Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Gentle Leader.....

I have a new personal trainer.  Her name is Kiah.  She is AWESOME at her job!  She has only had the job for twelve days, and  in spite of a holiday and a 2-day stay in the ICU for my hubby, I have only missed walking with Kiah ONCE!  She is an incredible motivator.  (FINE!  I will admit the real motivator:  $$$$$.  The vet told us the more she walks on asphalt the less often she will need her nails clipped.  Since we're a little nervous to clip them ourselves and I am a HUGE penny pincher, the motivation of saving money is what has me out there walking that girl nearly every day!)  And as long as we're being truthful here, I might as well also admit, I'm not walking her... SHE is walking ME.  It is actually getting a little irritating because she pulls TOO hard on me!  I mentioned this to my cousin (my resident animal expert), and she offered to bring me her Gentle Leader when she came for Thanksgiving.  Well today I used it for the first time and WOW!  She was right!  It is a WORLD of difference!

Kiah wearing her Gentle Leader
The basic idea here is:  The Gentle Leader allows me to control Kiah's head and once I control her head, I am IN CONTROL!  I wonder, do they make a Gentle Leader for children???  How about husbands???  I digress...  So this morning my walk with Kiah was nearly perfect!  (Except for the part where I realized TOO late that the dogs at the end of the cul-de-sac were out...  it took ALL my strength to get that girl turned around and I was PRAYING the whole time that the owner of the other dogs would realize what was going on as they had left their property and were slowly but LOUDLY approaching us.  YIKES!)  Other than that she walked without pulling and there was slack in the leash the ENTIRE time!  Brittany's wisdom of, "If you control the head, you control the animal." kept running through my head and it got me to thinking... then praying... any crying a little too...

I started praying, "God, please be my Gentle Leader!  I want you to control my head so that you are in control of ALL of me."  See I started to realize that this whole thing called life... A lot of it is a head game... If Satan can get into your head and make you worry, doubt, or fear... If you give just an INCH of your brain to worry, doubt, or fear... It is over!  The worry, doubt and fear control you.  However, if you give God control over every inch of your brain, peace flows in... the peace that passes all understanding.

Now according to my cousin (and she hasn't been wrong so far), after a while Kiah will get so used to the Gentle Leader not allowing her to pull that she will forget to pull without the Gentle Leader and eventually she will even walk by my side without a leash.  We'll see about that.

But, I think that happens with God too....  I think initially we might pull and tug at our Gentle Leader...  I think initially we have to surrender to Him over and over and over again.... but after awhile, we get used to it... we stop even trying to pull away towards worry, doubt and fear.  We stop even trying to leave His side when the going gets tough.  We just surrender and the peace floods in.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Update on John's brain....

Soooooo John connected with the doctor's staff this morning, and here are the details he got (please keep in mind, I was busy sleeping off the effects of a 5am Black Friday shopping trip so I did NOT get any of these details directly):

The doctor thinks the lesion (which may or may not be scar tissue) on John's brain is causing seizures.  Therefore, he wants John to have a 24-hour EEG.  (His office is MAILING us the orders for the EEG so again the lack of urgency gives me some peace regarding the severity of this issue.)  It is not clear what will be done about the lesion.  Both surgery and medicine were mentioned.

So just a few more details adding a tiny bit of clarity to the situation.  The doctor's staff has already faxed a release to MU for John to return to work on Monday.  He wanted to return to McD's today, but he is WIPED from T-giving and was not feeling up to it.

I am actually MUCH better ever since last Sunday.  I KNOW my God holds us tight in His hands!  I had a MARVELOUS conversation on Wednesday with a dear friend who just got an icky medical diagnosis of her own.  Besides hammering home over and over and over again, "Jami, God is in control!"  She also blessed me with some incredible praise that brought edification to my spirit!  God is SO very good and so COMPLETELY in control.

Please keep praying for:

*continual return of John's strength and stamina
*answers, treatments, hope to come
*continued PEACE over the occupants of this house (and all our loved ones)...  That we might successfully keep worry at bay
*that God will once again be GLORIFIED through our struggles

You know, my family has this Thanksgiving tradition.  Since we were children, my sisters and cousins and I COMPLAINED about it.  Secretly, I have come to LOVE IT.  Just prior to eating Thanksgiving dinner, we go around the table lighting a candle and saying what we are thankful for.  Yesterday, I said I was thankful for my struggles.   And I truly am!  They keep me real and they force me to rely more heavily upon Jesus.

May you all be enjoying a BLESSED day-after Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The epitome of anticlimactic....

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!  John was up to his elbows in the cleaning of the turkey fryer, and I was about to start another load of laundry when we heard his cell ringing.  "Answer my phone!" he screamed, and we both started scrambling for the phone.  Alas!  It was not to be!  We missed the call AGAIN!  Here's what the voice message said,

Hi John.  It looks like we're destined to play phone tag.  I will try again to call you on Friday morning, but basically Dr. Ahuja would like you to have an EEG.  We are sending orders, and the neurologist will call you to schedule that.  As far as a return to work release, please leave a number for me to fax it to and I will send it over.  

BAH!  What is it?  What does this mean?  What are we looking for/ruling out?  SERIOUSLY?!?!?!  We waited four days for THIS????  That isn't even an answer!

Basically, we are just taking comfort in the fact that the slooooooooow speed with which the doctor is moving on this likely indicates it isn't that big of a deal.  So we're just plodding ahead:  T-giving Road Rally tomorrow a.m., John frying a turkey for dinner at my parents, stuffing ourselves on GREAT food and rejoicing that we are together and NOT in the hospital...  That's what our plan of action is.  Hopefully, we'll get some real answers on Friday.

Have a BLESSED Thanksgiving everyone!  And BE THANKFUL!

Worship Wednesday: Blink

I have been consumed by this song for several weeks now.  I keep meaning to blog about it on a Worship Wednesday yet my Wednesdays seem to be so busy I NEVER get the time to blog on one of them!  Today I am BOUND and DETERMINED to blog about this song.... especially since it has come to mean SO much more to me in the past five days.

Teach me to number my days 
And count every moment before it slips away 
Taking all the colors before they fade to gray 

I don't want to miss even just a second more of this

The very first time I heard this song, I burst into tears.  This band, Revive, they PERFECTLY captured the entire theme of my parenting career.  God has been teaching me this lesson since I squeezed Noah's slightly large head out of my body.  I remember one time standing in the corner of my living room holding one of the boys (it had to be Noah or Jeremiah... something tells me it was Miah).  It was the middle of the night.  This child was FUSSY! He wanted to be held but not just held... he needed to be held WHILE I stood up... every time I tried to sit down he would start WAILING the second my rear hit the couch cushion.  I was exhausted!  I too was crying by this point.  John found me half asleep, still crying, standing in the corner using the two walls to prop my body up so I wouldn't sit and make the baby cry again.  I remember that night thinking this will NEVER end!  I will NEVER sleep again!  I will NEVER get this child to stop crying!  BAM!  WHAM!  SLAM!  Here I am and that "baby" is nine years old and babbling on and on and on about Power Rangers.  He is HUGE!  He wears a size 10/12.  He SLEEPS through the entire night all night and OHMIGOSH!  What I wouldn't give to have his tiny little newborn body in my arms for just a second again!  Since I can't go back, I have tried SO hard to apply that lesson to my RIGHT NOW!  When I am lying in bed with Hannah's little piggies poking me in my privates while I try to sleep, I remind myself... before I know it this baby girl will be perfecting her toe touch, applying makeup for prom, or EEK!  walking down the aisle!  So I snuggle in tight embracing the intrusion into my peaceful sleep reminding myself... IT HAPPENS IN A BLINK!

It happens in a blink 
It happens in a flash 
It happens in the time it takes to look back 
I try to hold on tight, but there's no stopping time 
What is it I've done with my life 
It happens in a blink

This past five days happened in a blink too.  Just five days ago, we were cruising along....  No worries... Just some irritation over John STILL having to take pain meds and muscle relaxers...  No stress....  Actually planning to BUY semi-decent Christmas presents for the kids this year and take them to the water park too... No fear...  We hardly remembered our neurosurgeon's name...  IT HAPPENS IN A BLINK!  IT HAPPENS IN A FLASH!  We were catapulted back into the thick of it all!  But guess what???  This girl isn't THAT dumb!  I am LEARNING my lesson.  As much as I am anxiously hoping Dr. Ahuja's staff will call us SOON, I am also cherishing the last moments I have of NOT knowing.  I'm glorying in the extra time spent as a family... (we went into town to get John's car last night... stopped at Qdoba for dinner...  shopped at Walmart...  I remember at Qdoba thinking this is SUCH a precious moment... my babies and my honey and I gathered around this booth... we NEVER eat "in" a restaurant... we always gulp our food down in the car on the way to this or that.... last night we just sat and laughed and shared and it was DEFINITELY a moment to memorize!)

Slow down, slow down 
Before today becomes our yesterday 
Slow down, slow down 
Before you turn around and it's too late 

Wherever this day finds you:  on the top of a mountain... in the depths of a valley.... PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE take the time to realize:  IT HAPPENS IN A BLINK!  whether this is a good moment you want to memorize or a gut wrenching one you want to fade quickly into just a memory.... IT HAPPENS IN A BLINK!  

It happens in a blink 
It happens in a flash 
It happens in the time it takes to look back 
I try to hold on tight, but there's no stopping time 
What is it I've done with my life 
It happens in a blink

Hang on my dear friends!  Enjoy every second of this marvelous thing called life!  Enjoy every second of RIGHT now... for in a BLINK it can ALL change and there will be another brand new set of circumstances to appreciate.

Happy day before Thanksgiving everyone!

[Oh and btw... NO!  we still have NOT heard ANYTHING from the doctor!]

Monday, November 22, 2010

No news...

just an fyi.... it is 6:30 p.m. Monday and we have NOT heard anything from the doctor yet. I will post as soon as we hear.

John is feeling better today... BUT that means the loony bin thinks he is working tomorrow...  AYE CARUMBA!

Again... I will post when we hear anything.  Thanks for your prayers.


So often I hear people say, "God will never give you more than you can handle."  But I don't really agree with that.  I do believe that God DOES allow more than we can independently handle to come into our lives because if we are not pushed past our "threshold" of tolerance we will not grow.

Recently while pondering this concept with my now famous friend, Lori (see blog that made her FAMOUS) I used this analogy.

A personal trainer evaluates his/her client and then comes up with a training program that fits the client.  If the client is a fitness newbie, the exercises will be simpler, the weight used lighter, and the number of repetitions smaller.  If the client is a professional athlete, the exercises will be more complex, the weight used heavier, and the number of repetitions greater.  The goal of the personal trainer is to help the client make fitness improvements.  It is not to hurt the client or to just waste the clients time with exercises that are easy for him/her to complete.

God is the PERFECT personal trainer.  He knows us, body, soul, and mind, better than ANYONE, better than we know ourselves.  He allows us to endure the struggles that He knows will make us stronger.  He doesn't want to hurt us by allowing struggles that are too difficult for us.  Yet He doesn't want to just waste our time here on this planet allowing struggles that bring about no changes in our lives.  The goal of this earth is the "perfecting of our faith."  It takes work to get perfect faith, probably a lot more work than it takes to get a perfect body.

So what's the application here of this funky little analogy:

1.  TRUST... Trust that God knows you.  He knows what you're going through.  He is allowing a tailor made program of struggles designed to perfect YOUR faith.

2.  WORK HARD....  Work hard to get the most of out of this tailor made program.  If you were paying a personal trainer to get you in shape, you would sure as shoot do each repetition exactly as the trainer instructed in order to get the most benefit out of your money.  Approach your struggles just like that.  If you have to go through the mud and the muck of ICKINESS, get some benefit from the pain you are enduring.

3.  DON'T LOOK AROUND....  Don't look around at how much weight is on someone else's weight bar or what type of exercises their trainer has them doing.  Focus on the task in front of you, trusting that what is "on your plate" is exactly what you need.

I promise you all, I am applying all this nonsense I'm spouting off about.

1.  TRUST... I am trusting that God knows that John is AGAIN out of work with something wrong with his brain.  I am trusting that these struggles will perfect our faith.

2.  WORK HARD... I am working hard to get the most out of this struggle.  I'm being gut-level honest with all of you in case someone else can be encouraged by my struggles.  I am reigning in my worries.  I am rejoicing in the positive aspects of what I'm facing.  Just this morning I updated my Facebook status, "I'm thankful for the fact that I get an unexpected, ENTIRE week with my hubby home."  And guess what?  I am!  I am REALLY thankful for extra time with him.  I am trying VERY hard to complete each rep of this little faith perfecting workout with great form.

3.  DON'T LOOK AROUND... Finally, I am putting my blinders on.  You know how they make a horse wear blinders so it doesn't get distracted?  I am trying to put on blinders.  I am trying hard to focus on what God wants ME to learn, glean, endure.  The only time I am taking my eyes off my own business is to pray for other people.

Just wanted you all to know that I'm not just spouting off words that I'm not paying attention to.  I am trying VERY hard to apply what God is revealing to me and what I am sharing with you.  Hope you all have a VERY blessed day!  I promise to update on John's condition as soon as we know anything.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Back at the beginning....

It hit me as I stood in my kitchen this morning.  I mean don't get me wrong.  I have been there the past two days.  I know John was zoomed to one hospital in an ambulance and zoomed in another ambulance to a different hospital.  It grazed over the surface of my brain that this was all a freaky sense of deja vu:  back in the Neuro ICU, same faces we had seen 14 months ago, same words flying around:  CT, MRI, EEG, same hallways to walk, same Noodles to eat and Starbucks to drink.  However, this morning I was walking through the kitchen listening to my husband coughing away in the bathroom.  (He has a touch of a cold and had just asked me, "Isn't green bad?")  I thought, He should hop in the shower.  The steam would open him up a little.  when an image of the cane we bought him last night flashed into my mind.  And as real as hitting a wall of cement at 75 miles per hour everything came to a HALT.

I realized.  We are BACK there.  We are pretty much EXACTLY where we were 14 months ago before John had his surgery.  He can't use his life side very well (better than Friday but still not very well).  He is WEAK (which is a situation that in and itself TERRIFIES me.  My big strong, tough, a little bit scary husband  weakened is just a petrifying situation for me.)  and we do NOT know what is going on with him.  We don't know what this "lesion on the cerebellum" is, but we do know that:  John needs to use a cane to get around.  We also know that while the doctor said he COULD return to work on Monday, he also said if John had some sick time available he SHOULD take it easy this week.  Therefore, John should be out of work.  It is all VERY reminiscent of last year, and I have a secret to tell:

I am scared.

I'm not really scared of what we're going to go through.  I know that I know that I know:  God is IN control.  He has our back.  All things work together for good to those who love God.... I know these things deep in my being.  However, right here, right now, poised at the threshold of enduring this again, I'm afraid I can't do it again.  It is silly really.  I've done this before.  I've limped through the days before diagnosis trying to force my worries into submission.  I've wrestled my fears in a waiting room full of other loved ones.  I've fought a VERY stubborn man to get his butt in gear and help me get him healthy.  I've humiliated myself admitting to others we needed financial help.  I've endured the scorn which came from those who felt I should have kept my financial needs to myself and let God provide for my needs without me asking people for help.  I shuffled, head down, eyes averted through the shame of applying for energy assistance and food stamps.  I have held that little green card hidden in my hand while trying to swipe it without anyone else at Walmart knowing I was paying with a Quest card.  I've watched this man I love more than my own life reduced to half of himself and struggling through forming a new identity based upon the fact that the one thing he REALLY valued in himself, his strength, was completely gone.  I have toughed it out when faced with terror on my babies faces and in their hearts.  So rationally, based upon the fact that I have done all of this before and lived to tell about it, it is silly really that I am scared.

But guess what?  In spite of the fact that I have done it all before and made it through to the other side, I don't wanna do it again.  And part of why I don't wanna do it again is I am not sure I can do it again.  I know God has the strength to get us through this.  I know Dr. Ahuja is smart enough to get us through this.  I know our family is faithful enough to get us through this.  I know that our friends pray hard enough to get us through this.  But I don't know if I, Jami Lynn Kastner, can do this.  Because I just DON'T WANNA!  I wanna go back!  I wanna be in that place where we were complaining about all the medication John has to take and whining about the fact that he still struggles to turn his head to the side.  Instead of sitting here worrying what this fricken lesion thing means.  I wanna be in the place where we were planning to spend the Christmas "bonus" we just got on nice presents for Amanda & Amber for once and a trip to a water park for the little ones.  Instead of having to sock that money away in case John is out of work again.  I wanna be in the place where we had triumphed THROUGH our struggles.  Instead of here in the first chapter of a new book of struggles.

Alas, as I always say to my children, channeling the spirit of the great Mick Jaeger, "You can't always get what you want."  I want to be a size 9 again.  I want to sleep through the night without some one's little piggies jabbing me in my private area.  I want to clean the kitchen floor and have it stay clean for more than 39 seconds.  And now I want my husband to be healthy again.  But, "You can't always get what you want."    However, if you keep singing that song you'll find this gem of wisdom too, "But if you try, sometimes you might find, you get what you need."

God isn't about giving me what I want.  He is about giving me what I need.  He is the creator of this crazy, jumbled, sometimes slightly insane creature.  He wrote the owner's manual on Jami Lynn Kastner 2.0, and He alone knows what I need.  So I'm taking my tears and my fears and trudging back upstairs to pour myself some more coffee.  I'm not in a place that is pleasant right now, but that doesn't mean that I'm not EXACTLY where God wants me to be.  And I know myself, as well as some of you know me too, and we know that in spite of my little temper tantrum here today, I will pull it together and figure it out.  I'll scratch and claw; kick, scream, and bite, and do WHATEVER it takes to get my little family through this most recent skirmish.

I'm adding the song Voice of Truth (Casting Crowns) to the top of my playlist.  It says it all today.  Expect to hear from me more frequently in the days to come, both to update you on John's status and because I have a jumble of feelings to work out here and blogging soothes my soul.

Once again, I cannot tell all of you how valuable your support has been.  Encouraging words on my FB page, comments to my blog, e-mailed responses, but most of all PRAYER.  Thank you everyone.  Thank you so much!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

What I know....

I know without a doubt that our God is a GREAT BIG God.
I know without a doubt that "a lesion on the cerebellum" is NOT too big for our God.
I know without a doubt that walking through this will likely be quite difficult.
I know without a doubt that John J. Kastner is a tough STRONG man.
I know without a doubt that our God will carry us every step of the way.
I know without a doubt that Jami L. Kastner is much stronger than she feels.
I know without a doubt that we serve Jehova Jireh our healer.
I know without a doubt that Dr. Arvind Ahuja is a GREAT, GREAT neurosurgeon.
I know without a doubt that our family will be there to help us out.
I know without a doubt that MANY will be praying us through this.
I know without a doubt that we are safe in our Father's arms.

And I still stand FIRMLY behind our life verse:

For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Jeremiah 29:11


Part of the problem with being as transparent as John and I are is once in a while you wish you hadn't been so open.   The whole world has been invited into our drama and now we have some unsettling information and it is too late to pull back and not share.  So here we go... as verbatim as we can recall:

Dr. Ahuja breezed in a little bit ago with the news we could go home.  John asked him if he had any idea what caused this.  He said the MRI revealed a lesion on John's cerebellum, and he is concerned.  We do NOT know what this means and are trying hard not to google it so PLEASE do NOT share with us stories of "lesions on  the cerebellum" from your past.  If you MUST google, please do NOT tell us what your research reveals.  Dr. Ahuja will be consulting with the radiologist on Monday and will follow-up with us after that.  We prefer to wait and get our information from the world-renowned neurosurgeon, thank you.  The only other piece of information we have is John has been instructed to take a low dose aspirin every day for now.

Right now we are REJOICING in the release from the hospital and trying to just apply Psalm 46:10, Be still and know that I am God.

Thanks!  We know you will all continue to hold us close in your prayers.

John & Jami

Like a bad, bad dream....

[I apologize in advance.  I will NOT be proofreading this blog.  I am typing it as fast as my fingers can fly so that you all know how to pray and then I am GOING TO BED.]

It was all so surreal... I had JUST gotten off the phone with John.  He was having a busy day trying to fix a pump or something or other, and I was having a crazy day of dealing with temper tantrums.  I hung up and got the kids in gear for a quick trip to the library.  They were standing there with books in hand when my phone rang.  It was John calling me back.  Only when I answered it was not John on the other line.

"Is this John's wife?"  the voice asked.

"Yes.  This is Jami."  I replied.

"This is Keith.  I work with John.  Something is not right with him.  He said it feels like when he had that stroke thing.  Public Safety is on their way here."  He reported.

My head started swimming.  I didn't even know which thought to land on.  I can't do this again.  Stroke like symptoms what does that mean.  I can't do this again.  Should I get to the city.  I can't do this again.  What is going ON!?!?!?

In a flurry of activity, I called the neurosurgeon, called my mom, and returned the call to John.  Public Safety answered his phone and reported that the fire department had been called and paramedics were on their way.  After hanging up, with the children getting in the minivan, I stood in my living room starting to hyperventilate a little.  I can't do this again!  I can't do this again!  I can't do this AGAIN!

The adrenaline kicked in and my mind started flying.  I have a dog now what in the heck am I supposed to do?  It's going to take FOREVER to get to Milwaukee.  The library's going to send back the books I had on hold.  Rational and irrational thoughts abounded.  I went to ask the neighbors to let Kiah out.  I couldn't stop bawling the whole time I was talking to them.  I said goodbye to my aunt (through my tears) and agreed to call her as soon as I knew anything.  I climbed in the car and started driving.

I called about a jillion people on my way into town... I had to try to arrange help with the children without either of my sisters, my father, or my mother available.  ARGH!  Finally taking charge because I was not making decisions, Amanda left work and told me she was meeting me at the hospital.  I arrived at Mt. Sinai.  (Do you know where Mt. Sinai is??? It is NOT in a good part of town!!!  I asked the receptionist if she thought it would be okay for the children to wait for me in the waiting room while I went back by John.  She said, "I wouldn't leave them there.  We get some ODD people in here."  Alrighty then... coming with me... that's what they are doing.)  We got to John and he was "off."  Speech was slow.  Left side weak, numb and tingling.  I could just TELL he was not right.  Mt. Sinai contacted Dr. Ahuja who told them to IMMEDIATELY transport John to St. Luke's.  Another ambulance ride, another flurry of calls, and a few tears later I arrived in the Neuro ICU.  It was queer and strange like stepping back in time.  In the weirdest of all coincidences the nurses who were the first two nurses to treat John after brain surgery were BOTH on duty and BOTH helping John when I walked in.  The aide on duty was also the same, and later in the evening I ran into Sarah Prusinski a former student of mine from HCS.  She is a nurse on that unit now.

They immediately whisked John away for another CT.  Jane, Dr. Ahuja's nurse, accompanied us and explained the procedure... blah blah blah to see if he's had a stroke and blah blah blah to make sure his brain is getting enough oxygen.... blah blah blah or it might be his Chiari Malformation is causing a problem.... blah blah blah bulging discs blah blah pinched nerve....  BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH!  The pointed me to a waiting room and left me alone while John went into the imaging room.  Finally finding a little privacy, I just let the tears wash down my face.  What am I doing here?  How did this happen again?  We were just coasting along thinking the worst thing was two days off work now and again and then WHAM!  What in the world is this and how in the WORLD will I make it through MORE?

The nurse finally returned to report that they had ruled out a stroke which was VERY good and was apparently the reason for all the fuss and rush and blaring ambulance lights.  We slowly and calmly returned to the Neuro ICU.  Erin (our beloved nurse from last time) tried to get John comfortable and set up; however, by now he was approaching MASSIVE amounts of pain because he had missed his afternoon meds.  His neck muscles were tightening and his headache crescendoed.  At some point Amanda arrived.  (She had taken the kids from Sinai to get food and then go to my mom's.)  Meds were ordered.  An MRI was prescribed for tomorrow morning (a fact that really bothered John because that lunatic actually thought he was going home with me tonight!)  All sorts of activity finally settled down and Amanda left to get us dinner.

After eating and taking meds, John promptly fell asleep.  I waited and waited for Dr. Ahuja to arrive.  Turns out he was stuck in surgery.  Finally at 9 p.m. I left to go get the kids and return home.  After the grueling one hour trip home, I arrived to find my doggie WIGGING out!  I grabbed her collar and rushed her out towards the leash.  My flip flops hit the frost on the deck and my feet FLEW out from under me.  THUD!  My head connected with the boards of the deck before any other part of my body did.  Pain EXPLODED through my skull and somehow keeping a firm grasp on Kiah's collar, I just laid there staring up at the stars sobbing.  My HEAD hurt!  My husband was in the ICU!  This day SUCKED and I just wanted to crawl into someone's arms and cry.... yet I was the only viable adult in this crazy house tonight.  I triumphed over the urge to just lie there crying until my tears froze to my face.  I struggled to my side, hooked Kiah to the leash, and let Noah help me up.

My head is STILL throbbing.  I need to figure out what to do tomorrow.  I made all these plans for the kids so that I could be at the hospital, but they are contingent upon me leaving the house by 7:30 a.m.  and that is NOT going to happen.  Not sure what will become of tomorrow....  All I know is this... as much as this day socked me in the gut and left me lying on my back head, heart and soul throbbing, my God is STILL on the throne.  He is STILL in control.  And He is STILL good, right, just and true!

As I drove home tonight it was like K-love had a playlist entitled "Encourage Jami through her SECOND bout with her husband's brain issues."  Song after song fed my soul.  I belted out praise with one hand on the wheel and one in the air.  I do NOT feel that I can make it through this whole, awful scenario again, but I serve a God who can move mountains so I trust my soul and not my feelings.

Please, please, please people of God, get to praying.  Please pray that the doctors will figure out (and TELL US) what is going on with John.  Please pray that the strength will return to John's left side and that they will get his pain under control.  And please please pray for this frail servant of God with a soul of steel.  I do not FEEL that I can do this again but I KNOW with God's help and your prayers I can walk through ANYTHING.

Thanks in advance for your prayers!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Raising successful adults

Lately I've been thinking a lot about something my mother always tells me, "Jami, you're not raising successful children.  You're raising successful adults."  I think about it at many different times.  For example:

Jeremiah has recently taken up the annoying habit of ARGUING with everything I say.  In frustration one day, I irritatedly asked, "Why must you argue with EVERYTHING I say?"  I started pondering why he couldn't just DO WHAT I SAY without questioning me.  Then it hit me?  Is that what kind of adult I want him to be?  Do I want him unquestioningly obeying what a boss tells him to do?  What if the boss asks him to "cook the books?"  Is it even what kind of teenager I want him to be?  Do I want him unquestioningly obeying what a teacher tells him to do?  What if the teacher makes inappropriate advances towards him?  Is that what I REALLY want from my child?  DO WHAT I SAY without questioning?

That same night I called Jeremiah to me, and I told him that was not the kind of person I wanted him to be.  I wanted him to be someone who evaluated EVERYTHING in his heart against what the Bible says and came to his OWN conviction about what to do.  However, in a family, when he is a child, it is INEFFECTIVE for me to waste THAT much time arguing with him about everything I ask him to do.  Therefore, I told him each day he would start with five "argue" cards.  I continued on, explaining he needed to "spend" those argue cards wisely for when they were gone, he would not get anymore until the next day.  EACH argument should only be made after carefully considering what he was being asked to do and whether God would want him to do it and THEN choosing whether to argue or not.  I personally think this is a GREAT strategy (although I'll admit it has been a little rocky in the implementation phase).

It got me thinking, and I know that I am likely to start sounding like a radical liberal here; however.....  Why is it that so many of us, parents, expect our children to blindly obey us and then act surprised when they blindly follow their peers into sin?  Why is it that so many of us think the Bible tells us to train our children to be robots doing exactly what we tell them to instead of mature beings who can think for themselves.

I am NOT advocating anarachy.  I am NOT saying that parents should not have rules.  I am, however, proposing that possibly blind and swift obedience to our rules is not necessarily what we want.  I for one want to raise thinkers who base their choices on Biblical principles.  Therefore, I need to make sure my children KNOW the Bible and make sure I have taught them to THINK.  Finally, I have to show them how to STAND UP for what they believe.

This situation has gotten me re-evaluating MUCH of my parenting strategies in light of this one question:  Is this going to make my babies successful children or successful adults.  I have to admit:  many things are changing around this household after that scrutiny is applied.

So the next time you see me in Walmart arguing with a nine year old who wants to play in the video game room, don't raise your eyebrows and think, "Hmmmm I would NEVER tolerate such defiance."  Just lean over and ask me, "Did he pay you an argue card for that?"

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Kiah Grace

We have a dog!!!!

Her name is Kiah Grace.

Her verse is:
Revelation 22:21
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people.  Amen.

She is SWEET and KIND and AMAZING with the crazy Kastner children.  This is the story of how she came to be with us.

We have ALWAYS wanted a dog.  We are MUCH more dog people than cat people.  However, fate (and a country home that needed a GOOD mouser...) brought us a cat first.  In a story quite akin to If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, we got the first Mercy.  However, we soon saw she had simply been looking for a loving place to die.  After reading the tearful account of Mercy's final days, our generous landlord offered us the new Mercie, who promptly taught us that even kittens of a VERY young age can get preggos.  Along came Job, (full name:  Absalom Job), who until today I did not realize had not been given a proper verse or introduction to my blogging community so:

Absalom Job

Job 1:1
In the land of Uz there lived a man (or a cat) whose name was Job.  This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.

As most of my Facebook friends know, Mercie ran away about two months ago.  We have pretty much given up hope of her return, but still look for her now and again.  There have been a couple of possible Mercie sightings, but they are as of yet still unconfirmed.  They do make us feel a little better though that possibly she isn't road kill as we have feared for the past eight weeks.

Job has been doing a great job of taking over his mother's responsibilities.  Taking down at least one mouse per week and policing things as he should.  Yet still something was missing.

A short while ago we found a dog available through Freecycle.  We got approval from our landlord to have a dog; however, she was a BUST!  When we went to meet her she bit John and then me.  Nopes... no biters around these children!  We kept on looking and hoping that the right dog would find us some how.

On Tuesday night we had our new neighbors over for dinner.  That night I chronicled our search for a dog to them, and I closed with, "I believe with all of my heart, it will happen when it is meant to be."

The next morning I awoke bleary eyed and started scrolling through the latest e-mail digest from Freecycle.  My eyes came wide open upon finding, Offer:  4 year old Lab/Hound Mix.  What!?!?!?  I forwarded the description to John and upon receiving the thumbs up, I e-mailed the poster.  We set up a meeting for that day.  I nearly instantly got the feeling that the current owners of Kiah were believers.  Upon meeting Kim, I quickly confirmed my suspicions when she told me the reason they were getting rid of Kiah.  Their adult son was leaving soon for Bible college and the mission field.  Without his help with lawn care and snow removal, they would not be able to stay in a house.  They were moving to a condo.

It feels just like Kiah was handpicked by God for this family!  Her former owners are Christians who homeschooled their children.  She is well-trained and gentle as can be.  She is SOOOOOOOO patient and good with children.  She is an AMAZING dog, and she is just one more proof that "His ways are ALWAYS higher than our ways."

Soooooo because we needed a little more insanity in this household, we are now in the process of "dog-training" our children.  It is HARD and not without tears.  (The first night Hannah opened the back door WIDE and Kiah dashed out it!  Noah sobbed while I scoured the neighborhood for her.  Then due to the tenacity of my oldest, very sensitive boy, she returned to figure out who that dog baying from our porch was... Noah making his dog sound.)  But we are plodding on in the training:  Hannah NO hugging Kiah only petting. Elijah STAY away from Kiah when she goes to her Kennel, that means she wants some alone time.  (Momma wishes she had a kennel too!)  No you may NOT feed Kiah cookies!

As in all things Kastner, there is a firm and solid lesson from God... This one is found clearly in every single e-mail I send.  It's our life verse, and our God proved it to us once again this week:

For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11

He had plans to bring us a dog at the right time, and His plans turned out to be an AMAZING dog who was JUST right for this family.  I'm so glad that's how our God is.  Always KNOWING the plans He has for us.  Always prospering us and not harming us.  Always giving us hope and a future.  

So now as Noah said when we were on the way home with Kiah the first night:  "Now we have EVERYTHING a family needs to live in the county:  a cat, a dog and family to love."

God bless and have a great day!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Selfish with responsibility

[Blog writers disclaimer:  I started this blog and halfway through kiddos started waking up.  I plodded on because my heart really needed to get this out, but I was bombarded by nearly CONSTANT interruptions and I have NO idea if this blog will make ANY sense or not.]

This week brought some rough encounters for me.  By Friday I was cowering in the corner licking my wounds.  I was contemplating complete hermit status to protect myself from the viciousness of the outside world.  However, this morning as I came awake, God spoke the answer to me, "Jami, you have to worry about your OWN self!"

See I spent the week reeling from and obsessing over painful blows dealt me by filter-deficient people, biased treatment, and being misunderstood.  I was starting to feel like pulling my head, arms, and legs inside my shell and hiding away for awhile.  I moaned and complained to God, "This hurts and I don't want to got through it!"  Last night I was at breaking point.  I went to bed with a wounded heart and defeated spirit.  But I awoke with hope and a path of action.

God revealed to me that I needed to get the focus off the pain that was inflicted upon me, and put the focus on what I could do to avoid those situations in the future.  See people are ALWAYS going to be fallible.  They are going to hurt me and let me down.  But in those situations, instead of obsessing over my pain and pointing the finger, God wants me to turn the finger around and figure out something I could do better.  If I've said it once, I've said it a MILLION times:  I am the ONLY one I have the power to change!

I am a self-admitted conflict-a-phob who has taken the directive from James (be slow to speak) a little too seriously.  I am WAY too likely to just absorb something painful in the spirit of peace.  However, constantly keeping my mouth shut gives people some type of permission to continue to ambush me with unfiltered comments, to assault me with unwanted advice, and to basically walk all over me.  Yes blessed are the peacemakers; however, being a peacemaker doesn't have to look like being a doormat.

This morning I have been mulling over the same wounds I was licking last night.  However, instead of cowering in the corner and whimpering over them, I've been examining them and posing the question to myself, "What should I have SAID in those situations to calmly but honestly express myself?"  SEVERAL months ago, a friend gave me some wisdom on this type of situation...  I'm not sure why I stopped applying it....  "simply to say out loud 'that hurts my feelings' or 'it makes me angry when...' once you verbalize it, the feelings dissipate. I think the key to being Christlike is to verbalize the emotions in a calm manner. "  

Ding!  Ding!  Ding!  Ding!  I'm finally to the part where I'm going to explain the title of this blog!!!!  I think what God wants me to do is to start selfishly taking responsibility for the pain I feel instead of cowering in the corner pointing my finger at the person who hurt me.  I cannot do ANYTHING to change other people.  I can't fix their faulty filters.  I can't make them act in an unbiased manner.  I can't compel people to consider my feelings.  But I can control the way I respond in those situations.  I can calmly respond.  I can make sure I always employ my filter.  I can treat others fairly.  I can consider the feelings of others.  

I guess my encouragement to you today is to refuse to allow others to enslave you.  When we point the finger, when we blame other people, we are giving THEM power over us.  We are saying we are weaklings at their mercy.  We are saying we have no power...  THEY hurt us, THEY made us angry.   I always tell my children, "No one can MAKE you angry.  You allow what they did to bring your anger."  Take selfish responsibility for your pain or anger!  Look at what YOU can change!  Examine YOUR actions prior to the pain.  Because NONE of us can change anyone but ourselves. 

God bless and have a good day!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Brad's Legacy: A Son's Heart Discovered

It's funny to me.... It's the "difficult" situations from my teaching career that stand out the most in my memory.... someone's personally designed rocket being thrown out the second story window by another student... lecturing a class that had been naughty for the sub... making a student carry his belongings around in a box because he couldn't keep his desk neat enough that the items weren't spewing out of it...

As it is with Brad, my strongest memory of him was the time I was trying to teach verbals.  I am pretty sure it was gerunds which were causing the big confusion, and I remember keeping Brad and Nathanael long into their next class because they REFUSED to leave until they understood gerunds completely.  There was NO way either of those boys was going to take a chance on a  lower grade just because they didn't understand the homework.  That's how I remember Brad Larson as my student.

I learned MUCH more about Brad through reading the book his parents wrote after his death then I ever knew from being his teacher for four years.  As I read his book, I cried many tears:  tears for the parents who lost their precious child, tears for the brother and sister who lost their amazing sibling, tears for the life Brad never got to finish living....  But I couldn't cry long, for I kept on imaging Brad in Heaven.  In my mind, Brad doesn't let Jesus have a second alone.... Ever inquisitive, ever thirsting for knowledge, I imagine Brad up in Heaven just PEPPERING our Savior with questions...  It makes me chuckle through my tears to imagine this.

I learned a lot from Brad's book, and today, on his birthday, when he would have been 27 years old, I am going to honor his memory by telling you what I learned from his life:

1.  There is NO goal too lofty.  Set your standards HIGH and then shoot for them.  I was STRUCK hard by the "Club 31:1" Brad started.  It was a group of boys trying to live after Job's example:  "I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl."  Job 31:1... In this world of sin and shamefulness, where everywhere you turn a young man's eyes are assaulted by images which would draw the purest to lust... the mere fact that a group of young men would AIM for such a lofty goal inspired me.  There are so many things in my life which I feel I just don't even have the courage to aim for right now:  losing weight, buying this house, getting caught up on the laundry.... (and many, many more much too personal to print)... I was inspired by the loftiness of this goal and the courage of a young man (many young men actually) to aim for it.

2.  There is no such thing as a lame testimony.  Like Brad was, I too have, "been a Christian all my life."  I completely related to the feelings expressed in "His Testimony" that somehow getting saved at a young age before you'd had time to have some evil, awful sins to be saved from was boring...  that somehow confessing coveting your sister's crayons was just NOWHERE near as riveting as confessing a drug-addiction.  But while reading Brad's testimony I was struck by the pure and simple BEAUTY of a life that always honored God...

3.  There is no guaranty about tomorrow so LIVE TODAY.  The final thing I learned from reading Brad's book was just to live life FULLY.  This lesson struck me because Brad Larson did not have NEARLY enough years on this earth, and Jami Kastner has NO idea when her days on this earth will come to an end.  Therefore, the only conclusion is to LIVE LIFE FULLY!  Appreciate those around you.... laugh HARD at stuff... don't take this thing called life too seriously... and just LIVE while you have the chance.

It's really a great book that Dr. and Mrs. Larson put together from Brad's writings.  I tried to find it online to link to it so if anyone wanted to purchase it they could, alas I was unable to find a place to purchase it.  If you really want a copy, let me know and I will ask the Larsons how to order copies.  And if you could please, take a second right now to say a quick prayer for the Larsons:  David, Sherry, Jeff, Becky, and Dawn... For I know today is a very hard day for them.

Finally, a quick note:


Thank you for leaving behind your writings so I could see into your precious heart, and thank you for living a life of such inspiration.... Say, "Hi" to Jesus for me.

Miss Haugh

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I'm alive! REALLY! I am!!!!

I did NOT fall off the face of the earth!  I promise!  I'm still here.  "Well then, Jami, where have you been???"  Well, it's been one of "those" months for the Kastners.

1.  I was SICK (and actually am AGAIN now!)  I got a cold and it lingered for three weeks before this stubborn, hard-headed, martyr mom, FINALLY went to the doctor.  It took nearly the whole ten days of antibiotics to feel better.  Now, I am coming down with something else.  Before my inbox gets flooded with suggestions as to how to improve my immune system and demands that I see the doctor in case I have something wrong with me, I KNOW what is wrong with me:  immune system horribly compromised by severe sleep deprivation.  I'm working on it!  I promise!  Hannah's just going through the growing pains of giving up a nap, but yet she's not TOTALLY ready to give it up... Of course this means increased sleep deprivation for the mom.  In the middle of cold/flu season, that is a LETHAL combination for my immune system.

Lesson learned:  Playing the martyr typically does not end well.  Trying to tough it out can sometimes be good (like if you're a professional football player getting paid a zillion dollars to tough it out through an injury).... but if you're a mom toughing it out with sickness typically just gets you further and further behind the eight ball.  I STILL have not caught up on the laundry, the dishes have been one load behind for a month, and I am CONSTANTLY feeling tired.  But God is SOOO good.  Not only does He teach us a lesson:  "Jami, do NOT put your health last ALL the time or the whole family will suffer."  But He gives us a follow-up pop quiz:  "Here's another little cold.  Will you chose to take it easy or will you prove that you NEVER learn your lesson?"  (I'm taking a nap in 33 min!  I learned MY lesson!)

2.  This past month, we had a WEEK filled with terror and death.  Here's how it went down:

Thursday, October 14th.... I was only on day 2 of antibiotics... I had actually called in sick to my work-at-home job (that's only happened maybe 4 times in the past 11 years)... I was in bed and awoke to find I had missed several calls from my sister.  When I finally called her back, she asked me some nutty question about John working and then hung up on me.  I was half asleep, sick and VERY confused.  I called her back several times and when she finally answered she asked me to meet her at Hartford Hospital because Luke was being sent to Children's in Flight for Life with a brain injury.  The adrenaline PULSED through my body.  I flew outta bed.  I raced around looking for clothes while barking orders to the kids:  "Get dressed!  We're leaving!  NOW!"  It was one of the scariest things I can recall going through... Luke fell from a tree and ended up with a severe concussion, because Hartford Hospital doesn't handle pediatric head trauma he had to go to Children's in Flight for Life... scary, scary, SCARY.... but he is FINE!  Struggling through recovering from a concussion but it could have been SO MUCH WORSE.

While all this was going on I was in communication with Christina about what had happened to Luke.  At some point, she informed me that she had just found out her father had died.  (I don't know if you all recall, but Christina lost her mother tragically in 2009... now she is 22 and an orphan.)

While we were still reeling from Luke's injury and trying to arrange plans for me to be at Christina's Dad's funeral, we learned that John's childhood best friend had passed away.  While they had lost touch a little in recent years, this was a TRAGIC loss for John.  He had been friends with Ron Kloeden since he was 5 years old.  Every childhood memory John has includes Ron Kloeden.  Ron was the best man in our wedding.  It was VERY difficult for John.

That week was the toughest we've had since brain surgery.  But as in all things, we persevered with His support.

Lesson learned:  Life is SO fleeting.  You just NEVER know what is around the corner.  Live life to the fullest.  Cherish every moment.  Cling to those you love and don't let ONE MOMENT pass without telling them how you feel.  [Oh and one more side lesson from this:  my crazy, loud, occasionally-invasive family is THE BEST!  As I stood there in the ER waiting room at Children's looking around at my sister who raced over from work, my Gma sitting in the wheelchair, Mom and Dad trying hard to be strong but terrified for their baby and their grandbaby, my husband who called in to his second job to support us all, and my sister the STRONGEST woman I know handling yet ANOTHER life-threatening crisis with her baby boy.... I reazlied... I have the GREATEST family in the whole entire world.]

Sooooo am I back?  idk... I will try... but I have had to prioritize to get through this past month and blogging has been pushed WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY to the bottom of my priority list.  So never fear... I am still here... but I may be a little quiet right now because now that I'm kinda on the upswing from crazy, zany October, I can see THE HOLIDAYS on the horizon and WAH!  that's NOT going to ease my load!

Take care everyone!
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