September 26, 2011

Beginning and an End

Well, we had our big visit with Shr*ners Hospital for Childr*n. It was a long trip and we're all glad to be home for a while.
The appointment slip simply said "Anna Noelle" being seen for "Limb Deficiency."

Anna did excellent being still for the x-rays. She didn't cry once and wooed all the ladies :)

We met with Dr.W and his PA who confirmed Anna's deficiency and evaluated her leg length discrepancy as 2.5cm and projected it to be 27% shorter than her right leg at full growth which is significant. He said her hips, spine, and femur were all good to go (positive news since fibular hemimelia can affect all of these things). He did detect a slight knock knee which is common with FH but he said it wasn't anything to be concerned about right now.

We also met the head of the prosthetics department. We really liked him. He showed us all sorts of prosthetics the kids and parents pick out and explained the ins and outs a little more. I asked him a little about his schooling, too- what a great profession to go into! It must be so rewarding to help children walk for the first time on a daily basis. And imagine the need in third world countries for prosthetics. We saw so many people in India who couldn't walk due to some malformed leg or foot. Finish rabbit trail.

We dropped in to the orthotics/prosthetics department at the hospital and we saw several kids. One girl had an above the knee prosthetic, another boy walked out on his two amputated leg stumps, and we even walked by a child with no legs at all.

Everyone we met was really great- the nurses, PA, the Care Coordinator, and even the Shr*ners in the lobby. We saw a Shr*ners transportation van pull up from Virginia, busing in a family. It's nice to be surrounded by people devoting their lives to helping others.

Surprise- Anna was scheduled for a Boyd amputation of the left foot above the ankle on March 6 at the age of 11 months old. This will enable her leg to fit into a below the knee prosthesis. Dr. W plans to also separate her joined index and ring finger at that time. Total surgery time would be about 4 hours and recovery 6 weeks or so. Thus, there will be no big one year birthday party planning for this family. I guess instead she will get a new leg for her birthday.


So in conclusion, we went in for our first appointment and came out with a surgery date. No need to visit any time in between. We are relieved for some freedom from travelling. The whole family is run-down, especially Anna. I think she needs some consistency and to just be at home right now. Here's to hoping her sleeping/eating gets back to normal quickly.

All in all, today was a significant day. While it marks the end of our quest and questions regarding medical treatment options for Anna, it also marks a beginning of sorts to the rest of our journey with her. As I've said before, her story is already written in God's book. We have the privilege of seeing it unfold day by day.

September 25, 2011

Six Months

Our little girl is six months old. Affectionally called both Pumpkin and Sweet Pea. Here's a photojournal of what she's been up to this month.

She spent lots of time with her Grandma in Florida.

She fell in love with a furry Hippo.

She can hold her weight on her legs.

She showed an affinity towards driving.

She started eating real people food. So far she's had pears, prunes, avocado, and oatmeal. I hate the three day wait rule, but I know it's important especially for Anna.

 She maintained her good sleeping habits.

She received her first winter hats.

And she failed to grow any hair. 

She's all about trying to crawl lately. She's getting close but isn't quite there yet.

She's still very small for her age and just at or below the 3rd percentile- 12-and-a-half pounds and 23.5 inches. The nurse says she is in the 50th percentile of weight for her height, so she's not underweight- just petite. She did start wearing clothes within her size range for the first time! She wears predominantly 0-3 month clothing, but now fits into a bunch of 3-6 month stuff. You go girl.

Love you Anna!

September 22, 2011

Happiness Deferred

As you've probably already discovered, I've struggled back and forth with lack of contentment during the latter 2 years of this long 8 year season in my life of living as simply as possible. In the college and graduate school days it was easy to be content because everyone around you was in the same boat. There was nothing to compare yourself to. But now that we are a little older, it has become more challenging. People in our generation are typically homeowners and multiple car and gadget owners. Often they are 401K and IRA owners. Some are even college savings fund owners and rental property owners. The list goes on. We begin to look around and suddenly our little apartment seems far from the norm.

Do you ever go to a friend's house and come away feeling the opposite of content? Like all of a sudden you realize all the things you don't have? How cramped your apartment is. How you worry if the upstairs tenants' obnoxiously loud rap music and arguing will wake the baby up. How you don't have a yard or any privacy and can't have people over to "entertain" because you don't even have a real kitchen table. How you are tired of eating lots of chicken but it's the most economical. How you only have one car and it's very inconvenient to be stuck at home all day. How you don't exactly live close to anyone you know because no one else wants to live in the "rougher" part of town. How you wish you didn't have to listen to profanity-filled music being blasted from cars in the parking lot when you're walking with your little one. Sigh.

Sometimes when I see friends around me with their nice big houses all decorated and spacious, their big yards to have people over, and their easy modes of transportation, I can't help but think their lives seem easier. Better.

But "better" is a facade. Happiness should not be deferred to a time in the future. Contentment indicates the present. Now.

I recently read these excerpts from Simple Mom:

When I let go of the idea of someday happiness, I found it in everything around me. I didn’t need a bigger house to be happy, and I certainly didn’t need something prettier on my walls, or nicer bedding, or fancier gadgets in the kitchen. There are things that make our lives easier or prettier, but I learned that none of those external things was going to make my life better.

Beautiful, happy moments happen in big houses, small houses, fixed-up houses, and outdated houses. They take place in itty-bitty studio apartments, and they take place in homes we own or spaces we rent. The beautiful moments, the contentment with what we have comes from within, not from the walls around us.

I really love this. It reminds me of so many people we've met overseas- the man in India with a gaping hole in his roof that resulted in a soaking wet floor each time it rained, but which he never bothered to fix because everything he received he gave away to someone in greater need around him. Or Sabino and his wife and baby girl who all lived in ONE 12' by 10' (120 sq foot) room and used a community bathroom in Guatemala.

And how rich their love was.

I then saw my friend Jessica's post and she said exactly what was in my heart and challenged me to take captive those discontented thoughts. So instead of re-writing, I encourage you to read her post. It is very short and I promise it will encourage you.

It reminded me that the decision to stay home with Anna may keep us from being homeowners in the near future, but it's so worth it. I cherish every moment I get to spend with our little girl. And I think when she looks back on her childhood, she will care more that I was fully present in it than that she had a big house to run around in.

Jessica and her husband are friends we met in Athens through our church community the Well. Both of us realized we had been travelling 45 minutes away to attend the place we loved, and neither of us knew the other was from Athens. When we finally did meet, it was such a blessing to Ben and me. We finally had a couple who, every time we were with them, challenged and encouraged us in the ways of God and to live simply. They didn't have the nicest things. They didn't spend a lot of time and money on fashion or decor. They cared about what mattered. Loving God and loving people. You felt it just by being in their home and being around them. We longed to have a small group, so we all got together a few times and talked about what was going on in our lives and spent time praying for each other. It was great to have friends like them. Unfortunately, we did not get to spend much time together before Ben and I left for India. We have always said how we can't wait to meet another couple like Jessica and Brandon wherever we go next.

To the Honsaleks, we miss you guys.

Lastly, Ben and I have this ongoing joke when we pass up something we want where we look at each other and say, "Someday, when we have money, (fill in blank)."

I'm retiring this saying.

September 20, 2011

The Best Summer Ever

First off, let me apologize for my poor structure of this post. I had a hard time making it flow. And I'm sure my grammer is terrible but I'm too lazy to fix it right now. You have been warned.

I was a bridesmaid in my friend Christina's wedding this past weekend.

Seeing her get married allowed me to reminisce about when we met and how it was The Best Summer Ever.

It was the summer before The Best Year Ever - my internship at Wesley in 2006.

I applied for a travelling youth ministry team of six people through Wesley at UGA. The team was built with three girls and three guys whom they thought would fit together and could together provide worship, teaching, discipleship, small groups, and games for youth weeks. Christina and Patrick were the two worship leaders (I don't even come close to possessing such skills).

We travelled in a van for two months all over the state and led youth weeks for 11 different churchs.

It was just the six of us. No one telling us what to say or how to say it. No one doing anything for us. We were totally dependant on God. When we arrived at a new church, we prayed together. We waited on God. What did he want to do this week? What did he want to talk about to these youth? What were their struggles? What was going on in the church that he was passionate about? We listened. We talked. And we led youth week. Each church's week was different. Each night was different. Some nights we had no idea what we were going to talk about with the kids- until God put something on our hearts at the last minute. We planned a few things like games and activities but we left the worship, teaching, and ministry open to leave room for God to lead us. And he always showed up. Because he likes to do that.

It was awesome.

We were a little family of six- together all summer in a van. We slept in youth's homes. We slept on the floor of churches on occasion. We had ridiculous amount of fun. We played a lot of silly games. We got really messy. We did whatever it took to make the youth laugh. We danced to Celine Dion. We lip-synced to Backstreet Boys. We got in flour fights. We got covered in mustard. And ketchup, mayonnaise, chocolate, and hot sauce. God likes to reveal himself in worship, teaching, and ministry..... but also in silliness.

I'm not exactly a silly person. I never have been. I've always been more on the serious, contemplative side. Even as a child. I guess you could say I'm an old soul. Not sure if it's simply my personality, or events that happened while I was young, or both.

Despite my tendency towards the opposite, I became a silly kid that Crossfire summer. One time I even laughed hysterically for 30 minutes straight. While I was covered in mustard. Gross. Who would have thought mustard could be so redemptive? :) 
Before we started the summer we were told that some of these churches get really REALLY excited about Crossfire. That they get the preview flyer with our picture and start talking- anticipating what each team member will be like. They tell Last Year's Crossfire Stories. "You'll be like an instant superstar," I was told. Yeah right. I didn't believe it until we arrived to an auditorium full of cheering teenagers. Maybe it was the van.

I dug up some old pictures for my own enjoyment.

Took lots of Crossfire family photos.

Hung out with a lot of youth.

Traveled in a van that was always kidnapped and decorated upon our departure.

Ate watermelon in the watermelon capital of the world.

Got really, really excited to make childhood dreams come true during our days off ....

Slid down homemade slip 'n slides (apparently I missed the memo on how to slide).

Did any and everything it took to make the kids laugh
(ok the boys did any and everything it took, ha!)

Ate a lot of hamburgers, pizza, and cake. Check out my expression upon looking at the Bubba Burger nutrition facts. On the bright side, it was the one time I could keep on a healthy extra ten pounds. Although if it was the result of  hamburgers and pizza it wouldn't be considered healthy now would it. Oh well.

And finally, made a lifelong friend.

It was my first real opportunity to be completely free to walk in my spiritual gifts. It was an opportunity to step out. At the beginning of the summer, I promised myself I wouldn't regret not doing something because of fear. So even though I wasn't the main speaker I still got up there and led the "message"- mostly when God really laid something on my heart to speak. I would try to prepare by coming up with what I was going to say ahead of time but I never had more than bits and pieces. It wasn't until I got up and opened my mouth that it all came together. God wanted me to be dependant on him and not my abilities. It was hard, but so worth it. I'll never forget that summer.

In closing, I came across an awesome letter I saved from one of the kids written to Andy, one of our team members.

I can’t begin to even thank you for all that you did Monday night. It’s kind of funny that as of last Friday night, I had no idea what I would be doing this week. Friday morning, a friend called me, Katie (blond haired girl who left this morning for orientation at UGA) and asked me to come and I was just like um… I don’t think so. I’ve always wanted to visit the church but I was just always afraid of people not liking me or not fitting in.

When your team came in Barberitos Friday night and every one of you asked me to come, I was more sure than ever that the invitation was open. As the week went on I began to feel more and more welcome and at home with the youth group and Crossfire team. Monday night was the climax, as of yet, because I feel like tonight will be the highlight of the journey known as Crossfire. As the invitation played, you came up and asked to pray for me. You have no idea what that started, and the things that you felt burdened to pray for me about were the exact things that I needed prayer for.

There have been relationships in my past, with friends and ex-girlfriends, that ended on a bitter note. For a year now, I’ve harbored feelings of hate towards people. I didn’t speak to them, I didn’t love them, I didn’t care for them. As far as I was concerned, they didn’t exist. Monday night we sang the chorus “we want to be free from everything that keeps us from more of you”. That was what had been keeping me from being closer to God. As you prayed for me, I felt the burden of hate being lifted off of my chest, a spiritual healing of sorts.

I cannot begin to thank you for starting the new found love in my heart Monday night. I wish you the very best in your summer long adventures with the Crossfire team. My prayers will be with you all and I want you to know that what you are doing is not in vain. The little things came together for a reason this week. Your team ate at Barberitos for a reason Friday night. I came for a reason. The reason was that I had to get right with God. I thank you for being bold and being an example. Crossfire 2006 will definitely be something I will NEVER forget, not only for the things I gave up, but for the things I have gained. Thanks for what you do. God is using you in a mighty way, and we are just the beginning for this long and glorious summer. Good luck and God Bless.

What great memories!

September 14, 2011

Three Beautiful Years

Today is Ben's and my three year anniversary. I can't believe it's already been three years. It feels so much shorter and so much longer all at the same time.

It's feels shorter because things still feel ever changing, never stagnant, and exciting. I suppose that's how it was meant to be.

It feels longer because we have already been through significant trials, heartaches, and seasons of hardship.

Yet amidst the trials, God has remained good. As he cannot be anything but. He cannot be anything other than Himself. Good. And he has shown his love to us abundantly. Sometimes we've had to search for it- to roll away a hard, cold rock to find his love resting beneath. But it's always been there.

Sometimes it just takes a little longer to uncover it.

As life goes on, I become more and more thankful for the love that pours from my wonderful husband. In time it has only increased in both weight and meaning.

The second half of this resolved2worship post was very timely in gently reminding me- amidst the blur of responsibilities that come with having a child- of what those vows meant 3 years ago. Of exactly what I committed to.

I still have a lot to learn.

Thankfully, I have a patient God.

And a very patient husband. :)

September 6, 2011

Theo-llians 2011

I realized that I never did a post on our family beach vacation. Seriously- how could I forget this one?

Here's the background: After my father died my mother married Bernie (my stepfather, who also had lost his wife in a car accident). Bernie had 4 grown children (the Theobalds), and he took on 3 more little ones (me and my sisters, the Akullians). So I inherited 4 siblings, except they felt more like aunts and uncles because they were so much older and out of the house. Now many of them are married with children, hence the big "immediate" family. We are all spread out over the country- Georgia, Florida, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New York, and Colorado, so it makes it hard to see everyone all at once. A few years ago for my parents' anniversary we all came together for a vacation at the Outer Banks. It was a blast. We decided to continue the tradition this year for their 25th anniversary. We all got together again- this time at a beach house in Seagrove Beach, Florida.

We called it Theo-llians 2011 :)

Here are some pics from the week.

The 7 children- Karen, Kevin, Laura, Keith, Kelley, Me, and Jen.
My biological sisters are the two with the sunglasses.

The 6 grandkids- Cameron, Elizabeth, Sarah, Bradley, Anna, and Michael.

Everyone (see below).

Front Row: Keith (stepbrother), Bernie (Dad), Sarah (niece), Kelley (stepsister)
Second Row: Karen (stepsister), Terri (sister-in-law/Keith's wife), Laura (oldest biological sister), Matt (brother-in-law/Laura's hubby), Jen (biological sister), Elizabeth (niece)
Third Row: Cameron (nephew), Kevin (stepbrother), Kate (sister-in-law/Kevin's wife), Me and Anna, Mark (brother-in-law/Kelley's hubby)
Back Row: Michael (nephew), Pat (Mom), Ben (my hubby), and Bradley (nephew).

Brad and Anna

Sarah, Brad, and Anna

Cameron and Anna