The Virginia Witmers

What's Happening and What We're Learning


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Odds & Ends

Maureen’s been doing most of the posting here so far, and I’m grateful for how well she’s communicated John’s health problems and our thoughts and feelings over the past several months.  It’s been a privilege for me to see the grace and strength with which Maureen has responded to everything that’s happened.  God’s work has been very clear in her.  I’ve loved this woman for almost a decade now, but hard times have a way of revealing new facets (and in this case, beauties) of people you thought you already knew thoroughly.

I do know her pretty well, though.  The other evening I went to the kitchen for a snack and decided, because I happen to like cheese, to add a few slices of cheddar cheese to my bowl of Cheez-its.  I may have done this on several occasions before that night, and she may have had something to say about it.  When I returned to the couch, Maureen glanced over and said, “Oh, cheese with your cheese!”  At which point I coolly flipped over the note I had written before leaving the kitchen, which read, “Oh, cheese with your cheese!”

We have learned many new things since January, including medical terminology, the people and places of the University of Virginia Medical Center, and the fear and vulnerability of not knowing what will happen to our son.  But time and time again we have been encouraged and uplifted by a much more welcome and wonderful discovery.  God has shown us how much He loves us in the creative and practical and relentless and extreme and beautiful generosity of our friends and family.  We’re so grateful that in the midst of this difficult season we’ve seen God’s goodness and faithfulness through you, and we thank you for this with full hearts.

I’ll close with a poem that expresses some of what we’ve been thinking and feeling, not because I’m a great poet but because it’s an opportunity (like this blog) to try to discern and make some meaning and even some beauty in what’s happening.

 

This is a thank-you poem

For all the things that God has done

Through you, for John, and us.

 

Within this storm we’ve found

Unfailing, steady, solid ground

In Christ, who with each gust

 

Draws nearer, manifest

In friendship’s crazy, sweet excess,

Surpassing all that’s just.

 

Such graces blossom best,

Or only, in our worst distress.

And so, through tears, we must

 

Acknowledge God is kind,

Wise, loving, good (though we are blind),

And worthy of our trust.


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Our Hope Is Built On Nothing Less

Here are Katie and Benjamin singing a wonderful nineteenth-century hymn about the unshakeable foundations of a Christian’s hope.  Katie has told me five times in two days that this is her favorite hymn.  It shows in how she sings it!

My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;

I dare not trust the sweetest frame,

But wholly lean on Jesus’ Name.

 

On Christ the solid Rock, I stand;

All other ground is sinking sand.

All other ground is sinking sand.


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6 Creative and Practical Ways to Help

As I mentioned many times, we have been overwhelmed (in the best possible way!) by all the support we’ve received during this season of life.  We can never write down all that has been done for us, nor we can even come close to repaying all the many people who have supported us so well.  We are forever changed by the care and love we’ve received.

I wanted to be sure to do a blog post about the creative and practical ways we’ve been helped for two reasons.  First, I want to remember!  I never want to forget all the ways people have stepped up and genuinely helped us get through this hard and scary time.  I want to recount to Katie and Ben all the ways the body of Christ and our community of friends came alongside us to carry us through a time that could have been lonely and even more difficult.  I want to make sure John Wyatt knows that his story inspired the EXTREME kindness and generosity of so many and, even before he was born, his story and life showed us the love of Christ in ways we couldn’t have known otherwise.

Second, I hope this list will be inspiring for you and for me when we hear of others going through hard times.  I want to be the kind of woman that moves toward another person in need, even when it’s hard or I don’t know what to say or do.  That’s what so many of you have done and it’s so beautiful.  JUST BEING THERE has blessed us so much.  I hope when I hear of someone going through a trial, these ideas will come to mind, whether I’m super close to them or not.

1. Make prayer cards.

My dear friend, creator of TakeThemAMeal , who has done SO MUCH for us, asked me to write down our long term prayer requests.  She then worked with another sweet friend from church who is a fabulous graphic designer to create prayer cards to give and send to family and friends near and far.   They turned out beautifully.  I loved addressing them, thinking of all the people from Maine to California who are keeping these tangible cards in their Bibles or on their refrigerators, praying for our family.  What a gift.

2. Connect with someone who has gone through a similar situation and put together care packages.

This week, the sweet friend from church that I’ve mentioned a few times who sadly lost her dear little girl with a CHD 4 years ago, came over with more gifts than I can possibly list here.  She made a list of things we could use and some friends, mostly the ladies from our church, sprang into action.  There were bags full of gift cards for dinners out in Charlottesville, many, many supplies for the baby, activities for the kids and lots of other thoughtful things that she wished she had or found useful when she was in the hospital with her little one.  We are much better prepared because of this coordinated effort.

3. Offer to help with practical needs at home.

In the past week, we’ve had 3 women from church come to 1. play with the kids while I rested after a bad night at the ER 2. Help fold the laundry and figure out what I need to pack for the kids for the hospital and 3. help with some projects I needed to finish, as well as fix some of the little nagging things around the house that I have wanted done for a long time.  I have enjoyed today so much more knowing that my laundry was done and we could leave at the drop of a hat if we needed to.  It’s so helpful to have another set of hands and someone to talk to while taking care of little things around the house.

4. Set up a “special delivery” calendar.

My dear Kristin (see previous post) set up a Google doc where people could sign up to send us something every day for the month of April (I think this is right.  It was supposed to be a secret but I’ve learned a few details 🙂 ).  A few weeks ago I started getting suspicious.  I said to Andrew, “We are getting something every single day!”  Turns out, it wasn’t a coincidence!  It has been so encouraging to receive cards and special packages dropped off at our house each day.  It’s been a nice distraction and something for the kids and I to look forward to.  Thanks to all who participated!

5. Offer to create an online giving page

My lovely friend from our small group (my oh my I have a lot of amazing women in my life!  Thank you Lord!) offered to set up a page where people could donate money to help with our upcoming medical costs.  It was humbling for us to think about accepting money from friends and family at first.  But we have been so so blessed by this effort.  As we begin our journey with John next week we go in knowing our costs are covered for the foreseeable future and that frees us up to think solely about the care he needs and not be worried about how we’re going to afford all that’s ahead.  She used YouCaring, which has no fees.

6. Just be there.

Your presence and prayers are what have mattered most to us.  A simple text to say that you’re thinking of us or an email to say you’re praying for our family has lifted our spirits.  There’s no need to put great pressure on these interactions.   What has meant the most is simply hearing that you’re with us in what we’re going through.


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The minute I met Kristin Sandberg (now Moore), I loved her.  If any of you are lucky enough to know her I’d be willing to bet you felt the same way.  Kristin and I were in the same dorm and Bible study during our freshman year at JMU along with some other amazing women who are lifetime friends.  The Lord definitely knew what he was doing.  I am beyond grateful for this beautiful friend who has loved me so well, standing beside Andrew and me on the day of our wedding and now standing beside us as we face a difficult season of life.

Kristin also happens to be an incredibly talented photographer.  Check out her website.  Here are some pictures she took of our family last week.   Thank you, Kris, for this incredible gift!

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Love, Thy Name Is Orbit

Among the younger members of our household, gum operates as a kind of currency. It is sought, secured, treasured, and traded.  Benjamin and Katie look upon it as Cortez looked upon Aztec gold and Charlie looked upon Wonka chocolate.

So when I got home from work today and found three pieces of Easter gum waiting for me on my desk, a gift from my loving children, I was genuinely moved. After Benjamin went to bed, I opened the partially unwrapped piece he had left for me. As the photo below shows, he appears to have struggled with temptation (and partially succumbed) before deciding that I was worthy of so great a gift.

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April Update

Last week, we had our last appointment at UVA until John makes his arrival!  It was a quicker visit with only one appointment, and much less stressful than all the rest.  We had a fetal echo and they found no changes with his condition.  We were glad to hear that his AV valve is not leaking; keep those prayers coming!  There’s only so much they can see while he’s in utero so we have to wait until he’s born to know everything he needs and make a plan.  We’re still hoping he stays put until my induction date of April 30 so he has enough time to be fully developed and strong enough for all that lies ahead.

Carol, our Nurse Coordinator (I don’t know if all hospitals have this position but this has been such a gift to us.  I contact Carol about everything- my appointment time/day requests, questions for the doctors, etc. and she gets back to me immediately.  At that extremely difficult first appointment, she walked us from room to room.  She’s made a point of making sure we know all the people who are going to be involved with our case and has made this journey a lot less stressful for us.  Well done, UVA, for having a job in place that make a hard situation easier for your patients!), took us to see the preschool they have at the hospital for sick children or siblings of children being treated.  Katie and Ben are going to love it!  I have been feeling bad that Katie was going to miss some of her beloved preschool classes so this will be great for them and a nice way for Andrew and I to have some time in the mornings just with John.  And the teacher’s name is Ms. Lisa, the same name as one of her current teachers!  She was so excited!

We also got to see the newly renovated Ronald McDonald House.  It was about a 5 minute walk from the hospital, which is super convenient.  It was lovely.  There’s a huge kitchen with multiple stoves and cabinet and refrigerator space for every room.  The rooms are very nice and most have their own en suite bathroom.  It was helpful for us to see everything and get a sense of how it might work for our family.  The space is a little tight so we may have to be flexible and spend some of our time there and some of our time commuting back and forth from Harrisonburg.  We’ll also need to plan fun activities for Katie and Ben in and around Charlottesville since they’ll go crazy in that small room for long periods of time.  If you have any ideas and/or want to plan a visit please let me know!

Here are some specific prayer requests.  We are grateful beyond words for you!  Please pray that:

-John would not come early and would be delivered on or around my induction date of April 30

-the Ronald McDonald House would have immediate availability for our family.  There are other temporary options until they have a vacancy but it would be nice to move right in.

-the doctors would have wisdom and know the best course of action to help our little boy.  Please pray that no new complications arise.

-we all would be flexible with treatment options, housing, and everything else that may come up.