Becoming Holy

Flaky Home Ec Biscuits

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The recipe for these delicious biscuits can be traced back to high school Home Economics class in 1984-85.  This recipe is simple and quick enough to be prepared by high school freshmen during a fifty minute class period.  

These flaky biscuits are favorites at our house…two of the five children requested these for dinner this week, so we threw them together and baked up some deliciousness tonight!  The recipe is easy and quick.  My intention was to photo-journal all steps of the recipe, but our camera battery died!  YIKES!  I rolled the biscuits closer to 3/4 inch thickness and baked them on the middle rack of our oven for just ten minutes.  Made 24 biscuits!  The thicker ones are excellent and at one inch thickness, take 12-14 minutes to bake, yielding 18 biscuits.  Sometimes fewer biscuits are better and sometimes more are required!  

Home Ec Biscuits

Mix:

3 c. flour

4 1/2 tsp. baking powder

2 T. sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

3/4 tsp. cream of tartar

Add:

3/4 cups butter.  Cut in with fork or pastry cutter.

Add:

1 c. milk and 1 egg.  More flour if needed.

Roll 3/4 to 1 inch thick.  Either cut in squares or use a round biscuit cutter.  I prefer to cut in squares to minimize overworking the dough.  Bake 450 degree oven for 10-12 minutes.  Makes 1 1/2 to 2 dozen biscuits.  Serve with butter and honey OR with cream of chicken gravy over the top.  Yummy!

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We will run and not grow weary…Part Three

RunningShoes

There are so many subtitles I could use for this entry~maybe “Running in Place” would be an apt description or perhaps “The Broken Road.”  We’ll see where things go.  To begin with, the pacemaker being placed caused a lot of anxiety in our family.  Gabbie didn’t like to talk about it, didn’t want to think about it, got anxious when it would “fire” and throw her heart into chaos.  She would pull me aside and tell me what was going on, but like any fourteen year old, she just wanted to be like everyone else.  It took almost four months from the muscle biopsy to get the official word~Gabbie has Kearns-Sayre Syndrome.  Why on earth did that information hit us like a ton of bricks?  We already “knew” that would be her diagnosis.  I had believed it for a few years now~thanks to my stellar research on Google.  It was what all signs pointed to and yet, seeing the results on paper was just this ugly, sickening moment.  I guess no one wants to be defined, to be placed in a box.  Knowing what was going on did give us a framework to operate from.  When people asked me what was going on, I would explain the disease and Gabbie would get very quiet.  One day, on the way to morning Mass, Gabbie burst out, “I would really appreciate it if you would NOT talk about KSS to anyone.  I don’t want to hear about it or be asked questions about it or listen to you tell other people about me.”  I held back the tears, realizing the pain I had been causing her and I promised I wouldn’t do that to her.

God had other plans.  He placed a beautiful woman in our path that day.  After Mass, Susan came up to our family.  She introduced herself and began talking with the girls.  Somehow the subject of Gabbie’s health came up.  She asked how Gabbie was doing.  I panicked~I had just promised Gabbie we wouldn’t be having these discussions.  The Holy Spirit must have filled Susan with the gift of knowledge because she said she had never heard of Kearns-Sayre Syndrome but she knew what would cure it.  Ice Cream!  She reached into her purse and pulled out a twenty dollar bill, all the while sharing her wisdom about ice cream’s healing powers.  She was certain we should head right off to McDonald’s or Dairy Queen and buy as much ice cream as we could get our hands on!  All of the kids were giggling by the time we got into our car.  A loving friendship was formed and the day’s crisis was averted!  

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My sister, Jeannette, called me and wanted to do something for Gabbie.  She offered to make knotted rosaries for her and to distribute them so people would be constantly praying for her.  I got the go-ahead from Gabbie~a big deal, because again this drew attention to her life situation.  Gabbie chose the cord used for the rosaries~a beautiful mix of blues and green called “Tranquility.”  We began to refer to these rosaries as tranquility rosaries.  Aptly named as I longed for nothing more than peace and tranquility for our family.  When the cording arrived, we traveled to my parents’ house in Idaho and spent an afternoon with my family learning how to knot these one decade rosaries.  We all worked together and laughed and laughed.  My sister and her family did all the set up work and finish work in this huge project.  My aunt, a Benedictine nun, wrote brief, beautiful reflections for each mystery of the rosary.  The rosaries were then placed in a ziploc along with a little paper that told which mystery would be prayed on that rosary for Gabbie.  Family and friends “adopted” a mystery of the rosary for Gabbie and pledged to pray that mystery every day for her healing.  My sister’s goal was that all twenty mysteries would be said every day for Gabbie times how ever many of these rosaries we could hand out.  I know there were over a hundred.  The blessing in Joe and I each having a big, prayerful family is that we had rosaries in the hands of nearly 100 people by the end of the day!

At our parish, people were praying up a storm for Gabbie.  One friend called to see what the parish could do.  I honestly did not need meals brought or our house cleaned (well…it’s not like I can’t clean!)  She offered help driving, shopping, basically anything our family could use.  I told her we needed prayer and thought of my sister’s rosaries.  I knew I was not able to make hundreds more, but I shared the idea with my friend.  She immediately set to work and made beautiful cards that explained Gabbie’s situation.  Each card listed a separate decade of the rosary and the idea of praying this decade for Gabbie daily.  She took our family’s photo and made a big poster board for the vestibule.  There were little pockets that held the Rosary Cards and an invitation to pray for Gabbie.  As you can imagine, the attention was not easy for Gabbie, but I think it was beginning to settle in that we needed all the prayer we can get.  The response was beyond beautiful~people everywhere were taking rosary cards and when they would see us, they would share which mystery they had chosen and why.  My eyes would always tear up.  That happens a lot these days.

 This has been an extremely humbling journey.  How does one do anything but cry when a friend or a stranger looks into your eyes and shares from the heart that they are praying in earnest for your child?  As parents, Joe and I agonize over Gabbie’s health.  She is our daughter and we long to see her cured.  I’m not certain if I can paint a word picture to express the incredible beauty of the people in our lives.  I’m not sure I can “paint” with these crazy tears running down my face again.  The people who love Gabbie, who pray for Gabbie, who hold her in their hearts, form a safety net for our family.  I envision a sea of prayer warriors with hands held high, lifting us up and holding us together.  In my painting there is music too.  I hear the prayers of the rosary, the Masses, the Word of God prayed on her behalf.  I hear songs of healing and words of promise.  I see face after face, friend after friend~each a sign of God’s faithfulness.  I think of God’s promise in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”  Jesus is at the center of my painting.  Sometimes He is on the cross, suffering and reminding me of all He went through so we can be together.  Sometimes, He is walking among all our praying friends and He has such JOY in this sea of faith.  Sometimes He is alone with Gabbie and they are speaking heart to heart, but I cannot hear them.  He is always there.  He anchors the painting.  He anchors the painter.

jesus-clip-art

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The Power of Grief

Today, we grieve the loss of a very dear friend.  Not just me.  My family.  Our parish.  Our dear sweet friends.  They have lost a wife, mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, aunt, sister.  Just looking at all the roles this sweet woman held makes me realize the intrinsic value each life holds.  The service was particularly meaningful and would have been even had we not been involved on a personal level.  

First of all, the presider was our retired bishop, Bishop Carlos Sevilla.  He was a close friend of the family.  His gentle presence as shepherd held so much comfort.  Several priests and deacons were in attendance~this beautifully reflected the love of our faith community for this family.  The family had put together a slideshow of memories.  They were the memories that each of us loves to see~big group photos, travel photos, individual memories caught on film and set to meaningful music.  These photos were windows to the past, giving each of us a new view into the life of this beloved woman.

Attendance at the service was strong.  The parking lot was full, as was the church.  Scriptures from Jeremiah, Romans and John were read and we, as mourners, were reminded of the love of our God.  We marveled as Jeremiah was read by the daughter of our deceased friend.  She read with passion and grace and complete composure, announcing to each of us that God ” will visit you and fulfill [His} good word to you, to bring you back to this place.  For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”  The words were encouraging, reminding us of God’s perfect plan.  In the book of Romans, we heard the beautiful words that “neither life nor death, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, not future things shall separate us from the love of Christ Jesus.”  This is one of my favorite scriptures and it so beautifully summarizes the fact that nothing separates us from Christ or from our loved ones.  Those left behind simply must await our turn to join our loved ones in the complete and perfect love of Jesus Christ.  These joy-filled readings were then completed with the Gospel from John 14.  My heart soared as I heard the words, “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.  “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.  “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”  We had also chosen this Gospel reading for our sweet Jennifer’s funeral 17 years ago.  These words give such hope.  Jesus loves each of us so deeply that He goes to prepare for us.  Just as we would prepare for a beloved guest.  He promises His return and His personal escort to us.  These words are why I KNOW that Jesus personally came to welcome our daughter and they are how I know He personally came to welcome our friend home.  No more suffering.  No more struggle.  Complete and total wholeness and holiness.  

The homilist, Fr. Auve, shared an incredible revelation.  He spoke of the fact that God is not limited by time and that our prayers are timeless.  I have always loved this belief.  I believe, as a mom, that I can pray for our daughter, Jennifer.  Even though I know she is with God, my prayers for her now are a timeless blessing on her earthly existence.  Today, our prayers for the friend we have lost are a blessing on her entire life and the lives of her family.  We gathered at the table of the Lord, just as the apostles had with Jesus at the Last Supper.  The timeless love of God permeated the church throughout the Mass.

A beautiful luncheon followed the funeral Mass.  Our community shared the love we have for our friend by providing a beautiful meal in celebration of her life.  Today is the first Friday of Lent and for Catholics, this means no meat.  Vegetarian soups, rolls, salads and desserts were prepared and brought with loving hands.  Person after person came with food gifts that were a love story for this woman and her family.  Story upon story was shared about the bonds of love that held us all together as a grieving community.  One mom brought a beautiful memory with her pot of soup.  She had been blessed profoundly by our deacon and his wife.  She recalled her engagement to her husband and the difficulties they encountered in trying to  access marriage prep classes.  By God’s grace, they were led to Holy Spirit Parish and were introduced to our deacon and his wife.  They were welcomed into their home, made to feel at ease and guided in the marriage classes they needed.  As she shared her story with me, her eyes were tear-filled and her gratitude to our friend was obvious.  Another young mom shared of the love and prayer support she and her husband received during her cancer treatment.  It was obvious our friend had been a lifeline during this time of illness.  This couple, too, had brought soup with their memories.  Their presence was both a tribute and a thank you.  People of all ages and walks of life gathered to honor this amazing life, so very well lived.  

So tonight, I pause and take stock.  I praise God for letting me be part of this sacred day and thank Him for the gift of this beautiful life.  I have been reminded He has a plan for each of us~one of promise and of hope.  I know nothing can separate us from Him, and  I rejoice that He has gone to prepare a place for each of us.  His promise to return and take us to Himself is one of great comfort.  Our grieving together has been a powerful force of love and belief in each of these promises.  I find myself thanking God for this faith community and this faithful family.  Words from the final song, “The Song of Farewell,”  are resounding in my heart.  “May the choirs of angels come to greet you, may they lead you to paradise.  May the Lord enfold you in His mercy.   May you find eternal life.”  Rest in peace, dear friend, rest in peace.  

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Happy Valentine’s Day

abstract_love_heart_background_148559Happy Valentine’s Day!  Today has been a day of blessings from start to finish with many lessons of true love sprinkled throughout!   It started with Prince Charming awakening me and enticing me out of the house with promises of Dutch Brothers coffee and flowers.  We grabbed our jackets and stepped out into the crisp, morning air.  The sun was just coming up~beautiful!  The coffee~delicious!  I chose a gorgeous coral azalea plant for my Valentine flowers.  We bought red carnations and baby’s breath for the kids.  It was that simple, sweet togetherness that spoke to my soul.  The togetherness made me more mindful of those dear friends we have who have lost their spouse in recent days.  What does Valentine’s Day hold for them?  Is it all the more painful to watch the world celebrate love when one’s spouse is gone?

I am so touched by two young women at church~siblings~ who lost their dad a year ago.  They were working together to make sure their mom had a valentine surprise despite the fact that they are both away at college.  It was a gift to see the love they have for their mom to make sure she knows how loved she is by them.  It inspired an awareness in me that I need to pursue future Valentine’s days with a new heart!   On Christmas day, a dear friend lost his wife and this past week, another dear friend lost his.  Both were long-lasting marriages and extraordinary examples of living out the vocation of marriage.  Joe and I look to both couples as examples to emulate.  We have watched them live out their vows and are reminded of our own.  Twenty-three years ago this month, we each promised to be true to one another “in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health.”  We also promised to love and honor one another all the days of our lives.  We chose that line over the “til death to us part.”  I don’t think death will part us.  I am watching these widowed gentlemen and I see that death has not parted them from their spouses.  Though each has been deeply wounded by the loss of his wife, each also continues to live with his spouse deeply connected to him.

On Facebook, I saw a cartoon of St. Valentine, holding his head in his hands, greeting a couple at their dinner table.  He told them about his love for Christ and how he was willing to be tortured for the love of Jesus.  A friend of mine had added the comment, “Now, please pass the chocolates.”  It struck me how easily distracted I can be from the true meaning of love to the one that is advertised.  I have heard so many men express how difficult Valentine’s Day can be~that they are set up to fail.  They feel they cannot do or buy enough to measure up to expectations of the women in their lives.  Some of them continue to buy gifts while mumbling under their breath, some of them choose to do nothing.  Neither of those approaches seem to be a celebration of love.  Valentine’s Day is a glorious feast day, reminding us to love~not to buy or sulk at what isn’t bought.

At the end of the day, we talked about what Valentine’s Day needs to be in our home.  In my heart, I believe it should be a day of reaching out, in love, to everyone around us.  Whether they be recently widowed, single, going through divorce, happily married or in any other circumstance~the people in our lives will be joyful recipients of Valentine love.  Celebrating love needs to begin in our homes, but true love is exponential.  It always reaches beyond ourselves.  It bursts from our hearts out into the community and blesses everyone in its path.  

Valentine’s Day has a special new look to me~it does not belong to the world, but to the one who taught us how to love.  Valentine’s Day was a complete gift to me as I looked around and saw the “love” the world offers and saw the true love that Christ brings.  We are each of us, in our own way, seeking True Love.  We may not know what we are seeking, but we know it once we’ve found it.  “We love because He first loved us.”  1 John 4-19.  Happy Valentine’s Day, dear friends. 

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Even If the Healing Doesn’t Come

149292_1618025645343_3851549_nI have been looking forward to today all week. Actually, I have been looking forward to it all year!  It’s the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes~our family’s special patroness.  Our trip to Lourdes, France, in November of 2010 was a profound pilgrimage for our family of seven.  Everything about Lourdes holds a sacred place in my heart and every feast associated with Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Bernadette has spiritual significance for us.  I wasn’t able to rally the troops for morning Mass…I was running LATE and feeling bad.   I prayed I would hit the lights right and make it to the church on time.  The radio came on and the first words I heard were the words from the Kutless song, “Even If the Healing Doesn’t Come.”  For those of you who are unfamiliar, I am posting the lyrics below.  For those who know the song, you will understand why my heart dropped and a short series of sobs escaped from me.  I really did NOT want to hear a song about healing not coming~and especially not today!  The feast of Our Lady of Lourdes~World Day of the Sick!!!  Not appreciating God’s sense of timing, I forced myself to voice aloud that I would bless the Lord even if the healing doesn’t come.  Of course, that brought all kinds of tears to my eyes as I drove to Mass, trying to be on time!  

I made it pretty much on the buzzer and settled in to pray for Gabbie and all the sick of the world.  The Gospel was from Mark 6:53-56 and spoke of the healing powers of Jesus and the faith the people had in Him to heal the sick.  When Jesus left the boat and people recognized Him, “they scurried about the surrounding country and began to bring in the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak; and as many as touched it were healed.”  I thought to myself, “Well, that’s encouraging.  Jesus healed EVERYONE who touched His cloak.”  At least there was no talk about a lack of healing in the Scripture.  Big sigh of relief.  The prayers of the faithful brought more tears to my eyes as Father Auve prayed for healing on all the sick of the world.  Please Jesus, bring healing to Gabbie.  Please Jesus.

And then it hit me~the beauty of the song, the beauty of the Gospel, the beauty of our trip to Lourdes all merged into one beautiful, tear-stained message from God.  We did not experience Gabbie’s immediate physical healing at Lourdes.  Healing did come though and it almost defies description.  This morning’s love song from God was about staying in the present, blessing Him at all times and continuing to bring Gabbie and all our sick into the “marketplace of prayer.”  For it is only in the sacred place of prayer and faith that Jesus heals.  First we must recognize Him, then we must go to Him and finally, we must reach out to Him.  Recognize.  Go.  Reach.  

“You are God and we will bless you as the Good and Faithful One.  You are God and we will bless You, even if the healing doesn’t come.”

“Even If the Healing Doesn’t Come”  by Kutless

Sometimes all we have to hold on to
Is what we know is true of who You are
So when the heartache hits like a hurricane
That could never change who You are
And we trust in who You are

Even if the healing doesn’t come
And life falls apart
And dreams are still undone
You are God You are good
Forever faithful One
Even if the healing
Even if the healing doesn’t come

Lord we know your ways are not our ways
So we set our faith in who You are
Even though You reign high above us
You tenderly love us
We know Your heart
And we rest in who You are

You’re still the Great and Mighty One
We trust You always
You’re working all things for our good
We’ll sing your praise

You are God and we will bless You
As the Good and Faithful One
You are God and we will bless You
Even if the healing doesn’t come
Even if the healing doesn’t come

Lourdes 2010

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Our Lady of Lourdes

Our Lady of Lourdes

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We will run and not grow weary…Part Two

So…when I posted yesterday, I left out a special part of our journey in Seattle.  Family!  God, in advance, had supplied us with family to meet us in Seattle.  Joe’s cousin, Pam, came to see us shortly after we arrived the night before surgery.  She had a goody bag for Gabbie and words of comfort and encouragement.  Later that night, Joe’s cousin, Tom and wife Zoey, also came bearing gifts!  The thoughtfulness of these two visits took the edge off of being in a strange place.  The feeling of being “so alone in the world” was lifted from our shoulders and we knew help was just a phone call away.  We somehow managed to sleep that night and headed to the operating room early the next morning.  

The pre-op work was beyond gut-wrenching!  We were answering the same questions over and over, Gabbie’s fear of needles was escalating after each unsuccessful attempt at IV placement, and we were handed waivers to sign that were filled with every possible bad thing that could happen.  As a parent, I was asking myself if we would see Gabbie alive again.  I would alternate “best case scenarios” with “worst case scenarios” inside my head.  It was with very heavy hearts and a show of bravery that we kissed Gabbie “goodbye” and watched the team wheel her down the hall.  Our eyes were brimming with tears at the thought of what the future might hold.  Joe and I took each others’ hands as well as the little “tracker” they gave us to notify us when surgery was over.  We went to the lower floor to the chapel and were so relieved to realize that the weekly Mass “just happened” to be starting in a few minutes.  We entered the room and knelt to pray for our precious Gabbie.  There were a handful of other people there.  During the prayer intentions, we were astonished when the priest prayed for healing for Gabbie.  “How on earth would he have found out?”  We hadn’t filled out anything regarding our religious preference.  Was this a miracle?  One other family in the room seemed to have a stress level comparable to ours.  At the end of Mass, we introduced ourselves.  We found out there was a second Gabby.  The other Gabby was a tiny little baby who had been diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA.)  She was only a few weeks old and not expected to live very long.  In my heart, I thought of Jennifer, and could not bear to watch this young couple’s anguish.

Mass was finished at noon.  The afternoon passed slower than anything I’ve ever experienced.  The expected length of surgery came and went and we were still waiting.  We couldn’t wait to hear from the doctor and yet we dreaded the buzzer going off.  What would it mean?  Was no news really good news or was something horribly wrong?  Would they even be successful at placing the pacer?  We ate lunch in silence and walked up and down the long hallways.  We called family back home to report that we had nothing to report.  By the time the tracker went off at 4:30 pm, we were spent~every emotion was laid bare like raw bundles  of nerve fibers.  We quietly awaited the doctor’s arrival.  Our cardiologist came in, all smiles, with the good news that the pacer was in place, the muscle biopsy had been taken and Gabbie was in recovery.  A wave of relief beyond explanation washed over us.  After an explanation of the procedure and follow up advice, we called the kids, our parents, and family to thank them for the many prayers that were being prayed.  We knew that Gabbie had been surrounded by angels~especially when the anesthesiologist reported that Gabbie had been under at just .5-1% of the anesthesia mix.

The rest of the evening was painful for Gabbie.  Nausea from surgery, extreme tenderness at the incision sites, and the overwhelming knowledge she now had something foreign inside her made everything so painfully REAL.  No turning back from a pacemaker.  No turning back from finding out the results from her muscle biopsy.  Though we suspected Gabbie had KSS and all signs pointed to it, the muscle biopsy would make it definitive.  Sometimes the reality of the situation made me want to bolt!  We did not want to be there, but we’d been placed there.  We went with a determination to make every moment count~God had placed us there and we were determined to find purpose in this.

One grace we were blessed with was being able to locate the other Gabby’s family.  We had tried to find them during the surgery to see how things were going and to see if they wanted to pray together.  The hospital could not give out information about other patients, so it was unlikely we would see them again.  We prayed that if God wanted us to find them, He would place them in our path.  Joe went to get coffee and God placed Gabby’s grandparents on the elevator.  He asked if we could visit their room and pray with them.  They accepted.  We had brought some incredible blessed items with us on this journey.  We had been given a relic from my sweet sister-in-law…a tiny piece of the Blessed Mother’s veil!  We also had a relic of Padre Pio, Lourdes water, rosaries from Medjugorje and an assortment of other religious medals and blessed oil.  We met Gabby’s parents, shared our struggles and prayed together for Gabbie and Gabby!  Precious moments of shared faith in a hospital room at Children’s.  That was one of the moments that felt very right when everything else was feeling so wrong.  (Sadly, a few months later, Baby Gabby passed away from SMA and our hearts broke along with theirs.)

Our Gabbie’s struggles were just beginning.  Despite the fact that she had undergone two intense procedures, she was released the next day. Three of the shortest and longest days of our lives!  Fear accompanied us across the mountains where we would settle into life and await the test results.  It is true that “perfect love casts out all fear” (1 John 4:18) because a homemade sign of perfect love awaited Gabbie on our front door.  In huge letters, it said,  “Tuesday to Thursday~TOO LONG!  Kennewick to Seattle~TOO FAR!  Welcome home, Gabbie.  We love you!”  This sign was not a sign of fear, it was a sign of JOY!  My heart rejoiced in these words and I silently thanked God for letting these beautiful children continue as siblings on earth.  The verse from Jeremiah 29:11 echoed in my heart,   For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”  Looking back at those days so filled with chaos and calamity, we know God had a plan.  He had cared for our children at home and He had cared for Gabbie in the hospital.  He led us to another family in need of support and prayer.  The pacemaker was not a curse, it was His gift!  It continues to buy us time~helping to ensure a future and a hope.  We are called to release our fears and erase the plans we have drawn up in order to make room for His plans for our future and for that of Gabbie.

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We will run and not grow weary…Part One

013I am weary.  I shouldn’t be.  It’s early morning, Joe is at his men’s bible study.  Jordan is at work.  The other kids are all still sleeping.  I have a cup of coffee with sugar-free caramel Torani syrup in it.  Life is good.  But, I am weary at the thought of the blog I am about to write.  Those of you who know us may suspect I am talking about our journey with Gabbie and her diagnosis with mitochondrial illness.  I ask myself why it is harder to write about this journey than it was to write about Jennifer’s life and the steps to healing.  Perhaps it is because Jennifer’s race is run.  She, like Paul, in 2 Timothy 4:7 can boast, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”  Gabbie’s race is more of a marathon, maybe even the Ironman Triathalon.  The kicker is~she didn’t sign up for it!  No chance to train for it, prepare for it, or decide if it was really a race she wanted to run. But she IS running and we are running with her.  Acts 20:24 encourages us~ “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”  And grace abounds.

Just before we moved back to Tri-Cities in 2007, Gabbie’s left eye began to droop slightly.  We were told it was a lazy eye and that she might need strengthening exercises to help.  We were blessed to get back in with our family doctor~the amazing man who cared for Jennifer.  He detected a heart murmur in Gabbie and sent us to a pediatric cardiologist.  The cardiologist was gentle and caring and CONCERNED.  Gabbie had mitral valve prolapse, but his real concern was her eye.  He suspected a tumor or some type of Optic Nerve Palsy.  She was sent for evaluation to Spokane~just days before little Max was born.  They were able to rule out a tumor and one of the Optic Nerve issues, but wanted further evaluation with a neurologist.  Joe told them we would be going to Seattle to see our dear friend, Dr. Steven Glass.  He had carried us through Jennifer’s life, perhaps he would have insight in this situation as well.  

Twelve years had passed since we’d last spoken with Dr. Glass.  He was just as warm and wonderful as before, in a new, more peaceful office.  He evaluated Gabbie, ran blood tests, and realized it could be one of two things.  Myasthenia gravis was a possibility and could potentially be fixed with medicine.  The other, CPEO, was a sign of something far more serious.  He suggested I not “Google” it and get stressed out.  He said the only way to test for it is to take a muscle biopsy and that it would have to be done in a very controlled environment.  The best route would be to send her for an eye exam, treat for the myasthenia gravis and hope that her eyelid opened up.  We began treatment, but not until I had googled CPEO.  

I cannot adequately describe my experience with Google and each article I pulled up on CPEO.  With each word, my heart accelerated, my breath quickened and then stopped, my eyes raced across the words in the article~ “short in stature, mitral valve issues, drooping eyelids, depleted appetite, low energy, prone to illness.”  There was an explanation of the word CPEO~Chronic, Progressive, External, Opthalmoplegia and some specific illnesses that cause it.  Every fiber in my being was shouting~”THIS IS IT!  Oh, dear Jesus, NO!”  The outcomes of the specific illnesses weren’t good.  At all.  And you know how they talk about “mother’s instinct?”  That wasn’t good at all either.

So, it’s still 2007, we have five kids, one~a brand new baby boy.  We just built and moved into our house.  We pushed our fears to the side and hoped against hope that Gabbie had Myasthenia Gravis.  She was on the medicine for a year and it sometimes seemed to be working.  Dr. Glass was frustrated and sent her to a new eye doctor in 2008.  He looked like Jack Black and had a crazy-fun personality.  During pre-exam he mentioned how happy he was that the reports showed no “salt and pepper” speckling in Gabbie’s eyes.  He told us that would “NOT be good and that we sure didn’t want the disease that it would indicate.”  Then he did the exam and the whole joyful, boisterous, Jack Black mood in the room changed.  Drop the Jack.  Think BLACK.  He was so somber.  He went to the reports he’d been sent.  Apparently the prior specialist had NOT done the “salt and pepper” test.  Gabbie had it~the salt AND the pepper.  That was the pivotal moment.  I’m sure that Jack Black wanted to put his foot~possibly his entire body~into his mouth for his “off-the-cuff” remarks about us not wanting salt and pepper speckling.  I felt physically sick.  Every article on CPEO I had read was flipping through my mind at a crazy speed.  Jack Black’s lips were moving but I really couldn’t hear the words.  Blah blah blah, appointment….muscle biopsy…so sorry…so sorry.  Me too, Jack.

Now we are meeting with a new doctor at Children’s Hospital in Seattle, Dr. Russell Saneto.  He’s a mitochondrial specialist~extremely smart and into research.  We get an explanation of what is going on with Gabbie.  She appears to have what he calls, Kearns-Sayre Syndrome, KSS for short.  It is everything I read about online.  To explain it simply, the cells of the body need energy.  The energy makers inside each cell are called mitochondria.  Mitochondria have their own DNA, different from the DNA in the nucleus.  In Gabbie’s case, her mitochondrial DNA is, for lack of a better term, deleting itself.  As it deletes itself, there are fewer “energy makers” and systemically, she weakens.  The reason her eye began to droop is because there are more muscles in the eye than anywhere else in the body.  This is the first place to express the weakness.  The next location~the heart~all muscle!  People with KSS need, at some point, to have a pacemaker placed.  The heart conductors will stop firing and need help.  Without a pacer, there is a 30 year life expectancy.  Gulp.  She is thirteen years old.  Are you KIDDING me?  We are started on a mitochondrial cocktail.  That’s what they call it.  But, it isn’t a drink and it doesn’t relax you.  It’s a crazy combo of vitamins and medicines that Gabbie takes twice a day to help give her maximum energy and remove byproducts from her cells.  She cannot have Tylenol and a host of others medicines.  We are informed that if she were to have surgery, without special anesthesia, she will die on the table.  Nice. They will continue to monitor her progress and work with the doctors from Children’s in Spokane for her heart.

March 2009.  Routine heart exam, Echo, EKG.  Our doctor comes into the room and she seems off.  She clears her throat and says, “I’d like to place a pacemaker in Gabbie. Her conductors are not working.”  We ask, “When?”  She answers, “Tomorrow if possible.”  “No can do,” we respond.  “She has to have surgery at Children’s in Seattle. There are serious anesthesia issues.”  She is on the phone with Children’s Hospital Seattle.  It was a Thursday.  Dr. Saneto told us it took a string of over 200 emails to coordinate the surgery in Seattle the following Wednesday.  The next five nights at home, we tucked Gabbie in each night and prayed we would see her in the morning.  Thank you, Jesus, for answering our prayer.

In those crazy five days, I had to make the decision to stop breast-feeding Max.  He wasn’t allowed to come along.  No matter how we looked at it, it was an impossible situation.  These days were both physically and emotionally painful. We coordinated with friends and family to have care for the youngest three.  Jordan would be with them at night after she returned from college.  We prayed and were prayed for by so many people.  On April 15, we met with the anesthesia team~the lead anesthesia researcher at Children’s was there~he had found the proper mix and process for these precious children.  He had tears in his eyes and told us that once he worked with our children, they became his kids too.  We kissed Gabbie goodbye, hoping and praying that we would see her again.  Enough for now…I can’t see the screen through my tears.  

 

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Love is patient

DSCN0498I read an incredible article by Deacon Keith Fournier this morning which is going to take life up a notch or two.  Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is often admired by lovers, read at weddings, and in my case, given as a penance in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  It is sweet and encompasses what it truly is to love.  “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13)

The part of the article that whispered my name was when Deacon Keith shared some wisdom from a priest friend of his.  He was advised to take the scripture from Paul and to insert his own name in place of the word “love.”  I mentally went to the scripture and began reciting, “Charlene is patient. (ouch!)  Charlene is kind. (hmmm.)  Charlene is not jealous.  (Yikes!)  At that point, I had to skim over the entire listing and shudder at my inadequacies.  Maybe you want to give this a try.  After my initial shudder and feelings of failure, I continued to read and saw that the priest had also advised Deacon Keith to use this exercise as an examination of conscience.  Ah ha!  This I could relate to.  I could see the idea of inserting my name into Corinthians as a measure of accountability.  If I am not patient that day, it is time to try harder.  Any lack of kindness will require apologies to said victims.  The laundry list continues~jealousy, arrogance, inflated ego, rudeness, selfish, hot-tempered, brooding, gloating at others’ sin.  All vices that need to be removed in order to truly love.

I had never really noticed the way this passage moves from the “is” statements to the “is not” statements to the positive action statements.  It was inspiring to recite, “Charlene bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” and to imagine a day when these words would be realities instead of wishes.  This treasured verse from Corinthians suddenly became a Mission Statement for Love!  I am printing this off and inserting my name and taping it to the bathroom mirror, the fridge, in the car and other random places~that I might keep this examination ever before me.  

The Bible often reminds us of the power of the tongue.  The words we speak have the power to give life or death.  We become what we pray.  How much better to speak words of love, words of conquering sin to ourselves throughout the day!  In 1 Peter 3:10&11 we read ,“For the one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit.  he must turn away from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.”    In Ephesians 4:29 we are advised, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”  

I treasure this advice and God’s timeliness in placing this before me today.  As Valentine’s Day approaches, love is spoken of and advertised as if it is something that can be purchased.  Authentic love, however, must be pursued and requires constant effort.  As followers of Jesus, we have the perfect witness to love.  Paul shares with us a recipe for making authentic love present in our own lives.  

 

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Walking the Walk

71433_132757083559403_903813870_nI love the phrase, “Can you walk the walk?”  That is, until I was challenged by this image this morning!  The sight of Mother Teresa’s misshapen, sandal-clad foot gave me pause.  Wow!  Not only did Mother Teresa walk in the footsteps of Christ, she did it wearing very poor footwear.  I immediately thought of my morning walk and the fact that I stopped THREE times before meeting up with my walking partner to adjust my shoes.  First, I had to loosen the laces, then, tighten them, then loosen them one more time.  Heaven forbid I would experience DISCOMFORT!  Nothing like a little dose of Mother Teresa to heighten my awareness.  Of course, this caused me to reflect on the pedicures I have had through the years, the attention I pay to my shoes, socks, style, fit.  I’m not even a “shoe person” but I certainly focus on the comfort of my feet more than I care to confess!

Mother Teresa’s feet speak a lot about her as a person.  She did not choose the best for herself~she purposefully chose the worst, that someone else might have better.  This is something hard to comprehend in a society obsessed with how things make one feel.  How many times do we ask ourselves, “What’s in it for me?”  We are surrounded by advertisements offering the smoothest beer, the tastiest chips, the classiest car, the newest technology.  There aren’t too many commercials saying, “Try these shoes.  They are going to hurt and mangle your feet. Just do it.”  My apologies to Nike.

I don’t think that we need to embrace Mother Teresa’s specific sacrifice of choosing shoes that don’t fit~that’s not the purpose of this reflection.  It seems what is required is embracing her servant’s heart, her openness to being last, her willingness to suffer for others, and in so doing, to suffer for Christ.  I witnessed this time and again from my own mom~the little things~having the sandwich made from the heels of bread, being the last person served at the dinner table, going without dessert.  I witness this in my mother-in-law~always waiting until the end to fill her plate, serving everyone else before sitting down to enjoy her meal~again, waiting to be last.  

Whether one is a parent or a child, a student or a teacher, there are opportunities for us every day to exercise having a servant’s heart. We can choose to go out in the cold to start the car, get the mail or bring out the trash.  We can help prepare a meal and wait to be served.  We can help others with their projects before working on our own.  We can also be first to say we are sorry, first to reconcile with family, first to reach out to someone who is suffering.  It is good to reflect on the life of Mother Teresa~to look at her feet, but more importantly, her heart as she walked in the footsteps of Jesus.  It is even better to use our reflection and put our thoughts in motion~walking the walk!

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