Friday, December 31, 2010

Be Still...

2010...what a year it has been!  As we approach 2011, I am in awe of all the wonderful gifts God has given us this past year.  Some of the gifts were not wrapped in the prettiest of paper (more like hospital gowns), but in the end, we are so grateful!  I am happy to report that as we ring in the new year, Kris' hip is feeling much better (he even started back at the gym last week!!), Elyse's has had no signs of recurrence of her lymph node infection, and, as you know, Kieran's kidney reflux is a thing of the past!  Praise God! 

I've decided to invite a guest writer for this final blog of the year.  As I was looking through some old notebooks, I came across a devotional that Kris had written a few years ago for our church's Christmas devotional book.  I thought it was very appropriate as we wind down the holiday season and gear up for the new year

Be still and know that I am God.  Psalm 46:10

As the father of a two year old, I wish I knew what it meant to be still and know that He is God.  Actually, there are times that I wish my two year old knew what it meant to be still!  I find it difficult to "be still".  This is probably one of the Biblical concepts that I struggle with the most.  Our culture encourages instant messaging, 24 hour shopping, and news around the clock.  It is hard to find time just to be still.

During this time of the year, it is very easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays.  From the busyness of shopping for gifts to getting together with family and friends, this is a busy time of year.  Don't get me wrong, all these things are great, but I wish I could learn what it means to "be still". 

I am reminded of Mary.  She had quite a lot of busyness in her life.  She had been visited by an angel who told her that she was going to give birth to the son of God.  Then shepherds came and told her about more angels that had appeared to them.  That was a lot of activity!  All of the people who heard about it were amazed.  It was exciting!  But the scriptures tell us that "Mary treasured all of these things and pondered them in her heart."  Here is someone who could have easily gotten caught up in the excitement of her life, but instead she took it all in and pondered upon those things in her heart.  I think that if I were to figure out how to "be still" it might look something like that.  So, the next time your life starts to get to busy, "Be Still". 

God bless and happy 2011!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Mommy, I'm all better!

Those were the magical words that I heard today from my son! As many of you know, both Kieran and Elyse were born with something called vesticoureteral reflux or kidney reflux (for us non medical people). Kieran was diagnosed when he was a year and half after having a UTI. Every year they have to be tested to see if the reflux has improved or gotten worse. For 2 years in a row, Kieran's "level" decreased and we had high hopes that he would grow out of it (some children do). Unfortunately, at our last check-up, Kieran's level had gone up and the reflux was now present on both sides. After meeting with a pediatric urologist, we decided to try a procedure which involved putting implants on both sides of his bladder to try to correct the reflux. The other options was surgery which we wanted to avoid if possible. In October, Kieran had the outpatient procedure. The doctor told us we had to wait 2 months to find out if the procedure was a success.

Today was that two month appointment so Kieran had to go to the hospital to have another VCUG (which is not a pleasant procedure...especially for a little one). Kris took him this time and I went to a friend's house to pray and keep my mind occupied. At 2:30, Kieran called me and told me that he was all better and the doctor said he was fine. The tests showed that his reflux was gone, his kidneys were fine, and we never have to go back to that doctor again! Of course, I broke down in tears. I think Kieran was a little confused by my response. He'll understand one day!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Time...


In attempts to do a better job at keeping up with this blog, I've decided to look for a weekly (at least) lesson that my kids are teaching me. This week I've learned a lot about time. I read recently (can't remember where) that God created time and He created enough of it. I seem to forget that small fact! I wrote in a recent blog about investing our time wisely, and this week, I realized how important it is to invest our time in our kids!

This morning, Kieran woke up hungry and so we were downstairs at 6:45 am to make breakfast. Kieran decided he wanted Mickey Mouse pancakes. As I was carefully pouring the mouse-shaped cake, I had a flashback to my childhood. I loved pancakes as a child as long as they weren't too brown! My mom was the queen of shaped pancakes. She would write our names and make shapes depending on the holiday. Now that I look back, I realize that she spoiled us (thanks, mama). However, she didn't spoil us with expensive toys or by getting us anything we wanted in the store. She spoiled us with her time. I'm pretty sure a day was still 24 hours (even 30 years ago), and I'm sure my mom had a lot of housework that needed to be done, but I don't ever remember her putting us off.

As we enter this week of Thanksgiving, I am so thankful for my children and the time that God has given me to spend with them. I have to remind myself that these days of Mickey Mouse pancakes will not last long.

Children are a gift from the Lord. ~Psalm 127:3

Friday, November 5, 2010

Life's Little Lessons: Rain, Stop!

Yesterday was a very rainy day! Don't get me wrong. I was glad to see the rain, but I don't like going out in it with the kids. On our way to church for my mom's group, Elyse looked out the window, held up her hand and yelled, "Rain, stop!" Guess what happened? Nothing! Surprisingly, the rain did not listen to her! At first I thought, how typical of a 2 year old to think she has control over everything, including the weather. Then I realized that I'm not so different. I often fool myself into thinking I have control over situations in my life. In reality, I know that only God can control the wind and the rain (and sicknesses and job security and politics...). Even though I try to take control (on a daily basis), I am actually really thankful that I have a God who is bigger than me and bigger than the storms that rage through my life sometimes. I know that if I put my trust in Him, He will either calm the storm or calm me in the midst of it.

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Lord, save us! We're going to drown!"

He replied, "You of little faith. Why are you so afraid?" Then he got up and rebuked the wind and the waves, and it was completely calm.

The men were amazed and asked, "What kind of man is this? Even the winds and waves obey him. ~Matthew 8:23-27 (NIV)


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Investments

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Ecclesiastes 4:9-10


A couple of months ago, someone's facebook status read, "If you want to see me or my family, stop by anytime. If you want to see me and my clean house, please call ahead and make an appointment!" At first I laughed, but then I realized how true that was for me. I have often not invited someone over because of the state of my house. When he had our house on the market this summer, I had to keep it spotless all the time. I was constantly cleaning, picking up toys, and vacuuming every piece of dirt that made it in the door. I enjoyed having a spotless house and was very proud when people came over, but I was exhausted all the time. I was investing a lot of time and energy into this house. However, I still didn't invite people over often because now I wanted to keep it clean!

Earlier this summer, we had a new Korean family move in next door to us. We introduced ourselves quickly one day, but never seemed to find the time to really get to know them. A couple of months later, we ran into them at Target and stopped to talk to them. During the conversation, I invited the wife to stop by anytime and I'd be happy to help her practice her English. Of course, you know how invitations like that go; we make them all the time. "Please, stop by anytime....call me if you need anything...we'll have to get together sometime." Deep down, the offers are genuine, but we seldom expect people to follow up on them. The very next day, however, my doorbell rang and there was my neighbor holding 2 bags with the biggest honeydew melons I've ever seen.

My first reaction was surprise. My second reaction was, oh no, my house is a mess. That morning, my kids and I had made blueberry pancakes and the evidence of that was still all over the kitchen! Nonetheless, I invited her in and we had a great visit. During the visit, she asked for some water (okay, so I'm not the best hostess) and then followed me to the kitchen. When we walked in, I immediately apologized for the mess. My neighbor looked at me and said that she was happy to see my messy kitchen. She said that in Korea people are not as concerned about house appearances as we are here. She said that she and her husband noticed that soon after they arrived. Now, she doesn't like having people over to her house because she is embarrassed about how it looks. Wow!

Since that nice visit, we've had our neighbors over for dinner and we've been to their house. Our kids go back and forth and play together. Sometimes our houses are clean; sometimes they aren't! Through this experience, I've decided to take a hard look at what I invest my time in. I still spend a lot of time cleaning the house, doing laundry, and making sure my family doesn't live in filth (ha ha). However, I now have a better understanding of how important it is to invest in our relationships.

I'm reading a book by Max Lucado called, Outlive Your Life. I found this quote that really made me stop and think:

If we wait until everything is perfect, we'll never issue an invitation. Remember this: what is common to you is a banquet to someone else. You think your house is small, but to the lonely heart, it is a castle. You think the living room is a mess, but to the person whose life is a mess, your house is a sanctuary. You think the meal is simple, but to those who eat alone every night, pork and beans on paper plates tastes like filet mignon. What is small to you is huge to them. Open your table. (58)




Sunday, October 3, 2010

Our Big 5 Year Old!


We were so busy having a fun and exciting birthday celebration day with Kieran, I didn't have a chance to sit down and write this birthday blog in honor of our first born!

Our lives changed so amazingly 5 years ago! Kieran, you have made your mommy and daddy so proud! You have grown into such a handsome boy this past year. I don't even know if I can summarize all the ways you have changed!

Last year after your fishing birthday party, you decided you wanted to have a Scooby-Doo party and you never changed your mind! You can be very indecisive when you are choosing which toy to pick at the Dollar Tree, but when it comes to birthday parties, you make your choice and stick with it!

You are so full of life! You love to show us how fast you can run (from the back door all the way to the couch). This past year, you have slowly started to grow out of some of your "childhood" favorites such as Thomas the Train and Bob the Builder. Those preschool favorites have turned into a passion for superheros, Transformers and, of course, Scooby-Doo. Last year for Halloween, you were a sweet, soft, fluffy panda bear. This year you are planning to be Spiderman! Right now, you are waiting for "your muscles to come in" so that you can become a superhero.

At the beginning of the year, you were a little anxious about growing up, but now you are very excited about being 5. You told me that you were going to start kindergarten the day after your birthday. You may be a little disappointed when you wake up tomorrow morning! One of the things I love about this age is that even though you are excited about being a year older, you are still mommy's little boy. Tonight, you wanted to take a shower (instead of a bath) because that is what 5 year olds do, but then you wanted me to "carry you like a baby" to bed.

Bedtime has become one of my favorite parts of the day with you! We have created a very special ritual. We tell our Scooby-Doo story (yes, a different one every night), say our prayers, sing three songs ("Go to Sleep", "Rock-a-bye-Baby", and "Twinkle, Twinkle"), and then I sleep with you for 5 minutes. If you don't fall asleep during one of those steps, you usually ask me some deep question as I'm walking out the door (Why do people breathe? Why do we need to sleep?). You are a very smart boy!

Speaking of smart, you reached a very exciting milestone this year. You read your first book! I almost cried when you sounded out your first sentence. You really love learning. This year, you decided you wanted to go to "mommy school" and you have held me to it! You love writing your letters and numbers. You are not a big fan of coloring, but you really like puzzles and word games. I pray you always keep this passion for learning new things!

Last, but not least, you are an amazing big brother. Elyse looks up to you so much. She even says she's 5 just like you. You are very protective of her even if you are a little rough sometimes! I love watching the two of you play together or snuggle on the couch watching a movie together.

Yesterday, we were looking at your baby pictures and you asked me why I picked you. Even if I had had the choice, I wouldn't have picked anyone else! You are my sweet baby boy, and I am so thankful that God picked you to be in our family! Happy 5th Bithday, Buddy! We love you!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Our Little Star!

I finally got a video of Elyse singing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star"! Her ma-ma has a video of them singing it together, but I couldn't resist getting a video in her fairy wings. Everyday her words get a little clearer. I wanted to catch it while it was still "baby" cute :) Enjoy.
video

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Happy Birthday, Elyse!!










Create your own video slideshow at animoto.com.



Happy Birthday to our sweet, baby girl Elyse! You have grown so much this year! When I look back at the pictures from your first birthday, I can hardly remember that baby girl. You have changed so much this year and have grown in many ways.

You've learned to walk.

You have a mouth full of teeth (finally).

You talk to us in full sentences (and we understand most of them).

You love to aggravate your brother.

You love to snuggle with your brother.

You think you are as old as your brother!

You've come through two surgeries with flying colors.

You give the sweetest kisses.

Your favorite songs to sing are "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" and "ABC"

Your favorite food is "ice" aka ice cream.

You're potty trained!!

You are very compassionate.

You take good care of all your "babies".

You never leave home without your hair bow!

You're daddy's girl.

You're mommy's little helper.

You're fearless (which has produced 2 trips to urgent car).

Your best friends are "Zo-Zo" and "Sissy" (Zoe and Lizzy)...and your thumb!

You are a gift from God!

We can't wait to see all the new things you are going to learn this year! We love you, Elyse!

Psalm 139:13-14

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Day in the Life of a Potty Trainer

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

Okay, so I know that this Bible verse does not refer specifically to potty training, but it was the best I could do! Two and a half years ago we started our first adventure into potty training. I was pregnant and determined not to have two kids in diapers! However, this was my first child, and I really had no idea what I was doing. I received a lot of advice from many well meaning moms and read several books and articles on this childhood milestone. We tried everything- reward stickers, Skittles, guilt, punishment, praise – you name it! With an air of defeat, I sent my almost 3 year old to his first day of preschool in Pull-Ups. His teachers assured me that they would encourage him and the other “diaper kids” to use the potty (I took some comfort in the fact that he wasn’t the only one in his class). August 26 arrived and so did baby sister Elyse; so much for having only one child in diapers. October 2nd came and my oldest child was now 3 years old (and still in diapers). I had switched back to diapers since Pull-Ups were so much more expensive, and he was using them just the same as diapers.

Then one day, I think my oldest must have been visited by an angel. That is the only way I can explain his sudden change of heart. In mid-November, I drove to Florida with the kids to visit my grandmother who was very sick. On the way down, we stopped at a truck stop to take a bathroom break. They had a family restroom with a kid-size toilet. Kieran (with a dry Pull-Up) decided that was really cool and used the potty. When we reached my parents’ house 3 hours later, he was still dry! And that was the end of potty training. He never looked back!

I’ve had many new moms ask me about potty training, and I tell them that I didn’t not potty train my son and thus cannot give them any sage advice!

From my previous experience, you can understand why I was shocked when my 20 month old baby girl pointed to the toilet and said, “Potty!” I think she wanted to be like her brother and started sitting on the potty making sound effects (pshhhhh) months before Kieran even acknowledged that the bathroom existed! Despite the promise Kris and I made about not even trying to train the 2nd child, today, I started “Potty Boot Camp” with my 23 month old. Of course, five minutes after I gave her the “potty speech” and put on her new big girl underwear, she wet right through them! Oh, this is going to be a long day, I thought! I stuck with the plan, made her clean up the mess and did the “potty drills”. That was the first and last accident of the day, thankfully.

While Kieran could have cared less about rewards, Elyse was ALL about the “pizes”. Her mantra all day was, “Pee Pee Pize…Pee Pee Pize” or “I wanna supize”. I even gave her strawberry ice cream for lunch after she woke up dry from her 2.5 hour nap! I’m afraid she is going to be seriously disappointed when we back off the reward system. The only major mishap was when I walked into the living room to find Elyse standing in her potty (which was NOT empty)!

We ended the day with a successful evening out to dinner with the whole family (no diapers were involved)! I may have been a little overconfident, but Elyse was a champ. Of course, she did moon the table next to us when I asked her if she needed to go potty. I guess you can “train up a child” but you just can’t take her out!

http://www.thepottybootcamp.com/

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Perfect Imperfections


I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14

I am always amazed at how God can speak to us through the smallest things. Today, we went outside to play before it got too hot (which doesn’t take long here in South Carolina). The kids and I were in our PJ’s since we weren’t planning to leave the house! As soon as we reached the back door, Elyse took off her shoes and headed for the small inflatable pool. She stuck one foot in before I said, “No, Elyse, we’re not getting in the pool.” After telling her three times, I thought, well, I guess it doesn’t really matter if we get a little wet. She jumped in and within minutes Kieran had gone back into the house and returned with his swim trunks (PJ’s would not work for him)!

Next, Kieran found the water balloons and asked if we could play with them. I filled up a few, he threw them, and they exploded! We were having a great time. I started filling up a yellow balloon when I noticed a small hole in the bottom, so I put that one to the side and picked up another one. It also had a small hole at the bottom. I said to Kieran, “Sorry, Buddy, these all have holes in them.” He looked at the small stream of water coming out the bottom and said, “That’s great! Let me have that one!” I finished filling it with water and tied the top. For the next 10 minutes or so Kieran ran around the yard squirting things with the small stream of water flowing out of that little balloon. He loved it! While the other water balloons were fun, they only lasted a few seconds. This “broken” balloon lasted much longer and gave Kieran the opportunity to get us all quite wet.

Suddenly, I thought, “What a perfect imperfection!”

The thing that I thought made the balloon useless actually gave it a new, more entertaining purpose! Wow! Isn’t that just how God designed us in many ways? We all have things that to us seem like imperfections, mistakes maybe. God, however, doesn’t make mistakes. It is possible that we just haven’t figured out the real, more “entertaining” purpose of that imperfection. The balloon situation reminded me of a blog that I read last night. This blog is written by a sweet lady who I met at Bible study recently. She has a precious 1-year-old son named Derrick who was born with several heart defects. I spent a good part of last night reading through a detailed description of his heart, but there was one part of this description that stood out to me. This sweet baby boy was born without a left ventricle and he has a hole in between the right and left atria. According to his mom, normally this hole would be a bad thing, but because Derrick doesn’t have a left ventricle, this hole is necessary to allow blood to flow from one part of the heart to the other.

Again, I thought, “Wow, what a perfect imperfection!”

I was amazed to see the drawings of this heart and to see how different it was from a “normal” heart, yet with the help of an amazing God and a team of great doctors this little boy is walking (even running now) with this “perfectly imperfect” heart. Sure, God could have given him a heart like most people without problems, but, for some reason, in God’s perfect plan, He decided to give him a heart that would amaze doctors, require miracles, and build faith.

This story, of course, made me reflect on Kris’ heart issues. He, too, was born with CHD (congenital heart disease). We joke now that he is so loving because he has an extra big heart. He does have a big heart, bigger than most because his heart had to work so hard for the first five years of his life before his open heart surgery. A couple of years ago, Kris had to go through a series of heart test and during one test we found out that a blood vessel on the left side of his body which carries blood to the brain was much smaller than normal. However, the corresponding vein on the other side of his body was much larger than normal. The vein on his right side compensated for the one on the left side. This allows his brain to get the perfect amount of blood flow. Here is yet another example of a perfect imperfection.

For most of us, our “imperfections” are not life threatening or even life changing (i.e. birthmarks, bad hair, stretch marks). I look at our precious Elyse and can’t help but see the two scars on her neck. I could look at them as imperfections, but when I look at them I am reminded of how blessed we are that those lymph nodes were not cancerous. I am reminded of the amazing strength of a 1-year-old, the generosity of friends, and the comfort that only God can give us. Most of us have scars of one kind or another (physically, emotionally, or spiritually). Without God, these imperfections are imperfect and can control our lives. However, if we allow Him, He can make them “perfect imperfections”. While we often pray for Him to take away these imperfections, God may have bigger, better, and more “entertaining” purposes for them. Paul reflects on this in 2 Corinthians 12:8-10:
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

You can read more about Derrick and his miracle heart by visiting his
blog http://carolinacarters.blogspot.com/!


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Bedtime Conversations

Tonight, Kieran and I had a precious conversation that I wanted to write down. As he was getting into bed he asked me, "Mommy, what were you before I was born?" I said, "Well, buddy, I was just Susan." He looked at me for a little while and said, "You weren't anybody's mommy? And daddy wasn't a daddy?"

"No, Kieran, we were just Susan and Kris, sitting around this house, without much to do."

"Then what happened?" Kieran said. "Did you decided you wanted to be a mommy and daddy?"

"Yes, then we decided that we wanted a baby. So, we prayed to God and He helped us have a baby. He helped Mommy and Daddy put you in my tummy so that you could grow."

Kieran said, "I remember when I was in your tummy. There was a sign telling me where I was. First I saw the sign that went to your nose, so I went there. Then I followed the sign to your toe. Then I saw the sign that went to someplace that looked like a big long slide and so I slide down the slide to your tummy. Then I saw a train and I rode the train. Then I rode a boat around in your blood" (**Now I understand why there seemed to be so much movement in my tummy when I was pregnant with Kieran!!! Also, note that is very similar to an episode of Danger Mouse that he enjoys watching!)

I said, "Wow, you remember all that?"

"Yes, then what? Did you want a boy and a girl and God gave you me and Elyse?"

"Well, we didn't know what we were having, but God gave us you and Elyse. When you were in my tummy, we went to the hospital and the doctor took you out. She held you up and Daddy said, 'It's a boy!!' We were very excited?"

"And then what did you name me?"

"We named you Kieran Kristofer Toler."

"I knew that! I knew that when I was in your tummy. I knew that my name should be Kieran Kristofer Toler. I should be Kieran, K-I-E-R-A-N."

"Kieran, did you know that mommy and daddy talked to you when you were in my tummy?"

"You did? I knew when I came out I would have a mommy and a daddy. And I knew that I would love them very much."

THE END :)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Collecting Memories


We have almost reached the half way point of 2010 and what a year it has been! Even though we don't have any school age kids, the Toler household has felt the change of seasons, too! It is SUMMERTIME! The days are longer, the nights shorter, and the steam was literally coming out of the ground this evening after the rain shower! We decided to kick off the summer season this past weekend with a quick trip to Charlotte. We couldn't leave for the whole weekend with t-ball and church, but I wanted to give Kris a change of scenary (life between the recliner and the couch has not been too exciting for him)! I made hotel reservations for Sunday night. I spent a few nights searching the web trying to find "Things to Do" in Charlotte, but then I realized that we really didn't need "Things to Do". Why couldn't we just go and take it easy? What a novel concept.

So, Sunday after church, I loaded the van, and we hit the road. It was less than a 2hour drive, the kids slept all the way there, and the weather was great. Once we checked into the hotel, the kids and I changed into our swim gear and we hit the pool. Kris kicked back and found some baseball on TV! I was so relaxed (I guess) that I even forgot my camera, so I have to describe Kieran's swimming setup. He had on Spiderman swim trunks, Spiderman flippers (on hands and feet), Spiderman goggles, and Spiderman floaties (water wings). The only thing missing was his ability to climb walls and shoot webs! Once Elyse (and mommy) got use to the cold water, we all had a great time swimming around and watching the airplanes fly over from the nearby airport. After our swim, we went to dinner at our favorite P.F. Chang's China Bistro. The kids ate and ate after their fun swim. On our way back, we stopped at Walmart to get a kid's golf set since there was a small putting green at the hotel. We came back, put Elyse to bed, and then Kieran and I played 5 holes of "golf" at 10:00 pm! That's what summer is all about, right?

Monday morning, we woke up, ate breakfast at Kieran's favorite "breakfast buffet", and then changed back into our swim suits to hit the pool one more time. We had a good swim and stepped out of the pool just as the rain started to pour! After we checked out, we ate lunch at a very authentic Irish Pub that Kris and I discovered a year or so ago. The food was great and everyone who worked there could pronounce Kieran's name correcty! It poured the rest of the afternoon, but that was okay because we had nothing planned and decided to head back to Columbia.

Tuesday, Kieran turned to me and said, "Mommy, do you remember when we went to the hotel, went swimming in the pool, and played golf?" "Yes," I said. "Can we do that again? It was fun."

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Little Things



Isn’t it funny, how the little stresses of life can quickly add up. A few small disturbances (a whiney child, bad traffic, burnt toast, a living room that will not stay clean) throughout the day can suddenly drop the weight of the world onto our shoulders. Of course, sometimes it isn’t just small things that add up. In our household, it has been 4 surgeries in 4 months. I don’t think there has been a week in that 4 month time period that we haven’t had at least one doctor’s appointment. When the big things hit, the little “disturbances” seem to add up even faster.

But what about the blessings? We seem to have no problem letting the stress in life take over, but we have to sit down and “count” our blessing. We often go through our day without even stopping to look at the blessings that are being thrown at us left and right. Sometimes I think I end up dodging the blessings while the stresses are smacking me right in the face.

Tonight, I’ve decided to sit down, push the daily stresses to the side, and bask in the blessings of these past few weeks. First of all, we are so blessed to be surrounded by wonderful friends and our amazing family. After Elyse’s 2nd surgery, our dear church family brought us meals, gift cards, balloons, and special toys for the kids. One friend brought us a bag of dress up clothes for Elyse and she wore many of those sparkly, fancy clothes to her doctor’s appointments. While the doctor’s appointments fall under the “stress” category, that pretty pink princess dress became one of the many small blessing that made those visits a little easier on her. While I was stressing about the details, God knew.

A friend mentioned recently in her blog about how God is the God of details. He is concerned about our every need, even the little ones. I am amazed at the many times I have been able to see God working out the details. A few days before Kris’ hip surgery, I was getting concerned about how we were going to get him up the stairs to our house. My parents were visiting, but I wasn’t sure I would be able to give him the support he needed. That Sunday, a friend from church said to let her know if we needed any help Tuesday. It was her birthday and her husband was taking the day off to spend with her. Because of this, he could help us with Kris if we needed it. The day of the surgery, Kris was in more pain and dizzier than we thought he would be. I called our friends when we left the hospital and they met us at the house. What a blessing! I was stressing about the details and God knew.

Even tonight, I experienced another blessing. The kids and I were at the library getting some books for Kris to read during his recovery time. I started getting stressed as I looked at the clock and realized I only had an hour to get home, fix dinner, get the kids’ bedtime stuff together, and get to choir practice at church. As soon as we walked out of the library, my phone rang. It was another friend who said she was taking dinner to a family from our church who had just had a baby and that she made an extra meal and was bringing it to our house. I was stressing about the details and God knew.

Wouldn’t life be easier if we could skip the stressful parts of our day and just rest in the knowledge that God knows. He knows the little things; he knows the big things. He has worked out the details before we think of them.

“Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” Matthew 6:25-27

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day Quiz


Tonight, when I was tucking Kieran into bed, I decided to give him a Mother's Day quiz. Here were his responses:

Mommy: What is my favorite color?
Kieran: Blue and red (his favorite colors)

M: What is my favorite food?
K: Not chicken (Kieran doesn't like chicken). I think it's potatoes.

M: What is my favorite fruit?
K: I think all of them.

M: What is my favorite thing to do?
K: Watching TV and playing (are you seeing a theme??)

M: What is my favorite thing to watch on TV?
K: Scooby Doo

M: What is my favorite animal?
K: The tiger.
M: I do like tigers.
K: Wow, me too!

M: How old am I?
K: I don't know. I think maybe you're 4.
M: Actually, I'm 34.
K: 34? Oh, I thought you were 4.

M: Where is my favorite place to go on vacation?
K: Hotels

M: Who is my best friend?
K: Me...and Elyse...and Daddy.

I am so bless to have a son who knows me so well :)! After our quiz, Kieran told me that he wanted tomorrow to be another Mother's Day so that he could make me a cake with strawberries and a candle on top. He could then sing "Happy Mother's Day to you" (set to the tune of "Happy Birthday) to me. As I was leaving the room, he said, "Mommy, if you need to do anything that you can't do, come get me and I'll help you do it." I couldn't ask for a better Mother's Day present than that!

"Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her." Proverbs 31:28

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Faith in the Wait

Waiting has become a theme in our family for the past few months. We have spent hours (or maybe even days) in waiting rooms. We’ve waited for appointments, phone calls, test results, and healing. We just returned from (hopefully) one of Elyse’s last doctors appointments for her neck. Her incision is finally healed, and we can officially retire the head wrap bandage. We have waited 3 weeks for the incision to heal from the inside out. It has been a long process, and Elyse has been a real trooper. What is the next step, you may ask? Well, now, we wait. We wait and watch her neck to see if she has a recurrences of the infection in her lymph nodes. We wait to see if any more cultures come back giving us a clue to the source of her infection. Most importantly, we wait on God.

Why is waiting so hard? It is hard because we feel out of control, and I do NOT like to be out of control! It is during this time of waiting that Satan fills our head with all the “what if’s” and scary possibilities that could be lurking on the other side of the wait. Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Verse 37 even tells us to wait “patiently” for him! Satan wants us to be anything but patient. He wants us to ask questions like “Why can’t we get an answer NOW? Isn’t God listening to us? Does He really care about my situation?”

So, why does God ask us to wait on Him? He asks us to wait because it is during this time of waiting that we have to make a choice. We either have to choose to put our total trust in Him or we put our trust in ourselves. If we put our trust in ourselves or in other people, then we will continue to feel out of control and stressed out . However, if we choose to put our faith in God, we can rest assured that He is in control. We can have hope instead of stress. If we put our faith in God, then He will use the waiting time to refine us, to strengthen us, and to renew us. Hebrews 10:23 tells us to “hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” So, who would be crazy enough to choose stress over hope, chaos over peace, and doubt over faith? I do…almost everyday.

I think it is time to make a different choice. Why wait?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Chosen

Last Saturday, Elyse and I were the first two up in the house and decided to go on a mother/daughter yard sale shopping trip. At the first yard sale, there was a blanket on the ground with all kinds of baby dolls, Barbies, and stuffed animals. Elyse walked over to it, pointed to a doll and said, “my baby”. I looked down and saw that she was pointing to one of the least attractive dolls on the blanket. It was bald, naked, and broken (it use to “do” something since it had a battery pack and a very heavy head). Being the good mother that I am, I tried to offer Elyse one of the many other dolls and stuffed animals on the blanket. She looked at each one and said, “no, my baby.” Since it has been a tough couple of weeks for Elyse, I paid the $1 for her baby. Of course, I figured she would get home and forget all about the homely yard sale baby.

We went to a couple of other sales and she carried that baby around every place we went. When we got home that day, we gave the baby a bath, put on some clothes, and changed the batteries. Unfortunately, the new batteries did nothing. Elyse soon discovered that the baby could suck her thumb which thrilled her to no end! Elyse was so proud of her new baby. Almost a week later, Elyse still loves that baby. She has gone to the store, the park, church and the doctor’s office with us. The other day, we had to turn around when we (AKA Elyse) realized we had left her at home.

After watching Elyse with her baby doll this week, it dawned on me that this relationship was a great analogy to our relationship with God. Just like Elyse’s baby doll, we were chosen. God looked down and, out of all his beautiful, amazing creations, he chose us! Of course, we, too, are ugly, dirty with sin, and have run down batteries most of the time. However, he still loves us. We try to clean ourselves up with new clothes, makeup, and pretty smiles, but those things don’t matter to God. Colossians 3:12 says, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” God created our flesh, but he is most concerned with our spirit. He sees the potential in us and knows the plans he has for us (Jeremiah 29:11). We have been handpicked by Him to be a part of His plan.

After we turned the car around that day to get “my baby”, I handed the doll to Elyse. A few minutes down the road, I turned around and Elyse was sound asleep, hugging that baby doll. Don’t we all crave that kind of unconditional love? Don’t we all have times when we need to crawl into our heavenly Father’s arms and just rest? I noticed at that moment that it wasn’t the new clothes or freshly washed face that made that baby doll precious. It was Elyse’s love for that doll that made her beautiful. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1

Friday, April 23, 2010

A week with no TV!


I heard somewhere that this past week was "National Turn Off the TV Week", so I decided to take on the challenge. We've never had cable, and I do stay busy most days with the kids. However, I find myself turning on PBS even when Kieran doesn't ask for it.

Monday, we started our day without turning on the tv! Step 1 accomplished! We went to the puppet theater that morning and then a friend of Kieran's came over for a playdate. They both asked to watch a movie several times throughout the afternoon, but I just casually responded that it was "no movie day". So, instead of watching Scooby Doo (Keiran's favorite), they started acting it out. The week went by with fun picnics in the park, stressful doctors appointments, and many opportunties (and excuses) to veg in front of the TV, but we didn't do it!

Last night, Kieran was going over the plans for the day ahead (which he likes to do...must be a planner like his mommy) and he listed lots of fun activities, none of which included TV or movies! Of course, this afternoon, he had 4 or 5 DVD's spread out on the chair as he was planning what to watch first when Saturday arrived!

While I'm not ready to get rid of our TV, I know now that we can survive without it, I can actually get things done, and the kids have an amazing imagination! Pick your own "turn off the TV week" and join us!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Elyse Update


Well, here we are a year after my last post on this blog! I was kind of surprised it was still out there and I still remembered the password. It has been quite a year for the Toler family to say the least. Many of my facebook friends have been asking about our daughter Elyse, so I thought I would write out the story here instead of using up space on Facebook.

Last November, we noticed a swollen lymph node in Elyse's neck. We took her to the doctor and they said it was probably just an infection and it would go away. Unfortunately, it didn't and after many, many tests, the doctors decided it needed to come out. In January, she had surgery to remove the lymph node. They thought it was something called an atypical mycobacterial infection which is rare, but her symptoms matched up with it. Unfortunatley, because of a mix-up in the lab, we were not able to get a culture of this first lymph node. However, surgery should have taken care of the infection.

Over the next two months, we took care of her incision, but noticed that she was developing new swollen lymph nodes on the same side of her neck. We met with an Infectious Disease Specialist who agreed with the mycobacterial diagnosis and suggested surgery again. It is very unusual for this infection to spread or affect other nodes, but her symptoms still seemed to match. On April 7th, Elyse had another node removed along with a mass of scar tissue. We are now in the healing process from that surgery. The wound has to heal from the inside out, so the incision was left open (with packing inside), and we go back to the doctor every 2 days to get more packing taken out. The newest incision is much deeper and wider than her first one, so it has taken a toll on our sweet girl. She is one tough cookie! So far, the tests done have not been able to confirm the mycobacterial infection, so we are back to the drawing board on the cause of her swollen lymph nodes. Right now we are praying for healing for the incision (Elyse is currently fighting a staph infection on the surface) and healing for whatever has caused these swollen nodes.

We greatly appreciate all the prayers, calls, and meals from our dear friends and family. Elyse is truly blessed to be loved by so many people!

O LORD my God, I called to your for help and you healed me. Psalm 30:2