I have churned this blog around in my head for weeks now perpetually putting off writing because the perfect words seem to continue to evade me. I know it is time to write it out, but I still am uncertain of what to say or how to say it. I simply know that there is something that should be said...
I am shocked at how fast the 3rd year anniversary of the accident is encroaching upon me. It has been a full and rich past few months. But I find myself suddenly turning around and realizing that this dark and disappointing day is going to be here again very soon. I want to embrace the day and all the emotions that will embody it.
As I was reading through my testimony recently I still read it with a small sense of detachment. It is hard to comprehend that the girl I'm reading about is actually me, that these things are all things that I have experienced and lived through to share about. Even more hard to comprehend is the complete sufficiency of God's grace through every darkest hour that's piled upon themselves. I find it impossible to read through or think about the story God's writing in my life and not be overwhelmed by the miracle of His sustaining hand permeating each moment.
Yet, here I am still struggling to grasp the verse: 'Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.' (Hebrews 13:8) It is not so hard to read God's word and see His perfect sufficiency woven throughout it...It is fairly easy to look through my past experiences and see God's grace carrying me completely without fail. But today, as I sit and look at what is to come, my heart still flutters with the wonder and worry of what is next--of how that will look and what that will be.
One thing that has made these three years so challenging for my faith has been the element of the unknown. I am wading through this thick mud unsure of where my next step will lead or how. God has made it perfectly clear what each next step should be and when, but there has not ever been more insight given than just simply the next step. I have longed to have some sort of meaning or bigger picture and purpose to cling to, some tangible hope. But for now that has not been the way God is leading me through this journey.
He instead has taken me gently by the hand and said, 'follow me'. And that is simply it. He hasn't said 'follow me to this destination where we will do this, where you will receive this reward in return for doing that'...No, it has been a simple call to follow Him with the assurance that I will be well taken care of and provided for even while I'm in the dark and in the mud.
I have been reading through Luke and find it amazing that so often when Jesus does a miracle He responds to the person He just made anew with these words: "Your faith has made you well. Go in peace." I find it profound to think about the great value Christ has on our persevering and living by faith. So often I feel like my faith is feeble and faltering. I feel battered and worn, far from victorious. But I take great comfort in seeing that this is a place where He comes and meets us.
My heart is strengthened by reading stories that express Christ's heart toward the defeated and the discouraged last ounces of faith poured out. Take the woman in Luke 8 for example, she had been hemorrhaging for 12 years. All other medical attempts had failed her. She was out of money and still had found no relief. So with nothing left other than what I imagine she thought was a wavering feeble small ounce of faith--she reached out and touched the fringe of Christ's garment as her last desperate plea.
He saw her tired weary despairing heart without ever having to look into her eyes. Before turning around He felt healing and compassion flow out from Him. He turned to see her face as she trembled in fear. Jesus spoke straight to her saying, "Your faith has made you well. Go in Peace." (Luke 8:48 NLT)
Connecting with this woman and seeing a faith that moves the heart of Christ that isn't by our 'American Christian Culture's' standards victorious and conquering but rather a faith that is bitterly honest, raw and real encourages me to keep walking.
I struggle with not knowing the whole story or seeing the bigger picture for my life. I feel pain and disappointment over what will never be and what has still not yet come to be. As my story has continued to unfold very differently than I expected or even hoped that it would, I must continue to bring these disappointments to God. This is my single act of faith of reaching out in one more desperate attempt to touch the fringe of His garment.
Each time I reach out even if it is out of despair He is right there turning His eyes upon me to heal me with His gaze and to comfort me with His words. He has continued to show me that He is honored by my continuing to come and reaching out with whatever little faith I have left that remains. And in the reaching out He always gives me enough to continue on. The miracle and the sustenance is not found in my weak offering but rather in His huge compassionate outpouring and response.
Christ has continued to pour out His power over me and to carry me throughout this journey just as much if not more so now as in the days when these wounds were fresh and oozing. I sit here today typing this and realizing that I have grown so much in the last 3 years. I am far from being the same woman I was 3 years ago. But I am also far from being the woman that I thought I would be and was becoming.
I see the severe mercy of God in how He has been more concerned with my character than my comfort. He has graciously led me down a path that is leading me deeper into His holiness. I rejoice in the leading of God despite all the times and ways I have tried to resist and fight it. I am humbled by His perseverance and patience with me as He is teaching me perseverance and patience. I know that God is leading me one step at a time to where He needs me to be. It has not been easy or glorious, but I cling to the assurance that His way is perfect and good.
I am reminded of Neal Armstrong's words upon landing on the moon: "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." The physical step Armstrong took was not of epic proportions, but where and how and why that step was made changed the world and made an enduring footprint in our history.
I know I often see the small steps I take as insignificant. I get stuck in staring at the barren moon dust and the monotony of the landscape around me. But how different it would be if I could see from the reality of heaven all that was being accomplished in my feeble obedient steps here. That these small steps I take here are giant leaps in the will of God for my life. This glimpse of understanding shoots adrenaline into my weary soul to keep walking, to rejoice in the small steps and keep making them...to stop seeing them as an inconvenience or a waste of time...to stop wishing I could skip over them and instead start seeing them as the only way to continue forward.
In this journey there are not bicycles or cars or rockets to get one to where they need to be, but instead it is a grudging trudging onward one step at a time. I am learning that this is the only way to continue on this pathway of holiness we are called to walk upon. I am seeing better now why the scriptures refer to this as the narrow path, the way less traveled. It is not an easy path to be on--but it is severely perfect and richer than any other place I could otherwise be...so I keep walking on even if my feet are blistered and each step aches.
On this path lies all we need to continue to make our next step. We are never alone on this path. We are perfectly provided for, even carried when our strength waivers and we start to stumble...We continue on and we continue reaching out for the fringe. We continue to feel His power pour out upon us as we respond to His words, "Go in peace..." We continue down His path in peace and assurance that He is indeed with us, leading us and keeping us right where we should be--in that place that is perfectly securely in His pleasing will.
It is on this journey that you and I meet. This is where you are finding me now. The sweat is dripping in my eyes and I am persevering on, reaching out for the fringe and feeling more exhausted yet more victorious than I ever have before in my life. I love reading back through the things I have written on this blog, seeing how God has led me, seeing the small steps made moment by moment. It is a gift to be able to journey back along the bends and turns of the path already covered. It gives me an eagerness to see what is yet to come.
God has made it clear each time I need to take another step or turn another page. I see this nudging again now in my life. This journal has served an incredible purpose to myself and many others. It embodies the journey of a broken heart struggling to cling to faith and continue walking. It is a raw glimpse into the chasms of grief and how God's love reaches to the darkest most despairing places in our hearts and lives. It has been a healing comfort for me to be able to write and process through these thoughts and feelings. It has also been a way I have been able to see God bring His redemption through my pain as I have seen Him comfort numerous others through the words and vulnerability shared here.
I see it now fitting and good to turn this page...I believe this journal has fulfilled its purpose and now it is time for a new beginning, to start another season and chapter. This is not to say that I will not continue on in this journey through grief as God continues His good work of healing in my heart. This is not to say that I will stop rejoicing over the life that AJ had. But it is time for me to take another obedient step in this journey of redemption.
Through the pain and grief God has carried me through He has opened many doors for me to minister to others. It is still in its very early stages but I see a powerful ministry taking root. I am not sure how this will all look, but I am excited to be walking and figuring it out. One step I'm taking in this direction is lifting my chin up and embracing who I am, my story and what God has given me to share. I have built a new website that will be more specifically focused. I will continue writing on this new site under the 'thoughts' page...but I will aim to keep it more ministry and biblically focused.
It tugs on my heart to acknowledge that this is my final blog on this website. As hard as it is to turn the page and take this next step, I know it is time. I feel His hand leading me onto this new ground. For those of you who would like to continue to follow along in this journey with me, you can now refer to my 'thoughts' page on the new site. I intend to be writing there and updating it regularly. Please check out my new website:
I am grateful for this journal and all that it has been. I am grateful for all of you who have followed Eli and I's story over the years. Thank you for your encouraging comments all along the way. Please continue to follow along with us into this new chapter of our lives. I have been so blessed by the relationships and friendships that have grown out of this journal and would love to see them continue.
Bless you all richly and thank you for your prayers which have surely been used to carry me through what otherwise would have been an impossible 3 years. I'm still walking with a limp, but at least I am walking at all. This is no small miracle--it is a gift I greatly rejoice over. All praise be to God!
So...(deep breath)...now I end this final blog with a few of AJ's last words. A relevant and perfect way to turn the page: "God's plan is always exciting. And God is always good.".........................
We are so excited to welcome baby Waylan Ace Swain into our family!!!
Here is a note from his proud beautiful momma (my sister)...
Waylan, Kale, and I are great!! After laboring for 20 long hours and only dilating to a 6, they took me in for a C-section and he was born at 6:53P Monday evening. He was huge and healthy : ) 8lb 6oz 20.5in long. Basically he was to big for me to deliver naturally and we couldn't be happier about seeing our little boy!
He is adorable with a full head of dark hair, tan skin, big blue eyes, and a little chunky body.
Thanks for all of your thoughts and prayers!!
Katie : )
...OK now for what you're really looking for...photos of the handsome new man...
I look forward to sharing more photos and great news on baby Waylan with you soon.
I'm so excited about my new nephew and know he will be a huge blessing to our family!!!
...and a watched toddler never pees! Today Eli and I started potty training. Today was the start of something that will carry him during the rest of his life...sure that's no pressure on me as a momma! :)
Eli and I have done the cold turkey intense potty training method. I gave him a ton to drink--as much as he wanted--and we were on the potty AT LEAST every 15 minutes today...Remarkably, he only had 4 accidents all day which was much better than I expected...but it was a long day of waiting. This was a completely new experience for him and he was so determined to figure it out and get a treat.
Eli sat on the potty and tried and pushed for up to 10 minutes with a patience that I found convicting even to me (There are so many things I get to learn from my child.) We both watched and looked and waited...When nothing happened Eli would look at me sweetly and say, "Heeelllppp?" I just encouraged him on and we talked about fountains and pee pee and what not...
To pass the time Eli made up many great chart topper songs...all of them were creatively crafted on the subject of peeing in the potty. Sometimes they were simple songs and very focused..."Pee pee, pee pee on the potty..." Other times they were much more complex and Eli would sing about the process putting to song the words I used to encourage him, singing about all the other people and Elmos and Big Birds we know that pee pee on the potty, then there would be a triumphant ending about a fountain and a HUUUUGGGEEE chewy (i.e. a starburst or tootsie roll) and then he would laugh. Next I'd hear the quiet of concentration. Silence...more waiting...
The few times Eli did have an accident were times when I was not right with him watching him. He would run into another room and pee...uh oh. This futher solidified my hunch that a watched toddler never pees. Once I caught on to this, I kept a very short leash on him which has helped a lot. Eli can feel himself start to go so if I am right by him he will look at me and say no (as if trying to tell himself) and then I wisk him away to sit on the potty...So, keeping a close eye on him at this point in the game has proven to be very beneficial because a watched toddler never pees...at least my watched toddler. Now of course things can't stay like this forever...but let's be realistic it's only day one...we'll get there ;)
There were many Teddy Gram casualties rewarding Eli's 'dry- checks.' It took literally all day...but praise God on our last shot for the day to sink the cherrios Eli streamlined his determination. It finally clicked and Eli's face lit up with excitement and pride. Then it was off to the phone where Eli exclaimed with great joy to all listening, "I pee peed on the potty!" We all were proud!!!
Each time I used the bathroom today I did so with a new appreciation and with much wonder and awe...I never realized what a miracle it is, definitely no small feat to make all this work together. I share a new admiration and appreciation for my parents...my success today encouraged me for Eli's success tomorrow. It something easy to take for granted. Next time you flush, say a prayer and thank God for giving you parents who loved you and took the time and patience required to teach you what you needed to know...
Eli and I still have a long way to go but we both share the determination and thankfully both seem to have the patience this potty business requires, I know that is grace. We had a lot of fun today and definately made some great memories...what a season of change and making big steps and new beginnings. It is an exciting time in the Buffington home.
Eli is continuing to make good progress. We went to see Dr. Kojic, his neurologist this week. She was very impressed with how well Eli was doing. He is such a fighter and very determined, this has been very helpful for him given all the things he's had to fight in the nearly three years of his life! Dr. Kojic put it well when we walked into her office Tuesday: "Of all the children this could happen to, why did it have to be our Eli!" I agreed completely...none the less it did happen and now we must 'walk through it' literally.
The good news continues to be that Eli will recover fully from this condition. The not so good news that we learned on Tuesday is that this might take much longer than we originally expected. The two to four week prognosis we were given was apparently for Eli to simply be feeling better and not 'sick and achy' any more. It will take much longer for the repercussions of this to resolve. Dr. Kojic said to expect anything from a few months to as long as a year for Eli to be fully recovered.
This is a big set back because in this time it will be hard for Eli to continue to progress forward as he needs to. But we will keep working and keep trying and keep fighting. Eli is already in therapy and this will continue. This will surely help him to regain the strength and coordination that he needs.
The reason this is such a long process is this: The way his immune system responded to the virus was by attacking the cerebellum. This caused inflammation on his brain, concentrated in his cerebellum. The virus has most likely left his system, but it is the inflammation that will take so much time to resolve. Until the inflammation is completely gone, Eli will not be able to have the coordination and function that he needs. The two largest areas this effects are Eli's ability to walk (among other gross motor movements) and Eli's ability to annunciate his words clearly.
Thankfully Eli is able to function quite well. He is walking now, but it is still unsteady. He looks a bit like Frankenstein when he walks, a combination of that and a baby when they are just learning to walk. He can get around now which has provided much relief for us both. He still tires easily and has to take breaks and rest regularly but his stamina is continuing to improve.
We have had to alter our days and adjust how we spend our time. We play with bubbles a lot and the tent filled with balloons has remained a favorite playtime activity. Eli tries to walk down the grassy hill near our house but has since discovered the delight of rolling down the hill--a great activity that he 'can' do now since walking down it is very difficult for him, as he discovered the hard way.
Eli has continued to be filled with joy as he usually is. He definitely has his little Eli charm and personality back which I am more than grateful for. So here we are now, just 'walking this out' literally one step at a time...this has proven to be a very good pace for us in the past three years...
Thank you again for your continued prayers for us in this season... And thank you Lord for continuing to provide for Eli and me everything that we need. Thank you for this good work of healing you are doing in Eli's body and are continuing to do in our hearts. May Your Kingdom continue to come and Your Will continue to be done on earth as it is in Heaven.
I greeted Eli this morning with news of a birthday. You might remember a previous post around Christmas time that I shared of Eli's new love for birthdays and everything about them. Curious George and the Birthday Surprise is still one of his favorite books. We read it many times each day. The book ends with George, the monkey, blowing out the candles on his birthday cake.
(Eli has really started to notice candles. At church he intensely watches the acolyte carry the candle up and down the isle. At home he is intrigued by the dancing flame atop the jar on the counter top. He notices candles in books, but mostly he noticed candles when they are perched upon one of his favorite delicacies in life--cake.)
I told Eli that today was a very special day, that today we were going to have a birthday party. Eli's face lit up with the news. He quickly and excitedly asked: "with cake?" and I said, "yes." Then he said with his eyes a little wider, "with candles?" and I replied, "Yeeeiisss!" He was so excited.
Then I asked Eli to guess whose birthday we were going to celebrate today. He rightfully guessed himself but I had to correct him. I told him we were going to celebrate his daddy's birthday and have a great party for him. Then I tried to explain to Eli that his daddy was having an even greater party in heaven with Jesus than anything we could ever imagine here on this earth. Eli listened, but was mainly excited to help me make the cake and lick the spoon as any toddler would be...
After Eli's nap we met AJ's parents for dinner at one of AJ's favorite restaurants, Outback Steakhouse. We had a very pleasant meal. Eli behaved very well but kept asking for cake with candles, only to be reminded again and again, "After we are all done eating our dinner..." Eli was full of joy today. I know his hugs and laughter were especially a blessing for AJ's parents. After Eli was all done eating his dinner he crawled up in Mia's (AJ's mom's) lap and belly laughed there with her leaning against her chest offering his joy and strength to her in his innocent childlike contagious way.
On the way back to the house Barb and Carl stopped and picked up just about the hugest balloon that I have ever seen. Eli was so excited about the balloon that he even walked around with it a bit, which if you've read the recent posts you know what a miracle Eli walking at all again is! His walk is still unsteady and he still tires easily but praise God he is getting stronger. Praise God he is starting to be able to walk and get around again! The balloon gave him great incentive to walk this evening, an incentive that matched his great smile and delight.
Once home, balloon in hand, we lit the candle that was in the cake and sang one of Eli's favorite songs. Yes, you guessed it...'Happy Birthday'. Then Eli helped to blow out the candle and lick the icing off of the wax stick--a very important task never to be overlooked. The four of us: Barb, Carl, Eli and me sat around the kitchen table and ate cupcakes together.
Carl's prayer summed it up as best as any could: "Thank you God for the life AJ had and thank you God for the life AJ now HAS!" What reason to celebrate. It doesn't make the missing him any less. It doesn't make it hurt any less, but there is hope there... We can celebrate in the reality of what is true! AJ now has life more abundantly than anything we can ever begin to imagine because AJ is now fully living, living in Christ, living WITH Christ in complete redemption.
After eating the cupcakes, with full tummies we sat on the couches together and watched some movies of AJ. It is still quite impossible to watch AJ so alive and not feel the lump in my throat and my eyes fill up. I'm not sure what makes me want to cry more: seeing him alive, hearing his voice and missing him or realizing that this is all that is left. That the video will always be TOO SHORT! That there will always be that longing for more...
Eli described it perfectly. He was intently watching the movies and grinning. When Eli first saw AJ's face this evening his eyes lit up with excitement and he said, "Daddy!" Once the movie was over Eli said, "more daddy?" Through tears we responded, if only it was so...we want 'more daddy' too. Eli snuggled and melted into my lap, that was grace.
The day was a special day and rightfully so. It was exactly what it needed to be. It was yet again another day covered in grace, a grace that never ceases to amaze me!