Wow! Where do I start? Today was amazing, mind blowing, heart wrenching and so much more! My heart is overflowing and I am consumed with so many different emotions. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt such joy and sorrow mixed together into one.
We arrived at the hospital, loaded the pillow pets in, and met the woman who was working in the resource center today. She was super kind and I liked her right away. She showed us the tables and told us we could set out the pillow pets all over the tables and in the kids play area.
When we were all finished it looked like this
When the kids walked in this is what they saw...
Then if they walked around the corner into the play room they saw this!! I wish you could of seen their faces brighten!!
I was really disappointed when the lady told me that we can’t take pictures of the children. I wasn’t surprised, I figured they would require a consent form, but I was really sad that all of you wont be able to see their faces.
They were priceless.
Words can’t describe them, but I will try my very hardest to paint you the pictures with my words and share the memories that are now forever burned into the crevices of my heart.
I have so many stories, but these are a few of the ones that REALLY hit my heart.
One of the first children to come in was a little boy in a wheelchair. His mom rolled him in and he really didn’t seem that interested in the pillow pets. His mom kept asking him if he liked certain ones and he would just shrug. She picked up one of our tags (we were allowed to lay them out on the table) and leaned down and told her son that “they just want you to know that Jesus loves you.” She wheeled him into the play area and he suddenly, stuck out his arm, he was pointing at the brown dinosaur. His mother asked him what he thought of some other ones, but he just kept his arm out stiff pointing it at that one dinosaur. She finally gave it to him and he just hugged it tight. Then he told his mom that his little sister had to have the mini one that was just like his.
A man came into the room while we were still setting up. He asked me if he could have some coffee. I told him that I don’t actually work there. While he was getting his coffee I asked him if he has a child in the hospital. He told me about his daughter in the NICU. She was born at 28 weeks. He said he might come back later and get her a pillow pet.
While we were setting all of them out, I saw the Thomas the train mini one. I thought oh this one would be perfect for his baby, so I set it aside.
Later the staff lady introduced me to a woman and told me that she’s the wife of the man I had talked to. I got the little train pillow pet for her and she said it was just perfect. I asked if they had other kids and told her she could pick one out for her son as well. We talked for quit a while.
Her daughter was born at 28 weeks and only weighed 1.5 pounds. They have been in the hospital with her for 6 and 1/2 months now (can you imagine!!). She now weighs 9Ibs and they’re hoping they will be able to take her home soon.
One of the many moments today that just melted my heart was a dad who came in with his little girl. She must have been 3 or 4 years old. He brought her into the play area and told her to pick out a pillow for her sister. I watched with such amazement as this little girl looked through all the pillow pets looking for the perfect one for her little sister. She was all excited when she found it and brought it to her daddy. “This is the one sissy will want?” her dad asked her. She nodded her head happily. He took her hand to leave when I stepped in and bent down to the little girl. I told her that she could pick one out for herself. She stared at me… pointed to herself and said, “me?” I wanted to cry. “Yes, sweetie you can pick one out for yourself. Anyone you want.” She knew exactly which one she wanted. The purple lady bug. She smiled up at me and told me thank you. Her dad told me thank you over and over again.
A woman picked one out and was almost out the door when she came back and tapped me on the shoulder. “Excuse me, I was wondering, I have a daughter here in the hospital but I also have another one at home and it is going to be her birthday in a couple weeks. Do you think I could get one for her?” I emphatically told her YES YES! She said she knew exactly the one she would want. She grabbed the mini parrot. I overheard her talking to her daughter on the way out and telling her that if she gets the pet in the mail on Monday it will get to her sister in time for her birthday. I just wanted to cry! Thinking that God used this project to give a little girl, who misses her mama, a special birthday gift. AMAZING!
A young mama came in pulling a plastic red wagon in one hand and an IV tower in the other. Inside the wagon was the most beautiful little girl, probably 2 or 3 years old. The mother left the little girl kind of in the hallway while she went to pick out a pillow pet on the table. She soon brought a purple lady bug back to the girl. I asked her if she had any other children and she told me she had one other child. I told her she could pick out another one. As she was picking out another one, both Ryan’s and my eyes were glued on the little girl laying in the wagon. She was so beautiful! She had dark skin and dark curly hair. There were many cords and tubes that connected her little body to the IV tower. She just stared up at the ceiling, but when her mother placed that purple lady bug on her lap, she moved her hands and just kept stroking them across the softness of the pillow. She was so small and fragile, but words can’t describe how beautiful that little princess was. All she did was touch the pillow pet, but I could tell that it brought her comfort.
A couple came in with their two children, a young boy and girl. The little girl was in her pajamas so I assumed she was a patient. After both of their kids picked out a pillow pet they came over and talked to Ryan and I. They asked us if we are with a ministry or something. I told them no, not really. “It was just something we felt God calling us to do so we talked about it on our blog and shared about it in church and people donated.” They thought that was so awesome! They told us that they are from Iowa, but they travel here a lot. They said they got to go home last week, but now they’re back. Their daughter is actually scheduled for a heart Cath next week too. They just kept telling us how great it was to see something like this. They told us to thank our church (all of you!)
A group of around 5 teenage girls came in and all you could hear were their squeals and bursts of delight. They were SO excited!! They came down with a staff member and stayed for quite a while because they couldn’t choose which one they wanted. I was so surprised that they were so excited. We quickly realized that people of ALL ages LOVE pillow pets.
Another girl, I think she said she was 18, was wheeled down by her boyfriend. She was hilarious. She kept telling him to grab her this one and that one. She told me there’s no way she can decide until she holds all of them and can see them next to each other. I could tell that she was highly medicated by how she was talking, but she was just the sweetest thing. There was a point where she just burst into tears. The staff lady asked her boyfriend if she was ok and he told us that she is just in a lot of pain and sometimes it overwhelms her. Before they left the room she came over to us again and told us that this brightened her day.
A boy walked in pushing an IV tower and a nurse was with him pushing a cart with laptop/box looking thing on it. You could tell the nurse was really close with the boy and his family by how she interacted with him. He picked a pillow out for himself and also took 3 for all his siblings.
After he left the lady who was helping us asked us if we knew what he had? I told her no. “That box thing the nurse had (she called it a Berlin heart), that was his heart.” I was speechless. She told us that that it was keeping him alive until he can receive a heart transplant. All three of our eyes were blurred with tears. She told me that some days, it just hits her, what’s really going on, like when she sees children like that whose lives are hanging in the balance. She told us that it is really hard, but in the past couple months they have done 2 transplants. I was just speechless. I was choked up and I could of broke out in a sob right then and there. It just all hit me, the heaviness of this world that these kids are in. That child that I just gave a pillow pet to is going through our worst nightmare for Landon. I can’t help but think of his parents and his three siblings and what their family has faced, how it has changed them forever. It hit me again in that moment (it hit me with every child and every story we heard today) just how amazing this project was and I was brought to tears (still am) that God would give us the privilege of being a part of it.
I have SO many stories. I wish I could show you every child’s face. I wish you could of all been there and experienced the joy, the smiles and giggles. I wish you could of met the siblings who couldn’t believe that THEY got to have one TOO. The parents who kept asking us, “how much??” and the look on their face when we finally convinced them that they didn’t need to give or donate anything. I wish you could of felt the heartfelt gratitude that was poured on us. I wish you could have been brought to tears with me when you saw the parents faces as they got to witness their child, whose face they’ve watched grimace in pain, light up when they saw all the colorful pillow pets.
Okay, I’ll close this project with one last story…
There was a man who hung around a lot. He looked around and told us that he was going to wait until his family got there so his kids could pick out their own. For some reason, they weren’t able to come, so he came back and picked a couple out. He stood by us and we chatted. He asked how the project got started. We told him about Landon. He started telling us about his baby in the NICU. He opened up to us and told us that it’s been very overwhelming for their family. He told us seeing something like what we’re doing is just amazing. I asked him how many kids he has and he told me 3. I told him he could get one for all of them, but he said his daughter is 15. I know she would probably love one, but there are other kids who need one more, he said. Ryan told him that we’ve had other teenage girls get one and that it was fine if he picked one for her too. He finally said ok and then he went and took pictures of a bunch of them and sent them to his daughter so she could pick. As he waited for her to reply we talked some more. We were just talking about his baby when he choked up and started sharing with us about how people have been so kind and caring to his family. He talked about the Ronald McDonald house and “people like us” and then he broke down. He didn’t say anything for a couple seconds… “I just lost my job two weeks ago.” Instantly my hand was over my mouth and tears were in my eyes. Here was this grown man, so broken and overwhelmed. I listened to his pain and I could hear the fear in his voice. My heart just broke for him. He told me that some days are just so hard, but then today, seeing something like this… he choked up again. I shared with him our experience with Landon. I told him that we are grateful for what we’ve gone through because through it, God has shown us what really matters in life. I told him that God told us to do this project and that we feel so blessed that we were able to meet him and be a blessing to him. I told him we would be praying for him and his family. I told him that God ALWAYS provides. He told us that he hopes someday, when his family is in a better position, that they can do something like the pillow pet project.
Man you guys, I just truly CANNOT tell you how amazing today was. I knew God was going to use this project, but I couldn’t have dreamed of something as beautiful and meaningful as what we experienced today.
We serve an AWESOME God!!
Today I saw teenagers press these little animals to their chests. Our hearts rejoiced as we walked out of the hospital and saw MANY children carrying around their pillow pets still. We walked by a waiting area where two little boys were watching tv. One of them was holding his pet tight and the other was laying on his orange puppy as a pillow.
Seeing all of these things and meeting all these children and their families did not only make our day… it’s changed our lives.
I hope someday that we can do this again with Landon. I want him to be a part of this. I want him to meet these children. I want to see my son playing with these kids and I want to see them being children together.
Today these kids got to be kids.
Can you believe we have a God that loves like that?????
Oh my Lord, I cannot thank you enough for allowing me to be your hands and feet today. I felt your heart. I felt how it breaks for your children, but I also felt how your heart rejoices when one of your little ones cracks a smile. You are such a great God! You are compassionate and abounding in love. I want nothing more in this life then to know that my heart and the heart of my family is beating to the rhythm of yours.
I saw your face today Lord and nothing on this earth compares to it. I saw your reflection in the face of a child who is facing suffering that no child should ever have to know. I saw your reflection in the face of brothers and sisters who often feel forgotten and overlooked. I saw your reflection in the face of parents, who would sacrifice ANYTHING for the life of their child.
Thank you Father for what you did today... You’re beautiful.
I am blown away and left speechless that the God who holds the universe in his hand, the same God who paints the sunrise each morning, also reaches down to his cherished little ones, whispers “I love you” and watches in delight as they receive a pillow pet that He made just for them.
You’re beauty is beyond words Jesus, but I’ll say it again, Lord You’re beautiful... and Thank you, thank you SO very much for today.