Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Little Things

Since I've lost Owen, it has occurred to me that it's not really the huge big occassions that cause emotional meltdowns.  No, those big events, like my birthday, Owen's birthday, and Mother's Day, those days I think I dreaded for so long and expected such incredible grief that it ended up being easier than I expected.  No, I've found that the moments that knock the breath out of me are the little moments that sneak up on me when I least expect it.  Like on the 2 month anniversary of Owen's death when I went out to the MERE field to take softball pictures and was crushed with grief by the fact that everyone had just gone on with their life like nothing had ever happened.  That not one person out there understood that two months ago I'd lost my son and they were just going on about softball and teeball practice like nothing had ever happened.  Or like when I reached into the pocket of an old purse and felt something that felt strange only to realize it was one of Owen's syringes.  Or the worst day yet, on October 16, the seven month anniversary of Owen's death, when suddenly I realized he'd been gone longer than he'd been here with me I couldn't breath, I felt my heart absolutely stop beating at the thought of it and I knew I couldn't think about it anymore.  That was probably the worst of all the 7 month thing.  But in each of these God was already there waiting for me - just like he was tonight.

I'm reminded of a quote that Aaron Moneyham sent me the night before Owen's first surgery.  She had seen it on a church sign and I don't think I'll ever forget those words of wisdom.  It read: "Fear not tomorrow for God is already there."  October 16th was a Sunday it was hard but like most times I've allowed myself to ache for Owen it was short-lived.  I won't let myself go there for too long because I don't want to live there.  A few moments, minutes, or maybe even an hour after I realized Owen had been gone for 7 months and that his death had been longer than his life I was suddenly reminded of two things that had happened in the days leading up to that day.  The Monday before, I was checking the mail, minding my own business and found a card, at first I thought the return address was from some of Ed's family in Molino, but then I realized it was a nice lady from Tallahassee, who had heard about Owen's story when he was still with us and had sent a man to our house with a homemade quilt that she wanted Owen to have. It was beautiful and came with a heartfelt card.  Well, this particular week her card was quite different.  She had just heard that Owen passed away (yes over 6 months later) and she had to mail me a card to let me know how much he had touched her life and how she would be in prayer for me and Ed through this difficult time.  I remember thinking as I read that card - how nice it was to know that people were still thinking of us and how we still need to be uplifted like that.  A few days later I got a text from a friend who wanted me to know that one of the girls in Glitter Girls (our church youth group for girls age 5-7) had requested prayer for baby Owen's mommy & daddy - out of nowhere.  It all made sense to me 3 days later when I was blindsided by the revelation that Owen had been gone from sight longer than he was with us.  I cried hysterically for a few minutes and didn't think I'd be able to catch my breath -  then I remembered the card and the fact that we were already covered in prayer and I knew I would be okay. 

I say all that to say this.  I feel Owen with me always, but it's not always hard and sad.  Of course, I ache for the things I won't have but I'm also grateful for the fact that he was mine if for even a little while.  I understand that God answered all our prayers and he healed our son.  I believe with all my heart that Owen is my angel baby and I don't want him to see me sad or depressed so I don't stay there long at all whenever I can help it.  I know that God has blessed us beyond measure and that his grace covers us daily and that no matter where life takes me God has already gone before me and never will I have to face any hardships alone.

There's no way to be prepared for the moments that are going to catch me off guard and that's okay.  I don't mind admitting that I'm human and it hurts like hell to lose someone you love.  And the memories flood over me sometimes and I can almost feel him in my arms or on my chest and I don't want to breath in those moments for fear they will stop.  And other moments there are floods of tears that creep up from deep inside me in a place I try to keep hidden from others til it just overflows out of me and then I can't stop.

Those are the moments I know God is near.  Sometimes I can feel it coming and push it back down and that's what happened tonight.  The tears came but not the flood and before I could hurt God reached out and said, "I'm here child, I'm here, you're not alone, you'll never be alone in this."

I was putting up the Christmas tree.  A regular routine thing I've done every year for 25 plus years but this year for the first time ever it brought tears to my eyes.  First of all nothing was packed up right.  No offense grandmother and Aunt Rachel, I love you and God love you for rushing over and taking down my tree last year when we came home from the hospital but it was a mess trying to figure out where everything was.  So, I'm instantly reminded of last Christmas and our Christmas trip to the Hospital - our last trip to the hospital.

I was anxiously looking for two ornaments - I couldn't find them fast enough, one was the photo ornament of Owen.  I wanted to make sure it was placed on the front of the tree.


And the one I probably LOVE even more than that one is the footprint ornament - it reads "The first steps a baby takes are into your heart."


Once I had these on the tree I felt much better.  I knew we had received a few "Baby's First Christmas" ornaments but I hadn't realized there were almost ten of them. 

An "O" Cookie for Owen

A baby carriage that says "The Greatest Gift of All"





I was just about done with the tree and I felt the flood of tears welling up in me as I was looking at one of the many "Baby's First Christmas" ornaments and the thought creeped into my head "Baby's ONLY Christmas."  I just about couldn't stand it.  Ed had ran to the store I was all alone and I knew I could absolutely lose it - no one would fault me or judge me.  But God is always right there - and sometimes I just feel like Owen's got his eyes on me and it's like he's saying God she needs you now because when it comes to my grief I never have to wait on God to cover me and remind me of my blessings and how much I have to be thankful for in this life.  So instead of giving in to my grief I got back to work - remembering a small bag of ornaments that we had gotten last year that were tucked away in a bag.  Two of them were wrapped up and I couldn't remember what they were.  I picked up the first and began unwrapping it, while gently wiping tears from my face and there it was - I barely even remember it.  But just on time like always I was reminded  . . .


"Wherever you go GOD is already there."

In all things, great and small God is there.  So, that's what I wanted to say, that's what I needed to share tonight.  I can't imagine why anyone would want or need to read all that but I hope if you did that you will be reminded to look for God in the moments of life that make you feel far from Him because He is always there.  And if Owen changed your life, or impacted it in some small way I hope that you never forget him or the impact he's had on you.  I know he lives on in us and in many of you too.


God bless you,

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Happy Birthday Angel Baby!

A Letter to Owen on His Birthday!

I keep wondering what it must be like to celebrate a birthday in heaven.  I imagine that angels woke you up singing a beautiful song - probably Grammy's version of "I love you Owen" with a line of Happy Birthday at the end.  I imagine you spent the whole day walking with Jesus - yes I'm sure you're walking now.  You probably took some time to paint the skies and I guess you must have been excited and flapped your angel wings when you heard mommy and daddy talking to you.  We could feel the wonderful breezes all the way down here.  Yes, I imagine today was the most wonderful birthday ever spent in the entire history of the world and that makes everything a little bit easier for mommy today.

Meanwhile, here it was a beautiful day and everyone remembered you sweetie.  Today so many people prayed for Mommy & Daddy and we felt you lift us up throughout the day.  Grammy & Granny decided today that your birthday wish - if you were here to make it would have been for a baby brother or baby sister - grandpa and Papi D agreed with them.  We'll see.  Daddy and I cried some today but that's just because we miss you so much.  We are very proud of the little warrior you were and how hard you fought to stay here on Earth with us.  I got really upset the other day - because I wanted to hold you so bad and I knew I was being selfish but I decided it was okay for me to be selfish for a few minutes.  Don't worry - I didn't get angry, just sad.  I just miss you but I'm glad you are all better now. 

I thought a lot about what my wishes would be for you and I realized that there's nothing I can wish for you that you don't already have.  You're safe, you're healed, and I know you must be happy.  All of my wishes are for me and the things I miss but I know that God answered our prayers and healed you the best way that he could and that gives me peace.  I know you are with us and I know you know when we need you most because you're always there right then.  I feel you when the wind blows and in other quiet moments.  I love you Owen.

I hope you got the balloons we sent you today.  There were 9 - there would have been 10 but your daddy accidentally popped one and we left two at your headstone - maybe they'll break free and find you later - I didn't tie them too tight and the wind was blowing awfully hard.  Pastor equated that to a storm of angels - I believe today there really could have been that many angels with your daddy and me all day, especially when we had to be strong and go out to the cemetery this afteroon.  We wanted to do something special for you today so we got some cupcakes and we made you some promises.  There are things I want to do for you, or in honor of you, things I've never done before, things that scare me or intimidate me, but nonetheless, I'm here and I think if you taught me anything it was to live life fully and I want to do that to honor you.  So help me out when you feel I need some extra encouragement - Grammy & Granny just wished for you a brother or sister because they said that was all they could think you might would want - I think we both know that maybe they want that a little themselves? Whatcha think?  I love you Owen.  I miss you and no other will ever take your place in our lives but I know you'd be a great big brother so we'll see.  You can talk to God about it and when you guys decide what's right for Mommy & Daddy we will trust you guys.  I love you man.  I sure am proud of you.  Nothing I will ever do in my lifetime will compare to what you have done in yours.  I'm so glad I was able to be a part of it and I count it the greatest blessing of my life to have been your Mom.  I have no regrets about your life and while I could have never expected I'd spend my first child's first birthday blowing out candles in a cemetery I wouldn't change the fact that you were mine for anything in the world.  I love you so much and God chose you for us for a reason. 

I hope you had the best birthday ever baby!  I'm really excited about your big party coming up this weekend.  I know you'll be smiling down on us.  We love you son.  Happy 1st Birthday!


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Dreaded Days, Dreaded Chores, Dreaded Appointments!!!

Oh Lord, thank you so much for pouring down your blessings on me.

This has been one crazy exhausting week - to say the least, the VERY least (and it's only Wednesday) but tonight as I started to post a simple status update on Facebook I thought - I really need to blog about that.  The thought just kept growing and there would be no way to explain it and share it in a status update - not one that would do it justice anyways.

So I've learned (sometime in my 31 years) that sometimes the things we dread the most can turn into the most incredible moments.  I've had some of those times over the past few weeks.  A couple of weeks, for example, I had an appointment.  It was about an hour drive away and I really went into it thinking it was kind of pointless.  I dreaded it.  I wasn't looking forward to it at all.  But when it was all over with I couldn't stop smiling.  I ENJOYED it, thoroughly.  I literally laughed the whole way home thinking about it.  My entire opinion of the situation has changed now and I'm actually excited about the experience.

I know that we choose our attitudes and I think for the most part I generally have a great attitude, but sometimes I pout and groan about HAVING to do certain things that I dread doing and in the end I realize that if I had spent half the energy I spent pouting and moping I would have finished the task earlier and saved myself some grief.  I know that I'm not alone in this right?

Wait, I got ahead of myself - do you ever feel like your brain is a pinball machine?  I mean first I think one thought then like a ball on the paddleboards the thought takes off in a different direction, gains momentum and then in a flash I'm thinking something else totally.  That's what happened tonight.

I was going to post a simple thought I had.  "If you ever want to feel God's love for you spend some quality time with a child." But then I though I had to clarify or quantify the statement.  First kids are honest and they're thought process is like that pinball game - ON CRACK.  Just the other day I was talking with a little girl looking for some sidewalk chalk and out of nowhere she says to me, "Do you think Owen's being good up in heaven?"  Her comment surprised me and blessed me all at once.  I know that this child LOVED Owen and her parents talked to her and her brother a lot about Owen.  They prayed for him all of the time.  And it blessed me to know that there are some children who will never forget him and will think of him out of the blue and remember they love him.  I wasn't planning on her asking me that question so I did what most adults do when they don't have an immediate answer - I answered her with a question.  I mean I've honestly never wondered if he was being good - I just think he's happy and safe - and I assume everyone would behave in heaven? So I asked her "What do you think?"  She said, "I think he's being good because he loves you and he wants to be good for you and God."  Wow.  She's four years old and she has the biggest heart.  I'm so thankful that God has called me into the education field.  It's my job to spend quality time with children. I get paid to love them and talk to them and listen to them and teach them.  But I get blessed when I take time to see things from their point of view and allow them to truly teach me.

So, I was thinking about how taking time with children can really bless you and I thought about Blue Springs today.  If you're not from here let me just tell you Blue Springs is burr-cold.  Imagine swimming in a wading pool of ice - well its about 15 degrees colder than that.  Plus, I haven't really pranced around in public in a bathing suit in years (didn't really think about that job requirement when I signed up).  And not to mention it's 800 degrees outside - there's little shade and you basically have no choice but to get into the water.  It's a weird mix of emotions for me - I really looked forward to Blue Springs Days because I knew the kids were going to LOVE it but I was really dreading them for myself.  Turns out Blue Spring Days have been an incredible blessing.

Last week, I found myself surrounded by familiar loving faces of students I've had the privilege of teaching.  Kids are funny (in case you didn't know).  I prefer being neck deep in the freezing water so I don't mind hanging out with them in the water and talking with them.  In fact, I've had several good conversations with kids out there the past few weeks.  But today at Blue Springs there was a child I recognized but didn't know and had never taught before.  I had only seen him from a distance at church and I knew his name but I know he didn't know me.  He had a minor meltdown because he fell off a float and was very upset and I was the closest adult so I helped him.  I was able to calm him down and he went on about playing but a few minutes later he came up to me with a big smile and threw open his arms and said I just want to give you a hug. 

I'm reminded of something a wise woman once told me.  She was sharing an experience she had and she explained to me that sometimes we dread something so much (or maybe even fear something so much) that we allow ourselves to get in God's way.  We let our fear, our doubt, our insecurities, even our own dread, get in the way of God using us to bless someone or maybe even get in the way of God blessing us.

I guess I just think it's funny that the things I've dreaded so much in the past few weeks have ended up bringing me such joy and real blessings.  I keep telling a friend who I think worries too much that worry is interest paid on a debt we may never owe, but I am beginning to think that worry and dread are partners in crime - they both keep us from going into experiences with our best attitudes. 

Part of me thinks maybe I should start dreading everything just so I can really see the good that comes from it but the rational part of me says maybe I should realize that there's no place for dread and worry in my life - God will see me through anything.

If you were able to muddle through this blog then you can probably manage out at Blue Springs.  Sorry it was a bit of a mess but the moral in case you missed it was A) love a child, spend quality time with them and be blessed and B) the dreading part is usually worse than whatever it is you're dreading - so don't waste that energy.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

On Being Uncomfortable

*** I posted the following on June 15th and I didn't share it on  Facebook then because well, I'm not sure why - mostly I suppose because it was so different from what I've written about in the past and it wasn't really what I had intended to write when I sat down.  These words came to me and I couldn't help but feel the entire time that God had someone who he needed to get these words to.  I convinced myself it must be one of my regular followers so I didn't share it or publize it on FB because I knew my followers would get the message that I'd posted something and check it out.  Two days later an old friend from my elementary school years passed away.  She was 31 and perfectly fine as far as I know before the day she passed.  It was a harsh reminder that we never know when our time is coming and something inside of me felt compelled to go back and really share this blog because it's all about witnessing and that's our job as Christians.  What if the person God was so desperately trying to reach was within my grasp and my fears or insecurities kept that person from getting the message that He is a God of Love and Forgiveness and nothing we've done is too bad to keep Him from loving us.  I hope you'll take the time to read this post as maybe you're the one it was meant for.  God bless you all. ***

I've always known about God, but I haven't always KNOWN God like I know him now.  I was thinking just the other day at church how I can remember a time when I would think about whether or not I was going to raise my hands during the praise and worship.  I can remember calculating just the right time - when I wasn't the only one and then pulling my hands down quickly so it wasn't weird that I did that.  I was just telling someone that I used to hate that awkward time during service when the pastor would say step out and greet someone - it made me cringe inside and I have always been an outgoing person but I would want to shrivel up and disappear and I would sit down and hope no one spoke to me.  But that's all different for me now.  I don't think about raising my hands I just do - because I need to and want to not because I think I'm supposed to.  I jump at the chance to step out and welcome people and say hello - I want them to feel welcomed not invisible.  But of all the things that challenged me as a Christian the thing that made me the most uncomfortable was witnessing to others.  It was never something I wanted to do.  I wasn't comfortable with it. I had no interest in it.  I would think who am I to share the word of God with someone else, what do I know.  I didn't know the verses, I'm not real sure who Moses was - I'm pretty sure he was a baby in a basket , and I know he had something to do with the ten commandments and he walked in a desert for 40 years and something about a red sea but I don't know if that's even right.  I went to Sunday School and children's church when I was little, but I don't remember it all.  I memorized bible verses and I understand Christmas and Easter and what it all stands for.  I knew what it meant to be baptized and to be saved I knew sinning was a sin and judging others was wrong but I didn't know how anything that I had to say could impact or change anyone else.  I just didn't feel like I knew enough or was enough to witness to others. 

There were times that I felt God pushing me and saying you need to say something to him or tell her I love her. She needs to know about me but I didn't know what to say or maybe worse I was scared and I would allow my fear to stop someone from hearing what God knew they needed to hear in that moment.  I still don't know a lot about biblical things, I wouldn't dare debate anyone on Christianity or religion, but I do know that God loves us so much that he wants to make us uncomfortable for his sake.  When I chose to be a christian and really really live a christian life I chose a path that's going to make me uncomfortable.  We all know that the right thing is rarely the easy thing to do in life but God's plan for us is so much better than any plan we can have for ourselves.  Just as a mother wants only the best for her child God wants only the best for his - you and me. 

I sat down with the intention to write something so different tonight and instead God has given me these words.  There must be someone who will read them who needs to know that the distance from them to God is never as far as you think it might be.  No matter what you've done in your past God wants to forgive you and pour love on you like only he can.  All you have to do is ask him to forgive your sins and to guide you and protect you.  Talk to God he's listening.

Lately, I've heard so often people say that they've been so inspired by my strength and I can't take any credit for I know that God carries me through these days, he is my strength, let Him inspire you.  He loves us so much!  I've found that when we get uncomfortable for God is when we get the most from God. 

I remember one day, seeing a couple of ladies at Shands sitting across from me in a tiny waiting area outside of the PICU (pediatric intensive care unit).  They were tired and looked as though they had just received grim news - it's a look you learn to know when you spend a lot of time in hospitals.  I felt compelled, God tugging at me to encourage them.  Share my word, talk to them - I think it was God pushing.  I asked their names and found out that one of the ladies was there with her son, he was seventeen, had several medical issues, the latest prognosis wasn't a good one.  I told the ladies I would pray for them and it seemed that was it.  Later that day, the mother of the child approached me again, we talked and while I thought God wanted me to share Him with these people, as I did, it turns out the mother was a minister from Panama City, and she prayed with me that day and many others.  As she was praying for me she spoke a phrase that I've heard many times since but it had never struck me like it did that day - it was a phrase that I would cling to with all my hope and all my faith, a phrase I still pray for even now.  She prayed for me to have "peace that surpasses all understanding."  Pastor Lavon said it just the other day, but never had it struck me like it did that day.  And now everytime someone says what an encouragement or inspiration or what strength I have I remember that "peace that surpasses all understanding."  People say I don't know how you're so strong.  I can't believe your faith, it's inspiring.  That is not me, it is not of this world - that comes from God and God alone.  We are not meant to face any battle alone - God has armed us with his love and protection, with salvation - and with God who can stand against us?  Not the devil, not this world or things of it, not our enemies, and not the Vein of Galen.

People may say, how can you still believe after you lost the battle.  My battle is not over, my son may not have lived but he is healed and his legacy is in my hands.  God answered my prayers and the only way my son could be healed was to be with God. Oh I still believe in a God who can orchestrate miracles and who is the master physician, hear me again - I STILL BELIEVE THAT MY GOD IS A LOVING HEALING ALL-KNOWING GOD and I trust that His will is much more divine than my wants.  I had a choice when Owen died, to love God and live in peace and know I would see him again, or to turn from God and know greater suffering and have no peace.  My son is alive in Christ.  My heart breaks but my heart is at peace.

I will never forget MaKayla Coleman, who lived only 12 days but her life deeply impacted my own.  Her parents and grandparents had seen us in and out of the waiting rooms in the NICU at Shands.  Talking about God openly and praying publicly for Owen had become second nature to us.  Its funny how something that once was so awkward and dare I say perhaps even embarrassing to you can seem so incredibly normal later.

The news was getting more and more grim for MaKayla's family.  I remember walking in one night and hearing they were giving her only hours to live.  Two very profound things happened to me that night.  Number 1 MaKayla's grandmother asked me to witness to Makayla's parents saying to me, "I'm so scared that if MaKayla dies they will both turn against God."  My words still peirce me even now but I said to her, "I know with all my heart that even if my child died I could never turn against God, because God has blessed us every step of the way and he has given us such peace in the midst of all this turmoil."  I knew immediately, in that moment that God would test me and I even cried out right there in front of her, "God please don't test me on that. I know I won't turn against you."

I think about that moment a lot.  I wouldn't change anything about it, except maybe I would have tried harder to witness to Makayla's mom and dad.  They were spending their last moments with their baby though, and I couldn't, I wouldn't intrude on that.  How could anyone hear me when their baby was dying? 

But God was at work that night, in a big way.  I went back in and Ed and I were spending time with Owen.  There was a couple whose baby was right across from Owen who stayed at the Ronald McDonald House with us.  We had come to know them and spent time with them.  They were young and while the mom was very determined it was more than apparant that she had little support.  Her child was a month or so older than Owen and he was facing years, a lifetime maybe of medical treatment.  His mom was a good mom but in getting to know her one thing was very apparant to me - she was lost.  She didn't talk about God or praying as many in that situation do. The doctors were making progress with her son but he would often D-stat or drop his vitals.  In fact, he flatlined regularly, mostly for brief, very brief periods but it happened a lot. She was angry and confused and lost.  She would often complain about the nurses and was generally very frustrated.  She was very negative, so much so that at one point I told Ed I really didn't think I could be around her anymore because of all the negativity energy. Her boyfriend had been there most of the time we were but had just the day or so before decided it was all too much for him, he was back home and already had another girlfriend the mom found out that morning. She was so hurt and so confused and didn't know what to do so sometime during the day she signed a DNR - a do not resusitate order on her baby boy - there was this sense of urgency to get back to her old life as quickly as possible for her ex's sake it seemed.

That night, not long after MaKayla's grandmother asked me to witness to her kid, when Ed and I went back in to tuck Owen in and read him his bedtime story, just before we began to pray with Owen as we did every single night, her baby flatlined again.  Nurses rushed the her out of the NICU, she was so frustrated she just slung her hands in the air and walked away.  I prayed so hard aloud, louder than usual and I begged God to just be in the unit to just be with her baby, to protect him, to heal him, to just be with us in that room.  I prayed that God's presence would fill the room and touch that baby and Makayla and that his peace would surround both families and the beeping stopped and a few nurses stayed and some went away and I saw the screen and a peace filled the room and I finished praying for Owen and we kissed him goodnight and I knew that the person in the world that most needed to be witnessed to was the one in the hallway desperately trying to call her ex-boyfriend.

I knew that she was confused, and scared, she was no longer the confident, determined person I had first pegged her for.  When I first met her she seemed to have it all figured out - she was going to do whatever it took for her son and now in a moment of anger and frustration, while she certainly wasn't thinking clearly, she had signed a life-altering piece of paper.

When I found her she was crying, visibly upset, distraught, but her immediate concern was the fact that her ex wouldn't talk to her about it.  Fortunately, I was able to tell her that her son had come back.  That he was still with us.  I talked to her for a few minutes and for the first time in at least two months I had known her I asked her if I could pray with her.  I flat out told her that if she wasn't comfortable all she had to do was just stand still and let me hold her hand - she didn't have to say a word.  I've never in my life felt so strongly God's urgency for me to witness to someone - just because I knew her didn't make it easy - it was still uncomfortable and I knew it was even more-so for her.  The grandmother I had spoken to before said, "oh we have an evangelist with us do you mind if I get her" and the mom said she didn't care.  God told me that wasn't going to work.  I let the lady pray for my friend, a stranger to her, but someone I knew was so lost she wasn't going to understand a fancy beautifully worded prayer.  I could have walked away knowing that at least I tried but God wouldn't let me.  After the evangelist returned to the waiting room and only she and I remained in the hallway I boldly said to her, "I know that you don't know how to begin to pray.  But all you have to do is believe that there is a God and that he hears you and speak out to him, even if all you can mutter is 'help me' he will hear your cries and he will give you peace and strength to get through this.  He knows all your needs more than even you know them.  He is waiting for you to call out to him."

I went to bed with a very heavy heart that night for her and her son and for Makayla's mom and dad.  I woke up the next morning and ran into MaKayla's dad.  We briefly spoke and I tried to encourage him.  I also mentioned to him that I was so worried about my friend and that I thought her failing relationship was clouding her judgement and it broke my heart that she had signed the DNR under those circumstances - he told me that after we left the hospital the night before, she revoked the DNR - she ripped it up.   I can't begin to tell you how relieved I was to hear that, for her sake as much as for her son's.

Please know that I do not judge her for signing a DNR we signed a DNR in the end and it is a horrible thing to have to do but it can also be a very loving thing to do for your loved one.  I was so upset FOR her, not by her, but for her - only because of the circumstances.  I don't know where she is now and I can't say what ever happened to her son, but I do know that she knows how to pray if she needs to because I allowed God to use me despite how uncomfortable it may have made me.

Tonight I intended to write something so different, to share something else but this is where God led me.  I know this isn't really the typical blog for me and I appreciate you allowing me to share this part of Owen's story too.  Owen not only gave me the strength to witness to people but the ability to witness through his life story.  It all started because someone offered to do a fundraiser for him at Zaxby's.  I'm not the type to openly share medical history or private information about my family.  In fact, I never intended to ever post that there was a problem with Owen.  I can even remember cringing writing up the information for the Zaxby's fundraiser.  I didn't want people to know that there might be something wrong with my baby.  I didn't want to share that part of him with anyone.  I didn't want people to look at him, or maybe I didn't want them to look at me differently.  I remember telling my mom that Ed's work wanted to do a fundraiser to help us pay for the travel back and forth to Pensacola for doctors appointments.  I told her I didn't want to let them do it.  Praise God I did. 

I go back to that day, that first fundraiser, the unbelievable turnout, the amazing support, the smiling faces that said, "it's going to be okay, and if it's not we're here for you."  I even remember the first post on FB about him - even before the fundraiser.  Someone who knew me well heard that I was having to go to Pensacola just because there might be an issue - and she posted something like - are ya'll going to Sacred Heart and I remember thinking I didn't want anyone to know.  Isn't it amazing how God works.  When I told my mom I didn't want them to do the fundraiser and she said if they wanted to help I should let them.  Weeks later, after all the support, I told mom that I felt obligated to share him with everyone who wanted to know him because even before he was born they loved him so much, people really cared about him.  And that's how Owen's story began for most people, a fundraiser at Zaxby's. 

I could have never imagined what would follow.  Who knew that by posting Owen's life in daily Facebook statuses that I would witness to people all around the world.  I don't know why things happen the way they do.  I can't say why some live and others die, but I do know that it's all part of God's plan for us and who am I to ask why?  While I may not be able to hold him in my arms at night I know he's safe and I know he is okay and I know we will be okay too.  That is the power of the peace of God.  Tonight I pray that whoever this message is for that they hear it and know what He is calling you to do.  Jesus died on a cross naked wearing a crown of thorns with nails driven through his body - I can't imagine many things more uncomfortable than that. The next time that I feel God pushing me to do something that makes me uncomfortable I'm going to try to remember that.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Ed's Blessing - Same Time, Different Place

So, I just finished typing the previous blog - about my blessings - if you haven't already - read it first "Two Boys, Two Days" then read this one.

Okay so last night when I left for my photoshoot Ed was still at work.  I had planned to have dinner with our friends and then I was going to visit a friend of mine who was in town from Alabama.  It is extremely rare for Ed and I not to see each other or have time to talk to each other every night.  I encouraged him when he got off to go do something since I was going to be out and about.  So when I finished my shoot I touched base with him - he was at his brother's and I told him I'd be late getting in from visiting with Hilary.

When I got home he was already asleep so I didn't get to tell him about my night and the awesome conversation I had with Aiden.  I got up and typed up the blog and then read it to Ed.  He was with me the night before and I had told him all about Levi but he didn't know about what happened with Aiden. So, he walks out of the room and when he returns he handed me a carefully folded up note and said, "Emily gave me this last night to share with you."



I know it's silly, but I can't help but stand in awe of the fact that while we were in two different places in different towns on the same night, two sweet children, had experiences with us that shared their love for Owen.  I mean, really, he's been gone over two months and for a child to remember like that - obviously Emily will never forget the precious life of her little cousin, but for her to still be writing him notes and giving them to us?  It amazed me.  I just can't help but believe that Owen wanted his daddy and I both to know he's with us and he loves us and he always will.

Wednesday night at church Pastor asked us if we ever felt God's presence when we weren't in church.  He asked, if we had moments without other people pointing it out in our lives that we thought, "that was a God moment" or "God is here."  I absolutely know I do - and while it may not be popular to be all about God in our world I don't care - God holds my whole life in his hands why would I care what anyone else thought?  Praise God for his sweet reminders of his grace and his love, and praise God for the connection we still feel with Owen.

Be blessed.

Two Boys, Two Nights

Blesses my Heart

The past two nights I have been unexpectedly blessed by two precious beautiful boys.  Anyone who's ever had any experience with any child knows one thing is for sure - you NEVER know what they are going to say.  Sometimes they bless us more than anyone else ever could - even as the same words cause a parent to cringe.

Two nights ago, Ed and I went to meet some friends at Sonny's.  As I walked to our booth I noticed some of my cousins sitting at the first table we came to.  There were three generations of men - one who watched me grow up, one who I used to babysit - who is now a wonderful young man, and the littlest of the crew - the most adorable (soon to be - I think) four year old.  As usual the "baby" was putting on a show for the people in the booths around them.  I hugged him and spoke and went on to my table. 

As I passed them again headed to the salad bar I had a chance to talk to the youngest - Levi.  I asked him if I was still his best friend as he and his sister had called me last summer anytime I would play with them.  He looked at me like he had NO IDEA who I was but he was still super friendly.  He stood up in his chair and turned towards me - almost face to face - did I mention how cute this little guy is?  My necklace caught his eye - it's beautiful - silver, shiny, and has a precious blue picture of Baby Owen.  He said, "Who's that?"  And I replied "Baby Owen."  His eyes got real big, and he said, "Baby Owen?" He was saying - I KNOW BABY OWEN.  He had this look on his face and I knew he knew exactly who I was talking about.  Levi had been present at the sing we had for Owen at First Baptist Church and he sat right behind us - when we brought Owen in he kept looking at him.

Now that we both knew he knew who Owen was he asked, "Where is he?"  And I said, "He's in Heaven with God."  He said, "He died?"  To which I responded, "Yes, he was very, very sick - much sicker than you've ever been."  I worry about talking to children about it because I don't want them to think if they get sick they will die - but it didn't phase Levi - talking to him that night about Owen was like talking to an adult about him.  He told me he prayed for Owen, and he was still mesmorized by Owen's picture - he kept adjusting it in my necklace.  I asked him if he had a picture of Owen to which he said no but his Dad quickly replied that they did.  I told Levi I would get him his very own picture of Owen to have.  We talked a bit more and his Dad redirected him to his plate (I got the feeling he wanted to change the subject - worried I would get upset).  When I got home I messaged Levi's mom and told her how much he had blessed me.  How can you help but smile when a child so small is sharing his love for your son and for God?

Then last night I had a photoshoot with a close friend of our family.  She had invited myself and my parents to have dinner with them after the photoshoot.  I usually don't wear much jewelry when I'm shooting because the glare off of my shiny necklace (with all it's jewels) could reflect into my image and I ran out without putting on my other (less sparkly) necklace of Owen - I almost always have on one or the other. 

I did this shoot with the sweetest little brother & sister.  Aiden is just six (I think) and his little sister Ashbey is 4.  Ashbey was very interested in most of what I was doing from the time I got to her house until the shoot was over.  Aiden couldn't care less about what was going on.  He was busy hiding in his room.  We did the shoot and the most Aiden and I really discussed was me telling him what to do and where to stand.  He didn't have a whole lot to say - except to tell us how much he loves Justin Beiber.  The shoot went great and he was so ready for it to be over - he retreated back to his room while the rest of us waited and finished preparing dinner.

The kids were in their rooms behaving while the grown-ups (yes me too) ate dinner.  We were almost through with dinner when Aiden came up right next to me at the table and out of nowhere said, "Do you miss your baby?"  It came out of nowhere but wasn't as shocking to me as I think it was to his mom - I honestly think she could have spit her drink out as he was saying it - but it was fine.  Without skipping a beat I said, "yes baby I miss him."  He said, "I miss him everyday."  My mom chimed in saying, "Yes, everyday we miss him." I asked him if he prayed for Owen and he said he prays for Owen everyday and he misses him everyday.  He was walking back towards his room and then he was gone as if it was the most natural thing ever.  I smiled and looked at mom - afraid she would crumble but we were both okay and we finished dinner. 

After I got home last night I couldn't help but think about what Aiden had said and remember my conversation the night before with Levi.  Usually it's the girls who are so much more talkative - but in the past two nights I had profound conversations with two young boys about my son.  I couldn't help but think that in some weird way these boys were Owen's tool to say, "Mommy I love you and I think about you too everyday and I'm okay."

And while the tears are pouring now as I put it all in writing - I couldn't help but smile - knowing I will always be connected to him - and I believe so will all of those babies who prayed for him faithfully - like Aiden and Levi.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Road to . . .

I suppose I will be on the road to recovery from here on - maybe I've been on it my whole life who knows but tomorrow we will be on the road for sure.  I know I haven't been very faithful in my writings the past couple of months but perhaps I will come back later and share some of what's happened in the past couple of months.  But what I wanted to share tonight is what God has in store for us tomorrow!

Ed and I are BOTH off and we're on the road!   I can't tell you how excited we both are.  No special vacation, or concert, or festival, not to the beach or the mountain or any other travel destination. We are headed to Gainesville on a very special mission - and while I'm sure there will be a million emotions we are both very excited about the trip!!! 

Thanks to all of you who generously donated stuffed animals we have the opportunity to witness to families and share our love and your love for them!  I spent a little time tonight counting bears (well maybe more than a little - I had to start over a few times) but my final count was around 553 teddy bears!  Most of them are brand new which is really great because we are strictly visiting kids in the ICU units at Shands this trip.  And while we appreciate all of the donations for the sick children we can only use brand new animals because of all of the potential dangers that come to children with damaged immune systems.  If you donated a gently used stuffed animal we will find a special home for those too (we will either donate them to a woman's shelter or find an equally suitable way to make your donation help a child).

So after I counted this is what I did . . .


Yep - that's about 200 of the over 500 stuffed animals - covering a full-size bed.  In some places they are 3 or 4 high.  I'm so humbled - there aren't words.  As I touched every single stuffed animal tonight I remembered moments over the past few months, conversations some of us had, the funeral, many of the stuffed animals you guys gave us were some that Owen had and Ed and I talked about that.  His godmother gave him a stuffed bear with angel wings that said the "Now I lay me" Prayer and there were two of those - one for a boy and one for a girl.  There were stuffed animals that were personally designed for this cause - embroidered, or handmade tags attached with care - I truly am reminded in a huge way how much you guys loved us (and I know you still do).  Our whole purpose of going on this journey is to love on others like you guys loved on us.  I'm not sure I can even put it into words what its like to be a parent of a child in an ICU.  And I can't tell you how many women, girls even, who were there alone with little or no family, no husband, no boyfriend, and maybe just maybe a parent or sibling would show up on the weekend.  I was very fortunate to have Ed by my side almost every single day that we were there - and even on the very few days he wasn't physically there he was there for me.  We had our family, our friends, our church family, our pastor, even distant friends of friends in Gainesville who called, visited, and checked-in on us.  I can't begin to express how loved we knew we were.  We had many supporting us financially to enable us to stay through donations and fundraisers and all the while we had people physically there loving on us too.

Now, there were sometimes that Ed and I would go a week or so without any visitors but we NEVER for a moment felt alone.  I know without a shadow of a doubt how incredibly fortunate I am because I watched day after day, month after month, girl after girl, woman after woman, who had little if any support.  What's worse is there were babies in the ICU who had NO visitors the entire 3 months we were in the NICU - if that doesn't hurt your heart then nothing ever will.

Our mission - our goal - is to love on everyone in the ICU's at Shands tomorrow.  To share with them that there are people they will never see and never know who care deeply about them.  To share the gospel with them that there is a God in Heaven who is in control who knows all and sees all and has a divine plan for their families.  To share with them the healing powers of our Lord - that NOTHING is impossible for God.  And yes, I still believe with all my heart that God can heal any hurt, pain, disease, aneurysm, cancer, anything - with all my heart I know that God is the ultimate healer and that will be our message tomorrow - a message of hope and encouragement.  I pray that God opens doors wide open to us that maybe couldn't be opened otherwise.  Last night after Wednesday night service pastor prayed with us for our safety and for God to use us - and I liked what he said, that when we leave those stuffed animals that we leave the spirit of the Lord to dwell in those rooms.  I'm so excited I don't know if I'll even be able to sleep tomorrow.

We've created some postcards to share with the families so that they know our hopes and our mission.  Hopefully we will be able to minister to some parents and put some huge smiles on some precious children's faces! 

{ The front of the postcards}

We had several friends who created their own tags and "in memory" notes for the teddy bears and we've left those on the ones they created too - here's one that inspired our own writing for the postcards.

{From Dianne Keel & Amanda McCoy - who also have an angelbaby in heaven}


So tomorrow we will set off to Gainesville and we will be able to share these stuffed animals (thanks again to you) with about 75-80 precious children in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) and PICU (pediatric intensive care unit) both of which Owen was a resident for a period of time.  He spent 3 months in the NICU and 2 trips about a week each in the PICU.  There are usually about 50 babies in the NICU and the PICU can house up to 24.  We are carrying about 90 stuffed animals this time just to be sure we have plenty and we can't wait to come back and share with you all what a difference your contribution is going to make in some family's life.  Thank you all for this opportunity to share our son's legacy & testimony with so many families.

One question people ask me all the time is "Are you still accepting teddy bears?"  Yes, yes, yes.  As long as you have it in your heart to give them to us we will make as many trips to hospitals to give them to the little children.  We are hoping to create an annual event to collect them but we haven't set that up yet but for now whatever you have to give we are happy to accept.  Please, please, please, and I say this with nothing but love in my heart, please remember when you are making a donation of teddy bears or other stuffed animals they MUST be brand new for us to give to these children - they have compromised immune systems and cannot be exposed to risks that used stuffed animals may present.  We have to take great care in storing them in sealed rubbermaid tubs to make sure that they don't collect any dust while we have them (not that I have any dust in my house . . . bahahahaha).  So I hope you all understand.  As for the gently used items we have received already I can assure you they will find good, deserving homes, in Owen's honor too.

Thanks again to you all. Wish us luck and if you have a chance say a prayer for our travel, the words we will speak, and that God's will be done on this trip.

We love you all and we wouldn't have made it through all this and certainly wouldn't be able to do this tomorrow if it wasn't for all your love and support.

~ Jerica

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Week and A Day

Thursday, March 24, 2011

This morning I had a list of things to do to be productive - starting with a shower - yes it was on the list - had to happen.

But as my foot touched the towel stepping out of the shower I felt as though a hand was pushing on my chest and that's when it hit me, yesterday was a week ago that I lost my precious Owen.

A storm of emotions came over me but none as strong as the question - how could you not realize that yesterday?!  You, Jerica, someone who never forgets a birthday, remembers the anniversary of everything, you're a counter, a numbers person, how could you not think about it once yesterday - what kind of mother doesn't stop and think it's been a week?!  Then I thought I bet hundreds of the people who love and support us and have been praying for us stopped at some time yesterday and thought, it's been a week since Owen died. 
I'm feeling more emotion writing it than I initially felt, so as I fight the tears away now I can tell you the only logical answer I have for those questions is that God didn't want me to remember yesterday. 

I mean it's only been a few days since we laid him to rest.  And time is so fluid, half the time it's standing stilll and the rest of the time it's flying by.  Ed and I have done so much to stay busy could we both have forgotten - not forgotten but not remembered either.  The point is that I didn't remember or think about it - me, his mother, how could I not? 

What would I have done differently had I realized it yesterday, would I have locked myself in the house?  Would I have gone back to bed and cried for hours?  How does that honor Owen's memory, how does that glorify God?  No one tells you what you're supposed to do when your child dies.

I talked about Owen a lot yesterday.  I wore the beautiful necklace that my friend Karen gave me with Owen's picture in it.  I decided yesterday that I'm not going to apologize to anyone for wearing it.  I asked Ed if it bothered him, that I didn't want to upset him by having to look at it all the time while I wore it and he said, "Baby I look at his picture everyday why would it bother me?"  Neither one of us have changed our wallpaper on our phones, I have a recent picture of Owen and Ed has one of him & Owen taking a nap together and we keep pictures of Owen on just about every wall of the house.

I decided yesterday that I'm going to wear my necklace though, proudly, and hope that it will remind people of Owen and his fight to live, remind them that every moment with those we love is precious, remind them that the time to live is now because we're not promised tomorrow, remind them to pray, to love, to really really live.

Yesterday, a week after I last held Owen in my arms, last walked with him and talked with him face to face, I did some great things in his memory.  God has put on my heart that it doesn't honor Owen or God to wallow in my misery, to be consumed by grief, or to sink into a depression.  My Owen wanted to live so bad, he fought so hard, and in the end he just couldn't but how can I - a person in decent health, with every opportunity to go and do whatever I choose how can I squander that away?  It's my responsibility to Owen, I feel, to get up everyday and live, really live the days that I have left here & most importantly live in Christ that I may see Owen again sometime.

I still can't believe that I didn't think about how long it'd been yesterday, but I really do believe that maybe God wanted me to realize that how long isn't important.  Owen is always in my heart and I don't think God wants me keeping count of how long it's been since I've seen him, he only wants us all to know that when we see him again it will be for eternity and that's what really matters in the end.

I'm sure I'll fall short again, I'll beat myself up, and I'll get over it but I won't forget Owen ever.  I didn't forget him yesterday I just didn't dwell on his death.  I focused on what I could do to continue his legacy, to remember him, and to make sure others remember him too.

So today, a week and a day after Owen passed, I'm going to finish my list for the day, I'm going to run some errands, pick up some more stuffed animals, place a 31 order, rake my yard (maybe), and get ready for dinner with some friends.  Life's too precious not to be out living it.  That's one of the many things Owen taught me.  I think to myself it's not fair that Owen wanted so bad to be here and isn't but it's even more unfair for me to be here and not be living my life to the fullest.  So that's what we're going to do and I hope you will too.

Love to you all.

I'll Be Back

I just wanted to write a quick blip to let you all know that I will be back.  I know you've been waiting awhile for stories and the in-depth works of what happened in this house from January to mid-March and I do wish to share that with you all.  Writing helps me remember and savor those times & I feel God has put it on my heart to write more.

There were many times I wanted to write about things while Owen was still here but  I'd sit down and know that if I got started I'd be here a little while and couldn't bear to have my attention away from him for that long.  I kept feeling that there wasn't enough time, that Owen's time was precious and he deserved all of my time I could give him.  So I waited.

This morning something hit me so hard that I knew I had to write about it but I'm not sure I'll post it today or not.  We will see.  But I did want to let you all know that I appreciate you following Owen, and supporting our family and I wanted be sure to let you know I'm not done writing.  This blog was initally started to follow our family.  I got the idea from one of our nurses in Gainesville who keeps a family blog so she doesn't have to call everyone in the family everytime her daughter has a first. Plus its a great way to document things like that.  I imagined that we'd keep this blog as our family grew.  So many of you came to this blog specifically for Owen, but I hope that you will stick around to see how God works in our lives after Owen.

I just wanted you to know I'll be back & I'm not sure when the notion to write will strike me but stay tuned & check back if you don't get alerts.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

God's Pawns

First let me preface this post by saying that I'm glad you're reading my blog and it was started as a way not just to tell Owen's story but to share our family experiences.  I have always loved to write but have found that I hadn't been doing it really at all in the past few years.  This blog was a way to bring me back to journaling.  Everything I write comes from my heart and most of what I write is extremely personal.  Thanks for following our blog and I hope that you can gain some insights into your own heart through some of the posts like this one.

God's Pawns

Typically the word pawn carries with it a negative connotation but this morning as I was drawing up medicines for Owen and preparing to give them my mind started turning and that phrase came to mind and really got me thinking.  A day or so after we brought Owen home I was talking with someone and I said, as I've said months ago at the hospital - I believe that my entire life God was preparing me for this exact moment.  Now, there's no way to know when you are strolling through day to day what exactly God is preparing you for or how he will use an experience from 3 years ago to help you tomorrow but that's what God does.  It's like a chess game, and while I would only consider myself a novice at chess I know enough to know that it is a very strategic game and that every move you make is supposed to be a move to set you up for the best outcome.  Now I'm going two places with this.  1) I believe that is what God does for us - he moves us, uses us, & places us in order to set us up for the best possible outcome - maybe not today but in the end. And 2) what if we lived our own lives and made our choices the way God wants us to - in a way that sets us up for the best possible outcome.  I'm not suggesting that we know better than God, but I am suggesting that all to often we know that what we are doing, whether it be the relationship we are in, a friendship taking us down the wrong road, some conviction we can't shake, whatever it may be, we do things knowing that if we wanted the very BEST possible outcome for ourselves we wouldn't do it.  Take for example money, we are all guilty of it, myself included (maybe even especially), we too often sacrifice what we want/need the MOST for what we want/need NOW. Choices.

I don't want to get off-track here so I'll just move on.  What got me thinking about this in the first place (months ago) was remembering something that happened years ago.  About 3 years ago I took a job teaching ESE Pre-K.  I had never really wanted to teach ESE - in fact to be completely honest about it I was initially scared that it would be more than I could handle.  But one day, I remember clear as day, as I was working with my students, and receiving hugs, and helping them understand things in their own way I had a revelation.  It occurred to me in that moment that maybe just maybe God had put me in that position to prepare me for something down the road.  I never could really shake that thought.  When I was told of Owen's diagnosis and as the doctors were finishing procedures and telling us there was no way to know what if any brain damage Owen would have (early in his treatment) I immediately went back to that moment and I knew that God had definitely put me in that place to prepare me for this time in my life. 

On the day we came home under hospice care it occurred to me again, how awesome our God is and how he had been preparing me MY ENTIRE LIFE for this right now.  Ed and I had been looking for a church home since before we got married, we'd visited many different churches when we were able to go (his work schedule prevented us from going together many times on Sundays).  Almost exactly a month before we found out about Owen's condition God sent us to Evangel, now you may not believe that but I know it is true.  We were actually preparing to go to a different church that morning, but we were running late (imagine that), and so I said let's just go to Evangel this morning we can make it there on time, and that was the end of that - no more looking we were home.  We didn't know then how much we needed a church home, we just wanted one, but God knew what was coming and he made sure we were where we needed to be to prepare for what was ahead of us.  On the day we came home under hospice care our pastors were the ones who were so great to drive us home, we walked into the door and the admissions nurse was someone who knew us from church (several of the staff in fact knew us from church - the social worker at the hospital said it was the easiest hospice discharge she had ever worked they were prepared for us).  The social worker at the house was a previous photography client of mine and had become a friend over time.  The man who brought the medical equipment to the house was my good friend's dad (he had known me since middle school).  We were not alone through this because God had moved us over the years in ways that put us right where we needed to be in the middle of a circle of people who genuinely cared about us through what will be the most difficult part of our life.  And that's truly just a small example of how God has put people in our lives, and put us in moments to prepare us for today, and for our future.

I'm sure if you take a good look at your own life you will see how you have been God's pawn and he has put you right where you need to be when you need to be there.  I know that not every day is easy breezy, it's hard to praise God when things are going wrong in your life, but all I can think is PRAISE God for the day they diagnosed Owen, that wasn't a bad day, it was a horrible moment in our lives but it was a GOOD day, God showed us what we shouldn't have been able to see and we knew ahead of time what we were facing.  Every person you encounter good or bad influences your life, changes the fabric of who you are in some tiny way, the way you handle people, react to situations, treat others, they are all choices and I try to live by a quote about choices.  It's a famous quote though few reference the beginning of it and I just don't see how it makes the same sense without it.  William Shakespere wrote, "The choices you make dictate the life you will lead. To thine own self be true."  Life is about choices - today I choose to be a pawn for God for there is victory in Jesus (checkmate).

I don't always have it together.  I won't pretend like I always made the best choices because I know I didn't and those who truly know me know that too.  But everything I have gone through has made me stronger for now.  My greatest fault is probably that I speak too often before I have a chance to think and I used to be very quick to react first and I'm working on that now.  This situation has helped me learn to think before I act as the choices I make today effect not only me but my son and husband as well.  I think all parents should understand (and many do) that every decision you make after you become a parent directly effects someone else.  But that's a whole different blog post right there. 

I was telling my mom last night that I used to think that if I gave my life completely to God that I would miss certain things (I can't even think what that might be now).  I would think, I will have to be good all the time, I won't be able to think bad things, and all these other things I thought being a devout Christian would keep me from but I was so wrong.  Now that I'm here in this place spiritually there is nothing I can't do - there is such a freedom in living for Christ.  I haven't gotten in trouble by anyone, I haven't had to do anything I didn't want to do, there's nothing I've wanted to do that I haven't been able to do - in fact just the opposite - I've had so many more opportunities, so many more blessings in this place than I ever did before.  My life holds more joy even though I'm facing the saddest hardest moments of my life.  We have been extremely blessed every step of the way because we serve an awesome God.  Before now, I couldn't understand the power of God because things of the world had power over me, but now I know that there is nothing God can't do in my life, there is nothing that is more important to me than living for God. I'm not perfect, I will slip, I will get upset, and I may even get angry, but Praise God that my Lord is a forgiving God, he accepts me as I am, he loves me more than I can even comprehend, he washes away my sins, with God who can stand against me?  Yes Lord I will be your pawn, every day of my life.

Lord, I submit to you, use me, move me, place me how you see fit. Lord only you know the future, guide my steps and my heart to lead me where you want me to go. Lord that your will may be done in my life.  Thank you Jesus. Amen.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Big Boy

This warms my heart I hope it does yours too.

My grandpa - Owen's Great-Grandpa is almost 84 years old and on Friday he came by to see Owen as he has a few times this past week.  He was holding Owen and said "He's going to be a big boy."  I said I know Grandpa he is.  He said, "No, he's going to be a big boy."  I said I know.

He then told me a story how he was sitting in his chair at home and dosed off and Owen walked by him and tapped him on his knee and woke him up.  He said Owen woke him up two different times.  I just smiled and thought of what could be and I couldn't help but think so that's where Owen goes when he sleeps.

Staying positive always.

Clinging to the Cross - Our Last Trip to the Hospital

I have to share this short story.  Really its just a few lines.  Owen has taught me faith which I haven't learned in three decades of being in and out of church.  His whole life has been a testimony to God and his strength amazes me.

Our latest trip to the hospital was on Christmas night.  It was the beginning of the end.  Owen's shunt wasn't working properly again, the top piece and the valve were working but the bottom part was clogged causing the fluid to swell around his shunt.  You could visibly see a huge mass protruding around the valve on his head.  Poor baby was screaming in pain and Tylenol wasn't helping any.  We left during Christmas Dinner (around 3 or 4 pm) and took him to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital to the ER.  When he was being admitted the nurse took him into another room to get his weight.  As she was handing him back to me he grabbed ahold of her necklace and wouldn't let go.  At first I was taken back because Owen didn't grab ANYTHING except to wrap his hand around a finger and squeeze.  He didn't grab for toys or pull my hair but here we were in the hospital in a strangers arms and he had her in a tight spot holding onto her necklace.  While I was thinking about what an accomplishment this was for him she was trying to unlatch his fingers from her necklace and I began helping.  It literally took both of us to pull his fingers away from and as we peeled his fingers back I saw what he had such a desperate hold on - it was a crucifix of Jesus Christ on the cross.

What a powerful moment.  God I want to have a hold on you like that because I know that's the hold God has on me.  Right now, through all of this he is holding our family tight and Owen knows him and desires him.  I know not what the future holds but I know who holds the future.

That was going to be the end of this post and I was going to post this separately but I decided to just continue on - I hope you don't mind.

Keep Clinging to the Cross

Owen was in the hospital from Christmas Day until January 4, 2011 this last time from Saturday to Tuesday, a week and a half.   The doctors originally said his shunt was clogged and that he had an infection in the shunt.  They immediately removed his shunt and began treating him with antibiotics.  Everyday I asked about the infection and everyday they said there was nothing growing in his culture - meaning no bacterial infection, maybe a viral infection.  Day after day they said the same thing.  On Thursday the pediatric intensive care unit doctor told us that he was doing great and if he kept this up he'd be in surgery on Monday and home by the middle of the week.  Most of you know that Sunday Owen began having seizures, over 20 in a relatively short period of time and they intubated him and sent him for more tests.  Ed had gone home Sunday morning and been at work in touch with us all day worried. I felt bad that he was working but I was there for Owen.  On Monday morning his neurosurgeon was back from "vacation" he came in first thing and things sounded grim but he told us they would be doing another embolization on Tuesday and then they would go in and replace his shunt.  He said, "I mean for things to sound as bad as they do."  I immediately called Ed and Mom and they came on to Gainesville.  A few minutes later the nurse said the doctor wanted to know when Ed would be here so he could talk to us together - a first.  I knew something was bad wrong.  I told them he'd be there in a couple of hours.  About 30 minutes later as I sat alone by Owen's bed holding his hand the doctor and his nurse practitioner came back and the doctor pulled up a chair beside me.  Without warning the words came, "We can't fix him. . . irreversible brain damage . . . we've done all we can do . . . "  I just remember he sat there looking at me forever and I finally said, "I don't know what you want me to say."   A little later he left.  I cried so hard my face hurt my eyes burned I was so empty.  I held Owen until after Ed & Mom showed up.  I had to tell them the news myself.  The doctors said we didn't have to make any decisions until Tuesday but that we had a few options.  None were good. 

We called the family in and made arrangements for our pastor to baptize him on Tuesday morning.  We would remove the breathing tube that afternoon.  The machine was giving him 20 breaths per minute and he wasn't taking any breaths on his own. They wouldn't wean him off the ventilator as they had always done, typically they'd wean him over a period of 4-24 hours. They didn't expect him to survive the extubation if he did we would just hold him until he passed, that was our understanding.

We braced ourselves for the worse.  Owen did fine off the ventilator.  Within an hour they had hospice lined up.  Our pastors drove us home so we could rest and not worry about the road.  His neurosurgeon said he would die from seizures because the aneurysm would keep causing more and more seizures.  His neurologist says he won't die from seizures it will be something else that kills him.  The neurosurgeon refused to place his shunt back in his brain.  He said we were at a place where we would just be doing things to him not for him.

After coming to peace with everything and beginning to prepare for the end for Owen I had a revelation.  God has been telling me since the VERY FIRST day that I found out about Owen's condition that "it's going to be okay."  Why had I allowed doctors to change that conviction in me.  Right then I remembered a doctor in New York who many people from overseas had used for VOG malformations.  I immediately found his number and called and talked to his nurse.  I had Owen's records overnighted and at first glance he said there was significant brain damage but he wanted to see a few other images from his embolizations. I ordered those and had them overnighted.  I spent all day yesterday and most of this morning making arrangements for second opinions elsewhere.  I had gotten an appointment for Owen at Children's Hospital Boston the number one pediatric neurosurgery center in the country only to find out that Medicaid won't allow him to be treated out of the state because there are pediatric neurosurgeons here in Florida.  And there are a handful of pediatric neurosurgeons in Florida, but only two of those, to my knowledge can treat Owen's condition and one of the two have REFUSED to continue to care for Owen.  I can't even begin to explain how gut-wrenching it is to have a sick child and to have the top center in the country lined up only to be told I'd have to pay out of pocket up front before he could be treated at all.  What do you do?

We just keep clinging to the cross, just like Owen.  Many have asked about the doctor in New York and he did call today.  His recommendation was for us to have another baby.  I don't know how that helps Owen but that was what he recommended.  I've prayed for guidance and I know that God is still directing our steps.  I know what the doctors are saying but I rebuke it in the name of Jesus.  I believe that Owen will live and claim the works of the Lord.  I believe in miracles, it's a miracle that Owen is still alive, he shouldn't have lived past the first few days.  It's a miracle that Owen lived the first month, the second, third and fourth.  It's a miracle that Owen survived the ventilator - as the doctors hadn't intended for him to.  It's a miracle that Owen has been home an entire week now and has had NO swelling and NO seizures.  Regardless of what happens to Owen, God has had his hand on our little man from before he was even born.  Miracles happen everyday.  Every moment I spend with Owen is a miracle in itself.   I keep hearing God whispering everyday "It's going to be okay."  And I don't know if he'll be okay here or if he'll be okay in heaven but I KNOW without a doubt that HE WILL BE OKAY.

Please continue to pray for Owen.  We are asking specifically for God's will, healing, strength, guidance, comfort, & more miracles.  I don't deserve this but Owen certainly does.  Thank you all for your continued support.  We love you more than we can express.