God With Us

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“Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel, which means ‘God with us.'” Matthew 1:23

Christmas is such a special time as we remember the miracle of God with us, the birth of a baby that was both fully God and fully human.  The One who has shone light into our dark world and brought us bright hope and peace.

I have been sick these past few weeks and it has been hard.  I do not like being reminded of the weakness of my body.  It is hard to push back the fears that steal in and grip my heart–fears about what my future holds health-wise. Fears that I won’t get all the way better. Fears that I won’t have the strength to care for my family. Fears that I’ll fight my way back to health only to be knocked down by illness again.

But it is good too.  It is so good to remember that my strength comes not from myself, but from God who supplies all my needs. It is good to pray with compassion and understanding for so many others with cystic fibrosis and other ailments who are struggling.  And this season it has been so good to witness first hand some of what “God with us” means.

God with us means that we are never alone.  I feel God’s presence in my dark moments.  He whispers words of peace, comfort, and assurance.  He reminds me that He has borne my griefs and carried my sorrows.  He assures me that my life and my future are safe in His hand.  With this struggle I have seen God living in so many who have surrounded me with love.  I have been blessed by family and friends who have reached out to me–messages and phone calls to see how I’m feeling.  Prayers for my return to health.  Taking Lucas to his scheduled activities when I was too sick to leave the house.  Bringing Lucas into their homes to play with cousins and friends.  Giving him love and attention and activity when I was too tired to meet his needs.  Dropping off remedies to help calm my symptoms.  These expressions of love mean so much to me.  They ease my burden and bring joy into a difficult time.  It is part of God with us, God at work in this world through the love and generosity of others.

So even though my Christmas cards may be late this year, my house may be dirty, there may be no homemade Christmas cookies or handmade gifts, and I may have a little less energy for merry making, my heart is full of gratitude.  Thank you family and friends.  Thank you for your prayers, your encouragement, your selflessness, your generosity.  Thank you for your love and care.  Thank you God for coming to walk among us, for sending us your Spirit, and for living in our hearts. God with us.

Merry Christmas!

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I’ve had trouble getting this image to display properly.  If you can’t see it, click here to view our Christmas card.

Christmas Card 2014

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The Wrong Way to Go Viral

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Dr. Lucas is in the house!

Dr. Lucas is in the house!

Less than a week after I wrote that post about all the things I do to stay healthy (you can read it here) I got leveled by a virus.  It was as if I tempted fate with all my ideas of how I was going to avoid the germs this year. Actually, the whole family got sick.  It started with Lucas, spread to me, and finally knocked Jaime down as well.

I don’t think we’ve ever all gotten sick at the same time before.  It has been interesting to see how this virus unfolded in each of us–different ages, different bodies, different weaknesses.  Any guesses as to who is still struggling?!

Lucas brought the virus home to us but got through it the most easily.  He woke up with a little cough one morning and moved more slowly throughout the day (one notch down from break-neck speed).  The next morning he seemed all better but that afternoon he fell asleep in the car, asked to lay in bed and snuggle and then laid on the couch and watched TV.  None of the above ever happens, so we knew something was up.  His temperature was elevated at 99.4 and he was flushed. He was acting normal already the next day but struggled through the next few nights with a cough.  He’s all better now.

Jaime’s illnesses started with a tickle in his throat and a dry cough.  He had a few days of coughing and a sore throat.  He had body aches and exhaustion.  Unlike Lucas who was through the whole thing in three or four days, it hung on for five or six days for Jaime.  It was complicated by the fact that he was trying to take care of Lucas, and me, while being sick.  He was such a trooper.  Thankfully, he’s all better now.

I started out with having all viral-like symptoms, runny nose, watery eyes, sore throat, low fever, chills, nagging cough, body aches.  These symptoms lasted about four days but my lungs stayed mostly clear.  On the fifth day I started to feel distress in my lungs.  I had extra congestion, incredible tightness, and wheezing.  On the sixth day my doctor started me on oral antibiotics as the virus had caused an exacerbation.  This is where something causes the symptoms of my disease to worsen and the bacteria which has colonized in my lungs to flare up.  My worse day was day seven where walking up a flight of stairs left me competely winded and gasping for air.  (Just one week earlier I had run two miles on the treadmill in 25 minutes.  Talk about the rug being pulled out from under me!) Days seven through nine were filled with lots of coughing attacks, lots of stomach issues (thank you antibiotics!) and lots of prayers for strength.

It’s hard to be sick and keep a three year old happy at the same time.  And even Lucas started commenting on the state of the house (“Our house is so, so messy!!” Thanks for pointing that out). Today is day ten and I’m finally feeling a bit more human.  I still have a ways to go, but I think I’ve turned a corner. I’m ready to start working on regaining strength and weight (I lost four pounds this past week).

The thing of it is, from a CF perspective, (and barring something yet unforeseen), this ten day struggle of mine has been fairly mild.  Plenty of CFers who get a virus which causes an exacerbation end up requiring steroids, or IV antibiotics, or need to be hospitalized.  So even though I have not enjoyed the past ten days and pray for another long streak of health once this is over, I am grateful that I’m getting through this illness as well as I am.

It’s been a very hard week for Lucas because he is not accustomed to me being sick and out of commission.  I am thankful for that too; I’ve been so healthy this year that he’s not used to it.  He doesn’t understand why I won’t chase him around the house or why I won’t take him places or why I keep sitting down or laying on the couch.  Earlier today he asked me for some chips.  I went to get them but got sidelined by a coughing fit.  A few minutes passed and I heard Lucas call down to Jaime, “Daddy, Mommy’s coughing.  Will you get me some chips?”

Here are some pictures of what has been going on at casa de los Ventura this past week:

My sweet little sick boy.

My sweet little sick boy.

Never fear, 24 hours later he was feeling well enough to fly around the house as a super hero!  (Yes that's a kitchen towel).

Never fear, 24 hours later he was feeling well enough to fly around the house as a super hero! (Yes that’s a kitchen towel).

Feeling sad that Mommy's can't run around the table.

Feeling sad that Mommy can’t chase him.

Hiding: the silent protest.

Hiding: the silent protest.

Did I mention it's hard to be sick with a toddler on your back?

Did I mention it’s hard to be sick (and do extra breathing treatments) with a toddler on your back?

The past few mornings when Lucas has come to wake me up he has asked, “Mommy, are you all better now?” I’m looking forward to telling him, “Yes, all better!” hopefully very soon.

One for the Books

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Peering through the bookstore window

Lucas is now at the age where he can sit and listen to a longer story.  Since I was a classroom teacher in my former life and a book lover for as long as I can remember, I have books, and lots of them.  (LOTS of them).  Recently, I brought down some of my nice hardcover picture books and Lucas and I have been making our way through them. We snuggle up on the couch and read together.  I love that he adores books so much. He looks forward to trips to the library and especially to the bookstore.

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Snuggling up with a good book. Or two.

I wanted to share some of his favorites in case you love children’s literature too.  These are the books he requests (and recites) most often:

1.  The Llama Llama books by Anna Dewdney.  These are charming short rhymes that are right at Lucas’s developmental level.  He can definitely relate to Little Llama’s struggles.  Our three favorites are: Llama Llama Red Pajama, Llama Llama Mad at Mama, and Llama Llama Time to Share.  

Daddy, Lucas, and Llama are all yelling for Mama!

Daddy, Lucas, and Llama are all yelling for Mama!

2.  The Olivia books by Ian Falconer.  This is my favorite children’s book series.  The heroine of the books is a young pig named Olivia (“Falivia” according to Lucas) who is creative and precocious and tries the patience of her family at every turn.  I still laugh every time I read them and having a tenacious toddler of my own only makes them more funny.  Let’s hope Lucas doesn’t get too many ideas from Olivia. We have five of these books: Olivia, Olivia Saves the Circus, Olivia Forms a Band, Olivia and the Missing Toy, and Olivia Helps With Christmas.  It’s hard for me to choose my favorite because I love all of them.  If pressed I’d say it’s a tie between Olivia and the Missing Toy and Olivia Helps With Christmas.

3.  The Curious George books by Margaret and H.A. Rey. We have this entire series and Lucas likes them all.  I do paraphrase because they are a bit wordy for his age, but they are great, classic stories.  Lucas loves to watch George get into trouble and exclaim, “Oh no, George!!”

Olivia and George!

“Oh no, George!”  (and Falivia)

4.  Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees.  Lucas loves all the animals in this book and he loves the rhythm of the words and the bright illustrations. Thanks to this book he considers all giraffes to be named Gerald.

5.  Roger Duvoisin books.  Lucas’s favorites are VeronicaDonkey-donkey, and Petunia’s Christmas. These are books that I had as a child.  They were published in the 1950s and 60s.  Because of that, the language is a bit more, shall we say, blunt, than most children’s books today. For example, from Veronica, “I must hide quickly or I am lost,” she said breathlessly. “These people surely want to beat me up.” Or this gem from Donkey-donkey: “This is the stable door with a scythe hanging on a big nail and Donkey-donkey just about to enter. He enters as usual. But unfortunate donkey! The wicked nail met his ear and pierced it painfully.” Petunia’s Christmas has a section where a farmer comes after Pentunia (who is a goose) and plans to shoot her with his “two-barrel gun” because she scared his wife in order to free the goose that they were going to eat for Christmas.  It makes me a little uncomfortable so I have changed the wording on occasion (“Veronica ran away from the grumpy people…Donkey-donkey got an owie….The farmer was mad that his goose was missing”). Lucas is fascinated with these books so we read them often even though, in my opinion, they benefit from a little editing.

Reading with Lucas is one of my favorite parts of the day.  It’s fun to see his imagination come alive, to see his understanding of the world expand, to see him relate to characters in the stories and feel empathy.  It’s fun to hear his comments and get a glimpse into the way he views and interprets the stories.  It’s fun to see him anticipate a favorite part or page or picture.  And who doesn’t love snuggling on the couch with a cute little three year old?  I’m so glad for these special, quieter moments.

So I’m wondering, what are your favorite children’s books?

“You can find magic wherever you look.  Sit down and relax, all you need is a book.” ~Dr. Seuss