Monday, September 28, 2009

Visitors WELCOME!!!

Well if you've been waiting for word, it is here! (kinda) John is ready/willing/able to take visits; however, he may not stay conscious longer than 20 - 30 minutes. The few people who have already braved the trip and spent some time with him have REALLY helped out. It is nice to have someone here to give him a reason to stay awake, and having people care enough to make the trek really encourages him as well. If he doesn't stay awake very long, there is always SOMETHING to do around here: play with the kids, help around the house, or just TALK to me so I don't feel so lonely! So just let us know if you want to come out for a visit. We'd LOVE to have you!

General health update: Today was a much better day. John was awake more. He watched a movie with the kids, ate breakfast out of bed, and even came down the stairs (even though I kept SCREAMING don't help me just ADVISE!!!) and helped me get the loveseat I had jammed in the doorway into the basement. He's been taking his afternoon nap. I'm going to go try to wake him in just a bit.

Continue to pray for his appetite to return. He got on the scale last night (after everyone at my parents' house kept telling him how skinny he looked.... I guess me saying it doesn't have as much of an impact) and found that he has lost 45 pounds! Aye carumba! I should have such a problem! I have been nagging him to eat, but #1 he is just not hungry. Spending so much of his day dizzy and/or in pain does not give him much of an appetite. #2 he is struggling a lot with heartburn (I think because he spends so much time lying down).... Regardless, the TIME HAS COME to focus your prayers on his appetite! I really don't want him losing much more weight. He already looks so skinny!!!!

One week from tomorrow is his follow-up appointment with the neurosurgeon. We are hoping for a good report and will see what the doctor has to say about his recovery progress. For the MANY of you who have been asking, "Yes. I have called the doctor." I have talked to the staff at the neurosurgeon several times. I have been assured that the pain/dizziness/fatigue is not out of the ordinary. He is recovering from brain surgery so these are typical symptoms to be expected. Rest assured I am in continual contact with them regarding how John is doing. They told us from the very beginning, this would be a very painful surgery with a long recovery time.

Thanks again for all your prayers, support, concern. We really, really appreciate it!

One foot in front of the other

Seriously? Seriously? I think the title for this weekend should be, God Pampers Jami. Just THIS weekend, I/we received the following gifts from God and His people:

*help with running errands
*time spent catching up with my step-daughter
*a mini-spa day in my own bathroom
*help cleaning my house
*4 dinners prepared for me
*time spent catching up with a former cheerleader
*a COMPLETELY ordered and cleaned house (which the kids TRASHED within 2 hours of returning home last night….oh well it was nice while it lasted)
*monetary gifts (one which COMPLETELY paid the rent which is due in 3 days)
*much needed time reconnecting with my family
*the blessing of reconnecting with our NDC church family
*a chance to run to the grocery store ALL BY MYSELF

It all got me thinking about how the night is always the darkest just before the dawn.

My blog from Thursday revealed the deep desperation of my soul. I was depleted, exhausted, completely wrung out and DRAINED. While I really never would “throw in the towel,” I desperately WANTED too! I desperately wanted to just toss down my dishtowel and crawl in my bed pulling the covers over my head and crying and drooling until this all went away. Friday dawned and more of the same. I developed a wretched headache as the day wore on. I had an invitation to a girls’ night with friends from high school I haven’t seen in 20 years. I wanted DESPERATELY to go, yet I just couldn’t gather the strength. Still in my stubborn head I tried to make it work, until a bunch of work rained down on me making it impossible for me to finish up in time to make it into the city for that. My night seemed so dark and deep. I didn’t see how I was going to keep walking through it.

Then like a pin prick of light FAR in the distance, I got a text from Amanda. “How’s it going?” I asked her if she wanted the reality answer or the sugar-coated answer a step-mom should give. She said, “Give it to me REAL.” I told her it was pretty brutal. She offered help and the day started to dawn on my dark night. What followed was an AVALANCHE of relief and brightly dawning day (see above list). This weekend replenished me and rejuvenated me more than I could have imagined was possible.

Here’s the thing: we never know if this part of the night is the darkest. When walking through it, I didn’t know. Was the point I was at on Thursday night the bottom of the barrel? No. Okay then Friday morning when I thought my head would explode? No. Well how about Friday night when the disappointment over having to miss the little girls night reunion. Yups! There is was… the turning point. But until the light starts to dawn, there is no way to know how long the night will last. So what are we to do? What is the word from God to tell us how to proceed? When the night seems so long? When the darkness just WON’T break? I got the answer from my pastor, “Just keep putting one foot in front of the other Jami.” Until you see that first pinprick of dawn, you just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. It is hard. It is scary. You can’t see where you’re going. You’re tired. You’re READY for the dawn. But until that pinprick of light breaks through, JUST KEEP PUTTING ONE FOOT IN FRONT OF THE OTHER!

So! The Kastner’s made it through that dark night. I am sure there are MANY more to come even just in this chapter titled, “Chiari Malformation.” Right now I’m praying this light of day part lasts for a little while so we can have a little rest. But when the darkness crowds in again, I will try hard to remember: one foot in front of the other…. one foot in front of the other….

Saturday, September 26, 2009

I get by with a little help from my friends....

Phew! What an AMAZING weekend so far! Thanks greatly in part to two angelic creatures: Amanda Kastner and Erica Conner. Last week was altogether grueling and seriously had me on my knees begging for mercy. Last night and today replenished, refreshed and rejuvenated me, body and soul. But let's start with what you really wanna know: John.

Well, he's still pretty out of it, and now he's kinda pissed too. See Jami decided to switch her approach to one that is more of a "tough love" kinda approach. After conversing with the doctor's office late last week, one thing really struck home. The nurse said, "One thing we worry about is if he is getting enough nutrition. If he is not, then that can intensify the dizziness, making him not want to get out of bed or eat for fear of vomitting from the dizziness-induced nausea and it becomes a vicious cycle." That hit home with me because John has NOT been eating well AT ALL. He hasn't been on the scale in a while but I would guess his weight loss is well over 30 pounds by now. He is just not very hungry and does not eat much. So #1, I have been NAGGING him continually to eat and I have been trying to pack the meals I do get him to eat with TONS of calories (I should have such a problem hey?)

The other thing that happened was last night I was lying in bed next to him for a while and when I got up to go to the bathroom I had a HUGE headrush and almost lost my balance. It occurred to me that some of the dizziness may also be a vicious cycle of not being in a vertical position often enough. So #2, I have been nagging and prodding for him to get up, to spend more time sitting in the recliner, to walk around more. Tonight (in a very crusty voice) he told me, "You've been pushing me too hard all day and now I feel worse." HOWEVER, he is not acting any worse than he was in previous days. Soooooo the tough love continues.

I know he is miserable and I know that he is in pain, but I don't want to see him continuing to regress if there are things we can do to push on. Plus I remember from the hospital, the therapy people said, "Don't fall into the trap of doing to much for him." So tough love it is.... for those of you who know John PERSONALLY you know that it is no easy feat... using tough love on that guy, but then I guess it's a good thing God gave him a stubborn, bull-headed wife. If I can teach good grammar to 30 hormonal junior highers, then I can do ANYTHING! So.... Today, he ate breakfast and lunch in the chair and got up to sit in the chair a third time so he could give Erika a hug and say goodbye to her. He also ate two good and one mediocre sized meals. Tomorrow we're going to attempt to go into the city for my dad's birthday party. We'll see how that goes.

Sooooooo on to the awesomeness that is Jami's life! Last night my AMAZING step-daughter drove up from Milwaukee. Along the way, she stopped and picked up my emergency groceries (GOSH! the Kastner kids are going through milk like there is NO tomorrow!) and then she put away said groceries, helped me hang laundry on the line, hung out with her brothers and sister for a little bit, and let me gab her ear off before heading back into town. It was sooooooooooo nice to speak to someone over the age of 10 who is NOT doped up on narcotics. Plus grabbing those few groceries, saved me more time and headache than she will ever know! While she was here, I got a phone call from a former cheerleader, Erika Conner. She said, "I was wondering what your day looks like tomorrow. I'd like to come bring you dinner and help you clean." I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming (or more likely hallucinating). I told her for that I'd clear the president himself off my calendar. She said she'd be here sometime after lunch.

So this morning, with the words of the very wise Julene Houle running through my head, I decided to "do something for myself." I got the kids cleaning the man-cave (basement) and headed for the bathroom. I gave myself a mini-spa experience. I did my eyebrows, did a facial, put parafin on my elbows, shaved my legs, lather-rinsed-AND-repeated..... this body was squeakier clean than it has been in a LONG time.... and guess what? Julene was right! It made my soul feel better too.

After my self-indulgent spa time, I rolled up my sleeves and got down to it! By the time Erika had arrived I had only one tiny load of laundry left. The dishes had been cleaned. Lunch had been prepared. My closet had been cleaned. The kids rooms were done. The mancave was.... well passable. When the incredible Erika arrive (lasagna in hand), things were looking pretty good. She cleaned my bathrooms and mopped my kitchen floor, while I organized Hannah's drawers and FINALLY unpacked the linen closet. So now we've been in this house just about 8 weeks and we are FINALLY completely unpacked!!! WOOHOO! For the first time since we moved in (who am I kidding for the first time in a LOT longer than that), I finally feel like I am "ahead of the 8 ball." It is a wonderful feeling.

Right now, as I sit here at my computer (up waaaaaaaaay too late), the only things I still have to do are clean off the top of my dresser and switch the loads of laundry. The kitchen is clean. Floor was even spot mopped after dinner. The coffee pot is set to start brewing at 6 a.m. The mancave is in order. The kids rooms are clean and they are sleeping. I am finishing up just a few tasks to prepare myself for my hike down south tomorrow and then I'm off to bed.

Funny how just 48 hours can change your perspective completely.....all thanks to a little help from my friends.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


I'm crying, "Uncle!" I have to! I can't take much more!!!!!

John: Well today was another bad day. He slept most of the day and hardly got out of bed. His headache is excruciating which is exhausting him. He did (from bed) work on some schoolwork with the children. However, he hasn't eaten much and I keep finding him moaning and holding his head. It seems I cannot state often enough: John is RARELY conscious these days. When he does have moments of lucidity, he typically spends them interacting with the children. The extent of my communication with him is usually, "What can I get for you honey?" or "When is the last time you gave me pain meds babe?" MANY keep commenting that he, "is not answering his phone...." or that he "is not returning my calls." rest assured you are in good company because he is not conversing on the phone AT ALL right now. He is hardly conversing with those he lives with. I beg of all of you, PLEASE understand that he is not in any condition to be returning phone calls in a timely manner.... not to ANYONE. I am trying my best to keep up with all communication for him, but as you will see in the portion of the update about me, I am ready to throw in the towel I am so overwhelmed right now.

Children: They are really not doing too terribly for those whose family has been through what ours is going through; however, the stress is starting to show in some areas. Some (who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty) are MUCH more whiny than typical, some are more aggressive than typical, some have actually reclaimed lost territory in the area of potty training regression (that has been a tiny little miracle), but ALL are desperately in need of some normalcy and to be able to be their old LOUD and ROWDY selves for a little while. In spite of the extreme circumstances around here, school has been going VERY well. Noah and Jeremiah have been making INCREDIBLE strides in penmanship and math! Elijah is proving himself to be a little math whiz tackling his new curriculum voraciously. Hannah is learning her alphabet VERY well and keeps begging to start on our phonics program. ALL are tearing up the AWANA books! Noah recited 7 sections at TNT last night!!! Hannah already earned a patch and last night she did her required section as well as 2 makeup sections. So educationally we are ON IT!

Jami: Oh pray for Jami! Pray HARD for Jami! I am really, really, really standing close to the ledge and am very tempted to JUMP! Today was a bad, bad day. In spite of the fact that I got 7 hours of sleep last night (for the first time in at least 3 weeks), I did NOT have a great day. In one 24-hour period I took on more work than I took on all of last week. That is GREAT!!! because work = $$$.... BUT difficult because John had a bad day and I was left to try to juggle a long day of work, school, and caring for him all by myself. The kids seemed to get rowdier and rowdier in direct correlation to the crescendo of my headache pain. It is now 5:06 p.m. (I was waiting for one more call for work that never came) and NOW I am finishing this blog while there is NO dinner ready and I have NO energy to make any. The upstairs is pretty much in order, but the downstairs.... well while I was working today the kids were trashing the downstairs. I need to get a few more night's sleep under my belt to get rid of this continual headache. I need to take a walk and get some exercise. I need to get my house cleaned and make a few more meals to freeze and finish the laundry and grade papers and plan tomorrow's lessons and AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! SEE why I wanna JUMP!

How you can help:
1. Please, please, please PRAY! Pray for John. Pray that his good days start coming in 2's and the bad days stop coming. Not only am I exhausted from holding down the fort all by my lonesome, but I miss my best friend! Pray for the children. Pray that they can just tone it down and lower the volume a bit longer so that John (and I) can make it through the headaches. Pray for me. Pray that I don't throw in the towel. That I somehow superhumanly find the strength to cook, clean, teach, work, and LOVE all while getting little to no sleep.

2. Please do the very best you can to get caught up on John's condition via one of the electronic modes we are using: Twitter, Facebook, Blogger. It is VERY time consuming to have to individually update multiple people everyday. I get multiple calls/e-mails/texts in a day asking me how John is doing. It is very hard to answer all of these in a timely manner. So please visit this site or stay in tune on Twitter or Facebook in order to relieve a little of my stress. That being said we do feel a bit lonely out here in the boonies, so PLEASE do not stop attempting to communicate with us, but understand that we are not going to be able to answer every phone call, text, e-mail. Pretty much this is a one-man show up here (ME) and I am about at the end of myself with things to do. So please keep the encouraging messages, e-mails, and texts coming. We need them badly! We need to know that people are out there thinking of us and praying for us, but please understand we (and by we I fully mean I.... for John is completely unable to assist me in responding to any one's queries) just don't have enough time in the day for personal replies to each inquiry.

3. If you have a second, please send John a quick get well wish. When he is conscious he typically asks me to check his facebook and e-mail for him. Then when we find nothing but SPAM he gets discouraged. So if you could please do me a quick favor. Stop for a second and send him an e-mail: I would REALLY appreciate it.

Okay well I'm going upstairs now to find something I can quick throw together and call dinner. Then I think I will try to sneak into my closet, shut the door for COMPLETE darkness, and cry for a little while. Tears are soothing sometimes.

Peace out everyone!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


You know which characters I love the most in the Bible? The sinners. Yes I know we are all sinners, but I love the BIG sinners. Those who sinned big, yet God still used them BIG. You know why I love them? Because I can relate to them. I am such a wretched, sinful creature. I so strongly relate to this verse from Romans:

For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do - this I keep on doing.
Romans 7:19

I love the Bible characters who sin BIG and are still used of God because I can relate to them and they give me hope. My all-time favorite Bible character is David. David was called by God "a man after my own heart" (Acts 13:22). Yet David was SINFUL! He was the personification of sinful. His picture is next to the word in the dictionary! Not only did he look lustfully on Bathsheba (another man's wife), but he committed adultery with her, and THEN he took it to another level and MURDERED her husband so he could have her. Now THAT is sinful! Yet later on in the New Testament when David is mentioned what do we hear about? Does God count his many sins? Does he site the evil things he did? NO! He says, "I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do." WOW!

Today I was reading in Luke and another similar situation struck me. In Luke 22 Jesus is predicting Peter's denial of Him. He said,

Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.
Luke 22:31-32

Jesus did not pray that Peter would not deny him or that Peter would not sin. Jesus prayed "that your faith may not fail." He prayed that through the sin and failure Peter's faith would not fail. God knows us. He made us! He realizes that we are weak and frail humans capable of nothing but filthy rags of righteousness without Him. Jesus prayed that after the sin Peter would still keep the faith.

"And when you have turned back..." Jesus then assumes that Peter will (after failing Him) turn back to his faith. And here, HERE is my favorite part!!!! He commands Peter, "strengthen your brothers." This ministers to me on so many different levels!

I am a perfectionist at heart. Being the firstborn, it is hard for me to slay my perfectionist tendencies. Therefore, when I sin, when I mar up something (that in my mind should be perfect), my first gut reaction is to toss out the whole thing. If it can't be perfect, than it is worthless is my incorrect assumption. However, here Jesus is commanding Peter after he turns back to go on and minister to the others. Obviously in Jesus' eyes Peter's sin wouldn't make him worthless. In Jesus' eyes Peter's sin would not exempt him from all future ministry.

I can actually take this further to a whole different level. When I read that part of this verse this morning, I felt the Holy Spirit whispering to me: Not only did Peter's sin not remove him from service for Christ, but it actually prepared him for future service.... ALL things... ALL THINGS can be used for good! One of my FAVORITE sayings is, "What Satan meant for our destruction, God will use for our VICTORY." I believe God specializes in taking the icky, the sinful, the mistakes and using them for His glory. Therefore, Peter's sin actually better prepared him for ministry. His sin actually made him MORE qualified to minister, because it made him better able to relate to the sinners around him.

So there it is. My dissertation on why sinners are my FAVORITE people. Because I can relate to them.... Because they give me hope.... Because I am the chief of them....

Have a great day!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Cast down your idols....

This song…I just can’t get away from it. It haunts my thoughts and pierces my conscience. Here’s the line that was after me today: Oh Lord we cast down our idols… It got me thinking about idols. I think sometimes we think of idols as just things we are worshipping: career, romance, money, etc… But I think idols are more than that. Idols are anything we can’t cast down in the name of Jesus. Things like: worry, fear, anger, gluttony. Lately my biggest idol is righteous indignation. I have at least three situations in my life right now where I have been wronged. I have been sinned against… quite obviously sinned against. In these situations, anger is a logical response. Feeling pain over being hurt is logical as well. But hanging on to my indignation, struggling to let go of the hurt and pain because I feel righteously angry that these things happened, well that is not right. Then I’ve made that thing an idol. I’ve elevated it to a status where it is exempt from being cast down before God, and that my friend should signal some serious warning bells!

Guess what? Today on my way home from the dentist, it did! All of a sudden my heart felt as if it had been punched. I started crying: Oh Lord we cast down our idols…. Over and over again…. Oh Lord we cast down our idols…. Oh Lord we cast down our idols…. I replayed that part of the track so many times my children were begging for mercy. The hard part is that knowing we have an idol and wanting to cast it down before God is only the beginning. Satan doesn’t want us to cast down our idols. Satan doesn’t want us to bow our hearts… bend our knees… Satan does NOT want us to be humble. He wants us to pridefully cling to those things we are idolizing. So he is going to throw a lot of fiery darts our way. He will remind us of that idol. He will taunt us with that idol. He will torment us with that idol. It will be gut wrenching and grueling to get that thing out of us.

Think of a wisdom tooth whose roots are crooked and twisted and even wrapped TIGHTLY around each other and fused with the bone. A dentist will need all his strength and all his dental knowledge to get that thing extracted. That’s what we have to do with our idols. We have to muster all our strength to root out that worry. We have to gather all our spiritual knowledge to extricate that fear. We have to work hard to extinguish that righteous indignation. I believe that God will help us in this endeavor; however, I also believe when we give power to something evil, when we allow an idol to have center stage in our hearts, then we are going to have to combine some good old fashioned elbow grease with God’s grace in order to cast that bad boy DOWN!

So whatever your idol is today, why don't you try to cast it down? I know I'm going to. It won’t be easy. We'll need to be strong. We will need God’s grace and all our strength and every bit of spiritual wisdom we have ever gained, but close your eyes with me and sing these words with ALL your heart:

We bow our hearts

We bend our knees

Oh Spirit come make us humble

We turn our eyes

From evil things

Oh Lord we cast down our idols

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Quick update....

John had a pretty good day today. He was awake the whole morning. He even made it down the stairs to the basement and watched some TV with the children. He tired pretty easily, and pain is still his constant companion, but still it was a good day.

Also, I took his stitches out! I was pretty scared, but we weren't up for a $50 copay just to have stitches snipped. Also we thought he was supposed to wait until 10 days after release from the hospital, turns out it was supposed to be 10 days after surgery, so we were a bit behind. So I just bit the bullet and did it. It wasn't so bad.

Regardless, we are doing well over here in Kastner land. Please keep us (especially John) in your prayers.

Friday, September 18, 2009

the 4-1-1 on John...

Well it seems to be a good day then a bad day around here.... on the bad days, John sleeps most of the day and frequently awakes having "lost a day." On the good days, there is still no salsa dancing going on but he is at least a bit more alert. Yesterday was a bad day. He was out most of the day. This morning it seemed today would be a good day, and we made plans to run to Target after lunch; however, by about 10 a.m. I could see that was not going to be a good idea, and we quickly tabled those plans (hope to see if we can do it nearer to dinner, but not holding my breath). Basically he is just in a lot of pain, and he tires very, very easily. We are trying to manage the pain with the meds. They work most of the time. As far as the exhaustion, he just sleeps. Sleep seems to be the best remedy right now because when he sleeps he is not in pain.

The rest of us are doing okay. We are on day 3 of school and all is going well with our educational plans. I have been working again this week. That is going pretty well too. I am just so very, very tired from not sleeping for longer than 4 hours at a stretch. Looking forward to this weekend. I NEED to get the office unpacked. Now that we are back to school that has become priority numero uno (ok after nursing John and normal mom stuff).

Please continue to pray for John's healing. It seems this will just be a long road. We were told that while he may be able to return to work within 4 weeks, he won't be "back to normal" for 3 - 6 months. Soooooooo keep on praying please.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Clean Hands/Pure Hearts

Give us clean hands
Give us pure hearts....

I COMPLETELY and TOTALLY forgot about AWANA yesterday. I mean I knew it was Wednesday. I knew AWANA was on Wednesdays. But we started school yesterday and I worked and I took care of John. My s-i-l had brought dinner for us so I warmed that and then set to work straightening the house and doing the dishes when my phone signaled a notification at 6:15 p.m. "AWANA - Faith Bible Alliance" it read. WHAT!?!?!?! That was in 15 minutes!!!

AHHHH! I started shouting out commands and racing around the house. No one was dressed. Elijah was SOUND asleep. I started throwing children into clothing and grabbing Bibles and AWANA uniforms. I quickly threw together a dinner plate for Elijah and dressed him in his sleep. I loaded everyone in the minivan and arrived at the church at 6:40 p.m.! I was pretty darn proud of myself. I was notified of AWANA at 6:15 p.m. and I gathered everyone and everything and got to the church (a 15 minute trip) in just 25 minutes TOTAL!

After depositing my precious cargo at the church and racing back home to make sure my patient was okay, I turned right back around to return to the church. This second trip was made at a much more leisurely pace, and as I drove I poured out my heart in worship to my King. I haven't had much time lately to even pee by myself much less to worship tearfully at the feet of my Savior. For about 2 1/2 months, I have been RACING around from task to task, shooting up quick prayers of desperation in between: packing and unpacking boxes, working way too many hours, shuttling my husband from appointment to appointment. Moments of quiet solitude, heart-rending worship, meaningful quiet time, these have all become a thing of the past for me.

So as I drove south on Hwy 67, I sang along to this song in complete isolation.... tears streaming down my face, heart ripping in two: give us clean hands.... give us pure hearts... let us not lift our souls to another... I've sung the words a thousand times. I know them deep in my bones, yet they hit me in a new way last night. I realized that I usually have clean hands. I'm not trying to be boastful, but I am someone who has been a Christian for well over 25 years now. I know the drill. I have the routine down. I typically do a fairly decent job of keeping my hands clean. I know how to keep my temper in check. I am fairly decent at holding my tongue and biting back inappropriate words or angry retorts. I can usually keep my hands pretty clean. However, a pure heart.... that is a TOTALLY different thing. I realized that while my hands typically stay pretty clean, my heart is ANYTHING but pure. When I am wronged, I am decent at giving a godly response, but inside I am seething with anger. When I am angry, I can usually hold back my vicious words, but in my head, I let them fly with wild abandon.

This summer the heat has been turned up SIGNIFICANTLY under Jami Lynn Kastner.... a move, overtime hours, finishing up homeschooling, the purchase of a lemon vehicle, bills unpaid, needs unfulfilled, sleep missed, friendships lost, trust betrayed... these are just a few of the things that had me at the breaking point by mid-August. Then just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, just when I thought I was at the end of myself toss in a brain surgery which would put my husband out of work without pay for a month or more.

Guess what happened??? That impure heart.... those icky thoughts I had been storing up in my brain.... when the heat was turned up, most of them came POURING out. I started cussing like a sailor. I have really never been a cusser before. Having been schooled in Christian Education (where cussing is punishable by suspension) for 12 years and then teaching in Christian Education (where I felt compelled to be CONSTANTLY on guard to be a good witness) for 6 years, I really never even thought cuss words very much, and I NEVER gave free reign to my tongue in that area. Yet this summer, as the pressure mounted, as the pain increased, as the tension rose, the impurity of my heart flowed freely out of my mouth. My anger consumed me. Depression enveloped me. Sin was the result of the ickiness I had been hiding behind my clean hands and inside my impure heart.

As I drove down the street last night it hit me hard: clean hands are NOWHERE NEAR good enough... that's only part of the equation. A PURE HEART! That is the second half. Having clean hands without a pure heart is like peanut butter without the jelly. It's like Hall without Oats. It is piety without purity.

As I cried out to God last night, I sang those words like NEVER before: give us clean hands.... GIVE US PURE HEARTS!!!! That's my prayer today... that my heart will be pure too. Whether I am skipping down a flower lined path of prosperity and beauty or clawing my way up a rocky ledge out of a deep and dark valley, I want my heart to be pure. I want to take this thing called Jami's Walk with God to a new level. A level where the outside calm and cleanliness is a good representation of what is going on in the inside. A place where I have clean hands AND a pure heart.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A better day....

Well John is feeling MUCH better today. He is acting somewhat more human as well. When we were in the hospital, the nurse told us the healing process would be up and down with a general progression forward. That is what we seem to be experiencing. While the healing is all moving in a generally forward direction, John seems to take about 3 steps forward and then 1 back. We called the doctor yesterday about how poorly he was feeling, and we were told that the doctor believed John's brain was equilibrializing which was why he was suffering pain yesterday. Today he has again been awake much more often and even took a walk.

It is funny... as I typed this update, it struck me how like our Christian walk this whole healing from brain surgery thing is. We are moving forward; however, this life is not without ups and downs. We are progressing, but we still have "bad days." So we trudge along. Some days we just maintain ground, trying hard not to slide backwards... Some days we forge forward strong and steady.... Unfortunately, some days we slip a bit, falling back and losing a little ground.

Yesterday when John was feeling so poorly, I tried hard to keep reminding myself of the ground he had already conquered: he had no tubes protruding from his veins, he was not on IV meds, there was no vomiting, he was OUT OF THE HOSPITAL! That is what we have to do with our walk with Christ too! Remind ourselves of how far we have already come... Remind ourselves of the sins we've already put behind us... Remind ourselves of the successes we've already had...

Last application, then I promise to be done for today: I think it is important after brain surgery (and in life) to realize that the journey to healing (and to Heaven) is not a walk down a rose-lined path. Jesus said, "Take up your cross and follow me." He didn't say pick up your basket of rose petals and skip after me. Having a piece cut out of your skull is not "natural".... it is not what your body likes to feel. Living on this earth is not "comfortable".... it is not what your spirit likes to do. Realize that this pain, this agony, these struggles are for a greater good. In John's case, this brain surgery and the recovery from it are for the purpose of fewer headaches, greater strength on his right side, less dizziness and numbness. In our case, this time on earth is a journey towards our true home..... Towards Heaven.... Towards no more pain, no more tears.... Towards an eternity of worshipping our Savior.

I am sorry if my blogs are random and disorganized right now. I am so thoroughly exhausted from continual waking during the night to medicate John. I am stretched FAR beyond what I thought I was capable of. We did our first day of school today, and I am VERY surprised at how well it went.

Thank you so much to those who are bringing us meals. I really, truly can hardly express what a blessing this has been. The mom in this house is SO overwhelmed with work, schooling, nursing, cleaning.... not having to cook REALLY helps!

Thank you also to those who are blessing us financially. Quite frequently we are finding gifts from God in our mailbox.... He is taking care of our needs and right at this moment, we have food overflowing from our pantry and our bills are pretty much current.

Thank you most of all for your prayers.... I cannot say often enough how much comfort we get from knowing how many are lifting us up and taking our needs to the Father.

Forever indebted to Him and all of you,
John & Jami

Monday, September 14, 2009

Home Sweet Home

In case you haven't heard the news, we are HOME! It all came as such a whirlwind! We really had no idea it was even a possibility. On Saturday a.m. a physician's assistant for our neurosurgeon came in. We asked her, "Is there any possibility we could go home today?" (half-kidding) She said, "I think that's possible." Wow! REALLY?!?!?! Well at 10:30 a.m. we were still waiting for the word from our doctor and by 12:30 p.m. we were in the car heading home. I've never experienced such a quick discharge from the hospital! Normally they say you can go home, but it takes hours to get paperwork and wheelchairs and the like. Not this time!

We wheeled out to our minivan at 12:30 p.m. but didn't arrive home at Casa de la Kastner in Iron Ridge until 3:30 p.m. We had to drop off prescriptions, pick up children, load up our car, pick up prescriptions and then drive an hour. It was a grueling process for someone who was just released from the hospital and had to rigidly hold his head still as every single bump and pothole brought him pain. When we got home, I wanted to just lie prostrate on the carpet and kiss the ground. I got John settled, unpacked the car, and started working on typing up his medicine schedule so I didn't mess anything up.

We spent yesterday resting and trying to recover. We took a walk (had to drive down the driveway and hill to a flatter place to walk.... around our house is WAY too hilly for a person who is recovering from brain surgery). We gave John a shower.... got a few perishables from the grocery store and made a run to Wal-Mart and for dinner.

Today, John is:
***managing most of his pain well. His headache is pretty bad this morning.
***VERY stiff... if he stays still too long he gets very stiff.... tyring to keep himself moving

We are so VERY glad to be home and feel he will rest more comfortably here and therefore recover more quickly here too. Please continue to keep us in your prayers. Here is how you can be praying:

1. John - continued, full and QUICK healing. Pray for his headache today. Pray for the right amount of activity to keep him loose but not so much that he overdoes it. Pray for peace over John as he recovers. At some point as he gets stronger, I fear he will want to start doing stuff. I pray that God will give him peace to just SIT STILL and heal.

2. Me - I don't even know what to ask you to pray for me... EVERYTHING??? I'm keeping John's meds straight - waking him several times a night for meds... I'm trying to get back to work.... I'm trying to get school started for the kids this week... I'm trying to cook, do laundry, and keep up with the rest of the around-the-house stuff... I'm trying to make sure the bills get paid... I still need to go get that dumb oil changed... I have to find a new power cord for our laptop.... Basically, I have to do everything right now, and I'm EXHAUSTED. I'm really truly at the end of myself and feeling the stress right now. Please pray that God's grace and peace flood in. I need HIS strength right now because I have NONE of my own left.

3. Children - pray that the "loud family" can be quiet for once. Our children are not exactly well suited for or good at creating a healing environment. I am constantly reminding them to keep their voices down, stop bouncing on Daddy's bed, close doors quietly, quit arguing.... please pray for them.

4. Finances - we have already been blessed ABUNDANTLY by God and His people... but this is going to be a VERY long journey and it is still hard not to worry about "what we will wear or what we will eat" I know that I know that I know that God will take care of us, BUT that doesn't make relying on faith to feed your family an easy task.

5 (saving the best for last) GOD BE GLORIFIED! I always beg God to please find a way to be glorified in my pain. I hate for my pain to be for naught. The Kastner family is suffering through A LOT of pain right now, and we just pray that God will continue to make Himself known, will continue to show Himself to be faithful, will continue to use our pain to reveal Himself to us and to others.

FIRMLY in His grip....

Friday, September 11, 2009

OHMIGOSH! It's Friday!?!?

Thank you all for your patience. I'm sorry I haven't been posting blogs very quickly. I hope you are able to follow on Twitter. That is where I am trying to do most of my updating. This is ALL so exhausting: managing John's care, being his advocate, updating our VAST support network, tracking how the children are doing, fielding calls, replying to e-mails, answering texts, not letting myself get rundown. It is a lot to do. While His grace is sufficient, I am grateful that y'all are cutting me some slack on the communication thing. Just so you know, my distribution lists for sending update e-mails are on the desktop at home. I am therefore not able to send e-mails each time I post an update to this site. Please either sign up to be a follower on this site and request notifications from the site or check back frequently for updates. I'm trying hard to post at least one update per day.

Okay so now with all THAT out of the way... on to what you really want to know:

How is John?

They have moved him out of the "armpit of Satan" in that ICU and into his own room. This room is a suite reserved for Dr. Ahuja's patients and we are living in the lap of luxury here. Dr. Ahuja was NOT happy they had bumped John out of the neuro ICU. He told me, "I gave them a piece of my mind." Our nurse told us, "Dr. Ahuja is a very powerful man. When he says something, we ALL jump." To say we are much more comfortable here is the HUGEST understatement in the world. If he ever gets conscious, he has a flat screen TV and DVD player. I'm sleeping on a pull out bed in stead of that horrible recliner. My butt is currently residing in a LEATHER recliner. But most importantly I am able to keep it PITCH black in here so he can rest peacefully and reduce the pain from light sensitivity.

He is still VERY nauseous and the pain is pretty bad. A few minutes ago he woke up calling out, "Stop! Stop!" We got him a bit more comfortable, and he is back to sleep right now. He is doing VERY well in the areas of strength and mobility. He can stand up with little assistance. He has done some walking. When we got to this room, he did not want to be lifted from one bed to the other he wanted to scooch himself.

How can I help?

1. The most important thing you can do is to continue praying. Pray for complete healing, for relief from the pain and nausea. Also in order to go home, he just has to get the nausea under control and to be managing his pain via oral medication instead of IV. Those are the goals we are working towards. Please help us by praying towards those goals.

2. Visiting: I feel bad because I keep reiterating this, but we are continually being inundated with requests to come and visit. John is NOT up to that yet but is trying hard to get himself there. Yesterday, we brought the little kids up and they each got a quick 30-second visit: a kiss, I love you's and a card before they were whisked out because he was fading fast. I almost cried earlier when I got to actually hold a conversation with him for about 15 min or so. I got all tongue tied and couldn't remember what I had been dying to converse with him about for the past 2 days. It was just so good to have him talking to me for a little bit. To all those who are chomping at the bit to visit, I VOW to you I will tell you when he is feeling up to it. I will not forget you! But he only just visited with me for the first time last night at about 9 p.m.

3. Child care: I really only planned help with the kids through tomorrow morning. My sisters have been my gold standard here: arrising in early hours to pick up the chidren, watching them whenever they are available... Cori's house has become headquarters for the Kastner Fiesta and she has even been keeping them all night as long as I get someone to get them before she has to leave for work. Not sure what is going to happen as it now appears very likely that we will be here this weekend and my one sister, mom, and m-i-l will all be at the NDC women's retreat. If anyone out there has a fun suggestion and would like to entertain the Kastner Kids this weekend, please call/text/e-mail. I'm open to suggestions.

4. Miscellaneous: there are other practical ways for people to help if they are itching for things to do. I thought today while I'm in the city I should run my van to a quick lube (haven't been able to find one of those in the boonies) and get the oil change that is LONG overdue. If someone wanted to pick it up and run that errand for me, that'd be great. My only request would be to take it somewhere CHEAP. I'm getting a little sick of fast food. It would be dreamy if someone could bring me something real to eat. In fact, Dad if you are reading this it would be AWESOME if tomorrow morning a lunch of leftover tater tot casserole made it to me. Mmmmmm....

Okay, I think that's it and I'm feeling sleepy so I think I could get a bit more rest now. Thank you SO much for everything you are ALL doing: the prayers, the encouraging notes/texts/e-mails/calls, the assistance with children, the gifts, the love, they are our lifeline! We love you all!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Please pray for John....

Well they moved us out of the Neuro ICU and up to a different ICU (I think it said surgical ICU). They said it is because he is so stable, but I feel like we've been banished. This room is TEENY, TINY. It has this horrible window that has no shade or drape and it is way TOO bright in here. John's headache has worsened significantly, and the light is exacerbating the problem. I put a folded up sheet over his eyes to block the light. Also there is an obnoxious phone that keeps ringing RIGHT outside our door. This place feels like Hades.

How to pray:
1. John's pain is increasing. He has a bad headache in the front of his head. One of the neurosurgeons said this was probably from air which got into his brain cavity while it was cut open (sooooooooooooo not using anatomically/medically correct terminology... they had a word for it: pneumo something-or-other...)... they put him on an oxygen mask which will somehow dissipate the air. Please pray for it to go FAST.
2. He hasn't eaten much today. He is very sleepy. This is kinda two concerns in one. We aren't sure why he is so sleepy, but he is really rarely awake. Please pray that he will perk up a little and that he will eat at dinner time.
3. Neck...his neck is very stiff (obviously... it was cut open yesterday). Pray that his muscles will relax some.
4. I am suffering from a BAD headache. I'm sure from lack of sleep. Yet I'm not comfortable leaving him here overnight (especially since they moved him to Hades). Please pray for me. My s-i-l is bringing me excedrin migraine... hopefully that and your prayers will do the trick.
5. The children are being a little squirrely (hope Jen Kallas isn't reading this and getting scared off). Pray for them. This is taking it's toll on them all in different ways. Noah misses his Daddy a lot and he "gets" what's going on so he is worried too. Jeremiah, Elijah and Hannah seem to be all fine and dandy but their poor behavior reveals that isn't really true. Don't forget to pray for Alex in Afghanistan, Amanda and Amber too.

Thanks so much to EVERYONE supporting us. Your love, prayers, food, gifts, are sustaining us through this trying time.

What a DAY!

Sorry for the blog silence today. (I hope everyone has been able to access my twitter account.) I can hardly find the words (yes ME... Jami... the wordiest, gabbiest person you've ever met can't find the words) to describe the depth of my exhaustion right now. It all started Monday.

We had a VERY productive day in which I accomplished nearly everything on my pre-hospital to-do list. We had a very nice little impromptu cookout with friends and were proceeding nicely towards the end of a practically perfect day before surgery. [SCREECHING halth sound here]

An angry voicemail message reignited the warring over John's desire to have NO ONE (but me and his daughters) at the hospital during his surgery. It is in fact his desire to see NO ONE until he is fully conscious and managing his pain well. This desire has resulted in several confrontations with well-meaning loved ones who all think there should be one exception to his wishes...them. Over and over again during the past few weeks, he and I have had to firmly restate what HIS desire is and explain to others that this is about HIS wishes and what will make HIM most comfortable so HE can heal quickly and completely. Each confrontation has been difficult; however, this one on the eve of his surgery may have been the worst. The stress immediately reignited the stuttering he had been struggling with and when he got off the phone he was tired and a bit defeated.

From there things began to snowball. I was fielding WAY too many texts & phone calls, mostly about the confrontation. The house was coming together nicely, but many things remained to be done, and I was running out of time quickly! I finished packing Hannah's bag and decided to cut bait on my OCD need to pack all the kids bags myself. I started barking out orders to the boys, "2 pairs of play shorts, 2 pairs of nice shorts, 2 pairs of sweats, 2 pairs of jeans!" (YES! I realize we should only be in the hospital for about 4 days BUT our house is far, far away. I wanted them to be prepared.) As the boys packed their things, I decided to get started on mine & John's bag. In the middle of this I realized I never took out the kids AWANA uniforms. Ran down to storage to find them but OF COURSE one found, one lost. AHHHHHH! Long story short, it was about 11:30 p.m. before we were finally in bed.

Awoke at 4 a.m. to find that John had not slept a wink ALL night. We made it out the door and halfway to Milwaukee before I realized we had left ALL the carefully prepared lunches in the fridge. GRRRRRRR! I was ticked at myself!

Everything happened in such a whirlwind... We got to the hospital, Jodi took thekids, and we checked in. Shane stopped up to pray with us. Amber arrived. The anethesiologist was delayed. They whisked him away to surgery too quickly. Soon Amber and I were out in the waiting room and time slowed to a snail's pace. About halfway through the surgery I started to get a good case of the worries. I quickly text my mom and sisters for some prayer support. Even though it seemed like forever, before we knew it we were talking to the doctor. All had gone just as planned. John made it through like a champ. So we were directed to the Neuro ICU waiting room to wait more. By about 11:30 we were finally able to see him again. He was in considerable pain and it took quite some time to get his pain manageable. However, by dinnertime he was resting comfortably and the girls left.

There was no sleeping for me last night.... those recliners are the complete antithesis of comfortable. I finally found a couch to zonk out on for about an hour when they took him for a CT scan this a.m. but I am T-I-R-E-D!

Today John's mom came to sit (okay stand) with him for a few hours and I raced over to my parents house for a shower and to squeeze my kiddos. When I got back, the therapy people were here and they were AMAZED by how much John was able to do. First they got him seated on the edge of the bed. Then they got him standing. He did a lap around the ENTIRE unit, and then they put him seated in the chair. He is sleeping there now.

I miss him a lot. I'm right here by him, but I can't communicate more than a few sentences before he drifts off to sleep again. I long to TALK with him. When they sat him up, I started to get teary and asked if I could hug him. I just needed to be in his arms. This blogging thing is great, and we have SUCH a VAST network of support. Yet (no offense) I just want to process all my feelings with him. I just want his opinions. I just want to share with him. Soon enough Jami... Soon enough.

A few seconds to send a quick shout out to the AMAZING nursing staff at St. Luke's Neuro ICU. They are GREAT! They are taking such amazing care of John and me. We are blessed and give them the highest recommendation...if you ever wanna have your skull cut open :)

Don't know if I have the energy for many lessons/applications today, but I'll try.

1. A worried mind is the devil's playground. Yesterday about halfway through John's surgery I started to have these weird (almost like flashbacks but not stuff I had really seen) images flashing into my head. I could see John facedown with the back of his head cut open and his brain exposed. I started to get anxious. That's when I text my mom and sisters. They started sending me scripture and before I knew it I had calmed to the point that I could pray again. There are several situations in my life right now where Satan has a toehold. He assaults me with images, intuition type feelings, fears. If I give playtime to these attacks from the enemy, he gets control, and he sends more graphic images, stronger intuitive feelings, greater fears. If I turn to scripture, he is slain, silenced, defeated.

2. Focus on intent instead of effect. Well-meaning people can do a lot of damage. It's true. They can. I think, therefore, the most godly response is to focus on the intent the person had instead of the effect they had. All of these wars we have had to fight to institute John's healthcare directives... people weren't INTENDING to cause stress and pain. Not only that, but I am SURE that the effects of my actions of trying to enforce John's wishes and trying to keep the right people updated in the right order are not perfect. I intend to do well by John first and everyone else next, but I am sure I am missing the mark. I sure hope others will take the time to focus on my intent and to cut me some slack. Therefore, I need to do the same for them.

3. Things could be SO much worse. There's a family here I keep seeing in the Neuro ICU. I don't know there story, but I can tell it is not good by their demeanor. As exhausted as I am, as much pain as John is in, as serious as this is, I can still praise God that we did not get an inoperable or terminal diagnosis.

Okay that's about all I have the strength for. I gotta try to get some rest quick. Keep following the tweets and keep the prayers coming!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Last minute Brain Surgery details....

Okay so it's time for the big day! Surgery is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. tomorrow. I promise to tweet frequently throughout the day. It will be just me and John's daughters at the hospital while he is in surgery. We will let you all know when he is ready for visitors. Please remember to text/call/e-mail if you would like to come to the hospital. John is a bit concerned about two things:

1. having visitors when he is not feeling up to it
2. having too many visitors there at the same time

Please continue to pray for John. As the surgery looms nearer and nearer, he is getting more and more nervous. Pray for the anethesia part to go well. Pray for the surgeon to do a good job. Pray for his body to respond well to the entire experience.

I still have a TON to get accomplished tonight, so please say a few prayers for me as well. No one's packed. I have laundry to finish. I need to cook one more meal to freeze, and I need to make lunches for Amanda, Amber and I. So I could really use a little prayer too.

Thanks so much for all of your support. It is VITAL to us.

The voice of God...

Last night I heard the voice of God speak to me. I had sent Elijah to his room because he would not listen to me; however, after sending him I realized I had done it mostly out of my own frustration. So I walked to his room to release him from "doing time." As I arrived outside his door, I heard him wailing and weeping. I walked into his room and sat down on the bed next to him and just let him cry. I couldn't really talk over the weeping and gnashing of teeth, so I just kept waiting. He carried on and on, not knowing I was there to release him. He wouldn't stop crying and as I waited for him, I heard God speaking a lesson to me.

I heard him say, "Jami, you're like this a lot." See when bad or tough things happen, I have a tendency to wail on and on. I have a tendency to get stuck in my pain and my misery. As I sat there waiting for Eli to quite down long enough for me to get in the words, "You can come out of your room." I thought.... he is wasting so much time with this wallowing. He could already be outside by the bonfire. I wondered how much time I have wasted wallowing in my pain. Over the years, I'm sure I've wasted months just crying and wailing and carrying on. "Hmmmm..." I thought , "I would have MUCH rather been out at the bonfire."

Finally, his sobbing quieted down enough for me to get a word in edgewise and I said, "You may go outside." He jumped up (apparently the sobbing was mostly crocodile tears) and raced out to the fire. I sat there realizing that it was I who had received the discipline that night. I was grateful God had taken the time to instruct me. I determined to spend less time wallowing and more time looking for the lesson so I, too, can be more quickly released from "doing time."

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Chili/Prayer/Fire Fest

Great.... stressful... frightening... uplifting.... amazing.... Yesterday was AMAZING yet also all of those other things too. I got soooooooo much done during the day! My house was in better order than it has been since John's diagnosis. There's just something liberating about an organized house. (Now a spotless house...that's a whole different high which I am not sure I will feel until my children are grown.)

All morning long, I kept begging John to take it easy. Sit down and rest a little. Take a nap. But this whole thing: illness, weakness, being restricted, FOLLOWING INSTRUCTIONS these are all VERY difficult things for him.

John's nephews showed up early, and they all started "having a few beers." We had asked the doctor if John could drink alcohol or smoke a cigar. When he was discharged from Hartford Hospital, his discharge paperwork had said no tobacco. Therefore, he had just abstained from cigars and alcohol to be safe. They said alcohol would be fine (cigars too), but who would have known the exact set of circumstances which was developing.

Bocci Ball... he REALLY wanted to play. We don't have Bocci Ball and he loves it. So then he played several games of that. Then on the way in to pray, stupid comments were made which led to a challenge that John could not back down from. He sat at the kitchen table arm wrestling his nephew. It was bad. He was having a VERY hard time winning. I could see his face getting red. I knew this was NOT good. I kept saying, "C'mon people are waiting for us to pray. Let's just go." But John does NOT back down from a challenge. Finally he won, but the damage had been done. That was about the last of his strength.

We were praying for him, and I felt him starting to slump forward. Having his eyes closed was dramatically increasing his dizziness and the effects of overdoing it, alcohol, pain meds, bocci ball and arm wrestling started showing. When we said, "Amen" he told me he needed to lie down, but when he tried to stand he collapsed to his knees.

It took three of our biggest, strongest friends to get him to the bed. I was very scared. I didn't want to leave him alone because I was scared he would stop breathing. One other symptom which has developed lately is while he sleeps it seems like he has sleep apnea. He will stop breathing for a second and then sorta choke himself awake. It is TERRIFYING! Because of this weird breathing thing, I was scared to leave him alone. After finally saying goodbye to some of our guests, I arranged with Amanda and Amber to kinda take shifts sitting in the bedroom with him to make sure he was okay. He slept soundly from about 7:30 p.m. until 5:45 a.m. I tried rousing him several times during that 10 1/2 hours just to make sure he could wake up. He kept waking up a little. Then this morning I poked him at 5:45 and he didn't fall back to sleep.

He is good this morning. Right now, he and Hannah are lying in bed watching Bridge to Terabithia. I have banished him to bed (or a chair) for the WHOLE day! And I am SOOOOO not budging. One thing I think that God wants me to learn through all of this is to get a stronger backbone. I told him to take it easy yesterday morning but then I gave in. I asked him to take it easy on the alcohol, but I should have taken it away. I wanted him to just play one game of Bocci Ball, but I didn't fight him. I kept saying, "Stop! This arm wrestling is nonsense!" but I should have trusted my instincts and FORCED the issue. Lessons learned. Lessons learned. Be prepared because the new and improved forceful Jami who has a backbone is being released today. Do NOT be surprised when you come into contact with my iron will. I will fight HARD to protect my husband's health NO MATTER WHAT! well at least that sounds good ;) we'll see if I can actually do it or not.

Part of the ignoring my nagging and overdoing it in ALL areas yesterday was due to the fact that the closer we get to this surgery, the more wigged out John gets. He is trying not to be, but the weakness, the looming surgery, the difficult recovery, being out of work... these things are really terrifying him. Being a typical guy, he is not quick to identify what he is feeling. But last night as we sat in our bedroom (before he collapsed into unconsciousness), he kept saying, "I'm really scared Jami. I'm just so terrified. I didn't really know how scared I was."

1. THANK YOU! to all who came last night. Your support and prayers were AWESOME! Sorry if I missed saying goodbye to some of you. I planned to write you each an individual thank you, but I am soooooooo wiped out, and I have a long day of cleaning up after the party, cooking meals to freeze, and even entertaining more guests.

2. Please pray. Remember when praying for John's health to also pray for his peace and also to include a few prayers for me to be strong.

Have a blessed Sunday and a great holiday tomorrow!

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Hill

Yesterday was such a grueling day. I had been trying to go to bed since about 8:45 p.m, and at least two different times I had laid my head on my pillow about to collapse into unconsciousness. Earlier in the day Jeremiah had taken a BAD spill on his bike. He had a decent gash on his knee. We had determined that it did not need stitches; however, because it was on the bending part of his knee, it was not looking good. He came into our room so we could check it. It looked bad! I asked John if we needed to run him in for stitches, but he said he thought we could get away with some tape stitching.

Exhausted, depleted and wearied, I prepared myself to travel to Hartford to get tape stitches. But then John said, “Wait! I think Ben said he had some.” Sure enough! Neighbors to the rescue! The Borkenhagens had some tape stitches and liquid bandage and gauze. On somewhat of an auto pilot, I traveled down the hill to their house.

Now lest you think the next part is simply an exaggeration because of complete delirium caused by exhaustion, let me stop to say: my driveway is a VICIOUS hill! Everytime Stacey or I walk up it to my house we say, “Gosh! I have GOT to get in better shape!” It is wicked, steep and tough to walk up (or drive up)… [c’mon! all you who have driven up it and thought, “How the crud are they going to get up this thing in the winter?” shout out in a blog comment and back me up here!!!!]

So after retrieving the tape stitches I started back towards my house. As I climbed the very slight hill in Ben & Stacey’s yard I thought, “Ohmigosh! I have to climb THE HILL!” I started dreading it. As my feet hit the pavement of the road that separates our houses, tears sprung to my eyes. By the time I reached my mailbox, I was really and truly crying. I stepped foot on the rocks of my drive, and I feel like I literally heard it…. God’s voice. He said, “Jami, climb! Just climb! Don’t look back (and think about lying down in the road)! Don’t worry about how you’re going to get to the top! Put one foot in front of you and climb!” It was the oddest thing. I got to the top of the hill and set foot on my porch with less effort than I EVER have before. I was less winded. I was less tired. On a good day, when I hadn’t spent 4 hours working, 8 hours in doctors appointments and 3 hours in posting medical updates and answering emails, it was MUCH more difficult to get up that hill. I came in the house and told John, “God just carried me up the driveway. He really did."

As I laid down on my pillow exhausted and ready to pass out, all the lessons of that experience started flooding my brain and I thought, “Gosh I hope I don’t forget these by tomorrow! This is going to make a great blog.” I’m sure that the life application of this one is not that difficult for all of you to make. The hill represents this journey through brain surgery. (You got that WAY before I said it right?) I needed to physically walk that hill and get to the top not nearly as exhausted to be reminded that God will get us to the top of this hill not nearly as exhausted as we should be after such a climb. I needed to hear Him say, “Jami, climb! Just climb! Don’t look back (and think about lying down in the road)! Don’t worry about how you’re going to get to the top! Put one foot in front of you and climb!”

This hill in front of my family, no one in the world is denying that it is formidable. In the natural eyes, it looks insurmountable: brain surgery, being out of work without pay during recovery, mom who works from home and homeschools now gets to throw in nursing a sick husband back to health to her list of things to do. Good thing that we don’t have to climb this hill in the natural. Good thing we have a loving God who will pick us up and carry us to the top if we just keep looking forward and if we just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:31

Thursday, September 3, 2009

completely exhausted

I purposely didn't capitalize anything in the title of this blog... too tired to hit my shift key unless it is rote and without conscious thought. I am so far beyond exhausted, I'm not sure I can even describe it to you. I cannot imagine how John feels!

We left our house at 10:30 a.m. and headed to Hartford for an appointment with John's primary care physician. I waited in the car with the kids while John went in to get the thumbs up for surgery. He was cleared! YIPEE! So then it was off to Milwaukee for an appointment with the neurosurgeon. We stopped in Menomonee Falls to hit the bank and get some lunch. It was a very nice quiet family time (not something we get a lot). I sat there thinking, "It's kinda sad that it takes a trauma to get my family to slow down and spend a little time together."

Dr. Ahuja's office was TRYING, TERRIBLE, and bordering on HORRENDOUS! Our appointment was at 2:30... we were early. The kids were squirrley. Hannah, Elijah, Jeremiah and I sat out in the hallway because the waiting room was so crowded there were no seats left for us. Finally we got in a room and waited at least another 30 - 45 minutes before seeing the doctor. John was "marked for surgery." As we walked out of the office, the nurse looked at John and said, "Your children are the most well-behaved children I have ever seen." I looked at her like she had just dropped off of Mars.... "These hooligans?" I thought.

On the way home, another trip to the bank this time with a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG wait. Then a stop at Target for toilet paper and a grueling drive home through rush hour. As I sit here at my puter typing, I literally feel like I am going to fall over. I DESPERATELY need to get some groceries in this house, but I am too tired to go out. We have cereal and milk, and two more meals of butter noodles is NOT going to kill anyone. I need to crash soon.

SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.... we still don't have a surgery time. The nurse said the time will likely change 10x between now and Tuesday; therefore, they will just call us Monday to tell us.

A few more details:

1. If you are coming on Saturday to our chili/prayer/fire fest, please bring camp chairs. Also if you feel led, you can bring a dessert and/or some soda.

2. Hospital...we've been deluged with offers to be at the hospital with us during surgery. It is John's request that friends and family PLEASE refrain from coming to the hospital until he is feeling up to it. You can contact Jami via cell phone/text/e-mail/facebook if you want to come visit. I will let you know if he is up to visitors yet. I will also post to twitter and this blog when he is ready for visitors, but even still before you come please call/text/e-mail so we can try to limit the number of people there at one time.

3. If you'd like to send John an encouraging e-mail, his e-mail address is:

How to pray:

1. John's dizziness has increased significantly. He is also very fatigued and weak. He has developed a stutter/stammer which is a bit concerning to the doctor. He can't explain that as a sign of Chiari Malformation. I'm not a doctor, but in my humble opinion, this is probably just because he is SOOOOOOOOOOO exhausted today due to such a long day. All of this is very frustrating to him and results in one or two temper tantrums a day (FINE! an hour!)

2. Jami: I am exhausted. Haven't been sleeping well. Trying to smush in a TON of work (I'm the only breadwinner right now) and all of the scheduling of John's doctor appointments and child care, also having to mediate in SEVERAL wars over all of this brain surgery nonsense. I am wiped and really, really, really need to sleep tonight.

3. Kids: will be shuffled around from relative to relative next week (with one dear friend thrown in for good measure).... Wednesday is their first day of AWANA... I'm thinking I will make the trek all the way back up north because I don't want them to miss this.... Please pray for as much normalcy as possible for them next week.

4. Continued provision for us financially and practically.... bills, meals, laundry, etc.... I am too tired to wiggle much less think about some of these things.

In closing, you know whenever I have prayed for people in these types of situations before, they would say, "Your prayers are such a blessing." "You will never know how much the prayer support means to us." "It makes all the difference to know so many are praying for us." I would always think.... "Whatever! It's the least I can do! Spending a little time in prayer for you who are suffering so greatly." Finally, I "get it." People all over the country are praying for us. Strangers we just met. Entire churches of our friends. And words cannot express how much that means to us. To know that all over the country (possibly even the world) our names are being lifted up by so many is humbling and encouraging. Please continue to pray....

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
I Corinthians 12:8 & 9

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Brain Surgery SUCKS!

Well today was a fun day (NOT!). John left for work at normal time but by 11 a.m. his boss had sent him home because he was so ill. He was dizzy, unable to walk, fatigued, and the headache was excruciating. His daughter, Amanda, picked him up at Marquette and brought him ALL the way out to Iron Ridge. When he arrived, he collapsed into bed and slept sounder then the dead for four hours.

I spent the day trying to get my work done in between phone calls to doctors and the HR department at MU, and making arrangements for the kids for next week. Tonight we spent the night arguing with each other and with well-meaning people who have all of a sudden become experts in the field of brain surgery. We are BOTH exhausted, depleted, and weary.

In addition to the pain, agony, medical red-tape, and arguing, the finances are already getting interesting as well. However, like Manna from the sky, God has already provided a few signs that we should "consider the lillies of the field...." Just a few moments ago our neighbors arrived with bags of frozen food for us. Yesterday, another neighbor dropped by with a bag of rhubarb. But here is my favorite story. Over the weekend I had been corresponding with a lady from a homeschool classified website about purchasing a textbook Noah needs for science. I was supposed to send her a check for the book, but honestly in the midst of all of this medical frenzy, I kinda forgot. When she e-mailed me yesterday to inquire if I had mailed the check or not, I had to tell her that even though the book was not very expensive I could no longer purchase it. I told her my husband was having brain surgery and would be out of work without pay for a month. Even the smallest expenses would have to be curtailed and I would have to wait to purcahse Noah's new science text until later in the year. The response of this complete stranger blessed me and reminded me that God WILL provide for the Kastners during this time. She said, "Then I would like to send you this book for free." She also asked for permission to add John to her church's prayer list. I said PLEASE we will take ALL the prayer we can get.

I am exhausted, overwhelmed and stretched to what feels like the breaking point, but I am SURE of this.... God will get us through this. He feeds the sparrows.... He will NOT let the Kastners starve.

So after a long day of planning and arranging, here is what our timeline looks like:

Wednesday (tomorrow):
***John will go to work if he is feeling up to it (PLEASE PRAY that he is up to it. Not so much for the money.... if God is going to provide for us during John's recovery what are a few more days??? more for John's peace of mind. He is so stressed, and he feels so defeated and useless right now)

***just before lunch John has an appointment with his primary care physician who has to clear him as fit for surgery
***at 2:30 p.m. he has his final pre-op appointment with the Neurosurgeon

***we are having a chili dinner/prayer meeting/bonfire at our house. Please join us if you can. 5 p.m. for chili; prayer at 6 p.m.; fire when it gets dark

***surgery day (time to be determined)

I already have care arranged for the children every day next week: Tuesday through Saturday; I will be staying in the hospital with John the first night after his surgery. After that the kids and I will most likely be sleeping in town with my sister so as to not be so far away from John.

PRAY! PRAY! PRAY! it is LESS than a week away! AHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
Matthew 6:27-33

NOT the only one to walk on THIS road!

I've been there too, when everything falls apart
And the best you can do is get through each day wondering will this never end?
Is it always gonna be this way
And the greatest lie you ever been told
Is you're the only one to walk on this road
And that you'll never see the light of dawn
So we came together to say... hold on
Cuz we've been there and found our way home
We promise you that you're not on your own
One day this will pass
God will see us all through
God will see us all through
God will see us all pass through

Again I’m tapping into the lyrics of the one and only, the greatest band EVER: Superchick. Yesterday as I sat in the hospital praying and waiting for John’s angiogram to be done, I listened to Superchick’s Stories (Down to the Bottom). The above lyrics hit me HARD!

This summer we have been through a grueling, excruciating and debilitating set of circumstances. I am pretty confident that no one else in the world has ever been through this exact sequence of events in such rapid succession; however, that being said, we are still not “the only one to walk on this road.” Even if no one else has experienced the specific traumas we have in the brief span of less than three months, we are NOT the only ones to have walked down the road of pain and suffering so unbearable one can hardly stand up under it.

Satan wants me to believe we are. Satan wants me to wallow in the self-pity of, “Why us?” Satan wants me to justify my sinful reactions by thinking, “Well no one else has ever had to deal with ALL this.” Satan wants me to indulge and rationalize and wail. You know why? Because when I am doing all that, I am stuck in the pain, in the agony, in the misery. When I am doing all that, I am NOT passing through. God will see us through, but if I get stuck in my circumstances, if I allow myself to indulgently partake of the pain and agony and misery, then I cannot move on.

The summer of 2009 has been the Summer of Suffering for the Kastners. However, we are NOT the only ones to walk down a road of suffering, and if I realize that and move on, I WILL pass through. God will see me pass through!

We need all of you more than we ever in our lives have. My dear friend and close confidant told me yesterday, I am praying for you more than I am praying for anyone or anything else right now. It is so encouraging to know that so many are lifting us up in prayer. I know without a shadow of a doubt that God WILL see the Kastners through this most recent struggle; however, on this side of the trauma it is all still so overwhelming.

It is my prayer that today, one of you will read this blog and realize that in your current struggles you are NOT “the only one to walk on this road.” I pray that one of you will read this blog and realize that you WILL see the light of dawn, you are NOT on your own, and God will see you pass through your current trial. May God bless you and take care of ALL of your needs today.
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