An Update

The words don’t seem to come as easily as they used to. Maybe I’ve finally run out?? In the beginning everything was new and changing all the time. It seemed like there was much to say. I know there’s been huge progress since I was first diagnosed. Initially I was unable to stand and my heart rate was dangerously high. I’m so thankful for how far I’ve come. At this point, the changes are harder to see. There are still good and bad days but the roller coaster doesn’t go as low as it used to or stay there nearly as long.

I’ve learned how to make it through the day.  I keep a much slower pace and rest a lot. When I have full evenings, I nap during the day. If I have errands to run, I do them on days when there’s nothing at night. We are still living a bare bones schedule of what we used to. We say “no” a lot more. Oddly it still feels full because my capacity is so much less. Of course I would prefer to have my energy back and be able to do everything I was doing. But the pain is manageable and I can still do what’s most important. (It’s also been a good thing to slow down. We were living at an unhealthy pace before and this has forced us to make changes that have been good.)

At my doctor appointment a couple of weeks ago, I was told there’s not much more they can do. I’m still trying to process what this means.

There’s some good news that goes along with this. My doctor has approved me to start walking. After almost 2 years of not being able to exercise, I’m now able to walk slowly for 15 minutes a day (if it ever stops raining!!). Eventually I will be able to do more.

While this journey isn’t one I would choose, we have seen God’s abundant blessings in the middle of it. And on the days when all we see are tears or loss or pain, we trust that God is working.

I don’t know His plan in this. I don’t know why I have this disease or even how I got it. I don’t know why it’s taking so long for me to feel better. I don’t know why I’ve had to replace ministry positions, serving opportunities, etc. with doctor appointments and rest. I also don’t know why God has so richly blessed me with a husband who has stood beside me every step of the way, taken over many of my household responsibilities without complaint, listened to me, cried with me, and carried me when I was too weak to stand. I don’t know why He gave me a mom and a mother-in-law who generously help with Jacob on homeschool days so I can continue working with my other kids. I don’t know why He has provided financially for all of my medical bills, treatments, and prescriptions.  I don’t know why He gave me praying friends who have encouraged me along the way. It’s only by His grace.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

2 Corinthians 4:16-18



A Guide to Traveling with Sick Kids

Beware: this is not for the weak at heart… or the weak in the stomach.

I’d like to share a few tips I learned from our recent travels with sick kids. If you don’t laugh, you will cry. So I choose to laugh. Hopefully you will also find the humor in our story.

It all began in our hotel room in the wee hours of the morning. Our last morning at Disney World. We had planned to sleep in, then spend our last few hours before our flight shopping at Disney Springs before catching our flight home. Our children had a different agenda for the day and we were forced to comply.

So here are my tips should your children happen to get sick while you are traveling:

1. If you hear the sounds of “Mommy, mommy, I don’t feel good” just a few inches from your face while you are still half-asleep, do not reach out your hand to hold the child thinking you will pull them into bed with you. The child will throw up into your hand and all down the side of the bed. It is at this point you will know your plans for the entire day have changed.

2. Always hoard hotel towels. Put any extras in one of the drawers so they will continue to restock your room. If you are a family of 6, ask for additional towels every day. They will come in handy should you find yourself having to clean up vomit.

3. Start packing well before you need to leave. If your children happen to get sick on the day of departure, you are ensured not only of having no help packing, but also having the distraction of carrying sick children to the bathroom every few minutes and stopping to clean up what didn’t make it. Start early, as it may require every minute you have before checkout time! (4 hours!)

4. If you happen to work at a hotel and a guest calls asking for late check-out because children are sick, just give them the rest of the day for free. I promise it’s to your advantage. The one extra hour that you think is generous will only result in panicked packing followed by vomit in your lobby. So unless you want one sick child sleeping in your lobby and the other one puking, I recommend allowing the family to stay in their room away from other guests. Not following this advice will result in you not only having to thoroughly clean their room, but also your lobby and lobby bathroom.

5. If you work at a restaurant and a customer calls to cancel their reservations because they have sick children, graciously allow them to cancel instead of stating that your policy is to charge them $60 in the event of cancellation with less than 24 hours notice. Believe me, if they had 24 hours notice, they would have let you know. Upon finding out that they will be charged $60 for cancelling, they will show up to your establishment with sick children in tow. I promise you that you will regret this policy especially after the third time the child vomits in your restaurant. It’s better for you to allow this family to cancel… they don’t want to be there, you don’t want them to be there, and your other customers don’t want them to be there. With 2 sick and everyone else queasy, they won’t even come close to spending the $60 you were going to charge them for cancelling. And while you might think that nobody would come to your restaurant if they weren’t hungry, see the point above regarding hotel checkout policies. You are choosing to become a refuge for the sick hotel outcasts.

6. And just a little aside for Uber drivers… it’s just nice for you to check to make sure a family with 2 sick children has all of their bags. They’re already managing the sick kids, a stroller, and a car seat. When you charge them $15 to meet you to get their child’s forgotten backpack, they will be frustrated that your fee costs more than their ride.

7. Large families with lots of luggage (and sick children) should rent 15 passenger vans for their return trip to the airport. There will be enough room for 2 sick kids to sleep, 1 mom to sit next to sick kids (isn’t that always how it goes), and the 3 other people to sit far enough away that there’s no way they could get infected. It will also be large enough to manage all the luggage that the former lifeguard mom can’t stop counting after the backpack-left-in-the-Uber incident.

8. Finally airports… well, I have lots of advice for you!! Airport personnel deal with tired and frustrated travelers all the time. I can’t imagine the patience it takes to do your jobs well. Unfortunately yesterday, I wasn’t really thinking about how I could make your long days better. I was selfishly thinking about how to survive my own long day. By the time we got to the airport, we had already dealt with more than 12 hours of sickness. We were exhausted and still had a flight ahead of us. So if you work at an airport and see 4 well people wrangling 6 suitcases, 6 backpacks, a stroller, a car seat, and 2 sickies, it would be SO nice if someone would help us instead of staring at us as we try to manage the line just to check our bags. Thankfully there were a few chairs across from the ticket counter and the one sick child who could hardly stand managed to get a seat while the rest of us managed the luggage and check in. It’s almost impossible to keep up with that many people, that many bags, ids, electronic boarding passes, and the printed boarding passes you gave us (in case the electronic ones you sent us and asked us to use don’t work!) But thankfully we were able to unload 1/2 of our bags and start the walk to security.

9. Airport security… oh, so many things to say to you. Thank you for posting the wait times so we know just how long to expect to stand in line. When we walked up and saw that the wait time was 38-40 minutes, we knew there was no way the child who couldn’t stand more than 5 minutes would make it. And then as we discussed what to do and saw the wait time change to 44-48 minutes, we were certain we needed an alternative plan. Thank you for offering suggestions as to what we could do to accommodate our sick children. The suggestion to get a wheelchair for one of our children was a good one except that the walk back to the front of the airport to get one would have taken just as long as the line. (And we had a flight to catch!) We do appreciate that you allowed us to go through priority boarding which cut probably 20 minutes off our wait time. Of course that time was added back because of your diligence in flagging and searching one of our children’s backpacks. But thankfully you found the water bottle the sick toddler had stuck in a sibling’s bag. Although we have no idea how to make weapons out of water bottles, that water bottle probably was dangerous because of all the germs on it. So glad it didn’t go on the airplane with us.

10. Flying tip: I highly recommend packing a change of clothes, not just for the sick children, but also for the parents whose clothing will become collateral damage. And check the weather at your destination, as your spare t-shirt might not be quite enough if your jackets were similarly targeted by the child-vomit.

11. Thank you for giving us 2 free trash bags on the flight and not charging us for them as extra carry-ons. They were perfect for carrying all of our puked-on clothes, jackets, and the toddler’s blanket. Oh and it also held my wrist brace nicely. I had no idea that vomit could actually fit between your hand and a brace. I have now experienced it.

12. Pack Thieves Spray…always! Take a shower in it, if possible.

13. Flight attendants…thank you! You generously gave us trash bags for our dirty clothes and wipes to clean the seats. After 2 hours of throwing up, we were finally able to get the 4 year old to sleep. We know it’s your job to make us wear seat belts during the descent, but we are pretty sure that if the plane goes down, that seat belt isn’t going to help us. We also know what awaits us if the plane does go down, and trust me, it’s much better than 2 hours of throw-up in a confined space! Waking up the little one so he could put on a seat belt only served to bother everyone around us as he cried, “I just want this to be over.” “Will this flight ever end?” “This is not my favorite day!” “I don’t like throw-up!” (Me neither, for the record!) But at least he had a seat belt on while he cried.

14. Call the bus driver to take you to the parking lot ASAP and then call again and again just to make sure he’s coming. Since you have no jackets and it’s freezing cold and raining, you do not want to wait 30 minutes then call back only to find they somehow cancelled your ride.

15. When you get home at 11pm (which is midnight in the land you came from), make everyone take a shower! Even though you’re exhausted, throw everything from the trash bags into the washer and bathe the toddler. You’re home now. Your home doesn’t smell (as long as you get those clothes in the washer). And everyone will wake up in the morning “as good as new!” (that’s a quote from the child who was far from good the day before!)

16. My last piece of advice… don’t travel with sick kids!

“If you believe in Jesus, He will change your life!”

The day began with Jacob waking me up in an Iron Man costume. He was apparently ready for the day. What he didn’t know was that we had a full day planned before we could even think about trick-or-treating. With candy on the brain, excitement in the air, and Jacob interrupting every few minutes, homeschooling Tyler was challenging. But we managed to get his work finished in time to take Ashley to her theater rehearsal at school.

The boys were especially excited because they knew I had texted a friend to see if I could return her crockpot (not because of the crockpot, but because she has 2 teenage boys). We were waiting to hear back from her about what time to stop by and they were getting impatient. They knew this family lives past the school and the only way we were going to see them today was if they were available around the time of one of my 2 trips to the school for Ashley’s rehearsal.
They went with me to drop off Ashley just in case we got a text. But we dropped off Ashley and headed back home with no response to my request to stop by. So Tyler says, “Mom, can we pray that Mrs. Limes will text you?” I told him that of course we could pray about that, but that he needed to know that even if she responds, today might not be a good day for them. And it would be ok because we would find another day we could see her boys. Tyler nodded agreement and prayed as we drove.

“Dear Lord, please have Mrs. Limes return Mom’s text. And I pray that she will say we can come over today. But even if we can’t, help us to have good attitudes. Amen.”

I immediately began praying that God would answer his prayer! When he was done, I praised him for praying for good attitudes no matter what happened. As soon as I finished my sentence, I received a text from Vicki. It said, “I just realized I didn’t send this text yesterday. I wrote it but forgot to send it. Yes, come over today!”

I told the boys about the text and of course, they were thrilled. Tyler said, “We need to pray right now and thank God for answering our prayer.”

So he prayed a sweet prayer of gratitude. And Jacob decided he wanted to pray.

“Dear God. Thank you for God. Having Fun. [All of his prayers begin like this.] Thank you that we get to see Jesse and Cooper today. And thank you that we all have Jesus in our hearts. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.”

Since I haven’t ever used the phrase “Jesus in our hearts” with my kids, I knew he hadn’t heard that from me. I asked him about it and then started to explain that not everyone believes in Jesus. Tyler interrupted me and said, “Would you like to have Jesus in your heart?”

I tried to slow Tyler down and explain that we wanted to make sure Jacob understood some things first. He said, “Ok. Let’s make sure he understands now.” So we began a lengthy discussion about salvation.

Tyler explained that we are all sinners and because of our sin, we can’t be with God. But God sent His Son, Jesus, to die for our sins. Because Jesus is God and didn’t sin, only He could die for our sins. If we believe in Him, our sins are forgiven and we can live forever with Jesus.

He added, “If you believe in Jesus, He will change your life!”

At this point, Jacob got a little afraid. He didn’t want his life to change. In his mind, life is pretty good just the way it is. I interrupted to try to clarify Tyler’s words and explained that believing in Jesus means that we want to obey Jesus. Obeying Jesus means we will live differently.

Tyler said, “Jacob, I have a verse for you. It’s Ephesians 4:32.” [I’m pretty sure I’ve never used this verse when I sharing the gospel so I wasn’t sure where Tyler was going, but I let him continue.] “It says, ‘Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.’ So, Jacob, that means that if you believe Jesus is God and that He died on the cross for your sins, then your sins are forgiven. And because your sins are forgiven, you will want to forgive other people and be nice to them. And He will help you do that. So, see, Jesus will change your life!”

I am fighting to hold back the tears. Isn’t God so good to allow a mom to hear her son share the gospel with her other son? What a beautiful gift to know that Tyler’s faith is solid and that he can verbalize what he believes. I was so encouraged.

Tyler continued, “Jacob, do you want to believe in Jesus right now?” I’m still driving and can’t believe this is happening. I told Tyler that I would like to talk to Jacob to make sure he understands what we’ve been talking about. We get home and start eating lunch. Audrey joins us and Tyler says, “Mom, tell Audrey what’s going on.” So we catch Audrey up on our conversation and continue discussing with Jacob.

I repeat the truth about our sin, Jesus’ death, and that faith in Him in the only way to be saved from our sins and live eternally in the presence of God. Jacob announces, “I believe all of that.” Tyler is so excited that he can’t sit still. So we all go over to the living room. Jacob sits with me and I have him tell me what he believes. I explain that it isn’t a prayer that saves him, but that we can pray and tell Jesus what he believes. So we all bow our heads and Jacob repeats after me.

It was such a special moment. The Lord can use anything to bring someone to the point of salvation…including a delayed text.

No blood, No Band-aid

I put on the smile and show up to the things I’m expected to attend, the things my kids are doing, the things I want to do. What you don’t see is… I collapsed on the floor this morning. Or I can’t get my resting heart rate below 100…even with meds. Or the constant ringing in my ears and the resulting dizziness and headaches. Or my inability to sleep.

My bones are literally breaking. (I just spent the last several weeks in a boot for a fracture.) My meds aren’t working and my doctor wants to make changes that I don’t like. While I do feel better than I did a year ago, this isn’t the way I want to live. We’ve already cut out everything we possibly can because I can’t physically handle the schedule we used to keep. And yet it’s still too much.

I’ve perfected the art of looking ok. And I wonder just how many of us have perfected that look. Everyone has their own crisis yet we know how to hide, how to put on make-up, how to act ok when we really aren’t. Why do we do that? I know for me, I don’t want to burden other people. I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining. I don’t want them to worry or feel sorry for me. I also don’t think they will understand.

What would happen if we felt the freedom to share our struggles? What would it look like to really carry each other’s burdens? And how do we do that with limited resources, time, energy, etc.?

God has been so good to give me new eyes. He’s softened me. He’s slowed me down and made me more sensitive to what’s going on in the lives of those around me. He has deepened my compassion for other people and I’m so thankful.

I’m the “no blood, no band-aid” type. (We spent a small fortune in band-aids when the girls were little. I think they thought band-aids were decorations or stickers. So the “rule” was a necessity.) Unfortunately, that philosophy sometimes carries over. It’s easy to dismiss things you can’t see or understand. We live busy, fast-paced lives and we often don’t take the time to notice the hurts around us. Struggling with a disease that’s invisible is my daily reminder that we are all struggling with something. Grief. Fear. Physical pain. Emotional suffering. Spiritual questioning. Anxiety. Financial pressures. Job stress. Broken relationships. So much invisible suffering. Even the people whose struggles are more obvious, there are hurts behind the surface that can’t be seen…or explained.

In a year of living at a slower pace, I’m even more aware of those who are struggling, hurting, and suffering. I’ve had the opportunity to notice, pray for, and encourage some around me. There are things that I physically can’t do to help. I can’t meet many of the needs I want to meet. But I can do what I can. I can’t carry the burdens of everyone, but I can for some. And if I allow myself to become consumed with my own struggles, I miss out on opportunities to love others.

When we can’t see it or understand it, we can know struggles are present. We can choose to extend grace, forgiveness, kindness, patience, compassion, and encouragement. We’re guaranteed troubles in this world.  We can’t make them go away. But we can love each other. Walk side-by-side. Pray for each other.

A band-aid is a quick fix for a visible problem. And what we really need isn’t a band-aid. We need to recognize that not all struggles are spoken (you can’t always see the “blood”) and a “band-aid” (a quick fix or a cover-up) isn’t sufficient. We (I) need to slow down to look beyond the surface and be willing to care for others in whatever way we can.




To Be Honest

Thrive vs. Survive. I’m not sure I even know what it means to thrive anymore. Most of our days feel like survival. Doing what HAS to get done. Laundry and carpool. Kids’ activities and church. Cooking and cleaning. We have a full calendar and we delete as much as we can each week…just to survive.

Sometimes it frustrates me that this disease is invisible. I look fine, but I feel terrible. Almost every day. I can smile and participate at church, Bible study, or a football game. I look “normal” (whatever that means). But being “normal” for a couple of hours almost always means I can’t function for the rest of the day. It results in unbelievable exhaustion, muscular pain, and needing a whole lot of help to finish the day. Because I look ok, I’m expected to function as if I feel well… All the time. And that’s just not my reality.

This has been a hard week. All the normal stuff on the calendar. All the normal responsibilities. But add to that multiple doctor visits, x-rays, lab work, and waiting rooms…and more waiting rooms. The results this week are a stress fracture, a walking boot, numbers way off on my labs, new medication, and possibly a new doctor. My body no longer absorbs calcium correctly and my bones are brittle. Stress fractures are apparently common with Graves. We have laughed because stress fractures are caused by overuse. Apparently what little I actually do is too much and my body is making it abundantly clear.

I talked with a friend today whose daughter also struggles with health issues. She described it perfectly. “Some days are almost normal. Many days are not. Some are absolutely horrible. Any way you look at it, life will never be the same.”

Because we haven’t seen much progress in the last year, we are praying about a seeing a new doctor. I don’t know if things will actually get better. Some days I’m hopeful. Other days I just accept this new “normal.”

While things here are sometimes hard and sometimes discouraging, I do have hope in a future that is much much better. In the meantime, I pray to know Him better than I would if I were healthy, glorify Him in ways I couldn’t if I were healthy, and for Him to use me in ways He wouldn’t if I were healthy. And I look forward to His return.

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.”

Philippians 3:20-21

The New Year Brings Change

The beginning of something new. A new school year. A year of firsts, a year of lasts, a year of changes. Personally I don’t do change well. I’ve never been accused of being spontaneous. I like routine. I like order. I like knowing what to expect. Some may call it boring, but I like to call it stability. As we all know, change is a part of life. Relationships change. Responsibilities change. Schedules change. And, of course, the weather changes! With all the changes we have to adjust to, I’m so thankful that my God does not change!! In the midst of crazy, I know where to place my trust. I know who will never let me down. And I know who controls all things. I can rest in the changes because I know He is sovereign.

Today is the first day of school. As I write, my 3 big kids are starting 9th grade, 8th grade, and 3rd grade. The beginning of high school. The first year of real grades. New curriculum. New friends. New schedules.  While it’s a lot of firsts for the big kids, it’s a year of lasts for the baby. The last year to go to BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) with me. The last year home.

For me, the biggest change is that after 12 years in BSF leadership, I will return this year as a class member. I love BSF and am thrilled to study Romans with my class. But it will be a significant change for me. I will miss the depth of relationships with other leaders and our Monday morning leaders’ meeting. This has been my place of study, service, and connection for so long.

For this season, I am called to step away from what is comfortable. What is known. What is easy…because it’s familiar. I’m physically no longer able to keep up with my old schedule and still be what my kids need. I don’t have the energy for homeschooling, carpool, their activities, and my normal routine.

Over the last year, we have slowly removed commitments from our lives. About 2 weeks ago, it became apparent that it wasn’t enough. I have to minimize stress and conserve my energy for what has to be done. While these changes were enough for summer, it was evident that they wouldn’t be enough once school started. God was clearly calling me out of BSF leadership so last week I said “yes” to that call. Yes to change. Yes to new.

I don’t really know what to expect in this new season. I do know it will be a season of carefully prioritizing how I spend my time and energy. As we continue to learn how to manage life with Graves’ Disease, we will continue to look for the open doors God gives us in this new season.


“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

Isaiah 43:18-19


The Gift of Serving

We just got home from a 9 day mission trip to Denver, Colorado, where we saw the Lord do amazing things. In our lives. In our girls’ lives. In our jr. high students’ lives. And in the community we served.

God gave me a special gift. About 2 weeks before the trip, my doctor told me not to go. She was concerned the altitude would affect me. (Altitude can increase heart rate and also increase muscle pain.) There was no way to know how bad it would be and I already suffer from altitude sickness. (Some of us were just meant to live at sea level.)  We prayed about it and decided to trust the Lord to take care of me.

The week before we left, we adjusted some of my medicine in hopes that it would help me get through the week. I also started taking some natural pain relief pills that help with inflammation. I took a minimal dose before we left and then took the maximum dose while we were there. I could definitely feel the pain from the altitude, but I was able to make it through the days. The nights were harder. They’re harder at home too so that’s to be expected. The first couple of nights were difficult, but I was able to skip the evening activities without being missed. I had to go back to taking my heart medication that I haven’t needed in almost a year. But with the heart meds, the new inflammation meds, and being careful to stop during the day if I needed to, I was able to successfully complete the week. There were times when I had to sit while others worked because my heart rate got too high or because I’m still unable to lift heavy things. But we had a fabulous team who easily covered for me. They were all very understanding and kind. I really struggle with watching while others work. To me, that’s worse than the pain. I’m so thankful for the great team we had and the way they served.

As we got closer and closer to Texas on the way home, I could feel the pain subside. While I love home and I’m thankful to be back, I left part of my heart in Denver. It was a special week and God is so good to allow me the opportunity to love the people there and serve beside the jr. high students from our church.

Love serving with my family!

We worked with Denver Metro Ministries. They run a mobile food bank and teach Sidewalk Sunday Schools. It was such a blessing to meet the families this ministry serves.

This little boy grabbed my heart. I’m praying that he will come to know Jesus.

Look at your hands. Can God use these hands? Yes, He can…and He did.

Our team was made up of 7 from our church and 4 from a church in Iowa. Thankful for each one.

After leaving the site in Denver, we spent our free day in Colorado Springs.

Garden of the Gods

Air Force Academy

“He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.” Job 5:9