Monday, May 31, 2010

Things are going well!

Hello everyone,

I want to take a minute here and give you a quick update and also just to say "thank you," again. 

Thank you, because...we have been very blessed by your love, your prayers, and the financial help that some of you have given.  My friend Connie, at Smockity Frocks, actually did a "fund-raiser" to help us during these months that Jeff is out of work.  (Connie did that in the remaining weeks before her 8th baby arrived.  She's super-woman, I tell you!)  Our local homeschooling community, church, family, and friends from prior communities have helped us in so many ways, too.  Our pantry and freezer are full.  We look forward to the day (soon) when we are back on our feet and we are standing ready to help others who are in need of supplies, or comfort, or financial help.

We didn't expect any of this - didn't feel that we deserved it when there are so many people who are going thru trials and who need help.  We think that we are in the midst of not only healing, (physical and emotional) but of being reminded of some very important things.  Things like loving others and giving and thinking creatively how to give.  Things like what a gift it is to be an encouragement to others and how important it is to pray for people who are going thru trials.  We never do know how God might move - or even how our prayers might be needed.  Prayer isn't always only for physical healing - sometimes prayer carries and strengthens those who feel weak or who are hurting so badly they don't even know how they should pray.  Pray, always.  :)

So, once more, please accept our thanks, our love, and our appreciation for you and the many different ways you have supported us.  We would be a real mess without you.

Things really are going well for Jeff.  We are almost four weeks out from the onset of his illness.  His strength is being regained.  He is not to full capacity yet, he has a ways to go for that to happen, but he is doing well.  His mobility is good, too - he's able to climb a few steps and get in and out of the car/van.  (Let me tell ya, that's a good thing.  :)  He was getting tired of being chauffeured around.)

We have an appointment to see the infectious disease doctor this week.  His blood has to be drawn every week, so we should hear a report on that.  (We think things are fine in that area.)  No - he's not a risk to anyone else.  :)  If there is any of the staph bacteria left in his bloodstream or in his hip joint, it is contained.  The doctors are pretty confident that his bloodstream is clear - the hip joint is the remaining question at this point. 

Jeff has been able to go to church, and a couple of other places.  He's extremely happy to no longer be house bound.  If a second surgery were not necessary, he could probably return to work within a few weeks when the PICC line comes out. The cement beads (which emit a powerful dose of antibiotics) have to come out on July 9th, though, and there is a short hospitalization and a two week recovery time following that surgery.  If all continues to go well, it is looking like he will be back to work in the late part of July.

Hope you all are doing well, please feel free to drop me an e-mail or a note if there is any way that we can help you or pray for you.

In God's love,


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mutter about clutter

I walked onto my backporch today,
feeling frustrated and overwhelmed,

...stuff everywhere:
shoes that should have been put away,
a guitar case, jars to go back to the cellar,
boxes to be thrown away and oh, you know...

"Mutter, mutter, mutter."
"These kids...WHY can't they clean up their messes?"
"WHY can't they even SEE their messes?"
"We've worked on this type of thing for YEARS!"

Now, I know that many people do not believe that
God talks to people today,
but I have not found it so in my life.
His Spirit speaks to mine, and mid-mutter these words
were impressed upon my soul:

"Why do you obsess over this?
Why do you care what other people think, so much?
I don't care about this.  This clutter bothers you,
but it doesn't bother ME at all."

Hmmm.  Caught up short, again.
Confusing peripheral things with important things, again.
Yes, a lack of clutter and a clean house make 
our lives run more smoothly...
but it's not more important than
the people that live inside.

When will I learn?
A little bit more today, I hope.

Monday, May 24, 2010

One down, eight to go.

Yes, I have already posted, but I didn't want to neglect posting our oldest son's graduation pictures.  He graduated this past Saturday with 9 other homeschooled students from our area.  It was a really neat experience.  On the one hand, it was hard to believe that my  (once) little boy has already made it through 13 years of school; on the other hand, it is sobering that I still have 8 more students to go.  No room to rest on laurels, yet.  :)

 Jake has been an easy student from the get-go.  He's the type that you would have to lock in a dark closet to keep him from learning - and even then he would probably devise more creative strategies to complex problems than he would have in light and freedom.  A "true lemons into lemonade", "there's no obstacle, it's just a stepping stone or an opportunity for growth" type of fellow.  He's the sort of student who could confuse you into thinking that the home-educating journey would be a piece of cake and that you should jump in with both feet.  (Grin.  They're not all like that, let me assure you....)  Jake's just...been a joy.  He loves God and seeks to serve Him.  That means the most of all. 

It was a real and true honor to be the one to hand the diploma to Jacob.  (Jeff was unable to come to the ceremony - too far of a drive and too long to sit upright...)  We've been on this journey since the day he was born - and it's exciting to see Jake enter a new stage of life.  He's ready.

 He's applied for a full-time position at the library he already works at part-time, and he will be taking five classes this fall at one of our local colleges.  A couple of the classes will be on-line, and one at night.  He has a basket full of potential colleges and the test scores and grades to back it all up - but he has chosen the "no debt" plan to get his degree (computer programming) - and that plan begins by living at home for the next year and attending school nearby.  The choice was his to make, but it sounds like a good plan to me.  I'd love to see him earn his bachelor's (or beyond) without carrying a large amount of debt.  Personally, I think it is good for a young person to work their way through college - we appreciate what we have had to work hard to accomplish.  Besides.  I'm not in any rush to send him far away.  I need his tech support too much.

We're proud of you, Jake.


I have a great update for you. 

(Isn't it good to hear that someone has GOOD NEWS?) 

Well, since I last wrote here, my husband has been making steady ('tho slow) progress.  He's a little bit better every day...stronger, less sore, more mobile.

We saw the surgeon Friday. Things look good; the surgeon is pleased.  He examined Jeff and said, "You were a very sick boy, you know. Very sick." He looked at me and said, "He was SEPTIC, you know. We were just a day or so away from losing him..." I buried my head in my lap and said, "I know. I know. I know!" And I DO know, and I knew that at the time, no matter what anyone was telling me, no matter how much I tried to "think happy thoughts." The surgeon's re-iteration just knocked the breath right out of me with the "what-ifs." I did not visit those "what-ifs" at the time Jeff was so ill, although I did know what we were up against.  It is now, in retrospect, that I've been picturing how very, very different my life could be right now.  Thankfulness doesn't even begin to describe how I feel!

A second surgery will take place in July, to remove a strand of antibiotic-releasing cement beads. Also, prior to that, needle aspiration of the joint fluid to test for eradication of infection. After surgery, there will be a second hospitalization and heal time of 2 - 3 weeks. That extends out of work time thru the middle of July.  (We didn't know how extensive the second surgery/heal time would be until this week.)

We have been surrounded and supported by loving arms and prayers and help like I have truly never witnessed nor experienced before. I MUST and I WANT to thank you each for that. Those of you who have helped out KNOW who you are and KNOW your gift of love to us, you know the prayers that you have prayed - and we pray that you will feel the love of God in return and that God's spirit will give you peace in your own hearts. In many ways, we find ourselves realizing that God's ways and how He interacts with humans is a bigger mystery than ever.

In some ways, I don't feel that my own faith has been so strong through this ordeal.  It is kind of difficult to explain.  It has not been absent, it has always been foundational and still solid beneath my feet.  In some ways, though, it felt as though that's where it stayed...beneath where I stood.  Faith didn't easily rise to my heart.  I felt a great disconnect, did not feel that I had any right to demand or expect a certain outcome from God.  I believed that He was in charge no matter what the ending, after all, He is our God in life and in death.  I felt, perhaps, a little bit wounded too, after the year we have had.  (If I am being honest, the last decade felt difficult.)  I still trusted Him - but I did not necessarily trust that this process would be painless.  And it wasn't painless, but it certainly is better (for me, for the kids, for him, for us) than it could have been! 

What I learned is this, and I mean what I say.  I'm not saying nice things to make people feel good.  :)  What I learned and felt for the first time ever is this:  When our faith is not strong, it is the prayers and arms of other believers and people who care who truly hold us up and support us.  Other people serve as the literal hands, arms, feet, and heart of the God who LOVES and the God who CARES.  (And I want to remind you that He feels this way about YOU too.  Yes, YOU! )  We can read it a thousand times over the course of our lives, but until we experience it first hand, it won't carry the same magnitude.  Thank you, each one of you, for lifting us up when we were too weary to walk on in faith.

We don't feel that we have Him figured out (at all!) Yet, we can say with confidence that He is WITH us. In our life, and in the Resurrection, He is our hope and the very foundation of our being.

Thank you, again, for praying.  Thank you too, for your cards and your gifts which have been sent with the message of God's love to our hearts.  We received the message.  :)


Friday, May 14, 2010

Good news, bad news, good news.

Again, it has been way too long since I have updated here.  I know that at some point it becomes not so cool to apologize for long delays in posting, but in this instance I am apologizing because we've had some really big things going on in our family.  I have wanted to post to update you, but have just not had the time nor the wherewithal to post.  My emotions have been on such a roller coaster, that I have not been able to put together a coherent post.

I have good news, and I have more good news - but there was a really tough time preceding the second good news.  Follow me?  :)

I'll start with the good news first:  We are expecting baby number 9!  I'm close to the halfway mark.  We don't know yet if it is a girl or a boy, we might find out in a couple of weeks.  I didn't intend to really keep it a secret this long, but, well...I'll tell you all about that in another post.

The really tough time started a couple of weeks ago.  Most of our family had gone through a difficult flu.  I was affected quite strongly.  I was FLAT on my face for two days solid.  Fever, nausea, joint pain.  My husband, Jeff, did not get the flu with the rest of us.  He usually doesn't.

One night about a week later, Jeff suddenly got ill at midnight.  He started shaking with chills and he had sharp pain in his left hip.  Soon after, he got a fever.  We attributed his fever and chills to the flu, and we thought his hip pain was due to a pulled muscle he obtained while working on a home he is remodeling on the side.  (He had hip resurfacing three years ago, and had never had any problems at all.)  We thought it just felt worse because of the fever and the flu.s

Jeff is a typical guy - fairly sure that he can tough out most situations.  If it was the flu, there wasn't anything the doctors could do anyway, we reasoned.  We waited thru the weekend, and his fever did not go down and the pain was getting worse.  We called our doctor, and she told us to go to the emergency room.

We did so.  I will condense for the sake of brevity here and just say that after a very painful day with many scans and a needle aspiration of the fluid in his hip joint, he was admitted to the hospital and surgery was set for the next day.  There was a LOT of fluid and a staph infection in his hip joint.

Our oldest children went into high gear and handled things very well at home.  I will say this, they do know how to run a home when they need to do so.  We were facing a lot of stress and turmoil, and yet, I had peace in knowing that the little ones were well taken care of by people who knew them and knew their routines.  It is a true blessing to have reached this point in parenting.  Just a few years ago we would have been scrambling and it would have felt horrible.  It's so different to have a son who can drive to the store to get milk and who can drive his siblings to the hospital to see their dad.  I'm still not used to it - but it is good.

I met with the surgeon right before the operation.  He was extremely kind and seemed overwhelmed that this sick guy he was working on had 8 children with one one the way.  He told me that he would be taking apart Jeff's hip prosthetic, doing his best to clean out the infection, putting it all back together again, and inserting a strand of cement beads which emit a very strong antibiotic over a two month period into the hip joint.  He told me that he would do his best to save the hip joint.

Jeff made it through the surgery okay, but we learned that the staph infection had invaded his bloodstream.  That is a very, very bad thing.  The bacteria had also begun to terrorize Jeff's hip bone, and that had to be cleaned out.  The surgeon had to modify his technique for pain control because of the infection in the blood.  Following surgery, he was just sweating, and he told me that this type of thing is his worst nightmare.  He said that he hates this bacteria and what it does to the human body.  He told me that he had done his best.  I told him that I had a very good friend who was widowed at the age of 29 due to a staph infection.  He turned his head, could not look at me, and shook his head and said, "Yeah."  The next day, the Infectious Disease doctor told us both that "one more day...and...there would not have been very much that we could do."  The surgeon told us that the cement beads in Jeff's hip carry a lethal amount of antibiotic - were they to be given by mouth they would kill a person.  They were very aggressive and very serious about this infection.

That'll take your breath away, for sure.  I'm getting old enough and I've seen enough, that I already knew this was reality.  It was very, very real.

(In another post I'd like to talk about faith and trust and what that was like this time around.  I struggled, to be honest.  There's so much to say about all of that, but I'll save that for another day.)

The next few days were a blur:  ivs, and antibiotics, fever and an inability to keep anything down, blood tests and lab results.  The kids maintained things at home, while local friends grabbed hands and caught us as we fell - bringing meals so the kids didn't have to cook.  I divided my time between home and the hospital, loving on the little ones and doing my best to help them feel secure while also keeping family up to date and making a lot of phone calls, and maintaining laundry.  All mothers will appreciate when I say that Mariam was almost completely potty trained when this happened.  She kept up the good work, with just a few accidents.  Laundry was not an option, shall we say.  :)

Once Jeff was fairly stable, I spent the nights at home.  I wanted the kids to have at least some sense of routine.  (Ha.)  The first night, I did not feel confident that he would make it.  I did not really sleep much at all.  Impossible, when the man you've loved since you were seventeen might breathe his last while you are away. He is not only a husband, he was first and is still my best friend, the person I am closest to on this earth.

I also developed a nasty, nasty cold.  I found myself offended by that cold.  It was the last thing I needed.  How dare it foist itself upon me?  :)  It was just one more thing.

The days blur together, but at one point we got the good news that the infection appeared to be gone from Jeff's bloodstream.  We will not know about the infection in his hip for a couple of months, until the cement beads are removed from his hip (another surgery.)  If the antibiotics did not do their job, then he would most likely need a total hip replacement.  (We really pray that this works.....)

Jeff has been home from the hospital for a week now.  The first several days were difficult for him.  He has to use a walker to get around, and he ran a low grade fever with very little appetite.  He is on a PICC line, and has to administer IV antibiotics 3x daily for six weeks.  He has to be out of work for six weeks, and his job place offers no short term disability.  The best they offer is the FMLA, which means he can't lose his job for up to 12 weeks.   Even without a paycheck, he must belly up his insurance costs - we would not want to lose his insurance at this point in the game.

But the good news is this:  Jeff is still with us.  Today he turned a corner.  His color has returned and he has simply felt better.  He has begun to administer his own meds and even though he is stiff and sore he is moving a little better.  His fever is gone.  Beyond that - God really IS providing.  He IS.  He has used friends both near and far - He is loving on us through PEOPLE.  We are so deeply grateful - it is difficult to communicate just how much.

If YOU have prayed for us, or have lent a helping hand, please know that our hearts are very humbled and touched - and we don't take it for granted.

The days are crazy, but I will try to update at least once a week.  Thanks for your prayers, thanks, in advance, for your comments.

Love, Holly