Tuesday, May 19

The real truth

Emily at Chatting at the Sky has started a poignant series called "Tuesdays Unwrapped." Here she invites her readers to be real, to allow people a look into their real lives (and their real struggles). Her idea is a good one, I think. It's amazing how much of a community exists among bloggers. And yet there's always the temptation to allow our readers just to look at the things we want to show. We often keep ourselves "wrapped," and by doing so we miss chances to enter fully into our own lives as well as others'. Emily challenges us to be real with one another and to take encouragement from one another's realness.

So I'm going to tell you a little of my story from the past year.

My profile says that I'm an amazingly blessed woman, and that's true. Here are a couple of photos of my family from our trip last summer.

My husband and me (I like this because I'm standing on a rock, and you can't tell that I'm actually a foot shorter than my hubby.):

Our three sons:

The past year has included amazing blessings for us, including the trip on which these photos were taken. Yet we have faced some big challenges in the past year, too. In April 2008, one of my sons had major open-heart surgery. (Well, all open-heart surgery is major, but this was really big: removal and replacement of his ascending aorta with a graft and replacement of his aortic valve with a mechanical valve.) Then in December my husband's heart went into atrial fibrillation. When he was hospitalized to address the a-fib problem, we learned that the a-fib was really just a warning of a larger problem. And so in February 2009 my husband had open-heart surgery. He had his mitral valve replaced with a mechanical valve. On the day (the very day, no kidding) that my husband was released from the hospital, my son became very ill and had to be hospitalized again. He had an infection and had developed pericarditis (an inflammation of the pericardium, which surrounds the heart). We learned that, for both my husband and son, we'll have to be hyper-vigilant about treating infections, since a bacterial infection could possibly reach their artificial valves. Things finally settled down, though, and we were starting to get back to a regular routine, when in April 2009 my youngest son became very ill. Turns out that he needed an emergency appendectomy.

Three surgeries in 12 months. That's too much. Recently, I was at a church gathering at which the pastor asked all of us to introduce ourselves and say where we lived. I said, "I'm Richella, and I live mostly at Duke Hospital." A weak joke, but that's how I was feeling.

I wish I could tell you that, with reliance on God and help from family and friends, I made it through all these stresses with flying colors. But that wouldn't be what is real. Oh, it's true that I had to rely on God, and He came through with flying colors. And it's true that my family and friends were incredible--I mean really incredible--in their kindness and support. What's not true is the part about me. I didn't come through with flying colors. I didn't even come through with one flag flying. I limped through. I broke down. I struggled. I crawled. Even with all the support, I just barely made it through. Just barely.

Turns out that "just barely" counts. I'm prone to grading myself on my performance, and I end up being disappointed that I didn't perform better. But I'm learning that, sometimes, just getting through is enough. No one else is grading me. No one is else is disappointed in my performance.

I didn't get through this past year with an A+. But I got through. And I think that the lesson for me is that, sometimes--maybe even oftentimes-- getting through is enough.


  1. Richella.

    First, I want to thank you for linking up this Tuesday. This post embodies the essence of unwrapping the day, the circumstance or event.

    Your last 12 months have certainly been filled with messy and unexpected. And your honesty? Well, that is the lovely part. Because I'm with you - 'just barely' absolutely counts. You have been needy, weary, upset and afraid. Even though I cannot understand what you have been through, I can relate to the feeling of believing we are supposed to have it all together and perform up to a certain expectation in all circumstances. And that is just not truth.

    Thank you for your honesty and for sharing your truth with us.

  2. what a wonderful story! those are fabulous pictures.

  3. Richella, Thank you so much for sharing the "real truth"! Your testimony of life really spoke to me and I must say I too struggle with grading myself in every aspect of my life. I often forget that it is in those moments when I am just barely making it, that I have an opportunity to let God "carry" me through. All too often I find I am too prideful to ask Him, eventhough I know it is exactly what He desires!

    I am so excited you have started your blog back up. I look forward to sharing together.

    BTW, what good looking "Red" you've got! I love all that red hair. Great photos! We Kennedy's miss the Parham Boys and hope life finds them all well!

    Love you,

  4. one of my favorite quotes is from Barbara Johnson and it really speaks to me when I feel like I'm just barely getting through all the trials of everyday life and then the major struggles that come up from time to time..

    "Pain is inevitable but misery is optional, so stick a geranium in your hat and be happy."

    There are days when we all feel like ripping the geranium out of the hat and stomping on it with both feet...but some days, the geranium is what keeps us going!

    So here's to flower therapy...and to coming out on the other side!!

  5. It is so nice to meet you...I'm glad you visited my nest! Liberty Park is a beautiful place...I have friends who live there.

    Wow, you and your beautiful family have been through some trials this year! Bless you!

    Please try not to be so hard on yourself...be comforted to remember that God does not grade us on our performance, but rather on the performance of His Son on the cross!!! Praise Him!

    Blessings for an awesome and healthy second half of 2009!

  6. You spoke the truth so eloquently and touched my heart. I pray that the best is yet to come for you and your beautiful family.

  7. You have a beautiful family!

    I appreciate that you posted this. I have to work hard on realizing that even limping through and "just barely" making it is okay. I think we oftentimes set really high expectations of ourselves and when we don't attain that level we feel like we've just limped through, but an outsider would look and see you passing through your trials brilliantly.

  8. Thanks for sharing your story.. It touched my heart. You and your family are indeed very blessed. I know that your ties became even stronger after surpassing all those hurdles!

    God loves you! :)

  9. This post brought tears to my eyes. These were the words I needed to read today. Thank you for unwrapping yourself and thank you for the very generous offering at Nester's giveaway.

  10. Just getting through is sometimes all He asks us for! I'd say you DID make it through with flying colors, since it is obvious that love is still flowing freely in your home. It is a pleasure to meet you today!

  11. I'm so glad the Nester linked to you in her giveaways! I read this a few weeks ago from Tuesdays Unwrapped and never got the chance to comment.

    My daughter also has a problem with her aortic valve and an enlarged ascending aorta, which we are closely watching. Your story touched my often fearful heart. Thank you for sharing, and although I am just amazed at what it seems God asks of us sometimes, it's also an amazing thing that he is right there with us through it all.

    Wishing a lifetime of health for you and your family. I think you are due!

  12. Just found you from the Nester---I can't believe the atrocious year you had! Unreal. I'm glad you made it through, even if "just barely." Thanks for hosting a giveaway on the Nester's blog!

  13. It is amazing the test of our strength and courage that we can faced with so unexpectedly. You have shown great resilience by just getting up and carrying on each day. Know that you have faced obstacles this past year that would crumble many of us. I wish you and your family needed health and blessings as you bravely march into the future.


  14. I know firsthand how 'just barely' counts. Our middle son was born with a heart defect and had a pacemaker inserted (installed?) at 16. 5-10 year battery life. Not. At 21 it began to fail and we had to have it replaced. Or rather, he did.;D Thank God for insurance...the bill was $40K at least the last I saw...and it was covered. I was laid off my job today so....that's okay. My husband is a custom cabinetmaker and has work through the summer and I'll be looking. It lasted long enough to get his pacemaker done...and I'm content.

  15. You are a survivor. You didn't just curl up in a ball and give up, thus you are here to talk to us about your ordeal. dpierce2007@comcast.net

  16. Richella - I found you through the giveaway post at the Nesting Place. I immediately added you to my google reader list.

    I am a young cancer survivor and have chosen to fill my life with beautiful people like you.

    Good looking boys you got there and - as the short one in my family I can empathize with your feelings about that.

    I really look forward to getting to know you here.

    Have a wonderful day.

  17. Hi Richella,

    I am so glad to meet you. I as well had an extremely challenging year (now two years ago) and I have started blogging as well. It is so nice to meet other women that "limped" through their ordeal and are still standing to tell others about it.

    Thanks for sharing your story. And I too have a name that would have made me a millionare for all of the times it was mis-pronounced!

    Sharee :)

  18. Wow... how scary and overwhelming and crappy and I can think of a million other emotions. I'm so glad that it appears your family has come out on the other side. Sounds alot like the story from the bible where God allowed Satan to "sift" one of his children... and prayed his faith did not fail. Limping across the finish line COUNTS. Good for you for not giving up. Many blessings!

  19. Hi there-I popped over from ASPTL. I just wanted to say that your post touched me. And I think you're right. We so often hear stories of the super mom who was so selfless, so perfect, of the women who face trials with an ever present smile, who INSPIRE everyone else with their amazing courage and fortitude. Perhaps we HEAR about THEM because they're so few and far between and ALL OF THE REST OF US just make it. :)

    Anyway, I don't know if I've expressed myself, but thanks for being real, I enjoyed your post very much. :)

  20. I'm really late commenting on this entry, but I saw it over on the DIY Day post at Kimba's.

    My husband (who is a Christian marriage and family therapist) tells me sometimes that all we can worry about is surviving, not thriving. So the fact that you and your family all survived a very, very trying year is a success! Glad they all made it through their surgeries!

  21. So real! Thank you for your transparency. IT is nice to be reminded that getting barely through is good enough...from another believer who grades herself on performance through trials.

  22. What an amazing journey. Thank you for your transparency. If you "lived at Duke", then we might be neighbors! We're about 20min from there.

  23. Richella,

    Your story sounds a lot like our family's life. My DD has an autoimmune disease that has had us in hospitals all over th country over the last 6 months. We now spend 2 days out of every 28 in the hospital. I understand exactly what you mean when you say you barely made it through. We aren't through yet, and I am just trying to get to the next day.

    I wish your family continued safety and health.


Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment! I read every one; they make my day. If you have a specific question, please be sure your email address is attached to your profile or leave your email address in the comment; I'll get back to you as soon as I can. Every blessing!