I Did

My last name has been Armstrong for six years today. I couldn’t be more proud to share the name of the person I like the most. I think he is the most funny, the most genuine, the most handsome, and the most brave.

He brings out the best version of me but he gives me grace when I’m my worst.

We giggle at the same things. Like Michael Scott’s pitiful monologues. Or the woman who greeted us in the hotel elevator this weekend and asked us in a smoker’s British/country accent, “So what ah you two doin fo da forf?”

He reminds me of truth. Sometimes subtly, sometimes bluntly.

We prefer to be outside.

We are fully aware that each other is imperfect but are absolutely perfect for each other.

He puts toothpaste on my toothbrush.

We made one pretty darn cute kid.

I told him at the onset of our relationship that if he was going to “be drama for me,” I wanted nothing to do with him. He’s proven trustworthy ever since.

He encourages me to do the things I love. No matter how inconvenient…or sweaty.

We’ve weathered some scary storms together.

He pursues me.

We take the tomatoes off our salad.

He gives his best effort when “folding” (aka: wadding) clothes.

We pray together.

I’m so glad we chose to risk on June 30th, 2006. We’re more in love today than yesterday. Glory to God.

Sweat and Tears

Clipped into one pedal, I slid on my half-finger cycling gloves. These somewhat serve a purpose: grip for when my hands get sweaty, but mostly I wear them because they make me feel hardcore. Fierce. Like the pavement better watch out.

I head up the busy road, praying a text-messager doesn’t run me over. Relieved, I turn left onto a country road lined with corn fields. The sun is setting behind them and I breathe deeply, drawing in the fresh air. I suck down a bug…not kidding. So I breathe through my nose. I thank God that I have the ability to move fast, to escape like this and ride hard. Then I get furious that Finn can’t. I begin “grunting,” audibly releasing stress, and soon, I’m bawling. Tears are streaming as I pray, yell and verbalize my feelings to the God who joined me on this ride. My bike wobbles as my vision is blurred from the tears. RPM’s at a record high, I bet I cried for about 4 miles.

I’ve heard the best way to relieve stress is to cry a lot or to sweat a lot. I was doing both, and my tension was fading. Though my body was fatigued, my mind and soul were being recharged by the sun’s oblique rays and the horses grazing contentedly behind the fences around me. Peace in chaos.

Dorky happy picture.

I hope you have a way to release stress. I suggest (I’m a personal trainer, after all) that it’s physical and involves some sweat or some tears. Maybe both.

Give and Take

Today little man had three big doctor appointments. Cousin Everett from Boston sent him a balloon and flowers to cheer him up about it. He’s so thoughtful.

Here’s what we learned from each appointment:

Orthopedics

  • Feet flexibility has improved since his one month visit
  • Right leg is stronger than the left, including the quadriceps, which will cause muscle imbalance…would be much more encouraging if both were equally strong (Pray for left leg to get stronger!)

    Thunder spirit in the waiting room. You can do it, boys!

  • The doctor explained that Finn would most likely need a brace that extends above the knee on the left leg and an ankle brace on the right leg to begin learning to walk
  • Then he clarified “walking: ” ambling with a sway to and fro due to underdeveloped glute (butt) muscles and hip instability
  • He said most of his SB patients actually prefer a wheelchair even though they can “walk” simply because it attracts less attention. Pragmatically, it gets them from “here” to “there” much easier. Basically we’ll leave it up to Finn if he wants to walk or not and we’ll give him all the tools he needs either way. (Pray for patience and contentment for Joey and I)
  • This is tough for me because it’s not as easy as muscular rehab…I work in a business where if something’s weak, you train it to strengthen it. In Finn’s case, the permanent spinal nerve damage is the main cause of his impediments.
  • Still no foot casting necessary at this point. Sweet.

CT Scan

  • Linda strapped Finn down in a straight-jacket of sorts as the table moved into the machine
  • His eyes crossed as he watched the wheeling, moving parts scanning his brain. He was a champ…the bottle helped!

Neurosurgery

  • Head circumference is down from 99th percentile to 75th! Woohoo! This means the shunt is working. (Pray it continues.)
  • Went over CT scan results: much more fluffy brain matter than when he was born! Better to think with.

    Pic on left is today (more blue stuff=brain matter!) and pic on right is at birth. Wow. Praise God for the shunt.

  • Developmentally doing very well thus far, however…
  • He’s missing (in part or entirely, not clear) the portion of his brain called the corpus callosum. It connects the right and left hemispheres of the brain and facilitates communication between them. This is totally unrelated to Spina Bifida…just another “very rare” congenital birth defect. (Pray for a miracle that this part of his brain “reappears.”)
  • There is a wide spectrum of the effects of its absence. It can be as minor as poor eye/hand coordination, which we already think is an issue for him, or as severe as autism and chronic seizures. (Pray for minor to NO developmental delays and normal brain functioning. No seizures or autism, please.)

Feeling thankful because IT CAN ALWAYS BE WORSE, but also a little bummed out, we went to our favorite place for delicious carbohydrates: Prairie Thunder Baking Co. in Midtown OKC. I don’t even like biscuits and gravy, but these puppies make any bad news just a little bit better.

“He gives and takes away.”(Job 1:21)

For the longest time I saw this verse from one perspective: He gives good, he takes away good–which is bad. But perhaps he gives bad, and takes away bad–which is good. Or maybe he gives good and takes away bad—which are both good. Confused? I think God does all these things. Praying for him to give and take away in Finn’s life.

Weak Things

strong boy

I flipped to Corinthians because it was my go-to “easy read.” Like Psalms and Proverbs. You know, it’s easy to swallow…nothing heavy like Ezekiel or Job or Leviticus, for Heaven’s sake. But I soon made it to this passage:

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. (1:27-29)

Whoa…ugh, choking here! I’m learning more and more that God is a paradox. I cannot, despite my most valiant efforts, understand Him. He is unpredictable and wild. I love Mr. Beaver’s insight in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: “He isn’t safe, but He’s good.”

I think Finn will understand these verses in 1 Corinthians better than I ever will because he has physical, actual, permanent weakness. His legs and feet just don’t work the way they should. Chances are, he’ll never walk. (Aside from his many other Spina Bifida-related health complications). For some reason God chooses weakness to “shame the strong.” I don’t believe for a second that Finn is privileged or morally superior because he has a disability. Or that able-bodied children/people should be “shamed.” Nonsense. These verses and Finn’s impairment simply make me re-evaluate what I believe strength to be. When I hold him close at night before releasing him to his crib, I pray Finn will be strong in ways that matter more than kicking or jumping or mountain biking (but I pray for those things too).

tired boy

It seems the purpose for this upside-down way of evaluating wisdom, strength and validity is so that we cannot boast. Boasting is ugly…even our unspoken boasts. Verse 31 of the same chapter says if we boast, we should “boast in the Lord.” And 2 Corinthians chapter 12 allows us only to boast in our weakness. Well, that’s no fun. The weak things are the strong things. The foolish things are the wise things. The things that aren’t, are.

Pops

Our pastor shared these difficult stats with us on Sunday:

  • 85% of youth in prison are from fatherless homes
  • 90% of homeless children grew up without their father
  • 1 in 3 children live in a home absent of their biological father
  • 63% of youth suicides are of children from fatherless homes

Praise God that Finn will not fall into these statistics and neither did Joey nor I. Fathers are a big deal.

Though a first-timer, Joey is a fabulous dad. This is no surprise, of course. He’s simply a stellar person. The first to hold Finn after birth, Joey calms him with his reassuring voice, rocks him in his strong arms and works hard to provide for us. He can get a smile out of that sweet toothless mouth better than anyone. I can’t wait to see how their relationship will develop over the years.

News Flash

New developments in the life of Finn Joseph Armstrong (and his parents):

  • Loves to read…or be read to…or to look at colorful books
  • Found his tongue and likes to stick it out
  • Has been “talking” up a storm…video to come in a later post!
  • Found his hands and is using them to grab at things
  • Likes to fit entire fist in his mouth
  • Urology check up appointment showed that kidneys looked even healthier than last time (Praise God!)
  • No need to continue cathing until Finn needs to stay dry or unless something changes