Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Where We Dwell

Years ago, my husband and I stopped trying to determine what God's "reason" was for allowing Doug to have so many health problems.  It is miserable.  It's exhausting.  It's inconvenient.  It's expensive.  It's annoying.  It's painful.  It is altogether a burdensome journey.  I'm convinced, however, that if we focus only on the negative things about having chronic health problems, we would crumble.  It's just that devastating.  The great and wonderful things that come with all of these hospitalizations and surgeries can be just as overwhelming though.  These are the things we try to dwell upon.  We're not always victorious when it comes to this, but we try.

If Doug hadn't had so many surgeries, we would never have seen the way that God surrounds us with people who love us.  Each and every time he has had a hospital stay, friends, family members, neighbors, even nurses, pharmacists and soccer coaches have offered to watch kids, make dinner, do laundry, or even grocery shop for me. Allowing others to help me is something I struggle with, so I rarely accept these offers, but just knowing that there is an army of willing helpers is such a source of comfort when I am sitting in a surgery waiting room or next to a hospital bed, awaiting test results.  An email from friends letting me know that they're delivering dinner to my children while Doug's surgery unexpectedly drags on for hours or arriving at the hospital at 9am to find dear friends in the waiting room, ready to pray with us are such a wonderful gifts.

Our family relationships are strengthened during these times.  I adore how my children help each other so completely during Doug's hospital stays and illnesses.  They watch out for one another, entertain each other and rarely argue.  They tell me stories of games they've made up while I was gone, Youtube videos they've re-enacted, or ways they've helped out around the house.  They're learning how to adapt to changes and still get their household duties finished, complete their schoolwork, and even fill in the gaps for Doug and I when we're busy or at the hospital.  Skills they will need in adulthood are being perfected at their young ages.  My oldest son can put a casserole in the oven for he and his siblings, remember that Friday is trash day, and he has even learned to plunge the toilet!  These small things are big things when my mind is full and scrambled with other details.

One of my most-favorite Psalms is Psalm 91.  Psalm 91 begins, "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust."  Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare and from the deadly pestilence.  He will cover you with his feathers and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart."  More times than I can remember, I have sat in waiting rooms with my Bible open to this Psalm, thinking about how remarkable it is that God would be covering me with his feathers!  

This Psalm continues on, "Because he loves me, says the LORD, I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.  He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.  With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation." What comfort this is to my heart!  I may spend the entire drive home from the hospital crying and praying and pulling myself together before arriving home to be smothered in hugs and kisses from my children.  Being worn out from spending hours upon hours at a hospital makes me an emotional mess at times. Coming home to a box of tea, some chocolates, and some wonderful shower gel and lotion, left by a sweet friend is such a much-needed reminder of not only the love of my friends, but also the love of our Creator.  He provides for ALL of our needs and lifts me up, using His people.

This Psalm and witnessing how completely God's promise has shown itself in my own life are strong reminders to me that the Lord does not promise to keep us from trouble.  Instead, he promises to be with us in those times.  I have thought about how dreadful it must be to live a life without Christ as the center.  Unpleasant circumstances will come to everyone; it's not "if", but "when."  I am grateful that God chose me.  Even when I'm in a situation that I'd rather not be a part of, I am able to dwell in the shelter of the Most High and will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

It's Been 'Snow' Much Fun in February

This winter has not been a very snowy one until recently.  In the last few weeks, we've had tons of snow!  My kids have been loving it, except for the shoveling of the driveway.  I think they secretly even enjoy that part as well, since it is something my husband would typically do and they love doing "manly" jobs.

Every day, I look outside, never knowing what I'll find.  It could be a snow man in a disco-dancing pose, a snow man with angel wings and a tennis racket halo, kids pulling each other in sleds, toddlers and dogs making snow angels together, or a giant heart, stomped out in footprints in my front yard.  They're creative and don't mind the cold.  I prefer to watch them from the window and prepare hot cocoa and graham crackers to warm them up.

 Our Golden Retriever, Maggie, loves the snow too.  She insists on rolling in it EVERY time she goes outside to potty, so that when she comes inside, her fur is caked with snow.  One of my least-favorite parts of winter is stepping in those melted snow puddles she leaves on the kitchen floor.  The boys love to wrestle with this huge dog when they're bundled in snow clothes.  My younger son pretends she is a wild dog and he has to escape her death-grip.  My daughter likes roll around with her and claims that Maggie is making snow angels with her.  My oldest likes throwing snowballs, which confuses her because she can never find them to bring back to him. 

As I was catching up on Pinterest one day, I came across a pin for snow ice cream.  My kids were having a bored moment, so I suggested we try it.  It was easy to make and tasted a lot like soft-serve ice cream.  It did have a hint of "snow" flavor to it though.  Not bad, but not as delicious as we had hoped for. 

Here is the Robinson Family version of snow ice cream (the recipe we used made sloppy ice cream, so we edited it a bit to make it firmer):

1 cup of milk
1/2 cup of sugar
1 tsp. of vanilla extract
A lot of clean snow (10-12 cups)

Whisk together the milk, sugar, and vanilla until the sugar is dissolved.  Using a wooden spoon, stir in the snow until it becomes the texture of soft serve ice cream.  Enjoy!

My daughter wanted to save some for my husband, who was in the hospital at the time, so we put a Tupperware container of it in the freezer.  Three days later, it was a block of yellowish stickiness.  I wouldn't recommend freezing it for later!  

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Who's Hearing the Gospel In Room 224?

During Doug's last hospital visit, the kids and I visited him after lunch one day.  The nurse came in to check on Doug and asked if our kids had a snow day that day, since they were at the hospital during "school hours."  When I told her we home school, she was full of questions.  She had been thinking of homeschooling her son because he was being bullied at his public school.  We began talking about our reasons for homeschooling and how God nudged us down that path.  Instantly, I could tell she was offended by my faith and my reasons for homeschooling.

A few sentences later, she revealed that she grew up attending a Catholic school and had read the Bible, but she had abandoned her faith years ago.  I began to encourage her to change her heart, when she got a page from another nurse and had to leave, but she assured me she'd be right back.  After she stepped out, my husband said that he'd already tried to talk to her and she shut him down and she was going to feel "attacked."  

Doug and I exchanged a few sort-of-not-nice words with one another about obedience to God and our faith.  Our boys, who had said nothing until then, chimed in with their observations.  They began talking about how you could "feel" the Holy Spirit when we were talking to this nurse.  They compared it to a movie and kept wondering what we were going to say next. They are at an age where they are intrigued by wars, battles, and the fights between good and evil, making this conversation between the nurse and I extremely interesting to them. If nothing else, I was glad that my three children were experiencing firsthand how not everyone will be receptive to us as Christians and not everyone will choose Jesus.  I think my husband had the same thoughts.

When the nurse returned, my husband, who moments earlier said my words sounded attacking and harsh, pretty much threw a spiritual brick at her head.  She explained how she's a "spiritual" person and is raising her kids to have good morals and values and is a nurse because it's what God wants her to do.  Before I could say anything, Doug blurts out, "Well, that's good and all, but you need Jesus Christ" and proceeded to explain how God sent his son, Jesus, to die for our sins.  This is where I'd like to say that she accepted Jesus right then and there and her life will be forever changed.  Instead, she said she didn't have time to talk about this anymore and had to tend to another patient.

This experience was not new to neither Doug nor I, but to my children this was baffling.  Why didn't she want to hear more, to know more about Jesus?  They couldn't understand, after hearing about God's love for someone, how that person could not immediately be affected.  The Bible talks about child-like faith and I love that I have three examples of this in front of me nearly all of the time.  What a great reminder! There are times when I share my faith with someone when I wonder exactly who it is I am witnessing to.  At the time, I thought it was the nurse.  Looking back, it was really my children.  It would have been wonderful for them to see this heart-broken woman turn to Christ.  But they learned more in that half-hour of overhearing our conversation than I had taught them all morning using our highly-rated homeschooling curriculum!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Kidney Stones and Caterpillars

A couple of Wednesdays ago, my husband woke me up at 3am, telling me he had a kidney stone and needed to go to the Emergency Room.  I'd been asleep for approximately four hours.  In an effort to get just two or more hours of sleep, I plugged in a heating pad and gave him some Ibuprofen.  Doug gets kidney stones frequently, thanks to his Crohn's Disease, so this was not a new thing for us.  Usually, he is able to pass them on his own, but occasionally, he has to have surgery to remove them.  Five minutes later, he insisted this was not helping and was not going to help and he needed to get to the hospital.

Still in denial, I got in the shower and started getting ready for the day.  I knew an ER visit would take hours with testing, scans, etc. and I was hoping that with a little time, the kidney stone would make it's way out.  As I was stepping out of the shower, Doug came in the bathroom puking.  Fun times.  If you've never gotten dressed and dried your hair with someone hurling their guts out three feet from you, you're missing out!

We arrived at the emergency room and were ushered into a room where an IV was started, blood tests and CT scans were ordered, and Doug's pain and nausea were alleviated, sort of.  The CT scan revealed not just one stone, but a massive stone blocking the ureter, along with several other large stones close behind it.  His entire left kidney was approximately 1/3 full of kidney stones.  His urologist decided that the best way to remove these stones was by a Percotaneous Nephrostomy.  It would involve two surgeries: the first one to insert a tube through his back into his kidney and the second to use that tube to remove the stones.  The first surgery was scheduled for Thursday and the second would be scheduled as soon as a special team of radiologists and doctors was in place.  Apparently it is a tricky, surgery that takes three or more hours to complete.  He was admitted to the hospital for what we thought was an overnight stay.

Throughout that night, an infection was causing Doug to have a fever of 103 degrees.  It was a scary time of high doses of antibiotics and lots of prayer, but two days later, the fever finally came down.  The surgery to put the nephrostomy tube in his back was complete and as soon as he was rid of the infection, he would be allowed to come home before the second surgery two weeks later.  Thankfully, that happened on Monday, so now we just wait for phase two.

While all of this was happening, I had some custom orders placed.  One of these orders was for a baby cocoon that looked like the caterpillar from the Eric Carle book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  I have seen these adorable cocoons, but didn't have a pattern for one.  My mind was kept busy with figuring out how to make this thick, warm, wonderful cocoon and little matching hat.  I love it so much that I want to make more, so I created a listing for one in my Etsy shop:  https://www.etsy.com/listing/123077460/knitted-the-very-hungry-caterpillar-baby   I am always grateful for these projects, so that my times spent in hospital waiting rooms seems productive.  My husband felt how soft and cozy the cocoon was and wondered if I could make one for him.  It may have been the Dilaudid talking, but it might not be such a bad idea!  If you visit my husband in the hospital after his second surgery next week and he's wrapped in a cocoon, you'll know what I was doing in the waiting room while he was being operated on.  But more than likely, I will just stick to knitting hats or a set of golf club covers!