Just in Time!

Grandpa Gerry’s JoyThe LadiesWe arrived at Elizabeth’s house (well, Donn and Susan’s too) about 4:30 and it was JUST IN TIME. We walked in the door with Donn asking if we could watch Elizabeth while they got lessons in caring for her oxygen equipment. There could be no better greeting! Cyndee got the first turn with me just a bit later with Joy dancing around all the time. Sherry did her grandmother thing too. So I won’t have to go to jail after all! They say there’s an ice storm coming tomorrow, so it’s particularly good that she’s here.

As I write this, Susan and Donn are upstairs doing a feeding and we are enjoying them via the monitor. It’s amazing how intelligent adults change when there’s a new born around. Elizabeth still has oxygen, a monitor that beeps when her heart beat and respiration. But after nearly dying twice and spending a month in the hospital, her cries and even the wails of her monitor are exciting. And you should see what her little smiles do to us!

 Joy did her first airplane ride followed by her first bus ride. She was totally thrilled with every bit of it. With her very own MP3 player, puzzle books and the Southwest Airlines snacks, along with a Daddy, Aunt Cyndee and two Grandparents, how could she have been happier? She’s been dancing around the house since she was refreshed by food. We did Jack’s Stack, the most famous of the Kansas City style B-B-Que places.

May your joy be as full as ours!

Going to Jail?

With Great-aunt ShortElizabeth on ViewIt seems a real threat that I’m going to be in jail in just a few days. The charge, you ask? Kidnapping, of course. The latest word is that Elizabeth will still be in the hospital until Sunday or Monday. Since David, Cyndee, Joy (5) will join Sherry and me for the weekend there, I have to have her nearby. So I won’t kidnap her far, nor will there be any ransom demands. I just will walk her out the door to Donn’s house, holding her a lot! She’s completely free of lines other than her oxygen assist, eating heartily, but still unable to take and retain enough food by mouth to sustain herself. So she needs some tube feeding, Donn says. But as you can see from the picture, she delights her great aunt. You can also verify that she’s unconnected other than the oxygen and a couple of monitors. And she’s REALLY cute!

I’m super glad technology that I can get e-pictures from Donn and post them on the website for you to enjoy. I think how recently doing pictures involved rolls of film, developing, posting and such. I am on Facebook with many of my friends residing in places like Lebanon or Tunisia. I can exchange pictures, status reports, greetings and information, sharing it with many other friends living all over the world. E-cards enable me to give quick, cute, inspirational greetings with people. It’s amazing how billions of emails, e-pictures, e-cards arrive instantly in destinations all over the world. The down side, of course, is when an e-card doesn’t get there. Usually one doesn’t even know it didn’t arrive unless there’s mention of it in a comment. Then a replacement card is very precious, but doesn’t quite make up for the disappointment that the intended greeting didn’t arrive.

I’m preaching on Luke 1 on December 16. Imagine with me what’s involved in doing that whole chapter in a single 30 minute sermon. Getting a totally overwhelmed screen? So am I! Do I do a big picture sermon? Do I focus in on one element of the story? If so, which one? The familiar annunciation? The prophetic song of Zechariah? Help!!

Happy Advent Season!

Thanksgiving

We have so much it’s hard to know what to be thankful for. The two feasts, one at home with Sherry, one at Cannon Beach with Cyndee, the visit from David, Sam, Nicole and Joy, continuing improvement for Elizabeth, the party with the elders and staff from Grace Community Church last night with an Italian feast followed by desert, Christmas traditions and carols and much more.

I was really touched by the Living Hope Church service Saturday afternoon. John Bishop is one of “my guys,” an incredible evangelist who preaches with unusual vulnerability, telling us of Michele’s illness: E-Coli in her blood, anemia and such will Water in Bongprobably have her in the hospital Monday. He preached from a stage full of trash. The series is “Christmas Clutter: Finding What Really Matters.” The message was seeing Jesus in the middle of all the clutter. The challenge was to write some worry point on a card and dump it in the clutter, take communion, do “cheers” with a class of cider and come pray with a pastor. The highpoint of the day was hearing that a Mommy and her Daughter who’d been coming to the church for a while prayed to accept Jesus. John’s call after the three Saturday services (and four more to come on Sunday plus campuses all over the area) allowed us to share the power of friendship and partnership in Jesus.

Anna, one of my students, will head off to southern Sudan with Kay Bruce and four others to do worskops to equip the church in Lietnohm for dealing with the terrible suffering they face. Her personal project along with the teaching is to involve the students from Portland Christian Schools in providing for a well in Bong, a neighboring village.  The picture is their current water source.  This picture haunts me in the face of the richness of our part of the world. As a boy on the farm in Missouri, I used a bucket to draw water from a well. The water was clean. We soon got a well with a pump and I’ve had running water all my life. I am very thankful for that. But this picture makes me all the more thankful.

I’m in three marriage crises right now. All three are wrenching agonies with pain and hurt everywhere. It moves me to much prayer. As Sherry and I approach 40 years of good marriage, I’m so thankful. These situations make me all the more grateful.

We hung with our long time friends, Joel and Renata Burnell. As we laughed in their home, playing with Daniel (almost 15 now!), Erik (12?) and Amelia (almost 4), it was great to think of the power of friendship. One of my greatest needs is the need for a deep friend with whom I can process without editing, pray without hesitation, be silent as the feelings surpass words, sharing childlike wonder. If that friend were not in contact the sadness would be overwhelming.

Gratitude is a surpassing Christian virtue because of His grace.

Life Things

You simpy MUST go see Bella I rarely am deeply moved in a film. The last one was The Passion of the Christ. Bella did that for me. It moved me in a life affirming way where grace goes into tragedy and redeems. Little girls are awesome occasions of grace and it’s the scene where the little girl is running freely with the butterfly of hope above her that ties the movie together. I know about that little girl, full of smiles, hope, fear, wonder. She’s one who inspires depth, brings out the best in those around her.

LFirst Mama Mealife. Little girls. Beautiful. After Elizabeth’s double near death experience as she entered this world, it’s all the more As it should bewonder-filled. And I’m very glad to say the news is very good. Susan went back into the hospital because of the post-surgical infection but came home Thursday evening. Elizabeth is off her IV antibiotics and respirator with just Oxygen assist for breathing now.

The BIG news is that she had her first meal straight from Mama (Donn’s words), as the pictures show. She still has some tubes and the breathing line, but she’s improving steadily. We just pray she will be home from the hospital by Friday November 30 when Sherry and I arrive along with David, Cyndee and Joy. No little germ factories are allowed in the hospital at all in winter cold/flu season.

I spent Tuesday through Friday in San Diego at the Evangelical Theological Society meetings. An indicator of my involvement is that I didn’t buy a single meal during the conference! A lot of the time is reconnecting with friends and former students. This time I met with people from Crossway about the publication project. I also did work with the executive committee, something I’ve done continuously since my term ended ten years ago. I’m a part of two sub-committees so I joined the committee for an hour of their meeting. The surprise was that when they wanted to appoint someone to fill out the remainder of Frank Beckwith’s term, they asked me. So I’ll go back on the committee for another four years. I think it’s the first time in the 50 year history of the organization that someone has returned. Since we change to study group format and to a full time executive director in this time frame, it’s a crucial time.

Sherry and I are doing Thanksgiving differently this year: She’s working! More amazingly, her shift will begin at 5 am. So our dinner will be on Wednesday evening, putting us in synch with our friends around the world.

More Surprises

The story of Elizabeth won’t settle down. She is going in the right direction. She’s off the CPAP and just getting oxygen enriched air through a nasal breathing tube. She is off all IV medications and only getting some morphine the ease her off the high doses she needed earlier. Donn says she will soon be moved into the “normal” NICU. Very good news!

BUT . . . last Thursday, Donn hit a deer so his car is in the body shop. Way worse, Susan has a serious infection in her C-Section incision so she’s back in the hospital on IV antibiotics. So she’s on as Elizabeth goes off.

Post surgical infections are too common these days as germs are more antibiotic resistant. I wonder if we are moving backward in terms of infectious diseases with “routine” infections becoming serious. The rising number of staph infections that can’t be treated with antibiotics are making news now. “Defeated” diseases like tuberculosis are coming back. STD’s are quite serious risks. Just when we think we have control, it slips away. On the other hand, just a few years ago, Elizabeth would have been one of those “perfect” babies who died at birth. Hard to understand.

I’m at Evangelical Theological Society through Friday. We were in San Diego 18 years ago. We met in a church with about 400 people partipating. Now we meet in a convention center with more than 2500 participating. Then I was just a presenter, doing “The Third Wave: An Outsider’s Assessment” looking at the Vineyard Movement which was sweeping the world. John Wimber, the Vineyard leader, showed up at my paper to my shock, but it was a highlight. I remember it as a relaxing time when I could go for a walk with a close friend who came to the meeting. Now I’m a past president, serving on three sub-committees of the executive committee, meeting with publishers about the soon to be released book, Vintage Jesus, and the subsequent volumes. I’m still doing a paper, this time, Demons and Believers:What Shall We Teach? and co-chairing the Gender Study Group. Busy time!

Changes. Surprises. Loses. Beauty. Friends. Life.

Life in Elizabeth Lane

Happy Susan!Elizabeth Anne wiredWe are back from Cannon Beach. The conference was good, but the highlight was Sherry and Cyndee spending Saturday afternoon shopping for grandgirls. Elizabeth Anne will have no shortage of cute things!

Speaking Elizabeth (and we do a lot of that!), she is not only off the high powered respirator, but also has had her trac tube withdrawn. So she’s on Susan’s Viewa CPAP machine, akin to the one Sherry uses when she sleeps. There are still lots of IV lines and the CPAP air comes from a nose based system, so she’s wired. Donn says she objected big time to the tubes going down her nose! Coming off the morphine has had some withdrawal stuff but the oxygen is getting closer to normal.

The coolest deal is that Susan got to hold her daughter for the first time. Think she looks happy?

Tomorrow I’ll spend a block of time with Randy Alcorn. He told his prayer supporters that he’s writing his next book on suffering and evil. So I contacted his office and offered to talk things through with him. He jumped at the chance. So we’ll do intense conversation. He’s thinking carefully about things like Elizabeth’s double near death which brought some people closer to the LORD. Did God pre-approve what happened, planning it in order to touch people? Or did His grace work in this situation even though He is not the one who initiated the trauma? This is just a hint of the issues that we’ll work through in this mutually enjoyable time. “Theology come to life” is my motto and it will be very real.

Saturday and Grandgirls

Sherry and I are in Cannon Beach, teaching at a retreat. It’s a group we know well, having done this for about 15 years. The group is small this time: 7 people, so that makes it even better. Between Western large classes and administration, counseling some very challenging situations and life stuff, I’m pushing really hard, so some down time is a happy thing. I de-stress best with a very close friend and that’s not available just now, which doesn’t help. I have exams to grade with me and also a conference call for Evangelical Theological Society (next week’s trip, reminding me of when we were there before, a most happy time with some friends joining in) as well as family things for the afternoon. Grand girls have pull in my life.

We went to dinner to honor Dave & Hollis, celebrating her birthday. Both lost spouses to suicide less than three years ago. I got to perform their wedding 15 months ago. The blending of family is going well, though with some challenges their unique situation brings. Seeing them doing so well is a huge testimony to God’s grace. It was a wonderful celebration.

And how is Elizabeth, you rightly wonder? She’s still a very sick litttle baby, but improving. Donn reports that she was changed from the oscillating respirator to a regular one. The continue to cut the percentage oxygen and brought the nitic oxide from 20 to 9. The morphine drip is stopped, going to “as needed.”

He was laughing loud when he told me that they let him change her diaper for the first time. Up to now he’s only been able to touch her, not oven stroke her, so it’s a huge change. She also had her first meal of breast milk. It was through a feeding tube, but it came from Susan.

We are praising God for His healing in lots of ways.

Grandmother returns from seeing Elizabeth Anne

Poppa Daughter touchSherry’s back from Kansas City, Children’s Mercy Hospital and the recently expanded Breshears family. Her involvement was in lots of different ways. She chased Susan upstairs to rest and did the dish washing herself. She was coach to Donn and Susan when Susan was wrestling with the emotions of a severely ill daugter she’d not held at all and touched only once briefly as she was inside the incubator heading to the other hospital. “Just hold her” and “Tears are good, let them come” sounds trite here, but it was profound in the moment. Her time in the hospital touched deep emotionally. No surprise, I suppose. The noise of the place with ventilator going, forcing breaths a couple of times per second, the lines going into Elizabeth everywhere combined with the beauty of this completely unexpected little grace gift speak to the deepest places, places only those who are the very closest could ever share. I wondered at the picture of Donn and Susan wondering at their daughter, and especially at his wedding ringed hand reaching to her tiny one.

She went on rounds this morning and heard the doctors speaking all sorts of medical speak. It boiled down to continued reduction of anti-anxiety medications, termination of the dopamine, possible change from the high powered respirator to a “normal” one with even that being removed early next week. The contamination in her lungs continues to disperse and her blood gasses are OK even as the percentage of oxygen enrichment is reduced. The flow to her cells is enhanced by transfusions of blood. I’m designating all my donations to her! It’s a very delicate balance to maintain. It’s possible that Elizabeth will be out of the hospital when we get there on November 30.

I was thinking how wonderful it is to have the level of trust Sherry and I enjoy as I was doing some counseling this week. I’m dealing with some marriage situations where trust has been blown by infidelity, addictions and stupidty. Of course it’s not always this sort of thing. Sometimes it’s just misperceptions and misunderstandings that somehow lodge into the thinking structures of ones mind. Seeing the impact of blown trust in terms of ruined relationship is so hard to see. But I’ve seen a couple of them being restored. That gives me hope for restoration, but the work required to do that is so painfully difficult. Probably the hardest is the persistence in honesty, consistency, and working on personal stuff. The pain is deep and the loss is great. It can be pretty discouraging sometimes. People miss each other more than they can say. The prayer required is something friends can join in, especially if their love is deep. Sharing the work of restoration is a privilege of sharing the sufferings of Christ. And the outcome is a gift of grace no less than Elizabeth is.

We head off to Cannon Beach this weekend where I’ll teach at the Salem Community Retreat, something I’ve done for more than a decade. It’s a small group we know well, so it’s a relaxing time for us in a place we love . . . and with a couple of grand girls we love too!

Elizabeth Anne nears one week

Elizabeth Anne“Little Girl Breshears” is winning hearts as the reality of Elizabeth Anne emerges! Sherry got there Sunday to see our critically ill granddaughter. She is in Children’s Mercy Hospital, a huge specialized complex devoted exclusively to seriously ill children. In it, she is in the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit. And within that high care area, she is in the extra intensive care area. So she’s in specialized intensive, intensive care. She is improving steadily and the next goal is to go out of the extra intensive area. Her oxygen is down from 100% to 38%. When she gets to 21% she’s at normal air level. All her vital signs are good and her blood gasses are OK. So the possibility of a heart lung bypass is not in her future. She’s still sedated to keep her from fighting the ventilator tube in her mouth.

The prognosis is all good though she has a long way to go. Normal air soon, off the ventilator sometime this weekend, perhaps. Home around Thanksgiving? All subject to change, of course.

She’s beautiful, Sherry says. And I’ve seen pictures to confirm that! Despite the sedation, she cracked her eye for Susan, her mom. She keeps her pinkie out proving that she’s a refined little girl.

Seeing the renewing impact of Elizabeth’s arrival has made me wonder. On one hand, there’s a lot of stress and fatigue, but there’s been no snapping or anger. There’s been a huge amount of prayer in and around Donn’s life. There’s been a extraordinary joy because of how close she came to death. They gave Susan a stress test to see how labor would affect thngs. That’s when they discovered how drastically Elizabeth’s heart rate was affected. Had Susan gone into regular labor, Elizabeth would not have survived. Thus the very quick move to a C-Section. And then the meconium aspiration that almost overwhelmed her again. She’s twice been near death, and still could be. But she’s so alive. So beautiful. The risks of life are incredible. And life so wonderful. It’s a deep experience to be shared with all the emotions and prayers, especially with those closest to me.

Sherry gets home this afternoon so I’ll put a couple of pictures here. If you want to email me at gerry@breshears.net or leave a comment, I’ll send a link to a bunch of pictures.

Life. Little girl. Elizabeth Anne. Family. Friends of the soul. Jesus.

Beautiful.

Day 2 of "Little Girl Breshears"

Donn reports: Baby Girl is now Elizabeth Anne Breshears!

She is doing much better this morning.  They are begining to wean her off of 100% oxygen today and are farther from more extreme measures to treat her.  She is still a very sick baby, but things are looking up.  Please continue to pray for us!

I’m here between two excited grandgirls. They are lunching before we head off to Disney’s Princess on Ice. It’s still a surprise for them, but reality will hit soon. And happily!

I sent of the my final work on Death by Love to Crystal for her final edit. It feels good to have done but bad that my delay made us late. On the other hand, I really like the outcome. It mixes good stories with good theology in a pastorally realistic way. I’m eager to see what happens from here.

Off to the Princess show with two princesses!