Baby Katie Beth Update

Author: Kevin Schlichter

Last February Melissa wrote an entry on Upstream Swimming about our daughter, Kathryn, and asked all of you to be praying for our family. Perhaps you’ve been wondering how that all turned out, so here’s a Thanksgiving update on her situation.

To recap, a few weeks before birth Kathryn Elizabeth (heretofore known as Katie Beth, KB, Kat, Kitty, Katie, or The Reason I’ve Been Super Angry and Not Sleeping for Nine Months) was diagnosed with ventriculomegaly, then born with congenital defects in her ears, nose, and mouth, and a couple of days later she was unofficially diagnosed with Zellweger Syndrome and tested positive for Human Cytomegalovirus (HCMV). Off the record we were told by one of her specialists that she had no more than six months to live—at the absolute longest. That’s when word started to spread. First our friends started to pray and word quickly spread to others in our church, then relatives, and then their friends and churches started to pray. We were getting cards, flowers, and e-mails from people we didn’t know all over the country telling us they were praying for us. And I don’t know why—I don’t know why He does anything that He does—but God answered those prayers in a way we didn’t expect.

Three days after she was born her ears had moved into a normal location and, although we had originally been told to expect difficulty, she was breathing and eating on her own. After a lot of blood samples, an MRI, and two months of waiting for genetic testing at the Mayo Clinic, her official diagnosis was made: Katie does not have Zellweger Syndrome—or any other known genetic defect. We had been praying for strength to get through the trial, hoping that the loss of a child wouldn’t ruin our marriage and that we’d be able to try again, but He had healed our daughter instead. She still has some brain damage and there may be other long-term effects from the HCMV, but so far she is doing well. In fact, she has been developing perfectly normally. She excels in her intelligence and fine motor skill tests at physical therapy (yeah, infant physical therapy) impressing her doctors with her ability to manipulate a pacifier into the correct position before putting it in her mouth, and her ability to hold her own bottle to feed herself. Kitty has been doing both of these for several months now. Her strength continues to lag, but not by a concerning amount and Robyn and I aren’t muscular anyhow. KB’s head is even a normal size—it was supposed to be disproportionately small as a result of the HCMV.

So this Thanksgiving we’re thankful for our daughter. We’re thankful that she’s here with us, but also for the experience—we grew as a couple and our relationship was affected positively by it. We’re stronger as a team; have a healthier perspective on certain things; opened up to each other and gained a level of intimacy we’ve never shared before. I wouldn’t wish an experience like this on my worst enemy, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Like everything else we do with God, it isn’t easy but it’s very worthwhile.

We’re thankful for our church family, friends, and relatives who supported us in very material ways. We fed not only ourselves, but at least one other family with the food that was brought to us at home and in the hospital. Our dogs were cared for, and we almost had our yard re-landscaped as well. Being around people like the Felkers pushes us to live our lives for God in tangible and meaningful ways. We’re thankful for the example you’ve all demonstrated for us.

Finally, and this is last because I want it to be remembered first, we’re thankful for your prayers. I don’t know why He healed Kathryn and not the other kids in the NICU, but seeing the People of God care for each other always encourages me immensely and provides the best witness I know of. So thank you for taking the time out of your day to pray for us, whom you’ve never met. You can’t fix everything, but you’ve made a difference to us. 

A Heavy Heart and a Call to Prayer

Not even three weeks ago I blogged about little Daisy Merrick and her family. At the time I wrote it, she was cancer-free and considered in remission after two battles with cancer. I learned yesterday that her cancer has returned. Here is Britt’s status update:

“Not sure how to say this guys…

My daughter Daisy (7) had a CAT scan today. Her cancer has returned. 3rd time being diagnosed with cancer in as many years.

She has a golf ball size tumor right where her last one was.

Tomorrow she gets a PET scan to look closer and see if its anywhere else and in prep for surgery next week. Then we’ll see how to proceed.

Our current hope is that we rally prayer tonight and when they look tomorrow the tumor is miraculously gone or non-cancerous.
The oncologist says for the tumor to not be cancer would be basically a miracle.

We believe in miracles… we believe in Jesus.”

Please take a moment (or several) and pray for Daisy right now. She will be getting the scan today…let’s pray for a miracle.

Daisy Merrick Updates

Baby Katie Beth

Last week a couple at our church gave birth to a precious little girl. Unbeknownst to them prior to her birth, she has a rare syndrome called Zellweger syndrome (or possibly another similar condition, tests are still being run). In either case, the prognosis is not good and she has been given between 6 months and 2 years to live. We have only spent one evening with this couple, but we have heard many praises sung about their character through mutual friends at church.

The reason I wanted to blog about this is two-fold. One, I’d like to ask all you who follow our blog to please take a minute right now and pray for them and their daughter, Katie Beth. Here is a picture of her (isn’t she so cute!? Look at all that hair!)

Secondly, (though we have yet to become better acquainted), I honestly haven’t been able to stop thinking about this couple since their little girl was born. This is partly because my heart has been aching for them and the pain they are surely enduring, and partly because, as we have been following their updates, God has really been doing a work in my heart through their response to the situation. I have been incredibly inspired by them and personally convicted as a result. Here are a few things they have written that have hit me like a ton of bricks:

-“[6 months to 2 years is] not as much time as we had hoped to have with our daughter, but we’re thankful for the time we have.”
-“On the way home we talked about how happy we were to be doing this together. There isn’t anybody else I’d rather be doing this with…we thought of couples we’ve seen pass through our community that might not be able to handle this type of stress in their life. But we’ve been in training for five years now, and, at least so far, our spirits are strong and we’re as in love as ever. God works in mysterious ways I guess.”
-“Your prayers are working, and we’ve been blessed to see God working such miracles firsthand.”
-“We continue to have hope that, no matter what happens, we can raise her up in the way that is right as an act of worship to God whom we thank for the wonderful opportunity to care for one of his children.”

Do these words convict your heart like they’ve convicted mine? Put in their situation, would you have a similar God-centered and positive outlook? As I read those words and spend time thinking about this family, God continually brings to mind all the absolutely ridiculous and comparably inconsequential things I complain about. Watching this family deal with such a difficult and devastating situation with such love and thankful hearts, has swiftly knocked me upside the head and put things into perspective for me. It reminds me of the verse in 1 Corinthians 1:27b that says: “God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.”

Their clarity of mind and big-picture perspective in the face of such unexpected adversity moves me. I only pray that if I ever experience anything like this that I would have a similarly joyous heart. What a wonderful example of a couple who trusts the Lord and His plan so fully, and is truly living out 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “be joyous always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” This is not to say they aren’t grieving and experiencing pain (I’m sure they are), but I believe they are able to remain uplifted because they are grounded in their relationship with Christ and ultimately know their lives rest safely in God’s hands.

I’ll leave you with this prayer that has been on my heart:

Jesus, I pray that you would love on this family right now. I pray for healing and nothing short of a miracle for Katie Beth. Continue to give this family so much peace, hope, and joy. In times of sadness, let them know and experience your intense and passionate Fatherly love. Give them the strength to love little Katie Beth with such fervor. You have paired this couple with this precious little girl for a reason, and I pray that you would continue to use this family to bring glory to Yourself.

Jesus, please give me an ever-increasing heart of gratitude. Help me to maintain an eternal perspective and help me to remember to praise Your name in all circumstances. More than anything, thank you for loving me so much that you would send your son to die on my behalf. I am humbled and in awe of your never-ending and unconditional love.

[An update to this post was published on November 22, 2012. Click here to read it.]

What is Gossip? Maybe Not What You Think

Gossip is a subject I’ve been meditating on for awhile now. I truly desire to please the Lord and encourage others with my tongue, but there are times I utterly fail. As I began thinking more about gossip, I realized that I couldn’t come up with a great definition for it. I want to address the sin of gossip in my life, but it’s difficult to do so without really even knowing what it is and is not. wasn’t much help in clarifying it for me, so I took the question to facebook to see how others defined it. I received a lot of interesting responses from people who really put some thought into it, and for the rest of the day I pondered their answers. By the end of the day, I was still questioning the validity of many responses I received, so I decided to do a thorough scriptural study on gossip. It was very interesting and eye-opening for me, and below are the results I came up with. I’ll begin with addressing some of the definitions that people came up with, and why they are actually NOT gossip (at least as a black and white rule):

  • Conjecture 1: It is (always) gossip if the person would not want you to talk about them in that way.
  • Conjecture 2: It is (always) gossip to speak about someone in a way that portrays them poorly.

False: If this is true, then Jesus (a sinless man), would be considered a gossiper. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matt. 23:27). I highly doubt the pharisees wanted to be spoken of in this way and Jesus was obviously not portraying them in a good light. Also, Jesus wasn’t the only one – Paul and other New Testament writers spoke like this about various people plenty of times in their writings.

  • Conjecture 3: It is (always) gossip if the person you are talking about doesn’t know you are talking about them.

False: Again, Jesus talked poorly about people when they weren’t physically present and were unaware they were being spoken of. “And he cautioned them, saying, ‘Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod'” (Mark 8:15). Paul did the same: “Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message” (2 Tim. 4:14-15).

  • Conjecture 4: It is (always) gossip if it betrays someone’s confidence.

False: For instance, a fellow Christian may tell you in confidence that she is stealing from her company. You directly confront her about it, but she refuses to acknowledge that it is wrong and continues to steal. You are then actually instructed to tell others: “If your brother sins…go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church” (Matt 18:15-17).

  • Conjecture 5: It is (always) gossip if your words are judging another.

False: In 1 Corinthians 5:1-3, Paul says: “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife…for though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing.” Paul actually states that he has passed judgment on this person. This is a whole other blog topic for another time, but the scriptures tell us not to judge those who do not call themselves Christians, but actually DOES call us to judge those who do.

  • Conjecture 6: It is (always) gossip if you use specific people’s names.

False: Paul reprimanded people by name: “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord” (Phil 4:2). Moreover, whoever told Paul about the quarreling obviously used specific names. Also, Paul wrote to Timothy saying: “for Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica” (2 Tim. 4:10).

  • Conjecture 7: It is (always) gossip to share negative information or news about others.

False: 1 Corinthians 1:11 says “For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers.” Paul then goes on to address the quarreling and divisiveness it’s causing; he does not go on to scold Chloe and her people for gossiping. There are many other examples of people passing negative news between one another in the New Testament that are never condemned as gossip.

  • Conjecture 8: It is (always) gossip if you wouldn’t want what you are saying about another to be said about yourself.

False: See above examples about the pharisees, Alexander the coppersmith, Demas, etc. No one wants negative things said about them, but in those instances, it was not considered gossip.

To be clear, the above conjectures can be gossip, they just don’t work as a definition for it. In my study of the scriptures, the word “slander/slanderer” and “talebearer” were used much more often than the word “gossip,” which I found interesting. As I studied each verse, I came up with four categories that all the verses related to gossip/slander/talebearers fell into. Based upon the Bible, here is what I found gossip to be:

1. Viciously and intentionally using your words to hurt someone or ruin someone’s reputation, whether in public or private (Ex. 23:1, Lev. 19:16, Ps. 34:13, Ps. 101:5, Prov. 11:9, Prov. 12:6, Eph. 4:31, 1 Tim. 3:10-11, 1 Pet. 2:1, 1 Pet. 3:10, James 4:11, Titus 3:2).

2. Making up or spreading false rumors. If you hear something you are not sure is true, confirm its truth before passing it along (Ex. 20:16, Ex. 23:1, Deut. 13:12-15, Ps. 34:13, Eph. 4:25, Eph. 4:31, 1 Tim. 5:13).

3. Revealing something told to you in confidence in order to do damage to the person who told you or to gain favor with your listeners (Prov. 11:13, Prov. 20:19).

4. It is gossip if your heart delights in telling or hearing negative things about others, or in creating quarrels or division among others (Prov. 16:28, Prov. 18:8, Prov. 26:20-21, 1 Tim. 5:13).

One additional category I created consists of verses directing us on the proper use of our tongue:

5. Believers in Christ should use their words to help people move towards Christ, rather than to encourage sin and move them away from Christ. Make a conscious effort to align your speech with God’s heart and to encourage others. Be aware of how powerful your words are (Ps. 19:14, Prov. 22:11, Acts 15:32, Acts 20:2, Eph. 4:29, 1 Pet. 3:10, 1 Pet. 4:11, James 3:5-6).

This was a great study for me and here are some of my notes for practical application:

*As I originally thought, the motive/heart behind your words is ultimately what is important. Always consider if your words will be helpful/neutral/harmful for the listeners, the person being talked about, and yourself. I think Jeanette Spradley really hit it on the nose when she said: “Jesus was always concerned with the heart. One of his greatest commands is to love your neighbor as yourself. Listen to your conscience. When you speak badly to hurt someone it’s wrong, but just like every other biblical principle it’s not black and white. I can feel in my heart when my intentions are wrong.”

*I should be slower to speak, and in general more careful with my words. I’m not the stereotypical “chatter box” woman, but I think I could avoid a lot of gossip if I evaluated my heart before I spoke rather than after. Sometimes I can just blurt something out without really considering what I am saying.

*I should confront people directly more often. This conclusion is a less obvious one, but one that I think would definitely cut down on the amount of gossip I do. For example – if my friend doesn’t follow through on a commitment she made to me and I find that really irritating, I should just go to her and tell her I found it irritating and hurtful, rather than spending an hour telling my husband all about it. I like to think I’m pretty decent at speaking truth (in love) to people about ways they have hurt me/sin in their life, but I still don’t do it nearly enough.

*I should care less about what others think of me. If I did this, I wouldn’t feel the need to gain favor from people by sharing gossip.

*Pray more. Firstly, this would encourage me to talk to God about my grievances with someone rather than gossip about it. Secondly, more prayer would most likely change and soften my heart towards that person.

*Constantly strive to align my heart and mind with God. Again, I like what Jeanette said about this: “I think [gossip] hardens our hearts and makes it so we are much less forgiving and understanding.” I would add that the opposite is true as well – when our heart is hardened and less forgiving, we are more likely to gossip. It can become a vicious cycle. What comes out of my mouth is a reflection of what is in my heart – and too often it is sin and ugliness.

*Be intentional about using my words to build others up more.

*Fixate on the positive – Philippians 4:8 says “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

*It is helpful for me to have a better idea of what gossip really is, because I previously had a tendency to heap unnecessary guilt upon myself for saying things I thought might be gossip, but actually were not.

*I should hold others accountable for the gossip that comes out of their mouths. This actually sounds much more difficult than avoiding gossip myself. I need to be diligent about asking someone to stop gossiping to me if they start to do so, and to make it clear to everyone that I am not interested in listening to gossip.

*I need to take gossip and the things that come out of my mouth much more seriously. There are numerous times I have said something I immediately knew I shouldn’t have said, but just brush it aside like it wasn’t a huge deal. However, Matthew 12:36-37 says “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” James 1:26 also says “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” Ouch!!! If those verses don’t make me take the topic of gossip seriously, I don’t know what will. I don’t think I should beat myself up over it or become legalistic about it, but I DO think I need to be better in tune with the weight and potential consequences of my words. After all, since I call myself a follower of Christ, I am a representative of Him and I must take this role incredibly seriously.

Wow, guess I learned a lot and I’ll continue to meditate on these things and hopefully grow to gossip less!! I know this was long, as most my posts are, but if you made it this far, hopefully you learned something too. If there is anything in this post you disagree with or have additional thoughts on, I’d love for you to comment – it would help me grow and I welcome (friendly/loving) disagreement on my blog. In case your brain feels completely overloaded and about to explode at this point, here is a silly/fun/entertaining video on gossip to revive you: