Friday, July 27, 2012

I have no words, but somehow I blog...

I never wanted to be one of those bloggers that writes something everyday. This blog was supposed to just be a way to keep everyone updated on Landon, but it has turned into so much more for me. It's really become my outlet. Many of my posts have been written with tears streaming down my cheeks. Writing has always been my way of processing what I am feeling. How my writing has turned into an online journal open for anyone to read, I have no idea. If my babbling, pondering, fears, and joys can be used by God in someone else's life, then who I am to deny Gods leading just because it makes me feel vulnerable. Today is one of those days. I woke up with no intention of writing today, except maybe working a little on the book, but God had other plans, obviously. It's not yet 9AM and I have already fallen apart once.

 Last night I stumbled upon another blog of a heart mom. I didn't read very much of it before I realized that her precious first born son is no longer on this Earth. Her perfect child only blessed this world for 3 days. She is an amazing writer. Her faith and her honesty just broke my heart. I truly can't imagine what her and her husband have gone through and the grief they continue to face on a daily basis.

I laid in bed last night and couldn't get her off my mind. I told Ryan that it's easy to forget how scary it is, but then you read something, talk to other heart parents, or an alarm goes off at 11PM and in an instant your sucked back into this world. This world where everything is uncertain, tomorrow isn't promised, and a broken heart is just a way of life.

I haven't written about it on here because I didn't want to freak more people out then I already had from Facebook. Last Saturday we went through Landon's bed time routine as we always do and placed him in his crib, prayed for him, turned on his alarm, and kissed him good night. Ryan and I were in the living room watching a movie, when we heard his alarm. It's a familiar sound because when we first brought Landon home, we would always forget to turn it off when we took him out of his crib. If it doesn't sense movement for 20 seconds it goes off. The sensitivity is so great that it picks up on his breathing. We were recommended to get it, by another heart mom friend, when we were in the hospital and Landon just wasn't doing well breathing on his own without oxygen. The next day we went and bought one and it has given us so much peace of mind, knowing that if he were to stop breathing, we would know. Until last week, it had never gone off while Landon was in the crib so when I heard it, it took a couple nano seconds for me to realize that it was going off and he was actually in there, meaning he wasn't breathing. "Ryan what do we do?" Ryan was already up and on his way to the nursery. I was right behind him. When I reached Landon's doorway, Ryan said, he's breathing, he's ok. I was so relieved but I was still in panic mode. Ryan told me that it's ok, he went over the CPR sheet we have hanging on Landon's door with me. Ryan is very calm when it comes to things like this, but I could tell he was scared as well. In an instant I was sucked back into the realization that life is fragile.

We hardly slept that night, Ryan put on the Sound of Music to get my mind off of the fear. The alarm didn't go off again and it hasn't since. It could have been a false alarm, but I don't think it was. Our alarm has been awesome and never malfunctioned and it never did again so I think that Landon just got lazy for a while and forgot to breath. I think the alarm going off startled him enough to get him to start breathing again. Either way, we are so glad we have the alarm.

Since that night, I have been so paranoid. I check on him multiple times a night and if I fall asleep with him, I wake up in a panic that he may not be breathing. I try not to think about it, but some days the thought crosses my mind of what our life would be like without him? I truly can't imagine. The mere thought is enough to cripple me. This morning I peaked over at him as I was getting his meds. He was sitting contently in his bouncer. I just imagined our home without his bouncer, without his blankies, binkies and burp clothes scattered all over. There would be such a void, I don't know how I could go on. I know with God, we would, but I don't know how.

So reading this other moms blog, it was like reading our worst nightmare. She was still so heavy on my heart this morning. I began to pray for her. I told God that I can't imagine what they are going through. I told him that they didn't deserve to lose their son just like we didn't deserve to keep ours. Why God? Why do you give to some families and take away from others. I just broke, I'm still breaking. I wrapped Landon up in his monkey blankie. It has this little hood with a monkey face and ears, it always puts him to sleep when I snuggle him in it. I just rocked him in my arms and my tears would fall down onto his tiny face, looking up at me. I know that I'm not going to get an answer to my why questions like this until I reach Heaven. I still believe that God wants us to ask these questions though. He wants us to wrestle with the pain, with the fear. This life is so full of joy and so full of sorrow. Landon has taught me that. It is SO hard, but I have to thank God for alarms and devastating testimonies because they remind my soul what matters. Today will not be a normal day in our home. I will hold Landon tighter, be on Facebook less, and I will spend more time in continual prayer to my savior, thanking him for the blessings that last longer than our last breath. I can only see this tiny speck, but God sees our lives in the whole scope of eternity. That heart mom, has hope. She will see her son again. She will go through the sorrow that comes from the deep void that his absence has left in their family, but they will spend the rest of eternity together.

Please join with me today in holding your family closer, drawing closer to the Father, and reaching out and praying for the hurting.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The power of a papa

I know fathers day is long past, but I like to think that we treat everyday like daddy's day in our home. I was so touched by a photo I took the other day of Landon with his papa. It was just a normal evening at our place. Ryan had just fed Landon and was just sitting with him on his lap when Landon wrapped his tiny arm around his papa. One of the great things about living in a small apartment is that my camera is never too far. I hurried and grabbed it and started snapping. I never truly appreciated photography until we had Landon. You learn quickly, as a parent, that time goes too quickly. I'm lucky if I can get him to wear all of his clothes once before they don't fit him anymore. This makes me sad, but it has made me appreciate every moment caught on camera SO much more. They aren't just pictures anymore, their memories, their a stage of his life that has come and gone and I will never get back again. So I cherish EVERY moment and try to capture as many as I can.

This is one of those moments... This picture just says so much to me. What is different about this one photo is that it doesn't only make me think of times past. Even more-so it makes we think about the future to come. It makes me think of how Landon will grow up adoring his papa and wanting to be just like him. It makes me think of the relationship that they will have. Right now Ryan can make Landon laugh and smile. He can calm him when nothing mama seems to do will work. Someday their special relationship will develop into a friendship and I am looking forward to watching that unfold.

I've mentioned shutterfly on here before, but I really haven't confessed to my addiction. If there's anything I love more than capturing special moments on camera it's putting those moments into a book and using them to tell our story in a unique way.

For the last couple months I've been working on Landon's pregnancy journal. It's amazing how in hindsight pregnancy seems like the most beautiful and exciting thing, but when your in the thickets of it, you just can't wait for it to be over. Anyways... I've been reminiscing on my pregnancy and copying the journal I kept for Landon into this shutterfly album. This journal contains the real Landons letters. I came across this entry that I wrote before we knew if Landon was a boy or a girl.

Nov. 20, 2011

I cannot wait for you to get here my love. You are already such a part of our family. You are a part of this beautiful love God has given mommy & daddy for each other. You're so blessed to have the best papa in the world my darling. I just know that he will be your hero, as he is mine.
If you are a girl I hope & pray that someday God brings you a man who loves God & treats you like a princess like your papa does me. I pray you never settle until you find the kind of love you see in your parents marriage.
If you are a boy I pray that you take to heart how your papa loves me so that you will one day love a woman with the same kind of pure, godly, relentless, unfailing love. I pray that I never disrespect your papa in front of you. I want to model for you that he deserves all of our respect, love, honor, and adoration. I am so crazy about your papa and you have only made our love deeper and stronger. You can rest in our love my child. You are safe here.

When I found that a couple days ago and read it, I thought of this picture. I thought of how Landon already adores his papa. So many children are growing up today, without a papa and the outcome of this is astronomical. It is creating a culture full of little girls that never stop seeking a mans approval and love in all the wrong places and boys who have no idea how to be a man.

This picture reminds me that we must never underestimate the power of a papa. It breaks my heart that there are children being born today that will never know the unconditional love of a daddy. I know that this breaks the heart of God as well. There is a reason why God doesn't stop with us calling him Savior, He longs for us to call him Abba (greek word for daddy). He desires to show the fatherless what the relentless love of a papa looks like. My hope in writing this is that we (myself included) might learn something from my special child.

It is easy to look around and blame God for all of the horrible, traumatic, and painful things that we see and what we have experienced in our own lives. What if instead of seeing God as this mean father who allows these atrocities, we choose to see him as a papa who weeps with us when we experience the pain that comes with living in a fallen world? What if we chose to sit up on His lap, wrap our tiny arm around him and just know that we are safe and protected in his love. This is what I see when I look at Landon and his papa. Landon doesn't blame Ryan for allowing him to experience so much pain. He truly trusts and depends on his papa for all of his needs and desires.

Oh the lessons I learn from our Landon :)

"For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the spirit of sonship. And by him we cry Abba Father. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his suffering in order that we may also share in His glory.

Romans 8:15-17

Friday, July 20, 2012

Missionary Mama

God woke me up early this morning. I decided to take advantage of it and go for a run before the heat becomes unbearable and I'm stuck inside all day. So I packed Landon up, kissed my sleeping husband good-bye and off we went. I like to break up my runs with walking. It's when my world is quietest and I can hear God speak. I've found that I'm least likely to be distracted or interrupted during walks and while in the shower. Well my shower time has changed quite a lot since having Landon, I usually get interrupted now... oh well :)

So I was walking and talking to God. Praying for Ryan, pondering life and love (I'm a ponderer if you haven't realized;) I was thinking about parenting and how I believe God has called me to be a missionary mama. Let me explain...

While growing up, I always thought I would marry a pastor, youth pastor, or missionary. I just knew I wanted to be used by God and I thought I could do that best if I married one of those three options. I can't believe my theology was that messed up, but it's true. God changed my perspective when I met Ryan and I knew that he was who I was supposed to be with. Ryan and I always talked about how we didn't just want a normal life. We had dreams of going to Youth With a Mission in New Zealand, traveling the world, and being missionaries wherever God called us to. After we got married, God didn't seem to be leading us in that direction any time soon, but it was still a dream we had. When we found out that we were going to have a baby. I still believed that God had huge plans for Ryan and I, but it seemed like He was leading us to, what I thought, was a normal life. It's pretty difficult to travel the world with no money, a full time job, and a baby. I was thinking about this early on in my pregnancy when God just spoke to my heart. "Do you really think I need you to travel to use you? I've given you the highest calling and your asking me for something more? You want to do something close to my heart Natalie? Love your husband. Be an example to others of how to be a mother after my heart. What if I want you to be a missionary mama?"I was shocked as I digested what He had just said. The more I thought about it the more I realized how stupid I had been. What was the first institutions God put into place? Marriage and family. What is under attack and being destroyed by the enemy? Marriages and families. God has shown me that Christians are needed more in the home today than anywhere else in the world. I thought about my studies in marriage and family counseling. I remember hearing the astounding statistics that divorce is just as common in Christian homes as it is in non-christian ones. WHAT!! How can this be? Where are the missionaries who will dare to enter those homes and offer them healing and hope. How can we go out and change our worlds for Christ if our families and homes are falling apart?

God has lit a passion in me to be a missionary mama. I'm still learning what that looks like and what it means to have this title. Right now I know it looks like, praying for Landon everyday, it looks like kissing his papa in front of him so he'll grow up knowing that he's safe in our love. It looks like looking to other mothers for wisdom and reaching out to other new mommies. It looks like writing blogs and sharing my heart because God seems to be using that. It looks like stepping out of my comfort zone to teach my child the love of Christ.

These were the things I was pondering as I was running in Sertoma park this morning. I turned the corner and was running through the trees with the sunlight glistening through the leaves and it was so beautiful I had to stop. My heart was overflowing and I began to sing. In the secret, in the quiet place, in the stillness you are there, in the secret in the quiet hour I wait only for You cause I want to know you more. I was still singing when I turned the corner and couldn't help but realize there was someone laying on one of the picnic tables. I starred for a while and the figure never moved. I kept walking and continued to glance over at the figure. It wasn't a very large body and I couldn't tell if it was a man or a woman. I kept walking, but God nudged me and I started thinking what if it's a woman and she's hurt or just needs to know that God loves her. I hesitated, but I turned Landon's stroller around and started walking back toward the body laying limp on the table. I decided I would walk around the play ground, that way I could get a better look at it. As I was walking by the playground I met an older couple. They were walking toward the body. I turned around and watched as they obviously saw it, but kept walking. I turned around and as I got in view of the body again, I realized that it looked to be a man, a skinny man, but a man none the less. I felt like I was off the hook, but as I kept walking the need was still there. I knew that I wouldn't feel good about myself the whole day if I ignored the spirits leading. But God, it's a man. I can't go up to some creepy man by myself... with Landon. Don't you trust me to protect you? Yes, but.... ok... what do you want me to do? Get him breakfast. I knew the matter was settled and I started making my way to Dans supermarket. While I was walking God just kept pouring His love into my heart. I remembered when we were in the hospital and I wrote a blog about how we want to be a family that is familiar with suffering. We want to comfort others with the comfort we have received from God. I thought about this man on the picnic table. I thought about how God knows him. I thought about how last week I was embarrassed and hurt by a rude checkout lady at the grocery store who judged me because I was buying some groceries with the WIC checks we receive because Landon is on medicaid. When I got home, I wrote on my Facebook how rude this lady was to me and how I wanted to tell her that she shouldn't judge people because she doesn't know their story. God convicted me as I realized how I had judged the man on the picnic table. I assumed he was a creeper, murderer, drunk...etc. I don't know his story. I don't know what led him to sleep on a picnic table, but I know that he is made in the image of the almighty God whom I claim that I follow. I know that God loves him the same as he loves me. I know that God wants to deliver him breakfast and he asked me to be His hands and feet this morning. Do I want to be the kind of mom who shields my children from pain and darkness, or am I going to be a missionary mama? I want to teach Landon that Jesus loves the unlovely and shining God's light requires going into the darkness.

The closer I got to Dan's the more my excitement grew. I usually don't do things like this, but with every step I took toward answering Gods call the more peace I received. I got to the store, grabbed a basket, and made my way to the cooler. I didn't know if I should get him apple or orange juice so I got him both. Lord, it's supposed to be super hot out today too, I should get him water huh. So I grabbed some water bottles. Then I maneuvered my basket and stroller through the tables with the old men drinking their coffee and headed for the bakery. I'm not a donut eater so I have no idea what's good. I stood there looking at the wall of donuts and wondered what do I get for man on picnic table? I'm Mrs. Indecisive so it was not easy for me to buy donuts for someone I don't know when there was so many to choose from. I tried to pick 4 that were pretty different so that, chances were, he'd like at least one. Don't you hate that feeling, when you open the box and there's none that you like. They all have nuts or are just those boring glazed ones... maybe it's just me, but I wanted to do this right. I wanted to treat him as I would want to be treated. Landon woke up as I was leaving the bakery section. He smiled up at me and I leaned over his stroller and whispered, "we're on a mission from God." I went and got a sharpie and was about to check out when I realized that we didn't get him any napkins. I told myself it wasn't a big deal, but I know that if it was for someone I knew I wouldn't hesitate to go grab him some napkins. That powdered sugar sticks to your lips, I bet he'll wish he had a napkin. So I quickly went and grabbed 4 napkins. I put them in Landon's stroller then went and checked out. Once we were outside I stopped and got out my sharpie. I wrote "Just want you to know that JESUS LOVES YOU! He told us to get you breakfast. Have a great day!" on his box of donuts. I was worried that maybe we took too long in there and he wouldn't be there when we returned, but I told myself that even if that happened I would have no regrets. We were almost to the park when Landon lifted his arm and clenched in his hand was the wad of napkins. I laughed, and accepted the now crumpled napkins from him. My special boy :)

As we were approaching the shelter, where the guy was, I didn't see him, but as we kept walking I began to see the outline of his body. He was still there. I was really going to do this. I figured if he was still sleeping I would just set the box of donuts and bag of drinks by him and leave. I was about to cross the street to go to him when I stopped because a van was entering the parking lot. He drove slowly by the sleeping man. I was waiting to see if he was going to stop and go check on him. He turned his van around and looked like he was going to leave, but he stopped his van right in front of the shelter where the man was laying. His head was out his window and he looked so concerned, but then he drove off. I'm choosing to think that maybe he saw me coming and assumed that I knew the man. I walked over to the shelter. He looked young, just a kid with red skate shoes. I left Landon on the sidewalk outside the shelter and walked inside. He quickly sat up and looked nervous, like he was expecting me to tell him to leave. I told him that we were just walking in the park and God told us to bring him breakfast. He looked like he was in shock but said thank you. I placed the bag on the table and told him I got him some water too cause it's supposed to be another hot one. He said thank you. As I was walking back to Landon, I turned and told him to have a good day. He said thank you. I knew he was watching us as we walked away. My heart broke for him. He was no older than Ryan and I. I told Jesus that I did what he asked now please meet with Him Lord, show Him your love.

One of my new favorite songs says "Let our life be the proof, the proof of Your love." I love that! I want that to be true of our family. I want that to be true of my marriage. How much of a hypocrite would I be if I read my baby boy the story of the good samaritan, and yet ignore the hurt right outside my door? How much of a hypocrite would I have been if I sang about wanting to know God more and then rejected the opportunity he gave me to be used by Him and see His heart. I am ashamed to tell you that before Landon, I would of ran by the man on the table, probably without a second thought. Jesus has used Landon to show me how huge it is when He said that He is near to the broken-hearted. People, if you want Jesus to be present and evident in your life, don't be a stranger to the broken. Don't turn a blind eye to the hurting, to the ugly, or the different.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Chaos & Financial Peace

Do you guys ever have a day where anything that could go wrong... does? That was my yesterday! I knew that it was going to be a busy day and I was anxious about it the moment I woke up.

The morning started off pretty normal. Landon and I pretty much did what we do everyday. 10:40AM rolled around and Ryan came through the door to watch Landon as I went to an appointment. I was hesitating leaving and just kept returning to give Landon more kisses until I knew I had to go or I would be late. I arrived at the dentist and went up to the front desk. The receptionist asked me for my license and my insurance card. I gave her both, but as I looked at her typing in my insurance information I got a bad feeling. She handed me my information back and, on my way to a waiting room chair, I called Ryan. He confirmed my fear that I had indeed grabbed the wrong insurance card. Uhhh! So I stayed on the line as he began digging through our file cabinet for the correct one. I could hear Landon screaming in the background. Ryan said, hold on Landon is dying if I'm not looking at him. As he was comforting Landon I started filling out the paperwork the lady had given me. Ryan came back on and eventually found the card and started telling me what it said so that I could write it down. I was having a hard time hearing what he was saying and kept asking him to repeat himself. Or he'd repeat what he just said and I'd realize I missed a letter or something then I'd try to squeeze the missed letter in. We were both getting frustrated! Ryan: EMP/ Me: EMC/? Ryan: EMP/ Me: EMC/? Ryan: no, EMP! As in POOP! I just bursted out laughing because it was so funny and yet I was so frazzled and frustrated I just wanted to cry. We finally got it all and I walked up to the front desk and explained to her my mistake and gave her the new information, written on the back of an expired applebees coupon, which was all I could find in my mess of a purse. I felt like an idiot. Then she asked me if I'd finished my paperwork and I had to tell her no, which only added to my feelings of idiocy. She then sent me back to talk with a financial counselor. I filled out my paperwork as she typed my information into her computer as I finished each page of it. She was talking to me as I was filling it out and when I got to where I was supposed to sign and date it, I couldn't, for the life of me, remember the date! I kid you not people, I sat there trying to remember what month it was. When I remembered it is July, I couldn't remember what number that is. I'm sure I looked like I was trying to solve a really hard math problem or something. I had to think back to when Landon was born, April=4, he's 3 months now so 5, 6, 7.  Not my best moment, and definitely not one to make the home-schoolers out there proud, sorry mom. I finally finished filling out all the paperwork and followed a nurse (I don't know if that's what their technically considered) back to a small room, with the, all to familiar, chair in the middle of it. I have ALWAYS hated going to the dentist. I had a bad experience as a child. I remember hating the gas they would put on me. I would cry, and I even remember one incidence where I hid under the chair.  I was dreading this visit because I knew I had put it off about six months too long. Do you blame me? An unnecessary bill was the last thing I thought we needed. About six months ago I noticed a small chip in one of my back teeth. That tiny chip somehow grew over six months until I realized one day that almost half my tooth was missing. Ryan and I agreed that it would probably need a root canal. So you can imagine, how thrilled I was for this appointment.

Overall my appointment went pretty well, I liked the nurse and I thought it was really neat that they have tv's extending out the wall and facing down so you can watch them when your mouth is being worked on. I thought this was a great alternative to closing your eyes and risking falling asleep, staring at that insanely bright light, or exchanging the occasional awkward glance at the person 2" from your face. The dentist was also very nice. She told me that her brother just became a pediatric cardiologist. I was excited about that and told her how needed great cards are. I told her CHD's are actually pretty common you just don't know about them until someone close to you has been touched by it. We talked for quite a while and then she broke the news to me about the fun that lay ahead of me. Root canal, three teeth need to get caps put on, a couple cavities, and potentially removing my wisdom teeth. I was expecting the worst, my grandma used to tell me the story of when she went to the dentist and they told her she needed all her teeth pulled. She said they wanted to just pull a couple at a time, but she told them to just pull them all out that day. So compared to that, this news wasn't so bad... but still bad. I went back out to the financial counselor person and she gave me estimates of how much everything would cost. Just the root canal will be $900! She told me that insurance will pay for most of it, but I need to check with my company because most companies have a $1000 cap you can spend in any given year. So if I get a root canal, well you can do the math, it doesn't leave much left over for all the other stuff I need done. So that was depressing, but I was just glad that I was done and I could go home.

Walking out to my car, I had this awful feeling because I didn't remember locking it. I was relieved to see that it was still where I had left it, but my relief quickly disappeared as I couldn't find my keys. I peaked through my window and there they were still in the ignition. UHHHHH I called Ryan and told him what I had done. He said he would get Landon and they'd be on their way. When I hung up the phone I was so frustrated I seriously just wanted to cry. It wasn't enough that I was nervous about speaking that night, but EVERYTHING seemed to be going wrong. I leaned up against the back of my car and just prayed. I'm not stupid, I know satan doesn't want me to speak and tell our story. He doesn't want God to receive the glory that is due Him. He wants to get me to back out. I wanted to, I wanted to email the teacher and tell him that I couldn't do it, that I was sick or something. I've been on this earth long enough to know that when satan is trying everything to get you not to do something or not to go somewhere, it is because it's going to be good and it is exactly where you need to be or what you need to be doing. He was trying to discourage me, he was trying to make me feel inadequate. Who am I that anyone would want to listen to what I have to say? I can't even remember the date for crying out loud? Those were the thoughts that were going through my head, but I just kept sensing God telling me that His power is made perfect in my weakness. I know that God gives you just what you need in the present moment. I just had to make it to that moment and with the way my day was going, I really didn't know if I would. Sitting outside my car in 90 degree weather wasn't fun. I know I could of gone inside to wait, but I really wanted to spare myself from more embarrassment. I love my husband so much, he never made me feel bad or complained that because of my silly mistake he had to drive 20 min in the opposite direction of his work. He just encouraged me, told me him and Landon had fun, gave me a kiss, and headed back to his job. I need him more than I can tell you and I thank God everyday for giving me the privilege of being his wife.

I was exhausted when I got home. I shut the door behind me and just sighed a sigh of relief. I told myself that I'm never going to complain about being stuck in this apartment again. Landon had fallen asleep on the drive home so I put him to bed and took advantage of the time with a nap of my own. Ryan got home from work at 5. I had to leave around 6:35. Ryan kept telling me I was going to do great. We went over my outline and he told me a couple things he thought I should add. Then it was time for me to leave. I kept telling Ryan I didn't want to do it. "Why do I agree to these things?" He reminded me that I love speaking. I told him I only love it when it's over with. We both smiled, he told me he'd be praying for me and then off I went.

I prayed the whole way to the church. I told God that He had to show up. He had to speak through me. This is His story and only He can use it for His glory. I got to the church, got out, realized that I forgot my notes, went back to the car, opened the door, grabbed my notes and the alarm goes off. "Seriosly??" I pushed every button trying to get it to stop, nothing worked. Then finally it stopped on it's own. I think God was just like, "ok, give the girl a break!" I hurried into the church before my notes could blow away or a tornado could engulf my vehicle.

Financial Peace

When Ryan and I were engaged and I still lived in Warroad our church began going through a thing called Financial Peace University. From what I could tell from the short advertisements of it that were played on Sunday mornings, it seemed like an awesome thing. I wanted to go through it, but I knew that it was something Ryan and I should do together. Ryan and I began looking for a church in Bismarck that would be hosting it in June so that we could attend it together after we were married. We found one and we enrolled. Leading up to that day, I read Dave Ramsey's book "The Total Money Makover" I was hooked! I loved what he was saying and how backwards it was from what the world was telling us we needed to do. If your not familiar with Dave's principles I really encourage you to pick up his book and just read it with an open mind. I had learned from my marriage counseling classes that debt could be deadly for a marriage. Money issues are the #1 reason for divorce so I knew that this was something Ryan and I needed to figure out early on. I discussed with Ryan everything I was learning in Dave's book and it gave us this understanding and vision for how we wanted to handle our finances when we got married. We were excited to go through the class together.

We started attending FPU classes the week we returned from our honeymoon. We began learning how to budget. Dave's principles are laid out in what he called "the baby steps" the first baby step is getting a $1000 emergency fund. This money isn't to be used for anything except "real" emergencies. After you have that you move onto step #2 "the debt snowball".

We were really enjoying our class, but we were having a hard time with the baby steps. We were trying to get our emergency fund in place, but things would always come up. We were in such a transitional period of life. We were getting settled into life as a married couple, I was trying to find a job, and any money that didn't go to bills, we would save to pay off our wedding photographer. So we didn't feel like we were making much progress while we were actually in the class, but we were learning so much.  

Fast forward a year... I received an email from Paul, the pastor who led our class, asking us if we wanted to share how God has used FPU in our life with the class he's taking through it this Summer? My first thought was, "NO! I don't want to speak." but immediately I felt God nudge me and I knew that this was something I had to do. So that day when Ryan came home for lunch I asked him about it.  He looked at me like, "are you serious?" I knew he wouldn't want to do it. I told him he could stay home with Landon if he wants, but I feel like it's something God wants us to do. He told me that we're not out of debt though, we really haven't done that well. I thought about it and then mentioned some things and the more we both thought about it, all of these small accomplishments came to mind. He agreed that our story was worth telling and that maybe it could encourage someone else. So I emailed Paul back, telling him that I would be willing to share. He asked if July 18th would work for me? 

So that brought me to yesterday. I walked into the church and followed the FPU signs to a room that had around 15 people in it. That was a lot more than I was picturing. The class we went to was much smaller. Paul introduced me and I walked up and began telling our story.

I began with the background I've already mentioned then I told them about the night, after one of the sessions, we were supposed to go home and write out a 2 year plan. Me, being the goal maker I am, was so excited to get our future mapped out on paper. I remember Ryan and I picked up a pizza on the way home, sat in our living room eating pizza, drinking pepsi, and wrote out what we decided would happen to us in the next two years. We put down that I would finish school, find a good counseling job, then Ryan would go back to school to get his architecture degree, we would buy a house with a backyard so we could have our dog Kota back. During this  whole time, we would work like crazy to pay off our debt and then at the end of 2 years we would start our family. We prayed that night and committed all our plans to God. No joke, it was like 2 days later and I found myself standing in our hallway, showing Ryan a positive pregnancy test. Wow, God has a sense of humor! We were scared, we didn't know how we would get out of debt with the added expenses a baby brings, but we trusted God. We began to prepare as best as we could. 

One evening we went to buy a 3,000 jeep armed with 2,800 CASH. We were totally prepared to use our walk away power, but were praying so hard that we could get it. At the time, we just had Ryan's parents car that already had over 200,000 miles on it. 3,000 was just too much for us to pay because we knew we were going to have to buy new tires for it. 2,800 was a very reasonable price, but the guy said no. He was ticked off that we would bring less money then what he said it was selling for, but when his wife saw that we had CASH and we were going to leave, she stopped us and asked to speak with her husband alone for a minute. Ryan and I just stood there, holding hands and praying that God would change this mans mind. When they returned the man, he explained to us, with defeat in his voice, that it was his wife's jeep and she wanted to sell it, so that is how we got our jeep. We were SO proud of ourselves. We had done everything Dave taught us to do AND IT WORKED!! So I briefly told that story and how we payed for my school without taking out any student loans. Then I changed the whole attitude of the room from happy/funny to devastating/scary as I told them about getting Landon's diagnosis. I told them we were in shock and terrified. We didn't just not know if our son would make it out of the hospital, but we didn't know how we would make it through financially, but we continued to trust God. I told them that I could take up their whole class time, telling stories of how God has provided for us in miraculous ways. 

Landon racked up over $300,000 in medical bills, just in his first two weeks of life. I'll tell you what I told them last night. I really don't know how we're making it. I just know that somehow as the bills come in, somehow there is money to pay them. We have been exceedingly blessed that God led us to people who pointed us to Early Intervention. I've written about Roxanne before, but you guys really have no idea what an answer to prayer she was. I don't know how we would of made it through without her help and expertise. She gave us reassurance that it was going to be ok, so that we could just focus on Landon as he was in the hospital and not worry about how we were going to pay for all of the care and treatment he was receiving. 

I began closing my time with the FPU class by giving them two challenges. I told them that no matter how high their mountain of debt may be, it's not to big for God. I told them that we have been through the impossible this last year, but God provided for every one of our needs. I encouraged them to just keep taking steps toward their goal and trusting God each step of the way.
I also challenged them to focus on what they have rather than what they don't have. I believe that debt is often an outcome of discontentment. I wouldn't wish our experiences on anyone, but Ryan and I feel so blessed because they have taught us, in our first year of marriage, what really matters in life. It's the relationships you have not the things you acquire. Not that things are bad, but they don't bring contentment. I told them that we lived in the Ronald McDonald house for a couple weeks while Landon was in the hospital. We met families there that have lost EVERYTHING because they are fighting for their child's life. They have close to nothing and yet these families radiated strength and joy. I believe it's because they have been forced to realize what makes life worth living. Love and sacrifice. Can't the whole message of the gospel be summed up by those two words? Jesus told us that there's no greater love then when a man lays down his life for his friend. This is the kind of love Ryan and I saw in that house and on that hospital floor. This immense love, stronger then life and death, that a parent has for their child. This love that would sacrifice whatever it takes to give their child a chance at another day, even though they have no promises. This love that would do anything if God would just allow them to take their child's place. When you see that kind of love and are forced to live in that world, the greatest possessions of this world just don't matter anymore. That doesn't mean Ryan and I aren't sad that we didn't get to buy a house like we wanted to this Summer, but we don't focus on it, instead we thank God that we got to bring our Landon home to our little apartment. It's small, but it is full of joy and love.

I ended by telling them that we're not out of debt, but we have paid off our only credit card and now that our son's home, we are going after our last 11,000 in Ryan's student loans. I told them that God used FPU to prepare us for everything that He knew we were about to face just as He has them there for a reason. He has great plans for them that He longs for them to fulfill, but He needs them to be free from the burden of debt. 

I share this part of our story with you in hopes that you will be encouraged. I have no intention of condemning you if your struggling financially. I just want to tell you that no burden of debt is so large that Jesus can't remove it and no hill is so long that God won't see you over it. 

Also, I just have to thank everyone again who answered Gods call and became an answer to prayer for us. Your prayers and financial gifts gave hope to our hurt.

Thank you!!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Update on our Landon

I haven't written a post about how Landon is doing for a long time. This is because there hasn't been much to write about, he is doing fantastic! Apart from not being able to take him into many public places we are living a perfectly normal life. Whatever normal means anymore haha... but really he is doing great! We had a whole month with no doctors appointments! There was a couple issues with him turning blue and some digestive problems due to a new formula, but we somehow avoided a trip to the pediatrician, praise God!

Yesterday he had an appointment with his cardiologist, Dr. Fernandez. I was excited to find out how much he weighs now and see if his right ventricle has grown at all. I haven't been feeling the best, the last couple days, so Ryan took off part of the day so he could come with me. I cannot tell you how much it meant to have him there. Landon is getting big and hauling him and his carseat all around the hospital is no easy task. We got there and made our way to the heart and lung clinic for Landon's echo.

I just have to brag on my son for a while, he is so amazing. He was awake for the whole 45 min of the echo and didn't cry at all! He just stared at the monitor like he knew what he was looking at, as they poked and prodded him so they could get good pictures of his heart. He just amazes me everyday. The doctors were very impressed with him as well. During his echo, I realized that we were in the exact same room that I had my first fetal echo in. I was sitting on the same bed when I was told that my baby would need surgery if he was to live longer than a week. God has been so faithful!

After the echo he was weighed (13Ibs 9 oz) and had an EKG. Fernandez then came in and talked with us. I was so glad that Ryan finally got to meet him. Ryan and I make such a great team. I usually do most of the question asking, but I am always impressed that Ryan remembers everything and understands most of what the doctors tell us. After appointments Ryan usually spends the whole drive home explaining to me what the doctors just said. I was especially glad Ryan was there because Fernandez told us what the future will probably hold for Landon, concerning his heart.

He told us that right now Landon's heart is functioning great with the shunt, but his right ventricle hasn't grown at all. He said they most likely won't see any changes in it until he's 4 to 5 months old. He told us he would contact U of M and give them his echo results so they should call us and tell us when his surgery date will be soon. He thinks that they will want to perform a heart cath on him in September. According to Fernandez, they will inflate a balloon in his shunt to stop the blood flow and see how his heart reacts to that. If he gets enough blood to his lungs and the rest of his body with the shunt closed they will take it out and he should be fine. That is the best option we have right now. If his heart and body don't tolerate not having the shunt and his RV is not big enough then our only option will be to have the Glenn surgery. I've been researching information on this surgery, but I'm not able to find a lot. I want to try to explain it, but know that I wouldn't do a very good job so I'll simplify it by saying that it will be a open heart surgery that will, if successful, reroute his heart so that he doesn't have to use his RV. This will most likely require another open heart surgery in a couple years.

Please continue to pray that his RV will grow. Right now it is 50% so even a little bit of growth may make it big enough for him to use throughout his life. We so do not want them to have to open him back up. The thought of him going through that again makes me cry. We are believing God for a miracle.

No matter what the future brings, Landon is a miracle. I wish all of you could meet him. I wish you could hold him and see the love, joy, and contentment that he radiates. We are blessed everyday we have him in our lives and we will never stop fighting for him.

Thank you for joining us on our knees. We love and thank God for each of you.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A day at the Maxwell house pt. 2

After brunch Landon and I took a three hour nap :)

When we finally woke up, I put sloppy joes in the crockpot and then we started a project we've been meaning to do for months.

I made the mistake of telling Ryan that he shouldn't pursue a career as a sculptor haha. You ladies out there with creative husbands, know better then to disrespect their work. Ryan then made me finish it and it was indeed much harder then it looked to inscribe Landon's name in the clay with the little plastic pencil thingy they give you. We both had a fun time making a memory that we will keep forever. It means so much to me to have this piece of Landon, as he is right now, frozen in time :)

FYI: Make sure your child's hands are clean before you press them in the clay. If you don't you will find all your hair that he's pulled out through the day. Just a note ;)

Right after supper, we started getting Landon ready for bed. As soon as Landon got the ok to take real baths, we began a very strict bedtime routine. Ryan and I take turns with what we do each night. So as I cleared the table, Ryan got the bath ready. Landon loves his baths and they relax him so much. After bath I gave him his massage. That may seem weird to some of you, but most nights he loves it. His therapist has shown me how to massage his incision so that scar tissue doesn't build up. This particular night he was kind of fussy so I cut it shorter than most nights. Then we got his pjs on and daddy fed him. I held him while Ryan read him a story, then we pray with him and put him in his crib. This is what we do every night. Bedtime routine has been a lifesaver for us. Since almost the first night we started it, Landon began sleeping through the night. His therapist told me that it's considered "sleeping through the night" when a baby sleeps 7 hours. Landon usually sleeps from 7PM to 7AM. I'm not sure what sleeping 12 hours is considered... we just consider it "a blessing" :) 

This is not only a blessing because it means we get to sleep through the night, as well. It's also a blessing  because it allows Ryan and I to spend our evenings together as a couple. I asked him if he wanted to play a game and he asked if we could play his war game. 

Ryan got out his game board, which is a huge piece of ply wood that he found in the dumpster and fixed up into this game board that takes up our whole living room. They should really put "cannot be played if you live in an apartment."on the box of this game. Although that probably wouldn't stop my husband. I should of wrote about the day he was using his power saw to make this board, on our dining room table! Our apartment was shaking and wood was dropping to the floor (well that part was my fault since I couldn't ever seem to hold the pieces while Ryan was busy sawing). I told Ryan someone was going to complain to the office. His reply, "I'll just tell them that if they don't want me to have to do my hobby in the apartment, they should provide me with a garage with electricity."  haha I love my husband! 

So I play Ryan's game with him. I even put together my own models and plan on painting them all pink. Why?? I've asked myself this question a million times. Believe me it's not because I love it, but I love my husband. I have found that in marriage, you can lose connection with your spouse very easily. So although I think this game is weird and requires way to much time and money, I let Ryan play it because he enjoys it, and I want to make the effort to care about what my husband cares about (no matter how strange it may seem). Instead of seeing it as a waste of time (come on, I could of been on Facebook or pinterest ;) I choose to look at it as an investment in my marriage :) It made Ryan's day that I played with him and, I have to admit, I had fun too :)

We knew we couldn't go to the capitol to watch the fireworks because there would be WAY to many people, but we had the great idea to go to hillside park. We figured if there was a lot of people there we would just go home. We were surprised to find that there were only a couple families there. 

Walking up the hill, we kept putting Landon's head up straight and he kept laying it back down on his Kota puppy. It was too stinkin cute! Ryan and I laughed so hard.

It was so beautiful up on the hill. everywhere your eyes looked, in the distance, you could see fireworks lighting up the night sky. Ryan Said it felt like we were in a war zone. You could hear and see the explosions of the fireworks and you could slightly hear the orchestra playing at the capitol. It was beautiful! As we were sitting there I thought about our last 4th of July. We had only been married a month, at the time. We were at the capitol and I told Ryan that in a couple years we might be bringing a stroller with us haha God must of LOLed :) I am just blown away when I think of everything that has happened to us in a years time. I think of how extremely blessed we are to live in a country where we could get Landon the help he needed. No, we didn't get to join the other hundreds of people who were gathered at the capitol like we wanted to, or even get to be with our families at home like we wanted to, but we got to be us and that was an even bigger blessing :) 

Ryan thinks that i'm silly that I treat every 3rd of the month like it's Landon's birthday. The other day I told him, it's because there was a time when we didn't know if Landon would be ok. We didn't know if we'd see his 1, 2, or 3 month birthday, we didn't know if we'd ever get to celebrate the 4th of July with him, thats why moments like yesterday and the day before mean so much to me. You don't know what you have until you think you could lose it. 

Thank you for spending a day with us :)

A Day at the Maxwell House (4th of July)

I was a little sad about the 4th of July this year. I knew that my family and all my close relatives would be getting together at my grandparents house in Minnesota. There would be a picnic, children running around, and there was sure to be hysterical laughter coming from the kitchen where all the women would be gathered around the table. My cousin, who lives in Tennessee, was even going to be there with her baby girl who is only a couple months older than Landon. I wanted so badly to go, but Landon still can't travel or be around young children or big groups of people. My grandma told my mom that we could just keep him in a back bedroom and everyone could just peek in to look at him. As fun as that sounded, we opted to stay home and spend our first 4th of July with Landon, just the three of us.

Just like every weekend, the morning was very relaxed and involved a lot of cuddling and dozing on the couch as Ryan played his games.

I had the great idea to make Ryan cinnamon roles with the new bread maker Ryan's mom got me last weekend. I was so excited to try it out!

This will never be a blog where you will find pictures of ingredients coming together to make a beautiful and delicious masterpiece of a recipe. In fact, I rarely (RARELY) follow recipes. I think of recipes as mere guidelines, but I usually always choose to veer of the beaten path and make my creation my own... even if it means disaster.

They didn't look like any cinnamon roles I'd ever seen. You must remember that I did make my own dough though. That was enough of an accomplishment for me, the fact that my success didn't last any longer than the bread machine was a little disappointing.

I'm not even going to try to explain what I think went wrong because, like I said earlier, this will never be a blog where you should come to find your next favorite recipe. I simply share this because it was a part of our day. A pretty big part of our day since they took me like 3 hours to make (lets not forget I made my own dough ;) It was a humbling experience and it created a good laugh so it wasn't all for nothing. The great thing about making something that consists of like 85% sugar is, even though they looked awful, they really didn't taste that bad :)

Daddy what is that weird looking stuff on your plate?

"Don't worry Landon, by the time your old enough to eat, mommy will be a great cook." haha I didn't know if I should take offense at that. I think I am already a good cook, my baking skills are what could use improvement. Landon looks like he agrees with his papa though haha

No holiday would be complete without some family photos.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

3 months & 1st chapters

Our baby boy turns 3 months old today!!

As if that isn't enough excitement for an entire day, I was sitting on the couch this morning and for some reason I just decided to start writing my book. I'm not sure how you begin the process of writing a book so I just did what I do every time I write a paper, blog post, or speech. I just opened a word document and started typing, not knowing what would come out. Sometimes I feel like just giving it up because it makes me feel so vulnerable pouring out my heart in words, knowing that others are going to read them. I am, in a sense, giving others, even complete strangers, access to my heart and my deepest emotions. I never fail to be drawn back to it though. My heart feels alive when I give words to what it is feeling, what it is believing, what is making it break, what it is most passionate about. Blogging has become a great outlet for me. I think God knew that journaling just wouldn't be enough during our experiences with Landon. I couldn't isolate my heart in a mere journal, it would of killed it. I couldn't share what I was going through with others in person, the words just wouldn't come, but put me in front of my laptop and for some reason I was able to speak. Giving words to the fear somehow made it have less control over me. Even though I couldn't share my heart in person, I could share it through this blog and your comments of encouragement were proof to me that I was not alone.

Writing a book has always been something I wanted to do before I die. It was up there with run a marathon. I thought it would be a great accomplishment, but didn't really ever think I would cross it off my bucket list someday. I still don't know if I will ever hold our story in my hands beautifully bound in a hardcover, but I do know that it no longer is just something that I "want" to do, it's something I feel I "need" to do.

According to the Children's Heart Foundation,

  • CHDs (congenital heart defects) are Americas and every country's #1 birth defect
  • 1 in 100 babies are born with a CHD
  • CHDs are the leading cause of all infant deaths in the United States
  • Each year approximately 40,000 babies are born in the United States with a CHD. Thousands of them will not reach their 1st birthday and thousands more die before they reach adulthood.
  • In the United States, twice as many children die from CHDs each year than from all forms of childhood cancer combined, yet funding for pediatric cancer research is five times higher than funding for CHDs
To say that we need to raise awareness of CHDs in a gross understatement. To say our future and the future of our children depends on it is getting closer to the truth. That is one of the reasons why I feel I need to tell our story.

Now some facts of my own,

  • There is no way of getting around the inevitable truth that 1 in 100 pregnant women and new mothers will receive news that will shake their world and break their heart.
  • Many of them will choose abortion
  • The braver ones will put their child up for adoption
  • The really brave ones will find themselves living in a world they never knew existed.
  • The majority will place their babies heart and life in the hands of a surgeon at least once
  • 100% of them will feel alone 
One of the first things I did after we received the news about Landon's heart was search for books written by other parents of a child with a CHD. Apart from one book our social worker gave us that had mostly medical information, but a couple small segments of other heart parents stories, I found nothing. Nothing written by a parent who had walked the road we were headed down, who could tell us that we could make it. That's probably the biggest reason I feel a need to write a book. I want other heart moms to have a resource. Not just something that gives them the medical facts, but something that gives their heart a safe place to break. They need a place where they can feel normal, they need someone they can relate to. They need someone to cheer them on. There are some great blogs and groups on the internet, but they are few and hard to find.

Another reason is, even if your not a parent of a heart child, I guarantee you will meet one in your lifetime and I would love it if God would use our story to give someone a better understanding of what it is like to live in this scary world so that they can better encourage those they love.

Above all those reasons though, my hope is that someday someone will read our story and meet Jesus in the pages.

I tell you all of this because I'm asking for accountability and encouragement. This is going to be a LONG process. Life is only going to get more hectic as Landon gets older. Adding school into the mix in a couple months will make finding time for writing close to impossible, but this is something I believe God has placed on my heart and I believe that when God starts something in someone He is going to see them through to completion.