Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Obama has not called

I did a lot of driving today...listened to some podcasts that are long overdue. I have not really wanted to listen to others speaking lately. I feel like the themes are either totally irrelevant or way too relevant. One of the podcasts was a sermon that a guy preached in August and it was - yeah, felt funny even saying it - suffering. Specifically perseverance, faith, and suffering. Part of what he said really made me chuckle out of frustration. I am struggling right now even remembering what it was but it was basically something about having an eternal perspective as we encounter trials and that our faith needs to be more than a desire for comfort now but a desire for eternal comfort.
I feel like my faith is so weak right now. I keep waiting for God to open up this huge door and reveal why our family has gone through this last six months. I keep waiting for a phone call that puts it all in place. Like if President Obama called me tomorrow and said, "Tom we want you to serve on a special task force that exists to eliminate pain and suffering in this world." Hmm maybe that oversteps his jurisdiction. I think I try too hard to make things fit neatly into place.

We strive so hard to make things make sense. We want to control and predict so that we can avoid surprises. When will the next big earthquake be? How long until the polar ice caps melt? When will the sun run out? I set up motion detectors around my life so that I won't be surprised when something or someone approaches. My faith is weak. I need to control things. I fear that the unexpected might happen again to someone in my life. "Drive safely. Wear your helmet. Take your vitamins." I asked this question way before Jake's accident: "Is my faith merely wishful thinking?"

Faith is about trust. Faith is about action. Faith is only as strong as the object in which it is placed.

Faith is not about control and perfect calculations but about responding with a character of trust - that comes through perseverance - that comes with making it through suffering with eyes wide open and a heart of joy. Not expecting everything in this world to be perfect but responding with peace, patience, kindness, and gentleness.

I think lately I have been demanding and expecting rather than accepting and rejoicing. I have been frustrated and saddened for Jacob as it seems like this part of the journey seems to drag on and on. Yes I have been thankful. Yes I have been enjoying him. But there is a selfish spike that I am so ashamed of that just seems to say okay let's get on with things. He has suffered enough. We have sacrificed enough. Faith is not about me controlling this or about my timing - it is about trusting, waiting, accepting and hoping. God has got it in his timing and that is worth trusting in.

As for Jacob...he is doing a little bit better, a little bit stronger, each and every day. The thumb, though we continue to watch it is healing. We have an appointment in January for an evaluation for surgery on his head. And we continue to move forward. Remembering where we have come - how far we have come - the miracles that have happened - help to keep our eyes on the hope that is yet to come.

Grace and peace,

Tom (Daddy)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Mom’s Christmas Ramblings

It's the night after Christmas 2009 and all through our house runs the theme of gratefulness for life – of course for JK's life but for "life" in general. I didn't take it for granted this Christmas that all 3 of my boys, Tom, his sister, my sister were all together once again on Christmas Eve to wear matching red, footed, fleece jammies with Santa feet. I even had a pair for Tom to wear but he was vehemently opposed to the idea. Our "family" photo of all of us had me holding Tom's jammies as Tom "volunteered" to take the picture. JK had requested the PJ's be footed this year and we actually found them long enough for his legs!

It has been and will continue to be a rough road – a battle for our minds as well as Jake's body. His thumb is very slowly growing skin over as it should after the graft surgery 6+ weeks ago. There are two spots that still need the skin to grow or "take". So we wait and pray and wait and change the dressing and pray and wait: daily dressing changes and weekly doctor appointments to monitor things. Fortunately both JK and I like and trust both the thumb doctors we see so that helps. JK's right foot is also a bit of a concern as it is such a tender area (skin on bone is tough to heal).

JK has an appointment scheduled with the neurosurgeon in mid January. This is the same doctor who (along with the plastic surgeons) did the 10 hour surgery to remove the dead skull area. As far as I understand he won't operate until Jacob is free of infection for a month. The synthetic prosthesis is an easy conduit of germs. So Jake is still on Vankomycin twice a day. We hook a bottle to his pik line and the bubble inside squeezes out the liquid over a 2-3 hour period. Jake will be so very glad to be free from it.

So we wait and pray. (Have I said that before?) And I thank God that he is at home and is more courageous than he realizes…I am so proud of him. He still longs for his old, "normal" life back – that is a daily struggle. But he does have his sense of humor and his affectionate ways about him. He hates feeling like he's being stared at but he goes into restaurants and has a way about him that charms the waitresses. He is so loving and kind (also at times sarcastic but hey he is 17). Jake also longs for his old job back at Freeline Surf Shop but instead of being angry and bitter at what he can't have, he goes in fairly often to say hi. They are like an extended family to him – truly the best surf shop ever!

It has been a gift to me personally to feel that so many, many people continue to give of themselves for JK and our family in so many says. It does not feel that it is being done out of pity – I feel like giving has come from hearts that are celebrating along with us that JK is alive and walking and talking and so still so intelligent and semi-sarcastic yet funny as ever. So thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you all.

There are days that anger, sadness and depression lead and yet it is so good to hang in there and stick it out because there are also days that are full of contentment, gratefulness, peace and fun as well. God does exist and is with us regardless of how we act and feel. He loves us and that is the lesson that I am still learning – day after day. I have been reading slowly through a book by Ed Underwood called, "When God Breaks your Heart." He takes his personal near-death tragedies as well as the story of a Biblical family Lazarus, Mary and Martha. He points out quite poignantly how God has different plans for each of us. We cannot truly see God's bigger picture and how our lives reflect His glory.

Yes, I struggle that the hurts/tragedies in our lives are because God hates us or is punishing us or doesn't care or plays bizarre games with us. But if I believe that as truth, it simply leads me to deeper despair and a giving up mindset – "what is the point? – type days." When I trust that Christmas is really about I have hope. Christmas - the birth of a baby in a filthy, stinky stable. Christmas – the baby became a man living in a rather filthy, stinky world with filthy, stinky people. Christmas – the man went to a cross and dying on the cross still uttered "Father forgive them…" Christmas – leads us to a cross where Jesus in his darkest hour abused and murder by the stinky, filthy humanity that he created still chose to love us. There is still hope.

As I wonder some days and worry about the future…operations, high school graduation, surfing, bike riding, career, will something else happen to Jacob, Robbie, Jensen…the miracle of Christmas is a pretty good reminder. I guess that I am choosing to love in a way when I "let go" and give up my boys, my husband, my family, my friends to God and trust. Otherwise I'd go cuckoo (maybe I already have J.)

This is my wordy way of trying to say we all had a very good Christmas Eve and day and day after even. And there is so much more to come as friends come and visit. Suffice to end with this: I know each one of us struggles, hurts, feels alone, cries and goes through dark times - even if we haven't had extreme tragedies in life. I also know that despite my trembling, when I place my trust in Jesus, He saves me.

Merriest of New Year to you this 2010 and thanks again to those of you who have and continue to care for us in so many ways.


Debbie (Mom)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Not done fighting...

It was a very good Christmas.

Understatement perhaps as you look at all that we have gone through over the last 6 months, but it really was a very good. Rob, Jake and Jensen - our three sons are in themselves a tremendous gift. Honestly it was not the "Leave it to Beaver" perfect family Christmas, but we all know that does not really exist as each has a bit of dysfunction of its own. There was the typical irritation at one point or another as we do things that the others do not like. I was writing to someone this week as I realized that I was probably more relaxed this Christmas as compared to the last two. Yes I am still not "working" but through so many we were blessed beyond expectation. "Working" right now is still caring for and moving Jacob toward independence as we continue to deal with antibiotics through his picc line, physical therapy, occupational therapy, doctor appointments, school etc. In each moment there is the gentle reminder that we have come so far and have seen the miraculous.

Writing here on the blog has been harder lately in that I feel like there is not much new to share - the roller coaster is a bit more predictable I guess. I realize as I sit here that it is very easy to get back into "coasting". We are not putting on the brakes and trying to avert disaster and are also not putting on the gas speeding through life - we are coasting. Honestly, coasting is good for a time - it is a time of slowing down, resting a bit perhaps (although rest is hard). In times of "crisis" we may pray more, focus more, pay better attention. While forging ahead we may step out in faith and take risks praying more, clearly focused, alert to adjustments. But what about the in between time? How do we keep this demonstrated dependent faith while in neutral?

I honestly believe that nothing changes. In times of shattered dreams, jubilant celebrations and mundane normality moments exist where faith is tested and hope is questioned. In each moment of one's existence we are offered opportunities to recognize and choose God's gift of love (Himself). It matters not as much if we perceive the moment as good or bad. It matters more that we recognize the divine moment and act in dependent faith - even in mundane normality we are able to display a character of righteousness. Sadly though I often choose to cultivate the opposite as I put forth a false self - an altered self - a self longing for acceptance and self-engrandizment. We give glory to God by simply being ourselves - the problem is that who I am has been muddied, altered, concealed. It takes a lot of faith to simply be myself. Yet that is where God meets us and declares his love for us.

Not everyone who reads these words agrees that God even exists. Not everyone to believes in God is able to accept that God loves them. Not everyone who accepts God love dwells fully in that love. It is a daily struggle of faith to dwell in that love.

As a father I look at Jake in his wounded vulnerability and love him. There is not a day that goes by that I do not wish I could completely change what happened to him. Yet what he has gone through is also a shaping of who he is becoming - it has changed him - it will forever affect future choices he makes. I know it has changed mine - changed me.

I guess from where I sit right now I am wondering what is next for us. What steps of faith are next? Surgery we hope in January on Jacob's head, more therapy, job change for me - where does our family go next? It is a step forward in faith as we trust that God will give us leading and insight. But no matter what I pray that we would be focusing on becoming more and more real.

E.E. Cummings said, "to be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best day and night to make you everybody else, means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight...never stop fighting."

Grace and peace

Tom (Dad)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

From our family to yours - Merry Christmas

Thankful to be together celebrating the life our son as we celebrate the birth of God's Son.

The Kirkendalls

P. S. Robbie has a mustache even though you can't see it here. (It's blond).
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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Expanding things a bit...

Jake is asleep. He is in his own bed. From the laundry room where I type, I can hear Jensen and Robbie as they negotiate through a video game together. Helping each other. Debbie is up reading on the mattress that we have thrown on the floor next to Jacob. It has been there since Jacob went upstairs to his room. Debbie has slept next to him each night since - well since he has woken up. She will not leave his side for neither of us want to miss his needs during the night; neither of us want him to wake up and get up and fall down. Though he is incredibly stable, he still has no skull cap and he still hardly is able to use his right arm.

The toll that this whole journey has taken is tough on family. It sneaks up on, this toil, for you do not really think about what needs to be done you just do it. There is absolutely nothing you won't do when you are fighting for the life of your son. My heart is with the Keller family as their boys are in ICU. (see the last post or the side panel for a link) I also can't shake thinking about Jessica's and Andrew - though there is progress - they will all be in the hospital for Christmas. I am also praying often for Sarah's family. How do you go through this family season having lost your teenage daughter? I suspect from the little I know about them, you do so with the community that you have around you - surrounding you and holding you up.

Faith is truly tested in these moments. Life is truly put on the line when you face these trials. We are so quick to give pat answers, quick conclusions, and naive judgments. Though we do not know the trials that others walk we call upon a heart of compassion and gracious mercy to try to understand and pour our hearts out in prayer.

I do not quite understand right now - why I should be so blessed. What a blessing it is to be unemployed right now. I am able to focus on my family and be a part of helping my son finish his senior year...we have a long way to go and need to double our efforts but we can do it together - what a blessing. Jake is getting stronger. Though we are still watching closely over his thumb we do see growth and it does continue to move slowly in a positive growth direction. We are still hoping for surgery on his skull by the end of January.

I have recently been reading Philippians over and over again. These verses are not dogma but are the expression of the heart of a man who has known suffering. There is in them challenge, correction, comfort and just plain pouring out of his loving heart. He is writing to a community that he deeply cares about. Paul wrote this sentence that so many have used time again:  "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." (4:13) Taken by itself that verse gives me great guilt. For I really can't do everything. If that is dogma, I am an utter failure. But if I read it in context it is far from dogmatic - it is the heart of one on a journey.

Here is part of the all of Philippians and perhaps portions of Acts to really understand but this helps:

I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.

This is all about community and God's presence. In the midst of those two things I am strengthened and can move forward and find in the midst of the journey that I am on a contentedness that has nothing to do with the external circumstances: that is where hope begins, that is where faith sustains, that is where peace holds on. It seems to me that this brings a whole lot more freedom. I am so thankful for community. I am so thankful that God is not restricted to what I think that he should be like or should do. For miracles do still happen - I have seen them.
Miracles do still happen.
Tom (Daddy)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Monty and Ruedi Keller

Sunday night and all three of my boys are home. Such a blessing; especially after getting this email from Austin asking for our community to pray:

here is the CaringBridge website link: here
Subject: Please pray for my 2 dear friends.

I've been following Jacob's story every step of the way. I'm so happy that everything turned out to be ok.
Now prayer is needed for the Keller family. Monty Keller, as Matthias (18) is fondly called, just finished his first semester at University of Hawaii. Brother Ruedi Keller (20) attends SF Culinary Accademy. Coming home for Christmas break, Monty's flight was supposed to arrive around midnight on Friday, December 18. The plan was for Ruedi to pick him up from the airport and take him home to Ruedi's apartment before going to the family home in San Rafael the following day. The flight was delayed several hours due to mechanical difficulties. Monty texted Ruedi at 4:00 a.m. that his flight had arrived. Ruedi drove his bright green Geo Prism to the airport. His apartment is within 15 min from the airport. Monty checked no baggage, so the pick up was quick.

The boys proceeded to Ruedi' apartment from the airport. They came off 280 onto Junipero Serra, traveling north. A 911 call was received about the accident at 4:33 a.m. They had been rearended by a late model turbocharged VW driven by a 21-year-old young man from Fremont. Officers at the site estimated from the wreckage and the scattering of debris that the VW was traveling at about 100 mph. We do not yet know what happened to Geo after the rear impact. We do know that it was mangled beyond recognition. The VW traveled perhaps 100 yards down the median of Junipero Serra until striking a pole. The VW driver did not survive the crash.

We surmise that Ruedi was tired and asked Monty to drive--Monty was found in the driver's seat and Ruedi was found in the back seat by officers at the accident scene. God was looking out for the boys--they could hardly have picked a better place to have a terrible accident--the accident occurred within a mile of one of the top 3 trauma hospitals in the country, San Francisco General Hospital. What's more, the top neurosurgical team from UCSF, a top neurological team in the country, was on shift at the time, and both boys are attended by the chief of that team. The boys arrived there within about an hour of the crash. Both arrived unconscious but breathing on their own.

Mother Meg received the call at about 5:30, as she neared the end of her nursing night shift at Novato Community Hospital.Between the two of them, the boys suffered only Ruedi's two broken ribs. Spinal cords check out fine. No internal bleading. Ruedi suffered a lung puntured by broken rib, but that resolved early in the day Saturday. Initially ultrasound showed a cut on Monty's kidney, but later films showed that to be gone.

The Concern:
Head trauma for both boys is the concern. Throughout the day Saturday, both boys remained in a coma, under sedation and anti-siezure medications. They were placed on respirators. The team performed two CT scans and placed intracranial pressure and H2O monitors on both boys.

Monty had the most significant injury. His CT showed relatively small bruising/bleading on the back of the brain. Ruedi had no bruising/bleading. Both had intracranial swelling. Monty's swelling resulted in pressure early in the day at about 23. That later reduced to about the 6-10 range. Under 20 is desired. Ruedi's pressure was under 10 all day.

The medical team's plan is to check the boys' mental status three times per 12-hour shift. They reduce the sedation and assess the stumulus that evokes response from the boys. Monty remained non responsive each time he was checked yesterday. Ruedi reacted to poking. One nurse reported that in checking Ruedi he gave her a "thumbs up" when asked a question designed to assess higher brain function. However, that report could not be confirmed on later inquiry. Also, the last assessment before 9 p.m. received no response from Ruedi.

Please get the community aware. Please pray for them.

As so many of you have been praying for Jacob and then for all those that we encounter on this journey, we invite a tremendous concert of prayer to be raised for Monty and for Ruedi. Miracles have and do continue to take place.

Lord, hear our prayer - the cry of our heart.
Restore our sons, heal our children.
Cover them with your strong loving arms and
envelope them in your spirit.
Help them, Lord, to know your pressence, to feel your comfort.
I ask Lord if I might, that your peace may cover each and every family member
that has been impacted by this trajedy:
      - the Keller family and friends
      - the family of this young woman that lost her life
      - doctors, nurses, therapists and fireman that responded
Lord this touches so many. Pour out your peace, compassion, grace...
Restore, heal, and comfort these brothers and bring them home for Christmas.
The burden is so great - ever widening net of suffering - ever widening opportunity to bless.

With great burden,

Tom (Daddy)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dental blessing continues...

Two local Aptos dentist and their staff have incredibly blessed us. A couple months back they asked us permission to run a special program of whitening teeth and giving all the money to help us with Jacob's expenses. Angela from their office sent me this email today:
"We are excited to inform you that we have collected a GRAND TOTAL for the teeth whitening of $5175.00, (that's a lot of brite smiles out there, all shining for Jacob !!!!!!) The doctor's were so amazed by the outpouring that we will be extending the date until the 1st of February."
They have also been so great at being available to help us with our families dental needs. This community is so incredible. On the left you can find the information on the dental office. Make your appointment for January. Even though they are closed I am sure you can leave a message.

We are so thankful for this continued outpouring of love. As we approach the Christmas week we are all so eager to welcome Robbie home. I am so excited to have all three boys together and to just celebrate and enjoy each other. Jacob is doing well. His thumb is still being watched closely but seems to be healing. He is just finished his 1st week of the third time on antibiotics. So three more weeks and then we can schedule the surgery for his skull cap. I think we are all just holding on to this very loosley.

Miracles continue to happen. Christmas is the celebration of an incredible, world changing miracle. Miracles still happen today - I got one asleep upstairs. I pray that we would not miss the miracles that are before us as we gather with our families and friends. Even in the midst of despair and heartache - the miracles are there - maybe we need to wipe the tears away and look a little harder. God is moving and acting and speaking - my prayer for myself is that I would pay better attention.


Tom (Daddy)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Faith when you don't feel like it

This is Robbie.

It has been a long time since I have felt like blogging, and I still don't really feel like it, but I wanted to check in. It has been hard for me to write here because I'm never really the one who has direct updates about Jake. I have been toying with the idea of starting my own blog, but that has not materialized yet. So to work myself back into this blog, I'll just give you an update on myself as I am getting ready to go home for Christmas break.

This entire semester, the theme for me has been learning to live my own life again. I wanted so badly to not go to school, to stay home with my family, to help Jacob recover, to take a year off, to transfer... something. Slowly I have come more to terms with graduating from Biola. I have felt more and more 'empowered' to pursue my life apart from my family. A number of things helped in this, and overall there is still this strong urge to get out and do something else, to not get away from the feeling of being trapped at Biola.... but I am prayerfully exploring where this urge comes from.

After I began this process, I began to do some reflecting. Looking at my brother's situation from this new vantage point, where I am OK with not being a large part of his recovery and am OK to be away from my family as they go through this, it is as if I had to go through the grieving process all over again. I look at pictures of my brother before the accident and find it insane that he will never be the same. I look at pictures of him with his friends, hear stories of them, and realize that his relationships with them will never be the same. He is missing out on the bonding experience of his senior year of high school, and there is a huge difference between feeling sympathy for someone and actually sticking with them to the end. Very few people make the cut for this second type.

It is like the questions all flooded in again. Seeing an older picture of Jacob - comparing his former life to his life know - feels like there is a knife inside of me that is forcing its way out. Perhaps the only way to get past this is to focus on his life ahead - to focus on progression, and consider the past only in reference to what we have been through, not what we want to change. Immediately after the accident, I would have these weird dreams, and then throughout the days imagine myself watching Jacob's accident from a high vantage point, like I was some spirit hovering over it. Even though I saw it and strongly wanted to stop it, I was restrained. I got this sense that I could not stop it - not just that I did no have the ability to stop it, but that even if I did, it was useless. What happened happened, and what happened brought us to where we are now. There is no use ruminating about how things could have been - there is only accepting how things are and moving forward with a sense that everything has led up to you being at this point, now.

In the face of disillusionment, struggle, heartache, etc, the question is not if you feel like trusting God, but if you make the choice to. Right now, I do not feel like trusting God. There are too many questions and too many struggles to say that I want to trust God. This semester I took Modern Philosophy, and from that sprung some philosophical questions about God's existence. Philosophically, you cannot prove or disprove divine existence. You can offer convincing or unconvincing arguments in either direction. Many philosophers in the past have merely used God as a tool to explain some facet of their epistemological system. Whatever roles man puts God in, whatever reasons we offer for his existence or non-existence, it still all comes down to a choice to trust or not to. I just finished writing a paper for Ancient Political Philosophy, where I argued that true allegiance, true loyalty, does not involve just being persuaded to follow, but involves an entrusting of oneself to the authority - that yes we have reasons to obey, but true loyalty means we are also willing to obey even when there is no clarity, and reasons are not apparent. Is this blind obedience? Maybe. But how can we be truly loyal if we only obey when we can see the reasons and the way ahead? Yes, it is important to be convinced and for authority to have reasons for obedience... but there is always that moment of trust when we are exposed as loyal to ourselves or loyal to him whom we claim to obey.

All that is meant to say that yes, we must be persuaded with reasons to have faith, reasons to believe in a God, reasons to trust in the Spirit of Christ and what he did 2000 years ago as a man... but there will always be a level of uncertainty. There is a necessity to trust in the midst of murky waters and confusing, insufficient answers.

There I go again, nothing related to Jacob! I am looking forward to being home with the family. My brother's life and vitality is the only thing on my Christmas list this year (not so sure that Santa could pull that one off), and I am trusting that this gift has been given and will continue to be given.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

And this is my prayer...

We are not yet done praying for Jake's thumb.

Today was the weekly checkup with the plastic surgeon. It is almost the same thing - "still watching it." There is in there good news. It is healing and skin is growing. There just continue to be areas of concern. But we still rejoice that we have come so far.

This is a week of appointments and craziness. Each day this week has activity. And in the midst of all of the doctors appointments we still need to have time or take time for school and exercises.

I am flying up to Oregon this week to speak with a missions board about working with them. It is a step of faith and movement toward understanding where God is leading us. My hearts desire is to see the community that we have experienced spread. My eyes seem to see Santa Cruz and San Jose but God's view is so much bigger. In the midst of all that we are going through we still see the hand of God.
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. Phil 1:9-11
Pretty amazing prayer. I find that it is so needed today. That our love may abound in knowledge and depth of insight. Smart, deep, insightful love. This is the love that brings discernment so that we might know what to do and when to do it. It is the love that is pure and blameless and seeks to bless others. It is a love that produces a crop of fruit that is not rotten but that is righteous. Can you imagine if our community - if our family - displayed that kind of love? Can you picture it? Dream about it. Pray for it. Demonstrate it. That is the love that Christ brought - that is the love that Christmas should be about. Love that displays the fruit of righteousness.

Pretty amazing prayer. It really sounds like a transformational prayer. I would say that it is a love that treats poeple with discerning purity, not manipulating selfishness. It is a love that blesses even our enemies. It is a love that is not about me being glorified but to the glory and praise of God.

Pretty amazing prayer. And miracles do happen. We have seen it. So it is not an impossible prayer.

Grace and peace,

Tom (Daddy)

P.S. pray that prayer for Andrew and Jessica too. Check out the links on the left to hear how they are doing. Awesome - baby steps - awesome.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Reminder of what is missing

"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only so, we also rejoice in our sufferings. Because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character and character, hope and hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." - - Paul in Romans 5

We have so much for which to be thankful. Each day I hear another story of a tragedy. As we interact with people, we discover another heartache. Tonight I checked up on Jessica and Andrew to find out how they are doing. Each are making baby steps. I checked up on Sarah's family and community. A few people in the community with tragedies have come to my attention as well. Suffering does not seem to take a break. In fact it is no secret that the holidays are one of the most difficult times for those with loss as it serves as a reminder of what is missing.

This of course continues for Jacob - reminders of what is missing. Where he "should" be and what he "should" be doing. Really where he longs to be and longs to be doing. He was going to take woodshop again this year and make mom a jewelry box with hidden doors. His first year he made a box for his grandparents - the size of a hope chest. Last year he made us a table for our breakfast room. This year is a year of healing - no wood.

Jake is trying to use his right hand more. It is hard. The thumb is still in a brace and his fingers are sensitive and weak. Tomorrow the doctor will check the thumb again to see if the graft sight is taking. Last week it was still 50/50. Jake is actually getting pretty good at using his left hand. He is even doing a crossword puzzle.

It is easy to just say "look on the bright side" or "count your blessings." Recovery is not just about convincing yourself that things could be worse or that we should have a positive attitude. So often that just stuffs down the grief. Grief comes and goes and I really think it is healthier to explore what is missing rather than stuff it aside. As Jacob said after someone told him that it could be worse, "yeah, but it could be better too." Forcing a positive attitude is not persevering; at lest in my opinion, it is avoiding. Persevering is experiencing the suffering and allowing it to shape and build your character and move you to a place of seeing hope. Hope gets stronger as it grows not as it is neglected and hidden out of sight.

How then do I help my 17 year old son "persevere?" How do I look at him and help him to see that God is going to use all of this and in fact is using all of this? How do I convince him him that he is beautiful and amazing and still has so much to offer? 17 years old is still so fragile. Our teens try so hard to be so independent and strong and yet there is still so much to learn and grow and experience. Maturity is something that comes with making mistakes and experience suffering. Responsibility brings consequences as well independence.

I keep coming back to the verse about in Romans 5 because perseverance does not end. It is a daily struggle in the midst of suffering. It is a daily facing of the setbacks and the limitations that have come as a result of this injury. There is a constant reminder of what is missing and it causes great grieving. And yet as we move, tiptoe, step, hope and run through these daily trials the are glimmers of hope, moments of victory, and tremendous founts of joy. For we are not done yet. We have a day ahead of us that is another step forward and another taste of blessing as we have indeed been blessed with so much.
"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing
power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not
crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck
down, but not destroyed
2 Cor 4:7-9

We have been given a tremendous gift.

Tom (Daddy)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Two parties...

There are moments that stand out as especially significant - maybe not momentous but subtly significant. Today there were two Christmas parties. The first was a huge crowd of strangers eating boiled hot dogs and cake. There were children everywhere making cookies, visiting Santa, and receiving presents. There was music - live music of Beach Boys songs and it was held in the cafeteria at Valley Medical Hospital. This party was held to simply bless families of burn survivors.

The second party was with teenagers eating spaghetti with meatballs and homemade Almond Rocha. The plaster shook as they laughed and screamed and sang and exchanged white elephant gifts. There was Twister and music - from an Ipod and boom box and of course from the video game Rock Band. The part was held in our home and held simply to gather and enjoy Jacob's friends.

It was a subtly significant day. Jake for the first time visited the Burn Unit where he spent two months of his life of which he has no memory. Several nurses were able to greet him and hug him and all remarked - "wow you are tall, no wonder your feet kept hanging out of bed."

Significant day in that it to me is a day that shows how far we have come. The friends that had to visit Jake in two's at Valley Med and dress in gowns and whisper fearfully to him wondering if they would ever talk to their friend again were able to come into our home and just be kids again together. No great fanfare at either party acknowledging the achievement of a survivor but there is great significant. Amazing wonder that the journey has not gone the way of the grave but continues to move to life - abundant life. It is so easy to get caught up in how far we have to go but stopping and looking back we see how far and uneasy is the road we travel.

The Road not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
...Robert Frost

The road that we choose can often not be the one that we would have chosen. And we most definitely cannot go back to the place that choice was made. We must in fact trod on in forward motion; the attitude with which we trod makes all the difference. Each day has smooth and rocky paths; dreary depressing weather and amazing beautiful sunshine; and challenges that knock us back and also nudge us along. Each moment is a decision in who we are and what we will do. Do I act with integrity and righteousness? or do I cheat and deceive. Unfortunately the right path is not likely to be the popular and celebrated path but the one less traveled. Makes a big difference.

Praying for more subtly significant days and moments for Jacob as he continues to move forward on his journey. We are so thankful for deep friendships that we have found that has also made all the difference.

Peace and hope,

Tom (Daddy)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Thinking about community...

Today we had an appointment that was quite helpful; it was more of information really to help us as we move forward with rehabilitation. Really each choice that we are making right now is to give Jacob the best possible opportunity for recovering as much of his life as possible. He asked us tonight about the missing muscles in his back. What will that do to limit him? From what we understand it will affect his arm movement - perhaps for paddling his board. He will work at building other muscles and find ways to adapt and compensate. We have seen so many that have done so. Bethany Hamilton the young surfer who lost her arm has learned to not just surf again but surf in major competitions. That is what we move toward as parents - our children to move away from dependence on us, giving them responsibility as they can be trusted, freeing them more and more as they mature.

One thing I know is that we cannot judge others for what they do with their children. But also that we need community around us to help in the maturity process. We have been blessed with friends, pastors, teachers, who have built and are building into our boys. When difficulties rise many tend to withdraw and hide or cover up and hide. Yet in the midst of a trusted community of people we can love and support each other and carry one another's burdens. We need to find ways to strengthen this community, people you can count on.

Both Jessica and Andrew who we have been praying for are making remarkable progress. I have posted on the left column here links to those that we are praying for. I hope that it helps and makes it easier to connect to them. Read. Pray. Surround them with the same love that we are experiencing. I also received an email from an old friend Susie as well who is having surgery right before Christmas on her jaw. Pray that she will be home for Christmas!

Also, I just have to say it again: Please pray for the family of Sarah Botill. Not surprisingly, I received an email from a friend who is connected to that community, as they are so devastated by her death. Our friend told me that this family is being surrounded and loved and that you can tell that so many are praying for them. Please do not stop.

Thanks for continuing to care and support us.

Tom (Daddy)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

never put to shame

Jake and I escaped down the hill to my parents house in Los Gatos. It was 33 degrees when we left home - frost everywhere and our little fountain had a half of an inch of ice - perfect for Jensen to freeze objects (currently a Rock-em Sock-em Robot. Jensen is at Science Camp this week - could not have picked a colder week. Jake and I are trying to push through some school assignments. Everything is Internet based and we need to increase the pace a bit in order to graduate.

While Jake is working and while I wait for him to need my help, I was reading the articles about Sarah, the young Gilroy girl who passed away from alcohol poisoning and thinking about the devastation that community is going through. So completely overwhelming. Honestly, though I am removed from them, it hurts so deeply. The finality of death - the tragedy of loss. In so many respects my loss has been avoided, my tragedy is moving to victory. Though right now Jake is dependent on us for so much - we will know freedom for him.

This young 15 year old girl - in senseless, tragic loss has left a void of remorse that parents, family, friends must work through to avoid their own downward spiral working through the same questions we have worked through; why? Why Lord? You are in control and you have the ability to make a little adjustment to spare this life. I still look at Jake and ask the same questions. Why could you have not just made the damage a little less. What are you going to do through this? How are we going to be blessed and how are you going to be glorified through all of this.

These questions, I am convinced are very, very necessary. They are not questions to be feared or avoided. But they are also not questions that we should ever be satisfied with simple answers. What has happened with Jacob is an ever expanding and widening journey that continues to teach and grow us. Jacob's ministry is just beginning. I am hopeful and expectant that God can and will use these stories of suffering and tragedy to expand His community. The Andrew Sinclair and Jessica Huse communities and experiencing the suffering of coming out of a coma and moving toward steps of recovery and rehab at some point. We pray that God would continue to use it and bless them. Lord what do you have for Sarah's community. "Lord, reveal to them your presence, your hope, your purpose. Fill us with your peace - strength to make a step toward tomorrow.

Romans 10:11 As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame."

That verse comes in the context of Paul writing to a people in the midst of a cultural tragedy - a major mind-blowing paradigm shift in thinking. What they thought was the way God worked was being shown to be so much greater. They were acting a certain way to please God and were being told that the actions were nothing if the heart was not pure. Much more God was including Gentile's into his kingdom and Israel was not responding. Paul wants them and us to understand that the message of God was that simply believing in your heart and confessing with your mouth that Jesus is Lord is enough.

There is a message of hope. Even in the midst of devastating tragedy - as I remind myself often - there is still hope - God is still present - He is still good. I look at Jacob's wounds - his scars and still cringe - my heart still hurts. Yet they are are reminder that God is still good.

There are hero's among us. There are teens that remind us and reflect to us that God is still good. He is not done yet and desires that we surrender our pain into his arms and find that his strength is so much greater. As Robbie continues to remind me - it is more about releasing our pain to him - surrender - than it is about trying to figure out why.

Grace and peace,

Tom (Daddy)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Another family to pray for...

My heart is heavy right now. A friend sent me a prayer request which I posted on the Facebook Pray for Jacob Community. Apparently a girl of only 15 years old died on Saturday. The parents Mike and Michelle have already known loss - their other daughter before she reached her third birthday. I am honestly finding it hard to pray for them - this loss is so very deep. It is not right. Parents are not suppose to bury their children - it hurts my heart. I know I am feeling what so many of you have felt - what do I do for them? how do I pray for them?

The best thing that I can do is the only thing that I can do - pray. Pray for strength; pray for faith; pray for hope; pray for their community. I think that I will start to pray that Mike and Michelle will have a Jim and Sue in their life. A couple with unconditional love and acceptance that will just show up with a bottle of cold water and a hug. I will pray for their community to reach out and support them. I will pray for the churches to surround them and be there for them. I guess I will pray that they will find in the midst of their journey the similar strength that we have found in out journey.

And if God would allow us to provide something more, we will be there. But the best thing is the only thing - prayer.

This song by Leeland has been going through my head a lot this week...

Wounded and forsaken
I was shattered by the fall
Broken and forgotten
Feeling lost and all alone
Summoned by the King
Into the Master’s courts
Lifted by the Savior
And cradled in His arms

I was carried to the table
Seated where I don’t belong
Carried to the table
Swept away by His love
And I don’t see my brokenness anymore
When I’m seated at the table of the Lord
I’m carried to the table
The table of the Lord

Fighting thoughts of fear
And wondering why He called my name
Am I good enough to share this cup
This world has left me lame
Even in my weakness
The Savior called my name
In His Holy presence
I’m healed and unashamed

You carried me, my God
You carried me

Great prayer. At the table, though we do not belong, we are welcomed, healed, loved - "and I don't see my brokenness anymore."

Grace and peace,

Tom (Daddy)

Where we are at...

It is Sunday morning and it is so very very quite right now. Jake and Debbie are still asleep and Jensen spent the night at a friends. We had plans to get up and go to church this morning but it looks like it just might be me...mornings are hard for Jake to get going. I wonder too if weekends are hard for him knowing that he is still stuck with Mom and Dad. We took him down to the village last night and had a good time together but what 17 year old wants to go out on a Saturday night with his parents?

Looking back on the week I think we made some overall good steps. He is moving better and getting stronger. I have been asked some questions so I wanted to clarify some things on Jake's condition:
1. He is in school - finishing his senior year at Aptos through an internet based classroom and monitored by the independent studies teacher.
2. He is able to get up and move around - he gets back in bed when he is tired or sore or just cold but he is up and around.
3. He is not using his right hand very much right now because it is still bandaged and has pins sticking out the end of his thumb. It is looking like the graft is taking although there are still two spots doctors are watching.
4. Surgery on his head will be 4 weeks after he is off his anti-0biotics which puts us in January. They have already designed and made the piece that will be fit in under his muscle flap. That muscle flap becomes is also his skin graft. Later down the road they can do surgery for hair and such .
5. Jake has limited strength and motion in his right arm. He is missing muscle that was removed because it was damaged from electricity and is very tight do to grafting. Skin shrinks up as it heals, like leather when it is wet.
6. Jake's heel is a very tender area and he has nicked it a couple of times. Skin on bone grafts are delicate and as the wound care nurse said this week, he will always have to be especially careful with his feet. We went out looking for a good pair of shoes on Friday but were both a bit frustrated - what he considers acceptable looks-wise and what is best functional has not found an intersection yet.

We have so much to be thankful for as so many of you know. This part of the journey is hard in that we are not dealing with life and death crisis but in the long road of recovery. Emotions and attitude are such an important part of his forward progress but those are things that we cannot force. All that we can do is try to lay down the groundwork that we feel best fosters and cares for him. I would say we often fail as much as we succeed. One of the biggest blessings is touch points by friends - those friends that come and hang with him and that he feels safe with. Many of his friends feel at home enough to walk in the front door without needing to knock and help themselves to whatever they can find in the fridge. That makes my heart rejoice.

I still with all my heart know that God is in the midst of all of this. It does not go they way I think that things should go. I thought Jake would be having his head surgery this week. We have not been abandoned. The fears that continue to come up are the same fears that are always there and they involve me trying to control and figure things out rather than surrender and trust. Put the word "I" in front of anything this season and it will sell: I-phone, I-touch, I-case... and that is what I do - putting "I" in front of everything considering myself first far too often. There is a surrender that takes place in God's Kingdom, a surrender of "I". This is not all about me. God is here seeing the bigger picture and moving and acting according to his perfect design.

Christmas is here. My prayer is that I do not make this Christmas about me. That God would help me to surrender myself and in the midst of sacrificing and serving others - I would be serving Him.

Blessing and grace

Tom (Daddy)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Appointment Day!

I am writing from the hospital - okay not really - we are next door at the medical center which is on the same campus at Santa Clara Kaiser. Jacob and I are sitting in the cafeteria. We finished 3 of our 4 appointments. First we went to the wound clinic and had his thumb and heel checked. Thumb is looking good - they gave us some advice on how to dress it a little differently to help the heeling. In this case blood red is good...and it is looking good. He had a nick on his heel that was bleeding as well and we need to pad it a little differently. He will always have to be very careful with his feet.

We then went to PT for some exercises for balancing. He is looking so much stronger. He did some walking on the treadmill. Jake really needs to work more on stamina than anything else. After PT we went to OT where she worked on his skin movement on the burn sites. He has scaring on top of scaring and we are trying to mash the fibers together. Which brings us our last appointment (in 4 minutes). Jake is getting fitted for a pressure garment which will help in the the scar compression. Will write more after that - Jake will need to do more Farmville on Facebook. :)

7:00 pm - we just got home. The fitting for the pressure garments was a long process. Plus we stopped at his favorite sushi place in Los Gatos to spoil him - his waitress was not working though. Although it was a long, hard day on Jake - very frustrating for him, it was a very progressive day from my viewpoint. He made huge strides in both OT and PT and these pressure garments will really help the healing of his burn areas. It feels good to be on the "making progress" side of things - to really see it and for health professionals say "you are doing very good." That is a win.
Jake is up resting and eagerly awaiting a couple of friends coming up to watch the Office with him.
Grace and peace,
Tom (Daddy)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Progress - patient progress

Each day it seems like Jake is subtly stronger and stronger - emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Today he met again with the surgeon that did his thumb. things are looking good. There are a couple of spots that he is still not sure about but overall there is skin growth on the edges and NO sign of infection. Jake and Debbie went to the appointment and seemed okay with it but as I sit here and right I am overjoyed - for so long we have prayed for this thumb - this reminder of the miracles.

We are making progress - sometimes it feels like we are stuck, forgotten, left out... but there is subtle, incremental progress that may not be measured in leaps and bounds but in gentle, hope-filled, nudges. Discouragement comes so easily, too easily when focusing on what is not. I know I have been doing that a lot lately - forgetting that I need to just focus on what is before me - cooking a meal, spending time with family, doing math with Jacob.

I just got "interrupted" in writing this with a phone call from a friend. It was a welcome interruption in that we were able to finally connect a bit with each other's struggles. I spent some time with another dear friend earlier today. What a blessing it is to have people in your life to share struggles with that will accept you as you are and take on your burden as their own. It is an amazing gift to be a true friend. It is an amazing gift to have a true friend. It makes the journey a bit less lonely.

In deep friendship,

Tom (Daddy)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Merciful Blessing

It was hard last night to say goodbye to Robbie last night as they headed back down to Biola. It was so incredible to have him home - I think we are all going through a little withdrawal. So after some significant schoolwork today we picked up Jensen form school and headed to Betty's Burgers in Santa Cruz. The Owner had emailed me months ago sharing how they have been following Jake's story and were holding a t-shirt and gift card for Jacob (stickers too). So many little things kept us from getting there but we finally made it. Awesome. Highly recommended!!!

Then we drove along the coast. It is dark this time of year in the redwoods - an amazing clear and beautiful day along the ocean though. After stopping by and seeing our Dear friends at Freeline (surf shop Jake works at) we hit a Goodwill store to find an ugly Christmas sweater for Jake's upcoming party and finally home - followed right behind by Kiko and Chris, two of Jacob's friends. So they are hanging out helping get ornaments on the tree.

Freeline has continues to have a can on their counter on behalf of Jacob. They had also posted a flyer about the local dentist office that is whitening teeth to benefit Jake through the end of the year. All the details are on the left side of this blog - scroll down a little. You can even give a gift certificate to someone. It is a great value and they are totally blessing us. I spoke to Angela this morning from their office. She is our dental advocate as we try to figure out our own dental needs. They have been amazing.

So many of you have been such a blessing. As I write this, I am getting waves of panic because there are so many to thank - spikes of guilt are stabbing me. I know though that this outpouring of love and caring comes though from incredibly caring hearts that just want to bless us. There is no expectation of reciprocation - making this all the more special. It is also a dramatic reminder to me to not get caught up in reciprocal giving as we approach Christmas. You know that panic attack when someone gives you a Christmas gift and you did not even have it on your radar to give them something back? Or when you give a gift just because you saw something perfect for them and they say, but I did not give you anything?

It has been a huge lesson to be a gracious receiver. To accept the gift and appreciate it without letting it trigger obligation. It is a lesson for those of us who attempt follow Christ. The gift that Jesus gave is unable to be reciprocated. Yet so often we try and try and hold tight to this sense of payback - obligation - as proof of our allegiance or to please God or worse yet influence Him. Pleasing God comes from the purity of action.

Jesus quoted the prophet Hosea when he spoke for God saying, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice." Both Hosea and Jesus were addressing the blundering of thinking that an external act would please God when there is impurity, greed, idolatry, etc in our hearts. God's message over and over again where that the sacrifices and offerings that God's people bring to him are nothing if the heart is not merciful blessings.

Our time of suffering has proved to also be our time of receiving merciful blessing. Prayers, encouragement, gifts, etc are gifts of mercy, gifts of compassion, gifts of love as they pour out to us and to Jacob and allow us to continue to focus on Jacob. This is what community is all about - we are experiencing the mercy of God. I have been asked by several people, how we are surviving through this? Community, the merciful blessing of community. Each day holds another lesson in trying to really trust in Jesus' lesson of not worrying about tomorrow but trusting in him for today and that he will provide for tomorrow.

Moving forward I am starting to send out resume's again. I was actually able to sub for a couple of half days at Jensen's school. Is that not having faith that God will continue to provide? I see it as not taking advantage of the merciful blessing and seeking to partner with God in provision. As Jacob becomes moves toward independence, especially after his next surgery, I pray that God would provide the right position for me to provide for my family and spread that merciful blessing to others.

Our prayer of mercy at this moment is still for healing to Jake's thumb. Tomorrow we go back to have it checked once again. Lord our deepest desire is that this grafting would take and that we might travel to the next major event on this journey. For Jake this all means moving toward more independence and less parent-dependence as he gets the plate inserted over his brain.

Happy December,

Tom (Daddy)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Christmas is underway...

We got our tree today and of course forgot to get a picture of all of us around it. I am sure there is more to come but wanted to post these.

We live right around the corner from this tree lot. For years when we lived in town we would drive up to the Santa Cruz Mountains to cut down a tree. Now that we live in the mountains this is the first year we actually went a cut one down for various reasons. Our goal this year was get the tallest one on this lot.

Jake always disagrees with the tree that we pick out. True to form this one was not good enough. But the rest of us agreed and we had our fill. Nice to have Rob and Jensen to cut and carry - Robbie got a little carried away with the lifting on top of the car. The tree is up and we will spend tomorrow decorating it before Robbie heads back to college. We will all miss him but know that he will be back soon.

I was thinking about Thanksgiving and now approaching Christmas...what a blessing it is to be where we are right now. Jake was of course frustrated that he could not run around like he normally does and had to walk carefully with his helmet on... frustrated at not being "normal". Wanting to be whole again for Christmas. I reminded him of my birthday and the gift that he gave me - a standing hug. We take what we have and lay it before those that we love, not in greatness but in purity of heart. That is truly the best we have to give. "Lord, help me to be satisfied with what I do have, not longing for what I do not."

Grace and peace

Tom (Daddy)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Do not be afraid...

Quite often in the Bible it is recorded that when God shows up one of the first things he says is "do not be afraid." Adam was hiding from God after he sinned, Moses was approaching a burning bush, Abraham was leaving his home, Mary was pregnant, shepherds where in their fields, Jesus disciples were meeting in private - God or his angel shows up and says "do not freak out and run away."

Fear so easily drowns out that inner voice telling us that we are okay, that we are loved, that we are secure. Fear blasts it's voice and creates a reaction that shakes our foundation to the core. Our response is to run and hide like Adam or stand and fight like Jacob (later named Israel). I wonder if when God talks about man's "hardened heart" if that is not a result of fear. Fear is a response at self -preservation, self-defense, protection. Is that not a hardening that puts a defense around our being to avoid being hurt? Why would God come toward us and say do not be afraid?

He desires for us to be open to the message that He has for us - if we are defending ourselves and protecting ourselves we are closed not open. God's desire is for our soft hearts to receive the message that he has for us not to harm us or make us freaks but to mold us and shape us and create in us a pure heart.

As I look at this journey that we have been on and as I look at Jacob there are of course times of intense fear. Even now in the midst of being thankful for the miracles that have brought us to this point - there is fear - that brings us to the point of tears - that wages war and puts up defenses. God whispers "do not be afraid, do not go into hiding, open yourself up to me." I have been told since high school Sunday school to fear God and that means to revere God. I accept the difference between God saying do not be afraid and yet being told that fearing God is good. I can get it - but then I really do not always get it. How do I fear God and yet not be afraid of him?

"When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was." Ex 20:18-20

God is good all the time. He has no evil at all. Fearing God is not the same as fearing what is evil. In fact fearing God is fearing because he is perfectly good and it is I who am evil. How in the world can I stand in the presence of holy perfection? God's grace is perfect too and it allows me through he cross of Christ to draw near to God - not stand at a distance - but to draw near. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Mt 11:28-30

In the midst of this suffering - in the midst of your suffering Jesus says come close to me. Hold on to me. Allow me to be your rest. For us to do this we strive to keep our hearts soft and open to the message that He has for us - that we would come out of hiding and share our hearts with one another and allow God to speak through the community of those around us - and he gives us rest.

The opposite of fear is not bravery - rather it is rejoicing...

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Phil 4:4-9

Fear puts you in hiding but rejoicing sends you to the streets as you join the parade like King David dancing around in his underwear singing praises to God as the Arc was brought back to Jerusalem. Nothing could keep him from rejoicing. (Not even the disdain of Michal his wife) (see 2 Sam 6 for a very cool response from Davd when confronted by Michal.)

I guess that is my deep pray today - that we would not be in fear but rejoicing.

Grace and peace,

Tom (Daddy)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Tofu Turkey and the Gift

Happy Thanksgiving!

We are so thankful for the amazing community that has and continues to surround us. We DO have so much to be thankful for on this day. We are laying low this morning and just getting going. Debbie made an amazing turkey last night and this morning we plan to do our favorite meal: "Big Breakfast". The puzzle is out, the parade is on and football games are coming. Later we are going to go down and see may parent's oddity: "Tofu Turkey".

What a blessing it is to be at home and not in the hospital. Immediately as I am thankful, I think of Jessica's family, Andrew's family, and so many more that are still in the hospital. There are so many others that have such heartache right now as we deal with "trials of various kinds." My prayer is less about taking away the trial these days - though of course that is still there. My prayer is that right where we are in the midst of our day we would recognize the Gift. The very presence of God in grace, hope, faith, truth can and does penetrate the moment and infuse our spirit.

It is so easy to wallow in the moment of "what is not" or "what should have been" or "what might be." We go there a lot with Jake's Journey. I am not saying we should just have positive thinking but that we should recognize that in this moment there is a power beyond us that is with us - not just in tragedy but also in the everyday moments. "Immanuel, God is with us" the gift is about being united with God through Jesus Christ in this very moment.

Paul says in Romans 6 "If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been freed from sin."

So often I focus on being united with Christ in his death and the freedom that comes from forgiveness but I do not focus as fully on being united with him in resurrection. The resurrection does not just come in the future when I physically die - in spiritual death comes spiritual resurrection. The resurrection power is now in this moment because God is alive and active in this moment. So then no matter where I am right now the power of God is with me. Freedom comes in the death AND resurrection of Jesus - Immanuel, God is with us.

We have a lot to be thankful for. Time to start in on the "Big Breakfast".

Love and peace,

Tom (Daddy)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Continuous, reverent thankfulness

So very much to be thankful for.

As I write this, Robbie is on his way home. We are all looking forward to it so much. It will be so nice just to be together as a family and play games and do a puzzle. Jake usually does not do the Thanksgiving puzzle with us (other than trying to steal the last piece), but this year he picked it out. We also bought a random game to play.

Jake had frustrating day today. He gave blood (needs to get it tested weekly) and then had an appointment with the surgeon to look at the skin graft on his thumb. This is the third Tuesday since the operation and the third time the doctor has examined it. The first week he said it looked good. The second week he was not sure if it would take or not. Today he wanted the surgeon over him to look at it as he was not sure if the bone was showing through. Jake and Debbie were on their way home and stopped for lunch when the doctor called and they had to go back to be examined. Made the day so much longer and we basically came away with "we will see". At least that is as much as Jake shared with me so far. He was pretty overwhelmed when he got home.

Overall he is getting stronger - you can see it in how he walks and moves. He is able to spend a lot less time on his bed and more time downstairs with us. He may not feel like it, but I see it. So much to be thankful for. He is here with us and we will all be together for Thanksgiving. That sounds so cliche' right now - so typical that we count our blessings - stop and recognize the blessings that we have - it is more than cliche' though. A heart that is thankful, truly thankful holds on to peace, joy, hope and faith as a coiled rope; thankfulness changes your entire countenance, it changes how you treat others, it changes how you consider God.

"Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our 'God is a consuming fire.'" Heb 12:28-29

Being thankful we remember the relationship that we have with God and our place in that relationship which brings humility.
"Be careful not to forget the covenant of the LORD your God that he made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the LORD your God has forbidden. For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God." Deut 4:23-24

Establishing a heart of thankful reverence shapes who we are as we move forward through life helping us to evaluate, discern and react with the fullness of Christ - the power of Christ.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. Col 2:6-10

It is very easy to say that I am thankful and honestly have moments of thanks but continuous reverent thankfulness is so very hard. I honestly want more - I do not want things to stay they way they are now so I long for more...long for it to be better...and so easily forget. Perhaps that is the confusion at least for me - thankful does not mean finished - it does not mean we stop moving forward - it is actually the opposite - being grateful leads us forward because we see that God is moving and acting and is not done.

So grateful even for this journey - for we see the majesty of the Almighty in the midst of the storm - he is more real today that he was yesterday and we trust him more and more.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tom (Daddy)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Finding a handle on hope...

There is this continuous struggle in my mind and heart. There exists a tension of discontent that continues to be a struggle. It is between this idea of my own action and releasing things to God and let him do things. What I do vs what God does. I know some who refuse medicine for treating ailment because they trust and have faith that God will heal them. I have also known those that do not believe God moves in this area at all and that we need to trust fully in modern science and technology. The last time I checked this notion of "God helps those that help themselves" is not in the Bible. Where is the line then?

The struggle for me is how much I do vs trust God to do? Is faith diminished because I act. Is faith stronger because I wait for God to move. Or have I missed the sign that God sent me.

I struggled through this with unemployment. I feel my call and passion is for ministry and yet for the last 3 or is it 4 now years I have not been fully employed in a church. Called by God but no phone call by man. I have a friend who says that I just need to trust and wait on God to provide in his timing. I have a friend that says that I need to sell myself better. It seem that there is faith in waiting and in acting. Tell someone that you are an unemployed pastor and they look at you like you are some kind of freak. I actually had someone say that they did not know pastors could be unemployed.

Through the trials of these last years and especially in this journey with Jacob I have become more convinced than ever that who I am as a person, pastor, dad is not defined by my paycheck. Honestly it is really hard because our culture has served to define us in this way. I love being a pastor right now where I am - free to encouraged and love people and direct their attention to Jesus. That is the call - not just for pastors but for all of us. I do not need to be called by man to do what God has called me to do. It is so easy to forget that.

In church this morning the pastor spoke on suffering - it seems like that surrounds us right now. I told a friend of mine that maybe I could be the Pastor of Suffering...

He was talking about Paul and his time of suffering during the shipwreck on his journey. What he said sent me back to Romans and specifically these verses.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Romans 5:1-5

I love these words: justified, peace, access, rejoice, hope... so much could be said in these verses. Paul in the verses before this was writing to help God's people to understand that the message of God, the Gospel, was not just for the Jews but the Gentiles as well. He spoke in terms of Abraham and the promise that God gave them and that it is not our outward conformity and obedience that determines being right with God (justified) but that our inward heart - the circumcision of the heart - that matters. That come through faith.

How do we get to the point of having hope against all hope like Abraham? Godly character is shaped as we persevere through suffering. Perseverance is all about recognizing that God is in this moment with us sustaining us through this storm. Perhaps it is not a decision between waiting for God to move or moving thinking God is not in this. Maybe it is about remain focused through faith that God is in the midst and that knowing God means that my actions and God's actions are so closely connected because I know the heart of God and it is impossible to distinguish the two.

Jesus says that, "I am the Great Shepherd. My sheep know my voice and they follow." I really think that I get so caught up in trying to figure things out that I forget to listen to the voice of Jesus.

The question I left church with this morning is: "what is the difference between acting on our own and obeying in faith?" My answer is still forming as I struggle daily. But In know this: being justified through faith I hold on to peace with God because Jesus Christ provided by faith access to the Father, standing firm in grace. That is the hope of God's glory that causes me to rejoice.

As for Jacob, I really think this is part of the struggle for him too. Each day is a day of struggle between faith that God is with him in this and strength to follow God and take steps to follow the voice of the Shepherd.

This week is one of a few appointments but mostly we are excited to welcome Robbie back home and have a little peace in the midst of family. We are all just excited to be together.

We continue to ask specifically for prayer regarding the graft on Jacob's thumb - "Lord, heal that thumb and allow the skin to live." Also pray for the infection to clear so that we can move on to head surgery as we dwell in Hope in 2010.

In growing peace.

Tom (Daddy)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Love, Part 4

If you haven't noticed, I have been thinking a lot about "love." I think that there are a lot of good questions about love to ask regarding discipleship. At what point do we rest in contentment, not striving to always "do," but relax and let others come around us? That has been one great lesson through all of this... humility to take in love. But that love is not static. We are "blessed to be a blessing..."
I think that Jake is coming more to terms with the long-term-ness of all of this. I think that the subsiding of the back pain really helped improve his demeanor. Yes he is still depressed... we all are... I myself do not see yet see a near end to what I am coming to grips with as a bleak/dark period in my own life... but there is a rest, a contentment, a resolve to go through what he must, to endure. In that there is joy... not a "happy" joy, but more of a "resolved, ruthless" joy.

If you can, read John 15-16... it will put what I have to say in more context. All throughout John, Jesus seems to be talking in abstract terms about his commandments for us, how he is connected to the Father and has authority, the reasons that we should be obedient, etc... but finally in 15:12, he says:

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what the Master is doing... These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

Love is the center of a dynamic cycle. We are called to follow Christ's commandments... following his commandments is showing our love to him... but the very central commandment that he calls us to is to love one another, as he loved us! Love is the command. It is also the means to following that command... and it is all centered around Christ, around the example he gave, around the scandal involved in a holy, perfect God becoming unholy and imperfect because he loves us. This is the paradox of the incarnation.

The reason I say all this is because I pray that this cycle be evident in the lives of my family members through this ordeal... that we would relax and take in love when needed, but that we would also be proactive in this awesome experience to share love! Looking at the way that this blog/facebook has connected so many people - just look at what it has done for people like Jessica Huse and Andrew Sinclair. It has become a way to connect more people to more stories. My brothers and sisters, this is the Kingdom of God at work. This is the Church.
And looking at how much Jacob will grow through this. I can only pray and dream about what God has in store for him in the future.

So, I have come to derive hope from two sources. One from the things said above. The other, that has recently become more important to me, is the promise we have in Christ of future restoration. That one day we get to follow in his action of Resurrection. John 16:33 -

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

Do you believe this? Do you trust this Word? If you truly do... not just if you mentally agree with these statements... but if you truly believe... then you live in a different world, and you need to get ready for transformation to happen. Belief is not a mental process... it is a holistic, real-life endeavor of living in a way that is backwards to the ways of our societal structures. No one has it perfect... which is why we trust and submit. I see Jacob, so vulnerable, so submissive, so humiliated... and in him I see the resurrected Son of God.

With you all in prayer,

Rob (Jake's brother)

Friday, November 20, 2009

How are you?

I wrote this late last night - I think part of it was in my sleep - so it does not all make sense but I tried to clean it up a bit this morning. I don't have as much time as I use to as there is always something - I need to replace a toilet seat right now but wanted to get this back on the blog....

A big part of life right now is navigating through the trips to the doctors. Today was 4 hours of testing on brain activity. Jake was pretty exhausted by the time he and Debbie got home this afternoon. There is a follow-up meeting with the doctor in a couple of weeks.

Our internet was up and down so there was very little "Farmville" activity nor school. We are looking forward to doing some school catch-up this next week. "Farmville" is an application in Facebook that many of Jake and Jensen's friends are into. They have some sort of virtual farm - Jensen wanted to hurry home so that he could harvest his grapes today. Maybe it is teaching responsibility? Although Jensen tells me that he will get to the dishes after he helps a friends with a cow or something.

One of my favorite questions that I am asked is "how are you doing?" It is such a normal question - one we rarely thing about when we ask it or answer it. I do not say "fine" anymore. I usually stop and think and answer honestly - the depth depends on who is in front of me. It generally will lead into a deeper conversation that also allows me to honestly hear from the other person on what is going on in their life as well. God continues to amaze me with the conversations available through this journey.

God also continues to amaze me in providing us funds to make it through this time. So many have given so much. We are starting receive statements showing what our insurance is actually paying verses what they have been billed. We have also started to recieve bills for our portion. You think it is all in since we have been out of the hospital for a while but the bills keep going and going like the energizer bunny - but this one is draining. Again it seems that God provides as we need it. So amazing. Bank of the West keeps copies for us of the deposits into the Jacob Journey account and the notes that come in from people. I went it this week to correct our address and retrieve a thick file of copies. I am just blown away how God provided these last two weeks specifically from friends that are parft the church where we spent 20 years - Calvary in Los Gatos. We continue to be blessed by the CHURCH at large through both individuals and local church communities. I am looking forward to hearing a song written by Josh Fox from Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz. The song he told me was inspired by Jacob's Journey. Amazing.

Romans 4:4-5
Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.
-> I keep coming back to this verse for a couple of reasons.

1. it is hard to not work and trust God to work things out

2. I am wicked. God justifies me. I cannot work out my justification. I cannot do enough to make up for my sins.

3. faith not works brings about justification.

4. My biggest duty right now is to help Jacob see and understand his own place of faith in this journey

So getting back to the question: How is Jake doing? Overall he is a little bit better each day - even if he does not see it, I see it. There are good moment and bad moments each day....just part of the roller coaster. He gets frustrated and depressed but each day is one of growth.

Love and peace

Tom (JK Daddy)

Thankful hearts

The touch of the creator is all about us serving to remind us that He is very near. We had an early start today getting Debbie and Jacob out of the house to an early appointment. In the midst of hurrying it is so easy to miss the beauty right before us. I pray that we keep thankful hearts in the midst of today.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

love this incredible

It is late. I should be in bed as I need to be up again in the morning to get Jensen to school and then meet with Jacob's Independent Studies Teacher. Before I turn in - I just needed to write. Otherwise I know I will just lay there for a while. So much of this blog is about Robbie and I just simply journalling our hearts about this Journey that we found ourselves thrust into on June 28th 2009 - 5 months ago.

There are moments that just overwhelm me - not just moments regarding Jacob - moments of others. Jessica Huse & Andrew Sinclair pull hard on my heart as we lift them up in prayer. Pick up the paper you find another story far too easily. Several friends fighting cancer. Marriages falling apart. Teenagers rebelling. A father still abusing his daughter - still not caught. There is such tragedy all around.

Walking Jacob up the stairs tonight to his bed I had to pull back tears. Watching a movie with Jensen - a father lost his son - I wept. There is such a helplessness right now. Waiting for the 4 weeks of anti-biotics to be up. Waiting for head surgery. Waiting for Jakes back to get better. Plodding through simple exercises to stretch skin grafts and strengthen muscles. Not being where he wants to be is so hard for Jacob. Missing hanging out at lunch and going to dollar pizza with his friends. We have said all of the before - but it still hits him - pray for strength, stamina, gratefullness, HOPE...

The moment that we are given right now, right here is no accident. Even where Jake is right now, right here - though he does not fully understand nor like it - is exactly where God wants him today. It does not mean we cannot long for more - God longs for more too. That is why he gave us his son - that is why his holy spirit is available to us - to help us see that today is more than what we make of it. He gives us more than we can ask or imagine - do I make the most of my moments?

You have found me where I am
Filthy wretched shadow of a man
I was fallen - broken from choices made
alone and empty - You called my name
Love so incredible, love so true
Holds me in mercy, holds me in You

Crucified for me; Your holiness remains
Beaten and bloody treated with such shame
Holy, merciful, gracious redeemer
Your death spreads wide your holy fame
Love so incredible, love so true
Holds me in mercy, Holds me in you

In this moment I am given - no matter how hard
Fill me, restore me, Lord make me like you
That I might be thankful and let down my guard
With dancing and signing Lord I praise you anew
Love so incredible, love so true
Holds me in mercy, Holds me in you.
I think I am suppose to end with that - it is late - and this laptop keeps loosing it's WIFI signal - I have to press down on the computer with my left wrist to get a signal - dying laptop - already been fixed for the last time. Hand is cramping - eyes are drooping.

Where you are is no accident. Dwelling in God's strength, allow His grace to be sufficient.

In hope, love and faith

Tom (JK Daddy)