Clarity – What Is On Your Plate and Why?

As I awoke this morning, I felt an overwhelming urge to pray for clarity.  Perhaps it was the ridiculous number of things pouring around in my head.  Maybe it was the discussion I had with my wife the night before about whether or not I was doing to much and doing none of it really all that well.  I know it was partly provoked by an email from a friend and co-worker two days prior asking some very important questions.

  • Do you have too much on your plate? (or too little)
  • Do you have enough time to get done what you’d like to get done?
  • What things would you like to learn/take over?
  • What things may need to get taken off your plate?

These are all great questions, and for me, they are questions that I need to pay really close attention to.  At the moment, I can’t precisely answer any of them but the second; and for that one, the answer is “no”.  If I’m honest with my self, I have too much on my plate today.

Unfortunately, I’ve allowed myself to schedule my days full of things that I feel that I need to do instead of protecting time for the things that I would like to get done.  But I filled it with good things.  Things that would move the kingdom forward.  Maybe thats not the right measurement though.  Shaun King recently wrote the following in his comments section on one of his posts.  He was reflecting on balance and what 3 criteria he uses to decide what makes it on his plate.

Make sure everything you do lines up with one of these 3 things…
1. Are you honoring scripture?
2. Does it play to your strengths?
3. Will it make the world a better place?
When I have a yes on these 3 things, with few exceptions, I mash on the gas and go for it.

We all need to pay the bills.  No question about it.  But a little over 5 years ago, I walked away from a job that was paying the bills exceptionally to flip things upside down and buy an RV, empty a house, and find clarity.  On the road for 2 years and in only 292 square feet, not only did I find clarity, but simplicity, purpose, and passion.  I fear that I am slowly losing all of those for the sake of maintaining a status quo.

Bethany’s life has reconfirmed a fact that we all know but do a really good job denying or surpressing – that time is limited and beyond our control.  Today, as certain as tomorrow may seem, could be a curtain call for any of us.  I fear that I may hold for tomorrow what God is asking me to do today, and then find that tomorrow never comes.

I am fortunate, in an economy where many are looking for work, to be in a position where not only do I feel that perhaps I have more than I can or should handle, but that the work I have for the most part pays me very well.  I fear that by stepping out and doing what I really DESIRE to do, I may not be able to provide for my family the way I would like to.

These are just a few of my fears, and the list goes on.   They are not uncommon.  I know that.  But I also know that by voicing them and putting them in the open, they run less powerful as a means of holding me back.  I can’t be ashamed about what is already public.  (We covered that back on Failing Publicly!)

So today I will pray for clarity.  Its one thing to have an idea that loosely bangs around in your head.  Its another to have something about which you are so passionate that not doing it keeps you up at night.  I have that feeling right now, but I believe I’ve been suppressing it for too long, and it may be time to let the dream come to life, even if it means reaching out into the overhanging, scary, ridiculously difficult places nobody else wants to go.   with the mountain climbing analogy of yesterday’s post still hanging in my mind, I know that the opposition to my fears lies in my trust in Him.  He’s had me in the past, and He’s there for me today.

Now comes the hard part.  Being confident enough to actually release my current position and move to a new one…  Easy to write about, but oh so hard to do.

Lord, help us all to find clarity today in whatever we do.  Help us to direct our passions towards the things that will make the world a better place, and eternity a full house.  Give us a vision of what could be and a discontent with what is.  Your word says that it was for lack of vision that people would parish.  Opportunities surround us, but a clear vision of which opportunity should be pursued is our request.  We thank you that in all our decisions, you stand at the ready should we fall flat on our face, and that you are always willing to brush us off and point us in a new direction once again.  In our hurried society, help us to be humble enough to realize that we’ve even fallen in the first place.  In Jesus name we pray, AMEN.

 

 

Epitome – Mountain Climbing 201

Epitome: (n) – a person or thing that is a perfect example of a particular quality or type.

Today, once again, I strike out on my attempt to develop a habit of writing.  Not only do I enjoy it, but I feel that the ideas and concepts that flow to the page when I write are good, and that they should be shared.  The problem is that I am not consistent; that making time to write is not a habit.

I have quite a number of habits.  I am consistent when it comes to my desire for ice cream, for example!  I mostly drive the same way to school to drop the kids off each day.  I do my hair almost exactly the same way each day as well, though my wife will be the first to tell you that on particular days, I declare a “hair day-off”, where I protest the use of hair product and just run whatever comes off the pillow – but those are mostly “stay-at-home, nobody is going to see me” days.

So even with a few well established habits, I’m still not what I’d consider the epitome of consistent.  Its not that I don’t have routines.  Its just that my routines have days off, and that those days off happen sometimes way too frequently.

Hold that thought.

Earlier this week, I was reading back across earlier blog entries when I came across my post from December 31st, 2012.  Titled Mountain Climbing 101, it was about how Bethany was beginning to climb the mountain of rehabilitation once again before her.  It was also about how she would be anchored in on that climb, as we all are as Christians, by a climbing partner – One who is the epitome of consistent.  He is always on alert, and while we often do not understand the routes that He may choose for our collective ascent, He is always there when we slip.

As I re-read the entire post, it almost felt like I had written it back in December as a way of setting a literal anchor for myself to fall back on at that moment.  You can hear the hope in its tone, that not only would Bethany continue her climb, eventually reaching a point where the struggle would subside, but that we as a family, as well, were secured by the anchors around us.  We were locked in by an army of praying friends from around the world.  We were supported by a church that loves in the reflection of the way that Jesus first loved us.

It is true that by the middle of 2013, we had spent years as a family climbing difficult metaphorical mountains both here and around the world to prepare us for the climb we were on, but without Bethany, things had changed.  The one thing that hadn’t changed is that our climbing partner, the Lord God himself, was always on the other end of the rope.  He had never failed.  He had never given up.  He had never run out.  He was the epitome of consistent.

My challenge was to go ahead and look back at the past to see where God has been faithful to you, giving you the strength to readdress the mountain and continue the climb in 2013, looking forward to the great things to come.  As I read that line, literally on the 3rd month anniversary of my daughter’s death, I couldn’t help but realize that it was written only a short 6 months before she would pass.  Writing that post back in December I could not have predicted the value it would hold for me now, nor could I have predicted that by the time I revisited it, our family would be hanging from the very lifeline about which I was writing.

Am I consistent?  No.  Is God?  Yes – enough so that he can position an inconsistent guy in front of a keyboard to write himself a reminder 9 months before he needs it and then take him back to that same keyboard 9 months later.  God is the epitome of consistent.  I just get to work for him and climb with Him.  That is both an honor and a privilege.

Today, we once again continue our climb.  We are bumped, bruised, and will hurt for a long time after what is the most devastating fall we have ever taken.  Bethany’s climb reached its summit and she celebrates in victory with her Creator, her climbing partner.  Our friends, family, and even those we’ve never met have continued to pray while sending what amounted to thousands of dollars to offset expenses we weren’t prepared for and a memorial stone we didn’t expect to design so soon.  God definately has the rope secure, and the climb, though slow and a bit shaky, continues.

As appropriate as it was that day, may this video help you to find your encouragement to get a solid hand hold, trust that God’s got you, and keep climbing as well.

 

Failing Publicly Part 2

Yesterday, I started in on my two part theory on failing publicly.  Truth be told, these two posts are much less about failing then they are about having a mechanism for accountability when you fail, something that will both help you keep yourself from falling too far the wrong direction, and hopefully, something that will help you break the pattern or habit that keeps you from where you want to be.

I wrote briefly yesterday about how failing (or allowing yourself to be accountable for doing so) can be good for YOU.  Today, I want to touch on two more benefits.

2. Failing Publicly is good for YOUR KIDS.

Think back to your childhood.  While you may not have thought this way all the time, there was likely a time when you thought that your parent, or maybe a mentor or hero, was infalliable.  You aspired to be like them.  You may have even thought that in order to measure up, you had to be perfect yourself.  Bottom line is that there was only (and will ever be only) one perfect life lived out on this planet, and that one ended approximately 2013 years ago, only to be affirmed as such by a resurrection and a following ascension.

So unless your plan is to match that level of greatness, think of how great it would have been to see your hero fail.  Imagine what it would have been like to have been able to watch them humble themselves, submit themselves to another, accept responsibility for their actions without offering excuses or justifications, and ask for forgiveness…  What if you’d have been able to watch them fail with grace?  Perhaps you did, but if not, how would it have changed your perception of who they were and what or who you could possibly become by following such an example?

Bottom line – Your kids NEEEEEEEED to see you publicly fail once in a while, with style and grace, to know that they cannot expect perfection from themselves, and also that failure is not the end of the world when it is handled well.

What if the failure isn’t just in front of your kids, but involves your kids?  One of the most humbling recommendations I’ve ever received from someone was to get on my knees with my kids when I’ve unnecessarily lost my temper or jumped to a conclusion with them, apologize without using the phrase “I’m sorry BUT…” (a justification technique that effectively erases the apology), admit that I was wrong, and ask them to forgive me.

The first time I actually found myself in the position to take this advice, it felt like swallowing my pride was going to be like swallowing a watermelon whole.  I was still mad, and I felt justified, but the fact was that I knew I was wrong.  I had blown it, and my son had needlessly taken the brunt of something that had nothing to do with him.  I was mad about a phone call that had gone poorly and he walked into a situation that he didn’t have anything to do with creating.  None the less, he became the recipient of undeserved angst.  He ran away crying, and I knew I would need to follow him.  By the time I was done apologizing, I was the one crying and he was telling me “Its Ok Dad…”  He got to watch me fail.  Likely not for the last time either.

Now Amy and I try to allow one another to call each other’s foul balls when necessary.  Sometimes its hard to hear your own tone, or see your own expressions.  Allowing my wife to keep me accountable, and vice-versa, has saved me from many an apology, as well as letting me know when I may have already gone too far and owe somebody one.   Its in that accountability relationship that I come to my final point…

3.  Failing Publicly is good for your COMMUNITY

Submitting yourselves to others in your community bonds you together, like players on a team.  When was the last time that someone made a mistake in front of you, dropped the ball, or just downright fell flat on their face, either literally or even figuratively?  How did that person react in that moment?  Odds are their actions fell into one of two categories, and based on which way they went, your response fell into one of two categories as well.   They either owned it or tried to deny it, to pass it off on someone else, and you either accepted their response as genuine and drew closer, or recognized that they were deflecting, and moved further away.  Think about it.

We want to be around genuine people.  We can be ok with someone who is authentic, even in their mistakes, if they are genuine about how they messed up.  Why is that?  Likely because if we all dig really deep down to that simple part of how we are wired, we all want to treat others like we would want to be treated, and we figure that if we can extend grace to someone in their moment of honest and forthright repentance, perhaps someone will extend that same grace to us when we likewise drop the ball.

Now I know we’ve come a long way – talking about forthright repentance and grace for failure when we started out talking about not writing 700 words and breaking a simple commitment to try to write more, but that’s what is so great about fundamental truths…   When they apply in the micro, they apply in the macro as well.  What works in the little, seemingly inconsequential things if we can establish them as simple habits will help to keep us from needing to learn them through big, painful, and possibly life-altering failures.

So – where do you apply this?  Perhaps you have a habit that you’ve been trying to break that could use the boost of a safe, close, confidential friend keeping you accountable.  Perhaps you could allow yourself an extra measure of grace today, realizing that you’re not perfect, you need not be, and that its alright to fail.  Perhaps, before you could accept your own mistakes, you simply needed to hear someone else say it first.  Allow me.

“My name is Chad Houck.  I fail publicly and regularly, but praise God, it doesn’t make me a failure.”

Have a great day!

Failing Publicly 101

gummi-whatSeveral weeks ago, I wrote a blog post on commitment.  Within a couple of days, as you can quite possibly relate, I broke that commitment.  I failed.  Again.  It wasn’t a monumental failure, or a costly failure, or one of those mistakes that you make that redirects the course of your future by routing it through a penal institution… But none-the-less, this time, I did it publicly – and in so doing, I learned a great lesson:  the value of failing in plain sight.

I made two commitments:  to write 700 words a day in an effort to try to establish a new writing habit, and to do something each day that would move us forward on the new Share5 project. (the fact that this post is a month since the last, but on worldwins.org and not share5.org, shows which one I’ve done better at keeping.)

Now it would have been easy to ignore the fact that I did not live up to my commitment if I hadn’t said anything to anyone.  But I posted it on a blog… and I’ve come to find out that a few people are actually reading my blog! (fringe benefit #1)

This past weekend, someone actually ASKED me “So, how are those 700 words coming?  I’ve been waiting for a while now…”  To that person, THANK YOU!  In asking me that question, you fulfilled a vital role in my life, and in fact did exactly what I was hoping someone would do if I made my goal, my commitment, public.  YOU HELD ME ACCOUNTABLE.  You let me fail publicly, and then when I did, you acknowledged the fact that you saw me do it – and that what I was failing to do mattered to you!

Prior to this weekend, as I personally reflected on my own failure to keep my commitment, I knew that I needed to write this post. I had already decided what to title it in fact.  Now, having been held accountable by a friend, the necessity of my completing it and getting back on track is even more evident to me (thanks!  No really.  I mean it!)

As a sidenote, since this is not going to be a short post, I’ll be spreading it out over two parts, today and tomorrow, for a total of 1,400 words…  =)

3 Solid Reasons Why Failing Publicly should be Required Life Training

1.  Failing publicly is good for YOU.

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As weird as that may sound, I honestly believe that while the failing part may not be necessarily good for you, the public part, in the long run, can be.  Before someone takes this wide open opportunity to slam my theory (which at this point would be as easy as hitting a homerun in slow pitch softball) lets put this in context.  I’m not recommending failure.  Sure failure can create learning opportunities.   Einstein failed.  Edison failed.  There are entire books written about how to “Fail Forward”.  You can argue the merits of failing all day long, but the fact remains if you can fail or succeed, you’ll be better off succeeding.  At the end of the day, the reason we know Einstien’s name and Edison’s name is that they actually, finally, at the end of it all, succeeded.

But if you are going to try something meaningful, if you are going to go after something of value, or if you have an opportunity to really mess up something important (marriage, relationships, parenting, your work, your faith… get the idea?), then there is a chance that you could fail.  And if you are going to fail, why not do it publicly?  Why not allow yourself, at some degree, to be accountable to someone.

OK – another fine tuning moment here.  The reality is that some of these things don’t belong  full-on in the “Public Square”.  But they also don’t belong isolated in the deepest darkest recesses of a closet.  What we are really talking about is whether or not you are willing to allow your life to exist in the light, or if you’d rather keep your failures secret and hide them in the dark.  What I am talking about is a word called accountability.  Remember seeing it a few paragraphs back?

Merriam-Webster defines accountability as an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions.  Another way of saying it is to be answerable to someone, or willing to give an account for something.  The challenge is that we cannot, inherently, be accountable to ourselves.  Thomas Paine, one of America’s Founding Fathers, said that a body of men accountable to anyone could not be trusted.  The same is true of individuals.  Where there is no accountability, there is no submission, and where there is no submission, not even to God, well, lets just say that’s bound to create problems.

If we can humble ourselves enough to start offering our failures a wee bit of light, we begin to train ourselves to see that allowing others to hold us accountable is not such a bad proposition.  Think about the kinds of failures that most often destroy people, marriages, businesses, or even nations.  Do you think the people responsible for those failures got to that point overnight, or do you think it was a slow fade into the dark?

I know this started out as a post about how I failed to write a 700 word blog post, but the reality is that I saw the benefit of accountability in such a simple thing, and it prompted me to make a change and get back on track.  I even acknowledge that I’ll likely need to lean on accountability again to stay here, and that I’ll likely “fail” more than once in the process…

Most importantly though, this made me reflect on what might be some of the not so simple things in my life that I’ve yet to offer up to accountability.  That, my friends, is where I will end today, and in so doing, I ask you a question:  What are you holding in the dark that you know would benefit from being in the light, and how can you begin the process of bringing it there?

In part two, I’ll address the two additional reasons for failing publicly, AND talk about some ways to maybe start upping your own accountability.  PLUS, I want to ask you a favor, so be sure to check in tomorrow!  Or – maybe the next day.  We’ll see how it goes, but either way, I’m sure you’ll keep me accountable.

Who are You Influencing?

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It was almost a month ago today that Bethany left us to be with The Lord, yet today, on this four week anniversary of that strange Sunday night that I will never forget, I saw three distinct examples of the influence that she is continuing to have on the people and community around us.

During a discussion with a friend today, my friend described a discussion she’d had with her doctor.  The doctor was explaining a medical concern she has (seizures) as two wires shorting and making a spark in the brain.  Her doctor is foreign, so instead of sparks, he called it “sparkles”.  She said, “as soon as he said that, I thought of Bethany and thought how if I had sparkles, she must have been a fireworks show she sparkled so much!”  As I laughed, I realized something.  This person was finding comfort in her situation through my daughter’s challenges and condition.  Bethany was in a way, therapeutic to her.  The simple image brought a smile to her face in a tough place, and now to mine as well.

one girl to another

At another point in the day, I got on Facebook and was surprised to see a post on another friend’s timeline.  This person who had posted it is a faithful volunteer in the Children’s ministry at our church and had been one of the few people to actually have Bethany in a small group setting between when we arrived in August 2012 and when she became a hospital regular.  They too formed a bond I would only now begin to really grasp, as not only did this person volunteer to take on a significant role in Bethany’s memorial, but she also, of her own accord, chose to make a visit to B’s grave today with her young daughter to deliver a gift.  Her daughter had drawn B a picture, and the two of them went to the cemetery to deliver it.

Finally, today a family who attended Bethany’s memorial service returned to attend church with our family.  Their visit was the result of a discussion that began following Bethany’s passing.  As they were headed out, their children couldn’t stop talking about how much fun they’d had and how they wanted to come back next week.

As people, we are both influencers of others and influenced by others.  We may not realize that we hold that position in someone else’s life, but regardless, the truth remains that we are likely both influencing someone every day, and responding to the influence of another.

We may not realize just how much potential we have either.  Too often, I think we accept the lie that “I don’t have what it takes to be an influencer”, or that “I just don’t have what it takes to influence people”.  I am convinced, as evidenced by Bethany’s life, that influence may not be as complicated as we think.  In fact, it is down right simple.  Live the way Jesus would live.  Love the way Jesus would love.  When you fall short, admit it and do what you can to make it right.  When you make your best attempts at that, you might be surprised at the influence you can have.

A few years ago I wrote about influence in the context of power as a component of leadership.  If leadership is influence, and influence is the ability to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone, then we could even call influence a form of power.  The paragraph below talks about the most unique, most difficult form of influence to achieve – that of Principle Centered Power.


The third and most advanced path to power is Principle Centered Power. This form is the most advanced because it is the hardest to achieve. Why fight for it? Principle-centered power creates the most sustainable influence. It is the result of choices made by the leader, but ironically, it is completely outside of the leader’s control. It happens when people, in the absence of coercion or a “deal”, assign themselves to someone whose principles, ideals, and values align with where they want to see themselves. Out of honor and respect, they make a choice to follow the principles established by their person of choice. It is the only type of influence that is so powerful that it can be granted to someone in their absence, even after their death.  (from “Share Well With Others”)

What I find interesting is that in Bethany’s case, as the description above states, the influence she had on others was completely outside of her control, not to mention completely removed from even the notion of any manipulation  (a major concern when most people talk about power or influence).  Even greater,  when you listen to the memories shared by others, the things they speak of are “her sweet spirit” or “her loving hugs”.  It is these attributes, those of the most innocent of children, that cause us to choose to allow our lives to be shaped by those whom some may consider the least among us.

Could that be why Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the  kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:17)?

Is it not in the innocence, submission, trust, and unquestioning love of a little child that we find not only the greatest uncorrupted image of what it means to be an abandoned follower, but also one of the greatest roadmaps to influence that we could possibly ask for?  Jesus, the ultimate Principle Centered leader, came in meekness, not in power.  He came to serve and not to be served.  He came to establish His kingdom, yet submitted his very life to rulers who were not worthy to take it.  Where the rulers of the day saw weakness, he demonstrated the ultimate strength.  Over 2000 years of influence continues to demonstrate that fact.  Not bad for a humble carpenter.

Sooo….  your thoughts?  Who has influenced you, and why?  What was it about them?  Finally, WHO ARE YOU INFLUENCING, and to what end?

-Chad

Each Day a Fresh Opportunity

God is really good at commitment.  He doesn’t miss a day.  

22The Lord’s lovingkindnesses [a]indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.   (Lamentations 3:22-23 NASB)

This morning is indeed the start of something new. Oddly, it is a start from the middle, if that makes any sense, but none the less, it is a start. Today is day one of my new commitment. Today is the start of making a difference in how my family and I try to make a difference – both here at home, in our community, and in the world.

Commitment: an agreement or pledge to do something in the future; to impel; to urge or drive forward, to impart motion to.

Today is day #1 using my new “Commit” app. This app is the creative brainchild of successful author and entrepreneur Nathan Barry. Nathan got where he is by hard (fun) work, and by doing a couple of things, consistently, every day. To make sure he did so, he built the Commit app.

You simply input your commitment on the opening screen of the app, set a time during the day for a reminder, and you’re off. The goal is to see how many days you can go without breaking your commitment.

So far, I’ve made two commitments. The first, which is happening this very moment, is to write at least 700 words a day.

I know from my time on the road with my family how much I like to write. I’ve been told by others that my writing is interesting and fun to read. I just, for whatever reason, have never made the commitment to write consistently outside of the year that I wrote Share Well With Others. When I finished my first book, I had a swirl of ideas flying around in my head… There was the follow-up book to Share Well. There was an entirely different concept that I still want to write. So many ideas just never found the time to get to paper. Now, I’m committing to make that happen. My hope is that as I do, the ideas and concepts will begin to flow again. Some will make it to the blog. Some will be reserved for books, but they’ll be out of my head and on paper. We’ll see where it goes. I’ll let you know, as I will be documenting the process along the way – 700 words at a time!

My second commitment is to do something, every day, to move the new Share5 project forward.

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Bethany Grace Houck
2/17/10 – 6/9/13

This one is key. When our youngest daughter Bethany went into the hospital in December of 2012 at the age of 2, we simply figured that it would be as “routine” a visit as the 3 previous ones that year. We had no way of knowing it was actually the start of what would be a six month long slow and difficult decline that would end with her passing in June of 2013.

During that time in the hospital, however, God reawakened so many of the ideas and visions that He placed in us in years past. Perhaps it was the situation that drew us closer to Him and as a result, we began to pay more attention to God’s concerns, if you will, and less about ours. Perhaps it was simply the pace change that is the result of hours of quiet time next to the hospital bed of a sick child. Whatever it was, a fire was rekindled to see those without hope introduced to The Savior. At the core of that fire, for our family, is a familiar name – share5.

I don’t know quite what to call it – whether it is a brand, or a concept, or a ministry, an idea or a project.  Whatever it is, Share5 is the name that we’ve made synonymous with our family since 2008. When Emily, Dillon, Amy and I struck out on the road as a family in our 34’ RV, we called it the Share5 Tour.  As Bethany was born, we joked that we were now truly “Sharing 5″ as the five of us ministered as a family around the US and in Mexico.  We’ve run our family’s ministry blog at Share5.org since late 2009, moving it from WorldWins.org. where it started in 2005.  Even the title of Share Well With Others came from the Share5 concept.

As I post this, we’ve got some new plans for Share5.org that will blow your mind. That’s what excites me. By simply writing this, I’m moving forward with turning those plans into reality. I’m making it public so my friends and family will hold me accountable. If you know me and see me, ask me if I’ve done something today to move the Share5 project forward – Because that’s what I’ve committed to do, a little bit, EVERY DAY.

Tune in tomorrow. We’re just getting started. =)

-Chad

Home Sweet Home

Sorry for going so long without an update, but the dust is finally settling following our return to home from our 38 day stay at St. Lukes Children’s Hospital.  We have moved the office from downstairs by the entry up to Bethany’s upstairs room, and brought Bethany’s room downstairs into what was the office.  This will now become therapy central, and will allow us to not have to navigate stairs with a child in our arms.

While it was part of the original plans, we are no longer going to go to Salt Lake City for rehab at this time. The doctors think maybe when Bethany has shown some cognitive response that she will be able to participate and gain something out of it, but for now she is not a really good candidate.  On the upside, this is great for us as we will not have to go back and forth each weekend. Instead we are home doing therapy a couple times a week and having a home health nurse monitor weight and vitals twice a week.Bethany is doing fine at home. We have had a few bumps in the road with her feeding and are having to adjust a few of her meds.

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One very cool thing has happened that is making this transition to home a little more comfortable for everyone! We were graciously given a custom pediatric wheelchair that will help support Bethany’s body and her uncontrolled movements. This allows us the ability to go out of the house, and also gives us more flexibility to position her and move her around at home. Since she can’t sit up or move herself on her own, without the chair she would be stuck on the bed or floor all day unless she was being held. Now we can use her chair, which adjusts angles and reclines as well, so she can even take a nap or “sit with us” at the dinner table. Of course, we hope someday she will be back to her former self and not need the wheelchair, but what a blessing it is for today… :)

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On top of that, we couldn’t be happier with how our new puppy Faith has handled this whole situation.  Upon our return home, she has taken up her post in Bethany’s new “bedroom”, sleeping like a sentry at either the front door or the base of her bed each night.  During the day, if we set Bethany on the floor, she’s likely to be laying next to her curled up within minutes.  She seems to have a sense of what is going on, and offers comfort as only a loyal friend can, by simply being there.

We are still praying for Bethany for continued daily improvements. Like we have said before, she makes little improvements here and there, but it’s a long road ahead. I know how much I want her back to herself and can only imagine what is going on in her little head. God continues to surprise us through the generosity of His people. To those who have reached out in prayer, financially, with meals, and with visits and encouragement, we can not thank you enough. Please continue to pray for Bethany and the rest of our family as we navigate this unknown road the only way we can – a day at a time!

-Amy

Four Weeks and a Glass

Is your glass half-full or half-empty?  While this old adage seems perhaps a bit passe at first, it holds so much validity that it is hard to find a better visual illustration.  Often, the situations we find ourselves in the midst of, such as where we sit today with Bethany, are an exact copy of that glass.  So which is it?  Half-full, or half-empty?  Perhaps another option would be… both.

Four weeks ago, we came to St. Lukes Children’s Hospital with a hurting, seizing little girl.  She was 2 months shy of her 3rd birthday, and had spent a week in the hospital during at least 1/3 of the months on the calendar since her 2nd Birthday.  She had taken 2 ambulance rides and 2 Care-flight helicopter rides, all in the same year.  Many would see that as purely half empty, but they would miss the fact that says she walked out of each of those hospital visits, and that the hospitals, ambulance and the helicopter crews were amazing people that provided life-saving care in a time of crisis.  Those are the “half-full” balance.   Was it rough?  Sure.  Were we blessed to still have our little girl, even through all of the challenges of 2012?  Even more so.  Half full or half empty?  Both.

Today, we embark forward into a new season of our life and of Bethany’s.  She has yet to fully recover from the seizure of Dec. 20th and the coma that followed, however, she is slowly, inch by inch, showing improvements.  We know that there is a long road ahead for her, but we also know that she gets the opportunity to travel that road with the support of her family and a world-wide group of caring, praying people behind her.  For that, she is a fortunate little girl, and we are a fortunate family.  Half full or half empty?  Both.

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The Plan

All things being speculative, here is the gameplan that was devised today with the assistance of Bethany’s Neuro team, Rehabilitory Doctor, GI docs, therapists, Geneticist, and Infectious disease doctors:  They all collectively feel that she should spend the weekend here at St. Lukes.  If all continues to trend positively or at least hold status quo, they will release us to home on Monday to allow our family to spend the remainder of January regrouping.  This will be the first time since before New Years that more than 3 of us will be in the house at the same time, the first time for us to all be home together since before Christmas.  Bethany will stay in the living room, joined by a suction machine, a feeding pump for her liquid nutrition, and a pulse-oximeter to monitor her oxygen levels.  We will be administering all of her medications through her new feeding tube, and will have nursing and PT,OT and Speech support during the days.

February 3rd, one of us will report with Bethany to Salt Lake City where she will begin daily full-time, in-patient rehab therapy.  Switching each weekend, either Amy and I will stay with her in SLC while the other returns to Idaho with Emily and Dillon for the school week.  On weekends, we’ll drive back down so we can be together as a family at the Ronald McDonald House, and then switch roles.

When asked about duration of the Salt Lake rehab, our doctors only estimate was “months, not weeks”.  Since there is no obvious damage in Bethany’s MRI and no evidence of infections in her blood or spinal fluid, there is no present reason not to pursue rehab and expect to see progress as a result – but they have said that progress will be slow, and that while normal may return, it may take a year or more.  Half full or half empty?  Both.  Scary?  You bet.

But this we know – Bethany’s eyes are open.  Today she fought to pick her head up off her pillow.  She made noises as if she were trying to sing when a therapist serenaded her with guitar lullabies.  She gets upset when you mess with her too much.  Bethany is fighting with all that she can, and Bethany is a precious, priceless, and much-loved daughter of the One and Only Living God.  She seems to have that knowledge written on her heart and cheering her on from deep within her, as we all do if we will just allow ourselves to listen.

So, once again – Half full or half empty?

Neither.

We have the hope that comes with knowing that with God, all things are possible.  For those with the same hope, may we never look solely to our circumstances, which can so easily confuse or distract us.  God’s word has proven true time and again in our lives, as we hope it has in yours, and His word says “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28)  So struggles notwithstanding, we know without question that God is at work in this situation as well, and for that, our “glass” is overflowing.

With great appreciation for your continued support and prayers,

Chad & Amy

 

Day 21 Video Update, and How You Can Help

photoFirst, please allow us to say thank you to the amazing response that we have gotten via facebook, email, text, etc regarding Bethany’s last several weeks.  Your continued encouragement has meant everything to us.  Today’s surgery to implant the GJ tube went well, and all the accompanying procedures were smooth as we had hoped.

Many of you have been asking how you can help, or what you can do to make things easier.  We have pondered that question alot lately, and struggled with what we knew was the right answer out of fear that it would be misunderstood.  Hopefully that will not be the case.

The oft-thought mundane things that constitute our day to day routine are pretty important to us right now, and as such, we may seem unwilling to let go of them – for good reason.  Things like picking our kids up from school, doing our laundry, and cleaning our house are things that keep us in “normal” mode as a family right now.  They let Emily and Dillon see mom and dad doing things that they normally see mom and dad do.  Thats important in the middle of chaos.  Its not that we don’t want help. Its more that we can’t afford to let go of the few things that are helping Amy, Emily, Dillon and I feel like things are still a little normal.  With that, we turned to the long term.  What if there was something you could do now that would also help us get to where we later want to be?  After all, this is not a short road.

As a family, our heart is ministry and missions work.  That is where we thrive.  We enjoy being in the middle of a desolate place trying to make a difference in someone’s eternity by impacting their present with the Love of Jesus.  That is just who we are, and medical  situations won’t change WHO we are.  They just change the HOW.

Driven by that truth, we are resolute in the a decision that Amy and I made together, ironically about 2 weeks prior to Bethany’s seizure – That as a family, medical conditions and all, our desire is to live as missionaries and raise support to enable us to serve full time in ministry –  how ever that may look.

Before the panic alarms go off, this does NOT mean we are trying to take Bethany out of the country or back on the road.  Quite the opposite.  We are, in fact, busy at work on a concept that instead will leverage technology to enable other missional Chrisitian organizations to expand their reach through our work.  In short, we intend to equip others to do the going.  And we need your help to make it a reality.

 

With your support, our family can BOTH have the freedom to maintain some normal as we get through this present medical issue (and the likely upcoming weeks of commuting to and from Salt Lake for rehab…) AND begin focusing on the next expression of share5 that will take Giving the Good News to an entirely new level.  Will you please prayerfully consider how God would have you get involved?

 

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Sunrise to Sunrise

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As I look out the window from the PICU room where Bethany is still sleeping (from an almost undisturbed night of sleep!) I find myself thinking, “What could be different today?  What could we see that we haven’t seen in the last 16 days?” The answer, simply, is that I don’t know – and that in itself can be scary.

I’m looking at the sun coming up, and in it, I see a constant reminder that as God wakes us up with each day, He’s envisioned a purpose for it. Bethany may not be where we all want her to be right now, but she is improving in little ways with each sunrise, and there have been but a few very cloudy days. We are also realize that the challenges that seem to come each day as the sun peaks over the foothills are getting less and less difficult compared to when she was not waking up or moving at all.

With a new day ahead there are things we still don’t know, but there are some new things that we do. We do know our next few steps. Her team of doctors are still searching in corners, looking for even the most unlikely of answers.  There is a plan for early next week where Bethany will be placed under general anesthesia a single time to cover 4 independent procedures. She will have a follow up MRI and a LP (lumbar puncture – spinal tap) to see if anything has changed from her previous ones in December. She will also have a muscle biopsy from her calf to look for Mitochondrial disease, and finally, she will get a GJ-tube for feeding inserted through her abdomen and stomach into her small intestine. She currently has a feeding tube through her nose and constantly wants to pull it out, so we decided to go ahead and do the GJ tube, considering both her current frustration with the nasal tube and the slow progress Bethany has shown to this point.  It is a reversible procedure that we may well have needed down the road, and we don’t want to have to put her under anesthesia twice, so this seemed like a logical time.

Each day, we continue to talk through possibilities and test results with her doctors.  Multiple metabolic and genetic tests have been sent off to labs and more results are still pending. Most metabolic testing takes two weeks or more to get results, so patience is a key for us right now. Yes it’s hard not knowing; not having an answer, but as many of you know, I have been searching for answers for my own health issues for over a year now, so not knowing has become awkwardly familiar. I can say this – It is way more difficult to see my daughter not responding or quickly improving like she typically has following past seizures than to wonder about my own diagnosis. It is in this discomfort that we choose to trust in God’s protection, provision and peace.

That fact is obvious that we are dealing with something more than a seizure at this point, but the question now seems to be what exactly is this?  In the meantime, we are grateful that our little girl is still with us, and we endure from sunrise to sunrise with the hope that somewhere an answer exists.

- Amy