Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hairy situation

Talitha--rather suddenly--improved leaps and bounds in her walking!

Audrey felt prompted a couple of weeks ago to take Talitha to Dr. Chapman, a NUCCA chiropractor, to see if there may be a connection between her head alignment and her walking. Sure enough, Talitha’s left leg was contracted by nearly a quarter of an inch. After several visits just to get Talitha comfortable with Dr. Chapman, he did one simple adjustment and that did the trick. Even though her left leg is still not coordinated, at least her legs are the same length again.

Talitha also has more confidence now which suggests that the head alignment also improved her sense of balance. Now we have to encourage her brain to retrain the coordination.

At any rate, we’re grateful for the spiritual promptings that have guided and continue to guide this journey.

Tali is so determined to walk in spite of her awkward leg. Today I was walking with her and she let go of my hand and said, "walk by myself" in a very matter of fact little voice.

We were a little more bold in taking her to church today. Last week we just sat at the back and left before the meeting ended. This week we stayed for all of Sacrament Meeting and then took her to say "hi" to the other children in Primary.

For me it was pretty emotional when all the children turned and looked at Tali and waved and said "hi". All those beautiful little children have been praying for Talitha ever since last December. Most of them have not seen her in person for that entire time.

We learn that miracles have not ceased. I was able to share with the children that they have been a part of a miracle just like they've heard about and read about in the scriptures.

Talitha loved being with all the children for a few short minutes. We are so hopeful that her next blood tests will show improvement sufficient to allow for expanded interaction with more and more children without such stress of contact with germs, bacteria, and viruses.

As you can see, Talitha's hair has also inexplicably grown by leaps and bounds too.

Ok, so maybe a bit of stretch on the rapid hair growth...  :-)

Thank you for your continuing prayers, love and support!

Happy Halloween.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Changing seasons

We have a huge tree in our front yard that's always the first on our street to dress in its fall colors. Then almost as quickly, the golden leaves drop with even a slight wind.

The change happens almost too fast--brilliant gold to barren branches in just days.

The kids make the most of it though and rake leaves into huge piles. Her sisters discovered--no big surprise--that Talitha loves playing in the leaves!

Much to their delight, Tali let them bury her in leaves up to her head. Then she'd push up out of the pile and they'd do it all again...and again.

It's so good to see Talitha playing and enjoying life. I love her happy smile and positive attitude. We pray for her each day that her left side will continue to improve to where she can walk again. She tries so hard to balance but her left leg continues to be very awkward. So, she still gets around mostly by crawling or by duck-walking on her knees.

We noticed that her left eye is drooping a slight bit kind of like Lazy Eye--not real noticeable but something we'll be watching. (The left eye not tracking symmetrically was much more noticeable in the weeks right after the brain surgery.)

Change seems to be the one constant in seasons and in life. We've found that change isn't always comfortable. But it does help things grow--especially people.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

"School" pictures

Talitha loves to see the framed school pictures of her siblings up on the living room wall. On occassion she'll point at each picture and say their names over and over.

Now Tali has her own "school" picture on the wall with her brother and sisters. And what a "school" year it has been. (Maybe Mommy and Daddy need school pictures on the wall for this year too.)

Not too common to have less hair in the 2-year-old picture than in the one 1-year-old version.

We'll take it!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

I will go and do

More blood tests last Thursday to monitor Talitha’s bone marrow progress.

The platelets count and hematocrit reading look great. It’s still the white blood cell count (WBC) and absolute neutrophil count (ANC) that are lagging and keeping Tali out of public places as a precaution against sickness while her defenses are still compromised.

(WBC was 3200 and the ANC was 1000)

One of my favorite stories from the scriptures is of a young boy whose dad asked him to do something really hard. The fact that his dad also happened to be a prophet didn’t make things any easier especially since his brothers were pretty rebellious and didn’t care much for the things of God.

Nephi and his family had left Jerusalem as directed by God which ended up saving their lives from the invasion that destroyed Jerusalem just a few years after they left.

Now Nephi’s father was asking his brothers and him to go back to Jerusalem and risk their lives to get a scriptural record recorded on brass plates so they would have God’s word on their journey to a new land.

Instead of complaining like his brothers had, Nephi responded, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” (1 Nephi 3:7)

The scriptures are filled with examples of this same faith to do what God requires no matter the cost and certainly in spite of extreme inconvenience.

And in every case, when the Lord commands, He also makes it possible to do.

A couple of days ago I found myself on route to Logan, Utah for an early morning wedding. There’s a beautiful LDS Temple in Logan built by early Utah settlers nearly 150 years ago. That’s where the wedding was held.

The driver I was riding with was none other than the bishop of our ward. (A ward is like a parish.)

Talk about a fascinating and inspiring ride for 2 hours each way!

Suffice it to say, I learned a lot during that drive.

In our church bishops aren’t paid for the service they render to the members. None of the positions/callings in our ward are paid positions. But it’s not really volunteer work either. You see, everyone is expected to help out but you don’t just jump into any position you want.

Whether it’s teaching a Sunday School class, or serving as a secretary, or any of the dozens of positions that need to be filled in order for the ward to run smoothly, members are called by their leaders to serve. And just like Nephi, when the call comes, we have the choice to say “yes” or “no”. But if everyone said “no”, nothing would ever get done.

To make things even more interesting, you aren’t called to a position because of your resume or other apparent qualifications. In almost every case, the person called feels inadequate and the timing of the call is rarely convenient.

Perhaps you’re wondering what any of this has to do with Talitha.

When Talitha was 2 months old, she received a formal blessing—a baby blessing—as is customary to do in our church.

My November 1, 2008 journal entry recalls some of what was spoken in that blessing (the words of the blessing addressed Talitha directly):

• “You came when you did for a specific reason and purpose.”

• “You will touch the lives of many people.”

• “You will have the ability and gift to touch and reach people, even those that are hard to touch and reach.”

• “Blessed to have faith not fear.”

• “Blessed with more courage than the trial.”

Clearly the Lord knew what was coming and blessed little Talitha with specific gifts to help her with those challenges. It’s very humbling to already see the fulfillment of some of what God promised Talitha in a blessing 14 months before her diagnosis.

I’m one of those that Talitha has touched.

I will never be the same and gratefully so.

One of the things that hit me during the trip to Logan with Bishop Edgington is the reality that a trial is like a call to serve. Trials—just like callings—usually:

1. come when least expected,

2. aren’t something you feel prepared to do,

3. make you wonder what the Lord is up to,

4. make you weak in the knees (probably so you’ll remember to fall to your knees),

5. require faith to accept,

6. can be handled with an attitude of your choosing whether good or bad.

7. And most importantly—the Lord ALWAYS provides a way for you to get through the trial if you work with Him and not against Him.

I thought the comparison was a little off when it came to being able to say “yes” or “no” to a trial. But the more I’ve thought about it, the more it’s become clear that we absolutely can accept or reject a trial.

Saying “no” to a calling because we are too busy or too afraid or too anything doesn’t make “too busy” or “too afraid” or “too anything” go away.

The same applies with rejecting a trial. Refusing to accept a trial doesn’t change the reality of the situation. Saying “no” to a trial just leads to anger, bitterness, resentment, and fist shaking at God. Such stubbornness blocks learning and growth that a loving Father in Heaven is anxious to provide.

There’s a great story in the Bible about this very thing. Jonah was called to preach in Ninevah—i.e. he was given a calling to serve. He refused. He was issued the same call again, this time in the form of a trial—i.e. he was thrown overboard and swallowed by a giant fish or whale. He could have said “no” to this trial, yelled at God, and died. Fortunately, he said “yes” to this trial and learned a great lesson and was an instrument in the Lord’s hand in reclaiming the people of Ninevah.

I’m not implying by this example that saying “no” to a calling will bring another call in the form of a trial. I am exploring the similarities between callings and trials and how faith is required to successfully navigate both. It also appears that God uses both to bless and lift His children.

Because of what I’ve experienced, I know for myself that I don’t have to be afraid of what the Lord will ask me to do. I don’t have to worry or fret or hide.

I always believed that God loves His children. Now I know that His love is beyond our greatest imagination. He will stop at nothing to secure our souls that we may forever experience true peace, happiness, and joy.

Callings and trials are an integral part of this life’s experience. It is my hope that we will learn to trust God so much that faith will push aside our fears as we confidently say:

“I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no [callings or trials], save he shall prepare a way…” (1 Nephi 3:7)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Parable of the Yellow Tang

Thank you for your prayers. Tali was only sick for the one day.

My dad pointed out that while it’s never fun to have a sick child, in Talitha’s case, it’s good to know that her body is able to fight off bugs again. We are so grateful the Lord has heard the many prayers on Tali’s behalf and has blessed her and strengthened her.

A few months ago, I asked a friend to send me a copy of a personal story she had shared at church with the Primary children. She gave me permission to share her story in Talitha’s blog. With a little more passage of time and improved understanding sharpened by experience, I’m even more touched by this story than when I first heard it.

Here is the story:

“Many years ago my father gave my mother a large aquarium for her birthday. They decided to make it a saltwater reef tank, and after much hard work and expense finally the tank was set up and full of colorful coral and many different kinds of fish.

“There were countless colors and sizes of fish Mom could choose to put in her aquarium, but from the beginning, Mom’s favorite fish was the Yellow Tang. Yellow was always Mom’s favorite color, and from the minute she saw that large, brilliant fish in the pet store we all knew that was what we would get for the aquarium.

“Mom’s Yellow Tang was healthy and strong, and was the most beautiful fish in the tank. My father had invested in several expensive filters, lighting, and other equipment to make sure the water was clean and the fish stayed vibrant and healthy. One day, we noticed that Mom’s Yellow Tang wasn’t looking so good. He first lost some of his bright color and looked dingy, dirty yellow. Soon he stopped swimming and just hung listlessly in the water.

“Mom and Dad checked to make sure the filter equipment was working, that the temperature was correct, and everything else they could think of. All the other fish seemed healthy, but Mom’s Yellow Tang got worse and worse. Soon he had tiny black spots on his sides, and his fins drooped down.

“One morning the aquarium lights came on and we saw the Yellow Tang swimming on his side, his gills heaving. He looked like he was dying, and we didn’t know how to help him. Dad got on the phone and called the pet store and asked for the trusted fish expert who had helped us set up the tank from the beginning. Dad described what had happened to our tang. After learning that all the other fish were ok, he said our Yellow Tang had “Black Ich”. The way to help him be rid of the Ich was to give him a 15 minute “freshwater bath”. This sounded crazy because we wondered how a delicate and sick saltwater fish could live for 15 minutes in plain freshwater!?! When dad questioned this strategy, the expert said that the secret was that the Ich would die in freshwater before the Tang would. If we left the Tang in the freshwater bath long enough to kill the Ich but got him out before he died, he would be cured. It sounded crazy, but what else could we do? The fish was already close to death.

“Dad filled a large bowl with tap water and brought it down to the tank. Mom and all of us kids were gathered around nervously watching the events unfold. Dad got the net and easily caught Mom’s Yellow Tang and placed him in the bowl. Immediately the fish dropped to the bottom of the bowl, and his gills pumped desperately as the strange water filled his lungs. Mom wondered aloud if this was a good idea, but dad was looking his stopwatch and said we were going to do this as instructed for the full 15 minutes no matter what. All the kids looked at each other and thought that what we were doing was crazy, that the fish expert didn’t know what he was talking about. Put the saltwater fish in freshwater to make him better? It sure didn’t look like he was feeling better. It seemed like we were only making his death more painful.

“For ten minutes, the fish seemed to get weaker and weaker. Mom asked again if we should take him out and put him in the large saltwater tank where at least the Tang could breathe, but Dad said no, and checked his stopwatch. There were five minutes left before we could put the Tang back in the big tank. We all stood somberly around the freshwater bowl, watching the Yellow Tang die.

“After 12 minutes had passed, we saw to some astonishment that Mom’s Yellow Tang turned back upright, and was swimming. He was still breathing hard, but there appeared to be some small black spots floating in the water. He seemed to get stronger and stronger. After 15 minutes, Dad gave the ok, and Mom caught her tang in the net and gently placed him back in the saltwater tank. He stayed upright, and the black spots were gone from his sides. He was still a little pale, but after a few days he was back to normal, a brilliant yellow that caught the eye of everyone who saw the tank.”

Thank you to Julie Whiteley for this beautiful story.

I can't help but see two parallels.

The way in which the cancer experts fought Talitha's disease had me feeling like the kids in the story. How could something as crazy as putting poison in her body make Tali feel better?

And waiting the full "15 minutes" can feel like an eternity.

But the more significant parallel I see has to do with Christ and his matchless power to heal us from sin and help us through the many afflictions and challenges of life. Like in the Bible story of Naaman, the Lord has ways of cleansing us and helping us that might seem downright crazy or even bruise our pride. After all, Naaman was the captain of the host of the king of Syria and Elisha the prophet only sent a lowly servant to tell Naaman to go wash seven times in the waters of Jordan.

No fanfare of trumpets. Just simple instructions requiring faith.

And so it is with us. Most of what God asks us to do has no fancy frills, nor does it require a fancy stage production. Yet in the simplicity of Faith and Repentance are found the keys to the saving grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
And if we can just endure for those seemingly long "15 minutes", the black scales of sin and spiritual blindness that are making us sick and holding us back will fall off.
Yes, we can put complete trust in Christ!
He is the ultimate expert and knows exactly how to remove all cause of disease and save His children.