First Book Signing

Saturday morning’s forecast was pouring down rain with a chance of more rain. Hooded and hunched, we hauled a cart of fruit, danish platters and an orange jug of water across the street to the Family Life Center. Our book signing was supposed to be held at the outdoor playground, but the weather told us to go with Plan B.

Our sweet friends, Morgan and Jeff, showed up early to help us set up, and Joey’s parents drove down from Tulsa to help corral Finn. We were so glad they came because Joey and I were busy!photophoto-2

Finn whizzed around in his wheelchair, charming and flirting with the guests for about 2 hours.photo-3

The Strevett family was the first to show up and stayed the entire time, playing games at a nearby table. They even let Finn in on a round of cards.photo-5

Despite the rain, we had a fantastic showing and sold over 100 books…completely selling out of hardbacks.

We were surprised by some old friends and Finn’s daycare teacher, Ms. Valerie, even showed up! It was fun to see so many friends and we’re eternally grateful for their continued support.

The Dokes!

The Dokes!

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If you weren’t able to come to the signing or missed my first blog post/round of book reservations, here are your options:

  1. Come to our second book signing at Full Circle Bookstore in OKC. Saturday, Oct. 19th from 3-5pm. Get there early…I’m hoping we’ll run out of hardbacks quickly.
  2. Order paperbacks online through Tate Publishing’s website. They take about 2 weeks to arrive.
  3. Order the Kindle version through Amazon.
  4. Email me at ashley_dawn6@ yahoo.com NOW 🙂 to reserve a hardback or two. I’ll give you more info and where you can send your mula in a reply email. We will place one more shipment of hardbacks just in time for Christmas. They take about 6 weeks to arrive, so if you need a book for an upcoming shower, etc., I suggest ordering a paperback through Tate.photo-1

Thanks again for your support and for following our journey.

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Even if He Does Not…

Six months ago Finn’s annual MRI results came back with bad news. He had a syrinx, or excess spinal fluid in his spine–not good. If it remained or worsened after six months, Finn would need invasive, exploratory surgery to determine the cause.

Tuesday was Finn’s six month follow up MRI. The process is more difficult than it seems, because of course, an 18 month old cannot stay still for two-four hours while the imaging machine hums and moans and clicks. So, they give him gas and an IV for anesthesia.photo-4

Joey and I waited a few hours in OU Children’s lobby, praying for our little man.photo-2

Finn came out of anesthesia just fine. While kids around us are screaming and moaning in the recovery room, Finn’s quietly sipping his apple juice. photo-1The nurse told us he was the sweetest boy she’d ever served. “He made my day.” The Lord uses Finn in this way often. Sometimes I wonder if he’s actually an angel…chubby, porcelain skin and a smile that siphons joy into the darkest of days.photo-3

We wouldn’t know results until Thursday. As I was driving home from work Tuesday night, I told God I believed He was good regardless of the outcome. And I really meant it. I snapped a quick picture of the scenery to commemorate this epiphany.photo

Without realizing it, until the past year of my life I think I believed God’s goodness depended on His goodness to me. If good things happened to me and I generally felt “blessed,” God was a good God. If bad things happened or my prayers didn’t turn out the way I begged for them to, God was not good and I felt punished.

Of course I watched bad things happen to good people and struggled inwardly with the injustice of it all. But at the end of the day, it wasn’t my life. And because I’m selfish and consumed with my world, I would pray for these friends or family and sincerely shed tears and empathize, but they weren’t my tragedies and it was easy to forget them.

But Finn’s disability and fragile health conditions don’t go away.

I wake early to his whimper and the legs still flop lifeless as I change his diaper. The tiny shunt still forms a lump beneath his auburn hair and I wonder how long until the next malfunction. These things–in my mind–are bad. But I’m absolutely convinced that God is still good. My circumstances and God’s goodness are no longer connected. He is still sovereign and I am still His child–forgiven, redeemed and grateful.

I was nonetheless relieved when I received a text from Joey between clients on Thursday that the syrinx was gone! Fluid had receded and all looked healthy. God is so good!

I thought of those three studs standing at the precipice of King Nebuchadnezzar’s flaming furnace:

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3: 17,18). 

I’ve come to believe that God is good even if He does not answer my prayers. I don’t know how this shift of thought happened in me, but I think it’s a big deal. A life-changer.

Dawn

About an hour south of Norman nestled in the Arbuckle Mountains is a quaint community called Davis. It’s main attraction is Falls Creek, the site of the largest summer youth camp in the world. Churches from all over the state own and rent out cabins there to students, ministers and guests looking to get away from life “on the grid” and to reconnect with the Lord.

This weekend I helped sponsor a college retreat at Falls Creek. Joey led worship and did an excellent job leading us in a discussion about time. How we abuse it, are enslaved to it, selfish with it and have manipulated it to serve us.

Finn get so little attention at church. ;)

Finn gets so little attention at church. 😉

God’s idea of time, found in the creation account of Genesis, seemed to be simply day and night. Sunrise and sunset.

Naturally, the students went on a sunset hike. I wasn’t able to attend, though I heard it was beautiful. My arm was dangling (numb and tingling) over a pack-n-play for about 30 minutes, rubbing Finn’s back to help him fall asleep in a strange place.

At dawn, Finn and I tagged along with the students for the sunrise hike.

Early morning...boys making coffee

Early morning…boys making coffee

photo-1We topped the hill and waited, scanning the expanse below. Fog hovered over the valley like a ghost. A Holy Ghost, I imagined. “…darkness was over the surface of the deep and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Gen. 1:2).photo-3

I imagined God hovering over me and my little life. Protection in its most intimate form.photo-2

We all watched in expectation, waiting for the first sign of morning to appear over the horizon. For the sun, the reliable one, to reveal its glorious head, crowned in light. It came, as it always does. I breathed in deep the crisp air now illuminated by the sun, in awe of its raw beauty.photo-5

My middle name is Dawn, after my mom’s pretty younger sister. So I always pay special attention to verses that mention the “dawn.” Several places in Psalms, the psalmist writes that God will “awaken the dawn.” I love the idea of God having to rouse to awakening the morning itself.

I thought of this particular verse as I watched the sunrise Saturday morning:

Commit your way to the Lord. Trust also in Him and He will do it. He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. (Psalm 37:5,6)

When I choose to commit my life to the Lord, something beautiful happens. Something sunrise-worthy.photo-4

All my mundane, everyday moments and my grandiose life-shaping moments blend together to project His light into a darkened world…as surely and as poetically as the dawn swept radiance into the foggy valley below, transforming it into something beautiful.

Second Tri

Friday night we celebrated Pascha’s 30th birthday at my favorite restaurant, Cheevers. Yum-o. Laura pioneered a sweet tradition of eight of us friends “toasting” the birthday boy/girl at dinner. We all usually end up wiping a tear or two away and laughing obnoxiously. Especially when Carter (though sincerely, I believe) recited the benediction for my birthday toast in June.

all dolled up

It’s a rare day that I don’t wear tennis shoes.

My parents arrived while we were out to dinner and took over for our babysitter. They were in town this weekend to cheer us on and watch Finn while we competed in the Tie Dye Tri, a sprint triathlon. This was our second attempt. First attempt here. Saturday morning I woke up with a migraine and ran a fever/chills throughout the day. I battled a fever earlier during the week too, but I thought it had run its course. Surely I wouldn’t be able to compete.

So when I woke up this morning in a pool of sweat (because my fever broke) and without a pounding headache, I was a little disappointed, to be honest. My mind was not prepared to compete and my body was weak. But I couldn’t let my training go to waste.

We arrived dark and early to set up our transition stations.photo

Our buddy and Joey’s training partner, Dustin, competed for Team Spina Bifida with us again. 9762831152_bd0298f5fa_b

He and his wife, Laura are such supportive friends. Laura chronicled the whole triathlon through pictures, so I’ll let her finish telling the story…

Swim comes first, but no one gets there early enough to watch us. And they don’t let visitors into the pool anyway.

So bike comes next. My fav. It was WINDY!

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Then we run.

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Joey's signature photo finish. Love this silly man.

Joey’s signature photo finish. Love this silly man.

Our faithful fans:

Nana Deb and Finn

Nana Deb and Finn

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Ali flagging in her daddy from the bike.

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My sweet parents

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Aaron, the cutie. Finn’s bud.

Our love and the reason we don’t waste our ability to move:

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Joey beat his time by a minute, Dustin beat his by 3 minutes, and I was 3 minutes SLOWER this year. Poop. I know I was sick, but really I think I just transitioned and ran slowly! I was pretty bummed with my time.

9763185253_10e9f018d3_bIt sure was a beautiful morning to be moving and breathing deeply. I loved praying for friends, family and Finn while I struggled through each stage of the race. I’m thankful for legs that do what I ask them to, despite their lethargic pace this particular morning.

Whisper

Today, 9-11, is a day no American should allow to slip past their memory. Our nation’s vulnerability and colossal strength were displayed almost simultaneously. I’m grateful today for those who lost their lives and those who risked their own to save others.

9:11 is also important to Joey and I because it’s the time Finn was born on February 27th. A nurse called out his weight, height and time of birth as I lay on the frigid steel operation table. Joey and I looked at each other in surprise (not the most promising of times: 911 the emergency number, Twin Towers crumbled to the ground on that fateful day…). I asked the nurse if she could just change it by a minute. Make it 9:12? Pulll–ease? She said that was illegal. We said we wouldn’t tell. She wasn’t amused.

So Finn was born at 9:11am.

Does God ever do sweet little things for you? Personal, intimate little things that no one else would really even notice, but they are a reminder to you that He cares? My friend, Christina, introduced me to this idea in college. She said every time she hears a dove coo, she remembers God is near.

Since Finn’s birth, it seems anytime Joey and I check the clock, it’s 9:11. Seriously. It’s weird. And I’m not even trying to make it happen…I’m not waiting around at 9:10 to watch it turn. I check my phone or the oven or my car’s clock, and it’s 9:11.

These pics are of the lock home screen on my iPhone. Just nine of literally dozens of 9:11’s I captured on my phone, and many more went undocumented. A silly reminder to Joey and I that God cares for us.

If you can’t think of a way God “speaks” personally to you, ask Him to. I believe that prayer will be quickly answered. He shows up in some of the least expected places.

As found in 1 Kings 19, the Lord “was not in the wind…the earthquake…or the fire.” He was in the whisper.

Survival of the Sweetest

I was sifting through Facebook this weekend and my scroll slowed upon an article about a couple adopting from India. The little boy, Adam, had been abandoned because he was born with several physical deformities. My heart flipped and tears welled at this story of a Christian couple wrapping their arms of inclusion and acceptance around Adam, calling him a blessing though he was considered a “curse” in his own culture. Beautiful picture of Christ’s adoption of us.

I thought about how it would feel to bring little Adam to Target or to church for the first time. Despite the awkwardness of his appearance, I think I could be his protector, be proud of him, advocate on his behalf, as he is a child of God just like I am.

Then I thought about how I felt when Finn was in my womb. I was somewhat ashamed; not as proud as I imagine I’d be to adopt Adam.

For some reason–and I wish it weren’t true–somehow I felt like Finn’s deformity was my fault because he was mine. My genes, my chromosomes, my egg. I know Spina Bifida was random and unexplainable for us…but it’s so difficult to believe that the appearance, behavior, abilities and demeanor of your child are not a reflection of you. Right? Isn’t this why parents scream and stomp on the sidelines when their athlete is striking out, or why we get defensive and embarrassed when our child is misbehaving in public, or why toddler beauty pageants even exist? We think they reflect (positively or negatively) upon us.

My pride often gets in the way. I feel a need to defend myself regarding Finn’s disability sometimes. This wasn’t my fault. I took prenatal vitamins; I promise. Stop judging me. When did I start believing Finn’s life is about me? Yuk.photo

Joey and I are watching “North America” as I type. It’s a beautifully scripted documentary with stunning cinematography about the animals of our continent. One theme I’ve deduced in the past hour: survival of the fittest. Male rams collide horns to earn the female. Female buffalo single out the strongest bull to father their children. The Costa Rican bird with the funkiest dance moves scores the woman. Bald eagles allow their weaklings to die. Natural selection.

The hair on my “momma spine” goes up as I think of how Finn would have been left behind; cursed by the animal kingdom. But Praise God we are not animals.

“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
    who draws strength from mere flesh
    and whose heart turns away from the Lord

 But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in him” (Jeremiah 17:5-8).

Amen.

What Finn lacks in mobility and physical prowess, God gave him ten-fold in spirit, humor, joyfulness and sheer sweetness.

at the lake this weekend

at the lake this weekend

His beautiful Candy Baby face reminds me to deny my ugly pride and be grateful–overjoyed, even–that I was chosen to advocate for this precious life; to help him find worth, dignity and indomitable strength from our Lord.

What if the gentlest people wielded the most power? The most generous were the wealthiest? The last were first?photo-1

What if the sweetest boy, though crippled, were the epitome of strength?