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The Last Goodbye

The Last GoodbyeEspressos of Faith is excited to have Tammie Wommack back in our continued series on “Stories of Hope, Healing, and Courage.” Tammie has joined us several times to share her journey from the incredible pain of losing her son Joshua to finding moments of hope, healing, and even joy again.

What I love about my friend Tammie is that she is not afraid to be raw and real. She wants to take parents who have lost a child through the real phases of healing, letting them know that their experiences/feelings are normal, they aren’t alone, and peace can be found despite the ongoing ache left when a child is no longer here. I have been on the other end of this—the desperation of depression—and because her story ran parallel to my own and I knew her when her loss was new and raw and I was lost and broken, I believe she can truly minister to those left behind grieving with her beautiful words of encouragement. Our stories coincided in 2008 in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and through God’s grace and despite moving away to different locations, we are still heart-connected.

Please share this with anyone you know who needs her words as a soothing balm, and feel free to leave a comment for Tammie. She would love to connect with you. She is making a deliberate choice to live in intentional ministry. Please feel free to reference her other articles at the end of this blog as well as the resources (suicide hotline) listed there.

And now, here’s Tammie…. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Why Grieving Mothers Find Comfort in a Tattoo

Why Grieving Mothers Find Comfort in a Tattoo
I am so thrilled to be able to once again feature my sweet friend Tammie here at Espressos of Faith. Tammie’s life first touched mine when we both resided on the tiny island of Kwajalein in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. During that time, Tammie and her husband Rick experienced unfathomable loss, and ever since, their lives have been on an amazing trajectory to healing, hope, and even joy again! Life will never be the same, and Tammie is extremely honest about their painful journey; she readily admits that some days are extremely difficult. But she has found purpose again, and her heart beats to bring healing to other grieving parents. She wants to share how she and her husband are finding their way again. In the process, Tammie and Rick made a choice to forfeit regular income and steady jobs to travel around the country volunteering, giving back to others in celebration of the life of their son. As passionate as they are about suicide prevention, they are equally driven to love those left behind as they open up their lives to us, sharing their source of love, comfort, hope, and promise.

Without further introduction, here’s Tammie…

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For those who are asking if that is really my tattoo: Yes, it’s true.

“What are you thinking? You are not the kind of person who would get a tattoo.”

“You have to be kidding! That is not your style.”

“You know what people think about tattoos? You will be judged as soon as they see it.”

“Well, if it will make you happy, then do it—but I would never do it.”

These are some of the responses I received when I shared my desire to get a tattoo as a tribute to my son Joshua. They were all very kind in the way that they said it, and I truly knew that they were trying to comprehend something that was just outside all of our comfort zones.

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The Pirate Who Saves Good People

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My husband Salad Boy and I were both at my youngest son’s pediatric appointment today. We were there for a med check, but we were also there to discuss bringing yet another specialist into the already large group of professional hands tending to his care. While there, we got to fill out a Vanderbilt form and ask about an insurance-imposed change on some asthma management medication. Oh my, what we parents can squeeze into our 15 minutes with the pediatrician!

While there, this lovely man, who has seen us through eight years of all kinds of things, reminded Little Man how he used to refer to himself not by name, but as: “The Pirate Who Saves Good People.

We pretty much revisit this little memory every time we see this doctor. He continues to tell us each time how much it struck him that a then-three year old would define himself that way.

Today, it struck me afresh as well. I thought about it the entire two-laned, windy, 30-minute ride home.

At eight years of age now, Little Man may have rolled his eyes at that past reference, but inside, I saw a twinkle of something familiar, something beckoning forth a younger time. I saw him remember, and that was a beautiful thing.

I am going to take a minute to bless that. To consider it a dream inside his heart that may take slightly different shape over the years. But I believe it’s a tiny glimpse of how he sees himself.

I remember the fascination with pirates. We had just left residence on Kwajalein Island, Kwajalein Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands, when he started to find the world of pirates so interesting. At the time, I didn’t make the direct connection to seaside life. But I think he was hanging onto something by wanting to fill his fantasy world with eye-patched, peg-legged, scruffy-bearded characters. I have to admit that I indulged this. I bought pirate wall border, sheets, and a matching throw rug. I bought every Playmobil and Imaginext pirate toy I could find. He loved the role play, and he really got into character. I’m pretty sure preschool teachers continue to remember this. When asked his name in the grocery store, he would reply with his name and, without skipping a beat, quickly add that he was The Pirate Who Saves Good People.

Now I know he was holding onto a little piece of the island that he mourned, because looking back, that was one of his depressive episodes. He used to come home from preschool right after our move to the States and lay his head on my lap and weep. I thought he was just adjusting, but five months went by like that. Five months watching a curly redhead sob for his old home.

So, if pirates were a world he could get lost in, I was all for it. When we’re three years old and we grieve, Mommas indulge a little imagination to soothe the loss.

But getting back to his title…what a great identity to take on! It was an early indication of his thoughts about himself, and I want to go back to that place for a minute—because in that place is an innocent heart who wants to protect good people, who sees himself as a warrior, who feels like he has something to offer, who has a role he wants to play.

And I won’t be at all surprised one day if whatever he ends up doing in life goes back to that early theme of protection, empathy, justice, safety, and rescue.

My point is this:

Where can we go back to that simple childhood role-play and see what surfaced early on that matches the dream God has put into our hearts?

Where can we bless it?

What about our kids?

Or people we know who seem a bit lost at the moment?

How can we look for traces of where a holy God was whispering dreams into our hearts before we even knew how to recognize it?

I think we get a little tossed about in life, a little seasick now and again. We get jumbled on the ride from there to here and here to there, and we forget how simple those early moments were when innocence was all we had, and we were free to hear what God was telling us about ourselves.

I want to listen more again. I want to climb up onto the lap of Jesus. I want to remember those early dreams and redirect my sails.

In some ways, I think He wants us all to be Pirates Who Save Good People, although that may look differently according to how it’s lived out.

Ephesians 2:10, Apostle Paul speaking, ESV
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

But He will honor us coming to Him as purely and trusting as a child because He promises this.

Matthew 18:1-6, Apostle Matthew narrating, ESV
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”

Mark 9:36-37, Apostle John-Mark narrating, ESV
And he [Jesus] took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them,“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

Matthew 19:13-15, Apostle Matthew narrating, ESV
Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away.

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A great book for trying to identify the dream God has given us is The Dream Giver: Following Your God-Given Destiny by Bruce Wilkinson. A sweet friend gave this to me as I was rounding out the edges of finally becoming an author. It’s an easy read and sweet story to help us go back to the place where He first put the dream into our hearts.

 

 

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Kaylee: A Story of Cerebral Palsy, Tremendous Endurance, and A Heart That Always Draws a Smile

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Espressos of Faith welcomes its second guest blogger. I first came to know Angelique (Angie) James and her family while living on Kwajalein Island, Republic of the Marshall Islands; our daughters were close in age and knew each other from school and community events. At the time, Dennis and Angie were expecting twins and preparing to head off island for the birth. [The hospital on Kwajalein was no longer set up for labor and delivery, so expectant mothers went off island to have their babies. Mothers of multiples had to leave the island sooner as a precaution.] Angie was healthy, and for really no explainable reason at all—except that because it sometimes just happens—twin girls arrived before Angie could be medivaced to Hawaii. Medical staff fought hard to keep the girls alive, but Kaylee lost her twin sister in the fight for her own life. What followed were many years of prayer, hope, and faith: a few steps forward and unfortunate setbacks. But along the way, Kaylee’s bright smile and amazing story impacted our island community and many around the world. God continues to show His amazing purposes for her life despite and through her disability. The James family still walks this road; it’s a trial ever before them. Angie so graciously offers her story (below) to shed a mother’s light and love on living with disability, build understanding and compassion in others, and honor her hero and mine, Kaylee. Here’s Angie…

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Six and a half years ago, our youngest daughter, Kaylee, was born 13 weeks early. Weighing in at 2 pounds 4 ounces, doctors did not know if she would survive, but Kaylee proved to be a fighter then and still is now. When she was two years old, she was diagnosed with spastic hemiparetic diplegia cerebral palsy, which is a very technical way of saying that the cerebral palsy (CP) affects everything except her left arm. Many ask, “What is CP?”

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke describes it as follows: “Cerebral palsy refers to a group of neurological disorders that appear in infancy or early childhood and permanently affect body movement and muscle coordination. Cerebral palsy is caused by damage to or abnormalities inside the developing brain that disrupt the brain’s ability to control movement and maintain posture and balance. The term cerebral refers to the brain; palsy refers to the loss or impairment of motor function. Cerebral palsy affects the motor area of the brain’s outer layer (called the cerebral cortex), the part of the brain that directs muscle movement. In some cases, the cerebral motor cortex hasn’t developed normally during fetal growth. In others, the damage is a result of injury to the brain either before, during, or after birth. In either case, the damage is not repairable and the disabilities that result are permanent.”

In Kaylee’s case, it was caused by severe brain damage when she was born. Once the brain is damaged, there is no way to repair it, but we can limit the impact that the brain damage has caused, to a certain extent. Through intensive therapy and a whole lot of hard work, Kaylee can retrain her brain, but the key is that it has to be done early in life while there is still brain development.

She endures daily therapy in order for her to retrain the brain and gain muscle memory. She is stretched so that the spasticity does not cause the tendons, ligaments, and muscles to shorten. Imagine stretching out a Charley horse; this is some three to four times a day on both legs and one arm. It is painful.

Then, there are the emotional pains:

  • Of being left out because you can’t keep up with your friends
  • Of being stared at and pointed to by those who lack understanding of and/or compassion toward people with disabilities
  • Of being disappointed when you can’t button your own pants or put on your own socks and shoes

Living with a disability is not easy, but I watch her fight every day to endure.

My six year old has a boatload of tenacity and spunk, and she is the type of child who lights up the room when she enters it. Recently, Kaylee has been going to aqua therapy, and the therapist told me, “I have never seen some of my patients smile, but when Kaylee enters the pool, she has them all smiling and having fun during therapy. She has fun, but she also works hard.”

I’ve always wondered where that spunk came from. Nothing gets her down; she is a very happy child. As I look at the struggles and pain that she endures on a daily basis due to Cerebral Palsy, I wonder how she keeps that positive attitude and smile. Many kids would throw out the “it’s not fair” line to anyone who would listen. Even children without disability say that—my 10 year old does, and she is a thriving, healthy child! God gave Kaylee a personality that was set to endure, and with this, I believe she will accomplish great things in her lifetime.

I have learned so much from my spunky little girl. She had made me see things through a light of gratitude for the simplest things. I am grateful that I can learn from her. She is an amazing blessing!

The James Family is participating in the Steptember fundraiser for United Cerebral Palsy. For more information/donations, please refer to:
https://event.steptember.us/donate/onbehalfof?id=b0144a60-52e3-4b2d-ab0c-b7418bbc22a1#.VAozc7mX2WQ.facebook

Credits: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/cerebral_palsy/detail_cerebral_palsy.htm

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