BLOGGINGCHARLIE

Becoming a Better Husband and Father

Blessings, Family, and Hair Falling Out

Sarah, the kids, and I had the incredible gift and privilege to have some family pictures taken by our dear friend Jessica Swenson. Please make sure you check out/follow her Facebook page and  think of her next time you’re in the market for some amazing photographs. We have been blessed in so many ways by our loving community, these photos are and example of one of those ways. These were taken before Sarah’s hair loss so I included a more recent picture at the bottom.

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photo by J. Swenson Photography

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photo by J. Swenson Photography

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photo by J. Swenson Photography

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photo by J. Swenson Photography

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photo by J. Swenson Photography

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photo by J. Swenson Photography

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photo by J. Swenson Photography

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photo by J. Swenson Photography

Sarah made the big decision to shave one side of her head (she’s so punk rock). If the hair continues to fall out, the other side is next and then, possibly her whole thing. It has been truly amazing to watch my dear bride during this process. I am blessed to be married to a women that keeps an eternal perspective. I am blessed to observe her sort through the temporal suffering, while maintaining a heart filled with gratitude. I am blessed that no matter how much hair she loses, how sick she has been, how difficult the circumstances we face, she is beautiful beyond reason. Inside and out.

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sweet haircut by Emily Smith

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Since my last post I have received a lot  of encouragement and a little concern from friends a family. I want to assure you that we are doing very well. We see our dear Savior in everything we are encountering and we are so grateful. Yes, there is loneliness and discomfort and change. But in that we see Jesus. We see ourselves being formed in his likeness and we know that in him we can endure all things.

Going Back to “Normal”

On October 13th, 2013 I started a blog. Two weeks later I began to ignore it. Now I’m back, two and a half months since my last post. I’m sorry for the break. I have tried to write on a few occasions. I have tried to be witty, truthful, encouraging. Honestly, I have been too tired to do or be any of those things. Don’t misunderstand, I continue to be grateful and amazed by the journey my family has walked through. I’m just tired. “Father of two babies” tired. “Manager in a grocery store during the holidays” tired. “Trying to process through the grief and gratitude” tired. Maybe it’s not a great excuse but it’s the one I’m using.

After Sarah’s hospitalization in mid September, we stayed with family in Roseville for a few months. In early November we came back to our home in Pleasanton and begin our readjustment to “normal” life. It has been a difficult and easy process. Easy because we are surrounded by friends and family who love us desperately. We see God in them. We have been supported and provided for beyond reason. We see God in this. Sarah and I continue to grow deeper in love. Our brush with tragedy has ignited something for both of us. We don’t want to waste time. And as I watch my dear bride love our babies, as I receive her adoring words and looks, as I listen to her worship our King, I am moved beyond words. I watch, receive from, and listen to our loving Savior through her and I am blessed. More than ever we see that love is a choice. We are called to make that choice every moment. And more often than ever, the choice is easy. I overwhelmingly choose to love my wife.

But it has been difficult. Difficult because of the medication she is on. Difficult because now I have to get a vasectomy. And I am reeeaaally not looking forward to that. Difficult because Sarah has lost three-quarters of her hair. This is a side effect of septic shock. Thankfully she can totally rock the bald spots.

ImageImage(super rad selfie, by Sarah Rose Meng)

And its difficult because there still is grief. Coupled with that grief is loneliness. I have felt considerably lonely since we have been home. I don’t fully know why. It has been hard and I have struggled but I’m learning trough this and dealing with it. We are growing. We know life will never totally look like it used to. I think that might be where the loneliness comes from. It’s funny because I don’t want life to look like it used to. Yet there is still an emptiness associated with knowing that even if we wanted to, we can never get back to “normal”.

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(photo by J Swenson Photography)

Gratitude (Continued)

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To all who have contributed to us, be it through financial giving, prayer support, sharing our story with others, sacrificing time and sleep, reading about our trials and joys, thank you. From the bottom and from every corner of our hearts, thank you. We have often been moved to tears as we are overwhelmed with the love and grace shown to us.

It’s surreal in some senses. As we watch our story travel the globe (folks from over 40 countries have visited this site), as we read stories and scripture sent from friends, family, and those we’ve never met, as the financial support continues to climb far beyond anything we could have dreamed, as we see the church pour out Christ’s love, we are filled to the brim with a joy we can’t describe. At moments we forget that we are the recipients of such amazing care. We want to join in!

The most beautiful piece in this is seeing/hearing the comments that clearly reflect the Lord’s presence in all of this. You are demonstrating God’s rich love to us. And the world is noticing. As you give so sacrificially, a light is shone upon our loving King and Savior so brilliantly.

We are honored to play our part in this story. It has been incredibly hard but we understand that through it Jesus receives glory.

The Lord has continued to remind us to keep our thoughts centered and still before Him. That has been difficult at times, as anxiety over finances, work, and care for our two little ones, would creep in so easily. With the giving that is pouring in through this site, a serious burden has been lifted. Friends at this moment are organizing a team to prepare meals, help clean, take Jude on walks, and support us when we get home. We are so humbled and grateful.

Many kind things have been written about us through this blog, the financial support site, and on facebook. We are so thankful for the role the Lord has allowed us to play in the lives around us but please know that first and foremost, we serve Jesus and He deserves all glory.

Jesus said to his disciples that the world would know that they are his by the way they loved one another. Your love for us is revealing His love. And that is amazing to watch and receive.

With love and the deepest gratitude,

Charlie and Sarah

Gratitude

A short post to quickly give an update. Sarah is doing well. Though it seems slow, there is progress everyday. Her most recent labs showed an increase in white blood cell counts. This could be due to dehydration, change in diet, or possibly infection. Sarah is showing no other signs of illness. We are confident future lab work will be of encouragement. She is still on blood thinners for a blood clot near her neck (a side effect from the central line installed in the ER). We are incredibly grateful for the progress she has made.

I am grateful I was able to celebrate my 32nd birthday a few days ago with my beautiful bride, realizing how incredibly different that day would have been had things gone differently in the ICU.

We are grateful for the thousands of people who continue to pray for us. The Lord hears those prayers and comforts us through them.

I am grateful for the hundreds of friends who have shared this blog. Thousands of people visit this site and I pray they are encouraged. People from over 40 countries have read these stories.

We are grateful to the friends and family who have sacrificed time and energy to come and help here in Roseville. You’re care has enabled Sarah to sleep easy. That has greatly helped her recovery.

We are grateful to those we work for. Their understanding and support eases our stress.

We are grateful to Vikki and Rico, Sarah’s aunt and uncle. They have put much of their life on hold to care for us. Their attention and sacrifice for our family has blessed us greatly.

I am grateful for my dear friends Dan and Tony who have started a campaign to help raise some funds for some of the costs we are incurring during this period of life. Check out this link If you are inclined.

We are grateful for the folks who have given money, time, thought, and prayer; to those who have shared scripture, encouraging words, and their stories with us, thank you.

We are grateful to be a part of this incredible family God has called us to.

We are grateful.

An Updated Hope

Sarah has been out of the hospital for two weeks now. Each day we see a little more improvement. Since her discharge, she has had an abdominal tube taken out; the staples from her c-section have been removed, as have the sutures from the lung drain. Her lab work was very encouraging yesterday. The doctor said she could stop the Lovenox, one of the two blood thinners she has been taking. This is especially exciting for Sarah as it was administered by syringe into the stomach and was pretty painful. She has been able to walk a little bit, which is encouraging because movement will help the build up of fluid to acclimate. The biggest concern is the fluid. Sarah has felt it rise since leaving the hospital, which if continued will result in a possible abdominal or lung tap. We have been able to share a bed again. This might seem like a minor victory but after four long weeks and having almost lost her, I can’t tell you how nice it is to hold my wife at night. It has been a joy to watch Sarah play with Jude and hold our sweet Stella. We have been surrounded by support as friends and family are helping out with the kids during the day and caring for our baby girl at night.

Jude (16 months)

Jude (16 months)

Stella Rose (1 month)

Stella Rose (1 month)

 

We have been through many trials regarding her health during our marriage and we are now entering the processing stage. This has looked differently each time and can take anywhere from a week to many months. In the past I have withdrawn from God, unable to reconcile His goodness to our immediate circumstances. I have embraced anxiety and fear. I have let myself drown in all the concerns of tomorrow: hospital bills, time off work, future sickness, etc. I have ridiculed my own ability to lead and provide for my family. This is all selfish and foolish, but it’s honest. Other times, I have felt a nearness to Him that I wish I could feel all the time. At this moment I recognize that through all of it I have seen my trust in Him grow. I have seen that suffering genuinely produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. I have seen that hope, true anchored hope, does not put us to shame. My hope has been refined. I have learned to lean on His actual promises, not the ones I invent in my own weakness. Sarah will be healed one day. Completely and totally healed, and I can’t wait to see her run and dance in the presence of her King, free from pain and caution. I used to bank on her being healed on this side of eternity, and as much as I still would love to see that and believe that our God is totally capable of accomplishing that, it’s not where my hope lies. My hope lies in the expansion of His kingdom, in His plan and His provision. It lies in the loving promise that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purposes. My hope is in this truth, that God’s definition of good far outweighs mine. My hope is that this slight, momentary suffering is far outweighed by the eternal glory being prepared for my bride and me. I understand now that the end of this story is not Sarah getting healthy. The end of this story is God receiving glory; it’s the eyes around us being directed to Jesus. And that is a story that will never end.

A Love Story

I met Sarah in March of 1992. Eighteen years and two months later I married her. Our story is not one that begins with “love at first sight.” I remember seeing her after her father was hired to lead music at our church. Sarah was pretty short for her age, had abnormally long arms, and walked with a bit of limp.  At the age of ten I asked my parents if they knew what was wrong with her. I was told that she suffered from a rare disease that had something to do with her bones and organs. I probably said something like “cool,” and ran off to light ants on fire with my magnifying glass. Sarah doesn’t remember meeting me. I didn’t have the luxury of some rare disorder that made an impression. I had to find my own, often times annoying, ways of getting noticed. And years later I would.

Sarah and I ran in similar circles throughout our adolescence and into high school. We were never very close. I was an awkward, clumsy, tall, skinny, teenager that was covered in acne. I was insecure and compensated for that by being terribly loud and obnoxious. Sarah remained very short (she maxed out in height at a adorable 4’9’’), was a bit rebellious, and wore overalls.

Summer of 1997 (Sarah on the left, Charlie on the right)

Summer of 1997 (Sarah on the left, Charlie on the right)

When she moved away after her freshman year of high school, I barely noticed. She would come back for summers and we would see each other on weekends and during trips we took with church group but she was a part-time friend and her coming and going only meant school was either in or out of session.

In 2004, immediately after her senior year of college (and my third year as a sophomore), Sarah’s mom passed away from breast cancer. Although we were not terribly close, her mom (as well as the rest of her family) had made an impression on me during their time in Northern California and when the opportunity came up to attend the memorial service I felt compelled to go. Sarah doesn’t remember me being there. I don’t blame her.

A year after her mom’s passing, Sarah was hired at the church I was interning at. We worked together with the high school ministry and both picked up side jobs at a local coffee shop. We worked together non-stop. We became very close friends and not surprisingly, Sarah soon developed some pretty intense feelings for me. Okay, maybe a little surprising. And maybe not intense. But she liked me! I didn’t pick up on her hints at all and ended up dating another girl (Hi Lauren!). Sarah got over me about the same time my relationship ended.

A few months later, after some deep contemplation, I came to the conclusion that Sarah was the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. So in mid 2008 I asked her out on a date. She, somewhat reluctantly, agreed. My intention was to tell her I loved her. Her intention was to let me down easy.   On our first date I told her how I felt and that I wanted to marry her at which point she got a lot more interested in her wine than she was in me. She was a little freaked out and I don’t blame her.  She let me down easy. It didn’t feel that easy to me. A little while later I found out she was hanging out with another guy (Hi Timmy!). After that ended, I waited a few months before letting her know that my heart hadn’t changed. She decided to give us a shot. Two months later we broke up. I won’t go into the details on what happened. It boiled down to not being on the same page. I was ready to marry her. She was ready to run. We tried to remain friends but it didn’t work. I couldn’t let her have a piece of my heart if she didn’t want the whole thing. So I did the hardest thing I’ve done and I stepped away from our friendship. During that time I knew it would be easy to distract myself by embracing sin issues that I had used in the past for conciliation. I resolved not to use lust and bitterness as tools to get over Sarah. Because I didn’t know any other way I prayed for the Lord to change my heart. He didn’t do that.

In October of 2009 I noticed a change in Sarah. She began to carry herself a little differently around me. It gave me hope. Later on she would let me know that the Lord had brought her through a personal journey, freeing her from some specific fears regarding relationship. I prayed and sought council and decided to reopen what had been closed. We started dating again later that month. Two months later we were engaged. Five months after that we were married.

Our Wedding Day (Photo by Ryan Haack)

Our Wedding Day (Photo by Ryan Haack)

I am grateful for the Lord’s plan. It was a weird road but it produced great fruit. I have never fought for anything in my life. I’m a fairly passive person. But something about this girl made me fight, made me think beyond myself.  And she continues to be worth the fight, worth the sleepless nights, worth the hospital stays, and the pain. Not because she has earned that worth but because the Lord has bestowed that worth on her. I am so grateful that I am the one charged to love her. And I will for all time.

Clumsy and Fragile

I’ve been known to use hyperbole on occasion. Please know that there is not an ounce of that in the following statement. On May 22nd, 2010 I married the most beautiful girl I have ever seen. Six days later she was in a Hawaiian hospital with a fractured hip and tailbone.

Sarah and I had an incredible wedding. Over five hundred friends and family watched us exchange covenant vows with one another and afterwards we danced the night away. Chipotle catered. It was the greatest day of my life. That night we were whisked away in our limo to the hotel where we would share our first night as a married couple. There was much anticipation in that limo ride, for more reason than one. The next day we would fly to Hawaii for our honeymoon but there were other things on our mind at that moment. Sarah and I had both made the decision early in life to remain sexually abstinent until marriage and we had honored that commitment. Let’s just say there was a lot of nervous excitement as we neared the hotel.

Besides our room being adjacent to a prom party, our flight getting cancelled (having to spend the night in Mount Hermon where Sarah’s folks live), and an unfortunate meal at Arby’s, the first few days as newlyweds were amazing. We were so happy, so optimistic about what our future held. On our third night in Hawaii, Sarah began to experience pain in her hip and was suffering from nausea. The symptoms intensified throughout the night and by early morning she couldn’t move, let alone walk. I carried her to the car and we left for the hospital. We knew that Sarah was prone to bone breaks due to a condition that forms hollow tumors in her bones. Having experienced breaks in the past, Sarah knew that something was wrong. At the hospital the doctors performed a series of X-Rays and CT scans and determined that micro-fractures had formed on her hip and tailbone. The doctor asked if she had experienced any falls or had taken part in any new high impact activities. There was only one activity that was new for us. You might see where this is going. I’m a clumsy man and I had married a fragile girl and I broke her hip.

Our Honeymoon Suite

Our Honeymoon Suite

The rest of our honeymoon was spent in a tiny hospital room. You would think for the $16,000 they charged us it could have been a little nicer. But the medical team was exceedingly kind. One nurse even drove to her own mother’s home, 20 miles away, to pick up a spare wheelchair for us to use. The flight home was incredibly hard. Oh yeah, and before the flight I got to purchase diapers for my wife, as standing up and sitting down was nearly impossible. They only had toddler size at the little store near the hospital so I looked for the biggest ones and purchased those. I wish you could have seen the look on Sarah’s face when I returned with “Toy Story 2” Pampers. I then had the privilege of putting one of those diapers on my new bride. We had to do a test run to make sure they would hold up on the plane. I will spare you those details. She was on heavy medication and doesn’t recall much of that day (or so she says). But I do. It was hard. Thankfully we can laugh about it now.

After our “honeymoon,” life got harder. We moved out of our first apartment (that we never got a chance to share together), because it was a second story and my bride could not get up the stairs. I crashed our car due to exhaustion. I lost my job. And six months later, right when Sarah was weaning herself off crutches, she broke her hip again. Not for the same reason (believe me, we had learned our lesson…), but a break is a break. Over our first year of marriage my wife only walked on her own for about 20 days.

But here’s the thing. In the midst of all this trial, all this pain, our God was working out something very special for us. We had an opportunity to do something that most married couples don’t experience until much later. We got to carry out our covenant vows. We loved each other in sickness and health. I was able to rise to the call, to love my wife as Christ loves the church. Sarah was able to receive my love and grow in her trust and respect for me. We have been called, through marriage, to display God’s sacrificial love for us.  We got the crash course on what that looks like. I am grateful for our journey. I know more today about what it means to love and I can honestly say I love Sarah more today than I ever have before. Genuine, sacrificial love will always point back to our Creator. He designed it. I am grateful that God uses the clumsy and the fragile to accomplish His purposes. He receives glory in our weakness and I am honored to be a part of that.

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