Thursday, July 04, 2013

Freedom Fighters

Qavah woke up on July third and asked why Daddy had four days off work in a row. She hadn't been thinking of the upcoming July 4th holiday because we were busy with other things. But when she asked about Daddy's vacation I stopped to tell her about the Declaration of Independence. I found a picture book of early colonial life and taught her about that time in history. She listened carefully to my entire explanation of the events leading up to the signing of the document and the war that gave the colonies their freedom from British rule. As though this was all such important news, she was wide-eyed and asked, "So when did all this happen?" My brain doesn't function as well in the math department so I answered, "About 300 years ago." She pondered that for a moment and commented, "Oh, so it was before you and Daddy got married." I guess those two events seem like a long time ago to her way of thinking. 

Ronald Reagan once said, "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed down to them to do the same." How true, and how necessary for us as parents and grandparents to help our children grasp the truths of our freedoms as stated in the Constitution. We finished up our homeschool session that morning with a little lesson on the flag of the United States, and the meaning behind the July 4th holiday. Please enjoy your celebrations this weekend. And may God continue to bless America to the next generation.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

More Than A Wedding

We arrived at the Uwharrie National Forest (North Carolina) in plenty of time to move into our little cabin and return to Oak Lodge for the beginning of the most unique wedding I have ever attended. It was designed to celebrate the union of not just two people, but two families. Entering the lodge, I noticed a clothes line with bright and beautiful aprons lining the walls. They hung merrily in a row and the ladies attending the wedding were asked to claim one of the aprons for their own. The bride's mother and the groom's mother spent considerable time making all of the bridesmaids' dresses, the groomsmen's shirts, the aprons, and table runners. The mothers had already had time before the wedding to bond, to sew, and to dream of the coming years. So upon our arrival, there was an ease of conversation, and comfortable levels of familiarity among both families. Every attention was given to our family dietary restrictions and I was touched by the mother of the bride giving so much thought to a menu that would meet the needs of so many people.

Wes, our nephew, and Lillie, our soon-to-be niece sat with the guests and enjoyed playing card games and interacting with everyone. Their desire was for everyone in attendance to have a great time, and they wanted to be a part of the fun as well. As they sat up late playing games, and enjoying the live music of brothers, friends, and cousins, they were making memories of their wedding weekend that I hope they will enjoy for a lifetime.

The morning of the wedding we all pitched in to help set the stage for the wedding. Aunt Jacqui's floral designs boasted rich colors of orange, yellow, and green.  With handmade streamers strung, chairs set up, musicians practicing, tables set, and dinner in the oven, the bride along with her attendants dressed in the Maple Lodge and the men dressed in the Oak Lodge. There was a feeling in the air that was precious. The intentional effort on the part of the couple to unite our two families had worked so beautifully that I overheard the bride's brother say that he wanted Paul Burton in his wedding someday. Of course he said that just after Wes and Lillie opened the gift Paul Burton had made for them which was a handcarving of their two family crests mounted on a plaque with a sword and engraved Bible verse.  

The ushers seated Paul and me in the outdoor chapel that had been created just steps away from Oak Lodge. As birds sang, Paul Burton and Conner (friend of the bride) played music on the violin and harp, and Colin and Jennifer sat behind us with our five grandchildren. Kathryn sat beside me holding my hand, and I knew she was loving every moment of the experience.  I looked ahead of me at Mom and Dad, married sixty-seven years, and had to snap a picture to remind me of their years of faithfulness to each other which has set a good example for the rest of us. Words really cannot express what was in my heart after being cooped up in a hospital room for nearly a year. I felt a deep sense of gratitude and freedom just to be able to be in the wide-open space of that outdoor setting, and to share the experience with my whole family. It was also one of those memorable times that makes one smile for months afterward. 

Qavah came down the aisle first and Paul and I cried. I remembered the day several months before when Lillie called me in Pittsburgh to ask if Qavah could be her flower girl. I prayed so hard for her recovery, and on the afternoon of June 8th 2013, when I saw that little peanut striding down the aisle tossing her flower petals, I could hardly see for all of the happy tears. 

To God be the glory for the marriage of Wes and Lillie and the union of our two families. To Him be all praise for the beautiful sunlit day He gave to them, and to us. I'll take this opportunity to thank the Talbott and Templeton families for such a great experience.  Elaine and Judy, I love my apron. Sometimes when no one is looking, I dance around the kitchen in mine. It's a dance of joy.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Front Porch Play

Having the four grandchildren last week was a lot of fun for us, and for them. The weather was overcast with periods of rain for four days straight. Not being able to contain them indoors any longer, Kathryn and I brought some ride-on toys to the front porch where they could still be outdoors and stay dry when the rain fell. One day I started thinking about how our screens pop out of the windows and that they were just about the right height to create the McCampbell drive-thru restaurant.

While I made lunches, I asked the older kids to find the pirate coins and make some paper money. They finished their project about the time I finished making lunches. What fun to see them "drive up" to the window to receive their lunches and pay me with money they had made themselves! They got such a kick out of it that they have already told me that they want to do it again.  When I play with children I feel God's pleasure. They are always ready to pretend and create. I find that to be refreshing for my own soul when real life is hard. I hope that my Lord's eyes were smiling as He watched what I had done with the morning He had given me. 

Thank you God, for the creativity to enter in to the play and pretend world of children. It reminds me that to You, I am still Your child.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Dedicated to Brave Moms Everywhere

There is a particular kind of woman I want to praise today in this Mother's Day post. She's every mom everywhere who has had to take the high road and choose a loving response over a negative reaction. To Claire's mom, who wrote in her Caring Bridge journal that after being up night after night with her sick little Claire, heard her scream, "I hate you mommy," just before hurling her princess toothpaste tube from across the room into mommy's back. And her mom responded, "steroids, those nasty things." And this dedication is for moms who helped to hold their baby's arms down while blood was being drawn for the purpose of checking tumor markers. And to the moms I have known who released their children to God, either though an accident or illness, knowing it would be many years before they would see their children again in Heaven. 

Moms have a special kind of ability to do what is needed with an amazing amount of grace. To all these mothers I just want to pat you on the back and say a hearty heart-felt word of gratitude for showing the world that children have worth.  God values them, and we should too. And even when they grow up to do nasty or mean things, they are precious in the eyes of God, and He sacrificed  His only Son on Calvary to insure His covenant would extend to them.

There is one more group of women to commend in this writing. I want to thank the women who made an adoption plan when they recognized the child they were carrying would need a home. They are mothers to be celebrated today too.  They may possibly be imagining what their child looks like on this Mother's Day, and if they made a good decision.  If I could talk to the two women who gave birth to my two adopted daughters I would say, "thank you for giving God the final authority in the matter of your baby's life. He chose us to parent your babies, and what a blessing they have been." Happy Mother's Day to all. 

Monday, May 06, 2013

Marriage; What It Is

It has been a  dark gloomy day in the Valley. The cold air and dark clouds had arrived yesterday, and by mid afternoon today, the days of predicted rain had begun. I would feel hemmed in if not for the internet and the connection to the world it is for me. On this cold day I have some things to think about to warm my heart, and if you want to join me, grab a cup of coffee or tea and settle in for a while.

Paul and I have been looking forward to finding time to be together for a few days without any responsibilities. Recently we have had a friend volunteer to come for a couple of weeks to stay with the girls so that we can take a break. Qavah still needs daily care and while I am not quite ready to hand over the responsibility of her central line; that offer started us dreaming! Now we are like kids at the candy store with twenty dollars to spend. We have been on the internet and searched our hearts to know what a true vacation would be for us. It didn't take long to settle on something. We have set our hearts on a trip to Israel, and have been dreaming about it daily ever since. The trip wouldn't be until next spring, but every day we have started to look forward to the trip by searching for the best hiking shoes and clothing for warm days and cold night. We imagine ourselves hiking the trail  where Jesus walked, and talking to Him as we walk through our day. It's a forty mile hike from Nazareth to Capernaum and we hope to do it in six days. To see some of the beautiful trail and read more about it, here is a place to start: 

We have put many vacations on "hold" in our lives, thinking we will get to take time for each other eventually. Then having lived in the bone marrow transplant unit for eight months we learned that "eventually" isn't guaranteed to anyone. I picked Paul up from work on his lunch hour today and we went to Gander Mountain, a store we have never visited. After all, hiking was for other people who had time. Today we looked at walking shoes, just for the fun of it. And even while I picked them up and turned them over in my hand, I dreamed of slipping them on in the early morning as the sun is rising over Israel.  Our dream has become a topic of conversation and we find ourselves caught up in the joy of planning the journey. I hope the joy continues because now we start the dieting and exercising to give us the stamina to walk and not grow weary. 

Paul and I have shared so many wonderful moments together. Many of those moments are tucked in our memory for later review, when time and experience causes us to appreciate them even more. One day at a time turned into forty years of history. We've had many adventures and misadventures, and I suppose, Lord willing, as we walk along together in Israel we will be thinking of some of those times. But I also know that new adventures await us as we age, and no one knows the infirmities lying around the bend. As the years take hold of our faces, once smooth skin looks more like a relief map on the road to the journey's end. But oh how sweet to live with the one who knows the girl inside, and how she still likes to laugh. And the sweetness of knowing which coffee beans he prefers to make the best morning coffee to start his day. With all of those years of history, a picture is being painted for the world to see.  The Scriptures speak of the marriage relationship in Ephesians 5 :32-33 as the earthly relationship that depicts the love Christ has for us.  With God's help, the better we are at loving our spouse the better the world around us will understand the unconditional love of God. 

I recently discovered this story of William and his beloved wife. You'll want to watch both features. Please enjoy them, their story will bring my words to life.

Friday, May 03, 2013

The 1950's

Our nine-year-old daughter Qavah is slowly starting to read. With more oxygen going to her brain since her bone marrow transplant, she is thinking more clearly, and able to comprehend the formation of words using letters. We are starting out with the same Sally, Dick, and Jane readers we used with our other three kids. I have observed that after a session of reading, Qavah will call Paul "Father" instead of "Daddy," just as Sally, and her siblings do. The little stories are usually quite simple, but that doesn't matter to Qavah. She's learning.

We live a simple life, much like the one in the Sally, Dick, and Jane, readers. My girls prefer puffy dresses, my boys are respectful, and I enjoy cleaning our home and cooking for my family. Around five o'clock I can be found re-applying lipstick before my husband Paul arrives home from work. The boys are grown and out of our nest now, but we girls greet Daddy at the end of his work day with hugs and kisses of appreciation.  Most days we sit down to a home-cooked meal to eat dinner together at the table. It sounds like a scene from the nineteen-fifties, doesn't it?  I hadn't really thought about how much my life resembled the classic story-book life of Sally, Dick, and Jane until recently. 

Last week I was listening to a speech our President made to a group of abortionists. He said that the pro-life movement would prefer to go back to the fifties. He meant it in a derogatory way, of course. But as I thought about growing up in my neighborhood, east of Detroit, I remembered those years fondly. Everyone I knew on my street had a daddy. Everyone on my street respected the property, and we children called the adults by Mr. and Mrs. I remember that the church located at the end of our street made it so that whole families would leave their homes together and walk to church, with mom and dad out front and several kids following behind.  And the cry of my heart when I heard my President was this, "Lord, please help me to reflect the benefits of knowing You to a world that has strayed far from the nineteen-fifties values, and You."

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

COMING SOON: The New Campbell Family Journal

Having spent months inside the small hospital room where our daughter received her bone marrow transplant, I had plenty of time to think and pray. It was during that time I had the idea to change my blog. Previously I used The Campbell Family Journal for updates on the health of our two daughters, however, I soon found that I enjoyed journaling my thoughts. The more I journaled, the more clearly I could see the way God was reflecting His own image on my heart. He helped me to think things through and share them in a way that resonated with others. I feel so humbled when someone mentions my writing as a "good thing." It is a surprise even to me, and I know it is a gift from God. I wouldn't have thought to do it on my own.

Included in my new blog will be daily devotional quotes I have gathered, and links to the sermons I listen to in order to fill my mind with good things. I want those who stop by my blog to feel as though they have stopped by my front porch, to sit awhile, and to glean with me the harvest of good things God is doing in this world. If you feel like relaxing on a porch swing in the South, and taking in refreshment, you'll like the new look and read of The Campbell  Family Journal. I hope to see you there in just a few days. My hope is to launch this new endeavor by May 5th. 

Thank you for your prayers and encouragement over the past year while our daughters have been through some very tough health challenges. We feel so blessed to have been able to cope, and get through it with God's help, and the care of our praying family and friends. I'll see you back here soon. Thank you for stopping by today and finding that Mr Snowy has been packed away, and spring is well under way.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Mr. Snowy

A few weeks before Christmas we were coming back to the Ronald McDonald House for the night after a long day at the hospital. The elevator doors opened to the tenth floor and there stood Mr. Snowy; a wonderful white Christmas tree dressed as a snowman welcomed us. The students of Trinity School of Nursing had come here to decorate the tenth floor for the holidays. They put so much time and detail into their work; and I really appreciated it. I went upstairs to the office to find out who I could thank for making our Christmas merry and bright. I told the office staff how much I appreciated everything the staff had done to make our Christmas so special, especially Mr. Snowy. There were so many little things like that happening in the hospital and the Ronald McDonald House, that it was nearly impossible to thank everyone.

Two weeks ago the decorations came down and we missed Mr. Snowy immediately. While we were with Qavah at the hospital all signs of Christmas had disappeared, and the starkness of the hallway reminded me that this is a well-run organization that had to keep moving forward for the sake of keeping the hallways clean and prepared for the next holiday. One night last week we were coming back to the apartment late. It was after midnight when we arrived at our apartment door, and standing proud and tall at the doorway to our apartment stood Mr. Snowy with a sign on his branches.  It was like seeing a friend standing there, and the note was signed by the Ronald McDonald House staff and Trinity School of Nursing. They gave us Mr. Snowy to take home! I think when I set him up next year, I will remember with fondness the many special moments we have had here in Pittsburgh. The people of Pittsburgh deserve to have this institution of healing in their city. They welcome little ones from around the world, and care for their families as they face the toughest challenges in life.

Paul, Kathryn, and I are packing up boxes, feeling more certain day by day that Qavah will be discharged to home next week. Mr Snowy was dismantled and boxed up for the ride home. It is with great love and gratitude that I write this post to remember the people of Pittsburgh who loved us and cared for us particularly through the Christmas season. We are thankful to God for their love and blessing.

Families awoke on Christmas morning to presents outside of the apartment doors

Each door was decorated to reflect Pittsburgh's winter weather

Mr. Snowy

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Daddy, I NEED YOU!

Qavah has a common reaction to painfully miserable circumstances. She calls for her Daddy. I had just brought her back to the hospital last night around six o'clock. She was experiencing severe pain in her legs and wrists. The doctors are now looking at her problem from every possible angle, but as I was putting her into her hospital bed, Paul called to see how our day was going. She was moaning and crying, so it became obvious to him that things were not going as well as they were in the morning when we had spoken. I had just put the phone on speaker mode, and Paul heard Qavah cry out, "Daddy, I NEEEEED you!"

Within a couple of hours, Paul packed up his clothes, gassed up the car, stopped at the store for some  snacks, and drove all night to get here at four this morning. We spoke by phone for a good part of the trip so that he would not get sleepy. I looked at him this morning sitting beside Qavah's pillow and stroking her head. I sat across the room on the sofa watching him gaze at her. It was still dark in the hospital room and there was a glow from the nightlight shining on the two of them. I was so touched by that scene and the lengths a Daddy will go to meet the need of a child crying out to him. An idea formed in my mind that became crystal clear. That's what our Heavenly Father promises to do when we cry out for help from Him. 

Oh Lord, because of the scene I witnessed last night in Qavah's room, I can better imagine you coming swiftly to us, and sitting beside us when we call to you. There was no hesitation for an earthly father to run to the aid of his child. How much swifter You are to reach the cry of your children when they call! Thanks be to You dear Father, for keeping your word.

"I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.  You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart." -Jeremiah 29:11-13

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Church

I am The Church
You are The Church
We are The Church together
All who follow Jesus
All around the world
We are The Church together.

When a group of children sing this simple Sunday School song, they probably don't understand how much theology they already have committed to memory.  To be a Christian, and to join in worship with The Church Universal, is a powerful testimony to our unity in Christ. Together with Christian congregations all around the world, we worship the One true God. When we pray for one another, bear one another's burdens, and join in as an active participant in the life of the church, "we are The Church together."

In a telephone conversation I had with my Pastor tonight, I explained that we could not have managed this year without the prayer support of our church behind us. Intercessory prayer offered up from many church congregations praying for Qavah and Kathryn has given us the strength to continue to stand in the face of adversity. Sports teams have cheerleaders for a reason. When the game is on, and the going is tough, we need to hear those on the sidelines cheering. We, The Church, are called to be cheerleaders, or encouragers to the saints. A call from our Pastor to say, "we continue to pray," a note left on Caring Bridge, scripture verses shared by a friend; all of these things have been steadily woven into the fabric of this story. We are so grateful for "The Church."

This Christmas, Qavah opened a gift made by The Hands of Hope at St. John Lutheran Church, our home church in Roanoke. The gift was a tied quilt. And each of the squares had an embroidery thread stitched to it, and the thread needed to be tied for the quilt to be completed. The quilt was left in the prayer chapel and each person who came into the prayer chapel to pray for Qavah, knotted off one of the ties within the squares. The quilt represents a whole church. Prayer warriors and cheerleaders united to send a message to Qavah. There is a church waiting for her at home, where she will take her place among the members, and join them in their work for the Kingdom.  Thanks be to God.

Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Princess Fun

I noticed immediately when I saw Kathryn that her limp has improved greatly since I last saw her, and her new hip joints are working beautifully. She is walking all over the place without pain and loving it. She had arrived at the Ronald McDonald House fairly late on Christmas Eve so Paul stayed at the hospital overnight with Qavah while Kathryn and I were able to stay up late, talk, and have a cup of tea together. We had the apartment to ourselves. We had a great time and got caught up on all of the adventures she was able to have at Holiday gatherings with friends. We girls have been playing princess and enjoying girl time ever since. Paul is definitely outnumbered. We invited him to watch a movie with us last night in Qavah's hospital room. He accepted our invitation but stated firmly, "No fairy princess movies!" I guess all men have their quota, and this year Qavah has pushed him to his limit! 

Monday, December 24, 2012

In Line to see Santa

The ninth floor is very quiet tonight. Perhaps it is the Holy Hush of Christmas, or just that many children have been given a pass to go home for the night. Those of us remaining here seem to have time to chat, and the slower pace is very welcome. I stopped to talk to the nurses a few minutes ago and they were gathered at the nurses' station discussing the many pictures they are seeing on a popular social website this year. Friends and family have posted hundreds of pictures of children sitting on Santa's lap bawling their eyes out. Is it the color red that sets them off? Is it the bushy white beard? What could it be that so many children sit on Santa's lap and scream "rescue me" in a child's universal cry language? One of the nurses commented that they cry so hard the picture is most unflattering. Or as she described it, "tears and snot everywhere!"

After that conversation, I walked down the hall to the sunroom and plugged in the tree lights because it is Christmas Eve. I also found some Christmas music for the CD player that sits under the tree.  As the music plays, Paul and Qavah are sitting together out there and I have come back to Qavah's room for a quiet moment. With the conversation with the nurses fresh on my mind, I wonder what it is about Santa that brings parents with little ones out to the malls every year to wait in long lines for their moment with Santa. Is it simply tradition? Do we hope that a meeting with Santa will bless them in some way, the way Jesus blessed the children? These are questions that don't really have one answer, I suppose. But it does seem more than ever that the birth of Jesus and the coming of Santa compete for our heart's affection at Christmastime, even in Christian homes.

I can't help but wonder what our nation would be like if on Christmas morning there were long lines of families with children waiting to get into our churches to worship the Newborn King. If Children were dressed in their finest, and led by the hand to the place where God's people welcome children, wouldn't that speak love to their little hearts?  If our church doors were open tomorrow and we taught them about the unconditional love of God, whether they are "naughty or nice," wouldn't they cherish Him more than a man in a red suit who can't deliver what he promises?

I am contemplating these things more than ever this year. If seven months in the bone marrow transplant unit has taught me anything, it is to value what is most important. I am celebrating the birth of Jesus tonight inside the Children's Hospital, and it just might be the very best place to celebrate. I am clinging to His promises, and praying for Christmas miracles for the children here. Just down the hall are the rooms where Jamie, Garrison, Kristina, and Johnny were ushered into heaven by the angels. Perhaps even some of the angels present at the birth of our Messiah accompanied them from their rooms on 9B to their mansions in Heaven. What could be more glorious than to sit here and think of the riches in heaven where Jesus our Messiah awaits us, and where The Promised One wipes every tear from our eyes. 

Lord, help us to bring our children to You, and to edify You more than Santa by our speech. We praise You Father, for sending Your Son. We praise You for making Him known to us. Not just on Christmas morning, but in the moments of every day. Quiet our hearts with Your love, and thank You that in Your presence there is peace, no matter where we are.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving for All Things

Southwest Airlines went all out last night in the Ronald McDonald kitchen and supplied all of the families with a delicious home cooked turkey dinner with all of the side dishes we all love on this holiday. The canned drinks and cups were supplied by the airline, and about twenty employees worked together to bless each and every family here. We all said "thank you" to them, but truly, our hearts were overflowing with Thanksgiving and words just didn't seem enough. For a brief time it just seemed like we were family, and we had gathered to celebrate. I would guess there were over a hundred people at dinner and the food never ran out.  I am daily reminded that God is supplying the needs here in many remarkable ways. It may never make the headline news, but if it did, we might all feel better about the world. Good news is as nourishing for the soul as good food is for the body.

In other family news, Kathryn has applied for a "dream job" and we are praying that if this is a gift from God, she will know soon. Paul Burton is waiting to hear whether he will be accepted in VCU's Nurse Anesthetist program for next fall, and Qavah continues to improve. No one has talked about her going home, or even going to the McDonald House, but I think if she continues to improve, we may hear some talk about that next week. As each of our children are in a position to wait on the Lord, we have a lot in common with each other. Our faith is being built. And I think I speak for all of us when I say our desire is to continue serving the Lord right where we are until he moves us on.

I feel especially thankful tonight for the opportunity to witness great things in this hospital. Several children have gone home healthy after their bone marrow transplants.  Many children on this floor were healthy enough to leave for the holiday weekend too. In a recent conversation, we "moms of 9b" agreed that we had no idea last Thanksgiving how much our lives were about to change, and how much more our gratitude would increase as a result. Thanks be to God for all of His perfect gifts.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Does Being a Christian Mean an Easy Life?

Abdul has completed his forty days of fasting and prayer in Nigeria. We miss him as our hospital chaplain, but we also know that he is following God's call on his life. He will remain in Africa for a couple more months. Just as he had finished his commitment to the Lord I got a call from his wife. She has been working and caring for the four children while Abdul is away.  She told me she had been placed on leave by her employer and was being investigated for a complaint of abusing someone. We began to pray in earnest for the facts to reveal that this was untrue. I never believed for a minute that she would do such a thing, but I know that Satan is the accuser of the brethren, and we prayed that this serious accusation would be addressed and have a good outcome for her.

After an investigation, it was discovered that Abdul's wife couldn't possibly have committed the offense, and she was given a new post nearer to her home, pay for her enforced one week vacation, and an apology for all she had been through. This is a true story of real people who follow the Lord, committed to doing His will, and who hold fast to the belief that God is in control in all circumstances. We are praising God for the good outcome, but also recognize that in this world, we all will have troubles of every kind. And many times these things happen to the most committed Christians. Thanks be to God for His protection when we are under attack.

We have had similar things happen to us in the past few months. One day the spiritual battle we were in was so obvious I burst out singing a church bus song that I hadn't thought of in a while. It goes like this, "One, two, three, the devil's after me. Four, five six, he's always throwing sticks....." I learned it as a child, and  it seemed appropriate that I would recall it. Just the fact that we are in this world we will have troubles. But the battle for our minds, and the attempt to discourage us is Satan's game of choice I think. But we don't have to play along, because we are more than conquerors if we are armed and ready for the attacks. The song concludes, "seven, eight, nine, he misses all the time, hallelujah, hallelujah, Amen!"

We have overcome many battles on many fronts recently; praise be to God our refuge and our strength! To add to our joy, we just learned that Colin and Jennifer are blessing us with a new grandchild in May. According to God's word, no weapon coming against us can prosper, and with the promise of new life, the blessings continue to flow. We have so much to be thankful for and I recognize that every day is another season for Thanksgiving.

Jesus said, "I have said these things to you, that you may have peace. In the world you will have trouble.  But take heart, I have overcome the world."   John 16:33

Monday, October 22, 2012

Kathryn's New Joint

For most 28 years olds having a new joint would mean having a new apartment or a sweet new place to call home. For Kathryn it means a new leg to stand on. Her left hip is healing nicely, although there is much more swelling and bruising on this side compared to the right hip. She is making progress every day.  She is sleeping for long stretches now without pain medication during the night. A delicious deep sleep seems to be reviving her the most. We have been reading from her new Bible, and listen to music and sermons throughout the day. With Paul and Qavah in Pittsburgh the quietness in the house is amplified. So much so, that when the phone rings, we jump because of the startling noise.

The sunshine filtered through the windows all afternoon and there is more sunshine in the forecast for the rest of the week. It has certainly lifted our spirits.  We are content and have so much to be thankful for. I read this to Kathryn first thing this morning, and it has been a comfort all day.

Your arm is mighty, your hand is strong,
Your right arm is lifted high.
Righteousness and justice are the foundations of your throne;
grace and truth attend you.
How happy are the people who know the joyful shout!
They walk in the light of your presence Adonai.
They rejoice in your name all day and are
lifted up by your righteousness, for
you yourself are the strength in which they glory.
Our power grows by pleasing you, for our strength
comes from Adonai - Our king is the Holy One of Israel.
Psalm 89:14-18

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Happy Tears

We turned onto our street at two-fifteen this morning.  Qavah was awake and got very excited about pulling up to our driveway.  At first she pointed to the house stating, "There it is!"  Then her voice cracked and she tried to get out the words, "I can't believe I am home at last!"  By the time I shut off the van ignition and Paul Burton came out to the car to help us, Qavah was bawling into her hands and we could just make out the words, "Happy tears, happy tears!"  Paul Burton carried Qavah into the house where a middle-of- the- night party had been planned by Paul Burton and Kathryn.  Dimly lit candles flickered on the table.  There was a bottle of sparkling grape juice ready to be poured into little goblets, and pastel colored balloons hanging from the woodwork. It was like stepping into a dream with Qavah.  She wiped her tears and we just stood in the quiet house by candlelight thanking God for several minutes.  We were home, and surrounded by love.  Although it was just the five of us, I had the feeling that we were surrounded by hundreds of angels and a great cloud of witnesses.

I just want to thank the friends who came to help Kathryn with Qavah's room, and general cleaning.  It was so fresh and clean!  Even fan blades were dusted, which made the house healthier for Qavah to come home to.  We laid Qavah into her bed at three-thirty, and had my camera been handy, I would have had a picture of pure bliss for you.  You'll have to imagine Qavah's face glowing with joy as she snuggled in.  What an amazing adventure.  One that required faith, and perseverance.  When we raise our juice glasses in a toast, my husband said, "To my three girls, who never, ever give up!"  Thanks be to God, Who gave us the strength to see us through to this grand homecoming. 

They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. Psalm 126:5

Saturday, September 08, 2012

The Future

I have been watching Qavah sleep for the past two hours, thankful to God for the blessing of sleep.  Her pain level was so high the nurse used three different drugs to put her into a deep enough sleep to be at rest.  I had a flashback tonight while I was waiting for the drugs to take over and give her relief.  It was a scene from last Fall. She was dressed like a princess and walked down the isle of a church throwing rose petals at her cousin's wedding. She tossed them with a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye.  She was so lovely, and  I knew how much it meant to her to be with family, and to see her cousins.  She has since worn the flower girl dress for a fancy tea party with Annelise.  The pictures in my memory are so vivid that they were a gift to me over the past two hours.  I am imagining her back on her feet, twinkling with joy, and as long as I hold that picture in my mind, despair becomes a fleeting thing.

Next June, another cousin is getting married and Qavah doesn't know it yet, but she is going to be asked to be a flower girl. I can sit beside her hospital bed and imagine what a day of rejoicing that will be; for the happy couple, and for Qavah.  There are many beautiful moments in store for her.  My prayer tonight is, "Lord, hasten the day."

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  Hebrews 11:1 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Blessing of Obedience

Our instructions on Qavah's care included restrictions.  Just before she was discharged from the hospital the doctor said, "No crowds, shopping centers, or crowded movie theaters for another two months." He didn't say church.  This morning we dressed for church and took Qavah in her frilly dress, pink hat, white gloves, and face mask.  She patiently wore the mask for two hours during the service and afterward.  Paul and I sat in the pew with Kathryn and Qavah feeling victorious in the struggle for wholeness for our girls.  The congregation at Shoresh David has been praying for us and it was a victory for them as well to witness how the Lord has lifted up Kathryn and Qavah.  The sermon was based on the "heart" of obedience.  As we listened, we shed some tears, but they were tears of joy. Paul and I feel as though we are here in Pittsburgh living out our walk of obedience, and finding God to be faithful and true. To some, I suppose our adoption of the girls is a curious thing; friends our age are now retired and downsizing while we are in the midst of starting over.   

Obedience sometimes looks a little unconventional, like Noah building a boat the length of two football fields in preparation for a flood when the sun was shining.  This morning, my silver-haired husband carried Qavah in his arms to the front of the church with the strength of a young man. It was time for the blessing of the children.  Children gathered under the outstretched prayer shawl and stood under its shelter as the blessing was proclaimed over their lives.  The blessing included asking God for their hearts to be courageous as they live out their life purpose, and that they would claim their inheritance as children of the King.  The steadfast love of the Lord was pictured there for me as Qavah rested in the arms of a father who loves her unconditionally.  

Lord, let me follow you in obedience to the hard places, and in those hard places, feel Your everlasting arms around me.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Needed: Nerves of Steel

Late this afternoon Kathryn and I left for the grocery store and I gave Paul all of the instructions he needed to check Qavah's blood sugar and advised him regarding her snacks.  He let her watch a movie while he finished up his work day.  Then he decided to walk up two flights of stairs, retrieve our laundry from the dryer, and come back to Qavah.  His plan didn't work as he had hoped. Qavah didn't wait in the room. While Paul waited for the dryer to finish Qavah went on an adventure.  She put on her jacket and face mask and decided to walk over to the hospital to check out her old room and say hi to the nurses.

When Paul got back with the laundry, I was just walking in with groceries.  I asked where Qavah was, and we both dashed around the apartment looking for her when we realized she was missing. I ran to a phone to report her missing while Paul followed his hunch and went over to the hospital. On his way through the corridor, a nurse came walking toward Paul with a smiling Qavah!  "We love to have you visit us Qavah, but only with your Mom and Dad," she explained.  She handed Qavah over to Paul and the two of them headed back to the apartment.  Paul phoned me immediately and I cancelled the search.

For about fifteen minutes today we were frantic.  Not because Qavah would intentionally get into mischief, but because we no longer live in a world where little girls and boys are safe to be out on their own.  Qavah was able to follow people through two security doors and work the elevator on her own.  We are torn between thinking she was foolish, and yet, proud of her for being so resourceful.  She made it all the way to the ninth floor of the hospital and went back to her old room to see if anyone had moved in.  She had a wonderful time, and had some hugs from friends. 

Qavah feels good enough to walk a long way, she feels like seeing visitors, and she enjoyed her outing today.  While she was very sick, we were hoping for her full recovery and today was proof that that day has come.  Now we can say she is back to being an ordinary kid. Now we ask for your prayers for wisdom and strength to withstand the shocking things kids can do as they are growing up.  Being a parent takes nerves of steel.

Friday, August 10, 2012

New Life

I took the girls outside to the cafeteria patio last evening just before returning Qavah to her hospital room for the night.  I couldn't resist the sunset.  The air was mild and the girls sat together on one of the lounge chairs while I snapped a picture.  This photograph is filled with the goodness of God. Kathryn is walking using her brand new hip, without getting weary. Qavah has a completely new blood supply and the doctor told me yesterday that she is now healed of Diamond Blackfan Anemia. Her new bone marrow is working strong, and even her immune system is up and beginning to function two months ahead of schedule.  I look into the girls' faces and know that I am seeing the evidence of God at work, and my heart is giving Him a standing ovation.

Sunday, August 05, 2012


Paul and I left Pittsburgh at ten o'clock in the morning on Saturday and drove until we met up with Kathryn and Paul Burton.  They started out about the same time heading north while we drove south.  Because of a traffic jam on I-81, Paul Burton and Kathryn sat in traffic for more than an hour. Therefore, Paul and I continued to drive all the way to the Virginia boarder until we met.  I saw the roadsign that said "Roanoke" and was suprised by tears. Next week marks three months away from home, and until I saw the sign, I thought I was pretty well adjusted to life in Pittsburgh.

When we finally met up with Paul Burton and Kathryn, we had lunch together.  Qavah sat as close to Paul Burton as possible throughout the meal.  Before I knew it I was in the car driving back to Pittsburgh with the girls while Paul went on home to Roanoke with Paul Burton.  The plan worked out well and we were back to the hospital in time to hook Qavah back up to her IV pole for evening medications.  The time away was good for all of us.  Qavah has been a bit teary today.  Hearing Paul's voice over the phone seems to trigger an attack of homesickness.  It is not as easy to distract her with the promise of a movie or another activity, as it once was.  We are doing our best to keep her happy, and little games, gifts, and greeting cards, continue to trickle in every day. Thanks to many of you for those little happy gifts!

I looked across the table to these three smiling faces and know without a doubt that my life has been blessed.  Kathryn has a new hip and Qavah a new blood supply. They looked so strong and healthy. Paul Burton brought me some gluten free cookies and stated that he was happy to do it, but will be happier when we are all home again. His smiling eyes, which worked effectively when he was a child getting into mischief, still melt my heart.  

Children are an heritage from the Lord.

Friday, August 03, 2012

The Vision

Over the course of the past four years, when I made Qavah's appointments for transfusions back in Roanoke, I would often visualize the future. I would try to imagine the day that I would hear the words, "She's cured."  Sometimes the image was so strong in my mind, I would cry for joy.  If just imagining it brought me to tears, I would wonder how I would behave the day that the vision became a reality.  

I don't have to wonder about that anymore.  One morning this past week the doctors were making their rounds.  When they came to Qavah's room they shared the morning counts.  After hearing the number of white cells, neutrophils, red cells and platelets, I suddenly realized that every one of Qavah's counts were in the normal range.  Not because she was transfused, but because her body made all of those cells in her own bone marrow. I turned to the doctor on my left and heard him say, "So it appears Qavah will not need another transfusion."  

I was surprised by my lack of emotion.  I thought, "This wasn't how I dreamed it!"  I took the news and tucked it into my brain to examine later.  Then late last night I was tucking Qavah into bed and I noticed how pink her lips are.  I asked if she had eaten something red and she told me she hadn't.  In a sudden rush of emotion I started to feel the deep gratitude for the healing that has taken place in Qavah.  Her lips are pink, her palms are pink, and her hands stay warm, all because her bone marrow is working as it should.  I asked Qavah if she was feeling better, to which she replied, "Yes, better than ever and ever!"  What started with a vision or dream is now our reality.  Praise be to God, Who gave us the vision. It seems to me that taking time to dream is an essential step in the process. Dust off those dreams, and don't let them go.  Dreams formed by prayer may be tomorrow's reality.

For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end - it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay. Habakkuk 2:3

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Through the Double Doors

The double doors on the ninth floor separating the bone marrow transplant patients from the rest of the hospital opened today and Qavah walked through them wearing her face mask, which she is required to wear until one hundred days post-transplant.  Her eyes sparkled over the top of her mask so we knew she was smiling.  We walked within the hospital halls, went to the library on the sixth floor, and visited the gift shop.  We were allowed to take her outside to walk on the sidewalk beside the hospital building too.  She felt the sunshine and the wind in her face, and we could hear her giggle as she walked.  Paul pushed the ever-present IV pole and we stayed out long enough to run down the battery.  When the beeping started, we looked for an outlet in the cafeteria to recharge because it was obvious that Qavah had no intention of returning to her room.

I remember writing a post two months ago in which I mentioned the children playing in the healing garden below.  Today it was Qavah's turn to play there, and perhaps another young patient looking down from the upper floor windows felt inspired by watching Qavah.  I didn't take pictures today, but my memories are clear.  There are snapshots of the day in my heart that make me smile, and I want to give praise where praise is due.  The Lord has rescued Qavah out of many trials and miseries, and His hand is upon her as she sleeps tonight. Praise and honor go to Him.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Power of a Dream

Yesterday I attended the ordination of the Chaplain I mentioned in a previous post. I drove across Pittsburgh through a rain storm and went about ten miles beyond my right turn because the road sign was not visible.  But I made it to the church in time to get seated and I watched the proceedings begin in the chapel.  The church was comprised mostly of African Americans, and the Chaplain from Nigeria and his family.  

This dear brother in Christ was dressed in a suit, and his wife and children had also dressed in their finest to help their Daddy celebrate his special day. The service touched my heart, because this man and his wife worked so hard to obtain his degree with four children to raise.  He humbly thanked God in his Nigerian accent, and gave honor to Him for the victory.  He then told of the day almost two decades earlier when he had just finished drying off his legs having washed them for prayers.  He was faithful to his Muslim upbringing and faithful to observe the times of prayer.  That particular day, as he was drying off his legs, he had a clear vision of being in a suit, and he was preaching Christianity.  He did not understand the vision then, and thought it would not be wise to share that vision with his Muslim family.  He really had forgotten about the vision because it didn't make any sense.  He had not planned to become a Christian.  

As he stood in front of the church in his suit telling about that vision, he said, "this is the day the vision is fulfilled."  He spoke from his heart about his love for Jesus, and his desire to reach Africa for the glory of God.  He told of the financial hardships of attending school in Texas with a growing family, and the number of times it seemed impossible to ever achieve his goal of becoming an ordained minister.  But the Lord of hosts was with him, and now that he is an ordained minister he plans to use his training to preach the Gospel.  I don't think I will ever forget the times we have had praying together over his mission while Qavah listened in from her bed in the hospital room.  He and his wife are planning to go back to Africa and accomplish the tasks the Lord brings before them.  

Before I left the chapel on Sunday, the elders and Pastor held my hands and prayed about Qavah. Their prayers for her were so humbling, and mighty.  I felt my heart strengthened after such a hard week of observing her misery.  Before we leave Pittsburgh, Lord willing, we will worship there at that little chapel again, and Qavah will meet those who prayed for her.  My heritage is Jewish.  My skin is white.  Sunday was a picture of what heaven will look like as we gather around the throne together, every color, nation, tribe, and tongue.  It is only in Christ that we will see that unity, and only through Christ that there will be peace among Muslims and Jews, and all ethnic groups.  This past Sunday, Christ was the unifying theme of our lives and worship.  Together we celebrated the life of a humble man from Nigeria with a dream, who loves the Lord with all his heart. My days here is Pittsburgh have enriched my life, and I will never be the same.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sending Me My Brothers and Sisters

It has been a difficult day for Qavah.  This afternoon, the Chaplain came into the room for his weekly visit.   He surveyed the situation and went to sit on the sofa while I tended to Qavah's needs. When I sat down, he said, "I have just been praying a prayer of thanksgiving for Qavah, and praising God for what He is doing."  I felt encouraged by his words, which I found strengthening in the circumstances. He smiled confidently and said, "He Who began a good work in the Children's Hospital, will be faithful to complete it for Qavah." (paraphrasing Philippians 1:6) Those were faith-filled words; apples of gold delivered in due season.

As we were driving out of Roanoke two months ago I prayed, "Lord, send me your children, send me Christian brothers and sisters to help me in Pittsburgh."  I checked "yes" in the little hospital admissions box that asked the question, "Do you want a visit from the Chaplain."  Shortly after Qavah was settled into her room, a man from Africa came to visit, introducing himself as the Chaplain.  His accent reminded me of one of our own Pastors at St. John back home.  This brother, an answer to my prayer, had to flee Central Africa because of persecution. He was born into an Islamic family and became a Christian, forcing him to leave his country.  As he grew in the knowledge of the things of the Lord, his love for the scriptures grew. He is like a walking concordance, and I have come to love the spiritual conversations of this brother in Christ. He has faithfully stopped in each week to encourage me in my faith. If Qavah is well enough to leave her with a sitter, Paul and I hope to attend his ordination this coming Sunday afternoon at a church near here.  

When Kathryn was here, we were able to sit with the Chaplain and share the supernatural way God intervenes in our circumstances.  Kathryn was able to share her experiences of her time in Heaven, and he likewise had many situations to report; times when God moved mountains to deliver him.  We boasted in our God for hours, and were strengthened by it. These spiritual conversations make up my days here.  Kathryn said she felt as though she had been on a spiritual retreat when she visited.  New friends in Christ have arrived at our hospital room door, just as I requested, reminding me that God answers prayer. He is faithful, and as a result, the time here has been so sweet. 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.   ~Philippians 4:6

Monday, July 09, 2012

The Boy Down the Hall

I fell hard for the little ten-year-old boy down the hall.  His smile was broad and it lit up his face. When we first arrived I caught glimpses of him playing games with the nurses, or seated in the playrooms playing computer games.  I saw him often, but I didn't see his parents.  They weren't here often.  I overheard someone say that his family life was fractured and broken and he was better off here than home.  A few days after hearing that, I met his father in the small kitchenette used by parents needing coffee or refreshment.  His father told me that his son had just a short time to live.  From that time on, I felt a strong conviction that I was to help the child somehow.  I ached for him, as I am sure many people did.  I prayed often and asked others to pray for him. Kathryn and I prayed for him several times a day.

One day last week, my heart was so burdened for that little boy that I asked permission to see him, just to sit with him.  His dad gave permission, and Kathryn and I entered his room late one night as he was settling down.  He recognized me but was most interested in Kathryn and asked about her.  I told him that Kathryn was my daughter and that she had been very sick too.  I told him that she was so sick that one day Jesus came to her and showed her what Heaven was like. He looked at her intently and wanted to know about Heaven as though he was hungry to hear it. Kathryn quietly shared her Heaven experience with him.  She began telling him about the animals in Heaven.  She told him how the animals in Heaven can roam freely and children can ride them, because they are no longer dangerous.  After listening for a while, I asked him if anyone had ever told him about how he could be sure of getting to Heaven. He said they hadn't but he wanted to know.

After a very brief explanation of the depth of the love Jesus showed us when he died for us, I asked him if he believed Jesus wanted to save him and take him to Heaven.  He said he believed.  I asked him if anyone ever prayed with him to ask Jesus to be His Lord.  He looked me right in the eye with a hunger in his soul that was almost too intense for me to witness.  He asked me, in a desperate tone if he could pray about that immediately.  With Kathryn standing beside me, and my hand in his, I prayed and he repeated, "Jesus, I believe you are God's Son and You died for me.  I ask you to be my Lord and save me.  This I pray in Jesus' Name, Amen."  When we were finished he asked Kathryn to come back and tell him more about Heaven.  The next morning, Kathryn did that.  She told him about the acres of fruit trees, the beauty of nature and freedom to enjoy it.  He fell asleep listening to her. When we left his room, I whispered to Kathryn, "Jesus said you couldn't stay in Heaven because there was more for you to do on Earth and this was a part of His plan." She smiled at me and, after that, we were at peace when we talked about the boy. 

I woke up the next morning to a vibrant dream that the beautiful little boy walked up to me in a blazing white T-shirt and khaki shorts. He grinned his usual way and said, "I am alright now, perfectly alright!" I told Kathryn about the dream immediately.  She replied, "Mom I prayed during the night that Jesus would come for him bringing a big beautiful tiger to take him into heaven riding on its back."  I was so touched by her simple trust in the things Jesus will do to express His personal love for each one of us.  I smiled just to think of it.

Just a day later, we heard he had died.  He had gone Home at last.  Not to a dysfunctional family, but to eternal peace with all the saints and angels there to greet him. Kathryn and I wept for joy when we heard the news.  He is free.  We went to a quiet place and I thanked God for sending His Son.  I thanked Him for the little boy who stole my heart, and for sending us here at a time when his heart was ready to hear the Gospel message.  I thanked Him for making it easy for a small feeble boy to enter Heaven.  He wasn't required to get out of bed to build a church or serve on a mission compound.  Jesus did the hard things for us, and all He wants from us is to hear, "I believe." 

"If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Romans 10:9

Monday, July 02, 2012


Just a few days before we left Roanoke, Paul Burton and I were talking about hair.  Specifically, how to create hair for Qavah using yarn.  He went to the store and found a yarn that had a soft fuzzy texture and came home to weave the yarn into dreadlocks.  He connected them onto a piece of elastic and strung beads at the bottom of each lock.  An elastic band fits around the top of Qavah's head, and the braids hang down the sides and back of her head. She can wear a scarf or hat over the top of her head and the results are quite pretty. Qavah was pleased.  Early this morning, she decided she wanted to wear a dress and get out of pajamas.  She also wanted hair. So here is a picture of our first walk in the hallway on day 20 post transplant. She has come so far even from two days ago. Just like Sampson, her hair seemed to give her strength.

I have also been thinking about my precious son today, thankful that he enjoys weaving on his handheld loom, making hats, scarves, and now dreadlocks. He blessed his little sister with his workmanship. Thank you Paul Burton. I loved our brainstorming session, and the results put a smile on your sister's face. 

Saturday, June 30, 2012


Paul had dinner last week with Colin and Jennifer.  It was getting late and I wanted to talk to him before I went to bed so I texted him.  He didn't reply, so I texted Colin asking if his Dad had left their house yet.  Colin replied immediately and said something like, "Dad stated just a few seconds ago that he thought he should go because Mom is probably texting me about now." When Colin wrote to report that Paul and I were miles apart but still tuned into each other, I sent him back a message that was short and to the point. "Bookends." After so many years of married life we can just about predict the other.  So when he walked into the cafeteria at the hospital to greet me today, Kathryn noticed that, without consulting one another, Paul and I had both chosen to wear black and red.  I put my arms around Paul and I whispered "Bookends" in his ear.  There is a lot being held together because we are both willing to shore up our end of the commitment to our family.  Thanks be to God for my "Bookend."

Thursday, June 28, 2012

What's Next?

Several people have asked if Qavah has ever "Made a Wish".  She has, and I am pondering Qavah's wish tonight. You've seen the commercials of the superhero football player who has carried the team to a Super Bowl win. He grins at the camera immediately following the game and triumphantly announce that he is now going to "Disney World."  Many children facing medical challenges do choose Disney World for their "Wish", but when asked, Qavah has consistently requested the beach.  She just wants to go to the beach and play in the sand by the water with Annelise.  It will be a while before her new immune system will be able to handle the micro-organisms in sand, but Lord willing, it will come to pass.

Since the room is quiet and I now have time to ponder, I was thinking about what Jesus did when life was pressing in hard and He was tired and worn thin by the demands of His ministry.  He was fully man, and with that being said, He needed naps and a get-a-way from time to time just like the rest of us.  But He didn't go to an amusement park, He went to the beach.  The shores of Galilee bathed in sunshine was His place of refuge, with the open blue sky above, and soft sounds of lapping water.  His refreshment was found in the quietness, and the simplicity of nature.  He withdrew in a boat to a desolate place. (Matthew 14:13)

As I am pondering Qavah's wish tonight, I think she is on to something.  True refreshment for her is pretty much the same as it was for Jesus.  An hour ago I tucked the blanket under her chin and she said, "Mama I am so tired."  I guess so!  After fighting and winning such a victory, it's time to think about going to the beach!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Walking Miracle

Last Thursday, Kathryn's surgeon gave her the "all clear" to travel.  Two days later, Paul picked her up in Fishersville, and she is now here with me in Pittsburgh.  I have not seen her on her feet and able to walk normally since last March.  When I left, just nine days after her hip surgery, she was beginning to walk around the house a little bit.  So when I saw her striding along the hospital corridor, I knew I was seeing a walking miracle.  I am so happy to have Kathryn here with me for a little while.