Rainbows and Marriage

June 26, 2007 is a day I will never forget.

It marked the beginning of the end for my first marriage. I discovered in the wee hours of the morning, long before light ever touched the ground, that the man I had vowed to love for the rest of my days said that he no longer loved me.

As morning dawned, I covered my head with a pillow and tried to close my eyes to the gnawing pain in the pit of my stomach. I wasn’t successful. That ache stayed with me for many months, as the situation continued to deteriorate until finally in mid-October my husband asked me for a divorce.

In those months, as I battled the waves of nausea that were ever present, I wished I knew how to turn back the clock of time. All I wanted was to find a way to keep this from happening. But everything was out of my control.

All I could do was give it to God.

June 26, 2009 is a day I will never forget.

A large manila envelop was waiting in my mailbox, containing the final divorce papers. Two years to the day after my world turned upside down with that initial confession, my marriage was officially over.

But I didn’t feel relief or happiness, holding those papers in my hands. Instead, I realized the old familiar ache had returned, along with feelings of failure over the brokenness of my marriage.

“June 26th … how appropriate,” I thought. “Bookends on a chapter of my life. A chapter I wish I could delete.”  Of course, I couldn’t make it go away.

All I could do was give it to God.

June 26, 2015 is a day I’m sure I will never forget.

The Supreme Court of America redefined marriage for our nation.

Many are rejoicing. But I’ve got that same gnawing ache, a pain in the pit of my stomach that won’t go away. Our nation has the audacity to redefine something that they never originally defined in the first place, and the course of history has forever been changed.

Please don’t get me wrong. I do not hate homosexuals. I’ve never picketed; never will. Not once have I ever knowingly insulted or shunned anyone due to sexual orientation. I know and love friends who are gay, and as well as my many straight friends who are among those celebrating today’s ruling. And nothing that happened today will change that for me. I will love them just as I always have.

I’m not a theologian. I’m not a debater. I’m just a Jesus girl, who loves God with all of my heart. I don’t know much, but this one thing I stand on … God’s thoughts and ways are not like mine. His are infinitely holier and I must bow in submission to what I don’t understand.

Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the LORD, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.”  ~Isaiah 55:7-9

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Eight years ago today, my marriage unraveled. Six years ago, I found myself single. I knew what God’s word said about marriage. His design was for a man and a woman to be joined together for a lifetime. There was no pride in my divorce. I wanted to hide from God, to turn my head in shame.

But God met me in those dark places and whispered, “Come to me.”

Perhaps that is why I have always loved the old hymn Just As I Am … the words are a pictures of that coming to Jesus. It’s as if I in those lyrics I can hear the Father saying, “Come with your sins and failings and shortcomings. Come with all the dirty rags you have to offer. And I will take you in my arms.

So I came to Him … on my knees, dragging behind me the baggage of my broken marriage, accepting my guilt in that situation. I handed over the filthy rags of my life … the hurt, angry feelings along with the sneaky, lying, gluttonous girl who was more selfish than not.

I brought myself to kneel before Him, not so He would exalt me in my sinful state. Not so He would condone my poor behaviors. Not so He would put His stamp of approval on my secret sins. But rather so that He would change me.

God beckons humans to Himself because we are created in His image and it is His desire to teach us how to be more like Him. I know full-well I will never reach perfection this side of heaven. My mistakes and shortcomings will haunt me all of my days on this earth. But oh, how during this mortal life I pray that I will become more Christ-like, in attitude and in behavior.

While God loves me just as I am, His purpose has never been to make me happy on earth. Rather, He wants to make me holy, just as He is holy. His heart is to complete a good work in me. A work that He began before there was time. A work that He will finish in Heaven, where I will stand perfected before Him as I worship face-to-face.

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Today, humans took something God created and attempted to redefine it.

Though many will disagree with me (some even vehemently), I cannot personally delight or rejoice today. To take pride in today’s ruling would be to exalt man’s sinful state above God’s holiness.

No matter what the Supreme Court said today, God says homosexuality is wrong. In light of that, my feelings on the subject don’t really matter.

Yet, there is nothing I can do to change today’s decision.

Nothing except give it to God … and pray for my nation, my state, my community, my friends and family, and especially myself.

May we all return to God.

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So tell the people: This is what the LORD of Hosts says: “Return to Me”–this is the declaration of the LORD of Hosts– “and I will return to you,” says the LORD of Hosts. ~Zechariah 1:3

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IMPORTANT NOTE:  My blog is not open for debate.

I will certainly respect your right to have an opinion that differs from my own, but I expect that same respect from you as well. Any comments that are disrespectful of me, my writing or the homosexual community in any way will be deleted. It is possible to disagree and still be kind. Thanks and God Bless!

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Unanswered: A Prayer

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs
That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care
Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers

~Garth Brooks

I wouldn’t say Garth Brooks is exactly a theologian, but I agree with him on this one point. Unanswered prayers are quite often blessings in disguise.

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For as long as I can remember, my son Joel has been my daily weatherman. Even as a five year old, he would look at the morning newspaper to find out the weather prediction. During his younger childhood days, he would watch the Weather Channel the way some grown men would watch ESPN.

During the winter of 2008-2009, all Joel wanted was for it to snow. At that point in his life, Joel had never really seen snow. Louisiana didn’t really offer many opportunities to get a snowfall either.  Still, Joel diligently prayed for snow every night starting around Halloween.

And then, the unexpected happened. Snow came to Louisiana. Close to five inches! But, it was two hours to our SOUTH. His cousins who lived two and a half hours to our south were building snowmen in the rare Louisiana snowfall, while all we saw that day was lots of typical Louisiana rain.

You can’t begin to imagine poor Joel’s disappointment. He was absolutely distraught. “Mom, I don’t understand why God won’t answer my prayer. What’s wrong with a little bit of snow? God can make it snow anywhere, so why won’t He make it snow here?

All I could do was give my son a hug and say, “I don’t know, Joel … but I know God heard your prayer and for some reason He didn’t answer it the way you hoped that He would.”

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Around the same time Joel was praying for snow, I was in the midst of a divorce. My husband had walked out on our 14 year marriage, leaving me and our three children for reasons I didn’t understand. I don’t know how many nights I cried into my pillow, praying for God to restore my marriage. While I never doubted God heard my prayer and was with me in the middle of the storm, I couldn’t understand at all why He wouldn’t answer my prayers of desperation.

A few nights after the unanswered prayer for snow, I tucked my younger son Nathan into bed. I sat on his bed, stroking his head and said, “So, Nathan … what should we pray about tonight.”

“Pray that Daddy won’t divorce you.”

Of course, my heart nearly broke all over again. The pain of that particular prayer request reminded me of how deeply my children hurt over the situation, and it was a pain I couldn’t spare them. It seemed like every day, at least one of my three kids was asking me to pray to God and ask Him to stop the divorce … and while this prayer echoed my own private prayers, deep down I knew the answer was not going to be what we were praying for.  Eventually my pleas to God turned to asking Him to protect my children’s hearts so that they would not grow bitter or turn away from God because He didn’t answer their prayers.

That night, I prayed with my boy, hoping God would answer us and somehow knowing the answer was not going to be what we wanted to hear. As we finished praying together, the most amazing thing happened.

Nathan said, “Mama, you know that God doesn’t always answer our prayers with a yes. Sometimes He says no. And when He says no, it’s okay … sometimes their is a reason for no.

I was kind of stunned to hear such wise words from my little guy. After all, he was only six years old. I patted his head, and said, “Nathan, that’s a very wise thing. Many adults don’t understand this, even though it is true.”

Nathan said, “Well, I learned it from a story I read. There was this girl named Amy Carmichael,  who was born a long time ago. She lived in Ireland. Everybody else in her family had blue eyes, but Amy had brown eyes. She prayed that God would change her eyes to blue because she wanted to look like everyone else in her family, but God said no and her eyes stayed brown. When Amy grew up, she became a missionary in India  … and you know what? She needed brown eyes to help the people there. She couldn’t have helped them if her eyes were blue because the people in India weren’t used to people with blue eyes. So when God told her no when she was a little girl, it was for an important reason.

As I kissed his sweet blond head and turned out the light, I wondered at God teaching me through my own little boy to trust Him even when it seemed like the only answer I was getting from my prayers was just unanswered prayers.

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There’s a lot of prayers in my life that haven’t been answered. The snow didn’t fall that winter. The divorce I didn’t want still happened. My passport remains unused.

So why does God say no? Why do some prayers go unanswered? Here are some basic reasons I think sometimes our prayers don’t get the answer we hope for:

1. A “yes” would bring us a harm we can’t foresee.

2. God has something far greater for us than what we are asking for.

3. God’s no is not a rejection of our request but rather a redirection.

4. God’s no may not be a punishment but perhaps a preparation for something different.

5. God’s no is an opportunity for us to have an adventure with God.

6.  Sin.  It’s true. Sometimes God doesn’t hear or answer our prayers because of our unconfessed sin and unrepentant hearts. (Psalm 66:18 is one verse that confirms this truth.)

It’s true. Sometimes God doesn’t answer the prayers of my heart. But oh, how many, many more prayers has God answered… simple prayers, deep prayers, unspoken prayers. His yes is always best.

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. ~1 John 5:14

How has God answered prayers in your life? Which unanswered prayer has been the best no you ever received?

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BaptistGirlConfession

This post is part of the 2015 A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. If you are visiting due to that, thanks so much for popping in to read today’s post. I hope you will leave me a comment so that I can return the visit to your blog. I love to connect with other bloggers and readers. If you are a regular reader, I hope you’ll stick with me during April when I blog about the stories of my faith.

Operation: Not Just a Game Anymore

operation

Operation.

Whenever someone says that word, I tend to think of the board game. Maybe you had one when you were a kid. Perhaps you currently have one hanging out in your game closet.

My brother and sister and I used to play Operation when we were kids. Of course, it didn’t take long for us to lose half of the pieces. When the batteries wore out, I think my parents claimed we didn’t have the correct-sized batteries to replace them … which meant that the operating doctor was on the honor system for admitting when he or she had messed up.

I was never very good at this operating game. I tried so hard to pull out the tiny bones, but my hands were always too shaky.

For a brief time in my younger life, I thought perhaps I might like to be a doctor or a nurse. After all, I liked biology class. Then I realized I was not a blood person. I don’t even do well with tiny scraps. I have fainted at the sight of my own blood several times.

Between Operation (the board game) and the problem with blood, I soon figured out that I was not cut out to be employed in the medical field.

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I’ve had two operations in my life. Three, if you count my wisdom teeth being removed under sedation, but since that was at the dentist’s office and not in a hospital I don’t normally include it among my actual surgeries.

The first operation was a tonsillectomy when I was not quite four years old. I have a lot of strange, strange memories about that event. For example, I remember the nurse telling me she would look like a frog when she came to get me for my surgery. All night long I wondered how she was going to turn into a frog. I was surprised to see the next morning that she still looked rather human to me. I suppose she thought the green mask covering her face made her appear frog-like. I actually can remember waking up in the recovery room, as well as feeling a little miffed that I didn’t get to count all the way to ten before I fell asleep for the operation.

My second surgery was just two years ago. I had my gall bladder removed. Oddly enough, I don’t recall much about that operation. The one thing I do remember is that just prior to putting me completely under sedation, the anesthesiologist asked me if I liked the music selection. Already feeling a little inhibited from the happy cocktail I had taken half an hour earlier, I told him that I didn’t really like his music choices at all. The man laughed and said, “Well, I don’t guess that matters much at all.”  That’s really the last thing I can actually remember before waking up at home in my bed two days later.

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Two of my five children (Nathan and Megan) have had their tonsils and adenoids removed. Nathan has had five sets of ear tubes, and a tympanoplasty (ear drum patch), as well.

None of them has ever had a surgery that has required an overnight stay in the hospital. Even my own gall bladder surgery was out-patient.

All of that is about to change.

On May 4th, my son Joel will be having major surgery to correct a chest deformity, pectus excavatum. While many people have this deformity and choose to have it surgically corrected, most of the time it is purely for cosmetic reasons. For Joel, this is not the case. His sternum sinks so deeply into his chest cavity that it is now compressing on his heart and pushing it to one side. He simply doesn’t have room in his chest for normal heart and lung function.

A surgery is definitely necessary. But it won’t be the out-patient variety. Joel will be going through something very similar to open-heart surgery, except the operation isn’t on the heart. His chest cavity will be opened. He sternum cut way from the ribs and repositioned with wires. He will need to be hospitalized for 3-5 days before coming home, and then it will be 4-6 months before his has a full recovery.

This is a really big and scary sort of operation.

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Sometimes God surprises us, even in the middle of difficult and trying circumstances. That has definitely been the case regarding Joel’s surgery.

Four years ago, Jon was dying from a heart infection. Dr. Tedesco was the many doctors God used to save Jon’s life. He surgically removed the infected mitral valve and gave him a brand-new teflon mechanical valve. I’ve been forever grateful to God for sending Dr. Tedesco to be a part of Jon’s medical team.

Imagine my delight when I discovered Joel’s surgeon would also be Dr. Tedesco. It was almost as if I could feel God put His arms around me and say, “No need to worry over this one, Paige. I’ve got it too.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m not worrying. I am. I’m the mom. I still see my 6′ (and still growing) boy as my baby. But, even I have to admit that there is peace in the middle of the unknown.

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Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. ~Psalm 30:2

Jon & I humbly ask if you would remember Joel in your prayers.

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BaptistGirlConfessionThis post is part of the 2015 A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. If you are visiting due to that, thanks so much for popping in to read today’s post. I hope you will leave me a comment so that I can return the visit to your blog. I love to connect with other bloggers and readers. If you are a regular reader, I hope you’ll stick with me during April when I blog about the stories of my faith.

The Wedding That Almost Didn’t Happen

True story: On the very last day of 2010, I married a half-dead man.

Barely out of the hospital for 48 hours, my beloved groom, Jon Hamilton, was hiding the PICC-line remaining in his arm underneath his wedding suit. He was so very ill that he laid down on the sofa in the minister’s office until time for the ceremony to begin.  After sitting through 90% of the reception that followed our wedding, Jon needed to take a 2-hour nap before he had enough strength to leave for our French Quarter honeymoon. Even so, I still had to drive us most of the way to New Orleans.

No, the man I married was not well. In fact, he hadn’t been well for a very long time. He was so close to death that a friend and I wondered together if there would be a wedding or a funeral.

I know it’s rather obvious to say this but truly I’m so very happy that I can say we got our wedding!  And four years later, I’m glad for the blessing to love him in sickness and in health … it’s a vow I plan to keep as long as the Lord allows.

Initially, I had no idea what that promise would mean, how close we would come to not getting married, how near to death Jon would come.

But the good news is that my guy survived the heart infection that almost took his life. And despite the fact that he should have died several times over, if you were to meet him today, you would never know he had once been so desperately ill. The only signs that remain are the nasty scar running down the length of his chest and an inability to digest gluten or dairy (which is a result of so many months of strong levels of antibiotics).

What follows is our story … our wedding tale, if you will. I just gave the short-version. Now I will share the longer-version, with all the God-ordained moments and miracles He poured out over us during those last days of 2010, shortly before we said “I do.”

A photo from our wedding ... fortunately for us, it did happen!
A photo from our wedding … fortunately for us, it did happen!

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Three months before I started dating Jon, he had open-heart surgery to repair a leaky mitral valve.

He was already a special friend, and so I remember praying for his recovery. But from the start, he seemed to being healing very slow. Within just a few days of returning home from the hospital, Jon began to experience night sweats and the fatigue which plagued him prior to the surgery only worsened in the weeks that followed.

By the following summer, a year after the surgery, Jon was experiencing a long list of strange symptoms in addition to the fatigue and night sweats. He was pale, constantly ran low-grade fevers, would shake with several chills every nights, and his muscle and joints ached. Jon’s spleen was swollen and tender; he felt nauseous often.  Even though he wasn’t trying to diet, his weight plummeted, going from 250 lbs prior to the surgery to hovering right around 200 lbs during the fall of 2010.

Jon saw his cardiologist regularly throughout that year, though that doctor didn’t seem to think there was a problem with the heart. However, Jon’s  family doctor was concerned enough to begin a  battery of tests to try to determine the source of the illness. With a clean bill of health regarding his heart, Jon’s GP doctor began to look for other sources as the cause for the illness. Blood work. X-rays. CAT scans and MRI’s.

Soon Jon’s medical team grew to include a hematologist, urologist and gastroenterologist. Test after test was performed; all came back negative. No leukemia. No colon cancer. While we were thankful those terrible fates were not Jon’s, our worried continued to mount for nothing seemed to be the cause of Jon’s mysterious symptoms. Although everyone seemed to agree that Jon was suffering from a serious illness, not one single doctor out of the many Jon saw for his medical care could figure out what was making him so very, very ill.

But I knew … I knew only because God showed me.

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“Jon, it’s your heart!” I said time and again.

“No. It can’t be. My cardiologist says everything looks fine.”

“But I know you’ve got a heart infection. If you would just google the symptoms and you will see,” I persisted. “I know it sounds silly, but I’m convinced God has shown me the source of your illness.”

“Paige, I am not interested in playing internet doctor. Let’s just trust the medical doctors to figure this out. God can show them, too.”

Initially, I wondered myself if what I thought I knew was actually coming from God or if I was just as crazy as I felt. Then came the day when I received an out of the blue email from a lady who went to church with Jon.

I only knew Catherine casually, but that day she reached out and asked me if Jon’s heart might be the cause of his illness. Old enough to be my own mother, Catherine’s friendship and concern was like a breath of fresh air in that scary place. Years before, she had lost her only son after he had surgery to correct a heart defect, so her understanding of heart-related illnesses and symptoms was great. Her deep faith in God was matched with her quick intellect and warm spirit. Soon Catherine and I were praying together for Jon’s health, and chatting regularly as we teamed together to try to figure out a way to get Jon to a doctor who could help cure him.  Most of all, Catherine served as an encourager to me, a bouncing board for all the multitude of emotions I experienced, for it was during that fall Jon proposed married and we set a wedding date for December 31, 2010.

By early November, Jon seemed to be languishing. The fevers were stronger. He was napping more and more. My sweetheart seemed to be surviving on massive doses of Tylenol and Ibuprofen. One day, I noticed some tiny red spots at the ends of his fingers. Petechiae. Blood spots.  Another symptom of a serious heart infections. A sign of tiny bits of infection vegetations were being dislodged into the blood stream. If a large enough piece broke away, it could trigger a stroke.

“He could die, Catherine!” I moaned. “The man could have a stroke and die if a doctor doesn’t figure this thing out soon!”

Agreeing with me, Catherine solemnly said, “Paige, I’m so afraid it will be a wedding or a funeral. Jon doesn’t have much time left. He is a very sick man, and unless we can get a doctor to treat his heart infection, he will die soon.”

But even Jon was still skeptical, siding with the doctors, refusing to consider that his heart might be the source of his illness. I begged him to get a second opinion from a new cardiologist, but Jon could not be convinced.

And then, without warning, something happened in early December that caused the tide to finally begin to turn.

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“Did I tell you my index finger has a painful knot at the end of it? I’ve decided it must be ‘mouse finger’ … you know, because it’s probably just sore from using the mouse to my computer too much.”  Jon laughed at his confession.

Slowly Jon’s words begin to sink into my brain, as if for the first few seconds I couldn’t understand the words and what they meant. But then it all came together, so quickly that I gasped with a sudden realization.

“Jon! You don’t have mouse finger … you have an Osler’s node!”   This was it, the final symptom on the long list of symptoms for endocarditis. Now I knew with all certainty that Jon truly did have a heart infection. Mentally I made a list of all his known symptoms, and I felt like I was reading a page straight out of some medical text-book! If I only I could get him to see that I had been given this God-inspired information, then maybe he would seek out a second opinion. I breathed a quick prayer asking God to open Jon’s eyes.

Jon’s voice broke through my racing thoughts.  “Osler’s nodes? What are you talking about, Paige?” Jon was obviously confused and baffled by my reaction.

“Jon …listen to me, please. Osler’s nodes is another symptom of endocarditis. What I’m trying to get you to understand is that you really do have endocarditis. Your heart is infected! The finger thing proves it. Go ahead. Google endocarditis. Read through the symptoms. Check off the ones you have. Up until now, you had every symptom except for one … Osler’s nodes. Now you have them all. Every last one. Please … go look it up. Tell me I’m wrong.”

A few minutes later, it was Jon’s turn to gasp. “Oh, Paige … You are right. I do have Osler’s nodes  … and every other symptom there. I guess the question is this:  Now what do I do?”

With my encouragement, Jon arranged another appointment with his cardiologist, this time being sure to point blank ask him about the possibility of endocarditis as the cause all of his baffling symptoms.

“Mr. Hamilton,” replied the doctor gruffly, “you don’t want to have endocarditis.”

“I certainly agree with you. I don’t want to have endocarditis. However, I am concerned about the possibility that I do considering my symptoms,” Jon replied. “Could we do some tests to rule it out?”

“I see no reason to believe that you have endocarditis. Everything regarding your heart still looks fine to me.” With that, the doctor left the room. The examination was over.

Now Jon knew … he needed a second opinion, and he needed it quick.

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“Call Beth Dooley.”

Catherine didn’t just know hearts. She knew everybody there was to know, as well as everything about them. “Beth is a nurse for a cardiologist. She will be able to get Jon that second opinion. Jon should have her number. It’s in the church directory.”

I didn’t know Beth Dooley, but I told Jon about Catherine’s suggestion. “Oh, yes! Beth. I should have thought about that. I’ll talk to her the next time I see her.” As sick as he was, Jon didn’t seem to be in a hurry.

“Jon, can’t you call her now? I’m worried about you.”  Every time I saw Jon’s glassy-looking eyes or gray-tinged skin, I knew his time was quickly running out. It was already mid-December, and more than ever I was wondering if Catherine was right.

Would we have our New Year’s Eve wedding or would it be a funeral for my beloved instead?

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Thankfully, Jon and I saw Beth the very next day at a church Christmas breakfast. When she heard Jon’s story, she immediately said, “Here’s my work number. Call me first thing on Monday morning and I’ll make sure you get into see Dr. Coureville.”  Pulling me aside, she added, “I could tell by his appearance that something was terribly wrong with Jon, but I had no idea there was the possibility of it being related to his heart … I feel bad because I could have helped him sooner. But don’t worry. Dr. Coureville will know exactly what to do to help Jon.”

Jon and I, the day before he saw Dr. Coureville for the first time.
Jon and I, the day before he saw Dr. Coureville for the first time.

Sure enough, the following week, Jon saw the new cardiologist, who agreed with me that Jon was suffering from endocarditis. “We’ll schedule a TEE at the hospital for tomorrow morning so that I can get a good look at your heart and see the extent of the infection.”

When Jon called me with the update from his appointment, I immediately made plans to leave my north Louisiana home and head south. Despite Jon’s protests, I was going to be there for the procedure … to hear the results, to ask questions, to be informed about his treatment and recovery. After all, our wedding day was less than two weeks away.

That night, I walked into Jon’s home. He looked worse than I had ever seen him.  All evening, he popped pills, four Tylenol followed an hour and a half later by four Ibuprofen. Seeing this cycle happen twice, I questioned him about taking that much medication. But Jon replied, “Don’t worry about me. I’m doing fine.”

Yet, his fever persisted, his skin had a look of death, and he could barely find the strength to move off the sofa when a group of church carolers came by to sing for Jon.  Jon’s pastor walked up from the crowd and embraced Jon, tears streaming down his face. He hugged me next, whispering in my ear, “Oh, Paige … I am so, so sorry. You have my prayers.”

My heart sank again. It wasn’t just me. Others saw the reality of Jon’s illness too. And yet, there I stood in the cold December air, continuing to hold hands with a man who was closer to death than anyone I had ever loved before.

And in that moment, I realized not a single part of me wanted to leave or run away. I was already in this, for better or for worse.

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December 22, 2010

2 am: I awaken to the sounds of moaning.

At first, I couldn’t remember where I was. I never slept at Jon’s house, normally staying in Catherine’s guest room. Slowly, I came to and remembered that I had decided to stay close to Jon that night, partly because I was so worried about his health and partly because Jon’s procedure was scheduled for 7 am the following morning.

Tiptoeing into the living room, I saw Jon stretched out on the couch. His face appeared paler than ever in the soft glow of the TV. His hand was massaging his chest. His lips were moving, as if he were praying aloud.

Jon noticed me and smiled. “I’m okay.” He said the words emphatically, as if trying to convince himself more than me.

“No, you aren’t. Your moaning woke me up. People who are feeling okay don’t moan. What’s the matter?”

He looked at me, glassy-eyed. “Oh, the medicine just wore off, but I took some more and it will kick in soon. Go on back to bed.”

“Jon. Tell me … where are you hurting?”

“In my chest. It’s burning … and radiating around to my back.” He moaned again.

I stared at him in disbelief. Why was this man trying to be so brave? He needed medical help and yet he continued to suffer silently.  Using my best stern teacher voice, I said, “That is it. I’m am tired of watching you suffer and hurt. Get up now. I’m taking you to the hospital.”

“Now Paige, there’s no need to go rushing off to a hospital. I am already scheduled to be there at 6:30 am … it’s just another 4 hours from now.  I can wait.”

“No. You can’t wait. I can’t wait either. You are suffering. Besides, I’ve counted … you have had at least 16 Tylenol and 20 Ibuprofens just since I arrived here last night. You are about to overdose on over-the-counter pain relievers,  meanwhile you are still in pain and still running a fever! This is ridiculous. You don’t have a choice anymore. I am taking you to the hospital now … or, if you want to be stubborn and refuse to go with me, I will call an ambulance to come transport you. Now which will it be?”

Thankfully, Jon got up off the couch. Together, hand-in-hand, we walked out of the house.

Jon, just hours after I got him to the hospital
Jon, just hours after I got him to the hospital

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As it turned out, Jon was already in the process of dying.  His kidneys, liver and bone marrow were in the initial stages of beginning to shut down. Thankfully, team of doctors and nurses were able to reverse that from continuing to happen, though several people on caregivers admitted in hushed tones that we got him there just in the nick of time.

“A few more hours and we may not have been able to stop the process from happening,” whispered one of our favorite nurses. Deep down, I knew she was being truthful with me. Jon really was almost too far gone when we arrived at the hospital.

The TEE showed a vegetation of infection on his mitral valve the size of my pinky finger. It flapped around each time his mitral valve opened and closed, flinging bits and pieces of infection out into his blood stream. If the infection hadn’t managed to kill him, a stroke was literally just a heartbeat away from taking his life.

Later that evening, Dr. Coureville sat down to chat with me. “Twenty-four to forty-eight hours … tops. Probably less, but for sure that’s all I would have given him. You really did get him here at the last minute.  Much later and we probably couldn’t have saved his life. In fact, even now, I can’t promise you he will survive this. He is one incredibly sick man. “

A culture was taken of Jon’s infection. A week passed by before we go the results, but when we did the news we heard was rather astounding. The infection was caused by the Bartinelli bacteria, which happens to be the same bacteria that causes cat scratch fever. (It’s not just a song, folks!) As it turns out, Jon is the only documented case of the Bartinelli virus ever infecting a heart. Jon’s infectious diseases doctor was so impressed that he announced with an air of pride, “Mr. Hamilton, you are one in a million. I will be writing a medical journal article about you.”  (Trust me, even Jon who sometimes likes to be the center of attention, admits this is not a pleasant way to get your 15-minutes of fame!)

Christmas 2010 ... spent in Heart Hospital. Jon's girls came to visit him there. It was a Christmas we would never forget.
Christmas 2010 … spent in Heart Hospital. Jon’s girls came to visit him there. It was a Christmas we would never forget.

Jon was released from the hospital on December 29th, his 41st birthday. He went home with a PICC-line inserted in his arm to deliver the antibiotics straight to his heart and the promise of a home health nurse who would be making daily visits to our home.

Two days later, we had our New Year’s Eve wedding.

It was the wedding that nearly didn’t happen. It almost was a funeral. But God intervened, at the last possible moment, and gave us a Christmas miracle we would never forget.

Jon says his vows to me ... second later, I promised to love him in sickness and health. The guests laughed with us, for we were all filled with joy over a wedding we thought might not ever happen.
Jon says his vows to me … second later, I promised to love him in sickness and health. The guests laughed with us, for we were all filled with joy over a wedding we thought might not ever happen.

Of course, our medical story doesn’t end there. Jon ended up needing to have a second open-heart surgery a month after our wedding because the infection wouldn’t clear up with antibiotics alone. His old infected mitral valve was removed and he got a brand-new teflon version that clicks rhythmically with each beat of his heart.

I love to lay in bed in the quiet of the night and hear my husband’s heart ticking softly, reminding me of all God has done for us, including the story of our wedding and how it almost didn’t happen.

And as I fall asleep listening to the tick-tick-tick of Jon’s heart, I’m so very grateful that it did.

December 31, 2010
December 31, 2010

The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad. ~Psalm 126:3

When There Were Only Five

My parents had five grandkids born in just under five years. Two belonged to my brother. Three belonged to me.

Rachel, Joel, Nathan, Micah and Julia. Three boys, two girls. A trio of blonds with a couple of brown-headed ones.

The “Fabulous Five” we called them. And they were such fabulous little people.

The Fabulous Five, April 2007
The Fabulous Five, April 2007

But the last time there was only five was December 19, 2008.

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My sister married the following day, instantly gaining step-mother status.  Madison made number six, and we loved her just as if she had always belonged to us.

Eleven months later, my sister gave birth to a baby girl she named Sage. Number seven had arrived.

When I remarried on the last day of 2010, I received into my life two new daughters, aged nine and twelve. Megan and Maddie, numbers eight and nine.

And then, in the late spring of 2011, my brother and his wife brought Eli home, all the way from Taiwan, bringing the grand total of grandchildren up to ten.

In less than three years, The Fabulous Five had grown to The Terrific Ten. Five new grandkids, joining our family in different ways: marriage, birth, adoption.

The Terrific Ten with their Grandparents, Thanksgiving 2013
The Terrific Ten with their Grandparents, Thanksgiving 2013

My parents love them all. Each one belonged. It didn’t matter how they came into our family; it only mattered that they were there.

Sure, now there were more Christmas stockings to hang and more birthday gifts to buy. But there were also more hugs and more kisses. More laughter in the house. More cousins to play with on holidays and summer breaks. The house might burst to overflowing, but who among us would have it any other way?

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Of the Terrific Ten, I have the blessing of being Mom (or GiGi) to five. My own little group of fabulous people.

After three years of marriage, Jon and I have grown accustomed to the strange looks we receive when we take our family out. There are seven of us. The children are close in age. Julia, the baby, is ten. Maddie, the oldest, is fifteen.  Life at my house is never boring. It’s always loud. It’s always active. Most of the time, I love it.

Yet there are moments when I want to run away from the ruckus and the chaos.

But in those moments, I always stop and think, “Which one would I want to give away? Which child would I not want to belong to me? Would I really want to go back to only three? Would I want to go back to when there was just me?”

Of course not! It might not be easy, but at the end of each day I am more blessed by these five children than I am by any other part of my life. God reveals Himself to me through them. And I cannot imagine no longer being their mother.

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Today Jon took me to a Focus on the Family event called Wait No More. It’s intention was to awaken Christian families to the more than 100,000 American children in foster care waiting to be adopted, and the approximate 143 million orphans worldwide. Children who have endured so much pain, grief, sorrow and abuse in their young lives. They didn’t ask for or deserve to live the life handed to them. More than anything, they need a family. They are all waiting for someone to open their arms and welcome them home.

I sat and listened, taking in stories shared by adults who told of their childhoods growing up in foster homes, parents who had fostered and adopted children into their families, biological children of foster/adoptive parents who loved their new siblings, and social workers.

I laughed. I cried. Mostly I cried.

Where is the church in this crisis? Why are Christians not answering the call of Christ to to care for the orphan and the widow in their distress? (James 1:27)

I spent the day talking to adoptive and foster families, as well as adoption agencies. As we left, Jon and I spoke to one last lady, who looked me in the eye and said, “Find the path that God has put you on and that’s where you need to be.”  On the ride home, Jon and I talked and prayed and talked some more, our hearts and minds full of emotions and questions and prayers. Aware of the problem and aware of the calling, all we could ask was, “Lord, what is it you want us to do?”

It is not lost on me all this happened on Mother’s Day weekend, which brings me back to thinking of my own family and my fabulous five children …  and what all of this might mean for Jon and for me and for our kids. I honestly don’t know. Maybe we will foster. Maybe we will adopt. Maybe we will foster to adopt. God hasn’t set before us a clear path yet.

But I do know this:

Already I am looking forward to the day

when I can look back to the time when there were only five.

A Prayer for America

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As a Christian, I believe in the power of prayer. As an American, I believe my nation is founded on the greatest principles, and though we have strayed so far from what our founding fathers envisioned, America still offers freedoms which I cherish. Today is the National Day of Prayer, and I’m joining thousands of other Christians in prayer for my country.

Today I am praying the following:

~forgiveness for Christians who are unwilling to stand up for what is right in the eyes of God, who are quick to compromise, and who are blissfully unaware of how our American culture is drifting ever farther from God’s truths

~forgiveness for our national greed, our skyrocketing debt, and our attitude of materialism

~a revival among Christians, with hearts returning to God with a love for His word and His truth

~guidance for our national and state leaders

~and mostly importantly, heal our nation … may God build His kingdom here, beginning in my heart and in my home, on my street, in my city, in my state and my nation.

I am praying. I hope you will pray for America today, too.

 

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. ~2 Chronicles 7:14