Guest post: The doctors said my son might never walk again

[One of the great blessings I’ve experienced since I started writing is getting to connect with men and women all over the world who read my words. Oftentimes it’s something simple like, “thank you, I needed that” or “me, too”. Sometimes I get asked to pray over a situation someone is going through, which is a true honor. And sometimes, someone reaches out and says, “I’d like to tell you my story.” A few weeks ago a reader I’d never met, named Lauren Findley said those words to me via Facebook. But I wasn’t prepared for what she was going to tell me. Her story, and that of her little boy, moved me to tears. Only a God as great as ours could do these things.

Lauren was gracious enough to let me share her story with all of you.]

My name is Lauren Findley, and this is a picture of my family.

Lauren findley 3

If you had told me a year and a half ago that I would be asked to write about the gift of trust, I would have thought you were crazy. I have struggled with crippling anxiety my entire life. Proverbs 31 haunted me when it talked about “She was clothed in strength and dignity and laughs at the days to come.” I didn’t understand how anyone could laugh at the future.

On the morning on August 6th, 2017 my son, Ethan, and his cousin were running around our house playing tag. Ethan fell down and wouldn’t get back up. It wasn’t long until we realized that he couldn’t get up. He was hysterical and tried to tell us that he had sand all over his body. We realized that he was numb.

Robby, my husband, and I carried him to the car and rushed him to Cook Children’s Hospital. Ethan was immediately rushed into a sedated MRI. We then sat around waiting for him to wake up to find out what was going on. There was a lot of prayer and asking people to pray, but I was in denial that anything was really wrong with him. We were brought into a little room in which they made us sit down and the doctors began explaining that Ethan had a stroke.

They had no answers for us.

We walked into the Pedi ICU to find our precious boy screaming and not being able to see, sit up, or use the right side of his body. Later that day we were told that he had a stroke in the motor skills part of the brain, and they had no idea what type of a recovery he would have. They told us that they didn’t know if he would be able to walk again, have short term memory struggles, or get his cognitive skills back. They also ran more tests than I can count and every one was found inconclusive for what caused the stroke.

Lauren and Ethan

It was at this time I felt God ask if I could trust him even for a minute. I told him that I could trust him only for that long. He was going to have to handle the next minute. The Holy Spirit placed Matthew 6:34 on my heart “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have enough trouble of its own.” I told the Lord He was going to have to do it for me.

He gave me the strength.

A friend sent me 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NIV) “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I clung to this passage. I begged the Lord to make me strong, because I was at my weakest. He followed through in amazing ways. He kept me going when I could not go anymore. These were some of the worst days of my life. God showed me that I needed to take every thought captive. I had to constantly fight the “what ifs” and live for the moment.

It was also at this time that I felt led to start posting exactly what was going on to Facebook, which seemed crazy to me, but I chose to trust. We quickly began seeing the goodness of God not only in the Holy Spirit but also through the kindness and loving encouragement of others.

Ethan opening presents in hospital

We were finally moved out of the PICU and into the Neurorehab floor of Cook Children’s. We started seeing progress in Ethan’s motor and cognitive skills, but we were told not to get our hopes up. He was in speech, physical, and occupational therapy three hours a day. My parents had been stuck in California due to bad weather, so we had to rely on others for help with our other son and everything else. This was a blessing, because we were able to see God work out every little detail when we didn’t have our family around. And Ethan’s sweet friends loved on him in ways that reminded me of God’s goodness.

On August 8th, my mom’s birthday, my parents arrived. My devotion that day was about waiting for God and my lack of control. It touched on the fact that God is in control, and He is so good, things that I desperately needed to hear. On August 12th I was given Psalm 130:5, “I wait for the Lord. My soul waits. And in his word I hope.” On August 16th, we were shown how to work with Ethan to help him walk. We kept seeing huge progress, but we were told not to keep hoping.

After hearing that he may never walk over and over again, I felt God just saying “watch me, trust me.” On August 28th, Ethan looked and me and said, “Mom, look what I can do.” He proceeded to stand up and walk out the door all on his own.

The hospital staff freaked out and told me to stop him. They didn’t know what to do, because he shouldn’t know how to walk. I didn’t stop him.

On Sept. 1st, long before we were supposed to be released, we were allowed to take our boy home.

Not long after that we started him in an outpatient rehab for PT, OT, and speech therapy. I was asked what my long-term goals were for Ethan. I told them that eventually I would like for him to walk without a brace. They told me that wasn’t realistic, and once again I felt God tell me “watch this.”

A few weeks later, they asked Ethan to take his brace off and see what he can do, because his progress was so good. And he started running! The Physical Therapist started crying. She told me she had never seen any child with his type of brain injury heal like this before. She even admitted that it must be God.

We had many more scares that made his doctors believe that it was very possible that he might have another stroke. We scheduled a trip to the Mayo Clinic. Everyone was in a panic trying to figure out what was going on. Almost every day for a while I had to decide whether to take him to the ER or not. They knew us well in the ER. It was a dark, extremely emotional time. God gave me Psalm 94:18-19 “when I said my foot is slipping, your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”

One day, our neurologist told me that he was going to try a medicine that probably wasn’t going to work. Since that day, we haven’t had a real scare. When I asked the stroke team why the medicine worked, they had no idea. I believe God made it happen.

Every time I ask the Lord why he did these miracles, He tells me it’s for His glory. So here I am telling you that He is amazing. He is able to do more than we can ever ask or imagine.

May we never forget the goodness of our Lord. I saw first hand that God cares and provides for the crazy huge things and the details of life. He cares about all of it and wants you to rely on him. He won’t disappoint. He is good, faithful, and fully worthy of your trust. Fully trusting the Lord is true freedom.

Psalm 66:5: “Come and see what our God has done, what awesome miracles he performs for people!”

 

Lauren Findley is from Fort Worth, Texas. She has an amazing husband and two sweet boys that she stays home with.

 

Wheelchair photo credit: TheExplorographer.com The View via photopin (license)

All other photos and video courtesy of Lauren Findley. All rights reserved.

Wonderfully made: breaking the cycle of self-loathing and an unhealthy body image

“I need to lose weight! I’m fat.” These are words spoken by my 13 year old daughter last week, and not for the first time. My beautiful, strong, muscular, dancing, soccer-playing, cross country running daughter. And my heart breaks a little each time she says something disparaging about her body.

I worry for her. I worry for her sister. I worry because every day they are faced with images that tell them what beauty is and then they look in the mirror and decide they don’t measure up. I worry for them because I have battled with my weight and self-esteem my entire life and I know what it’s like to have an unhealthy relationship with food and with the scale.

I went on my first diet when I was 12. I have used food as a means to numb my feelings, reward myself, and fight off anxiety. I’ve forced myself to throw-up and I’ve deprived myself.

But I am absolutely determined my daughters will not follow in my footsteps. That they will learn about healthy eating habits, taking care of their bodies, loving themselves, and seeing in their reflection what God see’s when He looks at them. I’m not always the best example, but I’m thankful that there are others championing the message of healthy bodies and self-love. There are people bravely sharing their battles to overcome an eating disorder, like my friend Danielle Sherman-Lazar. And there are organizations like Southern Smash, campaigning to end negative self-talk and raise awareness about the dangers of eating disorders.

Southern Smash was founded in November 2012 by McCall Dempsey, an eating-disorder and self-love advocate who struggled to break free from her own eating disorder of 15 years. Southern Smash is dedicated to ending the cultural norm of poor body image and negative self talk. Through their SmashTALK panel discussions and empowering scale smashing events, Southern Smash challenges men and women to redefine their worth and beauty by letting go of those perfect numbers that weigh them down.

If you, too, want to empower our daughters and sons to know about healthy body image and self-love, you can come along and join Southern Smash by hosting your own event with one of their SMASHkits, by becoming a Smash Ambassador or Scale Ninja, or by donating.

Most importantly, though, remember that a healthy body image starts with us. Let’s stop the negative self-talk and demonstrate for our children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews what real health, strength, and self-love look like.

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.” Psalm 139:13-14 (NLT)

This blog post was written in partnership with the Blogging for Better Supporters, a collective platform to raise awareness and money for a different charity each month. #bloggingforbetter

Truth, not cliches

I have a problem. Or maybe I should say I have a concern.

My concern is the reputation that Christianity and Christians have  — from both non-believers and those who have left the church, but still believe in God. Folks, it’s not great.

I have been told or read the following statements:

“Christians are all just a bunch of hypocrites.”

“I believe in God, but not religion. The church just wants to judge everyone.”

“I don’t need Christianity, I can be a good person without it.”

“The church ruined my life.”

“Christianity is for people who need to believe in things that aren’t real.”

“All they care about is rituals and telling people they’re going to hell.”

“Where was God when my life was falling apart?”

I know, there are some big statements there. And I could list more. There’s a lot of hurt and emotion in those statements. There’s also some misinformation. And it makes me so sad…all of it. Because I want everyone — every single person — to know the love of God. To experience the joy and beauty of forgiveness and grace.

Because it changed my life.

There’s a lot of healing, softening of hearts, loving, and truth telling that needs to happen before those statements can be turned around. As a church, we need to come together and work on this with unity. We need to be patient, compassionate, and listen more than we talk. We also need to make sure when we do speak it’s Truth we are speaking. With a capital “T”.

God’s word has been misrepresented and misinterpreted for a long time. Sometimes by people using it to further their own agendas, but I think more often it’s good people who get stuck on snippets of scripture not read in full context, or popular phrases that sound scripturally-based, but really aren’t.

And it’s that last part I want to try and counter today. Those popular phrases or “Christian clichés” that are often said in love, and meant with good intentions, but actually cause more harm than good. At best they’re seen as “Christian-ese”, trite answers that don’t really offer comfort or provide insight into tough questions. At worst, they are promoting ideas that are just not Biblically-sound.

Let me be the first to confess that I, too, have been guilty of saying these. I heard a lot of them growing up from the adults around me and in church and many of them just sound good. I never thought to question the validity or think about how these might make others feel. But hard questions, deep hurt, and tough situations require more from us than short quips or trite clichés. They require us to sit down with the other person and listen to their hurt, empathize with what they’re going through, desire to really understand their questions, and then together look at God’s word. Dig deep and find the hope, truth, and love found only in His word.

So I’m tackling five commonly said phrases, or clichés, and countering with truth that I have found in scripture.

1. Cliché: God helps those who help themselves. Truth: God helps those who ask.

Psalm 120 says: “I call on the Lord in my distress, and he answers me.” And this is a common theme throughout Psalms and much of scripture. When we call out to God, he hears us! Does that mean we should sit in the dark despairing about our problems and not doing anything to get ourselves out of a desperate situation? No. But there is nothing in scripture that says God only helps those who first help themselves. He is a loving Father and he answers the cries of all of his children.

God helps those who ask

2. Cliché: Cleanliness is next to godliness. Truth: Repentance is next to godliness.

As a mom, I can get behind a statement that encourages good personal hygiene. However, this old saying is just so trite and I have never found any support for it in scripture.  So rather than pulling out this old, tired cliche, how about we speak some real truth into people’s lives? If you really want to get close to God then repenting for your sins is the surest way.  Luke 5:10 says, “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” The heavens literally rejoice whenever we repent of our sins! And just like the father in the story of the prodigal son, God welcomes us with open arms and celebrates each time we come to him asking for forgiveness.

Repentance is next to godliness

3. Cliché: God will not give you more than you can handle. Truth: God absolutely will give you more than you can handle, because he wants you to rely on him more than you rely on yourself.

I get where this statement comes from. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “…And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” Verse 13 uses the word tempted or tested, depending on your translation, which is not the same as bearing the weight of problems. Especially when you read in context of verses 1-12. Paul is talking specifically about the temptation of sin — idolatry and sexual immorality are specifically mentioned.  This is not the same as grieving the loss of a loved one or dealing with a cancer diagnosis. But that’s when I hear the phrase “God won’t give you more than you can handle” used the most…in those hard places of life. These are overwhelmingly hard burdens to bear. Things I can’t do on my own…things I need to rely on God for.

I think the danger in saying that he will not give us more than we can carry is implying that we alone have the strength to either fight our troubles or be crushed under them. 1st Corinthians 10:3 makes it very clear that God has to be the one to show us a way out and endure. This is repeated all throughout scripture, like in Psalm 37:39-40, “The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in times of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.”

God will absolutely give you more than you can handle, so you can lean on Him.

4. Cliché: God works in mysterious ways. Truth: God works for those who love him.

OK, yes, God’s ways are definitely higher than my ways, and that means I can’t possibly understand what he is doing, why, or how. But really, how helpful is this saying? I hear it used often when people just don’t have an answer to why something is happening in life, but I find no comfort in this saying. Instead, when we or someone we love is searching for answers, let’s give them real answers. Romans 8:28 says: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Knowing that God always works for my good is not only an important scriptural truth, but it’s much more comforting than hearing that his ways are “mysterious”.

God works for those who love Him

5. Cliché: Love the sinner, hate the sin. Truth: Love everyone, hate my own sin.

This is another cliche that I believe is said with good intentions. People are trying to promote love and say that we are all worthy of love even when we sin. However, the specific contexts in which I typically hear it used often results in feelings of judgement and alienation. “I love you, BUT I hate what you do, or how you live your life.” Where’s the love in that?

Pastor and sociologist Dr. Tony Campolo puts it this way, “I’m always uptight when someone says, ‘You don’t understand. I love the sinner. I just hate his sin.’ And my response is: That’s interesting, because that’s the exact opposite of what Jesus says. Jesus never says, ‘Love the sinner but hate his sin. Jesus says, ‘Love the sinner and hate your own sin, and after you get rid of the sin in your own life, then you may begin talking about the sin in your brother or sister’s life.‘”

In Matthew 7:3-5, Jesus says: “ “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Let’s take a cue from Jesus and love everyone, and focus on removing our own sin.

Love everyone, hate my own sin

If you would like to help me promote the idea of truth over clichés, feel free to share this article, or any of the images used throughout with the hashtag #truthnotcliches

 

photo credit: homethods Meditation Read via photopin (license)

 

 

truth2cnotcliches28129

Unplanned and perfect

Have I ever told you about my favorite day? Maybe that’s weird to you that I have a favorite day. I don’t know if that’s a normal thing or not. But I do, and you might be surprised to learn that it’s not my wedding day, or any of the days I gave birth to my children (although those days are etched in my memory and tucked in my heart forever).

No, my favorite day ever happened on a Tuesday in June, during the summer of 2017. My family and I were taking a big two-week road/camping trip throughout Colorado, Arizona, Utah, and Wyoming. We’d flown into Denver and rented a 30 foot RV and we had 14 days to see and do as much as we could fit in.

As you can imagine, a trip like this doesn’t just happen. There was an entire year’s worth of planning that went into this trip, which I’d been dreaming about for even longer. And if there’s one thing I love to do, it’s plan. I had mapped out our route carefully, estimating the driving time for each day, how long we’d stay at each destination, reserved camp sites, booked fishing trips, ordered a National Park Pass, and even tried to build in “extra time” in case things went wrong, as I new surely something would.

It didn’t take long for the first set-back. After 2 days exploring Denver and Colorado Springs, and visiting with my sister-in-law and her family, we were scheduled to pick-up our RV on a Monday. The plan was to pick it up by 1 p.m. and hit the road by 2, getting a solid 4 hours of driving in on day one. But when we landed in Denver I discovered an email from the RV rental place asking I call to book a pick-up time. When I called I was told that the earliest slot they had available was 4:30 p.m. I knew that getting the RV back to my sister-in-law’s house, loaded up, and then dealing with Denver rush hour traffic meant the earliest we could possibly hit the road would be 6 — if we were lucky.

Frustrated at the early set-back, I revisited our itinerary for the first two days and decided we’d have to find a campground closer to Denver for our first night, which would mean cancelling our plans to visit Great Sand Dunes National Park on Tuesday since we’d need to drive at least 6 hours to get to our next destination, Cortez, CO, by Tuesday night. It was disappointing, but I tried to be flexible and luckily found a campground with space that was only 2 hours from Denver.

We pulled into our site in Buena Vista after dark on Monday, had a quick dinner and went to sleep. Tuesday morning we awoke early and got to finally see the beautiful campsite in the daylight. We hiked down to the Arkansas River, which ran along the edge of the campground, had breakfast, and hit the road. Since we were no longer going to Sand Dunes, I found a more direct route from where we were in Buena Vista to Cortez. The goal was just to make good time and arrive in Cortez by dusk. What I didn’t realize at the time was that our more direct route would take us across the Wolf Creek Pass, a stunningly beautiful and historic route (and also part of the route the Griswold’s took in National Lampoon’s Vacation).

The first half of the day brought us great weather and a beautiful drive through Colorado farm land, with the mountains making a stunning backdrop. Around 12:30 p.m. we rolled into South Fork, CO and stopped for lunch at a little Mexican restaurant where we ate burritos the size of our heads!

Then we began the ascent to the top of the San Juan Mountains, where you cross the Continental Divide. As we got higher in elevation we saw snow covering the ground, which my kids thought was crazy since it was the middle of June. By the time we got to the top – at 10,000 feet elevation — we decided we had to pull over and enjoy it. In our flip-flops and shorts we hopped out of the RV and ran through the snow, and even had a snowball fight. It was the most unexpected moment of sheer joy and laughter.

We continued our drive and a few miles later saw signs for a waterfall, Treasure Falls, and decided we had to stop and explore. That stop turned into a 40 minute hike to the middle of the falls where they had a misting deck. My kids danced and twirled, getting soaked from the mist of the powerful water. A few more stops to enjoy the view as we descended the pass added to the day and we finally pulled into our campsite in Cortez about 7 p.m. that night — several hours later than planned, but full on happy memories.

20170605_20051520170606_14522620170606_115956

19577381_10154924904161633_6854681611604521989_o

It was, without a doubt, a picture-perfect day. Nothing was planned, everything was unexpected, and our hearts were full of joy as we took in the wonder of each new discovery. I often look at the photos from that day and smile, reminiscing about how much we laughed, how much we loved one another, and how effortless it was. There were a lot of wonderful things we did and saw that trip — things I had dreamed of doing my whole life, like seeing the Grand Canyon at sunset, and standing in front of Old Faithful in Yellowstone. But the day that stands out most to me is that Tuesday when we had no plans.

For this Type-A personality, who likes writing lists, and making plans, and crossing off to-do lists, the lesson is not lost on me. When I think back to this day and what made it so perfect, sure it was partly the beautiful scenery, and lack of incident. But I think it was more so my lack of expectations, the not-knowing what lie ahead, and being surprised by the gifts God presented to us along the way. Too often in my life I plan and work to craft these ideal experiences — perfect date nights, perfect parties, perfect ministry events, perfect holidays — and too often I am left feeling disappointed by all that didn’t go according to plan.

God reminded me on a Tuesday in June that often He has something even better waiting for me. But it’s only after I let go of expectations and control that I am able to experience these gifts.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

Stories for hope: how one family is honoring their premature triplets by giving children’s books to hospitals

When I was pregnant with my twins I was put on bed-rest at 34 weeks because of some early-labor symptoms. The doctor told me as long as I could make it to 36 weeks, it would be considered a full-term twin pregnancy. At 36 and a half weeks I felt the contractions begin and I could not wait for those babies to be born. I was D-O-N-E being pregnant!

I labored through the night and into the next day, my only focus: getting through the pain and trying to deliver my babies safely. When they placed my tiny 5 pound, 11 ounce little boy in my arms after 22 hours of hard labor I was overjoyed! Here it was, what we’d been waiting 9 months for, and he looked perfect to me. A few minutes later they whisked him away so I could focus on delivering his sister. She arrived weighing in at just 5 pounds, with some powerful lungs, and I breathed a sigh of relief…two healthy, beautiful babies.

Twenty minutes later, my bubble of euphoria was burst. A pediatric doctor from the hospital came to talk to us. Something was wrong with my son. They had taken him to the NICU. The next few minutes were a blur of words like emergency surgery, transport to another hospital, and birth defect. My beautiful boy had been born with a condition called imperforate anus. His little body had not quite finished developing and as a result he would not be able to pass stool. If he didn’t have surgery right away he would get very sick and the local hospital where I had delivered my babies did not have the pediatric surgery specialty needed to perform the delicate operation.

At one day old my son was transported two-hours away to the University of Virginia Hospital and at two days old he had his first corrective surgery (a second surgery happened when he was 6 months). My husband followed along and I stayed behind with our baby girl because she was having trouble maintaining her birth weight and was jaundice. The following week was mostly a blur and I only remember bits and pieces. A few days after his surgery, I was finally able to travel the 2 hours to see my son. As I sat in that NICU holding my tiny boy with an IV taped to his little hand, trying to nurse him for the first time, I cried. Tears of relief, fatigue, love, fear, gratitude…all of it flowed out.

As scary as those early days were, I will always look back with fondness for the NICU teams at both hospitals. I am eternally grateful for their kindness, quick action, skill, and empathy. I also realize how lucky we were. At seven days old, both of my babies were home, making our stay in the NICU relatively short. Many families are not as fortunate. Their babies spend weeks, even months in the care of the NICU staff. Which is why I want to tell you about the Triple Heart Foundation.

Stacey Skrysak gave birth to triplets Peyton, Parker and Abby in 2013, at 22 weeks 6 days gestation. Abby passed away shortly after birth; Parker passed away in the NICU at nearly two months old. Peyton is their lone survivor, a healthy and happy 5-year-old girl.

When Peyton and Parker were first whisked away to the NICU, Stacey and her husband Ryan felt helpless. Their one-pound babies were too fragile to hold. After a few days of staring through the isolette windows, a nurse made the suggestion of reading books to their babies. Stacey and Ryan began bringing books to the hospital, creating a bedside library by the time Peyton came home at 4 months old. The books provided comfort and created a special bond during a trying time.

In 2016 Stacey and Ryan created the Triple Heart Foundation — in honor of their premature triplets — to help other families who spend hours, upon hours in the NICU waiting for the day they can bring their baby home. They Triple Heart Foundation provides new children’s books, care packages, and other gifts to families in the NICU. While Triple Heart Foundation currently serves the Springfield, Illinois area, Ryan and Stacey have plans to reach other hospitals in Illinois. Triple Heart Foundation also takes requests from families across the country.

Here’s how you can help:

  1. Spread the word! Follow Triple Heart Foundation on Facebook and share with others the good work they are doing.
  2. Donate new books. Check out this page on their website for more information on what type of books they need and how to send them.
  3. Hold a fundraiser or send monetary donations. Triple Heart Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity and is 100% funded through donations. Click here for more information on how to donate.

 

This blog post was written in partnership with the Blogging for Better Supporters, a collective platform to raise awareness and money for a different charity each month. #bloggingforbetter

 

 

photo credit: Stv. Peek-a-boo! via photopin (license)