Friday, April 23, 2010

For God never comes too early...

I purchased a book of poems by Helen Steiner Rice and fell in love with quite a few of them.

Here's one that stood out to me. I know so many people who are going through difficult times, and the last lines of this poem just say it all, in my opinion.

Never Be Discouraged

There is really nothing we need know
or even try to understand
If we refuse to be discouraged
and trust God's guiding hand,
So take heart and meet each minute
with faith in God's great love,
Aware that every day of life
is controlled by God above
And never dread tomorrow
or what the future brings
Just pray for strength and courage
and trust God in all things
And never grow discouraged-
be patient and just wait,
For God never comes too early,
and He never comes too late.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

You may only see the brush strokes, but God sees the big picture.



Have you ever read through the Old Testament and marveled at how often the Israelites doubted God? I mean, you would think they'd realize, after all they had been through, how great their Father in Heaven is. If they did happen to actually pause and praise God, it seemed short-lived. Soon they were back to grumbling and mumbling, back to thinking about how they would fix the situation. How quickly they forgot the wonderful things God had done for His children- leading them out of Egypt, performing miracles (parting the Red Sea, providing manna, and much more!), defeating their enemies, and bringing them to the promise land.

Our women's study has been on the attitudes of the Israelites during this time. (We've been using Lord, Change My Attitude Before It's Too Late videos and workbooks by James MacDonald.... and he is a wonderful, bold preacher! I hear the book version is just as great.) Since we started this study, I've noticed how the attitude and actions of the Israelites is mentioned many times throughout the bible. It was a big deal.

In fact, in my personal study in 1 Samuel 8, Samuel comes before the LORD and pours out his heart. The elders of Israel have told him they want a king to judge them. They want what the other nations have (v.5).

God tells him, "They have not rejected you; they have rejected Me as their king. They are doing the same thing to you that they have done to Me since the day I lead them out of Egypt until this day- abandoning Me and worshiping other gods."

He tells Samuel to warn them about the rights of the king who will rule over them.

"Hey Israel," he begins, "This king you so desire with have the right to take your sons for his personal use as servants, in war, to plow or reap the harvest, to make the things he desires. He can take your daughters to be his personal help (cooks, bakers, etc). He can take the best of whatever you have (your fields, vineyards, orchards) and give them to his servants. He can take a tenth of your grain and your vineyards and give them to his officials and servants. He can take your servants and your livestock and use them for his own work. He can take whatever he wants and YOU yourselves could become his servants."

And then he tells them, "When that day comes, you will cry out because of the king you've chosen for yourselves, but the LORD won't answer you on that day." He's pretty much told them what could happen, what is likely to happen (the chances of having a series of wonderful, kind hearted kings in a row is highly unlikely!) and he's warned them that when all of this comes about, the LORD will allow them to suffer because He warned them and they refused to listen.

And, what did they do with this warning? Like little children, they stomped their feet and crossed their arms and harumphed, "NO! We must have a king over us! Then we'll be like all the other nations!"

Why didn't the Israelites just trust God? If they worried about how Samuel's sons, who were judges, might handle the situation once Samuel passed, they should have just prayed about it and trusted God to deliver the best answer. But no- they had their own plans and they were adamant about them.

I know, when I was a kid, I would read over these verses about the Israelites and marvel at their stupidity. Man, couldn't they see? Didn't they remember? Had they really forgotten all the awesome things God had done for them?

But now that I'm older and wiser.. (HA!)... I mean, NOW, that I've gone through a slew of my own experiences where I've acted in similar ways, I realize how prone we all are to this behavior.

We rant, we rave, we complain and grumble. We make our own plans and don't even allow God to throw His own two cents in. We take off running without heeding the clear warning signs. We're just as bad as the Israelites. Actually, we may be worse. We may have chalked God's deliverance and miracles up to "good luck" or "coincidence", failing to give him any glory at all. So, when we look back, we may not see the wonderful things God has done for us. We may even take the glory ourselves.

With all that our family has had on our plate lately, it's been trying to just "let go and let God". And, maybe the only reason I've been able to do the "let go" part is because there is absolutely nothing I can do in these situations. I can't make the mass in our daughter's brain disappear. I can't complete our baby's heart before she's born. It's out of my control.

But, I can worry. I can worry and fret and think of all the things that can go wrong. It won't help anything (in fact, it will probably make it a lot worse), but it's easy to do- it passes the time. But God calls me to just trust Him- not worry, not complain, not doubt... but trust.

As our pastor in Louisiana often says, "Even if all God ever did was give us salvation- nothing more and nothing less- He would still be great." Even if God never brought healing. Even if God never answered our prayers. Even if God never gave us peace or joy when we needed it. If all He did was send His son to die on the cross for our sins so that we may be forgiven and have a place prepared for us in heaven... that would be enough.

But God does SO much more, and He has so many promises available to us. Yet we often think that if He doesn't give us the answer we desire, or He doesn't heal our loved ones, or He doesn't give us what we want that He has somehow failed us. God is great, even when the answer is No, even when He allows suffering, even when we don't get our way.

And this is something I have to remember- even if my daughter's brain mass would have been a cancerous tumor, God would STILL have been worthy of my praise.

Psalm 118 reminds us to give thanks to the Lord, "for He is good! His faithful love endures forever!" Isn't that nice to know? God's faithful love doesn't stop at any point. He loves us, even when we disobey or reject Him. We can certainly see that in God's relationship with Israel. Yes, there were times when He gave them tough love. Because of their attitudes, they wandered in the desert for a very long time- and a generation of them never saw the promise land because of their doubt and grumbling- but He didn't give up on them. He continued to led them, to shower them with blessings, and give them victories- often when they didn't seem to deserve it.

God does this for us as well. He may allow us to go through difficult times- maybe to teach us something, maybe to teach others something, or maybe because we have refused to listen and obey. He may deliver us from certain illnesses, enemies, or circumstances.... probably not because we are prayer warriors or worthy of it, but because He loves us and sees the bigger picture.

And maybe that's what it comes down to. God DOES see the bigger picture. Israel couldn't. So many times they couldn't see beyond their own eyelashes. I bet Moses was so spiritually and mentally exhausted after dealing with these people. How often did he have to remind them of the bigger picture, the great goal, the land that was promised to them?

We may not even know where we are headed, like Israel did. We may not know the goal. But we can trust that God does and He'll lead us there if we will just stop trying to take over the steering wheel!

Often, like toddlers, we demand our way "or the highway, LORD!" We cross our arms, stomp our feet, and harumph.

These beautiful prints can be purchased from Art.com

Monday, April 12, 2010

Good news, bad news, gender reveal.

Copy/Pasted from an email to Family and Friends:

Merikalyn had her check up today and there is no real "new" news. Again, all they know is that it is an inflammatory mass- other than that, they don't really know anything! She is scheduled for another MRI in July, and will have an angiogram at some point in the new future as well. She is doing wonderfully- definitely back to herself (but better!).

Saturday we had an ultrasound to check out the little baby and find out the gender. We were excited to learn that we're having a GIRL! :) I noticed the tech (who specializes in prenatal ultrasound) was really focusing on the heart for longer than normal. I even mentioned it to my mom and my sister-in-law. Right after the U/S, as we were walking out, I had a question for the tech, so one of the other women went to ask her and said, "She was on the phone with your midwife.... {blah blah blah}." I thought it was strange that she was calling the midwife SO SOON after the U/S and I again wondered if something was wrong. But, I shrugged it off and just celebrated the news of "GIRL GIRL GIRL!". :)

This evening, my midwife called. We had a busy day, and we were all snoozing, so I called her back when I woke up. She told me there was something wrong with the baby, and I immediately said, "It's the heart, right?"

She said the baby only has three chambers instead of four. Most people want to know what this means. Does it mean our baby won't make it? (As many of you know, we had 4 miscarriages before we conceived this little sweetheart.. so we definitely already feel like she's our miracle baby!)

Well, mainly, this means that- most likely, a homebirth is out of the question. Right now, the baby is at the weight and size she should be at, and her heart beat is at the pace it should be, despite having only three chambers. (Of course, things change as the baby gets bigger, more developed... and once the baby is born, she won't be able to depend on my body for support.)

This will likely mean giving birth at a hospital downtown (I am being referred to a doctor in the Houston Medical center) so that the baby can be wisked off to Texas Children's after she is born.

So far, we've had a very healthy pregnancy.. and things have been wonderful, and we pray that continues to be.

I know people have stories about how it appeared to be such-n-such and wasn't, or whatever, but- honestly, we don't want to hear those stories. First of all, we just want to call it what it is. If we find out something has changed, and her heart is whole and complete, we will know it's the grace and miracle of God, and not some fluke.

We KNOW God has the ability to heal and complete her heart- but He may not choose to do so. It seems both of our little girls (Merikalyn and this little baby) like to be vessels for God's biggest miracles. :) We are all certainly praying for one.

We have been through so much lately (big stuff, little stuff) and it's overwhelming... but it's so nice to know we have "peace that passes understanding". I cannot imagine going through any of those without a hope beyond ourselves.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A large update

**Note**
Some of you have asked where you can send donations to help assist in lowering Merikalyn's medical bills (and those of the future, since she will have frequent check-ups, MRIs, and prescriptions) besides PayPal. My mom (Cathy Turner) set up an account at a Texas bank called Amegy (Amegybank.com). You can donate to a fund set up under the name of Merikalyn Taylor McGee. No account number is needed. If you do not live in Texas (or, live in Texas but do not have an local Amegy branch), you can mail your donation to this address.

AMEGY BANK
P.O. BOX 27459, HOUSTON, TX 77227

Remember to write it to The Fund of Merikalyn Taylor McGee. I would recommend putting Cathy Turner/Merikalyn McGee in the FOR section, since my mother is a signer on the account.

Many thanks to all of you who have already contributed- we are so grateful for your generosity and kindness. And, we know some of you wish you could, but can't- and we understand that too. We have appreciated your prayers, cards, and well wishes. We couldn't have asked for better support during all of this!



I have not meant to keep anyone in suspense (although I know many of you have followed the updates on Merikalyn's fan page), but we received the "results" of the biopsy the Monday following my last post. (We've been home for a week now- it's hard to believe that two weeks ago we were in the hospital fearing for her life!)

Monday morning, the Neurologist came in and spoke with us. I knew it couldn't be too horrible of news (cancer, for example) as I doubt very much (knowing his personality) that he would have spoken to us about the results when we were half asleep and lounging around.

He said it is an inflammatory mass, meaning it isn't a tumor (and even better, it's not cancer). In all his time as a Neuro, he's only seen two other cases of it (also girls) and so he doesn't have much information on it.

However, he felt comfortable enough letting her go home, and so, several hours after we spoke to him, she was released and we eagerly headed for home sweet home.

But, back up a few steps. The doctor said he wanted to get a Multiple Sclerosis Specialist involved because what she has is similar to MS (MS is also an inflammation issue) but it attacks a different area of the brain. He is hoping to figure out more on this, but so far, it doesn't seem life threatening. We are pretty sure we know what caused it, but because the whole issue is very controversial, I'll save it for when I have more information on it.

One of his patients with this mass had to have surgery again to remove the rest of the mass, but we are hoping that Merikalyn will not have to undergo that again.

She is doing quite well, and we started homeschooling again this week. Much of the information returned (better than before), while some things we have to go back over- for example, she has to work on her 100's chart again because she has forgotten the order of some of the numbers (20, 30, 40, 50.. and so on... although once we tell her "20", she goes on perfectly until the next ten). We knew some things would have to be relearned or at least strengthened, while other things she would likely pick right back up.

It is nice to have an answer as to why she was behind in some things educationally speaking. Even though I've tried not to worry about whether she's on track with her friends (many of which are not home taught), I cannot help but compare.. and I knew in some things, she just didn't seem to be catching on. Now we know why, and I'm seeing that the main issue was that she was understanding some things but wasn't able to verbalize it "on demand".

She has been doing very well at home. She is not able to be as active as she was (no running and being wild and crazy outside), but she is still fairly active, imaginative, and "herself", which is great! Every now and then, she says she needs a break and rests on the couch or in her bedroom for a while. I'm thankful that she listens to her body's cues.

Saturday we worked on setting up an organizational system in her room since she had received many dolls and toys while in the hospital (thank you!). I knew things would become chaotic if we didn't have some place to put it all- and, she's like me- so she needs to be very very very organized or everything goes downhill quickly.


(Yes, the paintings are my own work.) The bookshelves were $15 each at Wal-mart. Hubby reinforced them with Gorilla Glue so they will, hopefully, last longer. The little baskets were in the seasonal Easter section- two for $2- and they work perfectly! This photo was taken before they were completely filled, which are they are now. :)

Yesterday she started complaining that her ear hurt- or more specifically, the incision that comes just above her right ear. It looks like it's just the skin/area drying, probably pulling the area taut as it heals, but I'm keeping an eye on it (and giving her Tylenol). Other than that, she hasn't had many complaints.

She has an appointment to see the Neuro again on the 12th, and I am eager to see if he has any NEW news. I certainly hope they won't have to go back in, and I hope it will simply just "go away", but for now, we will have to just keep an eye on it.

I am SO thankful that we homeschool because.. well, first of all, I was able to see these little changes that any other teacher may have not necessarily reported to us. I was able to give her Neurologist a complete run down of her behavior over the last 4 years (we believe this began a little over four years ago). And, now, after the surgery and as she recovers, I am able to again witness her behavior and report improvements or set backs as they arise.

I believe there would have been SO MUCH that I would have missed had she been spending 8 hours a day in an institutional schooling system.

But, because I homeschool- I know what I've taught her, very SPECIFICALLY what she should know, what she is succeeding in, and what she struggles with. This has proved to be valuable information during this time.

We have been so blessed by our friends and family (and strangers!) through all of this. Our church helped stock our pantry and fridge so we wouldn't have to worry about groceries when we got home. Sunday (Easter) was amazing as it was our first time back in church since all of this happened. It was so wonderful to receive so many hugs and well wishes. And just knowing that HUNDREDS, maybe even THOUSANDS of people were praying for our daughter (and the rest of us) was definitely uplifting!

Words cannot express how THANKFUL we are- and I feel like I can never say it enough. I am trying to write Thank You letters to everyone who sent her (and us) gifts- I hope I don't leave anyone out, although I am sure I will.. so I hope you will forgive me!