Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Well another trip to the ER this weekend- at least this time it was for a normal childhood issue. Maggie fractured her foot and definitely wins the award for the most pitiful looking child. I don't even want to say how it happened, because it's so embarrassing, but I know everyone will wonder:

You know how your children always like to be right next to you, like little ducklings almost following you everywhere? Well I was fiddling around in the closet and didn't hear Maggie sneak up behind me. I stepped back out of the closet on her foot and, being in her brace, she was very unsteady and fell really awkwardly (she was also wearing un-supportive sandals-also dumb on my part). I knew when she fell that it was bad. She screamed like I've never heard before- which told me it was serious because she is so tough to begin with.

I held her crying in that spot for about 30 minutes, praying that it wasn't broken and that I would have enough strength to go through another ER visit.
Luckily, the ER only took about four hours and was not that bad. ML got her standard graham crackers and apple juice with the peel back lid and Maggie sat in my arms and played with the annoying tv remote attached to the bed. It was pretty routine. I guess there's something about having a medical issue that can be diagnosed and solved almost immediately that is so much less stressful!!

Don't get me wrong- I beat myself up about it ( and Justin gave me a hard time, of course). But thankfully it's just a tiny fracture and she's going to be okay...

Monday, April 9, 2012


In the name of cute photos, I gave Maggie a break from her brace for Easter activities...

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Mercy - Part 3

So for my birthday last month all I asked Justin for was to let me stay in bed a few hours so I could watch t.v. and drink my coffee by myself. Pitiful, yes, but that's really all I wanted.

We made it to about 8 am before Maggie started banging violently on the door with the force of her brace, " Mommy, mommy, I want mommy!".

So I opened the door and pulled her into bed with me. We started watching the movie "Soul Surfer" about a young shark attack victim. I thought Maggie might last 5-10 minutes. But believe you me this child watched the entire movie without moving. Which is crazy because she won't watch Elmo or Dora for more than five minutes.

She loved it so much that throughout the next horrific month we let her watch it whenever she wanted, which was pretty much everyday ( we did fast forward the graphic shark bite scene I promise!). It was a lot of tv, but we were thankful to have any distraction from her pain.

The movie is pretty good for a Christian film - the gorgeous Hawaiaan landscapes and surf scenes draw you in as the story unfolds about a family that is raising their kids on the beach, homeschooling their competitor daughter so she can surf six hours a day. The loving, happy family surfs together, laughing and having fun to a movie soundtrack of songs that include "This is the life." It truly was.

But the viewer knows that this beautiful and godly family, seemingly with everything going for them, was about to face a trial like they'd never known before. The opening scene we see them at an idyllic beachside church service singing "Blessed be the Name of the Lord." The lyrics are foretelling to the story: "He gives and takes away, he gives and takes away, my heart is here to say, blessed be your glorious name..."

* * * *

So after that horrible week I wrote about yesterday, I told Justin I was done. Finished with this madness that encircles my life: doctors who don't call you back, nurses who don't care, people who are heartless. Something inside me had changed that day, I told him. I'm not sure what exactly. I think watching your child suffer day in and day out eventually does irreversible damage to a mother. And I felt damaged to the core.

So as our lives seem to be crumbling around us, all I can think is "Lord, what else?"

I get chills up my spine thinking of Job and how he lost everything, including his children.

I resolve not to leave the house. Reduce risk of getting in an accident that could harm my children or at least leave our insurance-less family with a massive hospital bill.

Oh me of little faith! Obviously this was not realistic! How silly it all sounds now, but it's true, for a few days there I really tried to live outside the realms of God's sovereignty.

* * * *

As I got weaker, Justin got stronger. Funny how that happens in a marriage. He starts asking to pray with me more, begins reading Scripture aloud to me. I - who have always wanted my husband to lead me spiritually - withdraw emotionally.

And it's not that I was turning on God, because I'm praying silently all the time. But more that I wanted my husband to know the depth of my anger and sadness.

Maybe I felt like if he knew the true despair I felt, he could put on his super hero cape and fix everything pronto. Partly, I admit, I wanted him to feel guilty, like somehow any of this was his fault, which it wasn't, but I suppose I just wanted someone to blame. I told him I just wanted to go home to my family to escape this suffering in Dallas. Dagger to a husband's heart. Sin played out in a marriage.

* * * *

After our first insurance appeal was denied, we stayed up late one night, Justin trying to comfort his hysterical wife who was convinced ( and rightly so) that life as we know it was over. Having a child with major medical problems can suck every last penny out of any family, and that's when they do have insurance.

I cry hysterically. He says he's never seen me so upset before. We talk more and more about the various paths our life could take and what that means for Maggie's health, for our family, our house, our children's schooling.

Then we both remember the day when I was 15 weeks pregnant and we refused to terminate our pregnancy, saying that no cost- financial, physical, or emotional- was too high for the life of our child.

We were brought to our knees once again, realizing that three years ago we told God we would give anything, everything for Maggie. Our lifestyle, our finances, we didn't care what it cost, just wanted that baby on the ultrasound screen.

Out of his infinite mercy He gave us that miracle, and yet here I was, three years later, already bitter with little faith in the One who gave us the impossible and provided for our every single need since.

I fell asleep crying that night, humbled once again.

* * * *

You know, even though I've learned my whole life that God's power is made perfect in our weakness, that faith as small as a mustard seed is all we need, that His Spirit intercedes and prays for us when we are too weak and don't know what to pray, somehow I still have in mind that I have to be really strong in my faith before God's going to really go to work and answer my prayers. It's just not true though.

It was actually at this weakest point that I saw God at work (hello, I sing "Jesus Loves Me" every night at bed time, you think I would get that when I am weak, He is strong!).

Incredibly the very next day blessings abounded. It was so out of left field, too, that there was no question it was from the Lord. First, we got a call that they accepted our second appeal (which rarely happens they say). Our insurance would be reinstated immediately. Praise God. Second, blessings abounded on Justin's business, confirmation that we were on the right path. Third, we saw a new GI doctor who gave us hope for Maggie's stomach issues and eating.

This kind new doctor prescribed a previously used medicine at a higher dose to induce hunger, and a few nights later she actually took a few bites of a chicken nugget. Her terrible dehydration also kicked in some survival instincts because she actually started drinking water! She hasn't consumed anything liquid by mouth since she was 8 months old. Granted it was a little messy, her mouth is so weak it runs out the corners of her lips all over her shirt, but who cares? Furthermore, she learned how to use a straw! Sounds so mundane, but it's huge to us.

Justin and I have both been in awe of His mercy, when the world let us down, we realized that He was still holding us up
* * * *

It didn't hit me until a few days ago that maybe we started off the month watching Soul Surfer for a reason. I know its crazy to think a two year old can identify with someone else who is struggling, but I swear she was drawn to the movie like nothing I've ever seen before . And it was so good for Mary Lawrence and I to talk about the movie, about Bethany Hamilton's disability and how she looks different than other people, but she's still the same. How she struggles like Maggie, but how God gives her the strength to keep surfing and living a happy life in spite of it all.

Everyday as the movie played in our den I heard the hymn, "Blessed be your Name," yet it didn't click until much later that the hymn was based on Job 1:21:

And he said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."

Our March was capped off by a funeral and burial, which really brought this verse home to me. My dad and his brothers had to start going through all their mother's things and cleaning out her house of over 60 years. It was such a reminder of how we come into this world with nothing and leave with absolutely nothing. All these things that matter so much to us really don't matter at all.

And it might not be at the end of our life that our beloved possessions are taken away - even the most financially secure families can lose everything. Because everything on this earth really belongs to God and He has the power to give and take away. Do I really grasp that now?

I ask myself : was I saying "Blessed be your name" throughout this past month of struggles? Would I say it still if, like Job, I lost my house, my insurance, my possessions, my children? Like David in the wilderness as his enemies seek his destruction, would I sing, "Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you"? (Psalm 63:3)

My mom and I were discussing all this and she reminded me of a moment at a friend's funeral when the grandfather, who had lost his granddaughter and son in the previous months, stood up at the front of the church and said loudly with the outmost conviction: "The Lord gives and takes away; Blessed be the name of the Lord." That's all he said and then he sat down.

Do I have that much conviction as I say those words? Will I next month or next year or in 10 years when faced with tribulation? I hope and pray I do.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Mercy - Part 2

One Thursday morning about a month ago I got Maggie out of her bed and put her on the changing table as usual. I wasn't wearing my glasses so I didn't realize her button wasn't tucked properly into the makeshift hole cut into her footed pajamas. So when I unzipped her pajamas and opened them up to change her diaper, the button got caught and popped out with the violent force of a champagne cork. Blood and stomach contents went up like a geyser. And I started screaming right alongside Maggie, who was in terrible pain and shock at what her idiot mother had done.

There is a short window to get a button back in before the body starts trying to close itself up. Justin had a meeting so the rest of us hopped in the car and raced to the ER.

As always it takes a while to get back, but when we do the doctor brings us a brand new standard g-button to replace her old one. "No, sorry," I tell him as I looked the box over, "she can't have that kind as it causes severe pain and it always gets infected."

"Sorry," he says, "that's all the hospital carries. The kind your daughter has is a special order."

That's when I tell him what I'd already told two nurses (who obviously ignored me) that the Childrens GI clinic nurse who does the g-buttons gave me specific instructions that if Maggie's button ever came out, and she wasn't there, that she would have an extra one in her file drawer with Maggie's name on it.

So the doctor and nurse agreed to call the Clinic ( I should have just walked over there, but at the time I thought they could handle it).

An hour goes by...we ask again....another hour....the nurse says they can't get anyone to help them. Jessica and I take matters into our own hands...we call and talk to her doctor's nurse and plead with her to go look in this drawer - that my daughter will be in severe pain if they put the wrong button in and will surely get an infection. But the uncaring nurse doesn't help, saying that the "g-button" nurse is on leave and so they cant get into her stuff. "I know she's gone," I said, "but that's why she put this plan in place in case something like this happened." Needless to say, she didn't help.

No mercy.

So after five hours at the ER, the doctor puts in the button that we know will cause her to suffer. It's the worst feeling ever, and I can only blame myself for ripping it out in the first place. For not paying the $800 to have an extra button to keep at at home (since insurance wouldn't pay for an extra). For not making sure this so- called back up plan would hold.

Defeated, we leave the hospital.

I notice that we still have time to make Maggie's appointment for her monthly RSV shot. Anyone with sense would have gone home after the morning we had, but I had worked myself into a panic that Maggie was going to get some awful virus. The reason: the first thing she did in the hospital waiting room earlier that morning was put her lips on a juice box that had been left by what I assumed was a very sick child in the ER the night before. Ugh. We need the RSV shot, I tell myself.

So off to the pediatrician we went and on the way across town Maggie pipes up and says she wants a French fry. First of all, this child had not eaten since the day before so she was probably starving. Second, when your child who doesn't eat asks for ANY type of food, you are tempted to drive 100 mph to get it before she changes her mind. So that's what I do.

We get to the Baylor hospital campus where her pediatrician is located - I drop Jessica and Maggie at the door and go park at McDonalds across the street to get the french fries. I pay and run back across the street to get them at the doctor. The RSV shot takes just a second so we head down after about 10 minutes.

We walk the 15 steps to McDonalds parking lot and find that my car is gone. Ten minutes and it's been towed.

I am livid. I go into the restaurant and demand to speak to the manager. I tell him that I just bought food here and walked across the street to get my daughter at the doctor and my car had been towed in less than 10 minutes.

No mercy.

He tells me he has nothing to do with it; that it's Baylor who does the towing ( I find out later this was a lie; it was McDonald's).

Look, I plead to him, I've been at the ER all morning with my child. She hasn't eaten in 20 hours. She is in pain. I was a customer here, please can you help me???

Again, no mercy.

I walk our of the restaurant, now sobbing hysterically. Maggie is walking barefoot and in a diaper on the sidewalk. (Her diaper had leaked all over her clothes at the hospital and in our rush to leave that morning we didn't grab an extra set of clothes, nor shoes.) Jessica, seven months pregnant and exhausted, is holding her hand, trying to shield her from her mother's ensuing breakdown.

I call the towing company. Please, I beg, bring back my car. My daughter has been at the hospital all day - she is in pain; she has no clothes on. We were customers of the restaurant. Please.

Sorry, you are going to have to come pay to get your car at the lot.

I have no way to get there, I say. My husband is an hour away.

Sorry you'll have to take a cab.

But my car seat is in the car you just towed! How am I supposed to get there?

Sorry, I can't help you, the harsh voice says.

Please, I beg you, have your driver bring the car back to McDonalds. I'll pay whatever- I just need it now. I'm begging you.

The only way you'll get your car is if you come pay $186 at the lot. Click.

Again, no mercy.

So I sit on the curb in the clothes I slept in the night before, sobbing aloud. People began stopping to see if they could help. It was that bad.

* * * *

Thus began my own little personal March madness. Bitterness set in. And it seeped in me all week as Maggie's pain intensified. The skin around her button had gotten so raw that we had to hold her down while we fed her - she writhed in pain, her little body struggling unsuccessfully to break free of the torture. It got so infected that six days later she got a 103 fever and had to be on antibiotics. Her constant crying invoked constant vomiting, which caused dehydration and cracked lips. She was hours away from being hospitalized.

At the height of the infection we called the office to check on the status of the special order button- we knew she would not get better until she had it, even though it was going to be horribly painful to change it out.

Jessica talked to a different nurse this time. So she just casually asked her if she could go check this elusive "file drawer" for that extra button. She was on hold two minutes, then the nice nurse came back on to say, yep, she found it. The box had Maggie's name on it and everything.

There are not words to describe the outright anger I felt when I heard this. My child had suffered needlessly for a week. And when I say suffer, I mean truly in horrible pain. Pain that was agitated every time we accessed her button when feeding her or giving her meds, which is ALL day long. We watched her vomit everything we fed her. She lost 1.5 pounds that we had worked so hard for!

And all because no one at the ER or GI Clinic would take two minutes to help us.

Again, no mercy.

* * * *

A few days later we got a letter in the mail stating that we no longer had health insurance. Out of blue, no warning, just like that. I'm not kidding. It was like a sick joke.

Turns out the third party check processing company, who cuts checks when you pay bills online, didn't send our payment on time. It was a fluke thing that rarely happens. As any insurance company would be happy to get our family off their rolls, they cut us out just like that. We pleaded with anyone who would listen, but no one could help us. I get it, it's business, these people that work there are just doing their jobs. They don't care about our sob story.

No mercy.

We would have to go through a three step appeal process that could take a month, during which we would have no coverage. Most likely they would deny it, we were told, so then we'd have to find new health insurance, which could take months to go into effect and would pretty much end Justin's efforts to start his own business (which he did last year). He'd have to get a job at a company in a hurry because we need insurance (and group health plans can't exclude you for pre-existing conditions like individual plans can).

Anyway, the stress level in our house was reaching a new high, and I was reaching a new low:)

Mercy - Part 1

How did I find myself sobbing on a curb in downtown Dallas with no car, no money and Maggie walking barefoot on the littered sidewalk, naked except for a diaper? Yes, this really did happen and I'll get to it a bit later.

This incident pretty much sums up the past month- think miry pit in Psalm 40. I really haven't been able to write - partly because I'm scared what I do will come across as bitterness (and maybe it is) and partly because I know people tire of reading of our struggles (I know I am!).

But God's faithfulness has prevailed so I must write...

This past month :
-We've been in a terrible wreck
-We temporarily lost our health insurance
-Maggie has been to the ER
-She got a terrible infection around her button and was in so much pain that she wouldn't let her own mother come near her without screaming and kicking in fear
-We watched my dad mourn the death of his mother as we buried her last week
-We've watched Maggie battle open sores and bruises from the halo that she now burdens 24 hours a day
-We are still waiting to hear everyday about her MRI results (it's maddening)
-We've suffered deeply in other ways I cannot specify.

Let's put it this way, you know it's bad when you catch your husband dusting Chuck Swindoll's book "Job" off the bookshelf:)

What I have learned this past month is that this world - and sadly most people in it - has no mercy. But God's mercy is infinite. So why do I keep relying on the world to heal my problems (doctors, insurers, books)) and not Him who sits on Heaven's Mercy Seat?

I'll have to continue this story later as I hear little patters of feet running across the house- breakfast needs to be made.

"For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me. Be pleased to save me, LORD; come quickly, LORD, to help me."

Psalm 40:12-14