Merry Christmas and thank you for coming to our blog site. When I did the first draft of this Christmas letter it printed out to over 20 pages!!! I realized I had summarized all of our blog entries for the 2019 year plus adding in items that weren’t in the blog. Oh my! It occurred to me that if you were interested in the details that you could simply go back and look at the blog entries for yourself. I hope you will take the time to grab a warm cup of cocoa and spend a little while in our story and also see how God has been with us through it all. So then my dilemma became what should be included in this year’s Christmas Letter? I hope you will enjoy a peek into the less well - known. For an update and details on my health battles, I will give you a summary but really hope you will go back and read some of the entries from the last year.
This last year has been a tough one: 8 hospital stays; 3 transports by Medic Unit; 3 surgeries all with complications, 15 hours a week of infusions to correct the dehydration and malabsorption caused by my gastrostomy tube. We traveled to New York and Connecticut to see specialists and we also made two trips to Mayo to see my specialist care team there. The last visit had 13 consults, numerous radiology scans, phone consultations, an ER visit and hospitalization all within a 5 day period. I think our biggest revelation from this year, consultations with all the specialists, and my deteriorating health has reinforced the reality that my Ehlers-Danlos disease is progressing and there will not likely be a timely cure for it in my lifetime. Its involvement with my internal organs, especially my heart and GI/stomach/intestinal problems does not have any valid solutions at this point. We are simply trying to manage systems to allow me to live life to the fullest within the parameters of this insidious disease. The pain has become a daily beast with which to battle. I have to give a shout out to my Physical and Occupational Therapy Team. I do PT/OT exercises everyday and they make a tremendous difference in strengthening my wobbly joints and keeping me from my daily dislocations. I will be having surgery to reconstruct my thumb on December 31st which is no longer improving with therapy. I would appreciate your prayers for grace and perseverance and that I will be able to use my life story to comfort others who are also suffering. “ I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. I will boast in the Lord; the afflicted will hear and be glad. Proclaim the Lord’s greatness with me; let us exalt his name together.” Psalm 34;1-3.
I am so excited to say that years of planning and preparation has culminated in my enjoying the year as a formally official volunteer for Lacey Fire District 3. I went through all of the new member training and now hold the title of Family Support Services Program Coordinator. This has been a dream of mine for over 10 years. To create a program that helps our families and members when difficult times arise from physical or emotional sickness to a traumatic event or injury. This year we hosted two marriage retreat workshops for firefighter families and had a tremendous turnout. We have rapid care teams trained to respond to crisis and being prepared when difficult times arise among our fire family. We are blessed to have a full-time fire psychologist on staff to help lead and reinforce the programs of the Family Support Services.
Steve has had a very productive year! Notice I am typing the Christmas letter because Steve won’t write about himself so I will. I am inspired, blessed, and amazed at all he devotes his time to without ever missing time or a date night with me! Our new date nights have been private country music dancing lessons! It has been so much fun! In addition to being on several respected boards in the community, he also has many fire service responsibilities as he does work on a local and national level for the Fire Service. In addition to being the Legislative Chair for the WA Fire Chiefs, he is also President of the Thurston County Fire Chiefs’ Association. This year Steve was a speaker at several conferences. Speaking from the heart and years of hard learned experience, he spoke on “From Prevention to Recovery: Addressing Leadership Principles in Firefighter Suicide.” This is a difficult presentation as we remember the firefighter we lost on Christmas Day, but it is definitely a topic that needs national attention and Steve is shining a bright light on that. One of the conferences was in Atlanta and family made the short trip and that gave us a chance to visit with family from both sides. That was a special treat for us! Steve also traveled to Washington D.C. where he attended the Congressional Fire Service Institute’s annual legislative symposium and met with lawmakers regarding fire service issues at the national level. Later in the year, Steve headed to Chicago as one of 50 fire chiefs across the nation to be invited to the Fire Chiefs’ Summit. Although some travel was required for these important meetings, Steve’s heart was never far from home! There was also lots of activity on the home front as work is well underway on the Capital Facilities Plan which includes a new station, upgrades to existing facilities, buying new apparatus, and getting new safety equipment. There is a lot going on and this will be a busy year in 2020 for Lacey Fire District 3!
We travelled some and took long weekend trips with friends and sometimes alone and enjoying the beautiful Pacific Northwest! We made a wonderful trip out of our extended weekend to go to NY and see my neurosurgeon, Dr. B. New York is always fun with Steve! He somehow has the subway and train routes better memorized than the locals and he is quick to demonstrate that he could drive like a native New Yorker and was quick to zoom in and out and proved it could be done without using the horn! We met up with friends and got front row seats to The Jersey Boys on Broadway. It was so much fun! We treasure our weekend get aways, movie nights, and Christmas-light looking. We enjoy hosting dinner parties and also decadent dessert nights! In our community, Steve leads a weekly bible study and it is so nice to gather with others and share the joys and struggles of this life and encourage and challenge one another.
While decorating our trees (yes, it is true that I decorate 6 themed trees in my home along with 2 additional trees at Fire Headquarters) we were discussing the past year. We discussed a year that has known jubilant joy, deep despair, suffocating sorrow, bountiful blessings, prevailing peace, and God’s undeniable grace.
As we were studying scripture this morning, God comforted us with the thought,” True joy is not the absence of suffering but rather the presence of God.”
In an unexpected yet empowering way, suffering reminds us to celebrate life.
It moves us to find hope in the places we least expect.
It moves us to find comfort in the places we least expect.
It moves us to find strength in the places we least expect.
It moves us to find peace in the places we least expect.
It moves us to find joy in the places we least expect.
It moves us to find faith in the only place it can be found . . .
We find it in Jesus and Jesus alone.
Much love in Jesus this Christmas season!
Steve and Lee
P.S. - New social media news! The Brooks are giving Instagram a trial run. How many ways can this go sideways with the non-technologically inclined Lee trying this??? We hope to encourage, inspire, and show the lighter side of our lives with brief posts and pictures in between the more lengthy and medically technical blog here on Post Hope. Our prayer is to encourage others to live life with intention, passion, and satisfaction against the background of suffering and its sobering realities. The Lord has done great things for us and we are filled with Joy. (Psalm 126:3) Join us in finding fun in the everyday aspects of life! Praying it spreads love and joy!
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