ARDEN UPDATE #15: Recasting in Seattle

After an unexpected delay of two-weeks, Arden’s recasting is rescheduled for Tuesday, June 11. Seattle Children’s Hospital (SCH) has resolved the air quality problems that forced the closure of their operating rooms and delayed Arden’s recasting. Once again they are open for business.

On Tuesday, Dr. Todd Blumberg will remove the Spica cast Arden has worn with remarkable patience and incredibly good spirits for nearly seven weeks. He plans to replace it with another sightly less restrictive Spica cast (above the knee on both legs). X-rays and a CT scan in the interim show her recovery to be progressing normally.

Any progress is welcome news. But I can tell you Arden won’t like going under again. The fact that SCH lets her choose which flavor (bubble gum, strawberry, etc.) she want to breathe is little compensation for blacking out for the third time. The good news is that her mommy will be right beside her when that happens.

I’ve just returned from two weeks in Anchorage helping out with Arden and her little sister Avery. Three-year-old Avery gave me an enthusiastic report of Arden’s graduation from preschool.

“She got a balloon, a necklace,” [Class of 2019 medal] “a graduation bear, and a ‘terrificate’!”

Arden’s “terrificate” is now prominently displayed on their bedroom wall.

This week, the girls’ other grandmother Hilda Rodriguez (a.k.a. Tata) is in Anchorage from Orlando to help out.

Priceless as my time with Arden and Avery was, it doesn’t remove the seriousness of the battle we’re in for Arden. Every stage comes with apprehension and challenges and demands her resilience. We’ve reached a significant midpoint, but she still faces weeks more of Spica cast, then a brace and physical therapy. Hopefully when we arrive at the finish line, she’ll be up, literally running, and better than ever. But it’s a lot to ask of someone so young. And as I’ve said before, it is a crisis from which any of us who love her would do anything to spare her.

We are grateful for so many who are praying, tracking with us, and who have given so generously to Arden’s GoFundMe. Please pray for safe travels, wisdom and skill for Dr. Blumberg and his team, for Arden’s endurance and healing, and for a positive outcome for Arden.

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ARDEN UPDATE #14: May Milestones and Modified Plans

She’s 5 at last!

The month of May brought two significant milestones for Arden.

On May 17 she reached the eagerly-awaited glorious milestone of her 5th birthday! That same day, she graduated from preschoolClass of 2019! She is continuing to do well, despite the limitations of her Spica cast. She even scoots herself around on the floor and remains pretty chipper, considering. So we have a lot to celebrate.

Preschool Graduation–Class of 2019!

But a third May milestone has been eventful in a way we didn’t expect.

We were moving steadily forward to May 28 and the removal of Arden’s Spica cast and recasting in a less restrictive Spica cast. Then late last Friday, Arden’s surgeon phoned to say they were postponing her recasting. Seattle Children’s Hospital has temporarily closed their operating rooms due to air quality problems. Thankfully, just days earlier, a relative who lives in the Seattle area alerted us that this might happen. See “Fungus Scare Closes Operating Rooms at Seattle Children’s Hospital.” Still, we hoped.

Now we are waiting to hear when Arden’s recasting is rescheduledcould be as early as next week or as late as the second week in June. Three more weeks in this first Spica may change the game plan in other ways if everything looks good with the reconstruction and healing of her hip.

I arrived in Anchorage the day after Arden’s birthday (thanks to two days of cancelled flights out of Philly) to celebrate her birthday again and help support Alli with Arden’s care. The plan was for me to remain in Anchorage with Avery while Alli and Arden traveled to Seattle for the recasting. Obviously, those plans are changing too, and other family members will pick up where I leave off. Good thing we have teamwork going.

We can’t thank you enough for your support, words of encouragement, and for praying for Arden. We hope and pray we’re on the home stretch!

We’ll keep you posted. Please keep her in your prayers.

Chugach State Park
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Something to Ponder . . .

Sometimes Twitter delivers. This twitter thread written by Jonathan Martin (@theboyonthebike) connected with me this past Sunday morning. I’m in Alaska helping my daughter with Arden’s care. Jonathan’s words touched a deep chord with me. They were all I got for church that day. I been reading and re-reading it ever since and sharing it with others. He just returned from South Africa. Perspective helps.

He gave me permission to reprint it here:

“On my way back to OKC in time for The Table tonight (5pm), & both my head & heart are full. It’s funny how sometimes you have to go halfway around the world—just to reconnect with your self.

All the optimism has been slowly beat out of me, which is a way of saying I’m finally learning what it is to be hopeful. Less contingent on particular outcomes, less certain that anything works out okay—more content just bearing witness to the beauty I’ve seen…

…for no other reasons than that I can’t unsee it, & because grace is the only truth that is left to tell. Tender, green, fragile, defiant…the shoot springs up from the stump.

That’s not even something I’ve chosen—life on the other side of dying isn’t something that you choose, just something that is. I don’t think much anymore about what to call what it is I’m doing, or what I want to do. I don’t think that it matters, because adjectives don’t matter.

What I know is that Jesus is the hole at the bottom of the sink that’s always got me swirling, dragging me toward the drain. I don’t try to resist the pull, because Christ is still where the wildness is for me.

We taught a wonderful group how to read Scripture for 5 days this week, & I laughed more than once at just how subversive the content was. The people I was with—folks like @jarrodmckenna, @steve_schallert, Rev. Rene August—are more dangerous than the so-called rebels are.

You can have your evangelicalism, your ex-evangelicalism, your garden variety new age, your right wing fear-mongering & your neoliberalism (or anything else that stops short of the kind of radical economic, political critique that threatens the foundations of everything that is).

To put it more simply: I’ve had the weight of the world on my shoulders long enough to crave some kind of shelter, to wish I could get out of the noise. I’m coming back ready to make noise again. The mischief is back in me. Or in other words—the Spirit.

I want to be where the flames of Pentecost burn the old world down, & with the people that light the matches. I don’t claim to be such a person yet—but I do know such people, & for this I am grateful.”

Jonathan Martin
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Ground Hog Day!

Saturday morning my iPhone alarm woke me up at 6am–exactly as it did the day before. I was at home in Sellersville, and my life was eerily on repeat…

I went through the same morning ritual. Showered, put on the same outfit, and ate the same breakfast cereal. The same husband was making coffee in the kitchen. He put my same bags in the car, drove the same route to the Philadelphia International Airport, kissed me goodbye, and waved the same sad good-bye as I entered the terminal . . . for the second time in 24 hours.

This crazy repeat was happening to him too.

I went through the same TSA check point. My ticket listed the exact same American Airline flight number. I went through the same wait for my turn to board. The same hassle finding a bin to store my carry-on. The same buckled up and ready for take-off . . . 

Then came the same captain’s announcement of “a mechanical problem,” along with the same reassurance that “it shouldn’t take long.” But it did. 

There was the same loooong silence while the clock ticked away and the same worried look on passenger faces, including mine. Then came the same follow-up announcement: “They’re looking for a part. Thank you for your patience.”

And for me, the same “Oh no! There’s no way I’ll make my connecting flight.” Same grabbing my bags and exiting the plane. 

It’s all pretty surreal.

Friday Frank drove back to the airport to take me home. Today, Delta came to my rescue. But even Delta faced a slight delay when a fuel truck broke down, temporarily blocking the plane from backing out of the gate. 

I arrived in Anchorage past bedtime and was glad to call it a day, although I missed seeing our two little grand-ezers, Arden and Avery, who were already sound asleep..

Sunday marks the start my two week stay in Anchorage to help Alli as Arden continues the first phase of her recovery with the Spica cast. She’s is schedule for recasting on May 28. Please keep Arden and the rest of us in your prayers as Arden’s ordeal continues. Pray especially for complete healing!

So for the time being, I’m in beautiful Alaska with our girls. That is, unless my alarm goes off again at 6am tomorrow, and I’m waking up back in Sellersville again, smelling the coffee. 

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ARDEN UPDATE #13: All Through the Night

Keep watch dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, sooth the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.

One of the most beautifully soothing prayers in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer has been on my heart of late. It blankets with prayer the many kinds of things that keep people awake at night. We’ve all known those restless nights when in the silent darkness the mind begins racing and there are no distractions to mute the anxieties and struggles that rob a person of the rest and sleep they desperately need. 

While Arden is in this long first recovery phase in a Spica body cast, daytime is her friend. She has things to do, a sister for playtime, family outings (she’s been out a lot), and movies to watch. She’s been a remarkably good sport. But everything changes for our little champ in the night, after she’s snuggly tucked in and the lights go out.

During the night, her Spica cast confinement becomes a battle.

She sleeps, but then when the rest of us would toss and turn, she’s helpless to change her position. Frustration with the power of the cast (much easier to ignore in the daytime) overwhelms in the night. It wakes her up in misery. She’s in the dark and crying for someone—anyone!—to let her out. 

At this stage in the healing process, Alli is up multiple times in the night—calming, comforting, reassuring, and helping Arden get back to sleep—deprived of much needed sleep herself.

Some dear friends sent me a book, An Appalachian Trial: A Story of Struggle, Survival, and God’s Grace, written by a grown-up who survived a plane crash, but barely, and spent months recovering from his injuries, including time in a Spica body cast.

Daniel Lipsi’s story puts an adult perspective on Arden’s ordeal. 

Mercifully, Arden’s not in pain as he was, but he is candid about the terrible discomfort and limitations that the Spica enforced. A nurse’s intervention, imploring the doctors “to ‘have a heart’ and not put [him] in the double spica” spared him of what Arden is experiencing. His single Spica encased only one leg. Even so, he called it a “plaster prison” and speaks of “the long battle to negotiate a bed angle that was the least offensive” to his body.

Arden’s double Spica goes from her chest down to her ankle on the left leg and above the knee on the right. She isn’t negotiating anything. She’s stuck!

So for those who are praying for Arden, please pray for nights of true calm and quiet rest—both for Arden and her mommy. 

I’m traveling to Anchorage on Friday, May 17 to help out and will stay with Avery while Arden and Alli return to Seattle Children’s Hospital for Arden’s recasting (May 27-29). Her next Spica body cast will be above the knee on both legs and so slightly less confining.

Thank you! Many thanks to everyone who donated to Arden’s GoFundMe. With some donations made outside of GFM, we are thrilled to report that we’ve reached our goal.

Please keep our little one and her family in your prayers. She has a long way to go before she’s back in action and needs the healing hand of Jesus.

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ARDEN UPDATE #12: So far so good!

Just received the good news that Arden’s follow-up X-rays taken last Thursday in Anchorage show everything looks great! Dr. Blumberg, Arden’s surgeon at Seattle Children’s Hospital, told Alli to “Keep doing what you’re doing.”

We are thanking God for this wonderful news and grateful for family and friends who are praying for Arden’s healing.

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An Unexpected Hero!

How far we’ve come since the days when we sought to protect and cherish our women. . . . Have we forgotten that it is our glory to die in their place?Greg Morse

Some evangelical leaders are alarmed at the thought of a female hero. Every time Hollywood releases another blockbuster movie featuring a female superhero—Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman, or a bold protagonist from Disney’s animated collection of heroic princesses—naysayers come out of the woodwork to warn us that these movie heroines are a negative influence on women and girls. (See Morse’s “Behold Your Queen.”)

In the opinions of some, the notion of a female fighting battles (especially on behalf of men instead of counting on men to protect her) violates God’s design for his daughters. 

Instead, the truly alarming fact is that in the real world it is both foolish and fanciful to imagine that, when danger threatens, some man will step in and save us.

Recently, I listened as a father protested the mindset that his young daughters don’t need strong female role models and the false assumption that God won’t call them to fight tough battles, perhaps even for their brothers. His little girls are growing up in a world where #MeToo and #ChurchToo abuses happen—when daddy or husband or brothers aren’t around 24/7 and where sadly even the church can’t be counted on to be a safe place. 

If we socialize little girls to depend on others coming to their rescue, instead of to be strong and courageous, we are putting them at risk. 

Besides, female courage and valor aren’t Hollywood inventions. That kind of language describes women in the Bible. After all, God didn’t create his daughters to be dependents or spectators. He commissioned us alongside our brothers to be active kingdom agents. We bear his image. He empowered us at creation to represent him and to do his work in the world. This high calling comes with monumental responsibility. The creator commissioned his daughters and his sons to rule and subdue. That’s an explicit call to look after things in his world, to promote flourishing, to participate in Jesus’ rescue effort, and to battle for goodness and justice.

Need I mention that we are ezer-warriors?

The Origins of Female Heroes

We don’t need Captain Marvel or Superwoman to empower us. The Bible has already empowered us by giving us a strong line-up of bold, heroic female role models. Some of these heroes were very young teenagers. 

These women courageously answered God’s call, often risking their lives to engage the battle for his kingdom. Miriam, Rahab, Deborah, Ruth, Hannah, Abigail, Esther, the Marys of Nazareth, Magdela, and Bethany, and Priscilla are just the short list of women who refused to shrink back. And the men in their stories are not emasculated by their actions. They are beneficiaries. 

These bold female stories provide rich fodder for the kind of 21stcentury conditioning little girls and grown up women need for the struggles we face in our own stories and on behalf of others.

We are working hard to restore these courageous, yet all-too-often minimized, female stories to the limelight where they belong. And the good news is that now this courageous message is reaching little girls who face battles of their own to fight.

The Battles Little Girls Must Fight

I’ve just returned from Seattle Children’s Hospital where my 4-year-old granddaughter Arden bravely faced two major surgeries (over 12 hours total) for a severe case of hip dysplasia. To be sure, she was surrounded and supported by those who love her and who would trade places with her in a heartbeat. My daughter was by her side during some of the toughest moments.

Yet each time there was a point when Arden proceeded to the O.R. all alone or faced dimensions of the aftermath that no one could spare her. The road ahead for Arden won’t be easy. She faces over 2 months in a Spica cast, the inability to walk or do anything for herself, and weeks of physical therapy and wearing a brace to get back on her feet again.

Even at the tender age of four there are fierce and frightening battles to fight. If we fail to teach her to be strong and courageous, we do her an enormous disservice.

Already Arden is responding valiantly in ways that astonish me and would put most adults to shame. She’s my “Unexpected Hero”!

Recovering Rahab’s Story for Little Ezers

So the urgency of getting out the powerful truth about these biblical women’s stories could not be more serious. We need to affirm and embolden the youngest and the oldest among us. No one gets a pass. God’s call rests on all of his daughters.

The 4th volume in the powerful Called and Courageous Girls book series is the story of Rahab, An Unexpected Hero. These books are reaching young girls ages 4-7. Rahab is one of my favorite biblical heroes!

Storytellers Rachel Spier Weaver and Anna Haggard, along with gifted illustrator Eric Elwell, have done a masterful job of bringing Rahab’s story and the stories of Miriam, Priscilla, and Deborah to light for this promising young audience. 

This newest book corrects the typical mischaracterization of Rahab. Instead of being defined by regret and shame, Rahab emerges as a true hero. She alone in all Jericho dared to embrace Israel’s God and risk her life to protect the Israelite spies.

I wish I’d had these books when I was in that age bracket. I guarantee I would have looked at my own life differently instead of holding back. Even more, I wish I could have read these stories to my own daughter when she was that age. The good news is even mothers who grew up unaware that the Bible contains such empowering female stories can get the message by reading these stories to their children. It’s never too late.

Thankfully, the books have arrived in perfect time for my little grand-ezers, Arden and Avery (3). I’ll be taking Rahab with me when I head to Anchorage to help with Arden’s care.

Order copies here for every little ezer you love!

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