Counting Our Blessings

Counting Our Blessings

Friday, June 15, 2018

Another unexpected ER trip

So you all know that our family has been through many terrifying moments, but last night we had a situation that shook me to my core.  I’m still processing, trying to cope, and trying to help my kids work through it all.

Jason came home from work around six o clock. He walked into our room where I was helping Noah pack for his Japan trip.  He walked into the kitchen, took a bite of a muffin, walked back into our room and sat down on a chair.  He said he didn’t feel well.  I begin to ask him questions and he had a hard time answering.  Out of the blue his eyes rolled back into his head and he fell back into his chair and had some convulsions.  He was unresponsive, I was yelling for him to wake up, my other two kids ran into the room and witnessed this all happening.  I called 911 and while I was on the phone with them answering their questions he came to.  He was very confused, pale, and still not feeling quite right.  The paramedics came and took him to the hospital.  It was a whirlwind and I had never felt so helpless.  I was trying to console my younger two, while my oldest put on my shoes so that I could get to the hospital.  When we arrived to the hospital  Jason looked good and the doctors were running some tests.  The doctors are unclear why he had this episode.  We will follow up with his regular doctors today and go from there.

I never thought I would be writing an update like this about my husband on this blog.  He is our Rock, our healthy one.The one we rely for everything. I’m thankful in so many ways.  Thankful that it wasn’t worse, thankful for Noah and the ways he stepped up for me and was so calm.  

Please would you all pray for Jason, for our kids, for me as we process this and move forward to get answers.  Thankful for you all.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Bio And Q&A

Last month I had the privilege of being apart of a panel at a woman’s conference, and also had the opportunity a week later to share at a woman’s study.  The first Conference was on Counting it all joy, and the second was on handling life when your dreams are shattered.  I was so very grateful for the opportunity to share at both these venues.  It always gives me the opportunity to recount the ways Christ has been so faithful in my journey.  It encourages me to take a look back and to see that yes my body is so much weaker today but the spiritual growth is so much more vibrant and thriving. It encourages me to keep pressing on and to keep leaning in to the one that holds me in the palm of his hand.

 There are several new readers and so I thought I would recap my story and answer some of the wonderful questions I had received at both of the venues I was apart of.

To start,  I’m Melody I have been married for 18 years to my wonderful husband Jason, We have been blessed with three children.  Our oldest boy Noah is 15, our youngest son Jonah is 12 , and our beautiful daughter Hannah is 9. I will try to give you a brief background. Their is so much to tell but I promise to make it brief. Here is my background story. I grew up with a single mom who was an alcoholic drug addict until I brought her to the Lord at the age of 14. It was an incredible story of God’s redeeming power. When I was nineteen I had a pacemaker surgery for complete heart block. I was told if I had gone much longer without the pacemaker I would never have survived. I got married to my best friend at  the age of 22.  We had two boys and at the age of 31 I had suffered a miscarriage which ultimately led to our desire to adopt. In 2010 We brought home our precious daughter from China.  Three days after being home with her the doctors told us to prepare ourselves that she wasn’t going to make it.  She had a very complicated heart condition and they gave us a 30 percent chance of survival.  God chose to breathe life into her frail body and after two open heart surgeries she is thriving. A year later I was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy(Desmin Myofibrillar) and was told all the muscles in my body would slowly begin to atrophy and that there was no cure.  A year after adjusting to that news our oldest son was diagnosed with Restrictive Cardiomyopathy and put on the transplant list. He has been stable enough to come off the list but his heart is still very much sick. At the end of the same year we learned that not only did our son have this awful heart condition, but he also shared the same rare form of Muscular dystrophy as I. We are slowly starting to see some of his muscles begin to deteriorate. Last year I had a total of five surgeries, four of those in 10 weeks. This is just a snippet of our story. Woven through are incredible opportunities of seeing God at work, incredible answers to prayer, and a deepen faith.  

Question 1.  What lies were you tempted to believe during particular trials? How did God meet you in that to give you hope?

One of the biggest lies for me was that I felt like I couldn’t really be purposeful for the Lord.  I never realized how much of a works based mentality I had inside. I had these big dreams of adopting again. I enjoyed being involved in so many capacities at church. I was the type of person who was always serving and running to the next need.  Now that I wasn’t able to(the way I had desired anyway) I felt like I was un purposeful.  The Lord has slowly showed me how ridiculous that is. He has shown me that really all I have to do is be still and allow him to work through me.  He really doesn’t need me to do anything at all except trust in his goodness.  The book of Luke is a good example of this When Jesus visits Mary and Martha and he is more pleased with Mary who sits at his feet than Martha who is distracted trying to do everything.  

The other lie was feeling like a burden to everyone. I still struggle with this. I often forget how much joy it brought me to be able to love and care for my friends and family.  Its hard to be weak and frail and have to ask and require so much help.  It’s good for others to be given the opportunity and to be the church to one another.

2.) John Piper talks about fighting for joy in our Christian lives. He says that you cannot just flip a switch and "have joy". God has to give the joy and our job is to fight for it and to put ourselves in position to receive it. Do you think this is true when facing trials? What ways do you fight for joy or put yourself in a position to receive joy during a trial? 

Yes I agree 100% I think one of the ways to do this is to re orient our focus.  It’s super hard to get our eyes off of our circumstances. For many of us you just cant escape the hardship, its in your face constantly.  In the morning I have to make a choice to get up and focus on the promises of God, my future hope, and the things I’m thankful for or I will be a mess.  I know this because many days I’am a mess.  It’s a fight and a daily surrender. Look what Paul said about his trials in 2 Corinthians 6:10. He says: “Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing, poor yet making many rich, having nothing,  and yet possessing everything.” Paul said he was at the same time “Sorrowful” and yet still “rejoicing”. To have joy in trials is not to deny pain.  It is to recognize the fact that they can exist together.  they can co-exist in the same way that an expectant mother can go through labor and birth and still have joy in thinking about what is to come.  she has joy because she has the right focus as she considers this new baby that will be birthed into the new world.  In the same way, believers must have the right focus in order to have joy in their ongoing trials.

What did suffering teach you about God? What do you know to be more true about God now that you wouldn't have known otherwise?

It taught me that God’s not doing this to me but For me. It’s so that the works of God can be displayed.  Let's face it, it's a struggle to believe God is for us when we're drowning in pain. Even Jesus felt abandoned in the midst of His suffering, saying, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) The refrains of God being a good God can sound hollow when our hearts and lives are broken. 
It's true that suffering that's not transformed by God is destructive. It leads us away from Him and into despair. But if we'll go to God with our pain, not only will He comfort us, He can work miracles with it. He can transform our greatest pain into our most significant triumph. 
Paul is a great example of how God redeems suffering. Paul experienced never ending hardships and persecution (2 Corinthians 11:22-33). But, his suffering produced an internal and eternal growth. It allowed him to experience God’s power in ways he couldn't otherwise, it gave him a deeper compassion for others, and it allowed him to be part of God’s work on earth. 
Understanding that suffering has a purpose doesn't always help us persevere through it. Thankfully, Jesus showed us what to do.  Jesus overcame His suffering, so we can overcome ours. As we keep our focus on Jesus, He comforts us through our suffering, allows us to experience His presence in ways we otherwise wouldn’t, and uses it for good in ways we can’t imagine.

I hope to answer more in a future blog post.  For those that are old and new to this blog thanks for visiting, I hope you leave feeling encouraged.  I’m so thankful and overwhelmed by your love and support.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

What’s Going on With Noah???

(warning this is a long one)

First off I want to give big hugs and thanks to everyone for all your prayers.  It has been a crazy couple of weeks.  We are tired but super thankful.

A few weeks ago Noah called me from school to tell me that he was having chest pains.  This is not unusual for Noah to have occasional chest pains, however these were different.  They were significantly painful and instead of only lasting a minute, they lasted for over an hour.  When I went to pick him up he was clenching his chest and very uncomfortable.  I called Jason and we made the decision to take him to CHOC ER.  At CHOC they did an EKG, chest-xray, and labs.  Besides Noah’s scary EKG that he’s had since he was nine(it looks like he’s having a heart attack), everything checked out fine and we were sent home. Five days later he had a follow up with his pulmonologist(lung doctor). This doctor was following up on a recent sleep study he had. She wanted to run some labs and also check his iron levels.  We went last Monday and on Thursday she called me very concerned about his labs.  His BNP(which is used to check for heart failure) had more than doubled in a week and she told us that we needed to see his cardiologist right away. Since it was after hours when I got this call I left messages for both UCLA and his main cardiologist out of CHOC. His main cardiologist Dr. Chang texted me and asked me to come by in the morning. When we saw Dr. Chang on Friday morning he did EKG, and Echo.  He said his EKG was even worse than before.  He wanted us to go get labs drawn.  He talked with the team at UCLA and if Noah’s numbers from the labs were elevated they wanted him admitted to be able to see what was going on and available to run any further tests.  Well those numbers were elevated and Friday night we were admitted.  They did labs every 4-6 hours and the numbers went up and then stayed the same.  Noah looked great the whole time, his spirits were fine and they were all confused.  He had a few episodes of chest pain that lasted only minutes and nothing seemed to show up that would explain why.  There are different opinions within all the doctors as to why he has chest pains and why the numbers go up without any other signs of heart failure.  They eventually let him go home Sunday and will continue to follow up in a few weeks.  

We don’t have answers which can be frustrating. We just know he still has Restrictive cardiomyopathy,unexplained chest pains, a scary EKG, elevated BNP and troponin levels,he does not need to go back on the list,  and his pressures look good.  I spent the whole weekend just angry and frustrated.  Noah was trying to celebrate his birthday with friends, we were going to celebrate with family, we were going to pick up our new kitchen table, and it was hard on us to be at UCLA. I was embarrassed that we once again had drama in our lives.  I was having a pity party to say the least.  Monday I had to repent. I had a long talk with the Lord.  I was having the worst attitude.  I was not having a heart of gratitude. I was not showing patience. I was not appreciative of all they were doing to care for my son.

 We were on the same floor of the hospital that we visited so many others kids who were there in heart failure waiting for a heart.  We were at the same hospital that my dear friend kissed her husband and said goodbye to for the last time.  I had so much to be thankful for Yet I was concentrating on how much I thought this was negatively effecting my life. I couldn't see past self. This is such an emotional process.  I’m so grateful for God’s word though. Just this last week we were studying Colossians 3:12-17(The Put on Chapter)12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.. 

  In the last chapter Paul was addressing Christians and telling them to Put off their old self and in this Chapter he was telling us what to put on.  It would be so easy for me to stay in my pity party and look to myself if I wasn’t in God’s word.  God’s word is transforming and this particular passage reminded me how important it is to be thankful and why.  I have been chosen by God.  SERIOUSLY how cool is that? Friends we have been chosen. It is because of what God has done for us through Christ that we are able to reflect these spiritual attributes that he asks us to put on. Christians are to be characterized by an attitude of gratitude about everything. Yes even spending a whole weekend in the hospital with your son. Why? Because we know that we do not deserve anything. Everything comes to us as a gift of God's love. Verse 17 "Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." I’m so thankful to have so many people in my life that reflect the qualities in this passage. That help bear one another’s burdens.  That spur me on and encourage me daily.

We are giving Noah up to the Lord daily, praying that God will continue to work in his life both physically and spiritually.  We know that their is beautiful purpose in this and none of it is wasted.  Thank you once again for your continued support in our lives.  What a blessing you all are to us.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Answering tough questions

This semester I’m doing a ladies bible study and we are going through the book of Judges.  This question below came up in our study and decided to share with you my thoughts.

Has there ever been a time when God has dramatically weakened you (physically, financially, emotionally, etc) to teach you to rely on him?  Describe that time.  What did you learn about God?  About yourself?  About your fears?

Has there ever been a time God has dramatically weakened you to teach you to rely on him? Describe that time-  This one is most likely obvious to all of you and didn’t take much thought or time for me to come up with an answer.  In the past seven years my physical body has dramatically been weakened and continues to each day.  I wish it was just for a time but unfortunately it is ongoing with no end or cure in sight.  When I was first diagnosed and my body began to weaken it was extremely difficult for me to accept help and come to terms that this was my new reality.  I realized that I thought I had to be doing and serving to be purposeful in the Lord.  I had to rely on the Lord to show me how he was going to bring purpose in the pain.  He has been faithful to show me beautiful ways that he is using this but it is still a battle and I’m growing all the time.  When it gets hard I have to remind myself to rely on him to provide the strength when all I want to do is escape and retreat into self pity.

What did you learn about God?  I learned and am still learning that God didn’t do this to me but is doing this for me and others.  It’s really not about me at all.  It’s always, always, always about him.  I just get to be the vessel that he uses to bring glory to his name.  I learned that his promises are true that he never leaves me or forsakes me.  I learned that he is the provider of all good things.  I learned that he knows better than me and his ways are better than mine.

What did you learn about yourself?  I learned and am learning that I’m super stubborn as heck.   You know the toddler stage when they say “I do it myself” yep thats me. I don’t like to appear weak and have fought hard even when it would make my life and those around me easier.  example-braces on my feet, cane, wheel chair, breathing machine, and pretty much all equipment.  I learned/am learning that I’m always fearful of being a burden on people.  That I rely too much on my own strength instead of the Lord.  That In the past I found my joy and purpose in doing instead of just being still in the Lord. That you can still be used by God just by being still.  I’m still learning things and being confronted with my ugly sin.  Just a few weeks ago when Jonah went to Sacramento for a Junior theatre festival.  I was so bitter and angry about my disease.  I would have given anything to be with him on that trip.  I was very involved in theatre growing up and this kind of stuff excites me.  I was jealous of the other parent chaperones and just grieved hard.  Even in the grief I felt the Holy spirit asking me if I had the choice to go and feel joy for a weekend would I choose it over feeling the joy of knowing God is using this terrible disease to bring glory to his name. Even if it lasts the rest of my life.  It is such an inward battle for me of knowing without a shadow of a doubt that he is using this, and wanting that to be enough but still feeling heavy grief over each loss.

About your fears?  I learned that they come when I  feel like things are out of control and I try to control things myself or think I have control. God is usually pretty quick to show me he is in control and that I can trust him.  One good example of this was when Noah wanted to go to Japan last year.  I worried about his heart and health and asked Jason to go with him.  10 weeks leading up to the trip I went through 5 surgeries with the last one being days before he would fly out.  Jason knew he couldn’t go while his wife was recovering from heart surgery and I wasn’t about to let Noah go without him.  Noah looked me in the eyes and asked what I was afraid of.  As I began to tell him my reasoning did not seem like it was appropriate.  You see my biggest desire for my kids is that they would grow in the knowledge and love for their savior and want to serve him all of their days.  Here he was wanting to go serve the Lord and share Christ and my fears were standing in his way.  I let him go and honestly I believe that God used all five of those surgeries to get me to that place. I learned that my fears keep me from fully trusting the Lord.  From believing that he is fully sovereign over all things He is continually growing me in this area.

Maybe you all can resonate with these words. Maybe this question causes you to think about a time God has dramatically weakened you. I pray that whatever you are going through that you would allow yourself to be vulnerable with people.  God uses his people to be his ministers and encouragers and we all need each other. Thank you for continuing to walk this journey with us and I promise to give an update soon. 

Friday, December 22, 2017

Nothing IS Impossible With God

I’m sitting here in the quiet overwhelmed by God’s goodness. Like seriously ugly crying.  The waterworks are flowing yet I’m smiling. You guys ever have those moments?  Why is it one moment you can feel so down and frustrated and the next you feel like your going to burst from the joy you feel inside?  This happens so much for me.  It’s easy to get down and frustrated by my circumstances.  I mean from the moment I wake up to the moment I lie down to go to sleep all I think about is how to make things physically easier for me.  I have to think about not falling on the way to the restroom, who’s going to help get me dressed for the day etc.  I feel guilty for not being the kind of wife, mother, and friend I think everyone deserves.  I get disappointed, and feel the losses greatly.  Every new loss is like a sucker punch to the gut.  Yet the Lord is constantly working on me and he constantly uses his people to bring me encouragement. This week I got the most beautiful heartfelt Christmas card in the mail from Jonah(see picture below).  Jason started to read it out loud and couldn’t make it past the third sentence.  He was overcome with emotion.  I took over and only got through the next two.  Wow! This kid blows me away by his tender heart.  It was exactly what I needed. A sweet reminder that it doesn’t matter that they have a mom who is limited in her physical abilities.  They see (more than me sometimes) how God is using it for good.  The very next day I got an unexpected card with an unexpected gift for our family and again I was taken back.  I feel like when these moments happen it’s God giving me a sweet embrace letting me know he is near and that their is purpose in the pain.

Last week Our Sermon was continuing the Christmas Story and he focused in on the fact that Nothing is Impossible with God.  It was a really good message and hard one at the same time.  He challenged us to think about what we are holding back from thinking God can do. I feel like I believe and know that he CAN do anything.  So I know that he CAN take this disease from us I just don’t think he will. I guess I’m afraid to think he will maybe out of fear of being disappointed. Which challenged me to ask myself, if I know that God can do the impossible, and work mightily through this challenge we face, would I want him to take it away?  This is something I wrestle with all the time and I have come to the conclusion that it’s ok to hate the suffering while at the same time being so grateful for it.  Jesus himself asked in Luke 22:42 “Father if you are willing, remove this cup from me.  Nevertheless not my will, but yours, be done.” So this is my prayer Father if you are willing, but not my will, but thine be done.

I pray that you would Know that All things ARE possible with God.  I pray that you would marvel at the incredible story of our Saviors Birth and realize what an incredible gift HE is.

Friday, November 3, 2017

I'll Push you

Last night I went and saw the One night only showing of “I’ll Push You”.  If you haven’t heard of the film here is a link to the trailer. It is about a man named Justin who has a debilitating disease that has left him without the use of his hands and legs.  After watching a documentary about the Camino De Santiago trek he has a yearning to go.  He brings it up to his friend Patrick who says I’ll push you.  I had been looking forward to seeing this movie for a whole host of reasons.  Mostly I was thankful that it would be bringing more awareness to what life is like with such a debilitating disease. Not just for the person who has the disease but also the people caring for that person.  Most people don’t always get a real good view on the difficulty it is to even do the simplest tasks like getting dressed and combing your hair.  I felt like this movie did a really good job portraying this aspect well.  It showed how much work his best friend patrick did on a daily basis just to get his friend ready for bed and up and ready to get on the hike each day.  I loved the tender and thoughtful moments it captured of Patrick the friend.  One thing in particular was in transferring Justin from his wheel chair to another chair. The audience saw Justin’s pants fall down.  Once transferred Patrick asked Justin if he needed his pants adjusted. Patrick was intentional in thinking of all of Justin’s needs understanding how vulnerable Justin has to feel to allow him to help.  I appreciated the sweet friendship between the two.  I was overcome with emotion that Patrick would move his family out of state to go help Justin’s wife care for their kids and Justin.  The film did a great job portraying the importance of community and friendship and really entering in to peoples lives.One particular moment in the film had me sobbing.  The last leg of the 500 mile trek was going to be super difficult terrain, high inclines, and windy weather.  They were debating if they should call it quits.  Once in town they were surprised to see a huge group of fellow hikers who waited for Patrick and Justin so that they could help ensure they had help to finish the last section.  It was touching to see strangers helping, Justin trusting others, and patrick allowing others the privilege of helping.  It's a beautiful story.  I was however sad that it really lacked depth in the purpose of our suffering.  I was wanting to hear Justin credit the Lord for redeeming him from the darkness of having a desire to end his life.  I wanted to hear both them say they have a hope in Christ that is greater then their circumstances.  Overall I recommend the movie and hope it brings awareness to many out there and a heart to want to enter in to the hard.  I would love to know your thoughts.  As always thank you for following along.


Monday, October 30, 2017

Never Alone

Thank you for allowing me to share. Not just the days that I feel so much peace I could burst but also the days that are long and weary.  Thank you for pointing my eyes back to the one who is the lifter of my head.  This road for us is one thats marked with continual loss and grief but its also one with amazing opportunity to see God at work in the most precious ways. The last two weeks there have been countless times of God working in and through his people to show us encouragement.  God used several people to speak love and truth to my heart, as I studied Joshua for bible study, he spoke to my heart in reminding me how sovereign he is and how we are never fighting the battles alone.  He poured out his love in the form of homemade meals, texts, and phone calls.

 I'm always so touched by strangers around the world that would take the time to read our story, pray, and encourage our family.  Today I got the sweetest package in the mail.  My dear friend Kelly had nominated our family to be the recipients of some kindness from The Good King.  Look them up on Facebook.  They are a non profit company who create coloring pages for kids and adults to color and write a message. They send out a story and ask people all over the world to pray over the family and color a page.  They collect all the pages and mail them out.  Today we got ours and let me tell you it was such a joy not just to me but my children as well.  We spent time pouring over each one and just smiling over the Love we felt receiving them.  He once again reminded me to trust.  Trust that he is doing a beautiful work in and through the hard.  There is purpose in the pain and I will never know the extent to which he is using this battle for his glory.  Thank you Jesus for allowing me to see a few this week.  You are so gracious.

Thank you, all, those who have walked with us near and those who are walking just as closely from a distance. I have felt so very loved. Our family has been embraced, been prayed for, and  peace keeps showing up in real ways. I know I am not facing these physical challenges alone. Hard days are coming, and I’m counting on you all to point me to the grace that I know is waiting for me in those days.