Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Series of Unfortunate Events

So... it's been a while since my last post. I often get comments about how much people enjoy reading the blog, only to feel guilty that I haven't updated in quite a while. The thoughts in the back of my mind are that I'm not going to update until there is positive news to share. However, this is not the life that I want to present. To me, that is one of the negative sides of social media. It's all about posting great and fun times in a person's life but is not totally true to all that someone is experiencing. So, here is my post on things that are not great and fun, but have definitely been our reality for the past 5 months...

As you know, Brad had all of his hardware taken out back in July. We were told that we would need several weeks to determine if this removal would help with Brad's chronic pain. Not long after the surgery, Brad got a severe UTI, which is common with paraplegics & he has had his fair share. But this one was the worst by far and we were told to go immediately to the ER. We were taken back to an examining/operating room to wait on the results, thinking the whole time that we would be able to go home later that night. However, the infection had gotten into his bloodstream, sepsis, and we had to spend several days and nights at the hospital. The doctors had to monitor daily to make sure that the IV meds were attacking the virus at an appropriate rate before we could go home. This all happened less than a month after the hardware removal.

After that, Brad was using the laptop at home on the couch. That night while he was getting ready for bed he noticed that he had a pretty good size burn on the side of his leg. The laptop battery on the cord had been pressing against his leg for about an hour resulting in a burn that took at least 2 months to completely heal.

Only a few weeks after the burn we went to Baton Rouge with my family to watch my brother, BJ, play soccer. That Sunday night after getting home Brad found that he had gotten a pressure sore from the lack of air in his cushion (his first pressure sore to date). We have adapted pretty well to the fact that checking Brad's skin on a very regular basis is now a part of life. I guess, though, that we did not check the 2 days that we were gone and a stage 2 pressure sore was the result. This has led to weekly visits to a wound care center, daily changing of bandages, 8 weeks of sitting at home on the couch (working from home) to get all pressure off of that spot, and not going anywhere we didn't absolutely have to for about 10 weeks to try to help the sore heal faster. Craziness!!!

Since this incident, just a few weeks ago, Brad was working in the garage with some tools and got 2 more burns on his legs. Sad to say, I was quick to get upset with him for not being more careful. Brad, being the patient soul he is, explained that he is having to correct 25 years of old habits (putting things in his lap, for instance) that he can no longer feel.

I can't even imagine having to remember and keep up with everything that Brad has to check on a daily basis. It would wear you down to hear all that he has to do everyday, simply as a result of the paralysis just to try to stay as healthy as he can.

There is good news in all of this, though. Because of the pressure sore the doctor was able to look at the laptop burn and treat it, as well as the burns that have just recently happened. I have already mentioned that the laptop burn has healed (still pretty dark though) and we are happy that the pressure sore has just recently completely closed in. However, this spot will be susceptible to skin issues later on so we will always need to be mindful of sitting for extending periods of time. Brad has also gotten a new wheelchair cushion because of the pressure sore so we are hopeful that this will help.

We have since found that the removal of the hardware did not provide the relief Brad was hoping for and the next step is to implant a spinal cord stimulator. This will be leads placed against his spinal cord with a receiver placed towards the bottom and side of his back. He will also have a remote to make adjustments to help with the pain he is feeling at that time. This will not stop the pain but block the signal of pain to the brain. He will have the trial version of this done on January 19 and we will stay over night for monitoring. If he feels that it has helped over the following week, the permanent version will be completed that following Monday. We have known all along that this would be a last resort option as we are now facing this operation. The surgeon feels very confident that this will help with Brad's pain a substantial amount.

God is moving and showing up in other ways in our lives, as well. We are very grateful for these things and for the knowledge that we are never alone (Job 7:19). He is the God who sees us (Gen. 16:13), the God who hears us (Ishmael: Gen. 16:11), and the God who is with us (Immanuel: Matt. 1:23).

Thank you so much for your continued support and prayers. This is very much appreciated as we still cope with a new life,  new expectations, and wait for prayers/miracles to be answered.

Brad did an amazing job on our Christmas card, as usual!!

This is one of her favorite spots!

How cute is he??!!

Merry Christmas! 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Attitude In Suffering

Thank you all so much for your prayers, messages, meals, calls, etc. over the past 2 weeks. Being home from the hospital is always welcome! Brad has continued to recover from the surgery at a pretty fast rate, much better than we thought! We won't know if the surgery has helped with the pain from the hardware that was removed or the nerve pain until his body has had time to completely recover from the surgery (about 6 weeks).

However, coming home also brings with it the hard reality that is our life; a former life that has completely changed and a future life that is NOTHING how we ever would have chosen. This surgery, pain from surgery, and increased nerve pain because of the surgery has brought back many painful, unbearable memories and feelings of rehab and the initial shock of our new life. Having surgery is one thing, but being in a chair makes getting around and doing the day-to-day things much harder. Chronic pain on top of this makes our situation very overwhelming. Our thoughts get the better of us some days. It makes us feel so alone because no one we know is going through this exact same thing. These are all just the outward circumstances that can be seen. Behind closed doors are many more feelings and situations that are even harder to accept and deal with it.

We have talked in detail about how our attitudes are a vital tool to how we look at our life now and everything that is involved. We CHOOSE how we react, we CHOOSE whether or not we get angry or turn to God for the help that we so desperately need. We have much more power over our thoughts than I'd like to admit! It's easy to say that because of this or that, this is how I'm going to respond (negatively) because there is no other way to do so. On the other side of this, it is hopeful that we can CHOOSE to have a positive outlook and be thankful DAILY for all that He is doing in and through us.

Another topic that keeps coming up is the fact that when God calls us to do something, and then that fails, that it was still in His plan. This has been extremely hard to consider and accept. If God tells us to do something we think, with our finite minds, that it should work out the first time. Brad and I know definitively that God called us to pursue and follow through with 2 rounds of IVF. For whatever reason, these did not work out but we know they were still part of His plan. John Piper mentions in his book Desiring God that nothing we do can thwart His plan. We believe that if we are praying for His will and guidance, God will give us a peace about what to do and when to do so. When we feel that God is opening doors for a particular situation and allowing peace in our hearts to do something, our prayer has become for Him to close doors if this is not what He wants. Continue to allow peace or close doors. Outside of that, we shouldn't beat ourselves up over His motives, our motives, timing, disappointments, outcomes. He is completely sovereign and knows our every day!

I am reading Nancy Guthrie's book Be Still, My Soul: Embracing God's Purpose and Provision in Suffering (25 Classic and Contemporary Readings on the Problem of Pain). In the chapter titled Hoped-for Healing, J.I. Packer brings up many good thoughts and examples on how we should look at our suffering. He focuses on Paul's thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). The bulleted list below is from this chapter...

*Jesus' miracles are decisive evidence for all time of who he is and what power he has.

*What God has promised and when he will give it are separate questions.

*But supernatural healings in equal abundance to those worked in the days of Jesus' flesh may not be his will today. The question concerns his purpose, not his power.

*Further it is true that blessing is missed where faith is lacking. But even in New Testament times, among leaders who cannot be accused of lacking faith, healing was not universal.

*Paul himself lived with "a thorn in the flesh" that went unhealed. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-9, he tells us that in three solemn seasons of prayer he had asked Christ, the Lord and the Healer, to take it from him. But the hoped-for healing did not occur.

*It was a distressing disability from which Paul could have been delivered on the spot, had Christ so willed. So Paul lived with pain. The thorn, given him under God's providence, operated as "a messenger of Satan, to harass me" (2 Cor. 12:7) because it tempted him to think hard thoughts about the God who let him suffer, and in resentment to cut back his ministry.

*Such thoughts were "flaming darts of the evil one" (Eph. 6:16) with which he had to contend constantly as the thorn remain unhealed.

*Is there a single servant of Christ who cannot point to some "thorn in the flesh", from which he has prayed to be released, but that has been given him by God to keep him humble, and therefore fruitful? -Philip Hughes

*Paul perceived, however, that the thorn was given him not for punishment but for protection. Physical weakness guarded him against spiritual sickness.

*"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (v.9). It was as if the Savior was saying, "I can demonstrate my power better by not eliminating your problem. It is better for you, Paul, and for my glory in your life, that I show my strength by keeping you going though the thorn remains."

*So Paul embraced his continuing disability as a kind of privilege, "I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me (v.9).

*God uses chronic pain and weakness, along with other afflictions, as his chisel for sculpting our lives. Felt weakness deepens dependence on Christ for strength each day. The weaker we feel, the harder we lean. And the harder we lean, the stronger we grow spiritually. To live with your "thorn" uncomplainingly, sweet, patient, and free in heart to love and help others, even though every day you feel weak, is true sanctification. It is true healing for the spirit.

This is a lot to consider and I so badly want to think and ALWAYS feel that our suffering is a privilege. However, we are human and self-pity is always going to try to creep in. We are, though, reaching this conclusion faster with each new circumstance than we were a few years ago. Our attitude is a daily, momentary choice...

A sweet little bird family on our back fence! (Look how fat the third one from the left is! Oh my goodness!)

This was from our trip to LSU's botanic gardens. This momma was not too happy with us!

We are obsessed with humming birds!

I don't think we take enough pictures of these two!! 
Birds love our backyard!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

He knows the way through the waves

The Reservoir- so peaceful

"Dear friends, don't be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad- for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world."        -1 Peter 4: 12 & 13

One of the hardest things to deal with, besides the paralysis itself, is chronic pain. We were never told this would be a possibility or concern, so when the pain started getting worse about 6 months after rehab we were taken by surprise. Brad had terrible pain during rehab, mostly from the trauma his body was going through and the lengthy back surgery to stabilize his spine. Since then, the pain has gotten progressively worse. This is a battle that Brad faces daily, minute-by-minute. He has tried all of the meds the doctors can think of, with little to no help. This has been about a 2 year process of trial and error.

Recently, Brad started contemplating the thought of having his hardware removed from his back. Keep in mind that about 90% of people who have hardware like Brad's never have it removed. The surgeon fused his spine above and below his injury level and the rods and screws were inserted to help the healing process and to stabilize the fusion. He was originally scheduled to have the surgery on June 13. However, we weren't sure it was the right move at the time, we wanted a 2nd opinion, and wanted to feel completely at peace with such a major surgery. We wanted God to make it clear that this was something we should or should not do. We prayed specifically for this peace for a few months.

We had the 2nd opinion with another surgeon and he said he would absolutely have the hardware removed, especially considering the amount of pain Brad faces daily. There was no question whether or not he would do it; if it were his son he would recommend having it taken out. Ok, there was our sign from God!

Brad is finally having the surgery this Friday, July 11th. We were told by the surgeon (our original surgeon) that the recovery period should be about 2-4 weeks. We are not under any impressions that this surgery will relieve all of Brad's pain (most of it being neuropathic pain) but we also know that God is capable of doing anything (Matt. 19:26)! We have reached the conclusion that the possibility of relieving some of the pain is worth the surgery and recovery.

We are reminded, daily, that we have so little control of our circumstances and the trials we are facing. We do know, though, that God knows the way through the waves (Joni Eareckson Tada) and the only thing we are called to do is to keep our eyes on Him and trust the process.

Please keep Brad, the surgeon, myself, and our families in your prayers as we face this scary but hopeful next step on our journey...

This book means so much to me. Amazing rules to apply daily!

Happy 4th!

Our first boat ride since the accident!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Joni and Friends Family Retreat

Words can not even describe!!
Brad and I got back last week from our first Family Retreat! This is a retreat for families with disabilities put on by the Joni and Friends organization. This was the first retreat for the Jackson office and it was held at Camp ASCCA in eastern Alabama. We really had no idea what to expect...

We arrived to camp late Monday night so we missed orientation, how meals work, what the schedule would look like, etc. This was particularly nerve-wracking because we went not knowing anyone! The next morning at breakfast we were standing around because the dining hall was completely full of people (very overwhelming)! A nice mom shared with us how the meals were distributed (you sit at a table and the meals are brought to you) so we found a table with 2 spare seats. Everyone was so nice and made us feel right at home.

We looked over the schedule and decided we didn't want to split up into men and women activities for the majority of the day so we joined the young adults/singles group. This was an amazing experience because we met so many amazing campers, STM's (short-term missionaries) and camp staff (the most amazing, eager, and willing to help group of people EVER!!!). We had the opportunity to try the zip-line, zip-tower (taller and a further distance), tubing, pool (for the first time since the accident), putt-putt, and water slide.

On the way to camp Brad and I were talking about what trying all of these activities would look in actuality. We were very skeptical that ALL of these activities would be accessible; they were! We were also not sure how Brad would be able to participate even if they were; the camp staff took charge and told us exactly what to do! To trump all of these concerns was the issue of pride and allowing others to help us when we are so use to doing it all ourselves.

"When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom." -Proverbs 11:2

"A man's pride brings him low, but a man of a lowly spirit gains honor." -Proverbs 29:23

"The end of the matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride." -Ecclesiates 7:8

Brad handled the offer of help with such humility, and I let go of my need to be the primary source of help. Because of this, we were able to fully let go and enjoy these 'simple' activities, even if they were done in a way we had never tried before.

The families we met and friends we made throughout the week have left such an impression on our lives. Our eyes have been opened like never before. Once again, the realization that even on our worst days someone always has it worse really brings our suffering into perspective. The truth is God told us there would be trouble. At the same time, He told us not to worry, He had overcome the world (John 16:33). He told us there would be trials and tribulations in our lives, so why are we so taken aback when confronted with these struggles? He lived the perfect life (I can't even wrap my mind around this fact) and died the most horrific death. Because of this we are free in our trials because we know they will not be forever and that we will experience an eternity of 'perfectness'!

While at camp, we were also able to meet such an inspiring couple, also touched by heartache at such a young age, Jay and Katherine Wolf. Being able to connect to another couple who was married at the time of their tragedy (3 years like us) and so young at the time (26 just like us) was such a comfort. We have an amazing support system of friends here at home and that we have met through the accident, but none that we could so closely relate to. Please visit their website and follow their journey as they embrace the ministry they have been called to... www.hopeheals.com

At the campfire with Jay and Katherine!

Brad pulled himself to the top of the zip-line platform!

Excited we got to try something new!

It's finally our turn!

Swimming was a completely new and weird experience; so grateful for the opportunity! Thank you Myra Penn for your help!

We also had the opportunity to meet Judy Spiegle. She was injured when she was 18 and went on to compete in the paralympics!! Such an amazing lady!

Snuck away from the dance for some time alone...!

Getting Brad harnessed up to climb the 90 degree rock wall, really??!! 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

With Great Purpose

I have recently read the book I referenced in my last post, Joni & Ken: An Untold Love Story. The title for this post is a title of one of her chapters and speaks volumes to me at this point in our story...

Brad and I feel ready, and have prayed for this opportunity, to share our struggles with trying to have a baby.

We began our journey over a year ago, March - May of 2013. We decided we were not going to tell our parents and extended family simply for the surprise factor. Brad and I always wanted this news to be exciting, and thought about different ways we would tell our families when our time finally came.

After consulting with multiple doctors and specialists, due to the type and level of Brad's spinal cord injury, we were told we weren't going to be able to get pregnant naturally. So we decided to proceed with IVF. We had always heard of IVF, but had no idea EVERYTHING it entailed until we were in the middle of it. I had heard bits and pieces of how emotional the process is and how hard it is on the body. You have no idea the extent of these effects until you are giving yourself shots twice a day and your body is going nuts in the process. Everyone tells you, no matter how you are trying to get pregnant, not to stress out. Well, IVF is so closely monitored that you know how your body is responding, good or bad, the entire way. We did our best to hand everything to God and trust in His process and timing. However, we were absolutely sure that this was a fool-proof process, especially at our age. There was no way this wasn't going to work; the thought never even crossed our minds.

The doctor kept saying that, at my age, we should have a pretty good chance at getting an adequate number of eggs, to then be fertilized, and finally to become embryos.  We were able to follow our progress via an online portal. Having said that, this tool can be helpful but very stressful at the same time. We were getting updates daily on how many eggs they were able to retrieve (7) and how many actually fertilized. After this step in the process, they go ahead and schedule the transfer of your embryos, not knowing exactly how many they will have to work with. Brad and I were hopeful that we would have at least 2, maybe 3, to proceed with the transfer. However, you're not completely sure how many embryos you have and that they will be transferring until the day of the transfer. Turns out that we only ended up with one, 1,  embryo. We got this news as we were in the operating room and I was getting prepped. Having gone through so much (emotionally, physically, financially) this was devastating news. Yes, we had one but we had our mind on at least 2. We continued with the transfer and waited our ten, 10, days until we could have blood work to see if we were pregnant. Ten days!!! Are you kidding me? That was the longest 10 days ever! I was taking it easy, laying around the house, trying to be as "stress free" as I could.

On day 10 we went to have my blood taken and my number came back lower than they would have liked, but still not a negative pregnancy number. We went back 2 days later and my number had doubled, but still not as high as it should have been. At this point, Mother's Day 2013, we had our parents and brothers over and told them that we were pregnant! We were told to be cautiously optimistic and told our families this much, but we were all still so excited! Went back 2 days later and they told me that my numbers were not growing like they would like and didn't think this pregnancy would continue. They were right. We had done a full cycle of IVF with only 1 embryo, none to freeze for a later date, and came away with NOTHING. Like I said before, we were positive this was going to work, so you can imagine how upset and lost we were. We went from 7, to 1, to nothing.

After talking with the doctor about options/going forward from this point, we felt God was telling us to do it again, especially with me being out for the summer (June-August of 2013). So, we started the entire process over. The doctor doubled my meds to hopefully get my body to respond better, and it did. This is such a painful process I can't even explain. Now, you have to understand something about me. I HATE needles, blood work, shots, the whole nine yards. My fear of this made me want to be the only one doing the shots and mixing all of the meds. Brad offered to do these for me, but I wanted to be in complete control. My poor tummy looked like a bruised pin cushion :(

My body responded so well that we had to cut down on some of the meds. On the retrieval day, they were able to retrieve 15 eggs this time! We were so pumped! Twice as many as last time. On our transfer day, we were told they would be transferring 2 embryos this time, but that was all we had, still none to freeze for later. We thought for sure it would work this time, especially with our chances having doubled. Our ten days (more like 10 years!) passed and we had the blood work done again. It still was not a negative test but my numbers were not high. After having one or two more blood tests done, my number did go to a negative pregnancy test. Of course, it happened the first time why not twice? We went from 15, to 2, to nothing.

At this point, having gone through 2 full rounds of IVF in a 6 month period with still nothing to show for it, we were so confused. Hadn't God given us the funds to do this, twice? Hadn't He allowed the timing to work out perfectly with our schedules? Hadn't we been through enough already?

We are learning daily, and very slowly, that God's timing is perfect; He is never late. For the time being, we are completely at peace with waiting. We are enjoying our time together riding bikes, going on a few trips, and growing in Christ. We have learned to press into His Presence like never before and trust that we are always in His thoughts. He knows exactly what is going to happen, and that is such a comforting thought. One day, we will see the bigger picture and hopefully understand why things happened the way they did. Until then, we continue to pray for His guidance and peace. We are excited to see what God has planned for us! Hopefully, we will be parents one day and will be able to reflect on this time in our lives and see/appreciate even more so how far we have come! Hopefully, this is the dark before our morning...!!!

This song brings so much promise and hope... Josh Wilson Before The Morning:

Do you wonder why you have to,
Feel the things that hurt you,
If there's a God who loves you,
Where is He now?

Maybe, there are things you can't see
And all those things are happening
To bring a better ending
Some day, some how, you'll see, you'll see

Would dare you, would you dare, to believe,
That you still have a reason to sing,
'cause the pain you've been feeling,
Can't compare to the joy that's coming

So hold on, you got to wait for the light
Press on, just fight the good fight
Because the pain you've been feeling,
It's just the dark before the morning

My friend, you know how this all ends
And you know where you're going,
You just don't know how you get there
So just say a prayer.
And hold on, cause there's good who love God,
Life is not a snapshot, it might take a little time,
But you'll see the bigger picture

Would dare you, would you dare, to believe,
That you still have a reason to sing,
'cause the pain you've been feeling,
Can't compare to the joy that's coming

So hold on, you got to wait for the light
Press on, just fight the good fight
Because the pain you've been feeling,
It's just the dark before the morning
Yeah, yeah,
Before the morning,
Yeah, yeah

Once you feel the way of glory,
All your pain will fade to memory
Once you feel the way of glory,
All your pain will fade to memory
Memory, memory, yeah

Would dare you, would you dare, to believe,
That you still have a reason to sing,
'cause the pain you've been feeling,
Can't compare to the joy that's coming

Would dare you, would you dare, to believe,
That you still have a reason to sing,
'cause the pain you've been feeling,
Can't compare to the joy that's coming

Com'n, you got to wait for the light
Press on, just fight the good fight
Because the pain you've been feeling,
It's just the hurt before the healing
The pain you've been feeling,
Just the dark before the morning
Before the morning, yeah, yeah
Before the morning

Happy 6th Anniversary from Blue Ridge, GA!

Friday, March 14, 2014

A Time for Everything...

This has been a much-needed break this week with Spring Break! So much has happened lately and I can't wait to share it all!

First of all, I had the opportunity to share with a friend (Heather) her last round of chemo Wednesday! I told her it sounded weird to say that I had a great time with her during her last treatment, understanding the fact that she does have cancer, but it was such a joyous occasion! All of the nurses were happy for her, as were all of her supporters she has had through this journey so far. Here's where God stepped in in a mighty way and orchestrated some important events...

I have Heather's son in my class this year. I had not met Heather or her son until this year.  In October is when we, as teachers, begin our conferences with the ending of the first 9 weeks of school. Heather sen a letter with her son explaining that she had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and that she would need to conference earlier than everyone else because of her upcoming surgery. I was so heart-broken at this news to say the least. I wrote a letter back explaining mine and Brad's story and how life can be turned upside down so quickly it leaves our head spinning. A few weeks passed after finding this out before I was laying in bed (Sunday, October 27) when I had the thought to do a self-check on myself. My thoughts were, "I'm 28, there's no need to really check as often as people say to do, or ever. This is one of those things that happen to others, not me." Well, was I surprised when I felt a lump! I sat up and still felt it. Brad felt it. Lifted my arm, laid back down, still felt it. I had the urge to freak out, but was still thinking, "Surely this is nothing. I'm so young." This next morning in the shower, it was still there. I called my OB-GYN Monday and his nurse told me to come after school and they would check it out. Sure enough, he felt it too! This is when I began to freak out! If he could feel it right away, I knew something was wrong. He made an appointment for me to have a mammogram Tuesday. I get to the doctor's office Tuesday and they tell me they want to do an ultrasound first because most of the time with people my age it's nothing to worry about. So they do the ultrasound, that doctor looks at it, and now they want me to have the mammogram; at 28 this is blowing my mind! The mammogram showed something "suspicious" which means now it's time to meet with a surgeon. We met with our surgeon Wednesday and he told us it would be better to go ahead and remove the mass instead of trying to have a needle biopsy done. He scheduled the surgery for the next morning, Halloween. How appropriate, right? Within 5 days, I find a lump, meet with 3 doctors and have surgery to have a breast mass removed, crazy!! I'm not going to lie and say that all of this did not completely freak me out, but I had this peace about the whole situation. When the thought that this could be cancer creeped in, I had to shut it out and pray that God would bring us through this next hurdle. I tried not to psyche myself out too much because I absolutely do. not. do. needles!!! I didn't cry (because of the surgery) until surgery day when I'm back in the prep room when they come to put me to sleep before taking me back. Then it all hit me. I cried just knowing what was about to happen and then I was out. They said the surgery took longer than expected, but we are used to this at this point. They said it would take a few days to know the results. A few days when waiting to hear news of this magnitude is like weeks! This was on Thursday, I recovered over the weekend and was back at work Monday. Thankfully, the doctor called Monday and the mass was benign. What a relief! Of course, the human side of me was thinking, "Why would God allow this to happen when it wasn't cancerous in the first place? Haven't we been through enough?" But God is always working behind the scenes and He continues to be faithful!

On a much happier note Brad and I have recently gotten new bicycles! Brad had been riding a loaner hand-cycle from the rehab center to see if this was something he would be interested in. It was a great trial because we were actually able to get out and be "normal" while riding. Brad had submitted paperwork to see if it would be possible for his bike to be covered financially. We were told probably not, but they would turn in the paperwork and see what happens. That was late summer, early fall. We hadn't heard anything from the company so we were expecting to pay out-of-pocket for a bike. And, of course, the bike I had been riding was my middle school bike so I was in desperate need for a new one as well. On January 14th, Brad got a call from the hand-cycle company saying that they had a purchase requisition for a bike for Brad and needed to know what color he wanted! Are you serious? Nothing for months and then out of the blue we are getting one! God is so good! Brad was able to pick the color and some other personalized options and the bike arrived about 3 weeks later! Before Brad's bike arrived, my mom and one of her friends were at our house and I was just telling her about Brad's bike working out and how we were going to buy me a new one. My mom's friend offered to buy my new bike! This is crazy! We go from thinking we are going to be out quite a bit of money to not having to pay for any of it! We went to look at bikes and found one that I really liked! I sent my mom's friend a picture and she said, "Get it!" Financially, God has showed up in HUGE ways since the accident! Everything medically costs so much, but we have never been in need or want. God has taken such a huge weigh off of our shoulders!

Lastly, we recently had the privilege of meeting Joni Eareckson Tada and her husband, Ken! We were in Lifeway and Brad was getting his name put on his new Bible when the girl behind the counter thought she knew Brad and was trying to make that connection. It turned out not to be anything and she left the store after Brad paid because it was the end of her shift. We stayed in the store looking around when she came back in and found us. She sat down beside us and asked if Brad had a spinal cord injury. Brad said he did and she told us her brother did as well. He was in a diving accident when he was 15. He's now in his 30's, lives in Arizona, and is married with a baby now! We asked her if she knew who Joni is since she was also in a diving accident in her teens. She didn't know her but told us that Joni was going to be in Jackson on February 28th! We couldn't believe this because we talk about Joni daily at our house! She is such an inspiration to all who know her and her story. So we marked this date on our calendar and waited. In the meantime, we emailed Joni (not knowing who would actually read the email) explaining our story and wondering if we could meet her after the conference that Friday night. At the bottom of the email I noted our blog address, just in case. We got a response from Martie at her Jackson office inviting us to meet Joni at a meet-and-greet that Sunday afternoon. So pumped we would actually get to meet and talk with her! So we are still waiting for the "Joni weekend" when someone calls from our church telling us Joni was going to be at Belhaven Saturday night! Three opportunities to listen to her testimony and finally get to meet her! Friday and Saturday were awesome, her story touching and humbling. Sunday came and when we pulled up there were so many people. Brad and I looked at each other, thinking the same thing, "We are never going to get to talk with her." However, we got there right after Joni and Ken arrived and followed them into the gym, still unsure of how the events of the afternoon would happen. Joni and Ken were gathered with Martie and some others from the Jackson office so we headed their way. Once we got close enough Martie said she knew exactly who we were. That means that she had read our blog to know what we looked like! Wow! She introduced us to Joni and Ken and Brad gave a short version of our story. Ken graciously gave us a copy of their book they wrote together about their marriage. Joni signed this book and her autobiography we brought with us! Since Joni loves to draw and paint Brad brought a copy of the oil painting of his motorcycle for Joni to have. She was so impressed with his ability and grateful for this gift. We asked her what she does for her pain (she also deals with chronic pain daily) and she mentioned drinking lots of water but not taking medicine because of the anxious feeling they gave her. She said she would send us some information and for me to put our mailing address on the back of the picture. She then looked directly at me and said, "I promise I'll send you some information on pain." She took the extra step and sincerely said she would do this, this was not something she was simply saying in passing. How considerate! Joni spoke to the group a little later and then Brad and I left. 8 days later, this past Monday, there was a package in our mailbox from Joni with a personalized letter. She said how nice it was to meet us, she wished we lived closer together, how talented Brad is, and enclosed DVD's with study guides about pain and disability. Joni held true to her promise, and quickly at that! What a blessing she has been to our family! 

In Joni and Ken: An Untold Love Story, Joni shares what Alan Redpath (a British pastor and author) wrote, "There is no circumstance, no trouble, no testing, that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with great purpose." What a great source of comfort for us all when life is not what we expected!

"Come and see what our God has done, what awesome miracles He performs for people!" 
-Psalm 66:5

Us with BJ at MC's 2nd soccer State Championship!

Ally loves to nest in our clothes, and this is her favorite spot on the couch! 
Does it get any cuter than this!!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Forget the former things...

So, school has started back after my two week break and it has gone by so fast! I have made goal for myself to try to focus more on the positive things that happen daily so as not to focus so much on everything that is harder. Joni Eareckson Tada suggested this prayer: Father, I present to you today the disappointing things in my life that hold sad or tragic meaning. Turn my darkness into light. Exchange the sadness for hope. You are the God who turns weeping into joy!

Along with this way of thinking has come some new information about Brad’s accident. We originally were told gravel was to blame for the accident. Brad had his doubts but he had no memory of the accident. However, we have recently gotten some new details that confirm the accident was not caused by gravel. We will continue to investigate and give updates when we can. 

However, this time of year still brings up sad thoughts; Sunday will be 2 years. Having to be up so early for school and driving before the sun is up reminds me of all of the early mornings I would ride with my dad to the hospital for the first visiting hour of the day. It was so cold, surreal, devastating. Sometimes I flashback to those days and I have to be intentional of thinking about something else because it can ruin the whole day. My brother also has a friend who has been in ICU. After visiting his family and remembering all of the days spent in the hospital hallway, not knowing what the future would hold, has made me appreciate how far we have come. It all seems like a blur, like a nightmare and one morning we will wake up “normal” again. This is why I am making time daily to list my “positives” (marriage, personal, classroom, etc.) and reflect on these instead of reliving a life I can’t do anything to get back. “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” –Isaiah 43:18 & 19

My babies like to keep me company during my quiet time!

At Cracker Barrel in Franklin, TN over the break