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Thursday, July 30, 2009
"Mallory got out of surgery about 9:00 last night. The doctor said the fracture was worse than he expected, but not unusual as they can't see everything on the MRI. He removed the 5th & 6th vertebrae and replaced with what hecalled a "cage" made out of carbon. They filled the inside of the cage with her own bone and some cadaver bone, then attached it to the 4th & 7th vertebrae with plates and screws.
There was lots of bleeding, but he said that was to be expected. They will keep a very close watch on that tomorrow. He said it was really a mess in there, but that it is always worse than it looks on an MRI, so that wasn't a shock to him. The good news is that there was no spinal fluid leakage. There was a fracture in her lower back, but he said that should heal on its own. If not, and if she complains with pain, they will put a soft brace on it. They will try to sit her up today.
The disappointing news he said was that the electrode test did not detect any nerve sensation to speak of. That sounds and is bad, but he stressed that he had had patients make a lot of progress when the swelling goes down. Sherri said he stressed over and over that this is where their faith and prayers come in. She said he was the kindest, most compassionate doctor (Dr. Ali Raja). What a blessing to have someone like that! Thank you, Lord! Mal does have good shoulder movement, but minimal hand and arm control at this point. We pray that improves."
Again, thank you for your prayers for Mallory...I'll keep you updated as I hear more.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
The first is the story of Jesus healing a blind man, recorded in John 9: "As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him." (vv. 1-3)
The second is the story of Lazarus, recorded in John 11. When Lazarus became ill, his sisters, Mary and Martha, "sent to Him, saying, "Lord, he whom you love is ill." But when Jesus heard it He said, "This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it."" (vv. 3-4)
Interesting, huh? God clearly has a purpose for the difficulties and suffering of this life. We don't know why Hannah had to have cancer or why God did not choose to heal her physical body, but we can certainly see that He had a purpose for her life. And that is a great source of comfort and assurance!
Monday, July 27, 2009
They wore matching G&G Camp shirts all week, and you may be able to see in the above picture that all of their names were listed on the back...even baby Faith, who was not big enough to come this year. Hannah's name was on there too, with a gray ribbon in front of it...gray is the color for brain cancer awareness. Of course, the girls and their grandparents all missed Hannah...as the oldest, she was always sort of the "head cousin". I think it was a good time of togetherness and healing for all of them. It sure was great to get Bethany back home on Friday night...we really missed that girl!
Saturday night, Bethany and I (along with Bethany's best friend, Kristen, and her mom) went to the American Idol concert in Little Rock. We had a great time at the concert, but it ended up being a surprisingly emotional experience for me. You see, Hannah was the real American Idol fan in our family, and she and I had been to AI concerts together for the last four years. We have lots of good memories associated with AI, and some not so good. At last year's concert, which we attended in September in Oklahoma City, Hannah really wasn't feeling well, and we actually left early. It was just about a week after that when we found out that her cancer had returned. Watching the show this year was also very different. The show starts in January every year, and she was really looking forward to it. But by the time it started, she was beginning to have some problems with short-term memory and had trouble following it from episode to episode. She never really grasped that there was a guy from Arkansas in it this year. After she went to Heaven in February, we continued to watch the show, and thought of her through every episode. Wouldn't she have been surprised when that guy from Arkansas, Kris Allen, actually won! She would have loved the concert this year...especially the screaming that erupted when THIS showed up on the big screen! A lot of that screaming came from Bethany and Kristen, sitting right next to me! Kris did a great job, and Hannah would have loved it.
We finished up the weekend by speaking at a wonderful little church in Umpire, Arkansas, on Sunday. It was a sweet fellowship, and a perfect way to mark the five month anniversary of Hannah's first day in Heaven.
Please continue to remember Jamie Morris and Lauren Crook in your prayers. Jamie is still inpatient at St. Jude's and waiting for his counts to rise enough to continue his chemotherapy. In the meantime, he has had a couple of rough days. Lauren will be having scans on Friday. They will put her to sleep for these scans since she has been unable to lie still enough. Finally, please add Alan McCone to your prayer list...he is a young husband and father who is being treated for Stage IV kidney cancer. I've been visiting with his sweet wife via Facebook. I've also added links to several more websites of children and adults who are in need of prayer. So many needs...but God remains faithful. I am so thankful for this promise: "I saw a new Heaven and a new earth, for the old Heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. He will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain." Revelation 21:1,4. He truly is good, all the time!
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
"Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse was one of America's great preachers. His first wife died from cancer when she was in her thirties, leaving behind three children under the age of twelve. Dr. Barnhouse was driving home from the funeral service with his children when a huge truck stopped next to them at a traffic light, blocking the sunlight and covering the car with its shadow. He turned to his children and said, "Death is like that. It blocks the sunshine, but the sun is still shining.""
I think the truth of that statement applies not just to death, but to any of the storms we face in life...cancer, relationship problems, financial struggles. No matter how strong the storm and how dark the clouds, the sun is still shining...even if we can't see it at the time! We just have to continue to trust in God's goodness.
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." Psalm 23:4 (NIV)
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Even as I grieve the fact that Hannah will not get to experience her senior year of high school, I am reminded that what she is experiencing now is SO much better than anything we feel that she may be missing on earth. How can high school compare to Heaven? What a question! So, as the "little things" continue to jab away, I cling to Hebrews 13:14: "For this world is not our home; we are looking forward to our city in Heaven, which is yet to come." God truly is good, all the time!
P.S. Just as a funny side note, we get lots of these college invitations in the mail these days, but someone made a computer error somewhere, and many of them come addressed to "Hannah Skink" instead of "Hannah Sullivan". That always gets a chuckle out of us...she would think that was hilarious!
Monday, July 20, 2009
The Sullivan Cousins (January, 2009)
Friday, July 17, 2009
Bethany & Faith
Bethany, Faith, & Brad's sister, Sarah
Tonight, we are hoping to go to a Texas Rangers baseball game, and then tomorrow we'll be leaving Texas and heading to Brad's mom and dad's house in Van Buren. We will be speaking at a church there on Sunday, and we are looking forward to once again sharing God's goodness through Hannah's story. Again, thanks for your prayers!
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
This week, we will be traveling to Allen, Texas, to visit a church that has a Cancer Ministry. This ministry includes five parts: a monthly support group for cancer patients and their families, organized prayer support, a cancer education program, a special events program (Relay for Life, blood drives, etc.), and a ministry to meet the physical needs of those with cancer (meals, mowing grass, etc.). We feel that God may be calling us to start a similar type of ministry at our church in Hot Springs, and we will be visiting this church to see how theirs is organized, what has/has not worked for them, etc. We're just in the very beginning stages of this project...we don't yet know in what form God may choose to create this ministry in our church.
Please pray for us as we make this trip...that God will show us what we need to see and teach us what we need to learn about this ministry, and how best it can be implemented in our church. We're also going to squeeze in a family visit while we're there...Brad's sister and her husband live in Waco, and we're looking forward to seeing them and their six-month-old daughter, Faith, while we're there!
Also, please continue to pray for Jamie Morris...currently battling osteosarcoma for the ninth time! He has started a blog of his own--check it out at www.jm-journal.com/blog. Also, Lauren Crook, who I've mentioned several times over the past few months, is scheduled for scans on Friday...please keep her in your prayers as well.
Thank you so much for your prayers...you all continue to carry us through this journey day by day! Let me close with a paragraph from an email we received last week...what an encouraging word!
"I remember you guys often in my prayers. Based on your previous mailings, I know your faith has been strengthened through all this, but I also suspect that the human side (that still exists) can sometimes get you down. What a conflicting condition we live in here and now; our spirit with its eternal perspective and our bodies with its limitations and emotions. How amazing is it that even though what you’ve gone through has to be the worst of the worst, that you know and sense the presence of the Father, and that he’s carrying you through. His presence during the worst of the worst and the “peace that surpasses understanding” just confirms that He is God; He is Love; He is Mercy; He is Grace; He is Everything. What a Mighty God we serve!!!!!!!"
Friday, July 10, 2009
"I like to compare suffering to making a cake. No one sits down, gets out a box of baking powder, eats a big spoonful, and says, "Hmmmm, that's good!" And you don't do that with a spoonful of shortening or raw eggs or flour, either. The tribulation and suffering in our lives can be compared with swallowing a spoonful of baking powder or shortening. By themselves these things are distasteful and they turn your stomach. But God takes all of these ingredients, stirs them up, and puts them in His own special oven. He knows just how long to let the cake bake; sometimes it stays in God's oven for YEARS. We get impatient and want to open the oven, thinking Surely the cake must be done by now. But not yet, no not yet. What really matters is that the cake is BAKING and the marvelous aroma is filling the house.
I find that people who trust God with their suffering have an invisible something, like the invisible aroma of a freshly baked cake, that draws people to them. As Paul put it, "all things [all the ingredients of pain and suffering] work together for good to them that love God" (Rom. 8:28).
When we believe that nothing comes to us except through our Heavenly Father, then suffering begins to make a little sense to us--not much, I admit, but a little bit, and that's all God needs to work in our lives, just a mustard seed of faith. Then we can see that God is using our pain to work something in us that is redemptive. Every trial or broken relationship goes into God's oven and eventually we begin to "smell" like cake or fresh bread. Even our suffering counts for something!"
Isn't that good? It's great to know that God can take our suffering and our hard times and make something beautiful of them!
We will be sharing the story of our "cake baking" this Sunday evening at 6:00 at New Prospect Missionary Baptist Church in Benton...please pray that God will continue to use Hannah's story to draw people to Himself.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
She drew the cover picture, which is a bell (her grandma always called her "Hannah Bell") with five self-descriptive words under it..."joyful", "optimistic", "sweet", "Christian", "caring". The first page put a lump in my throat: "Dedicated to My Amazing Family". She begins with a chapter called "Before Me", in which she states that we were so ecstatic when she was born that we gave her the middle name "Joy", which is true! That chapter is followed by a chapter for each year of her life. It was so much fun reading all of these chapters, and looking at all the photographs she included. The one that really got to me was the final chapter, which was titled "My Future Possibilities", and reads as follows:
"As I think about the future, I get so excited because I know my future is bright. I love to think about what is to come, and I do constantly. I plan to graduate high school with a 4.0 and at the top of my class. Then, I would like to enroll in Ouachita Baptist University with a full or almost full paid scholarship, and study elementary education to become an elementary teacher. I'd graduate with a bachelor's degree from OBU, and then go somewhere for my master's degree in teaching. I would hope to be married by the time I graduated college, so I would settle down in a small town in Arkansas and start a family (and teach). When I'm old enough to retire, I will probably move closer to where my grandkids live so I could be close to them and watch them grow up. I want to live a long, happy, healthy and content life that I can look back on someday and be proud of. And maybe someday I'll read this book and I'll think, "Wow, I did just that!""
...As you can imagine, reading this paragraph, especially the last part, felt like a punch in the stomach. It literally left me almost breathless for a few minutes. How can someone so excited and full of plans for the future just be gone? How can her innocent desire for a long and healthy life be so unfulfilled?
And God had to gently remind me of something I already know. As we speak to groups and churches, one of the things we talk about is God's sovereignty...the fact that He is in control in and through every situation. As Hannah's illness progressed and it became apparent that, without a miracle, she would be leaving us for Heaven, we felt that we were being called to submit to His will for her life and for ours. Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans that I have for you,...plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope." Hannah's future was in His hands...she had her own plans, we had our plans for her...but God had a better plan. What seemed to be a calamity to us was the best thing that ever happened to her!
I found this quote the other day:
Death is God's way of saying, "Your table is ready."
I love that! Barbara Johnson in "Pack Up Your Gloomees in a Great Big Box, Then Sit on the Lid and Laugh" says this: "There is a finality to death that is inescapable. You can't go around it, over it, or through it. All you can do is negotiate--not for a reversal that could bring your loved one back, because there is none. Instead, you plead for some kind of understanding, some way to make sense of it all as you try to get through it, allowing your grief to take its course and let the pain eventually drain away."
We will never completely understand why Hannah's wish for a long and healthy life was unfulfilled on this earth, but she also said that she wanted to be able to look back on her life someday and be proud of it. I think that if she could see the lives that have been touched through her relatively short life (and I think maybe she can in Heaven), she would be proud. Thank you for being part of her story by reading these postings!
Monday, July 6, 2009
As always, we really feel Hannah's absence when we're with family. But, I had a wonderful reminder of where she is, right when I needed it, after we got home. I am an avid reader of World magazine, which is similar to Time or Newsweek, but written with a Christian worldview. A few months ago, they announced a contest in which people could nominate "Best Last Lines" of books, and their most recent issue lists the winners. One of the most popular last lines was from C. S. Lewis's "The Last Battle" (the final book in the Chronicles of Narnia), and I thought it was wonderful:
"All their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before."
Isn't that an awesome description of Heaven?
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
- It cannot cripple God's love
- It cannot shatter hope
- It cannot corrode faith
- It cannot destroy peace
- It cannot kill friendship
- It cannot shut out memories
- It cannot silence courage
- It cannot invade the soul
- It cannot steal eternal life
- It cannot conquer the spirit
"What Cancer Cannot Do", Zondervan Corporation, 2006.