Strange Companions

My goals for my children are pretty simple. I want to have a happy home, full of love, learning, and fun, with plenty of room for all of us to make mistakes and experience forgiveness. I want them to love God, love those around them, and learn to be hard workers. Easy, right?

All three of my children are in very different phases. Their needs seem to conflict all the time, leaving me feeling like I am spinning in circles and not really doing a good job taking care of anyone.

Part of these feelings are typical for a mom with 9, 6 and 3 year old children. But Virginia's limitations and the time and attention to detail needed to care for her put a different stress on our family (and me). What Virginia needs to thrive and what Wills and Eliza need to thrive are vastly different.

But I have started to see that all these different directions I feel pulled in aren't as conflicting as I once thought. The intermingling of:

pain and mercy

complexity and simplicity

light and darkness

anxiety and peace

needs and gifts

in our family works together in a way that is a pretty clear picture of the Gospel.

I used to see joy and suffering as two separate, vastly different entities. Your life was either full of one or full of the other. The presence of one essentially eliminated the possibility of the other. For a long time I felt like I wouldn't be able to experience happiness again unless Virginia was healed.

It is embarrassing to me that I used to be so naive as to think that anyone's life was entirely coming up roses, but I have read enough responses to tragedy to know this view is normal until one experiences great loss. I felt like surely what had happened to Virginia was terrible enough that we would live the rest of our lives under a dark cloud.

The most important lesson I have learned on this journey is that you have to seize the laughter and the sunlight when you have the chance. I love the James Taylor, Yo-Yo Ma recording of 'Hard Times Come Again No More.' (from the album Appalachian Journey, all of which is beautiful). But let's be honest. In this life, hard times are going to keep on coming. Some will be surmountable and fade with time, others will be unconquerable, at least in an earthly sense, and stay with you for the remainder of your days.

The key for me has been to realize that these moments of victory and tragedy are going to mingle for the rest of my life, and that one couldn't exist without the other. Sometimes it is as simple as rejoicing with Eliza when she learns to ride her bike even though Virginia never will. Or celebrating at dinner with friends in spite of the fact that Virginia had a bad day.

Sometimes the intermingling is more complex.

I had some beautiful moments with Nana at the end of her life, and by the grace of God, the reality of impending death made this time richer. As crazy as it sounds, even death adds depth and beauty to our lives when we embrace it for what it is- a transition to the life we were really meant to live. But we have to be open to God's mysterious gifts, including the undeniable presence of the Holy Spirit, in the midst of such vivid, suffocating darkness.

I am not naive enough to think that if unspeakable tragedy came calling again today, I would walk out of the hospital and say, "Wow, look at the beautiful fall leaves." Pain hurts and I know that fresh wounds still have the ability to knock me down and take my breath away.

For a little while.


While joy and suffering at first encounter seem to be strange companions, the reality is that one could not exist without the other. Instead of being irreconcilable to one another, joy and suffering actually hone one another in an inexplicable way. If you keep your eyes (and your heart) open, a life rich with trials may be equally rich with happiness.

(and one day soon, I promise to write on a topic other than suffering!!)

(and I apologize for a completely unedited post. Sorry for the run-on sentences, most of which I am aware of. Sorry for repeating the same point multiple times, I am sure. Time is one thing I don't have a lot of right now!)


First things first. Virginia's cough is almost non-existent right now! She will literally go all day and not cough. Our new GI guy started her on a small dose of erythromycin (old school antibiotic) before each feed. He said it helps with stomach motility and that most of her reflux (and hence most of her cough) was due to the fact that her stomach emptied so slowly. It has really seemed to help. I only feed her enough by mouth to make her happy- a few sips of chocolate milk (or- terrible mom- coffee!), banana pudding instead of birthday cake, pudding, yogurt, etc. There are still times I can tell she wants what we are eating, and it's heart breaking, but most of the time, our system seems to be working pretty well.

She also got a vest which fills with air (think blood pressure cuff) and vibrates, loosening up all the stuff in her chest and encouraging her to cough. We use it 20 minutes twice a day after breathing treatments. Most of the time she thinks it's funny and doesn't mind,

In other news, Eliza celebrated her third birthday,

She rode her bike around the house for a month,

With Virginia chasing close behind,

Findley built a swing on one of our magnolias,

 We have been cooped up in the house for FIVE weeks with pneumonia. Before you panic, let me tell you that Virginia has been 100% healthy. It is Wills and Eliza who have been sick, sick, sick with a nasty bacterial pneumonia. Eliza had a relapse on Sunday, but after a shot and a new oral antibiotic, seems to finally be on the mend.

We have done every craft project possible,

We also celebrated V's birthday in the midst of the sickness. My parents, sister and I took her to the Botanic Gardens to escape the plague and make her feel special on her big day,

She got a few presents, too,

Virginia's Birmingham friends sent her a package of gifts. I cried while we opened them. She misses being surrounded by those special girls. Here she is in her shirt from Lauren,

We have actually spent quite a bit of time at the Botanic Gardens lately,

And we had some special visitors this past weekend,

And Findley figured out that the suspension bridge at the Botanic Gardens is sort of like a roller coaster,