Maya and Misty: A Tale of Two Friends

The summer of her 9th birthday, my daughter Julia met Maya.

It was, according to Julia, “friendship at first sight.”

The birthday party where Julia met her best friend Maya.
The birthday party where Julia met her best friend Maya. Julia is in the brown dress on the far right (hand at her chin). Maya is the young lady in the middle of the back row, wearing a floppy hat (without the black bow). 

Julia and Maya were introduced to each other at the birthday party of a mutual friend. It was a dress-up tea party, and the birthday girl’s mom had asked me to stay and help her with party games. I was pleased to help, and enjoyed gazing about the room filled with giddy girls, each one dressed in her fanciest clothes, some wearing high heels, big baubles, long gloves, or floppy hats.

Throughout the party, I noticed Julia and Maya, talking and laughing together just as if they had been friends forever. “That’s odd,” I thought. But I shrugged it off as Julia has always been a rather extroverted child who never meets a stranger.

Once, during the middle of the party, Julia came over and whispered in my ear, “Momma, you won’t believe it! I have just met my best friend in the whole world!”  Looking over at the cute girl with the adorable curls and infectious laugh, I thought it was sweet that Julia felt such an instant kinship to Maya, but then I also figured my daughter was likely being her normally over-dramatic self.

However, when it was time for us to leave the party, Julia hugged Maya goodbye while Maya said woefully, “Oh, Julia! I really hope we can see each other again soon!”

“Maybe it’s not just Julia …,” I thought.

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Maya with her mother, Misty
Maya with her mother, Misty

For the next several months, Julia talked non-stop about her new friend. Almost daily, she asked me when Maya could come over to play. “She’s my best friend in the world, Momma!” Julia would say in her most pleading voice. “How can you continue to keep us apart?”

The problem was that I didn’t know Maya’s mother at all. I felt uncomfortable picking up the phone and calling up a complete stranger to ask if our daughters, who were supposedly best friends, could get together and play.

Questions raced through my mind. “What if Maya has forgotten all about Julia? Maybe her mother will be freaked out by a stranger calling to see if her child can come over to play?” Not wanting to put myself into an awkward situation, I typically just brushed Julia off, hoping that eventually she would forget all about Maya and find another best friend.

But Julia didn’t forget Maya. In fact, whenever the subject of friends came up, Julia would say, “My best friend is Maya, but I never get to see her.”

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Six months later, my daughter Megan wanted to have a sewing party. The plan was to make pillowcase dresses to send to an organization called Little Dresses for Africa.

Since it was Megan’s party, most of the girls invited to come were her friends. However, Julia asked (rather insistently) if she could invite a friend as well … and, as I’m quite sure you’ve already guessed, Julia wanted to invited her best friend in the entire world, Maya.

Finally, I could relent! Calling up a mother with a party invitation for a child is so much easier than calling up for no reason.To my great relief, Maya’s mom, Misty, was not only friendly and easy to chat with, but also pleased to accept the invitation for her daughter.

“That was easy,” I thought, as I hung up the phone. “I really should have called Misty sooner.” But at least now I could rest easier knowing that I had finally worked it out for Julia to see her “best friend” again. I just hoped with all of my heart that Maya still felt the same way about Julia. I hated to think that Julia’s heart might be broken.

Thankfully, on party day, Julia and Maya seemed to pick up right where they left off six months earlier. Even I had to admit these two girls had something special.

The sewing party attendees ... Julia and Maya are together in the center.
The sewing party attendees … Julia and Maya are together in the center.

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Since the sewing party, hardly a week has gone by without Julia and Maya seeing each other. They are in the same 4-H club, on the same swim team, and beg for sleepovers constantly. In fact, earlier this month, Julia and Maya went to Teen Pact. The only way either one of them would consent to go was if the other one was going too. These two girls are a matched set, like salt and pepper, ham and cheese, peanut butter and jelly. Wherever you see Julia, you are going to see Maya too.

Julia and Maya, all dressed up for Teen Pact.
Julia and Maya, all dressed up for Teen Pact.

Julia’s friendship with Maya is definitely something rare and special. Sort of like love at first sight, their friendship was instantaneous … like two souls able to instantly see something in each other that bound them together. There is no doubt in my mind that these two girls will always share a relationship throughout their lives, no matter where their journeys might take them. (I do, however, doubt they will grow up and share an apartment and have 30 cats, as they both currently insist. At least, I hope that’s not what their future holds.)

But what surprises me even more than seeing how Julia and Maya met and became instant friends, was discovering God had a friendship for me in this as well.

When I moved to Cajun Country four years ago, I left behind friends and came to a place where I knew just a handful of people. For a long time, life in Lafayette was lonely. I was grateful for my husband, who really is my best friend, but sometimes I just wanted another woman to talk with and relate to … a friend in this new town I was learning to call home.

To my unexpected delight, Misty has turned out to be one of several answers to that prayer. She’s the sort of friend who can walk right into my home unannounced, wipe up my dirty countertops, and make a pot of coffee without ever thinking twice about asking. Misty has more than once talked to my daughter just as if she was her own child, calling her out on rotten attitudes or bad thinking. She’s the kind of friend who I can call if I have a problem or need some prayers.

I never dreamed when Julia met Maya, that God had planned all along to give me a good friend too.

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A good friend is a blessing from God.

The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. ~ 1 Samuel 18:1

Late and Lost: Lousy Words for Today

My husband Jon woke up late this morning. He needed to leave the house by 6 am to get to work on time, but for some reason it was 5:50 am before either of us woke up. Waking up late is never a good way to start the day.

Maddie works on Tuesdays and Thursdays at a local church’s Mother’s Day Out program. She doesn’t have to leave for work until 7:30 am, but in order for her to get ready in time she has to be woken at 6 am. I felt thankful that I wasn’t late for waking up Maddie … but I might as well have been.

You see, Maddie quickly realized that she lost her work shirt. She searched high and low. Jon, who I mentioned earlier was already running late, stepped in to help Maddie search for the missing garment. It was all to no avail. The work shirt was very much lost. Losing something as important as a work shirt is also not a good way to start the day.

As I poured myself a cup of coffee, I realized it was raining outside … again. It’s been raining since last Friday. Another day of no sunshine. Another day of being stuck inside the house.

“What a lousy day this is turning out to be!” I thought. 

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Some days are just lousy, even if you aren’t running late or losing important items.  We’ve all been there. Everyone has experienced a day (or two …  or three) when from the start it all goes wrong.

In the past, whenever I have fretted about one thing or another not going quite right, my mother would remind me, “Paige, one thing you can count on is that in this world you will have trouble. But think of it this way …  it is the problems and troubles we face that cause us to long for the perfection of heaven.”

She’s right. Today there might be trouble (thankfully just in the form of running late and losing important items and more rain that I’d like), but there is coming a day when I will leave behind this world full of lousy days. Then I will live forever in the presence of holy perfection, which is found only in Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  ~John 16:33

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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.

 

Kindergarten: Like A Dream Come True

Momma, you might not believe me, but this is true and for real and I am not making it up. Tomorrow is Kindergarten party jumper day at school, and …” my daughter paused, before finishing with a dramatic gasp, “I am the line leader!

Five year old Julia jumped up and down, as she excitedly clapped her hands. She let out a tiny squeal, twirled around and said, her eyes glittering with anticipation, “This is kind of like a dream come true!

All year long, Julia had lived for the days when she was the class line leader. As I imagined just how much Julia would enjoy leading the entire kindergarten class out to the playground for their end-of-the-year party, I could understand her joy and excitement over the unexpected treat of being line leader on such an important day.

Laughing at her giddiness, I reached over to give Julia a quick hug, and said, “Wow! What a great day you’ll have! But you know, more than a dream come true, this sounds to me like it’s a special gift to you from God … just to remind you that He thinks you’re pretty special and He loves you.”

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Sometimes, when I am reflecting upon the goodness of God, I think about just how often He has answers my prayers.  God is often merciful to give to me those things for which I’ve directly asked Him, and I am always amazed when I get to share the stories of His faithfulness to me.

Yet, I sometimes think God shows His love for me in a greater way by simply giving me something I didn’t even know I wanted or dared to ask … like getting to be the line leader on party jumper day, or finding money in the pocket of a coat you haven’t worn in a while, or checking into a hotel at the end of a long, hard day to discover your reservation had been upgraded to a better room without any extra costs.

I’m so glad I am loved by a Heavenly Father, who not only desires to give me the desires of my heart, but also loves to show His deep love for me by surprising me in the most unexpected ways.

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Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. ~Psalm 37:4

Every good and perfect gift is from above. ~James 1:17

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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.

“J” Names

Every so often, I think about how odd it is that so very many people I love have names starting with the letter J.

There is my husband Jon, and two of my children (Joel and Julia). My paternal grandmother’s name was Juanita, and one of my especially dear friends is Josephine.  My dad and his father both had the first name James, though neither of them used it, preferring to be called by their middle names instead. My sister-in-law is Julie and her husband’s name is Jeff. My cousin has a son named Jude, and another cousin has a boy named Jack.

There are more …

Mrs. Jeane taught me 4th grade, but she was always more like an aunt to me. I  have two friends named Jill, and a college pal named Justine. Every week at church kind Mr. Johnny sits in front of me, and sometimes Jose’ sits behind me. I have several acquaintances with the names Jennifer, Jessica or some variation thereof. I know a few Joshuas, a couple of Jeremys and there are at least three people I know with the name JJ.

And should I run out of people with names start with the letter J, there is always my husband’s dog, Jackson.

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It really does seem like a lot of people have J names.

One year I had a classroom full of 3rd graders, in which 15 of my 23 students had names beginning with the letter J.

Jordan, Jordon, and Jordyn, as well as Jacob and Jakob. Jeremy and Jerome. Jocelyn, Jacqueline, and Jasmine. Joshua. Jarod. Jacee. Jamie. Jade.

Whew!

Of the remaining eight students, five had names beginning with the letter K or a C which made the hard “kuh” sound. (Oh yes … the insanity is true. I couldn’t make this stuff up. Poor Damien. He probably got called on to answer questions far more than he should have.)

Naturally, that was the school year I thought I might go crazy. Never in my life have I stuttered quite so much. I vowed then and there to never name a single one of my children any name starting with the letter J, but you see how well that worked out for me.

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When I was a child, my church often sang an old hymn that goes like this:

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Sweetest name I know.

Jesus. It really is the sweetest, most wonderful name. It’s also the most important name I know, for it is the name above all other names.

at the name of Jesus
every knee will bow—
of those who are in heaven and on earth
and under the earth—
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord

~Philippians 2:10-11

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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.

 

 

In Memoriam of Poppa: A Guest Post by Joel

Joel, age 15
Joel, age 15

This is Joel. He’s my oldest biological child, and the oldest son in our home. A few days ago, I shared this open letter to Joel, writing about how proud I am of him and what a joy it has been to be his mom. It probably describes him better than anything else I could say.

Joel is my high achiever with the big life dreams. He is my hard and diligent worker, who gives everything he does 110%. He is either utterly serious or the biggest clown you’ll ever meet. Tall, lanky, and tenderly sweet … he’s the boy that made me a mom, and I treasure the gift that he is to me.

Today I am proud to share Joel’s essay about his memories of his grandfather. He is my fourth of my five children to guest post for me during the month of April. Next week, I’ll share Megan’s story. But until then, please enjoy …

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In Memoriam of Poppa

Wednesday, September 17, 2014. 7:30 am. My mother’s 42nd birthday. Typically my siblings and I would have woken her up, but today I was the one being shaken awake. Bleary-eyed and fuzzy-headed, I tried to comprehend her words. “Joel, your grandfather has passed away.”

Poppa? Dead? How could that even be possible? Just last night I had talked to him on the phone. Lying back down, I pulled the covers over my head. Maybe it was just a nightmare.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t a bad dream. My family spent the morning, throwing clothes into bags and boarding our two dogs at a local kennel. My mother, who was close to her father, seemed strangely calm as she double-checked our suitcases. She wanted to be sure everyone had packed dress shoes, and that my brother and I had both packed a tie to wear to the funeral. Shortly after 12 pm, everyone piled into the mini-van to drive the two and a half hours up to my grandparents’ home in north Louisiana.

Soon the flat swamp lands of southern Louisiana turned into rolling hills covered with pine trees. As the car sped along the highway, I began to recall the many road trips I had taken with Poppa. I enjoyed nothing more than traveling with him in his white Ford F-150. It didn’t matter to me where we went for I just enjoyed being on the road. Poppa and I both shared a love for just taking a long drive, no particular destination or schedule in mind.

I watched the trees pass by in a blur, and thought about the previous Christmas holiday. As it turned out, I had the opportunity to spend the week prior to Christmas with my grandparents. None of my cousins were there, so I got completely spoiled by my grandmother’s amazing cooking. During the day, Poppa and I drove around the back roads of Catahoula Parish together, making Christmas deliveries of jars of cane syrup to friends. . Sometimes we would go in for a short visit. Other times I would just jump out to leave the jar of cane syrup next to the door. Now I felt sad, knowing it was Poppa’s last Christmas, and yet at the same time glad because I had gotten to spend so much of it with him.

Before I knew it, we were pulling up the hill to my grandparents’ home. Cars were parked everywhere. Inside, there was a small crowd, talking in hushed whispers. Yet, even with all those people, the house felt empty and lonely. Poppa wasn’t there, and suddenly the house I always loved to visit didn’t feel comforting or familiar.

The following day we went to the church for the time of visitation. Slowly, I walked up to the open casket and stared at my grandfather’s body. I realized, as I stood there gazing at the man laid out in the casket, that a part of me still held on to the hope that perhaps everyone was just wrong. My grandfather was still alive and we weren’t about to bury him in the ground after all. Now, that hope was gone. I had seen for myself and I knew it was true. Poppa was dead.

I sat down in one of the empty pews, watching as the pictures of my grandfather’s life scroll by slowly across the screen. Photos of his boyhood, college years, and of the years when my mother was just a child. I didn’t recognize this younger man, though I could see the resemblance he had to the Poppa I knew and loved. Same twinkling eyes. Same happy smile.

Then there were photos of Poppa I clearly remembered, like the one of us standing outside in the yard with the white house on the riverbank behind us in the background. Poppa and Kaytee, my grandmother, had lived there for 15 years. My mother and my siblings and I had lived there with them for two years, after my parents were divorced. I learned to ride a bike down that old gravel drive, Poppa and Mama cheering me on as I pedaled faster and faster. One spring, Kaytee and Poppa planted a garden. I can still remember the feeling of the warm sun on my back as we planted the seeds. And I don’t know who was more excited, Poppa or me, when we started finding ripe tomatoes and cucumbers ready to be picked.

Another photo showed my grandfather at his retirement party, just four years earlier. Poppa had been a high school principal. I used to love to go visit him at “his school.” I really did think he owned it, too. Many afternoons, my mother would bring my brother and sister and me to visit him at his office. We would walk in, and Poppa would beam with delight. The first thing he wanted to do was walk us around the school, proudly showing off his grandchildren to his staff of teachers and to the students. If the gym were not being used for a P.E. class, Poppa would take us there so that we could run up and down the court. Later, before we left, Poppa would walk us to the candy machines. He would pull a key from his pocket and open up the door to reveal all the candy hidden within. “Choose whatever you like,” he would say. I always got the green bag of Skittles. My brother Nathan used to believe that we could have all the candy we wanted for free, but I knew better. I knew because I saw that before Poppa shut the door to the machine, he slipped a five-dollar bill into the coin box, payment for our snack and then some.

That night, we returned to my grandfather’s house. We were quiet and somber, everyone lost in thoughts and memories. How odd it seemed that a person could be so full of life one day and then dead the next! I had been hearing people around me talk. “Why just last Sunday, Malcolm was elected to be the chairman of the deacons at church!” Another mentioned how he was president of the town civic club, and was present at the club’s Monday night meeting. One lady shared how she had carried on a long conversation with my grandfather at the post office on Tuesday morning. I thought about all of this, and pondered proudly that my grandfather had lived right up until he died.

Lying in my bed, I thought of all the things Poppa had taught me: how to shoot a gun; to bait a hook and catch a fish; to drive a truck. Mostly though, he taught me by example how to live for God. Early in the mornings I would get up to see him sitting with his Bible in front of him, reading God’s word. He was a man of prayer, too. No doubt I am a Christian because of my grandfather’s prayers for my salvation. I feel asleep comforted by these thoughts.

The funeral the next day was crowded, the sanctuary of the Baptist church where my grandfather served as a deacon filled to overflowing. I felt honored that he was loved by so many. As I sat there during the funeral, in my heart I came to an understanding that to this day has helped me process my grandfather’s death.

While Poppa may have not lived as long as I would have liked, he left behind memories that I will never forget, a legacy for me to cherish, and a love that I will carry with me until the day that I die. Death may be able separate me from my grandfather, but the one thing it cannot do is put an end to the truths of who he was in Christ or the love that I hold dear for him in my heart.

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On my grandfather’s tombstone are engraved the following words: “The righteous will be remembered forever. ~Psalm 112:6”

Truer words have never been written.

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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.

 

Head, Heart, Hands, Health: The Four H’s

I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, and my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country and my world.

4H

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When I was growing up, there were three things I knew I would be required to do. Each of them was non-negotiable.

1.  Go to church

2.  Take piano lessons for at least three school years (3rd-5th grades)

3.  Join 4-H

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I was born into a 4-H family. My paternal grandmother was a 4-H Extension Agent for many years, and my father used to entertain us with stories about his 4-H adventures back when he showed prize-winning lambs. Not only did I always know that one day I would also be a 4-H’er, but eventually identifying myself as such ranked right up there with being from the South and attending a Southern Baptist church. It was just part of who I was and how I was raised.

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Mr. Neal, my county agent, helping me learn how to show a lamb and what the judges would look for at the livestock shows.
Mr. Neal, my 4-H agent, helping me learn how to show a lamb and explaining to me exactly what the judges would look for when I showed my sheep at the livestock shows.

My first experience with 4-H was getting a small “flock” of my own 4-H sheep. By flock I mean three lambs. I named them, which was probably a huge mistake. I didn’t realize that later on I was going to have to eat them.

Lambs look cute and cuddly in pictures, as they serenely eat along grassy hillsides. In reality, they are rather annoying and incredibly stinky. I didn’t like early morning wake-up calls to go outside and feed a pen full of bleating lambs, nor did I enjoy the chaos of livestock shows. So I soon discovered that what sounded like great fun prior to my enrollment in the 4-H livestock program turned out to be not to be quite my cup of tea.

My next 4-H project was the Foods and Nutrition project. I was so excited to spend time in the kitchen with my mother and grandmother. I was nine years old when I entered my first 4-H cooking contest, the egg cookery. My mother was probably as surprised as I was when I took the first place ribbon with my dessert. Later I went on to compete at the district level where I took another first place ribbon, before moving onto the state egg cookery contest where I placed second behind a high school senior.

In high school, I competed on a state level in the 4-H child development project, winning many ribbons and awards for the scope and depth of my project work. When I graduated from high school, I received a small 4-H scholarship to help offset the cost of my college books.

More than anything else I ever did, 4-H prepared me for my college experiences and gave me opportunities to practice real-world skills rather than receive just textbook knowledge.

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Over the course of the past 30+ years, I’ve been a 4-H member, a 4-H club leader, a 4-H adult volunteer, and a 4-H Extension Agent.  But the hardest job I’ve ever had is that of being a 4-H mom.

I’ve got five kids who are all active 4-H’ers. From monthly meetings to service projects to competitions, not a week goes by when my family isn’t involved in some sort of 4-H related activity. Take this week for example, I’ve taken one child to help with a 4-H service project, sold and delivered 4-H strawberries, made a trip to the 4-H office to pick up meeting supplies, answered several phone calls and emails regarding our club’s upcoming 4-H field trip, and collected 4-H forms for upcoming awards night. Whew! I’m tired just typing all of that.

It’s hard work, but I know my children are learning valuable lessons that they will carry into adulthood.

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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.

GiGi: Just One of My Many Names

I don’t remember the first time I was called GiGi, but according to my mother it first started when my baby brother was learning to talk.

When I was two or three years old, I generally referred to myself as “Paigie.”  As my brother learned to talk, he began call out to me, “Gi! Gi!”

Mom said I would put my hands on my hips and say in a very agitated sort of way, “My name no Gi! My name Paige-GI!”

My mother thought it was a cute nickname, but I hated it. No matter how hard she tried to convince me, I refused to be okay with having GiGi as a nickname.

Eventually, no one called me GiGi anymore.

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The first time I met Jon’s girls, he introduced me as “Mrs. Paige.”  We ate lunch together in a crowded Chik-Fil-A restaurant. Maddie, the oldest, wearing a mismatched outfit complete with a baseball cap pulled to the side, talked a mile a minute. Megan, the younger one, wore a dress and a glittery headband, clung to her Daddy’s arm. I couldn’t tell if it was from insecurity or fear.

As we sat down to eat our lunches, Maddie asked her dad if she could go get some condiments for her sandwich and fries. He gave permission. She left the table. Then five steps later, she turned around and came back to the table, flashed the most brilliant smile I’ve ever seen, and then asked if she could get anyone else something while she was up.

Afterward, when I commented on Maddie’s sweet consideration of others, Jon confessed to me, “Well, I have to admit she completely stunned me! The girl has been listening to my lectures on manners after all!

Megan, who sat cuddled up to Jon, occasionally smiled shyly at me, but mostly she was quiet, allowing her father and older sister to do all the talking.

That was in October. I wouldn’t see his girls again until the last day of 2009.

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It was the New Year’s Eve I had no plans. Always before, I had somewhere to go, something to do, a person to be with … but not in 2009.  It looked like I would be spending the day completely alone.

Jon found out about my lack of plans as we talked late into the night on December 30th.  “Are you sure you have no where to go? Maybe your parents …

“No,” I replied. “They have gone to visit with my grandmother for a couple of days. They will come in late tomorrow evening, but I know they will be too tired from traveling to want to entertain me. It’s okay … I’ll just watch a movie or read a book.”

Well, I don’t like the idea of you being alone on New Year’s Eve,” Jon stated. “You could come hang out with me and my girls … but I would have to okay it with them since they we planned a few special things to celebrate. They are already in bed, so I’ll ask in the morning and give you a call to let you know if they approve.

The next morning, Jon called me bright and early, just as he had promised. “Maddie definitely wants you to come, but Megan isn’t so sure. She would like to talk to you about it first, if that’s okay.

The next thing I know, this small voice came on the phone. “Mrs. Paige, my daddy said you don’t have anywhere to go today. Is that true?

“Yes, it is.”

Oh. So dad is right.”  There was a small pause. Then Megan continued, “Well, Daddy says it would be a nice thing if we invited you. But I’m worried that if you come, then I will be left out.

“Oh, Megan … I don’t want to take you away from your Daddy. Maybe it is better if I don’t come visit today after all, especially if it is going to make you feel anxious. Maybe you and your dad talk about it some more? It’s okay if you decide to say no.”

I quietly hung up the phone, figuring perhaps Jon would call me back in a few minutes, after he had talked more with Megan. I felt like he would confirm what I assumed was going to be the result of that discussion, that his girls needed him more than I needed a place to go so it would be better for everyone if I didn’t join them for New Year’s Eve.

And I was right … well, right about the phone ringing. Everything else I had gotten wrong.

The person calling me back turn out to be Megan.

Mrs. Paige,” she said. “I have decided that I want you to come visit us today. If I were all alone on New Year’s Eve, I would want someone to invite me to visit. Besides, my daddy promised that I will definitely not be left out.

“Megan, I promise you that too.”

Later that day, I showed up to Jon’s with my craft box in tow. The girls and I made a few fun crafts together, bonding over paint and hot glue guns.  Later on, we went out for dinner, going to a Mexican restaurant that had a huge buffalo head hanging on the wall.  As we walked passed the buffalo, Megan held tightly to my hand.

I had no idea that exactly one year to the day I would become Mrs. Jon Hamilton.

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Shortly after Jon and I were married, I asked him if his girls could call me by another name,

“Mrs. Paige just sounds too formal,” I said.

“Okay … what do you suggest?” Jon asked.

“Maybe we could let the girls decide what to call me,” I said.

But a week passed by and neither girl could come up with an idea that suited everyone. Finally, Jon asked, “Did you have a nickname growing up?”

“Not really,” I replied. “Though my brother tried to give me a nickname. My mother said it made angry every time he called me it, so eventually no one called me that name anymore.”

Both Megan and Maddie perked up. “What was the nickname?” one of them asked, eager to hear what sort of name would make me mad.

And so I told them the story … and then said, “But you know, being called GiGi wouldn’t make me feel angry now. In fact, I’d like it very much.”

So that’s how I came to be known as GiGi … and not just to Jon’s beautiful girls, but also to our foster children.

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I’ve gone by many names in my life.  Paige and GiGi are just two. I’m called Mom, Aunt Paige, and Mrs. Hamilton. There are people who even call me by my first name, Angela. And I answer to them all.

However, if you call me something like Margaret or Allison or Bob, I am not going to respond. You see, I have many names, but those names do not belong to me.

Source: http://bibleresources.org/names-of-jesus/
Source: http://bibleresources.org/names-of-jesus/

Sometimes people say that it doesn’t matter what name you call God, for there are many ways to call upon Him.

That’s only partly true.

God does have many names.  He is called Jehovah, Yahweh, Adonai, and the Bread of Life. He is known as the Wonderful Counselor and the Prince of Peace. He is the Great I Am. King of Kings. Lord of Lords. Jesus Christ.

But you can’t just call God by any name …for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12).

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Hallowed be Thy name. ~Matthew 6:9

Fifteen: An Open Letter to my Oldest Son on His Birthday

Dear Joel,

Fifteen?! Seriously, kid … you have got to stop doing this. Enough is enough. It seems like every time I turn around, you are back at it again, blowing out candles and getting people to bring you gifts. If you would just look at this from my perspective, I think you would see how all these birthdays are not only making you grow up quicker than I’d like, but it’s aging me as well. Really, it will be okay if you would just lay off the birthdays for a year or two.

Okay, okay … I’m just kidding around. I really don’t want you to stop growing up. I just wish you wouldn’t grow up so quickly.

But now that I’ve gotten your attention, I’d like to  take this opportunity to tell you how proud I am of you, and what a joy it has been to be your mom for the past fifteen years.

You know, there was a long time when I wasn’t sure I’d get to be anyone’s mother. I want nothing more than a baby of my own, but for close to three years it seemed like that chance may never come for me.

April 4, 2000
Joel and me on the day he was born …     April 4, 2000

And then, rather unexpectedly, God gave me you.

Before I became a mother, people told me all sorts of things about parenthood. Much of it was true, but none of it prepared me for loving you.

From the very beginning, my experiences with motherhood have showed me one thing:  Expect the unexpected. Things rarely work out the way I anticipate. But, I’m glad to say that most of the surprises have been good things.

Right from the start, my plans for being a mother went on a completely different path than I ever had worked out in my head. You see, I figured I would have a houseful of girls, all pink and perfectly frilly. But when I found out that you were a boy … well, I was overjoyed.

Before I knew it, my home was filled with boy toys, boy activities and boy noises. Wrestling with your brother, throwing balls in the house, burping contests … these are things I never had to teach you. While I must admit that I really don’t understand what it means to be a male and sometimes boy behavior annoys me, I’m so very glad God saw fit to give me the son I didn’t even realize I wanted.

Sumo wrestling with your brother
Sumo wrestling with your brother

Of course, the unexpected joys didn’t stop after I found out I was expecting a baby boy. You see, I thought I knew what it would be like to care for a baby, but you turned everything I thought I knew upside down, and mostly in a delightful sort of way.

For example, one of my earliest unexpected delights was bringing you home from the hospital as a newborn and discovering that you were practically sleeping through the night. I could feed you at 11 pm and you slept peacefully until around 4 am. I marveled at how most parents of newborns complained of being up several times a night with babies who constantly want to eat or who seemed to have their days and nights mixed up, while my baby slept like a champ from the very beginning. There was no doubt in my mind that I had one special kid to call my own.

Age 4 ... reading a map at the zoo.
Age 4 … reading a map at the zoo.

Several years later, I found myself driving you and your siblings halfway across the nation to see your father. In that era of life without a smart photo or GPS to direct me, I found myself unable to drive and read the map at the same time. Afraid of getting us hopelessly lost, I prayed, asking God to help me stay on the right roads. I hadn’t gone another 10 or so miles when I realized that you were sitting in the backseat, following our path on the map in your lap. You were only seven and yet somehow you navigated me from north Louisiana to remote cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, once again amazing me by doing the unexpected.

Sometimes I say I don’t like surprises, but because of you, I’ve learned to treasure those unforeseen moments.

At your request, we celebrated President John Adam's 271st birthday ... complete with cake and ice cream.  Only for you, Joel. Only for you.
At your request, we celebrated President John Adam’s 271st birthday … complete with cake and candles. Only for you, Joel. Only for you.

One of the best things about being your mom is that you have a way of making me laugh. Perhaps it is because you do so many unexpected things. Perhaps it is because you are just a funny sort of guy.  Whatever the reason, being your mom is a hoot!

Your quirky sense of humor; your crazy antics. I enjoy the playful banter we often share with each other. You’ve kept me laughing for the past fifteen years. And you know what the Bible teaches us about laughter … it’s like good medicine for the soul (Proverbs 17:22).

But sometimes life isn’t all fun and games. You’ve taught me a lot about how to get through tough situations instead of being stuck in a place of anxiety or worry. Because of you, I’ve discovered that bravery comes in all sorts of forms.

You must have been about six years old when I realizes what a brave boy you really were. At that time, you were terrified of water being on your face, especially water anywhere near your eyes. I never quite understood that fear, but I could tell it was rather deep-seated. One afternoon, all of the cousins were playing together outside. I noticed you watching all of the kids drinking water from the hose … and I could tell you were torn between not wanting to be left out and the fear of doing getting your face water. It was pure agony watching you wrestling with yourself that way.

Drinking from the water hose never killed anyone ...
Drinking from the water hose never killed anyone …

Yet just a few minutes later, I watched in wonder as you squeezed your eyes tightly, leaned forward, and took a sip of water, boldly braving the splashes to your face. Another unexpected moment from you…

 

Then again, I shouldn’t have been surprised. You’ve always been an overcomer.

Taking a ride down the zip line
Taking a ride down the zip line

Do you remember the time we spent the weekend with another family for a big homeschooling get-together?  There were lots of kids, big and small and in-between sizes. Some of the bigger kids were taking turns riding a zip line. Oh, how you wanted to go down that zip line! It was one of those times when I couldn’t do anything to help you … all I could do was watch and wonder if you would gather up the nerve to give it a try.  And just when I thought you had given up on the idea of attempting that daring feat, I heard the sound of kids clapping and cheering. I turned around just in time to see you finish your first ride on the zip line. As your feet touched the ground, a smile broke out on your face that was a bright as a thousand beaming lights.

Joel, there is nothing shameful about experiencing feelings of fear, for it is just part of being a human. However, it is what we do with that fear that builds our character.  Watching you that afternoon, I learned a lesson about facing our fears head on. I was reminded of how often the words “Don’t fear” or “Do not be afraid” appear in the Bible. I pray you never forget God is with you even in your biggest fears.

As a parent, it’s been one of my biggest joys and responsibilities to teach you about the character of God. Just as He doesn’t want us to fear, God also loves a cheerful giver.

The pile of gifts you bought for children in Iraq.
The pile of gifts you bought for children in Iraq.

Over the last fifteen years I have been inspired by your selfless generosity. I’ve always been especially proud of your requests for your 7th birthday when you asked your friends to give you money to buy schools supplies and clothes for the soldier’s in your father’s Army unit to give to the children in the Iraqi villages near where they were stationed. That you would do such a big thing at a young age is still so very amazing to me.

Parish-Wide Math Bee Champion ... Again!
Parish-Wide Math Bee Champion … Again!

Joel, you are an intelligent and bright young man. I knew it when you were a tiny boy, but every so often I am reminded of it again … such as when you taught yourself to read before your fourth birthday or when you won the parish-wide math bee two years in a row.

When you were in the first grade, you wanted to know which Dr. Seuss book was most-loved. You decided to take a poll and asked the local library if you could conduct a survey. To my delight, you  got lots of participants and created a fun graph to display with the results. It wasn’t just the activity that impressed me, but also the sheer joy you obviously had while doing it.

You with you Dr. Seuss poll results, which were on display at the public library
You with you Dr. Seuss poll results, which were on display at the public library

I love that you are an eager and passionate learner. This has been a character trait of yours since you were a very young boy.

I’ll never forget the day you first learned about Abraham Lincoln. Not quite four, you were fascinated by the tall man with the tall hat who lived long ago. Within just a few weeks, you were taken with everything presidents, a passion that lasted for the next several years and included you writing personal letters to every living President and First Lady.

Dressed as Abe Lincoln
Dressed as Abe Lincoln

Among the items I’ve saved for you are handwritten letters that you received from Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, and Lady Bird Johnson.

Later on, your fascination turned into an interest in politics. Seeing you participate in activities like Teen Pact, Camp Joshua, and serve on the state 4-H Citizenship Board are just further reminders that this is a God-given passion and He gave it to you for a purpose.

And you have other gifts too, like your talent for public speaking. It comes so naturally to you. I’m always so proud to see you serve as that Master of Ceremonies for our homeschool praise night, or go compete in another 4-H speaking contest. You just do it so very well that it gives me a certain parental joy to see you succeeding.

Touring a local news radio station
Touring a local news radio station

This past winter, you and I took a tour of a local news radio station. I could see the light in your eyes, as you took everything in and asked so many questions. You’ve mentioned before that you might like to be a radio broadcaster, especially for a sports or news station. And I can see you doing those things …

You may not be familiar with Eric Liddell, but he was an Olympic runner and a missionary to China. He credited as once having said, “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure. “*

Joel, when I see you working with numbers and talking statistics, reading about and discussing today’s big political issues, or speaking to a group of people, I feel God’s pleasure reflected in you. I hope you do too, for each of these are God-given gifts.

Sometimes I wonder if you ever will run for a political office or if you will be be a DJ on a news radio station or perhaps be a statistician for a politician … maybe you will do something else, completely unexpected. But, whatever it is that you decide to do with your life,  I know you will stay true to the honest principals by which you have been taught to live.

Age 4 ... writing "incredible" on the driveway in chalk
Age 4 … writing “incredible” on the driveway in chalk

Joel, you are an incredible young man, the God-given answer to one of my deepest prayers.  I know He has a purpose for your life, good things He has called you to do throughout your years on this earth.

 

 

 

 

Even though I realize that this means you’ll be celebrating more birthdays and you’ll grow up into a man sooner than I really want, I’m also eager to see what God has planned for you.

Joel and me ... Nov. 9, 2014
Joel and me … Nov. 9, 2014

I couldn’t be any prouder or love you any deeper.

~Momma

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For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ~Ephesians 2:10

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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.

 

*While this quote is often attributed to Eric Liddell, it was actually written by Colin Welland for the script to the movie Chariots of Fire.

European Vacation: A Guest Post by Nathan

Nathan, age 13
Nathan, age 13

Meet Nathan, my thirteen year old son. He’s my very own California Beach Boy, as he was born while his father was stationed at the Presidio of Monterey, California. Of course, the blond hair, big blue eyes and a stunning double dimple on his right cheek on add to the image.

Nathan has a lot of bragging rights, but his favorite thing to remind me of these days is that he is finally taller than me. Of course, this is not my favorite thing about my son, as there are far more things to love than just his height.

Nathan is extremely generous. Once he used all of his birthday money to buy chickens and soccer balls as gifts through World Vision for children living in poverty in third world countries.  Nathan is a deep thinker. He loves to engage in conversation and debate discuss intellectual topics, especially those on Biblical issues.

Today I am proud to share Nathan’s non-fiction essay on his extended trip to Europe last summer. His is the third guest post from one of my children, but there are still two more yet to go as all of my children will have the chance to guest post for me in April.

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European Vacation

As your average American teen, there are many things I just assume I’ll never have the opportunity to do. I’m not rich enough or famous enough to have the world at my fingertips. Expensive vacations and trips to exotic places were just dreams for my future, not my current reality.

However, last summer, when my dad was stationed in Germany with his Army unit, I had the chance of a lifetime to go and spend six weeks with him. It was my Great European Vacation, and I came home from that trip with much more than a few great photos.

We arrived at my dad’s house late at night, weary from traveling for well-over 24 hours. I had been looking forward to seeing Germany for months, but now all I could think about was sleep. It wasn’t until I woke up the next morning that I really got to see my surroundings, both the house and the town.

My father’s house was interesting, having two main floors and an attic-type room that we used mostly for reading. My room had a great view of a restaurant called The Holstein Hut, which was situated at the top of a very high hill on the outskirts of the village. This restaurant was interesting for many reasons. First, it was only opened business randomly. You never knew for sure if it would be opened or not. The best way to tell was to look for the flag that was raised to indicate that The Holstein Hut was serving food on that particular day. Secondly, you could only get there by hiking, which is why I guess they mostly opened if the weather were suitable for hikers. But the best part about the The Holstein Hut was that it had a particularly great view of the area. Some of my favorite memories of my time in Germany is going out for an afternoon hike to get a sausage at The Holstein Hut and take in some of the beautiful German scenery.

My dad had opted to live in a German village instead of on the American base where he worked. The name of this village was Munchweiler an der Alsenz, which means “Munchweiler by the river Alsenz.” You needed the entire name because there were three villages with the name Munchweiler in the area. I suppose I thought that the river Alsenz would be something really special and worth seeing. However, we passed by the Alsenz on one of our many walks around the village, and I was surprised to see it was just this tiny stream! Hardly anything worth naming a village after, if you asked my opinion.

Munchweiler an der Alsenz was relatively small and compact, as were all the German villages in the area. Everything was packed close together, and yet it didn’t feel crowded at all. “Did you have a nice-sized backyard?” my mother once asked me. I regretted to tell her that we didn’t. No one had backyards. Yet the area surrounding the village was sort of like a big common backyard that everyone enjoyed. And what a common backyard it was! The entire area was covered in hills, with paths and small roads leading in all directions. There were plenty of trees dotting the most beautiful fields I have ever seen.

Everyone walked. No matter where you were going, you walked. You could walk just a couple of miles and pass through three or four villages on your journey. I loved walking because you could really soak in all the beauty. But if you were going far, then you could travel by car on the Audubon (where there really is no speed limit) or by train (which were used in a way that is similar to how Americans might use buses).

Hiking in the Black Forest where it was light enough for a photo.
Hiking in the Black Forest where it was light enough for a photo.

Once we took a weekend trip to the Black Forest in southern Germany. Right away I could see where it got its name. The trees were so thick that everything looked black, even in the middle of the day. The main thing to do in the Black Forest was hike. We hiked up to the peak and then back down, all the way in semi-darkness.

Kegel Bowling ... entertaining Germans since the Middle Ages.
Kegel Bowling … entertaining Germans since the Middle Ages.

 

However, it was also during this visit that I first learned about Kegel Bowling. The small bed-and-breakfast where we stayed had a bowling alley in the basement. It was just one lane with nine pins that were arranged in a diamond. This different style of bowling was invented in the 1300’s. Perhaps the strangest part was that there was no pin-setter in this bowling alley. Rather all the pins were attached to strings that were pulled up and lowered again to reset the pins once they had all been knocked down.

DSCN2806
with my siblings in front of the Eiffel Tower

Another weekend, my father took us to Paris, France. It was a quick trip, so we rushed to get in all the highlights. We went to the Louvre Art Museum, where I saw the Mona Lisa up close and personal. It was so much smaller than I imagined it would be. I also saw the Venus de Milo, which is a famous statue with no arms, and a sculpture of The Great Sphinx. We walked all over Paris. I stood underneath the Eiffel Tower, but I couldn’t ride to the top because the elevator was broken. We climbed every last exhausting stair to get to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. But my favorite part of Paris was all the cafés. Everywhere you looked there was another street-side restaurant, with delicious sandwiches made on baguettes, pasta dishes covered in rich sauces, and crème’ brulee, an amazing dessert that I had often heard of but never tried. I even ate French fries in France, which to me were exactly like American French fries only they were bigger. I suppose the saying that “everything is bigger in America” isn’t always true.

Eating ... my favorite thing about traveling to Europe
Eating … my favorite thing about traveling to Europe

Actually, my favorite part of the entire trip was the food. I can’t even begin to describe how much I enjoyed trying all the new cuisines. Leberknodle, bratwurst brochen, leberkase, jagerschnitzel. I loved it all. My taste buds were in heaven!

Leberknodle and bratwurst brochen would be instant hits here in Cajun country. The leberknodle is like a giant boudin meatball, only not quite as spicy. Bratwurst brochen is essentially a sausage poboy. Both are seriously tasty.

Leberkase literally means “meat cheese.” Basically, it is meat (sort of like bologna) that is packed tightly in a pan, just like a meatloaf. There is actually no cheese in this dish, but many people say it has the texture of cheese. That’s how it got the name. Honestly, I don’t care what the Germans call it. I just call it delicious!

Of all the foods I tried, jagerschnitzel was probably my favorite dish. Schnitzel is simply a pounded fried pork steak, which by itself would be totally awesome. Yet, typically when you order schnitzel at a restaurant, it comes with either cheese (kase) or mushrooms (jager, which is pronounced “yay’-gur”). So jagerschnitzel is a fried pork steak covered with a creamy mushroom sauce. Yummy stuff!

Six weeks is a long time to spend in another country. When I returned to my home in Lafayette, my mother hugged me tight and said it looked as if I had grown at least a foot while I had been gone! Of course, I hadn’t, but I had grown up in many ways I never imagined I would. As a result of my extended travels, I am now aware of how culture and history binds people of all nations together, how life in other countries is extremely similar and yet vastly different from life in the U.S., and that if all I ever do is play video games and eat fast food, then I am going to miss out on so much this world has to offer!

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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.

Death Cubed

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.

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

Yesterday, in my story Cats, I shared how my husband Jon nearly died from a heart infection caused by the Bartonella bacteria, or Cat Scatch Fever. But today I want to share how Jon was not just spared from death only once, but actually three separate times during those early months of our marriage.

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The First Near-Death Experience

Three months before I started dating Jon, he had open-heart surgery to repair a leaky mitral valve. His recovery seemed slow from the start, and by the following summer (a year after that first surgery), Jon was experiencing a long list of strange symptoms. He was severely fatigued and pale. He constantly ran low-grade fevers, would wake up multiple times a night either soaking in sweat or shaking with severe chills. His muscle and joints ached, his spleen was swollen and tender, and he often felt so nauseous he couldn’t eat.  Jon’s weight plummeted, dropping from 250 lbs prior to the surgery to less than 200 lbs during the fall of 2010.

By the time of his official diagnosis on December 22, 2010, 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, a team of doctors and nurses were able to reverse that from continuing to happen, though several of his medical caregivers admitted to me 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 truly was almost too far gone when we arrived at the hospital.

A medical test showed a vegetation of infection on his mitral valve that was approximately the size of my pinky finger. It flapped every 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, Jon’s cardiologist, 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 to live had you not brought him in when you did. 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. Jon is one incredibly sick man.”

Nine days later, Jon and I stood before a small crowd of our family and friends, vowing to love each other in sickness and in health. I had high hopes that the sickness part was behind us.

I’ve written a much more detailed and longer post about the miracle of getting Jon’s diagnosis, so if you are interested in that part of the story, you can read it here.

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The Second Near Death Experience

Unfortunately, Jon’s medical story didn’t end with that first hospitalization. A month after our wedding, Jon ended up getting a second open-heart surgery because the heart infection wouldn’t clear up with antibiotics alone. His infected mitral valve was removed and he got a brand-new teflon version that clicks rhythmically with each beat of his heart.

After another three and a half weeks in the hospital, Jon came home. However, it was clear that other areas of his body besides his heart were not functioning correctly. One main area of concern was his kidneys. Doctors couldn’t be sure if his severely weakened kidney function was a side effect of the heart infection or if the kidneys themselves had become infected too. Therefore, it was determined that Jon needed to have a kidney biopsy.

The afternoon following the procedure, Jon looked tired. He said he felt like he needed to rest. Half an hour later, I heard Jon moaning and went to check on him. About the time I entered the bedroom, I saw him stagger from the bed and stumbled toward the bathroom, where he fell to the floor, vomiting. His color was a strange grey; his entire body was covered in a cold sweat. Immediately, I knew something was seriously wrong.

Looking back, I should have called for an ambulance. I didn’t. Instead, I opted to cart Jon to the Emergency Room myself. Several times on the way, I thought Jon was going to pass out. When the triage nurse took his blood pressure, it was something ridiculously low, like 60/40. She immediately put Jon on a gurney stationed in the hospital hallway, as all the rooms in the ER were already filled with patients. Within seconds, doctors and nurses were crowded around Jon, starting IV’s and doing who knows what else. I stood to the side and prayed.

Soon it was established that Jon was experiencing a massive kidney bleed. He lost enough blood to create a blood clot the size of a brick in his back. He needed six units of blood and spent four days in ICU waiting on the kidney to stop bleeding.  After another week in the hospital, Jon was finally able to return home.

Days later, we learned the good news that Jon’s kidneys were not infected.  As happy as I was, I couldn’t believe my husband had nearly died having a medical test just so we could find out nothing was wrong with his kidneys after all.

Surely now, I thought, Jon must be back on the road to good health.

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The Third Near Death Experience

It wasn’t even a month later before the third nearly fatal health crisis came to pass.

Jon had been encouraged to take daily walks in order to build back up his heart stamina. One afternoon during his walk, Jon experienced stabbing chest pains that radiated down his left arm. Once again, we found ourselves rushing off to the Emergency Room.

At the hospital, Jon’s cardiologist ordered an echocardiogram of his heart just to be sure things looked okay. And that’s when the technician doing the test noticed something in Jon’s heart that shouldn’t have been there.

“It looked like squid flapping around in my ventricle,” Jon told me afterward.

“Great,” I replied. “That’s all we need. Squid in your heart.”

Jon’s doctor was baffled by this new development. In the end, he decided to give Jon some antibiotics and do a repeat test 48 hours later. Instead of improvement, the mysterious thing floating in Jon’s heart appeared to have grown significantly.

I stood in the hallway, several of Jon’s doctors and nurses huddled around me, each of them wiping away their own tears. “I don’t know what to do,” his cardiologist confessed. “It appears to me that Jon has a fungal infection in his heart. I’ve never seen anything like this, and I feel it is beyond me to be able to continue to treat Jon. My best suggestion is to find another hospital with a fantastic cardiology department to take him.”

Twenty-four house later, Jon was headed Oscher’s in New Orleans.

That night, Jon and I were greeted by the resident doctor on call. “Mr. Hamilton,” he said. “You do not look like the man described in your charts. I would expected you to appear to be sicker. However, this isn’t unusual. Older people tend to make a slow and steady decline, while younger people do not appear to be succumbing to their illness. They just suddenly die.”

Jon and I stared wide-eyed at this doctor, astounded both by the words and by his terrible bedside manner. This was not the encouraging news I was hoping to hear. I already knew, even without bothering to google fungal heart infections, that the prognosis was not good. Now this intern had just confirmed my suspicions and took away all the hope in my heart. For the first time in this long health crisis, I felt completely defeated. I felt so alone, scared I was about to lose the man I loved.

Jon, despite the fact that his very life was again on the line, seemed to be filled with a courage and a peace that could only come from God. After the doctor left us alone, Jon held my hand and prayed, telling the Lord that no matter what happened, we would continue to believe that  His plans for us were good and that we would choose to trust Him to care for us.

The next day, we met the team of doctors who would be trying to treat the medical mystery Jon had become. Test after test was performed … and it turned out that the biggest mystery of all was that there was no infection of any sort in Jon’s heart.

In fact, the doctors could find nothing but a healthy heart with a mechanical valve ticking away perfectly. The only thing they could see in Jon’s ventricles was the tissues of the cords that used to open and close his mitral valve. The surgeon had forgotten to trim them back during the open heart surgery.

But surely his cardiologist would not confuse these tiny heart tissues for a fungal infection. So where had the infection gone? To this day, that’s the only part of the mystery that remains.

But to me it is no mystery. It is evidence that God once again miraculously healed my husband.

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It’s been four years since my husband fought for his life and nearly lost three times. But in the end God spared him each time.

If you saw Jon today, you would never believe he had ever been so desperately ill. Other than the double scar running the length of his chest and the fact that he can no longer digest gluten or dairy (a lasting result of months of treatments from high-powered antibiotics) he looks, acts and is completely healthy.

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I love to share Jon’s story and how God intervened. It’s testimony to the love and power of God.

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

However, there’s another death that many will spend recalling this weekend … the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. But more than His death, it is His victory over death that provides a way for us to have life everlasting.

Happy Resurrection Weekend! 

Why are you looking for the living among the dead? He is not here, but He has been resurrected! ~ Luke 24: 5-6