Friday, September 30, 2011

The Waiting Area

A few days before Benjamin’s recent eye surgery, we headed to Tulsa for his pre-operation appointment. Since we had scheduled for the afternoon, we were to check in at the main hospital instead of the children’s hospital where he would actually have his surgery. As we made our way to the check-in desk, I saw the familiar waiting area next to the coffee stand. I realized that the last time we had been to this particular waiting area was the day before Benjamin’s heart surgery. We have gone to the children’s hospital for every other pre-op appointment since. I was not prepared for the wave of emotion that hit me as we checked in and took a seat to wait.

The first thing I noticed was the built-in play area in the center of the waiting area. There were colorful beads to move along a maze of colorful wires, spinning dials and squares, a tic-tac-toe board, etc. I was transported back to the day before our tiny son’s heart surgery. Shawn and I sat in the waiting area in an emotional daze before being called back for one of the most difficult afternoons of our life. Shawn needed a distraction, so he sat on the floor and began to play at the play area, much to my embarrassment. After awhile a little girl joined him (he’s always been a magnet for kids), and he continued even after she left, despite my pleas that he come sit with me again. In my stress, I wanted the comfort of his presence next to me. In his stress, he couldn’t bear to sit still and was looking for anything to take his mind off of the painful situation at hand.

“Benjamin Hemminger?” My thoughts were brought back to the present as I heard my son’s name being called. I didn’t want to walk back into the pre-op area. I wanted to go home. I felt silly for feeling this way. I was directed to a small desk area where I signed some paper work before being sent back to the waiting area again. As we waited, I thought that Benjamin might enjoy the play area, so I pulled him out of his stroller, and we knelt down in front of it as he began to reach for the beads. It felt a little bittersweet in a way to have Benjamin playing at the same spot his Daddy had over two years prior.

“Benjamin Hemminger?” Our play time had only just begun when we were called back for the second time and again I felt a slight feeling of dread come over me. Since I was already holding my son, I just carried him back in one arm and pushed the stroller with the other. The first order of business was to have him weighed and measured. Before we could begin, I noticed the parked stroller start to tip back, weighted down by the diaper bag. Out of instinct I lunged to catch it, giving my poor boy a bit of whip lash in the process. He, of course, began to cry, adding strain to my already strained emotions. I felt so bad. Thankfully it didn’t take him too long to calm down and after being weighed and measured, we were taken back to one of the nurses’ stations that were set up as pods one after the other with a curtain to draw across the entrance. I was grateful that we were not taken to the same station as we had been two years ago, though all of them look virtually the same.

As I waited for a consultation with an anesthesiologist, I remembered again our last experience in this place. It was essential that our son have blood drawn before such a major surgery, but his little veins had all been tapped while in the NICU. We watched helplessly as the first set of nurses tried multiple times to draw blood from our two month old baby’s little body, with failed attempts in his arms and legs. He screamed and screamed, turning bright red, with no concept of what was happening to him and why. When the first group failed, a team of pediatric nurses was called in. Since the stations were small, we were eventually asked to step outside. Though the curtain hid our eyes from seeing the continued failed attempts to draw Benjamin’s blood, it did nothing to drown out the sound of his screams. After the new team’s multiple failed attempts, we were allowed back in to comfort our son until the surgical assistant arrived. Knowing that getting blood from Benjamin’s arms or legs was proving to be too difficult, he tried to draw from our baby’s neck. His attempts failed as well, and we continued to be tortured by the screams of our tortured son. Finally, one of the surgeons, Dr. Barth was called in. She ultimately had to make incisions in Benjamin’s hips in order to draw the necessary amount of blood. All we could do through-out each episode was to hold on to each other and cry. We felt so helpless. When it was all said and done, we were exhausted, and our exhausted little baby looked like a pin cushion, with red dots from head to toe. We wondered how we would make it through his surgery the next morning.

The anesthesiologist arrived and went through routine information about general anesthesia and what to expect; information I’ve heard more times than I’ve ever wanted to. She was followed shortly by a nurse who went through more routine information about check-in for surgery and Benjamin’s required fast from midnight on. He didn’t even have to have blood drawn, as this was only a simple out-patient surgery, but still I felt raw. I was relieved when it was time to go.

As I started to drive, I began to pray, allowing the tears to finally come. I prayed for Benjamin to be healed of any trauma from his early months when Mommy couldn’t be there for him as I wanted to be. I was concerned about what may have happened to him emotionally with so many painful and confusing experiences throughout his hospital stays. I was concerned that he had such limited physical touch for nine days after his birth and for another nine days after his heart surgery. As I cried and prayed, though, I was reminded again of Jesus’ promise to me during that first shaky year, “I never left his bedside.” I have to trust that when I was unable to nurture Benjamin, the Holy Spirit was (and is) present with him, nurturing him and sustaining him. I have to believe that when I felt helpless to care for my son, the Helper was there, giving him all he had need of. I have to believe that the God who is outside of time is able to redeem the time for Benjamin that felt lost in the sterile environment of hospitals, when breathing tubes and wires kept him from Mommy’s and Daddy’s arms. I was comforted, knowing the promise is true, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.”

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Wonder of a Child

I love to watch the wonder in the face of a child as they make a new discovery. In their eyes the world is fresh and new and exciting with so much to see and experience. Currently, one of Benjamin’s favorite toys is a little red train that plays music and cycles balls through its top, down through its middle and up and out at the top again. He drops a ball in the top and then leans forward as close as possible to watch for the ball to re-emerge and begin the process all over. It’s the same cycle over and over, but it brings him wonder and delight each time. He loves to experiment with his train as well. Often if I hear a cry of frustration and notice the balls are stuck in their cycle, I simply have to reach into the train and out will come a sock or a small plastic insert from his ankle braces or whatever else was handy at the time! One day (thankfully during a time the train was not being used), I reached in and found his missing hearing aid!

Benjamin can be fascinated by the simplest of things—the spinning motion of a ceiling fan, hands clapping together (or anything with a rhythm for that matter), the various textures of every day surfaces and objects. I want to encourage his sense of discovery. I want him to explore the world around him. So many times I’ve seen a busy parent pull their child away from an unexpected discovery, maybe as simple as a dandelion in the yard. I don’t say this to be critical; I know I could so easily be guilty of the same behavior when I feel the crunch of our schedule. However, I want to remember to allow Benjamin numerous opportunities for discovery, and I want to share his wonder in each new experience. I know if he could speak, he would have much to tell me about the events of his day. Often while he’s playing, he will look at me with a big smile on his face as if to say, “Mommy, did you see that?!”

I was recently pondering the parallel that can be drawn between the wonder of discovery in a child and the wonder of discovery in a new believer. They are often fascinated by each new experience. God opens up something to them in the Word and they are thrilled, eager to share their wonder with someone. He speaks something to their hearts, and they are in awe. Things are new and fresh, and like little children they eagerly explore. How often, though, are they met with levels of indifference by more “mature” believers? Maybe their new revelation is a truth we’ve long known and have even started to take for granted. Sometimes their enthusiasm seems “over-the-top,” and may even make us uncomfortable. How often has the Body of Christ been guilty of squelching the wonder of discovery in a new Christian? Why do we do this? I think it would be good to realize that just as we have things to teach them, they have much to teach us. I want an ever-increasing excitement to grow inside of me for Jesus and His Kingdom. There will be new beauties and mysteries and facets of His heart to discover for all of eternity; we’ve only just begun. I suppose in that sense we are all just little children. After all, Jesus told us that it is those with a child-like (not childish) heart who will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.

But I fear that somehow you will be led away from your pure and simple devotion to Christ, just as Eve was deceived by the serpent. (2 Corinthians 11:3, NLT)

But Jesus said to them, “Let the children come to Me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14, NLT)

May we all re-discover the wonder of childhood as we walk in simple love and devotion to Jesus, eager to seek out each new revelation and experience He would bring our way!  

Monday, September 5, 2011

"Sighting Day"

During Benjamin’s first month at home I was in a fog, trying to get into a rhythm with our brand new life and my brand new schedule. Our little baby slept most of the time, largely due to the three holes in his heart that had yet to be repaired. I would often have to wake him up just to get him to eat. I wanted interaction with my son in addition to our nursing times, so every day for the first few weeks I would lay him on a boppy pillow on my lap and read to him. He would often fall back asleep or quietly look around, but I cherished the time.

During Shawn’s and my dating years, we were introduced to an amazing children’s book trilogy (Tales of the Kingdom; Tales of the Resistance; Tales of the Restoration) by David and Karen Mains. Each book contains a collection of stories that are rich with allegory about the Kingdom of God, expressing His heart with creativity and excellence. In the first book Tales of the Kingdom the subjects of the King (Jesus) live in Great Park, tended by Caretaker (Holy Spirit) and His wife Mercie. On a regular basis, the people of Great Park come together for the Great Celebration—a night of feasting and festivity and fellowship with the King. In addition, the children regularly enjoy a day of fun and games called “Sighting Day.” On this day, the King appears all around Great Park in many different disguises, and the children try to recognize Him in whatever appearance He comes. Afterward, they spend the rest of the day playing together. It was while reading the story called “Sighting Day” to Benjamin in those early weeks, that I experienced an unexpected embrace from the Lord. While so much of that season is a fog in my mind, this particular memory stands out clearly.

As I neared the end of the story (which I had read many times before), I came to the part where Caretaker and a young boy visit Outcast Village, a place reserved for those who had been wounded in the evil Enchanted City, and desperately needed Mercie’s tender care. The following paragraph resonated in the core of my being, and the tears began to fall:

Caretaker explained that on Sighting Day many outcasts were unable to play the game of hunting the King. Some were wounded. Some were blinded. Others were mending from their diseases. Instead the King came to them. He sang songs and told stories. He wove moonlight and the warm night and all good things together until the hearts of the outcasts were comforted because the King had been among them (underline mine).

It’s hard to express the tender love and comfort that poured into my heart at that moment. I knew that I was one of the deeply wounded ones without the strength and energy to seek the King. Regardless of my present state, though, in His compassion King Jesus promised to come to me.

Since that day He’s come to me in many ways, sometimes in the disguise of another person, an event, a song, a still, small voice…Sometimes He comes to me in a profound way that thrills and comforts my heart; often He comes in simple ways that I may not even always perceive. Many times He doesn’t come in ways I would expect or would even have chosen. Regardless of how He chooses to come, though, the point is that He comes. He is faithful. And the more Jesus comes to me in my brokenness, the more quickly I run to Him as I experience pain. He is my safe place.

And so the boy (or girl!) discovered that seek-the-King is a wonderful game. Like all games it must be played with a child’s heart, which believes and is always prepared to be surprised, because a King can wear many disguises.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Picture Gallery

Things have been so busy this last month that I haven't been able to find time to write! Hopefully I can sit down soon and get some thoughts out. Anyway, I thought I'd at least post some recent pics of our little man. Enjoy!