I realize that by now most kids have gone back to school. I just want to reflect on summer for a moment. Growing up I always took part in the summer reading program at the local library. It was so much fun to pass the same tradition down to LG this year. Although she is still small, she very much enjoys picture books and being read to before bed. This summer, she completed the 50 book challenge at the library and won a little prize pack. It was a great experience! As part of our reading challenge, I wanted to feature a few books we have enjoyed this summer.
This is such a sweet little book. I enjoyed reading this to LG before bed. It literally felt like all of my wishes for LG written in a children’s book. The illustrations are beautiful and she loved looking at the pictures.
Okay, so this one has been around a while, but it’s new to us. We loved it! It doesn’t hurt that LG is big on farm animals right now and this book is filled with farm friends. Also, on a personal note, my dad drove a blue truck so this children’s book felt a little sentimental.
This might have been my favorite book of all. It presents the Gospel in a way a child can understand. The illustrations in the book are very bright and cheery. The simplicity of the pictures goes along with the simplicity of the message. When we got to the part about Adam and Eve, LG said, “No, no apple!” It was the cutest thing! Toward the end she was able to pick out the illustration of Jesus.
This will be one book we revisit time and time again. We have enjoyed reading it several times. God loves us. God came to save us. He will come back for us one day. I hope out of all the books we read this summer that the message in this one is the one that sticks with my girl. I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes from Tyndale House.
While the summer reading program has ended, the love of reading doesn’t have to. I will certainly miss the lazy hazy days of summer and the more laid back feel that the warmer weather brings, but I’m also looking forward to reading books to LG about fall, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Maybe we’ll do another book review towards the holiday season. In the meantime, enjoy reading with your kids!
Every summer I used to take part in a summer reading program at our local library. I’m so thankful my parents encouraged it because I contribute it to my love of reading now. Last weekend I took LG and signed her up for the pre-k/toddler reading group. So far we are rocking right along with picture books and stories about princesses. She is enjoying placing her stickers on her reading sheet when we finish reading a book or two before bed. Our goal is to get to fifty by the end of the summer. We are well on our way.
Although I have outgrown the summer reading program (unfortunately!), there is something about the summertime that encourages slower days and it is often that I find more time for reading during these warm months. For the sake of time, I can’t read as much as I’d like to, but for the month of June I have read two books that have really spoke to me as a mother. I wanted to share my thoughts on them below.
This is one book that I will recommend to fellow moms for a while. I received a copy from the Tyndale Blog Network a few months back. I had every intention to read it right away but life got crazy and I put it off. I wish I hadn’t. It. Is. So. Good. McNiel just has a way with words. She is hitting the nail on the head as she explores motherhood as a spiritual discipline. I don’t always feel very spiritual as I’m mopping up spaghetti noodles or doing laundry. Still, McNiel digs deep into how God sees us in our current role as moms to young children. She also carves out sections of her book in which she highlights practices to put in action. Love it! I highly recommend this book!
Yes, it’s another motherhood book. I’m still reading this one as it is giving me lots to think about and is not a book I can go through quickly. She does a great job at reviewing scripture and helps moms see the power of the Gospel in everyday life. It is very heavy on the Old Testament which is why I think it is taking me longer to comb through.
I’m hoping to add to my reading list for July. I’ll be sure to post a part II!
Wow. What a year it has been. You have brought and continue to bring so much joy to our lives. Your dad and I have enjoyed watching you grow from a tiny baby to an energetic toddler. I loved watching you learn to crawl, walk, and jabber. In return, you have taught me some amazing lessons about myself, life, and about faith.
I reflect on the day you were born and how life just seemed sweeter. You were and continue to be the best baby with such a sweet personality. Everyone who meets you says, “She is the sweetest baby!” It’s true. You are pretty amazing. You have the happiest little smile and you make your dad and me laugh on a daily basis.
You have been with us through some pretty hard times already in your young life. I thank God for you, Lydia Grace. The past few months have been some of the hardest I have ever faced. Your little face is what has gotten me up out of bed in the morning. Your great-grandmother, or GiGi as you will call her, once told me, “God knows when to send the babies.” He sure sent you into our lives at the perfect time. You have been the sunshine in our lives.
While I am a little sad that your first year has flown by, I am so excited to watch you grow and learn new things. I can’t wait to watch your little personality unfold even more.
I haven’t really wanted to update my blog lately because I know that it means I have to carry on with my story. I have had to really talk myself into telling the next part because it’s still painful. I’m not ready to talk about my dad in past tense. It’s still very, very strange to me that he isn’t here. But, with it being Father’s Day weekend, I feel his absence even more. So, in his memory, I am going to tell the story because it’s a great testament to his faith, even when prayers weren’t answered like we wanted them to be.
After nanny came home from the hospital (and I mean literally, the week she came home), dad began to feel bad. My dad’s job was pretty demanding. He drove a delivery truck around town, and for a 61-year-old man, he was in pretty good shape. He was lifting heavy boxes, going up and down stairs, and walking quite a ways every day. He would often feel tired, but we just chalked it up to a physically demanding job. At Christmas everything seemed fine. We were hopeful with the progress nanny was making and things seemed to be turning around for the better. On January 2, mom and dad drove down to see us and we had breakfast with them at Cracker Barrel. It was a great day, but something felt off with dad. He just didn’t feel good, but he didn’t want the attention to be on him. He was more interested in seeing his granddaughter. Up until this point, I had no idea that dad was feeling so bad because he just wasn’t one to complain. Not one to easily be persuaded to go to the doctor, he even admitted himself that maybe it was time to make an appointment. Mom and dad left our house that afternoon, but I had an uneasy feeling in my stomach.
The next day after church, I told Matthew, “I can’t explain it and I know we just saw them, but I really feel like I need to go see dad. You don’t have to go if you don’t want to, but I think I’m going to drive up there.” Matthew told me he would gladly take me. Dad’s energy seemed to be zapped when we got there, but he cheered up when he saw Lydia Grace’s face. We left after spending a couple of hours with him and dad went to work the next day. Mom made him an appointment for that week. When the appointment came, dad decided to cancel it because of his work schedule for that day. Looking back now, I really think he was nervous.
We saw them the following weekend for dinner and afterwards mom and I went to check on my grandmother who had just come home from rehabilitation. While we were there, dad called my phone and said, “Are you guys still there? I need you to come home. I’m deathly sick.” I don’t think I will ever forget the way he sounded on the phone that night. My grandmother doesn’t live far from my mom so we were back in five minutes and mom pretty much told dad he was going to the emergency room. Because it was January and flu season, we decided not to take Lydia Grace to the emergency room to wait. Mom and dad begged us to go home so we were planning to make the drive back. I had knots in my stomach. I started crying as we were driving away and Matthew and I decided to go back to their house to spend the night so that we could be close by if needed.
Mom called me at 2 a.m. that morning from the hospital. Because so many people were sick, the hospital had no available rooms and they were spending the night in the emergency room. Then, she told me my dad had cirrhosis. “He has what?!?” I asked. I knew what cirrhosis was, I just couldn’t believe my dad had it. He wasn’t a drinker. He didn’t have hepatitis. All the things you think of when you thinks cirrhosis didn’t seem to apply to my dad. How could this be happening?? I quickly consulted Google and found out that, while there is no cure, a person could live with this for a while and it could be managed. I was hopeful.
They kept dad in the hospital for about four days after diagnosing him. He was very hopeful, and for the most part, he seemed to be in good spirits. We were determined as a family to do whatever we had to do to fight this.
The next few weeks were hard. Really hard. Dad was released from the hospital but he would go in and out of the emergency room for the next two weeks. Then, I realized the severity of it all after Matthew got a call from my mom one Saturday morning. Mom always calls me. When she calls Matthew, I know something is up. He came in and told me that my dad was in the ICU. I rushed to get ready and we drove up there. When we arrived I just wanted to get to my daddy. He was conscious when I arrived and it was just me and him in his hospital room. The night before was very eventful, we would later learn. He had a lot of bleeding at home and an ambulance had to be called. It was the same night that it snowed and the streets were iced over. When I got to the hospital, he said, “Hey kid.” I hugged him and just sat there. It was the very same area my grandmother had been in. I couldn’t believe what was happening. I was just glad to be near him.
Dad lost a lot of blood and had to have transfusions. The medical team recommended a risky procedure that would stop some of the blood loss. If he didn’t have it, he was a “ticking time bomb” as one doctor put it. Dad opted for the procedure because he said, “I have to do something.” He arrived at the ICU on Friday night. The procedure would take place on Tuesday morning. They were not successful with the first attempt so they decided to try again the next day, except the next day came earlier than expected when at 2 a.m. the medical team made the decision to do the procedure because of the significant blood loss. It’s hard to write this nearly five months later…..
Mom called us. We were spending the night at her house. It was odd being there without mom and dad. I missed them tremendously. She explained to me what was happening and just like that Matthew and I were up and getting ready. Lydia Grace was still asleep and thankfully she rode in her car seat to the hospital without a peep. When we got there, we actually saw the doctor who would perform the procedure coming down the hall. I don’t know why, but I ran to him and said, “You’re my dad’s surgeon!” He said, “Wish us luck. We’re going to do our best.” For the next three hours, I prayed nonstop. Mom walked the halls praying. I called Donna, a precious saint at our church, who often wakes up early to pray. She prayed on the phone with me. I tried to keep taking deep breaths but my stomach was in knots with the anticipation and readiness for the procedure to be over. Then, I heard it. “Code Blue.” They listed the exact location of the hospital my dad was in. It was 5:45 a.m., so I knew that there wasn’t another surgery going on. For a split second, I was hopeful it wasn’t my dad, but I knew. I saw medical professionals rushing in the room. Even now, writing this, the emotion that comes over me is incredibly strong. That sound of the code being called over the intercom haunted me for the longest time. Sometimes it still does.
Then, the medical team came out, walking back to their respective areas. In my head, I was asking, “Why?! Why aren’t you back in there trying to do something for my dad?!” And then the doctor came out to talk to us and tell us that dad’s organs were failing. He was bleeding out. There was nothing they could do. I looked at my mom and grief overwhelmed me. How can this be happening to her?! She looked numb. We were all in a state of shock. Just a month ago we were celebrating Christmas with laughter and joy. Now my dad’s gone? What?! Life can turn on a dime.
And on that day my life changed. I came to the hospital that morning for dad and I would be leaving there without him.
We have since learned that my dad actually had liver cancer. That’s why he passed away in a matter of weeks. That hit me incredibly hard, but it answered a lot of questions I had about the timing of his illness.
So how does good come out of this? Sometimes I still ask myself that. But, when my dad was in the hospital, things happened that were nothing short of miraculous. His heart for God and for people were more important to him than his medical condition. I will have to save it for my next post because it’s worth telling in detail. It may not seem like prayers were answered from the way things look. Truthfully, they weren’t answered the way I wanted them to be. I would much rather not have this story to tell. But, I can say with all certainty that the peace of God does indeed transcend all understanding.
On the day we buried my dad, I was broken. I was sad. I still am. I can’t even tell you how much I miss that man. But, the most amazing wave of peace washed over me at his service. It was January and the sun was shining. I felt the most incredible joy and warmth. I know joy is not a word you use for a funeral. Believe me, this is coming from a girl whose greatest fear was losing a parent. I have always been close to my parents. Losing my dad has been the hardest thing I have ever experienced. Please don’t think because I speak of joy that it means I don’t grieve because I absolutely do and I miss my father every second of every day. But, God provides. I can’t explain it, but what I felt on that day was unlike anything I have ever experienced. I am so thankful for the Holy Spirit, our comforter. God’s grace is the only way I am making it. I am thankful I have the promise of seeing my dad again.
I hope to write more about how God’s hand was at work at the most devastating time for me in my next post.
Until then, if you are going through a hard place, let me encourage you. It’s not pleasant and it hurts like crazy, but there is hope in Jesus. I am living proof.
Nanny had some hard days ahead of her after her surgery. While the surgery had been extremely serious, the real work was only beginning. She spent several days in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit. I would visit her and squeeze her hand because she was still hooked to the machines and couldn’t talk to us. We were all so thankful that she was still alive and she kept making progress in her recovery. Eventually, she got to move to a room that was a step down from the ICU. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for people with loved ones in the ICU, as well as the nurses who work in that area.
During this time, our dear friends Logan and Megan were dealing with their own storm. They were about to welcome their baby girl into the world and we were all so excited for them. I got the call from Matthew on a November evening as he was finishing up football practice. “Pray for Megan and Logan,” he said. Megan had gone into labor just two weeks shy of her due date and delivered beautiful Edie Kate. Edie Kate didn’t have a heartbeat. We were absolutely devastated by the news.
I first met Megan and Logan at an FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) Camp in the summer of 2015. We had a lot in common. Matthew and Logan coach football together and are both from South Georgia. Megan and I didn’t realize it until we started talking, but we are also both from the same area in North Georgia. I enjoyed getting to know them as new friends and also as our FCA Huddle Leaders. They really seemed to have a huge heart for FCA, especially the student athletes. The thing I came to love most about Logan and Megan was their realness. They were so open and so genuine. No pretentiousness in them. They were (and are) the real deal. I instantly felt like I had known them for a long time.
When Matthew told me the tragic news that November night, I felt so sad inside. Not only did I feel sad, I felt very helpless. I felt angry. I felt confused. Why God? Why this precious couple? Why, why, why did it have to happen this way?
Some people don’t think we should ask “why.” Just accept it and move on. But, what about the questions? I have questions. Even with the questions I have, I realize God doesn’t owe me an explanation. Still, I think it’s okay to ask.
Jesus says in Matthew 18:3 that we must become like children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. You know, I think it’s very interesting that He said that. Do you know what children do? Have you ever been around a little kid for any amount of time? They ask questions and lots of them. Why? How come? Why does this work this way?
God in His infinite wisdom and mercy can handle our questions. It’s just that sometimes we may not be able to handle the answers to those questions this side of eternity.
On the day of Edie Kate’s memorial service, it rained. It’s like the sky was crying along with the rest of us. I went inside the church with several others. I saw my friends from a distance. Their strength was beautiful in the most broken time of their lives. I know it had to be God carrying them. Edie Kate’s memorial service was a worship service. Logan and Megan may not know this, but that day they taught me something. They taught me that a relationship with God is not based on what we can get from God. God isn’t our “genie.” Even when hard times come, and they will come to us all, God is faithful.
Around this time, the song “Ever Be” was on my playlist. The chorus says, Your praise will ever be on my lips, ever be on my lips….” How can I praise God when all of this horrible stuff is happening around me? Logan and Megan taught me that in those times that is exactly when you need to praise God the most. God is good when we are in the best days of our lives and He is equally good when we are facing tough times.
They requested donations be made to FCA in memory of Edie Kate. Several students will now be able to attend an FCA camp because of Logan, Megan, and Edie Kate. They chose and choose to see the bigger picture in the middle of their deep pain. Their example would especially minister to me just a couple of months after their sweet baby went to be with Jesus.
Thank you for your example, Megan and Logan.
If you’d like to read more of Logan and Megan’s story or make a donation in memory of Edie Kate, please click here.
You shoulder our weakness
And your strength becomes our own.
I want to be sensitive to any reader who has had a loved one with a serious medical condition and/or has spent time in the hospital with a family member. I mention the details of a cardiac medical emergency in this post and want to be up front if those things are hard for you to relive.
Usually, I am not calm in emergencies. I tend to get very anxious. I don’t know what came over me when we got the phone call to go back to the hospital that night. I was extremely worried about my grandmother, but I was calm. My dad was trying to find his shoes and mom was hysterical and understandably so. I put my baby in her car seat as mom was heading out the door crying and I told my dad to “come on.” “I’m trying but I can’t find my shoes!” he said. I went to my car and told mom to get inside. Dad came out shortly after and I drove us to the hospital.
The ride to the hospital was nerve-racking. It’s about a 25 minute drive and it seemed we were hitting every red light. My mom was still very upset and I remember her saying out loud, “Oh God, I’m not ready to lose my mother!” What my dad replied with is something I won’t quickly forget. He said, “We are never ready, never. No matter how old we get. We’re never ready to lose our parents.” Those words have played over and over again in my head in the last few weeks.
Once we arrived at the hospital, we met my other family members and quickly made our way to the CCU. It seemed like no one from the hospital was telling us anything when we arrived. We looked for doctors and nurses and nothing….
Finally, the doors opened to the CCU and we made our way back. I saw her hospital room. The bed wasn’t there. The room looked like a warzone. I wish I was exaggerating. Medical equipment, blood, her personal belongings. Based on the way the room looked, I just knew they were going to have bad news for us. The nurses escorted us back to the lobby and told us the doctor would be with us shortly.
There is a feeling of absolute dread that a person gets when something bad is looming. Maybe you know that feeling. It’s a sick feeling. As a human, I was totally out of any kind of control of the situation. I had that feeling because I was dreading the news we were going to receive from the doctor.
Matthew had a football game that night but at the time of the emergency, it had ended. He was headed straight for the hospital. Shortly after he arrived, the doctor came to talk to us. “She’s still alive, but it’s very serious. I’m not going to lie to you….she is a sick woman and I can make no guarantees. She’s on her way now for emergency open heart surgery.”
We were escorted downstairs to the Cardiovascular ICU waiting room. They were doing emergency open heart surgery on my grandmother immediately. Hours passed. No word on her condition. I kept praying. “God, please. Please just let her make it through this surgery and live.” I would like to tell you that I believed my prayers. I was trying my best to have faith. I knew God COULD do it. I had no doubt of his ability. But, the human side of me knew how bleak the situation was. I spent those hours torn between faith, doubt and tried to pray through it all.
The doctor came in at about 3 a.m. Saturday morning. “She made it through the surgery. She’s having the machine breathe for her right now, but she is alive. We’ll monitor her progress the next few hours. It’s still very critical.”
Exhausted, worn, and emotionally spent, my family and I left the hospital early Saturday morning to return to my parent’s home and rest. We went back to the hospital late Saturday morning where we learned more details of the night before.
My nanny had coded twice. Essentially, she died. The surgeon had to open her chest and massage her heart on the way to the operating room just to perform the surgery. Because they had to perform CPR so many times (and oxygen not being able to travel to the brain), the doctors were concerned about her cognitive function. If she didn’t improve, what would happen? Tough, tough questions.
Looking at someone who is usually so full of life when they are in such a helpless state is heartbreaking. She had come through a very serious procedure, but would her body be strong enough to make it through recovery?
The next couple of days were touch and go. Anytime the phone would ring I would jump because when you are living in such uncertainty, the smallest thing can make you nervous.
Sunday afternoon rolled around and visiting hours were once again open to families. Taking turns in pairs of two as was required by the hospital, mom and I went back together to see her. Still on the ventilator and still looking very lifeless, nanny began to motion to us like she wanted to write. We tracked down some paper, a pen, and a clip board and she writes clear as day, “where is she?”
“Where is she? Nanny, who are you talking about?” I asked. She pointed to me the best she could with the pen. “The baby?” I asked. She nodded her head. She was referring to Lydia Grace.
Tears. Nothing but tears of thanks, awe, and pure joy rolled down my face. “Thank you, God. Thank you,” I whispered. My uncles, my dad, and Matthew were in the waiting room. When we told them the great news, everyone was overjoyed. I specifically remember my dad’s reaction. He started to cry and was thanking God.
The recovery process had only just begun. But, at least we had some hope.
Your grace abounds in deepest waters Your sovereign hand Will be my guide Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me You’ve never failed and You won’t start now.
I returned to work from being on maternity leave on November 16. I had a new boss and I was trying really hard to make a good first impression, get back in the office with a productive attitude, and keep my emotions at bay because I was really missing my baby. Things didn’t go according to plan. To give you a little bit of context, RSV was running rampant pretty much everywhere and I was supposed to leave my three-month-old baby girl for the first time in a child care center. As a first time mom, and a working one at that, my heart was torn into. My mom came to the rescue as she has done for me so many times before. She offered to watch Lydia Grace that week while I went back to work. Plus, it would make the transition of me “leaving” her for the day a little easier since she was going to be with my mom. The only caveat would be that I would have a longer commute to work that week.
Everything was going alright considering I was leaving my baby for the first time and my new mother hormones were through the roof. I managed to back out of my parents’ driveway without crying. Big sigh. “I can do this!” I told myself in my mind.
Highway 27 in our part of the state is pretty rural. I took Highway 27 through small towns like Chickamauga and LaFayette to work that day and then I saw something I won’t soon forget. A deer ran out in front of a mid-size SUV and I will omit the rest of the details because it was gruesome. The driver of the vehicle was stable but blood was pouring from his head. I saw the whole thing happen. I grabbed a pack of baby wipes from my car (it was all I had) and pulled over to help him until paramedics arrived. That should have been the first sign as to how things were going to go that particular week: not good.
I was late to work on my first day back, but I had a pretty good reason. I was met with banners welcoming me back and a wonderful display of refreshments from my students and coworkers. It was so incredibly thoughtful. I finished up day one back at work and I was feeling a little more confident about everything. Until, early Tuesday morning, November 17.
Anytime a phone call comes at 2 a.m., it’s probably not going to be a call to chat about the weather. More than likely, a phone call that early in the morning is bad news. So was the case on that particular Tuesday morning. My grandmother was calling me. “Nanny, are you okay?” She had been having a horrible time with regulating her blood pressure and it had been through the roof for the last few days. She had visited the emergency room and the doctor’s office, but it just wasn’t coming down. “I tried to call your mom, but she isn’t answering her phone and I’m having bad chest pains.”
Here is where I tell you that I believe it is divine providence that I was at my parents’ house that night. Mom’s phone was set to “airplane” mode by accident. She wasn’t getting any calls or texts, but we didn’t realize that until this happened. My dad got up super early for his job, and it just so happened that my mom was also up seeing him off as she so often did before he left for work. They were sitting at the kitchen table talking when I went downstairs at 2 a.m. “Nanny’s having chest pains and she said she can’t get a hold of you on your phone.”
Mom was out the door and dad was right behind her. Matthew and Lydia Grace were asleep upstairs so I decided to stay up and pray. I didn’t hear anything from my mom about my grandmother’s condition for several hours. The emergency room doctors had determined she needed a heart cath at the end of the week. She would stay in the hospital until then.
Friday came and the heart cath procedure showed what we feared the most. Two blockages. One lesion in a very dangerous place. A stint would not be possible without extreme risks. The best option would be open heart surgery. Our biggest obstacle was going to be convincing her she needed it. If she didn’t have the surgery, the odds were really against her. It seemed like a no-win situation at the time. Do we encourage her to have the surgery and a long recovery with no real guarantee of how the surgery could go? Or, do we just take the chance of not having it and hope for the best? One thing was clear: she had to be the one to decide. After the doctor talked to us, I was so discouraged. I was trying to keep my faith up, but the human side of me was grieving over the news.
After her heart cath procedure, we were able to visit her in the critical care unit. She was in a lot of pain and very groggy from the medication. Because there are only certain hours you can visit your loved ones in any critical unit, we left when visiting hours were over and came back that evening. Mom and I talked to nanny that evening while my dad sat outside with Lydia Grace in the waiting area. Nanny was in such great spirits. She was laughing, reaching out to touch us, and she had even told us she was going to go through with the surgery. We were baffled because my grandmother had specifically said before that she never wanted open heart surgery. Now, she was saying, “I have to do this if I’m going to get better.” Visiting hours were coming to a close so mom, dad, Lydia Grace and I left. On our drive home, we were relieved. We said, “it’s so great that she’s going to go through with this! We’ll just have to be there to help her with recovery.”
Shortly after we got to my parents’ house, my mom got a phone call from the hospital. “Mrs. Fitzsimmons, we need you to get back up here immediately. Your mother has taken a turn for the worse and it doesn’t look good.”