Another of Life’s Interruptions

We all make plans. Whether or not you consider yourself organizationally gifted, you must make some plans in order to navigate life.

I am not a planner. I’ve never had an easy time scheduling things, or being conscientious of things coming down the road. And then I became a parent. Then planning saved my life. Scheduled feedings provided me sleep. Scheduled grandma visits allowed the laundry to get done. Scheduled meals made sure we didn’t run out of food. And now, I’m proud to say that planning is a necessary and helpful part of my life.

But schedules are merely tools. Our plans were never meant to be strong enough to hold our hope. And yet, how often is our happiness tied up in the success of our plans? How often do we emotionally shipwreck when things don’t go as we imagined they should? How many times have we worked hard to achieve something that didn’t produce the results we desired? And the end result is bitterness, frustration and heartache.

ultra mikeAt 1:30 this afternoon Micah is getting his stent removed at the LA Children’s Hospital. He was originally scheduled for this particular procedure July 5th, but at the last minute the doctor agreed to perform the surgery early in order for our family to go on a long anticipated family trip. Plans changed.

In this case, the change is allowing something exciting that otherwise wouldn’t have happened. We are getting time together as a family, a much desired vacation. And because of the perfect timing of this trip, we get to bring Cody – our foster friend – on an amazing cross-country road trip.

But depending on your perspective, this interruption is not that different from the interruptions of life that devastate, depress, and derail.    

I’m not talking about wrongs intentionally committed against you by another person. That subject needs to be addressed by a wiser soul than me. I’m talking about those disruptive events in your life that can range from annoying to incredibly difficult; a flat tire on the way to work, an ill-timed sickness, a clogged toilet, spilt milk. Those things that you cannot control that upset the “normal” or “expected” plans of your day. We all encounter interruptions. But something I have noticed is, that those things that you wrongly feel were within your ability to forecast or prevent are usually the things that hurt the most.

If only I had followed my gut instinct. If only I had made nutrition a higher goal in my life. If only I had better trained my child. If only I had looked both ways before turning left…

The thing about hindsight is that it isn’t possible. It is a lie. If each of us were able to see back in time we all would be wiser decision-makers. But we are finite. We each must use our best judgement to make the best decisions possible, plan the best rout to get there, then proceed with a hopeful and yet flexible attitude.

We all want to believe in the illusion that we are able to do more than we can. Surely I can have the fulfillment of at least half of my dreams. Aren’t I entitled to at least a small amount of happiness and fulfillment?

Interruptions are a good thing. A necessary thing. A reality. We are not in control. Our plans are little more than a self-concocted, personal motivational tool. Disruptions in our lives are guaranteed. When our plans go awry, we are reminded that we are human. When we fail to achieve our goals our character is exposed to the corrosive or refining force of disappointment. When hopes are dashed, our cracks are exposed, and what distinguishes one person from another is how they diagnose those deficiencies in themselves.

IMG_9549This is my time to plan. I don’t know how today’s procedure will go, so I’m planning for the best. I am driving my 4-year-old back to a hospital that scares him so that his doctor can complete a process they began only 3 short weeks ago. They will be looking inside him with cameras to evaluate the success of his last surgery and they will remove the small prosthetic tube that has enabled his ureter to heal properly. I hope for success, I prepare as best I can for all the variables, then I move forward. But right now, I am laboring hard to remember, that my hope cannot be supported on the expectation that things will go flawlessly. The plan has no power to secure my son’s well-being. I must make plans, but hope? That belongs on Jesus. I hang my hope on Him, who is more than able to carry me and Micah both.

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. Jude 24-15  


healing comes with pain

We did too much on Sunday. Micah had been making such great strides towards recovery that we decided to brave church on Sunday morning. His teachers were so wonderful about giving him reminders to do things slowly and carefully, but I think I misjudged how hard it is on his little 4-year-old body to do even the simplest activities. He spent nearly all day yesterday on the couch recovering from too much activity over the weekend.

IMG_9662Watching your child hurt is never easy. Seeing the joy vanish from his smile as pain captures his expression breaks your heart in a way nothing else can. Watching an adult suffer is easier. Suffering yourself is easier. But when your child, who wholly depends on you to provide solutions for his hurt, questions if his suffering will be ending soon, it forces you to stop and consider carefully for the right answer.

Does he even get an answer to that question?

Before the doctors cut his belly open, Micah gave the impression of wholeness and vitality. He ran and climbed and laughed and ate like an olympic athlete. He had no discomfort that we know of, and he never exhibited any obvious symptoms of his internal defects. But his wellness was just a facade. His exuberance for life was just a mask for a broken and struggling body. Were it not for that one high definition ultrasound when he was 21 weeks in utero, the doctors may never had known his left kidney was struggling until it was too late. His kidney was formed defectively, though he seemed the picture of perfect health.

Praise God, the problem was identified, skillfully attended to, and is now healing beautifully. But now my son is living with pain. He walks like an 80 year old arthritic, he cradles his abdominal when he laughs, and he can’t sleep without a cocktail of prescription medications. He cannot climb, does not want to eat, and is much more emotionally raw. He is farther down the road to health than he’s ever been before, and yet he’s governed by the definite limitations of a body on the mend from major internal surgery. Wellness never felt so hurtful for him before.

Micah is the perfect illustration for the problem of humanity. Completely unaware of our ailments, we are born fundamentally deficient. We each have our beginnings from a place of lack, but feeling whole. Most have a sense that the world is wrong, but we settle for our situation; unable to address the real issues inside our own hearts. The very thing we need to be made right often feels like surgery. The broken and bloody Jesus on the cross is offensive, confrontational, and shockingly hard to swallow, but it is the process by which our hearts are offered healing. The cutting away of sinful habits often feels painful. The surrendering of our lives to Jesus can feel like loss. But it is the way of life; the way to wholeness.

IMG_9686Philippians 3:8 says “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”

My darling boy Micah is getting better every day. His incision is mending, and his body is regaining strength. Perhaps eventually he will even be grateful for the work of his surgeon. But regardless of how hard it is to encourage him to rest now, to nurture his body with naps and good nutrition now, we are daily reminding Micah of the greater offer of wholeness he has in Jesus. Even more accurate than his urologist, is the Great Healer of our ailing hearts. The temporary fix done inside of his body may have bought him more time to run and jump in the future, but the miracle of life is given by Jesus. In Christ alone our broken lives are redeemed, our fractured dreams are reclaimed, and our wandering hearts are redirected.

Run to Jesus Micah Man, He will sustain you even when your body cannot.

Is it finished?

Micah’s surgery is done. Friday felt like the longest day of my life. He went into the OR for surgery around 3:30 in the afternoon at LA Children’s Hospital, and he was on the operating table for over 3 hours. Under the careful hands of a highly trained Urologist, the 3 hour process of redemption unfolded. Micah had a narrowed portion of his left ureter removed, extensive tapering applied to the urater, a stint added, ending in reimplanting the urater into the bladder. He was intubated, given an IV, a foley, a spinal tap, and an c-section incision across his lower abdomen.

IMG_9625After surgery, in the consult room with the Urologist, Brent and I learned a lot. It was in that tiny room lined with uncomfortable chairs that my understanding of kidneys grew. The doctor described his profession as one attempting to insure that each person’s kidneys outlive them. He said that if we each lived to be 150 years old, our kidneys would inevitably fail us. Those unfortunate people who have both kidneys give out early in life, gain a little extra time because of dialysis, or a transplant, but the human body simply does not thrive in either of these situations. Dr Paul Kokoroski has made it his life’s mission to prevent people from getting to that difficult place in life.

Micah’s left kidney was born to fail; most likely, sooner than we would hope. We all want to know “when?” But we do not have that answer. In most cases, a single kidney failing later in life causes no immediate threat. The healthy kidney kicks into high gear, and the person continues with urinary function via their surviving kidney. But we were not designed to function very long on one kidney. The surviving kidney often wears out sooner because of the added strain of working alone. Thus, we understand the significance of a child’s kidneys failing early in life. Friday’s surgery was an attempt to prolong Micah’s left kidney’s function, and it appears to have been a success.

0602171941What this means. Micah’s left kidney will always be in question. The blockage that was causing the flow of urine to pool in the left kidney is gone now, but the amount of redundant tissue removed from the left ureter seem to indicate a mutation in the formation of Micah’s entire left side of his renal track (as seen by the enlarged size of his kidney detected in utero). Even with the correction made to his urater, the kidney is not expected to recover entirely, if at all. Micah will routinely be evaluated for further complications and continued kidney function. The doctor assumes that the blocked urine flow has damaged his kidney, but to what extent is indeterminable.

The doctor said that the year ahead of us is critical for determining the success of Micah’s renal system. The next four weeks are vital for his incision recovery and the  mending of the tissue that makes up his left ureter. In 4-6 weeks we will see how his tapered urater holds up without the assistance from the stint. But the long-term function of his kidney will still be in question long after the surgery wounds have healed.

It may always be in question.

For some, a surgery like this solves all kidney problems for the duration of the patient’s life. For others, this is just the beginning of a long road of complications.

It is still uncertain where Micah’s story will take him.

Today I am facing 6 different prescription medications, a lot of blood, and a little boy who is scared to go to the potty alone. He is playful one moment and exhausted the next. One moment I am trying to remind him he cannot jump on the couch, and another minute he’s curled up in indiscriminate pain. It is unclear what tomorrow will bring.

Kylie’s so happy Micah is home

Tonight as Micah prayed, he asked for God to make the cut on his belly better and to help him be able to jump and climb again. He fully believes God can and will make him whole. I see in Micah a trust in God and a simplicity of perspective that I crave. He moves with a limp, and yet he’s not complaining about the process. He told me that God used a doctor to be His hands to fix his broken insides. He is so right.

A sovereign protector I have,
Unseen, yet forever at hand;
Unchangeably faithful to save,
Almighty to rule and command.
He smiles, and my comforts abound;
His grace as the dew shall descend,
And walls of salvation surround
the soul He delighted to defend.
-Agustus Toplady

Assult in the waiting room

IMG_9171Another round of illness has struck my little family. Kylie fell asleep last night burning with fever. Brent and I discussed taking her to the ER, but ibuprofen began to work its magic right as Kylie’s temperature peaked at 103*F.

Illness in the family seems a much fiercer enemy with Micah’s second attempted surgery quickly approaching on June 2nd. It was illness that hindered him from having surgery on April 7th, and it is illness that again threatens to take down his immune system today. Ordinarily, the price of a sick child feels high as sleep is utterly swept away, all social engagements cancelled, and incessant hand washing becomes household law. But now, illness comes at a higher premium. A simple fever could cost Micah another opportunity at kidney surgery. If illness so much as touches his body, his procedure will automatically be delayed for another 4 weeks. What a big threat a tiny germ can wield.

And yet…

in the darkness of Kylie’s quiet room, sometime between sleep and dawn, my soul was flooded with peace. Through the fog in my tired mind I sought the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from all of my fears (Ps. 34:4). I can honestly say because of moments like these, I am learning to trust the Lord with all things. If He has deemed it necessary for germs to invade my home despite my fervent attempt to sanitize every corner so that I can be reminded that I am not in control, then it is worth it. If it takes long seasons of sleeplessness to tether my dependance to the cross, then it is worth it. If it takes my daughter’s sickness to show me the beauty of surrendering my own comfort for her well-being, that it was worth it.

Joni Erickson Tada said “God permits what He hates to accomplish what He loves.”
Last night, fever was accomplishing a good thing for my heart.
Fever showed me frailty, weakness, and desperation.
Fever stripped me of the things I think I need to be joyful, gracious, and kind.
And fever warmed my heart in compassion for my daughter.

In my nurture of her, I understood the gospel in a new light. My life became a model of God’s affection for me. In my misery, He holds fast to me in love, bringing comfort to my hurt, supplying cool refreshment for my thirst. And yet, unlike me, He never grows weary or overwhelmed, and He never allows anything into my life that will ruin me.  

Milton Vincent writes “The mere fact that God tells me to stay inside the gospel at all times must mean that He intends to supply all of my needs as long as I am abiding in that place of luxury (2 Peter 1:3).”
So this is where I must build my home today; in this place of luxury. In the face of illness, under the assault of germs, I commit to staying inside the gospel. There is nowhere else I’d rather be.

Your Hero

My dear sweet Micah,

You turned four on Sunday, and we celebrated you. With so many of your friends, more s’mores than a little guy should probably eat in one night, and lots of smiles. We wanted you to know that you are dearly loved, and we wanted you to have a night filled with a few of your favorite things. In two days you are going to be having kidney surgery, but today you are blissfully unaware.

FullSizeRender-1 You don’t know what’s coming because Daddy and I decided not to tell you until you need to know. In our meager attempt to keep you from unnecessary worry we have chosen only to tell you that in a couple of days the doctors are going to give you a shot to help you sleep so they can fix something inside of you. But even more importantly, we will continue to remind you that we trust Jesus to do what He does best – heal brokenness – just like He did when you were growing in my tummy. We are praying that God will guide the doctor’s hands and that He will do the work that no physician on earth could possibly do.

And even though your doctor is very talented, you and I both know who the real superhero is, don’t we? We have a real-live hero who is bigger and stronger than Superman or Thor. The doctor can only rearrange a few things inside your body in the way he was taught, but God has to kick your immune system into high gear so infection doesn’t set in. The doctor can cut out the blockage in your tubes, but only God can keep additional ones from growing. The doctor can implant your ureter into the right place in the bladder, but only Jesus can make your organs attach correctly. The doctor can try his best to patch up any potential leaks, but only God can oversee the mending of broken tissue. You’re in good hands my sweet boy. God’s got you; and He always has.

Your mommy and daddy love you so very much little Micah Man. But while we promise to stay by your side, holding your hand while you fall asleep and when you wake up, we are trusting you into stronger hands than ours. Trust Jesus little boy. Rest in Him. Keep asking Him for help. He can provide for you in ways that no one else can.

On Friday you’re going to need a lot. A lot of medicine, a lot of attention from a special medical team, a lot of time in the hospital, and a lot of fixing. What’s even harder, is you will also need a lot of patience and a lot of courage. But it’s good to need little buddy, because recognizing your neediness is what teaches you how to ask and where to go for help.

Go to Jesus my little darling. He is always there, loving you better than anyone else ever can. Ask Him for the courage you need and for the strength to face the future come what may. In the word of your favorite church song, “Little ones to Him belong. They are weak, but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus love me. Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so.” You belong to Jesus sweet boy, and His love is more than you will ever need.


His broken body

Today I traveled down a familiar path. This path was one that I wished to never see again. Sitting in the doctor’s office, waiting with my sweet little boy Micah. I felt like we’d been here before. And we have. Micah’s nearly 4 years of life have included a lot of doctor’s appointments. Even before he was born the doctors studied him carefully in my womb. At first, the experts told us he wouldn’t live. Then, they told us he would be maimed by genetic defect so severe we should terminate his pregnancy. Then they told us he was making improvements. Then, he was born and they said a miracle happened – he was in the clear. They said follow-up ultrasounds are a standard procedure, but nothing indicated he would face future complications.

That was then… Today they said “surgery.” Today the doctor said he is “broken.” Today the doctor said the real miracle is that his little body has lived this long without kidney failure. To look at Micah with the naked eye he appears the perfect picture of health and happiness. He runs and climbs and laughs and dances with a ferocity that makes my smile hurt. But underneath his joy, his body is fighting to function. He has no idea that his experience of normal isn’t right. Micah has no concern that he is about to undergo a surgery that has a 20% failure rate.

Today he asked me if Jesus could see inside his body, and I said assuredly yes. I told him how God is the boss of every single cell in His  body, and that God has always taken care of him, even when he was in my tummy. And he said he prayed that his kidneys would be better forever, “because Jesus can do anything.”

And I cried. Not because I doubt God’s ability to heal my son, nor because I’m afraid that the Lord may choose not heal him in the days ahead. But because I am so distrusting of God’s goodness and loving kindness. I am heartbroken that it took this to remind me again that my children are a gift from God, they are not mine, and that as desperately as I love my son, God loves him better. As much as I scramble to understand what the future holds, fighting to do what I think is best for my son, God is not undone by this. And despite the circumstances of the days ahead, I know that God does not allow pain without a purpose.  

My husband helped me remember tonight that God is wise and good. And no matter what we deem to be the direct path to Micah’s best life now, perhaps what is good for Micah is to experience brokenness so he can cling to Jesus tighter. Or so that we, his parents, may learn to trust him into the hands of the One who’s always carried him.

In the days ahead, I will remind Micah that the secret to happiness is not in having a strong healthy body, but IS in being near to the Savior regardless of the situation he finds himself in. Psalm 16:11 “You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

So for now, my little broken boy is sleeping. And I will sleep too, because I know that he is not alone and his pain is not meaningless. He is more loved than I can fathom by a God who is sovereign and good. The same God who gave him to us nearly 4 years ago will not stop caring for him now. And that is the best news I’ve heard all day.

I fell in love with you the day you died

To my littlest baby,

I met you on the day that I lost you. I didn’t know you were mine until I learned that you were already gone. I experienced the grief of losing you before I was even allowed the joy of having you. But God gave you to me, and you had life. You are my precious child, and I already love you.

But how badly I wanted you! I wanted to feel you kick, get morning sickness for you, and lose sleep over you. I wanted you to know the tickle of daddy’s beard, be cuddled by your brothers, and feel your grandparents’ extravagant love. But most of all, I wanted you to live so we could know you, love you, and teach you all about the beauty of our good God.

And even though we will never get to describe the boundless and eternal love of God to you, my darling little baby, we can proclaim the love of God because of this you. As we mourn your death, we will praise God for His promise that pain is not meaningless and that He is faithfully working all things together for our good (Rom 8:28). When I cry a little more than usual, and I miss you fiercely, I can remind your brothers that my love for you is only a tiny tiny picture of the great love that our heavenly Father has lavished on us, calling us children of God (1 john 3:1). And when I wonder why you didn’t flourish and thrive inside of my body, I can sing Psalm 73:26, “though my heart and my flesh may fail me, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” And when your brothers ask me why you died, I can tell them with certainty that the God who loves in measure beyond our understanding determined that this great sadness would be a good way to demonstrate his love for us. God is abundantly good and He will never forsake us (Heb 13:5).

My little baby, how desperately I want you here with us, but I trust God – who knit you together inside of my womb only 8 short weeks ago – to have a far better plan for your life than I could ever dream of. His love is perfect and, in His wisdom, He has taken you from us. We miss you, and we love you, but we are praising God for the blessing of your very short life. We entrust you to His goodness and we surrender your soul to His care.

love always,