Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Who Knew?

I bought a remote for my camera last week and if I had known how much the boys were going to love it, I would have bought one long ago!  (Wait . . . boys?  remote?  Of course they love it!)  We had the best time smiling and cheesing for the camera with no one behind it.  They thought it was hilarious!  Guess I'll start shooting the pictures like this from now on if it means getting a genuine smile from them!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

In Heaven

Joy pulsated through me as I looked around, and at that moment I became aware of a large crowd of people.  They stood in front of a brilliant, ornate gate.  I have no idea how far away they were; such things as distance didn't matter.  As the crowd rushed toward me, I didn't see Jesus, but I did see people I had known . . . their presence seemed absolutely natural.  

They rushed toward me, and every person was smiling, shouting, and praising God.  Although no one said so, intuitively I knew they were my celestial welcoming committee.  It was as if they had all gathered just outside heaven's gate, waiting for me . . .

 . . . and as I stared into his face, an ecstatic bliss overwhelmed me.  I didn't think about his . . . death, because I couldn't get past the joy of our reunion.  How either of us reached heaven seemed irrelevant . . .

 . . .When I attended his funeral, I wondered if I would ever stop crying.  I couldn't understand why God had taken [him].  Through the years since then, I had never been able to forget the pain and sense of loss.  Not that I thought of him all the time, but when I did, sadness came over me.

Now I saw [him] in heaven.  As he slipped [his hand in mine], my pain and grief vanished.  Never had I seen [him] smile so brightly.  I still didn't know why, but the joyousness of the place wiped away any questions.  Everything felt blissful.  Perfect . . .

~from 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper

Saturday, August 27, 2011

34/52 Connections

Brother's Pucker

Jackson is not shy when it comes to kissing and hugging.  And he holds nothing back when it comes to kissing Clayton either!  It's taken a while for Clayton to warm up to him, but most days he is accepting of the affection and kisses Jackson right back.  Yes, they are boys, but I still think this is as precious as can be--I'm sure in ten years, they'll be just a wee bit embarrassed if I show this around!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

We Prayed, He Healed. Now We Tell!

Tuesday afternoon was like any other.  Jackson napping, Clayton watching a Gaither video as he rested after therapy.  At 3:00, Clayton was fine and dandy.  By 4:30, he was wretching from nausea and white as a ghost.  Since Clayton can't actually throw up because of his nissen fundoplication, he never gets that relief that vomiting can give you if you are extremely nauseated.  So the nausea just lingers and lingers . . . my problem was trying to figure out what actually brought this sudden change on in just a matter of minutes.  In the meantime, he got to where he couldn't even keep his eyes open and he wanted me to hold him--a classic sign that he just plain doesn't feel good!  My thoughts immediately went to his shunt and wondering if it was malfunctioning.  We are no strangers to shunt malfunctions, and all of these symptoms are classic signs.  By the time Brian got home at 5, Clayton was in bad shape, lethargic and dry heaving constantly.  We knew it was time to pack our bags.  Yes, it might have been a stomach bug, but we just didn't want to chance waiting too long.  Our dilemma these days with shunt issues is the fact that we do not want the neurosurgeon at ACH to operate on Clayton.  Simply put: we don't trust him and don't appreciate his lack of bedside manner.  We made the decision to drive to Memphis to see his neurosurgeon at LeBonheur Children's Hospital.  Meanwhile, I let prayer warriors know that intercession on Clayton's behalf was needed.  Through the power of the internet and cell phones, word spread quickly that Clayton needed prayer.  I have no doubt that the doors of Heaven were nearly knocked over with the prayers of the righteous!

Christians are never to stop praying, particularly for each other. We should never hesitate to turn to our fellow believers with our prayer requests and needs, nor should we neglect to pray for them regularly.  James 5:16 (NIV)

Clayton slept most of the way to Memphis, waking up only a few times to try and vomit.  I sat in the backseat, holding him as I prayed.  My prayers are not those of an eloquent preacher.  They are the simple prayers of a desperate mother:  "PLEASE LORD, FIX THIS!  WHATEVER IT IS, JUST LET HIS BODY FUNCTION NORMALLY!  PLEASE HELP HIM!  PROTECT HIM!"  God hears all prayers--it doesn't have to sound like a well-rehearsed sonnet to fall on the Lord's ears!  As I prayed, I knew people all around the country were calling out to God on Clayton's behalf.  What an absolute humbling thought!  To know that Christians everywhere have dropped to their knees in prayer for my baby boy!  Such a blessing!!!!

From the moment we walked into the hospital, Clayton's condition began to improve.  After suffering through x-rays and a CT scan, he was literally back to his old self.  His CT scans were basically like his MRI back in July when he was completely well.  The doctor tapped his shunt to check the fluid and mechanism and all was fine on that front as well.  We stayed overnight for good measure  (didn't want to have to drive all that way more than once!) and Clayton seemed even better after a good nap on Wednesday.  

Why did Clayton get so sick, so fast?  We have no idea!  Was it a shunt malfunction?  Who knows?!  All I know is he was really sick--borderline scary sick, and once the prayer warriors started petitioning Heaven, his symptoms were gone!    We would be completely remiss if we did not give God the glory for this!  I admit that in the past, His answers to our prayers have not always been to my liking.  It seems he usually likes to do the roundabout, back door answers to prayer in our lives . . . but in this case, he answered quickly and very specifically!  Praise the Lord!

We don't want you in the dark, friends, about how hard it was when all this came down on us in Asia province. It was so bad we didn't think we were going to make it. We felt like we'd been sent to death row, that it was all over for us. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally—not a bad idea since he's the God who raises the dead! And he did it, rescued us from certain doom. And he'll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing. You and your prayers are part of the rescue operation—I don't want you in the dark about that either. I can see your faces even now, lifted in praise for God's deliverance of us, a rescue in which your prayers played such a crucial part.  2 Corinthians 1:8-11 (The Message)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

One Last Look . . .

. . . at a vacation photo.  :)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

33/52 Slow Down and Look Back

Can't Help But Look Back

This week's theme was easy for me.  I spend each month of August struggling through the "what-ifs" related to Shawn's death.  My mother's heart still wants to "mother" him and my hands are left idle in this regard . . . eight years and it still hurts.  

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Good Birthday

For Clayton's birthday celebration this year, we kept everything low-key since we were at the beach.  And you know what?  I think he was just fine with that!  Cake, ice cream, his cousins and his brother, and he was good to go!
His birthday each year is always a struggle for me, for obvious reasons.  It's the epitome of bittersweet.  But since we were totally out of our normal environment, I didn't have to hide any tears during our little party.  I was able to totally focus on the happiness Clayton brings us.  It was quite refreshing!
It was definitely a happy birthday for this sweet boy!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Passing It On

Our last evening on the beach was beautiful and peaceful.  Brian and I walked down to the water with Jackson to soak up our last bits of the ocean before it was time to pack up.  The water was strangely calm compared to the beginning of the week, and it was a nice change.  Brian took Jackson for one last swim while I watched from the beach. 
Brian grew up around the ocean.  In his circle of friends, it was standard practice to spend their free time at the beach.  He still has that love for the sand and the water.
Maybe Brian didn't think anything of it, but I loved watching these moments between them.  And while they initially took off on a search for Nemo, I could tell that eventually the conversation turned into a general oceanography lesson.  I could just hear Brian in my mind explaining the ins and outs of ocean life to Jackson's little ears.  I watched as Jackson took it all in, very seriously studying all that Daddy was pointing out.  
Brian has done his best to share his knowledge and love of the beach life with Clayton, but he's never been able to fully let loose like this.  With Clayton's sensory issues and limited mobility, it's just never been doable.  It was a special moment indeed for Brian to be able to share this part of his life with his youngest son.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Old Pro

While Jackson may have started out a bit hesitant, by the end of our week at the beach, he was an old pro at enjoying the ocean.  Once he made friends with the sand, he was home free to play in the water.  It helped that he had his cousins along to show him the ropes.

It even got to the point of him not getting ENOUGH fun with the sand--seems we brought plenty of it back to our condo via every nook and cranny on his little body!
Yep, his tune definitely changed after he "got his feet wet," so to speak.  Once he was used to the new surroundings, the fun never stopped for Good Time Charlie!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

32/52 Destin 2011

By all accounts, best vacation we've had in quite a while!!  Our time together as a family was wonderful!

Friday, August 12, 2011

31/52 Sky

The Sky is Falling

Last week's theme was "sky," so I decided to fudge a bit and wait until we got to the beach to take that particular photo.  I knew I would be able to get a massive sky shot here.  The weather didn't let me down--the storms have rolled in each evening and literally pressed down over us.  Beautiful in an awe-inspiring way!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Eight is GREAT!

Happy Birthday to a very special little boy!  Clayton, you continue to impact the world and those around you in a very unique and positive way---we love you and are so blessed to call you ours!!!!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Still Not Sure

Last year, during our visit to the beach, Jackson was a little weirded out by the whole experience.  He just didn't quite know how to take the sand.  This summer's visit is turning out to be no different.  (Maybe sensory issues run in the family, whether you are born preemie or not!)  He is still wanted us to carry him if he had to go more than two or three steps, and the water was definitely freaking him out.    
He wasn't even keen on others enjoying the water--he sat in the shade and pined away for whoever was in the ocean.
But then Brian threw out the curveball:  FINDING NEMO.  He told Jackson that the ocean was where Nemo lived and that they needed to go look for him.  It worked like a charm!  He came back chatty-cathy about their search in the water.  :)
Hopefully by the end of the week, he'll be an old pro!

Friday, August 05, 2011


**You'll have to ignore the video issues!

The Love of God

  1. The love of God is greater far
    Than tongue or pen can ever tell.
    It goes beyond the highest star,
    And reaches to the lowest hell.
    The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
    God gave His Son to win.
    His erring child He reconciled,
    And pardoned from his sin.
    • Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!
      How measureless and strong!
      It shall forevermore endure—
      The saints’ and angels’ song.
  2. Could we with ink the ocean fill,
     And were the skies of parchment made.
    Were every stalk on earth a quill,
    And every man a scribe by trade.
    To write the love of God above
    Would drain the ocean dry!
    Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
    Though stretched from sky to sky!

    Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!
    How measureless and strong!
    It shall forevermore endure—
    The saints’ and angels’ song.

    It shall forevermore endure—
    The saints’ and angels’ song.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

30/52 Phillipians 1:3

As becoming my habit, I skipped the group's theme for last week's photo.  I had a ton of photos from VBS and also lots from our Family Ministry Retreat on Friday night.  I chose this photo for the week because it represents more than just a group of people meeting to nail down the details of a new ministry for the church.  This core group represents the many close friends in our church who have weathered every storm and celebrated every triumph of my family during the last ten years.  From the major things like literally praying down Heaven on behalf of Shawn and Clayton to the small details of doing our laundry for weeks on end (Thanks, Holly!), these people have helped carry us through.

Even more than that, this group (and church as a whole) is so different from any other I've attended in my lifetime.  Most churches I've attended seemed to hand out masks at the door.  Everyone always put on their church face, if you will.  And while that does happen at our church, it happens in a different way.  No other way to explain it except to say that I feel like these people are REAL.  Also?  They know the REAL me and they love me anyway!

I thank my God every time I remember you. Phillipians 1:3

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

A Battle of Wills

Under the cover of darkness during this last week, it seems that someone kidnapped my sweet baby and replaced him with a look-alike who is in full-fledged TWO YEAR OLD mode.  
This child has been close to impossible these last few days!!  And while I'm nearly at my wit's end, I have a feeling I'm only at the beginning of this phase.  Not good news at all.  Locking me out of the house and bedrooms at random, throwing items out of the car window, refusing to nap or go to bed at night, escaping from the five-point harness of his seatbelt . . . these are just a few of the antics that he seems to do for fun.  

I hate it.  I don't hate it just because it's misbehavior.  I hate it because I feel like our whole relationship now revolves around him misbehaving and me correcting him.  What happened to our cuddling time?  What happened to the sweet kisses and hugs?  I am on him all the time!  And the thing is, I don't know how not to be since he is CONSTANTLY into something.  This morning we had one of many standoffs.  He escaped out to the backyard (does this often by climbing on whatever is closest to unlock the deadbolt), and I asked him to come back inside.  Well, even though he can move like lightning at any other time, he moved at a snail's pace coming in the door while the cool A/C air quickly escaped.  I warned him repeatedly to step on it, but to no avail.  I finally got onto him and swatted him on the booty--of course he went into meltdown mode and started flailing around, crying and hanging on me as I walked.  I sat him in the chair and told him he had to sit there until he calmed down.  (Of course I had to sit there too because he does not stay in "time out" on his own).  FIFTEEN MINUTES later he finally stopped crying and walked off like nothing had ever happened.  Meanwhile, I just wanted to sit there for fifteen more minutes and cry about the whole episode!  It would be a whole lot simpler if he would learn lessons the easy way, but I have a feeling he is so headstrong that every lesson is going to come with blood, sweat, and tears.  

Heaven help me.