Thursday, November 26, 2015


Turkey-covered in gravy and nestled in next to sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes and homemade stuffing next to yeast rolls and green beans.....with the tart pop of color the cranberry sauce adds....

The deep, rich smells that linger in the crisp, cool air....

The leaves turning colors, and crunching beneath feet...

This is one of my very favorite times of the year. There is something absolutely magical about this time of year. Sunday we begin our advent reading: snippets of a story read every evening in anticipation of our Savior's birth.  Cozy fires and long days of reading while drinking something warm.  Baking and laughing and family and friends.

This year threatens to try and steal the I think about doctor's appointments and oral surgeries and trying to pay the mortgage, and....cancer.  Sigh. No matter how much I want to set that little "c" word off to the side, it still wrecks havoc by interrupting "our" schedule and whisking mom away from our nightly reading....

I'm so thankful that the last couple of months, I have been studying Psalm 27.  I love how David tells himself, demands of himself, really:
"Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle. I  will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord."  Vs.6

Sometimes, even in this Psalm, joy is the natural outflow of our hearts as we rejoice in being delivered out of a trial.  But is a sacrifice. Sometimes it is costly.  Sometimes we have to tell our own hearts "I WILL SING PRAISES."

I love that scene in the movie Big Hero 6...everyone is trapped and Hero reminds them all that they need a new perspective.  They need to look at the situation differently.

So, while I will miss some of our reading as I head to NY next week, and traditions get ruffled by appointments and such...
I need a new perspective. I need to look at my situation differently. There are always things to be thankful for! And quite honestly....I think the trials of this year have made that list of things that I'm thankful for longer.  

I'm thankful for each little face that looks to me as mom.
I'm thankful for adventure and the experiences we have had as a family.
I'm thankful for deep discussions and the chance to walk with my kids through hard things.
I'm thankful for friends!
I'm thankful for excellent medical care and access to facilities that treat my son's rare cancer.
I'm thankful that my husband had the chance and was willing to work Thanksgiving day because he knew we needed it.
I'm thankful for my boy, who is out on the couch reading The Lord of the Rings to his younger brothers....and that they were all so excited to get up this morning and resume reading.
I'm so thankful for my girls, and our trips to Starbucks, our experiments with hair and our laughing for days.

I'm thankful for our homeschool co-op, our church, and all the places where we get to see ordinary people living extraordinary lives.
I'm thankful for the people on both sides of this country that have staggered me with their kindness and care.
I'm thankful for the smiles on faces when we have a good dinner.
I'm thankful for Team Pumpkin
And Team Pecan)
I'm thankful every time we light a candle, declaring that Jesus is the light of the world....and reminding me that the small things really do matter.
I'm thankful for grandmas who love big-with both arms and a heart overflowing.
I'm thankful for prayers that come from tiny people with huge hearts-I'm always undone when I hear my children pray.
I'm thankful for the many who have joined our family through prayer, support, and concern for us.
(I am realizing that this list here could go on and on and on....because truly there is so much to be thankful for!!!)

So, while I tell my heart: I WILL SING PRAISES.... I find myself FULL of Things to be thankful for. But this year, I am both thankful and astounded by the God who sings over me:

"The Lord your God is in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing."
Zephaniah 3:17

Today, I will sing praises to the God who is IN. MY. MIDST. 
I can't always see Him or feel Him. But He is there, rejoicing over ME! 
For my family....and for all that I love, my Thanksgiving day prayer is that I would   remain so close to His heart, that His song, the one He is singing over me, would become my own. That my thankful heart would sing out and invite others into the presence of the God who is in our midst.

Friday, November 06, 2015

To the woman in 22B

Dear Woman sitting in seat 22B,
     I'm so sorry we weren't properly introduced. I wish you could meet me under different circumstances, rather than on a flight from Dallas to Los Angeles.  You might have even liked me if we had met in a restaurant or on the subway. What you see is a young woman with a fussy baby sitting near you.  (ha! If you only knew. Not only do I look younger than I am, and have more kids than normal, but there aren't words for how this year has aged me.) 
     You clearly show your utter annoyance and displeasure with me by huffing, puffing, and sighing every time my baby cries out. Which, I'll admit, is more frequently than even I would like.
I'm standing up in the middle of a plane, perched in front of the only space possible which is the restroom in the middle of the plane. I squeezed myself up against the seat opposite you every time someone tried to get to the restroom because I can already tell that you loathe sharing space with me.
     I stood, swaying with my baby, trying to soothe him.  I prayed silently....asking God for help and wisdom, because quite honestly, it had already been a LONG day.  I had been up at 4am feeding the baby, and then got up at 5am for the day. I hid in the bathroom so I could pray and read my Bible and not disturb the baby after getting him back to sleep.  I cleaned our room at the Ronald McDonald house so we could check out. I had already done the flight from NY to Dallas and I was worn out.
     I decided to thank you for sharing your space with us, albeit begrudgingly. You interrupted me....and I mentioned that you seemed disturbed since you repeatedly sighed with displeasure.  When I explained that my baby boy has cancer and was flying for his treatment, you said words that shocked me. 
     "I didn't sign up for this," you said, referring, I suppose, to a flight with a fussy baby and a momma rocking him back and forth.
      Well.  Neither did I. I never signed up for spending my postpartum weeks deciding whether to remove my son's eye or to flood his body with poisonous chemotherapy.  I did not request to forego counting milestones like clapping and crawling, in order to count tumors or make treatment decisions.  And I can assure you, every single part of my being would rather be at home making dinner for my family than on a plane with my baby so sad and uncomfortable.
     Even though I didn't "sign up" for was sifted, through the hand of the Creator, for me.  
     Our meeting is really an instrument of grace.  It's hard to see that, and even believe that at times.  That's what faith is: believing that God exists, and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. Even when evidence suggests the contrary.
    Our meeting reminds me that there is always more going on than what we see. It reminds me that every person I see has a story that I can't see.  It reminds me to be kind when all I see is the hard outer shell of someone hurting.
    And it also reminds me just how good I've had it. I have sat by so many who have been kind, understanding, and sympathetic. It causes me to be so grateful as I returned to my seat, tears streaming down my face, as the gentleman next to me started playing with a fussy baby and even got him to laugh.  It reminds me to be grateful for the sweet angel I met named Margaret, who not only showed extreme kindness and empathy on the flight from NY to Dallas, but even offered to be a new friend for me in the city. (The kindness preceeded the pain...I did notice that.)
     I'm sure that I could have handled  our meeting in a better way. I'm learning. I'm still figuring out how to navigate life in the midst of some heavy things. But in the end, I know even our meeting and my tears were all part of my journey. And who knows? Maybe in some small way, I have been a grace in your life too...and perhaps seeing a momma with a fussing baby will never be the same for you again.  
The momma with the fussy baby

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Elijah's exam

It's so hard, because it can start to feel a little like one step forward, one step back.
But that is why it is so important for us to think: marathon, not sprint!  This will be a long road for Elijah. And with his genetic
mutation, it just means he will need to be watched for the rest of his life.  Today's appointment was a good reminder, though. All of the time, effort, and resources going towards his treatment right now is so worth it. For moments like these:
When he does his nose-crinkle smile because he can SEE me!!!!! :-)

So, no new tumors this time!!! One of his old tumors is growing again (not the same one as last time).  This is the one that is in his central field of vision.  So, they need to be careful not to just blast away with laser! But they did treat with laser today, and went back and injected the green dye to hopefully make the treatment more effective.

His doctor gave some perspective: we could absolutely cure him of cancer right removing his other eye.  However, all the time and effort and flights....all the treatments he goes through are because he can see, and we would like to retain that ability to see if it is possible, without putting his life at risk.

Someone asked me at some point in this journey why it mattered so much that he lost his other eye.  Two main things came to mind: one, without his prosthetic, it's like a wound that will never heal. I don't know how to explain it any better than that. It's a constant reminder that something was there, but it has been removed.  There's a void. 
And secondly, if you have ever seen me parent my children....I probably say about 50 times a day, "Look at mommy's eyes." There a connection that happens when you look someone in the eye.  

I love that Elijah can see-especially since his first few months, he wasn't very responsive and I wasn't sure if he could see.  But we just take each look, each nose-crinkle smile response to our faces, as a gift.

There's an old hymn that I sing to Elijah all the time.  The last lines strike me every time:

Be still, my soul; thy Jesus can repay
From His own fulness all He takes away.

Today, we are thankful that he can see with his left eye, and we pray that his remaining eye and vision can be saved.  And we remind ourselves that Jesus is the greatest treasure.

Hope you all have a nose-crinkle smile kind of day.

My sincere apologies....

To all who are staying at the Ronald McDonald house, especially those on the same floor as Elijah and I. :)
It's always a rough night after all the traveling, adjusting to a new time zone, and preparing to be up early (with no food) for anesthesia.  Elijah did NOT want to sleep in his crib. He also didn't want to sleep much with me either, but did better that way. :) 
By 5:30am, I decided we just needed to get out and walk. As soon as we were moving, Elijah did much better. Now, we are just waiting for his appointment.
Good morning New York!!!! There's something so comforting about the sunrise.  It's like a breath-taking reminder that there is so much more going on than just you and your life. It is a reminder that whatever darkness or difficulty the night has brought, the morning will come with new light and perspective.  And everything that has seemed still and inactive bursts forth with life.
Good morning!

Monday, November 02, 2015

Goodnight moon...

Well, after a long day of's time to say goodnight. 
Up early for Elijah's EUA (exam under anesthesia) tomorrow.

Goodnight moon.

Run with endurance.....

Elijah and I are just getting ready to board our flight. Elijah had a rough day yesterday and he is tuckered out!
I saw this sign at the airport on our very long walk to our gate:
1953 was the first commercial transcontinental flight between New York and LA.  
In a strange way, it made me think of all the many who have gone before me. Maybe they were traveling for different reasons, but they made this trip too.
It reminded me of this verse in Hebrews:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us....

I'm surrounded by so many who have gone before me. They remind me to run with endurance the race that has been set before me.

It was hard to say goodbye this morning. Standing in the middle of a quiet room with the kids sleeping and's always hard to leave them, even if only for a few days. I miss them already.
But this is the race that has been set before us right now.
Oh Lord. Give me endurance to run in way that gives you honor.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


So, it's dress up night for youth group
Here is Mary Poppins and the Holy Bible. I love the creativity of these kids. This was fun. :)

I'll see you later....

Today, one of the best friends I have ever had on this earth, along with her husband, her eight children and her dog, packed up and drove away, headed for Maine.
After almost 28 years of faithful law enforcement service, her husband retired. They sold their house here in Ojai, California after only 5 days on the market. They purchased a larger home on 10 acres in Maine for much less. :)
So, while I'm very sad to be saying "I'll see you later" to my friend, I'm so excited for them and the adventure that is beginning.  They get to have two parents home!!!! This is truly a joy and I'm so excited to see what adventures God has waiting for them ahead.
Today is hard though. In the time we have been friends, we have welcomed seven children between the two of us. (I'm counting Judah since he was just born when we met.) Jennifer Pfleging, I am so honored to call you my friend and I will miss you.  Until I see you again.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Birthday Boy

Dear Noah Benjamin,
     HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! You are 9 years old today!!! The time has gone by so quickly.  We moved back to Ojai from living in the mountains of San Bernardino just in time to wait for your arrival. Hahaha! I started having contractions and we thought you were coming soon!  Both Emma and Caleb had come two and a half weeks early, so it seemed pretty reasonable to expect that you really were coming.  But 26 days later, with contractions on and off, (and one week past your expected due date), the doctor told me there was no choice but to induce labor.
     They even gave me a chance in the hospital by breaking my water first. The contractions came, sure and steady...until your heart rate started dropping and they told me to lay on my left side. All contractions stopped.  You are the only baby that I have had pitocin with during labor, but 2 hours later you were out and in my arms. (Side note: they think your dates may have been wrong and you were born at 39 weeks gestation.)

   You have always been on your own timetable. You have a different rhythm and pace sometimes.  You didn't walk until about 16 months, and at two they wanted you to begin speech therapy because you weren't talking much. But we had a feeling you were just on your own schedule.  And you were!  You are a very bright boy, excellent in your work.  
(This is when you built "Toothless" from How to Train Your Dragon out of Legos)

     In this world of hustle and may find yourself hurried along by those around you.  But, you, my dear boy, were created with a different rhythm.  Oh yes, there will be times when you have to work quickly to get things done.  In the grand scheme of it all, however, you will find that this life passes so quickly.  We are in need of those who might slow the pace, and enjoy the beauty of each moment, rather than rushing on to the next. I NEED you, Noah.  I can't tell you many times I have longed for you to hurry up, only to find myself surprised by the joy of waiting...and discovering something I would have missed.  

     You have an incredible smile and a laughing heart to go with it.  When we took you to see the comedian Tim Hawkins the other night, I couldn't help but be just as entertained by your uncontrollable laughter in your seat.  I'm pretty sure your stomach will be sore in the days to come because you laughed so hard.  Don't stop laughing.  Times will come in this life that are painful and difficult to understand, and you have been gifted with a special ability to laugh and bring joy.  This world needs you and your million dollar smile.  It needs your goofy jokes.

     And finally, the thing that perhaps characterizes you the most, is your loving spirit.  I think you hug me goodnight about 3 times every night.  You are always the one to notice when grandma is leaving after having stopped by for a visit, and you are the first one to throw your arms around her because you love her so very much.  You love BIG.  Noah. This world needs men who can love BIG. There are hurting, broken people all around who need the only kind of love that can heal....the love that comes from above.  And that love is often best delivered by those who are willing to HUG, to LISTEN, to SLOW DOWN, to CRY and to LAUGH with another.  

     Jesus knew how to slow down.  He was on a different time table too--He was always on the Father's schedule.  He wasn't bothered by the hustle and bustle around Him because He saw that there was more going on than what human eyes could see.  Jesus knew how to laugh.  He knew how to see humor even in hard situations.  And He loved BIG. He lived, knowing his earthly life would end with stretching out His arms in order to show His love.  

     In one of our favorite family books, Tales of the Kingdom, an apprentice juggler found himself struggling against his rhthym. He kept trying to stifle it in order to bring himself in line with all the other jugglers and their rhthym. But it was only as he revealed the rhythm given in his own heart that he discovered the job the King truly had for him--he was a clown!!!!  He was the best juggler of all because his rhthym was different.

"A juggler with the instinct of a clown! Oh, they are rare! They are rare! What a troupe we'll have! We'll bring down the house! We will make the balls dance!"

So the Apprentice Juggler lost his place in the troupe, but found another.  For all who live by the rhthym of the inner timing, which the King approves, find a place in the Kingdom all their own.  More than any other, they live happily ever after.

     Noah. This world needs you.  So keep teaching me how to wait. How to laugh. And how to love.  I am a better mommy because of you and I am so absolutely humbled and honored to learn from you, as well as teach you.  Happy birthday.

For the King,


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Happy Birthday Sweet Boy

     Oh, my darling boy. Ezra Lucas Knight Hester. It was 7 years ago that you surprised us by coming so quickly that you became the first of our children to be born at home.  I must say, that that is just one of the many ways you have changed things in our home and in my heart.
     If it weren't for you, I may have gone on, thinking that I knew a thing or two about parenting. But in His kindness, God saw fit to give me a beautiful, rough-and-tumble, blue-eyed, determined, out-of-the-box, mysterious, tenacious, free-spirited little boy to remind me that every good thing that has happened in the parenting department has been by His grace.  Even when I find myself unsure of what to do or how to do it...I do know WHO I am following and trusting for it all.  At seven years old, you can read pretty much anything-including your science textbook. You like roller blading, skateboarding, and pretty much anything else that requires lots of energy. We still have all the knives in a box up on a high shelf, even though you are not nearly as likely to get into them. You haven't lost your fascination with weapons, although you are learning to use them for more honorable pursuits....I think. ;-). You look up to your brother Caleb SO much. Which is interesting, because your mind works in a very similar way.  You love being a big brother. Even though you have to fight other desires along the way... Protection truly is part of your nature. You will often read to Evelyn, and play with Elijah.  You love cooking, Legos, the trampoline, and so many other things.
     Your heart does not know many limits.  This can be difficult and tricky to navigate at times....but it can also come in handy.  I can ask you to do jobs that the average six year old would not even attempt, much less accomplish, as well as you do.  I love taking you to Costco because you are such a gentleman to load the cart with the big flat of water.
     There are so many things I want to say to you, Ezra. I want to remind you how much I love you, how much God loves you, how great His plans are for you. I want to remind you that your greatest accomplishment in this life will be to serve your Great King and Captain by loving Him and His people.  I want to tell you to be bold and courageous.  I want to tell you that this life is harder than you think....times will come ahead which will make you want to give up or give in. But the God we serve...He is always worth the battle.  As long as there is breath in your lungs, you have a purpose and a mission.

     Listen to what was said about the Ezra of the Bible:
"For Ezra had prepared and set his heart to seek the Law of the Lord [to inquire for it and of it, to require and yearn for it], and to do and teach in Israel its statutes and ordinances."
Ezra 6:10

     Under Ezra's leading and instruction, the people repented! They recognized that they were going the wrong way, and they wanted to stop and start going the way that God has asked of them. Ezra set an example-not of never sinning, but of being sorry over his sin-SO sorry, that he would not continue that way. God gave him faith to believe that there was a better way. He "set his heart to seek the Law of the Lord", which is really the Law of Love.

     Right now, we are revisiting a family favorite series-the Chronicles of Narnia.  It does not surprise me one bit, that as we read, every single moment for you, is about when Aslan will come on the scene.  He is the picture of Jesus Christ, out Good Shepherd. It was said of Aslan that He is not "safe." But He is good.

     This is what I want to tell you most. Following Jesus has been the grandest adventure I have ever been on. But it hasn't always been safe and it has certainly not always been easy. It takes a tenacious heart, one who is set upon the Law of the Lord.  And when things are so difficult that you can't see up from down, and you find yourself where you never thought you could be....remember the face of Aslan. Remember how in The Magician's Nephew, one deep look into His face and his shining gold mane changed everything for all the years to come.  This is how it is with Jesus. HE IS GOOD. Not safe. But good. The grandest adventure ever is following Him.  I am forever humbled and overjoyed to be called your mama. I love you.  

For the King! And the Kingdom!