Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Blessings Part 2

(I apologize for making you all wait so long for another post.  I've been working on this one for a few weeks.  It's finally done.  Enjoy.)

One of my last posts was about blessings.  So is this one - about blessings in the form of lessons learned,  prayers answered, gifts/kindnesses received, and more.

Answered Prayer

I'm a softie.  I've always cried easily.  I cry at movies and even at tender moments on a T.V. sitcom.  I don't read "Chicken Soup" books because I can't see the print through my tears.  I always cry when talking about things that are important to me.  Yet, throughout Kol's journey, I have mostly been quite composed - especially when dealing with doctors and nurses. I'm normally too shy to ask many questions, or to push for a straight answer when someone is giving a round-a-bout reply.  Since we first took Kol to the ER, I've been calm, and have been able to ask all the questions I need to ask.  I've asked for more details, demanded straight answers, and pushed for more information.  That is not me.  I'm not normally that strong (or pushy?).  I know that is an answer to prayer.

While Kol was getting his radiation treatments, we talked with others who have had radiation, and with others in the waiting room at the cancer center, who had, or who have radiation burns.  Kol never burned.  The skin on his head is discoloured - it kind of looks like a tan, except that it is blotchy.  We also expected him to be really tired, and we were told that the earlier symptoms of the tumour (headaches) would come back during the treatments as the tumour died.  Kol was not overly tired, nor did he have bad headaches.  He only had 2 headaches throughout the entire time - and one went away with Tylenol, and the other was gone before he got the Tylenol. This is another prayer answered.

When Kol finished his last radiation treatment, we celebrated, relieved that another phase was complete.  We had planned to go to the lake that day, but decided to take our time, rather than rush around.  That was a good thing.  On Tuesday night, I crashed.  Everything finally hit me.  I was suddenly exhausted and very emotional.   I felt blindsided, and overwhelmed.  Someone told me that grief and understanding comes in waves, when we're ready to deal with more, we get hit with the next wave.   I know God gave me the strength to get through the treatment time, and then, when I no longer needed to be strong,  I could finally experience another wave of grief and emotions. I didn't realize until that Tuesday evening how much I was being carried by prayer. 

Gifts and Giving

I said before that I've never been good at accepting help, asking for help, or even at admitting that I need help, and neither is Kirk.  

Over the last few months, we've been on the receiving end of countless kindnesses.  It's been hard to accept the help, but it's been wonderful knowing that there are so many people wanting to do what they can to help make this road easier for us.  Often I've wanted to help others when they've been struggling, but I haven't known what to do, so I've just put their names on my prayer list, and done nothing outward.  I have often wanted to do more, but haven't because I didn't want to do the wrong thing, and offend.  From being on the receiving end, I now feel that, if something comes from the heart, then it doesn't matter what I do.  Even the tiniest things have meant a lot to us. Thank-you. 

Lessons Learned

It's just over 3 and a half months since we took Kolbjorn to the E.R. but in many ways it feels like a lifetime.  In many ways, I'm no longer the same person I was before.  Things that I thought were important before mean very little now.  I have different priorities, and I have learned a lot about how I deal with crisis.  I want to share some of the insights we've had through all of this so far, in the hope that in some way, we can help you like we've been helped.  It's too bad that it often takes a crisis to force us to act on what we already know in our heads is the right thing to do.  I think Kirk and I are more stubborn than the average person.  We must be, if it takes what we've been through to make us change.

I wouldn't wish that anyone else goes through what we have gone through this summer.  However, I wish that everyone could learn some of the things that we've learned.  These are all things that we all 'know' already, but which have become much clearer to me now.   

Some things that are more important:
  • Baby smiles.  It has been wonderful having Annika with us.  Her presence has been reassuring, and her smiles, giggles, and even diaper changes have been welcome distractions.  Hugging a baby is great therapy. 
  • Just being together.  Doing nothing.  I realized at the lake after Kol's radiation finished how hard it is for me to just be present with the kids.  I felt guilty for just sitting still and doing nothing but being with the kids.  I kept thinking I needed to do something - like clean up, or read some more, or put photos into albums. 
  • Growing/learning/making the most of opportunities.  This could mean going with the flow, allowing myself to not always be in control; loosening up - not being so concerned with what others might think.  It means not doing things the way society (or the neighbour, or whoever) tells me I should - but the way I believe I should do them.  It means being authentic.
  • Allowing the kids the freedom to experience new things that we can't provide for them.  Maybe it's my exaggerated sense of self-importance, but I have felt that it's my responsibility to care for my kids and that I was being negligent by allowing others to do my job.  This summer, I wasn't able to do much for the big girls.  Kol was pretty much house bound, which meant that so were either Kirk or I.  I couldn't have done much with the girls.  Instead, they got lots of opportunities to travel, be with relatives and friends on their own, without us.  They grew and learned things that they couldn't have learned if we had kept them with us.
  • Memories - I have often chosen family activities with the goal of creating memories for the kids.  We have taken lots of pictures, but the pictures were in a big bin, waiting to go into scrapbooks.  While walking through Costco with mom a few weeks ago, I saw photo albums on sale, and it suddenly hit me that having the pictures/memories accessible was more important than fancy scrapbooks, so I've spent most of my spare time recently putting the photos in albums.  I started with pictures from just before Kol was born in 2002, and, after filling 6.5  albums (with approximately 1800 pictures) I have finally reached pictures from Birgitte's first birthday in the summer of 2006.  We have an average of 2000 digital pictures per year, starting in January 2007, which I now need to weed through and make accessable.  I love watching the kids re-live the memories when they page through the books.  

      Now, while all of the things above have more significance in my life, there are other things that tower above all of them. Those things are relationships.  Relationships with God, with each other, with our extended family, and with friends.  If you read through the list above again, most of the items on that list have to do with relationships, too.  This might sound strange coming from me.  I'm an introvert and a  homebody.  I like solitude, and I'm certainly not a social butterfly.  However, I value all of my relationships much more now - and in the last few weeks, have started putting more energy into nurturing relationships.  I find myself thinking about how I can improve my relationships with my children, with Kirk, with family and friends, and with people I have always wanted to get to know better but have been too shy to reach out to.  I almost crave connections - and I mean meaningful connections - face-to-face, or at least voice-to-voice connections, where I can hear nuances, warmth, and get immediate feedback.  Where we can share thoughts, theories and ideas, have in-depth discussions, share real emotions, and even discuss differing opinions.  While e-mail certainly has it's place and I won't stop using it, I've started to realize how much it has robbed me of these true, meaningful connections.


      We have been given a gift in that we didn't lose Kol, and we were reminded how important he and the rest of our children are to us.  While Kolbjorn was in the hospital, Kirk and I were forced to examine what we would do differently as parents if we knew one of our children were going to die - or at least come close to dying. We talked about what we were thankful we had done.   I was surprised that there weren't too many thngs we would have changed.  We can't live in fear - we have to keep going, pray first, and trust that we are doing what is best for us all now.  Life goes on.  Kol is with us, taking piano lessons, doing science experiments and trying to sneak in extra 'screen' time. We have the opportunity to make some changes and do some of those things which we wished we had done.  We've gotten Kol back - for how long, we don't know - but for this extra time, we will be forever thankful.


      Whenever I start to become overwhelmed, there is one song that keeps coming back to me.  I don't know why - but I believe that it's because God is doing great things through Kol's illness, that He will continue to do great things in Kol's life, and for those things, we must remember to give God the glory.  It has, in many ways, become my 'theme song'.  I've shared it before, but I'm going to post it again today.

      To God be the glory

      If you'd like to hear the tune, go here. It's not the best recording, but it reminds me of the way I always heard it growing up.

      To God be the glory, great things He has done;
      So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,
      Who yielded His life an atonement for sin,
      And opened the life gate that all may go in.

      Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
      Let the earth hear His voice!
      Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
      Let the people rejoice!
      O come to the Father, through Jesus the Son,
      And give Him the glory, great things He has done.

      O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood,
      To every believer the promise of God;
      The vilest offender who truly believes,
      That moment from Jesus a pardon receives.


      Great things He has taught us, great things He has done,
      And great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son;
      But purer, and higher, and greater will be
      Our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see.


      And here are the lyrics in Norwegian -  just because I think it's cool that I came across them accidentally while I was searching for the lyrics to copy and paste (I'm too lazy to type them all out) - and because I know there are several people who are reading this blog who can understand them.  They are actually quite close to the English version.

      Vår Gud vere æra, for han vann oss von!
      Så elska Gud verda: Han gav oss sin son.
      Ja oss gav han livet, vart soning for synd.
      Han Himmelen opna så kvar kan gå inn.

      Lova Gud! Lova Gud!
      Heile verda høyr han!
      Lova Gud! Lova Gud!
      Alle gleda seg kan!
      Å, kom til Gud Fader i Jesus, Guds son,
      og gjev han all æra, for han gav oss von!

      Å, fullkomen frelse: Kjøpt fri med hans blod,
      er kvar den som trur, høyr Guds lovnad så god!
      Den uslaste syndar som ærleg han trur,
      får tilgjeving når han til Jesus seg snur.


      Han storverk har synt oss, han storverk har gjort.
      I Sonen, i Jesus, me gleder oss stort.
      Men betre og større vert gleda vår når
      me undrande reisa til Frelsaren får!



      1. Kristen, Thank you so much for your vulnerablility and willingness to share this journey. Your pain, grieving, humility, softness, willingness to learn, willingness to stand , and to continue to lift up Praises is a gift to us all. I am changed from the reading of your stories. Thank you.

        love and blessings,
        Lisa Wass

      2. Kristen, so wonderfully written, so honest and insightful. Thank-you for sharing and reminding us about the many things that we need to work on, to change and to cherish.

        Love & prayers,

      3. Dear Kristen, though we do do fully understand why God allows these situations and sorrows to happen, you have done a wonderful job explaining how it changes a persons priorities and how God wants us to be humbled.. that God is faithful and just and forever with us.. Your posts have been a blessing to me and I pray that God will continue to heal and bless your family,,, In Christ Love Christy

      4. Dear Kristen, though we do do fully understand why God allows these situations and sorrows to happen, you have done a wonderful job explaining how it changes a persons priorities and how God wants us to be humbled.. that God is faithful and just and forever with us.. Your posts have been a blessing to me and I pray that God will continue to heal and bless your family,,, In Christ Love Christy

      5. OOps see how computer impaired i am....

      6. Kristen, Wow! I am just so moved with following your blog. I am so impressed with yours and Kirk's strength and ability to share your experience through this extremely trying time. It makes me reflect on so many things and realize how small my worries are. Thanks for sharing and know that I am sending you strength and well wishes. Theresa

      7. Kristen,

        I apologize for commenting so late but your thoughts and just being 'real' has touched me. (I'm currently typing with tears streaming down my face, so you're in good company when it comes to being sensitive!)

        Our family continues to pray for you and yours. Thank-you for opening up your life to us and bringing things back into perspective.

        May God continue to guide you and bless you,
        Julie S