Happy Father’s Day

New Year’s Eve 2015 my husband and I went out to eat. Who would have thought that the conversation that we had that night would change the course of our life forever – that that conversation would result in us becoming parents in just 6 short months! We were reflecting on the previous year and talking about what was to come in the next year and chapter in our life. My incredible husband asked me what my biggest dream was and in the middle of that crowded restaurant I broke down in tears. I started to cry because I was overwhelmed with emotions thinking about my one heart’s desire.

It wasn’t a pretty cry either, it was a full on ugly sobbing kind of cry. Steve probably was wondering what he said wrong when I was finally able to blubber out: “I want to be a mother.” He replied reassuringly “I know, and it will happen!” I proceeded to pour out my heart, I did not care about having children of my own; I longed to be a mother to children who needed me now – I wanted to be a foster parent. 

Before marriage Steve and I had talked about wanting to have children and the possibility of adopting in our future. Fostering is different though….with fostering their is no guarantee that the little ones you love will stay forever, in fact the goal is for them to be reunited with their family when it is safe to do so. Fostering is not for everyone, and I knew this was a lot to ask of my husband. It takes a very special man to love another person’s children. Steve is an extraordinary man!

January 2016 – the start of the new year we went to a foster parent orientation class, we kept going to the classes, we did a home study, and we were approved. In 6 months we went from talking about fostering to being foster parents to 7 and 9 year old sisters. Without getting into any detail about their background to respect their story and privacy, I will just say that through my husband’s love for these little girls came so much healing to their lives. No parent should ever have to have the heart wrenching conversations that Steve had with these girls and he did it with so much gentleness and strength. Steve is a father to the fatherless and he taught them how to trust again.  

Even with Steve’s health struggles he continues to say “yes” to foster children and being a father to children whose father’s cannot or choose not to parent at this time. In fact, Steve was the one who said yes to our most recent placement. I was hesitant but he jumped in both feet first. We had two hours notice to go pick up a toddler from the DCS office, drop him off at another foster family’s home, and then go to the children’s hospital to room in with the toddler’s newborn baby sister. The very next day we took home a baby girl and her big brother. Instantaneously, we were parents again to two small children. To say our world changed would be an understatement.

I am continually amazed at my husband’s love for these children and the sacrifices he makes to continue to love and care for them even on his hardest days. In a world where so many dad’s choose to not be there for their children, you chose to be there for someone else’s children when you do not have to. Fostering is not easy and I cannot imagine how much harder it is while battling serious chronic illnesses. Steve, you are my hero and you are the hero to three precious children that call you “daddy” and a precious baby girl that cannot yet say “dada” (but I am sure “dada” will be her first word because of how much she adores you). The love I have for you Steve has grown so much seeing how wonderful a father you are. Happy Father’s Day to the love of my life and the daddy of the children who need you. Thank you for joining me on this crazy adventure that is our life and helping me love these beautiful children that we love as if they are our own. Happy Father’s Day!! I cannot wait to start this weekend of celebrating YOU!

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I’m Angry at God

Patience is not my strongest attribute. June 29th can’t come soon enough! I have not written in a while because I am not proud of how I have been feeling lately. However, I feel like I had to write this post if I was going to try to give an honest portrayal of this journey. I want so badly to help my husband and am so anxious to find out if I am a match to donate a kidney to him. Last month Steve was in and out of the hospital a lot and it has been wearing on me that I could potentially help him but I have to wait. My faith has not been the strongest; if I am completely honest, I have been incredibly angry at God. The book of Job has been weighing heavily on my heart – how could God be so cruel to Job? How could God be so cruel to my husband and I? I feel like He is allowing the devil to hurt us and I am weary of it all. I try to continue to praise Him through the storm but I feel beat up and like God is no longer my good shepherd trying to protect me and guide me along quiet waters. That is the raw, honest, ugly truth.

Steve and I had not been to church in a while but Sunday I felt like going. The real reason I went? I went because I feel like God has not been near and I wanted to tell him how angry I was for not listening to me or answering. That may sound silly…I went to church to tell God I was mad at him, but that is the truth. Regardless of my intentions, it got me to church and I feel like God was trying to tell me that He is not being silent – I am just not listening, am not hearing what I want to hear, and He is not doing things in my timing. There was a guest speaker at church and he preached on Paul. One of the books Paul wrote was Philippians which is a Prison Epistle (a letter Paul wrote from prison). Needless to say, Paul’s situation was not great, however he still had a thankful heart. Ugh….conviction! The speaker talked about how Paul had joy and was rejoicing even while he was in prison. Happiness is based on circumstances but joy comes from a personal relationship with Jesus. I have not had a lot of happiness or joy recently. I have not been drawing near to God in this difficult time because l felt like God abandoned me.

The next 17 days while I wait to go to the transplant center I will do my best to rest in God’s promises that His plans are not to harm me even when I do not feel that way. I will share my weaknesses and my struggle because other people may be encouraged that they are not the only ones feeling anger toward God. Maybe me being honest about my struggles will help someone in some way. God’s grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor 12:9-11). Isn’t that comforting? God can still use us in our brokenness. I do not think God is offended by our anger but He does not want it to keep us from Him. He wants us to passionately (read: angrily) bringing our petitions to Him if that is how we feel. He is merciful and can handle our temper tantrums. I recognize that I need to work on having a more thankful heart. Paul first thanked God and then brought his requests to Him. God has taken a lot away from me but He also gives. Every good and perfect gift is from above (James 1:17) and I have taken a lot of gifts He has given me for granted.

I am thankful for my health, for my incredible husband, for the opportunity to help my husband live a healthier life, for my beautiful foster children God has entrusted to me for the time being, for my family and friends that have put up with my less than joyful self, and for a God that is good even when I lose faith. One of my favorite scriptures is 2 Cor 12:9-11 because it means God can use me, even with all of my imperfections – His power is made perfect in weakness. What a relief that God can still use me and all my flaws. I choose, going forward, to do my best to delight in these difficulties because I know God’s power is being made perfect, even when I cannot see it.

2 Corinthians 12:9-11New International Version (NIV)
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Dialysis Sucks

Dialysis sucks.

(I am thankful it exists, but it still sucks!)

Steve was hospitalized all of last week due to complications with his kidney disease and ended up doing dialysis 4 times while he was there. If you look at his arm, you would think that I beat him. Up until last week he has only been doing dialysis once a week (typically people who are on dialysis do it 3 times a week). Steve started dialysis early because his symptoms were so severe they were effecting his quality of life.

Last week his kidney levels dipped down into renal failure and the decision was made to have him start doing dialysis twice a week. On Monday morning I drove him to the dialysis clinic. It was a somber drive, which is weird for us. I think the gravity of this disease must have been weighing on both of us. Typically Steve is making everyone around him laugh and I love to laugh! One of the reasons we are such a perfect pair. When asked what my favorite thing to do is in a job interview one time my answer was “my favorite thing to do is laugh!” Laughter is what has kept us going through the most difficult of days. There was not any laughing during that car ride though.

After dropping Steve off at dialysis, I cried on my way to work. My husband, my 32 year old, amazing, wonderful, loving, strong husband is on dialysis. Dialysis. Per WebMD “Dialysis is a life-support treatment that uses a special machine to filter harmful wastes, salt, and excess fluid from your blood. This restores the blood to a normal, healthy balance.” My husband is on a LIFE SUPPORT treatment twice a week for 3-3.5 hours at a time. Life support! That is heavy. Monday the gravity of this disease hit me harder than ever.

The hope of him no longer having to do dialysis is overwhelming. That I can potentially help that become a reality is so incredibly humbling. I look forward to the day when I hopefully will hear the words “you are a match!” Dialysis does not just effect the patient but every aspect of the patient’s life, including their family. Dialysis is so hard. Steve does an incredible job of staying positive but dialysis will weigh on the strongest of people. It weighs on me and I am not even the one doing it. I love him more than anything and I am hopeful for a day when he no longer has to do dialysis.

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Test #1

Everybody please say a little prayer for my blood. I went to my primary care physician today to have them draw 3 vials of blood for my HLA Testing that they are sending to Vanderbilt Transplant Center. Super easy peasy chicken squeezy test (all I had to do was get poked and give 3 vials worth of blood). The nurse asked me beforehand if I was nervous and I said a little (thinking she was talking about the donation process, but she meant nervous to have my blood drawn). She used an itty bitty butterfly needle and I did not feel a thing. She was so sweet!

Gosh that would be bad if I was nervous about a little needle stick if my end goal was donating a kidney… I have a feeling there will be a lot of needle sticks in my future and I am glad that needles do not bother me (yet, maybe I will feel differently after the 100th time). I try to donate blood frequently so this test was really easy, far less blood than what they take from you when you are donating. I am very happy that the nurse was so sweet and was being so gentle and wanted to make sure I was comfortable.

What I am nervous about though is the results… This is the first of many tests to see if I can donate a kidney to Steve. This test is incredibly important because if I fail that means that I cannot donate a kidney to Steve, he would reject my kidney. The test is comparing our tissue type and antibodies to see if my organ would be compatible in him. I feel incredibly anxious right now… you know that panicked feeling where you wake up from a nightmare that you showed up for an exam that you haven’t studied for, for a class you have never even been to?!… that is what it is like! There is no preparing for this test and I have no control of the outcome. All I can do is just wait for my grade to be posted and hope that I pass!! Wish me luck!

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Match Made in Heaven

I started praying for my future husband when I was just 13 years old. I remember December of 2003 praying for him and God laying it on my heart that my husband was in pain, excruciating pain, he was dying. This was so confusing, I questioned God, “how could my future husband be dying?” I asked God to give me some of his pain and let him live. After praying that, I remember feeling the most excruciating pain in my abdomen. I continued to pray for my husband through the pain.

Seven years later I was dating this guy Steve. We met in college while I was finishing up my undergraduate degree and he was finishing up his masters degree. I had one semester left when he graduated so we decided to date long distance. One night we were talking on the phone when the conversation about marriage came up. For some reason I decided to tell him about my experience praying for my husband, I had never told anyone about that conversation I had with God before then. I was nervous that he might think I was crazy. After telling him the story I told Steve “I believe that God still performs miracles today.”

It felt like forever, but it was probably just a few moments of silence on the other end of the phone. Finally Steve said “have I ever told you that I have kidney disease and that I had a biopsy when I was 18?” I told him no and he started telling me the story. He found out when he was 18 years old that he had kidney disease and he went in for a routine biopsy operation so the doctors could try to figure out what caused his kidney disease. Steve told me that while the procedure was being done the surgeon nicked an artery. He had severe internal bleeding, he was in excruciating pain and once the doctor realized what had happened he went to stop the bleeding and it miraculously stopped on its’ own. The surgeon said that an angel must have been watching over you because he could have bled to death had it not clotted quick enough. That was December of 2004. Steve was the man I had been praying for all these years.

We got married 4 months after I graduated college on April 21, 2012. Steve’s kidney disease has progressed since then and he has started dialysis. It is incredibly difficult seeing your spouse in pain every day, struggling to have energy to do normal daily tasks. So I found myself praying again for my husband. God please, I begged, let me take away some of his pain. Last month I went with Steve to his nephrologist appointment to ask his doctor a question that has been on my heart for a long time. I asked his doctor if I could donate a kidney to Steve. His doctor said he would contact Vanderbilt Hospital where he did his residency and talk to one of the transplant doctors to see if they would consider Steve for a living kidney donation.

On April 21, 2017, our 5 year wedding anniversary, Steve got the call from his doctor that Vanderbilt wants to evaluate me to donate a kidney to him. Vanderbilt Hospital is sending me a kit to test to see if I am a match to donate to Steve. I feel like our entire story is a miracle and I am excited to see what God has in store for us next. I hope that God will allow me to take away some of his pain again. I have a very strong feeling that we are a perfect match…a match made in heaven!