REAL Back to School Preparation for the Compromised: A New World

Those first week of school pictures were adorable. Each of your precious kiddos stood with their outfits, backpacks or sat at their home-school tables ready to go. Parents kept social media and stores busy with shopping lists, large purchases and offers of school clothing swaps. Oh, the preparation represented!

Whew. Now that the first week or so is over, it’s time for the a new school preparation. I’m talking about stocking up on vitamins, immune boosters and cleaners. Let me show you how I prepared for school. I turned into the ‘OCD-cleaning-frenzy mommy’.

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Now we must prepare for the REAL back-to-school onslaught. Prepare for the Crud. The Plague. The Pink-Eyed Monster. The germs are here. After only TWO DAYS Jonathan’s teacher has called in sick with pink-eye. William’s Physical Therapist cancelled on account of illness. Playdates are being cancelled right and left. The sound of sniffling is breaking the silence. Our kids are going DOWN, y’all. They will be snotty. They will cough. They will use us as human tissues and towels. This is the joy that will ensue and continue until Christmas, when we all visit other states and spread our strains of viruses to others and bring it home, infect others and then suffer until Spring Break.

Sick kids were a problem before, but now I’m in a new world that I only vaguely knew existed.

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This is a very crucial problem for us this year because William the Conqueror’s immune system is very low and compromised. It’s making into a New Mom. With my firstborn I was careful, but didn’t sanitize the pacifier when it dropped. I thought eating a handful of dirt was an ‘immune system builder’. I was once told that I was ‘a first time mom that acts like a third time mom’. I took it as a compliment. Then cancer happened and I am now turning into a super-germ-destroyer because I’ve seen what happens to William when the usual illnesses hit his defenseless body. His suffering is drastically disproportionate to ours.

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The 24 tummy bug that was passed around was a serious issue when William caught it. 7 days caused a 4 pound weight loss and ultimately sent him to the ER. With a brother in school bringing home the Elementary-Influenza, this house is on lock down.

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All toys get washed every two days. I also wash the toys at church. Everything is on the ground and touching mouths.

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At the door we have a shoe station. Shoes are shed at the door to avoid tracking outdoor germs where Will crawls. We have hand sanitizer and wipes to clean the doorknob. We even have face masks for people to ‘just have allergies’ or ‘have a little tickle that is probably nothing’ for when flu season hits.

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Overkill? Yep. Am I terrified that he will get sick? Nope. It’s going to happen. He is in the Lord’s hands…and mine, which are clean.

It reminds me that things outside my doors are different. We have changed circumstances and changed lifestyles. We seem like masters of overkill, unusual and even trapped in a bubble. It’s what we do to protect our children. There are a lot of things out there in the world to protect our kids from and to face head on. We can pretend like they don’t exist, or we can confront them. More importantly, we can’t let fear control us or over-influence our actions. If the Lord saw fit to bring my boys through serious illnesses and challenges, there is purpose. Nothing is wasted.

What is threatening your home and or your children? Physical threat? Spiritual attack? Emotional issues? Anxiety? Starting over? The unknown? 

I have found that my friends and neighbors not only seek to understand our situation, but are very eager to enforce the shoes off-hands washed rule. The kids as great questions about the body, immunity, cancer ,chromosomes and vaccines. These kids are brilliant and their hearts are open to William. They are compassionate learners who are eager to show love and patience. We are training our children to be compassionate and to protect one another and in so doing, we mothers are protecting and encouraging each other. When someone we love is susceptible, it is our job to rally the troops and protect. It may seem counter-intuitive to some, but this is where love shows. This is how we are truly strengthened.

Wash your hands and say your prayers. Jesus and germs are everywhere.

Give Me A Break

This was an “exciting” week. It was the kind of exciting week when a husband is away for work and disaster strikes in the form of illness and injury. We had three urgent/emergency doctor’s appointments this week. Jon broke his elbow on the slide pictured behind us. William’s g tube is infected and has been bleeding for days.

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There has been quite a battle to get William proper care, but we finally have a plan for Friday. God provided friends who offered meals and encouragement just when I needed it.This uphill battle should be par for the course but my friends, I am so weary. My sons’ pain has worn me down physically and emotionally. Worse, I am tired AT God. Yes, I am exhausted in his general direction because this is the point where temptation to despair is most evident. Grace doesn’t feel sufficient when doctors won’t treat your screaming child and the other one wakes up every two hours, totally terrified that you are gone again. This is when the Devil taunts me, challenging that I am not content in all circumstances. This is when the weight of my children’s health feels like my responsibility because God seems to be taking too long. This is when a healthy family that isn’t in crisis mode seems like a hope that isn’t intended for our family. These are guilt-causing lies, my friends. LIES.

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This is the breaking point when faith is beyond feeling. Otherwise resentment, bitterness and doubt set in. This is when it feels like my faith isn’t strong enough, because of course my God is strong enough.

At church on Sunday, a woman who is pregnant asked us to pray for her unborn child. A recent scan showed a potential issue with in the brain and she is scared. As we came to pray, a woman insisted that before we pray for healing, her faith had to be strong enough to dismiss Satan’s power. Healing would come related to the mother’s faith. Um, WHAT?! No. This is a lie from the pit of Hell, and I told them so. Of COURSE, we should pray for supernatural healing from the one who designed this child. We know that God can heal the child and use the testimony. YES, God has performed amazing miracles and healing through prayer.  HOWEVER, God often uses what devastates us to make us more like himself. If God doesn’t do an immediate healing, the conclusion is that the problem is the faith of the afflicted. They are no longer in the faithful-elite-class. (Amusing, Paul’s thorn in his flesh wasn’t removed. Was it a faith problem? Hm.) We must be careful what we preach to the deeply wounded.

I reassured the mother that we would be here for them in any outcome and that she is not alone, because that is what you NEED to say to that mother. I WAS and AM that mother.

People suggested my faithful prayers would keep William from having Down Syndrome. They recounted stories of incorrect tests and assurances that doctors don’t know anything, even after I told them it was 100% sure, and that the third chromosome was seen in the blood. They were sure he would be born perfect. William was born complete and healthy… and with Down Syndrome.  IMG_5089

God used this blessing despite the prayers. I prayed for leukemia to be absent from his body and for infections to heal. Instead, they were treated. I watched families treat and pray diligently for their children…and those precious ones still died while well-meaning people sent suggestions for chemical-free remedies, proper prayer guides, and even suggested chemotherapy was the wrong course of action. I know, because all of these were given to me.

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I can think of another person of great faith who prayed for God to remove something but yielded to a greater plan… Jesus. In the garden the night he was betrayed he prayed for the cup to pass, but “even so Lord, not my will but yours be done.”

Faith brings you through the trial; faith isn’t intended to be an escape hatch. God’s healing is NOT always proportionate to prayer. Prayer is powerful and can bring healing. God has used answers to prayer to stop the sun, stop the rain, to raise the dead to life. Prayer is essential– so don’t misunderstand me. I just want to encourage those dealing with illness, cancer, disability, or even a child who isn’t sleeping that it isn’t caused by a lack of faith. God isn’t refusing to heal because of a lack of your belief that he can and will. Honestly, it does hurt when the answer is a no. It will feel like God isn’t faithful. It feels like God doesn’t love you, even when you know it isn’t true. Don’t cling to that lie. If you’re fighting that, you aren’t alone. I am struggling to cling to God during suffering too. I believe this process is called sanctification.

If you have a struggling friend, just love them. Be the hands and feet before you quote scripture and leave, thinking you’ve done a favor. Pharisees did that. The ones I adore are those who message me prayers, brought me meals, brought gifts for my boys and took care of Jonathan, the child who is always on the back burner while speaking God’s truth because they LIVED it. They helped me feel God’s love and fell in love with my William. We saw God do amazing things, even when he didn’t do what I asked him to do, with faith.

God’s ways are not our ways. That can be really hard to live with. It is also the greatest blessing.

The Parenting-Picture Challenge

Recently a friend took a picture of me…behind my back.

We were leaving her house to go in and make dinner. As I hoisted the toddler on my hip and walked home hand in hand with my other one, she called out, “Great job, Supermom!”

Then she snapped a picture. This picture.

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The irony is, in that moment the kids were in a “witching hour” cranky mood. One was wet, one wanted to keep playing and heaven knows where he kicked his shoes off. It was a moment when I felt flustered in my motherhood, and quite weary.

She sent me the picture and I admit, I started to pick apart the “errors” and things that need improvement when she said, “Look at this beautiful moment.”  What others saw was beautiful parenting when I saw the mess. Thank goodness for friends that take the wider view (but thankfully, not always the wider lens.)

I know we often see fellow parents in their mothering and see beautiful moments. We see sunscreen wiping and gleeful laughing at the pool. We see first steps and caring smiles as mothers push wheelchairs into therapy. I say that we capture, candidly if possible, some beautiful pictures of mothering.

This doesn’t have to be a literal picture. It can just be a call or text to a friend that says, “Hey, you really handled your kid’s public meltdown well. Your love really shows in the hard moments.” It can be a comment to a stranger who is rocking this glorious challenge we call parenting.

The other half of the challenge is not to pick apart what others see. While we are looking for missing shoes, weeds in the garden or examining that unflattering behind-view, we miss out on the beauty. We miss the fact that both my boys are together, unhooked from machines and can eat dinner in the same home. I get to make a healthy dinner. We have friends nearby to play with until dinner. The picture is beautiful in that light.  Sometimes we need a friend to loving smack some sense into us.

I challenge you to take a mental or literal picture of someone in a great moment of parenting, and tell them so. Make this someone you know– don’t be the iphone picture stalker, okay? I don’t want anyone thinking you are filming a meltdown. More importantly, remember that you are more beautiful and sanctified in the every day moments than we know. The laundry, the wiping, the scrubbing, the potty training, the driving lessons… these are the moments. The kids are ‘taking pictures’ in their hearts. You might be surprised how beautiful you look.

Waiting, Jesus and Tom Petty

I’ve decided our family balance is more like a see-saw. The objective is to keep moving, brace the crash and try not to bruise anything.

We are a bit out of sync right now. The strain became very evident today on our first “Free-Fun Day” in over a week.It is the only weekday without appointments, when Jonathan is free to play and be on his own schedule. Today his celebration of a friend’s birthday was interrupted twice so that William could have an evaluation and take a nap. William’s health concerns take precedence and Jonathan’s needs fall to the back burner. This is common in families with medical needs or other considerations. We say it makes them resilient, compassionate, and mature. It also leads to guilt, meltdowns, and resentment.Today it led to cookies. Jonathan looked at me today and said, “I know. Wait.” He promptly built a pillow fort and crushed it.

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I am fighting the desire to grow weary in doing good, my friends. Meeting new people, weakly smiling while people ask why my child can’t walk or eat independently and trying to allow them to have a childhood while providing what they need is just tough. A new friend told me how impatient I am in seeing progress with the boys. She’s right– despite amazing progress in two months, when they are constantly measured against an arbitrary standard they, and I, can’t keep up with. It’s my responsibility to move them forward, but eventually you drown the horse that you are trying to make drink.

Every time I wait in an office or at a therapy, my head fills with, “The Waiting is the Hardest Part.”

Today was William’s seventh evaluation in 30 days. SEVENTH. These are all necessary and schedules as conveniently as possible, but at 3 he will get services through another program and thus, gets another evaluation so that he can be treated at home due to his post-cancer immune system.  The woman was wonderful and very patient with my cranky kid. I told her about The Lost Year. She smiled and replied, “And I will restore the years that the locusts have destroyed.” Glory, hallelujah. She is just what we needed. God’s going to use us for good.

My boys have developed several new skills in two months, in spite of a move and 46 appointments in 75 days. They are doing better than me, I assure you.  Sometimes smiling and saying, “We basically lost a year of development in our family, but we’ll get there in time” feels like a promise that will never be reached. If there’s anything I have learned, it is that God keeps his promises, even if they don’t look like I expected.

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“Be Still and Wait on the Lord.” I’m not sure if there is a more comforting or painful instruction for my heart right now. Stillness is not something a house of toddler boys does well. I feel like we must do everything with greater effort to catch up to a useless and unmeetable standard.

“Am I a good mom?”  isn’t as important as “Am I a Godly mom?” God’s standard is different. I used to have a to-do list of the therapy exercises on the white board. Now I have a list that says, “Hugs. Encourage. Praise. Write down the victories. Tell them about Jesus. Show them faith in action. Pray.”  Whether my sons talk, read, or do grade level math on time isn’t as important as whether they  serve the Lord with an upright heart.

God doesn’t look at outward appearance, but at the heart. In Genesis, Joseph explained the meaning of  dreams for two fellow prisoners. When the Pharaoh’s cup-bearer was released, Joseph asked him to remember him. No doubt he thought he would escape his unjust sentence. Instead, he sat in prison for years until the Pharaoh’s dreams needed interpreting. YEARS. An innocent man worked hard and was given esteem in prison and yet remained there for years. I imagine the bitterness and frustrations crept up often.

Sarah, Rachel, Elizabeth… these women were given sons on divine timing after years of barrenness.  The new generation of Israelites waited 40 years to enter the Promised Land. King David was chased for years by raging Saul, alienated from his family and land. Jesus knew in advance how he would be crucified. The waiting, even when we know what is coming, is hard because it requires faith. The waiting is the hardest part because doubt creeps in. We wonder if clinging to hope is foolish. We know it doesn’t “always just work out”.

Behind me, my son is watching the story of Moses. The announcer begins by saying the years of plenty Joseph prepared for were enough to get the years of famine, leading into when God brings the Israelites out under Moses.  I am certainly in a year of famine and God’s provision but I am certain a bumper crop is coming. I believe it. I know God is faithful because I have evidence written all over my life. Jesus said, “Behold, I am coming soon.” That was 2,000 years ago. In the scheme of eternity, it is nothing at all.

Sometimes waiting is the hardest part.Sometimes it is treasuring this moment and not measuring how long it took to reach it.  Sometimes it is clinging to faith. Sometimes it is keeping the toilets clean.

The scriptures say to run the race set before us. They mention staying on the path and running with diligence, not how fast. It never says to be first, the fastest or the happiest to arrive. The last shall be first in God’s Kingdom. Keep running. Some races have more hurdles. I’m cheering you on and running with you– it’s better than waiting.

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What I Learned From Leukemia: Revisiting the Battleground

My dear Friend,
You have waited patiently for me to fully answer your questions. I tried to the best of my ability, but warned you that I was still in the middle of the story and couldn’t tell you what lessons I would learn by the end. Tonight I sat and felt like the answer in my heart had finally formed into words– how can I have Faith that directly opposes my feelings? How can I be willing to make peace with my child’s potential death? Why am I still grieving and when will it stop?

The answers were flowing freely when my computer hiccuped and my writing was lost. A search for my draft yielded only one from April, a mere three weeks before we were released and moved to a new state. It was full of words that stayed locked in my mind and heart and are now resting in the New Normal. I love you, so I’ll let you eavesdrop.
April 4, 2015

I’m sitting in a darkened hospital room in the middle of the day. For days I have pondered and held things in my heart that are precious treasures– wanting to share them but not quite able. I know that if I don’t open the treasure chest of my heart they will be buried and only benefit me, so I am opening my chest to show you how Christ is working in my heart.

I am sorely disappointed today. Despite fervent prayers for his recovery, William’s counts dropped and we will be in the hospital much longer than originally anticipated. I hoped we would be done by now. I thought that by today I would be at home, celebrating with my family and resting. Complications now indicate another week in the hospital. Exhaustion, excruciating pain and disappointment feel like a dagger’s acute pain on top of scar tissue that knows this too well. I’m tired of making a home in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. I’m tired or watching a newsfeed of friends crying over the televised death of a fictional doctor when people are crying over the deaths of their children on the hall. The stark contrast makes me struggle to keep my heart soft. Suffering can make hearts hard, and I am tempted to do so out of self protection. I am now looking back and praying that I suffered well and glorified the Lord.

I have seen the glory of the Lord in the Land of the Living. I learned it is okay to hate suffering and to wish the trial would end. If Jesus can ask for a way out and yet submit, I am free to as well.

I am ready to rejoice. The glittering illusions that this will be over and things will get easier are tempered with reality. I firmly believe this is NOT the hardest thing I will endure in my lifetime, or even one of the top 5. Christ develops perseverance in us when these trials come. A soldier doesn’t go to the difficult trainings before Basic Training. Theoretically, the courses and demands increase over time. God ALWAYS gives us more than we can handle, but never more than HE can handle. I am happiest when I am most humbled because that is when God shows up. He loves to part the Red Sea for us– we are often too busy building bridges to allow it.

Likewise, there is a greater joy and comfort that comes from suffering. Seeing friends and family in the hospital has been a glorious joy- more so than if it were not so desperate. William’s crawling, standing, new words, weight gain, and even smiles after hours of crying are more valuable to me than if he had been ‘the leader of the pack’. I know he is alive and thriving despite all odds because God has been gracious and heard prayers. I know that my strength is feeble and pitiful– and I have felt the rush of power that comes from the Holy Spirit. I have felt the comfort of the Most High God because I have been broken and helpless, unable to accomplish or handle anything on my own.   Diamonds sparkle more brightly against black velvet.

Back to the present, my Friend. 70 days have passed. Now I am left to grapple with finding a New Normal without forgetting what I have learned. There is much to grapple with. Sometimes I miss the simplicity of the hospital, although it was Hell in many ways. The people there were valuable and unforgettable, for they were alongside me for the fight of Will’s life. I miss them. When someone asks why my two year old is so small, not walking or not able to feed himself, images of his life flash before my eyes but I can’t make them understand. I have learned that a life yielded to Christ is full of suffering, but never suffering alone.

I am learning that God is sovereign and good AND he allows suffering. It seems like a contradiction. I know my son thinks I am cruel and untrustworthy when I withhold something good or discipline him for disobedience because I love him and have something else in mind. He fights against me as I spend hours helping him learn to walk, to drink, to progress when he would rather do it his way which could have dangerous penalties. If he will trust me, he will see all I have and more importantly, we will have a relationship beyond his expectations. It is the same with God, although sometimes the pain is so intense that I drop to my knees and just picture Christ in human form hugging and holding me in my brokenness. My weakness has never been so evident, painful or beautiful. Truth be told, I have scared my Jonathan when I started crying as I sang, “Jesus Loves Me” to him one night. “I am weak but He is strong…yes, Jesus loves me.”

This is where I will end for now, Dear Friend. The grappling with grief, adjustment, advice on how to grieve with someone well, etc. will all come in time when I find a voice for my heart. Until then, thank you for being with me in this place.
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What I Learned From Leukemia: Recovery Adjustment

It has been almost 8 weeks since William was declared “in remission”.

Here is the next installment of what I’ve learned about recovery and adjustment.

1. It is not advisable to move to another state the week after leaving the hospital.

2. It is like learning to be a new mom all over again– complete with tears, laughter and wondering why you thought this was a good idea.

3. Emotionally, it is going to hurt and be draining. Feeling guilty for not feeling joyful all the time is normal.

4. Faith and belief are a practice of knowing and trusting what God says, even when you don’t feel his love or that he is trustworthy.

5. Great adventures have LOTS of obstacles.

These 5 lessons are mixed in below, exactly as they happened because life doesn’t come organized into lists and lessons with explanations. It’s messy, just like us.

On a Friday, Will had his final surgery. By the following Friday we arrived in a new state, knowing only one other family in the area.  Nothing in our lives was stable, structured or familiar. Thankfully, my husband has 40 days off before starting his new job, so we set to work. The house was unpacked and settled in 8 days and we began to meet neighbors, and find our way.  I also had to learn to plan and cook meals, balance both sons, learn how much sun William could handle and figure out life with my husband again.  We also needed to establish care, which meant new insurance, new doctors and all manner of check ups in our town and in Baltimore, 30 minutes away.

In 45 days, we have had over 30 appointments from school registration and Early Intervention to endocrinologists, cardiologists, oncologists, and the usual physical and speech therapies. Through all this, my husband and I have been able to tag team and share the load. The stacks of paperwork are literally three feet high. In the midst of this I am seeking out friends that I can “military mom-date”– I have 90 days to make a new friend, trust her with my children, drop to one knee and ask, “Will you be my emergency contact?”  The Bachelor has nothing on these quick, high stakes match ups.  Oh, and your new friend may be moving the next month, so choose wisely.

Truthfully, this has been a hard time but also a time of great joy. We are savoring everything we can do as a family, often taking pictures and asking each other, “Can you believe we are able to do this?!”   Both boys are blooming physically and emotionally. My quiet Jonathan is making friends, starting to talk and sign much more, and is smiling, laughing and playing without stopping to make sure a parent hasn’t disappeared. He is a totally different kid in many ways and it fills me with joy and thankfulness. William had a very rough time not being the center of attention and not being at eye-level, as he had been in the hospital crib. He is eagerly working on crawling, an scoot across a room at an amazing speed and is working on pulling to stand.

I learning to write these down and practice thankfulness rather than focus on how much farther we have to go. My heart is raw and little comments cut deeply. The constant evaluations of my sons’ progress, while necessary and helpful, feels like we can not start with a fresh slate. “Expert” strangers force me to recount every weakness and struggle the boys have so they can provide services to help, never asking about their strengths or assets. For a recovering perfectionist, it is hard to feel like all the ‘helpers’ are only finding fault and where we need to catch up. Coming to a new place and revealing all my vulnerabilities to strangers three times a week makes me long for those who are masters at celebrating the good. I am trying to balance not explaining our story to people with also giving them an understanding of where we are in life. The balance often feels more like a see-saw. I’m learning to give grace, the benefit of the doubt and to remember people have NO CLUE. Keeping a soft heart when the world wants to harden it is a process. Bitterness and brokenness don’t help anyone and certainly don’t glorify God or draw people toward Christ.

The appointments should slow down into 5 a week soon, but it feels like the Health Care Hydra- cut off one head and three more come back.. I often ask God if this actually will pass. It feels like the struggle will last forever– and I think it will. It may change and we may hit sweet spots, but the challenges are a part of becoming more like Christ. “Dying to yourself” and giving up your life, your time, your hopes and dreams, and laying them down and changing them hurts.

The benefit is that I can’t just hide in my house as many newly-moved families are tempted to do. We are leaving the house for appointments almost daily, or going to explore the state parks or going to church. Balancing adventure with an immune-compromised kid has been interesting, but we are learning. William has free reign on the floor, but we are constantly disinfecting and steam-cleaning. Yes, I am that disinfectant mom.

Right now I feel like I am sprinting on a broken leg; our family is making great progress but the pain is real and the healing will take longer than expected. We are mourning the loss of the familiar, the safety net of friends and community and the idea of “when we get there”. Now that we are cancer free, moved, readjusting, it seems like things should fall into place. They really are, just with a bit of a thud. Now that I have the chance to go to lunch with a friend or attend a birthday party, those friends are states away and we must begin again. I am realizing many “scars” I thought I had are really still wounds in need of care and cleaning, like all moms who have fought to save their child’s life and stabilize a family in crisis. I miss the intensity and focus of the hospital, where I could let little things roll off until later. I’ve awakened thinking I hear pumps, smell the plastic couch-bed, and even had a craving for the burrito. I miss the team of people who loved us so well, yet feel strange for missing one of the worst times of my life.  If you are there right now, you aren’t alone.

The great news is, we are connecting as a family. We are stronger than ever. We are making friends and fighting for peace. We are starting to not are what mistaken impressions cause people to say ignorant or thoughtless things. We’ve reached “the Promised Land”, only to realize we have a fight on our hands before we can be comfortable. Still, God has provided for all of our needs and many of our desires. I know God is faithful, even when it doesn’t feel like it. Faith is trust God Christ more than your feelings about Him.

There you have it, folks. We are a mess, but we are a beautiful mess. Peace doesn’t just settle on you one day; ironically, you really must fight for peace. It is worth the fight.

Honoring John Hopkins: William’s Leukemia Battle Buddy Died Today

A man’s greatness can be most accurately judged not by his own mirror’s reflection, but by the impact on lives that outlast his.

A great man died today.

I suspected John was a great man on the day I met him. My husband was deployed, so I visited my parents in College Station, Texas. One Sunday morning I went to 50+ Sunday School with my parents for three reasons: 1) It is refreshing to see the model and hear the wisdom of my parent’s faith 2) I am benefited my decades of experience, study and wisdom and 3) They can have fun without fear of scarring their children.The older class is a blast.

John Hopkins was teaching that morning. He kindly and lovingly greeted me and teased my parents. It was a great first impression.  I studied his hands– a smooth wedding band and a well worn gold Aggie Ring slid over weathered hands which strongly gripped and tenderly stroked the leather of his bible.  He taught the Bible with the conviction of a man who believed and trusted in the word with every fiber of his being.There is unquenchable fire in men like that.

I learned that this man  worked with young men in the correctional system, in law enforcement, in classrooms, and loved to fight for the fierce and scrappy underdogs. I think that is why John loved William. One year later, John and William became battle buddies in a fight against leukemia.

On many days his inspiring wife Sherrie and I would post that the boys were getting a day of chemotherapy or receiving platelets. For a few months they were even on the same treatment schedules, states apart. We spoke the same language of counts and ratios. We understood the depths of the term, “hard day” or “feeling weak”. Sherrie was a care-giving trench sister to me as the boys battled together. A man who had lived a full, valuable life cheered and prayed alongside my two year old, who has known nothing but struggle. Knowing someone was loving us and fighting the same fight was healing salve to my heart. My parents, who were often states away and flying in to help with our cancer-care, would balance between reports of John and William.

When you walk and take up residence in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, you see the Almighty God in the land of the living.

Today John Hopkins saw Jesus both in the land of the living and in Glory. Now The Ache sets in–in which one lies down as if  into bed, exhausted and feeling broken, yet full of hope that the dawn brings joy.  John Hopkins’ legacy will be felt for decades in the lives on many people, for he reflected  the Light that shined on him. In suffering, he taught and encouraged. John and Sherrie reached out in the dark and found our hearts. We whispered to one another, “You are not alone. We are going through this together. You aren’t left behind.” Suffering shows us how far we have fallen. It made me long for Heaven and desire the perfection and glory of Christ that John now sees.

I’ll never be able to adequately answer why some live on while others do not. Answers, no matter how adequate, do not instantly heal sorrows of the heart. Any attempt to do so is like trying to tell war stories of the heart to those who have never fought. One day death will have no sting, but today is not that day.

Mrs. Sherrie and I will revisit the trenches of the heart over and over, and each time will be different. The victory is won, but the battles remain. I am locked and loaded, for battle buddies are forever.

I am most honored to believe that William the Conqueror will live a life that honors his fallen battle buddy. William Erkkila 007john hopkins

Greatness does not come from doing great things. Greatness comes from humbly walking before a Great God.