Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy birthday

Today is Hannah's birthday!!

She is thirteen!!

We officially have four teenagers in the family!

It is so cool to know that Hannah made it this far. We have never really known how long we will have her. It could be twenty years or two weeks. But today? This is really cool. I love being able to say Hannah made it to teen hood. Call it weird, but I feel so proud of her!!

So what am I thankful for this Thanksgiving? Thankful that I get to spend the day with my little sister.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sister's Tears

I cried tonight for Hannah.

I cried tonight because I heard her laughing at the angels flying above her head, and to make her feel better I had to pretend to see them too.

I cried tonight because I used to tuck Hannah in goodnight when I was little. I would read her books. I would sing songs to her for hours. I would think up funny words so she would laugh.

I cried tonight because I thought of something I used to pray every single night for over eight years. "God, please touch Hannah and heal her." I wanted to see her walk and hear her talk. I wanted to play with her, teach her how to ride a bike and put on makeup. I wanted it for me; I wanted it for my parents; I wanted it for Hannah.

I cried tonight because I couldn't feel any angels in that room, but there were plenty of demons waiting for me in my room. Like predators hiding in the shadows.

I cried tonight because of a truth I know deep down but I refuse to accept. Hannah's slowly deteriorating health. Time ticking by slowly. Her thirteenth birthday in just a couple weeks.

I cried because of the very thought of saying goodbye.

And I cried tonight because I realized I have not emotionally and mentally braced myself for that day.

And I don't want to. I don't want to think about it. I don't want to brace myself for anything. I just want to keep singing to her and sharing laughs with her. I don't even want to consider an inevitable future where I will no longer hear Hannah's laughter.

I...just...refuse to let the thought enter my head. I brushed it tonight and it almost crushed me.

And I cried tonight because I am my least favorite person on earth, and I can feel the demons in my room right this minute, and I can't shake off sin's grip on my shoulders nowadays, and my throat is slowly closing up. And I cried because even someone as wretched and unworthy as I has been given the incredible gift that is to know my little sister. I cried because of my darkness, and Hannah's light.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

An abiding joy

[Written by my dad in August 2004:]

There is little that shines a bright ray of supernatural light quite like a display of joy in the middle of difficulty or dark circumstances. The average person can be joyful when things go well, as planned, or better than expected. But there’s something extraordinary - maybe divine - about someone who is joyful when life deals out stress, pain, or unfortunate circumstances. This is why the apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonian church: “Be joyful always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16). Abiding joy is a powerful witness of God’s power in a person’s life. The Old Testament prophet Habbakuk wrote about the source of this joy:

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.”
- Habakkuk 3:17-19

Perhaps this is seen most clearly in the 19-century hymn-writer Francis Jane “Fanny” Crosby. She was blind from infancy, yet wrote over 9000 hymns plus 1000 secular poems and songs, including “Blessed Assurance,” and “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior.” As one reads Fanny’s biography, it is clear that the source of her ministry was a deep, abiding joy, which was found in something beyond circumstances. This joy is evident in her first poem, written when she was eight years old:

O what a happy soul am I! Although I cannot see,
I am resolved that in this world, Contented I will be.
How many blessings I enjoy, That other people don't.
To weep and sigh because I'm blind, I cannot and I won't!

This joy despite circumstances is also displayed in Hannah’s countenance. Unless she’s sick, in pain, or sleeping, she has a quick, contagious smile and a joyful sound in her voice. Sue and I often hear her making her “joy sound” (sort of a laughter) when in her bed alone at night. Even when she’s not feeling well, she will smile that joyful, “I’m glad to see you” smile. Granted - Hannah is most likely not fully aware of her condition. Hannah probably doesn’t realize who she is and what her situation is. She probably has not consciously chosen to be joyful despite her difficulties. If you quote Habakkuk 3:17-19 to Hannah, she probably won’t understand what you’re saying. Nevertheless, her joy shines a light to others.

A troubled teenager once met Hannah, caught her smile, and said, “Wow - I think I have problems. Here’s Hannah, with all her problems, and she’s happy. Wow.” That’s the point. That teenager was given some perspective that day. That’s the effect of an abiding joy. That’s the effect of Hannah’s Light.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

the two-mile radius

As long as I can remember, Hannah has done this cute but kind of, well, odd thing. It makes me smile and it makes me think. What is it? It's easy. First, get Hannah's attention. Then when she's paying attention to you, ask her "Hannah: what do you see?" Here's where it gets odd. When she hears that question, she'll look straight up, like she's looking at the light on the ceiling. What makes it even odder, however, is that she doesn't just do that indoors to look at the ceiling light. She also does that outdoors or where there is basically nothing to look up at. Every single time, for the almost-thirteen years of her life, Hannah has done that.

All of us have speculated what she is looking up at. Maybe she is used to the ceiling light being there, or she just likes looking up. A couple of us, my dad included, suggested that perhaps she is looking at something we can't see. After all, think about the question: "what do you see?" Maybe it means, "what do you see that nobody else can see?" That could mean anything. Well, frankly, for a long time, I was pretty doubtful about that. I mean, what could be up there that I can't see and Hannah can? Certainly not, say, an angel, right? Why would Hannah be able to see those? It doesn't make sense to me.

Or I should say, it didn't make sense to me.

Recently I was talking with my younger sister (not Hannah, the sister in-between us) about spiritual things, and she brought up her 'sixth sense' of demonic and sometimes angelic presence. This is something that has been with her for about two years now and she has rarely talked about it. However she has recently been more willing to bring it up and tell us about it, and I had the honor of hearing her story.

My sister describes it like knowing someone is around a corner or behind a closed door; you can "feel" that they are there, but you just can't see them. She also said that good moods make the demons back away as if they are annoyed or frustrated, and bad moods seem to attract them or make them swarm in. She even said she can sometimes feel a demon on my shoulder when I'm in a bad mood. I don't know what to make of that yet, but I was a bit shaken when she told me. It just goes to show that a negative spirit saps the life out of you - body, mind, and soul.

Anyway, that is not the point of this post. Of all the amazing things my sister shared with me, one thing stood out among the rest by far.

It was while I was asking her if she felt angels or demons around members of our family (that was where she told me that demons had been on my shoulders). I asked her about Hannah. "What about Hannah? Are there any demons around her? Is that why she cries sometimes?"

My sister's answer was profound. Here is what she told me, word for word.

"No, no, Hannah is so protected. Demons can never get close to her." I asked her what was the closest the demons had gotten to Hannah. "Two miles. They never get closer than two miles."

Two miles. And there were demons touching me. But she wasn't finished.

"And you know that whenever we ask her what she sees, she looks up? Well, she's looking up at an angel protecting her. An angel is up there watching over her."

An angel. That is who Hannah "sees". I have no idea what angels look like, but in Scripture angels had to say "don't be afraid" every time they approached a person. That's enough to assure me that angels look pretty darn frightening and there's a whole lot more to them than white wings and a halo. Demons have to be scary-looking too, though; testimonies of people who have actually seen demons said they were hideous beyond description (makes me think of shinigami as portrayed in the anime Death Note). But this angel is fearsome enough that demons can't get closer than two miles from Hannah. And this angel is strong enough to hold that big a radius of protection around her.

I may have been doubtful before, but I am not doubtful anymore. Now I know that, all that time, for all those years, Hannah was looking up at an angel. All those years, someone was watching over her. An angel was above her head and it's mere feet from me right this minute. And what's more, the demons don't dare get closer than two miles to her.

Now is that incredible or is that incredible?

Should I be frightened? Well, my perception of reality was certainly rattled a bit because of that conversation with my sister. I won't see a bad mood as just a "bad mood" ever again. And PMS is no cop-out. But I also feel blessed beyond description. Blessed that I am the older sister of a little girl that the demons don't dare touch. Blessed to know that even when Hannah was crying with pain or lying in a hospital bed, an angel was keeping close watch over her. God never forgot her. God never left her behind. There was always someone protecting her, even in those darkest and most confusing moments of her life. That is something that I will take with me for a very long time and I will hold it close to my heart.

Nope, any last doubt has left me completely.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Monsters University

One of Hannah's all-time favorite movies has always been Disney-Pixar's Monsters Inc. I love that movie too! All four of us grew up watching it and have loved it for as long as it has been out.

When I say Hannah has a "favorite movie", I mean one that makes her laugh the most, smile the most, or calms her down the fastest when she is distressed or not feeling well. If we're out of the house and she's upset, one of the things I do to calm her down is promise to put in Monsters Inc when we get home, and it works! There were days when Hannah would watch that movie twice a day, and sometimes every day. Now she watches it once or twice a week at the very least.  Mike Wazowski and Boo are her favorite characters. If I mention them or point them out on a poster she recognizes them instantly and brightens up. I can even quote Mike Wazowski and she picks it up. She has a few Mike Wazowski toys too.

Hannah's profound love for this movie has grown on me over the years, and I love it more and more as I get older. I have it memorized word for word.  Seriously...I can recite the entire movie.

Naturally when we heard about the prequel, Monsters University, in 2011, we were ecstatic. Now it's 2013 and the movie has finally arrived!

We almost never take Hannah to the movie theater. It's too dark, too loud, and there are too many people and seats for her comfort level to handle. But this is Monsters Inc! We could not pass it up! A week ago we found out Monsters University was playing in the town 15 minutes from our house, in contrast to the bigger theater an hour away. Yesterday afternoon we piled into our non air-conditioned van and went to see it, after two years of waiting, we could finally see it.

Now, was it a good movie?

Of course it was...I LOVED it. The younger versions of the characters - Mike, Sulley, even Randall - were so sweet and loveable. All the nods to the original were abundant but not forced. The plot was somewhat predictable but still fun and intriguing. It made me laugh and it made me teary-eyed. All in all it was a fantastic movie and a great companion to Monsters Inc. I felt like a big emotional mess, after growing up on the original and now seeing new life brought to the characters and the monster world, and it doesn't help that my brother goes to college in just a few weeks...!

But I don't want to get into all my messy emotions.  Part of what made me love the movie so much was watching Hannah's reaction. We told her all week what we were going to see so she knew what was coming, and was very excited as we got to the theatre and found our seats. As soon as Mike appeared Hannah was laughing because she recognized her favorite character. Even when other characters from the original Monsters Inc showed up she would start laughing again. And every time I saw her she was either smiling or laughing as the movie continued.

It was just so cool to see Hannah enjoying herself so much over a movie. A lot of times we "have" to watch what we want to watch and pop in a movie Hannah would never enjoy... like Sherlock or Silver Linings Playbook or Hunger Games. But I loved watching a movie I knew she was having a great time watching too. I haven't seen her that elated about a movie in such a long time, it was impossible not to enjoy myself.

So, I had a fantastic time yesterday watching Monsters University. And I think hearing my sister laugh for half of the film's duration made me love it even more. Even when I mention it now, she is smiling again because she knows. So I don't care what anyone else says, it was an awesome movie that I want to watch again and again with Hannah, because it's one of the few movies we both had fun seeing together. Sister bonding time with cartoon monsters, it never gets old.

Guess what I'm buying for her this November for her birthday! Yup, Monsters University DVD!

Monday, May 13, 2013

what I can't do

As Hannah's older sister, my perspective on her has changed over the years. When I was younger I was aware she was unique and did not have all the health benefits my brother, sister, and I do. I knew there was something different with her. But at the time I thought she was just going to take a longer time to grow. I thought she would eventually start talking and even walking. I remember doing flashcards and Dynavox with her for entire afternoons, hoping she would say just one word. I remember my dad holding her up on one end of the room as we sat on the other, cheering her to take 'steps' so that she might learn to walk. And, I constantly prayed that God would 'touch and heal' her.

Never happened. No inspirational Christian flick here. Not our division.

Now I'm older, and I hate to admit it, but I'm also bitter. I know Hannah is never going to talk or walk, at least not in this life. I know she can never tell us what her favorite color is or why some things make her laugh and some things scare her. I know that, odds withstanding, I will probably have to watch my parents bury their youngest child. I also understand, seemingly more and more, what we cannot do because of Hannah.

It's become sort of a default in our family that when we want to go somewhere - a shopping trip, a museum, even a walk - Mom has to stay home with Hannah. Mom knows Hannah the best and is her supreme caretaker, getting Hannah ready for school in thirty minutes when the rest of us as a team could do it in fifty. That means a lot of cool events that should be considered 'family events' are not.  Here is a prime example: the Indianapolis 500. My dad has gone to this race for a long time and knows the history of the track, the racers, the legends, the whole she-bang. My first race was in 2008 and since then I've loved every bit of it. Whether you're into racecars or not, the experience is mind-blowing and unforgettable. We can't go every year but since 2007 my dad has taken all of us to the race.

And guess who stays home while we're at Indy? Mom and Hannah.

And I wish I could say the Indianapolis 500 is a family event for us, because it should be. It's something entire families should experience together. But taking Hannah to the race is out of the question. She's in a wheelchair and she gets dehydrated going to a place filled with stairs and stands on a day that can easily top ninety degrees? No...way.

So where does that leave Mom? Staying home with Hannah again, waiting for us to come back and tell her what an awesome time we had at the race.

She wants us to go; Mom would never make us cancel a trip just for her (I have never, ever known her to have the mentality of, "if I can't go, then no one can!"). My dad wants us to go so we can experience it. I want to go. But at the same time I hate myself for leaving them, as if to say, "Mom, Hannah, don't get in the way of my good time!". Unless training someone else to care for Hannah overnight works out - something we've done before but never for such long stretches - trips like the Indy 500 can never be a true 'family' experience. And that just kills me. So, because of Hannah, something that could be a family tradition has dwindled down to 'Dad gets the kids away from Mom for a week' tradition.

That is just one example. I could complain all day; I'm a very good complainer. I have literally (yes, literally) lost count of how many times we found an ad for an awesome campsite, or a convention, or a county fair, or a historical site, or a petting zoo, and because of Hannah we could not go. I have lost count of the times my brother, sister and I begged for our parents to take us to one stupid little thing, because "it's the chance of a lifetime!" and "it's going to be so much fun!" or the good old "It's Star Wars!", and the response that always ended the conversation was, "What about Hannah?" Countless times a cool event came up and we had to decide whether to turn it down or split up the family, and because we love Mom and Hannah and honestly detest constantly deserting them for our own pleasure and entertainment, we've chosen the former more than not. We are all aware of that default in our family and we hate settling for it.

I'm not saying my whole upbringing has been void of fun and games and petting zoos. Nor am I not acknowledging this one wonderful lady who occasionally takes care of Hannah for a day so we can have a family shopping trip. I am saying we tend to crack up at the word 'vacation' or the phrase 'family experience'. To that we tend to say, "Take a hike.. preferably, up a steep trail. In the mountains. In the wilderness. You might as well since you're not in a wheelchair."

And do you know what hurts the most about all this? When my parents were homeschooling us, they had a dream of what it could look like. My mom had this amazing plan that when we were studying the American Revolution and the history of our country, we would have a 'family trip' out east to see Washington, DC, battle sites, reenactments, all the good stuff. They wanted to give us an experience outside of a textbook or a classroom so that history could come alive, and not only would we learn about America in the best way, but we would have an incredible family-bonding experience in the name of real education. That was my mom's dream. Because isn't that what homeschooling is supposed to be about? Isn't that the point of homeschooling in the first place?

Hannah came along and that dream was shattered. No trip out east. No Library of Congress, no Declaration of Independence, no White House. It was a dream and it is a dream and it will always be a dream. And now that I'm older, I know that. That is just one other example.

So why am I saying all this? Why am I bugging you guys with my complaining?

A few months ago, my dad popped an interesting question to us. He said, "We could all list things we cannot do because of Hannah. What about things we can do because of her?" (I might have touched on this on earlier posts.)

The scary thing is that none of us had an immediate answer.

But I'm getting a few ideas. One, of course, is this blog. Another might be an installed determination in me to carry out the dream my parents had for my education to my kids, as I plan to homeschool them. Or maybe always having recreation, entertainment, and pleasure at our disposal might have done something to our family we did not want done. Who knows? If I had been given all those conventions, camping trips, and museums, would I have become more selfish, greedy, or ethnocentric? I have no idea.

But it's something I really have to think about for these next few months. I have to stop resorting to the bitterness clogging up my soul. I have to stop thinking about what I was deprived of because of my sister, and rather the things I have been blessed with.

The best part is that when I realize I'm really thinking along those tracks, I feel more at peace. I feel calmer. I feel more hopeful. Most of all, I feel like the love my sister constantly shows to me is, quite possibly, something I can pass on to others. If I overcome my bitterness.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Hannah cries

Sometimes Hannah will have a really hard time trying to get to sleep, and one of my parents (usually Mom) has to go in her room and stay by her side all night.

On these nights, Hannah might be crying softly because her hip or her kidneys hurt.  Other nights, however, I can hear her screaming, as if she's terrified.  You can just tell in her tone of voice that something has seriously frightened her, and she won't stop until Mom is in there calming her down.

The thing is, none of us have any idea what Hannah could be so terrified of.  She can't talk or communicate with us in any way, so it's not like she can tell us.  I've been trying to think about what it could be.

We do watch quite a bit of R-rated movies in the evenings, and usually Hannah watches them with us.  Maybe at night she gets scared of some of the scenes and images she was exposed to in those movies (then again, it's not like we watch horror and gore flicks on a regular basis).  There is also a streetlight outside not too far from her window, as well as a nearby street which probably sees no more than thirty to forty cars drive by each day.  Either of those could create shadows on her wall that could be seen as frightening.  But, honestly, those seem pretty far-fetched to me.  Because I know Hannah.  She's never been knowing to have a fear of shadows, and while the movie theory might not be inaccurate, it's just impossible to prove.

My dad and I have talked about this, about what could be scaring Hannah (again, this never, ever happens randomly in the daytime...only at nighttime).  And we can't help but wonder.  Who is to say that there are some things we can't see that Hannah can see?  Is there some realm of reality that people like Hannah are able to access?

What if she sees emotions like we see color?  Or she sees time like we see light?

While on this subject, let me add that on the evenings our whole family is together - an increasing rarity these days - it is impossible to stop Hannah from laughing.  We'll try to have a family meeting or discussion and she is over there giggling about every single little thing.  Of course, she is laughing all the time, but always when we're all together.  Add that to the terrified screams at night, and what could it mean?

Yes, we've even come down to this question: what if Hannah can see angels and demons?

That sounds pretty extreme, and maybe even absurd.  Of course human beings can't see angels and demons. That's crazy!  But you just have to wonder.  I bet in some form, we are the handicapped ones.  Our vision is limited to what our eyes can tell us.  Our sensations are limited to what our bodies and minds can offer.  There could be so much more out there, and we've become so used to the things we have now, that the people like Hannah who don't have those things have a much deeper insight into our lives.  Who knows.

Whether Hannah really can see spiritual beings, here is what I believe: she views "life" in a much different way than we see it.  To her, a five-second hug means a lot more than a five-day trip to Disney World.  One word of praise or approval is worth a lot more than the most riveting political speech.  It's not that our way of viewing life is wrong nor that Hannah is right, but her value system is set apart from the rest of ours.  She finds beauty, humor, inspiration, encouragement, and comfort in different ways than we do.  So what does that have to do with her possibly being able to see things?  Of course, I won't doubt for a second that the two are connected somehow.  When your view of life changes, the way you see the world changes as well.  It's like putting on a color-tinted pair of sunglasses; everything is affected as long as your eyes are open.

On the surface, it's just a simple thing: something scares Hannah at night.  That sounds normal.  But think "different".  Think like Hannah thinks, if you can.  If Hannah's view of life is so set apart from ours...what could possibly terrify her that much?  What can she see?

Who knows.  In fact, maybe I don't even want to know.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Hannah is home!


So after being in the hospital since last Thursday, Hannah is back home!  It turns out she had an infection in her kidney and now she needs antibiotic treatment, which means she also brought home some IV equipment and medicine.  But for the most part she's back to her normal self.  And, for the time being, things are generally going to be normal again.  Of course, "normal" is a foreign word around here, plus I'm sure she'll need to go back for a day to see the doctor in a couple weeks.  But she's back and she's better!  Praise God.

Thank you everyone for the prayers!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Quick update

Just a quick update on what's happening with Hannah.  Will be sort of a dry post.

Well we know something has been wrong since Monday.  She just isn't herself.  She has trouble sleeping at night and has been coughing up a little blood, and her urine has been very bloody too.  She also hates lying on her back because it's very painful.  My mom took her to the doctor yesterday and twice today.  They decided Hannah has to go to Mayo Clinic which is over a three hour drive from our house, and that's happening tomorrow.

Hannah has had kidney problems before, I don't know how many kidney stones she's had to pass, but this could be another one.  Which could also mean yet another surgery.  For now, we just don't know.  All I know is that tomorrow is going to be tough for Hannah and especially tough for my mom because her back has been hurting a lot lately.  This could either all blow over by the end of the week or stretch into...I don't know how long.

I think I'm going to be okay, but please pray for Hannah and my mom.  Thanks <3

Sunday, March 3, 2013

"Too Good to Be True"

The other day I was watching an episode of a BBC crime show called "Wallander".  In this episode, the main character, a detective, investigates two murders that eventually lead him to a wealthy and successful man.  This man has all he could ever want in regards to what you can afford, but when he meets the detective, he tells him about nonprofit work he has done in Africa.  He goes on to explain that he saw how poverty-stricken the people of West Africa were, so he started a hospital foundation there - showing pictures of the African people to the detective, calling them his "family".

However, as the plot unfolds, we finally realize that the man doing "charity" work in Africa is actually using the hospitalized people to illegally sell human body parts around the world, and is responsible for the deaths of thousands of people.  Of course, the detective and Co. bring him to justice in the end.

What got my attention in this episode was a line one of the characters said towards the end, which went, "It was all too good to be true." (referring to the man and his work in Africa).  It was an intriguing, suspenseful episode, but it got me thinking.  And the more I think about it, the more it disturbs me.  It was all too good to be true.

In other words, a wealthy man who gives millions of dollars to people he doesn't know and who will never pay him too good to be true.  There's a catch to it.  He's in it for some personal gain.  He has to be guilty of something.  Because no one would do that just because they somehow felt compelled to do it.  Giving selflessly to others when you have plenty for yourself, is automatically suspicious, unorthodox, strange, and even untrustworthy.

This disturbs me because it shows how far down we've come as western culture and maybe humanity in general.  In the days of the early church, doing such a thing was respected and revered as something sacred and holy.  That was what eventually turned the church into an established system in the Roman Empire and all throughout Europe.  However, according to the show "Wallander", in today's world, that sort of love and charity is too good to be true.  It must always come with a string or two attached.  No exceptions.

The reason that scares me is because I have met lots of people who were just like the wealthy guy in "Wallander" (at least, what he was like before they found out about what was really going on).  I've met people who had everything they wanted, and they gave all of it up to go serve others overseas or on a reservation or shelter.  Most importantly...I've met parents who had the career, the car, the beautiful home - and then a special child entered their life.  A child like Hannah.  And did those parents turn away from that special child?  Did they have an abortion or give him/her up for adoption?  No!  In fact, I met one couple who actually adopted two little kids because their parents didn't want them.  Neither child was expected to live long, and both passed away before their eighth or ninth birthdays.

To adopt a child no one else wants, knowing he/she will die, just so this child can have someone to hold them for a few short years?  Now that is love.  That is selfless, raw, painful, beautiful love.

Is that also too good to be true?

In our culture, if that sort of love is shown, is it automatically suspicious, untrustworthy?  Do we immediately assume this couple was hiding an evil, selfish motive to adopt two little children who couldn't speak or defend themselves? (Think about that one.)  Is is so impossible for our day and age to wrap our heads around the fact that somebody would actually give up everything for someone who could not give anything back, no strings attaced?  In our day and age, is such an act too good to be true?

If that is the case, pause for a moment, and think about what that implies.

Especially think about what it would imply for kids like Hannah, who can never repay the person who reaches out and helps them.  If charity/love can never be genuine charity/love...where does that leave them? I believe such love is too good to be true?  Absolutely not.  I believe it is so good it proves its own truth, and shows that there is a world above our own world, higher and better than ours, and when it touches down in the form of real love, people get confused and say it must not be true.

Am I getting carried away with this whole thing?  Probably.  But I needed to let off some steam, after all.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Innocent Suffer

Growing up, I was taught that we are born sinners. I was taught that from the moment we are conceived, we are sinners, because we inherit what’s called “The Old Adam.” In other words, we inherit a sinful nature from our parents, and we’re in need of redemption from the moment we’re born, and therefore in need of the grace supposedly administered at infant baptism. I grew up believing that if a newborn died without being baptized, it was considered lost. This is part of what’s called a Calvinist view, that our sin is something beyond our choices. We’re so much a sinful race of people, that we’re guilty from birth, or even conception.

Some years later, I became a part of a more evangelical and fundamental church. I was introduced to a very different point of view: that sin had to do more with our choices. Yes, we as fallen human beings did have a sinful nature, but we choose to live sinfully or righteously. This is part of what’s called an Arminian view, that we have a choice to live holy or selfishly. We can choose or reject salvation in Christ.

For a long time, I didn’t buy the latter theory. It was difficult to jettison the Calvinistic view I’d grown up with. I was still mostly aligned with the thinking, “You don’t have to teach a child to be naughty.” I couldn’t argue it thoroughly, but I couldn’t quite buy the theory that kids were born completely innocent. However, given the fact that some (aborted or miscarried) never get to choose, I came to think that the truth was somewhere in between Calvin and Armin.

Then Hannah came into our family. One of Hannah’s captivating qualities, part of her light, is her profound innocence. There is not a shred of rebellion or self-centeredness within her. Sure, she fusses or cries when she’s uncomfortable, or in pain, or frightened. But Hannah hasn’t seemed to have developed that tendency to manipulate that we’re having to discipline out of our older three children. Hannah never chooses the best for herself, never insults anyone, never judges anyone, never boasts, never lies, and never hurts anyone. She’s innocent.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Well, of course she never insults or manipulates anyone. She doesn’t know how. There isn’t enough cognitive ability or reason or consciousness of self to do it!” And you’re right. But innocence is still innocence - whether by choice or default.

So, what? Well, we all believe in good, old-fashioned justice, right? The good guys win, the bad guys lose, and everyone gets what’s coming to them, right? So, if Hannah is innocent, why does she suffer? Why did she of all people have to endure heart surgery at age seven months? Why does innocent little Hannah have to go through the nausea that accompanies anesthesia? When kids younger than Hannah easily play with her toys, why can’t she? Why does innocence, even innocence not chosen, have to suffer?

That’s a question we won’t fully have an answer for until the next life, and God explains all the mysteries to us. I don’t fully know, nor even claim to be capable of understanding the issue fully. But I do know this: in a fallen, sinful world - the innocent, sinless Son of God had to suffer and die for a world of sinful human beings. The innocent One who called Himself “the Light of the world” suffered on behalf of the guilty. I don’t think Hannah suffers on behalf of anyone else. Jesus suffered that Hannah might have eternal life as well. But Hannah’s suffering in innocence is part of the profound, bright light of her life. Her life is sort of an analogy of Jesus Christ.

I have several reminders of Christ - the famous Warner Sallman portrait of Jesus, a cross on a chain, and another famous painting entitled, “The Road to Emmaus.” They are powerful reminders of the presence of the living Christ in my life. But none of them are as powerful of a reminder of Jesus as Hannah’s suffering in innocence. It’s part of Hannah’s light.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Fresh start

My dad and I are starting to work harder on this blog. We're working on putting more life into it, giving it some more energy. So both of us will be posting more in the future.

There are tons of stories we're ready to share about Hannah.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

sometimes I feel guilty

I get to self-publish my first novel.

I get to eat taco pizza and nutella - popcorn and mangoes - a sip of hot coffee in the morning and a sip of cold beer before bed.

I get to go to college and earn a degree in whatever field I so desire.

I get to complain about universes that don't exist, people I will never meet, and events that have no significance on my everyday life whatsoever.

To put it in even simpler terms...I get to walk.

I get to feed myself.

I get to sing off-key.

I get to sit down and type something.

But you knew all this already.  And chances are, you can do all those things to.  So what's my point?

Hannah can't do any of those things.

Hannah will never publish a book, know what a fresh strawberry or a chocolate fudge mousse cake tastes like, or earn any sort of education.  She will never walk or feed herself or sing a song in the shower.

All she will be able to do is look up at people and give them the sweetest smile.

Here's a thought.

If I'm able to do all of those things...

Why is Hannah the one who is always smiling up at people - and not me?

Of all the things I can do, why don't I smile?

Why is it her instead?