Kenny was in much better shape yesterday. The swelling around his mouth has diminished considerably, and he was up and walking well...if gingerly...and that million megawatt Kenny smile was back. After leaving our friend's house I made the decision to allow Matthew and Joshua to stay up really late to surprise Dominick and Kenny and meet them at the plane. We had originally planned for them to just come home by themselves and we left our van at the airport, but none of us could stand it and so we came home, made some signs and as we heard the airplane overhead as it was beginning it's descent we rushed out to the car, giggling all the way. We live a mere 5 minutes from the airport and we see the runway lights from our backyard and saw their plane coming in for a landing. We jumped out of the car and rushed into the airport only to find our own wonderful surprise, our dear friends Jane and Steve stayed up WAY past their bedtimes to join us in welcoming Kenny and Dominick home! Balloon in tow (which had us laughing when Kenny saw it and called it a "bubble"...so we still need reminders once in awhile that he has only been home years...hahahaha!), they are a beloved and much appreciated part of "Team LaJoy's" extended family.
As you can see from the wild look in Joshie's eyes and the huge grin on Matthew's face, the boys were ecstatic that our "other boys" were coming home. I honestly don't know when I have EVER seen Matthew as wound up, it was hilarious as he was prancing around the terminal and you'd never ever have known he is usually our more sedate child. As we saw them coming in the terminal, last off the plane and moving slowly, Matthew hid to surprise them as Joshie peeked through the door.
And I think these next two photos are my greatest Mother's Day gift of all. It is not just the fact that Kenny and Dominick are back safe and sound where they belong, nor is it only that Kenny's surgery is over and he is doing well.
The one thought that kept going through my mind as I watched this all unfold through the viewfinder is how lucky I am that we have sons who truly love one another deeply, whose care and concern for each other is so precious to me and is one of the cornerstones of the foundation of our family. I don't really know how to explain it, but having kids who love us and we love is one thing...having children who share that love with one another is a blessing of a different kind and something that is often rare today. I have no idea if it is anything we have done to encourage it, if it is their backgrounds and life experiences, or what, but being a bystander in my own family sometimes is an awesome and oftentimes emotional thing. I never take it for granted, I can assure you of that.
While in Chicago, just an hour or two before I was to leave to get on the plane to head home, I was approached by Kally Schneider, Director of Public and Community Relations at Shriners in Chicago, and asked if I would be interested in speaking that afternoon to a group of fifty 5th graders who were visiting the facility. She knew I would be cutting it close, but I felt that it was the least we could do after all they are doing for us, so I quickly and happily agreed to do so. After she walked away, I asked Kenny if he wanted to do it with me, and he eagerly agreed to do so. Once again, my courageous Kenny put himself out there for the world, gamely going up on stage in his wheelchair with his swollen face. The point of the interaction was to talk about bullying and how special needs children are kids just like anyone else, and how hard it is to be teased and made fun of. I did most of the speaking as Kenny's mouth was still so swollen his words were even harder to understand than usual.
I received a very warm email from Kally afterwards, so I guess we went over reasonably well. Dominick and I were talking afterwards, about how often such things seem to happen to us. If you had asked me 10 years ago if I would be ever speaking in front of others in public, my knees would have knocked in terror. Today, although I still get the jitters it is becoming more and more comfortable, and when it is something I am passionate about it almost seems easy.
But what I love is that I feel God is using me, and I am often so surprised in the ways I am being called upon. What are the odds of being asked to speak at Shriners? We don't know anyone there! Or being asked if I would be willing to be interviewed on TV all the way in Kyrgyzstan? The twists and turns are always so interesting to me, almost as if I am watching my life from the outside looking in. For the past couple of years I have made it a habit in prayer to ask God to use me today in some way, to put me in positions where I can offer comfort or support to someone or to place me in circumstances where I can use whatever talents or gifts I have been given to help others. Most of the time I am not even sure what those talents or gifts are!! I don't have any idea if things happen because I am looking for those opportunities and am open to them, or if God is placing me at certain places at certain times. All I know is it is humbling and affirming to be used like this, and I hope it makes a difference somewhere along the line.
I made it back for my ministry class on Saturday, and loved every single moment of it. I had a sort of small epiphany on my drive up to Grand Junction where my classes are held. I was still holding onto some residual guilt about leaving Kenny (which a friend emailed and straightened me out about, thanks Wichita!), when I suddenly realized I really WAS doing what I was supposed to be doing. Dominick and I have made a strong commitment to my path to licensed lay ministry...not for any career plans or anything like that...but because we as a couple see how incredibly blessed we are and continue to be, and we can not ignore the call I feel. It is our way of thanking God for all that has been given us, which is beyond measure. Looking back on this past week when so many offered so much to us was a stark reminder...we have an obligation to fulfill, we need to pay it forward in the ways we can, however that may be. We have been blessed, we need to bless others as we can. We can never ever repay all that has been given us and continues to be given, but those who have provided for us in so many ways hopefully see we are not "takers", that we will also do all we can even if direct repayment can never be made. And even if we had NOT been given so much in so many ways, God has given us life and that alone is reason enough to want to reach out to others in care in the ways we can. Dominick does it indirectly by supporting our family so I am home and have more time to volunteer and take on projects. The kids understand when I do things like go with the teenagers for the weekend, as we explain it in just this way. I guess it is our entire family's way saying "Hey God...thanks so much!!".
So now life returns to normal, whatever that really is in the LaJoy house! hahaha! School is out in a week and a half and then we can begin our 3 months of fun and reconnecting after a busy winter and school year. How I love those summer days!!