Day 35

So it’s been a very different 48 hours for me, at least compared to the last 34 days. As I mentioned last night, I went home for a couple of nights. We felt like Justus was in a good place, my daughter was well, and my son-in-law was strong! It allowed one of us to be home for the first day of school (Wednesday). I was able to spend a couple of mornings reading Psalms and Proverbs and praying with my youngest four as they started a new school year. On the one hand, it hasn’t been the best start to a new year with so much of our energy focused in Portland. On the other hand, it clearly modeled for them what we teach, that next to God, people and family and relationships are what’s most important in life. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I talk that talk, but then a football game or another meeting I have to attend sends a different message. There’s no confusion for them of the importance we placed on rallying around their sister and around Justus; because that’s who needed us. It reminds me of the story Kelli often tells of listening to an interview with a woman who had a lot of kids. The host really pressed her, “Come on, you must have your favorites. You must love some of your kids more than the others.” And the woman without missing a beat quickly responded, “Oh yes, of course I do. I love the one who’s sick the most until they’re better. I love the one who’s lost the most, until they’re found. I love the one who’s sad, until they’re happy.”

The last 35 days, we make no apologies; we’ve focused on Justus more than the rest. In fact, we haven’t done much else. It has been our (Kelli’s and my) priority to pray without ceasing for Justus. It has been our priority to support Alyse and Jason. It has been our priority to lead the rest of our family through this time. And over the course of this journey, the Lord has given me the priority of speaking words of truth and grace to whoever would listen. Since you are reading this… thanks for being among that group! Beyond getting my kids off to school, there were two other huge bonuses to going home for less than 48 hours. The first was to attend the kick-off and training dinner for our church’s marriage ministry, Re|engage. The second was to attend a prayer time with the pastors and some of the elders from our church. And as the Lord would have it, I walked away with two big takeaways. The first was a formula I was reminded of at Re|engage, but I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.

The second takeaway happened at our prayer time this morning. We were taking turns reading a portion of the bible that had meaning to us and then offering up a prayer. I had received word from Kelli that Justus had a good night so I felt like I was in a good place. I chose Exodus 14 to read. If you don’t know, it’s the story of Israel escaping Egypt only to have Pharaoh and his entire army chase after them. Of course they grumble to Moses, something about not wanting to die in the dessert. Of course Moses tells them, after today, you will never see these Egyptians again. And then of course in 14:14 (look familiar?) we get the wonderful word from the Lord – “The Lord will fight for you. You need only to be still.” The problem was, as I was reading it, somewhere around verse 9 or 10, I broke down and cried. I realized I wasn’t ok – I was having withdrawals from being with Justus. Thankfully, I was headed back in just a few hours.

Justus had another great day! He made progress in all of the areas he’s working on. In fact, when I walked into the room tonight, I walked over to his bed and immediately caught his eyes and he looked right at me. Awesome! We knew it wouldn’t just be day after day of uneventful hours. Tonight we had a little episode. He’s being weaned off of his pain medication and earlier this evening he had some withdrawal symptoms. It is so hard to watch him shake and squirm. His heart rate went up to 190 at one point. We immediately tried to get him a bolus of his pain medication. If you don’t know what a bolus is, neither did I. A bolus is simply administering a small (they say discrete, but I say small) amount of a drug to raise its concentration to an effective level. In this case, it would be to raise it just enough to give him some relief. The plan continues to be a gradual wean, but we don’t want him to suffer as he’s weaning.

I think that’s a great illustration of what happens as we try to overcome some of the habits in our lives. I talked earlier about how God comes alongside us, but often times “fixing” some of our problems requires hard work. I also think sometimes, fixing our problems can create withdrawal symptoms. If you could have watched his little body fighting to overcome the pain of withdrawals, you could see that he is truly a little warrior. He’s having to battle after only a couple of weeks of being on Fentanyl. Imagine what happens when we’ve been “on” something for our entire life and then have to change. Maybe you’re saying, “But these drugs are good things that save us.” But the pentobarbital they gave Justus for weeks… is the same drug they use to kill people by lethal injection.

So much of what we struggle to overcome is like these drugs. In controlled doses, they are good for us, but left to run amok, they can kill us, maybe not physically, but spiritually or socially. I’m not here to give a sermon on sex or alcohol or food. The point is, if we’ve spent a lifetime using something (even if it’s meant for good), it can be like me at the prayer meeting, when we try to stop we can be caught off guard by how hard it is. And once again, I’m not here to tell you what or if there are those places in your life… I totally leave that to you and the Lord. But if there are some places in your life where you want to make change, then I hope Justus can be an inspiration to you. Picture that little boy shaking as he tries to overcome something that can be good, but used in the wrong context can kill him. He’s fighting hard and I’m hoping it encourages you to fight hard as well.

Maybe you aren’t dealing with anything like that, be grateful. We’re grateful that Justus continues to improve. It was another full day of exams and therapy. God is answering our prayers. After yesterday’s picture with mom, I felt it only fair to give dad his day in the sun. We started this journey because we knew God wanted us to pray. Will you join me in praying… for Justus, for the fire fighters, for other sick children, and maybe strength for you to overcome withdrawal effects of changes God wants to do in you. I’m praying for a miracle, both in Justus’ life and in your life. Thanks for being a part of #TeamJustus. Please pray for complete healing… God is able and God is good.