Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Michael's Upcoming Surgery

First off, our son's case is now in the hands of Dr. R - another absolutely great doctor! We had met him a year or so ago and he's wonderful with Michael and very clear in his explanations.

Dr. R measured Mike's back and explained that while normally it's great to wait until the child is 12 years old, the aggressiveness of Mike's case requires us to act sooner. Last year, when Dr. R saw Mike, he measured sections of his back that were 40 degrees off. Those same sections are now 60 degrees. WIth summer coming on and not having to worry about school, Dr. R thinks this is a good time.

Dr. R asked Mike if he wanted to hear the details of the surgery or if he wanted to leave the room. Mike wanted to stay. Eric was able to tell the doctor that the reason Michael is so "tough" with all of the information is because we believe in the Lord - strongly. That we've told Mike that God has chosen him for this. God could have chosen to heal Michael, but hasn't. I was so glad that Eric was able to let this doctor know of our faith right from the start. The doctor was encouraged to hear about our faith and admitted that it would help us a lot in the recovery process.

So, the doctor's top three priorities are:

1. Mike's safety - I think this is self-explanatory.

2. Bone healing - With NF patients, this is a real concern. Their bones tend not to heal well causing the pins and screws to "pop" which, in turn, results in more surgery. Please pray that this would not happen and that Michael would heal with no complications.

3. Straightening the back - With "normal" scoliosis", this is a higher priority. However, we've known from the beginning that the straightening will be limited due to the tight curve and rigidity in Michael's NF back. Many have you have probably noticed that Mike's shoulders are uneven. This will continue. Actually, it is Dr. R's challenge not to make the unevenness greater due to the rods, etc being put in.

There will be 2 incisions - one down Mike's back and 1 through his left side. At least 2 discs will be removed and the spine will be fused together from the back and from the front. This will not hinder his mobility in the future, praise the Lord. The doctor will use bone from Mike's ribs and from a bone bank to reconstruct and put things back together. Pins, screws, wires, and rods will now be a permanent part of our sons' spinal anatomy.

Dr. Rubrie asked us if we wanted Michael to leave while he ran through the risks of this surgery. We asked Mike and he said, again, that he wanted to stay. The risks are: death (as with most surgeries), paralysis, infection, and bone not healing. The last one is the one we would be most concerned with as the others are pretty rare. It's all in the Lord's hands and, as the doctor reminded Michael, we all will be praying before the surgery (and during) and he (doc) would appreciate the help.

The surgery will be at least 10 hours long. When Mike comes out, he will be in the pediatric ICU (PICU) for a day or two. During surgery, he will be on a breathing machine and he may or may not still be on it when he comes out of surgery. He will have a tube coming from his left side for a few days - the purpose of this tube is to drain blood away from the lung. If the lung deflates when the tube comes out, it will have to be re-inserted. Please pray this won't happen. Mike will be in the hospital for 5-7 nights, as long as all goes well. During this time, he will be allowed visitors. Those of you who know Mike - people will be his best medicine. He won't have to wear a brace or any type of cast, for which we are grateful. The doctor will keep an eye on his healing through x-rays and visits in the weeks following surgery.
As a side-note, we are blessed with a wonderful grandmother and sister-in-law who have already agreed to watch the rest of our children during this time.

Mike will have a slow summer. He may go places (not too far at first), fish, walk, etc., but no bike riding or anything else that could result in a collision. His activity level will increase as he heals and recovers, but it may be up to a year before he's back to full capacity (no sledding next winter). But, all in all, the recovery process won't be horrible. Mike is blessed to be living in this day and age. Only 15-20 years ago, this type of surgery meant being in a body cast for months at a time!

As of right now, we are very probably looking at JUNE 3rd for the surgery. We will confirm this later this week. If it's not June 3, it will have to wait until late July/early August due to the doctors' vacation schedule and Eric's wheat harvest. I'll let you know as soon as we have a confirmed date.

Michael has taken all this information in stride. He wants to get this over with and on with his life. Please pray that the Lord will continue to give him this "amazing grace!" Your prayers have been such an encouragement thus far and will continue to help us through the months ahead.

I think we'll claim the verse my dear sister-in-law shared with me today: John 4:11 - "...This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby."

Thank you for all of your love, friendship, and prayers!




Monday, April 28, 2008

Words of Wisdom...

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it!"

So, I'm not. Someone else told me that this site "feels more like home."

Welcome home. I hope you'll stay awhile.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

10,000 Hits

Today, this blog has reached a milestone. Since July of 2007, Love & Rewards has received 10,000 visitors!!

I am assuming most of these visits are completely by accident and people get out as soon as they can click away!

However, some of these 10,000 hits are faithful readers. I appreciate you all for taking time out of your busy lives to read my ramblings. I pray that I can continue to edify and encourage you all in your love for your families.

Along these blog lines, I am asking for some feedback. I have spent a bit of time developing a new blog site over at wordpress. It's the same blog you've come to love (or tolerate), just a different address and format. I'm wondering if any of you have a preference. I like the other site as I can add navigation pages, but the design options seem to be fewer than here on Blogger.

Any opinions?

Even if I decide to move this whole sha-bang over to the other site permanently, I will keep this address for a while until most of you feel comfortable with the new blog. You'll be able to read the same thing here and there. Be sure to check out the other address from time to time to get yourself familiar and to be able to let me know your opinion.

Thanks, again, to all of my faithful readers. Blessings to you!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

You Know it's True Love When...

...you want what is best for him, even if it's not you.

...you imagine what he'll look like old - wrinkled, slow, hunched - and still love him.

...you hear the impatience in his voice after a long day and you let it go.

...you can't wait to tell him about that insignificant little thing that happened today.

...you feel comfortable sitting in silence together.

...you see the "hottest" actor and know he's no match for the prize you have.

...you feel sorry for everyone else because you got the best there is.

...you love to hold his hand - even after so many years of marriage and so many kids.

...you can't imagine life without him.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Our brother and sister need prayer...

Many of you have seen the prayer requests and updates for our dear friend Dave Hance as they have frequented the sidebar of this blog. Recently, Dave had a stem cell transplant and all seemed to be going well. However, this past Friday, Dave told his sweet wife that he's having night sweats and pain in his abdomen and spleen area - an almost sure sign that the cancer has returned.

I will let his wife update you in her own words:

Hi every one,

Our suspicions will be confirmed tomorrow [Tuesday, April 22] or the next day as to whether David's cancer is back and growing. We know that it is, but the CT scan will prove it to the doctors. Please pray for David as he is in MUCH pain 24/7, he has the night and day sweats now, is getting really bloated in the abdomen and can't get comfortable for too long. It's also difficult for him to catch his breath with all the fluid build up. We wanted to get back with Dr. S., his original doctor, but we called him today and he does not have at his disposal what David needs at the level David is at now. Different hospitals/doctors have access to different drugs, and Dr. S. can't get them at his center. We have no choice but to continue with [the hospital his wife doesn't care for], so please pray for grace for me to accept this decision.

We're not sure what will be going on this week except for the CT scan tomorrow. The doctors will be calling us back later when they have a plan of attack. Once again, I will keep you posted on David's progress. Another stem cell transplant will not be in the plan - David has made that clear.

Thanks you for your prayers!

Love,
The Hance Family

When Kelly gave me the permission to post her e-mail on this blog, she also asked the following:

If you could mention that I need prayer as well - I hate to sound weak, but when I am weak, He is strong. I need a dose of grace (more importantly to be reminded that it is there for the taking, so I need to remember to take it!)...
Also, while I'm thinking about it - David and I would like people to pray for the Lord's way to be clear to us...I want God's leading in this, not my emotions getting in the way. Sometimes it's hard to tell if it's what I want or what the Lord is telling me to do.


If you are a part of the family of God, this man is your brother. His wife is your sister. Pray for them as family members whom you love.

Dave and Kelly - you are loved. By us. By our children. By so many. Most of all, by God. May you feel His arms around you and be blessed with His wisdom.

Praying always for you...





Sunday, April 20, 2008

Update...

I'm sorry I haven't updated you all on Michael. I won't make this long...I know it can get tedious and many of you have already received my e-mail regarding this. However, read on as there are some more recent updates.

On Wednesday, we met with his orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Tebor. He agreed with us that it was time to get the ball rolling on the surgery - especially after we saw that there had, indeed, been a change in his curve. The first change in over a year. The change that we've been watching for to give the green light for the surgery.

Because of Michael's increased pain, he was scheduled to have an MRI this past Friday. Mike thinks these MRIs are done to get a clearer picture of his scoliosis when, in fact, they are to search for tumors. NF causes tumors anywhere in the body, including the spine. We should get the results of the MRI this week - please be in prayer.

Michael will be meeting with Dr. Rubry on April 30th. This is Dr. T's partner and he will be the one who does the majority of the surgery. Due to the length and extent of the surgery, Dr. T. feels more confident in Dr. R's experience, youth, and endurance, though Dr. T will be involved as well.

We don't have a date, yet. Eric and I are in agreement - ASAP. The doctors will consult after April 30th and then we'll probably settle on a date. From there, Mike will probably need a complete physical and he will need to donate his own blood a couple of different time in the event that a blood transfusion is needed during the surgery.

If you care to read more about the type of surgery Mike is facing, please read more here. It is not a long or complicated explanation.

Thank you all for your prayers. I hope to have more exciting and fun things to read soon!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Question for You...

Note: The previous post was not meant to discourage anyone - it was meant to encourage! The bottom line is this: eat well, get some exercise, drink as much water as you can and don't worry too much what the scale says! If you're eating ok and moving around, you're healthier than the skinny person who gets no exercise and eats junk food and is just blessed with a wonderful metabolism!


Now, on to my big question of the day:

What do you do to make sure your children keep there rooms clean (i.e. picked up, beds made - NEAT)?????

If you don't have children with neat rooms, what do you remember your parents doing to make sure your room was clean when you were younger? My room was always spotless. I don't remember my mother threatening death, but it was never a question - it was the only way it was ever going to be. Yes, I had my own room, making it easier. But, my two brothers shared a room and it was also spotless. I never understood the whole issue with other kids having to clean their rooms - ours always were picked up and clean. My mom didn't do it - we did. We knew it was expected of us.

It's expected of my children, too. However, it's a daily struggle around here. How do you all do it or isn't it being done?

Please help!!!!!!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Weight Watchers

Do you know how tired I get of hearing women say "I can't eat that" or "That's so fattening" or "I need to lose weight!"? Worse yet, I get tired of hearing people telling others how they need to eat. Way too much time is spent discussing weight, weight loss, diet, etc. Way too many good foods are passed up in the name of "my diet."

I've had 7 children. When I got pregnant with my second child, I still had 10 pounds to lose from my first pregnancy. When I got pregnant with my 3rd, I was over my "wedding" weight by 15 pounds. After the birth of my 3rd child, I knew I had to get serious about losing baby fat especially if I were going to have more children. So, with Slim Fast (laugh if you wish), drinking lots of water, doing moderate exercise, and eating reasonably I've always gotten back to my pre-baby weight before the next pregnancy. I am not bragging, I'm just stating the facts that are a blessing from God.

Through experience, once I lose the weight, I have no problem maintaining it. People are often amazed - or aghast - at some of the foods I eat (once I've lost weight). When I go out, I get dessert 95% of the time. I love ice cream and anything fattening. The key is moderation. I know that if I avoid it all the time, I'll end up craving it and eating way too much. If most of my diet is healthy, the once a day treat isn't going to put me over the top.

Both Eric and I come from a background involving anorexia and bulimia in one form or another. We are very much aware how concentrating too much on weight loss can create disastrous results for our 4 daughters. It is important to stay healthy. Maintaining a healthy weight, getting exercise, and eating well are important. But it can get ridiculous. There is way too much to enjoy in life - too many other important issues to concentrate on.

For the record, my weight watching, as of late, has been depressing. I still have 15 pounds to lose. However, I've got my plan. I'm not obsessing. I'll be happy when it's over. I'll feel better about myself when I can fit into all of my old clothes. But, it's not what my world is made of.

In case you're interested, here's my tried and proven plan:

1. Walking for a half an hour every morning at a brisk pace. I cover almost 2 miles.

2. Drinking 3-4 quarts (yes, almost a gallon) of water a day. If you want to read some great facts on the benefits of water, go here. After my fourth child, I lost weight faster than with any of my children by drinking a gallon of water a day. Of course, this means I can never be too far away from a restroom. We'll stop there.

3. 50 -100 crunches/day.

4. Slim Fast. Laugh if you wish, but it's worked in the past. One or two shakes a day along with a decent dinner (yes, with dessert).

That's it. Nothing fancy. Other than the Slim Fast, no cost involved.

For you husbands - be happy with your wife. Eric loves me the same whether I'm at my ideal weight or 20 pounds over. Not being pressured by him makes me want to look good for him even more. It also helps me not to stress more than I ought.

You ladies, feel good about yourselves. Take care of yourselves. Set a good example for your daughters. Please your husband. Lose what you need. Maintain your weight.

And, find another topic of conversation.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Public Notice...Fundraiser

We interrupt this regularly scheduled blog to notify you of an important upcoming fundraiser. As many of you know, our oldest son, Michael, has a genetic disorder called neurofibromatosis. This has resulted in his scoliosis (please see side bar for prayer request concerning this) and could result in a variety of other problems. There is a wonderful foundation dedicated to researching NF called the Children's Tumor Foundation. They keep us informed on what to look out for in our son and they update us on new research and findings concerning this disorder.

We have a wonderful young pastor at our church. He happens to be one of Michael's role models. Charlie is one of those odd people who actually enjoys running marathons. So much so that he is actually planning on running a one hundred mile race in Ontario, Canada onMay 23-24 (yes, it will take 2 days)! I think he's crazy, but part of me is glad he's doing it.

Why?

Because he's decided to run it as a fundraiser for the Children's Tumor Foundation in honor of our son. He's doing something he enjoys and is being a blessing while doing it. This is not unusual for Charlie - he lives a life of service to others and enjoys doing so.

SO - here's your opportunity to be part of this blessing. No, we're not asking you to run 100 miles. In fact, you don't even have to leave the comfort of your home. If you'd like to the cause of CTF in order to help Michael and thousands of others like him, please go to Charlie's fundraiser site and donate. I will have a link at the top of my sidebar from now until the race - so you can come back at any time and check up on the fundraising progress. If you would rather write and send a check via snail mail, e-mail me.

Most of all, on May 23 & 24 - pray for Charlie as he runs this race. It will be an incredible challenge for an incredible man being an incredible blessing!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Welcome to...My Life!

Everyone wants to move out to the country. Away from the noise. Away from the lights. Away from the crime and danger. Normally, this is true. Except for yesterday morning - which happened to be my birthday.

Um, no, it wasn't a birthday celebration out of hand. I just threw that in for some extra comments.

Anyway, back to the country.

I woke up yesterday around 4:00 A.M. (yes, there is such an hour) to the sound of a police siren. Interesting. We live on one of those country roads where everyone goes 55 m.p.h or faster and the stop signs are, apparently, optional. The results of this deadly combination are often...well...deadly. Therefore, upon hearing the sirens and noticing my husband had already left the room, I decided to go downstairs to see what was going on.

When I got downstairs, I noticed cars traveling ever so slowly up and down our road shining very bright search lights in the field. Normally, this isn't done for your average lost house cat, so, being the super-sleuth that I am, I knew something more was amiss.

Eric, of course, was outside running in his bare feet down the road trying to catch up with the police officer to see what information he could get out of the guy. These guys, however, have nerves of steel and won't give any information - no matter what grueling interrogation methods your local farmer may use. All Eric could get out of them was that they were looking for "someone."

Very informative.

Little information creates big worries on my part. Eric comes in with this tidbit and I instantly reach back into the Reader's Digest/late night movie department of my memory and begin to envision a murderer running around our fields and possibly targeting our house as a good hostage/ransom/murder scene.

Eric, on the other hand, thinks the whole thing is exciting. He decides to go outside and watch the action first-hand. I beg him not to go out there. For all I knew, this guy is hiding out in our barns with a gun ready to shoot the first person he sees. That's all I needed on my birthday - my husband wrapped up in a body bag. Then I got to thinking of being in the house unprotected if the mad-man decides to go through with the formerly mentioned hostage/ransom/murder plan.

After taking some time out for great consideration and thought on my logical arguments against him going out to the war ravaged country side - Eric left. (Ok, so he listened to my hysterical begging as he got his coat on.) I was now on my own to protect our house.

Soon, we have police cars driving around the farm shining lights into tractors, barns, swingsets, etc. Eric actually got to join the search as the policeman hopped on the back of Eric's ATV and took him around the property and into the woods. Do you know they don't care if you drive without a helmet at night as long as you're helping to search for a crazed murderer? I mean, really, what's a helmet when you could be staring down the barrel of a gun?

At this point, I was seriously considering waking a great woman of prayer from our church with a phone call. Do I or don't I? Lord, are You telling me to call her? If this criminal comes in my house to implement the hostage/ransom/murder tactic, I won't be able to call 911. Yet, if he comes in while I'm on the phone with Alice, she can call 911 for me.

I finally decided to stop wasting time and just pray to God on my own. Seriously, I was praying all along. But, now, I was able to pray with some reasoning. The Lord truly did give me peace.

And my husband came back without bullet holes.

Turns out, the police had pulled over a car for questionable driving and the driver was an illegal immigrant. Somewhere after handcuffing him, he ran off. Must be pretty disheartening to lose your prisoner. Really messes up your morning.

Shortly after Eric came in from his police work, the helicopter started flying overhead. They were still searching for Mr. I. Alien when we went to church. Far as I know - they never did find him.

Cops, escaped prisoners, lights, helicopters, and a husband risking his life for the welfare of the neighborhood. Welcome to...my life in the countryside!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

My Blog is Living Up to Its Name!

I love romance. I love romantic stories. I love to hear how people met, fall in love, etc. As my husband puts it so eloquently, I'm a sap.

My friend Dave is going to be turning 35 the day after I do - though he refuses to admit that. He's never been married. Good, Christian guy. Career-minded. Could care less about love and relationships - until now.

Jen is a friend I met in the world of blogdom. Never met her in person until a couple of weeks ago. She recently turned 35 and she's not afraid to admit it. She's a great Christian girl. Never been married. Redeeming the time as she waits on the Lord.

I started this blog in July. Somewhere along the line, I found Jen's blog - loved her photographs. Dave started reading my blog. He was encouraged to begin one of his own. Through his blog and snooping around mine, he found Jen.

Long story short - they're an item. And a sweet one at that.

The reason for this post? No, not to gloat and pat myself on the back. Though, I am thrilled that God used this little blog to introduce these two wonderful people.

The reason for this post is to encourage my single readers. Notice the age of these two people. Notice they are both Christians - brought up in Christian homes and saved young. I'm not sure about Dave, but I'm sure Jen asked God a few times - "Lord, what about me?"

I see so many young women marry the proverbial "first guy that comes around" because they're tired of being alone - afraid to face a life of singleness. They miss out on God's best because they refuse to wait on Him.

Jen has become one of my heroes. She lives a full life. She has all sorts of friends - single, married, younger, older, widows, etc. She has fun with each of them. She has fun on her own. She has created traditions without waiting for a family of her own. She's gone on missions trips. She has a career, but it's not her life. God is her life. She has redeemed the time. I am amazed at how many of my long time friends know her - I've yet to met anyone who doesn't like and respect her.

I don't mean to gush. I mean to give some of you single young ladies a role model to look to. Singleness isn't a punishment. It can be a blessing. Does that mean God will always bring someone for you if you're patient? No. I know a few women who probably never will be married. That is God's best for them. They don't bemoan it. They are content living in God's will.

Easy for me to say, I know. I'm married. Have been since I was 21. But, I know a good role model when I see one.

Two people who have just kept their eyes on Christ fulfilling His will for their lives. They've been blessed tremendously.

And, for the record, Match.com has nothing over this blog!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Angels in Heaven Rejoice...and So Do We!!!

On March 26, 2003 when Mike was 5 years old, he read a Tim Lee tract in our van on a Wed night after church and said that he prayed and asked the Lord to save him. We grilled him and came to the conclusion that he was being truthful and that he had, indeed, been saved. A few years after that, Michael got the courage up to be baptized.

For various reasons, Eric and I have been questioning Michael's salvation this past year. He knows the talk, but there was little evidence other than that. It got to the point that I actually asked him about it this past New Year's Eve. I told him I was concerned. He either was not saved or very far from the Lord. We talked for a long time, but I told him the decision was ultimately his. He went away thoughtful, but nothing was done. Eric and I continued to pray that Mike would either get saved or grow - and make his salvation evident to us.

Yesterday morning, Mike kept getting into trouble. I finally sent him outside to run laps (a regular consequence for him - helps him burn off energy and change his attitude). When he came in, he was crying and continued to do so as the kids and I read the Bible. I asked him a few times what was wrong, but all he said was "I don't know." I've come to the conclusion that he says this because he's not sure how to explain things right away. Anyway, after a while, he came to me and told me he doubted his salvation.

Sunday in church, a couple of long-time, faithful, and godly members confessed that they had finally come to Christ just this past week. However, I'm not sure that directly played a role in Mike's decision. He mentioned nothing of those testimonies. He said that this has been bothering him for months (since New Years) and after our Pastors class on Saturday teaching how to lead someone to the Lord, Mike questioned his salvation even more.

He knew all of it, but he finally came to the point where he is sure he is a sinner and he can't change himself. He asked the Lord to forgive him for turning his back on Him, to wash his heart clean with His blood, and to save him. No lightning flashes, no voices, just a simple prayer. Michael reminded me of the long, showy prayer of the Pharisee versus the simple 7-word prayer of the publican - "Lord, have mercy on me a sinner."

Mike is talking about getting baptized this Sunday and is looking forward to reading through the book of John with new eyes.

I'm thankful to our faithful Lord for answering the prayers of these oh-so-human parents. I rejoice that my son is now on his way to heaven. Please pray that his love for the Lord will grow daily and that he will be a faithful and true servant of God. While you're at it, pray the same for me!

Thank you for rejoicing with us!