Why I Didn’t Cry

Why I Didn’t Cry

imageToday I saw excited little learners make their way through the school doors. For some it was their first First Day, for others, it was a day to see some old friends in a new classroom.

I noticed refreshed teachers, full of smiles, welcoming the kiddos and ready to hear tales of summer fun!

I couldn’t help but notice the brave faces of some of the Mommas. They were trying so hard not to cry in front of the ones they cherish.

You want them to grow and learn and explore and love life, but a part of you wants to snuggle up on the couch and watch another Shaun the Sheep or go to the park or story time at the library.

I can’t believe 2 of mine started 1st grade and my littlest started kindergarten today. It’s unreal.

I remember as if it were yesterday the exact moment I first saw them, held them, kissed them, and promised to love them forever!

I cried lots of tears last year and always thought I would be even worse when this day came. But I wasn’t.

I thought about this a lot today and realized why, for me, there were no tears today.

Over the last 4 years since Charlie was first diagnosed with a rare cancer, I have learned so much from her.

That first week in the hospital while they were frantically trying to find a diagnosis, they poked and prodded her daily.
I wanted to yell at someone and sit on the floor and cry, but she would give the nurses a smile, even say thank you and then want to play.

I took my cues from her.

The first day of chemo, I was so worried about her port placement surgery and thinking she would be scared. She went right to the nurse and waved to me over her shoulder as they took her to surgery. She was telling me it was ok. I walked to the waiting room, grabbed a coffee and settled in.

I took my cues from her.

There were many many nights after she had drifted off to sleep, I would cry. Not just a few tears, but the ones where your chest hurts. I saw this beautiful girl so full of love and like and kindness and I wanted to take all the pain and struggles from her.
Then she would wake with a big smile, a “good morning Mommy”, and be ready to face the day! I hugged her close and peace settled in.

I took my cues from her.

Over the next 3 years, through countless tests, scans, port access, fevers, hospitalizations, 3 chemos, steroids, distressed liver, blot clot, relapse and shots for a year, this girl shined!

She beat the odds.

She laughed when most would cry.

She beat up cancer. (Her words!) 🙂

Today when Charlie boldly walked into school on her first day of kindergarten, she was beaming from ear to ear.

I insisted on at least walking her to her class.

So…for a day I had long anticipated to be filled with tears and separation anxiety, there could only be a big smile on my face as she waved goodbye over her shoulder and I left her class room.

I walked down the hall thinking…..we made it baby girl. I pulled out my keys, put my sunglasses on and not a tear was shed.

Once again….I took my cues from her.

Letting them Walk…

I wasn’t prepared for this. How often I have seen those words or even said them myself since becoming a parent. I wasn’t prepared for this. Often that phrase is used in describing things like lack of sleep, endless laundry, cooking dinner with one on a hip and one grabbing your ankle, showering at 8:35 pm because they are finally off to slumber….

All of that is real, and exhausting but I have found just over the past year, there is something much deeper that I wasn’t prepared for.

You don’t see a lot of blogs about it because to be quite honest, it’s not an easy read. There aren’t 3 easy steps or Pinterest pins to frame the words that just flowed from a weary heart.

I wasn’t prepared to love this much. The knot in the throat kind of love. To see absolute greatness in the innocent eyes that trust you completely yet also see little shoulders that slump. Lips that quiver. Voices that soften to a whisper to share what their tiny heart is screaming.

Some have called it tough love. It’s tough because we realize these little people are learning life by doing. How I would love to make each day of my kids lives be rainbows and unicorns, but they are walking the path that we all are walking. They have seasons where their feet are unsteady. It would be so easy for me to reach out, scoop them up in my arms, and say “let me do that”.

But we let them walk….this walk called childhood. They laugh. They cry. They get scared. They squeal with delight. They make mistakes. They excel. They love. They get angry. They forgive. They snuggle close. They play.

Then when they lay their head on their pillow to rest, we scoop them up in our arms. We pray words of life and purpose and potential and kindness over them. We ask the angels to protect them. We whisper that they are perfect and exactly what God designed them to be.

I wasn’t prepared for this but I was hand picked by the Great Creator for this. To be this mom to these wee ones. In this moment.

You were hand picked, my friend. If life is swallowing you up right now, bills are piling, teens are giving the silent treatment, or babies are up all night….always remember this. You may not feel adequately prepared but take great assurance that you are loved, and watched and followed closely by our Heavenly Father who is letting you walk it out.

Tonight, when all is quiet and you lay your head on your pillow to rest, I hope you hear His whisper that says “you are perfect and exactly what I designed you to be.”

Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

A Child’s Faith

Every now and then I see glimpses of the strongest faith, courage and determination ever. It’s usually in the form of a little one who is still learning her ABC’s and is mispronouncing words. Yet in Gods infinite design she has wisdom Solomon craved.

Last week I was miserably sick and after saying bedtime prayers with Charlie I asked her if she wanted to pray for me to get better.
Charlie: No.
Me: No?? Ummm….why?
Charlie: Because you are going to be fine when you wake up!
Me: Really? How do you know that?
Charlie: Because Jesus is healing you right now!

I just stared at her and thought wow….if I could have an ounce of that kind of faith. I think this is why Jesus liked having the little kids all around. They heard. They believed. They adored. They lived.

A few weeks ago, Miss Charlie had her 3 months post-chemo scans. It was a challenging day and the readings of her scans were not clear or definitive. We immediately put them on a disc and sent them off to Texas Children’s Hospital and are now waiting for Dr. McClain’s email or phone call.

Some days I worry. Some days I don’t think about it and just get kids dressed, bathed, fed, and snuggle them close. Some days I cry. And then some days I get a nugget of faith whispered into my ear by a 4 year old and it reminds me that there is nothing to fear.

I choose to hear. I choose to believe. I choose to adore. I choose to live. Really live.

Matthew 11:25
At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.

A Broken Picket Fence

Miracle on 34th street is one of my favorite movies! The best part is when they drive up to the house and there it is…as perfect as little Susan imagined! I would grab a Kleenex and think to myself…..one day. And mine will even have a picket fence in front. 🙂

A few years ago, “one day” happened in our world but it wasn’t at all like I had anticipated.

We had always wanted to foster and adopt. We talked about it way before we ever knew there would be no miniature “us” running around the house. It was a sad day to hear the news but we were truly ok with it. My heart goes out to the many hurting today for the same reason. We were ok, but it still hurt to the core.

For the next several years, as life took over and dreams were filed away like yesterday’s mail, we still knew our “one day” would come.
September of 2008 was when it all got serious. 🙂 I left my profession of 22 years. We took an anniversary trip to the beach. Ahhhhh. My happy place.

We began taking a foster/adoptive classes at DHS each Thursday night for 10 weeks. During those classes, we experienced laughter, fear, empathy, smiles, tears, reassurance and heartbreak.

One of most odd questions on a form asked us to describe how we pictured our family. We assumed it would be one of different ages, likes and dislikes, an array of skin tones and maybe even accents and dialect that was not like our own. The most important thing to us was knowing this was actually going to happen! Our house which had been relatively quiet for 18 years was about to change!

When I expressed concern over how I would be emotionally if and when any of the children left our home, I had a dear friend and mentor tell me this. “Yes, your heart will be shattered into a thousand pieces but just remember its either your heart that gets broken or theirs.” That messed me up. Truly.

It all became a little clearer that day. The day I realized our family unit may never look ideal. We may not have years to pour into someone’s life. Then again, we might. Whether its a lifetime, years, months, days or even just a night, we get to be a safe haven for someone who needs it. I was thankful, humbled and a little nervous for the home the Great Architect was designing for us.

As the months passed by, our picket fence became a little scratched up , there were holes in it, some pieces of wood became wobbly and unsteady. The same latch on the gate we grabbed with enthusiasm to welcome someone with smiles and excitement, was the latch we gripped to hold ourselves up as we watched them leave. We had tears. Our hearts would ache desperately for things to just be different.
We decided early on to love on the kiddos that were placed with us….and not hold them at arms length.

As God would have it, 3 of the little ones placed in our arms needed a forever home. Yes we knew it wouldn’t be easy, but is Love supposed to be easy?

Love says yes when self screams no. Love gives when self needs.
Love stays when self wants to adventure out.
Love is content when self whispers for more

Find the good in a chaotic day. Laugh when you want to explode. Speak peace when surrounded by life’s noise. Cry when you need to….it’s really ok. Our Creator has a bottle full of your tears with your name on it. And He treasures it.

Be free to embrace your reality and see it for the gift it is. All of it. The beauty, the mess, the joys, the mistakes, and even a worn down picket fence that has seen better days…..

Romans 15:13
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

A Heart That is Full

I heard her cry before I saw her face. Then the smile she gave erased my
nervousness, and love took up residence in my heart. So tiny and frail, but
what a grip her little arms had around my neck as I carried her through the
door to meet her Daddy. More instantanious love. The kind that just
cements itself in your every fiber. Forever imprinted on our minds…the first
day we met our sweet Dakota.

Six weeks later, wrapped tightly in a pink blanket, softly breathing,
sleeping so peacfully, I didn’t want to wake her. Gently lifting a little one
from a hospital nursery crib to my arms, and the fit was just right. She
snuggled closer, she was home. These arms would comfort. Her Daddy’s
arms would hold her close for months to come every night to help ease
tummy pains. And Daddy would walk and hold and pray and sing. She was
home. Our middle child, precious Addison.

Seven months later, a quiet afternoon. Stillness as the babies sleep, my
heart is racing as I fold the blanket. Again. The bassinet is waiting, new
bottles are on the counter. A knock on the door, and my husband opens it
to welcome the tiniest bundle. Dressed in pink, dark hair like silk, he
carries her to me, and I feel my heart expand. I didn’t know such love could
be held in a human heart, but the feeling that it will burst lets me know. I
whisper in her little ear….”Mommy loves you, baby girl”. You sigh….I cry.
So this is what blessed feels like. Our first day with our littlest one, sweet
Charlie Grace.

Three years since the journey began. It seems like yesterday. Paths we
did not foresee have led to Children’s Hospital stays, doctors, a port,
chemo, questions, prayers, frustrations, miracles, laughter, courage, and
hope. Most days are filled with silliness, messes, toothpaste fights,
cuddles, singing, crocodile tears, sticky fingers, sweet kisses, cartwheels,
sand pasta, drama, bedtime prayers and hugs. Lots of hugs.

It will not always be that my hands will be physically full of this bundle of happy.   

Thankful that my heart will forever be full. Love stays.

The Great Author continues to write the story of this Mommy.  This Daddy. This Family. Sometimes I wish I could see the chapters ahead, but alas, that cannot be. So for today, I remember the moments, live crazily, enjoy the silly, cherish the peace, and smile with a heart that is thankful…. and is forever full.

A Good Report!

Today we went in for Charlie’s 5th week of Chemo. I have to say that little Charlie girl is SO smart and is getting used to all of the poking, proding, stretching, cold tables, blood pressure cuffs, “noodles” coming out of her chest, and the list goes on. The nurses each week comment that they cannot believe she doesnt make a sound when they access her port. She is a brave, brave girl.

Dr. Watts had ordered a chest x-ray today, just to see how she is doing. I was dreading this because it took 3 people to hold her down for it last time. She actually layed on the x-ray table and immediately put her hands over her head! The only other time she puts her hands over her head is to say “Hooray” or “Hallelujah”! 🙂 About 1 minute later, we were done!

Dr. Watts met with us later and said that instead of going to the maintenance protocol in 2 weeks, we would most likely be repeating the initial phase of 6 weekly chemo treatments again, just because of her lung involvement, and other organs. He then said 4 beautiful words in regards to her chest x-ray today…..”It cleared up some”! That was music to my ears. The lungs are one of the slowest organs to show healing!

God, You amaze me! I thank You for guiding the doctors, the researchers, the nurses, the lab techs. I thank you for placing this passion on their hearts. I thank You for Your Word that declares Charlie’s healing. Thank You for using a sweet 18 month old angel to bring smiles to so many sad faces at the hospital today.

Thinking back to Charlie’s x-ray, I think she knew…. it was her first “Look at me, Momma!” Hooray!! Hallelujah!!

Road Trip in May – 5/19/2011

Last week we got the ok to travel up to Indiana for my niece Brittany’s wedding. It was a great time and Charlie had so much fun playing with aunts, uncles, cousins, Nana and Papa, and friends of Mommy and Daddys!! I have tried to be so cautious about her being exposed to alot of kids at once, as to keep her from catching a cold or virus.

Would you know the second night we were there, her own two sisters were up all night vomiting and with fevers!!!! Charlie slept through it all, never got sick, and when we got home and had her fourth treatment on Monday, all of her counts were good!! Thank you Jesus, for your Hand of protection!

Dr. Watts said he wants Charlie to have a chest x-ray this Monday, “just to see where we are”. I am hoping, praying and believing that “where we are” is the at the beginning of many “Miracle Mondays” to come!

I have been unusually anxious (not directly about Charlie) lately, and I am refusing to allow discouragement take up residence here. I read a womens devotional yesterday, which happened to be on the topic of becoming who God wants you to be. We often get lost in doing for others and pleasing everyone else, we forget to ask God who HE wants us to be. He had a plan in mind when He made each one of us. For me…I always wanted to be a mom. I am thanking God today for the opportunity to be mommy to 3 fabulous little girls!

The scripture that went with yesterdays devotion was…”I will praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:14

This is the scripture that I had written in colorful magic marker and stickers and hung on the wall at the end of Charlie’s bed while she was in the hospital. What a great reminder that He has it all in control.

Sweet Charlie, you were WONDERFULLY made!!!!

Thank you to all of you who have prayed, supported, cried with us, sent cards, made phone calls, and given hugs. We love you all!

Flying Pacifiers – 5/9/2011

Flying Pacifiers

It’s been awhile since I updated Charlies journal. As most of you know, our state suffered some severe tornadoes a couple of weeks ago. We were without power for a few days, and internet until a few days ago. I have no complaints. I have the sound of my children playing each day. I have my husband and my friends. My heart hurts for those who lost their homes…and their loved ones. Our prayers are with them.

Charlie had her second chemo treatment last Monday, and she did great! We recieved a bit of bad news at the visit. The results from her biopsy the week before showed that she also has LCH in her bone marrow. We are to continue with the treatments as the protocol recommends, and at the 6 week mark, will repeat all scans and another bone marrow biopsy. At that point, if changes need to be made, we will find out then.

This news had the potential to freak me out a bit, but a heart to heart with my patient husband helped me out. Bottom line. We knew Charlie needed a miracle. She still does. That hasn’t change. There is no need to worry. It does nothing to solve, heal, restore, or uplift. So we pray…and we follow the doctors advice…and we wait for our miracle.

Charlie is doing great with her treatments! She had her third one today. Blood counts are good! The only side affect we notice is she is cranky and strong willed. 🙂 We were told its the Prednisone. Thank you Prednisone, for making my sweeter than icing little girl into pickle juice! It’s not really that bad, but today at clinic, she was throwing pacifiers, sippy cups, and slapped the nurses hand when she was doing vitals. Oh, my dear Charlie….this will get better, I promise!

After her treatment, we went for Chinese food, and her fortune cookie read “Time heals all wounds. Keep your chin up.”

How fitting. For my fellow Alabamians suffering from the recent storms…keep your chin up. Our precious baby girl Charlie….keep your chin up. We love you and you are the bravest fighter I know!

Our Walk Continues…

When I hear the words “life is a journey”, I usually think of a slow, lazy trip that one is taking with interesting little twists and turns along the way.  Our journey as of late has been like being stuck on the Verrazano Bridge at 5:30 pm with no A/C in the middle of July, with hungry kids screaming in the backseat, my Diet Coke all gone, a migraine, and the gas tank pushing well below “E”. I think you have the picture! 🙂

It’s not really that bad, to be honest. But I think to best describe it, we are just walking.  One foot in front of the other…the cool down, so to speak.  I thought I would try to keep everyone updated on Charlie’s journey, by keeping up blog entries when there has been a new development or change in plan, etc.

We want to thank each and every one of you for your many, many prayers, concerns, talks, listening ears, wisdom, and most of all just being there. The one thing we have learned in such a short time these past few weeks is that there is still a lot of good in this world. There are compassionate eyes, and open arms. There are shoulders that still do not mind if you cry on them. There are strangers who become close to your heart in an instant.

Yesterday,  Charlie has her skeletal survey done. Basically, a full body x-ray to look for any holes or lesions in her bones. We later met with her oncologist, Dr. Watts, at Children’s Hosptial here in Birmingham.

He informed us that the gum lesion that was biopsied in December had been re-evaluated and it was also LCH (Langerhans Cell Hystiocytosis). He then let us know that there were at least one, and maybe 2 holes that showed up on her skull from the skeletal survey. These three things combined put her in the “Multi-site, high risk” category.” Multi-site”, because of all 3 locations, and “high risk” because of a major organ (lung) involvement.

He explained the recommended treatment (combination of steroids and IV Chemo) which is a national protocol that all of the doctors follow when treating LCH. We were all in agreement to wait a couple of weeks, repeat the Chest CT, and a full Head CT. He is recommending we start the treatment at that time.

We know that the God we serve is a Healer! Please continue to hold our precious Charlie in your prayers. God will get the glory, regardless of which way the road twists or turns in the days ahead. No matter what path our feet walk down, God will have gone before us, paving the way.

His Hand will be evident. His Arms will be constant. His “Grace” will be sufficient. 🙂

Love Conquers All

Yesterday afternoon, Charlie Grace and I pulled into the now very familiar parking deck at Children’s Hospital. We were here to get the results from her lung biopsy that was done about a week and a half ago. I have to be honest. I really and truly expected more of the same. “Negative, negative, negative”. 

So, the doctor comes in and asks me how much they had told me when we were discharged from hospital a week before. Hmmm, that doesn’t sound promising. She then tells me that Charlie has been tested positive for a condition called Histiocytosis, and then sums it up by saying “its’s not really cancer, but treated like it, with chemo, etc”. We are to get yet more blood work, and then see the oncologist down the hall.

We grabbed our yogurt, bag of Sun Chips and pretzels, and headed to the lab. It was there that I once again had a glimpse of love. As I have mentioned before, Charlie doesn’t do well with getting her blood drawn. She has very tiny veins that love to collapse. This time, I decided to say to her over and over a phrase from a song I made up and sing to her a lot. So I am saying “Happy girl, good girl”, and through her screams and tears, she cries out “Happy dirl, dood dirl!” I just squeezed her closer and said “yes, baby you are a good, good girl and it’s gonna be ok!!”

Later on, while driving down the interstate,  I would cry out to God, and it probably sounded to Him a bit like Charlie’s cry to me. Full of anguish, a little hard to understand, but you know what? He understood and at that moment, I felt Him squeeze me just a little tighter and say…it’s gonna be ok!!

I love how God lets the little things, the ordinary, become so monumental just when we need it. Yesterday was full of ups and downs emotionally.  Last night I was lying down with Dakota, our 2 and half year old, and thought she had fallen asleep. Thoughts from the day took over and with my mind and body being weary, I began to cry. It was then I felt her stir. She reached over and put her arm around my neck and said 3 precious words…. “Pray…Mommy sad”, and then leaned over and gave me the sweetest kiss on my cheek.

I am thankful for the moments when fear fades, and is replaced with hope. I am now living out the words of a famous phrase.  Love conquers all. It really does.  It was love that saw 3 beautiful little girls, picked us out to be their mommy and daddy, and put within us the strongest love you can imagine. 

Dearest Dakota, Addison, and Charlie Grace….these days are a little topsy turvy, but know that we love you more than we will ever be able to express.  You have a Heavenly Father whose love for you makes ours pale in comparison. So never fear, baby girl, love always has and always will conquer all.

You have taught children and infants to tell of Your strength, silencing your enemies and all who oppose you“. Psalm 8:2 (Thank you to my brother David for sending this scripture…)