Maybe Happens

One thing that I have not shared much about is a very good and important thing that happened over the summer. Last summer had some real downers but those don’t subtract from our joy, and rejoicing, over a new victory.
Our second born had a rough time for a few years. A major accident at our church, febrile seizures, and getting very sick in Guatemala. When we returned home and began fostering, he embraced her fully as a toddler would, and his febrile seizures continued but thankfully he was not often running a fever. 9 months after her arrival, in the aftershocks of her sudden removal, some of his first sentences were heart wrenching. While we were fighting that battle, Asher began having many more seizures. Maybe stress and the emotional trauma of losing a baby like that did something, maybe it’s just coincidence. It was a very hard period. These were not just febrile seizures like they had thought and the medical bills started piling up.
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There are many things we don’t know about epilepsy, and that doctors and scientists don’t know. It is a scary diagnosis. Asher began treatment, and despite changing jobs and insurance twice, and becoming part of medical, was able to see the same pediatric neurologist his whole life. Because of the Affordable Care Act, we were able to have continuation of care and not be penalized for his epilepsy. I tried going to the first neurologist we were referred to on one of our new plans at the time. It was a truly terrible experience and I could not imagine working with them to sort out appointments, let alone solutions, as we found ourselves on this path.
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The first medication didn’t slow down the seizures. We gave it a good run but we saw the negative side effects and didn’t notice much relief. It was hard because he couldn’t tell us how it made him feel, and if he sensed anything different before or after his episodes. We slowly began a different medication–one which introducing too quickly to patients could end in fatality. Doctors said after more testing and overnights that they didn’t think he would outgrow epilepsy. I briefed babysitters and teachers and sunday school. I tried not to think about IEPs one day, or driving, or camp, or anything restricted on this bright eyed wonder.
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He did well on the new medication and we could breathe once we reached a therapeutic dose with no rash outbreak. We were still dealing with collections, payments, and billing reductions but we were not documenting seizures. Eventually the grip on the phone when separated loosened. The spans of playing out of eyesight lengthened. The months between UCLA neurology visits and that $14 parking garage grew. He was pro at taking his pills. We were pro at fighting, I mean working, with the local pharmacy to help them keep their inventory up and refills regular.
As Asher’s Kindergarten graduation plans were taking shape, and no ambulance was ever called, we had another checkup. It was a slow breakthrough. With epilepsy they call seizures emerging under medication “breakthrough,” which is the opposite of any headway a parent wants to make. I was shocked to hear of a real breakthrough: the dr thought we could try titrating down, off the medication, to test the epilepsy. Maybe he was outgrowing it. Maybe it was different than they had thought. It had been over a year. No delays. No jumps in dosage. Maybe the prayers, the hopes, barely spoken aloud for fear it would ruin our ability to walk the prescribed, long road ahead, were coming true.
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On my birthday, Asher took his last, now tiny dose of epilepsy medication. And there have been no breakthrough seizures during the months of transitioning off. His moods and energy seem to have panned out, from however the drugs affected his system, combined with the excited exhaustion of starting 1st grade. We don’t wonder if something is seizure, drug, or age/misbehavior/mood related now. It’s just C, a 5-year-old boy, learning. We are thrilled at his progress and health, for him, for us, and for the pharmacy on the corner. I don’t know when we can say he does not have epilepsy, when it will be far enough away that a glazed look doesn’t cause my 2nd take, but each day is closer to then.
To be sure, it has been a rough year on almost all accounts. Homes, literal and figurative, are burning down all around us. But this is quite the foil. We are so proud of this boy and his love and tenacity and incredibly excited that this is yet another new normal. This victory, this praise, deserves our tears, applause, and thanksgiving and I’m so glad to be able to share this today, in the midst of all the todayness that weighs heavy. We’ve learned so many lessons by his side. From the waiting, to the hurting, to the forgiving and the grieving, to the advocacy, to the pain of children’s hospitals, in which so many have stayed for far more time. We’ve learned to take things by the day, that anesthesiologists have their own groups, and nothing is for granted. We’ve seen how limited we are as parents, and how scary pre-existing conditions and medical bills can really, really be. And we’ve been encouraged to keep places of hope in our lives that defy reason, that may be hibernating, for an unexpected spring. Who knows, maybe your birthday is coming. Maybe the breakthrough is slow. Maybe because this maybe came true.
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A Spot

Today I said goodbye to a treehouse.

Not a treehouse as in the fantastic play place of a gleaming sepia childhood.  A place of work, actually. But we have joined a work that is life and a life that is work. No, not a treehouse exactly, but I would meet my friends there. I helped make it what it was in small ways with my own two hands. In the proverbial treehouse, there were club meetings and arguments and brainstorms and plans and snacks. Seasons passed but it continued to be a place to gather. Its walls are thick with time and experience and history. Of decades of team and tears and trying.

My memories are recent in comparison but valued nonetheless. Climbing the steps to the old office, a senior in college, I received a phone call from Fuller Seminary saying I was in and my program was paid in full. In the brightest room, Ryan and I had interviews for World Impact, then discussed how our first year had gone, then helped with others’  interviews, and throughout, could find an inviting leader and friend. Next door to the director’s office was the room in which most of the staff became acquainted with Ryan, who was the City Administrator for our first three years. Across the hall, he dumped the recycling box of paper on Isaac’s head in a lighthearted afternoon round of Office-guys Goofing Off. Then there was the very serious moment of realizing he had to clean human feces from the sidewalk entrance at 8am one morning. There in the old office, we would have informal gatherings, times of visiting, of recognizing footsteps up the stairs, times of listening prayer and reading the Bible aloud, times of teaching and reporting. Times of dedication, reconciliation, ah-ha moments, and check-ins.

Most people did not come to say goodbye to the treehouse this afternoon in the group time, and most of most of those people may have not understood the goodbye time anyway. That is for the most part okay. After all it is a building. An office at that. Just a finite space to a motley crew committed to apostolic movements and permanent dislocation. Lord knows I do not need to seek out one more thing to miss or be all nostalgic about. I found and find myself envying some of my friends’ and spouse’s not-un-caring, perfectly-understandable nonchalance.

If ever a word did not describe me, it is nonchalant. I am terrible at it. Case in point, I am blogging about an office.

The office has been consolidated with the national offices across the street. Not a big move. Not a shutdown. But yes, a break in routine, a shift, an end. We did our best to add our treehouse to the one over there, and ultimately we are less encumbered. I know. I know it is just an old building and it all makes sense in Excel. I know I am a strong Feeler and that my enneagram profile says I should lighten up and just have fun. I know-know.

I also know that to me, the Non-nonchalant, and to a few others, it is still something to stare at. It is a grief and it has implications and it is just a spot but was ours. And so I was thankful for a simple time today to, with others, say goodbye to it. And say thankyouGod for the treehouse. For the time we had with a redeemed space of both spontaneous and strategic shepherding, for the years of a work-home that housed those big and little moments that make up a community of wounded healers. I was thankful for the time to honor what was done in those walls, who had passed through our ranks and roles and how He had been there and seen to our needs there.

The office, of course, is not our north. But it was a base and an intersection. It is where the tours began and the departures finalized. It was a workplace and a parsonage. It was often where we could find help and found Him too.

There are very small things sometimes that still deserve a pause of thanks and goodbye. Those things that years later, someone will miss and someone else in the room will have no idea what they are even talking about because they happened later. A band. A local donut shop. A family tradition. An old car begging to die. An office space. A small goodbye could be silly, it could be overlooked at the time, with the pressure of the new. But even just the chance, the moment, to recognize and name the change, can be healing and later comforting. It could make something in the future seem less disorienting. At least, that is what I have found. I have found that naming and praying and grieving and pondering the ends, the overs, is one of the truest ways I can be present to the life I have been given. I have found that my vision and my gut are such that these things are important and can be of help to the community at a later time. That facing and investigating the losses make the gains more accessible.

So yes, I said goodbye to a treehouse today. An office-building-turned-treehouse. I will remember and carry that goodbye and be glad for it.

North

Sometimes the beauty of the everyday graces make me cry grateful tears more so than the griefs and the disappointments that attune my vision and attach the desperate tips of my fingers to those very lifeline graces. Only because of the Good Shepherd can I spill over with thanksgiving after a whole glass of lament.

My environment is filled with beautiful lyrics, sweet-tempered boys, and kind friends. These things, and so much more, feed hope. They are the nourishing pauses that remind me to breathe, reminds me that somewhere, the heavens are touching the earth, and that, though I may be wired to feel things very deeply, grief is often a means to truth. Someday, somehow, I will feel less engulfed and more upright. Then again, I do tend to rush to conclusions and want to tidy up prematurely.

The last fourth of our twelve hour drive to Oregon last week was spent in the night. Climbing through the wooded areas that encroach upon I-5 in northern California, it was amazingly dark. During dusk, we saw more trees in one quarter mile stretch than we may see in a week or two of our daily lives in California. Once the sun had moved on, the presence of the woods and mountains was silent but strong.

I couldn’t believe the stars. Maybe I had forgotten but son-of-a-gun, there are still a lot of those things. For many stretches of car-lit freeway, the big dipper was straight ahead, on the horizon, as if a promise. It seemed bigger than ever, looming over puny I-5 and our sleepy trip. I looked awkwardly up through my window at one point and was in awe of the mist of heavenly envoys, as Emerson wrote, filling the space. So much radiance. So far away.

The darkness was so dramatic that we could not tell where Mt. Shasta was until we were right upon it. I peered and peered and could not discern where the sky started and the land ended. I felt that was appropriate. The mystery. My limits. The dark. 

I have sought to write in-process here. I have tried to keep up with the calling of openness and the middle of emotions. I have shared things part-way and aimed to insist and wonder that Immanuel, God is with us, here. It is hard, though, when you don’t know where you are part-way to. While I know that from here to there is unpredictable, I do at least know that we are headed towards adoption. But in other areas of waiting and feeling, I do not know where we are headed. I cannot see the big dipper. And all the terrible ugliness of the here is not very helpful to another’s journey. So then, I am just left saying over and over again, in broad context strokes, that still, again, yes, I am struggling, and at the same time yes, there is Hope. That I am in a muddy place and I am uncomfortable and He hasn’t much showed me what to do with that yet. I am fully feeling this life. And thank God, He accepts that and remains. Hope is not denying the present of its shadows; it is looking for how Love might move them. 

Going through the mountains of darkness, unable to trace the line of the horizon, was perhaps a truthful experience. At first my cynical mind found meaning in the ambiguity and confusion of the black; that like with everything else, I was not seeing what I was looking for and even the horizon was not clear. But now I wonder if that is what is most true. If the intermixing of the world with the sky, this old dwelling with the heavens, is best without the line of meeting. If they overlap and join and enfold the traveler’s way so that the dirtiest place is connected to, holding hands with, the stars. Maybe clarity would be a loss. Maybe I was looking for the wrong thing.  

At one point, when I was searching for an outline of Mt. Shasta, there was a great interruption. A huge shooting star strong across our bug-splattered point of view, and we were like kids, amazed and surprised. Those interruptions in the daily take my breath away and fill my at-times sore heart. Those spurts of grace–a child’s laugh, a touching song, a hot meal–those are the shooting stars  that help us catch our breath and keep driving north. In hope. 

“Look at this perfect house we made!”

I am officially, permanently, 29 today. (God bless that waiter who asked for my ID tonight.)

I have nothing particularly profound to say except many thank you’s and thanks, and thanks a whole lot. To my Shepherd, to my husband, to my family and friends. Such a good, good company I have walked through life with. Many parts are not acquainted with the others, but in my heart, you are all my Church, my companions, my neighbors and witnesses.

In the midst of this inspiring company, I am currently struggling to remain faithful while truthfully realizing a valley. But I have so many hills that have been covered and moments of green pastures and rods of comfort that even though I may cry frequently (though less now than a couple weeks ago), the valley is becoming less unfriendly and urgent to this soul.

The past year has included some amazing developments. Marriage counseling, One Thousand Gifts, growing in understanding of church planting, Guatemala, the adoption process, shared spirituality practices and finally reading Walk Two Moons come to mind. We truly don’t know what this next year will hold. Ryan is 30 now, after all.

Today was not an especially restful day but lazy birthdays are not really in the plans for several years. Until then, I must.teach.children.to.do.chores!!! I did sleep in till 7 and was showered with delicious kindnesses throughout the day, just in case my aging metabolism needed help slowing down. I read library books to my children. I raced cars, jumped on the trampoline, built bugs, and worked on fine motor skills. I skyped with my parents and youngest sibs. I ate with dear friends. I did some official, super-high-profile work.

I also had the chance to tell my story, that convoluted, unconventional story, to a social worker. I sat in a room for two hours with an adult, no children, and answered grown up questions about my life, from birth till now, and my extended family and my thoughts on adoption and… What a special opportunity. It really was a birthday gift.

Today, Ryan and I had separate interviews with DCFS. Suddenly, we are at the top of our social worker’s list and we see the finish line in the adoption approval process. Which means we are very close to when a random phone call could be a significant invitation to our third child’s life. We are very close to the waiting game. While I was testifying to God’s goodness in an office building and all the caring souls in my company, a few miles away my 4-year-old exclaimed suddenly at the lunch table to his dad, “Look at this perfect house we made!! — Look!” while taking in the kitchen, the living room, the walls, the windows, as if all for the first time.

I love that. I love that something that has been relatively the same, going without his notice, for 3+ years, is all of a sudden something to shout about and find a burst of joy in. As Ryan and I wander nonsensically around the house tonight, arms full of misplaced books, toys, outlet covers, and cleaning supplies, as we prepare for our final home study and interviews tomorrow, my mind keeps traveling back to Dante’s lunchtime wonder. Look! Look at this great set of cupboards in the bathroom. Just look at what a perfect bed this is. Look! There’s our front door!

Oh! To have wonder. To have it in the next decade of adulthood, well before everything is nostalgic and before the toy and diaper chaos is over. Before all the answers, before the healing, before the valley has been walked. Oh to see something that is dramatically the same and find something new. If that is not the Gospel, I don’t know what is.

It is such a perfect house. With its unpainted walls, dusty surfaces, loose papers and cruddy carpet. It is grand and excessive and a blessing. And has room for more. One more.

And even in the valley, this valley that has layers and depths that continue, there is room. There is room for something else.  When I see the old, crusty familiar and the tears well again, and I think I know what everything means and what the setting is, may wonder and thanksgiving surpass my poor 29-year-old vision. May I hear the word, “Look!” from a delighted Maker above and see the same, anew.

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