Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Patient Season

Home at last, having arrived yesterday evening, I have pondered how I could approach writing this post.  The past week and a half have been an almost spiritual journey of sorts, unexpected and delightful in the midst of the pain and suffering of our beloved son.  How can one express that they experienced God in the heart of their child?  How can one speak to the spiritual maturity that was exposed, the affirmation of years of hard work revealing the most thoughtful, introspective, strong young man? How can one share how being met in deep friendship by another was like holding God's very hand?  I have no idea if I can fully give voice in mere words to all that was experienced the past ten days, but I'll give it a try.

It was on the long drive to Salt Lake City that it began, this wisdom sharing.  Traveling hours and hours across wide open spaces beneath crystal blue skies with nothing but our voices and our thoughts to accompany us, the conversation flowed gently, purposefully, thoughtfully, so rich in its content.  Surprisingly, we touched only briefly on the major surgery ahead, with Matthew saying he wasn't as scared as he thought he would be because the pain had grown so great he was actually looking forward to eventual relief.  I realized his suffering had been far more than had previously been shared with that statement.

Our family's financial future was brought up by Matthew, as we spoke about losing the airport contract and our need to find long term sustainable self-employment for Dominick.  It was there, in that very moment, when 15 years of faith-filled conversations, hundreds of sermons, and hours of listening to message filled music all came together in the words of our son.  I asked him if he was personally worried about what this meant for us, if he needed to talk about it to share what was going on inside.

Suddenly, my 15 year old son became a Man of Faith as he turned to me and said, "Mom, I feel it really is the right time for change in our family and I actually am not worried at all, though I know it is easy for me to say that because I don't have to provide for us.  I don't want you and Dad just
jumping at any opportunity because you are scared.  One thing I have learned through the years from you guys is that people tend to jump too fast and don't know how to wait on God to come through for them.  I think God has something better for us, and it may take us awhile to figure that out and hear God talking to us about it...and being patient can be scary."

Matthew then added, "Actually, I trust you and Dad because you listen for God every single time, and I know you will make a wise decision then work really hard at whatever we come up with.  I also trust our family to work together to make things happen, and to do without if it takes awhile.  I think I am more worried that fear will get in the way for you guys, and you might not wait for the thing God has ready for us.  But that's OK, if I see that happening, I'll be there to remind you."

And I reached out for his hand, and held it so firmly, speechless as the vast expanse of the desert lay before us, and the future seemed more secure than ever despite the very real uncertainty we are facing.

There were SO many moments on this medical journey that reflected a sense of maturity and being "tuned in" with Matthew that had never risen to the surface before.  They say that it in the face of adversity you see the real person emerge.  All I can say to that is that Matthew is a young man I admire very, very much and he showed his true self throughout the past couple of weeks in marvelous ways that were an affirmation of all we have tried to teach and model the past 15 years of our lives as parents.

So many of my posts are about the challenges and the rising to face them of our children, and yet I seldom speak of the gratitude I have for those very challenges that have allowed for the development of unique, wonderful, faithful young people of great spiritual and emotional depth.  We have been through some really hard experiences...some of them gut wrenching...and here we are, in the mid-teen years, and I don't think Dominick nor I could have ever anticipated the result of the molding and shaping that was going on throughout it all.  I heard via email from every single one of the kids throughout the trip, each one reaching out to reassure me of God's presence for us, each one mentioning praying specifically for Matthew's healing and peace for me, each one trying their best to offer loving support and care from afar...something that even some adults struggle with.

Our family is blessed with extraordinary friendships, and they have sustained us through so much.  While I was in Salt Lake City, our new friend, Candi, flew all the way out to spend the week with Matt and I to be a very present support and advocate when at moments we needed one.  That someone would go to such great lengths to be there and put their own very busy and complicated life on hold speaks volumes about the quality of human being they are, and our entire family was filled with gratitude to have someone there for Matt and I.  Back home, many of our nearest and dearest stepped up to cart the remaining members of Team LaJoy to and from work, volunteering, church and
Doesn't Josh look more and more like Matt in this picture?  Breakfast out for the ones at home!
more.  So much love surrounds us and carries us, and the modeling that has been done there for years and years is also a huge contributing factor to our kids becoming the kind and thoughtful young people they are today.  Breakfast out and shopping, a birthday dinner provided for everyone for Dominick while we were gone, and so much more all helped make a difficult time much easier, and we are so very thankful.

Matt's surgery went well, though they ended up doing more work than originally anticipated, using more hardware which may eventually have to be removed if it causes discomfort, but it will be a couple of years from now before we know if that is necessary.  They fused his spine at L5-S1 using a
different method than originally planned on.  We received constant compliments about Matt being a "super patient", and throughout he was polite and courteous to every single nurse and aide, even while completely drugged up and very uncomfortable.  What touched me even more though was how free he felt to express his love for me, and his appreciation for Candi's within moments of our arrival in the post-op room he reached for both of our hands and held on tightly, smiling and giving me the Three Squeeze "I love you" silent message that we have used together since he was a tiny toddler, but which hadn't made an appearance in quite some time.  It is rare that a 15 year old boy would willingly express their love for their mom in front of others, fearing they would lose their ability to be perceived as "cool", but Matt had no such reservations and I could see how it made everything easier for him to never have to worry about maintaining such a facade during an emotionally stressful time in his life.

He easily reached out in word and deed to offer and receive love and comfort, regardless of who was present, and his warm welcome and acceptance of Candi's presence...someone he had never before met...was sweet to witness and they quickly developed a witty and kind rapport that was the beginning of a relationship that will clearly have great meaning in his life.  That this could have happened during such a difficult time spoke to my heart deeply, for it reflected Matt's ability to be incredibly open hearted.

After his discharge, we all took up housekeeping at the hotel suite we were in, and fell into a pattern of restful days that allowed for healing for him, and for time to simply enjoy being together.  We couldn't tackle the long drive ahead without a few more days of healing, so we hunkered down and made ourselves at home.  Though we missed all of the family members who were not with us, the rhythm of our days and Matt's Oxycodone induced haze made for an oddly peaceful time of periods of great reflection, and "nothingness" as we simply entered into a time of "being".  We played games, we laughed over Matt's goofy "insights" while under the influence...something about a crazy chicken and Paul turning into Saul were talked about, along with the "inside joke" started by Matt of being an "Oxy Moron".  We caught a glimpse into the heart of Matthew as, during a more lucid moment, the three of us sat curled up on the bed looking at quotes and photos that Matt had saved on his iPad which were quite revelatory in nature, and I had the delightful experience of watching someone else fall a little in love with one of our children as Candi got to know him.

God appeared everywhere in lots of little ways, from the words Matt used to claim Candi as family and naming the unusual connection she and I seem to have as almost twin-like and matter of factly correcting the two of us when we talked about it being "weird", as he said something like, "Well, that is what happens when God is in the middle.  God is in the middle of our family, Candi is family, so it's all God and not weird at all."  Uh...yea...and I was totally "schooled" on that one by my kid.  Then there were his incredibly thoughtful insights over what it took to be a good leader in Civil Air Patrol and what he would be looking for in others as he moves toward planning for his leadership position at this years Encampment...he reflected such insight and understanding of what it takes to be a true mature leader, and I realized that the hundreds of hours spent on being very intentional with homeschooling to include a strong focus on Emotional Intelligence have really paid off, as it was automatic with him and I could see directly the application of so much I thought he had truly been ignoring.  It was as if God was patting me on the back a little, telling me, "See?  It wasn't wasted time!".

And now we are home, now we settle back into real life and face the biggest challenge thus to feed and clothe our family in the coming months, how to discern a new path for us all, how to keep all of this together and honor God throughout.  Living into being patient is what this season is all about...patience for slow healing, patience for God to point us in the right direction, patience to trust, patience to keep at it when it at times feels futile.

How I was reminded how worth it all it is!  It's not a race, it's about living into the fullness of any experience, good or bad, and reaping all it has to teach us.  I was also reminded that often, we don't see the results of God's work early on, as it can take years and looking backward to have your "ah hah" moment when you realize what was really going on and the progress that was made despite the fact that you had no clue if your efforts were paying off.  Steadfastness is highly underrated.

So here's to The Patient Season, may we live into it as fully as possible, and may we find joy smack dab in the middle of it all...

Sunday, February 01, 2015

All That Matters

It seems my vow to make certain I blogged a couple times a week has been broken yet again, but this time only because I was busily trying to prepare for leaving home again, and also because a lot is going on that is emotionally challenging and I am a little overwhelmed at the moment.

So let's backtrack, shall we?

When I last posted here, I was on the brink of an Excellent Adventure, heading off to Massachusetts to meet a new friend, Candi, whom I had developed a strong long distance friendship with.  Lo and behold, we both struck gold, and it was an amazing week spent getting to know one another in person.  What a delight it was to talk for hours and hours, to wander the coastline together in the brisk winter weather, to laugh and cry and celebrate together.  Never have I felt so connected to a friend, and though I was missing my family back home, it was a great gift to be "Cindy" for an entire week and to focus just on myself...something I don't think I've done in perhaps 20 years or more...maybe ever. Candi is the pastor of a small church, and she invited me to participate in worship with her so we offered a joint sermon in which we spoke about answering God's call in our lives.  

What a blessing it has been to stumble upon such a wonderful friendship with someone I ought to have never met. Actually, it was our beloved Miss Mary who introduced us via Facebook after having met Candi at a conference this past summer, and she kept gently nudging each of us to connect until finally we did, telling us that she just knew we had a lot in common and would be a good fit.  Man, was she many ways I have met my twin.  Seriously.  We have found so many unusual similarities in our lives that if we didn't know better, we would get a DNA test performed!  Candi has filled a gap I didn't even quite know existed, but surely felt.  Her deeply connected faith, her love of others, and her kindness are all great gifts in my life.  Nothing can be as sweet as meeting someone you know is "forever".  The challenge for us is living so far apart...

Here are a couple of photos of our time together:

Lunch after worship...and no, the color choices were not planned...we are just really that much alike that we weren't even surprised we selected the exact same colors without speaking to one another about it.

Dear friends make life so much richer, and our family has been blessed ten times over with "framily"...friends who become family. appears we will need them and their support now more than ever.  I learned upon returning home that we have indeed lost the contract at the airport for the restaurant, and as of May, we will lose our main source of income and an era will come to an end.  So I came home feeling so peaceful, so rested, so cared for, and WHAM, 3 hours later all was chaos in my heart, and fear overtook me.  I had not yet moved past the emotions of leaving behind a dear new friend and meaningful time together, and already we were on to the next crisis as only Team LaJoy seems to have happen to them.

I pulled inward for awhile, part of the reason I didn't blog or post much on Facebook...I just needed to be disconnected for a bit to grieve and process everything.  What are we going to do?  How are we going to feed and clothe everyone?  Why hasn't God done God's usual thing and whacked me over the head with a 2 x 4 with some insight about what our next step is?  I spent 3 or 4 days living in an unusual place for me...Terror City...and then things started to settle down in my heart, and we started getting busy brainstorming.  It is not as if we have not been proactive, and in fact we have spent the last 2 years actively searching for Dominick's next career.  At 50 years old, we have long known he can't physically detail cars forever, and we had an inkling we were not going to be at the airport much longer, so we have been checking out every possibility for a new business for him for at least 2 years.  Thus far, nothing has risen to the surface as "the thing", though we have been quite serious about a couple of opportunities.

So, we continue to pray, we continue to look, we continue to think and brainstorm...and did I say pray?  Yea, a lot of that going on around here.  The kids are handling the news fairly well, showing us great faith in our collective ability to figure it out and trust God.  Josh has struggled more, and as he said through his tears, "I don't know what to do...the airport has always been in my life, and I am scared about it not being there."  Blankies have been broken back out again and are being snuggled with around the house, which is quite telling as they had gradually drifted away over the past couple of years, so we know a great deal of insecurity is beneath the surface for him.  All four older kids offered to go out and get jobs to help support us, which touched both Dominick and I so deeply, but which we kindly declined saying we know everything will be OK and their job is to be students at the moment.  

But we will both admit it, we are very scared and trying hard to trust all will be well.  Somehow, it has to be, right?

In the meantime, we continue to press on, working hard, taking care of business, and moving forward.  We had a grand old time at the optometrist recently, as not one, not two, not three, but FOUR of the kids needed glasses!  Olesya already had them, but needed a stronger pair, and everyone else but Josh was suddenly joining Olesya and I in the "four eyes brigade"!  Angela opted for contacts,  but needed a backup pair of glasses.  Matt wanted contacts but can't seem to get them in his eyes, so it is glasses for now and he will keep trying to see if he can get them in.  Kenny is glasses only as he can't be certain he will remember to take care of them effectively.  All look wonderful in their new optical wear!  More importantly, all were stunned at all they had been missing...Here are pics of our 3 newest wearers:

Today, as I write this, suitcases are packed and beside the bed as Matthew and I head to Salt Lake City for his back surgery, which will be tomorrow.  So far, Matt is doing fine with it, but I know he is nervous as twice he has awakened and joined me late at night on the couch, admitting he is scared about the procedure.  I am sure that on the long drive together this afternoon, he will share and talk, and we will be able to be honest about his concerns.  He was offered the chance to go to work one last day today before leaving, but he declined, saying he'd rather be in church this morning, so that told me everything I needed to know about where his heart is right now.  We hope this will finally bring some much needed relief after years of pain and limitations, but it is scary for him and we don't even know for certain exactly what will happen during the surgery.  Malnutrition was likely the cause of the broken vertebra, and they don't know for certain if that will cause problems for the hardware holding solidly, so they are planning one type of procedure which will take 4-5 hours, but if they get in there and screws don't hold well, they will move on to try something different.  

Needless to say, we are all feeling a little helpless and praying for a great outcome for Matt.  I am so grateful not to be alone through this one, as Candi offered to fly out and be with me through the surgery. Dominick has to remain home to work and take care of the other kids, and others are so graciously pitching in to help with transportation, etc. so that he is not alone in handling everything. Our lives are not easily managed with just one parent around, and we will be gone about a week and a half. We are so blessed to have support, to be able to have the surgery for Matt in the first place, and to feel God's presence through others all around us.

Another couple of weeks have passed, but it  seems a lot happened during them.  We'd sure appreciate any prayers and thoughts thrown our way right now...for a successful outcome for Matt, for work opportunities for Dominick, for peace in all our hearts.  Team LaJoy will make it somehow, but this is definitely a very hard time in our lives.  It feels as if we are spiraling out of control, and yet we are all clinging to one another and know all will be well somehow.  I am not yet sure how, or what our life looks like in the coming months, but somehow, we will make it. We desperately want to remain here in Montrose, where all our support is, but are reminding ourselves that we need to remain completely open to God's leading, and if we do that, we will find ourselves in the best situation for us.  I can't imagine leaving home here, and am praying that we find a way to stay in our beloved community and still be able to support our family somehow.

Now it is time for me to close this with a couple more pictures, a strong reminder to me of what is most important in our lives...being connected to God, being kind to others, raising our children to be thoughtful and decent human beings who contribute to the world.  How we all love each other!!  How we will somehow manage to make it!!  Here are Kenny and Joshie, reflecting the love back to the world that they receive from so many others. When I saw this happening at the Food Bank, I was reminded to keep it all in perspective.  Continue to give back, continue to love others...that's all that matters: