Friday, May 18, 2018

Summer is almost here!

I can't believe we've reached the end of another school year!  Despite the fact that many school days seem to drag on and on, we actually have only a couple of weeks left before we're free.  I'm just quoting the students here; this wording in no way reflects how I feel as a teacher...(cough, cough)...

This time last year, our family was in a whirlwind of excitement because Dale was graduating!  We spent soooo much time---and money---finding table decorations, setting up the reception area, printing out announcements, and trying to remember all the last-minute necessities to celebrate Dale's achievement; once graduation night was finally over, our whole family took a much-needed break.  This year, we can take it a little easier.  Ashley graduates next year; my English classes are taking their finals a bit early; and, so far, I have no responsibilities graduation night.  Summer, here we come!

I wrote in my last post about Dale's struggles with finding a goal or purpose since graduation.  He is continuing to spend most of his time sitting at the table, playing on his iPad, or watching TV.  However, he seems to be realizing that his opportunity to recover his lost mobility is slipping away.  Chad walked Dale over to the barbershop across the street from our house this week; he reported that Dale seriously struggled just getting from the front door across the street to the barber.  But this time Dale noticed how hard it was just to walk.  Dale actually realized just how much mobility he's lost due to his inactive state.  You see, when Dale needs to walk somewhere, anywhere, he takes a few long, quick strides (before his fear of falling kicks in); then he jerks to a halt and begins taking short, halting, tiny steps.  This naturally increases the time it takes for him to get where he's going.  These baby steps are accompanied by a hunched back, curved shoulders, labored breathing, and sweaty palms.  At least once during each walk, Dale needs to pause and regroup before proceeding with his painstaking steps.  His balance is very unstable, making it the responsibility of the person walking with him to keep him balanced and upright, poised at any moment to adjust Dale's balance or catch him if he should start to fall.  Needless to say, walking with Dale---even just from the bathroom to his bedroom---is a long, hard, frustrating prospect.  My husband has been encouraging us to show compassion for Dale, instead of anger or annoyance.  He has correctly pointed out that, as frustrating as it is for us to have to shuffle with Dale across the room and back, it's ten times as hard for Dale because THIS IS DALE'S LIFE NOW.  This is how he is, every day, every hour, every church service, every time we want to have a family outing.  We have to ability to walk away once our duties with Dale are completed, but Dale lives with himself and his disabilities day in, day out.  Dale knows that he did this to himself and he knows that nothing is going to get magically better:  he is going to continue to decline until he's in a power wheelchair....or worse.  This is not the life he dreamed of, nor is it the life he would have chosen, even if he did choose to stop trying, thereby making his life more difficult than it maybe should have been.  Chad is right:  we need to show compassion toward Dale and help him cheerfully and willingly.  If all we show is anger and annoyance, our relationships with Dale will be damaged.  And, those relationships are all he has now.  He has occasional fun outings with Bro. Goltiao and some of the guys, but we are his main interactions.  He is in church services a few hours each week, but he lives in our house 24/7.  He needs the strong, loving, happy, teasing, friendly relationships with his family in order to have as full a life as is possible.  There well may come a day when he will be an invalid, a vegetable, or comatose because of his seizures; how sad it would be if the last memories we have with Dale are filled with irritation, harsh words, unkind thoughts, or anger.  We need to make sure we maintain a kind, compassionate, giving attitude toward Dale; we will be helping fill his days with light and cheer, as well as pleasing God with our actions.

We recently moved into a new house!  God amazingly worked everything for our good, as He always does when we surrender our will to Him and let Him have His way.  I wanted a house on five acres with at least 3,000 square feet, a big kitchen, multiple bathrooms, and possibly a mother-in-law suite for guests.  We sold our old house in November and moved December 1st into a rental.  Our plan was to look around for a couple of months before beginning the buying process.  I found online a handful of really nice houses that seemed to meet every desire I had!  Only problem was, we didn't qualify for any of those houses.  Chad spoke with our wonderful realtor, Michele Wright, and gave her a list of what "we" were looking for; I admit I was upset when I found out he'd spoken to her without my input!  Then, she emailed him several listings meeting his specifications, and they planned to meet one day to view some listings. I was in school and could not accompany them.  Imagine my shock when Chad called and said that he had decided to put an offer on a house and that Michele was emailing me the signing documents!!!  I was soooo upset! I had not even seen the house in person (only pictures which, honestly, were not very encouraging), and here my husband wanted to just up and buy the house!  We were able to arrange a second viewing that afternoon after school, and I was AMAZED.  Even though I was still scared to buy a house that far away from church/school (30 minutes!), I loved the house when I saw it.  We are now the proud owners of a one-story beautiful farmstyle house.  It is a deep farmhouse red with white trim, sitting on just over a quarter acre.  It's actually inside the town limits, giving us easy access to a Wal-Mart, Safeway, and Goodwill, while letting us enjoy the peace of the countryside on the drive to and from wherever.  I'm still surprised by the quiet of our house! I had become used to the constant hum of traffic, but now the night is fairly quiet.  We have 2330 square feet, 3 bedrooms plus a den which we made into a bedroom for Dale, 2 bathrooms, a huge kitchen, a huge sunken family room, hardwood floors, a large deck, a playhouse for Emily, a large garden area, cherry trees, a grapevine, and rhodies!!!  We absolutely love our new home and are so grateful for God's blessing.  He gave us the home we needed instead of the home I desired.  Plus, having (almost) everything on one level makes life so much easier for all of us, especially Dale.  God is good!

So, life continues as usual, filled with activities, school, church, relaxation, softball (Chad), volleyball (Ashley and Emily), ups , downs, music, excitement, boredom, endless laundry, and love.  Our God remains our constant, and we rest in His care.  May you do the same.

I Peter 5:7  "Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you."

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Wow, do I have a lot of explaining to do!

It has officially been five full months since I last wrote on this blog.  That is, without a doubt, an extremely long time between posts!  I have numerous explanations I could make, abundant excuses to submit, and plenteous details to frame why I've been silent for so long.  But, as usual, the plain truth is best.

I've been silent because I've been sick.  Sick of the excuses Dale makes why he doesn't try to keep up with his exercises, sick of trying to explain the ways of the Almighty to those who don't want to hear the truth, sick of working so hard to help my family see God's faithfulness in the midst of our daily struggles, and actually physically sick with a pretty bad cold.

Do you ever get that way?  Just sick of trying so hard at life and absolutely getting nowhere?  Feeling like you're slogging through thick, black mud; not understanding why life has to be so hard; alternating between begging God for help---and answers---and not bothering to even think a prayer because you feel as though He's not listening anyway?  Yeah, that's about it.

Trust me---you're not the only one feeling like that.  I can't tell you how many times I have had to convince myself to just keep trusting God.  I can't keep count of how many times I've felt like a hypocrite at church, smiling widely and praising God while my heart aches and my shoulders sag because of the burdens our family bears.  Time and again, I've felt like such a phony because I'm talking to my kids, reminding them that God is good and we can trust Him to make good come from anything, and the voice in my head is contradicting every single sentence I'm uttering.

But let me remind you:  We only fail when we quit.  We only lose the fight when we stop fighting.  We only fail when we quit letting God work.  And the wonderful part is....just because we quit doesn't mean we're done for good.  We can quit trying, quit fighting, quit believing; and then we can start again.  Rejoin the fight.  Decide to believe again.  Choose one more time to keep going.  All we have to do is get up one time more than we fall down.  All we have to do is start over one time more than we give up in defeat.  You see, our God is amazing.  He is loving and kind and forgiving.  Don't you know He knows how frail we are?  Don't you realize He knows how weak we are, how susceptible to the enemy's vile whisperings we are, how easy it is for us to sink under the overwhelming hardships of everyday life?  He is very aware of the temptations we face and the desire we have to just be done with it all, and He has promised never to leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).  God stays right there next to us, within arm's reach, never more than a breath away.  He never leaves us, even when we're done with Him.  When we rail at God, when we accuse Him of being deliberately cruel, when we think He doesn't care, when we just don't care any more, when we are at our lowest low, He is there.  Sometimes audibly through a friend's voice or a sermon or song; sometimes silently, just waiting there; ofttimes hurting, crying, right along with us.  Why would we ever think He doesn't care about us?  God sent His Son to Earth to die for us.  Of course, He loves us and wants to help us with our troubles.  We are the ones who doubt and struggle and turn away.  We are the ones who assign human emotions and human failings to our omnipotent, never changing, always loving Heavenly Father.  We are the ones who lose faith and then believe God did, too.  No, our God is faithful and good, and He is ever mindful of our needs, big and small.  As often as our problems dance before our eyes, we need to remind ourselves that our God is worthy of our trust.  Each time we face yet another struggle with doubt and despair, we must choose to believe God is able to fulfill His promise in Romans 8:28 to make all things work together for our good.  That doesn't necessarily mean we'll see how things can be good; we may never understand why God allows certain difficulties into our lives, but we can believe that He knows why those things are for our good.

Concerning Dale's actual condition, he is steadily losing ability.  Since his graduation last June, he has lost much of his desire to continue trying.  Just like the rest of us, he is realizing just how bleak his future looks.  He was fairly social, going to school and church and youth activities and family outings.  But now his world has shrunk to just church services and the occasional family trip.  He has exercise tools at his disposal (weights, strength balls, stretching bands, etc.) so that he can keep up his strength and muscle tone; but most days he chooses not to use those tools.  Instead, Dale spends much of his time either on his iPad playing video games or watching TV.  His reason for his deliberate decision to give up trying to improve physically?  "Why bother?  It won't do any good."  We've pleaded with him, scolded him, cajoled him, cried with him, begged him, yelled at him, bargained with him, argued with him---all to no avail.  The "talks" to try to encourage him inevitably turn into tears and anger because Dale is just about as stubborn as one can get.  He has decided he doesn't want to put forth any more effort that, in his mind, will get him nowhere; and no amount of persuasive arguing or bargaining or pleading has gotten through.

Dale honestly just wants to be done with this life.  He wants to go to Heaven where he will be able to walk again and move freely and run and move without falling.  He's so done with trying and struggling....and failing.  Every conversation we have with him ends with the same declaration:  He just wants it to be over.  We've tried reminding him of past successes with exercising and walking; we've tried reminding him that, six months ago before he gave up completely on trying to improve, he was doing better than he is now; we've tried arguing that he can't just give up now and wait to die because he might live for another sixty years!  Dale admits that he's gotten worse physically since he completely gave up; he is willing to concede that simply standing up requires concentrated effort now; he knows that he shakes and falls and struggles so much more now than he did even six months ago.  But he just doesn't care any more.  He's done.  Even the realization that he is making caring for him so much harder now does nothing to stir him from his chair.  Even knowing the stress we endure because of his declining condition and the physical pain we suffer from supporting his frame as we walk with him and the sharpened senses we've developed to be aware of his jerking and catch him before he falls doesn't change his attitude or his decision.  He's simply done.

To those readers who might think we're letting our son down by not forcing him to exercise, signing him up for biweekly physical therapy, enrolling him in some college course, or quitting our jobs to stay home to nurture and care for him, please understand that we've tried.  Dale is an adult now and cannot be forced to do things he doesn't want to do.  He is in a low place with no hope for a future that looks at all worth living for.  We have tried numerous times and ways to find things Dale can still do or enjoy, but each time he jerks or falls or struggles, the idea that "he can't" is strengthened in his mind and he resolves even more strongly to just stop trying.  We've looked into college, but Dale struggled to complete his high school courses; he can't take notes in a classroom setting or even just listen to the instructor without losing his train of thought.  His capacity for memorizing and taking tests is very limited as well.  He isn't retarded (I hate using that word!), just limited.  He also cannot get himself around very well, even in a wheelchair; his arms and legs jerk almost uncontrollably, and that jerking lately has led to a couple of serious seizures.  So he would need someone with him everywhere he goes, to assist him if he begins jerking or falling.  We've looked into physical therapy, but our insurance only pays for a half dozen appointments per year; it honestly wouldn't do Dale any good to go to one appointment every two months, especially when he won't keep up with any exercises at home.  Trust me, we've tried.  As for quitting my job to stay home with him, well, it may come to that.  Half my mind tells me to care for the ones God has given me to care for, even if the caring extends beyond the normal amount of years.  The other half tells me that staying home with my son wouldn't change much in his world, except perhaps inciting more arguments when he won't do any exercises and won't even try.  I love teaching and love being at school, but I've considered giving up my job in order to focus more on my son.  We do have other children to pay attention to, though, so Dale can't have our undivided focus.

Lost in all of this is our childlike faith in the perfectness of God's ways.  We have gone from being that family that said, "Whatever You choose, Lord, we will trust You," to now saying, "Why, Lord, did You allow this?  What are we supposed to do now?"  It was almost easy to trust God when circumstances were out of our control---the drowning and aftereffects, compared to now when the circumstances are very much in Dale's control and he chooses to just quit trying.  We are finding it much more difficult to keep trusting God's plan when we feel like, if Dale would just try, things would be so much easier.  I'm certain we are not the first family to ever face this particular giant of despair, and we won't be the last.  I pray that my girls, older and younger, will continue to trust God's unseen hand and serve Him regardless of the difficulty.  I pray my son will eventually see God again for the omniscient Father that He is, and will begin to have hope for the future again.  I pray my husband will not give up hope either and that he'll stay strong throughout the coming years.  I pray that I will be the candle that continues to shine in this darkness to show my family---my girls especially---that God is good.

One thing more:  In a recent talk I had with Dale, I discovered something amazing.  Back before the accident at age twelve, Dale had planned to be an inventor.  He would fill notebooks with drawings and ideas and would talk about these plans with his best friend.  The accident changed everything.  He struggled so much with school and walking and even holding a pencil to write.  I just assumed his dream of inventing things went by the wayside; I also assumed it was just a little boy's dream.  Do you know, Dale still has that dream inside him?  You should have seen his face light up when he was telling me about some of his ideas!  I want to find some way to help him achieve this dream.  This may be the catalyst that spurs him to action (literally) again, that pulls him out of his despair, that sets him on a path to hope and God.  I went to Wal-Mart and purchased him another notebook and set it on the table with a pen "just in case he had another idea he wanted to jot down."  This is something I would like to request specific prayer for:  that Dale could somehow be granted the gift of bringing one of his ideas or inventions to life.  I don't know how or when this could happen, but I would love to have others praying with me about this.

James 1:17  "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."

Friday, August 11, 2017

Well….now what???

You know that let-down feeling you get after Christmas?  You've spent the last month (or more) listening to Christmas carols; you've pushed your way through countless crowds each time you dare to enter a store to shop for that perfect present; you've decorated with only red and green for weeks; and you've had to install a hidden camera in the family room to make sure no one touches those gifts under the tree.  Finally, Christmas morning arrives!  The kids dive into the pile, shrieking madly, while Mom attempts to take pictures and Dad drinks his coffee.  Shredded paper, ribbons, bows, and boxes go flying as each person finally finds out what they got for Christmas.  The joy, the delight, the unsurpassed ecstasy of this moment!!!  And then….it's over.  No more surprises to unveil, no more presents to unwrap, no more "I hope I got _____ in my stocking!"  All that's left is a mountain of garbage and that sobering realization that there's nothing to look forward to for another year.  Actual depression sets in, along with a sense of bleakness, as the thing you longed for for so long now becomes a thing of the past.

That is kind of what we've been feeling since Dale's graduation.  That huge accomplishment we've all been working toward over the last several years is now, just, done.  There's no more need to push Dale to finish his school work or remind him of his end-game goals or go through his backpack to find PACEs that have been buried.  There's no more sense of anticipation mixed with dread over the looming deadline for school work to be completed.  There's no more scouring the stores for decorations for the big party or hoping everything goes well.  The announcements have been handed out; the ceremony has been concluded; the diplomas have been given; the streamers and balloons have been cleared away.  Now we're kind of in that fog of unreality thinking, "Now what?"

Every week, someone asks, "So what are Dale's plans?"  Honestly, I have no idea.  Chad, Dale, and I have talked long about possible ideas for the future, and we've looked into various programs for someone with Dale's disability.  But that's kind of it:  there is no set plan for someone with Dale's unique disabled condition.  Programs for disabled individuals range from requiring on-campus housing in Minnesota (no joke) to being tailored more for those in power chairs. Dale's inability to control his jerking limbs, his frequent shaking and falling, and his attention span deficiency make regular classroom attendance rather difficult.  He would basically need someone to attend classes with him to assist him with whatever problem presents itself that day.  Also, Dale struggled so much with recalling information and testing and writing in high school, I don't think traditional classes would work for him.  We're leaning toward online classes in some field, but I have a lot more research to do before we enroll him anywhere.  Plus, we're waiting to hear what programs or grants he may qualify for before making any major decisions about further schooling.  This is a matter we would love to have folks praying with us about.

Another matter for prayer:  Dale sees his new neurologist next week.  Since he is now officially an adult, he can no longer see his pediatric neurologist, the one who's been with us since the accident six years ago.  PLEASE, please pray with us that we'll like this new doctor and that he'll have a good understanding of Dale's case.  You know how hard it is to shop for doctors!  I don't foresee this doc changing Dale's meds or anything, but I'm still nervous.  Dale, per usual, is oblivious.  He'll probably ask me, "Why aren't we going to Dr. Al-Mateen any more?" despite my having explained it numerous times.  (Did I mention he has memory difficulties and the attention span of a gnat?)

And yet another thing (because issues never wait patiently for a time when you are ready to think about them):  School starts again in a few weeks!  AAAAhhhhhh!  Commence with the pulling out of the hair; stockpile paper bags for breathing; apply extra deodorant; and, whatever you do, don't make eye contact!  Just kidding, I love teaching and am looking forward to another school year.  We had intended for Katie to be "in charge" of Dale during the day while Emily, Ashley, and I were at school, because Katie worked afternoons and evenings.  She, however, just landed a new job at a Gene Juarez salon, and we're not sure what her new schedule will allow.  So Dale may still have to go to school with us every day, even though he's graduated and earned the right to never darken the doors again!  I was hoping he would not have to get up at 6:45 every morning any more, but it looks like that may still be the case.  Yea.

If you can't tell, our family uses humor and sarcasm a lot to diffuse our stress.  And, like every other family on the planet, we have a lot of stress!  Everyday things like the dog having accidents (how can it be called an accident when you just let her out five minutes ago?!), the TV going on the fritz (like, all the time), or dinner being burnt beyond recognition (why, no, that's never happened to me) can cause stress to anyone.  Non-regular events like trying to figure out how your son managed to wedge himself between the toilet and the wall when he fell (too many times to count...), having to keep a bowl under the dripping toilet tank (cracked when Dale fell) until you can replace the unit, and realizing that there's an almost-pleasing pattern to the numerous indentations in the walls (caused, yes, by Dale's bum each time he falls!) cause our family extra stress.  We choose to alleviate stressful situations with humor; we are a family that loves to laugh.  It's sometimes a little scary when we are all "on a roll" because we feed off each other and deliver one-liners until tears run down our faces.  And everyone gets involved:  Dad and Mom until the kids are rolling their eyes, Amanda (from afar), Katie (who's got the driest sense of humor, hilarious), Ashley and Emily (goofy girls!), and Dale with his craziness.  We use God's gift of laughter to relieve the strain of the burdens we carry.  I can't imagine life without laughter, can you?  I mean, who'd want to go through life with a straight face or, worse, a woebegone countenance?  We all experience sadness, discouragement, hardships, depression, but we don't have to let those emotions rule us.  We don't have to live sad, discouraged, hardened, or depressed.  That is the choice we make when we dwell on or in those difficult times.  Anyone viewing our family's history would believe us deserving of the right to the deepest depression, anger, and bitterness, but those attitudes are counterproductive to our well-being---physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.  How can we be ready and willing to do whatever God asks of us if we are so resentful over His last request?  How can the Holy Spirit guide us if we are not listening to Him because of our grief and disillusionment?  I believe choosing to allay our stress, our anger, our fear with humor is, indeed, a gift God has blessed our family with.  I imagine if you look, you'll find special gifts God has given you to help cope with the pressures of daily life.

All this to say, life simply continues for the Ostrander family.  We are living and maturing and serving and loving and striving to please God in everything we do.  I have previously mentioned my prayer to God before Dale's accident: "Lord, please use our family to bring glory to You."  For months after the drowning, I would still pray that prayer, wanting God to know we desired Him to receive all honor and praise from Dale's miraculous recovery.  Somehow, in the busyness of life, I stopped praying that.  Oh, I still felt that way and remembered once in a while to tell God, but I stopped saying it on a regular basis.  Recently, I've gotten back into the habit.  "Lord, please use our family to bring glory to You."  Not that I want another drowning---goodness, no.  Not that I'm asking for some other horrific tragedy to befall us, no.  And, not that I think the only way for God to be glorified is through His people's suffering, of course not.  I simply want to remind my Heavenly Father (and myself in the process) that my desire is for Him to use us, however He sees fit.  This continual surrendering of my will to Him is the only true way to keep from becoming bitter and untrusting.  If I believe God's will is always good and I daily submit to God's will, I will never be angry at God's workings because I've already made the decision to trust Him no matter what.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says it perfectly:  "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths."

Psalm 28:7 is excellent at explaining too:  "The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped:  therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise Him."

Monday, May 29, 2017

Take a breath….

This is it:  the moment we've all been waiting for.  This is the culmination of years of work, oceans of tears, reams of papers, buckets of sweat…you name it.  This day will go down in history as "The Day That Couldn't Happen."  Or maybe "The Day The Impossible Happened."  How about "The Day That Was Never Supposed to Happen"?

I don't know what to call this day, because calling it what it is seems so anticlimactic.  But here goes:  Monday, June 5, 2017, is the day my son graduates from high school.

I told you it seemed rather tame.  After the opening paragraph, you might have thought we were sending another man to the moon, but no---we're simply celebrating Dale's graduation from Bethel Baptist Christian School.  He has completed his high school courses successfully and is ready to march across the platform to accept his diploma.  We're very proud of him.

If you are new to our family's story, let me fill in some background details that might help you understand the title I chose.

Five and a half years ago, my son died.

You read that right.  Five and a half years ago, on Friday, August 5, 2011, my son Dale, along with his two older sisters and half the youth group, went on a teen activity.  They headed for the coast two hours away to enjoy some sun, water, and general goofiness.  Dale was new to the youth group, having just finished sixth grade two months prior.  Amanda, our oldest, kept an eye on him, concerned that he would pull some crazy shenanigans (he did that a lot!  Still does…).  Katie, our second oldest, played with her friends while the chaperones watched over everyone.  Throughout the morning and into the afternoon, the group was having a great time.  Teens were wading in the water, scouring the beach for driftwood, or just soaking up the sunshine.  The day was perfect…until two of our boys got their legs swept out from under them.  The undertow quickly carried them out into deeper water than they could handle, and they began to cry out in distress.  Two people nearby, a father and his daughter, heard them and responded; the father managed to get the one boy safely back to shore, but the girl, only twelve herself, was struggling to help the other boy, Dale.  They tried swimming to shore holding onto her boogie board, but the ocean swamped them.  Nicole, that brave young lady, recalls feeling Dale near her, grabbing his belt, and shoving him up towards the surface.  When they broke through, gasping for air, she told Dale to swim for shore with all his might.  Glancing back, she saw him right behind her.  But when she reached the beach, moments later, he was gone.

Frantic calls began flooding the emergency lines, reporting the incident.  Rescue personnel went into action:  police headed out to the beach, ambulance drivers raced toward the scene, the volunteer water rescue team started suiting up.  A photographer overheard the calls on the police band and followed the line of vehicles out to the water.  I'm so glad he did because he sent us every picture he took that day, from the time he arrived to the time Dale was pulled from the water…over twenty minutes later.  Paramedics worked on Dale's lifeless body right there on the beach, giving him CPR and even using the paddles to try to restart his heart.  Remember:  the youth group is right there, watching everything with horrified, disbelieving faces.  Our teens were the first responders:  they knelt on the sand, some of them face down, prostrate, and begged God that Dale be found and then that he'd regain life.  Our daughters were there when the panicked call went out to clear the water because Dale was missing; they were there when their brother's body was carried ashore, arms dangling.  They were there when he was strapped to a stretcher and loaded in an ambulance to be taken to the hospital.  The scars they carry to this day are emotional and deep…

I have never been so proud of my family as I was that tragic day.  My husband's first words when informed of the accident were "We need to pray."  Once the girls arrived at the hospital, before they even got to go back to Dale's room, Chad told them and me, "No matter what happens now, God will receive the glory."  Mind you, we all thought Dale was dead.  The paramedics had managed to restart his heart, but Dale wasn't breathing on his own, and the doctors were kind but offered no hope whatsoever.  We were warned that Dale's body might simply give up and shut down completely; we were told that, even if he regained consciousness, he might be in a vegetative state or unable to walk, feed himself, might need to wear a diaper, might not be able to talk.  Dale had simply been underwater, without oxygen, without pumping blood, for too long.  My girls stood at Dale's bedside and sang praises to our God.  I had long prayed that God would use our family to bring honor and glory to Himself.  None of us had any idea what He was about to do.

Two days later, Sunday, August 7, 2011, a meeting with the doctor indicated we should prepare for the worst.  Up to this point, Dale had exhibited no signs that his brain was still functioning.  The machines were breathing for him; there had been no response to stimuli; the doctor had taken Chad and me aside and told us that they had done all they could.  Chad begged him, "Give God a chance."  That night, Chad asked a doctor to demonstrate what Dale should be responding to.  The doctor leaned over and barked in Dale's ear, "DALE, WAKE UP!"  To our shock, Dale's eyes flew open, startling even the doctor.  The room immediately filled with people, all working to give Dale this fighting chance.  What they didn't realize was that God, now that the doctors had stepped aside, was flexing His muscles, about to show the entire world just what He could do.

Dale began to improve from that moment on.  He began breathing regularly on his own; he began responding to verbal commands as well as physical stimuli; when they took the ventilator tube out the next day and encouraged Dale to cough to clear his lungs, Dale shocked everyone again by saying, "I don't NEED to!"  We spent a couple of weeks at that hospital, while Dale relearned how to walk and breathe properly and all.  Then we transferred to another hospital closer to home, spending the next several weeks there, allowing Dale to relearn how to swallow, how to eat, how to brush his teeth, how to talk, everything.  God's hands were so evident, holding our son, soothing our fears, calming my stress.  I'm deliberately glossing over those first weeks; it's still an emotional topic for our family and me, as the storyteller.  The next year is a blur for Dale:  we went to physical therapy twice a week and speech therapy once a week.  We assisted Dale as if he were a toddler, though he turned thirteen before the first anniversary of the accident came around.  He changed from a young boy into a young man during that time; his voice dropped from its high pitch to a much lower one---he had trouble singing because he couldn't adjust to his different voice very well!

He lost a full year from his life, has only fuzzy recollections of those months, doesn't remember his therapists though he spent so much time with them.  He lost a year of schooling, plus a large portion of the next school year, struggling to figure out how to learn again, how to process information and repeat it on a test.  One of our teachers pointed out recently, "Dale has worked harder toward his graduation than most graduates.  He took six years of high school and crammed them into five."  Four and a half, actually.  To say he's struggled academically would be to say the sun is a little warm.  Dale has had to put at least three times as much work, time, and brain power into his studies as the average student does; school work that should take between twenty to forty-five minutes has taken Dale up to two days to complete.  Our school with its wonderful teachers and principals has worked with us nonstop to assist Dale in every way he needs, focusing on an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) for him and eliminating extra requirements.  As I'm writing this, Dale is downstairs, working on his last English PACE.  He's going to walk across the platform Monday night, June 5, 2017, having actually completed his high school education.  He's not being handed a participation award; he's not being given an obligatory piece of paper so he doesn't feel left out; he's graduating.  Nothing short of amazing describes this accomplishment.

Please realize that none, I repeat, none of this would have been possible without the Almighty's power.  God chose to give Dale life when Dale was supposed to die.  That is my belief.  Dale's life was supposed to end that day at the beach, but God heard His people's prayers and changed His mind, giving the world a chance to see Him in action.  In the weeks following Dale's miraculous recovery, we received an enormous amount of mail from every corner of the world.  We opened letters and packages from nearly every state, numerous countries, and several continents, not to mention the emails and Facebook messages.  This accident, this tragedy, this horrifying incident was used by God to show that He listens and that He has power the wisest doctors do not.  I am not downplaying the tremendous effort those doctors put forth on behalf of my son; their knowledge, support, and caring were more than we could have wished for.  I am saying that, when the doctors said they could do no more, that's when God allowed Dale to wake up, to begin to live again.  He chose to give us back our son, and we will never stop thanking Him and praising Him for His goodness.

Dale continues to struggle each day with various skills.  He has difficulty walking, especially using stairs; he is very unsteady on surfaces that are not level (like gravel, thick carpet, changing from one flooring to another); he speaks more slowly; sometimes his brain literally gets tired and he can't think any more; he must have assistance to walk anywhere; his limbs jerk without warning; writing takes time and effort.  I could continue the list, but I don't want to focus on the negatives.  Dale can brush his teeth, use the restroom, and dress himself; he can read and understand; he's still crazy and goofy; he's worked through anger at God and is now more accepting of his abilities and limitations; he is still stubborn and will argue with a signpost. He's still…Dale.  God, in His infinite graciousness, not only brought our son back to life but gave him back his life.  Oh, not the one Dale had planned out, not the one we parents dreamed of our son living in the hazy future, but a special life that only God Himself could have imagined.  God allowed Dale to live when he should have died, and now Dale is set to graduate high school.

What Dale's future actually holds is unclear still.  Dale still has desires and goals, and we're working toward making those a reality.  We have looked into various opportunities and courses for disabled individuals; we have begun the lengthy process of having Dale declared disabled so that he can receive assistance that will enable him to pursue whatever he desires, whatever God desires.  For us, it's best not to dwell on what might have been---we don't do well when we start thinking about all that we used to wish for.  Not that we haven't talked about Dale's former dreams and goals, but we know too many walks down memory lane lead to anger and depression, which is counter-productive to moving forward.  God understands when we cry out in confusion and pain over the "used-to-coulds," but I believe we bless the Father's heart when we follow those cries with words of acceptance and gratitude for all He has done.  If you don't know our family personally, you might think that we're holier-than-thou people who float through life with our heads in the clouds.  Trust me---nothing is further from the truth!  We're an ordinary family, full of regular human beings, who faced one of life's greatest tragedies and are even now living in the aftermath of that event.  We feel the pain, the anger, the disillusionment, the fear, the abandonment, the "we were serving You, Lord; why did You let this happen?"  We simply chose---and still choose---to trust.  We.  Trust.  God.  Every day.  Every hour.  Every minute.  It's not easy and it's not pretty, but it's the life God gave us, and we're going to trust His plan…and live it.

So, kudos to all those graduating high school this year.  It took a lot of work and time, but you've earned it.  Congratulations also to all the parents and grandparents who've worked so hard to get your graduate to this point.  Goodness knows, we need a vacation after the last twelve years!  Maybe a refreshing week in a mental ward….

To everyone who has read this blog, especially those who have been following Dale's story since the accident; to all the wonderful folks who have prayed for our family; to the generous individuals who have blessed us with food, clothing, finances, and more; to the newcomers who are just realizing that the young man we're talking about is "that boy who drowned" whose image is forever frozen in our minds because of the heart-wrenching picture that headlined news accounts of the accident; to our God, Who is faithful and kind and all-wise and forever; to you we say, "Thank you."  You have touched our lives in ways we can never fully explain without choking on tears.  You have blessed our hearts with your love and prayers.  You have brought our son and our family before the throne so often that God's attention is always on us.  You have been so encouraging with your words and caring questions and love.  It's been a journey, hasn't it?  One we would never have chosen to embark on, but one that has changed our lives and enriched our lives in ways we could never have imagined.  And it's not over---I'm not shutting down the blog just because Dale is graduating.  Life doesn't end after graduation.  Just as life doesn't end after death…. Please, if you have never thought about where your soul will spend eternity after this life is over, please read the section of this blog entitled "Something Dale Would Like You to Know."  Talk to someone about God's desire for you to spend eternity in heaven with Him.  Please don't let another moment pass without settling this all-important matter.

We all want to see God's hand in our lives.  We all would love to feel His presence working with us through our hardships.  We all desire a demonstration of God's might and power.  Our family knows God is still in the miracle-working business.  We see one every time we look into Dale's eyes.

I've decided what to title this post:  "The Day Only God Knew Was Possible."

Mark 10: 27  "And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible."

"Luke 15: 24  "For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found."

Monday, February 20, 2017

Life can be unexpected….

Who was it that said, "The more I try to do, the more I fall behind"?  This describes my life perfectly.  I keep telling myself to stop volunteering for activities and functions---and I've succeeded to some degree---but then life decides to add twists and turns to my days, and that's when things get absolutely chaotic….

Take, for instance, the month of January.  New year, new beginnings, fresh start to life, right?  Not so much for the Ostrander family.  Over the Christmas holidays, my second youngest, Ashley, was sick with what was probably the flu.  She had a slight fever, vomiting, and a burning sensation in her stomach that finally went away after about a week.  Her appetite took a little longer to return, which meant poor Ashley was feeling ill for most of her school vacation.  Fast forward to Thursday, January 5.  My second oldest, Katie, began feeling a similar pain in her stomach, accompanied by fever and nausea.  She was ill clear through Sunday, January 8, when she spent the day vomiting.  By that night, she was asking to go to the ER, but Chad and I both said that would be extreme.  After all, she'd not been vomiting even 24 hours; they'd tell us it was just the flu and to drink fluids.  Monday seemed to bring some relief:  no more vomiting, although the abdominal pain was still there, presenting itself in waves.  I'd spent the weekend on Google attempting to pinpoint exactly what Katie's symptoms indicated---intestinal virus, appendicitis, female problems---and could only conclude that she'd picked up whatever flu bug Ashley had had earlier.  We honestly thought she'd continue to improve and would eventually feel better.  Boy, was I wrong!

Katie's pain persisted throughout that week.  She was upset about that for multiple reasons:  (1) she didn't feel at all well; (2) she could only eat bland foods in an attempt to pacify her stomach; and (3) she had told me she had an important job interview on Saturday morning, January 14, that she simply couldn't miss.  Chad and I encouraged her to keep her basic schedule, getting some housework done during the day and going to her cleaning job at night.  That makes us sound like bad parents, I know, but our philosophy is the world doesn't stop just because you don't feel well.  Hindsight, however, tells just how off we were!  Her appetite was greatly diminished, and she just didn't seem to be getting any better, despite eating a bland diet and drinking as much water as she could handle.  Friday, January 13, I tried to get her in to see her doctor, only to find out that it had been so long since we'd seen the doctor that we were no longer considered current patients.  Blessing in disguise?  I started the request process to be accepted back as patients and decided to just take Katie to Urgent Care.

That place was packed!!!  So much flu going around, so many ill people---I was scared to breathe.  Katie had to wear a mask, since we thought she had the flu; her skin reacted, causing a slight rash on her face.  We finally got called back to an exam room where the nurse took her vitals and registered the information in the computer.  The doctor took another ten minutes to come in, but that was to be expected with the overflowing waiting room.  When she entered, she asked us to explain again Katie's various symptoms and how long they'd been persisting.  Then the big moment came.  The doctor asked Katie to lie back on the table so she could examine her abdomen…..and Katie couldn't do it.  Her stomach/abdomen had been hurting so much that it was easier to stay in a semi-hunched position; thus, it simply hurt too much to try to lie back and stretch her abdomen out fully.  The doctor took all this in with one glance and stepped back.  "I think there's something bigger going on here than I can treat, and you need to go the ER," she said.  Katie began crying.  "No, Mom, I can't be sick!  I can't go the ER!"  I assured her that she'd be fine once we got things figured out and not to worry about the job interview because she could explain once she got better.  That was when the big news broke:  "Mom, I don't have an interview.  I have to go to the airport!"

The airport could only mean one thing:  Amanda, my oldest, was coming for a visit!  A surprise visit, that I wasn't supposed to know about.  My husband and two oldest girls had cooked this up as a special surprise for me, since Mandie hadn't been able to come home for Christmas.  This was the super important "interview" that Katie couldn't miss.  Now I started crying!  The poor doctor just stood there, completely in the dark as to what was going on.  I managed to calm Katie down somewhat, explain to the doctor in a few sentences what was happening, and gather the paperwork we needed to head for the ER.  Next step of our journey:

Once at the ER, we signed in and began the wait to be seen.  They took us back for a few minutes to check Katie's vitals and such, but it was an hour and a half before we were taken to an exam room.  Short for the ER but still interminable when you're in pain.  The doctor came in to see Katie; this time, when asked to lie back, she was able to do it.  The doctor pressed on her abdomen in different places and decided to do a CT scan, since he believed she had a kidney stone.  This was something I hadn't considered, but he seemed to think it was so.  Once the scan was complete, we began the next waiting period; by now Katie was just wanting to figure things out and go home.  The intake nurse had set an IV port which was already causing trouble, Katie was exhausted from pain and illness, and she was still feeling terrible for letting out the secret of Amanda's visit.  Suddenly the exam room curtain whipped back.  The doctor entered and as suddenly closed the curtain behind him, ensuring complete privacy.  Katie and I glanced fearfully at each other; this was not the expected "here's your diagnosis and prescription."  He abruptly said, "So tell me more about when you were sick last week."  We recounted the details of her illness, starting with Thursday and going through the vomiting on Sunday and the persistent pain up to the present.  He said, "Well, it's not a kidney stone.  You have a perforated appendix."

What??!!!  I'd checked appendicitis symptoms, and hers didn't fit the description.  I gasped at his announcement, but poor Katie didn't realize what he meant.  Turns out, her appendix had apparently ruptured sometime Sunday (when she wanted to go to the ER, go figure!), but her body had walled off the area, preventing her from going into septic shock.  After the doctor vindicated me by saying her appendicitis didn't present with the normal symptoms, we were informed that Katie would not be leaving that hospital until she had had an appendectomy.  Thus began our six-day stay in the hospital.  I called Chad, waking him up about an hour before he had to go to work, and told him what was going on.  He called his supervisor (Miss June is a saint!) and was able to get someone to cover his shift so that he could (a) come to the hospital to see Katie and (b) pick up Mandie from the airport.  Ashley was now left holding down the fort at home while Katie and I prepared to spend some unexpected time together in the surgical ward.

Her appendectomy took place mid-Saturday morning, but her recovery would take much, much longer.  Because her appendix had ruptured nearly a week earlier, her intestinal tract/abdomen was a complete mess.  The doctor was able to clean everything out, but he had to use gas to inflate her abdomen so there would be no chance of nicking something unintentionally; he also had to insert a drain to allow excess fluids to be drained off.  We had been warned that the best way to get rid of the surgical gas is to walk around, but this was incredibly painful for my girl.  She did it, though; Katie is a definite trooper!  However, the next several days were horrible:  she was in a tremendous amount of pain from the surgery, the trapped gas pockets were highly uncomfortable, she had zero appetite, and her intestinal tract was nonfunctioning.  The doctors seemed to think everything was progressing normally, and once her digestive tract picked up again and her white blood count came down, they released her.

Thankfully, during this time, Amanda had become the "mother" at home, making sure the kids got to/from school, fixing meals and lunches, and reminding about homework.  We had Monday, January 16, off school, and Chad had already arranged for someone to sub for me on Tuesday and Wednesday so that I could spend time with Mandie---which turned into spending time with Katie, who needed a sympathetic someone with her constantly.  Chad did take a shift at her bedside so that Mandie and I could go to the mall for some fun time.  Katie spent half her time apologizing from her hospital bed for ruining the special plans they'd made and the other half groaning in pain.  Even after we got her home, she was in constant pain and struggling to take the monstrous antibiotics they'd sent her home with.  We kept hoping she'd eventually turn a corner and begin to feel better, but that was yet to happen….

Five days later, on Tuesday afternoon, January 24, I got Katie in to be seen by one of the doctors in the surgical practice.  I just felt that she wasn't improving like she should have been---a suspicion confirmed by the doctor's suggestion that we go back to the ER.  We spent four hours waiting to be seen there, having checked in and had a second CT scan done.  Finally, we received the news:  Katie had developed abscesses in her abdomen from the surgery.  The doctors weren't sure if these abscesses were filled with just extra fluids or filled with pus, but they readmitted her because she needed IV fluids and antibiotics.  The ER was so full, we were put in a bed in the hallway!  We were told we would probably stay there all night before a bed would open up in the morning, but we thank God that we received a bed in the newly-opened post-op waiting room---and this bed was in a private room!  The rest of the patients were in beds separated by curtains, but we got a room with a door and a bathroom!!!  Turns out that door was necessary because Katie had also developed an intestinal infection that was highly contagious.  We were only in the hospital two days this time around, long enough for them to determine (1) they couldn't drain the abscesses without causing more damage, (2) the abscesses weren't filled with infection, just fluids, and (3) she had developed an allergic reaction to the original antibiotics.  This time when they released Katie, she had new antibiotics to take and I had specific instructions to scrub the house with bleach to prevent anyone else from getting the intestinal infection. 

The good news is that this time, there was definite improvement!  Katie began having less pain and so needed less pain medication; she actually had to coat the antibiotics with butter to get them to slide down her throat (!); and she began to feel hungry.  Her final check-up with the surgeon a week later revealed some interesting facts:  the antibiotics were causing the nasty taste in her mouth which was in turn making everything taste horrible (that would clear up once she finished the meds), so her appetite would soon return; the sharp pain she still felt when bending over was caused by the still-healing drain site which had had to punch through muscle (as opposed to the laparoscopic site which avoided major organs and muscles); and she had apparently looked "like death warmed over" the week prior when she had had to be readmitted!  He gave her permission to return to work on a lighter schedule at first, then more as she felt able.  She still deals with occasional trapped gas, and she frequently feels exhausted after some activity that would normally just leave her tired.  But she's healed very well and is able to resume her normal life activities, and we thank God so much for that. 

His hand was very apparent in all of this, and anyone who cannot see that is simply not looking.  Her appendix rupturing, her body closing off that area to prevent sepsis, her doctor not able to see her so the need to go to Urgent Care, the dreaded diagnosis, Amanda's timely arrival to help with the house and kids, the two hospital stays, the sub who so willingly filled in for me in my classes, the private room for her second hospital visit, the medication that she thought she'd choke on but that did the trick, the explanation for the extended loss of appetite---everything shows us that God is in control and He knows exactly what is going on, even when we don't.  There are always going to be problems in life and situations we don't understand.  There are always going to be difficulties and struggles and hardships.  There are always going to be unexpected bills to pay and uncertain futures and unanswered questions to face.  The one thing we can know to be certain, settled, and definite is God.  His presence, His omniscience, His care, and His love are always there.  Sometimes in the middle of our crazy, stressed, pull-our-hair-out chaos, we lose grasp of the fact that He's always there with us, right in the middle of the seemingly never-ending storm.  But He is.  When we choose to place our faith in God, we are choosing to align ourselves with Him and, what's more, let Him have control.  It's like we're walking with God through a hurricane.  When we step out from behind His protection and face the storm on our own, we're forcibly struck with the realization that we cannot handle the intensity of the swirling destruction by our own power; we need His hand to shield us from the worst of the storm's wrath.  Oh, we'll still get wet; we'll still get buffeted with strong winds; we may even lose our homes or our health or sometimes our friends and family.  But---and this is key---how much greater would our loss be if we hadn't let Him lead?  If we hadn't given Him control?  If we hadn't yielded to His protection and endured the storm with Him by our side?  I'd much rather face life's storms letting God be my Guide than get angry with His decisions or question His choices and try to strike out on my own.  After all….

Romans 8: 31-32 "What shall we then say to these things?  If God be for us, who can be against us?  He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?"

Friday, December 2, 2016

Time is not our friend.

Where in the world has the time gone?  I beginning to realize that, once we reach a certain age, time speeds up so that each year races past faster than the previous one.  Doesn't it feel like we just made our New Year's resolutions and then decorated for Valentine's Day?  Wasn't Fourth of July, like, last week with all the brilliant fireworks accompanied by a large stomachache from overeating hot dogs and baked beans?  It seriously feels like I'm finally settling in to this new school year....and now we're twenty-three days away from Christmas???  If anybody out there is debating whether or not a time machine is really that good an idea, I say, "YES! PLEASE invent one!  Quick!!!" :-)

To be completely honest, I feel like time has not only sped up but is slipping away from me.  My children are no longer babies; my husband has more gray hair than when I married him (he grayed early); even my dog is starting to show signs of age.  I, of course, am as fresh as a  I've seen so many changes, both good and bad, over this past year that it's both precious and painful to recall the months past.  The very fact that time rushes by and brings with it change is one reason I am so glad that God is constant.  He never changes:  I never have to wonder what kind of mood He's in or whether He'll be too busy to listen when I need to talk---like I am with my family sometimes.  He always is, an attribute I've come to appreciate more since I started teaching high school English.  God calls Himself "I Am"; this is stated in present tense, the here-and-now.  God always is because His condition never changes; He never ages; He is the same now as He was when He walked in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve.  He will continue to be the same for eternity.  This brings such comfort to me, one who doesn't enjoy change or uncertainty.  I can rest in His Word and believe Him because He is constant; I can trust Him because He will never be any different.  Ever.  What an indescribably beautiful truth!  I'm almost in tears just thinking about this.  Thank You, Lord, for being You.

An update about Senior Trip:  Bro. Goltiao, the class sponsor, and the seniors have cooked up a wonderful idea for us!  They decided that they wanted either my husband or me to go on Senior Trip with Dale.  This would solve a couple of issues:  who would be in the hotel room with Dale to assist him with everyday life and who would be the one to sit out of the too-crazy rides with him.  A few different ideas were batted around as to how to pay for Chad or me to go on the trip, and then Bro. Goltiao had the idea.  He talked to Preacher, then talked to the seniors, then talked to Preacher again.  Final decision:  Chad's ticket is fully paid for through Preacher's generosity, and the seniors are raising extra money to pay my way too!!!  Isn't that amazing?  I almost hugged Bro. Goltiao when he told me!  Ha!  So we are all working hard with every fundraiser that comes along to raise the extra money needed.  Dale is able to help out, and Chad, Katie, and I have all been steadily involved in helping make this dream come true.  We're so blessed by Preacher's and the seniors' love and generosity....and we're going to Disneyworld!!!

Do you remember I mentioned back in September that come Christmas I would need to scour those papers given to me at the neurologist's office concerning Dale' future as an adult?  Well, that time is almost upon me, and I'm starting to get uncomfortable flutters in my stomach whenever I think about it.  I realize time marches on (see top of post!), but I kind of wish things would simply stay this way forever so I would never have to think about possible futures.  I'm asking for a little extra prayer---I realize y'all have been praying for our family since August 5, 2011, and possibly before---but I truly need God's wisdom as I approach the reading of those all-important documents that will give us a glimpse into possibilities for Dale.  He will officially become an adult on January 6, 2017 (his birthday), and momentous choices must be made shortly thereafter.  So, please pray with us that God's voice will be heard and we humans will be listening.

Let's all make the special effort to bring God's cheer and God's light to those around us this wonderful time of year.  We Christians are God's presence to the world, so let's be sure we represent Him well.

Matthew 5: 16  "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven."

Saturday, September 17, 2016

This is it---Dale's senior year!

Wow! It's so hard to believe that Dale is a senior in high school this year! It seems like just yesterday he was a toddler in the nursery while I taught my first year of school, and now he's finishing his high school courses and preparing to graduate.  How time does fly!

This is a big year of changes and new horizons for all of us.  On August 23rd, we saw Dale's pediatric neurologist for the last time. (Sniff, sniff.) This is the same man who came to see Dale when he was in Good Samaritan Rehab about three weeks after his accident.  Dale had spent about 2 1/2 weeks at OHSU in Oregon, slowly making progress after the drowning.  He was transferred to Good Sam where he would undergo extensive therapy to try to establish how badly injured his brain was and how much of his natural abilities he would be able to regain.  We had only been there a couple of days when Dale had a full grand mal seizure, scaring the physical therapist and me half to death! We were on a cement staircase outside in the garden, and I was so thankful that she had already had a solid grip on the therapy belt Dale was wearing (worn for that specific purpose), for that was the only thing that kept my son from tumbling down the stairs and sustaining further injury. Dr. Al-Mateen was called in to assess Dale's neurological status, and our relationship with him was born.  He is the kindest man, very wise and respected in his field, always ready to listen to the ramblings of this mama when trying to explain Dale's symptoms (or jokes!). We've had the privilege of seeing Dr. Al-Mateen twice a year or so for the last five years, and it was incredibly difficult to say goodbye without crying.  I feel like we're losing a member of the family, one whom I could trust with the details of my son's condition.  But, since Dale will have turned eighteen by the time of the next six-month appointment, he can no longer see a pediatric neurologist; instead we were given a referral to an adult neurologist whom Dr. Al-Mateen works with to transition his patients to when they become adults. Another door closed….

Before we left the doctor's office, I was able to meet with a sweet, helpful lady whose job it is to answer all the myriad questions exploding in my brain---like "Does Dale qualify for some sort of disability that might help him take college classes online?" or "How do we know what paperwork to fill out?" She gave me a healthy sheaf of papers to read through which should help us when Dale turns eighteen.  We can't actually do anything until then, so I'm already planning on taking some time over Christmas break and getting ready to send in whatever forms are appropriate.

Please pray with us for Dale's future.  We honestly don't know what is going to happen, and there are so many unanswered questions right now.  I'm not one of those "go with the flow" people; I like order and answers and preparation.  This time of waiting is seriously causing me (and, thus, my family) stress, but it's also pushing me to my knees.  I need God's mindset and timing, but most of all I just need to trust.  Never easy to do but always the right idea!  So much remains up in the air, including any possible future online classes for Dale, job opportunities for him, my job situation, and so on.  Just pray that I, especially, will be willing to do what God wants when He says, not fight for what I think is best when He may have something better in store.

Dale's senior year started off with a bang.  Dale's neurology appointment was the same morning as the start of Teacher Orientation for this new school year.  Naturally, I could not be in two places at once, so I missed that morning's talk. Chad and the two youngest girls, Ashley and Emily, left to go camping for a few days that afternoon, leaving the house strangely quiet….and clean. Dale and I wound up staying until 8:00 that night at school, trying to get some work accomplished.  The following morning, Wednesday, Dale and I were getting ready to head for school for the next Teacher Orientation session.  Dale had not had to get up too early on Wednesday because my meeting didn't start until 9:00, which was a blessing since he had had to get up at 6:45 the previous morning to get to his doctor appointment! He seemed to be a bit unsteady on the stairs going down to breakfast, and when he reached the dining room, things absolutely fell apart.  Instead of turning and sitting on the chair, his foot caught and he landed awkwardly sideways on the chair.  His bottom was almost sliding off the chair, and his head was jammed up against the table.  I was trying to steady him, keep his head from hitting the table, and prevent him from sliding off the chair onto the floor when it happened---the dreaded seizure.  His brain couldn't handle the overload of panicked messages it was being flooded with, and it couldn't correct the problems, so it just shut down for a moment.  I had hold of Dale the whole time, but I shouted for Katie to come stand behind him, since I was really scared I couldn't keep him on the chair.  This seizure wasn't any longer than the others, but it was frustrating for Dale since we had just been able to tell the neurologist the day before that he hadn't had any seizures for a long while! Anyway, once the seizure released its hold, I was able to brace Dale better in his chair and wait for his senses to return.

Any time Dale has a seizure, he loses all abilities and is virtually paralyzed for a time until feeling returns.  His involuntary functions work steadily (lungs, heart), but he can't move his limbs, he can't see, he can't do anything except cry.  Having a seizure is scary, and Dale gets so upset about having to go through another one that he spend a few minutes crying at the top of his lungs in fear and frustration. Imagine how you would react, knowing all control was being forcibly wrested from you, plus not knowing what you might not get back.

So Dale's senior year (actually the week before school started) got off to a rough start.  Yesterday, also, Dale struggled in the morning.  He fell twice in the bathroom within a five-minute time period.  After the second fall, he just lay on the bathroom rug and had a short pity party---and I let him.  Everyone needs a feel-sorry-for-me time, even if just to get it out of their system.  I made the decision to slow things down, not continue the rush to get out the door to school, for Dale's sake.  He already knows that our family arranges our schedules, activities, and lives around him, for necessity's sake; this time, he needed to know that we do it because we love him and want what's best for him.  We took it easy getting down the stairs and made sure he got a good breakfast before actually heading for school.  The rest of the day was easier, since we had a home Football Jamboree, and the seniors (Dale included) got to man the concession stand all day.

I'm so excited about this next announcement!  We are currently working out the details/arrangements so that Dale will get to go on his senior trip!!! Chad and I didn't think this was possible until Preacher approached Chad and said he didn't think it was any great difficulty.  He referenced another disabled student who had been able to go on his own senior trip; this other student simply needed help getting into and out of cars and such, but the chaperones and other students made it happen.  So, we talked to Dale and the chaperones for this year, and we're working toward the goal of Dale getting to go.  I'm so excited for Dale!!! He's concerned that he will not be able to raise the kind of money it will take to go (because they've chosen Disneyworld as their destination), but he's working every concession booth he can to raise money, and he's going to participate in as many fundraisers as possible.  Praise the Lord!

Since this is Dale's senior year---and, as such, a major turning point in his life, I want to make this year as great as possible for him.  He already put lots of effort into making this year easier for himself academically by working so hard during summer school to get caught up so that he has started this year a full senior.  He's no longer making up lost time in English or any subject, just working toward passing the subjects he needs to graduate in June.  This meant he worked for several hours a day, five days a week, clear through the end of July, to get caught up.  His PACEs this year include Bible, English, Business Math, Health (1 semester), and Government/Economics.  He also takes choir in place of Bible one day a week, and he'll get to take Yearbook next semester once his health PACEs are complete, plus he gets to sit in the Government/Economics class hour with his fellow seniors.  I'm thankful he gets to be in at least one class hour with his classmates. I think Dale's mind is still in catch-up mode because, at the pace he has set for himself and as hard as he is already working, it seems like Dale is going to be finished with his PACEs in March!!!

So, as you can tell, our lives are just about as busy as always. It's amazing how much that one day five years ago has affected our lives, and yet time didn't stop for us. God's plan is not to get frozen in one instance or one situation, but to keep moving forward and keep growing and learning and adapting to life.  We were just discussing this in the car on the way (finally) to school yesterday morning: This world is not our home.  Everything we experience in this life, whether good or bad, is only temporary.  Those of us who have accepted Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour have an eternal home waiting for us which will make this earthly time seem so unimportant.  This is all we know for now, but God tells us to be patient, keep trusting, and tell as many others as possible about His Son, because one day, hopefully soon, we're going Home. The joys, the trials, the failures, the achievements of our time here on earth will pale with one glimpse of our Redeemer. So we keep living, we keep striving, we keep going, so that one day our Lord will be able to say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."  Treasured words, those.  God bless each of you.

II Corinthians 4: 16-18  "For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;  While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen:  for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."