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.

Cheers...

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)