else…….. Anger.

I was angry that this man was SO freaked out.

He kinda looked like this:

Or maybe like this:

But really like this:

A month before the exact same accident happened to your sister and me. We were stopped at a red light and the car behind us went when the left hand turn lane went. I got out, and looked at my bumper, no damage just some small scratches, practically identical to the ones on the car I hit, and your sister was fine. I just waved at the driver got back in my car and drove off.

I’m not trying to minimize the man’s pain. I believe he really was hurt. I don’t think you react that way if you are not in pain. But I kept thinking, why was he was telling each new police officer that arrived on the scene he had Cancer?

Was he angry he had been hit? Obviously! Scared? Probably! One moment he’s sitting at the light and then BAM …..hit from behind.

Finally the paramedics showed up. As they spoke to the man I overheard two police officers asking why the paramedics were called in the first place. They looked at the man and then the non-existence damage on the cars and then each other. Then one said to the other “He has Cancer”, they nodded at each other and shrugged their shoulders.

In the end the man didn’t go with the paramedics and the police suggested that both the other driver and myself try and work this out. In their opinion there was no damage to either vehicle and the man had declined treatment at the scene. I was still crying and feeling somewhat attacked and angry.

I felt like George Bailey in the bar. I had prayed and the result was I got in a car accident leaving for my week away.

I thought “Really God?”
“ Are you kidding? “

I felt like I was drowning and was thrown a stone.

Although shaken I drove to the time-share so graciously donated to me so I could retreat and re-group. But the accident and the man’s reaction kept playing over and over in my mind. I fluctuated from being angry that he so overreacted to feeling sorry that I had put him through this.

Something kept nagging at me but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I slept fitfully the first night.

In the morning I read and prayed and then decided to catch up with e-mails. After I finished I decided to head over to YouTube and for some reason I clicked on a link to “It’s a Wonderful Life”

There was the whole movie in HD in 14 chapters. Did you know YouTube has whole movies on there? I didn’t. Anyway about halfway through things became clearer to me and the nagging went away.

I realized I was the man in the accident., that I had been acting and reacting the same way for the past 9 months.

Which means I looked like this:

Or maybe like this:

But really like this:

I hadn’t seen it before because I felt morally superior because I hadn’t reacted when I had been hit from behind. I reasoned that if your sister who has a brain tumor didn’t care and I didn’t care; what was this guy so flipped out about? I kept thinking of the similarities to all three of us. George Bailey, the man I hit and myself.

We all were at our limit. George after of all the good he’d done at the expense of his dreams. All the things he’s sacrificed and how instead of being rewarded his life continued to get harder. George had a list, a scorecard if you will, a scorecard of all the reasons why he shouldn’t have to suffer one more thing.

I thought of the man in the car and while I didn’t know his story, I do know his list had Cancer at the top. If you have Cancer then you shouldn’t have to suffer one more thing. You should be able to drive and run errands without being worried about being hit from behind.

Then I thought of my scorecard and I began to cry.

To Be Continued:

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Finding God at a Time-Share Part 1

This was originally a letter meant for my children. The past 9 months had been, in a word…. difficult. I wrote it to help them understand why their mother had been melting down so much. And why she needed to get away for a few days.

If you are unfamiliar with our family’s story, below is a quick synopsis of the last nine months.

My eldest son was in a motorcycle accident and broke his femur in two places, shattered his arm and broke his neck in three places. He moved back home for four months and I became his home health aide. Miraculously he survived with no lasting injuries.

We almost lost our 9 year-old daughter because the cyst from her brain tumor was filling up with fluid unchecked. Then she needed multiple surgeries followed by six weeks of daily radiation treatments.

Thankfully the women in our church stepped in and sent me ALONE to a time-share for a week. By the time I left I was angry, tired, burnt-out, emotionally numb and feeling guilty about feeling that way.

My Darlings,

You know how much I enjoy old Movies. One of my favorites is “It’s a Wonderful Life” I love the story of George Bailey a good man who has become burdened by life and has become burnt out and bitter. The Bible says “hope deferred makes the heart sick” and George is sick from putting his hope and dreams aside to constantly do the right thing. From boyhood he wants to get away and travel and “See” the world but life kept George at home in his small town with small town doings and small town views. George is a “Big” plan guy and he has “Big” dreams and wants so much to see “Big “ vistas and landscapes.

Disclaimer: I HATE Colorized films, but YouTube didn't have this in B&W

George gaining a new perspective, a heavenly perspective, solves the dilemma in the movie, being stuck in the small while dreaming of the big. Through the intervention of Clarence a bumbling angel sent by God he is shown all the ways his life matters to others. He is given the opportunity to finally see the “BIG” picture, to travel to a place where no one else in that small town has ever been able to go, to a place outside of time and history. Finally: George’ gets his “Big “adventure.

Some of it astounds him and some of it is painful. Especially when he sees what his small town would have been like without him. In the end all George wants is his small town life. Even with all his looming problems and burdens. By the way George’s problems are real as he is facing embezzlement charges and jail, but George realizes his small life is wonderful, hence the title of the film.

It is no secret that Mommy has been feeling much like George Bailey lately. Burnt out and bitter, angry and frustrated. Being a mother and wife is such an honor and privilege; more like a calling and vocation. But I too have let the things that have happened lately and the resulting burnout turn it into a source of hurting and pain. I also think I let the pace of life become too fast for me. Much like a swift moving current. Instead of heading to shore when I could for breaks, I let my pride fool me into thinking I could tough it out on my own and I ended up nearly drowning. I had given up praying, reading my Bible and being honest with others and myself as to how much help I really needed. And how much pain I was truly in.

As an aside I hope you know reading the Bible and praying are not the end of your relationship with God they are just the beginning. They are there to help you draw closer to God. Much like spending time alone with your husband or wife, listening to each other, loving each other. It is called being intimate. I pushed away all intimacy from my life as I began to shut down. This was done to try and protect myself from pain, but really it made things worse and my heart grew angrier and bitter. You can never run or hide from yourself, others or God, at least not if you want to remain healthy and whole. It is just not possible.

That brings me to my trip away. Some of the women in our church knew I needed to get a way in order to be able to think and pray through things. So I could draw near to God instead of pushing Him away and to rest. This is different from running away, in fact it is more like running to something. I think about Jesus and how He went away and prayed, not to “GET AWAY” but to get something from His Father so He could go back and do the things He was called to do. I’m praying and believing that God will help me so when I come back I can do the things He has called me to do. I’m asking Him to show me a better way to deal with the stress that comes from this life and from being in our particular family. We really do seem to do the hard things in life back to back. I’m praying that not only will I hear His voice but do what He says. If you are praying for me it is helping and if you are not please do. I need all the help I can get.

In “It’s a Wonderful Life’ George has a break down and takes out his anger on his Uncle, his wife, his own children and even a teacher who calls to check on one of his sick kids. He feels trapped in a serious situation and can’t see a way out. In the past he’s always been able to fix and make right whatever has come his way. Even if it meant giving up his own dreams, he could fix it. Now he sees no hope and no one can help him. In fact the one person he turns to in desperation mocks him and calls the police to have him arrested. He drives to the local bar and begins to drink heavily. He feels like a failure as he realizes he has hurt those around him. In final desperation he prays: “God if you are there? Show me the way”. Moments later he gets punched in the face by a fellow bar patron who is angry because he is the husband of the teacher George yelled at earlier. As his friends pick him up off the floor one of them notices that George is bleeding. “That’s what I get for praying”, he groans as he stumbles out of the bar on his way to take his life.

Normally I don’t base my theology on movies. But I do know that you can find truth anywhere, a piece of music, a painting, and the words of a friend and in nature. Truth is all around us, lies are too but that is not my point here.

Do you know what truth is? It is that which corresponds to reality as filtered through the lens of scripture.

Anyway what got me to thinking about “it’s a Wonderful Life” was what happened when I left on Monday for my 5-day get away.

To Be Continued....