Friday, March 14, 2014

Brave Heart

Hello!!  For some reason it feels like a while since I have really talked to you.  I know I talk to you every week, but it's been a while since I have actually sat down and talked with you about personal things.  I think this would be a good week to just catch up and update you on some minor things I have going on in my life and some bigger changes that I have going on.  So let's chat.  :)

Last week was the one year anniversary of Jeff, me, and the kids moving into our new home.  This house we are living in is the first home we have ever owned.  I remember writing several blog posts as I documented the "buying your first home" journey and what that entails!  I absolutely love our home, and after living in it for a year it truly feels like "our home."  The location is very quiet, safe, and private, and yet it is only 5 minutes from the major road in our town that has every thing on it.  The space in this home is incredible and we have a large yard the kids can run around in.  I have spent my entire life moving around- even after getting married we moved countless times.  It feels nice to be home.  

The kids are all doing well, and getting bigger by the day it seems.  I do still grieve over not being able to have any more babies.  It will hit me at very random moments and when it hits, it is like being punched in the gut.  Time just stops and I have to take a moment and just let the tears fall.  There is no hiding from grief- no pretending it isn't there.  You simply must accept that you are feeling it…and so I do.  I cry, I grieve, and I remember those beautiful moments when I would have a contraction and I would just KNOW labor was beginning.  And then I would begin the most amazing process I have ever accomplished in my life- giving birth.  It was something nobody could do for me; I had to face it myself and bear it myself…and I did.  Those moments immediately after giving birth are ingrained in my head and no matter how bad my memory gets they never seem to dim- because second only to giving my life to Jesus, there is nothing greater on this earth that I have ever done.  And I am so, so sad that I will never get to do that again.  My kids are growing up and with each new phase David passes, I know it will be the last this house ever sees.  I also miss being able to homeschool.  They love their Christian school, but I miss homeschooling.  They take a small bus with other elementary kids from their Christian school, and I wrestle with having them face the world when all I really wanted was to have them in the home.  As a family.  Learning and growing together, with me as their teacher.  Their sisters and brothers as their classmates.  But I had to give that up too- and every day as I lay in bed "resting" I realize that it has to be this way.  But that doesn't make it any less sad for me.  I wanted nothing more than to have babies; to love those babies; to raise those babies; to teach those babies; to have those babies with me as long as I could.  But God had other plans…and because I serve the Lord with all of my heart I rest assured that even in my pain His plans are not only best, but they perfect and they are GOOD.  He loves my babies so much more than I do.  

Natalie, Anthony, Johnny, & Joey- Summer 2013
Me and Anthony
Anthony and Joey
Jeff and Me

The Tylers- Chrostmas 2013

Anthony, Joey, Natalie, Johnny, & Ryza lined up to brush their teeth!
Joey's kindergarten school picture
Me and Anthony

Me, Johnny,and Natalie playing hide and go seek lol


Me and Jeffy
Anthony's 3rd grade school picture 
Johnny, Anthony, Natalie, and Ryza- Natalie's 5th B-day

Johnny and Natalie
Jeff and Natalie- Natalie's 5th B-day
Jeff and ALL the kiddos!!
Natalie and Johnny (they are best friends!)
Baby David
Me and David
David (1 1/2) and Ryza (2 1/2)
Joey sporting his glasses (which he wears on certain occasions, lol)

Kid pit
Me and Jeffy Poo

Perhaps the biggest change that has happened in the past few weeks is Jeff's ministry position has changed.  In 2005 Jeff and I graduated from Zion Bible College (now called Northpoint Bible College) and moved to Albany, NY where we began an internship with Pastor Keith Davey, founder of New Hope Ministries.  That internship turned into a relationship- Pastor Keith and his wife poured their heart and their soul into us.  They showed us how to run a church, teaching us the practical aspects of finances, running a building, keeping up maintenance, and doing the taxes.  But then they took us alongside them and showed us what it means to be a pastor.  What it means to do ministry.  To feed the poor, shelter the homeless, heal the hurting, father the orphan, fill the gap, light the dark, rescue the lost, give hope to the hopeless, and preach the gospel.  He looked at my husband and didn't see a former-crack-head-turned-newly-graduated-bible-school-student…he saw a man with the call of God on his life.  And he gave him a chance.  He gave him more than a chance- he pulled him in and took him under and make Jeff a Pastor of one of his churches.  We served under Pastor Keith and Susan Davey for 5 years before the Lord called us to leave.  And now I am extremely excited to say, that the Lord has opened the door for us to minister under Pastor Keith again!  As of a week ago, Jeff has been made the Associate Pastor at New Hope Ministries. ( Check out the ministry's website here!! ) I am so humbled and yet so incredibly excited for this chance to work with Pastor Keith and Susie again, and I know that God must have big plans.  We are still going to live in our house in Amsterdam- the Lord has not lead us to move, we feel we are to stay right where we are.  We are just going to do what we have always done- serve Jesus with all of our hearts.  If there is one thing I have learned in my life it is this: when you serve Jesus with all your heart, and you walk uprightly before Him, then you NEVER have to fear the path He leads you on.  EVERY step is directed and ordered by Him for those who have wholly surrendered their lives in His hands, and live that trust out in full integrity.

I am so happy for Jeff.  This is the kind of ministry he was born to do.  And even more so, I am grateful not only for this ministry opportunity but for the way they have accommodated for my illness.  They have arranged Jeff's schedule in such a way that he is able to be home as much as I need him to be.  Albany is almost an hour away from our house and I am very sick…which is my next update for you all.  I hate these updates- I feel like I should have more to say, or at least better things to say.  Last week I had a biopsy done to test for small fiber neuropathy.  If you remember the blog post I did when I posted pictures of the zapping test I had done, that was a test for large fiber neuropathy.  That was when they stuck needless in my legs and then tased me lol.  It was very painful and only was able to test the large fibers, as the small fibers are too small to test that way.  So they did a punch biopsy in two places on my leg- one on my upper thigh, one on the front of my foot.  This test had been talked about for the past 4 months, but had been put off.  As of a month ago I started exhibiting some symptoms on my legs and feet that warranted this test to now be done.  I was terrified!!  I felt so silly because it's not really a big deal, and after everything I have had done this really shouldn't have had me so worried!!  I had all natural, drug-free child birth for cryin' out loud and I am afraid of a 20 minute out-patient procedure- done WITH anesthetic??  But it turned my fears were somewhat founded lol.  I had a few shots of local anesthetic and then in each spot he basically dug out a hole and had the skin and tissue and nerves sent to be biopsied- it was a very small hole, but something about having a hole in your foot and your leg just really freaked me out.  And after the anesthetic wore off it hurt like crazy!!  It's been a week and it still hurts.  He poured something inside the hole to cauterize it and stop the bleeding.  I didn't get any stitches so it's healing naturally and I was told there will be a scar- but not getting any stitches made it so much worse because I kept taking off the bandage and looking at it even though it was gross and it really freaked me out to look at!  
Other than that I started yet another medication a few weeks ago.  It was one they tried to put me on last year but I couldn't take it because Jeff was working nights and this medication really knocked me out at night.  But now that Jeff is home every night, I asked to give it another try- and it certainly does knock me out at night!  Oh man, sometimes it's like I've been knocked upside the head with a barstool!  (Because of course I know exactly what that feels like.)  But I think that's one of the reasons I am having some success with it- because I get a full night's sleep most nights, which is something I was never getting before.  So between all the medications, I am holding it together…but just barely.  I don't know what to say folks.  My medication is keeping me breathing and eating and talking, but not much else.  This pain is just out of this world- it slowly conquers everything they give me.  My body is a shell of exhaustion and fatigue, always hurting and weak.  And the medication that just keeps me going has taken away so much of my memory and my basic ability to think and reason- such a terrible trade off.  
So what next?  Well, either the biopsy will confirm small fiber polyneuropathy or it won't.  If it doesn't, my neurologist wants to send me to the Mayo Clinic or to a specialist hospital in Boston.  Either I agree to that or I simply stop the process and accept the unknown downward spiral of my health.  Accept that the Stevens-Johnson Syndrome I got 5 years ago most likely destroyed my central nervous system and it is progressively getting worse over time.  

I feel like I have lost everything.  I wake up in pain.  I go about my day weak and in pain, barely able to just do the minimum and needing Jeff every day.  A trip to the grocery store once a week is something I wait to do for the day I most feel up to it.  By the end of every day Jeff usually is carrying me up and down the stairs.  On Sunday I get dressed, do my hair and make-up, and go to church- sometimes falling asleep right in the middle of service.  Sunday is an exhausting day.  I realize I am sharing a lot with you right now…I am sharing everything with you.  I dunno, maybe someone out there reads this and feels these same gritty emotions that I feel.  And for that one person I feel that every bit of honesty is worth it.  When Jeff started his new position in Albany last week I felt like everything came crashing down on top of me.  I felt like he was happy- like he got this position doing everything he is called to do and I am just being left behind.  He has a routine with the kids now and can get by fine without me.  The kids have their new school and they have their dad, Jeff has his life's calling and is doing his passion…and I have nothing.  Because they were my everything.  And now I cannot do that anymore.  And their lives are moving on and they have adjusted and accommodated for my absence and inability and are now able to do life without me.  Completely without me.  It is almost too much to bare…it is like the ocean has just swallowed me up…one minute I had it all- I was staring into the eyes of Jesus walking on water, and the next…

I am under water.  Hopelessly sinking and drowning under the very water I was standing on only moments ago.  Now it is drowning me.

I have nothing- except something.  I see one thing in the midst of all of this.  When I cry, and when I think of how much I have lost, and when I am laying in bed and I can't stop the pain, or when I can't even make my own body move- I see one thing.  I see eyes.  I see a hand.  I see Someone whose face is so close to mine I don't even have to move to touch Him.  Jesus takes my hand every time.  Every time.  

Every. Single. Time.

He does not stop my tears.  He does not make me happy.  He does not take my pain, give me movement, put me back in my life, or make everything better.  But he does lift my mouth above the ocean that threatens to drown me.  And in that moment, I breathe.  I stay nose to nose with my Savior and I make it another moment.  Another hour.  Another evening.  

Another day.

I don't know how to be anything but real with you.  This is the hardest thing I have ever walked through.  Life is hard right now.  I am grieving.  The physical pain I am in every waking moment is trumped only by my emotional pain at not being able to live the life I once had with my family.  But I am NEVER, EVER alone.  Jesus is not some nice feeling, some "glad it works for you", some religion, or some among many.  He is Jehovah Jireh, Jehovah Rapha, Jehovah Shammah, Jehovah Shalom, Jehovah Nissi, Jehovah Raah….He is God my Provider, God my Healer, God the Present One, God my Peace, God my Banner, and God my Shepherd.  HE IS.  Whatever I need, whenever I need it, however I need it, in whatever way I need it HE IS.  My soul longs for nothing because HE satisfies it all.  I may grieve at present and I may grieve in this body and I may grieve in this life but there is not a single part of my soul that grieves…because one day I will shed this grief and pain wracked body and every single longing will be met and satisfied in HIM. 

Friends, HE IS.  There are no trials or troubles in this life that can overtake you, because if you've placed your hope in the Lord Jesus Christ then your soul has been redeemed.  I write and speak and live and move with unapologetic conviction because you weren't there when I needed a savior.  You weren't there when my ten-year-old spirit cried out to be united with it's Maker.  You weren't there in my prayer closet as my life was guided and directed in it's every step.  You weren't there when I was given a choice and I chose the darker path- yet the one I knew I was called to.  You weren't there when I was told I wouldn't be having any more children.  You weren't there when I woke up every hour shaking and crying and unable to take any more medication.  You weren't there when all we had was God.  You weren't there when I had to put my kids in school, you weren't there when my body started shutting down, you weren't there when I told the kids mommy was sick….you weren't there when I lost everything.  

But HE was.  

HE still IS.  

I set out to update you on my life.  To tell you what the Tyler's are doing.   The Tyler kids are doing amazing- they are growing and thriving and are more beautiful than ever and growing in the Lord daily.  Jeff is the new Associate Pastor at New Hope Ministries and is doing incredible, amazing inner city ministry and absolutely loving it.  Ashley Tyler is very sick, but she is so in love with Jesus.  And they are madly in love- so much more now even than the day they got married.

I would have to say that the Tyler's are doing wonderfully. I truly would.    


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  2. Oh, Ashley. As the words, emotions, and unwavering faith touch my heart at it's core, tears are just falling endlessly. God called me to read this blog, this particular post, because He knew I needed to be reminded of His constant presence and empowering strength through our greatest battles. Through our darkest moments, He is there to be the everlasting light. He is always there, in everything, all around and in us. It's the most amazing, unfathomable peace, even amid pain, be it physical or emotional, or both. Through everything you shared, my heart continues to see the ONE constant, and that is HIM. Thank you so much for pouring your heart out, so honestly, so beautifully. I will continue to pray for you, and for the Tyler family to continue to be blessed. I also want to tell you, from experience, that each of your children know a love and comfort in you, as their earthly angel, that God has given them, as much as He has given them to you. No matter how sick, you are their Mother, and they are your beautiful children - and you truly have everything that He intended you to have. (One of the hardest things for us to accept when we are imperfect, and sick....and somehow given the blessings of children that all we want to do is care for, and are sometimes seemingly robbed of that desire. Once again, He reminds us that He is in control, and everything happens for His reasons.) As I embark on my last pregnancy, I find myself already dealing with the same emotions that you are, and am trying my best to prepare myself to do what I need to do to maintain a grateful and ever-faithful heart. (The doctors always told me I wouldn't have children; God had other plans. WAY better plans, as usual. <3 ) So, as you are already so in love with Jesus, and your family, and know His plans are always trustworthy, continue to be as strong as you can be, and trust that God's will is working, and His plans are always what is meant for our lives. I frequently refer to my Bible for encouragement, guidance, and hope; and one of my favorites, is Jeremiah 29:11 <3 May His love continue to embrace you, and may your heart continue to minister with every beat. <3