Saturday, March 31, 2012

Love these pictures!

I was thinking of my dad a lot today, and praying for him, and remembering all the things I love about him.  That led me into looking at some older pictures...and I thought I'd share these priceless shots that were taken in June, 2010, just before we returned to Asia. 

 This is my dad--loving his family, soaking up time with his grandkids, and wearing his Trinity t-shirt, of course!
 Everyone had fun making a silly face--except little Christin who maybe wasn't sure what was going on!
 Saying goodbye...
Chloe giving her famous kisses where she grabs both sides of your face and PLANTS one on you!

Aren't these just priceless pictures?  Go and grab your camera now and take some pictures of your loved ones!  It's worth it!  We are praying that we may see more and more of Dad's personality return in the next days and weeks.  I'd love to see huge smiles like these on his face again! 

Thankful for the wonder of modern photography...and the memories that it preserves.  Love it!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Wonderful News!

I just couldn't go to bed tonight without sharing some wonderful news that we received today about my dad.  The last few months, since his time at Mayo Clinic in December/January, have been relatively uneventful.  Generally he wanted to stay in bed, had no interest in the normal activities of life, and interacted very little with my mom.  She took excellent care of him, helped him with grooming and made sure he was eating well, but otherwise was not really able to engage him.  The occasional smile she would coax out of him "didn't reach his eyes," as she said. 

[One exception that was significant to me: I had called in early March to talk to Mom one night and Dad answered the phone--something he hadn't done for months.  I then talked with him about whatever I could think of, asked him a few questions, got a few one-word responses, and then told him some stories about the girls.  I shared how I had been starting to feel the baby move, and to my amazement, he replied.  "That must be feel that sign of life there," he said.  That was the longest sentance he had spoken to me in several months.  I was so encouraged!  But later that seemed to be an anomoly--he hasn't answered the phone or wanted to talk since that night.]

Just last week they had some follow-up appointments at Mayo again, and there was some good news--the spot on Dad's thyroid that had been suspicious had shrunk in size, so no evidence of cancer there.  But another doctor who saw Dad wanted to hospitalize him, in order to get to the bottom of the difficulties Dad is having.  Are his problems primarily psychological (depression) or neurological?  That was the main question.

So on Monday afternoon of this week, Dad was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Rochester, affiliated with Mayo Clinic, and the doctors began to observe him as well as do some tests.  Over the last few days we've gotten some more news--the doctor who is overseeing Dad's case is quite sure of his diagnosis of abulia.  Abulia is a disorder that (as I understand it) comes from damage to the frontal lobe of the brain.  The doctors believe that during Dad's heart attack in January of 2011, because the heart attack was so sustained over several days (when Dad was stranded in our local small town because of a blizzard--they could not get him to the larger city to do the surgery he needed to stop the heart attack), there was a lack of oxygen to the brain that caused this damage.  The frontal lobe is what controls personality, social interactions, appetite, and many other factors that match up with the symptoms Dad is having. 

What does all this mean?  And why is it good news?  Well, first, it is a huge relief to have a diagnosis that seems accurate.  We just did not feel that the Alzheimer's diagnosis, given in September of 2011, was quite right.  Of course we as family are not doctors, but there just seemed to be so many things that didn't line up with that.  But this is especially good news because abulia is treatable.  The treatment is slightly risky in that they will try to flood his brain with large amounts of a dopamine-based drug (similar to Ritalin) that will stimulate his brain, and that will also put stress on his heart.  But they will be monitoring this, and IF his heart can take the chemical stimulation safely, there is a very good chance that Dad could regain some normal function again, particularly in the area of social interaction, life management (grooming, etc) and personality.  I am holding all hopes loosely, because we just don't know how his body will react, and there are no guarantees, but I am still encouraged and hopeful!

So, Dad will be in the hospital for the immediate future while they attempt to give him this "brain bath" and watch his progress carefully.  We are so very thankful for the Lord's providential care until this point in time--even bringing them to this particular hospital and helping the doctors put the pieces of the puzzle of Dad's case together. 

Mom is doing well and feeling encouraged, but prayers for sustaining grace and help are always appreciated!  Please pray for my dad as the next few days are critical, watching how his body responds to the treatment.  We surrender him again to the Lord's hands and trust His good plans.  Rejoice and pray with us!

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Far East Reunion

During the month of March, we had the wonderful opportunity of having a little Far East reunion here in Louisville, because two of our former teammates are on a stateside assignment and spent some of their time in Louisville.  They planned this on purpose, to be here at the same time, and it was wonderful that their plans actually came to pass!  We loved getting to see and spend time with everybody again!  Life has changed for all of us since we were last together, but the Lord is still faithful and good.  There's just something wonderful about being together with friends that really know you...the laughter comes easily and the fellowship is sweet.  Love these folks!
 Most of the crowd managed to fit on the couch to watch some funny youtube videos...we thought about busting out the 80s music in honor of our friend Brad, but didn't quite get that far!
 Christin and Savannah have always had a special bond, mostly because Savannah is so sweet to her and takes care of her!  They had fun together that night too.
 And, Becky and I had to show off our prego bellies.  There's a baby in each one! 
 B is about 10 weeks ahead of I am about 20.5 weeks. 
 Climbing on Uncle Brad is always good fun, and he puts up with it remarkably well!
 The lovely M ladies.
 Dear, sweet friends.  So thankful for our friendship, it's hard to believe my daily life doesn't include seeing these ladies anymore...but still thankful. 
 There was a gathering about a week later to congratulate Brad on finishing his phd as well as say goodbye to the M family.  The kids had a blast together!

 One final hug for Alex, the one Clara Anne still insists she's going to marry...  (one of many girls who have been convinced of this!)
 And Becky and I said our goodbyes a few days later.  It's bittersweet--knowing the Lord's plans are good, trusting His ways, and yet having to say goodbye to dear friends is hard!  We are so thankful that we could have a little reunion here, the Lord is so gracious to let that all work out.  Hearts were encouraged, much laughter was shared, and the Lord's name was praised for this time together.  And who knows, maybe there'll be another Far East reunion sometime!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

This life we live

Isn't it amazing that God gives us this gift called LIFE?  Spring air is flowing through my wide-open windows, the earth is coming to life again after the winter season, and my heart is full of thoughts of life and gratefulness to my Savior for another day to serve Him.  The fact that I am still alive, that I am preserved from serious illness, car accidents, tornadoes, or other calamaties; that my body is working well and even sheltering another little life...I am struck tonight by the miracle of the life that we have been given.  How much more the gift of spiritual life that Jesus freely gives to all those who will humble themselves and ask!  What a great salvation we possess in Christ!

Last week we were able to see clear evidence of the new life within my womb, and she is a girl!  Though she didn't cooperate during the first part of the exam and held her little legs together very modestly, she finally got jostled around enough that the ultrasound technician was able to get a good look and confirm, "It's a girl!"  Baby girl was doing all manner of cute things during the exam...sucking on her hand, having the cutest little hiccups, and then at the end of the exam we have a perfect profile picture of her lying on her back, hand to her mouth, and legs completely extended over her head--with her knees right at her nose!  The outline of her tiny calf and thigh are just perfect!  We were amazed and joyful to find that all looks well with our little one; she is right on track for measurements and is giving me little fluttery jabs even as I type.  The girls seemed to take it in stride that they have another sister--no cheering or anything, more of an attitude of "well, of course it's a girl!  What else would it be?"  What a miraculous process it is when the Lord knits together a new life.  We are praying for the rest of the pregnancy to go smoothly (I'm 22 weeks on Wednesday) and to be holding our new little daughter in our arms around the end of July.

I've also been contemplating life lately as a good friend from college recently had a daughter born still at 33.5 weeks.  She has been blogging quite a bit about her process, read and pray for her if you feel led.  My heart has gone out to her; though I can only imagine her grief I have been helped already by the way that she is handling it with godly grace.

As I write, my dad is back at the Mayo clinic for another round of tests.  His health has stabilized somewhat in that the weight loss has slowed down and he has seemed a bit more interested in life--rather than just wanting to lie in bed all day, he is getting up a bit more.  However, the bowel and bladder incontinence remains and he has also had frequent seizures which have led to several falls.  Thankfully he has not injured himself seriously by falling but has gotten some bumps, bruises, and gashes on his face from these incidents.  I am praying for the Lord to sustain his life and help us to find more ways to help him.  Or, as Chloe frequently prays, "Lord, thank you that Grandpa will get better."

And, tomorrow is a bittersweet day for our family as we remember again the birthday and passing of my dear older brother Dan.  We may try to watch the video of his life again as a family, and remember what a great work the Lord did in him and through him.  Even though the years pass, you never forget.  The sharp pain is gone but the longing of our hearts to see him again still remains.  Praise the Lord that death has NOT won the victory and that we will worship Jesus with Dan again in heaven.  Thank you, Lord. 

Though we had an unusually mild winter this year, spring has still been a welcome guest.  The dogwood, redbud, and magnolias are in bloom here in Louisville.  The daffodils and tulips are in full array, and the trees are greener day by day.  New life is springing up and the smell of spring is refreshing to my soul.  Wonderful!

Thoughts of life and death are intermingled with the daily and mundane, isn't that always the way it is?  So even as I contemplate and treasure these thoughts in my heart, talking them over with my Savior, I must still finish the dishes and get the floor vacuumed, complete the math lesson and help the girls treat each other with kindness and gentleness.  Lord, may I do it all with your grace!