Monday, February 20, 2017

Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge?

My oldest niece and I are only a few days shy of being 27 months apart in age. I've often wondered who was more freaked out back then ... my mom who had a toddler when her teenage daughter had a baby or my sister who had a baby when her youngest sibling was a toddler. Something tells me there were more than a few times of total weirdness when my mom, my sister, my niece Sharon and I were out in public together. I mean, think about it ... people thinking mom was my grandmother ... people thinking my sister was my mom ... people trying to figure out why my niece and I looked as different as day and night. Even though I'm sure there was much awkwardness in the beginning, it all turned out well ... at least for my niece and I ... we grew up more like sisters than cousins and we were the best of buds. 

I can't remember how close in time it was when my niece and I each got married, but I think it may have been within a year or so of each other. She beat me to the punch in the having kids department, though, with her son Jeremy being born a year before my Mattie and her second child Rachel. Yep, you read that correctly ... my niece and I were both pregnant at the same time ... her with her second child and me with my first. Talk about a fun time ... we went baby clothes shopping together ... we downed gallons of fruit juice together ... we even had a baby shower together. She beat me to the punch again when her precious little girl Rachel was born a couple of months prior to Matt's arrival into the world.

Maybe it's because we were pregnant at the same time or maybe it's because Rachel and Matt were born so close together or maybe it's because my niece and I babysat for each other quite a bit or maybe it's because she's always been such a sweet kid, but I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Rachel and I'd do just about anything for her. Heck, I even drove all the way from Kansas to Tennessee in a car with three smelly teenagers to be at her wedding ... if that doesn't say best great aunt EVER, then I don't know what does. Rachel and Kevin's wedding ... that's the day two of the sweetest, kindest, most compassionate and loving young people I've ever known stood before God and their family and friends and made a promise to love and cherish each other for the rest of their lives. No matter what ... that's the day they said that no matter what life brought their way, they were committed to loving and caring for each other ... no matter what.

Before I go on, I want you to know that I asked Kevin and Rachel if it was okay with them if I wrote this post about them, saying I wouldn't mention their names and would only refer to them as members of my family. Big fat tears rolled down my cheeks when I read Rachel's text telling me not only that I could write about them, but that I could use their names as well. If I didn't already know that they're incredibly wonderful, brave, honest and courageous young people before, I certainly knew it the minute I read my sweet great niece's words on my phone. And now I've come to the hard part of my post this evening, the part I wish with all my heart I never had to write.

Several months ago, Kevin started having some muscle weakness that he thought was probably caused from overdoing it a little when he was working out. Then he began to experience a little difficulty in swallowing and he noticed that he seemed to be losing his balance and stumbling more than he had before. It became apparent to Kevin that there was something more going on than just working out too hard or that his throat was just sore or that his inner ear might be out of whack, he went to the doctor to find out what was wrong. The doctor ordered a battery of tests ... tests in which the results indicated Kevin might have ALS, a diagnosis which has since been confirmed by other physicians at two of the top research hospitals in the country.

Please know this ... I'm not writing this post tonight because I want you to feel sorry for Kevin and Rachel or their two young children, and that's not what they want either. I'm not writing tonight to ask you to send a big fat check to the ALS Association or to encourage you to start round two of the ice bucket challenge to raise funds to help find a cure. Don't get me wrong ... if you feel led to donate a big chunk of change to fund research toward finding a cure for this terrible disease, I'll be the first in line to encourage you to do so but please know that's not what my post this evening is about. I'm writing this post tonight about Kevin and Rachel for one reason only, and that reason is indeed something I want to ask you to do. I'm writing this post tonight because I know many of you believe, as I do, in the power of prayer and I'm asking you to pray. 

I'm asking you to pray that God will choose to reach down and heal Kevin, yes, but I'm also asking you to pray that if He chooses not to do so that he will continue to give both he and Rachel the strength, the faith, the courage and the love to face what's ahead of them. I'm asking you to pray for their two precious children ... their little boy is five years old and their little girl is eight months. I'm asking you to pray for understanding and patience and strength for their family ... that's why I'm writing this post tonight ... to ask you to pray for Kevin and Rachel and their precious children. I've lost faith and confidence in many things over the last year or so, but there's one thing I continue to believe in with every fiber in my being ... miracles happen every single day, friends ... I believe that God still works miracles every single day. 

To you, Rachel and Kevin ... thank you for trusting me to share your story ... thank you for teaching me daily what real courage and faith look like ... thank you for loving me and for letting me love you right back. I may not be there with you in body, but know that I am forever and always with you in heart. Love you both so very, very much.

"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. For I am the Lord your God, the holy one of Israel, your Savior." --- Isaiah 43:2-3


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