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Riggs Family Blog www.riggsfamilyblog.com


Table of Contents Meeting Samrawit............................ 7

Abby is in remission! ...................... 50

Soccer............................................... 9

I'm Free! ......................................... 52

Wordless Wednesday - Dress-up Fun with Friends ................................... 87

Reckless Faith ................................... 9

Bring Me a Diaper .......................... 52

One of Those Days ......................... 89

Indoor Fun........................................ 9

Landis Needs a Poke ...................... 52

New "do" ;-) ................................... 10

Learning From Abby ....................... 54

Update Prayer request and Favorite Foto Friday and Happy Birthday .... 89

a painful blessing ........................... 11

Favorite Foto Friday ....................... 54

Sami's 9th Birthday Party ............... 14

Update, Prayer Requests and Beautiful Friends, Inside and Out... 56

Just Having Fun .............................. 15

Saturday with the Riggs‌............... 91 Abby and Bob Stoops ..................... 92 Please Pray ..................................... 92

Update on Abby... pretty rough times... ........................................... 59

Stressful Day, but praising God for good news. ..................................... 92

Update on the Riggs Family ........... 60

Read what my husband wrote... .... 93

Nope, Not Faking ........................... 61

Wordless Wednesday .................... 94

Abby's Home .................................. 21

Monday-Wednesday update on Abby... ............................................ 62

Update on Abby & some comments about a comment........................... 95

Update on Abby - Day 8 and Hospital Pictures .......................................... 23

Trying To Be Brave ......................... 63

Favorite Foto Friday - fav family picture ............................................ 95

Time to Confess ............................. 16 Please Pray for Abby ...................... 18 Update on Abby and Pictures ........ 19 God's Statistics ............................... 21

Thanks and Update ........................ 25 Abby's Chocolate Blood ................. 25 Get Up In There Daddy .................. 26 Morning Instructions From Landis . 26 Samrawit's First Haircut and Prayer Request .......................................... 26 Praise, Requests and Pictures ........ 29 Time To Cry .................................... 31 Hannah's Hope Reunion ................ 33 Abby update and more HH pictures ....................................................... 35 Update on Abby Riggs - Aug 13 - Last Day of Induction ............................. 37

Mee Maw Covers For Landis .......... 64 Prison Break ................................... 64 Virtual Shower and Some Younger Pictures of Abby ............................. 68 Thank you All God's Children, Update and Prayer Requests ...................... 69

Sisters ........................................... 100

GREAT News and Followers Question ....................................................... 71

Losing Ground .............................. 103

Favorite Foto Friday - Octoberest (Can You Help Me) ......................... 73

Abby... and Meet A Friend ........... 105

Abby, Book & Mag Monday ......... 104 Abby's Day.................................... 105

The Voice Of Adventure: OPERATION PRINCESS HAIR BEGINS! ................. 74

Hungry Princess ........................... 106

Abby's Wish.................................... 77

Great News, Bad News and Request for Prayers.................................... 106

Abby in the Hospital - Aug 15th ..... 40

Sad Day For Mommy, Haircuts, Two Year Old Prayers and Magazine Monday .......................................... 79

Immediate Prayer Requests ........... 43

Abby Goes Home... A Post from Brent... ........................................... 99 Favorite Foto Friday ..................... 101

Favorite Foto Friday - Friends ........ 78

Update on Abby & the family... ..... 42

Candy, Kya and Coach Stoops ........ 97

Wordless Wednesday .................... 71

Abby is in the Hospital ................... 39 Abby's Saturday ............................. 40

Surfer Girl ....................................... 96

Please Pray for Abby, temp 103 and rising............................................... 80

Guess Who is in Trouble Now? .... 107 Favorite Foto Friday - Thankful and Prayer Request For Hair :-)........... 109 Holy Cow! There IS Hope! ............ 111 Last Night and Today ................... 111

Update on Abby Doing Much Better ....................................................... 44

Update and Thanks ........................ 81

FFF - Abby .................................... 111

Wordless Wednesday, almost ....... 82

Abby and Her 50 Boyfriends ........ 111

Abby's Home .................................. 45

Chocolate Blood ............................. 83

Christmas Blessings ...................... 113

Slurp, Slurp ..................................... 47

Favorite Foto Friday - Pumpkins .... 84

Trick or Treat... and Abby update 116

Abby: The Next Few Months.......... 47

Abby: A Taste of Our World ........... 85

Weenie, Weenie, Weenie .............. 48

Party at the Hospital ...................... 86

It Was Great While It Lasted.... Abby's Back in the Hospital .......... 119

Prayer Request and Red Onions .... 48

Video of Abby and Facebook ......... 87

Update and Prayer Request ......... 119


Update, Prayer Request and Make a Wish.............................................. 120

Something for YOU... And Proud of Abby But Heartbroken.................. 150

Abby Update: 7am Sunday Morning ...................................................... 181

Abby is in Love .............................. 122

Abby, Spidey, Sami ....................... 151

Abby Update: Sunday Night ......... 182

Abby & Sami Meet Santa (FFF) ..... 122

Hi/Lo Thursday... Parties and Potties ...................................................... 151

Abby - Get up and dance!............. 184

Riggs: important update on Abby Dec. 23rd... ................................... 123

Abby Has A Message For You ....... 152

Riggs: Update on Abby... .............. 124

Abby Is Having a Very Hard Day ... 153

Riggs: Abby is back in the hospital... ...................................................... 125

Mr. Johnny Comes A-Knockin' ...... 154

FFF - Christmas With Abby and Family ........................................... 126 Christmas Lights ........................... 127 2008 - God's Blessings, A Tribute Video for Abby.............................. 127 Happy Birthday Abby.................... 128 Thank you and thank you again... 128 Abby - Photo Caption Contest ...... 128 FFF - Favorite Photo of 2008 ........ 128

Abby's Saturday: I Hope You Dance ...................................................... 154 Photography & Nausea ................ 158

Abby Daily Update: Turning The Corner........................................... 184 Abby, Videos & Dancing With Daddy ...................................................... 185 Abby's Video: About Her .............. 185 Laughter Lives Tuesday: Funny Pics ...................................................... 186

Update - Abby & The Ice Storm .... 159

Abby Update - Scary Day, God Protects... Pray for Me, Pray for Others ........................................... 187

Updated Update on the Update... 162

Abby Daily Update: Wonderful!... 188

Abby Update... Laughter Lives Tuesday ........................................ 162

Abby Daily Update: Coming Home! ...................................................... 188

Abby Going Back to Hospital ........ 162

Abby's Home... For A Few Days .... 190

Pray For Me... Pray For Others... .. 163

Abby & Ice Storm.......................... 159

Landis At A Campout - Happiness and Relationships ................................ 129

Abby Update................................. 163

Sunday Night... Valentines, Birthdays and Grandparents ........................ 191

More Christmas Fun ..................... 130

Hi/Lo Thursday: Prayer List... Peter Parker... Abby Update .................. 164

Living Life - Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way .................................... 193

Early Pics of Abby & Landis... Picture Caption Contest... ......................... 165

Tuesday... Abby Back in the Hospital for the 19th Time Since July ......... 197

Abby Daily Update: Headaches .... 169

Abby Update: Part Two ................ 197

Laughter Lives Tuesday: Funny Things That Happened At... ..................... 169

Laughter Lives Tuesday ................ 198

Abby & The Gingerbread Brigade . 133 Mommy, the Doctor said "Hell"... 135 Does It Matter If More People Pray for Abby? Can We Force God to Do What We Want? ........................... 135 The Valley Begins Wednesday... Would You Pray For Abby and Let Others Know About Her? ............. 137 Tomorrow is Now... The Really Tough Treatment Starts Today ................ 137 Abby's Home & Hi/Lo Thursday ... 140 Cryin' Over Bernie Mac... Abby Doing Craps... Funny Things Your Kids Say ...................................................... 141 Abby Is Back In The Hospital ........ 143

Abby Daily Update: Eye Exam ...... 171

Abby Daily Update: Videos, Gifts & Hospital ........................................ 198

Abby Daily Update: The Sores Are Back .............................................. 171

Pray for Me... Pray for Others ...... 199

Why Keep Going? Is It Because We Are Super Christians? ................... 172

The Dog House and Pictures (Not Of The Dog House) ............................ 201

Hi/Lo Thursday ............................. 174

Hi/Lo Thursday ............................. 202

Abby Daily Update... ..................... 174

SpideyLandis Prays & Dances... Abby's Gifts................................... 203

Update to the Thursday Abby Update... ....................................... 174

Abby Daily Update: Home ............ 199

Please Pray for Cody ..................... 204

Abby Got To Come Home - The Spider Party Is On Like Spider Kong ...................................................... 143

Abby Daily Update: Very Concerning ...................................................... 175

Fav Foto Friday... We're a Bunch of Fakes............................................. 204

Abby Daily Update: Part Two ....... 177

Tough Saturday & Twitter ............ 205

Spidey Bash! ................................. 143

New Every Morning For Abby, Us & You................................................ 177

Pictures from the Blocks and You Are Going to Miss This ........................ 205

Abby Daily Update: Saturday Late Night ............................................. 180

Weird Weekend ........................... 209

Abby Update: 2am Sunday Morning ...................................................... 180

Melt Your Heart... ......................... 213

Heartbreaker: Mommy, Do I Get To Grow Up? ..................................... 146 Not Me! Princess Pull-ups and Blue Teeth ............................................ 147 Laughter Lives Tuesday! Where Once a Week You Can Come to Have Your Heart Lifted by Laughter! ............. 148

Abby Update: 4am Sunday Morning ...................................................... 181

Abby Update & Update ................ 212 Abby Update & Signs of the Times ...................................................... 213


Open Season Answers - Kick Your Feet Up, Go to the Bathroom First, Get Something to Drink ............... 217

Abby Update: Turn for the Worse, Very Concerning ........................... 249

April Fool's & Bad Boys & More Awful Comments .................................... 276

Open Season Answers 9 & 10: Praying & Being Still ..................... 250

Update to the Last Post.... ........... 277

Shake Yo Bootay, Whoo! ............. 227 Abby Update: Storm Clouds are Brewing ........................................ 227

Open Season Answers 11: My Intolerance ................................... 251

Abby Update: Sunday, 6:30pm .... 228 Blog Post Chat .............................. 228

Open Season Answers 12, 13 & 14 ..................................................... 252

Daddy, Are You Going To Be Sick Like Me? .............................................. 228

Open Season Answers 15: Follow Up on My "Insults" ............................ 253

Abby Update & Captain Abby the Pirate Patient ............................... 229

Abby Update: Long Day, Few Answers........................................ 253

Laughter Lives Tuesday is in a Coma ..................................................... 231

Exploitation of Our Daughter? ..... 254

Abby Update & Quick Blog Chat .. 232

Surgery ......................................... 255

Abby Daily Update: Need Your Advice ..................................................... 233

Abby Update ................................ 255

Answer 1: Ugly Comments ........... 234 Answer 3: Fundraisers and Hospitals ..................................................... 234 Answer 4: Is Death Real to You? .. 235 Answer 5: How Do Your Respond To Others Stressed Over Lesser Problems ...................................... 235 Answer 6: Sunday Morning Online Ministry? ...................................... 236 Answers 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 & 14: Mail, Kids, Chemo & Scrubs ......... 236 Abby Update: Port Pics, Great Idea & How She is Doing ......................... 238 Abby Update: Scary Liver ............. 240 I Wanted Everyone To Know That... ..................................................... 241 Guess the Right Answer & Be Famous ..................................................... 241 Abby Update: Pain & Liver ........... 242 Abby Update: More Chemo, Almost Done With This Phase, Magazine, A Guest on the Blog Tomorrow....... 242 Abby & Special Guest ................... 244 Abby Update & Purple Tongues ... 245 Abby Update: Scary...................... 246 Purple Tongues of Love For Abby PICS IN SLIDESHOW NOW ............ 246 Open Season: Answers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 & 8 ............................................. 247

Abby Update: Surgery #1 ............. 255

Abby Update & Comment Clarification .................................. 277 Open Season Answers - A Bunch of Them... ......................................... 279 Update and Open Season Answers ..................................................... 282 Laughter Lives Tuesday ................ 284 We're Still Here ............................ 284 Project Linus and Pictures ............ 285 Open Season Answers & It's Good to Be Back ......................................... 285 Abby Update Hair Watch ............. 289

Abby Update & Thank You!! ........ 256

New Pics... Abby Update - Great, Okay, Ugly .................................... 291

Laughter Still on Vacation Tuesday ..................................................... 258

Abby On the News & Picture Caption Winner ......................................... 294

A Pic, A Video & A Date! .............. 258

Landis Wants Something ............. 296

Kisses for Abby - Published in the April Issue of Serious.Life Magazine ..................................................... 258

Brent Photoshop Never Ending Challenge: Mount Riggsmore....... 297

It's Official... I Know I'm Gittin' Old ..................................................... 259

In Case You Didn't Believe Us... ... 297

Abby Update: Why Is 748 A Great Number? ...................................... 260 Open Season Friday & Abby Update ..................................................... 261 Open Season Answers 1, 2, 3, & 4 261 Open Season Answers 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 & 11.............................................. 262 Abby & Landis .............................. 264 Abby Update & Open Season Answers 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 & 20 and a Lesson... Whew! ........ 265 Monday.... .................................... 268 Getting Closer .............................. 268

Abby on the News ........................ 297 Monday.... .................................... 298 Open Season Answers From Last Friday ........................................... 298 Laughter Lives Tuesday ................ 299 Pray for Me... Pray for Others... April 22, 2009 ....................................... 300 Abby Update ................................ 301 Open Season Answers by Michelle ..................................................... 302 Open Season Answers From Brent ..................................................... 303 True or Not True? Travel Day in Hades ........................................... 308

New Pics ....................................... 268

Laughter Lives Tuesday & the Truth About True or Not True................ 309

About Nine Months & One Kid .... 269

Mud Puddle Thunderstorm Pics .. 310

Open Season Answers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 & 9 ......................................... 269

Update on Abby ........................... 312

Abby Update, Comments About Comments & the Next Two Years 272 Laughter Lives Tuesday ................ 275 Urgent Update About Riggs Family Blog .............................................. 276

Abby Update & Wedding Dresses 312 Outside Pics & Open Season Friday ..................................................... 313 Open Season Answers from Michelle ..................................................... 315


Open Season Answers by Brent ... 316

Open Season Answers & Pics ....... 357

Balloon Release -Remembering Noah ...................................................... 319

True or Not True: the Hummer Adventure..................................... 358

Laughter Lives Tuesday ................ 320

Abby Pics ...................................... 361

True or Not True: Car Wreck Canal ...................................................... 320

True or Not Truth: Hummer Adventure Confession .................. 362

Open Season Answers from Brent 394

True or Not True Confession... Pray for Me, Pray for Others ................ 322

Open Season Answers From Brent & Winner Pics................................... 363

Open Season Answers from Brent 395

Locks of Love ................................ 324

Pray for Me... Pray for Others... ... 365

Pictures & Open Season Answers from Michelle (1) .......................... 325

Open Season Answers From Brent ...................................................... 365

Open Season Answers from Michelle (2) & a Few Pics ............................ 326

True or Not True... You Better Not Tell Mom ...................................... 367

Open Season Answers from Michelle (3) & Couple More Pics................. 327

True or Not True... You Better Not Tell Mom ...................................... 369

Open Season Answers From Brent (1) & Some Early Pics ......................... 328

Open Season Answers By Brent ... 370

Laughter Lives Tuesday ................ 331 Open Season Answers From Brent (2) & Some More Artwork ................. 331 Open Season Answers From Brent (3) & Some Graphics .......................... 334 Open Season Answers From Brent (4) ...................................................... 337 I Need Your Advice and Fun Pictures ...................................................... 339 Open Season Answers From Brent (5) & Info about Portraits .................. 340 Happy Birthday Brent ................... 341 Abby Update & Prayer Request.... 341 Update on Abby, Praises and Tough Decisions. ..................................... 342 Open Season Answers From Brent & Birthday Party ............................... 343 Hi/Lo Thursday & Good Friends ... 348 Open Season Answers From Brent & Pics ............................................... 349

Bone Marrow Drive ...................... 371 Pray for Me... Pray for Others... June 10, 2009 ........................................ 371 Open Season Answers By Brent ... 372 Open Season Answers By Brent ... 373 Eagle's Nest Reunion: New Friends and Answered Prayers.................. 374 Pray for Me... Pray for Others... June 17, 2009 ........................................ 376 From Michelle: Abby Update, Pictures & Open Season Answers. 376 Open Season Answers By Brent ... 378 Open Season Answers By Brent ... 378 So You Think I Do It For Fun or Popularity? ................................... 379 Abby's Clinic & New Pics .............. 380 Open Season Answers By Brent ... 382 About Our Blog & Answers to "What Happened?".................................. 384

Open Season Answers From Brent & New Pics ....................................... 392 New Theme & Open Season Answers From Brent ................................... 393 Open Season Answers from Brent 394 Prayer Requests for Abby ............. 396 True or Not True: The Elvis Impersonator................................ 397 True or Not True: The Elvis Story Is... ...................................................... 398 Elderly Neighbor & Abby Update: Urgent .......................................... 400 Pray for Me, Pray for Others ........ 400 Open Season Answers from Brent 401 Abby Update - VERY SERIOUS URGENT ........................................ 402 Abby Update - Monday 7pm ........ 402 Abby Update - Monday 8:18pm ... 403 Photos .......................................... 403 Abby Update & Pics, Pray for Me Pray for Others ..................................... 404 Abby Update & Pictures ............... 405 Open "Season Answer: Response to Hardship ....................................... 406 Abby Update & Pics ...................... 407 Open Season Answers from Brent 409 Abby on the Local News Today, Brent Speaks to 350 About Giving Blood412 Pics of the Girls ............................. 413 Roller Coaster Week & Pics .......... 414 Junk Mail and Fly Hell And the Forbidden Subject ........................ 415

Pics! .............................................. 385

MckLinky Blog Hop - Favorite Photo(s) ........................................ 416

Laughter Lives Tuesday & Win A Photo Gift From Brent .................. 351

Update: Abby at the Hospital & MckLinky Notification................... 386

Pray for Me, Pray for Others ........ 417

Open Season Answers From Last Week's Questions & Sami Soccer Pictures ......................................... 352

747's, Frogs and Summer Glow - New Photos .......................................... 387

Open Season Answers From Brent & Pics ............................................... 354

Open Season Answers From Michelle & New Pics.................................... 389

Pray for Me... Pray for Others... May 27, 2009 ........................................ 355

Abby Update & Pics ...................... 391

Update on Dad and Abby ............. 421

MckLinky Blog Hop for July 14, 2009 3 Things You Didn't Know ............. 392

Life BEFORE Cancer and Update on Abby ............................................. 422

Open Season Answers From Brent & Pics ............................................... 356

Pics ............................................... 388

Instead of Dead, Pre-K .................. 417 For Everyone Who Prayed For Abby... This is For You............................... 419 Do You Love Until It Hurts? .......... 420 Smith Soup and Prayer Request ... 420


they were very excited that she was going home with parents who love her, their hearts were sad that they were saying goodbye to someone that they love. Ethiopia asks that we not post pictures of children before their adoptions are complete. Most of my pictures have children in them who have not been adopted yet, but here are a few of Samrawit's "special mothers" and caregivers who do not have other children in them. This is just a few of the people who cared for Samrawit. Before it was time to go home, Samrawit made a point to talk to and take pictures of every person at Hannah's Hope, from the cook to the accountant, everyone got a hug and a good-bye from my precious daughter.

Meeting Samrawit

Meeting my daughter after being awake for most of the last 36 hours is very hard to describe. My agency told us from the beginning that our daughter's age was unknown. They said that she was somewhere between 8-13 years old. I know that they wanted to make sure that we were willing to adopt her no matter what her age ended up being. I appreciated that, truly I do, but it was very hard to picture what Samrawit would be like when I met her. I was also told by someone, who had recently seen Sami, that she was about 5 feet tall~if that was the case she would be closer to 12-13 years old. When I saw Samrawit for the first time I couldn't believe how little she was. She was NOT 5 feet tall. She was 4 feet 5 inches and so skinny. I know that she was a little nervous, but she had such courage. Her smiles and laughter filled me with joy. Seeing her and holding her for the first time confirmed that yes, this precious child was indeed God's will for our family. We couldn't feel more honored to be her parents. Hannah's Hope (my daughter's orphanage) is one of the most special places that I have ever been. The children arrive there after experiencing so much pain, but in this wonderful place they are surrounded by love. Yes, they are longing for and praying for parents, but while they wait, they are able to smile and laugh. When I remember that first day with my daughter, what I remember most is how much the caregivers loved her. We will always be grateful for all of the love that Samrawit was shown at the orphanage. These are the precious people who have spent the last 14 months hugging my daughter, praying with her and drying her tears. They have played soccer, braided her hair and listened to all of her hopes and dreams. While 7


8


4/16/2008 2:35:00 PM

Soccer

Sami LOVES LOVES LOVES soccer. We signed her up for a church league before she was even home. We debated about signing her up for something that would begin 48 hours after she landed in America, but ended up deciding to let her try to play the game that she loves. I naively thought that because she is an athletic girl, who played soccer almost everyday in Ethiopia, that it would be something that would be very easy for her to do here.

4/20/2008 11:02:00 PM

The basic skills were very easy for her, but taking even very simple directions from her coach was difficult. We are blessed to have a christian man ,who is the father of 5 children, as her coach. He has done a great job teaching her the words that she needed to learn and the rule of the game.

Reckless Faith I first saw this video on Angel's Blog. It did such a great job of reminding me how many children there are who need our help. My heart breaks for the orphans. I would love to be doing more, but it is hard to where to start. I hope and pray that God would allow me to help these precious children.

Samrawit was used to playing coed soccer on a cement "field" that had no boundaries marked. Playing with 6-9 year old girls has been a little bit of an adjustment for our princess when she was used to tangling with boys of all ages. While she made some mistakes because of communication problems, her athletic ability made her a real asset to her team.

4/22/2008 11:25:00 AM

Watching Samrawit play soccer has taught us so much about her. Even though it hasn't always been easy for her, she has worked hard, played VERY hard and has an absolute blast doing it. Samrawit is one determined young lady. I am going to love watching her explore America.

Indoor Fun This are a few pictures from last week. I love being able to take Samrawit's picture whenever I want to.

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Samrawit at an indoor playground. She is fearless.

Samrawit and Abby before church. Abby idolizes Sami. Samrawit and her 2 year old brother, Landis.

4/28/2008 4:06:00 PM

New "do" ;-) Samrawit's two year old brother "helped" her with her hair. Just so you know, moisturizer, a ton of gel and sand are a very bad combination. I love it that Sami can have so much fun with her little brother and sister.

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This is a typical pose if I forget to tell her that I will send the picture to her friends. :-)

5/2/2008 11:09:00 PM

a painful blessing For a month now Sami has been talking about getting her ears pierced. In typical preteen fashion, she would bring it up every day..........at 9:00 at night, after the mall closed. :-) At 9 PM she was VERY sure that she wanted them pierced, but when she woke up the next morning she of course had changed her mind. For the last week she has said that she wanted them pierced, without wavering, so I took her to the mall. She brought her favorite big brother, Garrett, to hold her hand and she wanted Abby, her three year old sister to come too. Garrett was great with her and Abby said "ohhhhhhhhhhhh my sister Sami is hurting" at all the appropriate times. Those girls have fun with their dramas.

before picture

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Sami was excited about the earrings, but nervous too. Sami is hilarious so much of the time. When she is playing it up because of nerves, she will have you laughing until you cry. It is such a blessing that we were able to laugh before they started, because after they began we didn't feel like laughing anymore. The first ear was pierced without having any problems, but the gun malfunctioned when they were piercing the second ear. The earring didn't go all of the way through her ear. They gave her the option of taking the earring out and coming back tomorrow to repierce it or letting them push it through with their hands. The earring was close to coming through the back, so I let her decide. She without hesitation chose for them to push it through by hand. She was uncomfortable, but handled it beautifully.

This is a picture of Sami getting instructions from technician. It was one of those moments when she wished that she hadn't learned so much English. :-)

It was one of those moments when things don't go the way that you wish that they would, but in the end turn out to be a blessing. I would never want her to hurt, but God taught me a lot about my daughter in those few moments. First it was so neat to know that I could explain the options to her and have her truly understand what I was trying to tell her. In the past, we have had an interpreter explain things that were important for her to fully comprehend. It is so nice to know that the language challenge is getting a little easier. Second of all, I learned that my daughter is willing to choose to face a painful situation head on and not procrastinate. So many times the things that God calls us to do aren't easy, but they are for the best. If Samrawit has the character to face the pain head on and not try to avoid it at 9 years old, she is well on her way to learning to follow God no matter where He leads her.

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After we were done Abby wanted to ride on one of the kid rides. Abby loved it and Sami played along because her sister was excited. Sami is a GREAT big sister. This is Sami looking at her earrings for the first time.

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Landis loved the chocolate cake and ice cream. That boy can eat sweets. One good thing about having so many brothers and sister is that we have a lot of parties.

5/26/2008 1:03:00 AM

Sami's 9th Birthday Party My Internet has been out for most of the last week. It has been completely down since Friday. Not a good thing for someone who LOVES to read other people's blogs. I am at my in-laws house for a day, so I will try to catch up a little bit, while they sleep. Sami's "real" birth date will always be a mystery to us, but it is legally in March. She had her birthday while she was in Ethiopia, but she wanted to celebrate it here too. We felt that we needed to put off having the party until she had been home for a while. When she first came home she was very quiet in group situations and didn't have a lot of fun being the center of attention in new settings. I know that it might seem weird to start her in soccer 2 days after she arrived home, but wait two months for a simple party. I can't really explain why, but it was definitely the right thing for this child. One of the many reasons that we waited was that we wanted her to more fully understand what what "normal" life was in our family. Giving her a lot of gifts as soon as she arrived could give her a very wrong impression of what she can expect in America. An added bonus to waiting was that we could give her some of the things that we knew that she would like, instead of guessing. Sami LOVED her party, even though it was a small family party. She was excited about it all~ balloons, streamers, cake and of course the gifts. She wanted to wear her Ethiopian dress to the party and she looked beautiful in it. Sami is fearless on the soccer field, but so girlie at other times. She LOVES playing with Barbies and has spent hours playing with all of her new things. I don't know how she does it with a 2 year old brother and a 3 year old sister, who like to "play" with her, but she has kept all of the little pieces together and organized. She is incredible.

Garrett and Abby had fun watching Sami open her gifts. Abby had a few moments of jealously when she saw girl gifts that were not for her, but part of growing up is learning to celebrate when someone else has a special day.

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This is one of first attempts at cornrows. Sami has been so sweet about letting me practice. I am not the most artistic person, so I have had to spend a lot of time to get to this point. I love her hair, but to be honest, it has been hard for me to learn to style it. We are blessed that God has lead us to a very sweet hairdresser, who has patiently taught me how to braid and care for her hair. I have friends that can help us too, but it has been hard to find a block of time when we can work on her hair, uninterrupted.

Hmmm where to start...........

6/13/2008 11:29:00 PM

Just Having Fun We have been busy getting ready for a garage sale. Not my favorite activity, but it will help simplify things once it is over. We are getting rid of a ton of things that are taking time to maintain, crowding our space and costing us money to store. I wondered what Sami would think of the garage sale, but she is very relieved to get rid of things that we don't use. My girl likes things organized.

Sami loves to play with dolls. Maybe, just maybe with all of the new dolls, she will take a little break from playing dress-up with her baby brother. I would post the pictures of some of the outfits that she has put on the boy, but I don't think that Daddy would think it was as funny as I do.

I will write more later, but I wanted to post some pictures of Samrawit, Abby and Landis clowning around and having fun. Don't you love it that kids can turn anything into a party?

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You have to trust me when I say that they could have been pictures of me each time God called me to adopt. We have two children who were adopted as infants from Guatemala. God provided the money that we needed to adopt them, blessed me with a wonderful agency and in-country lawyers to help us complete their adoptions and most importantly of all, He choose children for our family who are beautiful, affectionate and so funny that we routinely laugh until our sides hurt. We have been blessed by these precious children more than you could ever imagine.

6/25/2008 8:43:00 AM

Time to Confess Have you ever looked at a picture of one of your children and seen yourself in their expression? My husband took some pictures of our 2 year old son that reminded me so much of myself that it took my breath away. Can you see me in these pictures?

After competing the first adoption in 05 and the second in 06 you would have thought that I would be excited and confident when God called us once again to adopt. After all, we have two reminders of God's love walking through our home, hugging 16


our necks and telling us that they loved us. In December of 07 God called us once again to adopt, but this time we were called to adopt a beautiful 9 year old girl from Ethiopia. We heard God's call and we moved forward on her adoption, but I will admit that I was nervous. I fell in love with her pictures and was committed to being her mom, but the unknowns scared me. You can read so many stories of challenges and problems that can occur with older child adoptions and it was easy for me to take my eyes off of Christ. I am not proud of the fact that I am weak, but if I am honest with you, at times I am.

funniest people I have ever met, loves God and chooses to love her new family~those are the things that define her. We could have easily justified not adopting her because of problems that we IMAGINED that she MIGHT have, but we chose to take a step of faith and adopt this precious girl. We knew that we were willing to do God's will and serve Him by caring for this orphan. What we didn't know was that God, our Father, wanted to bless us beyond our wildest dreams with a daughter who would give us a millions of hugs and kisses, and a house filled with laughter and joy.

Samrawit was at the orphanage longer than any other child. I can't imagine how hard it would be to watch sibling groups and older friends be chosen, knowing that no one had picked you to be their daughter. Sami said good-bye to a lot of friends while she waited for her turn. Some of the pictures that we received, as we were praying about adopting her, showed her beautiful smile, but a few others gave us a glimpse into the the pain that she was feeling as she waited. When I looked at the pictures of her when she was sad, it drove to me complete the paperwork as fast as I possibly could~so that was a good thing. But, if I took my eyes off of Christ, it was easy to imagine that she would need a lot of help and support when she came home. Just like we knew that Landis would love slides, if he would just trust us and go own that slide one time (he actually did once he finally slid down, despite the terrified look at the top), God knew that our lives would be blessed by taking that step of faith.

We were committed to giving her the time, love and attention that she needed to heal, but we didn't know what she would need from us until she came home. What God knew, that we didn't, was that the girl who would join our family was a confident, affectionate and loving child, who would instantly embrace her new family with all of her heart. Yes, like every child, she will have moments of sadness, but those moments never define her and are very infrequent. She is one of the

God initially put this post on my heart a couple of weeks ago. At the time I thought that maybe there was one person who needed to hear my story. Then a week ago my husband announced, to a group of friends, that we wanted to adopt again... and I found myself looking like this once more. 17


Samrawit, Abby and my husband would love to have another child join our family. After a week of praying, I can honestly say that I am beginning to get excited too. I have no idea when it will happen, where the child will be from or whether the child will be a boy or girl, but what I do know is that is that God is calling us and we are willing to take that step of faith.

getting petechiae (tiny “blood dots”) on her neck and cheek. My wife is an RN, I’m fairly medically savvy, and we both knew this was a concern. We decided we would get her in to our Pediatrician immediately the next day. By morning, several bruises began to appear on Abby, and we were honest enough with ourselves to expect that the word “leukemia” was probably going to be part of our vocabulary in the future. After a day of running tests, When the Doctor walked in to give us results around 3 p.m., the diagnosis was written all over her face before the words passed over her lips. By sunset, we were at Children’s Hospital in OKC, pumping our three year old full of antibiotics, fresh blood and fluids.

7/13/2008 9:29:00 AM

Please Pray for Abby

On Monday (I’m writing this Saturday night), Abby will get a bone marrow aspiration, a biopsy, a spinal tap and her first dose of chemo. The leukemia type will be determined and a treatment journey laid out. Monday will not be fun, but should be full of blessing and opportunity to minister.

Our three year old daughter, who was adopted from Guatemala, was diagnosed Friday with Leukemia. We are so sad that she is going through this, but also praising God that He chose her to be our daughter and brought her to the United States, where she can receive excellent medical care. This is so hard for us to go through as a family, I can't even imagine the pain that mothers and fathers in poor countries feel when there children are ill or hungry. Today we are praying as much for those other parents, as we are for our daughter.

“How are you doing?” we are repeatedly asked. We are neither casual nor despondent. As Christians, we have no reason to despair, nor is this a light burden. Abby could die. Abby could be healed. Abby could live a long life. Abby could be with us a few years and relapse, which statistically, is probable death. We pray of course for Abby’s total healing, and ask you to pray for the same. The end result however, is in the Sovereign Lord’s gracious hands, and we freely place our daughter in His most capable care, and accept the future as God’s perfect will.

We would deeply appreciate it if you would pray for our daughter's healing and add her to your prayer lists. Some have asked if they could tell our daughter's story on their blog. We would love it if you would tell her story or and link to our blog. The prayers mean more than we can express. Below is what my husband wrote to his many thousands of readers on his ministry site, www.seriousfaith.com:

The "facts" in any situation are tempered by the spiritual truths we know as Christians.

An Opportunity of Faith 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (NKJV)

Intellectually and emotionally, we understand the medical facts of this cancer, and yet, it is all tempered spiritually. Our faith in God ensures us with both clarity and finality that all medical statistics and human experience is subject to the blessed sovereignty of God. It is in that omni-compassion that we take refuge, find rest, and place our hope. God may miraculously heal. God may have other plans. No matter, God will see us through and He is most glorified when His children genuinely place their trust in Him.

The Lord has chosen to bless our family with an opportunity for faith, trust, witness and spiritual growth. The Bible says to give thanks in ALL things, rejoice in ALL, never stop praying... so my wife and I thank God for however, whoever and whatever He is going to do in our lives during this trying time.

We know that God has not blinked. He is not busy somewhere else. No matter the eventual outcome, we have the hope of eternity which overshadows this vapor of temporal life, and the anticipation of God’s glory revealed through the inevitability of His sufficient grace. God’s hand is already clear and evident in the circumstances.

On Friday July 11, 2008, our 3 year old daughter, Abby, adopted from Guatemala at six months old, was diagnosed with Leukemia. The previous Wednesday, she acting a little sluggish, and by Thursday it was obvious she was getting a “cold”, probably strep or tonsillitis, a common malady in our brood of seven. Thursday evening we took her to a minor care facility and she tested positive for strep. That night we also noticed she was

Consider this…

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Out of tens of thousands of kids that we could have adopted from Guatemala, God providentially orchestrated Abby to be that child. He already knew her future needs, both spiritually and physically. God arranged for her to have family and community that have shown her the love of God and begun to teach her about Jesus, as well the ability to provide life-saving medical treatment.

We would specifically ask you to pray for the following: •

As for me and my wife, I know that God will have some SPECIFIC purposes for this trial, meant just for us and our family. I cannot tell you what those are now, but sometime in the future, I believe they will be clearly revealed. However, from Scripture, I can tell you some general blessings God has for us through this hour of difficulty (and it is just as true for YOU too in your times of trial): • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

• •

Produce patience - Rom. 5:3; James 1:3–4; Heb. 10:36 Bring joy - Ps. 30:5; 126:5–6 Help us mature - Eccles. 7:3; 1 Pet. 5:10 Increase righteousness - Heb. 12:11 Transform us into the image of Christ - Heb. 12:9, 10; 1 Pet. 4:12–13; Phil. 3:10; 2 Cor. 4:7–10 Bring glory to God - Ps. 50:15; John 9:1–3; 11:1–4; 21:18–19; Phil. 1:19–20 Prove our relationship with God - Heb. 12:5–6 Cultivate prayer - Isa. 26:16 Be an example to others - 2 Cor. 6:4–5; 1 Thess. 1:6–7 Help us to counsel others - Rom. 12:15; Gal. 6:2; 2 Cor. 1:3–5 Be a witness of salvation - Acts 8:1–5; 16:25–34; Phil. 1:12–13; 2 Tim. 4:6–8, 16–17 Make us victorious - 2 Cor. 2:14; Rom. 8:35, 37 Drive us to God - 1 Pet. 4:14; 2 Cor. 12:10 Prepare us for ministry - 1 Kings 17–18; John 12:24 Reveal God’s sovereignty - Rom. 8:28; 1 Cor. 10:13; Ps. 66:10–12; Gen. 45:5–8; 50:20

The complete healing of the Leukemia by whatever means, in whatever way, and in whatever time frame brings God the most glory… from the miraculous to the medicinal. Trust and faith in God no matter what happens. Patience and strength for the actual procedures and responsibilities that lie ahead. Wisdom and provision for what will be a significant financial issue for us. Opportunity to share the love of Jesus with the staff and doctors. Please pray for those families and children who do not have the blessing of the health care we have in America.

I pray that through this, I personally will have a better understanding of faith, compassion, human nature and God’s nature… so that all in all, I can be a better minister, teacher, husband and father. Visit Brent's site at: www.seriousfaith.com

7/15/2008 9:59:00 PM

Update on Abby and Pictures Update on Abby: Abby was diagnosed with Leukemia on July 11th. Monday, the 14th, she had all the bone marrow and spinal fluid examinations.

Has God presented you with an opportunity of faith and thanksgiving? Maybe He has but you haven’t learn to see it that way yet. While increased faith comes in many ways, VERY often it is achieved through trials, hardship, suffering and uncertainty. Do you see it for the blessing that it is? Do you thank God for it?

She has “A.L.L.”, which is the more treatable kind of Leukemia with an 80% cure average. She has a “high risk” version of ALL though, and has to be treated more aggressively because her white blood cells were DOUBLING every day… that is an unusual high risk development that shows the Leukemia to be extremely aggressive.

My wife and I would ask you to pray for Abby, and for our family. While this will be fleeting “news” for friends and family, short of God’s miraculous intervention, it will become “life” for us for the next 2-3 years. That is not a criticism of people or I would have to criticize myself first. It is the natural order and process of life. Life moves on. We don’t forget those who labor or suffer, but life does in fact, move on. Even as life moves on for all of us, would you put us on your prayer list for the foreseeable future, and make brief mention of us in your supplications to God?

She’ll receive a lot of chemo and medication for the next month, in and out of the hospital weekly. After the first month, the doctors will re-evaluate how she is responding and lay out a long term plan for her, but it will likely be six months with lots of treatment, and then 2-3 years of monthly treatment. Of the 20% of children that are not cured, they relapse in the first three years and have less than a 5% recovery rate from a relapse. 19


This is Abby before her first chemo We ask your prayers for: • • • • • • •

Abby's healing For the nausea and vomiting to subside Rest; we’re only getting a handful of hours a night, and we’re very tired Clarity in making decisions about her treatment, juggling high risk considerations Wisdom to deal with the changes in our life, financial matters and arrangements Strength enough to not let our other children slip through the cracks of our attention and parenting Opportunities to minister to all those around us. We covet your prayers and thank you for them in advance. Brent & Michelle Riggs

Abby rested well after the treatments, but was so tired.

Abby has a crush on a wonderful boy whose family is friends of ours. Abby loves him so much and tells EVERYONE about him. He made her day when he visited her in the hospital.He is an incredible kid. Thanks again for praying for Abby and our family, and for asking others to pray. Knowing that others are praying for our precious daughter means more to us than we can express. Thank you also for all of your comments and emails. They are

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read and reread especially during those quiet times when my daughter is asleep.

• •

7/18/2008 12:57:00 AM

God's Statistics

• •

Yesterday I posted pictures and an update on Abby. Today I wanted to post something that my husband wrote, because it means so much to me. Abby is getting close to going home. Thank you so much for praying for her and for our whole family.

Medical statistics are very real. By themselves, they can be very difficult, sometimes impossible to confront and accept. As Christians, we have the blessing of filtering all human statistics through "God's statistics". Notice that God's numbers are absolutes... all or none. No guessing, no gray area, no margin of error. It is in those absolutes, that Christians find security. It is in those boundaries and constraints we get comfort. It is the surety of "all" or "never" that we anchor the frail ships of this life.

Below is what my husband wrote on http://www.seriousfaith.com/ on Tuesday. God's Statistics Hebrews 13:5-6 ... “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (NKJV)

God never forgets about us. God always does what is best for us. God never deceives us. God always cares.

Our adopted Guatemalan daughter, Abby, was diagnosed with Leukemia 4 days ago. Here are some statistics about kids with Leukemia: • • • • • • •

5000 - The number of kids in America who will be diagnosed with Leukemia this year 9x - The factor of children who are 2-4 years old when diagnosed with Leukemia 60% - The percentage of children who get the more curable version of Leukema called A.L.L. (which we found out last night is the kind Abby has) 66% - The percentage of people who completely recover from A.L.L. 90% - The percentage of children ages 2-4 that recover from Leukemia 10% - The percentage of children who relapse, usually within three years 5% - The chance of recovering from a relapse of Leukemia

The absolutes of God's statistics... have you ever considered them? What's going on in your life? Are you anchored to, hoping in, and look towards the "always" and "never" of God's promises?

7/20/2008 9:39:00 PM

Abby's Home Thank you all so much for praying for our family. Abby was able to go home over the weekend. Praise God. It was wonderful to be together as a family again. Abby's brothers and sister are so happy to have her home. Tomorrow we are going back to the hospital for more tests and chemo, but we are praising God for the time that we had together today.

Those are medical statistics. Let me give you some "God Statistics": • •

0% - The chance that God will forsake or forget one of His children 0% - The percentage of children with Leukemia that God does not care about 100% - The percentage of hope that Christians have no matter what the circumstances 100% - The chance that God will hear the prayers of His suffering children 100% - The percentage of times that every single situation works out exactly the way God wants it to 100% - The percentage of people who are blessed when they trust God, thank God, and rejoice in God no matter what the circumstances Infinite - The amount of love, patience, mercy, compassion and attention God has for each and every one of His own.

1 - The number of times Jesus gave His life to pay for our sins 0 - The number of times God is not watching over every second of our life and every hair on our head 21


Tomorrow (Monday) Abby will have another bone marrow aspiration, spinal tap and 3 chemo drugs. We will know tomorrow how she is responding to the medication. I am excited that we will find out how she is responding to the treatment, but my heart is breaking that she will have to go though so much tomorrow.

Daddy cut her hair yesterday. I love how he cut it. Shorter hair will make it look better as it thins and not so scary when it starts to come out. Abby has been very fascinated with the all of the wigs and hair pieces that you can buy at black hair stores. She has watched Sami wear drawstring ponytails and she loves them. We have had so much fun "playing" with Sami's hair. How wonderful that God used our fun to help prepare Abby for what is happening now.

Would you please pray that Abby would be free of pain and nausea and that she wouldn't be scared. Please also continue to also pray for her healing. I can't even imagine saying goodbye to my precious little girl.

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expecting, zero. It was a bit difficult to hear the Doctor put the best face on it by saying "the bright side is that she is making progress." She has significant problems with her liver that they are trying to figure out. It is a serious complication. They are bringing a specialist on board to help decide what is wrong, and what to do. We spent all day yesterday, and most of the day today in the hospital. We aren't getting much sleep, and so our most specific prayer request besides Abby's healing, is for my wife and I to get rest. Today is our wedding anniversary... not our favorite choice of how to celebrate, but at least we were together all day. Sami goes to the hospital with us every time and helps Abby with every little thing she needs. God obviously brought Sami hear to be part of Abby's life at just the right time.

7/22/2008 8:43:00 PM

Update on Abby - Day 8 and Hospital Pictures

Abby doing crafts with Sami before procedures.

Abby had her Day 8 treatments today, bone marrow aspiration, spinal tap, chemo. She still has 6% leukemia in her bone marrow. That was disappointing, we were hoping for, and 23


Sami passes time while Abby is getting treated.

Sami with a new doll from the clinic folks.

Abby hams it up with the finger paint; still getting some fresh blood.

Abby gets to finger paint while getting fresh blood. 24


They admitted us into a room with lots of space and a tv/vcr that helps the girls pass the time. It is such a blessing to be able to relax while Abby is being treated. She only needed platelets, so we will be able to go home when they are done. We will probably be here six hours total. I know that sounds bad, but we are excited that we will be able to go home. Samrawit wanted to come with us and the girls had a lot of fun watching movies. I am proud of them for turning something that is pretty boring into a slumber party. Tomorrow we have our six month postplacement visit for Sami. I can hardly believe that it is only been a short time since she has been home. It is very hard to remember what it was like before she arrived. She is a joy to be with. I love caring for my precious daughter. Well the platelets are finished and we get to go home! I am very tired, so I am not sure that this is making a lot of sense, but I wanted to update you tonight, so that I could thank everyone for all that you are doing for our family. So many people have reached out to our family and we are more grateful that I can express. We would appreciate your continued prayers.

Sami gets in on the finger paint action.

7/26/2008 9:53:00 AM

7/25/2008 10:38:00 PM

Abby's Chocolate Blood

Thanks and Update

The first time Abby got a blood transfusion I (Brent) told her it was "chocolate pudding". She knew I was joking but has since always referred to it as "chocolate blood".

Thank you so much for all of your prayers and comments. They encourage and bless us so much. Our family is pretty tired tonight. Abby began bruising again today and her doctor wanted us to bring her back to the hospital. It is pretty normal to need transfusions at this stage of treatment.

She was home this morning from a transfusion and she said to me this morning, "Daddy, I got a whole bunch of chocolate blood last night". She's so cute. The first thing she asks when she wakes up every morning, "Dad-dee, I need to take me pee-uhl." (pill) She hates the nasty tasting things but she knows they a make her "sick blood well". So every morning, and before bed she reminds us to give her "pee-uhl" and several other meds. We wake up every morning now expecting her hair to have fallen out. Each day we have it, we enjoy it, and take more pics of her. I cut off about 6 inches last week, so that it wouldn't be quite so traumatic on her. It sounds kind of silly coming from a grown man, but giving her that haircut myself (I cut all the boys hair, but only trim the girls and my wife who go to the stylist for the real stuff)... giving Abby that haircut was a very special to me, and was something I'll never forget given the circumstances.

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7/29/2008 10:09:00 AM

Morning Instructions From Landis Our kids wake up in the morning, and they aren't allowed to get out of their bed until we come and get them. They will play and make "quiet noise" hoping to get our attention, but they stay in their beds. This morning, our TWO YEAR OLD, whose communication skills are obviously increasing exponentially, gave us a big laugh with the most clear and concise sentence he kept repeating loudly enough for us to hear. It's the first time he said it, and my wife and I were about to bust a gut laughing over it. "I would like someone to come here and get me out of this bed... ... ... RIGHT NOW... ... ... please." Abby after cutting about half the length off her hair. "I would like someone to come here and get me out of this bed... ... ... RIGHT NOW... ... ... please."

7/26/2008 5:19:00 PM

Perfect enunciation and timing. We thought we were hearing things. He was so proud of himself.

Get Up In There Daddy I (Brent) was playing around with Sami, and in the course of joking around said “you got a bunch of boogers in your nose…” To which she coolly replied, (now remember, she’s only been speaking English 4 months): “Well then why don’t you just get all up in there, Dad…” The girl is a laugh a minute… and she knows it.

Yes, he's THAT full of himself!

7/29/2008 11:11:00 PM

Samrawit's First Haircut and Prayer Request No, Sami didn't get her hair cut. She got to help give her first haircut. Sami has been talking a lot about wanting to cut hair when she is older. Brent decided to let her help cut Landis's hair. Sami was thrilled to get to do it. 26


Landis the guinea pig... Landis... having the time of his life! Not scared one bit!

Sami and one of her favorite friends at our churches picnic.

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Sami having fun...

Sami calls "T" her glue friend because they stick together.

Big brother, Dane, with Landis

Samrawit eating her first snow cone.

Dane and Abby. Abby loves her big brother. We are on day 15 of chemo. Abby's hair is starting to get thinner, but it is still looking good. I am loving every extra day that she still has it. Abby know that after it is out she will get to cut daddy's hair 28


off. Every time Abby looses a hair she tries to talk me into giving her the scissors for Daddy's hair. Today she said that she was going to cut off his chest hair too. LOL.

also pray for us and her doctors to make wise decisions concerning her liver. Thank you so much for your prayers and support.

7/31/2008 2:11:00 PM

Praise, Requests and Pictures Very good news today about Abby. She has ZERO Leukemia cells in her bone marrow now, so the chemo is working properly. Her doctors are very optimistic that she will be in remission in 2 weeks. Her liver problems seem to have corrected as well and what we thought were going to be serious complications, appear to be less serious than they suspected. Her doctors are still waiting for results from one liver test, but we are very encouraged by the results that we already have. Abby's favorite guy playing with Sami's hair. "L" goofing off helped Abby see that some of the changes will be fun.

Now the purpose of the chemo is to 1) find any Leukemia that is "hiding" elsewhere in her body, 2) keep the Leukemia from coming back (this will take 6 months), and 3) for 2.5 years of treatment (chemo), keep her "Leukemia-free". After decades of medical history, they know this is the optimal treatment time to achieve the 90% cure rate they now have for her type of Leukemia. That's all great news for the big picture, but... poor Abby had a REALLY tough day after the bone marrow aspiration and chemo. She has been throwing up and going to the bathroom non-stop, and just looks pitiful. Her hair appears to be starting to fall out. She hasn't moved off our lap all day. So rejoice with us that she seems to be heading towards remission, and pray with us that her little 28lb. body will endure the discomfort and quickly recover. Would you please pray that: • • •

'L" is going to be a great daddy someday. Abby has had some tummy troubles tonight and tomorrow is her bone marrow aspiration and chemo. We are hoping to learn why her liver is not functioning as well as they would like. Please pray for her pain, nausea and that her liver will be functioning well enough to get the chemo tomorrow. Please 29

Praise God for the healing that has already taken place For relief from her stomach problems. She has lost 3 pounds this week. That the liver tests would come back negative


even when she is feeling bad. We are praying that she will have some good days this weekend.

This picture was taken on Wednesday at the clinic. The chemo was making her so sick.

Samrawit has a reunion this weekend. A lot of the older kids from her orphanage will be meeting on Saturday about 9 hours from us. Sami has talked about seeing the girls for months. The plan is for Michelle to take her, if Abby is doing OK. Please pray that Abby will have a good weekend, that things will go

The rest of the pictures were taken last weekend. Abby usually has a few days were she is feeling better, in between rounds of chemo. She is such a sweet girl,

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• •

smoothly at home and that the reunion will be fun for Samrawit. Please also say a prayer for me (Michelle). It is going to be so hard to leave Abby, but it is important for all of our children to know that we love them and that we are going to take care of them, even in the midst of caring for Abby.

• • • •

• • •

8/1/2008 11:25:00 PM

Time To Cry

By Brent Riggs

We’ve watched the bruises and rashes appear. We’ve wondered about her wanting to sleep all the time. We were concerned about her getting sick easily.

We watched as two doctors entered the examining room and asked if the other children could go down the hall and play. No good news ever comes following that. We heard the words “cancer” and “leukemia” for the first time, and “yes, we are sure”. We’ve listened to the phrases“high risk”, “extremely aggressive” and “three years of chemo”. We’ve watched a dozen needles buried in her back, hip and spine. We’ve had to HOLD DOWN Abby screaming as they plunged two syringes deep into both thighs, at the same time. Remember, we’re talking about a three year old that doesn’t even understand what’s wrong. We’ve had to restrain her while yet another adhesive bandage is torn off the same delicate, broken-down, inflamed skin, over and over. We’ve watched her intensely throw up over and over. She’s in the bathroom a dozen times a day. She is weak and wonders why she can’t do what the other kids do. We’ve watched her drop several pounds off her little 30lb frame. We’re witnessing her hair falling out, and her lack of energy.

We listen to her pretend about far too many things that child her age should not know about:

There are times in life when circumstances are so intense it’s hard to communicate the range and depth of emotion, even for a writer. The diagnosis of cancer for your three year old adopted daughter would qualify as such a time.

• • •

My wife and I are “managers” in the face of crisis. We bandage first, express shock later; mend broken bones first, feel upset later. So for two weeks since the diagnosis of Leukemia, we’ve done what we’ve had to do to care for Abby and get her on the road to recovery.

• • •

The lack of many tears (oh, there's been some, yes) up until now is not callousness, it’s self control mixed with a little “natural personality”. It strength for each other, strength for our family and friends, strength for Abby. She’s scared enough (as are the other children and family). She, and they, don’t need to see us over-wrought with grief or sadness.

“Daddy, I want to put an IV in your arm” “Look Mommy, I’m putting new blood in my tube” “I’m listening to babies heartbeat” (Landis, 2 year old brother) “My blood is sick and I have to have medicine or I won’t grow up like Bubba” (16 year old brother) “That little girl (in the hospital) has cancer too, like me” “Momma, I don’t like him” (a scared response to seeing a child who is particularly sickly in appearance; what she means is ‘I’m scared of how they look, and I don’t want that to happen to me’)

Self-control or not, “management-of-crisis personality” or not, at some point things start getting to you emotionally. I don’t

Over the past two weeks, concerning Abby: 31


mean just needing a good cry. I’m talking about the erosion of your emotional reserve across the board.

The final straw tonight was insignificant on the surface, but very revealing nonetheless. I was watching a movie while the kids were napping. It was some cop/crime movie, nothing all that memorable. About halfway through, this cop and his family (wife, daughter, brother, niece) actually hold hands and say “grace” for dinner. It was two sentences:

Our day today (Friday, August 1st) would testify to that reality. This morning, I got all impatient about some trash in the car. The trash was left over from our trips to the hospital. My poor wife had already unloaded stuff from the car several times (as we all had). But her JERK husband comes along and gets frustrated because he is “getting tired of finding straw wrappers, cups, toys and crumbs” in the car. Does a straw wrapper and a spilled drink in the car really mean ANYTHING in light of the reason why the stuff was in the car in the car in the first place? Geez… what was I thinking?

“Heavenly Father, thank you for this food and the hands who prepared it. Thank you for all your many blessings, Amen”.

In the time it took to say those two sentences, tears were dripping down my face. Why? I think largely in part to the already overstrained emotions, and I’d like to think partly because I was genuinely touched that the pagans in Hollywood actually portrayed a NORMAL Christian activity with no implication of them being weird, perverts, backwards or hypocritical. I ask God to help me control my tears. I pray that they may be shed only when it glorifies God, in whatever way, for genuinely righteous reasons, whether public or private. I do not like, nor want to be part of the overly-feminized, ‘self esteem’, emotionally weak culture that dominates the males in our society. Our families and wives need MEN, strong Godly men, not metro-sexual, cry-baby weaklings. Don’t mistake “self control” (or more appropriately, ‘submission to the Holy Spirit’) for callousness, or a hard heart. No, sir. I cry at the drop of a hat over the hurt of others, tender moments between loved ones and genuine suffered loss. The closer the situation is to God’s heart, the more prone I am to tears: • • • • •

My wife, already on the edge of emotional strain, and very tired from whole ordeal, is instantly in a flood of tears even though she almost never cries over such things. To her credit, I was able to apologize, and of course she forgave me. She just asked me to hug her and love her. She’s a blessing. I was selfish.

A child’s earnest prayer The rejection of God by a soul destined for hell The persecution of other Christians The suffering of the innocent The joy of seeing God bless His children

I would like to think that comes from spiritual compassion and love for God that the Creator ALONE grants us through His unfathomable mercy and grace. WE cannot manufacture it… we are blessed with it by a loving God.

How can something so inconsequential get elevated to tearful conflict? It's not typical for us. A couple of hours later, she had to leave with Samrawit (our 9 yr old from Ethiopia), to a long awaited reunion with the other orphans she lived with in Africa. It’s hard to explain how sad I was watching them drive away, and before their car was out of sight, I was genuinely overcome with missing both of them. This trip was a long time coming. There was no real reason to feel overly emotional. As I said, I think it’s ALL catching up to me (us) now. I’m happy for my wife to get a couple of days break… even more so given my ridiculous griping that morning.

I thank God for these intensely emotional, even heartbreaking times. They remind us we are alive, that life is unpredictable, and that God is ALWAYS there to protect, love, comfort and keep us from being lonely. Is there anything warmer and more soothing than the arms of our dear Savior when life is at it’s worst? As I type this sentence the tears are streaming down my face. 32


My wife will read this while being 10 hours away from me this weekend... sweetheart, I love you with all my heart. Thank you for forgiving me. I’m here for you. I can’t imagine life without you. I’m going to go hug Abby.

8/7/2008 10:16:00 PM

Hannah's Hope Reunion It was hard to leave Abby when I took Samrawit to the reunion, but we felt that it was very important for her to attend. Samrawit's friends greeted her with huge smiles and tears of happiness. Seeing them together confirmed that we were exactly where God wanted us to be. Samrawit loved every minute that she was with her friends. I am thankful that we were able to attend.

12 friends reunited

Sharron (http://www.youneekgang.blogspot.com/) Lori and the other local families did a wonderful job organizing the weekend. There were lots of fun activities for the kids and plenty of time for kids and adults to talk. I loved meeting the parents and seeing how all of the kids were adjusting to their new homes. The children love their new families so much. The love their parents have for them was beautiful to watch. The weeks before the reunion were tough but spending time with so many wonderful Christian women was just what I needed to recharge my batteries. I hope this will be an annual event.

Pool Time Fun

The colors of the Ethiopian flag are red, yellow and green. The Ethiopian adoptees wore yellow, their siblings wore green shirts and their parents wore red shirts.

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These boys were friends BEFORE they were at Hannah's Hope. How wonderful that they are able to maintain their friendship.

The older girls had a sleepover on the first night. I loved hearing them whisper in Amharic and giggle.

Three of the original children at Hannah's Hope. You can see a video of them arriving at the orphanage at http://www.allgodschildren.org/about/videos/

Sami loves playing with dolls, especially if she is with great friends.

All of the siblings had a blast at the reunion. I can't for Abby to meet Sharron's daughter. Abby will love having a new friend from Guatemala.

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Check out their families blogs at http://www.youneekgang.blogspot.com/ http://www.holdingfasttoyou.blogspot.com/ Thank you Maria and Isabella. Abby loved the shirt that you sent her. You made her day!

8/11/2008 4:19:00 PM

Abby update and more HH pictures 35


Two seconds later, Abby "tooted" and as you can see, was VERY proud of herself! About a week after Abby’s Leukemia diagnosis, she had elevated liver enzymes and the doctors were very concerned about it. Abby initially tested reactive to Hepatitis C, so the Docs ran some more specific and accurate tests to verify. Those test came back last week NEGATIVE for Hep-C. Her liver enzymes have also now come back into acceptable ranges (for Leukemia), so we praise God for that, and sincerely thank everyone who prayed for Abby. The doctors will watch her liver numbers closely as she was 12 times higher than normal when all this began. It is truly an answer to prayer. Thank you for praying with us. We hope you will take joy in this answered prayer too. This was my favorite picture. It is of the girls praying together, before we left the reunion.

Abby has a very important clinic appointment on Wednesday. It will be her 29th day of treatment. Her doctors will do a bone marrow aspiration and spinal tap to determine if she is in remission. If she is not in remission, they will need to continue giving her high doses of chemo until she is in remission. We are praying and fully expecting that she is in remission on Wednesday.

Remission (no Leukemia in the bone marrow), on the 29th day of treatment means that her chemo for the next six months will be less severe and most important to us, her chances of survival (statistically speaking according to the Doctors) are much higher (as opposed to not being remission). We know that God can heal her, no matter what the statistics say, but of course we are still praying for good news on Wednesday. We believe God heals both miraculously, and through the providential gifts of healthcare and medicine as He sees fit to His glory.

The kids loved doing crafts.

So far, Abby has not experienced most of the harsher side effects of her treatment. We are very thankful for that blessing from God. She is weak and very tired most of the time. Chemo has a cumulative effect and each week she gets more tired. She struggles with being constipated and an aching stomach. She is such a sweetheart. She has had the best attitude during the last month. Thank you again for praying for her.

At the older girls slumber party, some of the girls have been home for a year and others just arrived. Samrawit was at the orphanage longer than any other child. She new all of the girls and enjoyed continuing their friendships.

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Their smiles say it all.

8/13/2008 7:15:00 PM At church on Sunday.

Update on Abby Riggs Aug 13 - Last Day of Induction By Brent Today was a milestone day. It was the last day of “induction” which is the initial treatment phase of cancer. The goal of induction is to attack the cancer with all guns blazing, and get Abby into “remission” (no cancer present in the bone marrow).

Water balloon volleyball was a hit.

Induction is followed by 6 months of “consolidation” which is, in lay terms, “kick’em while they’re down”. The treatments are meant to find and kill any Leukemia that might have migrated in the body to “hide”, and to keep any new cancer forming. After induction, you've got the cancer on the run, and consolidation is meant to be the "coup de grace" (knockout punch). Consolidation is followed by 2.5-3.0 years of “maintenance” chemotherapy meant to keep any new cancer from forming, and kill it if it does. Each phase (induction, consolidation, maintenance) is less intense.

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Within those three phases, a patient has a risk level: normal, high, ultra high. Abby was “high risk” immediately because her white blood cells skyrocketed exponentially the first week of her diagnosis. This was an indication of an extremely aggressive cancer. The higher the risk, the more intense the chemotherapy which comes with greater degrees of side effects, and a lesser chance of survival. Today we had fully expected, and the doctors as well, that Abby would be declared in complete remission and be cancer free. From the bone marrow examination this morning, the doctors still they think see Leukemia but need a more sophisticated test to know for sure. They are going to try and do the test with the bone marrow they extracted today, but may need another sample, which would happen next Wednesday. If this advanced test comes back negative for cancer cells, Abby will be officially in remission. If not, then her “consolidation” period will be much more intense therapy.

Abby just minutes before today's procedures. Her smile betrays how tired she is all the time. You can see here that the steroids have puffed up her face (her tummy too).

Either way (positive or negative) she will not be treated as "normal risk"; she is either going to be "high risk" or "ultra high risk", both of which come with lesser degrees of optimistic prognosis. This is because she started out high risk, and her remission is in question at this point, when normally, it would not be. So she will be a high risk patient… it’s the degree of high risk we don’t know yet.

She will be off steroids for a while, so her energy should return quickly, and the puffiness will go away. Her hair is noticeably thinner now. We still pray she'll keep some hair, but the upcoming chemo, according to doctors, will probably cause the rest of it to fall out. Abby is looking forward to cutting off Daddy's hair if her hair falls out (a deal I made with her when she first noticed other children with no hair).

Her blood counts look good at this point (for a cancer patient in chemotherapy). Abby still cannot be out in public, or around anyone that sick. She is off the steroids now, so her energy should return quickly, and her poor little bloated tummy should go away. Honestly, it was not a very happy result today (circumstantially), but God is in control, and we put everything in His hands. We knew this process was not going to be smooth or easy, and there would be lots of opportunity for faith along the way. We rejoice in the peaks and valleys because God walks with us in both. Please pray with us that the advanced tests will be available (the doctors are cashing in a favor because this test is not officially available right now), that the tests will show her to be cancer-free; that God will heal Abby; and that we will continue to trust God and look for opportunities to minister to others.

Dad and Abby going for a ride on the four wheeler a few days ago. Our neighbor has a big yard that we take nice slow, but fun, rides across. Abby loves it. (for all you Mom's out there, we ride on nice soft grass, about 1mph... so no helmets are necessary.) 38


8/14/2008 6:43:00 PM

Abby is in the Hospital The post before this one gives an update on the results of Abby's cancer tests and updated prayer requests. Today Abby is on her way back to the hospital. She is being admitted to the hospital as of 3:30pm today. She is running a high fever. For cancer patients doing intense chemo, this is very serious. You don’t wait… you just head straight for the hospital. Abby has almost no ability to fight an infection, which a high fever indicates, and unlike people with normal blood and immunity, anything from a cold to internal bleeding can kill her. Her blood counts are good for a “chemo patient” but WAY below what is normal for you and I. • • • •

This is Abby a short time before her diagnosis. You can see in current pics, compared to the past,how the steroids have made her tired and puffy. Her hair is really thick and long here. She's off the steroids for a while, so we look forward to her getting her energy back, and losing the puffiness.

Please pray for her to get to the hospital quickly and safely. Please pray that the antibiotics they will give her will work quickly and effectively. Please pray for wisdom for the doctors. Please pray for us to have opportunity for faith and ministry to those around us.

She’ll most likely be in the hospital two or three days MINIMUM. Abby's energy is up, because she is off of the steroids. Even though she has an infection, she is feeling better than she did last week. Any improvement is a blessing and we are enjoying our time together. Thank you so much for your prayers and encouragement.

Despite being really tired all the time, and dealing with the effects of the steriods (bloating, stomach aches), Abby is still happy and a joy to be around.

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Here is Abby tonight in the hospital. She got a "poke" (IV) and is running a fever, but like always is still a joy and ready to smile. She's getting antibiotics and fluids that we pray will kill off whatever infection is present. Despite all the discomfort Abby remains loving, pleasant and affectionate.

Abby eating her favorite snack after waking up from a feverish nap. Like always she smiles and is loving even though she feels bad.

8/15/2008 7:29:00 PM

Abby in the Hospital - Aug 15th

8/17/2008 12:04:00 AM

Abby's Saturday

From Brent From Michelle: Abby is in the hospital and looks like she’ll be there for a few days. She has been on antibiotics for 24 hours, and her fever did not go down. This afternoon they gave her a fever reducer, and her temperature went UP… so we’re a little concerned for obvious reasons.

Saturday was the hardest day so far. Abby's fever got as high as 103. They are giving her IV antibiotics and medicine to reduce her fever, but it isn't working as well as we wished it would. She is still laughing and smiling a lot of the time, but there are more moments where she is saying she hurts and she has cried a few times. Boy it hurts to have her lay quietly in my arms and feel her tears drip off of her face. She is so sweet and happy most of the time, that it is easy to forget, for a minute, how much her little body is going through.

She has to be in the hospital 24-48 hours with no fever, and so far, her temperature has only gone up. Please pray that the antibiotics they will give her will work quickly and effectively. Please pray for wisdom for the doctors. Please pray for us to have opportunity for faith and ministry to those around us.

We are not complainers. The room that we have been in was very small and only had a foldout chair for me to sleep on. Tonight I asked if we could get a larger room and thankfully they said yes. Our new room has a fold out couch that Abby and I can sleep on together. Abby was so happy that she could be closer to Mommy. It is such a little thing, but it was comforting to her.

She has to be in the hospital for 48 hours WITH NO FEVER. As of 7:13pm Friday, she is still floating between 101 and 102, even with a fever reducer.

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Boy, he had to work hard to get her to laugh, but Abby is STILL laughing about his silly dance.

This picture was taken of Abby on Saturday. She is so tired.

Abby and "L" coloring. I love seeing her smile.

Friday with her favorite guy, she was feeling tired, but still able to have some fun. Here she is signing "L" cast.

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8/19/2008 12:18:00 AM

Update on Abby & the family... By Brent Abby is still in the hospital, her fever has not gone down. As of tonight, it was actually up over 102. She’s had a fever now for almost a week. She is supposed to have surgery and a bone marrow aspiration tomorrow, a consultation on Thursday, and new chemo drugs on Monday. All of that is in question because of the fever. It is critical that her next phase of chemo begin before the Leukemia can regroup and attack. Of course, that is all medically speaking. We know that God is in control, and He is watching over our precious daughter. Here is a recent picture of Landis, just because I miss him.

There are so many things happening, it would almost be comical, if it wasn’t all so serious. As of today, my wife is getting treated for an infection that she probably picked up in the hospital. Tonight, Sami is in the emergency room with her grandmother downstairs at the same hospital as Abby, with some sort of infection on her leg. My wife thinks it might be a spider bite. It is a grouping of blistered, swollen spots on the back of her leg. While my poor wife is stuck at the hospital, and sick herself, I'm juggling kids, school, house, laundry and work. We have family and friends graciously helping with the children so that I can give sufficient attention to my job. My employer is having some legitimate financial issues due to the economy, and we were notified last week it would require a 50% pay cut for us. We appreciate, for obvious reasons, that our health insurance will remain in force. I have no negative feelings towards my employer. They are good people, and other people actually got laid off while I did not. I’m thankful they genuinely care about our situation with Abby.

Sami is staying with her "best" friend. Sami says that she is her glue friend, because they stick so close together. I love it that she is close to kids at our church. With a larger hospital room, they can be here more, as soon as Abby starts doing a little better. I miss them all so much. Daddy has been going back and forth between home and the hospital. Spending time with Abby, making sure that all of the other kids are ok and working hasn't been easy for him, but he does it without a complaint. I am so blessed to have Brent for a husband.We really appreciate all of your prayers, comments and emails. So many people have stepped forward to help us locally. We are blessed to have great family and friends. Thanks for everything.

We are not in a crisis financially. We live fairly frugally and do not use consumer debt. We live financially the way I teach other people on http://www.brentriggsmoney.com/. Debt-free living anticipates increases and decreases in income. We will certainly have to make some major adjustments, but adjustments are not the same as turmoil or crisis. Our loving God is providing for us, and it is patently clear already that this cut in pay is no surprise to Him. He has never failed us on any level.

Thank you for your prayers and kind encouragement. It is greatly appreciated. Please pray for the health and healing of 42


our family, and most of all, that we will draw people to God by continuing to trust in the Lord. God is so good and we are full of joy to have such a wonderful opportunity to increase our faith and see God answering prayer every day. God’s grace is sufficient for us and in our weakness, His power is perfected.

8/19/2008 12:24:00 PM

Immediate Prayer Requests There is a detailed post under this one, but we have some new requests to add. Abby's doctors/nurses hope to do her bone marrow aspiration and place a PICC line today, under conscious sedation. This will mean that she will not feel the procedure and will not remember it. With the new PICC line, they will not have to stick her for most blood draws or to give IV medication. They also want to do an ultrasound of her tummy, to try to find out what is causing her liver enzymes to go up. They ordered a more powerful antibiotic to be given, in addition to the other antibiotics. Abby is having a reaction to it. It is a medication that she really needs, but it is making her very uncomfortable. She is swelling, has a rash and is itching. She keeps scratching her head, and a ton of hair is falling out, which is making her itch more. They have given her medicine to help her with these side effects, but it took a while for them to go away. She needs this medication every 8 hours. They hope that by giving her benadryl before each dose, that it will be much easier for her.

Landis, Abby and Sami shortly after Sami arrived from Ethiopia.

This is a fresh pic of Abby tonight. They have to keep sticking her with needles to draw blood samples, and they have just poked her full of holes trying. Please pray they will get blood the first time they try without digging around on her.

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8/20/2008 8:50:00 PM

Update on Abby Doing Much Better Abby had a busy day yesterday, but a productive one. She was really tired last night, but gradually felt much better through the day. It feels so good to have my daughter back. Yesterday they placed a PICC line, so they won't need to stick Abby when they need to get a sample of her blood or give her IV fluids. Because of Abby's eczema, the PICC line is a temporary solution, but it is wonderful to have it until she can get the more permanent kind of port. They were able to do the bone marrow aspiration, so that we can get the highly specialized test done. They continue to give her powerful antibiotics (that seem to be working since the fever is down) that made her itch like nuts, then some Benadryl to stop the itch. The ultrasound of her liver showed no problems and they continue to run tests on it. She has not had a fever since last night. If her temperature remains normal we will get to go home tomorrow after a consultation with our primary Doctor about what the course of treatment is for the next six months (known as the "consolidation" phase).

Her face was so red and swollen.

Abby and Samrawit playing the hospitals play room. This was the first time that Abby felt up to playing in it since we have been here. Thank you so much for praying for her during these procedures.

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Abby flirting with Daddy.

Landis liked the tools best.

Thanks to my sister, Abby was able to eat the food that she has been craving. Thanks you Mimi, from the Queen of Sheba, for making Abby's favorite food extra hot. Abby and Sami loved every bite.

Abby loved playing with her new toys today. She kept asking about her "Guatemala friend". Thank you Phylis and Kristen for brightening her day.

Seeing her smile again made my day.

8/22/2008 1:18:00 PM

Abby's Home Abby was able to go home from the hospital last night. Praise God! Thank you so much for praying for us. She was so excited to sleep in her own bed and to play with her toys. It feels so good to be home. We are still waiting on the results on the specialized bone marrow test. It will tell us if there are any cancer cells left. This test will determine whether Abby will a "normal" high risk patient or a ultra high risk patient. Our doctor met with us yesterday, to talk to us about the next 2 1/2 years of 45


treatment. Since we don't have the test results back, she told us the plan for both the normal high risk and the plan if she turns out to be the ultra high risk. The next phase of treatment is going to be a lot harder for Abby and for our family than we thought that it would be. Since Abby's cancer has shown itself to be very aggressive, she is going to need a lot of chemotherapy. We are still processing what that will mean for all of us, so we will write more about it later. Thank you so much for keeping us in your prayers. We will be back in the hospital Tuesday, for more treatment. We are praising God for the time we will have at home. We are so thankful that we are together again and that Abby is full of energy and pain free.

A few days ago, when Abby was almost finished with day full of tests and procedures, she looked up at me and said, "I am a very brave girl, Mommy. " I am so thankful that she doesn't need to be brave today.

Abby is so excited to be a kid again.

Abby has a list of things that she wants to do today. She wants to ride her bike, blow bubbles 46


and play with her sister and brothers. I think that it is the perfect "to do" list.

8/25/2008 2:48:00 PM

Abby: The Next Few Months

We are blessed to have a wonderful neighbor, who loves Abby and our other children. She is also a great cook. She is bringing us a home cooked dinner tonight, so that we can focus on other things. I am so thankful that I will be able to have extra time with the kids. They all need a little extra time with Brent and I.

Thank you so much for praying for Abby. Here's what is going on the next few months: Originally, we had the impression the first month was the hardest, but evidently, it was just a warm-up for the next 5. Starting this week:

8/25/2008 9:18:00 AM

Slurp, Slurp

• • • • •

2 weeks- four days of chemo each week 2 weeks- one day of chemo each week 2 weeks- four days of chemo each week 2 weeks- one day of chemo each week 4-8 weeks - chemo 1-3 times a week

That doesn't include the daily chemo at home. Each of the chemo treatments above are at the hospital, with several days of InPatient scheduled in. Any fevers, hospital. Complications... hospital. Abby will be treated as "high risk", possibly "ultra high" risk depending on some tests we are waiting on. Higher risks don't change the time frame, just the amount, variety and intensity of the drugs she receives.The chemo will make her to be severely anemic and her immune system will be compromised. Also, because they are injecting chemo directly into her spinal fluid, her brain will be bathed in chemo.

We were at the tail end of dinner one night, and a couple of the kids had already finished, were excused and running around playing. My wife and I were playing cards, and one or two kids were still at the table when we kept hearing, "slurp, slurp, slurp...." Like someone sipping soup from a bowl.

Since Abby is getting such a large amount of chemo, I am trying to feed her as many "chemical free" (organic) foods as I can. She is still having trouble with her liver, so we have to avoid every unnecessary chemical, so that she can handle all of the chemo that she needs.

It took us a minute to track it down and finally we found our two year old, Landis, under his chair, laying flat on his belly, retrieving some spilled Koolaid off the floor using only the tongue and lips God gave him.

It's going to be a trying time, and your prayers are deeply appreciated. We thank God for the opportunity to trust Him, both in His power to heal, and His power to divinely guide the Doctors.

You wouldn't believe how proud he was to not only be saving his spilled Koolaid, but to be cleaning up his mess too! He had his eye on some spaghetti noodles under another chair, but we intercepted him before he could "clean up" that lost pasta!

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Thank you to our family at Wildwood who have relentlessly pursued opportunities to help us during this time. Special thanks to the anonymous gift giver this past Sunday. We don't know who you are, but God does. May He credit your heavenly account with abundant treasure.

8/27/2008 5:40:00 AM

Weenie, Weenie, Weenie Like any family, we have some words that our kids will try out, and then we tell them “don’t say that word.” Like any family, we have some kids who figure out ways to get around the system. Abby decided the other day to declare to all of us that “Landis has a weenie”, which of course he does, and which of course we already knew. But “weenie” is obviously one of those “hee, hee… snicker, snicker” words for a three year old.

Abby has had a week break from steroids and chemo, so she is looking much better. It's hard knowing that it is the calm before the storm for her.

We laughed the first time she said it, and that just spurred her to greater heights. So I had to tell her, “Abby, don’t say weenie. That’s enough, don’t say it again.” Not to be deterred, she now obediently informs us: “We can’t say weenie. Daddy said don’t say weenie. I don’t say weenie. Weenie is not a word we can say. So I don’t say weenie anymore.” So as you can see, Abby no longer says “weenie”. J

8/27/2008 7:36:00 AM

Prayer Request and Red Onions Two posts under this one tells about Abby's treatment for the next 5 months. It is under her "weenie" post. :-) Abby was admitted to the hospital yesterday for chemo. She was so brave yesterday, but to be honest she is one tired little girl. One of the procedures that they did was a spinal tap, so that they could inject chemo into her spinal fluid. Because of the risks associated with sedation, she wasn't allowed to eat anything after midnight and nothing to drink after 9 am.

Thank you Candy, Kya and Jagger for the gift for Abby. http://guateawonderfulworld.blogspot.com/. You were so sweet to think of her. Abby wants to play with you all soon. 48


Because of delays, she didn't get to eat for 14 hours. She didn't fuss about it, but she was HUNGRY. Unfortunately, she isn't allowed to have anything to eat today either, because her surgery is scheduled for 1:00 PM. They hope that she will be able to go home this evening, and do the last two days on chemo in their outpatient clinic. The surgery is to place the port that she will need for the next 3 years. I am thankful that she is getting it, because it will mean a lot less "pokes" for blood draws and IV medications. All surgeries have risks, and since this will be so close to her heart and lungs, it carries some very serious risks. I wish that she didn't have to go through this, but she is God's daughter first. He chose this path for us and we trust Him completely. Prayer requests for this week: 1. Successful surgery with no complications 2. No discomfort from hunger before surgery and good pain control during and after surgery 3. Muscles to regain strength that she lost because of a side effect of the chemo. She looks like an elderly woman when she stands or goes up steps~no exaggeration at all. 4. That we will be able to go home tonight 5. That we will have fun today and be able to minister to others.6. No nausea from the chemo. We have had some wonderful people (adoption friends, family and friends from our church) step forward to provide us with meals and babysitting. My mom is even homeschooling Sami during medical appointments. We want to thank everyone who is helping us. You have made this so much, much easier for us and we thank you.

The big kids moved slow so that Abby could play too. Big sisters and good friends are gifts from God.

Some of you asked what Abby's food preferences are and I honestly told you that the child will eat anything. Two hours after I said that Abby ate red onion slices like they were candy. :-P She also ate two kinds of pickles, tomatoes, spiced pumpkin seeds, an apple and a bacon cheeseburger. A real blogger would have taken a picture of her eating the onion, but I was in shock. :-)

"L" makes Abby feel like a special little girl.

These pictures were taken on Monday.

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Landis loves playing with the big kids.

Lots of effort for a little jump, but it was worth it. Abby loves to play and I love to see her being a kid.

8/28/2008 6:47:00 PM

Abby is in remission! Praise God, Abby is in remission! The specialized bone marrow test, that we were waiting for, showed zero cancer cells. Abby's cancer is still categorized as high risk, because it has shown itself to be an aggressive cancer, but we are very thankful that it won't be placed in the higher category. "Ultra" high risk would have meant much more chemo, so we are grateful.

When Abby was trying to stand, everyone had to be very still so that she balance and push herself up. It is so hard to stand back and let her do it by herself, but I know she has to do it on her own in order to rebuild her strength.

Abby's port surgery was successful, but she is still in a lot of pain. They are treating her pain with IV morphine, but it is only taking away part of her pain. She is crying more than she ever has and is very tired. They are increasing her pain medication in an effort to control her pain more effectively. 50


They discharged us a few hours after her surgery yesterday, but by the time we arrived back at home her temperature had spiked and her doctor decided to re-admit her after we had only been home an hour. Her fever might be from an infection, it might be her bodies response to surgery, or it could be a side effect of one of the harsher chemo medications. To be safe, we have to remain at the hospital until they rule out an infection. Even if she would have remained at home, she would have needed to come back to the hospital for chemo on Thursday and Friday. We knew that this was going to be a tough week no matter what. Today, Abby got a clot in her IV port tubing. It was a pretty intense for a few hours, possibly facing another surgery to insert a new port but they were able to use "clot busting" drugs to clear her line. Crisis averted... praise the Lord! Samrawit has an infection on one of her legs, that is being treated with an antibiotic. It hurts when she walks. She is at the hospital with Abby and I (Michelle). She has her first flag football game on Saturday and is really looking forward to it. I am praying that she is able to play. Sami loves sports and is very athletic. She has been so wonderful with Abby. I really hope that she can play and have fun. Our other kids are doing fine. Brent and I are very tired. It is hard on both of us when Abby is in the hospital. Brent has been working and taking care of our other children, which is not easy. My family has been wonderful about babysitting and running errands for us. It is very important to us that our children are with us as much as they can, but unfortunately Brent and I are are getting tired and probably are not all that fun or very good parents right now.

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8/29/2008 10:02:00 PM

9/1/2008 12:07:00 AM

I'm Free!

Bring Me a Diaper

Praise God, we were able to go home from the hospital tonight. As we were driving away from the hospital Abby got a huge mile on her face, wiggled her little body and danced in pure delight. She kept announcing over and over, " I'm free!" No pictures, since I was driving. I know that my husband appreciates my restraint. Hearing her laughter was such a healing blessing for me.

I’m getting Landis ready for bed one night, and tell him “run get me a diaper”. So he takes off for his room to get one. About 3 minutes later he comes prancing back in, butt-nekkid, bringing me a diaper, just like I asked. It was only after I put it back on him, and realized it was not very “fresh” that it dawned on me how he had “obeyed”.

Thank you so much for all of your prayers and encouragement. I don't even know how to begin to thank all of you. Your willingness to help with meals and childcare has done so much make this tine in our lives easier. Angel, Amy B, Amy, Carol and Phylis, you guys are amaizing. I also want to thank everyone who has mentioned Abby on their blog or pu her on their churches prayer list. Knowing that others care and are praying has been so encouraging to us.

You guessed it… he went to the other room, stripped off his clothes and diaper, and brought me back the used one along with a proud look of accomplishment. Hey, he did what I told him! 9/2/2008 11:41:00 PM

Landis Needs a Poke

Many of you prayed about Abby's pain. Because of her leukemia, she can't take Motrin. With her liver problems, she shouldn't take Tylenol either. When she is in pain she sits still and wont play or even walk, if it is not required of her. The chemo is making her very weak, and Abby being in too much pain to walk was making it worse. Her doctors were able to find a narcotic that is controlling her pain, without causing any other problems. She is now much more comfortable. She is not taking enough to be sedated, just enough to be a happy active little girl again. She is getting stronger and that makes Abby very happy.

Abby has collected a lot of medical supplies in the last few months. Some are real and others are just play. The hospital even gave her a stuffed animal that has a port just like Abby's. Everyone in the house is fair game for Abby and Samrawit to "practice" medicine on, but Landis is their favorite. Fortunately Landis loves any and all attention that he can get from his sisters. Sami even had Landis's daddy sign a surgery consent form, before they began. Abby asks at least once a day if she is going to get a poke today. She always breaths a sigh of relief when she hears that there will be no blood draws today. Landis gets a pretend poke at least once a day, but since it doesn't hurt and he gets a really cool bandaid, he is happy to play along.

Abby asleep at home, in her own bed.

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Abby is our perfectionist. She had to do it all right.

Hey Mom, his tummy is talking to me. Abby wasn't allowed to swim until she got her port. This was her first time to swim since July 11 and she was thrilled to be in the pool.

This is Landis pretending that he is scared. Landis was so glad that his sister was able to swim too. Today started another long week of chemo. Tomorrow we will have chemo and a blood transfusion. That makes for a very long day, but Abby loves getting blood, because she has so much more energy after she gets it. We hope that we will be 53


able to do all 4 days of chemo at the hospital's outpatient clinic, but depending on how she does, she could be admitted to the hospital. Abby is not scared to go to the hospital, but she misses her family when she is there. Abby has mouth sores that are causing her a lot of pain. With chemo she can get sores that go all the way down her digestive tract. We would appreciate your prayers this week.

still wants to be tickled at bedtime. It’s amazing how kids deal with trials and are still happy and worry-free. We could and should learn a lot from them. Again, I think Jesus meant much more than simply “childlike faith” when He said: Luke 18:16-17 (NKJV) But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”

Praise God, we had a wonderful weekend at home. Abby had more energy than she has had in weeks. She loved seeing friends and family. I will post pictures and more about it if I get permission from their parents. My in-laws couldn't stop talking about how blessed we are to have such wonderful friends. We were in shock when we saw how many wonderful frozen meals they brought us. They made this week so much easier for us and we are very grateful.

Sometimes it takes a real life object lesson for us to see the depth involved. My Abby has caused me to realize that I need to be more like her. Above, I described her response to what life has thrown at her. From it, I can determine that I should: Accept life’s difficulties without complaining Have complete and unquestioning faith and trust in God Quickly get past the hurts and disappointments Readily forget the past and smile at the future Smile and be happy much more, especially when things are tough Never doubt what God is allowing or causing in my life Expect God’s goodness and a joyful life even when things are rough

9/3/2008 11:26:00 PM

Learning From Abby By Brent (www.seriousfaith.com) Luke 18:16 But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. (NKJV; emphasis mine)

How about you? Can you learn something from a child’s innocence, trust, short memory and unconditional love?

Jesus loved children and plainly said we should be just like them. Jesus wasn’t just talking trust, but also happiness, the ability to be care free most of the time, not worrying, easily getting over and forgetting trials, quickly put the past behind, not becoming bitter and accepting God’s comfort. Abby’s had four days of chemo this week after almost two weeks in the hospital with only a couple days break. She is throwing up, the chemo makes her joints and muscles hurt, and they have her on morphine. She is really tired all the time, and has mouth sores a lot. Her IV port causes her to cringe every time someone bumps it or it gets pressed on. Even still, her demeanor and attitude is amazing. Though she moves like a little old man most of the time, she is happy, and pretends she likes taking medicine and playing nurse. She smiles and plays and teases and hugs and kisses and cuddles like she doesn’t have a care or problem in the world.

Abby and Landis play on Sami's bunkbed. Abby touches the ceiling as Landis is probably wanting to jump off, knowing him.

She never doubts that we (her parents) love her, will protect her and even when we are doing something that is causing her discomfort, she knows that if Mom and Dad are doing it, it must be okay. She throws her toenails up one minute, and is wanting to color or play the next. She comes homes from days of “pokes” (needles) in the hospital and painful chemo, and she

9/4/2008 10:45:00 PM

Favorite Foto Friday 54


This was one of my favorite update pictures. Most all of her pictures were of her smiling. Her smile was a gift to an impatiently waiting mom.

I love looking at the baby photos of my children. With Abby's illness, my memories of when I first met her in Guatemala are even more important to me. I don't have baby pictures of my older kids scanned onto my computer, but here are a few of Abby and Landis.

This is one of my earliest pictures of Abby. She was the sweetest, cuddliest baby. Now, she is the sweetest, cuddliest preschooler. I am so glad that some things haven't changed.

Abby during my first visit trip to see her. I spent hours watching her sleep. Amy B. Do you remember these pictures? I bet I made you look at almost 500 of them. :-)

Landis was an adorable baby. I love his eyes. He looked so sweet and quiet in all of his pictures. Who knew that he would turn out to be a laugh a minute, future football player. That sweet baby has turned into a hilarious tank.

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several blood transfusions. I love being with her after she gets the blood, because she has so much energy after the transfusion. We are so thankful that people who don't know Abby were willing to take the time to donate blood, so that she can live to fight this disease. We are very tired and Sami is hurting. Sami was originally diagnosed with a spider bite, then and "infection" and this week we found out it is MRSA. Sami has an MRSA infection in her elbow, leg and forehead that is painful and she has a bad rash from one of the antibiotics that she is taking. Most people can get over this kind of infection relatively easily, but Abby's doctors are very concerned about her, because of her weak immune system, it will be VERY serious if she gets this infection. We are following our doctors suggestions (change bedding once a day on every bed in the house, change into clean clothing several times a day, showering with a soap surgeons use before they perform surgery (yuck) ..........................................). We are one very clean family, but we probably smell like a hospital.

This is the first time Abby ever saw Landis. Abby was 16 months old and Landis was 4 months old. She loved HER baby from the very beginning. I am so glad

FYI... we don't want people to worry about the MRSA when they come over to the house, or see us. Sami is the only one who has tested positive for it, and 1) she is on strong antibiotics, and 2) else you have skin-to-skin contact with an open wound in the skin, you cannot get the MRSA from her. At any given moment, 30% of the population will test positive for MRSA, but unless it gets into a break in the skin, it does not turn into an infection. It used to be a "hospital disease" but now it is out in the community too, like a cold.

that we went to his orphanage in Guatemala to see him.

Sami's doctor doesn't want Sami to even touch Abby (because of Abby's low immunity) and we were told to have them sleep in different rooms. Abby and Sami are normally inseparable. They both understand why we are asking them to do this, but they are sad that they can't be together right now. 5 days ago they tested 7 areas on Abby's body to determine if she had staph growing on her skin. Praise God all tests are negative! We will still need to be careful until Sami no longer tests positive, but we are so thankful that God has protected Abby so far and that He is healing Sami.

Landis and Daddy when we visited him when he was 4 months old.

We would really appreciate your prayers. Would you pray that God would heal Sami completely, that Abby would not get the infection, and for Brent and I to have energy to handle everything? And for us to have the wisdom to protect Abby without disrupting normal family life anymore than is absolutely necessary?

9/12/2008 2:20:00 AM

Update, Prayer Requests and Beautiful Friends, Inside and Out

This journey is hard, but God has brought so many wonderful people into our lives to help us. We are truly blessed. My mother has spent countless hours helping with our children, the Lentz's have cooked us meals and babysat Landis, and more people than I can count have provided meals and diversions for our children. You all made a difficult time, so much easier. Thank you so much.

Today, Abby had a lumbar puncture and chemo. The chemo from the last few weeks has really been hard on Abby. She is pale and bruising. It was no surprise to us when her she was admitted into the hospital yesterday, so that she could receive 56


Laurie, http://www.thehausams.blogspot.com/ sent an incredible care package for Abby, Sami and Landis. I wish that you could have seen their smiles when they saw it. Abby was thrilled to see the educational workbooks. You made her feel like such a big girl. She says, "please save me my homework" before she goes to bed and asks or it again as soon as she wakes up. Laurie you are amazing.

A few weeks ago, some friends surprised us with some wonderful frozen meals in addition to the meals we were getting from our gracious friends at church. It's great to have those in the freezer for the unexpected times we need them. Phylis http://kristensjourney.spaces.live.com/ Stacey and Maria http://annasjourney.spaces.live.com/default.aspx you guys are wonderful. Abby had so much fun playing with your daughters. The girls first met when they were first home. It was fun to see them together again. Thank you so much for bring the meals and for playing with Abby. You made her day. Amy B. thank you so much for helping coordinate from afar.

Abby dreams about seeing penguins, dolphins, whales and fishes, when she is finally well. A dear friend, Sunday L., knew Abby's dream and sent her some very cute stuffed marine animals. Abby loved everyone of them. If she knew where you live Sunday, Abby would beg to visit you. Thank you so much for your thoughtful gift.

Abby, Kristen and Maggie.

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Abby loves all of her grandparents. She is so blessed to have such loving people in her life.

Kristen had fun playing with Abby's papa.

I love Maggies smile.

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Phylis and Kristen made Abby a beautiful cake. Your guys are very talented. You made Abby feel so special.

We can't wait to see them again.

It was so special to see Abby playing and having fun. Since she has been so sick, moments of fun are treasured. Thank you all for taking the time to bless our family. Abby is watching me write this. She wants to know if she can see her friends again.

9/18/2008 3:27:00 PM

Update on Abby... pretty rough times...

Maggie and Abby met for the first time at a hotel in Guatemala City. The girls were so little when they came home. It was wonderful seeing Maggie again.

Abby is doing really poorly with her chemo right now. Throwing up, high fever, weak muscles, in a lot of pain. Her hair is now falling out in handfuls. She is very weak, and has zero immunity (the fever is probably a viral infection due to her nonimmunity). She was admitted back to the hospital today because of it. From experience, I'm sure she'll be there 2-4 days, maybe five.

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This would feel like a classic I Love Lucy episode if it weren’t so tiring and difficult. It seems to just be a circus of events. Abby is still in the hospital with a high fever, and really feeling pretty bad. She is very achy, has “mystery” pains all over that are no doubt effects of the chemo. And her beautiful black hair gathers in small piles on the floor each day. That she still has quite a bit left, is a testament to how much she started with. Thank you for your prayers. Thank you to all our wonderful friends who have been bringing us meals. That act of kindness has REALLY been a huge blessing for our family. I know our teenagers really appreciate not eating sandwiches and cereal 20 times a week.

Sami had to go to the doctor again this morning with another infection on her opposite arm. That’s five infection sites for her in about three weeks. She’ll have to go back to the doctor Monday. She continues to have to be isolated from Abby, and semi-isolated from the rest of the family. (Sami is not contagious/infectious accept by open wound to open wound contact…)

Pray for us to get some sleep, have physical strength/health, and clarity of mind as we deal with Abby's needs, take care of the other children, and adjust to a significant decrease income that has kicked into affect this month (we found out last month it was going to happen).

Because of Sami’s infection, we have to wash all the sheets every day, wash all laundry after one use, no matter how slight; use a special cleanser in the shower every day (that can be quite itchy to the nether regions), disinfectant the whole house continually, and put some goop up everyone’s nose twice a day. Sami continues on three times a day antibiotics.

God is good, He takes care of our every need. We are truly joyful and thankful for these priceless opportunities to have faith, trust God, and minister to others.

Michelle is sick and feverish, but has to stay with Abby. She can actually get more rest there, than if she was at home dealing with everything there. So, I’m at home, and she is there. Today, she has had some sort of allergic reaction causing her to break out in swollen hives from head to toe. I just spoke to her on the phone, and the swelling hives are getting noticeably worse. Her mother is coming over to watch Abby while Michelle goes to the emergency room.

Abby was sad when her hair started to come out, but she was able to joke about it some. she gathered up a handful of her hair and put it down her shirt, so that she could have chest hair like Daddy.

9/20/2008 2:12:00 PM

Update on the Riggs Family

----------UPDATE ON MICHELLE: Michelle went to the emergency room. They think she had an allergic reaction to an antibiotic course of Bactrim she finished last week.

To all,

The swelling was head to toe, down her throat, and in her lungs. She had spider-web-like red hives all over her entire 60


It's life-changing and potentially devastating to face the possibility of a child dying. Unlike an accidental death (which is horrible enough), death from disease or injury where you get to sit around and see it coming for week or months, can be particularly cruel. Given that, it's understandable that people might think I have one face for my readers - strong, full of faith - and then a "real" face in private - sad, worried, fearful. Or maybe somewhere in between. I've had readers ask both directly, and "read between the lines" if my wife and I really think all this difficulty is an "opportunity for faith" and something to rejoice about.

body. It was pretty scary looking. They have her on steroids and antihistamines, and an inhaler…. She is back at the hospital with Abby. Thanks for your prayers and concern. Looks like we are going to have Landis go to my parents house next week, and Sami is going to Michelle’s Mom’s house. Abby will be at the hospital most of the week, and I will be home washing/disinfecting everything in sight. We are going to try and separate everyone for a week and get all these various ills knocked out. ----------I think we are just picking up bugs/germs at the hospital since we have to be there so much. Abby will be in the hospital AT LEAST until Monday, and she has four scheduled days at the hospital next week for chemo. I hope that doesn’t come across as whining. Lots of people ask for updates, so those are the facts. It is all a bit difficult and stressful, but we find strength every day as we depend on God. Thank you for your continued prayers, and many, many thanks to all the dear friends who have been bringing a meal to our house each and every evening. That has been a TREMENDOUS practical blessing.

Maybe we are "faking it" for the readers, in order to teach others something that we are not personally experiencing, but should be. Maybe I'm writing what I SHOULD write, instead of what I really feel or what is really happening.

I think we are just picking up bugs/germs at the hospital since we have to be there so much. Abby will be in the hospital AT LEAST until Monday, and she has four scheduled days at the hospital next week for chemo.

At this point, you're probably expecting me to say "Nope! I'm Johnny Rock." Yes, as a teacher and example to others, I emphasize the faith, the trust in God and standing on Scriptural promises. But of course, I have moments of fear, moments of doubt, moments of sadness and moments of confusion. MOMENTS... but those moments are surrounded by, subject to and encapsulated by the faith and trust.

I hope that doesn’t come across as whining. Lots of people ask for updates, so those are the facts. It is all a bit difficult and stressful, but we find strength every day as we depend on God. Thank you for your continued prayers, and many, many thanks to all the dear friends who have been bringing a meal to our house each and every evening. That has been a TREMENDOUS practical blessing.

Moments of doubt and confusion should be encapsulated and insulated by faith and trust in God. It's been said that true courage is brave action despite fear. I would say the same principle applies to faith. Real faith, is the CHOICE to trust God despite circumstances that challenge faith. In light of that, I would say to you:

Brent For Brent & Michelle

Nope, not faking.

9/22/2008 4:18:00 PM

What you see, is what you get. While I certainly do emphasize the stronger aspects of faith and trust in my writing during these events, it's not insincere or hyped. It's how we truly feel, and genuinely live. People have commented several times, even doctors, that we must be in "shock" and it "just hasn't hit us yet" because we aren't emotionally distraught, and all torn up on the outside.

Nope, Not Faking By Brent

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We are fully aware the cancer might kill Abby. We know perfectly well the full extent of her illness. There have been times in private when I can't think of anything else, and stay on the verge of tears for hours. There have been times when I find myself in the "blue stare" where I've been sitting for quite a while, kind of slouched over, staring at the floor, wondering if all this will simply end up with Abby dead. It's not "negative confession". It's REALITY. Those moments are prolonged by all the other "side trials" that have come with the main course. We are sad. It's hard to talk about without starting to cry. But overall, we understand that the worse thing that can happen is that Abby will get to go be with Jesus a little sooner than the rest of us. We might be without her for a few years, or a few decades, but then like King David and his son, we will be reunited with her for all eternity.

Monday, from Brent: Abby is doing very poorly. She’ll be in hospital several more days, minimum. She can’t eat. Her fever isn’t going down. She is swelling up with an allergic reaction to the antibiotics. She is in constant pain that is requiring a morphine drip just to keep her from constantly crying.

It is because of our eternal perspective that we can comprehend and accept the VERY worst that is possible for Abby (or anyone for that matter). Knowing that, believing that, understanding that, and anchoring to that, keeps despair and grief at bay. I shed more tears for those families I see in the hospital that obviously have NO hope, NO eternal perspective, NO anchor. They are truly to be pitied as they agonizingly face death without knowledge, hope or understanding of eternity and God's mercy.

Please pray for Michelle as she cares for her at the hospital. Tuesday, from Brent: Abby is still pretty rock bottom. High fever, mouth/stomach/intestine sores from the toxic chemo… very painful. She is on a constant morphine drip, can hardly talk and is completely devoid of any body strength. She has constant tremors, is throwing up, and now has a urinal tract infection that is pretty serious and requiring additional, stronger antibiotics.

We are neither casual about life's hardship, nor despondent. We have talked about, and fully comprehend the seriousness of our daughter's cancer, but that is filtered through the reality of God's power and an eternal perspective about life. Nope, no faking here. Our hope, the truth, and faith, allows us to face this storm with a tear, and a smile, and joy. It is truly the continued discovery of the "peace that passes all understanding". The Lord God has never failed us, and has proven His care on countless occasions in our life.

Michelle is stretched pretty thin. She is stuck in the hospital room and cannot leave Abby’s side while I shuffle back and forth to take care of the rest of the family. Please pray for Michelle. This is really hard on her to have to watch Abby suffer hour after hour.

Are we to doubt Him now, and act like He is not with us in this dark hour? God forbid.

Many thanks for all the kind prayers, and for the continued meals from our dear Christian brothers and sisters.

9/25/2008 4:56:00 AM

Wednesday, from Brent:

Monday-Wednesday update on Abby...

Abby is improving little, if any, at this point. I’ve got a severe migraine today (too many days with little sleep catches up to me this way), and an appt tomorrow for what appears to be a staph infection under my chin. We are both extremely tired, but God is good and we rejoice in the greater opportunity to see Him work, and take care of us. My heart aches most for Michelle being stuck up at the hospital 24 hours a day, and for little Abby suffering so. I miss them both terribly. 62


Thank you for your kindness and prayers. You are a blessing and we are blessed to have such kind brethren.

Praise God, Abby's pain is improving and the sores are looking a little better.

Wednesday, from Michelle:

Abby's bone marrow is beginning to recover from the last round of chemo. This is very good news, because it means her body will begin to heal the sores.

This has been without a doubt the hardest seven days for me, (Michelle) since this whole thing began. As all the parents know, it is very hard to see our children in pain and suffering. Abby has been in so much pain. Even though her doctors and nurses are trying to control it with hourly IV morphine, she has been having break though pain that needs to be treated with extra morphine and even that is not working well today. She has been crying both when she is awake and in her sleep.

She is still running a temperature (103 last night). She has been on up to 4 antibiotics during the last week, so the had really expected her to not be running a fever by now. Her doctor ordered a C.A.T. scan to try to determine what is causing the fevers. We truly appreciate every comment and email that you all have written. We always love reading them, but when things get really tough, they are a huge blessing to us. In the middle of the night, they are a wonderful reminder that we are not alone and that others are praying too. Thank you so much for taking the time to write and pray.

There is so much going on with Abby right now that it is difficult to know where to begin. As most of you know, Abby was admitted to the hospital last Thursday because of a high fever. She is still in the hospital and will be here for a while longer. She has an elevated temperature and is on IV antibiotics. They identified pseudomonas in her bladder. This can be a dangerous and hard to treat microorganism.

Abby tries so hard to be a good girl. She is smiling here, not because we asked her to and not because she felt like it, she just thinks that she is supposed too. The circles under her eyes tell how hard the last week has been on her, but she is still fighting hard.

Sunday, she developed mucositis. Her immune system is so low that the "good" bacteria that is supposed to live on your skin to project you is attacking the lining of her whole digestive tract. She has "canker" sores all inside her mouth, down her esophagus, in her intestines, and on her bottom. I knew that she was miserable, I just didn't know why until I learned how many sores she has. This is so hard for a little girl to handle.

Please say an extra prayer for her today. C.A.T. scans can be a little scary when you are 3 years old. I am also praying for wisdom for her doctors as they decide what to do next.

Her doctors said that the only things that will heal the sores is for her WBC to build back up, so that they can heal her. She won't be able to do chemo until she is better. All they can do now is give her IV fluids, and pain medicine. They are giving her Morphine via a PCA pump. It gives her a dose of morphine every hour and then she can press a button to get an additional dose every 15 minutes. I didn't know how quickly she would understand the instructions, but she got it in under 3 seconds. She is holding on the the PCA button like it is her best friend. Since Abby's immune system is suppressed because of the chemo, she is running a fever, and has all of those sores, we may be here a while this time. It is my understanding that her white blood cell counts have to return to a normal level, before she will begin to heal from this. They are working to keep her comfortable until then. We would appreciate your prayers. Your prayers, comments and emails mean so much to us.

9/27/2008 12:03:00 PM

Trying To Be Brave 63


husband. Thank you so much for praying for our family and for encouraging us. You are all such a blessing.

9/28/2008 7:58:00 PM

Mee Maw Covers For Landis

Kristen and her mom, Phyllis, http://kristensjourney.spaces.live.com/ visited us at the hospital on Saturday. Abby was in a lot of pain and pretty weak, so the visit wasn't as much fun for them as I wished that it was. They were both so sweet to Abby and me. They cooked us a delicious supper. It was the first time that Abby ate in a week. She LOVED every bite. Thank you both so much.

Landis, 2 years old, spent this week with this grandparents, MeeMaw and PawPaw. After he came home, I called MeeMaw (my mother; Brent) and asked her how he behaved. She said he was wonderful, was really well behaved and a pleasure to have around. I have no doubt it was true, or they would have told me. I got off the phone and asked the ball of energy, “Landis, MeeMaw said you were a really good boy this week. Is that true, or was she just covering for you?” To which he replied without hesitation, “she was just covering for me”. Of course he has no clue what that means, but he said it with such conviction that I about broke a rib laughing!

A week and a half with out seeing the sun is a lifetime to a 3 year old. We dressed her in "real" clothes and sprung her from the clink for a few minutes. Man I hope that Dr. M. doesn't read our blog. ;-)

9/29/2008 8:30:00 PM

Prison Break Update 9-30-08: Abby and I (Michelle) are home. It is wonderful for our family to be together again. I walked into my home to find happy, well groomed kids, a clean house and all the laundry done. I love my husband. I REALLY love my

Together again 64


Big brothers are the best. We love you and miss you Garrett. Abby thanks God for "my Garrett who loves me" You are a great big brother.

Garrett and Abby

Abby and Landis are very close. Abby was very excited to see her brothers and sister.

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but then fell into a deep sleep. She didn't wake up until the test was done. She did the test with no sedation. Prayer is always the best help. What a blessing. Her doctors were concerned that she might have a fungal infection in her abdomen. This would have been VERY hard to treat. Praise God the only "problem" they found was that her bladder was full. :-)

Yesterday, Abby's smile and energy returned. She went from only being able to take a couple of steps on Saturday, to dancing and doing laps in the halls on Sunday.

Sami, Abby and I miss you so much that it hurts. We love you.

Abby received several care packages from some special people. Thank you so much Doreen, http://foreverhugs.blogspot.com/, Melinda http://devenougesfamily.blogspot.com/ , Carol http://thevoiceofadventure.blogspot.com/2007/03/okay-

Thank you so much for praying for Abby during her CAT scan. She cried for a few seconds when I placed her on the gurney, 66


Abby and Grandmother Baker on Saturday. Abby loves her Grandmother very much.

heres-what-we-have-been-up-to.html I saved the gifts for those really tough moments. What a blessing to have new things to distract her with when Abby was scared or hurting. She loved ALL of the gifts and I really appreciate you all sending them.

I took Abby down to physical therapy on Sunday. They are masters at making exercise fun. Carol http://thevoiceofadventure.blogspot.com/2007/03/okayheres-what-we-have-been-up-to.html (the link is to a great story) thank you so much for adding a few things for me as well. You pack a bag like only someone who has been there and done that can. You are such a blessing.

Abby's temperature is down, she is off all antibiotics, and her sores are all healing nicely. They are weaning her down on the pain medicine, with plans to go home tomorrow. She needs more blood today, even though her bone marrow is working better. She was one sick little girl and every bit of extra support is helpful.

John and Lori thanks for the great reading material. We miss you both so much.

Her doctor decided to wait another week to start her chemo. It is a little scary for us, because we don't want the cancer to come back, but we also want her sores to completely heal. Praise God that He doesn't need chemo to heal her. Her doctors and nurses said that Abby's sores were the worst they had ever seen. We have been warned that it is likely that she will go through this again. Some children go through this almost every time they get chemo. It is very unusual, but Abby has shown that she has the tendency to get them, so they are preparing us. Thanks again for all of you prayers, comments and emails. It is such a blessing to know that others care about our daughter and are praying for her.

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all of their hearts and 7 new brothers and sisters to love on them and cheer them on. Five more precious children will now know that they are loved completely, by their new parents, their new siblings and our Savior.

10/4/2008 9:54:00 PM

Virtual Shower and Some Younger Pictures of Abby

Amy and Todd do an amazing job teaching their children to love and care for others, to set high goals and to work hard to accomplish the goals they chose for themselves. No matter what these wonderful children decide to try, they will have 9 more people in their lives to work beside them and cheer them on every step of the way.

I am so excited that I have the privilege of introducing some of you to some incredible friends of ours, Amy and Todd. This family has loved us through thick and thin, supporting us when we are hurting and celebrating every victory with us. They are truly special people.

The Blocks are taking a step of faith and doing God's will. They are now needing to buy 5 more of MANY, MANY things. Won't you join us in helping them by participating in our "virtual baby/kid shower". God commanded all of us to care for orphans, this is a perfect opportunity to do so. They would never ask for help, but I am asking for them. The link to their shower is on the upper right corner of my blog. My children LOVE spending time with the Blocks. Here are some pictures that we took years ago of Abby and their children. I thought it might be fun for you to see some younger pictures of Abby, with a few of her favorite friends.

Amy and Todd Amy and Todd have a heart for serving God and a desire to care for children in need. They are masters at helping children understand that they are safe, loved and cherished. They currently have 7 children, 4 homegrown and 3 adopted. Their children are all confident, happy, loving kids, who love each other and who care about other people.

Abby and Aleigha

Their incredible children. Amy and Todd just received word that they have been chosen to adopt a sibling group of five children. I am thrilled that these special children will now have two parents who love them with 68


Abby, Addie and Aleigha

Abby and Aleigha Aleigha, Addie and Abby

10/6/2008 4:00:00 PM

Thank you All God's Children, Update and Prayer Requests The last few weeks were very hard on Abby. Our great agency, All God's Children http://www.allgodschildren.org/ , sent her a beautiful bouquet of flowers. They made her feel so special. She was so weak when we took this picture, but she truly loved them. I saw her many times during the last few days smelling them and touching them, with the sweetest smile on her face. Thank you all for thinking of Abby. You have been so wonderful about checking on her and praying for her. Thank you. You guys are the best.

Abby and Aleigha

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Many people ask us us how Abby is REALLY doing. While we are honest about how things are going, it is sometimes hard to know how much information people want to read. Abby is doing much better than she was a few weeks ago, but she is still healing from the last round of chemo. We are praising God for: •

Healing her liver. Her liver enzymes were up to 30 times greater than normal and now they are normal for a HEALTHY child. Chemo can damage her liver, so we are still praying for protection, while we are praising God.

• • •

Abby is still in remission. Abby's sores are healing and no longer painful. Abby is still happy girl who loves to play and laugh.

Unfortunately, today Abby is beginning the next round of chemo. This round is a repeat of the last round of chemo, and it was VERY hard on her little body. The plan is for her to get chemo 4 days this week, 4 days next week and then only one day a week for the next 2 weeks. We have learned that while the weeks with only one chemo day are easier on us time wise, the drug they will give Abby is the very hardest on her. It causes severe leg pain and muscle weakness.

Abby cooking with Mommy. I love seeing her smile again.

We are already 2 weeks late starting this series of chemo. She will begin the round at least 25% weaker and 5 pounds lighter than she was at the beginning last time. The nausea is taking its toil. Her sores still have not completely healed. Would you join us in praying for: • • • •

Abby to regain the weight she lost, so her body will be better prepared to fight the cancer. For the pain to be less or at least better controlled. For her not to run a temperature or be admitted to the hospital. She will be getting the medicine, that caused fevers, 8 times in the next 2 weeks. I am asking for her doctors to allow me to give Abby chemo at home any time that she will not be seeing a doctor or having labs done. This would save us 2-3 trips to the hospital's clinic on our tough weeks. Have I told you all that I am an RN? :-) Truly any parent can learn to do it. For Sami to get permission to come with us to Abby's oncology clinic visits. She has to test negative for staph several times before she will be allowed to come. I am glad that they are careful, but we miss her.

Sami at her doctor's appointment. I can't wait to go somewhere besides doctor's offices. 70


Sami is growing up too fast. She is going to be an incredible woman some day.

10/8/2008 11:38:00 AM

Wordless Wednesday

10/8/2008 9:23:00 PM

Okay, I am never truly wordless. :-) I took these a little over a week ago at the hospital.

GREAT News and Followers Question

You know your child is feeling better when..........................

Blogger has a new gadget that allows you to post a list of people who follow your blog on your side bar. I love this option, because it is a visual reminder of how many people are praying for Abby. Thank you so much for encouraging us by signing up. I have been adding your blogs to the list of blogs that I follow as you sign up to follow ours. I would love to add more people to the list of blogs that I follow, if you would like me too. In the whirlwind of activity over the last few months, I have lost so many blog links that I loved reading. If I haven't added yours to my blog roll or followers list, it isn't because I don't love your blog. With the stress we have been under, I have lost links, and lost track of who I have added and who I haven't. When I add blogs to my follower list, blogger tells me when you post a new message, in my blogger dashboard. This is making it 71


so much easier for me to keep up with people that I care about. Most of you know that Samrawit has been fighting a staph infection for a couple of months. Today we learned that she tested negative for MRSA for the 2nd time. This means that life in the Riggs house can return to "normal" (which is only one kid sick, not two). Abby is so excited that she can be with Sami again. The girls were inseparable before this started. God is so good! Thank you for praying. Here is picture that we took when we got the first tested negative a few weeks ago.

Abby joking around at clinic. She makes a long day so much fun. We had asked for prayers for some very specific things. One thing I REALLY hoped and prayed for was for permission to give some of Abby's chemo at home, specifically the one that they give her 4 days a week. Three of those days there is no lab drawn and no one even needs to examine Abby. They just give her the medicine in her port and we go home. This "simple" thing has taken us up to 5 hours to accomplish, on a bad day, all but 10 minute of that were waiting to start. I was told on Monday that they had never let a parent give chemo to their child themselves in their IV, but that she would see if the doctor would allow me to. Yesterday I got the permission from Abby's doctor, it was approved by our insurance and home health is scheduled to drop off the supplies today. This means two less trips to the hospital's clinic this week and we will only have to go there once next week instead of four times. Praise God. This is the same medication that caused Abby to get a high fever and to be hospitalized last time she got it, so I am not promising the kids that the next two weeks will be easier~ I am hopeful, but not promising them. Brent and I are doing everything we can to help Abby's life to be as normal as we can, while still being as safe as possible. By doing this at home, she will actually be safer, because she will not be exposed to all of the sick people at the hospital.

Thank you so much for praying for Abby.

A week ago, Abby had an allergic reaction to the extra sticky tape that a nurse used to secure her port's bandage. They used a lot of it. Her skin was so irritated that it bled as they took it off. Every since then, Abby is terrified (I am not exaggerating) of anyone accessing her port or taking off the bandage. We hope that with her Daddy and I caring for her port and taking the bandage off on Thursday at home ourselves, we will be able to begin to teach her to be calmer and trust again. She used to handle this beautifully, and I hope for her sake, she will be able to learn to again. We are very thankful that God is taking such wonderful care of 72


our daughters and family. Thank you so much for praying for our family, especially Samrawit and Abby and for encouraging us.

10/10/2008 12:01:00 AM

Favorite Foto Friday Octoberest (Can You Help Me) Abby like most girls loves to dress up in pretty girlie costumes. The problem this year is, because of her chemo schedule, her immunity is going to be VERY low on the 31st. She will still be allowed to go to a few houses, but she will need to wear a mask that will keep her from breathing in any germs.

Abby's first Halloween

Have you seen a costume that looks pretty, but that would cover up the mask? I would love for her to be able to participate, but she needs to be safe too.

Garrett and Abby. Thirteen years apart in age, but they have a very special relationship.

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Aunt Rhonda and Landis

A year later, it was Landis's first Halloween. He didn't know what to think about it all, but eventually had fun.

Abby and Uncle Kelly This was a fun theme and a gentle reminder that I need to go shopping for costumes. :-)

10/11/2008 1:38:00 PM

The Voice Of Adventure: OPERATION PRINCESS HAIR BEGINS! First, I want to thank everyone who took the time to help me come up with a costume for Abby to wear on Halloween. You are a very creative group and I loved every idea. Thank you. I plan on showing them to Abby tonight an letting the princess pick. I can't wait. What I didn't write about yesterday, was that I was wondering what I was going to do about her hair. For the last few weeks it has been coming out fast. Abby used to love choosing hair styles and picking out bows and barrettes. Abby is sad that she is loosing her hair, and has been telling me that she wants to get "wig" hair. When I looked into applying for one, a well known charity said they didn't think that she would be 74


approved, because of her age. I understand there is limits to how many children they can help, but I was sad for Abby. Last night some wonderful friends, Angel and Amy Block, decided to raise money help Abby get a beautiful wig. Many, many wonderful woman have come along side them, joining together to help Abby. Thank you all so much. The list of people helping can be seen at the bottom on Angel's post at http://thevoiceofadventure.blogspot.com/2008/10/operationprincess-hair-begins.html It has been changing, so I am afraid to list the names here, because I don't want to leave anyone off. We want thank everyone who is helping Abby. I bawled when they told me that they were going to help Abby. Thank you all for helping our precious daughter. I debated about posting pictures of Abby, but since they are everywhere else, I decided to go ahead and post them here too. We gave the pictures to them, with permission to post them. Brent feels that this is Abby's story. When she looks back at the blog when she is older, we want her to understand how much she has overcome and how brave she was. Below is a post about Abby, that I copied from Angel's blog.http://thevoiceofadventure.blogspot.com Amy and Angel, thanks again for all that you are doing for Abby. Friday, October 10, 2008

I have serious doubts that I will get through writing this without crying..... Ok now it's too late... I am already there...with tears flowing. This is Abby. You will find her precious family at this blog address.

OPERATION PRINCESS HAIR BEGINS! It's hard for me to even start this post. Already I feel a big lump forming in my throat. Someone that many of us care about is walking through a deep valley. That someone is sweet Abby....

Abby is so many wonderful things. She is part of an amazing family. There are 7 wonderful kiddos in her family. 3 of those sweeties- including Abby came by way of adoption. Abby is a bouncing, happy, funny princess of a 3 year old.... 75


Now she is also a dear little warrior fighting for her life. She was diagnosed with Leukemia and life suddenly took a radical turn for this amazing family. Her concerns of which princess dress she should wear have turned to whether she will get poked or be able to keep her food down today.

These are the battle scars she has right now in her fight against cancer...

This is sweet Abby right now....

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Just one of the MANY things she has been forced to give up is her GORGEOUS princess hair and it makes her very sad.... What is it like to be the mommy that has to tell your 3 year old that she has to take medicine that will give her horrible sores, make her throw up constantly, and cause her to lose her hair? What is that like? What is it like to watch tears slide down your sweet baby's cheeks even in her sleep cause that's how much it hurts. THIS is not OK with me. If I could I would make this go away. If I could I would change this- I wish there was a way. I know there are so many of us who wish that. We CAN'T MAKE IT GO AWAY! We just can't. What we can do is give Abby back her princess hair. It's expensive and not something this family needs to worry about during this stressful financial time of paying for medicine and gas and hospital bills. We can not make this all go away but we can give Abby back her hair and make her smile.

They are full of faith and strong. Cancer FEARS this little fighter! Let's do whatever we can to love and walk with this family during this time. I can't begin to imagine what they are facing but I PRAY that people would be there for me if we ever did walk this path.

SOOOOOO TODAY WE BEGIN....

TO HELP ABBY GET HER PRINCESS HAIR YOU JUST NEED TO CLICK ON THE PAY PAL BUTTON ON THE TOP RIGHT HAND CORNER THAT SAYS "OPERATION PRINCESS HAIR."

I am so excited about this! It is going to be custom made to look a lot like her hair did before she needed to start chemo. So when Abby wants to dress up nice and look like the Abby she remembers she will have this. This wig will cost about $450. It is made of real hair and created just for her little head.

IF YOU WANT TO SEND ABBY A CARE PACKAGE INCLUDING A CUTSIE NEW BASEBALL CAP PLEASE E-MAIL ME AT angelweir@gmail.com

4. If there are donations exceeding the needed amount for the princess hair we will invite the family to use this money to help with whatever extra expenses they are facing during this difficult time.

Thank you from the BOTTOM of my little ol' Texas heart for taking care of a little girl named Abby. What we do matters. What we do makes life better or worse for those around us EVERY SINGLE DAY. Let's take time to stop and care. Hugs, Angel PS If you would like to spread the word on your blog PLEASE do it!! Feel free to take this whole post or part of it. Then please link your blog to mine so everyone can see how many people are loving and praying for Abby. Posted by Angel

10/15/2008 9:16:00 AM

Abby's Wish It's hard for me to fathom what this family is facing. I want to do whatever I can to support them.

Note: If you didn't see the "Magazine Monday" post from yesterday, check it out below...) A friend gave Abby's name to the Make a Wish Foundation. After they contacted us, we talked to Abby about what her wish would be. Disney World? 77


Mickey Mouse? Donald Duck? A big party? A cruise? Nope.

your photos click here. http://www.seriouslifemagazine.com/submit_content_forms.a sp?c=photos These are some pictures of some of Sami's friends in Ethiopia. Some of her friends are still waiting to come home, so I will have to wait to post their pictures. You can see more pictures of her friends here. http://www.riggsfamilyblog.com/2008/08/hannahs-hopereunion.html

"You don't want to go to Disney world and see Cinderella?" "Nooooooooooooo...", she replied. "Ariel? Lion King? The Dalmatians? Wouldn't you like to see them and play with them?" "Noooooooooo", she repeated. "Well, what is your wish, sweetheart?" I wish for big boobies and a bra!!!" Can you tell she has older sisters?

10/17/2008 3:37:00 PM

Favorite Foto Friday Friends I had planned a better FFF post, but it is not to be, at least not today. Abby's doctor office called and said that she needed another blood transfusion (red cells) , her second one this week, so we will be heading back to the hospital soon. She will probably need a third transfusions in a few days, of platelets. The chemo is doing its job,but it is taking its toil. We are looking for some great photos. with captions, for our Serious.Life and Serious.Adoption magazines. We would love to publish some of your pictures. If you would like to submit 78


10/19/2008 6:26:00 PM

Sad Day For Mommy, Haircuts, Two Year Old Prayers and Magazine Monday It’s amazing the twists, and turns and curves that life throws at you. This week we gave our child chemo - at home. We pulled out access ports that feed into her heart and then cut off all her hair. We can tell you pretty much all you’d ever want to know about cancer, MRSA, hospitals, insurance, drugs, side effects and IV’s. We’re experts at bleach baths, germ control, antibiotics, infections and isolation contagious kids. We live with kids who are far too educated about medical topics, even a two year old who prays about being sick and getting well every night. I (Brent) recorded Landis praying tonight. He is only two, and can pray like a long-winded preacher. He doesn’t repeat stuff either. It’s all fresh and new every night. Listen to what I recorded last night... a lot of it is “kid speak” that only a childs’ parents will understand but you’ll hear stuff about tacos, dinner, Ms. Dorothy and Mr. Johnny (our neighbors), MeeMaw and PawPaw, Abby and Sami “get better”, and something about not pooping in his diaper. He’s a HOOT!

I began to look to picture of Abby's faster family in Guatemala, but didn't get far. We have a wonderful friendship with them and it breaks my heart that it will be years before we can safely travel to see them, because of Abby's medical needs. When we adopted Abby, they reached out to us and offered us a beautiful friendship. We miss our Guatemalan family.

If only our own prayers were so simple and sincere. Listen here… We finally cut Abby’s hair tonight. We had been waiting for HER to say she wanted it, and today she simply asked “Daddy, will you cut my hair off now?” For weeks Abby has been mostly bald. She had just enough hair left to make her look sickly. We knew that she would look better with her hair cut off, but she was holding on tight to those last strands. We didn't push her, just waited until she was ready. She has known from the start that when her hair was gone, she would get to whack off Daddy's hair. The "prize" was finally enticing enough for her to take the plunge. With low platelets and immunity, we had to be very careful to not nick her head with clippers but Daddy is the family barber, and pretty skilled at it. It was a family event:

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witnesses of the kindness of Christian love. The list of charity and care for our family could go on and on but here’s a few samples: • • • • • •

• • •

Abby did great! Smiled the whole time… loved her new look. Garrett, Christian, Sami and Landis? They all rubbed her head and told her that she was beautiful. Here's a look at her hair since she was diagnosed:

Meals every night for the past two months (do you have any idea how much time, money, driving and emotional energy this saves us?) Money for gas and food Help with medical bills Frozen food and snacks for the kids Vitamin supplements and nutritional items It looks like some kind friends are going to replace the carpet with wood floors in the side of the house where Abby sleeps to cut down on the germs and allergens Baby sitters whenever we need it Family members helping in any way we ask Christians from all over the country sending Abby gifts, and raising money for various needs like hair pieces, hats and supplies

That’s not to mention the COUNTLESS numbers of prayers that have been lifted up on our behalf. It is abundantly clear that God answers prayers and that we have been the recipient of His provision, grace and mercy on a grand scale. And yet, as I (Brent) write this, I’m reminded that normal life goes on as a stinkin’ fly is relentlessly tormenting me. Every time I grab the fly swatter he takes off, then as soon as I get back to this post, he attacks me again. Ironically, it is a reminder that life simply goes on, and the typical, routine, ordinary things that need attention, still need attention. Now, I’ve got to go kill this Rambo-fly-on-steroids before it drives me crazy.

10/21/2008 3:23:00 PM

Please Pray for Abby, temp 103 and rising...

How did Mommy do? Fine in front of Abby, but it is honestly a very sad day for me (Michelle). I am thankful that she is beautiful with and without hair. But, it is a very visual reminder of just how sick our precious daughter is. Abby has very tough day today (Monday). She gets two shots of a thick liquid in her legs. She hates them and they are legitimately very painful. She is also supposed to get the chemo that makes her muscles very weak and her legs hurt. We have tough decisions about how MUCH chemo to give her; balancing between killing the aggressive cancer, and not making her so sick she will die from it. Please pray for God’s guidance for us. Along with being “at home doctors”, we are also now experts 80


doesn't have time to sleep, even if he could. Would you pray for my family while we are in the hospital? We are tired from our long day, but very thankful that God is here with us. We praise God for giving us such wonderful friends, but old and new.

Abby woke up from her nap today with a temp of 102 and going up by the minute, now almost 103. We are heading to the hospital fast, to be admitted. Would you please pray that Abby would be calm during the proceedures, that they would be able to draw her blood, and get her fever under control. She is on the harshest chemo right now and has been miserable this. I will write more later tonight.

10/21/2008 7:52:00 PM

Update and Thanks I am pretty tired and my computer is acting up, so I apologize for the poor job in editing.

The yellow ducky hat was a gift from Holly at http://ursheadwear.com/ She let us pick between 1000 different fabrics. Thank you Holly. You were a bright spot in our day.

Thank you so much for all of your prayers and comments. They encourage more than you can imagine. Abby's temperature is still over 102, but she is getting the IV fluids/antibiotics she needs. She has the tiniest veins, so blood draws are always hard. Anytime she runs a fever, they take blood from both her veins and port, in order to determine where the infection is coming from. Today, she was stuck with needles 7 times. It was a hard day for Abby and a tough to watch her endure it. Now her pain is controlled and she is quietly playing with some toys. Soon I will listen to her prayers and tuck her in bed. Would you pray that she is able to sleep tonight? She is a good sleeper, but there are a lot of interruptions in the night at a hospital. It was so hard for me to leave our other children again. I miss them so much. Brent is my best friend and I hate being away from him. I don't sleep well when we are apart and Brent 81


understand that Abby could end up with internal bleeding, from being tackled.

Beautiful eyes, but oh so sad. She said that her legs weren't hurting, but cried when they were moved. So hard to figure things out when everything hurt some and you are only 3 years old. A little pain medicine and she is up walking and playing. Since the princess is inviting me to a tea party, I think I will end this update and enjoy being with my daughter. I think that she earned a little later bed time. Thanks again for praying. Teasing Daddy, who hates broccoli. Abby ordered it twice today.

10/22/2008 7:21:00 PM

Wordless Wednesday, almost Thank you so much for praying for Abby. We are still in the hospital, but she is feeling much better tonight. We have had a lot of fun today. My day was filled with tea parties, baby dolls, play dough and lots of laughter and singing. Abby got a blood transfusion today and it added to the energy she already possessed. She has gone 24 hours without a fever. If she as a normal temperature and labs in the morning, she will get to go home. Oh I hope we get to go home. I am praying they give her platelets before they discharge her. They are pretty low and her two year old brother is a tank. We watch them very closely, especially when her platelets are low, but that boy can run like the wind. He is just too young to

Mirror Fun

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Tickle Fun. Oh I love seeing her smile again. Thanks again for praying for Abby.

10/23/2008 12:02:00 AM

Chocolate Blood

So proud of herself for telling her nurse how much she drank~in milliliters.

By Brent (http://www.brentriggsblog.com/ ) 83


If I had to pick one adjective to describe the everyday life of our family it would be "humor". The title to our family blog "…where laughter lives" is not just some cute moniker, it really does define the atmosphere in our home.

and all the activity, it is bound to happen to anyone at any time... so you better hope our two-year-old is not around. Any accessible buttcrack that is visible is fair game for the "buttcrack alert" which involves the little fella running up behind you and inserting his pointer finger into the area of violation and declaring "BUTTCRACK!" for all to hear.

My wife is the closest thing in our family to NOT being a jokester or a prankster, but don't let her quiet demeanor fool you. She has quite a sense of humor as well. One thing that is funny about our family, and sometimes embarrassing, is that we have a long list of words and phrases that make up our own special vocabulary.

Porcupines: This would be when daddy hasn't shaved that day and goes to kiss one of the kids on the cheek and scratches them with his "porcupines".

Here's just a few of our many family phrases that have popped up recently as we spend a lot of time at the hospital. We have a long list and this is just a drop in the Chuck’it Buck’it:

Two Eyes: There are certain medications and sedation that cause Abby to be groggy and have a hard time focusing her eyes. During those times you're likely to get informed that you have "two eyes". The first couple of times she said, "daddy you have two eyes", I just thought she was being cute and couldn't figure out why she was saying it. I'm kind of dull but my wife filled me in on the obvious: when Abby is groggy she sees double. Thus, everyone has two eyes, two noses and two mouths.

Chuck’it Buck’it: You know those pink plastic boxes that they give you in the hospital to throw up in? Even at three years old, poor little Abby has gotten to be an expert at vomiting in the most proper and neat manner. If you ask her where the "Chuck’it Buck’its" are, she will confidently inform you that there's one in each car, one in her bedroom and one in the living room.

Fuh Fuh Room: Well that's the family room of course, but I'm sure you already had that one figured out.

Poop-A Lot: A lot of the chemotherapy and medication that Abby has to take causes her to be constipated. So we frequently have to mix a medication with whatever she is drinking to remedy that side effect. Because her stomach is so sensitive, she often is only able to drink chocolate PediaSure, the vitamin fortified infant and toddler drink. So we mix a powdered laxative medicine into it for relief of constipation and PediaSure is magically transformed into "Poop-A Lot".

Pig Meat: And that would be Sami and Abby's favorite ham luncheon meat. That's just a partial list. Over the years, we have forgotten more than we can remember. The Bible says that laughter is good medicine and during this particularly difficult time in the life of our family we can personally testify to the truth of that.

Chocolate Blood: The first time Abby saw her own blood in an IV, it was really dark in color. For whatever reason, it looked like chocolate being pumped through the tube so now every time Abby gets blood, it's referred to as getting the "chocolate blood". Her two-year-old brother can't figure it out when Abby wants to give him some chocolate blood because he can never seem to find the candy she's talking about.

Now if you'll pardon me, I have to go take care of my porcupines in the same room where the porcelain chuckit buckit resides (you thought I'd end it with a Poop-A-Lot comment, but my wife would kill me).

10/24/2008 7:18:00 PM

Tickle Poke: Abby has been stuck with needles countless times in the last four months. There are two kinds of needle sticks that she understands: ow-wee pokes and tickle pokes. Ow-wee pokes are needle sticks that go into fresh skin that has not been numbed. Tickle pokes are when a special cream has been put on the skin to numb her so it doesn't hurt. Abby often administers "tickle pokes" to the ribs of her brother and sister.

Favorite Foto Friday Pumpkins Abby was discharged from the hospital late last night. Praise God. It was the shortest hospital stay we have ever had.

Buttcrack Alert: No buttcrack that is showing is safe in our house. It's not that we go around displaying them on purpose, but with seven kids

I am sorry it has taken me a while to send out an update. When we got home I hit the ground running and haven't stopped. Abby and the other children are doing great. But there is a lot 84


of work that needs to be done. I would appreciate your continued prayers. Abby returns to the hospital clinic on Monday. She will get chemo, which is not so fun. They are also having a Halloween party for the patients, so Abby is very excited about going. I hope that you all have a wonderful time with your families this weekend. Thank you so much for your prayers.

10/25/2008 11:46:00 AM As you can see, Abby loves to cook. Helping bake cookies is one of her favorite things. When we were adopting Abby, Landis and Sami one of the ways we raised money was by creating the adoption cookbook.

Abby: A Taste of Our World

We compiled dozens of recipes from the countries and families of adopted children. Salads, appetizers, main dishes, soups, desserts... over 150 pages of great recipes. We have several cases of the cookbooks leftover from that fundraising effort. We would like to offer them again to do some fundraising for the expenses related to Abby's leukemia. Gas, food, prescriptions, hospitals, doctors, tests... at a time when our income was unexpectedly and dramatically cut, our expenses went up. But, we don't simply want to ask for money. We want to sell this fantastic recipe book for a price you would happily pay at a book store. The recipes are wonderful, and the pictures of the adopted kids heartwarming.

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Making cookies with Mee Maw... secret recipe!

10/28/2008 12:00:00 AM

Party at the Hospital Abby enjoyed doing crafts at the Halloween party at her hospital. She was nervous about getting poked by the nurse later, but didn't let that stop her from playing.

On the cover is a picture Abby, and Amy Block's daughter, Aleigha. Many of you know Amy already but if you don't make sure you check out her blog here... you won't be disappointed. If you would like to buy one, it would be a real blessing for Abby and our family.

The volunteers apologized for all of the candy, but I was thankful for every tempting calorie. Abby would eat only fruits and vegetables if you let her. Healthy, but not enough calories to help her gain weight. 86


Tara made a video of Abby and posted it to YouTube. We loved the video and Abby was so excited to see it. Tara, thank you so much for making a video of Abby. Please let everyone know who is praying for Abby so they can enjoy this. Lisa Prather created a Facebook group called I Pray for Abby. Please take a minute and check it out... What a great way tell others about Abby and to ask for prayers. Lisa, thank you so much for doing this for Abby. You were so sweet to take the time to help Abby.

10/29/2008 11:35:00 PM The hospital chaplain dressed up as a mummy. Abby was too "cool" to act scared, so she ignored him instead.

Wordless Wednesday Dress-up Fun with Friends

I am thankful that she was able to do something fun, while she waited to get her chemo. Later, some good friends came over. We got some great pictures of all of the kids. I will try to post them tomorrow. Thank you so much for praying for Abby today. She didn't get sick at all and was able to have some fun. For a chemo day, that is pretty amazing. Abby and Sami love to play dress up, especially if their friends play too.

10/28/2008 9:01:00 PM

Video of Abby and Facebook 87


T., Abby and Samrawit. Sami and T. are wearing beautiful dresses that we bought in Ethiopia.

Abby and Sami wanted us to take there picture together. L. crashed their picture. :-)

L and Landis.......................WWF

Working like Daddy. 88


Sisters and great friends

10/30/2008 2:32:00 PM

One of Those Days I decided to get all of our winter clothes out of storage, wash them, organize them and put away our summer clothes. Not a big deal, but since we have so many kids it takes some work. After I pulled all the clothes out, Landis came down with a stomach virus. Not fun, but still not hard to handle. Now it looks like Abby will need a blood transfusion soon. She has many tiny red bruises on her body and an old bruise is growing bigger and her arm is beginning to swell.

Abby isn't able to go around crowds, because her body can't fight infections. Abby LOVES, LOVES, LOVES when friends come to our home to play. The girls were just being silly, but the picture fits.

10/31/2008 10:06:00 PM

Update Prayer request and Favorite Foto Friday and Happy Birthday These are pictures from today. Can you guess where we are?

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Abby as I am typing this post. The last picture is my favorite of the day, not because it is a great picture, but because it shows Abby finally comfortable and resting.

Abby at a Halloween party downstairs.

Thursday night we came to the hospital for 2 units of blood. If everything went well, we were supposed to go home after they were finished. As they finished transfusing, at 3 am, Abby's temperature spiked to 101. This guaranteed her at least 48 hours in the hospital. Friday morning Abby started hurting. She has developed mucositis; canker sores on her digestive, urinary and reproductive systems. The last time she had this problem she was in intense pain and hospitalized for 2 weeks. So far, it is not as severe as last time, but still very painful. I don't know if we just caught it sooner, but we hope things will be less severe this time. Abby with two of her favorite nurses. Most of her other favorites were dressed a little scary for Miss Abby.

Abby is getting morphine continuously, with extra doses when she pushes a button, so for now she is comfortable. They will increase the dose if things get worse. We would appreciate it if you would pray that the sores would heal quickly, that Abby's pain would be controlled and that she would be free of infection or other illnesses. Abby is also saying that her neck is hurting a lot. That is something that she never complains about. Landis and Daddy have a stomach virus that is tough enough on them. I am praying they are better soon and that Abby would not catch this virus too. I hate being away from them when they are sick. 90


This is one time I am glad that most of you live far away. ;-) I thought that we would just be at the hospital for a few hours, so I only packed a few things to pass the time. While I am glad that I have my laptop and camera, it would be nice if I would have packed a change of clothes, makeup, brush and few other things. Thank goodness that will be taken care of tomorrow.

She has sores head to toe, and literally cries and moans even when she is sound asleep. I would have never believed someone could cry while sound asleep if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes today. To make it more fun, the sores hurt so bad she just couldn't work up the courage to go tinkle until her bladder became so full it felt like an overinflated basketball.

Abby only wants the pillow her Guatemalan Foster parents gave her. That pillow has was sewn with love and it is a treasure. Today is my Godson's birthday. Happy Birthday Carlos Roberto. We wish we were in Guatemala celebrating with you. We love you so much and are very proud of you.

So there we are - myself, Michelle and Sami - in the hospital with Abby hitting rock bottom. All the emotions already jacked and whacked from the stress of watching Abby, and for me in no small part because I was working on one hour sleep - about a quarter of most other "normal" nights. Suddenly… two doors down from our room, a 9 year girl codes. For those of you who never watched ER, “code” means they are dead or about to be dead. “Code Blue Room 112; Code Blue Room 112; Code Blue Room 112”. An army of medical staff flood the hallways heading for the door. The atmosphere of the hospital is instantly charged and you can feel the collective heart rate of the entire floor double. 1Thess 4:13 .. so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. The mother and father lost all sense of control and despaired so pitifully that they interfered with the medical efforts to resuscitate the child and had to restrained. The father did not make it far until he collapsed, wailing and lamenting, finally throwing up on the floor and refusing to get up. The mother was inconsolable and cried so loudly that you could see the doors to other rooms begin to close as parents tried to both shelter and explain what was happening to their frightened child. I say this with complete sympathy but she was so uncooperative and consumed with emotion that she became at best a distraction to the doctors as they tried to revive the daughter.

11/2/2008 12:11:00 AM

Saturday with the Riggs…

I’ve seen many people grieve, and while I did not know that poor family, they certainly seemed to be “grieving without hope”. It is a truly sad thing to face death without The Anchor, The Hope, The Comforter. At the moment all this was occurring, Abby had just had her spinal-tap-fluid-drain and several types of medications for sedation. We couldn’t wake her up. She should have regained alertness an hour previous to that, and we simply could not get her to open her eyes. Normally, this would be an exercise in patience, giving it some time, monitoring her vitals. In the midst of the “code blue”, all we wanted was to see Abby’s eyes open.

By Brent Abby is in the hospital doing pretty poorly. Her central nervous system pressure was sky high giving her a migraine, and they had to bleed spinal fluid from her. There's nothing quite like watching someone stick a 6" needle into your child's spine like juice box straw and watch the liquid pour out.

The floor today was full. Every room had a family with a child in various stages of cancer. Each of the parents there today, who for many the “cancer floor” at a children’s hospital is their 91


second home, were all thinking the same thing: Next time it might be us.

receiving more than 200 blood transfusions, one would never know he was ever so sick. Today, Mason is a courageous and energetic four year old."

If it is, we will grieve WITH hope because we know who Hope is. The Lord gives, the Lord receives back to Himself according to His will. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Read the rest of the story in the magazine: http://www.seriouslifemagazine.com/ Here is a picture of Mason in the hospital:

That was our Saturday. What’d you guys do?

11/3/2008 12:04:00 PM

Abby and Bob Stoops

11/3/2008 2:29:00 PM Have you seen the November Issue of Serious.Life Magazine yet? There is a story about Bob Stoops visiting Abby in the hospital.

Please Pray

There’s also a great a story from Carol Bauman about one of her adopted children and the incredible trial that they went through. And another from Erin Henderson, and another and another…. A bunch of great stories you’ll love.

Quick update. Abby has an MRI at around 3 PM to check for blood clots in her brain. Please pray that she is calm during the MRI and that we get accurate results. Also please pray for her safety.

I hope you’ll take a minute to look at it. Go here: http://www.seriouslifemagazine.com/ Here's an excerpt from Carol's story:

11/3/2008 8:03:00 PM

"Parker was 2 ½ years old and had the face of an angel. Mason was five months old and fulfilled my dream of having a baby. While Parker was lacking nutrition, Mason was terribly ill. He was suffering from a very rare male genetic disorder called Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome. His immune system was greatly compromised, as washis platelet production. Mason’s only hope was a bone marrow transplant.

Stressful Day, but praising God for good news. The MRI took almost 2 hours to complete. Because of her age and the length of the test, her doctor decided to use general anesthetic. This was great news for Abby, because she would only know that she was in my arms when she went to sleep and that I was there when she woke up.

Faced with a long and painful road ahead, we became very strong through Mason. He pulled through every illness, overcame every set back, and survived a stroke and a transplant. After spending 18 months in the hospital and 92


For the anesthesiologist and me, it was a time to weigh risks and make difficult decisions. Abby's platelets are very low, because of her leukemia. Platelets are normally at least 150,000 and Abby's are currently 21,000. Low platelets mean that your blood will not clot, so the risk of internal bleeding is significant. The first anesthesiologist refused to do the anesthesia for the MRI, because of the risk of Abby bleeding. The second anesthesiologist worked for 8 years at St. Jude, so he was very knowledgeable and comfortable treating with kids with leukemia. That anesthesiologist, Abby's Oncologist and a Neurosurgeon discussed what to do for Abby. An elective surgery or procedure could wait until morning after an infusion of platelets, but because the need for Abby's MRI was urgent, they felt it was worth the risk to proceed. If she had a blood clot or hemorrhage causing the pressure in her head, they needed to know immediately. So I prayed and signed the papers, giving them permission to use general anesthesia on Abby. I carried her into the surgery suite, and held her in my arms while they gave her the medicine that made her go into a deep sleep. My Mom and I sat in a waiting room for 2 hours, where we prayed for Abby, and waited to find out how she did. Two hours is a long time to wait, when you make a decision that serious about your child. What a comfort it was to see that so many people were praying. I couldn't focus well enough to write anything on the blog at that point or to moderate comments, but I could read them. Watching the encouraging comments come in, knowing that each person who was writing them was also praying, was very comforting. Thanks so much for praying for Abby and for taking the time to comfort me. Today, Brent is sick and has an awful migraine, much too sick for him to be around Abby. He is not getting enough sleep. I hope that I never have to go through a day like this again without him by my side. [Note: this is Brent... I couldn't help but interject a note here in my wife's post; I am fine. It is Abby and my dear wife who have it hard. They are up here in the hospital, isolated, suffering non-stop. I miss my wife. She is the one who has it tough during these hospital stays, not me.] A resident tracked down the test results and gave me the preliminary findings. the official report will be back tomorrow. For now they believe that there are no blood clots in her brain and no obvious hemorrhages or tumors. Praise God. The only test still pending is for meningitis. If that is negative, they will most likely decide that her increased intracranial pressure is caused by the chemo. If it continues we will begin an intricate medical dance to protect her eyes, ears, and brain from permanent damage, while still using the chemo she needs to battle the cancer.

Abby in recovery. She looks so little and fragile.

My sweet girl an hour after we got to her room. I am so thankful that she is did great during during the proceedure and that there were no problems with the anesthesia.

11/4/2008 11:30:00 AM

Read what my husband wrote... A quick update to last nights late update. Abby's team of doctors are running out of things to test Abby for. We will soon be at the point where they will assume that her increased in intracranial pressure is a side effect of the 93


Phyllis and Kristen visited us at the hospital yesterday and today. Yesterday, Abby was in a lot of pain. They were so sweet to her, but Abby was obviously hurting.

chemo. Today the plan is to do a spinal tap to draw off excess fluid and test for a few more viruses. Abby is in pain both from the fluid in her skull and from the canker-like sores that are in her digestive and reproductive tracks. Would you please continue to pray for an accurate diagnosis and for pain relief. Thank you so much for praying for our daughter and the rest of the family. The comments are so encouraging to all of our family. Thank you so much for taking the time to write us.

My husband wrote something on his blog today about Abby and I wanted you to read it. Some of you may not know that he is a prolific writer; and a great writer, if I do say so myself. Often he writes things for our family blog but most of his writing is over on his blog and sites. Here is an excerpt of what he wrote today: "Openly facing the very real possibility of Abby’s death is NOT tantamount to giving up, losing heart or lacking faith. Every person in human history has either died, or will die. It is a fact of our existence. God numbers the days of each person, and just as He breathed in the breath of life, He determines when that breath will end. It is not our place to question it, make some futile attempt to derail it, or engage in some shallow positive thinking while crossing our fingers behind our back." Here's a link to read the entire post: http://www.brentriggs.com/?ItemID=305 I hope you'll take a few minutes to read it.

11/5/2008 8:42:00 PM

Wordless Wednesday 94


Abby is still in the hospital. She has very bad sores all over and they still haven’t figured out what is causing all the pressure on her brain. At this point she will still be in the hospital several more days, minimum. They increased her morphine to help her deal with the pain of all it. They haven't ruled out meningitis yet, so we are praying for that to be negative. Thank you for your continued prayers and concern. We recently had a comment left on our blog that went somthing like this "your child's illness is not an opportunity for you to learn about your God..." Brent has responded to this comment on his blog. I hope you'll take time to read it. Kristen worked hard to cheer Abby up. Kristen is a very sweet and fun friend.

http://www.brentriggs.com/?ItemID=306

11/7/2008 11:45:00 PM

Favorite Foto Friday - fav family picture The theme this week at http://kissthefrog4me.blogspot.com/ is favorite family foto. This photo is special to me because Brent took it while our nine year old daughter was still living in an orphanage in Ethiopia. She had been at the orphanage longer than any other child, so she had seen many children go home with new families. How heartbreaking it would be to see so many children find families, while you were still alone.

Today was a much better day. Abby's doctors increased her pain medicene and consulted the pain management team. Please pray that her pain is controled and that she is well enough to go home soon.

To introduce her to her new brothers and sisters, we took this photo of our children. We not only wanted her to see her new family, we also wanted her to begin to picture herself with her forever family. We sent her a copy of the original picture and a copy of the one that Brent photo shopped her in to.

Abby's doctors are still running tests to determine the cause of the increased presure in her skull. I am praying that Abby has relief from the presure soon. Thank you so much for praying for Abby. The last few days have seemed long to both of us. It breaks my heart to see her hurting like this. Please pray for wisdom for the doctors and myself and healing for Abby.

Samrawit, I can't imagine our family without you in in it. We love you with all of our hearts. You are a blessing to everyone you meet and we are very proud of you.

11/6/2008 9:03:00 AM

Update on Abby & some comments about a comment.. 95


11/9/2008 4:42:00 PM

Surfer Girl We are still in the hospital and I am not sure how much longer we will be here. Many people have asked me questions about Abby. My answer to most of them is, "I don't know." I will update you the best that I can, but we would appreciate your prayers as we continue to try to find the best way to help Abby now. Her canker sores are much better. This is a huge blessing. Thanks so much for praying for her to be healed from them. Her body is recovering from the last round of chemo. This means that her body will begin to heal and she will soon be ready to start the next round of chemo. She still has muscle weakness and pain in her legs from the chemo. she is so weak and she shakes when she walks. Walking with Abby is just like walking along side an old frail woman. Abby's doctors believe that her increased intracranial pressure is caused by the chemo. Every test for infection (meningitis, TB, ...) was negative. Unfortunately the chemo that is probably causing it is necessary to fight her cancer and she will need it a long time. She needs the chemo to fight the cancer and the increased pressure in her head, left UNTREATED, can cause brain damage, vision loss and hearing loss. They are now giving her a medication that might decrease the pressure. It will be at least a week before we will know if it will work and it may take longer.

Abby "playing" a video game.

If it doesn't work the neurologist is telling us that she will probably need surgery to place a shunt from her cranium to her abdomen, so that the fluid can drain. They shunt would be something that would have to be replaced every few years as she grows and then every time it stops working as an adult. This is not something that I want for her. To permanently alter her body, to solve a temporary problem, is not something that I was to do. The third option is to take her to the hospital about every 3 days to get the extra spinal fluid drained off. The biggest risk with this option is infection. Honestly we don't like any of the options. We are praying that she is either healed from the increased pressure or that the medications work. If those don't happen, then I guess that the princess and I will be doing a lot of driving, because we don't want her to have a shunt, if it can be avoided. How is Abby doing? Much better than she was a few days ago, but she is still hurting some and is very tired. The pictures below answer you questions much better than I can. The waves of fatigue and pain still hit her, but she is a fighter. She fights by choosing to smile and giggle and laugh. The last week and a half was tough, but I have treasured every moment with Abby. What a blessing to be her mother.

I have seen this look a hundred times in the last few days.

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Abby and Grandmother. Abby loved dressing up as Ariel. She got the Little Mermaid hat in the mail on the same day as she got the dress, from two diferent people. How cool is that?

11/11/2008 9:30:00 PM

Abby loves to "surf" by standing on the base of the pole and hanging on. When her legs are strong, I love to push her down the halls.

Candy, Kya and Coach Stoops Today, Abby had another spinal tap. Her intracranial pressures were 3 times normal, again. They drained off excess spinal fluid (17 plus ml.). The plan is to double the medication that is supposed to decrease the pressure and then wait and watch. At this point it looks like this is going to take a while for this problem to be solved. Our choices are to stay in the hospital, where they can manage her pain, or try to go home. If we go home, we will be giving her the same type of pain medicine, but we will have to go to the ER of hospital if they aren't working. We will also need to go to the hospital every 2-3 days for a spinal tap.

It didn't take long for her to get tired. It is frustraiting to be so weak.

Her doctors are changing her to medication that can be given at home and we are at least trying to move in that direction. If we go home, we will not be bringing home the same daughter we left with. It's hard to accurately describe this to people. Abby is simply not the same Abby. She is in constant pain, migraine headaches and discomfort. So she comes across as grouchy and hard to please even though we are consistent parenting her (manners, treating people politely, etc). I can't imagine having that bad of a headache for a 2 weeks non-stop. Loud noises are grating and lights make the pain worse. We normally have a fun and active home but Abby just swings in and out of 97


complete impatient and irritability. Brent has migraines sometimes, so he can relate a little bit to how she feels. Please pray that we have the wisdom we need to make adjustments and to help her learn to cope with this.

them. Read the entire post: http://www.brentriggs.com/ ) We continue to be overwhelmed, thankful and grateful for all the prayers, visits and practical help. It is hard to overstate how loving and kind our family at Wildwood Church has been.

It is never easy to watch a child in pain. The last 13 days have been very hard and frankly lonely. When my children are hurting, my focus is on them. Writing is never something that is easy for me and when I am stressed it is much harder. I don't think to pick up the phone until the nurses and doctors stop parading through our room, unfortunately that is usually about midnight. When friends have asked me about visiting, I told them that Abby was in a lot of pain, and that it wasn't easy to witness. A week ago, Brent and I filmed a few minutes of Abby crying in her sleep, but decided not to post it. Even that few minutes was more than we wanted to burden people with. Kya and Abby having a tea party. Three friends in particular politely listened to me when I described to them how hard things were for Abby and then told me that they were coming to visit us anyway. Toni, Phyllis and Candy (who blogged about her visit here ) I will always love you for coming to see us when we were hurting. And yes, Stacey we would love to see you too. But, it would be much more fun for Maggie when Abby is not hurting so much. Abby is not even close to her "normal" self. Others stopped by to say hi and to pray with us. Old friends and new were a blessing to us. Our Christian family and friends from Wildwood Church in Norman continue to bless us in many ways. Someone took the time to arrange for a builder to donate the wood laminate materials to replace the carpet in our house to help Abby with allergies. Another dear couple found out that our living room wood laminate floors had been water damaged from an A/C leak the first time Abby was in the hospital, and they went right down to Lowe's and bought flooring for our living room! We had a whole team of people help finish laying the floors, and clean the house top to bottom to get rid of all the sawdust and dirt, as well as put the house back together (everything had to be moved to put the flooring in). People from our church pray for us, bring us meals and groceries.

Kya was an absolute doll. Candy you have a beautiful girl, inside and out. Thank you so much for taking hte time to visit Abby. I really enjoyed talking to you. You both were a blessing.

(Note from Brent: I've received some emails from people who have felt left out and lonely when in need or enduring a trial. I will have something on my blog about this late Tuesday night... Here's an exerpt: I've received some emails from people telling me that they have experienced, or are experiencing a grievous crisis, and they are all but ignored by their Christian family. There is no intention to make us feel guilty about being helped, they just feel discouraged and let down not to receive the same. I can feel the sadness and frankly, I don't have any magic answers for 98


Abby's coach, Bob Stoops and Samrawit. Coach Stoops makes Abby feel so special. If you haven't seen it yet, you should read the article about Abby and Coach Stoops in Serious.Life Magazine: http://www.seriouslifemagazine.com/ Abby and Kay, Abby's favorite volunteer.

Kya and Abby painting.

11/12/2008 3:05:00 PM

Abby Goes Home... A Post from Brent... Abby is getting to come home today but not because she is "better". We are pretty good at taking care of her at home. We convinced the Doctors to let us give her chemo at home, and now we've convinced them to let us manage her medication and pain at home. 99


We think she will do much better at home with her family. She is too isolated at the hospital, and of course, Mom is too. We have spent about half our time at hospitals and clinics since Abby was diagnosed in July and it is starting to wear on us. I (Brent) went up last night to spend some time with my wife and Abby. As I was rocking Abby, and interacting with her, it was obvious, and sad, how much her personality was being affected by the medication and pain. It brought to mind some things we should keep in mind as we deal with other people. I wrote about it on my blog today. You can read it here: http://www.brentriggs.com/?ItemID=309 We'll update you on Abby later tonight or tomorrow morning after she is home.

11/13/2008 4:37:00 PM

Sisters Abby and I got home late last night. Yeah! Thank you so much for Praying for Abby. She is weak and tired, but so happy to be home. Much of today was spent holding Abby and rocking her. Sami tried to distract Abby when she was hurting. Sami you are the best big sister!

Angel, this one is for you. Thank you so much for Abby's new hat. Abby wore her "Make a Wish" hat to her procedure. Her doctors laughed. If you don't know what Abby wished for, read about it here. http://www.riggsfamilyblog.com/2008/10/abbys-wish.html 100


Abby at home.

Abby pretending to be a mermaid.

Trying to fake being asleep. It would have worked better if they could have stopped smiling.

11/14/2008 10:28:00 PM

Favorite Foto Friday These pictures are a month old. The FFF theme was the perfect excuse to reach back in time. The FFF theme this week is blowing kisses. These are more kissing bandit than blowing kisses, but they are still fun. Landis is our families smoocher. You have to love a kid who is 100% personality.

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Don't let Abby fool you. She loves Landis's kisses.

There are days when cancer stinks. We have had a string of those kind of days. Right now Abby is weak, nauseated and has NO energy. Today, I need desperately to remind myself that she has been here twice before and she HAS rebuilt her strength. I love this picture from last month. Two weeks before this was taken she couldn't even take more than 2 steps and had to be carried up stairs. This picture is of her climbing UP a slide.

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So proud of herself for climbing up the slide.

Abby has to wear a mask anytime there are other people around. No fun, but she never complains.

Landis you are so much fun. I can't imagine our family with out you.

11/16/2008 1:54:00 PM Landis tells EVERY story with enthusiasm.

Losing Ground Abby is not doing so well. 103


She is not complaining about pain, and we are VERY thankful for that. She is being so sweet and cuddly, but has NO energy (zero), is eating almost nothing and what she is eating, she’s not keeping down. The chemo she will receive over the next two months is going to be rough, but no harder than what she has already endured. For the two months following that, she is going to begin the HARDEST phase of her treatment. She really needs to be gaining weight now, to prepare, but is losing weight because she can’t eat. Brent and I have tried for 2 months to help her gain weight, and she just keeps losing. You won’t understand this if you’ve never dealt with cancer, but we allow her to eat anything with high calories - no restrictions, no “balancing nutrition”. She needs calories, period. Butter, ice cream, cheese, pie… anything she wants… and we still can’t get her to eat. Would you pray for Abby today? Would you also pray for wisdom for Brent and I, as well as her doctors.Thank you so much.

11/17/2008 3:14:00 PM

Abby, Book & Mag Monday Abby Update: Abby is back in the hospital. They are going to schedule surgery for a G-Tube which will allow us to feed her directly into her stomach. She lost another pound this week, and she only weighed 30lbs when all this started. She’s down to about 25 or 26 pounds I think. She has been pretty weak and frail. She eats about an ounce of food a day, then takes her medicine and promptly throws it all up. Hopefully with a feeding tube we’ll be able to “fatten her 104


up” because the worst is still to come. The next 60 day cycle of treatment will be difficult, but the following 60 days after that is going to be the MOST difficult of the entire process. Hard to imagine since we didn’t think she would survive the last couple rounds.

Abby is having dangerous side effects from the medication for the increased intracranial pressure. Her doctors have cut her dose in half. They think she may need a permanent shunt placed to drain the excess fluid. Not something that I want to think about today. We appreciate your prayers and covet them greatly.

11/18/2008 7:50:00 PM

Would you please pray that:

Abby... and Meet A Friend

Updated: Abby's surgery is moved to 9 am. Brent at home getting kids to school and other family is not here yet either. Please pray for peace as we adjust. I feel so much better with Brent by my side.

• •

First of all, thank you so much for praying for us on Monday.

Abby is not scared and is pain free, both during surgery and after. That the surgery is successful. No infection. All procedures done that are needed. For peace for Brent and I during surgery.

Thank again for your prayers, comments and emails. We are blessed to have so many people praying for Abby and us. Specifically, thank you for prayers about the financial issues. We had a hospital call us and say they were returning a big payment because our deductible had been met. That payment was due to another group of doctors, and now we won't have to pay that amount twice. Can anyone BUT GOD get insurance companies and hospitals to send you money BACK???

Brent and I each came to the decision independent of each other, that Abby needed a Gtube because she is not eating. What a blessing that we came to the decision at the same time. I was a little nervous about talking to Abby's oncologist on Monday, but she said that she strongly believed that Abby needed one before I brought it up. It is wonderful that everyone involved believes that this is the best thing for Abby. Praise God that He is directing things for us.

FROM BRENT: I have someone I want you to meet. If you will give me about 2 minutes of your time, I PROMISE you will be glad you did. Check it out here: http://www.brentriggs.com/?ItemID=311

11/19/2008 7:24:00 PM

Abby's Day

We have a very small window of opportunity to do the surgery. Abby has had a break from chemo, so she is stronger than she was, but we begin chemo again with her surgery scheduled for tomorrow (Wednesday) at approximately 12:30 (but it could be moved forward or backwards at the last minute. I am not looking forward to the surgery but I am very glad that we will be able to stop focusing on her eating and spend our time on more fun things. As an added benefit, Abby will not need to swallow those yucky pills anymore either because they can be given through the tube. Abby has heard the doctors explain the surgery and she GETS a lot more of what they are saying than a normal almost 4 year old. We have already prepared her the best we can on a child's level, and I will try to shield her better tomorrow. 105


The dietitian says that Abby needs to get 1500 calories a day, to rebuild and fight the cancer. Good grief. Can you imagine getting a child whose very favorite foods are raw vegetables and fruit and who LOVES to drink water, to eat 1500 calories a day. At this point, if we spent every waking minute forcing her to eat, it wouldn’t be 200 calories. I am VERY, VERY thankful that she will have the g-tube. Abby is in a lot of pain because of the chemo yesterday and today, I need to take her to the bathroom every 2 hours (so that the chemo doesn't burn her bladder). Tough when it hurts to move at all. Please pray for good pain control. Her to be free of infection, her stomach and incisions to heal; wisdom for her doctors, nurses and Brent and I. Thank you so much for praying for Abby.

11/21/2008 7:26:00 AM

Hungry Princess Abby had surgery yesterday morning and was very calm before the surgery. She slept most of the time. They let me gown up and carry her back to the operating room and she stayed in my arms until she was given the anesthesia and fell sound asleep. No fear, safe in Mommy's arms. Then, Brent and I were both with her when she woke up. I love it when God takes care of the "small" details. Her surgeon expected her to be able to drink liquids 2 hours after surgery, but that was not to be. We knew that Abby has muscle loss from all the weight she was losing. What we didn't know was that the muscles that makeup her organs were getting weak and thin too including her stomach so she is not allowed to have anything through the tube before they run tests on it tomorrow morning. If everything is okay, we will be able to feed her then. They are letting her drink some small amounts of clear liquid tonight (by mouth, not the tube). She is so weak and malnourished. It is hard to be patient. Please pray for healing and wisdom, for all involved. Some have asked if she will be able to eat anything with her mouth anymore. Of course. This tube HELPS her eat not replaces how she eats. She will be able to drink liquids normally starting tonight, then very soft foods for 2 weeks and then after that she can eat like normal. They just want the swelling to go down before she eats anything hard. In a couple of weeks, Abby will be able to eat as much or little as she wants, and then we can make up the difference with the tube. And that’s the point… the tube allows us to feed her and give her medicine even if she doesn’t feel like eating (a frequent side affect).

Abby ate jello last night. She loved it. Abby is supposed to have an Upper GI in a few minutes. If the g-tube is healing well, we will get to us it and she will be able to eat. If it is leaking a lot, she will go back to surgery and if it is leaking only a little, Abby will not be able to use the g-tube OR eat. Needless to say, I am praying that it is working great. Abby is so hungry. They are not letting her eat until the test is finished. It looks like Christmas at our house, thanks to all of you. Thank you all so much for making Abby feel special. Hagens and Cooleys thank you so much for providing this mornings distraction. Abby LOVE the things that you picked out and I truly appreciate the distraction from the hunger pains.

11/21/2008 9:20:00 PM

Great News, Bad News and Request for Prayers The surgeon's report today said that Abby's stomach is paper thin. Paper thin. She is severely malnourished because of the problems that she has had from the chemo. Abby needs desperately to rebuild, repair and gain weight. She only has 106


two months to prepare for the toughest phase of chemo. Yesterday they did an Upper GI, to see if Abby's stomach had healed enough, where they inserted the g-tube, to use the gastric tube. She was malnourished, went 60 hours without eating anything nutritious, and her paper-thin stomach wasn't closing around the sutures like they wanted it to DURING surgery, because the muscle was weak. 48 hours later, praise God, the G-tube worked perfectly. They are feeding her small amounts of Pediasure through it and are gradually increasing the amount. Yeah! The bad news is that the place that they did the hernia repair is swollen and having a few problems. This is keeping her from eating anything that is not liquid. Please pray that the swelling goes down quickly. Also, her headaches have returned. Headaches for Abby means there is too much fluid around her brain. Please pray that the fluid goes away without them needing to do surgery.

does something truly ornery, that reminds me that first and foremost, Abby is a normal three year old girl. Then she says she misses her Daddy. Looks like we'll get to go home late Monday night. What an answer to prayer! Wanna hear something funny? Abby was messing with a craft project while I was talking to her doctors. We look down and the little princess is cutting her feeding tube with the scissors. We thought we caught her before we damaged it, but a few days later, when the feeding amount was increased, we got hosed with PediaSure spewing out the line where Abby cut it! Abby's feeding tube is working great. We are still slowly increasing the amount of nutrition, and she has finally stopped losing weight! She is pain free, most of the time, no headaches, nausea is better. She is feeling great. Thanks for praying!

We would appreciate your prayers: • • • • • • •

To thank God for the miracle of her g-tube working perfectly. Any leaks would have meant that we could not have used it until they stopped. To praise God that her pain is decreasing and that she has no signs of infection. The swelling to go down from her hernia repair and for other problems with it to be fixed. The the headaches from excess fluid to go away without surgery. Pain to continue to decrease. Remain infection free. That Brent would be healthy, as he is working and caring for our other kids.

Thank you so much for your prayers and encouraging comments.

11/24/2008 8:20:00 PM

Guess Who is in Trouble Now? UPDATED to add that it is 2 am and Abby and I are home. Praise God. Thank you for praying. I always know when Abby is ready to go home from the hospital. First she starts to say, "I'll can do it myself." Then she 107


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11/28/2008 7:28:00 PM

Favorite Foto Friday Thankful and Prayer Request For Hair :-) I started this last night, but Abby had to go to the hospital for platelets, so this is late, but still fun. We got to go home late last night. You can see other FFF posts here. Brent and I have gotten in the habit of not making many promises to our children and the promises that we do make are proceeded by "If Abby is not in the hospital, we will..........." Wonderful friends from our church brought us Thanksgiving dinner and Brent's parents came to celebrate with us. The food was wonderful and Abby was out of the hospital. I am so thankful that we were able to celebrate together. Abby has a low grade temperature today. If it goes over 101 she will be admitted to the hospital. We have been trying to get Abby's wig cut for months, but every time we get an appointment to get it cut, she gets admitted to the hospital. She has an appointment for this afternoon. Abby is so excited. Please pray that Abby will be able to make this appointment. How's that for a frivolous pray request? :-) Thank you so much for praying for our family. We are loving every moment together. 109


Landis and Samrawit

Landis wishing that Dane would start texting again.

Abby and Sami on Thanksgiving

Dane texting, and texting

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have to be really good to keep her out of the hospital. Michelle is on the way there now. If her numbers are low, she'll be admitted right back in the hospital because of the fever... Sigh..... Brent

12/5/2008 10:51:00 PM

FFF - Abby Abby LOVED her Thanksgiving hat with a turkey bow. Thanks Holly.

12/4/2008 4:44:00 PM

Holy Cow! There IS Hope! Holy Cow! We just found out that 54 frat house guys from OU are on their way over to say hi to Abby. They heard about her being sick, and wanted to come bring her a present! FIFTY FOUR! Makes you have in the future generations.

Brent & Michelle and Kids

Abby had a fever of 102.6 in ER, BUT her white blood counts looked good, so she is going home, instead of being admitted into the hospital. Yeah!!! We are very thankful Abby is home. God is so good. Thank you so much for praying! Tomorrow we will post about the 54 frat guys and decorating our tree.

12/5/2008 1:47:00 PM

Thank you so much for praying.

More later tonight after the excitement!

Last Night and Today

12/7/2008 10:37:00 PM

Last night was wonderful.... more on that later. Abby is going to the hospital again. We almost made it ten days at home. She's had a rollercoastering fever all day, and they are going to do a work up on her. If her counts are high enough (good blood numbers) she'll get to come home but they will

Abby and Her 50 Boyfriends

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I guess there is hope after all… That’s what I wrote when we found out 50 frat guys from Oklahoma University were headed over to our house to bring Abby a present and visit her. If it had been a group of girls, everyone would think “how sweet”. But for college guys to do something so kind, and be so selfless and mature truly was VERY heartwarming. Here’s what happened: We got a call a couple of weeks ago from John, who attends our church. He said he heard about Abby at church one day, and just really felt like doing something for her, him and his frat house. “How nice” we thought. Thursday afternoon we get a phone call to find out that 40-50 guys are headed to our house! Holy cow… we had no idea what to expect. But here they came, down the road like a caravan.

The guys unload the new playhouse they drove TWO HOURS to get!

They had traveled a couple of hours the day before to go get Abby a big playhouse for the back yard. The drove TWELVE HOURS, yes 12, to get a little girl a present they had never met. They showed up and set it up in the back yard. One group of guys took our 17 and 16 year old out to an OU/USC basketball game. Another group stayed at our house for a couple of hours and played with Landis, Sami and Abby (our sister was here caring for Abby medically). Another group went out and bought presents for the kids for Christmas. Another group took me and Michelle out to dinner, made us reservations and paid for the whole thing. It was truly heartwarming and amazing. I’m going to write a story on it in the next issue of Serious.Life Magazine and not only cover what they did, but talk about their fraternity and some of the members. It will be a good story on a good group of guys.

Mission accomplished! The playhouse is set up, but it would be the next day, sunny and warm before the kids would get to play on it.

We could not have been more impressed and touched by what they did.

Abby with all her new "boyfriends" She now refers to them all as her boyfriends, and just grins every time they are mentioned. She was a little docile in this picture having had chemo that day.

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Abby playing outside! That is first for her in several months. She couldn't wait to get out to her new playhouse, set up by her 50 boyfriends!

12/9/2008 10:30:00 PM

Christmas Blessings Every room in our home is filled with reminders that we serve an awesome and loving God and blessed with great friends, both here at home and new friends from all over the world. Our freezer was filled with meals from the adoption community, Red Letter, and our church. We have received many care packages and soon Abby will have new hair. Thanks to some great guys from OU, the kids have a new club house to play in. Thank you all so much for helping us care for Abby and for making her feel so loved. She carries your cards and letters around with her all day long and tells everyone that her friends love her and are praying for her. Thanks. I love everything about Christmas, especially decorating our home, doing fun projects with the kids and teaching our children why we celebrate. This year is tough because we are so tired, stretched to our limits and behind on many tasks. It is more important than ever to have a great Christmas, because she is so sick. We don't want to squander any chance to have some memories with her in case God calls her on home.

Samrawit decorating a tree for the first time. Abby loves watching her big sister.

Another reason we want to have wonderful Christmas is because this will be our nine year old daughter's, Samrawit, first Christmas with our family. Last Christmas she was living at an orphanage in Ethiopia. I want us to have happy memories of this year, even in the midst of all of our challenges. I was worried about how we would be able to do everything that we want to do, while still caring for Abby. Sunday, friends from our church decorated the outside of our home with Christmas lights and decorated our Christmas tree. They brought cider and cookies for the kids to decorate. The kids were so excited. We didn't ask them to do it, they are just kind and loving friends. We are very grateful they decorated and had a lot of fun while they were here. You'll notice all these pictures are of the children. Every picture I took of the adults had at least one humbug adult trying to dive out of the picture. I though I was the only one who did that. :-)

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Abby, Abby's friend Megan and Landis. Abby calls her "MY Megan".

Landis had more icing on his shirt than he did on the cookies.

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12/12/2008 12:09:00 PM

Trick or Treat... and Abby update

Thank you all for making this holiday special. Samrawit had never decorated cookies before. While we were waiting for her adoption to be complete and her to come home , I was sad that we had missed so many of those firsts that all parents love to see. Since she has been home, we have seen her experience so many new things. It was fun to show her something else new.

Some of you know that Abby was in the hospital on Halloween. She was disappointed that she was not able to go Trick or Treating, but we told her that as soon as she was at home and feeling better she could "Trick or Treat" family members, who had saved her candy. She loved the idea and talked about it often, but had the wisdom to know that it would be more fun when she could eat the candy. I never imagined, when we were first talking about it, that it would be the second week in December before she was both home from the hospital and able to swallow candy. She waited a long, long time for that sack of candy. Abby is doing much better now, and I would love to not think about or talk about how much she has gone though in the last couple of months, but I also know that in order for the people who are new to our blog to understand how exciting it is for Abby to be doing better, a brief review is in order. Thank you all so much for decorating our home and making our Christmas special.

Short version: Abby was not tolerating the chemo medication to the point that we thought we were going to lose her. 116


Longer version: In the last few months, Abby has had mucosytis three times (canker sores on her whole digestive tract), she lost 25% of her weight (she was thin to start with), had increased intracranial pressure (up to 4 times normal) from the chemotherapy, had surgery to place a feeding tube in her stomach and to repair a hernia (she had a hernia because of weak muscles and vomiting so much). Her surgeon said that her stomach was paper-thin, because of malnutrition that was caused by the side effects of the chemo. Abby's throat has been swollen since she had surgery three weeks ago. The only thing she could swallow was liquids. It has been a long three weeks. She still gained weight and wasn't hungry because of the feeding tube, but she missed eating. Abby is doing GREAT now, praise God. She has gained almost SIX pounds! She has more energy, needs less sleep, and can eat any any food she wants to. The chemo she is taking is still hard on her body, but she is much stronger than she is normally, during rounds of chemo. We love having our happy, energetic and affectionate daughter back. Thank you so much for praying for Abby and our family. God is so good.

Several months ago my blogger buddies came up with some great ideas for costumes that Abby could wear, that would cover up her beautiful bald head. She loved all of the ideas, but her favorite the bridal gown. She wanted wanted to wear a beautiful dress, so that she could marry Daddy. I love that.

Before Halloween our church had a dress rehearsal for a play, The Chronicles of Narnia, that they were doing during their Fall Festival. Since there wasn't as many people at the rehearsal, Abby was able to go, as long as she wore her mask when she was around groups of people.

Abby with one of her favorite friends, Megan.

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I love Landis's smile.

Abby and Grandmother. I love that you can see she is smiling, even with the mask on.

Landis watching the play. He is scared of people in masks, but he was trying to be brave.

Samrawit had so much fun dressing up. The hat she wore was sent to Abby when she was first diagnosed. My friend Tony, collected the funnest hats, from friends that live all over the country. 118


12/14/2008 6:43:00 PM

It Was Great While It Lasted.... Abby's Back in the Hospital Well, we had a good run of a couple of weeks out of the hospital, but that came to an end tonight. Abby is back in…. She has been throwing up non-stop for several days. With the loop they put around her esophagus, she’s not actually throwing up any contents up, but she is dry heaving every few minutes, and all night long, which is miserable for her (especially) and all of us. She’s been non-stop nauseated for days. While chemo causes a lot of symptoms like this, we suspected something else was going on because this is beyond “normal” for the chemo. They did her blood tests tonight and she has acidosis, another wonderful side effect of all her drug therapy. Acidosis is where the body fluids have too much acid. This can cause all sorts of weird side effects. For Abby, she has been feeling awful, and “throwing up” every few minutes for days. If you can think of how hard it is on your body to throw up once or twice, imagine doing it ten or twenty times a day for several days straight. It doesn’t matter if any contents are expelled from the stomach, it’s still the same physical wear and tear. We’ll keep you posted, but for now, she’s back in the hospital getting blood, blood tests, and the doctors are trying to see what they can do for her.

12/16/2008 9:37:00 AM

Update and Prayer Request Quick prayer request and then more info below. Today especially, your prayers mean the world to us.

Abby with her favorite "boyfriend".

Abby will have CAT scan and spinal tap today. Would you pray that she is calm and that she is not in any pain.? Most children are well sedated for spinal taps, but because Abby has had increased pressure, they can't give her the same medicine as other children. Would you also pray for wisdom for the 119


doctors, and for Brent and I? Abby had a rough day, yesterday. at its highest her temperature was 103.9 (after they gave her Tylenol). She had a rash over most of her body, but her doctors don't know what is causing it. Her eyes aren't focusing well on occasion. She is having more trouble "finding" words (this was bad after the first time that her intracranial pressures went up, but had been getting better). Also, when she smiles, one corner of her mouth goes up and the other stays down. This could be a sign that the fluid pressure is up in her head, mild stroke, that her cancer has relapsed or it could just be some weird side effect of chemo that will resolve on its own. Of that yucky list, I am hoping for weird chemo side effect. We will know more after her spinal tap and CAT scan. Our great news for today is that Abby has gained another 1 1/2 pounds, for a grand total of 6 1/2 pounds! Abby says that she is getting "fatty mcfat, fat". :-) I love that she is getting stronger. Praise God!

calm enough. Her intracranial pressure was 28 and the goal is for it to stay at 7-15, so he drained off some of the spinal fluid. The good thing that came out of all of this is that people are coming together, to try and find a way to help Abby more during the procedures. Please continue to pray for Abby and for wisdom for her doctors and Brent and I. For those of you who have been through this trial, we would welcome any suggestions. Abby and I were both drained Wednesday morning, but by afternoon, she was laughing, dancing and having a ball playing with Samrawit. Tuesday I couldn't write because I was too exhausted, Wednesday I couldn't write during the day, because I was following after an energetic three year old. I loved seeing her play and listening to her laughing. Just when I think I can't handle anymore, God blesses us with a wonderful day. Thursday will be another long, long day. Because of her leftsided facial weakness, her doctor wants to do a very detailed MRI. I will be shocked if they find anything, but it is good that he is being cautious. They will do this under general anesthetic. The hardest part of the day for Abby is going without food before the test. The hardest part for me will be waiting for her to come out of the surgical suite.

12/18/2008 12:14:00 AM

Update, Prayer Request and Make a Wish Thank you so much for praying for Abby and the rest of the family. Tuesday was very hard for Abby, but Wednesday was much better. Abby did great during the CAT scan. She cried for a couple of seconds when I laid her on the gurney, but after that laid still and held my hand tight. We talked about swimming in the ocean, petting dolphins and building castles in the sand. She didn't need any sedation and handled it like the pro she is. They needed her to be perfectly still for the whole test and she did it on the first try. Praise God! Thanks for praying that she wouldn't be scared. Unfortunately, The spinal tap didn't go very well at all. Her doctor and physician's assistant worked hard to sedate her, giving her many times the medicine that she should have needed. She should have been at least very, very sleepy. The doctor kept sending the nurse for more and more medicine. Even after all of that, she was talking, sitting up and coloring. Abby remembers what the spinal taps feel like, so she was scared when we tried to lay her on her side. It broke my heart. After about an hour and a half we got her sedated a little and

Would you pray that the doctor would allow me to carry her back to the room that they will do the MRI in and to hold her in my arms until she is asleep? They have let me do this every time they have done either surgeries on her or MRIs, but it is the doctors decision and some of them say yes and others prefer not. Would you also pray that they are able to sedate her well and that she is safe during the procedure? If we get good results, quickly enough, we will get to go home this Thursday. Obviously I am praying that we will be able to go home after the test. Abby, Samrawit and I miss the rest of our family. The pictures below were taken when Abby's Make a Wish representatives visited her at home a week ago. She knew that she could wish to meet one person at Disney or Universal Studios, but only ONE person. For a couple of days before they came, all she would say is that she wanted to meet Spiderman. Abby doesn't even like Spiderman, but her "baby" brother Landis LOVES ,LOVES, LOVES Spiderman. She kept telling him, "Don't worry Landis, I will get you your Spiderman." We finally got her to say that she would like to meet Little Mermaid too. She is a sweetie.

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Tracy talking to Abby when she brought up her first wish. :-) http://www.riggsfamilyblog.com/2008/10/abbys-wish.html She whispered it so the boys wouldn't hear. :-)

Abby loved being the center of attention.

Abby loved meeting Heather and talking about a wish. Heather and her mom Tracy were very fun to talk to and made Abby feel like a princess. Thanks guys. Heather and Tracy, Abby says thank you for the princess costume. She LOVES wearing it! 121


12/18/2008 10:50:00 PM

Abby is in Love

her friends and getting to meet Santa. Samrawit had never seen Santa before, so even though she was trying to act "cool", she was more excited than Abby.

Abby is HOME!!! Thank you so much for praying for Abby. We will write more tomorrow, but we wanted you to know how God answered your prayers and blessed our family. Abby is so excited to be home. This hospital stay had many stressful moments, but there were also many blessings, too. Abby's favorite moment was when she got a package from Mary Beth. Mary Beth was so sweet to send Abby a beautiful Guatemalan doll. Abby has spent hours looking at her cute toes and fingers, combing her hair and holding her tight. She was so excited to get a doll that looked just like her. https://www2900.ssldomain.com/preciousbabydolls/index.ht ml Sami's gift from Santa.

Samrawit, Santa and Abby

12/20/2008 12:04:00 AM

Abby & Sami Meet Santa (FFF) A couple a weeks ago, Abby and Samrawit went to a Christmas party at the cancer clinic. Abby was very excited that she was able to go to a party with 122


• •

The clown quizzed all of the children as they were standing in line for Santa, asking them what they had done this year that was good. Sami said, "I obey my Mom and Dad." Very true.

That variation is NOT a factor in getting Leukemia... However, if you get Leukemia and you have that variation, you are FOUR TIMES more likely to die during the first year of treatment from complications or relapse.

One effect of this gene variation is increased toxicity from specific drugs. Our doctor is going to help us monitor this particular aspect so that we can keep those complications to a minimum. Our kind Doctor said it was "not a death sentence, but no, not good news". I asked her if that took Abby from her previous 70% chance of survival down to around 20 or 30% and she replied "it's hard to put a number to it..." but did not offer another figure.

12/23/2008 1:24:00 AM

Riggs: important update on Abby - Dec. 23rd...

For the next couple of weeks, Abby is in “interim maintenance” an easier period of chemo, which is kind of laughable if you saw how many drugs and chemo she is still getting. On Jan 16, she begins “delayed intensification” which is the hardest part of her entire treatment. Given today’s news, you can guess how much this 60 day period concerns us since we almost lost her a couple of times already in lesser intensity therapy periods. We are already planning to get some help during those two months of “delayed intensification” because based on history, we will probably be in the hospital the majority of the time dealing with significant complications. Would you:

(For new readers, our daughter, Abby, three years old, adopted from Guatemala, was diagnosed with Leukemia in July this year).

• • •

Please pray for us to have wisdom, strength and health to take care of Abby Put Abby on any prayer lists or groups and prayer for her healing Pray that God will be glorified no matter what the outcome Pray that God will make provision for the increased needs and expenses coming up

We know that God can safeguard Abby no matter what – four times, ten times, a hundred times “more likely…” whatever. God is bigger than genetics, cancer or any other difficulty we face.

We thought Abby maybe had a stroke last week; MRI's were negative; she has recovered from the strange symptoms. Update on Abby... We got a call late last week that our Doctor wanted to consult with us. Never good... Here's the short version about this latest development with Abby: •

8% of the population has a specific genetic variation...

We also know that Abby is in a win/win situation: she wins if we get to keep her here; she wins if she gets to go be with God and wait for us there. However, it goes without saying that we would be unspeakably sad to have to let her go, so we pray for her healing, and ask you to do the same. Looks like Abby gets to be home for Christmas, and that is WONDERFUL. She went to see Christmas lights last night, and will get to see them again tomorrow night. Our wonderful friends, Carol and Scott, are picking up our three little ones in a LIMO and taking them to see Christmas lights! We have 123


received Christmas gifts for the children from Scott’s office and co-workers. Carol and Scott have just been SO kind and generous to us. We are so thankful for them. They have really gone above and beyond to be a blessing to us. We also received Christmas gifts for the kids from our wonderful church family, who also continue to bring us meals and help us however they can. We are truly blessed with incredible friends and Christian family. Our own families of course have done much for us too during this difficult time. We could go on and on about people reaching out to help care for Abby. One particular friend, J.N., knows how deeply grateful we are to him. He’s not about getting public praise, but he has been a life changing blessing to us. If you have any questions, leave a comment, and we will be glad to respond. Thank you for your prayers. We pray that no matter what happens, everyone will see God clearer and be drawn to Him. God hasn’t gone to sleep, He’s not busy somewhere else. He cares for every tiny little re-growing hair on Abby’s head, and every missing hair on my head. Our faith is unshaken, and God has already been more than glorified through our trial. Blessings, Brent (and Michelle) www.brentriggs.com www.riggsfamilyblog.com

(The kids flipped out when they first got in the limo; they couldn’t believe how big the car was and how many windows… This is our three youngest kids, and Scott and Carol Bauman’s three; there are two more Bauman babies behind... The camera, twins, enjoying the ride… Abby is having a good day today and excited to get to go with her friends) To all: Some wonderful friends came by tonight IN A LIMO and picked up Abby, Landis and Sami to go look at Christmas lights… it was really cool. God is so good to us. My wife and I have been discussing this latest very serious news about Abby (read here if you don’t know about it: http://www.brentriggs.com?ItemID=325 ). Typically, we have been REACTIVE to Abby’s complications/hospitalization and it has truthfully taken quite a toll on us in every aspect. Even with all the wonderful kindness people have shown, it seems like it is hard to just get through a day when Abby is having significant problems. th

Starting Jan 16 , Abby enters the hardest 60 to 90 days of her treatment. So… • • • • •

Abby recovered from the weird symptoms and gets to be home for Christmas

12/23/2008 9:18:00 PM

Riggs: Update on Abby...

Given her high risk factors… Given her history with so many complications… Given that we know how much the chemo is going to debilitate her… Given her history of hospitalizations that are pretty predictable at this point… we expect her to be in the hospital most, if not all, of this phase… Given our experience with the logistics of caring for both Abby and our other children…

Given all that, we are going to try to PLAN AHEAD for this period rather than simply reacting. If Abby doesn’t make it, it is more likely to be during this period than any other, especially given the genetic problem that was discovered last week. On the flip side, if she survives this period of treatment and gets into “maintenance” chemotherapy (the long term – 2 years – much lighter, safer treatment mean to keep the cancer from coming back), her prognosis begins brighten. Mostly it involves juggling this reality 124


love. Others who don’t know God are being drawn to Him as they watch the caring sacrifice of our Christian brethren.

Spending as much time with Abby in hospital as possible not only to care for her but because we don’t want to miss out on being with her…

Blessings, Brent (and Michelle) www.brentriggs.com

Juggled with: • • • •

Taking care of the other 4 kids at home, school, church House, laundry, food, mail, banking, trips to the pharmacy Brent’s work Paying bills, paperwork, insurance

12/25/2008 8:42:00 PM

We know that there are a lot of great people that care about Abby. So if you have any suggestions, from your experience or intuition, on how we can better prepare, please let us know. We are appealing to the mass experience and wisdom of all our friends and family to prepare for this next period.

Riggs: Abby is back in the hospital...

One thing we have decided to do for sure, is to hire someone to come to our house every weekday for 4-6 weeks to help with the kids, school, cleaning, laundry, babysitting, etc. We’ve talked about it at length, and see no alternative to this. Otherwise, I (Brent) am lucky to get to see Abby a couple of hours every day or two, and Michelle is all alone at the hospital for days on end. I don’t want Michelle dealing with this alone, and I certainly don’t want to miss what could be the last time I have with Abby. So we will do whatever it takes to hire someone to “nanny” for us for about 6 weeks. For those of you that live locally, if you know of someone who might be interested in this temporary situation (roughly 6 weeks, starting Jan 16; weekdays, probably 8 hours a day, $????/hr, not sure on the wage yet), please let us know. It could be a maybe an older woman, or college age. Maybe a lady with older kids in school, or even a very mature teenage girl experienced with caring for kids and house. If you know someone who might be interested, please let us know. We appreciate your prayers for: • • • •

Wisdom and strength to care for Abby Opportunity to find someone for this “nanny” need God’s provision for financial needs Healing for Abby

Sorry for the long emails. You have been so instrumental in helping us through this trial. Your friendship, encouragement, prayers and practical help have been priceless. We are very sad for those who do not have such a “family” around them during their trials. It is truly a TREASURE. Please include Abby on your prayer lists and groups…

(This picture pretty much sums up things. Abby had a great time opening her gifts, as we all did, But she felt terrible and had fevers all day. About 7pm her fever went way up. She had a sad, soulful look all day, but really did enjoy her presents.) To all: Abby is back in the hospital. We are grateful that God allowed her to be home with us for Christmas Eve and Christmas day. She has a high fever, and has been acting depleted all day. Of course with last week’s news, every hospital visit now becomes a grave concern. We appreciate your kindness and prayers... We count it all joy that during this time, Abby’s situation will allows us to share the real reason for Christmas. Blessings, Brent (and Michelle) www.brentriggs.com

We know that God is watching over us, and we take joy in our trials as we watch so many people displaying their Christian 125


12/26/2008 6:59:00 PM

FFF - Christmas With Abby and Family Abby is still in the hospital, her fever is down, but she is throwing up non-stop. I am very thankful she was able to be home for most of Christmas day. We wanted so much for her to be home to open presents and eat with us. I loved seeing her eyes light up when she saw the gifts under the tree. I treasured every moment with the kids this year, especially Abby. We all know that it will take a miracle for her to be with us next year. We are praying for that miracle, while we make a point to treasure every moment we have with her. It is so hard to face the reality that this may be our last year with her, and still enjoy the time we have. I can honestly say we are doing that very thing, but we need your prayers for strength and wisdom to continue to enjoy the time we have.

Abby and Dane

Samrawit and I (Michelle) are at the hospital with Abby. Most of our pictures are on Brent's camera at home, but I want to share a few of the pictures that I have with me. Thank you all so much for your prayers and encouragement. You are a blessing. Money is tight, because of medical expenses and free time to shop is nonexistent, but our kids had more gifts this year than ever before.

Landis, who is almost 3, loves Spiderman. He does this hilarious and impressive split "Spidey" pose!

Abby, Dane and Sami. The girls love their oldest brother.

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Abby's gift from the Frat boys.

12/27/2008 11:22:00 PM

Christmas Lights Thank you for praying for Abby while she was in the hospital. We got home late last night. Praise God. We are thrilled to be home. Abby was pretty quiet while she was at the hospital, but is now back to her smiling, energetic and happy self. A week ago we were able to take the kids to see some special Christmas lights. The house and yard was covered with thousands of lights and they were synchronized to music. The kids loved the show so much they wanted to see it twice.

12/28/2008 9:14:00 PM

2008 - God's Blessings, A Tribute Video for Abby I (Brent) had the blessing of getting to share with our church family this morning about the many blessings God has showered on us during 2008. As I get older, as I write more, teach more, and hear from readers more, I realize that very often God's greatest blessings come during our times of greatest hardship. I had a few minutes allotted to convey this to our Christian family, and since a picture is worth a thousand words, I thought a video might be worth a million. So I spent a couple of hours putting one together. I hope you'll take a few minutes to view it, then leave a comment for us that we can make part of our family history in the years to come when we look back on this time.

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• • •

12/30/2008 5:51:00 PM

Happy Birthday Abby Abby's 4th Birthday was yesterday. Thanks to a wonderful friend, Toni, she had a very fun party. We are still sorting through the pictures and we'll put up more tomorrow with some details... but we wanted you to get to enjoy how happy she was.

online business parenting relationships

The "mind of Brent" is whatever pops in my silly head.... the others are self explanatory. If you haven't checked out the new interface, or haven't seen my blog at all, I hope you'll take a minute to visit. Blessings, Brent http://www.brentriggs.com/

1/1/2009 3:42:00 PM

Abby - Photo Caption Contest This photo is just TOO TEMPTING to pass up for a caption contest. Leave a comment with your caption suggestion.

12/31/2008 3:31:00 AM

Thank you and thank you again...

We'll choose a "winner", and the prize will be your choice of 1) a copy of the Adoption cookbook, 2) or a copy of Brent's latest book, "Life Without Debt", 3) or a link to your blog or site, or 4) a nice big "thanks, that was fun!"... your choice.

Hey folks, this is Brent. Thanks for all your WONDERFUL feedback on Abby's video. You guys are SO kind and encouraging. Thank you even more for your continued prayers. And thank you again for the gifts and cards to Abby and our family. A lot of people have been asking about my other blog, http://www.brentriggs.com/ so I wanted to drop a quick note about it.

1/3/2009 12:53:00 PM For ease of reading, and your convenience, I recently divided my single blog into SEVEN blogs on specific topics. Here is the list: • • • •

the mind of Brent personal growth money religion

FFF - Favorite Photo of 2008 Sarah at http://kissthefrog4me.blogspot.com/ challenged us to pick our favorite photo of 2008. Impossible really, but fun to 128


try. I picked a picture of Abby, that was taken a couple of months before she was diagnosed with leukemia. She looks so sweet and innocent.

trust each other with their children, two families who love and help each other, and share, and bless... RELATIONSHIP. This picture encapsulates love, life, blessing, happiness and eternity. Do you have the eyes to see it? We are blessed to have several families who we have this kind of relationship with. How about you? No? Are you BEING a friend to anyone? Or just waiting for others to befriend you? Are YOU extending relationship to others, or waiting for someone to act first? RELATIONSHIP involves TWO but begins with us individually... be a friend first, invest your life first, give to others first. That's how you build relationships. RELATIONSHIPS are the only thing we take into eternity. Leave a comment and tell us about your favorite relationships, or even the one you wish you had. It will encourage those who need some new meaningful relationships in their life.

1/4/2009 12:18:00 PM

Landis At A Campout Happiness and Relationships Here's Landis last night in a living room campout with the Meeks children their dog, Ranger. Quick... define happiness... what immediately comes to mind? Is it money? "Stuff"? Getting to do what you want when you want? I dare you to define true happiness outside of RELATIONSHIP. You can't take money with you... you can't take power, leisure or all your stuff. The only thing that lasts, the only the thing that transfers into eternity is RELATIONSHIP, first and foremost your relationship with God (or absence of it). Above is a picture from last night when Landis was at our friends house, the Meeks. This is happiness. This is what matters. No, not just a cute, sentimental "kid pic"... but what it represents: two families who love each other, two families who 129


Landis having a relationship with a plate of Lasagna at the Meeks house.

1/6/2009 11:30:00 PM

More Christmas Fun There are so many things I want to share with you, but have gotten very behind. We have been focusing on spending every available moment with the kids and making memories with Abby. Abby begins the toughest phase of chemo on January 14th. Until then, she gets to have a break from chemo, so she has more energy to be a kid. Many of you are praying for Abby and our time with her. God has truly blessed us with many wonderful times with Abby and she has had so much fun doing things she was to weak to do a few months ago. I can't wait to show you some of the pictures. We are blessed with many friends who have brought joy to our lives. One of our best friends has been so wonderful about visiting us and doing fun things with the kids. Before Christmas she decided to make Christmas shirts with our kids. I love doing craft projects with the kids, but it is difficult for me to organize them, because Abby's immune system is to weak to go in stores or other public places. Toni spent hours of her time buying the supplies needed and the shirts for us to paint. She even helped the kids do a shirt for me, that has Sami, Landis and Abby's hand and footprints on it. We had so much fun making the shirts and I love that I have something with their hand prints on it.

Toni and Samrawit. Toni you are an incredible friend. Thank you so much for everything you are doing for our family.

Landis is always expressive.

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It never takes him long to decide to have fun.

Abby and Sami love to do everything together.

He mostly had fun, but had a few moments were he thought our project was a a little nutty.

Sami was a great sport. She did everything we asked her to with a smile on her face. I love that she is so willing to try new things.

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Abby you are a sweetheart.

Princess Abby was our drama queen for the evening. She loved making the shirts, She couldn't resist the urge to get some attention. It was so much fun to watch her ham it up.

There is the smile I love.

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Landis wearing the final product. I think this is the first picture ever of him being quiet.

1/9/2009 1:45:00 PM

Abby & The Gingerbread Brigade

"I'm kicking cancers butt... do I have to kick yours too?" Thanks Tracey for the great caption.

I love those cute little brown toes.

Abby was so proud of her gingerbread tower.

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The gingerbread house production line. Sami, shy around the camera as usual.

Tay flashes a smile and blue eyes.

Landis goes to town on the icing packets. He was in hog sugar heaven.

Abby was really feeling good and grinned the whole time. We enjoyed having her so upbeat; it was almost like old times. Abby got her spinal fluid drained today. Her pressure was over four times normal which made her feel terrible. Ironically, she'll feel worse for a couple of days because of the procedure, but then she'll feel pretty good... just in time to start the new phase next week. The next phase will be brutal. If she survives, she may have to do it twice. Each phase is 60 TREATMENT days, which might drag out for 90 on the calendar. In the next few days, we'll give you more information, and we are going to spend the time leading up to it really getting the word out and building prayer support for her. It is by far the most dangerous time of her treatment, and the part she is least likely to survive (medically speaking). But we serve a loving God, and whether one person or a million are praying, His WILL be done both in her life and everyone praying for her. The fervent prayers of faithful Christians avail much, so we'll enlist as many people to pray for Abby as we can. YOU are blessing to us, and we appreciate all your kind encouragement and prayers. 134


1/10/2009 1:42:00 PM

Mommy, the Doctor said "Hell"...

We are truly a grateful to all our friends and family who have stood by us during this difficulty. No matter what happens, we trust God, and His will be done. If you have any ideas how we can involve more people in praying for Abby, please leave a comment and let us know.

(Abby slept peacefully after a very rough procedure on Friday that left her in much pain.)

1/11/2009 7:40:00 PM “Hell”… that is the word Abby’s doctor used to describe the 60 days of treatment that starts on Wednesday. As Christians, we cringe a little to compare anything in this life to the real Biblical Hell, but we understand what the Doctor is trying to communicate. This is a life-threatening, miserable time of suffering for Abby. Her smallest chance of survival will come during this phase of chemotherapy, and if she does get through it, she may have to do it twice.

Does It Matter If More People Pray for Abby? Can We Force God to Do What We Want? I was asked today why getting more and more people to pray for Abby does any good. Does a thousand prayers get God moving more than one, or ten? James 5:16 ...the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. In context, this verse follows a series of questions: are you in trouble? Are you happy? Are you sick? Have you sinned? In other words, no matter what the situation: pray, praise, confess, worship. James states plainly:

Over the next few days leading up to her first treatment, we’ll be asking you to consider various ways to prayer, and ways to include more people in Abby’s prayer support. Here are a couple for today: •

Would you remember to pray for Abby on Wednesday, the 14th as she begins this new phase? o Here is a link that will open up a preformatted email you can quickly send to friends and family: http://www.brentriggs.com/abbylink.asp Would you email your friends and family, ask them to: o Pray for Abby o Visit the blog for updates about her: http://www.riggsfamilyblog.com/ o If they are not familiar with her, here is a page about Abby: o http://www.riggsfamilyblog.com/2009/01/aboutabby.html If you know of other prayer groups, walls, chains, lists, websites, etc. would you sign up or include Abby in them?

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. So if the prayer of one is powerful and effective, how much more is ten thousand prayers of the righteous? The answer is obvious but let's be very clear... One prayer from one person is as effective as a million prayers from a million people – the result is not in our hands… we cannot sway God by numbers or coercion. God’s will is done no matter what. We don't pray because WE are tricking God, manipulating God, forcing God or obligating God (despite much today about "spiritual laws" that supposedly obligate God to act...). Praying changes, and benefits us.... and brings joy and glory to God. God's WILL will be done even if no one ever prayed... so our prayer is not a force that gets God doing what we want.

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Abby’s life, if it is to be short, will result in the growing faith, increased unity and blessing of thousands of people who grew spiritually, experienced God and brought others into God’s presence because of it. THAT is why we continue to ask people to tell everyone they know about Abby and ask them to pray. If she dies at fours years old, she will end up having a tremendous impact on great multitude of people’s lives and faith. So each day this week, we will ask and remind everyone we know to please:

Abby was perfectly content today just laying next to her little friend who was visiting...

• •

By asking people to join a prayer effort, we bring God joy as He sees His children care for each other; we demonstrate to the world that we are knit together in love and have concern for those in our Christian family we have never even met; we witness to others who are without faith or weak in faith as the widening prayer circle encompasses those in different phases of spiritual growth (or have none). We follow God’s leading to influence as many people as possible through our trials by asking them to join us and pray, and then by keeping everyone informed of everything God is doing in answer to that prayer. Our faith is built, God's glory is increased. By praying, others become emotionally invested in the situation and share the goodness of God to even more people because they have a tangible story to communicate. We cannot the number of people who have written us to say they were blessed by praying for Abby, that they have grown spiritually because of what they are witnessing in her life (the care for her, God’s goodness to us), and countless stories of “I told someone else and now they have been blessed and their faith has grown…” No, sheer numbers do not coerce God or cause one hair on His fiery head to be even slightly moved. One sincere word from any of His children can move mountains if God responds.

Would you remember to pray for Abby on Wednesday, th the 14 as she begins this new phase? Would you email your friends and family, ask them to: o Pray for Abby o Here is a link that will open up a prewritten email you can quickly send to friends and family: http://www.brentriggsblog.com/abbylink.asp o Visit the blog for updates about her: www.riggsfamilyblog.com o If they are not familiar with her, here is a page about Abby: http://www.riggsfamilyblog.com/2009/01/aboutabby.html • If you know of other prayer groups, walls, chains, lists, websites, etc. would you sign up or include Abby in them?

At this point, there are many thousands of people who are knit together in love, sharing a story of faith and God's blessing because of one little girl. How much joy do you think God Our Father gets because of that? How many lives will be touched, and how much glory would God get if there were tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands praying, watching, praising, proclaiming and testifying to God's love for one precious little child? THAT is why we keeping asking more people to pray....

Being created in God’s image, and being a father myself, I can certainly understand the pleasure it must bring Him to see multitudes of people offer prayers on one little child’s behalf (as a parent, would you not be overjoyed?)… prayers for healing, prayers of thanks, prayers of love, prayers of wanting to see God’s will done. By ever-widening the circle of folks praying for Abby, we everwiden the number of people who now have testimony of God’s goodness and faithfulness which transforms the difficulty and trial we face into a reason to rejoice and praise God. 136


heaven, but know that she will be in a far better place. That's not just poetic rhetoric or a feel-good cliche... we BELIEVE it as sure as we believe anything. We are not asking people to pray to coerce God, but rather to knit together a community with a common point of unity. Imagine the joy of a Father when His children petition Him on behalf of those He considers the MODEL of who will enter the Kingdom: little children. We are overwhelmed, humbled and undeserving of the love, prayers and encouragement we have received... on behalf of Abby, our family is forever grateful and deeply moved by the demonstration of love from people all over our nation, and the world. Please continue to let other people know, share our blog with them, put us on prayer lists, and let us know how we can pray for you. Again: • Abby opened a late Christmas present while dressed all in pink.

Here is a link that will open up a pre-written, preformatted email asking folks to pray for Abby

We have hope and true joy as we move into the "valley of the shadow" because our hope in is God, and His only Son.

1/12/2009 9:12:00 PM

The Valley Begins Wednesday... Would You Pray For Abby and Let Others Know About Her? Tomorrow, Abby starts a phase of her treatment where she is least likely to survive.

How can we be a blessing to you today? Leave us a comment and let us know...

1/14/2009 12:56:00 AM

Tomorrow is Now... The Really Tough Treatment Starts Today

For the past few days, we have been asking everyone to ask everyone they know to join us in praying for Abby, and for God to be glorified through this troublesome journey. We aren't trying to focus on death, or the negative aspects because we feel hopeless... we just wanted to use the four days leading up to this next phase to communicate how serious this time is, and bring people into the prayer group with us. Are you a new visitor? Here is a video I did last night to quickly let you know who Abby is, and where her journey has taken her: As we begin this new phase, we want to emphasize that we TRUST GOD and His will. We would be sad if Abby goes to 137


One new friend wrote that they were spiritually bottomed out before coming across Abby's story. She said that Abby's smile and our story about God's faithfulness reignited her Christianity and she is alive again in her faith. Countless others have told us how Abby is the focus of their children's prayers... what a wonderful, precious treasure to know that children all over are praying on behalf of our child. Still others often comment how amazed they are at OUR faith.... no, it's not our faith.... our faith is weak and prone to falter. It's God's FAITHFULNESS that allows us to have any measure of faith in our lives. We only have faith and hope and joy because of God, and Him alone. If you are amazed, be amazed that God is patient and merciful with our small faith. By the time you read this, Abby will probably be getting pumped full of a scary amount of chemotherapy. We pray for her survival, and her long life that we want to witness. We pray even more though that God's will is known, accepted and praised no matter what the outcome. If you didn't see her latest video, view it here: http://www.brentriggs.com/?ItemID=349&CategoryID=187 We do not live in a vacuum, and do not want to be selfconsumed... how can we pray FOR YOU today? Leave a comment and let us know...

[Pic: Abby had a hard day, throwing up often and crying. And this was her "easy" time... poor kid.] Well, tomorrow is here. We are SO GRATEFUL to everyone for their tireless efforts this week getting people to come over and join in the prayer efforts for Abby. If you didn't see her latest video, view it here: http://www.brentriggs.com/?ItemID=349&CategoryID=187 Special thanks to our MckFriend over at http://www.mycharmingkids.net/ who made a special mention to her audience about Abby. We are indebted to all the kind comments and encouragement that have come from her MckReaders... please check out her blog, you'll love it, I promise. I had already planned to do story on her in the February issue of Serious.Life Magazine.

Abby had a great time playing in the yard today. She stopped for a litte R&R as Dad stealthed in for a pic.

We truly know what it means to have JOY no matter what the circumstance because God, through gathering thousands of praying, encouraging Believers around us, has given us joy. Only God is capable of having a little three year old girl influence so many lives.

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Landis with his best fake smile for the camera...

SpiderLandis on his SpiderTrike...

Abby was often contemplative and "blank" today, a combination of tired, and knowing that tomorrow she was headed back to start more chemo.

Abby was tickled to be out in the sunshine playing with Landis and Sami. 139


past week... the highlight and lowlight... the best and worst. We invite you to post your "hi/low" on your own blog (or leave a comment if you don't have a blog) and use the simple form below (it puts your link in this post) to help us create a wonderful, interesting list of hi/lo's for others to read! Our High from this past week: That's easy... it's the overwhelming response we have seen from people who have visited our blog and told us they were praying for Abby as she started this difficult phase of treatment. It is incredible to watch as people tell people who tell people who tell people about Abby. We are touched everyday with the stories of people who find renewed faith from some contact with our journey. Our Low from this past week: Unfortunately, that's easy too. Yesterday. Abby came home tired and emotional which was predictable. Sadly, it's predictable too that she will hit rock bottom probably by the weekend. She cries easily because of the constant discomfort and uncertainty, but in between those times, she is happy and just looking to have fun like any four year old, although it's very fragile fun. Okay, now its YOUR turn... Here's how you get your link on our blog for Hi/Lo Thursday:

1/15/2009 1:31:00 AM

Abby's Home & Hi/Lo Thursday

[pic: yep, that about sums it up. This was Abby shortly after getting home today.] Here is Abby's latest video if you haven't seen it: http://www.riggsfamilyblog.com/2009/01/about-abby.htmlWe can hardly say "thank you" enough for the thousands of prayers being lifted on her behalf. We have been so encouraged by all the kindness and comments. THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO IS PRAYING AND LETTING PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT ABBY! Dozens of you left prayer requests in our comments, and by email, and as we get time to read those, we'll comment more on them.

•

This post is part of "Hi/Lo Thursday" on Riggs Family Blog (www.riggsfamilyblog.com): •

When she went to bed two nights ago, she told us she was feeling really bad, but couldn't tell us what was "feeling bad". By the time we got to the clinic today, she was very cranky not normal at all. Her doctor checked the pressure in her head when they injected chemo in her spinal column. Her intracranial pressure was 3 times normal. Ouch. No wonder she was cranky. Thank goodness morphine can take away the pain even when she communicate what is going on. Please keep praying for either healing and a solution to this problem. They increased her medication for the pressure. For those who have asked about surgically correcting the problem (VP shunt), it is not an option at this time. The chemo is wiping out her immune system. By the time we got home, Abby was feeling much better. We had a quiet evening, doing craft projects (Abby's new favorite thing) and watching Leap Frog videos. Normally the videos would have driven us batty, but we treasured every moment. Now on to.... Hi/Lo Thursday Hi/Lo Thursday is when we post our "high" and "low" for this

Go to your blog, write your post about "Hi/Lo" Thursday. Begin your blog with the following sentence. Just copy and paste this to begin your post:

After writing your post, use the form below to enter your blog title, and the link to YOUR POST.

That's it! You'll be linked in today's entries and we'll have a fun and inspiring list of "hi/lo's" for everyone to read! We look forward to reading and leaving a comment on your Hi/Lo Thursday post!

Sami loving on her friend, Elliana. 140


1/15/2009 9:11:00 PM

Cryin' Over Bernie Mac... Abby Doing Craps... Funny Things Your Kids Say

Abby with a BIG yawn after a long day.

SpiderLandis and his patented webslinger slide; there's no escaping him when the fingers and tongue are in sync.

SpideyLandis doing his thing, ready to launch off the side of a building onto an unsuspecting villian (victim?) 141


So I'm sitting here working (Brent) and Bernie Mac was on in the background. He had some touching moment with his daughter and I found myself in tears. Over Bernie Mac! ...and I'm stupid enough to tell the whole world. You know something is a little askew in your world when you waterwork over Bernie Mac (and then admit it). That's especially funny for me since I'm always harping on the "sissification" of Western men, but there's a difference between tears that originate from compassion, trauma, trials and joy. That's what God made tears for. For obvious reasons, I'm especially emotional about my own daughter right now.pic right: Abby is talking on the phone with her "boyfriend" Logan, knowing that Daddy is jealous. Abby Doing Craps Not what you think... she's really doing CRAFTS but she cannot pronounce it correctly. Now I know the folks who got offended when I said "buttcrack" in a previous post will probably really get sideways about me typing "craps" on our blog, but it is screamin' funny when you hear her say it. "Mommy, can I color and do craps?"

We are, after all, the house "...where laughter lives." I know my limits, so I won't tell you about how our oldest daughter pronounced FORK when she was two, doing so loudly for the first time in a restaurant. We almost got kicked out because she kept asking for her "FORK" and we couldn't keep from busting a laugh. We're horrible parents, I know.

Abby loves coloring and painting, a daily activity for her.

The boy is just STINKING cute, ain't he? Abby doing cra.... okay, CRAFTS. 142


SpiderLandis is hero by night (when he's in his spidey-jamas) and cagey cracker thief by day. This time he was busted with the loot in a vain attempt to conceal his identity. THE FUNNIEST "CAN'T SAY IT RIGHT" FROM YOUR KIDS

1/16/2009 12:50:00 PM

Abby Is Back In The Hospital Abby is being admitted today. She made it two days after her chemo. Her spinal pressure is shooting up again. She is miserable.

SpideyLandis is having a birthday tomorrow, so we are glad that didn't get cancelled. He'll be webslinging with friends, presents and spidercake. (it's fun when your SpideyDad is a graphic designer...) Thanks for all your kind encouragement and prayers for Abby. If you can leave a spiderwish for Landis in the comments, that would be cool. You have to "spideytalk" though, or SpideyLandis won't understand...

1/17/2009 5:42:00 PM

Spidey Bash!

If you missed that last post below ("Bernie Mac..."), be sure to read it. The post and comments are hilarious, and I don't know about you, but we could use a good laugh. Brent

1/16/2009 10:48:00 PM

Abby Got To Come Home - The Spider Party Is On Like Spider Kong

SpideyLandis loved his SpideyCake! Thanks so much to webfriend Toni for making the cake and bringing decorations.

Abby got to come home late tonight. She had a bunch of fluid drained off her brain, but there was no reason to keep her longer so they let her come home. She feels awful and is throwing up a lot. But we are home. 143


SpideyLandis tries out a new webslinger pose. He saw the picture on the bag behind him, and HAD to practice until he got it right.

SpideyLandis shows off his worldclass webshooting technique.

SpideyLandis cutting up with his spiderrific girlfriend, Bethanie. SpideyLandis with new spideypants and spideyshorts holding a new spideytoy.

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SpideyLandis loved his new spiderunderpants so much, he kissed them over and over again!

Cute baby moment... I caught Susie Grace by surprise with this great shot with Momma, Carol.

Toni Baker... special thanks to her as she has helped us celebrate both Abby and Landis' birthday, making decorations, a cake and fun games!

The Meeks have a beautiful "Abby" too, with proud Dad looking on in the background.

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Carl and Christine came over and talked us all into getting Bunn coffee makers and Garmin watches!

1/17/2009 9:46:00 PM

Heartbreaker: Mommy, Do I Get To Grow Up? Today at Landis' birthday party, Abby had fun in short spurts, but for the most part she's been miserable all day. She basically spent the entire time watching the other kids having fun. After everyone left, she walked up to Michelle and said something that just rips your heart out. "Mommy, am I going to grow up and be big?" Michelle, "Yes, you will get bigger." "Promise Mommy? Do you promise? Really Mommy? Promise me?"

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1/18/2009 11:42:00 PM

Not Me! Princess Pull-ups and Blue Teeth Welcome to Not Me! Monday! This blog carnival was created by MckMama. You can head over to her blog to read what she and everyone else have not been doing this week.

Let me tell you, we absolutely did NOT put SpideyLandis in "Princess Pull-ups" because it's all we could find. And we most certainly did not leave him with instructions of "don't pee on the Princess".

Abby used to say "I want to grow up like Bubba" (her 16 year old brother). Now she just wants to grow up and get bigger. Yes, she knows what she's asking and why it's a question. She's four, and has heard Doctors and adults talk for months about her being sick. When kids are that sick, they instinctively know about death. Ask any parent who has been through it. Would you agree? Leave a comment and let us know what you've experienced or observed...

"Dad! You cannot be serious??? Spiderman cannot wear princess pull-ups! What will the other superheroes think when they see this?" The other thing we couldn't possibly have done is feed everyone BLUE ICING at the Spidey Party knowing it would result in SpideyLandis filling his Princess Pull-up with BLUE, bright blue, spiderman blue POOP. Whew, I'm glad we didn't do that. 147


I (Brent) cannot be accused of hogging out on some incredible pizza with our friends last Tuesday night because everyone knows I'm eating right and exercising consistently.

This week's theme is "things our kids have done" that are either rib-splitting hilarious or embarrassed the stew out of us. Here's a few to kick off the party:

One other thing... there is NO WAY we got tricked by our friends, the Meeks. We were supposed to go to dinner with them, and we had a gift certificate to pay for dinner. They've been wonderful helping with our kids. I told them not to show up if we couldn't pay... show they did NOT show up early, preorder and prepay, fooling me until the very end until I did NOT try to pay for dinner! Oh no, you did NOT do that! For more "Not Me!", be sure to drop by MckMama's blog...

1/19/2009 9:19:00 PM

Laughter Lives Tuesday! Where Once a Week You Can Come to Have Your Heart Lifted by Laughter! laughter lives." That's not a marketing gimmick, it's the truth. Our home is filled with laughter and humor constantly. It really is an identifying trait of our life, my writing and our family. Last week, I posted "Cryin' Over Bernie Mac... Abby Doing Craps... Funny Things Your Kids Say" and asked you guys to leave a comment with your "funny things kids say". We were flooded with emails about how enjoyable that post was. It was so funny and so popular, I had way more than enough content (even after removing the stories about INNOCENT but not very nice words) to create a new book. It is going to be ready to print next week. (everyone who is included gets their screen name and blog address published...) Because that brought so much laughter and joy to people, we thought it would become the perfect theme for us to do every week. We all have funny "stuff" about our families and kids, and we could all use a GOOD LAUGH every week during our busy and often hard lives. Proverbs 17:22 A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones. Each week, we'll introduce a theme, and write our "Laughter Lives" post, and then it's YOUR turn. Together we should be able to cheer up a LOT of people each week, and provide a respite of joy and laughter for a lot of hurting hearts!

Landis Changes His Mind Landis, two years old, was sitting at the table in the kitchen while I (Brent) was cooking dinner. I was talking about something to Garrett (16 year old brother), and Landis bellows out a command in our direction: “I said BE quiet!�

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I looked over at him with my best “oh no you didn’t” mad Drill Sargeant look, and asked him: “WHAT did you say???”

Out of 500 hundred people busting a gut laughing, there were only TWO who were not. Can you guess which two people were NOT laughing?

Landis with a completely changed tone and demeanor, sheepishly informed me, “I said, I sowwry”.

Sami Learns English

[pic: Landis gets busted trying to low crawl away with his illgotten tootsie roll.]

Sami is 10 years old from Ethiopia and is just learning English. The other day I was pestering her and teasingly said "get over here so I can whomp your fanny..." to which she replied, "You can whip yo' momma's fanny!" Ah, America... where kids learn "yo mama" before they even learn proper English.

Garret Does Fireballs Okay, he's going to kill me for telling you this one, but we have laughed over it for years. A few years ago, he's 16 now, Garrett came into possession of a entire bag of Atomic Fireballs. All was well that Friday evening as we went to bed, and left him to enjoy a movie and his fireballs in the living room.

Weenie, Weenie, Weenie

The next morning, I walk down the hall, and I was immediately puzzled to find several "half consumed" fireballs on the floor. Then I go into the bathroom, and there are several more on the sink, and a bunch in the bathtub... all HALF eaten, sucked on, consumed... whatever. Sticky, half-gone-atomic-fireballs. So I trek off to the living room to find him, and there are about 20 more fireballs on the living room floor here and there. When I asked him "WHY????" he had absolutely no explanation, just that he loved fireballs. He genuinely had no good reason why he would suck on one for a little bit, then just discard it whereever he was. Not put in the trash, not in one pile, just randomly, all over the house, wherever he happened to be. Bizarre!!

Like any family, we have some words that our kids will try out, and then we tell them “we don’t say that word.” Like any family, we have kids who figure out ways to beat the system. Even kids with cancer are still kids. Abby decided the other day to declare to all of us that “Landis has a weenie”, which of course he does, and which of course we already knew. But “weenie” is obviously one of those “hee, hee… snicker, snicker” words for a three year old. We laughed the first time she said it, and that just spurred her to greater heights. So I had to tell her, “Abby, don’t say weenie. That’s enough, don’t say it again.” Not to be deterred, she now obediently informs us: “We can’t say weenie. Daddy said don’t say weenie. I don’t say weenie. Weenie is not a word we can say. So I don’t say weenie anymore.”

All of us, even him, still get a roaring laugh out of remembering that scene even now. It was even more funny because he simply had no answer or reason why he did it. It just "was".

So as you can see, Abby no longer says “weenie”.

My Brothers Kid We are sitting it the back of a big church one Sunday. My older brother and his family were up in the second row with their children. The Preacher is a-preachin' away. Their five year old girl gets up, leaves the auditorium to go to the bathroom or something. When she comes back in, she starts tip-toeing down the aisle, stealth mode, slowly sneaking up to the front row. This was a 100 ft of aisle, and everyone she passes can hardly keep from laughing, and the Preacher is now sneaking curious glances her way, trying to act like nothing is happening. She gets all the way down the aisle to the 2nd row, creeps up behind her Daddy, and yells "BOO!!!!!!" at the top of her lungs. The whole church erupted in a roar, even the Preacher had to simply stop, laugh, and acknowledge the obvious. I bet God even got a laugh out of that one! Blessed are the children... 149


1/20/2009 10:48:00 PM

hold her while she sleeps. I wish she had more energy, but I love being able to comfort her.

Something for YOU... And Proud of Abby But Heartbroken This pic was taken by our friend Amy when Abby got to accompany Mom on a rare visit away from home. Update on Abby (From Michelle...) For those of you who didn't know Abby before she got leukemia, she was a very normal three year old. She was a smart, independent and very capable young lady. She let me help her when she wanted some attention from Mommy, but didn't NEED my help very often. She had better table manners than our teenagers!

Abby sleeps alot, and is pretty weak. She throws up constantly. A week into her toughest phase of treatment, Abby is really weak, constantly shakes and is very nauseated. She has thrown up almost 30 times in one day. Her doctors increased one of her medications, and it seems to be helping, but it will be a few more days, before we know for sure. Tomorrow at clinic, I am going to talk to them again about how hard this is for Abby. I would love it if they would try to find a better way to help her. The increased pressure in her head seems better but since they drained off the excess spinal fluid on Friday, it will take a little longer before we know for sure if it is going to stay better.

Because of the side effects of the chemo, she is now a much different girl. Sunday, when eating at a friends home, Abby wanted to sit at the kid's table with her friends. After most of her friends were finished and off playing, I sat beside her and offered to help her. Most of her food was still on her plate. When she was spooning her rice, her hand was shaking so badly it was falling off of the spoon. In the end, she asked me to feed her, so she could finish and play with her friends.

As bad as all of that sounds, she is really handling the chemo much better than we and her doctors thought she would. Praise God. Here is what I am praying for.Would you join me in praying for Abby? • • •

Today, she wanted to dress herself. What normal 4 year old girl doesn't? I let her try, but she shakes so badly, (especially while standing) you can see her tremble from 10 yards away. Watching her try to balance on one foot, so she could pull on a pants leg looked like an impossible task, but she stuck it out and did it by herself. I am so proud of her for working hard to be a big girl, but it makes me sad that it is SO difficult for her. Most days, she plows ahead with a smile on her face, having fun even though it takes her considerably more effort than it should.

• • • • •

I love her spirit and determination to do the things she wants to do. I also enjoy the times when she is tired and wants me to 150

I thank God she is alive today. I thank God she is home, surrounded by people who love her. I thank God so many people are praying for Abby and asking others to pray as well. I thank God so many wonderful people are encouraging use and helping us care for Abby and our other children. I pray she she remains cancer-free and that she is protected from any permanent damage from the chemo. I pray God shields her from any nausea and pain. I pray God protects her from infections and illnesses, for her safety, but also because I love her being home, instead of in the hospital. I pray for wisdom for the doctors and Brent and I, as we decide what chemo to give her and how to treat the increased intracranial pressure.


• •

I pray Brent and I have the strength, energy and wisdom, to make the most of the time we have with our children. We pray for the wisdom to deal with all the details, responsibilities and expenses.

Thank you all so much for standing beside us, encouraging us, asking others to pray, and praying for our family. I can't imagine walking down this road without you.

1/21/2009 9:44:00 PM

Abby, Spidey, Sami Sami is so pretty. What you don't know, is that her hair was crazy messy so I had to promise to crop it out. Sami is so sweet to Abby. She sat and made balloon art for her all night, and then Abby, never shy around the camera, had to pose for us and get into the photo shoot. We are so blessed in our family. We rejoice every day for EVERY memory. Even the tough times are to be cherished and embraced. It is our sacrifices for each other, and our shared hardships that go a long ways towards bonding our lives together. Hey, if you want some quick, fun, random updates about Abby and our family, follow me on Twitter. It's pretty fun... go to http://www.twitter.com/ and my Twitter name is Brent_Riggs (there is a "brentriggs", but that's not me.)

1/22/2009 10:15:00 AM Abby loved the balloons Sami made for her; SpideyLandis was not about to be ignored. Abby had chemo today and has been up and down. She rollercoasters from miserable to almost not miserable. Nice choices, huh? But, she's still a kid. Tonight she didn't want to go to bed, so she kept saying her tummy hurt, she needed to go to the bathroom, and even "threw up". One big problem though... she was faking all of it. And you wouldn't believe the performance... Oscar worthy. Kids are kids no matter what they are going through! We continue to be encouraged by everyone's kind comments and notes. We are so blessed to have so many people caring about us, keeping up with things, and loving our whole family, not just Abby. I (Brent) was shooting some pics tonight because SpideyLandis wanted to show off his mask and websling out the window of the playhouse. That boy is a HOOT!

Hi/Lo Thursday... Parties and Potties Welcome to Hi/Lo Thursday, our regular feature where we all share our high and our low for the week. WHY? Because people get to know each other better when they see both ends of the spectrum. What things do we consider our happiest events and moments? What struggles and trials are the lowest point of our life? You become much more attached to people when you share the times that are the most emotionally embedded. Our High This Week: We could name several, like Abby being home and not in the 151


hospital but we have to give the nod to SpiderParty. SpideyLandis turned three and last Saturday we had a great party for him, with several of our good friends over to celebrate. You can check out some great pics here if you missed them. SpideyLandis got some really great spideytoys and we have been enjoying him webslinging all over the house this past week. He is never shy of posing for the camera, and rarely breaks character! He is SpideyLandis pretty much all day, every day. Our Low This Week: I said "potty" because that is the object in question and involved both SpideyLandis and Abby.

Another even lower predictably involves Abby. She is in the bathroom about 20 times a day with tummy problems on both ends. Every day. She throws up 10-20 times A DAY, and goes to the bathroom probably a dozen times or more. It's a REALLY low point for us. She's so miserable.

1/23/2009 10:44:00 AM

Abby Has A Message For You Abby wanted to let you know how she feels about the prayers, cards, comments, encouragement and gifts she has received from all of you:

SpideyLandis cannot be convinced that real superheroes use the potty instead of "using the Pullup" if you know what I mean. He has absolutely NO interest in being potty trained. We have tried every angle from shameless bribery to appealing to his spidey-ego (Spiderman doesn't poop his pants...) to trips to the woodshed. But nothing works. Any suggestions?

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Then she cries from the intensity of throwing up so many times...

Any questions? Then she drifts back off into a fatigued slumber...

1/23/2009 2:57:00 PM

Abby Is Having a Very Hard Day Abby is having a miserable day (week, actually). She is throwing up every few minutes, over and over. She's been throwing up 20-30 times a day. It is physically exhausting and very rough on her. I'd say it's hard on me and her mom too, but our discomfort is irrelevant compared to hers. I hated taking a picture of her, but I had my camera next to her when she woke up all of a sudden. She wakes up from a restless, whimpering sleep, knowing what it is about to happen...

She is really having it rough this week. We have a call into the doctors because even with everything she is going through, throwing up 30 times in one day seems like it is more than expected. Thank you for your prayers. 153


1/23/2009 10:10:00 PM

Mr. Johnny Comes AKnockin'

so I launch from my perch, and get to the front door as quick as one can "get" from that porcelain position. I answered the door to find out (you know where this is going, don't you?)... Mr. Johnny got Channel Five finally and didn't need my help. So Mr. Johnny got his TV tuned in; our son got his ride to school and I was left searching in vain for a bottle of Grandpa's old cough medicine. (not really, I was just trying to be funny... about the ride to school.) It was SO aggravating that it finally disintegrated into "funny". Have you ever had a situation that was so outrageously annoying, interuptive, chaotic or frustrating that you ended up only being able to laugh about it? Leave us a comment with your s0-aggravating-you-can-onlylaugh-about-it story. I need a good chuckle right now after the day I had...

1/24/2009 7:32:00 PM

It was an extremely frustrating night last night. Abby was up and down until about 4am throwing up and needing to go to the bathroom. Anyone who has ever slept in :30 minute or 1 hour increments, waking up over and over, knows how draining it is. We had finally fallen asleep, and our dear 80 year old neighbor (the best neighbor you could ever ask for) came pounding on the front door about 8am. For a frail fella, he can knock LOUD. I get up, half awake, and answer the door to find that Mr. Johnny couldn't get his new-fangled flat screen TV "to go over to channel 5". So I told him I would be over to help him later, and returned to bed for a few minutes of desperate sleep. About 60 seconds after I fall asleep, one of our teenage boys bangs on our bedroom door, and comes walking on in! "Get... out... of... here!", I grumble knowing full well that HE knows full well he's not to simply come prancing in our bedroom when we are in bed - not to mention the fact my mood was already plummeting faster than Britney Spears reputation. So I stumble out of bed, and go to the bathroom. No sooner than I had sat down, and someone is banging on the front door again and I'm sure this time that they are going to wake up the kids and Michelle - probably one of my teenager's friends on the way to school. Our bathroom window gives view to the front door, so I peaked out the window. It was Mr. Johnny on a return visit. What was it this time? His refrigerator door leaking ice and water out the front again? Johnny knocks a second time, even louder. Then a third... fourth and fifth pounding, with increasing conviction each time. Giving up on the door, Mr. Johnny turns and I figured he was giving up. Wrong. He goes over to the front living room window and begins rapping on the glass! Everyone else, including Abby, is still sound asleep,

Abby's Saturday: I Hope You Dance Abby's friends, Kya Blu and Kristen came over to visit today. So did MeeMaw and PawPaw. Between bouts of throwing up and falling asleep, Abby managed to have a good time playing, coloring and having a "dance party" with Sami and the other girls (and SpideyLandis got in on the action too.) It was hard to watch Abby having such a difficult time for most of the day, but it was priceless to see Abby have some fun and get to be with her friends.

Kristen, Kya Blu & Sami ham it up on the top bunk. Arent' they all beautiful!

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Abby is wearing one of her ponytails that YOU got her. A large group of readers got together and raise the money for ponytails and wigs when Abby got sick. We already received one wig but it just didn't look natural on her. We figured out after that first one how to get the hair color, thickness and length correct. We have another full wig on order and it should be here soon. Abby loves her ponytails and has several she wears under hats and scarves. She's very comfortable with her "bald like Daddy" head, but loves to have hair once in a while too.

Sami with Kya Blu.

Big brother Dane, 21, targets some bad guys with his little webslinging partner, SpideyLandis.

Abby flashes a pretty smile showing off her ponytail. 155


SpideyLandis assumes his trademark pose while fully robed in his webgear. When he takes it off, he immediately reminds you his name is Peter Parker, not Landis.

Kya Blu got to enjoy her very FIRST piece of bubble gum. Getting her to NOT swallow it proved fruitless.

MeeMaw loves on Abby who was not feeling good at all for most of her grandparents visit which you can see in the somewhat strained smile.

PawPaw and Peter Parker ham it up for the camera.

You would not BELIEVE how much I had to beg to get my bride to let me post these pics. This was her version of trying to ignore me while I was snapping off shots. She thinks she takes terrible pictures and most of the time I have no luck getting her to sign off on the release form. Ain't she perty? Kyla Blu and her Mom, Candy, show off Abby's "Jasmine" costume.

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Abby didn't feel well (that's an understatement) for much of the day. Here she gets some love and comfort from Kristen's Mom, Phyllis.

Abby, showing off one of her ponytails. Michelle and I were so blessed to have friends from all over the Internet, including Phyllis and Candy, get together and raise money for her hair pieces.

A normal day for us, Abby had to stop frequently and get medicine into her feeding tube port. She just takes it in stride and accepts it as part of life.

Kristen is a GREAT dancer... she was spinning, lip-syncing and having a great time leading the dance party.

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Abby dancing with Kristen. Sami, Landis, Kyla and even Candy were all in the room showing off their best moves. Matt 19:14 - Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." You know why the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like the children? Because children can have cancer, be in agony, throw up 30 times a day, barely able to walk, need morphine just to keep from crying... and still give hugs, say 'I love you', dance with her friends, smile, be thankful and never once complain. As I was writing this, Abby got a bloody nose out of the blue. Not sure what that means medically yet, probably low platelets. But it's a good example of how to turn any scene into a fun pic. She had the toilet paper in her nose to stop the bleeding, so of course, Dad had to have some too. I hollered for Mom to grab that camera, and a few minutes later - presto - pic for the blog.

Then we grow up... and moan about unfairness, express discontent about what we don't have, murmur and grump over every discomfort, say 'I love you' only when we feel like it is deserved, forget to be thankful and of course, we are WAY too embarrassed to dance, showing our love for just being alive. People often ask why we are so public about Abby's journey... do you still need to know? How many lives can a four year old influence as a living example of Jesus words: "Let the little children come to me... for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Leave a comment with your gripe, complaint or murmur. We'll send you a picture of Abby.

1/25/2009 8:10:00 AM

Photography & Nausea

While some of it is professional equipment, software and years of image editing experience, there are a LOT of great tricks/techniques and free software I could show you. There are a set of basic of guidelines, easy techniques, cheapto-free software and simple demonstrations that I can teach anyone, no matter what your experience, or what camera you have (from a decent pocket digital to a professional camera). You can learn to create the same quality images I have on my sites or in the magazine (http://www.seriouslifemagazine.com/). Would you be interested in a FREE ebook or demonstration on this?

How 'bout Them Pics? I routinely have people ask about the photos I put on our blog. What camera? What tricks I use? What software automatically gives the color, depth, pizzazz and "pop"? (automatically? I wish)

I need to gauge the interest level (I don't want to spend time on something nobody wants). If YES, you are interested, leave your email on the form below, and I'll shoot you a quick reply if I have questions, need to clarify something, or to let you know when it is ready (again, it will be a FREE item; just wanted you to know that so you don't think you are signing up to buy something). By the way, we NEVER share your email with anyone, EVER. Period. Ad Nauseum As you know, Abby is REALLY suffering from nausea. She throws up 20 or 30 times a day, literally. It is fatiguing and miserable for her. We received a few tips on nausea relief, and want to ask everyone specifically: WHAT ARE YOUR IDEAS, TIPS, 158


HOME REMEDIES, EXPERIENCE OR ADVICE ABOUT NAUSEA? The chemo is going to make her nauseated, can't get around that. But we do have the blessed opportunity to ask tens of thousands of people for advice about it. Would you leave us a comment about this? We are hoping to find something that will give her some relief...

1/26/2009 12:59:00 PM

Abby & Ice Storm The doctors have become very alarmed at the amount of throwing up Abby is doing. They want to see her immediately. Despite the fact that we are currently in an ice storm, we have to take Abby to the hospital. We are on the way now... Please pray for God to protect us from accidents on the ice, both driving and walking. It is treacherous outside. Will keep you posted.

1/26/2009 6:00:00 PM

Update - Abby & The Ice Storm The ice storm continues. For those of you who have never dealt with ice, it's not like anything else. The whole world comes to a screeching halt. In snow, you can get traction. Not ice. The roads will be abandoned after the sun goes down, and probably all day tomorrow. Ice accumulates on trees and power lines causing them to snap and break. It gets in the fans of your heat pump and compressor and freezes them up. Doors and lids are welded shut. It is paralyzing but incredibly beautiful. It's too late to get any shots of today's storm, but here are some from out last one:

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Told ya... beautiful, amazing, wondrous. But don't let it fool you. Ice storms are dangerous and thankfully, don't happen very often. Here in Oklahoma, we are in just the right place for them... much farther north, and it's usually snow; farther south, rain. Update on Abby Before the ice started to stick, Abby made it to a local clinic to get her blood work done. By the time Michelle got half way to Children's hospital (about 40 miles), they had decided to close the clinic/doctor's-office where she was headed and they had to do a Louie back to Norman. She ended up going to a minor emergency center in Norman to get Abby's blood drawn. They determined she needs a transfusion but there's no way to get her to the hospital until tomorrow at the earliest, if the ice melts. Michelle's mother lives a couple miles from the minor emergency they ended up at, so she and the kids inched their way over there to spend the night tonight.

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Abby needs to get blood soon. She is in metabolic acidosis, which means her body acid is TOO LOW. That, the chemo, and her spinal fluid pressure (probably rising again) are most likely conspiring to keep her throwing up every 10-15 minutes.

you." I Lub You Daddy

We would appreciate your prayers for Abby's health, for the ice to melt quickly tomorrow, and for safe travel in the nasty weather.

Abby, sweet little thing, will walk up to us out of the blue, hug your leg and say with great conviction, "I... lub... you... Daddy". When she says that, she is hugging your leg, laying her head on you, and it comes out like a great big sigh, as if she is very tired and now finally everything is okay. It is so sweet.

Enjoy the "ice" pictures. It is truly magnificent - the kind of wonders God designed (not "evolution") for us to both enjoy, and to stand in respectful awe of.

'Cause I'm a Stinky Little Kid

Tomorrow is "Laughter Lives Tuesday". Our theme this week is "Funny, Cute & Endearing Ways We Say I Love You". I hope you're going to participate... it's been REALLY fun!

1/26/2009 8:06:00 PM

Updated Update on the Update... Even with the ice storm, Abby is sick enough she had to go to the hospital anyway.

We have this thing with the two babies (Abby and Landis) where we hug them and say "I love you so much. I love you too much. Do you know why I love you too much?" To this, they reply: "Because I'm a stinky little kid." Don't ask me how or why this came about, I don't remember but it's what we do. Other people hear it and either think its funny, or sweet (or weird!). Sign Language My wife and I taught our kids sign language when they were a few months old to help them learn to communicate. They could say "please", "more" and other simple words even before they could speak. It was really cute, and helpful.

So Abby, Michelle and our friend Toni are making their way there now. The roads aren't too bad right now because rush hour melted them off, but I'm really concerned about them if they try to send her home in the middle of the night (after getting blood) rather than admitting her.

Michelle and I often respond "I love you more..." when the other says "I love you". Because we were teaching the kids sign language for "more", the "more" sign became our secret way to say "I love you" and it meant, "I love you more". We could say "I love you more" across the room, or driving away using our little sign.

We live out in the sticks and I can't even get out of the driveway.

That's right, I'm a sap. Don't tell any of my ex-Drill Sargeant buddies.

This is nerve-racking... Brent

1/27/2009 3:29:00 AM

1/28/2009 11:05:00 AM

Abby Going Back to Hospital

Abby Update... Laughter Lives Tuesday This weeks theme is going to be both funny and sweet. I look forward to enjoying the posts you write, and also learning from them. We can always use more creative ways to say "I love 162


through with Abby is so hard, SO BIG, most people aren't sharing requests with us as much they used to. I really miss praying for things that are on the hearts of others. I love to pray for both "big" and "small" things. Seeing God bless us by taking care of those little details is a beautiful reminder to me of how much He loves us and how He is watching over us.

Abby is throwing up blood this morning. We are taking her back to the hospital. Please pray it is something minor. Pray for wisdom for the doctors. ~

1/28/2009 12:44:00 PM

Pray For Me... Pray For Others...

One example of this in my life was yesterday when I was instructed by Abby's doctor to bring her in for a blood transfusion, during an ice storm. Abby needed to get to the hospital, but Brent was home with the other children and I was with Abby, 20 miles away, at a doctor's office. With the sun going down, the roads were refreezing. Oklahomans get few opportunities to drive on ice, so I was out of practice and everyone else driving was out of practice too. Many of you prayed that God would keep us safe while we were driving and He did. Praise God. But what you didn't know was how He provided for us. One of my best friends, Toni, called to check on us, and when she heard what was going on, she offered to drive us to the hospital, stay with us during the transfusion (usually 6-8 hours) and drive us home. Toni moved to Oklahoma a couple of years ago, from Alaska. So we not we not only got to spend some time with one of our favorite people, we were driven by someone who cut her teeth driving on snow and ice. While Abby was getting the transfusion, Toni read stories to Abby, colored with her and made her feel like a princess. Once Abby was asleep, Toni and I were able to talk. A rare treat when you have a house full of little people. An night that we could have just endured, turned into a blessing. Thank you Toni. You are the best. Don't you love how God takes care of those little details, too? Would you let us pray for you? I would love to hear what is on your heart and to pray for each of you.

When Landis prays... he really prays. He is like a little preacher and at times it is almost impossible to keep from laughing. He goes on and on with original petitions every night. From Michelle: Even before Abby became sick, prayer was one of the most important things in my life. I took the Bible's admonition to pray without ceasing literally and ran with it. While I can be quiet in social settings, it is natural to me to keep a running dialog with God, as I go through my day. Life goes so much better when I am focused on serving God and on praying for OTHERS.

My incredibly talented husband is setting things up so that it will be easy to read everyone's requests, in list form, but so you can also link your blog to ours, so that you can leave more details for us to read and hopefully some pictures too. Thank you again for praying for our family. I hope you will allow us to pray for you, too.

1/28/2009 4:25:00 PM

Abby Update

I love that people are praying for Abby. You are such a blessing to Abby and our family. But, because what we are going 163


Abby is getting chemo. They aren't sure what is causing the bleeding and they cannot scope her because her blood counts are too low. We suspect is it caused by internal sores that come from the chemo. After her chemo, she'll come home this evening, and we'll keep an eye on her. It has been a stressful few days and we are overwhelmed by all the prayers and kind encouragement from everyone. We will keep you updated. Do you have any questions about Abby? If yes, leave a comment, and we'll answer.

1/29/2009 12:56:00 AM

Hi/Lo Thursday: Prayer List... Peter Parker... Abby Update It's Hi/Lo Thursday where we get to know each other by sharing our HIGH and our LOW for the week. What a great way to really find out something about each other. Our HIGHS: (from Brent) Prayer List There was a great response to Pray for Me... Pray for Others. I'm sure over time this will become a huge community of prayer each Wednesday.

SpideyLandis gives love to his new spideythrone. One great idea was to have Spiderman call him and congratulate SpideyLandis (Scott B? Are you listening? You know you're the man for this job!). So after a few more days of success we'll have Spiderman call his spideysidekick and give him a personal thumbs up. In the meantime, here's SpideyLandis LIVE tell you all about it: Our LOWS: (from Michelle) Predictably, our lows have to do with Abby being sick. We don't want people to think we focus on, or unnecessarily linger on the negative about her. There are tremendous trials the come with her Leukemia and we try to transparently share the whole reality even though that is considered a "negative confession" by some of our friends (and yes, they are still our friends; we can disagree and still love each other).

Did you check back a couple of times to see new entries today? Did you pray for any of them? Peter Parker SpideyLandis is a hoot. He is well on his way to being potty trained, thanks to some of your GREAT ideas. He is enamored with his spidey-drawers and says he "poops on the potty like Peter Parker!".

Abby gets some blue gatorade from Mom into her feeding tube with medicine that raises her acid level. This is supposed to help with her nausea. Abby's Throwing Up

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Thank you so much for praying for Abby and for allowing us to pray for you. I love getting to know you and having the opportunity to pray for you. The doctors best guess for the blood Abby was throwing up yesterday is a tear in her esophagus, caused by the vomiting. It breaks my heart. They can't run tests to confirm it since she is so weak from the tough chemo, but they are giving her with medication to help it. Thanks to your suggestions and prayers, Abby is throwing up less than she was before. At the worst, she was getting sick 30 times a day, now it is less than 15. Still not good, but at least better. Before we asked for your suggestions, we were already giving her Zofran every 6 hours and Phenegran every 4 hours, around the clock. Those help, but she was still very sick. We are have been trying your suggestion, and many seem to be helping. Of the ones we have tried, sniffing rubbing alcohol, Emetrol and cokes seem to be helping the most. The alcohol trick surprised me, but it really helps break the cycle, when she is getting sick. We are trying more of your suggestions every day trying to find a combination that works. Thank you so much for taking the time to give us your suggestions. Abby has been admitted to the hospital 17 times, since she was diagnosed on July 11, 08. We appreciate her doctors making an effort to keep her home as much as possible.

1/30/2009 6:47:00 PM

Early Pics of Abby & Landis... Picture Caption Contest...

Big Sis, Jordan with Abby.

Folks who are new to the site ask occassionally about pics of them when they were younger right before or after we adopted them. Here's a few for your viewing pleasure....

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Abby and her trademark grin.

Abby was so curious and cute at that age.

Abby with her foster Dad in Guatemala.

Abby and Mom at Guatemala Day.

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Abby & Landis with Mom and Abby's foster family in Guatemala.

A beautiful lake in the mountains near Landis' orphanage.

The first day Abby and Landis were together.

A picture of Landis before we saw him for the first time.

Our first visit with Landis, at a restaurant in Guatemala.

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Future SpideyLandis with Dad in the orphanage where we first held him. Mom adoring Landis seconds after seeing him the first time. Here is MY (Brent) personal favorite picture of Mom and Abby:

Mom with Abby and Landis within minutes of seeing Landis for the first time.

And finally, one that BEGS for a caption... can you help us figure one out? Abby holdling Landis at the orphanage where she became the "big sister" and not "the baby" anymore.

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Go ahead, make fun of me. I give you permission. Have fun. Leave a comment with your caption suggestion... we'll choose a winner and rustle up a prize.

that they suspected were causing her stomach problems. There is now no doubt they were the cause. The medicines they discontinued were to control her increased intracranial pressure (spine and brain). When the pressure goes up she gets migraines. If the pressure is too high, too long it can damage her eyes and brain. Abby is having headaches today. We are taking her to get blood work done. The headaches are most likely because of her spinal fluid pressure. Since they've taken her off the medicines that kept the spinal pressure under control, the only alternative is to have them stick a needle in her spine and drain off fluid. It's pick your poison right now (no pun intended since chemo is pure poison): either high spinal pressure and frequent spinal drains, or medicine that makes you throw up constantly. How would you like to have that choice?

2/2/2009 12:56:00 PM

2/3/2009 1:01:00 AM

Abby Daily Update: Headaches

Laughter Lives Tuesday: Funny Things That Happened At...

Abby has had a rough couple of weeks. I won't gross you out with the details, but lets just say her "stomach" problems included more than end of her body. For those of you who have adopted internationally, I even got to collect "samples" again. ;-0

We are getting some FANTASTIC comments about it, and in the first day out, over 7000 people viewed it. It has some great stuff, and thanks to all you blogger friends who helped promote it. We look forward to figuring out more ways to get you involved, and get people seeing YOU in the magazine. If you have ideas for stories, or want to submit content, contact me (brent@brentriggs.com) Laughter Lives Tuesday: Funny Things That Happened At... Church, weddings, funeral, anniversary... any family event. This should be a LOT of fun, kinda of like "America's Funniest Home Videos" in story form. Looking back, I wish I would have written down every funny thing that's ever happened to us. What incredible joy and stress relief it would be to have those memories at hand whenever you want.

The great news is: she has now gone over 24 hours without vomiting or having diarrhea. Now that she isn't nauseated she is eating like a pig (her words). She ate more last night than she has eaten in the last 2 weeks combined (literally). We are praising God her stomach problems are better and that she is eating.

Oh well, we can always start today! I've got several "it happened at church" stories, so here we go: My Brothers Kid Okay, I know I shared this once before, but it fits so perfectly today, that I have to do it again.

The not so good news is: they took her off of two medicines 169


We are sitting it the back of a big church one Sunday. My older brother and his family were up in the second row with their children. The Preacher is a-preachin' away. Their five year old girl gets up, leaves the auditorium to go to the bathroom or something. When she comes back in, she starts tip-toeing down the aisle, stealth mode, slowly sneaking up to the front row. This was a 100 ft of aisle, and everyone she passes can hardly keep from laughing, and the Preacher is now sneaking curious glances her way, trying to act like nothing is happening. She gets all the way down the aisle to the 2nd row, creeps up behind her Daddy, and yells "BOO!!!!!!" at the top of her lungs. The whole church erupted in a roar, even the Preacher had to simply stop, laugh, and acknowledge the obvious. I bet God even got a laugh out of that one! Blessed are the children... Out of 500 hundred people busting a gut laughing, there were only TWO who were not. Can you guess which two people were NOT laughing?

Sally straight-jackets Kalie and marches her out, Greg keeps on preaching and never skips a beat although he had that "I know that was hilarious but I'm going to prove I can keep going" twinkle in his eye. Everyone else was snickering and snorting and probably didn't hear much of the sermon after that. Kalie probably didn't hear much of anything either after Sally got her out of ear shot. You Coulda Said Something I was getting ready to teach one morning and scurrying around the church getting stuff ready. I'm about to wet my pants, so I hustle down the hall towards the restroom. I say "hi" to a couple of ladies standing outside the bathroom door as I go in. I must have been in a REALLY big hurry not to notice the flowery wall paper and pretty smell in the MEN's room... oh, wait a minute... holy cow!!!!!

Stage Fright

I high-tailed it out the door to the grins of the two ladies having a good time waiting for me. "How come you didn't say anything" I asked bewildered.

My friends Monty and Sally have some beautiful kids. There youngest girl was a riot. One Sunday morning she almost caused a riot.

"What fun would that be?" they exclaimed. Tell me God doesn't get a chuckle over stuff like that. Never trust those innocent looking Church Ladies.

We are sitting there in church, and my good friend Greg was preachin' away. Right in the middle of the sermon, Kalie, about three years old, takes off running down the aisle towards the platform and the pulpit. Before she got up on stage, she looked up at Greg and said in that sweet voice of hers, "Hi, Boogers!"

20/20 Hindsight

She launches up on to the stage, runs across behind Greg over to the other side of the platform, then turns around with the biggest "I dare you to try and catch me" grin. In the meantime, more to save Sally the embarrassment than anything, Greg just ignores the whole thing and keeps on preaching, with a slight grin of course. Sally calmly walks up to the stage and gives Kalie the "you better come here" look and finger motion which of course to a child is just all part of the game. So Kalie does exactly what you would expect... she turns around and dives under one of the chairs behind Greg, and like a puppy who won't come out from under the bed, scoots all the way back and as far under as possible. So Mom hops up on the platform and has to go over the chair and literally drags Kalie out from under the chair who is still thinking this is all a great fun game because Sally has maintained an "I know this is funny but I'm going to kill you when I get you out the door" smile. Smiles means "fun" right? Not, "I have 60 seconds left to live."

Poor women... who hasn't seen this one? Sitting in church, a lady gets up and goes out. I would guess that she probably visited the powder room because of my superior observation skills a few minutes later. She comes walking back in, down the aisle, passes us.... skirt hiked up and stuck in her waste band. A few sympathetic women trying to get her attention and even reaching out to pull her dress down as she passes by. In hindsight, pun intended, I'm glad I'm a guy. But of course that leads me to the next story... Why Are You Snickering At Me? For many years I've led worship, taught and occassionally preached, so I'm up in front of the congregation routinely. One Sunday, I'm leading worship and I notice some people kind of whisper-snickering, but didn't think much about it. The worship went on, and at the end I scampered down the steps and took a seat on the front row. As I reached over and got my Bible, set it on my lap and opened it, can you guess what I saw? Can you guess why they 170


were laughing? Yep, you got it... my zipper was wide open. That was almost as embarrassing as... Open Mic Our Pastor was enjoying the freedom of the new-fangled wireless microphone. I guess he drank too much water because after the sermon he exits the auditorium through the side door. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out where he went since we heard it all on that great new wireless mic. First we heard what sounded like pouring water. Then we heard what sounded like.... a toilet flushing. He came back into the auditorium oblivious to why everyone was looking at him about to bust a gut laughing. That one is evidently pretty common because I've read other accounts from other churches of the same thing. However, that wasn't as bad as...

because it would be easy to fix that problem. It turns out her blood work looked great. Her bone marrow is recovering quickly from the last chemo round and she didn't need a transfusion of red cells or platelets. For a kid who needed up to 3 transfusions a week, it is amazing what God is doing for Abby. Her white cells are still very, very low. This is also great news. Abby's cancer mimics white blood cells, so by keeping her white blood cells low, they are killing off the cancer cells too. The goal is to destroy any remaining cancer cells. A normal immune system has a ANC (number that expresses how well an immune system is working) of at least 1500. Abby's ANC is 63. Her immune system is dangerously low, so we will need to be very cautious. She is only going out in public when it is absolutely necessary and then she wears a mask. As I said, it is good that it is low, because that is how it kills the cancer, but we need to be very careful with Abby. For now they will wait to give her any more chemo until her white blood cells recover. We hope we will begin the last month of this phase in a week.

I Gotta Pee My mom loves to tell this one on me. We were sitting in church when I was about three or so. The preacher says, "let's pray..." and begins to pray. Now in the church we grew up in, prayer time was stone silent; no Pentecostal joining in... you listened quietly to someone lead in prayer. Right dab in the middle of it, I announced loudly (according to Mom), "I GOTTA GO PEE..." I'm glad I was too young to remember that now although I have plenty of other things to be embarrassed about.

Abby's muscles are weak because of the chemo, but she is getting stronger every day. She even had to stand in the corner today because she pinched Landis's nose, because he was "bugging me". I love it when she is feeling well enough to be a normal kid. She is getting an eye exam today to make sure that the spinal/brain fluid pressure is not putting pressure on and damaging her retina. Thanks for your prayers and kind notes. We are very encouraged by them. We will keep watching for headaches and praying for a miracle.

2/4/2009 1:13:00 PM 2/3/2009 1:19:00 AM

Abby Daily Update: Eye Exam

Abby Daily Update: The Sores Are Back

If you haven't done "Laughter Lives Tuesday!" yet, hope you will. Brent will probably turn this weeks content into a book because the stories are hilarious. Yesterday went really well. Abby had a headache in the morning, but by nighttime she was running around the house playing. No stomach problems for over 48 hours! They did blood work because of her headaches. We were hoping her headaches were caused by low red blood cells, 171


keep you updated, ask you to pray for her healing, her comfort, wisdom for us and the doctors, strength and health for us so we can care for her, God’s provision for the expense and care. We will keep you posted….

2/4/2009 6:36:00 PM

Why Keep Going? Is It Because We Are Super Christians? A reader wrote to us: I have such GREAT respect and admiration for you and Michelle. I just don't know how you can keep going like this. I keep telling myself, I would stop, put her on strong medications and live at Disney world until the end. BUT, I know it is much easier for me to say when I'm not the one going through it. I believe in God, Jesus and Heaven. What exactly is it that makes you and Michelle continue with Abby's treatments? How do you keep going? I hope I have not offended you in anyway. I would just like to be enlightened. Some people may find those questions too personal or insensitive. WE DO NOT. The whole purpose of our public journey is to be available to answer the hard questions for people. That is our gift, to communicate the "why?" to people and hopefully build their faith. What better way can we honor Abby's life than to bring others nearer to God by illuminating the truths of faith and hope to those who seek it?

Looks like the hard part is beginning. Abby is starting to get sores all over the soft tissues: bottom, mouth, private areas, her G-tube site…. which means that she sores all through her digestive, urinary and reproductive tracts too. She is in a lot of pain, and we having to give her morphine again. The sores are "mucositis" (lesions of the soft tissue). We are waiting on the Docs to call, but she will most likely be headed back to the hospital today. (UPDATE: yes, already direct admitted; going now...)

First, we don't deserve any one's admiration or respect. For the parts of our life where we have victory and some perseverance during this trial, all credit goes to God. Without Him giving us 100% of what we need emotionally, spiritually and financially, this difficulty would have consumed us long ago. So if you have admiration, admire God for caring for us. If you have respect, respect God for His unfailing attentiveness. If you have are moved, inspired or strengthened, thank God for it because we are utterly incapable except in that which God empowers us. Along those lines, you might not have any admiration for us if you witnessed our weaknesses. You might lose respect if you saw us when we struggle. You might not think so highly of us if you found out we aren't always wearing smiles. You might not be so impressed if you witnessed stress over expenses, insurance, bills, travel, etc.

This is the most critical and dangerous time for Abby, the most difficult to survive, because of her genetic markers. We will 172


No, dear friends, there is really nothing to "enlighten" you about. The best we can do is set an example of total dependence on God, and if you want to admire us for that, okay. But it's nothing special. It's a choice. And even the power to depend on God is a blessing that comes from God. Starting to see a pattern? It's all God... you just have to choose Him. In fact, its the EASY choice. What's the alternative? Worry? Anxiety? Bitterness? Uncertainty. No thanks. When you consider the options, it is no great act of faith to embrace that which cannot fail you (God) so you do not have to depend on what will always fail you (me). • • • •

We want to be honest about those things because the fallacy of "the super Christian" ruins the faith of many. You see the Super Pastor or Holy Popular Speaker and formulate this unrealistic idea about their lives. People come to believe that they can't live up to the apparent standards of the "super spiritual"; they could never be "as faithful", that they would fall apart and fail if they were to be in the same situation. Why? Because they believe the "super Christian" has some innate level of faith and spirituality that is out of their reach. WRONG! First of all, truth be known, we all have relatively the same struggles, weakness, failure and inconsistency. It only APPEARS different for the "super Christians" because you don't know them well enough. The only real difference is the degree to which we avail ourselves of God's provisions. We all have the same access, but not everyone embraces the full benefit of it.

We give in to worry occasionally but then remember God is in control. We get concerned about bills and finances but then God taps us on the shoulder and gives us "the look" ("hey, did you forget I own everything?") We get tired and impatient but one prayer, together or privately, erases it all We yearn for a life that is not about cancer, but then we see all the ways that God is using this to His glory and we realize that it is truly an example of "all things work together".

Why do we "go on", the reader asks. Simple: God hasn't told us to let Abby go yet. We've talked about that possibility. We've talked about how to know when God says "enough, I'm bringing her home." We know God will make that clear if it is His will. Otherwise, we continue to believe it is His will that Abby will be healed and we'll stand on that belief, IN FAITH, until such time God clearly reveals otherwise. That is why we "go on". God has taken care of us every step of the way. If He makes it clear to us it is His will to "let go" then we'll stop "going on". Do not think highly of us. We struggle. We fail. We are having the monster-mother-of-all-trials (relative to our experience) with the predictable difficulties. God gives us strength, and we lean on Him. God gives us wisdom and we rely on it. God gives us faith, so we do not lose heart.

Those who do, seem "super spiritual" but they are not. They are just more fully accepting what God has made available to us ALL as Christians.

If you want to respect someone, respect God. If you want to admire someone, admire Jesus. Without them, we would have folded, doubted, crumbled, gave up and cursed this trial a long time ago.

The same Jesus that gives Michelle and I faith when we start to waiver, can give you faith. The same God who still cares for us when we begin to doubt, will still care for you. The same Holy Spirit that leads us back to the path when we have wandered off it, will lead you too.

What are your questions for us? We live an open life for the benefit and edification of others. How can we help you in your spiritual walk today? ~ Brent 173


2/5/2009 5:54:00 AM

Hi/Lo Thursday It's Hi/Lo Thursday where we get to know each other by sharing our HIGH and our LOW for the week. What a great way to really find out something about each other. Our HIGHS: Serious.Life Magazine The Feb issue went out on Monday. As of yesterday, it had an incredible 448,000 page views, in only three days! No doubt, BIG thanks go to our blogger friends who helped tell everyone about it! Of course those same people saw your Blog Directory listing/ad too.... that was the whole point.

Our LOWS: Abby In the Hospital Predictable for us... Abby is in the hospital again. The terrible mucositis sores have returned. She is on constant morphine for pain.

blood cells again, so we are waiting and trying to keep her comfortable. She is on continuous morphine, can get extra doses of morphine by pressing a button. She also still has a narcotic pain patch. I am thankful her doctors are trying so hard to help her. Abby's headaches have returned and her doctors are trying to decide what to do to help her. Abby isn't sleeping well and spends most of her time being rocked by me. I love getting to hold her, but wish it wasn't because she is hurting. I am reading emails and comments, but it is very hard to respond while I am holding Abby. Thank you so much for praying for Abby and for encouraging me. Your comments encourage me so much. Last time Abby was admitted for the sores, she was here 2 weeks. I hope it will not take that long this time.

Abby is on a lot of pain medication, but only sleeps if Michelle is holding her because of the discomfort. We would also like to thank everyone who sent Abby care packages. The toys and crafts are distracting Abby and making all of this much easier for her. We really appreciate you sending her so many wonderful things. Thank you so much for praying.

2/5/2009 8:30:00 PM

Abby Daily Update... Abby Update From Michelle Abby is a more comfortable, because they increased her pain medicine. She is still hurting, but at least it is better than it was. Her sores will not begin to heal until she starts making white

(Note from Brent: I know Michelle would appreciate some extra notes while she is stuck in the hospital. If you have a few minutes to write her, it would be a blessing. ~Brent)

2/5/2009 10:14:00 PM

Update to the Thursday Abby Update... 174


Abby is doing worse this evening.

anything like her normally.

Her lungs have become “junky” and she is having a hard time breathing, and taking quick, choppy breaths. Her oxygen levels are down some. She has no immune system at all at this point. Her sores are worse today. Not sure what the docs are going to do, but we are watching her closely.

Today, Abby will receive three transfusions (packed red cells, platelets, and albumin). They can't transfuse white blood cells, because they only live 4 hours after they are transfused. Her doctors started 2 different kinds of two IV antibiotics and we are using 2 different antibiotic creams on her stomach, one of them is used for serious burn victims. She is getting I.V. Lasix to draw water into her blood. She is bloated from the steroids and continues to have diarrhea.

Without trying to over alarm or be melodramatic, it is COMPLICATIONS that are usual cause of death for kids in Abby’s situation. So every complication that arises at this point is very concerning. God is in control and we rejoice in the opportunity to depend on Him and observe His mercy and goodness. We appreciate your prayers. We appreciate you letting other people know to pray. We appreciate are blogger friends posting to their readers when they can. We’ll keep you updated. Blessings, Brent & Michelle

2/6/2009 7:15:00 PM

Abby Daily Update: Very Concerning Abby is not well. Things are getting pretty concerning. We are trying not to over react, or be melodramatic, but the situation is getting serious. Since yesterday Abby has had a fever, her abdomen is swollen and is painful. The area around her gastric port (feeding tube in her stomach) is swollen, red and blistered so badly it looks like a serious burn. For those of you who have experience with gtubes, Abby has never leaked stomach contents and always looked very healthy. The red area is getting bigger and the blisters are spreading. Her medical team said that it is "very concerning." Abby is producing almost zero white blood cells, so is unable to fight any infection (and her IGG is 671 and ANC is 29). Pic: this is a difficult picture for us to post. Abby is blanked out on morphine, can't sit still because her stomach hurts so bad, doesn't want to sit at all because of the sores between her legs, and is bloated and swollen. This was one of the GOOD pictures... we just didn't have the heart to post the ones where she is really in pain and suffering. Even this one doesn't look

Her upper airway is still "junky" but she is getting antibiotics to treat it and it has not worsened since last night. We are very thankful that her pain is much better controlled and she is not nauseated. She is on continuous morphine for pain, and since they took her off the medicine that controlled her spinal fluid pressure, she had not been nauseated, although her pressure is going up. Obviously we would appreciate your prayers at this time. Would you let others know, and ask them to pray? Some of our friends have offered to pray and fast for Abby, and of course we would be deeply grateful. For those of you who do not understand fasting, it can be, but does not have to be abstaining from food. Fasting is the act of abstaining from something that is important to our FLESH, so that it may free up opportunity to concentrate on the spiritual. Food is an obvious choice, but not 175


appropriate for everyone. It might be TV, news, games, phone time... something that satisfies our fleshly desires that can be given up to make time to pray and consider spiritual concerns. When our flesh feels "denied", it causes us to lean towards God to fulfill what is missing. Sorry, didn't mean to put on my Bible teacher hat... but many people have no clue about fasting. We've included some medical details for our doctor, nurse and cancer-experienced friends. If you have any advice or suggestions, please leave a comment. We are VERY grateful. We’ll keep you updated on the blog, Facebook and Twitter (our sign up links to those are up there in the right column). A Final Thought Before going, I wanted to leave you with this thought: don't mistake our current concern for a lack of faith, joy or hope.

I wanted to leave you with some happier pics. Despite all her discomfort and pain, Abby still manages a smile for me today in the hospital room. She has a remarkable spirit.

We are not questioning God. Our faith in Him has not waivered the breadth of an atom. If anything, it is strengthened because we see God's hand daily, over and over and over. Our joy is a choice. We are commanded to "count it all joy brethren when you fall into various trials..." That is not dependent on feeling. It is a choice. The feelings follow your God-given, Spirit-empowered ability to CHOOSE to obey God. Don't understand the command to be joyful? Doesn't matter. Don't feel like it? Doesn't matter. When you bypass your feelings, the reason becomes clear: we count it all joy because we know God is in complete control, that His perfect Will is done and that His Son will be glorified through any and all circumstances. How can you not be joyful about that? Our hope is in God. Our hope is that Abby is healed. Our hope is that we spend a long life here with her. But our GREATER HOPE is that God's will is done, and that no matter what, Abby is in His care. Should God call her to Him, then our hope is fulfilled knowing that she is in heaven, waiting for us to join her. That is true hope.

One of Abby's favorite times now is getting to "shave off Daddy's porcupines". That's what she calls my whiskers or short hair. I promised Abby she could shave off my hair as long as she doesn't have any hair. Small sacrifice of love...

Faith, joy, hope. Life can only take those from you IF you give them away by your own choice. Blessings, Brent (from home with the other kids) (and Michelle, in the hospital with Abby)

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2/7/2009 9:29:00 AM

New Every Morning For Abby, Us & You I was at the hospital with Michelle and Abby until about 5.30am this morning, then came home for a little while so SpideyLandis and the other kids wouldn't wake up parentless. Pic: Abby usually talks MeeMaw into making cookies when we are at her house. MeeMaw makes the best cookies, and someone has to learn to carry on the tradition. The nurses were in and out all night every few minutes. If you've never enjoyed that experience, it is a little maddening getting woke up over and over and over and over all night long. I am a light sleeper, and wake up frequently anyway but Michelle is a sound sleeper, and it is hard on her. She stays at the hospital every single night that Abby is there, so she doesn't get alot of sleep. I run back and forth between the hospital and the house. That's the pattern we've settled into since Abby got sick.

Finally, I wanted you to leave tonight with a funny, joy-filled picture of Abby. After shaving my head, she wanted to shave her face. So I cut her and Sami loose with a can of shaving cream. They had a quite a party with it!

This morning, Abby is about the same. Her little tummy is so swollen, she looks like she is going to explode. The infection area on her stomach around her feeding tube covers about the area of a dollar bill... red, blistered, inflamed. Just touching Abby's feeding tube sends her into a tailspin. The sores have not begun to improve yet and she can barely tolerate even wearing a soft diaper or panties. Going to the bathroom is torture.

2/6/2009 9:50:00 PM

Abby Daily Update: Part Two I was at home tonight with the other kids. Michelle called and said Abby is getting worse. I'm going to the hospital now. Michelle has never asked me to drop everything and come to the hospital.

Michelle is really tired but patiently tends to every need Abby has... taking her to potty, changing her clothes and bedding, feeding her, putting medicine and cremes on her, monitoring her I.V.'s, getting her drinks, keeping her distracted... watching the same video over and over 50 fifty times because that is what Abby wants to watch. (when Abby is done with chemo, I'm burning "Lion King" and "Beauty and the Beast")

Thank you for your prayers and encouraging notes. There is a full update in the previous post if have not read that yet. ~ Brent

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The same way that guy I just saw on TV keeps going every day. He fell asleep driving, hit a truck head-on, destroyed his spleen and liver, broke all his ribs and had to have his leg cut off. When they cut him open to operate after the wreck, they found out he had liver cancer too. How's that for a "bad deal" in life? How do you keep going? How do you keep going with joy, hope and thankfulness? The answer is the same whether you're a parent of a child with Leukemia, a guy with one leg and cancer, a cheated-on spouse, an unfairly fired employee, or just someone dealing with the typical life struggles that conspire to rob us of joy and contentment. The answer is the same for the couple about to lose their house to foreclosure, or the parents who are finding out how hard parenting really is. The answer is the same for healthy, active folks who don't feel loved or at peace... or the older couple with seemingly-never-ending health problems. The answer is the same for Americans who take for granted unparalleled personal freedom and an unprecedented level of affluent lifestyle, or the multitudes of people across the globe who are hungry, poor, cold, imprisoned for their faith or beliefs, persecuted and largely ignored by the world. The answer is the same... The answer to "how do you keep going?" and "how do you have joy and hope?" is the same for every single person in ANY situation, and here it is, my favorite passage, Lamentations 3: 20-25: • • • •

Michelle is the epitome of a mother willing to give up every comfort, all her time and ignore her own needs... to take care of her child. For those who hold the opinion that "adopted" kids are "not as much your child" as biological kids... well, I don't have to make any comments about that. Everyone who has ever adopted knows how absurd that is. New Every Morning How do we do this? How do we keep going? How can we be joyful, thankful, content and happy living the "life of cancer" month after month? People ask this on a daily basis. Answer: the same way YOU can keep going. The same way YOU can be joyful, thankful, content and happy day after day no matter what life throws at you.

• •

I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;

Notice that the Bible does not ignore the "negative" realities of life, or pretend that it should never be talked about or acknowledged. King David, the only person ever labeled "a man after God's own heart" penned dozens of Psalms full of lament, struggle and pouring his heart out about life's hardships. David would not be very popular in much of our modern church or culture. But you know what friends... the honest admission and lament of heartache in the Psalms has spoken deeply to and soothed the heart of legions of hurting souls throughout history. 178


Acknowledging Is Not the Same As Being Consumed Acknowledging the hard realities of the human experience is not the same as being consumed by them, or having a "negative" outlook. We are to be positive people who also see the blessings (positive) that come when we depend on God during the "negative". We remember (accept, acknowledge) there are frequent times in life when our "soul is downcast" but that the proper response is: "... I will call to mind and therefore have hope"... what? • •

I will call to mind that God's great love is NEVER consumed; it never ends; there is always more I will call to mind that God's compassions NEVER fail; His compassions always WIN; in other words, if we avail ourselves of God's compassion, it is ALWAYS enough to overcome our sorrows no matter what they are I will call to mind that God's love and compassion is NEW every morning...

Why does God emphasize "every morning"? Does His compassion wear out by the end of the day and then overnight God gets back in gear and puts out a fresh batch when the sun comes up? "New every morning" is a point of reference for us. We all live day by day. The sun rises on every person, every day, in every situation. It is a guidepost, a marker, a timestamp that we can all relate to, count on and understand. So God uses that inescapable reality to give us a common ground that leaves none of us being able to say "I didn't understand, I wasn't aware..." We all understand that the sun rises every day. We all understand that morning comes each day no matter WHAT WE ARE STRUGGLING WITH. Every morning, for every person, God's love, compassion and mercies are "new" and available. Not "new" in the sense that they got "old" or "worn" the day before but "new" in the sense they are waiting for us, without fail, with the dawn of each new day. They are "new" in that they are totally sufficient for whatever that day holds for us, even when our "soul is downcast"... in fact, I would say ESPECIALLY when our soul is downcast. When is God's compassion sweetest? When life is great or hard? When does God's mercy seem most real? On the mountain top, or in the valley? When is His love feel the greatest? When we already feel loved by others, or when we feel lonely and abandoned by the world? Mercy, love and compassion are particularly precious when we feel "downcast". I Will Call To Mind And Say To Myself

God's mercy, love and compassion is there no matter what we do, even if we ignore it. But God calls us to action if we want to benefit from it. We have to get our mind right. We have to deliberately focus on this Truth. We have to "call to mind" the Word of God and tell ourselves: "God is enough. God is my hope. I will wait on God." Wait on God? The meaning here is that we will look to God, focus on God, depend on God, keep our eyes on God. It doesn't mean He will delay His love ("wait"); it is the picture of us putting our full attention on God. The Lord God is GOOD to those who seek Him. Isn't that a marvelous truth? Do you truly believe it? If yes, are you daily seeking Him? I like to summarize things for easy recall, so let me wrap up with this... Are you downcast? Is life hard? How can you be joyful, hopeful, content and loved despite any hardship? • • • • • • • •

Focus your mind on God and tell yourself the Truth God's great love means your troubles will not consume you God's compassion NEVER fails us God's love and mercy is waiting for you every morning, every day, every time The Lord is ENOUGH for ANYTHING you are going through God is good to everyone who puts their hope in Him God is good to everyone who seeks Him Because of all these things you can say...

"Therefore I have hope". If you have hope, then you can keep going. No matter how hard life is, no matter what dark valley your journey has you in, you can keep going because you have hope. That is my answer to "how do you keep going?" and it can be your answer too. Are you encouraged by this message? Do you know someone today who is struggling and could use some hope? Do you know anyone who needs mercy, compassion and love? You have an answer for them now. Tell your friends, Put this post on your blog. Send it out to your email list Copy and paste the whole thing. I don't care about getting credit for the writing. I care about helping people. We'll post an update about Abby later today. We have been reminded of God's compassion every day because of YOU. Your notes, comments and prayers are the manifestation of God's love. 179


What are you hurting about today? How can we be a blessing to you?

2/7/2009 8:34:00 PM

Abby Daily Update: Saturday Late Night If you want quick little random notes (tweets, facebook status updates) from us... Michelle primarily shouts out about Abby/family, and I (Brent) do a mixture of Abby/family and personal thoughts/questions.

Don't let Abby's expression fool you. Yes, she was in a lot of pain but she was thrilled about her "box of love". She took every single item out and said "look Daddy...". She sleeps with the box on her bed.

:: Brent: Facebook - Twitter :: Michelle: Facebook Yesterday, the plan was to give Abby 3 blood transfusions. Yes, they gave them to her, but it was harder on her than I hoped. Since they can't give her morphine at the same time they give her blood, Abby got very behind on her pain control. It made for a long day for a 4 year old sweetheart. We finally have her comfortable again, but we are going into the night. It is very hard to help her with her pain (push the pain button for her or remind her to press it) in the middle of the night. I got very little sleep last night and am starting this night more tired than usual. Please pray that I have the strength and wisdom to help her. Unfortunately Abby is crying in her sleep while I am writing this. We just finished a dressing change and even with extra doses of morphine, it was very hard on her. Abby's stomach is still very bloated today. She looks like a miniature pregnant woman. She even has people come up to her and rub her belly. She really doesn't look anything like the pictures you are seeing right now. She appears to weigh 20 pounds MORE in these latest pics than she really does. She is that bloated and swollen. The canker sores on her bottom are spreading and the area, on her stomach, her doctor described as a bad burn, is spreading and more inflamed. I am planning on requesting a wound care specialist tomorrow. Abby's blood work showed some signs her bone marrow may be beginning to recover. We are hoping and praying it makes enough white blood cells to repair the damage soon. It is so hard to watch Abby deal with all of this pain. Thank you so much for your prayers and encouragement. While writing is hard for me right now, reading your comments and knowing you are praying makes all of this so much easier.

Today, Abby was visited by some very special girls from a local church. They heard about Abby's fight with cancer and decided to reach out to her. They gave her homemade notes, candy and fun toys. Each thing they made her or purchased showed so much thought and love. Hey girls... You are very special young ladies. Abby was hurting a lot when you were here, but after you left, she spent hours looking at her presents and reading your cards. Thank you so much for making Abby feel loved and special. We would love for you to come to our home someday when Abby is stronger. Kay thank you for asking others to pray for Abby and for showing her so much love. Abby was so excited you were here today.

2/8/2009 2:08:00 AM

Abby Update: 2am Sunday Morning Michelle just called me at home. I've been back 3 or so hours. Abby is in agony. I'm going back to the hospital. The morphine and Fentanyl are not even helping. Abby is in terrible pain; she cries while sound asleep, and when awake cries out loudly in the most pitiful way. The infection on her stomach is now red and inflamed even worse; the sores on her bottom and girl-parts are bleeding. She has to have constant attention because her every move, going to the bathroom, sitting up, anything... is agonizing for her. We are both exhausted. Please pray for supernatural strength. I'll keep you posted... 180


out, "I understand you want the surgery team to look at her feeding tube site?"

2/8/2009 4:18:00 AM

Abby Update: 4am Sunday Morning Still up with Abby. Hopefully will get some sleep in a few minutes.

Normally we don't hear from anyone resembling a doctor until late morning or noon, but here's this guy invading what little sleep we had promptly at "O dark thirty" (that's :30 minutes after sunrise for you civilians). Of course Michelle has not even blinked. When she is this tired, you could drive a beer truck with snow chains over her, and she wouldn't even roll over.

They now have Abby on morphine, Ativan and Fentanyl. They have upped her morphine significantly. She's as high as Woodstock hippie, and finally starting to settle down. The sores on her bottom and girl parts have gotten extremely raw... it's gone from agony to excruciating now. She is terrified to have to go the bathroom and hysterical when it's time to wipe. Tomorrow, they are going to have the surgery team look at her feeding tube because they are concerned the site might be damaged beyond use. They are having a wound care specialist look at it too. Lord willing, we will be asleep in a few minutes. We pray it will last a few hours at least. Thanks for your kind encouragement and notes all day today. You have been so kind to us. We don't want to be self-consumed thinking only of ourselves. Don't hesitate to write if you need encouragement, advice or prayer.

2/8/2009 8:19:00 AM

Abby Update: 7am Sunday Morning Fluorescent lights and a sing-songey "good morning" disintegrates my one and half hours of exhaustion-induced sleep with the same traumatic effect of banging metal pots and a bullhorn. "Good morning, folks", I hear a second time, room lights at full nuclear glare now. I'm in one torture rack (code word for hospital pretend bed); Michelle and Abby are on another, a pullout couch sort of thingy. I sit up on an elbow, "um, yeah, hey, she didn't fall asleep until about 5.30am... so if we could not wake her...."

"Yeah, that's right... her port entry has a bad infection", I groaned almost at the point of getting one eye open without burning my retina, not sure if this was really happening or if the Tribulation had begun and the "Mid/Post" folks were right after all. "Well, let's take a look," Mr Cheery Young Doctor says and proceeds to start pulling back covers and lifting Abby's shirt... still in bed, still asleep (or should I say still "under") with Mom in a coma about 2 ft away. I cringed as he fiddled around with Abby's feeding tube thinking any minute she would wake and plunge once again into shrieks of pain. Mercifully, praise God, she didn't wake up. Only an hour of sleep and enough pain killers to sedate a small family of elephants will do that to a four year old. "Okay, well, I'll let'em know..." he announces and walks out.

That didn't phase him for a quantum split second as he rang 181


"I'll let'em know????" Let who know what? Didn't he just examine her?

now easier for all of us to get more sleep and it's not so traumatic for Abby to go potty and change dressings.

Turns out, Mr Morning Sunshine With Apparently No Sense of Grasping the Obvious Slumber Misery In Front Of Him isn't "the" doctor. He was just coming to check on our request to have "them" (the right Doctors evidently) come look at Abby.

Abby's oncologist thought Abby would need surgery on her stomach wound and have her g-tube surgically moved to a different spot. The surgeon looked at Abby's stomach this

(Note: I may have all the facts totally messed up, but I only had a little over an hour sleep AND it makes for a lot better story if I tell it this way!) I turn out the lights, silently thank God that all this didn't wake up Abby, and return to my backache machine and faux pillow. I close my eyes.... I'm drifting... drifting... drif..... Skip ahead an ENTIRE ten minutes... the nurses have changed shifts, so now the new nurse is in here checking vitals and my last hope of going to sleep became our blog's good fortune because the only quiet and sane thing I can do at this point is write something while Abby and Michelle slumber peacefully, oblivious to the Dante's dance of the revolving hospital room door that has become my own private breakfast of "h", "e", "double toothpicks". Okay, that's an exaggeration too, but I'm a writer, I'm tired, and it's my blog, so what-a ya gonna do about it? The least I can do is make the most of the morning by making up a good story and booby-trapping the hospital room door. Whew... I'm actually getting sleepy again... I think I'll go ahead and catch a few more winks.... zz... zzzz... zzzzzzzzzzz.... "Da-dee.... I have to pah-tee....." ~Brent

2/8/2009 2:29:00 PM

Abby Update: Sunday Night Things are still rough with Abby, but we have many things to be thankful for today. First, Abby's doctor increased the amount of continuous morphine Abby is getting, so she is more comfortable and needs less extra doses of pain medicine. He also ordered a much larger boluses (extra single doses) so when she does need extra medicine she feels relief right away, instead of getting a tiny dose every 15 minutes that has little effect. It is 182


morning and he believes that burn-like tissue around her GTube would heal without surgery. VERY good news. He seemed to be unquestionably confident in his evaluation. He deals with G-tubes daily, so we felt really good about his opinion. Abby is now producing enough white blood cells to begin to heal her mouth and bottom sores (ANC 671). This is great news too. In a week or so they should be healed. Unfortunately the wounds around her g-tube will take much longer to heal. Abby was supposed to begin her next phase of chemo (second month of delayed intensification) on Tuesday. This will have to be put off until the sores and wound around her g-tube site heal. This has to be done, but it puts her at a higher risk for relapse (the leukemia to come back) when we have to delay treatment.... that's BAD news. For those of you who are newer to Abby's story. Abby has a genetic marker that makes her much more likely to have toxic side effects from the chemo, but she is also much more likely to relapse than leukemia patients who do not have this genetic marker. Her doctor thinks that most patients with this marker relapse because of the long breaks they need from chemo, to recover from the toxic side effects. Check out "About Abby..." if you want to know more. We are so grateful for your prayers: • • • • • •

For great pain relief The sores to heal The wound on her stomach to heal quickly Relief from diarrhea (the canker sores in her intestines have caused this) For Abby to resume chemo soon Remain cancer free

Abby's emotions are understandably raw because of the pain she is experiencing. Our normally contented and smiling girl is getting her "feelings hurt" by something a simple as a look from a stranger. We are attempting to obtain second opinions from St. Jude and a hospital in Dallas.We have been warned that St Jude does not accept patients who have already begun their treatment elsewhere. Please pray that they will advise us., the second opinions are completed soon and that they provide clear direction and the best advice for Abby. Brent's employer is changing insurance... that's not exactly good news either. Besides being a pain, it's going to cause some extra expense and more details to deal with. Please pray this doesn't effect Abby's treatment and for God's provision (which has never failed). 183


We read each of your comments and emails. We have tried many of your suggestions. Thank you so much for taking the time to advise, encourage and pray for our family. We are so blessed that each of you have invested your time and life to care about us. Though it is NOT joyful that Abby suffers, we do "count it all joy" that God takes our most grievious trials and transforms them to blessing.

Abby's bone marrow is still fighting to recover. She had less white blood cells today when they checked her blood. There is so much work for them to do, that it is going to take time. Her smaller sores are much better. Her diarrhea is better, which means the canker sores in her intestines are healing. Praise God. The worst sores look a little bit better~well maybe. The wound care specialist, who evaluated Abby today, had some wonderful advice about caring for them and was very gentle with Abby. She said it would take quite a while for the wounds to heal, but won't put a number on it.

2/9/2009 1:20:00 AM

Abby - Get up and dance! GET UP! GET ON YOUR FEET! Turn up those speakers... I'M THE "CANCER DANCER"... IF I CAN SMILE AND DANCE, SO CAN YOU!!!!! NOTHIN' CAN KEEP ME FROM SHAKIN' MY BOOTY!

2/9/2009 6:37:00 PM

Abby Daily Update: Turning The Corner From Michelle: Thank you so much for praying for pain relief and healing. Her pain control is great right now, not surprising since she is on enough narcotics to make an NFL linebacker pass out. It amazes me how quickly a child can develop a tolerance to medication.

It makes me nervous that she will not be able to take any chemo until they are healed. Trusting God is always the best choice, but it is not always easy. Would you pray: • •

She is still alert, happy and up playing, even with all of the medication. It is really a blessing that she has enough to be comfortable. If she is hurting too much to move, she gets weak quickly. When she is tired, she just wants me to hold her and "rock her like a baby". I have to admit I love that too.

• • • •

With Abby's wounds improving, she is in less pain and as she heals she will need less medication. Tomorrow the plan is to begin slowly lowering her pain medicines. Her doctors will do this very carefully, with the help of the pain management team. If she is not ready. they will just increase them again. No one wants her to hurt, but we also don't want her on medication she doesn't need. It is a delicate dance.

• • • 184

Thank God her sores are healing. Thank God for the pain relief and pray she continues to not feel any pain. Thank God for the wonderful care she has received from the nurses and doctors. Her sores would heal quickly. She would remain cancer free. That Abby would not get any infection, while her white cells are so low. Abby would be able to smile, laugh and continue to be a kid. Please also pray for our other children, while Abby is at the hospital. Pray also that Brent would be able to get his work done without missing too much sleep.


•

Please pray for Brent's health. He works very hard to take care of us, but often pays a hefty price physically.

From Brent: Abby spirits were lifted HIGH by your messages, pics and videos!! Abby just had a GREAT time listening to your voice mails (my box filled up in about 5 minutes and I saws dozens of calls that got the "mailbox full" message). I'm going to do the "voice message to Abby thing" pretty routinely, so I hope you'll try again when I let you know. She REALLY loved them.... she was delighted the whole time. We sat and watched a parade of video messages to Abby. What a THRILL!! She was enthralled. She was worn out after dancing and laughing and listening to it all. You'll hear how tired she is, but most of that is from the pain and medicine. Here is a goodnight message from Abby to you all: http://www.brentriggs.com/abby/goodnight2909.mp3 "Thank you for my messages. Thank you for my videos. Goodnight everybody. I love you.." The videos and messages were such a blessing... we really should start a ministry of posting videos like that for other sick kids and hurting families. It really lifted Abby's spirits AND OURS. What do you all think of that idea? If I build the online application where you could enter a link, message, blog URL and the ability to link to a YouTube video encouraging a sick child or families in struggles... would you participate when you could? We could keep it down to 2-3 times a month... I would build the system if you guy would join in... thoughts? Look for a special something by tomorrow about those videos you sent tonight..... Tomorrow is "Laugher Lives Tuesday". We're going to be doing "Our Funny Photos" so have some picked out. The photo itself doesn't have to be funny... it could be WHAT IS HAPPENING is funny. I'll have a few of my own of as examples of course! I have a birthday request for Michelle (Feb 13... she turns.... uh.... 24... or so): My wife loves index cards with handwritten Bible verses, and a little note of encouragement. If some of you dear ladies had time to send me some of those, I would box them all up for her birthday. If you have a big ladies group, maybe everyone could write a few. I hesitate to make requests of your time for me or Michelle, but this would be incredibly special to her. Shoot me an email (brent@brentriggs.com) if you want to send a few, and I'll give you our address. (Shhh... don't tell Michelle or leave a comment about this. I'm hoping to slip it by her without her seeing this... I'm going to remove this paragraph in a few hours. I don't think she'll read it tonight)

2/10/2009 2:56:00 AM

Abby, Videos & Dancing With Daddy We had a couple of hours worth of wonderful videos sent to us! Abby loved them! We recorded Abby watching the videos, and it was HARD trying to just pick out a few minutes to show you. Abby loved them all and sat glued to the computer screen the whole time. Here's a few minutes of her watch them: After it was finished, Abby needed some Dad time, and finished off the night with father-daughter dance: You guys are THE BEST! You really cheered up Abby.... priceless.

2/10/2009 7:59:00 AM

Abby's Video: About Her One thing I didn't mention last night, and I almost hesitate to now, is that every time there was another little girl leaving a message, especially if she looked Guatemalan, or mentioned being sick, Abby would say: "Dad-dee, her don't feel better? Her sick? Is she haff to be in da hah-pit-tul?" She did this several times. It was all I could do to keep smiling and not ruin her fun. It just tears your heart out when your child knows they are "sick"... not "I've got a cough sick" but sick as a way of life. Abby knows this about herself. She is very self-aware that her "sick" is different than other kids. She also grasps on her own, that her "sick" is life threatening as she will ask us, "Mommy, do I get to grow up and be a big girl? Promise?" Try getting on with your day after being asked that. If you watched the video of her, you can see several effects of the cancer treatment: when not distracted, she rocks herself and makes humming noises, she docile compare to her preLeukemia days. In some ways she is very mature (about illness, doctors and pain) but in other ways she is "frozen" at three years old (language development, motor skills, mobility); and she often can go for hours basically expressionless when the chemo is hitting her. Once in a while on really good days, we get a little peek at her real personality when it is able to cut through the medicine, weakness and pain for a brief appearance. We long for the day 185


when she will be free of the fog of drugs and continuous discomfort.

Let's do some good stuff and I'll put some of it in the next issue of Serious.Life Magazine!

Joel 2:25 "I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten..." We pray God will restore abundantly the time she has had taken from her in which her suffering has brought faith to those whose faith had wained, and allowed many to see God when their spiritual eyes had grown dim. And to answer the anonymous question yesterday, "if there is a God, why does he let your daughter suffer like this?"... we answer with her testimony that at four years old she has inspired more people to pray, more people to appreciate their own lives, and more people to grow in compassion that most of adults will an entire life. The answer is, that suffering is not from God... suffering is the result of the sin-curse, and as Solomon tells us, "the sun rises and falls on the rich and poor", "the rain descends on both good men and evil". In other words, we are ALL subject to the consequences of sin which brought sickness and death into the world. None of us get a pass, even our dear children. We can thank OURSELVES for this as it is the result of humanity's rebellion against their Creator. The difference for those who love God, is that our suffering is turned to blessing, our suffering is comforted by God, and our suffering is used to bring glory to Him who then rewards us eternally for our brief discomfort in this life. We HATE that Abby is sick and suffers. But we also know that her suffering is not in vain, not without purpose, not without blessing, and not without ultimately being repaid by eternal reward. That is what separates genuine Christianity from the unbelieving world or superficial religion.

I know I used this one recently, but I laugh everytime I look at it. They ran around with this shaving cream on their face all night.

2/10/2009 9:44:00 AM

Laughter Lives Tuesday: Funny Pics Laughter Lives Tuesday: Funny Things That Happened And I'm Glad I Had My Camera... This week we are doing funny pics and funny things happening in a picture... in other words, the picture might not be funny unless you explain it! Videos too! A little taste of America's Funniest Videos right here for us to enjoy.

Landis got busted sneaking away with a cracker... he really thought that covering his face meant we counldn't see him doing it.

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medication order for Abby, today.

You tell me what evil thought was lurking behind Abby's eyes, holding a water hose in front of her two year old brother... and the water was COLD too! And finally, a funny video. I didn't take this, but I just had to share it.

2/10/2009 8:53:00 PM

Abby Update - Scary Day, God Protects... Pray for Me, Pray for Others Coulda Been Scary But God is Caring For Us Today we began taking steps towards getting Abby ready to go home. I can't wait to be home! Best case scenario, it will take a few more days, but we are seeing the end in sight. Before Abby can go home she needs to be off of IV pain medicine, her blood counts need to improve a little more and we need to find the best way to treat her skin wounds. The last thing we tried on her skin made it worse. Abby is allergic to many things and has VERY sensitive skin. Poor baby. Pic: Abby went on a Frito binge last night. It was good to see her with an appetite. Notice her eyes still clearly shows how medicated she is. More "video night" pics next post. They started lowering Abby's pain medicine and getting her off of IV meds today. So far so good. I was nervous about weaning her, but she is really doing great. We know there will still be a lot of pain before it all heals, and they are switching her over to non-I.V. prescriptions that will help her be comfortable, but also be safe at home.

I really debated about sharing this with you, but I decided it was important for you to know how God was answering your prayers. Everyone makes mistakes. We are not the types, contrary to the current culture, who think everyone should be perfect 100% or face dire consequences. The person who made the mistake really cares about people, they just made a mistake. The nurses and staff at Children's have taken good care of Abby, and we appreciate it. There's a huge difference between negligence, incompetence or apathy as compared to an honest mistake. Our whole country would be alot better off believing that way, but then we wouldn't have any commercials for ambulance chasers airing during Jerry Springer would we? Instead of ordering an extended release tablet (for pain), they ordered a liquid that is absorbed immedately. If the mistake hadn't been caught, Abby would have recieved 5 times the normal dose of Morphine. Added to that, Abby also has a narcotic pain patch on and has IV morphine infusing. Best case, she would have ended up in ICU; worse case... I (Michelle) caught the mistake, right before it was administered. We can only give God the credit for leading me to discover it because I am pretty much exhausted, running on autopilot (I'm glad that as Christians our autopilot is the Holy Spirit). As more evidence that God providentially protected Abby, He knew when Abby was a baby in Guatemala she would have Leukemia. God orchestrated her adoption. God also knew that this moment in time would come today and my nurse's experience and instinct would be the tools He would use to save Abby's life again today. Incidents like this are nerve-racking and emotionally draining but they are powerful demonstrations of God's ever-watchful eye and His tender loving care. Please take a moment to thank God that He has honored the prayers of tens of thousands of people and plainly shown Himself as the God Who Cares for any who have eyes to see. Thank God for His mercy, and may we as a society be more merciful towards those who make honest mistakes. How Have You Seen God This Week? We want to hear how you've clearly seen God at work in your life this week. Or maybe you haven't. We'd like to hear why you think He is silent, or your not seeing. Leave a comment and let's see how God is working in our lives...

A Big Mistake Shows God's Caring Hand Someone made a potentially life-threatening mistake with a 187


tests and procedures. Today her counts were high enough to be a "real" kid. Sami and Abby played games, flirted with babies and literally RAN down the hallway. Abby's muscles are still weak, but she is one determined young lady. I love her spirit. Thanks again to everyone who has been praying and leaving comments and emails. It makes long days in the hospital so much more tolerable.

I need to record Landis and let you hear him pray. It is inspiring. Our Requests: We ask you to pray for Abby's comfort and healing. We ask you to pray that she will get to come home soon. Please pray for our strength and God's provision financially during this difficult time. We ask you to pray for a young lady in New Orleans who emailed me today TO ASK HOW SHE COULD BE A BLESSING TO US AND HELP US!!! She has a tumor and was told she has a year to live. We ask you to pray for her sister who is pregnant, that the stress of her sister's diagnosis will not effect the pregnancy. We ask you to pray for this dear sister's parents who are no doubt heart broken over this news. We ask you to pray for her healing. We ask you to pray that no matter the result, she will be a LIGHT to others.

2/11/2009 8:17:00 PM

Abby Daily Update: Wonderful!...

We are praying for good news tomorrow. We won't see her doctor until tomorrow evening, but we may get to go home tomorrow night! An amazing turnaround from this weekend when it didn't seem sure what the week would bring.

2/12/2009 5:44:00 PM

Abby Daily Update: Coming Home! Abby is on her way home! They have to stop and get some prescriptions but should be home within a couple of hours. Here are some pics from her last day THIS TIME... Abby had been in the hospital 18 time, EIGHTEEN TIMES, since July. Yes, 18 times. Despite how scary this week was, we still have the MOST scary chemo still coming up in the next month. But for now, Abby is coming home. For those of you who follow me (Michelle) on Twitter, Abby's xray looked great and her G-tube is fixed! Abby had a noisy night, with a feeding pump alarming for hours, which kept her awake. She amused herself looking into my ears, up my nose and putting stickers on my back. Any wonder that she doesn't sleep with Brent and I.

Abby Update: Wonderful Day From Michelle: A couple of days ago, Abby lost almost every hair on her head, most of her eyelashes and her eyebrows.

One of our favorite people, Kay, visited us, bringing with her a tea party. Abby and Sami loved dressing up. After the tea party, Kay asked Abby to do an art project for a cancer auction. Abby had so much fun!

She looked up at me with big, brown, puppy dog eyes and asked if I could please make her hair look pretty. It broke my heart. Thanks again to everyone who took part in Operation Princess Hair because of you, I was able to get out her ponytail wig and make Abby feel beautiful again. Her smile when she was swishing her ponytail around was priceless. Abby had a wonderful day. She finally got to ditch her IV and was free to run and play. She had so much fun running through the halls and talking to everyone. When her white blood cells are low, she has to stay in the room, only leaving for medical 188


Our friend, Kay, having a tea part with the girls.

Abby being all grown up with a spot of tea....

Cancer or not, dress up is always fun!

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The culture and sophistication takes a back seat as soon as the chocolate donut shows up.

Sami has been such a wonderful big sister. She spends a lot of time with Abby when she is in the hospital.

2/13/2009 12:48:00 AM

Abby's Home... For A Few Days Five days ago, Abby had regrown about two inches of hair. It disappeared in about a day. Abby, Michelle and Sami are home. Abby seems to be in good spirits, though she is still on significant pain control meds. It's good to have her home, but it's going to be short lived. She will be admitted Tuesday for chemo that is even worse than what's she's already had. In her weakened condition, we anticipate a rough couple of weeks. Abby has a month or so of the most dangerous and intense chemo still to go. We will keep you updated and covet your prayers and encouragement. You're a blessing. Please don't hesitate to write and let us know how we can be a blessing to YOU. ~ Brent

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2/15/2009 11:23:00 PM

Sunday Night... Valentines, Birthdays and Grandparents From Michelle: I can't believe how many of you sent birthday cards and scripture cards. It is so much fun to hear from you and read the verses you picked out. You made this birthday very special. The cards were fun and will be such a blessing this week.

Sami and Abby have become best friends and sisters. Sami is a WONDERFUL help with the different needs Abby has.

Abby goes into the oncology clinic Monday morning and will be admitted to the hospital for chemo on Tuesday. She has had most of these chemos before and they were very hard on her. She was admitted to the hospital 2 times for 2 weeks each) to treat mucositis that was caused by these same medications. I am not looking forward to beginning this 30 days of chemo. The Bible verse index cards will be a wonderful reminder of God's grace, power and love. Thank you so much for taking the time to reach out to me. Brent made my birthday and Valentine's Day very special. He always does. We were able to go out on a date, for my birthday, because good friends offered to watch our younger children. Many are willing to watch Sami and Landis, but when Abby is especially fragile it takes someone who is comfortable with her medical needs. Scott and Carol have been through much of what we are going through, so they are wonderful with Abby, even when she is pretty sick. The kids LOVE playing at their home. You guys are wonderful.

MeeMaw gets a laugh from Abby who was as energetic today as she has been in many months. It was pretty mind-boggling that we were concerned about her survival just one week ago. Praise the Lord, and thank you to our doctors.

For my birthday, Brent bought me some clothes. He picked out stuff that I absolutely love AND they fit. How cool is that? How many guys out there know their wife's clothing size (shoes too) and even knows about "petite"? (Note from Brent: thanks honey. So much for my macho image as a former Army Drill Sgt and Black Belt. Now I'm an expert in women's clothes, dirty diapers and doing laundry. I better go take these panty hose off...) Valentines was so special. I loved the flowers Brent gave me, but my favorite moment was watching Sami and Abby get Valentines from their Daddy. There is something so special about little girls with their Daddy. I know Sami waited a long time to know a father's love. This was her very first Valentine's Day and I am so thankful Brent made it special for her. I am so grateful God let us be her parents.

SpideyLandis critiques Abby's webslinging technique. One of our friends makes the scarf/hats for Abby, and sent Landis a spiderhat to go with Abby's spider-frog hat.

Photos From Brent

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Peter Parker (he's not wearing spidey clothes here) gets an Oklahoma ear stretch from big brother Garrett. But lest we forget she's only nine, here's her silly side when I ask her to smile.

Michelle celebrates her "24th" birthday. That's what the candles say...

Yes, it's scares me. She's NINE (almost ten). Sami's already stunning and that's without a stitch of makeup or "done" hair. I'm going to to have to beat the boys off our doorstep.

Any wonder why she is so loved? This pictures shows her personality and sweetness.

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What is PawPaw saying?Help us decide what PawPaw is saying that's got Landis speechless, and Abby giving him the "you are so busted" look. Abby wants to blow out those candles so bad, she can't stand it. She looks to Mom to see what kind of trouble she'll get into.

Leave a comment and tell us what you think PawPaw is saying that's got Landis and Abby shocked. We'll choose a winner tomorrow and let everyone know how to go visit your blog.

2/16/2009 10:36:00 AM

Sami and Abby posing with Mom's Valentine and Birthday flowers.

Living Life - Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way [Note: Abby received a lot of cards and gifts over the past week. Instead of having her open them all at once, we are doling them out a little here and there so she can enjoy them. We'll post up pics when we have them but wanted you ALL to know how much we appreciate you, and how delighted Abby is getting to open something new almost every day.]

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Now, I might be dumb, but I aint's that dumb. She just called me fat! Even after knowing English for only six months, she discovered a delicate, politically correct way to let me know I need to lose some weight. On a scale from one to ten, with "one" being a yawner, here's how that ranked: Score - Emotion(4), Joy(0), Additional Hair Loss(4), Need for Comfort Food(10) For the past few days I've been trying to get a hold of my 19 yr old daughter who lives in Tulsa. She routinely calls or text messages me every day. She has a penchant for finding herself in, shall we say, difficult circumstances. I have not heard from her or been able to contact her for two weeks. Anyone out there know her? If yes, can you tell her to call her father? It's always a little distressing to be unable to reach one of your kids unexpectedly. Score - Emotion(6), Joy(0), Additional Hair Loss(4), Need for Comfort Food(4) Abby was as energetic this weekend as she has been in many months. A remarkable fact given that we were concerned for her survival just a week ago. Along with her renewed energy, the "four year old" came out in her too: she was unkind to Landis and Sami a couple of times, backtalked Momma and was slow to obey Dad once or twice. Now, to her defense, she really has not had the CHANCE to "act up" in a long time, so she hasn't had a lot of parental discipline because she simply has not needed it. The better part of the last 8 months she has spent lying around too tired and too nauseated to even get up. We decided the week she got sick that we would not allow her to become an "indulged monster" which happens once in a while with pediatric cancer patients whose parents mistakenly feel so sorry for their kids they quit being parents. We LOVE Abby SO much, that we will never stop parenting her, no matter WHAT the circumstance. It does her no good to survive cancer only to become a demanding, spoiled brat.

Living Life It's amazing the range of emotions and experience you get as a parent each and every day, especially in a big family. It can be both maddening, and exhilarating. A sampling from yesterday: Sami comes up and sits by me (Brent) on the couch. She looks over at me and says nonchalantly, "Daddy, you take up a lot of space."

Even when she is in the hospital, feeling miserable, she is required to be polite, ask please, say thank you, and be reasonably kind and UNdemanding. In return, we shower her with comfort and care. However, this weekend, we had to get on to her, even threaten to give her a swat for misbehaving (which we wouldn't in her condition, but she doesn't know that). But... and yes, this is a true story (my wife will kill me for telling you this).... there is nothing quite so funny as a kid with their nose in the "naughty corner" standing next to their I.V. pole! Sick humor, I know... but it was absolutely screamin' funny. It was a JOY to see Abby feeling so well she could actually get in trouble for being not being nice to her brother. How's that for 194


some sort of backwards parenting? Score - Emotion(4), Joy(7), Additional Hair Loss(0), Need for Comfort Food(0) Landis is so much fun, except for potty training. He is getting better every day, but when he doesn't care, he doesn't care. "Landis, you need to go potty?" "No Dad." "Go anyway..." So I march him in, put him on the toilet and make him sit there for a few minutes. NOTHING. "Okay son, don't you poop or pee in you spideyunderwear, or you'll be in big trouble".

SpideyLandis stops for a moment of silence to pity a poor piece of chocolate that is about to meet it's Maker.

"Okay, Dad". Of course you know where this is going. In the time it took to walk from the bathroom to the living room, he had dumped a load in his britches and soaked everything. Not thirty seconds after being on the potty... Score - Emotion(4), Joy(0), Additional Hair Loss(2), Need for Comfort Food(0, I was changing pooped-in-underwear) We had a birthday party for Michelle. My Mom and Dad drove down. The kids were all feeling well. Abby was doing great. The clothes I bought Michelle actually fit. The teenagers didn't whine or gripe about anything. Landis used the potty. I whupped the snot out of my Dad in a game of cards. Score - Emotion(8), Joy(8), Additional Hair Loss(0), Need for Comfort Food(8, we had bought a new cake by then) I love, and hate, and love, how any single day in our big family is a rollercoaster of experience, emotion, heartache, laughter, tears of joy, tears of stress, disappointment, fulfillment, aggravation and amazement. They call that "life" and I wouldn't have it any other way. I love my wife. I love you Michelle. I love you dearly with all my heart. I would not be "living life" if it was lived without you. Score - Emotion(10), Joy(10) How about you? Do you love life? ~ Brent Some more "life" pictures from our weekend:

Abby gets a hug from her Bubba. She is particularly attached to Garrett who spends a lot of time with her.

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A new spideybottle brings a smile.

Abby opens her Valentine's card from Daddy while wearing her new Valentine's head scarf.

SpideyLandis gets a kiss from Abby as they show off their matching head scarfs. Abby loves "baby" (as she calls him).

SpideyLandis had competition now as Abby dons her superhero outfit which was sent to her by one of our blogging friends.

Sami shows off her Valentine's cand box from Dad. This was Sami's first sweetheart day with a "Dad" in her life.

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Abby's sores still hurt, but they are healed enough to start the next round of chemo. They are painful enough that she still needs continuous morphine, but her cancer is just too aggressive to wait any longer. At least they are keeping her comfortable. Abby had a great weekend with only a few times of discomfort. We look forward to her not being on morphine constantly but her enjoyment of life was so remarkably improved for a few days.

Ah, Cheri... your eyes are like caramel. Your skin is like milk chocolate. How shall I eat thee and make a mess? Let me count the ways....

2/16/2009 8:10:00 PM

Tuesday... Abby Back in the Hospital for the 19th Time Since July

Tomorrow, Tuesday, she will be admitted to the hospital for a spinal tap and some nasty chemo. In the past they have had trouble sedating her for the spinal, so I would appreciate your prayers for her comfort. They will also be checking her intracranial pressure. Some members of Abby's medical team wanted her to get a lower dose of one of her chemo drugs, but her primary doctor feels strongly that she needs the full dose to remain in remission. I am praying that God protects her from the harsher side effects. We are very happy with how Abby is handling one of her meaner chemo drugs, Vincristine. In the past she has had muscle wasting, nerve pain and her reflexes were absent. At its worst, she was unable to stand for more than a couple of seconds. Today she was able to impress us with her strength (walking on tippy toes and heals) and she has reflexes for the first time since JULY! In the past, she would barely be able to walk at this point. Thank you for praying! We anticipate her being in the hospital 2-3 days while they monitor her for reactions to the chemo and keep her fluid levels up. We really covet your prayers over the next week... it takes about 5-7 days for the chemo to hit full toxicity in her body so this weekend and next week could be a another dangerous round for Abby if history is any indication. We'll keep you updated. ~ Michelle

2/16/2009 9:06:00 PM

Abby Update: Part Two Pic: Abby is sitting in my lap right now as I type this post. She is not feeling good obviously. Life is a roller coaster for her. She can go from great to miserable in minutes because of all the 197


drugs, sores, injuries, etc. I love having her sit with me while I write. Photo was taken with my iPhone...

A ketchup bottle was on the dinner table with the lid loose and leaked ketchup all over the bottle and table. Landis, 2, was standing next to me when I said to my wife, “Great… the kids left the ketchup lid loose and it has spilled out all over the table and the bottle.”

To which Landis replied, and meant every word, “Want to me to lick it, Dad-dee?” What makes that so funny is knowing for a fact if I would have said yes, he would have licked the entire table and bottle clean without skipping a beat.

2/17/2009 8:44:00 PM

Abby Daily Update: Videos, Gifts & Hospital 2/17/2009 1:08:00 PM

Laughter Lives Tuesday Best Friend Test Who's your best friend? Your wife, or your dog? Here's how to find out: Put them both in the trunk of your car when you leave for work. When you get home, open the trunk and see which one is glad to see. Works every time. Screamin' Funny Dog Video Want Me To Lick It Daddy?

I (Brent) have started to build a video page and will continue to add new links as we get them. Look over there to the right >>>> "Videos: Childrens Stories" under Abby's Blog Badge. Gifts & Cards Abby has received many wonderful gifts and cards. Rather than swamping her all at once, we are letting her read and open something here and there so she can enjoy each of them. The hard part about getting so many things for her, is the desire to want to mention every giver by name, but the potential to hurt someone's feelings if we forget someone. We just want everyone to know that we are OVERWHELMED by the kindness and love everyone is showing Abby. Things are going to get REALLY rough over the next month and it will be a little easier having your cards and gifts and videos to share with her. I can let you know that everyone who has emailed me and asked "did it arrive?", the answer is 'yes' although we aren't giving it to Abby all at once. Books, movies, crafts, stuff animals, build-a-bear, leap frog, caterpillar, CD's... it's all here. We will do our best to take pictures when she opens and 198


enjoys something. Please, dear friends, don't feel overlooked or unappreciated if your card or gift is not mentioned specifically. We are humbled and speechless at the incredible kindness of so many people who know Abby only from a blog page. We deeply appreciate each and every card, gift and note.

2/18/2009 7:33:00 AM

Pray for Me... Pray for Others

Abby Update

Brent: Facebook - Twitter . . . . . . . . . . . Michelle: Facebook Twitter

From Michelle: Good news, bad news... The good news is, we were WRONG; it's was NOT the 19th time Abby was in the hospital. The bad news? It's the 21st time. :( Abby was admitted to the hospital for the 21st time since July. I thought it was her 20th, Brent thought 19 and we both were wrong. No wonder we are so tired. Abby received 3 kinds of chemo today and will get a fourth tonight. All things considered she is really handling it well. No nausea and was up playing most of the day. It was really a fun day to the degree you can have fun on the cancer floor at the hospital.

I need to record Landis and let you hear him pray. It is inspiring. Our Requests: Please pray for Abby as this week goes by. The nasty chemo she got yesterday will hit her in a few days. Historically, it puts her through another round of excruciating sores and serious complications. After 21 times in the hospital, we kinda know what to anticipate. Please pray for her comfort, speedy recover, survival, and healing. There is rarely a day that goes by that we don't get an email from someone who is dealing with cancer. It's seems the ordeal creates a bond with others who understand. Many of those emails are from people who have no hope, no faith and no one who cares. Please pray that other Christians will be led to befriend and love lonely and hurting people who are battling cancer alone.

Erin from (http://erink007.blogspot.com/) visited Abby today. It is always fun to meet blog friends in person. Erin was so sweet when she was playing with Abby. Abby LOVED her. Erin got her to smile, laugh and dance. Thank you so much for stopping by. It was a wonderful break for me too. I could really use your prayers tonight. One of her chemos can cause her bladder to bleed. Abby is just now recovering from mucositis (canker like sores) in her urinary tract, as well as other places. In an effort to try to prevent any irritation, I will be getting her up every two hours to empty her bladder. It will be a long night and I would appreciate your prayers.

2/18/2009 7:35:00 PM

Abby Daily Update: Home From Michelle: Abby is HOME! I love being home. ABBY loves being home. Abby had some tummy problems because of the chemo, but 199


she is really handling it well so far. She didn't complain AT ALL when I woke her up every two hours last night to go to the bathroom. She is tired today, but never complains. She is an amazing young lady. Thank you so much for praying for us. God is so good to our family. Abby needs chemo tomorrow and Friday. It looks like I will be able to administer it myself at home. That will make things so much easier for us. Yesterday, they had a hard time sedating Abby during her spinal tap. She was more awake than we prefer, anxious and remembers the procedure. Abby will need spinal taps for the next TWO years, so that they can bathe her brain in chemo. Nice, huh? The last thing we want is for Abby to be scared of the procedures, doctors or hospital. There are so many things she has to go through that I am not able to make better. I want her to be as comfortable as possible. Abby is very resistant to sedation now, so they are going to have the pain management team (anesthesiologists and nurse practitioners) handle the sedation in the future. This means they'll use the same sedation used in operating rooms to sedate Abby during the spinal tap. There are MANY hospitals/clinics who are already doing this on a routine basis for their pediatric cancer patients, but this is new for our hospital. I am so thankful they are willing to try this with Abby. Hopefully it will help other patients in the future too. Thank you so much for praying for Abby during her procedures. This is a direct answer to prayer.

Chemo, schkemo... a chocolate donut makes all things well.

Thank you again for all you are doing for our family. Abby loves hearing your messages, and seeing pictures & videos of the people who are praying for her. A special thank you to all of the students who have sent Abby cards. She LOVED looking at each of them. You made her hospital room much brighter. Thank you.

Cards, gifts and Valentines in her hospital room. 200


2/18/2009 11:04:00 PM

The Dog House and Pictures (Not Of The Dog House) For those of you on Twitter/facebook, no Brent isn't in the dog house (he "twittered" and asked people to email me and tell me that "Brent loves you"). He just knows I am so tired it hurts to breathe. He does stuff like that. I loved getting the hundreds of emails. Thanks for making my day. Brent, I love you too. You are an incredible husband and father. Thank you so much working so hard to take care of us. You're the best. Here are some more pics from today. People ask me if there is anything Abby would love to get in the mail. I always tell them that she LOVES getting cards and pictures of people who are praying for her. She really, really loves to get them. Thanks again for blessing our daughter and family.

Abby and my mother. My mom has been so wonderful about helping with all of the kids. Abby loves when Grandmother spends the day with her at the hospital.

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2/19/2009 11:29:00 AM

Hi/Lo Thursday

Abby is actually telling me to "smile Daddy!" as Sami takes the pics.

Our HIGHS: A "high" that you won't find on most normal days. Our high is getting to give chemo at home. We cajoled the doctors into allowing us to keep her I.V. port in, and sending us home with the chemo. It takes us about 5 minutes, saving us 4-5 hours going to the clinic.It's kind of weird putting a chemical into your child that is highly toxic and you have to protect yourself from even smelling, much less touching.

Abby has two ports: the one on the left with the white circle is her feeding tube. The one on the right, under the bandages is her I.V. port. The dark area around her feeding tube port is 202


where they had to chemically burn off the tissue that was expanding outside her stomach. Michelle is putting chemo in a second port, on the right, a tube that runs directly into her heart. Fun, huh?

Some of Abby's Gifts From Our Blogging Family:

Momma, a real nurse, administers chemo while Dad, a pretend nurse helps out. Actually, I (Brent) do all this stuff too, but I only feel safe doing it because Michelle carefully watches everything anyone does medically with Abby. Our LOWS: Abby is already starting to show signs of the mucositis (sores) after just a couple of days of starting this round. Last night she was weak and tired. It appears we are headed for another very difficult time. We covet your prayers.

2/19/2009 9:42:00 PM

SpideyLandis Prays & Dances... Abby's Gifts SpideyLandis wanted to pray AND dance for you tonight:

No matter what Abby is going through, no matter how much chemo, how much pain, how many drugs, she ALWAYS can manage a smile, and most of the time a laugh.

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2/20/2009 2:26:00 PM

Fav Foto Friday... We're a Bunch of Fakes Like a lot of you, we have trouble getting real smiles versus fake smiles from our kids. The "real" ones look fake, and the fake ones look real. Ironically, when we ASK them to fake smile, they turn out to be what we wish they would do for real!

Okay, Dad... how about we call it a night?

Fav Foto Friday is about "fakes", so we rustled up the herd and ask them for their "fake smile" today and they had no clue what we were talking about.

2/20/2009 8:10:00 AM

Please Pray for Cody

From Michelle: My heart breaks for Cody and his family. The end is near and I know they are heartbroken. Would you please pray for them? Mom's are "supposed" to be able to kiss tears away and make booboos disapear with a hug. It hurts so badly when we can't. I pray that God will hold this family close and bless them with more beautiful memories to hold on to, when the end comes.

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2/22/2009 1:00:00 PM

Pictures from the Blocks and You Are Going to Miss This Another fun thing we do is "fake spanking"... the kids love to fake cry over a fake spanking and fake, fake, fake... so they wanted to share with you an eposide of fake getting in trouble:

I, Michelle, could really use your prayers. Most of this journey has been really, really hard, but, by the grace of God, we have been okay. It is getting a lot tougher for me. There is so much work that needs to be done, Abby needs a lot of care and the others kids still need parents. Brent is sick, with a temp of 101, so the kids can't even be in the same room as him. Abby has no immune system, so we have to be very careful. I would appreciate your prayers for:

2/21/2009 4:41:00 PM

• •

Tough Saturday & Twitter

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Whew! We're having an uncomfortable Saturday. Abby isn't feeling well. I accidentally BUSTED Sami in forehead with a door, poor girl. Christian (17 year old son) is at the doctor now with a nasty sinus infection. Michelle is sleeping and doesn't feel well. I think I've got food poisoning. I can hardly sit up. But... we are blessed, happy and thankful, TRULY. Having that perspective no matter what, makes dealing with life's little bumps a less discouraging. It is not blind faith or a facade... when you truly know and believe that you are saved, that heaven awaits and that God never stops watching over, then you cannot help but feel blessed, be happy and give thanks. Twitter Updates Do you follow me (Brent) on Twitter? I don't just use it for "what am I doing" updates. I use Twitter to rememind followers of Godly thoughts, ask them challenging questions, send them encouraging truths. The same updates post on Facebook too. Follow me on Twitter here.

health for our family strength and energy for me get the work done that has to be done wisdom to let the things go that aren't necessary for the wisdom to treasure our time with our children, even on the really tough days

Most importantly, please join us in praising God that Abby is home, very happy and running through the house with a huge smile on her face. God is so good. Pam at http://pramom26.blogspot.com/ has a blog carnival that I love. She reminds us that someday, we will miss what we have today. God blesses each of us, daily. I don't want to take any of His blessings for granted. Even on a not so great day like today, we watched Abby and Sami laugh until they had tears in their eyes, got the worlds best hugs from Landis and spent time with friends we love. God's blessings are all around us. Normally Abby is not allowed to go out around people, because her immune system is so weak. Last month Abby had a tiny window where her immune system was healthy enough for her to have a little fun, before she began her hardest round of chemo. We let her choose from several safer choices and she chose, without a moments hesitation, to spend the weekend at the Block's home. http://buildingtheblocks.blogspot.com/ If you don't know the Blocks, you are missing out on a huge blessing.

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Leslie's daughter Nandi and Addie The picture is a little blury, but I want to show you one of Abby's very favorite people. Even though Amy lives hours away, Abby asks to go to her house almost daily. I wish we lived closer, too.

Leslie's son Noah. Friends since they were babies. Aleigha was so sweet to Abby.

Mya, Aleigha, Abby and Eli (Leslie's son). Our Guatemalan foursome.Leslie, we loved spending the afternoon with you and your children. We would love to see you again sometime soon.

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Abby and Mya. Mya has the most beautiful hair. Abby and Travis. This pictures has been shown many times before, but Abby LOVES it. Travis thank you for taking the time to be so sweet to Abby.

Addisyn and Abby. Addie you are an incredible young lady. You remind me so much of your mother. You have a heart f or helping orphans and for serving God. I am so proud of you.

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Abby and Kallan. Abby's face says it all.

Aleigha Block

Sami and Addie

We miss you guys so much it hurts. Thank you so much for making Abby and Sami feel so special and loved. We love you.

Abby and Aleigha

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2/23/2009 1:16:00 PM

Weird Weekend A strange Monday, after a strange weekend. Saturday started out just fine with some good friends coming over for lunch and then taking Landis with them to a basketball game. Then the day fell apart within hours. I (Brent) think I got food poisoning or something and spent the next 40 hours doubled up on a loveseat. Garret (16 yr old son) got something similar but wasn't even at our house. He was over at his Grandmother's. Sami got busted in the head with door. Michelle got sick. Abby started getting headaches again. Somehow we survived until today. Didn't think you would get rid of us that easy, did you? Update on Abby later. Her headaches got so bad we had to take her to the hospital. Here are some random pics while we try to get our feet back under us.

Abby hugging her pink monkey gift.

SpideyLandis in a serious crouching web shot.

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Sami... isn't she beautiful?

Abby with her first official "boyfriend", Logan.

Cancer doesn't keep you from being cool.

Abby catches some zzzz's on Garrett.

Happy, no matter what.

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Abby enjoying some gifts you have sent her.

Trying to see what's inside...

We let Abby open a few gifts and it was like Christmas morning for her.

Abby loves toys that let her have pretend families.

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The doctor today decided to use the old sedation medication and just blindly bleed off some of Abby's spinal fluid. I didn't know he was going to switch medications, but figured it out by watching Abby's reaction to the medication . He was only trying to get her more comfortable during the procedure. I appreciate that, but it didn't turn out so well for Abby. Abby was VERY comfortable during the procedure and that was very nice for her and less stressful for me. The problem is, Abby's had a very bad headache since the procedure, even after morphine and Fentanyl. I honestly don't know what to do at this point. Abby received chemo in her spinal fluid today. A drug she needs to prevent the cancer from spreading to her CNS (brain). A doctor I trust is willing to do another spinal tap today, to relieve the pressure, but my fear is it will also remove the chemo. I would feel much more comfortable waiting until the chemo has been in 48 hours, but that will mean Abby will have a horrible headache for 2 days, and the pressure can potentially cause brain and retinal damage. Honestly, I appreciate the fact the doctor was trying to sedate Abby better, I just don't know what to do now. ~ Michelle Update on the Update

Three little monkies jumpin' on the bed...

Abby is on her way back to the hospital as we speak. Her head has not quit pounding for two days despite the morphine and Fentanyl. We'll let you know more tonight after we find out something.

2/24/2009 6:52:00 PM

Abby Update & Update Abby Update Starting Yesterday Things didn't go well yesterday at the hospital. Abby's doctors feel that her headaches are still being caused by increased intracranial pressure (intracranial hypertension). We've dealt with this alot. Normally her doctor does a spinal tap, tests Abby's opening pressure, and the bleeds off enough spinal fluid for her pressure to be at correct levels. The problem we are having is the new sedation medications aren't working well. The old medicine, which worked great, caused pressures to be artificially high, making opening and ending pressures useless.

I hope you folks don't get sick of the "caption game" but I just get such a kick out of the stuff you come up with. What do you think our little "innocent, sedated, frail cancer patient" is up to in this picture from about 3 days ago? Leave a caption and let us know. Might be a little surprise for the 212


winner. ~ Brent

2/25/2009 7:09:00 PM

Melt Your Heart... Abby crawls up in my lap tonight and snuggles in for a cat nap. She looks up at me and says "Daddy?" "Yes, dear?" "You're the best Daddy. I love you". Does life get ANY BETTER than that????????

Because Abby has some genetic markers that make her cancer much more difficult to treat, Brent and I wanted a couple of second opinions. The only hospital in America that is studying Abby's genetic marker is St Jude. We were told by two doctors who did there residencies there it would be very hard to get a second opinion from them. Praise God they were willing to help Abby. St Jude said they do not believe Abby needs to repeat the last four months of treatment. This is GREAT news, because the last four months of treatment are/were brutal. This great news, unfortunately followed something I didn't anticipate. They believe Abby has difficulty metabolizing and/or and increased risk of toxic side effects to all three of the chemotherapy medications she will be receiving for the next TWO YEARS. I knew two of the medications were a problem for her, and honestly I knew she appeared to have trouble with the third, but seeing in black and white that they thought Abby would continue to have problems with this medication made it more real. The fact that Abby has trouble with all three chemos she will receive for the next 2 years will make finding the correct doses much more difficult. The goal of the next two years is to suppress her immune system just enough that the cancer is not detectable, but also allow her to have enough immune system, that she will be able to fight infections better than she can now. Because Abby's cancer is aggressive, we MUST correctly suppress her immune system (remember her cancer mimics white blood cells). Since she easily becomes toxic, too much chemo is dangerous. Abby's treatment remains an intricate dance.

From Michelle: So many prayers have been answered today, it is hard to know where to start the update. Brent and I are very thankful so many people are praying for Abby. This journey has been hard, but we have been blessed by God every step of the way. Abby's headaches are better today. It is wonderful to see her smile again. Abby grew an inch in the last couple of weeks. Many children grow poorly when they are getting chemo. I love that Abby was able to grow and inch during the toughest phase of their treatment. Last weekend we had three members of our family sick and Abby's immune system was very low because of the chemo. We had two people with the flu and one with an upper respiratory infection. All very sick and running fevers. Everyone has been well for over 48 hours and Abby has shown no signs of becoming sick. One of Abby's doctors told me there was no way she could avoid getting sick. Praise God, she is well.

We are still awaiting another opinion, but are very encouraged by the report from Saint Jude. St. Jude offered some very practical advice to help avoid toxicity. The third opinion may offer a few more hints about keeping Abby safe, but no one expects them to suggest repeating the toughest phases of chemo. This is a HUGE relief to Brent and I. Thank you so much for your prayers, encouraging notes and fun gifts for Abby, Sami and Landis. You all help us more than we can ever express. You are one of our biggest blessings.

2/26/2009 6:47:00 PM

Abby Update & Signs of the Times 213


Abby got "chocolate blood" today (that's what she calls a transfusion, don't ask). So she is feeling refreshed and doing pretty good. She has been throwing up a lot lately, and Michelle and I have had quite a few sleepless nights this week. Very tired. We appreciate your prayers for strength and health. The throwing up appears to be from the very harsh chemo she has had (four days last week, four days this week). She is getting platelets tomorrow. We'll keep you posted. Meanwhile, here's a few photos we hope you like:

SpideyLandis SERIOUS about his training. This is his best "don't mess with me" look.

The tongue is out for a reason. You know what the orange junk on his mouth is, don't you?

Abby is "cool breeze" but SpideyLandis is about to pounce. "Bubba, quit kissing me. Boys are GROSS! (except for my 62 boyfriends)"

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Any wonder why we love her so much. No matter what she goes through, she is happy and blessing.

Abby loves her gifts and all the cards and messages.

Doing chemo again. Serious stuff.

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Traveling along I began to recall some of the names that wellmeaning Christians have labeled their businesses without really thinking through the implications. Agape Wrecking Service. Does this mean they unconditionally love all wrecks and towing? Or that they have a Godly love for destroying things? Believers Polygraph Systems. Is this a service that can only tell if Christians are lying? Or perhaps it's a machine that can tell by your answers whether you really are a believer or not. Maybe it means that believers will pass the test even if they are lying. Or maybe it means you have to believe you are actually taking a polygraph. Or you believe polygraphs work. Heavenly World Travel Agency. Could this be where angels can book a cruise to the Bahamas? Or where people who are experiencing "hell on earth" can plan a change of scenery? Do you have to die first in order to "come aboard"? Is it ONY oneway? Covenant Arbitration Group. I wonder if they list Moses as one of their clients? It would be a little scary to have to subpoena the Creator of the Universe as a defendant. "Mr. Creator Sir, did you understand the terms of the contract? Did you read the fine print?" Exactly who would you turn to to enforce a monetary judgment against the Almighty? Is part of their service involve sacrificing animals or putting out fleece overnight? Your guess is as good as mine... but it's got to be bad. I'm thinking some bad chili, or a serious spideywedgie.

Exodus Home Builders. It would kind of stink to spend six months building your dream home and then immediately have to pack up and walk away from it. At least you might get some cool gifts from your neighbors on your march out of the neighborhood. Maybe it means that once they are done building, the builders leave the house. Or maybe the houses are constructed with bricks made from straw. Hard to figure. Narrow Way Road Construction. I just hope you're not in a hurry. I'm pretty sure they did they highway our to our onestop-sign town.

It could be that Abby is really happy, or it could be she just got busted sneaking into the drawer. Signs of the Times By Brent I was driving down the road when I saw a truck passing me that said "Kingdom Alarm Systems". I kind of chuckled to myself thinking about how "out of business" they will be when we are in the real Kingdom.

Abundant Life Weight-Loss. Maybe the abundant life is the problem in the first place. A better name might be the Living Sacrifice Weight Loss... on second thought people might just take that ("living sacrifice") to mean "grill more hamburgers"... poor cows. (not the people trying to lose weight, the actual cows that the hamburgers came from! Ooohhh, I'll get some ugly emails for that one. Hint: I'm not exactly skinny, so I can cut jokes about it.) And finally the one that puzzles me the most but I see it everywhere I go: "Wine and Spirit". At first I used to think this was a store where you picked up 216


Communion supplies but I'm beginning to wonder if those really are Bibles they are hiding in them there brown paper sacks.

• •

2/28/2009 12:59:00 AM

Open Season Answers Kick Your Feet Up, Go to the Bathroom First, Get Something to Drink

• •

Michelle was a pediatric, and labor & delivery nurse for a long time. I’ve sang in southern gospel groups most of my life (typically male quartets). Michelle’s family maiden name is “Riggs” too. So the first time she took me to her family reunion, I told her “if I run into anyone I know, I’m OUTTA HERE”. We often joke about having three-headed children with twelve fingers (and no I'm not being insensitive to children with defects; can't we all decide its okay to have a sense of humor again?). I was a Drill Sergeant and a Black Belt though you couldn’t tell by looking at me now. Michelle has traveled to and wandered around Guatemala and Ethiopia by herself.

We live in a dinky little town, in a modest house that has six bedrooms but only because they are small and I built on three of them (including the family room) myself; we drive two used cars with a combined 180K miles on them; I rarely wear anything but shorts and t-shirts because I work from home, and if Michelle had a buck for every time someone said “you have to live with him?” we’d drive brand new cars and have a huge expensive house. Hope that doesn't shatter any preconceived notions about us, but we are about as average and normal as it gets. We purposely live a modest lifestyle as part of our life philosophy and ministry. What you see on the blog is the real "us" in every day life. We don't polish up things for the public. What you see, is what you get no matter how unflattering it may be. We really do have a lot of laughs almost every day. Humor is a big part of what keeps life enjoyable even when it’s tough. Now on to your questions. You’ll probably end up asking me to NEVER answer personal questions again! I knew the “open season” questions would be interesting and scary. I was right. You’ll probably find out some stuff you didn’t know, and some stuff you don’t want to know. Let me start with one thing you probably don’t know… I call Michelle, “Maria”. That is her first name. I’m the only one that calls her Maria, so it’s special to me. Sometimes I slip and write “Maria” on the blog or in an email, and I have been privately asked on more than one occasion “who is Maria? Are you having marital problems?” which is always good for a laugh. Here’s a few from the “things people don’t know about us” department: •

We play tennis (not much lately). I’ve played competitively for over 20 years, and Maria, my wife not my secret girlfriend, played in college

"Live to love and laugh" asked... So how do you as parents deal or have dealt with the crabbiness or misery of a teenager daughter living at home? Obviously I can't give a full answer to that here but having the experience with four teenagers, it's not a foreign subject. The difficulty with teenagers is they have the adult ability to have grown up wants and desires, but often lack the maturity to be much more than self-focused and narcissistic (think only of themselves primarily). It is simply part of the growth process and it affects teens to different degrees depending on their personality, background, parenting and spiritual understanding. One thing I've learned is each kid has to be handled according to their personality. There is no "one size fits all" discipline. One of my kids responded to the "here's how it is, straighten 217


up or else" approach. Another just simply needed mild "correction" and they were good. One of our teens was particularly defiant and rebellious and after trying the "fine, you'll live like you are in prison" for a while, I found out what really worked for them was to allow full privileges and freedom, and then have those to "take away" as part of discipline. They had more of a "what have I got to lose?" mentality, so starting them with zero and making them earn privileges, didn't work. Starting with full privileges and taking some away worked great.

emotional support. I would say there is almost no negative feelings from them except we don't get to do a lot of "normal" or extra things with them for the last several months. They know things aren't "normal" and we don't pretend to try and make them completely "normal". This is part of life, part of growing up. So we let them experience this with us and do not try to shield them or create a false sense of "normal". To balance , we don't simply ignore "normal" either. We try to balance the reality of dealing with cancer with the need to continue parenting involvement with all the kids as much as possible.

Some of our kids have needed "Drill Sgt Dad", others couldn't handle the pressure of that approach, needing a gentle "guide, direct and monitor" parenting. One of our kids got their behind spanked routinely and another rarely got spanked. Yes, we believe in loving, consistent, properly administered butt busting... I mean spanking. More on that later, but I wish we could back to the old days where we could use colorful descriptions without fear of offending or being labeled. I can't count the number of times I was told "son, you do that again and I'll whip you 'til you can't sit down for month". I knew what that meant: spanking, a good one. It wasn't abuse, it was LIFE. Say that in public now and they'll take your kids from you. Oh wait, I just said it in public. Shhh.... don't tell anybody.

They haven't voiced an opinion one way or another about being on the blog. I have been writing publicly for many years and I don't tell personal stories about the older kids without their permission. I often tell stories about them but do it generically or in third person. You and Michelle demonstrate an amazing reliance on God during your season of trial. How do your kids respond to this season?

Of course we are only addressing the externals. You can deal with behavior and ignore the heart issues, but that is just "surviving". True parenting involves addressing the selfishness, the sinfulness and the attitudes behind the behavior. That has become more difficult in a world that saturates kids with the belief in "self": self love, self esteem, self happiness, self desire. We (society in general) teach kids their whole life to think of "self" then wonder why they are selfish and self obsessed as teenagers. I counsel and advise a lot of parents privately about teen difficulties and every day learn something new myself as I continue to parent my own kids. I can't possibly give a full answer here but I hope this gives you something to think about. Liz asked... How do your four older children respond to your three younger children's "blog fame?" Do they opt to stay out of the blog light?

Like most kids, they take their cues from us. We just try to be an example to them. Again, since they are teenagers and have their own friends and activities, the everyday life of dealing with cancer doesn't have a huge affect on them in the sense of depriving them of a "normal" teenage day. Kathrin asked... If you could go anywhere in the world (when all of you children are well) where would you go? We would probably take them to Africa or Guatemala or some struggling country to allow them to see how blessed they are in America and how much opportunity there is for them to help others. It's not unlike most American or Western parents who wish their children had a realistic grasp on how good life really is for them, especially when they are having a pity party. Do you still have time to have friends over at night for a meal or something?

In most ways it doesn't really affect them because like most teens and young adults, they have their own friends and life. There is enough age difference that the everyday events with Abby don't have much overlap with their life, particularly the two grown kids who don't live at home.

Not as much as we would like obviously, but occasionally. The hard part is we have to be so careful about sickness and vaccinations around Abby (she can't be around live vaccines for 4 weeks after being administered). When people come over, they have to be comfortable around Abby if she suddenly needs to throw up or is in pain. We have several families of dear friends who are very comfortable with all of this and we love to have them over but it probably only happens once every 2-3 months right now.

Overall, I'd say they are happy for Abby, and for us, knowing the whole "blog thing" gives us some needed spiritual and

Probably the biggest reason is we just don't have time. Several times a week our days are eaten up going to the hospital and 218


caring for Abby. Often we are up all night with Abby, so we are frequently just too tired to want to go anywhere or have anyone over. We've been in the hospital 21 times since July, so you can imagine how much of our life that has taken up. One of us (me or Michelle and the other kids) will get to go to church 2-3 times a month. Abby has only been three times since July. We do feel pretty isolated much of the time but that is a sacrifice we are willing to make for the gift God gave us to care for (Abby). The blog is a big part of helping us to stay connected and have some interaction with people on a regular basis. Are you sometimes angry at God? No, never. And if you've been a reader of our blogs or my writing for very long, you know I would tell you if we were. We don't have any reason to be mad at God. God has blessed us and cared for us beyond anything we could ever deserve. We've never gone hungry, He brought us together, He gave us three beautiful adopted children and four biological. We have friends who love us and family who care about us. What is there to be angry about? Because Abby is sick? Sickness is part of the curse of sin. WE did that, not God. Instead of being angry when the curse comes to bite US, we see it as a time to rejoice because unlike those who have no hope, we know God is watching over us every second and the very worse that can ever happen, is we get to go Home to be with Him forever. What is there to be angry about?

and my friends told me they were going to do it and IMPERSONATE me. So both of us gave in. We met through the service, and talked for hundreds of hours over several weeks before deciding to meet in person. If there has ever been REAL "love at first sight" it was us simply because the foundation of our relationship was built on hundreds of hours of conversation first. I know that is impractical for most people, but we were pretty much in love before we ever met the first time. Compare that to the typical dating relationship today. You meet, go on a couple of dates, start making out, get physical... and then your judgment is clouded by your hormones and passion. People "fall in love" because of the physical ecstasy when in reality it's just a tremendous fleshly attraction. We felt really good and confident about our relationship because it was built on a such a solid original foundation of communication and seriously getting to know each other before meeting. It helped that we lived 2 hours apart too. That forced most of our interaction to be verbal even after meeting. We are deeply in love and even though it's only been three years together, we have lived a lifetime of experience. We are totally committed to each other and have a marriage built on the Godly love of sacrifice and service to each other. Michelle doesn't squeeze the toothpaste out correctly, and I still wash my white with my colors, but other than that, we couldn't be happier.

Rob and Amy asked...

When did you decide she was the one you were going to marry?

I remember a few posts back you mentioned not hearing from your oldest daughter for a while. I was just hoping you were able to get in contact with her. Did you hear from her?

We both suspected we would end up getting married by the time we met the first time, unless something remarkably weird happened in person. I'm still amazed that putting my bare feet up on the table in the restaurant didn't bother her.

Yes, she was just "busy" with her new job and typical twenty year old life. It really wasn't that big a deal. We normally have some sort of interaction several times a week, so it just concerned me when I hadn't heard from her in two weeks especially since her life can sometimes be, shall we say, adventurous.

How did you all come to the decision to adopt? It was just something we both always wanted to do. I'm a baby fanatic. I love having younger children around the house (yes, I love the older children too, I just want to knock them up side the head while I love them).

Sarah asked... How did you and Michelle meet? I was hoping nobody would ask but I guess we'll have to answer it some day. eHarmony. Okay? There, now you know. Michelle and I were both single parents, not by our own choice. We both had friends bugging us to do eHarmony and neither of us had any interest. Her friends badgered her into it,

Michelle had adopted Abby a couple of months before we met and was starting the process of adopting Landis. This was just another reason I fell in love with her, because of her love for kids. Of course I fell in love with Abby the instant I saw her. We went to a restaurant, just Abby, Michelle and I. Me and Abby traded licking salsa off tortilla chips and I was hooked. She was about a year old and I can't even imagine not being her Dad. 219


student101 asked... Your kids seem SO good! How do you discipline them? Whew... you guys ask some doozies... It would be hard to encapsulate our parenting in one answer but let me try. We believe in firm discipline bathed in extravagant affection and love. For the little ones, we believe in a variety of discipline that is appropriate for their age, maturity and personality INCLUDING SPANKING. We are neither embarrassed or equivocating about spanking. Spanking (defined as paddling them on the butt only, with an object that does not cause injury such as a paddle) done with consistency, in love, for the purpose of teaching is one of the most effective tools parents have for the younger children. It is a national disgrace and tragedy we have brainwashed several generations of parents into believing spanking "teaches violence" and refer to it as "hitting" a child. It is embarrassing and deceptive to parade horrible parents on TV who jerk up their kid by the arm in frustrated anger, whack them a couple of times with their bare hand, then let them throw a temper tantrum and proclaim, "SEE! SPANKING DOESN'T WORK". What a joke. What a shame. We spank for three reasons (defiance, disobedience and disrespect) and for the purpose of teaching boundaries and self control. Here is a typical episode of discipline for us: • •

Dad: "Landis, I want you to _______________" Landis follows with a tantrum, direct disobedience or "no!" I take him to his room. I tell him what he did wrong, and what his incorrect behavior was. I tell him he is going to get a spanking and what that spanking will be such as "two swats". I put him over my lap and give him two swats. I stand him up for a few seconds to let the moment sink in. Then I repeat what he did and why it was wrong. Then I ask him "why did Dad give you a spanking?" to which he replies "because I ______." Then I tell him, "okay, give me hugs" which he does and within seconds, things are fine and he goes back to what he was doing.

tantrum. Our kids understand they can CRY all they want after a spanking, but any temper fits because of getting a spanking will only result in another spanking. Once your kids know this, you will end the "after-spanking melodrama". The key is consistency. Don't do the "15 chances until I lose my temper". Every instance of disobedience, defiance and disrespect should be met with routine, predictable discipline in various forms appropriate to the child's age, maturity and personality. It is not always spanking, but too many parents exclude spanking often with the nice sounding excuse of "my kids really don't need it". Granted, I've seen some kids who never need spanking but they are the exception, while most parents today pretend it is the RULE. We use spanking, time-outs, extra chores, loss of privileges, talking to, standing in the corner and variety of other creative tactics teach the kids discipline, again, appropriate to age, maturity and personality because there is no "one thing works for all kids". I will say this, with both honesty and humility, our children are well behaved, polite, respectful and good kids whether at home or out in public. All our friends will testify to that. We have no worries about going out to eat, going to Walmart or attending Church. They have their moments, sure, but overall we are not concerned at all about taking them anywhere, or having people over. Let me finish this answer by restating our philosophy: firm discipline (expectations, rules, boundaries, self control, respect, obedience appropriate to age, maturity and personality) bathed in extravagant love and affection. Whew... I probably ran off alot of people right there. My parenting ideas are from the Dark Ages evidently. Mary (in MN) asked... What is your occupation Brent? That's hard to answer because it depends on what I'm doing. So let me see if I can put it in a short explanation:

That's it. No anger. No frustration. No "if I tell you one more time..." for the tenth time. Loving, consistent discipline. The kids know exactly what to expect. They aren't "afraid" because we finally get fed up and blow our tops.

I've always been an artist. Even when young, it was obvious. I've been doing graphic design for 25 years. The Internet came around and led me to designing websites. Designing websites led me to want to learn how to make websites functional as well as look good. So I tackled programming, database development and systems engineering.

One note here: you should not allow your kids to PUNISH YOU after you discipline them by allowing them to scream, holler, wail, thrash about, run off, etc. It serves no teaching purpose to discipline them and then let them rebel and throw a

The graphic design led me to clients who needed magazine publishing. So I learned the publishing world which led to the creation of new magazines and a need to develop photography skills which are natural fit for my artistic side anyway. 220


Being creative, I love to write, even when I was a kid. That writing skill was first used in business then about ten years ago I started writing alot of website material, Bible teaching and books. The sheer act of writing every day for years allowed me to become a prolific writer and I can easily churn out on average several thousand words a day in an hour or so, and well over 10K words if I'm working on a project. This post, which took about three hours to write is over 8500 words, just to give you an example.

accept opportunities for faith (often trials and suffering) and respond to them in faith (trust in and focus on God). As we reach a new level of faith under one set of circumstances, we become ready to go to the next level but we must be willing to do it God's way.

Where I'm at professionally right now: I have a full time job, but I also have to do side work of graphic design and web development to pay the bills, and eventually I hope my writing and magazine work will be our full time source of income. My dream is to one day be able to simply say I am an "author" but I won't consider that accomplished until it is truly an adequate and primary source of income. There is more about my professional background here, if you are lacking a life and want to read it. I have read on your blog Michelle is a nurse, does she work outside of the home in this occupation? Michelle is a nurse, but is not working at a hospital. Before we married, we agreed no matter what it took, she would stay at home and be there full time for all our children, and especially the adopted young ones who especially need it. Taylor asked... I guess other people have sorta asked this already, but I too was wondering about your other kids. How do they deal with Abby's Leukemia? The kids understand her cancer. They know how serious it is, except for Landis. Landis know's Abby is "sick". Sami knows full well Abby could die, and she has been a wonderful sister to Abby. She is there by her side constantly caring for her. Sami, Garrett and Christian have all known people who have died from cancer, so they understand the situation. As I previously stated, the older kids daily routine is not affected much by Abby. They understand her condition and do whatever we ask them to do to help. Nancy asked... How did you develop (not sure that is the word I want to use) such a deep faith in God? How do you seem so upbeat when things are so grim especially with Abby? Do you ever wonder why me? That's simple: God gave it to us, as He will give it to anyone of His children. The depth is dependent on our willingness to

What you describe as "upbeat" is just the joy we get from having an eternal perspective. How can your joy be robbed when you know soon you'll be heaven where all sickness, pain and sorrow will disappear? How you can you not be joyful when you realize this life is but a whisper in time compared to eternity? How can we not be joyful when God has never failed us, never neglected us and never left us without hope? We are "upbeat" because our whole eternity awaits us. Abby might get to go on ahead of us, but pretty soon, we'll be there with her. Ange~ asked... I would love to hear more details about your adoptions- we are wanting to adopt, and are looking for places that would be less expensive and take less amount of time...? Well in a nutshell, Ethiopia is a good choice right now as far as being quicker and less expensive. Guatemala was for a while but not now. Many countries are open but Ethiopia probably fits your criteria the best. Anonymous asked... How do you find time for just you and Michelle? How do you keep your marriage alive even after many years? You have so many challenges facing you and yet seem to have such a strong marriage. We just have to carve out time, and yes, it's hard sometimes. One thing that helps, is I work from home. So rather than leaving in the morning, and coming home at night, I get to see her in little spurts all day long. We are actually together at home almost all the time except when Abby is in the hospital. Often, I can sit next to her on the couch and work. Even though I'm working, we are still getting to be near each other which we really enjoy too. As for keeping our marriage alive, for us it hasn’t been many years in TIME, but it’s been many years in experience and opportunities to trust God. The "life" in our marriage comes from our commitment to life-long fidelity and loyalty, our commonly shared goals, and our unconditional love for each other. True story: not long ago, we saw a “stress test” in a magazine, and decided we would have some fun and take it. At the end of the test, we realized in the last three years we’ve experienced most of the top ten or twenty stressful events. The “scoring” scale said: "Over 65 points, you are experiencing an extreme

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level of stress and may see indications of stress in your life". We scored 435. And that was BEFORE Abby got sick. • No, that is not a joke. It’s not my humor coming out. We scored 435 pre-Leukemia diagnosis… getting married, changing jobs, moving, major disease, death in the family, adoption, medical problems, etc. It seemed like we had simply gone down the checklist and made sure we hit them all. We didn't check off the one about discovering we are really brother and sister, but we haven't ruled it out yet either. We had the biggest laugh over that stress test: “Over 65 points means you’re experiencing an extreme level of stress.” Hah! What does 435 mean? We should be in a coma by now evidently! It was kind of like "Mr. Johnny Comes Knockin'"... it's just so far past any level of normal it becomes funny. We certainly feel like God has given us a lot of opportunity for faith. Yes, we feel a strained, and often tired… okay, I admit it, sometimes we even say “I am so stressed out…” but we don’t have any “poor me” feelings. We consider it ALL JOY God has counted us worthy to have so much opportunity to exercise faith in Him. God brought Michelle and I together at just the right time, when we would be the right parents, and the right friends He needed for all of our children, and many other people in our lives that we’ve been blessed to minister to. 4 Little Men and Girly Twins asked... Oh, these are fun! I'm always amazed at what people wondering... myself included! Can't wait to read the answers! That response came from Britt, a new friend of ours that will be in the upcoming March issue of Serious.Life Magazine. They are a young, cool, hip family with SIX kids. You’re going to love them.

hands, and is beginning to show an interest in writing too. Garrett, 16, is our musician. He loves youth group and reading. He is especially close to Abby and is always a very willing help with her, and around the house.

While Abby is at the hospital with Michelle, I am home most of the time taking care of the kids and house. Sami spends a lot of time at the hospital with Abby, and Landis has a couple of families who have quasi-adopted him. Pics? Christian doesn't really like to be in them, Garrett is busy alot with his own activities, Jordan lives in Tulsa and Dane is working and going to school. Joshua asked... I was wondering how the oldest of your children feel about all the attention on Abby and her illness. Do they ever feel left out from the parents love? I know you love them, but teens can feel left out even in the best circumstances. Do you as parents find time to get one on one time with each child? What do you do to get a break?? I've pretty much answered most of this already. They have never expressed any feelings of neglect or not being loved. Of course I'm sure they would love for things to be "normal" but part of parenting is to teach them this is all part of what life throws at us. Michelle and I, once in a while, every few weeks, will get to go out for an evening which is usually dinner and then sitting for a few hours at Barnes & Noble just talking, reading and drinking coffee. It's hard to find times when Abby can be left with someone else, and we only have 2-3 people capable of caring for her. We can't really afford to go out very often either. DawnS asked...

Anonymous asked... What about your other kids? You never talk about them or what they do while you are all at the hospital. Who takes care of them and why not any pictures? Our other kids, starting at the top: • •

Dane is 21; lives in Norman, goes to OU. Works, pays his own way... truly a blessing and someone we are ridiculously proud of. Jordan is almost 20 and lives in Tulsa; works, is totally independent. She is incredibly creative and is our drama queen. She has excellent sales skills and is extremely intelligent. Christian, 17, lives at home with us. He loves athletics and is the most shy of all our kids (maybe the ONLY shy one). He is quiet, is great at working with his

I would like to know about your adoptions, how old the kids were, what prompted the decisions etc... I know Sami came home last year and really seems to be doing so great. You know, enough people are asking about the details of the adoptions I'm going to ask Michelle to write a separate post answering the adoption questions in full. Tim, Sally, and Addison asked... I have only been reading for a few weeks, but I was wondering when/what made you feel you were called to adopt? Michelle will answer this in a future post, soon. Stacey G. asked... 222


Hello, I was wondering how you make a button? Also, has Abby asked if she is going to die and how do you answer ? Where do your other children live?

primarily being used to soften people's sensitivity against abortion. Holly asked...

I'll do a demo on the button-badge creation soon. Do you and Michelle ever get a date night? I think you deserve a few together!

Yes, Abby has asked about dying several different ways, and yes, it just disintegrates our hearts when she does. She asks if she is going to grow up. She asks if other kids are going to die.

Very rarely as I stated before. Time and money conspire against it happening very often. We are content and blessed.

I don't know that we have a pat answer, we just answer with Godly perspective in an honest way appropriate for her age. We try to tell her enough to comfort her about the subject of dying and how God cares for her and we will all live with Him someday, but we don't go into detail she cannot understand, nor do we dwell on it. A four year old has about a 3 second attention span, so she doesn't get fixated on it.

Anonymous asked... Is a bone marrow transplant an option for Abby? I've been wondering about that. Potentially but it will be very difficult to find a donor. The fact that Abby is adopted makes this an issue. We don't know where to find her biological family in Guatemala. Since she is part Mayan Indian and part Latino finding genetic match will be very hard. We might do a bone marrow drive in the future to prepare if the need arises.

Anonymous asked... Could you maybe do a blog post about your whole family! Even the older kids? Did you want several generations on both sides up to third cousin? Or all the way back to Noah? :) I think I've answered most of that question, let me know if you have more specific questions about the rest of the family.

Amy R. asked... I was wondering about your other kiddos. I am new to reading your blog (in the past month) and was wondering their ages. Are Abby, Landis and Sammi the only ones still at home?

Jillian and Crew asked... Where did you get the spiderman outfits, my kids are drooling over them? We have always tried to send a little money to St Jude's every month-because my parents did when I was growing up and have never really thought about where it goes, does it actually go to help families like you, is there another organization you know of that helps kids with cancer? How do you feel as a Christian and a parent of a child with cancer about stem cell research? How/or do you at all... discipline a child that is sick? The Spiderman outfits have just come from here and there. Gifts mostly for Christmas and birthday. Donations to place like St. Jude's help the family in the fact that the child-patient is cared for at no cost if needed, and the overall research helps kids everywhere in any hospital. If you want to help families directly with their personal or medical expenses, you just need to give them money directly.

Nope, Christian and Garret live at home still too. I think we've covered the rest. Let us know if you want to know more about the other kids. Sara asked... How do you make time when the needs of your children are so different, with having such an age gap? Do you ever feel like you don't have enough time to discuss tough and sensitive topics with the older kids? I know it is a struggle for me, having a 9 year old and then the day to day care for a 1 and 4 year old. Also, did you always agree on the number of kids you were going to have? Okay, this is going to sound trite, but the answer is "we just do". We don't have a system or technique, we just take things one day at a time and do our best every day. Hopefully each day we will learn new lessons and have new experience that will make us better parents the following day.

Stem cell - we disagree with stem cell research made available because of or to normalize abortion. It is an already established fact it is both unnecessary and highly questionable there is any benefit from fetus stem cells. Existing stem cell research is already well developed and effective. We believe this distinction is routinely ignored because this argument is

No, we do not feel like we lack time to have tough or sensitive conversations with the older kids simply because we have those conversations routinely. In fact, for whatever reason, I think the seriousness of all this, and the scarcity of idle time we have causes us to make sure we have substantive

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conversations routinely with the older kids, including the grown kids out of the house. Have we always agreed on the number of kids we want? Yes. We both wrote down the same answer on secret ballots. That number? “More� Seriously, we love kids, we love adopting and we just feel like this is our mission in life. So we are both open to what opportunities God presents to us. We are not casual or impulsive about it. For example, we probably would be adopting again already but we know it would not be fair to them, Abby or our other kids to try to bring someone else in the house while dealing with Leukemia.

What kind of camera do you use? Your pictures are beautiful. I am adopting from Kazakhstan this year and want a great camera to take along. I have a Canon 40D. A Canon Rebel or some equivalent 35mm DSLR would be sufficient. Assuming a camera body of at least that quality, the real trick to great pics is in the lenses. Most people take pics in low light indoors with completely inadequate lenses, then cannot figure out why their photos stink. It helps to learn some basic rules of framing and composing a photo (I'll do a demo on that). But no matter how good your eye for photography is, if you don't have an appropriate lens, you won't have good pics.

DJ Holly Rock asked... Does it bother you when people refer to your children separately...as in adopted and not adopted, as if they are not all part of the same family? Does it bother you when people say "he/she is adopted" instead of "he/she was adopted"? Do people ever ask you if you love your children who were adopted as much as you love your biological children? We've never been asked if we "love them as much", and it doesn't really bother us for people to refer to them as our "adopted children" because they are. We haven't had many rude comments though we get quite a lot of stares when our little U.N. delegation walks into a restaurant. I think the only question/comment that really causes us to grit our teeth is when people say, "so these three are adopted, and the other four are your real children." That grates on us pretty good.

Outdoors, the standards lenses than come with a DSLR (a full size camera that takes standard lenses) are usually fine for outdoor, sunlit photos. But in any kind of low light, you've got have some decent lenses. It's too much to go into all that here, perhaps I'll do a demo about it. You can research it yourself by looking up lenses that go with your camera, and finding out their capabilities. You should also learn some photography basics like exposure, f-stops, shutter speed, etc. "Digital Photography for Dummies" is a great book to start with if you know nothing about it. I can give you hint about a good low light lens. It must be a low "f-stop" value, typically 1.4-2.0. You'll understand that when you take a few minutes to learn some simple basics about lenses. Anonymous asked... What is your love language?

Laurel asked... "Hey, baby.... I luv u" You mean like that? Please tell us about all of the older children. Where do they live? What are they doing with their lives? Do you feel like you're "one big family", or two separate families? On the last part of your question, a little of both. In a blended family, you'll always have a some aspects of "separate" but on a daily level, we function and coexist as one big family and really have no turmoil to speak of between the kids because of being a blended family. Christian and Garrett get along fine, and like typical teens, kind of have their own life, friends and actitivities.

Seriously, I know what you're asking but we tend to take a little different angle. We try to a balance across the board by saying "I love you" routinely, hugging frequently and routinely, just stopping to chill out and sit next to each other sometimes... we speak about love silently as well by our actions and choice to care for each other, and do things for each other. Humor is also a big part of expressing our love for each other. Repeatedly talking about our commitment to our mutual goals and priorities in life reaffirm our love. Where did you and Michelle go to college?

The smaller kids, different colors from different countries, could not be more bonded. They are truly one big family. minime0910 asked...

Michelle went to several colleges. I went to one semester of college in the '80's and saw the future of computer graphics and the Internet (which were still relatively unknown). I left college to pursue and self educate about technology which was the single smartest thing I ever did professionally. I was well 224


ahead of the curve getting into computer graphics and the web. I hold several professional certifications in technology and design, but never went back to college.

getting a "poke" Michelle tells her the truth. Even when Abby doesn't ask, Michelle will let her know what to expect so that overall Abby does not have to fear the unknown.

katie asked...

We role play alot of the procedures and teach her the terminology so that the Doctors words are not scary and strange. We work hard to keep things calm and quiet at the hospital and spend a lot of one on one time doing comforting things with Abby.

You really don't talk about the older 4 often, so how old are they and what are their names? Did you adopt them too? What's the best part of having an adopted child?

No, she is not rebellious about the treatment. When she is at her very worse condition, and on scary amounts of pain medicine, she can get to be a little impatient and grouchy. Even still, she is cooperative with the doctors and procedures, and never fights back or refuses what has to be done, no matter how painful.

I think we've covered all this pretty well at this point. The three younger are adopted, the four older are bio. The best part of having an adopted child is knowing they won't grow up to suffer from my bad looks and hair loss. Susarah asked... Can you be my online pastor? Very cool name, Susarah... love it. I assume that was asked tongue-in-cheek but I get addressed as "Pastor" alot so want to respond. I'm not a Pastor in the sense of how that word is recognized today in the modern Church. Biblically, "pastor" is the same word as Elder, Shepherd or Overseer. These are spiritually mature men who are gifted to teach and lovingly lead people in their Christian walk. To the degree that God allows and provides opportunity, for many years I have used the Internet as a ministry opportunity to teach, advise, counsel, mentor and guide. In that sense, God has called me to be a shepherd of sorts but I am not, nor will I ever be a "Pastor" in the commonly accepted use of the word though I'm routinely addressed as that especially over on my ministy site. colefamily asked... I think I saw you adopted Landis through Eagle's Nest Orphanage. We too adopted our 3 year old from Eagles Nest and am thinkng it was around the same time frame (She was born in Oct. 2005 and we picked her up April 2006). Was Abby at Eagles Nest Orphangage? Just curious? Landis was at Eagles Nest with your daughter. Abby was not. I'll let Michelle share all those details in her post on the adoptions. oneblessedlife asked... My question is about Abby. With her getting so many torturous needles, visits to the hospital, drugs and absolute pain, does she ever just rebel against having things done to her? How do you all help her deal with it all over and over again?

When Abby first got sick, we committed ourselves to PARENTING her, no matter what. We would not indulge her. She would not be allowed to be demanding or selfish. We constantly teach her to be polite, obedient and respectful no matter what condition she is in. Abby cannot be spanked because of her physical condition, but beyond that, she loses privileges, gets time-outs, stands in the corner, etc. We hate that she is going through this but we can parent her from self pity as doing so would only hurt her. The security of good parenting and being treated like a normal part of the family helps give her the emotional strength she needs to battle cancer. This has allowed her to stay happy and feel secure. Of course, this parenting comes with lucrative amounts of patience, comforting, hugs, rocking, caring for her, and doing everything possible to make her comfortable. It is unfortunate and sad some children are allowed to simply become out of control "self-centered" during the cancer process. I feel sorry for them and their parents who simply feel so sorry for the child, they cannot bring themselves to require any standard of self control from them. Of course, this just makes the whole thing even more unbearable for parent and child. Scared, angry or out of control children get very anxious during procedures and have more difficulty dealing with the discomfort. Abby knows she is loved and feels "safe" because we treat her just like the other kids when it comes to parenting (with the addition of the care she needs of course). I still laugh every time I picture her standing with her nose in the corner while holding her I.V. pole. Classic... priceless. maria asked...

Michelle is with her more than anyone during those times, and her approach is to NEVER lie to Abby. If Abby asks about 225


Is there anything special my family and I could do for the other older children? Even if it's sending them a card? Sami sometimes get a present or card since she is younger, Landis too. Abby is good about sharing her gifts with them. The older boys in the house, well, they are teenage boys. While they would be thankful for a card, I'm not sure it would really be all that meaningful to them becaue they don't feel neglected. We have appreciated a couple of times when people have invited them to sporting events or a concert or something. They often get rides from our friends when we are unable to take them somewhere. They both get to do most of the typical things teens do and they understand why Abby is getting alot of gifts in the mail. Kristine asked... I've always wondered where you find the time to blog and write and run a publication, and, and, and. :) I have one blog and follow several and I have a HARD TIME finding the time for that! Here's the best way I can answer WHY I do so much: I have a full time job that doesn't pay all the bills, but does have Abby's insurance. My "side work" (graphics and website development) is needed to make up the rest of the income we need. The magazine, blogs and writing is what I'm wanting my FUTURE to be, so that is why I continue to invest in that effort. Here's the best way I can answer HOW I do it: Turn off the TV. Prioritize your day. Be extremely focused. Work hard at becoming fast AND good at what you do. I take no credit for any ability I may have. God alone gives the talent and opportunity. I've been blessed with a prolific writing skill so the blogs and books are FUN, not work. Okay, they are work... but it is fun. I've been doing the graphics and web work for 20+ years so I've become extremely fast at it. Speed has alot to do with being able to be involved in various efforts. Passion for what you do gives you the drive to do it.

asking for tie ins to your blogs (again, beyond getting Abby's cause known) offering to link others, making up contests and special days to keep people here, asking readers to involve themselves actively, to go to your facebook, twitter etc. I have never come across another blogger who does this (and I am the total opposite), so it's very foreign to me. Care to address my curiousity? All of the things you list are of course just different ways to harness technology to spread a message and create a community which is our goal concerning Abby. We have received untold amounts of comments, encouragement and contact with people that have helped us through this difficult journey. Along side that, blogging, writing and teaching are what I do, none of which is very useful without someone to read it. What you don't see behind the scenes, is all our social networking (and the other things you describe) have allowed our path to intersect with countless people we have helped, advised and shared experience with. Beyond letting people know about Abby, my ministry is to take the life lessons we are learning and communicate them. The vast majority of my writing, teaching and answering questions is, and will remain, absolutely free ministry to people. As I pursue my passion and dream of eventually being a full time author and blogger, I will create and offer books and products for sale that compliment my free content. I create a "network" of all my blogs, websites and social applications for the exact reason you state: to give people more reason than just Abby's story to want to remain loyal readers. Anyone who has been around my sites/blogs for very long knows I have no hidden agendas or "sales tricks". I was blogging, writing books and creating products YEARS before Abby got sick. It is no different than what someone like James Dobson or Dave Ramsey does. And the "Riggs Family Blog" was the Riggs Family Blog before Abby got sick. Tony, Lisa and Kendall asked...

Anonymous asked... Just wondering if your children are home schooled. Garrett was until last year. Sami is because she didn't know English when she arrived. She'll go to the local school next year. Living in a small town, we don't have many of the "public school" concerns that keep alot of Christian parents from choosing public school for their kids. Malia'sMama asked... I am curious as to why you seem to want to "socially network" so much beyond prayers for Abby. It's seems you're always

It seems as though you are constantly coming up with material to write about. How do you think of it all the time? Are you writing blog and magazine entries days in advance to keep up? Or are you just a pretty creative person? The ideas just come from life and experience. Again, I take no credit for it. If I get ideas, it's because God blesses me with them, and the creativity that comes with it. It's hard to say HOW I get ideas, they just come to me. There are some common questions and lists you can refer to if you are STUCK for ideas, but that rarely is a problem for me. I've got mountains of lists of ideas I've jotted down over time for things I want to write and can't find time. 226


No, I do not write in advance. I write on the fly every day. Anonymous asked...

Abby is starting to trudge down that hill that usually lands her in the hospital for a week. I got her to smile only because we mentioned "Travis" her "boyfriend" on the cover of Serious.Life Magazine.

I know one time you mentioned your income got cut in half after Abby got sick. You don't ever ask for donations on your blog. How are you doing with all the expenses? Could you use help? You might not be comfortable answering publicly, but I thought I would ask since its "open season". Now this gets into stuff we are least comfortable with. I've been "public" for many years, and I know how quick people are to criticize and question your motives once the issue of money comes up. We get asked this type of question privately on a routine basis and we are just honest when asked. Yes, due to the recession, my income was cut in half a few months ago. The magazine and my "side work" are my efforts to rebuild that income. I work a full time job as well as what you see me do online. All of it is to support our family and pay the medical expenses.

You can really see it in her "stare" here, and this was me trying really hard to get her to smile.

God has never failed to care for us. We haven't missed a meal, or not been able to pay a bill. Yes, people have stepped up and blessed us on many occassions with financial help. We don't want to pretend the need doesn't exist, nor do we parade it around soliciting help publicly. So having said that, yes, we accept and appreciate financial blessings for those who feel led in that way. You can give using PayPal by clicking here, or if you want our mailing address, email me: brent@brentriggs.com Nuff said. Anonymous asked... How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop? Landis? One. But more important is this question: What about supralapsarianism and its effects on the social fabric of the emerging church and the contradictory tensions originating from its inevitable collision with the postmodern Darwinian influence on Christian worldview in general?

2/28/2009 4:37:00 PM

Shake Yo Bootay, Whoo! We were all dancing and having fun this morning and wanted to scare you with it:

Momma said, "Abby, smile for Travis" and... there ya go. I'm jealous. If you didn't get a chance to read the answers we posted yesterday to all your questions, be sure to check out the last post.

3/1/2009 12:46:00 PM

Abby Update: Storm Clouds are Brewing After 9 months and 22 hospital visits, Michelle and I are pretty good at seeing the signs of what is to come. Abby has been showing all the indications of a major crisis, maybe the worse to date. She is back in the hospital as of this morning and this appears to be the most critical episode to date. Abby is in a very 227


Last night I tested out a "blog post chat" and had a few problems getting people logged on.

significant amount of pain, her skin is starting to break down again, and she has a high fever. Short of God's miraculous intervention, this is going to be a tough, and dangerous week.

I would like to test that again tonight, right now, and I will be online for the next :30 minutes or so talking with whoever wants to jump on. I think all the bugs are worked out, but if something doesn't work right on your end, then email me, and let me know, brent@brentriggs.com

The good news, is that she is almost done with "hell phase" and this very well could be the last or next to last crisis (assuming the maintenance phase is "normal", but then again, nothing about Abby's cancer has been normal at all, as compared to other kids).

THIS CHAT IS OVER, EVERYTHING WORKED GREAT AND WE HAD A GREAT TIME! I HOPE YOU'LL JOIN US NEXT TIME.

We appreciate your prayers for her comfort and healing. We will keep you updated every day, multiple times a day if needed. She has survived torture and we are so close to this horrible phase being done, it would be heartbreaking to lose her now.

3/2/2009 11:32:00 AM

As for faith, we prepare for the worse, physically and medically, while we pray for the best and put our hope, joy and trust in the Lord's care. We believe His perfect will is done in our life and Abby's, even if part of that will is enduring trials (which it often is, and that is NOT a lack of faith, that is the reality of human experience in a sin-cursed creation which indeed draws us closer to God and increases our longing for the day when the curse of sin will be removed not only spiritually but physically too in ALL creation, not just our flesh). We'll keep you updated with daily posts... Michelle will use Twitter/Facebook updates for those of you who want to just keep up with actual things that are happening (ie, "Abby got a shot", "Abby is having a procedure", "Abby is sleeping".

3/1/2009 6:33:00 PM

Daddy, Are You Going To Be Sick Like Me? Abby just melts my heart. I got to her hospital room this morning and the first thing she wanted of course was for me to hold her. As I was holding her, Michelle was looking at this infection-thing on my arm (keeping my arm well away from Abby of course). Abby said "Daddy, do you have a sore on your arm?" "Yes dear, something is wrong with Daddy's arm but the Doctor doesn't know what it is".

Abby Update: Sunday, 6:30pm

"Daddy?"

Abby is having an allergic reaction to some antibiotics. I am going to the hospital now to join Michelle and Sami. Landis is with friends.

Just tears your heart out. Abby worries every time someone else in the family gets sick. She thinks being sick means doing what she is doing.

This is just the beginning of this chapter. Abby is enduring a lot even now, and she has barely begun what is to come over the next week or two.

"No, honey, Daddy isn't sick like you. I just have this sick place on my arm."

"Yes sweetheart?" "Are you going to get sick like me?"

"Daddy?" Please pray for her. Please ask others to pray. We appreciate all of your kindness, prayers and encouragement.

3/1/2009 9:24:00 PM

Blog Post Chat

"Yes, baby?" "Is the Doctor going to have to give you pokes too?" Abby asks referring to all the needle sticks and I.V.'s she routinely gets. "No, precious, Daddy doesn't have to get pokes. I wish they could give them to me instead of you." 228


"Daddy?"

patience and compassion for His glory that other may imitate us as we imitate Christ.

I look down into her eyes. ~ Brent "You're the best Daddy." I mean c'mon folks... if that doesn't twist your heart in a knot, I'm not sure you have one.

3/2/2009 8:28:00 PM

-----Abby is a little more comfortable though she's on a lot of pain meds. She's pretty listless intermingled with occasional moments of talking and wanting to get a toy or book.

Abby Update & Captain Abby the Pirate Patient

We just saw the first canker sore (mucositis) on rectum. They'll begin to appear in her mouth and private areas soon. Her GTube site on her stomach looks awful and she showing some symptoms that indicate the mucositis is about to flare up. She's really weak and her poor little legs just quiver when she tries to stand up. Michelle will write a post tonight and update you more specifically on Abby.

Abby Update (from Michelle) We really appreciate your prayer right now. Abby's immune system (ANC) is ZERO. A normal ANC score for you and I is in the thousands. Below 800 is considered compromised. The skin around her feeding tube is blistered and looks infected. It hurts a lot all the time, but the pain has become unbearable during dressing changes. The pain management team is giving her a short acting, but powerful pain medication during dressing changes. We will try it in a few minutes. I hope it works. Abby has mucositis (canker-like sores) on her bottom, but not in her mouth, yet. They usually don't appear this early after her chemo (ARA-c), so we are praying and watching.

Those are index cards with Bible verses that YOU sent to Michelle. She loves them. THANK YOU!!

The chemo that causes the sores hasn't even peaked in her system yet. She received the last dose of it on Thursday and it usually takes 21-28 days after the last dose for her bone marrow to recover. Her body won't repair this damage until her bone marrow begins produce white blood cells again. What this means is that Abby is sick much earlier in the cycle than she normally is. Without God intervening, we are a long way from her bone marrow producing the white cells she desperately needs. Abby is due to receive a dose of two chemos on Tuesday and then more chemo in a week. Abby's doctors are trying to decide whether to give her the chemo or not. Abby's cancer is aggressive so she needs the chemo, but the chemo weakens her and allows infection which is dangerous.

This picture pretty much sums it up. You can see the pain, the drugs and the weariness in her eyes. Our Help is the Lord who is our portion and strength. We rejoice in our trials knowing that the testing of our faith purifies us for service and ministry to others, producing in us

Abby was still able to laugh and play some, but also had moments when she just wanted me to carry her around and rub her back. A high point today was when Todd Block visited Abby. He brought her a bear from his kids and she was able to talk on the phone to her "boyfriend" Travis and his mom Amy. You guys are so sweet to Abby. Abby can't wait to visit the Blocks again.

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Prayers for healing and comfort for Abby and stamina, wisdom and patience for me would be a great blessing to us. Captain Abby the Pirate Patient (From Brent) I was at the hospital today and Abby kind of scrunched up one eye (in pain? not sure), and I said to her "Are you being a pirate, Abby?" "Yeah Daddy, I'm a pie-wut." "Pirates go like this Abby: Aargghhh, matey!" as I winked one eye real hard as if I had an eye patch, and pulled my mouth over to one side using my best scruffy pirate voice. Abby saw that, and did a PERFCT imitation and Michelle and I about laughed so hard we almost wet our pants. She kept doing it over and over, to everyone that came in the room. It was HYSTERICAL, made all the more funny because she had this kind of "drunk sailor" thing going because of all the morphine she was on. At one point she was falling asleep sitting up, and she had to point her finger every time she said it. I hope the full effect comes across in the video... it was priceless:

But even in agonizing pain, doped up to the hilt, she still has a smile for you, a kiss if you ask, and wants to be hugged.

Poor Abby... she's not playing in this photo. If she shifts the wrong way, she gets on to one of those canker sores on her bottom. You don't have to read her mind to know how she feels.

Our Abby... we love her so much. We would be so happy for HER if she went to be with Jesus, but WE would be so 230


heartbroken to have to be without her for a while until we joined her in heaven. It's all I can do to write these posts sometimes, and edit these pictures and videos. Sometimes they just make me cry over and over. But we want to have these memories; we want Abby's spirit to lift yours, and our faith to inspire you to greater faith.

humor inducing recipe. I could do the "no sleep" twenty years ago but I'm not exactly a spring chicken anymore. Probably more like a winter warthog, with no hair. Well, that's not exactly accurate... more like "no hair where you would want hair". You know you're getting old when you have to designate an entire drawer in the bathroom to house all the tools needed to remove hair from a dozen different unwanted sites, and another drawer to try and grow hair in the one spot its missing.

Otherwise we would just be suffering for suffering's sake. We rejoice that God makes all things work together for good, for His glory, and our eternal reward, because we love Him and diligently seek Him. How can we pray for you, and help you diligently seek God? ~ Brent

I wish someone would have told me sooner that that Rogaine goes on your head, and not in your ears and nose.... and back.... and eyebrows... and arms... and knuckles... oh well. At least hair on my upper lip doesn't have to be waxed off. Not that I'm saying that anyone waxes hair off their lip, no, I'm not saying that.

3/3/2009 1:33:00 PM

While we are on the topic, I mean really, what is UP with this whole aging thing? I'm 43, so I'm starting to experience some of the "humor" of getting old. Just when you get smart enough, experienced enough and disciplined enough to make use of your physical and mental abilities, they start to disappear, and fast. I'm diggin' the whole Benjamin Button thing where you are born old and go backwards in age. If I had the body of a twenty year old and the experience I have now... okay, it just dawned on me why it doesn't work that way. I guess God knows what He is doing after all.

Laughter Lives Tuesday is in a Coma

Seriously, won't it be wonderful when we get to heaven and it all comes together finally: perfect bodies, perfect health, perfect emotions, perfect minds... all growing to NEW LEVELS of perfection each and every day for all eternity. I can write that last sentence, but I cannot comprehend it, I just know it's true. The whole "too heavenly minded to be any earthly good" is such a CROCK. Our mind should be FIXATED on heaven. It's where we will spend eternity and this little whisper of time now is nothing more than a staging area for the real show. I would propose a new saying, "people think so little about heaven, they aren't nearly as much earthly good as they could be."

It's Laughter Lives Tuesday, but to be honest, laughter isn't feeling too lively today. It feels more like Laughter Coma Tuesday. We're just so tired right now. I know you understand, but I wanted to at least mention why I didn't get around to posting it today. The laughter never stays subdued for long around here. In fact, it's a pretty rare day it doesn't show up at all. I think night after night of interupted 3-4 hours of sleep is probably not the most

Think of how your life would be transformed if you lived each and every second of every day filtering every choice, every word and every act through the FACT of eternity. Hardships wouldn't be so hard. Lows wouldn't be so low. Blessings would serve to give us a "taste" of things to come, and joy would allow us to dream about the coming day of endless joy. No friends, thinking about heaven is not having "your head in the clouds"... it's having your head firmly entrenched in reality, in what really matters. If we left Oklahoma today to drive to Disney in Florida, no one would criticize us for talking non-stop about Disney the entire way there. That's the whole point of

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the trip. In the same way, our whole life is road trip to heaven, and if you aren't talking about it, and thinking about it every day, I would wonder if you REALLY believe the truth about Heaven. There's a lot of misunderstanding about Heaven, that's for sure. Check out my online Heaven presentation if you have time: http://www.seriousheaven.com/ I talked about heaven yesterday and today. I guess dealing with life threatening situations will cause you to do that. I think about heaven alot anyway, but even more in times like this. Sorry I didn't feel like "Laughter Lives" today. I just don't have any humor in me today. Maybe I'll feel better tomorrow after I grind down my toenails again, clean my dentures, get my prescription glasses strengthened, charge up the battery on my scooter chair and organize my cabinet full of prescriptions. You know, "old people" stuff. There's something wrong when I've got kids in diapers and I'm already thinking about when I'll be wearing them again myself. And all you young, pretty "hair only grows where you want it to" people, don't leave any smug comments. You'll get old someday, and I'll be right there with a toothless grin, a bottle of Geritol, a Clapper and ugly polyester pants to make fun of you over and over and over again, because I'll forget I did it 30 seconds after it happens.

3/3/2009 9:52:00 PM

Abby Update & Quick Blog Chat

Abby naps under a quilt that was a gift, and behind her on the wall is a "poster quilt" sent by Koenig children and their classmates! Isn't it sweet to see children caring about each other?

Abby gets a hug from her "Bubba". Update on Abby (by Michelle) I have the "stomach bug" tonight. I'm throwing my guts up. At home, Christian (17, teen son) is throwing too. Garrett had it last week, Brent the week before. 232


Abby had a appointment with an eye doctor. Her vision is great and shows no signs of nerve damage. He seems to think we are doing a good job relieving the intracranial pressure before it does any damage. Abby has been cranky. Understandable with everything she is going through, but the longer I tried to placate her or distract her, the more miserable she got. Finally she crossed way over the line with one of her nurses and I put her in the corner for 5 minutes. Yes, even at the hospital, even in the middle of all this. She was ugly to a nurse who was helping her, and it was just time to let her know she will still be disciplined if needed. After that, she was happy, smiling and very peaceful. It is so hard to discipline her when she is so sick, but she feels safer when the rules stay the same at the hospital as they are at home. The whole point of young child discipline is not only to "punish" but to restore peace and make the child feel secure. Most adults are really moody when they are hurting. It is so hard to know when to hold her and rock her and when it is better for her for me to discipline her. It was weird today. Abby talked and joked a lot about death. As soon as I had her stand in the corner, she stopped talking about it and was peaceful again. I really believe that when I am so empathetic towards her that I stop parenting her, she gets scared that she is REALLY, REALLY sick. But when we treat her normal, I think she understands "I'm not so sick I can't still get in trouble". She feels more "normal" and less "sick". Does that make sense? I would really appreciate your prayers for wisdom as we parent Abby. Abby's sore near her G-tube is worse. Her white blood cells are zero again today, with no signs her bone marrow recovering. So we will still need to be very careful with Abby. While I love visitors, for the next couple of days at least, it's too dangerous for Abby.

Arrrrggghhhh, Matey! 3/5/2009 4:06:00 PM

Abby Daily Update: Need Your Advice

Abby's pain is very well managed today. The pain management doctors and nurse practioner are doing a job with pain management. Praise God. Brent offered to trade places with me tonight, but he is working himself silly already, and I don't want to spread "the crud" to everyone at home. The last thing Brent needs is to get sick again. So I'll try to wait it out here, and hopefully it will be gone by tomorrow.

The chemo Abby took that most likely tanked her bone marrow is ARA-C. Abby got the last dose of it on last Thursday. It takes most patients 21-28 days , after their last dose, for their bone marrow to recover. Abby is not a "normal" patient, so it may take her even longer. We could be in the hospital a while. Abby's body is making zero white blood cells and she has an infection in the skin around her G-tube. The wound is looking 233


worse everyday. As the sore is getting bigger, it is more painful. They doubled the amount of Morphine Abby is getting continuously. I am so thankful they are keeping her comfortable, but I really wish she wasn't going through so much right now.

Yes, frequently. You just have to accept this as part of what happens if you have any size readership at all. People are people, and there are always those who are very "brave" with a keyboard, especially that dude named "anonymous". We've had lots of ugly comments, and I've been called just about everything ugly you can be called especially "unChristian" since that is my most public claim. I've been "not Christian" for showing the screaming cat video, for answering a question from the Bible that disagreed with a religious group's tradition and basically for having any sort of politically incorrect opinion. I'm judgmental, self righteous, extreme, hate-filled, mean spirited... [fill in the blank with your choice of common name calling].

Thank you so much for praying for me and for Abby. Last night was tough, but I felt much better in the morning. It looks like my stomach problem was just mild food poisoning. Good news, because then Abby won't get sick. Bad news, because we will be eating out of the hospital cafeteria for weeks to come. I am not the only one who has gotten food poisoning here. I am so thankful Abby is getting most of her nutrition from a feeding tube. Honestly, we are wiped out today. Last night we had to do several painful dressing changes, and change the dressing on her port. The infusaport infuses medication into a large vein, near her heart, so an infection in her port would be very bad. Abby's infected G-tube is VERY close to her port. I am having the hardest time keeping them both clean. At 4:30am her needle came out of her port, so she had to be stuck again. The great thing was she slept through 95 % of it and didn't wake up until it was done. Praise God.

If I try to sell a book or make any money from my blogging or writing, I'm a "money changer" who is "turning God's temple into a market". Then if I write an answer about being called names, I'm a whiner.

I know that there are many people reading this blog who have children with medical problems or who are in the medical field. I would love to get your advice. Abby is VERY allergic to tape, so keeping a super tight seal around her dressings are impossible. Should I ask for a PICC line in her opposite arm until her G-tube infection is healed? I think it would be so much easier to keep a PICC line clean. Traditional IVs aren't an option, because Abby's veins are pitiful.

As for criticism, I LIKE sincere and respectful criticism. I always honestly consider what is said, and am thankful when I recognize something valid from it that needs to be changed. After years of writing publicly, I ignore the baseless, uninformed or childish criticism but truly appreciate the mature, reasonable criticism presented with loving concern. My theory is this: I may be fat and dress bad, but I can lose weight and get new clothes. You can't change how you look you poo-pooey, smelly, cootie-covered dingle snotty head. And while I would never resort to calling someone else names, it's just a reality you have to live with as public blogger or writer... stinky face.

I hate to do another procedure on Abby, but if it can help avoid a blood infection, it would be worth it. Any thoughts?

3/6/2009 12:11:00 PM 3/6/2009 7:53:00 AM

Answer 1: Ugly Comments Question: You mentioned Adam - Kayleighs dad - in a previous post. Around Christmas, Kayleighs family received threats and ugly comments from some very cruel people. Because you are also a somewhat public family I wondered if this has happened to you? Answer by Brent

Answer 3: Fundraisers and Hospitals Question: I was wondering if you have done any fundraisers for Abbys illness cost and what your thoughts are on that? Also, does Abby every get nervous when you tell her its time to go to the hospital? Does she see the hospital as a negative thing? Answer by Brent We have not personally done any fundraisers. We have beloved friends, family and Christians who have taken it upon themselves to provide us with either funds or resources for 234


different needs that have risen due to Abby's illness. One of our friends got wood floors donated so we could get the carpet out of house (germs/Abby). Another friend raised money to hire someone to come over and help us with the kids and the house a couple of days a week. Groups of people have been bringing us meals for MONTHS. Several times, financial gifts arrived unannounced for needs that God knew we had. A group of friends across the Internet raised money to buy Abby wigs and hats, which aren't exactly cheap. Still another friend has helped us more than once when the medicals bills were about to become a point of stress though we never asked him for help. This particular gentlemen single handedly has covered accumulated medical expenses a couple of times. Our financial needs will continue unabated (whose doesn't?) throughout the lengthy 3 years of treatment, and for a couple of reasons we haven't considered fundraisers ourselves: 1) we are already stretched so thin it's hard to think about adding another responsibility, and 2) the Lord has proven faithful to place our needs on the hearts of the faithful at just the right time. We've always been faithful to bless others, and as the Bible says, you reap what you sow, good or bad. God is good, and by His grace we will continue to have our needs met by God's providence. Abby doesn't weird out or get scared about the hospital. She gets apprehensive when she know the shots or pokes are coming but over all, the hospital has become part of her life. She knows all the nurses and is very used to being in a hospital room. It's overly familiar for her, so it's almost just an extension of our own home. I think she equates the hospital at times with "pain control" though she cannot articulate that. I think she understands that when she really starts hurting, the hospital is where it's going to get fixed.

3/6/2009 12:51:00 PM

Answer 4: Is Death Real to You?

us. Our heartfelt and inexpressible compassions go out to his family. We are no strangers to the more difficult things in life, and the possibility/reality of Abby not surviving is testified to by the hundreds of thousands of kids who have preceded her in this battle. Countless children, even those whose parents are genuine Christians, full of faith and trust in God, have seen the Lord's will end up as "come home". From the moment of her diagnosis there was no ambiguity or confusion about the possible outcomes, good or bad, just as there is no blurriness to the fact anyone of us could die in the next 60 seconds for scores of reasons. When Abby was in the 90% percent survival group, we never forgot to be compassionate and accept that SOMEONE has to make up the 10% who don't make it. Now that Abby is in the 20% survival group, medically speaking, we've earned the right to remember that SOMEONE has to be in that 20%, and God could choose that for Abby. We pray that is the case. We have faith that it will be. However, we have MORE faith that God's will is the highest consideration, and that whatever occurs will be according to His perfect love and plan. Another consideration is that when you already have a genuine conviction about Heaven and Eternity, death doesn't have to become "real" all of sudden. Graduating from this life to the next is already an established mindset. Going Home to be with Jesus is already REAL. We've discussed from day one that the "worse" that can happen to Abby is that she will get to wait for us in heaven, and skip the hardships of this life. The "worse"? How's that the "worse"? We will be unbearably sad without her, but we don't consider her being with God "a tragic end". if God calls her home, we will have a bittersweet dawn without her, but then be reunited for an eternal dinner banquet in the blink of an eye. If God's will is that she stays here: we win. If God's will is to grant her a "pass" from this hard life: we win. Either way, we win. That's what is "real" to us.

Question:

3/6/2009 3:10:00 PM

As if its not real enough already, does the passing of little Cody this morning make the reality of Abbys situation even more *real* (for lack of a better word)?

Answer 5: How Do Your Respond To Others

Answer by Brent In a word, no, Cody's death does not make death MORE real to

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Stressed Over Lesser Problems Question: Charisa asked: With all you been through, you've seen how precious life is and I'm sure have learned what is really important. How do you deal with just stupid stuff without getting self-rightous or aggravated. You know, when someone is mad or upset about something trivial, do you ever want to yell "yeah, well my daughter is in the hospital with cancer" or "yeah, well people are starving in Ethiopia?" Answer by Michelle Honestly, no. I never want to get to the point where the concerns of others don't touch me, too. People truly matter to us and we want to encourage, pray for and help others, even in the midst of this trial. I really love it when people talk about problems that are "less" stressful than what we are going through. We feel bad that people always want to say "I know my problems aren't as bad as yours." It's all relative. We don't measure or compete about who has more difficulties to handle. It's all relative. Those "smaller" problems, used to be our normal problems, too. Hearing about "normal problems" reminds us that someday, our lives will be less stressful again. God loves us all so much. One of the ways we are encouraged is to interactive on a normal level with friends and not have every conversation be about cancer. There are BIG, BIG problems in this world and we are passionate about helping orphans and people who are living in abject poverty. I appreciate it when God uses little "normal" things to softly speak to my heart. We are not naive enough to believe things will always be "normal" throughout life (you shouldn't either). We are forever changed through this experience even if it is only because of the deeper appreciation for the boring "normal" times. My prayer is that God will use the new and improved us (which is how trials serve Christians for the good) to serve Him.

3/7/2009 6:17:00 AM

Nutty-Mom asked: I know since Abby has been sick ya'll aren't at church much, at least all of you together. I know a lot of people who don't or can't go to church (myself included). Would you consider doing something on Sunday mornings for those of us at home? You're so inspiring and thought provoking, I know it would be great! Answer by Brent For about 9 years now I've been doing "online ministry" over at seriousfaith.com. So this question really intrigued me, because it would allow ME to feel more useful on the Lord's Day and if it could be a blessing to others who are homebound most Sunday's for whatever reason, then I think it would be a wonderful idea. Of course people could listen or read it any time, but I could make something available on Sunday morning for those who are planning on it being there in lieu of not being able to get out to their own local church. Let's do a little informal survey: 1. 2. 3.

Would a regular Sunday morning message on our blog be something you would enjoy and make use of? Would you like to have a written message, audio, or video? Or a choice of all three? Even if you are not homebound on Sundays, would this be something you think you would still be interested in anyway, to read or listen to at your convenience?

Leave a comment and let me know. Let's see how much interest there is.

3/7/2009 11:35:00 AM

Answers 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 & 14: Mail, Kids, Chemo & Scrubs Questions:

Answer 6: Sunday Morning Online Ministry?

Jenny asked: I am sure you’ve answered this before, and I see some similar questions...how could my home daycare send cards?

Question:

Christine asked: I am not sure if you have posted this before, but could you please share the mailing info for Abby, I would like to send her a small care package! Thanks! Still Praying in 236


FL! Yes, all the children are legally officially ours. Netherlands asked: We would like to send you a gift from the Netherlands. Can you please let us how we can do that. And can you tell me your vision on spanking and why you choose to use this. What is the bible saying about spanking? Sarah asked: Can you further explain who came into the marriage with which children? Are any of them biological? I’m sure this has been answered somewhere. Also have you formally adopted all of the children? What I mean is, are all the children pictured in your banner, legally yours, I know they are in your heart! Ange asked: I was wondering what you and Michelle’s situation was before finding each other? How long had you been single? Have you both gone through divorces? Do your older kids have other sets of parents you have to share with? LaDonna asked: How do you guys decide to keep giving Abby Chemo? I know that there have in the course of treating cancer that they say we can continue but there is not much hope. Have ya’ll discussed this at all? I pray for your family all the time, that God heals Abby and helps give her strength to endure to the end to be healed! Melanie asks: My three year old Sophie prays for your sweet Abby every day. She always says “I love her mommy.” Sophie wants to know if Abby has any of her very own scrubs? If she doesn’t, Sophie would like to know if Abby wants her grandma to make her some? Answers by Brent Jenny, Christine, Netherlands & Melanie: If you will email me, I'll give you an address. Thanks so much for thinking of us and showing kindness to our family. brent@brentriggs.com

Ange: Our situation before we got married was Michelle had been her whole life for me, and I had been searching for her my whole life. Our only regret is that we didn't find each other 20 years sooner. Yes, we were both divorced, not by choice. I'll leave that one there. Michelle's ex-husband was only around for a short time, and chose not to be part of his son's life for the last decade or more. My ex-wife maintained a relationship with our three children after choosing to leave the marriage. LaDonna: Yes, we've discussed "how much, how long, how many times, etc". It's a difficult conversation to have obviously but we do have it. We don't sit around and casually discuss "what if Abby dies" but we have not pretended it can't happen and ignored discussing "what if?" While there is no formuala or rule we could describe, we both agree that we do not want Abby to endlessly suffer in treatment. It will be a delicate balancing act to determine how much suffering is worth how much of a chance to be cured? How much suffering is simply "too much, too long" regardless of the chance of cure? What degree of suffering is worth any chance of cure? After all, the "worse" that can happen to Abby is that she goes to heaven and be with Jesus, and skip the hardships of the life. That does not cause us to be flippant or hopeful for her death but realize that the great sadness of her passing will be for US, not her. We are mature enough to admit that Abby would be happier with Jesus than with us, even if she were NOT sick. This is true for EVERY person.

Melanie: Abby would LOVE a pair of scrubs. She plays "doctor" alot and has a whole "medical kit". She would really love that... thank you!

But we love her beyond measure, and we long to have her stay with us. God's will be done.

Netherlands: We've answered the spanking question in a previous post here. If you have more questions after reading that, let us know.

In the long run, we may endure a short season of grief for ourselves if Abby does not survive, but only for a vapor of time which will become a distance memory in the blink of an eternal eye. We bring this to mind, that our momentary trials are not worthy to be compared to the eternal riches and glory that our Savior is preparing for us even now, as I type, as you read.

Sarah: Before Michelle and I married, I had three biological children. Michelle had one. We adopted three. Michelle adopted Abby shortly before we met. We adopted Landis immediately after getting married, and then Sami. We would probably have already adopted again but this wouldn't be the right time to introduce another child into the family.

Sound familiar? Where have I read that before?

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3/7/2009 8:24:00 PM

Abby Update: Port Pics, Great Idea & How She is Doing From Michelle: First of all, THANK YOU so much for your wonderful advice about Abby's port. You are an incredible group of people. I went over the options with Abby's doctor and he want us to try placing duoderm (a gel dressing used on bed sores) around Abby's post and then sticking tape to that. We put some duoderm on Abby's back yesterday, to make sure she wasn't allergic to it and she did great. This should make a tight seal and it will keep the tape and tegrderm, which Abby is allergic to, away from her skin. If this doesn't work we will talk about a PICC line. Abby has had a rough couple of days. Her site around her gtube looks worse today, deeper, more red and draining. I know YUCK. They are giving her a lot of pain medicine routinely and she can also have extra doses of morphine every two hours, if she needs it. She is getting 3 IV antibiotics and a antiviral (just in case). We also learned Abby has a bleeding ulcer. Her liver enzymes are also getting very high, and still no WBC.

"You gonna have to sit here and smell my stinky then..." she said with a sly grin. The Walters & A Great Idea We have some friends here in the hospital with us this week. Their 18 year old son is in a valiant fight. The Walters site: http://waltersfamily.wordpress.com/ Janna Walters, Micah's Mom, gave us a wonderful piece of advice about Abby's tube today, and we were able to temporarily replace Abby's G-tube with something that would not scrape and irritate her wound. Here are links to a couple pics of her wound and G-Tube. CAUTION: I didn't show these here because they are not pretty. If you don't care for "gross" medical pictures, do not click these links. Normally I wouldn't want to show pictures like this of my daughter, but we are hoping someone will have some advice that will help Abby. We would appreciate any help you can offer. Pictures here... Janna wins the GREAT ADVICE award this week with an idea today that will save Abby countless hours of unnecessary ADDED discomfort this week. Check out her blog and say hi, but don't crack any jokes at her. Evidently she has no sense of humor whatsoever because she doesn't think I'm funny and gave me the "talk to the hand" at least four times today. I can't imagine why! :) My wife and Janna were rolling their eyes at me so much I thought they were having seizures. Can't a guy get a little respect?

Please pray for: - infection healed - pain relief - liver to be healed - strength and wisdom for Brent and I From Brent: There will be a Sunday Morning Ministry Message available every Lord's Day morning now for those who are homebound. Let me know of any suggestions you may have that can improve this ministry effort. This morning I was at the hospital and Abby said, "Dad, I have to go to the pottty." So we put her on a portable potty chair that is out by her bed. After she got on the potty:

Adam Freeman was up for the week on business and stayed with us. We had a very comfortable and enjoyable visit. Momma, Abby & Sami were at the hospital all week, so it was Boy Party at our house (which meant we didn't have to pick up our dirty underwear).

"Daddy, I have to go poop really bad." "Well go girlfriend. Let it rip. Do what you gotta do." I responded predictably. "Daddy?" "Yes dear?" 238


Abby usually falls asleep for a little while after a dose of pain meds. Here she is asleep on Momma's knee. Abby gets some peaceful, drug-aided slumber in one of her new shirts that was sent as a gift from our beloved blog friends.

Adam didn't get to see Abby much as she was in the hospital for his whole visit. Even still, boy-crazy-Abby had to have three kisses and hugs before she would let him out the door. Adam sit and painted with Abby and visited with her for quite a while on the last night he was here. Be sure you check out his blog.

Adam and SpideyLandis were buddies the whole week Adam was here.

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Normal levels are 45-60 (SGOT and ALT)and Abby's are in the 900s. They are not sure what caused the huge jump, but they are running tests. Abby had a fever all last night (100.8) and this morning it is 101. Abby can't have Tylenol because of her liver and she can't have Motrin because of her platelets are low. So obviously I am praying her temperature doesn't go any higher. Abby's g-tube still looks angry and infected. Abby is awake now, happily coloring and watching Disney Movies. Sami has soccer game today, so things will be quieter. Normally we don't prefer quiet, but it will be best for Abby right now.

Okay, here's how brave Abby is... soon after we were done messing with her port, scraping it, changing it, cleaning it, she was playing with a Dora balloon, that a dear blog reader sent to her, and she had this great big grin on her face. I don't know how she does it.

Here's how Abby really feels. Even surrounded by gifts she is in a lot of discomfort as you can tell from her face and demeanor.

3/8/2009 11:23:00 AM

Abby Update: Scary Liver From Michelle: Abby needs your prayers more than ever today. Abby's liver enzymes are very high... scary high. 240


But in true Abby fashion, when Momma says "Abby can you give me a smile?" She does. Sometimes it has to be "Smile for Travis" when things get REALLY bad. From Brent: Michelle doesn't want to appear to be sensational with our updates, and neither do I. However, this liver thing is very serious and concerning. There's not much the Doctors can do about it, and we simply rely on God to protect her.

3/9/2009 2:12:00 AM

I Wanted Everyone To Know That...

3/9/2009 2:25:00 PM

Guess the Right Answer & Be Famous The March issue of Serious.Life Magazine will be out tomorrow. Abby has some very special friends who are in the issue. They called on the phone and left Abby a personal message. The first person to guess who they are will be our Best Blog 241


Friend for the day, and be launched into worldwide fame, riches, celebrity and the adoration of the entire planet. Promise. We'll get the ball rolling by putting your name on our blog as the person who guessed right... then just sit back and watch your greatness snowball into a global phenomenon. Click on this MP3 link: http://www.brentriggs.com/abbyhi.mp3 Who's singing? Hint: a YouTube video of them has been viewed almost TEN MILLION times. [Mom, you cannot guess. I already told you who was in the magazine this month, and you're already famous because of your infamous son.] Leave a comment with your guess and don't forget us little guys when you catapult into stardom.

3/9/2009 2:30:00 PM

Abby Update: Pain & Liver Abby's fever has broken and the sore by her G-tube is looking a little better. There is still a lot of healing that needs to take place, but I am very thankful it is not getting worse. Today, the PT said it looks "pretty bad", but when there are no WBC to fight infection with, even staying the same is cause for praise.

The hospital and drugs are wearing Abby out. Even "Travis" couldn't get a smile out of her today so far, a RARE occurrence.

Abby's pain is much better controlled today. She is actually getting too much pain medicine and we are weaning her down a little. As long a s Abby remains comfortable, I am excited that she is going to be getting/needing less medicine.

3/10/2009 8:28:00 PM

Abby's liver enzymes are still too high. One is the the same, one higher than yesterday and a third is still high, but much better than it was. Abby's bone marrow is still on strike and her WBC are MIA. So we are sitting in the hospital waiting, waiting, waiting. This is the first day, in a week, that Abby has been doing well enough for me to be able to sit a little and be... bored. Because she has no immune system, things are still serious, but I am not as scared today as I was yesterday. Thank you so much for praying for me and for Abby.

Abby Update: More Chemo, Almost Done With This Phase, Magazine, A Guest on the Blog Tomorrow

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Phyllis, thanks again for bringing me the wonderful frozen dinners and for keeping us company. I can't wait until Abby is healthy enough to play with Kristen again. Marlo, thanks for watching Abby while I cleaned up. Not many people would volunteer to watch a kid on oxygen. You choose to reach out to Abby and me, even when I know being with us has to bring back so many memories, some wonderful, but others that are more difficult. God has used you to bless us more than you can know. From Brent: Always the camera hound, Abby grabs some gloves and hams it up WHILE we were changing her dressing. She would grimace in agony one minute before returning to her infectious smile and mugging for the press. (infectious? you'd think a writer could think up a better word in this circumstance!~BR) From Michelle: The end of this intense round of chemo is in sight. Abby got her last chemo, for this phase, today. As soon as her bone marrow recovers, she will begin her last and LONGEST round. The last phase is 2 years long, but will be less intense than the others have been. We are looking forward to things getting a little easier for our sweet girl. Abby's doctors remind us that for Abby, it will probably take a while for things to smooth out and for them to discover the correct doses of chemo for her, because she metabolizes three of the four chemos poorly, but we hope and pray things will be smoother for Abby soon.

We've received wonderful feedback on the March issue of Serious.Life Magazine. Be sure to check it out if you haven't see it yet. http://www.seriouslifemagazine.com/ It has been a HARD week, a hard weekend, and hard couple of days. Abby got her LAST dose of the chemo today for this brutal stage she is in. She still has two years of chemo (once a month) but it should be relatively mild compared to the last two months which has been the absolute worse. When she survives the next 2-3 weeks (as the last of the chemo piles on and the current wounds battle infection), we will move out of the valley of the shadow and finally begin to feel the warm rays of hope corresponding coincidentally to the actual time of year. We look forward to Abby being able to play again, and return to her normal beautiful self as warm spring days arrive and the flowers bloom.

Today, Abby's infection near her gastric tube looks worse and is more painful for her. The pain medicine is helping a lot, but we are relying more on extra doses of morphine today. Abby's WBC are still absent and she is anemic. She almost needs transfusions, but narrowly misses qualifying for them. Blood transfusions make her feel much better, but they carry risks as well. I am praying she starts making her own blood soon.

Thanks so much for your kindness and prayers for all these months. We’re not out of the this dangerous phase yet, but at least we can see the first rays of dawn on the horizon. God is good and has seen us through every single step, never failing to shower us with compassion and hope. Tomorrow afternoon we are going to have someone special on the blog who is insisting on hijacking our online friends and tell them about something she's been twisting our arms over for a while now. I'm still not sure we are going to let her do it, but at this point we've given a tentative approval because she is threatening to reveal publicly that I secretly wanted to be a ballerina all my life.

Abby's liver enzymes are up again. The chemo they gave her today is necessary, but it is also one more toxin. I am praying she can filter out all of the toxins we are giving her, so that her liver can begin to heal.

~ Brent

Thank you so much for praying for us. It is honestly getting much harder for us to be in the hospital. Abby is isolated in her hospital room, because she has NO immune system. She wants me in sight at all times, because she is in pain and feels like crud. When she is asleep her oxygen levels sometimes drop, so I don't like to step out of the room then either. This makes it difficult for me to get anything done. Ordinary things like taking showers, getting food and drinks are a challenge. We are both looking forward to the day when we can be home again.

Here's a tour of Abby's hospital room full of cards, letters, pictures and Bible verses that YOU sent to us. See if you can pick out something from you:

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3/11/2009 4:52:00 PM

Abby & Special Guest

Abby resting today after we poked around on her stomach for an hour.

In an older picture, Abby shows us the finer way to eat a piece of pineapple.

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The wound near Abby's g-tube looked worse today. It is the main reason they are considering giving Abby the shots. It is swollen twice as big as yesterday, angry red, with black areas. It is so swollen and necrosed. Stomach contents are leaking out of it onto her already sore skin. The stomach acid is further damaging her skin. A mixture of Maalox, A&D and bactroban is helping some, but it is still sore.

Last hospital stay, Abby sleeping, with a little bit of hair still showing.

We consulted with a gastroenterologist today. He wants to do an ultrasound of her liver and several studies on her g-tube. He is also requesting a consult with a surgeon. He told us flat out that if her counts were up (white blood cells, platelets and red blood cells) he would recommend having the g-tube removed and replaced in a new spot. Please pray that the tests are ordered, preformed and that the results give a clear picture of what we need to do for Abby. It is also time for her needle in her port to be removed and replaced. This is something she usually handles well, but it is coming at the end of a long day. As soon as her antibiotics are in, we will have to start that chore.

Today, Abby peers through the cords, medicine, bed and balloons from Grandmother to flash her trademark smile. Our special blog guest is going to happen tomorrow because we've had a LONG day at the hospital. I've got a video of Abby from today that I'll put up this evening. We'll put up an update on Abby later this evening and some more pics. ~ Brent

All discussions today were in front of Abby and she understood most of what was said. Not fun, but she handled it all like a pro. She handled everything UNTIL she heard they wanted to paint her tongue purple. Needles, talk of surgery and doctors pressing on her belly weren't even a bump in the road. Finding out they wanted to paint her tongue purple brought her to tears. Abby has a yeast infection on her tongue. The medicine she is on isn't working and the other "normal" medicines are too hard on her liver. Her doctor wants to paint her tongue and inside of her mouth with a purple medicine that should destroy the infection, but will also leave her tongue and mouth purple for a few days.

3/11/2009 8:58:00 PM

Abby Update & Purple Tongues From Michelle: Today was a long, tiring day for everyone, especially Abby. She handled it like a pro………well until the end.

Our beautiful bald princess has had to endure hair loss, tubes sticking out of her body and sores. She is noticing that some people are staring at her. She says, "that person is looking at me with a mean face." They are not mean, just curious and not so subtle. No wonder she wants to skip the purple tongue. From Brent: Want to have some fun and lift her spirits? Here is Abby and her purple tongue:

Abby's bone marrow is still not producing the cells she needs. There were still no white blood cells and Abby needed a platelet and packed red cell transfusion. They may begin shots to stimulate her cell production in the morning, if there is no improvement. The shots are very painful and most adults hate them. I really don't want her to go through any more, but I also want her to get better. 245


3/12/2009 4:34:00 PM

Abby Update: Scary From Michelle: Abby's temperature is now 103.2. She now has green drainage coming from her g-tube wound. I am more concerned now than I have ever been for Abby. We would appreciate it if you pray and others to pray as well.

Abby shows off her new purple tongue that she is really apprehensive about. She did not want to use the medicine. WOULD YOU PAINT YOUR TONGUE? We're hoping a bunch of friends and kids will "paint" their tongue/mouth, send us a photo with a short caption-message, and we will put up a post tomorrow with all the pics. Here's Brent leading the charge to show you what we hope you'll send us:

I know I twittered that Abby's' doctors were considering taking her g-tube out, but now it looks like it will need to stay in. The surgeon thinks that he will need to surgically remove the damaged tissue, but he believes he will be able to keep the gastric tube in the same spot. But, they won't be able to perform the surgery until her blood work improves. The wound is getting more painful, even though she is on a LOT of pain medicine, it is draining large amounts of green fluid and it has a strong odor (not a good sign). Abby is worried about the drainage and so are we. This development is scary. Thank you for praying and caring about Abby and our family.

3/12/2009 8:31:00 PM

Purple Tongues of Love For Abby - PICS IN SLIDESHOW NOW Hi Abby! I wanted to show you my beautiful blue-purple-violet tongue! I love your purple tongue, it is SO pretty, that I wanted to paint mine too! I love you! Your Dad www.riggsfamilyblog.com That's what we are looking for. It would be a LOT of fun. Here's some suggestions for coloring your tongue: suckers, popsicles, non-toxic markers, food coloring, etc. (I had an extra special trick up my sleeve... any guesses?) Send us your pics/captions and we will put up a fun post tomorrow with all the pictures. Send them to: brent@brentriggs.com

From Brent: (Note: most people were saying they could not see the pics; I guess there were just too many, so I've put them in a slideshow instead.) Yesterday Abby got her tongue painted purple. She was not happy. Why? Because she's been poked, prodded, cut, stuck, jabbed, bent, bled and drained. She's sick of "new" stuff happening to her. So while getting a purple tongue might be FUN under normal circumstances, she wanted no part of it. To help her turn it into something enjoyable, Daddy did his 246


purple tongue pic, and we asked if some of you would join in. And of course you did.

Jen asked: How are your sores doing? Did you ever figure out what they were? The focus has been on Abby so much (rightfully so) but dont forget that you are important, too! The infections responded to a Bactrim, so they were probably run-of-the-mill staph. I have a couple of nice red spots left that are a little tender but over all they seem to be healing fine. My looks and balding head though are a whole other consideration… can’t seem to fix either of those. No name asked: What would you suggest is the first thing someone should do that is having faith issues? Someone that asks *why?* all the time? Is there a book that I could find that would help to explain how to just believe and have faith without constantly asking why.

I have to admit, I kept getting tears in my eyes over and over and over as I got these pictures ready to post. It just overwhelmed me that so many people would take time "purple up" just for Abby: whole families, babies, animals, grown men, teenagers... we are so undeserving of such a show of love. Abby deserves it, but Michelle and I are the ones who really get to see what big hearts you have. Here are the pics we've received so far, and I'm going to print them all out and put them on the wall next to Abby's bed. You folks... you're... THE BEST. How do you spell LOVE? P-u-r-p-l-e G-r-e-en B-l-u-e Y-e-l-l-o-w T-o-n-g-u-e We love you folks. You mean the world to us. If you send more, we will post more, and print them out to put in Abby's room. ~ Brent & Michelle

3/13/2009 3:21:00 PM

Open Season: Answers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 & 8 Brent answers… Many ask: What is your mailing address? Shoot me an email and I’ll send it to you. brent@brentriggs.com

Yes, I have the perfect book for you to read: the Bible. Too often we run around wanting to know what MEN have to say, instead of going directly to the source of Truth and Hope: God. And God’s Word is His revealed heart to us. But reading the Bible is harder because it’s not a bunch of anecdotes, cute sayings and “selfisms”. So we look to well intentioned (most of the time) writers to tell us what God says in words that are more easily digested, and often avoid the more difficult truths of self-control, self-denial and selfdiscipline (notice that is the opposite of self-love, self-esteem and self-focus that has become the diet of most people, Christians too). If you ask “why?” all the time about your faith (which is a GREAT question to ask), go to the Book that answers the question of “why?” As well, there is benefit in counsel with Godly, mature Christians who will tell you what Scripture says (then you need to verify it)… people who you can imitate as they imitate Christ for you. The Bible answers the questions of faith and belief directly from the most reliable sources you could ever hope for: Jesus Christ, the Apostles, the Holy Spirit and God the Father. If you cannot solidify your faith with the direct words of God, your faith cannot be solidified by the flimsy and shallow words of human writers. Kristine asked: What are the top 5 things you would suggest for someone who is just finding/growing their newly found faith in God? I guess I mean what are some beginner *faith steps* for lack of a better description. First, read your Bible and pray. We poo-poo that as unsophisticated or even legalistic but that’s all just fickle

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humans who want something “easy” that will give them instant spiritual maturity. We want seminars, books, 10 Steps, 7 Secrets and miracles…. But we don’t want the hard work of routine, consistent, daily, non-stop, rhythmic, methodical absorbing of God’s Word and communicating with Him. The next four suggestions are a waste of time without this first step.

had a huge debate on this one! Because the entire human race is infected with the sin curse, indeed ALL CREATION is infected. So the curse of sin rains on whoever it may, good or evil, rich or poor, faithful or unfaithful. The sun rises and sets on ALL people, and in the same way, the consequences of the sin curse rise and fall on ALL.

Second, the participation in ekklessia. The “ekklessia” is the “called out”, the “assembly” of Believers. I hesitate to say “church” because “organized church” is not really what I’m talking about. Often, the ekklessia occurs at a “church”, often it does not. The idea here is the regular fellowship, sharing, worshipping, recharging and refreshing that comes when a group of true Believers assembles together regularly for edification, sharing, teaching and worship of God. More and more this is occurring outside of traditional “church” organizations, and is returning to meetings in homes and communities where it began in the early church.

Jesus’ victory over death gave us redemption in two parts: spiritually NOW and physically once this body and this earth passes away and we receive a new glorified body, and a New Heavens and Earth. This is the primary flaw in the “divine health” teaching we hear about so much today. YES, Jesus died for our eternal physical health, but that half of the promise (spiritual healing being the first immediate half) will not be ours in full until the sin cursed creation has been burned away and recreated. That is why ALL people will die, which is itself “sickness”, the process of decay of the human body. If divine healing were in fact true for today, then we would not age or die since aging is in fact the degeneration of the human body over time. Divine health is ours in our glorified bodies, not in these temporary “tents” of sin cursed flesh.

Third, Godly counsel and accountability of spiritually mature Christians. Lone Ranger Christians are rarely fruitful and consistent. There is a reason the Bible speaks of counsel and shepherding. Find yourself several spiritually mature Christians who can help guide you, challenge you and give you good advice when needed. Fourth, learn to be a living witness and testify of God’s goodness. This is not so hard as what we usually envision as “witnessing” or “evangelizing”. What I’m talking about is simply sharing with other people the goodness of God in your life. How has God changed your life? What good things has God done for you? How does eternal life give you hope and joy? Share those things with other people routinely. THAT is what it means to be witness. You will hinder your spiritual growth if you are not willing to simply share with others what wondrous things God has done for you. If I gave you a million dollars, you’d tell everyone what a great guy I am. What’s a million dollars compared to eternal life? Fifth, self sacrifice and service. We live I in a world focused on SELF... self-love, self-esteem, self-focus, self-forgiveness, selflove, self-improvement, etc. This is OPPOSITE of the life of true Christians. The Bible speaks clearly and extensively on denying self, sacrificing self, dying to self, taking up your cross, laying down your life, preferring others, not thinking highly of ourselves. God understands man’s tendency to elevate himself and embrace pride. Many of our Bible teachers and leaders have embraced the “love-me” ear-tickling approach of the world MUCH to the detriment of Christian discernment and maturity. Many, many Christians remain “babes” in Christ because they cannot move past thinking about “self” all the time because they are spoon fed this pabulum constantly. Leslie asked: Why do bad things happen to good people? My hubby and i

I tell you all that because we have a confusing teaching about “faith” today that implies Christians should always be protected from “the curse” (bad things happening to us, sickness, etc.). Not only is this Biblically incorrect, it is experientially incorrect as we’ve witness FAITHFUL Christians since the Apostle Paul get sick, suffer, and endure hardships. It is not a LACK of faith that causes or allows this, it is the curse of sin. Jesus broke the curse of sin INDEED, no question about that, but our redemption comes in two phases: spiritual NOW, physical in the future. So bad things happen to good people because we all, good and bad, faithful and faithless, live in a Creation that has been infected, saturated and ruined by SIN. When we place our trust in Jesus Christ and respond obediently to His offer of eternal life, we immediately receive spiritual redemption. Our physical redemption is secured, promised and assured but does not come until the curse of sin is once and for all destroyed and the NEW CREATION is ours. Bad things happen to good people because good people live in a sin cursed creation. We are able to endure those bad things because we have HOPE of complete physical redemption in the future, to go with our spiritual redemption now. DJ Holly Rock asked: When you DO sleep, how many hours do you get? You know I don’t want to answer this because I’m just going to get a bunch of lectures from you well intention blogger friends.

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I slept once back in 1994, and I have some scheduled again next year. My sleep goes up and down with the situation. I often go long stretches on a few hours a night, then occasionally I’ll go a couple of weeks on regular sleep. Sometimes I push it too hard, but overall, I think I’m just one of those types who doesn’t need as much sleep, and the energy that comes from constantly creating things is an energy that often keeps you going for long hours. I’d rather wear out than rust out. Let the lectures begin. I already have several “wives” who constantly get on me about sleeping more, so feel free to jump on the bandwagon. InLuVwithphotography asked: Quick photography question... what camera are you shooting with? What are your thoughts on the Canon Digital Rebel xTi, and what would you recommend for an aspiring photographer that is a teen? Im looking to spend under 800$, for a really great camera. Also, could you recommend a digital photography book that would be basic and give a great foundation? Thanks! I have a Canon 40D and several good lenses. The Rebel is a really good basic camera, more than enough for good home shooting. The standard lens it comes with is fine for outdoor shooting but horrible for low light or indoors. You need to invest in at least one good lens that works in low light. Primarily you are looking for a lens with an “f/stop” of 2.0 or lower. They aren’t cheap, but one good lens is a necessity if you want good shots indoors and in low light. You’ll have a hard time getting under $800 and still get a good lens. About $1200 if probably more realistic if you want to step up to the “next level” with your photography: not professional quality, but MUCH much better than the average person with a digital pocket camera. Julie from Sacramento asked: There are so few *large* families these days... not enough mentors for us who want to grow our families! Michelle, how do you manage so many children? i know this sounds basic, but literally, what is your schedule like (under your more typical circumstances)? We love having a large family, and I’m excited that we have a “large family” writer now for Serious.Life Magazine. Brittany Claire is going to be writing a regular feature for the “large families”. If you’ll look in this month’s issue in the Family Section, her first article is there. Her website is “4 Little Men and Girly Twins”. Brit is so much more cool than I am, and since she claims to be married to a “smokin’ hot” hubbie, I guess they’ve got me beat there too (I don’t have a hubbie…).

probably not what you hope for: we just do. You learn as you go, you adjust to lessons learned, you get smarter… and you love your kids so much that you just do what you gotta do. You teach the older kids to help with the younger. Consistent and effective discipline is the key to a peaceful house. While we certainly have our behavior problems, overall, our kids are well behaved and peaceful. We aren’t afraid to take them anywhere… church, stores, restaurants or someone’s house. Our philosophy is firm, consistent, effective discipline soaked in extravagant love and affection. You are correct, we need more MENTORS and teachers about parenting… REAL parenting, not this pop psychology social experiment junk we’ve been getting for 40 years. I’ll be happy to answer more parenting questions if everyone can be a little more specific. The broad questions – how do you be a good parent? – are too broad to put in one post or answer. That’s all for this post… more answers to come later.

3/13/2009 6:48:00 PM

Abby Update: Turn for the Worse, Very Concerning Abby’s infection is getting much worse on her stomach. Her stomach is no so swollen that you can see the veins in her skin. She look very “pregnant”. It’s getting very concerning. Very concerning. Sami and Landis are going to friend’s house for the weekend, Garrett to his grandmother’s so that I can go and stay at the hospital for a while. Abby continues to be unable to fight infection, having fevers and in constant pain. It’s very disheartening. Thank you for your prayers and kindness to us. We’ll keep you updated on the blog. We'll try to put up a more detailed post later this evening. Brent

How do you manage a large family? Well this answer is 249


3/14/2009 12:48:00 AM

Open Season Answers 9 & 10: Praying & Being Still dixiedogmom@gmail.com asked: I have been praying for your sweet Abby!! I wanted to ask you about what you believe about the power of prayer, since that if often all you ask for. It has always been confusing to me to pray when God already knows His plan and our days are numbered exactly. Can prayer really change the outcome of a situation such as Abby’s? Do you believe the more people pray, the better her chance of being healed? Prayer is communication with God. We don’t surprise God with anything or inform Him of something He isn’t aware of, so while prayer is a pleasing act of worship that God enjoys, it’s primary benefit is for US. It reminds us of who we are dependent on. It keeps our focus on God. It reminds us to ask God for help, direction and wisdom.

many lives and bond so many together in a common act of love. I mean really… in the grand scheme of things, humanly speaking, what difference does it make if one little four year old orphan girl has cancer? Humanly speaking, NONE, except to her family. So what does it say about the spirit and love produced by Christianity that tens of thousands of people can be knit together in common prayer because of this one insignificant (humanly speaking) child? What joy must our Heavenly Father get to see a large multitude of His children come together in love on behalf of ONE of their little sisters? We constantly grow the circle of love around Abby because of what it does for US, for THEM, for YOU, for HER. It has also resulted in so much encouragement and love for Abby, Michelle and I. We don’t do it for that reason, but we do not discount this benefit. For everything there is a season. Michelle and I have enjoyed seasons of giving, serving, teaching, loving and sacrificing for others. We count it all joy that during this short trial for us, God has given us a season of support, encouragement and a multitude of new friends. For everything there is a season…. You reap what you sow. Bless God that his promises are true.

Yes, God knows our plans, our thoughts and the outcome of EVERYTHING, but GOD HIMSELF commands us to pray, so the fact that He “knows” must not be relevant to “why?” we pray. Since our prayer, in reality, is not “needed” by God, then we know that God tells us to pray because it is what is best FOR US.

Martha asked: What kind of behavior is acceptable (or not acceptable) for preschool-aged children in church? For example, do you think its OK for them to color or look at books, or should they be expected to sit still and listen with no toys, etc? I’m really struggling with getting my 4-year-old firecracker to be still and quiet in church.

Can prayer “change” an outcome? Depends on whose eyes you are viewing from. From God’s, no… He already knows the result, so philosophically, prayer cannot “change” what God already knows will occur because He already knows “the change” ahead of time, so it’s not really a change to Him.

This is a highly subjective question and strictly my opinion. I think we expect TOO LITTLE of our kids, and we do them a BIG disservice by thinking they have to be constantly entertained and distracted. Our kids have to learn at some point that there is a time to simply sit still and be quiet.

However, from OUR perspective, the fervent prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective… from OUR point of view. We are commanded to pray, God tells us pray, so prayer must be beneficial and useful. We know in fact from mountains of anecdotal evidence that prayer effects every aspect of life, from our point of reference.

Our kids have been able to sit in church quietly since around 2 years old. We don’t expect a 2 year old to sit for two hours without moving but we do expect them to sit quietly with a book, or coloring something. We don’t let them play with toys in church, because we want them to know that 1) church is not play time, and 2) that they don’t have a universal right to “play” all the time.

Do we think if MORE people pray, Abby will be healed? No. I’ve addressed this in the past several times. We are not trying to coerce God, or force His hand. His Will will be done and in fact was determined before the foundations of the earth were ever laid. We continually gather more praying friends into the fold because we have seen how many lives have been touched, how many hearts have been strengthened, how many spirits have been renewed and how many people have shown love and received love because of one little girl laying in a hospital bed in Oklahoma. It is a testament to the power of God that He can affect so

As they get older, we transition to less distraction (coloring, books, etc) in church and more “listening”. By the time they are 4 or 5, they might read (look at the pictures) their Childrens Bible during church, but not have coloring or other kids books. Six or older, then are old enough to sit quietly and learn the discipline of being still even if they aren’t actually listening. By 9 or 10, they need to be actually paying attention. This is made more difficult today because of our constant passive entertainment. Non-stop TV, radio, iPods, computers 250


all through the week condition children with the need to be stimulated relentlessly. Then we wonder why they can’t sit still, and get labeled “ADHD” by the millions (DON’T GET ME STARTED ON THAT!!). Parents should take time every day, age appropriate, and have their kids sit quietly and read, and sometimes, just sit quietly. If they NEVER practice doing this at home, and learn the discipline, don’t think they are magically going to learn it at church or school.

3/14/2009 6:24:00 AM

Open Season Answers 11: My Intolerance Marie (majsan_au@yahoo.com) asked: As Christians, what is your general opinion on other faiths? Do you have the attitude of *all paths lead to God*, or the more strict *Christianity is the only way* belief? Religion is the only subject on earth where people hold such illogical and completely incompatible views. The reigning popular position is to say “pick a religion, any religion, as long as you are sincere, they are all equal”. By default however, this is no more truth than saying it’s okay to believe anything you want about the flavor of orange, it’s all equally valid. Orange is chocolate, orange has no taste, just be sincere and all beliefs are equal.” This makes ALL religion worthless, and it’s not intellectually genuine. In fact, it is the suspension of logic and reason. Only with religion, or salvation, or eternity do we take such as absurd position as “all beliefs (or most) are equally valid” and consider the conviction that “there is only one way” to be intolerant or strict. I believe the sun is cold. I believe the sun is hot. I believe the sun is made out of cotton candy. Doesn’t matter as long as you are sincere. Don’t be intolerant and believe there is only one correct answer. I believe rape is wrong. I believe rape is okay. I believe rape is okay as long as it’s an adult woman. I believe rape is okay if it’s someone I hate. I believe is rape is okay because woman are less than men. Don’t be intolerant and judge my views. All views are equally valid. I believe freedom is good. I believe freedom is evil. I believe my freedom is good but yours is not. I believe freedom should only be for white people. I believe freedom is deserved on by rich people. Doesn’t matter as long as you are sincere. Don’t have

the more “strict” view that everyone deserves freedom. If we know that “all views are not equally valid” about subjects less important than salvation, how can we then hold to this view on the most important topic: eternity? I believe salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ. I believe salvation comes through being part of the [pick a Protestant denomination, Catholics, Mormons, Muslims, Jehovah’s Witness, Buddhists]. I believe salvation is achieved by being good. I believe God loves everyone and all will be saved. I believe we are all collectively “god” and will end up together. I believe there is no salvation and no life past this. I believe that peanut butter and jelly will save me. I believe the sky is green. I believe the earth is square. I believe we came from monkeys. I believe we came from UFO’s. I believe that Mother Earth is god. I believe I am god. You see how absurd it all is??? This whole idea that we are free to believe whatever we want to believe and all beliefs are equally valid IS ABSURD. It’s intellectually dishonest. It’s logically ridiculous. It lacks integrity and courage. It is absolutely devoid of compassion because we leave people without real hope. The fact is, every religion or group, whoever they may be, BELIEVE THEY HAVE THE TRUTH, AND THAT ONLY THOSE WHO ADHERE TO THEIR TRUTH ARE “SAVED” even if that truth is "all roads lead to heaven". All major religions believe THEIR RELIGION is truth but our politically correct peer pressure humbles us into publicly avoiding any claim to exclusive truth. We all have to walk around appearing to be open, compassionate and loving… the proof of which is our badge of inclusiveness and tolerance. In truth, this is the most UNLOVING thing we can do for other people because we avoid telling them what we believe is really the ONLY truth about our existence and future. If we have a belief about TRUTH and do NOT claim to have an exclusive understanding of it, we don’t really believe what we say we believe. There cannot, but logic, by default, be more than one Truth when it comes to salvation, origins or afterlife. I cannot say that salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ alone (as taught by the Christian Bible) and say with any real honesty “but you can believe in salvation by being a good person”. I’ve just denied my own faith, and patronized yours. Truth by nature is intolerant and exclusive. That’s why it is called TRUTH. If we believe a “truth” about who created us, why we were created, and what is going to happen to us after this life, then we are by default being strict and intolerant. To say believe that all “truths” regarding origins, salvation and eternity are equally valid, is just plain old intellectual foolishness and in fact states categorically that we don’t 251


believe in any TRUTH at all (which then becomes actual intolerant exclusive Truth). The TRUTH is, you cannot avoid having an “intolerant, exclusive” Truth because whatever you believe to be Truth, including a belief in “no Truth” becomes your definition of TRUTH, and everything else is false.

TRUTHS CANNOT BOTH BE EQUALLY VALID, and we label ourselves as IDIOTS when we pretend that religion is the exception. Christianity, Islam and Universalism cannot all be equally valid truths because they make incompatible claims about salvation. Mormonism, Buddhism and Moralism cannot be equally valid truths because the make incompatible claims about origins and eternity.

Ironically, it is typically only Westerners, Christians or otherwise, that “play around” with faith and try to take this high sounding road of “all paths to God are equally valid”. (Other religions believe and teach Universalism, but they don't toy around with it.)

Either one is right and the rest are wrong. Or they are all wrong. They cannot all be equally valid. In fact, not even TWO can be true because they all teaching wholly incompatible beliefs.

It is common in the non-committed, politically-correct, Biblically-illiterate, “religion is a lifestyle choice”, “add church to my weekly social checklist” Western culture that you will find this idea that “tolerance” is the name of the game when it come to eternity.

I believe the only valid, exclusive, intolerant TRUTH about man’s beginning and end is found in the teachings of Biblical Christianity. I have the courage, intellectual honesty and compassion to say that to you without apology or equivocation. Otherwise, you should dismiss me as a man with no convictions that cannot be trusted to stand firm in what he declares publicly.

Now, having laid out the preface, and being an intellectually honest, courageously truthful and genuinely committed Christian OF COURSE I BELIEVE THAT CHRISTIANITY IS THE ONLY WAY TO HEAVEN AND THE ONLY TRUTH. If I do NOT believe that, then I do not believe Christianity. And if I do not believe it, they I deserve no respect for calling myself Christian if I don't have the courage to stand by its claims without apology or compromise.

YOU have a “truth” today that is intolerant and exclusive. The only question is whether or not you have the integrity and courage to admit it and stand by it. The only alternative is to have no belief and risk your eternity to chance.

Christianity teaches that we are created by God, that we have sinned and separated ourselves from our Creator, and that reconciliation (salvation) comes only through obedient faithful response to God on HIS TERMS. If I truly believe that, I have NO CHOICE BUT TO BELIEVE IT IS THE SINGLE, EXCLUSIVE, INTOLERANT AND UNIQUE WAY TO HEAVEN.

3/14/2009 12:22:00 PM

Open Season Answers 12, 13 & 14

To think otherwise betrays either a lack of understanding about the Bible, an illogical infatuation with political correctness, a successful indoctrination by pop culture religion, or a general lack of intellectual soundness and courage.

Jenny asked: Can I used your posts and publish them other places?

For all you “tolerant, loving and inclusive” folks…. You miss the point in understanding that YOUR belief in “inclusiveness” then becomes YOUR TRUTH, which by default is not intolerant and exclusive at all because you declare as “wrong” anyone who does not believe “all religion is equally valid” and “all roads lead to heaven.” You must then reject all major religions that teach exclusivity thereby becoming exclusive yourself.

Sure. You can use any of my writing on any of my blogs (www.brentriggs.com www.seriousfaith.com ). I would appreciate if you put something at the end like “By Brent Riggs – www.riggsfamilyblog.com” or credit whichever of my blogs you got the content from.

That’s awfully intolerant and judgmental of you.

Kathy and many others asked: How is Abby today?

The fact is: TRUTH is, by default, intolerant and exclusive. If not, then Truth doesn’t exist at all because incompatible beliefs cannot be equally valid (“I believe the sun is hot, I believe the sun is ice”; “I believe a ball is round, I believe a ball can be any shape”; “I believe 2 plus 2 is four, I believe 2 plus 2 can be any amount”, “I believe the sun rises in the East, I believe there is no sun”.) No friends, in any realm of existence INCOMPATIBLE

We are consulting with the docs about what to do. It’s a juggling act: we need to keep her feeding tube because she desperately needs the nutrition to keep fighting infection and repairing her wound. But, it would be helpful if we could pull the tube, surgically clean up the site, and get Abby to eat on her own.

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We are hoping the surgeon will tell us he can clean up the wound site AND keep her tube in place. We are also considering TPN and appetite stimulants. Abby’s condition today is about the same as yesterday. She is starting to show a few white blood cells and they did give her a first shot of Neupogen last night.

3/14/2009 10:38:00 PM

Abby Update: Long Day, Few Answers

We’ll know more later today after they examine, evaluate and consult. We’ll keep you updated of course.

3/14/2009 7:58:00 PM

Open Season Answers 15: Follow Up on My "Insults" Our question list from Open Season Friday has deteriorated into a forum to repeat an inaccurate statement that my previous post about "Truth" was declaring who was "Christian" and who wasn't (or who was "Truth" and who wasn't).

Abby goes from total discomfort and feeling bad most of the time to brief moments of giddyness and cutting up. It's a sight to behold...

That was not the issue or the answer. In fact, I went out of my way to state that I was not answering who is right and who is wrong (which religion is Truth). My point was to prove that this whole idea of "choose a belief about God and they are all equally valid" is logically and intellectually absurd.

Today was a long day, filled with more questions than answers. The doctor making rounds today happens to be Abby's primary physician. It was comforting to see her in the midst of this crisis. The short version is Abby's temperature is up again, her bone marrow is still not working well (she needed a blood transfusion today) stomach is worse. The good thing is that her pain is well managed and they are now giving her even more antibiotics and an antifungal to try to help her.

I've been writing about the Bible and Christianity for a decade publicly, so I should have known the mentioning any particular group in any particular order or in any particular context would result in this. My wife and my daughter don't need the stress or the insults that are flying at me. So save the unkindness for ME and email me directly at brent@brentriggs.com. I like to have a blog where difficult questions can be answered but people are so easily offended no matter how diplomatic, logical and kind you are. Life's too short folks... I'm answering questions because I care about people and want to give them something honest to think about. If you want ear-tickling and cotton candy answers, I'm the wrong person. If you disagree with me, disagree with me. Don't question my heart, motives and what good I do because of a disagreement. I don't question yours. ~ Brent

The longer version is: Abby's doctor thinks the wound on Abby's stomach looks "impressive" and "very concerning". Dr. Cain is reserved and poised, so that is about as much excitement as she ever expresses. I appreciate that she was honest with us. It was stressful to hear, but important to know. Dr. Cain is consulting with a Pediatric Infectious Disease Physician and a dermatologist (to biopsy and diagnose the skin infection). They were already consulting with a Gastroenterologist, pain management physician and surgeons. As soon as Abby's counts recover she also wants to consult with an allergist, to determine if Abby is truly allergic to the "big gun" antibiotics that Abby seems to be allergic to. The hope is that she is allergic to an additive, instead of the actual medication that might save her life. I am VERY thankful that so many talented doctors will be watching over Abby, but it also is draining to me to deal with so many people. It is necessary, but hard as well. Each specialty sends a separate resident and/or medical student to assess 253


Abby every day. Then each specialist comes into our room, at different times, to assess Abby (usually surrounded by a group of medical students).

use her and exploit her as you do ..all in the name of religion..(what a joke!). Please get yourselves jobs and support yourselves, dont beg from internet people and PLEASE leave that poor suffering child out of it all. Let her live her life in peace and privacy rather than exploitation. She deserves that. Wow I am just stunned how you parade all her pain and personal medical issues all over the internet including photos of her in pain. Let the child have a private time to heal. I wonder if those adoption people know what you are doing with the child that was given to your wife. What a shame..shame shame! In the hospital, there is a law called HIPPA, you would be in violation of it had you been caring for a patient in a hospital setting. Be a man, get a job, and leave that poor child to recover and heal in privacy. Stop exploiting her health issues to generate sympathy for youself.and make a living for family. Get a job !!!!!

We also get to interact with nurses, physical therapist, wound care specialist, dietary and housekeeping on a daily basis. Everyone of these people is an answer to prayers and a blessing to Abby. I am very thankful for each of them, but I am also a very private and quiet person, dealing with the constant parade of helpful people is tiring for me. Please pray that I be able to communicate effectively, and the strength and wisdom necessary to help and care for Abby. Please continue to pray for: • • • •

Abby's healing Our other children (we miss being at home together) wisdom for the doctors and nurses strength and wisdom for Brent and I

I thought we would just go ahead and give her a full forum for her viewpoint so everyone can consider her points. Her opinions about our motives are her opinion. She has right to them. She does NOT have a right to be published or heard on our blog... we granted her that privilege because we have nothing to hide and it's a lesson learned for all us as to what you can expect when you live a public Christian life.

I want to be sure and thank God for blessings along the way. Abby has not been on medication for increased intracranial pressure for many weeks. She has had no problems with increased pressure. Abby's pain is well managed. Abby is still in remission. Our wonderful friends have continued to care for our other children, we have had several people help to make this hospital stay easier for Abby and I, and we many, many people are continuing to bless us from afar. Your emails, comments and cards and care packages bless us more than you will ever know.

Besides stating things that are factually untrue (for the people who ACTUALLY know about us, you'll spot those errors pretty easily), she looks deep in our heart and declares to know our motivation, our purposes and our reasons, all of which are selfish and evil. Much of her motivation is clearly exposed by a single phrase: "all in the name of religion..(what a joke!)". There you find the core, the crux, the heart of her response. Michelle and I usually just discard this kind of comment, but in light of the last couple of days, we thought we would put this one up, and let everyone consider her points.

3/15/2009 12:26:00 PM

Exploitation of Our Daughter? People are emailing asking about this comment that was left on our blog yesterday: OncologyRN said: It appears as though you use this adopted spanish child as a means to gain money , gifts, and attention. Why don't you just return her to her country of origin and carry on with your lives. Let her be loved in a place where she is not exploited on the internet daily and her personal medical problems exposed to millions. Be fair and kind to this poor child. She didn't ask to be adopted by your wife and then have you enter her life a few months ago and all of a sudden call her your "daughter" (as if she was yours from the start) . that doesnt give you the right to

We will continue to minister and pray and love and help and support and pour ourselves out for as many people as we are able. That can't be EVERYONE, because that is impossible. I've emailed another family a couple of times today who feel like we've ignored them, and that we can't possibly be praying for, ministering to, and helping all the people that come to our blog as well as care for Abby and our family. You're right, we can't. That is why we are building a community of people who are all doing this together. Because of what was posted in the last couple of days, this family thought we were ignoring them because they are Catholic. Geez.... can a brutha not getta break 'round here? No whining... not looking for sympathy or pity. Just wanted to give these comments about exploiting Abby a full voice on our blog so every single blog friend we have can come to an informed conclusion about it.

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We get this type of criticism routinely and rarely do we make it public. But Michelle and I talked about it this morning and thought it would be good for US to post this comment and let those who agree, do so, then go find another blog who they think is worthy of their time. If you agree with OncologyRN, then why are you wasting your time here? We aren't worth it.

to sensationalize but Abby, medically speaking, kind of hangs in the balance right now. God is watching over every second, and we are secure in His arms. ~ Brent

Perhaps those of you who disagree with her might leave a comment stating what you know about us and our minsitry work so that those who might be "wondering" can have the other side of the story to consider. We get a lot of new readers every week, so there will be people who don't know us well, who might read the comment above and wonder "is that true?" That's okay... it's a natural response. Michelle and I aren't going to put up a bunch of "look what we do" commentary for obvious reasons, so perhaps your comments might testify to what our ministry, life, reputation, work, advice and efforts are trying to accomplish, and what our motivation is. If it is not clear to those who have known us for a longer period of time, then we truly have been missing the mark. Now I need to go exploit Abby a little more. She's next to me here in the hospital bed sound asleep. I brought Sami and Landis here to get a visit with Mom... don't worry, we're brainstorming ways to exploit them too. Blessings, Brent

3/15/2009 3:34:00 PM

Abby Update: Surgery #1 Abby is having surgery tomorrow‌. The doctors now consider the wound on her stomach an "emergency" and she will have the first of two surgeries tomorrow. Normally, they would not do surgery on someone with no white blood cells, but they don't feel they can wait any longer with Abby. They'll repair the wound in two phases, one now, and finish when her white counts recover. She is still at "rock bottom" and has not turned the corner yet (as she normally has by now). Her wound is still at its worse; her stomach is still very bloated, and she continues on several pain medications non-stop. She is about to get a CAT Scan so they can determine what is happening (or not happening) in her stomach. We're still at a very fragile and concerning stage. We don't like

3/16/2009 12:02:00 PM

Surgery From Michelle: Abby is heading to surgery, now. I will update as soon as I can. Please pray!

3/16/2009 1:29:00 PM

Abby Update From Michelle: Abby is still back in surgery. I will update again after she is out. Most of Abby's medical team has rounded today. The only positive thing to report is that her liver enzymes are almost completely normal. This is a huge answer to prayer and we are very thankful that God has healed her liver. I wish I had more good news, but I don't. Abby's wound on her g-tube site looks a lot worse than it did when we shared a pictures of it. Honestly, it has progressively looked worse, each and every day since then. Her primary doctor has declared this an emergency and all of the other doctors agree. Normally they would NEVER take a cancer patient to surgery, when they had no WBC, but surgery is now the best hope Abby has of curing her. They have hit her with every "big gun" antibiotic they have and an antifungal, but nothing is helping, in fact things are much worse. The plan in surgery is to get a big enough tissue sample to run a long list of tests on it. They will also irrigate it, trying to flush out some of the bacteria. Because Abby won't be able to heal from this surgery until her WBC recover, they will try to make the smallest incisions possible. Abby's pain is much harder to manage now. They keep increasing the doses, but she is still really hurting. She was up 255


almost once an hour last night, asking for more medicine. Abby almost NEVER asks for pain medicine, so this tells us a lot about how badly she is hurting. They are going to try to do some new things to help her today. I will update again after Abby is finished. Thank you so much for praying.

3/16/2009 10:32:00 PM

Abby Update & Thank You!! [Hey, this is Heather again... we aren't going to bug you or remind you too many more times about the "Praying for Abby" T-shirts. I'm lucky Brent lets me remind you at all. If you don't know, a group of us wanted to help the Riggs, and so we got a bunch of t-shirts donated with Abby's picture on it. For more information, click here. Thanks! ~ Heather

Update on Abby From Michelle: Abby's little body handled the surgery fine. The surgeon said there was more bleeding than normal, but with low platelets that is understandable. He took off a quarter size raised area of necrotic tissue and sent it to pathology and microbiology. The hope is they will be able to find the cause of Abby's problem, so they will know how to treat it. Abby really handled everything like the brave little warrior she is . She knew we were going to surgery, but wasn't scared. The anesthesiologist allowed me to carry her back to the operating room and hold her until they put her to sleep. I was allowed to go back to the recovery room before she even began to wake up, so in her eyes mom was never far away. The biggest risk of operating on Abby with no WBC is obviously that she could get an infection during surgery or she could get a new infection in the bigger open wound, after surgery. Keeping her four year old fingers from touching her new owwie is a big challenge, but critical. Abby is usually a very obedient, but she really wants to know why her tummy hurts. Right now, Abby and I are settling in for the night. She took a late nap after surgery, so we will watch movies together until she is tired. I treasure these quiet moments with Abby. Thank you so much for all of your prayers and encouraging messages. They helped carry me through the last couple of days.

Thank You!! From Brent: A couple of days ago we put up the nice comment from OncologyRN with the intention of just letting folks see what some people think about us, and giving them a chance to consider her opinion, agree with her if they wanted, then politely find other blogs to read. We did it to show people we aren't afraid of criticism, to let other people know the truth about what happens behind the scenes sometimes, and honestly, just to allow each and every person who reads our blog the opportunity to judge for themselves if they wanted to stay with us on this journey... not just with Abby, but on our pilgrimage through this life, anticipating the next. What happened after posting that totally overwhelmed us. We originally wanted to ignore her comment, much the same way we ignore 99% of other hurtful, baseless responses (the ones that have merit, we prayerfully consider). But now... we are glad we put it out there publicly because we received an outpouring of love and encouragement that left no doubt in our mind that we are helping people (our real motivation), blessing people (our true heart's desire), and being a source of hope and guidance for many (our mission). A couple of hundred people or more went out of their way to encourage us, state publicly what our blog and ministry work has meant in their life, and tell other readers what they personally know about our character and life. It was the greatest testimony to our effort and service that we've ever seen or could have ever hoped to see. We are completely undeserving of so much kindness and support, and of course we can only thank God for the luxurious blessing He gave us in the form of your loving words and extravagant encouragement. Once again what was meant for evil (the nasty comments), God has used for good because we are now a 100 times more encouraged and motivated to continue what we are doing than we were before OncologyRN stoked the fires. Hey, OncologyRN... thank YOU! We are forever grateful for the blessing that came from your comments. Please know that there is an entire community of blog friends right here that wait with open arms to be your friend, love you and give you the same kind of encouragement. All in the name of, how did you put it?... "religion". And you are right, "religion" is a joke. What is NOT a joke, is that we wait with open arms in the name of the loving, forgiving name of Jesus Christ who is the source of our joy, our hope, our happiness and our willingness to befriend even those who speak evil of us. We hope you'll come meet our Friend, Jesus.

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Abby's pain is under much better control now. They took her off half a dozen pain meds and just went to one continuous morphine drip. So hopefully the rollercoaster of pain will end. But... she'll probably remain pretty docile. You can tell she's in "happy land" and she is a screaming funny "drunk". She cracks jokes, makes faces and says hilarious stuff she'll have no memory of.

Not long after her surgery, in typical Abby fashion, I ask for a smile, and get a big beautiful smile although she's on enough morphine to make even the Detroit Lions happy again. Abby loves her biggest brother, Dane (21) who came to visit her today. Did you notice the wall behind Abby? There's about a hundred pictures of __________. What?

To close on serious note, we want you to know the truth. Abby is in a precarious and dicey situation, medically speaking. Abby's doesn't want you to forget she's still got her purple tongue, and LOTS more wall space in her room to put YOUR colored tongue pic! Did you spot YOUR purple tongue pic on the wall yet?

She is totally bottomed out, and has not yet began to recover her blood counts at all. She faces another surgery soon, much more extensive than todays. She is still in danger of becoming septic, and is open game for every germ and disease that crosses her path. That's all MEDICALLY speaking... Spiritually speaking, she sits in the loving hand of the Creator of the Universe who poised to show His love and glory through the outcome He determined for Abby before the foundations of the world. Given that truth, we have not a care in the world, and rejoice that God makes ALL things work together for good for those that love Him and seek His face. ~ Brent 257


3/17/2009 2:31:00 AM

Laughter Still on Vacation Tuesday Just not feelin' Laughter Lives Tuesday this week while still dealing with all this hospital stuff. Not depressed, or joyless, far from it... just too tired to do a good job on Laughter Lives, so I'd rather skip it this week. We have some new pics, videos and updates on Abby that we'll be putting up throughout the day. Blessings, Brent

A Video Here's video of Abby talking to MeeMaw on the phone, doing her best dramatic Southern Belle "thank you, oh thank you" and finally, deciding she is going to the beach and needs sunscreen in her ears! You'll notice that Abby talks slow, and in a squeaky voice. The "slow" part is mostly from the morphine and other medications. The chemo partially paralyzes her vocal chords producing the nasally squeaky thing. But we don't care... she's so stinking cute and funny anyway.

3/17/2009 2:58:00 PM Update From Michelle:

A Pic, A Video & A Date! From Brent: Michelle has not been out of the hospital in over two weeks, and has only left THE ROOM a few times. Some of our wonderful friends are keeping the kids tonight, and Michelle's Mom (a nurse too) is going to go sit with Abby at the hospital... so we can go out on one of those thingies... where two people do something... ummm... uhhhh... a dart... a dame... A DATE! That's it! A date!

Abby is tired today, sleeping a lot, but doing pretty well. Her WBCs are still not recovering, but they are showing some early signs they may start. Abby's pain is much better managed today. Thankfully the change in medications was a great one for Abby. We are really just in a holding pattern, no changes. Just supporting Abby, keeping her comfortable while we wait for her body to heal. I can't wait to get out of this room for a few hours tonight but I'll really miss Abby.

Thanks makes twice this year... we are getting plum spoiled. We'll leave in a couple of hours, and we might not even Twitter or blog during out date... maybe. Our Colored Tongue Wall We're creating a quite a fun collage on the wall for Abby. Can you spot your picture yet? We've got more room if you want to send one.

3/17/2009 11:05:00 PM

Kisses for Abby Published in the April Issue of Serious.Life Magazine One of Abby's most adorable friends, Sophie, and her Mom, Kristy, sent Abby some "Pic Kisses & Well Wishes". 258


I hope you guys aren't worn out sending pics & videos, etc.... Abby is on the last week or 10 days of this really horrible phase and she had been SO delighted by the "colored tongue" pics, cards and notes on her hospital wall. Another round of fun pictures would mean the world to her. We want to fill up her entire hospital wall with pictures. DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE TESTIMONY THIS HAVING ON THE HOSPITAL STAFF, THE DOCTORS, THE OTHER KIDS ON THE FLOOR, AND VISITORS. People are quite amazed at all the pictures and love you are showing. It opens up a door for us to talk about our faith.

Sophie is one of our very favorite blog friends. She constantly sends Abby well wishes and prays for her. I guess using that criteria, about TEN THOUSAND of you qualify to be one of Abby's best blog friends. WE ARE SO BLESSED! Just a heads up... tomorrow I'm going to put up requests/forms for content and photos for the April issue of Serious.Life, and post up the April Blog Directory Entry. This month (April), I'm including a new feature where the directory will be searchable and sortable and categorized, making it much easier for people to find you AND you'll get to put a longer description if you want. ~ Brent

3/18/2009 2:51:00 PM

It's Official... I Know I'm Gittin' Old

My arms are no longer long enough to hold the fine print far enough away to read it. I also discovered that my phone and computer screens are actually crystal clear, not fuzzy. You know you're gittin' old when you finally stick a pair of reading glasses on your nose and look more like your parents than their once young kids. At some point in your life you just have to accept the fact that you aren't twenty, you can't act like you're twenty, and your body won't work likes it twenty. We git old... it's just the way it is. That can bum you out and depress, you can fight it tooth and nail, you can not care... or you can enjoy it. Now, here's the only serious statement I want to make in this post because this is supposed to light hearted: getting old, breaking down and wearing out serves as a joyful and tangible reminder that we are getting nearer and nearer to our reward. God has turned the curse of sin into a blessing because He allows us to gradually release this temporal tent of flesh as we ready ourselves to trade in for a new, eternal, perfect model. Now, back to the fun. I'm starting a list below: "You Know Your Gittin' Old When...". No explanation needed... let's have some fun:

Note: Update on Abby coming later this evening... some good news finally. 259


3/18/2009 9:09:00 PM

Abby Update: Why Is 748 A Great Number?

Abby admires her magically purple tongue with her magic mirror.

Feeling better and better....

We can see the sun shining now... Abby's is improving quickly now. From Michelle: Abby's white blood cells (WBC) are multiplying fast! 260


Her ANC, (Total # of WBC) x (% of Neutrophils), has been ZERO for weeks (ANC is the indicator of the health and vitality of the blood). Because of the seriousness of Abby's infection, the goal is for Abby's to be at least several thousand. Abby's ANC was ZERO yesterday and today it is 748! Praise God. Abby has a fever of 101.5 today and her wound still looks yucky, but we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, and barring something unforeseen, we can begin to believe she has turned the corner and is making a comeback now! Still a long ways to go, but we wanted you to get to share in some good news after so many days of waiting, praying and waiting some more.

will take time to heal, but we are very happy with the progress it is making. Thanks again for all of your prayers. Saturday will be three weeks in the hospital and we are understandably tired. We long to have our family together again.

3/20/2009 6:00:00 PM

Open Season Answers 1, 2, 3, & 4 Michelle Answers:

3/19/2009 10:25:00 PM

Open Season Friday & Abby Update Abby Update from Michelle

Jessica asked: Depending on how Abby is doing, are you all planning on attending the whole blog reunion thing in Tulsa in June? (if you have no idea what I'm talking about, you can email Kerri/Ruby!) We would LOVE to go. Of course it depend on Abby's health, hopefully we will be able to go. We are also planning on going to a small reunion for the children in Sami's orphanage. Riley asked: Do you know of any other kids that might like a knitted hat? Yes, we know a lot of children, who are fighting cancer, who would love a hat. Another thing that is really nice, and easy to make, is fun pillowcases for children in the hospital. Abby loves having a fun pillowcase to use when she is at the hospital. It really brightens things up for the children.

Abby, Sami and I had a wonderful day. They opened care packages, ate yummy homemade cookies, played with friends and did crafts. Abby and Sami turned a day stuck in a hospital into a day filled with fun. I love those silly girls. Abby's WBC are increasing. The number that tells us how good her immune system is working (ANC) has risen from zero on Tuesday, to 748 on Wednesday to 848 today. The goal is for it to be several thousand, while she has this infection. After Abby is healed from this wound infection, they will bring her ANC back down to 1200-1500. Abby's cancer mimics WBC, so by keeping her WBS low they they hope her in remission. Abby's wound in looking much better. It is big and deep, so it

Joni asked: I've just found out (yesterday) that IF I go with Lumpectomy I will have to do SIX WEEKS of Radiation 5 days/wk and driving OUT of TOWN for it :( How tired did Abby (or anyone else reading this) get with Radiation? And Chemo? I'm wondering if Id be able to drive 45 minutes back and forth... First of all I am so sorry you are going through this. Please keep us updated, so we will know how to pray for you. Abby, didn't get sick right after chemo, they tended to hit her 7-14 days later. Each type of chemo is very different and each person reacts differently to them. Chemo's effects tend to be cumulative, and your reaction maybe worse after a few treatments. My advice to you is to have someone drive you in the beginning, at least until you know better how you will react. Abby didn't receive radiation, so I have no advice about that. Does anyone else have any advice for Joni? Stacey G. asked: Hello! Glad Abby is feeling better. I have asked many many 261


times for your home address to mail something for the family but got no response. I will leave you all alone now. If you would like to chat my email address is mockba0204 at optonline.net Stacey and Maya (2 yr old from Guatemala)

website" where you can store pics, pages and content. Left Out asked: I know you are busy and you do as much as you can but why do you encourage everyone to email you or comment with the thought that you will get back to them when you do not. People send you emails with questions or asking for Hope and to be ignored can really hurt. I know you don't have time but you shouldn't make people think you will take the time for them when you won't be able too. I know you do your best just hope you have something to say to those that are left out from talking to you.

I am so sorry, Stacey. I just emailed you. Hopefully it went through.

3/20/2009 9:53:00 PM

Open Season Answers 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 & 11 [Disclaimer: The following answers are my opinion. I'm not a doctor, lawyer, guru, expert, self-proclaimed authority or any other thing that counts for much in this world. I’m not particularly brilliant, nor anyone special, and there are probably a lot of other really smart people you would be better off investing your time in. If you disagree with my answers, just discount them as the musings of an over-the-hill, irrelevant hick who rarely puts on long pants except for church and sometimes funerals. If you do disagree with any of my answers, I sincerely would love to know why because I always want to continue learning but... don't write and tell me you are offended. If you are offended because of my answer, do I get to be offended because you disagree? Let's not be offended, let's just disagree and thoughtfully/respectfully consider what we both have to say. Cool? ~BR] TRB asked: Thanks for your blog..I love your outlook! My question is: How do you store all of your photos? Flashdrive? I have many many photos and it takes over an hour to download them (USB drive). How do you handle this? Thanks and God Bless. Since I have several of my own websites (several is an understatement) I store my own pics on my web hosting packages. This allows me to access them the way I want, back them up, and size them however I want. If you'll right-click on any of the big pictures on our blog you'll see the location is typically www.brentriggs.com/blogpics... I would recommend everyone get a basic $4/month web hosting package at somewhere like GoDaddy so you can have a place to store content, and even create other pages you can link to from your blog. Many of the unique features, images and gadgets you see me use on our blog are served up from my other websites because I have control over them. Blogger gives you limited ability to be creative with your blog. A service like GoDaddy provides all the simple tools you need to do this. You don't have to be a programmer web dude like me to have your own "other

We do not "make people think" we answer each and every question or comment and it is exceptionally obvious that would be impossible anyway. To the contrary, we go out of our way regularly to say that we do the best we can, but can't answer every inquiry or comment. Occasionally, we miss something we wish we wouldn't have missed or even forget to do something we said we would do. We are not SELLING advice, prayer or responses. We do it out of love. I have had, and will have again in the future "professional mentoring" programs where I promise certain levels of attention, accessibility and responsiveness... where I do make promises of attention and responsiveness that is being paid for. But this is our personal blog where "what you see is what you get". We pray no one thinks we are disingenuous, insincere, manipulative or making false promises but have no control over anyone who does. We invest as much time as we possibly can responding to multitudes of questions and comments each week besides writing the content on the various sites (riggsfamilyblog.com, brentriggs.com, seriousfaith.com). I write tons of material and the portion of my writing, advice and content that is "for sale" is probably less than 1% of what I've written that is accessible to anyone for free. In a very real sense we respond to vast numbers of people each month by writing content relevant to typical and common real life. We will continue to invest much of our life in ministering through teaching, writing, answering questions, praying for people, etc and we pray for the strength and time to help as many people as God would have us help. Claire Smith asked: Hi Riggs family, quick question. What are your opinions and rules about modesty in your home? Certain rules on certain items of clothing worn? There are so many questions and not enough answers out there. Please let all of us (your readers)know. Thanks and God bless!! We try to start teaching modesty at an early age because you can't ignore it when they are 5 and expect them to care when they are 10. We live in a very immodest world, and it takes

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great effort to counterbalance what is seen on TV, at school, out in public and even, sadly, at church. (that is not a statement about our current church; I'm speaking about what I've seen in dozens of churches over the years) One of the most popular SeriousFaith.com series I have ever written was on modesty. You can find it on my Bible teaching site - www.seriousfaith.com - at this link: http://www.seriousfaith.com/dvo/devotionseriesdetail.asp?se riesid=34 Kelly asked: How do you and your family feel about and cope with having such a public blog with so many strangers knowing intimate details of a very personal struggle? Of course there are many details we don't make public. We try to use discernment and wisdom in knowing what to share, and what is appropriate to keep private. The part we choose to share we do for one reason: we believe that God gives us opportunity for faith and life experience so that we can teach others... be an example for them. We are called to imitate Christ, so that others can look to us for an example to follow. Our heart is to teach, mentor and minister. It's hard to do that effectively on non-personal level, which in an online setting, means sharing your life publicly. We don't propose that is the right thing for every teacher or mentor... we just know it is the life and ministry that God has led us to. Again, let me be clear... we express our journey publicly to help others grow in their faith by learning from what we experience. Of course we feel perfectly okay about it, or we wouldn't do it and there is really nothing to "cope with" because we feel it is a ministry. Holly from Purpose Driven Family asked: Brent, I'm just wondering how you got such a hot wife? ;+) Hugs to you Michelle!! Holly Oh and I would love to hear how Sami is doing with her English. She looks like the shy type...but so beautiful! I got such a hot wife because she has high standards and was waiting for a smokin' hot guy. She finally gave up and settled for me. Yes, I'm sure that is the reason. I'm sure. Really. Sami is doing wonderful with her English, amazing in fact. We thought Sami looked shy too before she got here. She LOOKED shy. That's where it ends. There's not a shy bone in her body. Ange~ asked: First of all, I am so happy that Abby is doing better! Praise God. My questions, and I have two of them. One, is Landis Abbys biological brother? And two, where did the name Meemaw come from? Landis is NOT Abby's bio-brother. MeeMaw... I have no idea. I've always called my Mom "Maw" which is comes from our

rural roots... I think maybe my older brother's kids starting calling her that first and we just continued it. I think those types of names come up because "grandma" makes some seasoned ladies feel old. I used to call my grandmother "grandnippy" and she thought that was a hoot. No name asked: Do I remember you saying awhile back on your blog that when you adopted Abby that you knew she would have Leukemia one day? Or am I just imagining that? If so, how did you know? I am guessing there was some kind of gene that told you that. No we didn't think or know Abby would have Leukemia. We've stated that GOD KNEW and it was obviously His providential will for us to adopt her because He knew what care she would need. She does have a gene which statistically makes her more likely to die from Leukemia, but it didn't make her more likely to GET Leukemia. Michael asked: Do you have friends of other faiths? How do you handle the faith topic with them? Is it just an *agree to disagree* or do you actively try to convert them? (I'm Jewish, but I enjoy reading the religious parts of the blog as well as all the Abby update!) Of course we have many, many friends of other faiths and no faith. I have Mormom friends and family, non-religious friends, Jewish, Islam... you name it. You can multiply that many times over if you count our blog friends. People write us routinely and say "we don't believe like you or don't believe in God but we respect your committed stand and how you help others." We also have family and friends of every skin color and ethnicity. We have Latino and black adopted children. We have native American Indians in our family. My son is dating a very precious young lady who is half Japanese. We're just a regular "U.N." (minus the America-hating weasels). Like you, I think reasonable, mature people enjoy it when opinion and commentary is presented with conviction as well as compassion and reasonableness. I LOVE to hear from my friends who disagree. The Bible says that "iron sharpens iron" and good disagreement is a great growth tool. I get tired of how we've lost the ability to respectfully disagree, remain friends and learn from each other rather than "getting offended" every time someone states a belief we don't like. Why get offended? Just disagree. "Offense" is a very selfish response because the offended person obviously doesn't care that THEY ARE OFFENDING the other person by their disagreement (if the same standard is applied equally to both sides). In other words, "it's okay if I'm offended that you believe something I don't believe, but don't you be offended at me for pointing out that you are not only wrong, but insensitive, uncaring and obviously ignorant. You should listen 263


to me, change your mind, issue an apology and a retraction... and don't let it happen again or I'll be offended again."

My routine answer to "what kind of Christian are you?" or "what denomination are you part of?" is to say: I'm a Christian who reads, believes and obeys the Bible to the best of my ability. I really hate the labels and stereotypes we force on people: are you liberal or conservative? Arminian or Calvinist? Lordship or Grace? Mainline or evangelical? A literalist or progressive? Spirit-filled or cessationist? (not saying Laurel is doing that, this was just good opportunity to address the topic)

What ever happened to our culture where the enthusiastic, healthy and even intense debate of ideas was enjoyed and embraced? Marie asked: After last weeks debacle, are there topics you will deliberately avoid from now on because it would cause such controversy? Does it worry or concern you if people are genuinely offended and hurt by any of your opinions, religious or otherwise?

Yes, those are all questions and topics we deal with but it has become too easy to label another Christian and quit listening to them because they read a certain Bible version or attend a church with a certain name across the door. And it works both ways... we either automatically accept people as "one of us" or often dismiss them based on a single label.

I don't avoid topics BECAUSE they are controversial, nor do I jump on them for the sake of controversy. The only topics I "avoid" are topics in which people are simply baiting you into a controversial answer (you'll see questions like that most every week and after a decade of public writing, I'm pretty good at spotting them), or questions where there is an obvious agenda (rather than a seeking of truth, the question is meant to present a predetermined point of view), or topics in which we know from experience you are NOT going to change anyone's mind, so "why bother?".

Having said that, get your label maker out, here's my answers in order of the questions asked: God's, uh-huh, yes, yes, yes, I don't personally wear dresses, both, rural is the next size UP from our town. Kelli Bosarge asked: Hi Brent, I wanted to ask your thoughts of the publishing company that you use for your books. How does it work? Does it differ from the other self-publishing companies out there? Would you be willing to give a review of the company? Have you ever dealt with or are you familiar with Oklahoma-based Christian-based Tate Publishing? Thanks!

I most certainly worried or concerned about "offense" when it is caused by my own lack of compassion, patience, ignorance, self-centered communication or impulsiveness. When I do offend someone because of my own character flaws, I go to great lengths to try and make it right. I offended my friend Jennifer this week when I made a comment to her that was not well thought out and communicated poorly. She was offended and I deserved it. I immediately apologized, explained myself and did what I needed to do to restore our fellowship.

I use different publishing sources but for my books, primarily Lulu.com. You self publish so you can either do all the formatting and graphics yourself, or pay a designer... or, you can upload plain text into templates they have, and create a cover from their pre-existing templates. It's all pretty easy to use at a basic level, but feature rich enough that it can be used at a professional level as well.

If the offense comes because of the Truth, then so be it. For example, if I say "God exists" and it offends people who don't believe in God, then so be it. If I say "sex outside of marriage is sin" and it offends people who don't believe that, then so be it. In today's world, ANY person who takes a stand for Truth (and believes object Truth actually exists) is going to offend a world that has worked hard to declare there is no real truth, and right/wrong is relative.

Yes, I know about Tate and have friends associated with them. They are more of a traditional publisher and have different programs. They are pretty selective about who they work with, and I've always heard good things about them.

The only way to avoid offending people is to have no standards, no beliefs, speak of nothing tough or difficult, and to ignore the majority of what God says about the human condition and character. This is why we have all manners of popular teachers and preachers today that have huge followings... they avoid anything "offensive" such as sin, right and wrong, absolutes, or the exclusiveness of Truth. Laurel asked: What type of church do you attend? Denomination or NonDenominational? Contemporary or Traditional? Worship Songs or Hymns? King James or NIV? Suits and Dresses or Jeans? Big or Small? Big City, Small Town, or Rural?

Since I write, do my own design and have an existing readership, I choose to 100% self publish with Lulu.

3/21/2009 11:45:00 AM

Abby & Landis

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Abby Update: Abby is doing absolutely wonderful. I have spent my day chasing after an energetic 4 year old. I am tired, but I loved it. Abby's white count is so high, she doesn't need anymore of the shots they were giving her to stimulate their production. Abby is thrilled there will be no more of those pokes. Abby is not complaining of any pain, so they are weaning her off of her IV morphine, in order to prepare her for going home. Abby's wound is healing, BUT it is only about half healed. The tentative plan is to discharge by Tuesday and continue IV antibiotics and wound care at home. Once Abby is switched to oral pain relievers, she will be ready to go home. SpideyLandis turns the hospital chair into fun. Abby was so happy to see him.

The biggest challenge will be getting 5 different specialty doctors to approve her discharge, in time to arrange home health. Abby's wound still needs a lot of healing and has a big raw, open area. Please continue to pray for its healing and for protection from further infections. Keeping germs out of it at home with SpideyLandis will be as much "fun" as keeping the hospital germs out of it. Please pray for wisdom for the doctors and for myself as we rap up this hospital stay. I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to be home soon, but I am not pushing for it, without the doctors' blessings.

Abby is sleeping peacefully for the first time in s few weeks. When she is in a lot of pain, she makes all sorts of noise, cries and moves around alot. Here she was sleeping soundly even with all of us in the room carrying on. Notice the "Love Wall" in the background.

3/21/2009 8:12:00 PM

Abby Update & Open Season Answers 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 & 20 and a Lesson... Whew! From Michelle: 265


Being older when we adopted her (nine), we originally intended to keep calling Sami, Samrawit. Samrawit is still her legal name, but she now introduces herself as Sami. We tried to say her name the way they did in Ethiopia, but hearing Brent and I say her name, with an Oklahoman accent grated on her nerves. She was hilarious when she talked about it, but we could tell it really bothered her. Most non-family members chose to not try to say her name and a lot who did try, butchered it. We all wanted to say it right, but couldn't get it close enough to be comforting to Sami. We did want to add a name that would be easier for Americans to pronounce, but we didn't bring the subject up until Sami noticed her friends, who were adopted from the same orphanage, all had new names and their Ethiopian names. Of the names Brent and I liked, Sami LOVED the name Hannah. It is special to us not only because of its biblical origins, but because Sami lived at Hannah's Hope, Ethiopia. Kelly asked: I was wondering how Sami is able to be at the hospital so much? Is she homeschooled? Do you homeschool all of your kids? I bet Abby really loves when Sami is there to play with her :) I'm so glad that they can spend time together even when Abbys in the hospital!

Abby loves to stand on the base of her I.V. pole and go for a ride. We have wood floors in our house too, so she often gets rides around the house when she's hooked up. Michelle Answers: Kritter Krit asked: What are your thoughts on changing a child's name to *Americanize* it after an international adoption? Does it depend on their age, their wishes? From talking to older adoptees and other adoptive parents, I don't believe there is one "right" answer to this question. I can tell you what we have done with out first 3 adopted children's names, but I have no idea what we will do with our NEXT adopted child or children. (I wonder if Brent will read this. ;-) All of our adopted children have a lot of legal names. We kept most or all of their birth names and then added a more American names. Abby's name is actually Abigail. Her birth mother named her after Abby's maternal grandmother. I love it that she is able to keep a name that meant so much to her birth family. Hopefully it will mean something to Abby, too.

Sami is our only child that we are currently homeschooling. We decided to homeschool her before Abby was diagnosed, and it has worked well during Abby's illness. We use a web-based curriculum that keeps track of progress, grades and time spent learning. Sami loves it and is learning quickly. http://www.time4learning.com/ I couldn't teach her, when Abby is sick, without it. With a laptop she can do school at the hospital or at clinic appointments. Abby and I love having Sami at the hospital. Michelle asked: How is Sami doing with everything. She had just come to the USA and then Abby got sick. Sami has wonderful coping skills. Skills she learned by enduring hardships. While, as a mom, it breaks my heart that she has gone through so many hardships, God has used those lessons to help her cope beautifully with the challenges Abby's illness brings. Before Sami had ever met us, she decided to love us, trust us and embrace us as her family. The bond those choices allowed us to form, have made it much easier to continue to bond with her, parent her, teach her, and have fun with her, in the midst of our current challenges. Sami is a fun, confident, loyal, hardworking and loving daughter. We couldn't be more proud of her. 266


Shari asked: First, let me say that I consider it a privilege to be able to read your blog and pray for your family. When you adopted your children, how did you start the process for overseas adoptions?

outside the home AND THE CHILDREN ARE BEING PARENTED BY SOMEONE ELSE, that is a less than ideal choice. I realize that some parents have no choice, but far too often that “no choice” is because a certain level of lifestyle wants to be maintained. In those cases, we do our children a real disservice.

Once you determine it is God's will for you to adopt and that you are willing to obey Him, the next step is finding a great agency. A wonderful agency will hold your hand and guide you every step of the way, a bad one will torture you for years with empty promises. I know it sounds like I am exaggerating, but trust me, I am not. One of the very best resources out there is, http://www.redletterscampaign.com/adoption-411-2/

It is our duty and privilege to make sure, whether both parents work or not, that our children are genuinely parented by US, not other people while we work, if at all possible. If we have to give up “lifestyle” to be at home to parent our kids, then that is a sacrifice you’ll never regret. As the kids get older and the opportunity arises for both parents to work without sacrificing parenting, then there is no Biblical reason to say “no” to it. And I’ll say on the flip side, it is in NO way a “lesser” choice or calling for a couple to decide that the wife never works outside the home, even after the kids are grown. It is a matter of personal liberty in Christ and like all matters of liberty, we should not elevate our personal convictions to “doctrine”.

Kelli Bosarge asked: Hi Brent and Michelle, one more question. A friend of mine has a son with Leukemia, and read my prayer request for Abby. He was wanting to know what form of Leukemia Abby has (ALL, etc). I didnt know what to tell him. Abby is High Risk, Pre B ALL, MTHFR Positive, t/t genotype Brent Answers:

Purple moose asked: People read the Bible and come up with such different opinions, and are convinced that only theirs is right. How do I know who is right?

An email to me asked: Did you ever hear from Left Out? Yes, I did. I’m glad he decided to contact me. He is a young man (14) who does not have a spiritual friend or mentor, and is looking for someone who can answer his questions about God. I told him I would be that person for him, and I hope to be able to disciple him to the degree I can via email. Sounds like a very nice young man.

Fortunately, God will only judge me, based on me. I don’t have to worry about what other people believe. Each Christian has the duty to study God’s Word and to the best of their ability, be honest about what it says, and do their best to obey what they believe to be true. If “perfect doctrine” determines salvation, none of us will saved. Fortunately, faith in Christ is the determining factor. Learning doctrine, studying the Bible, and trying learn what God says is part of our “sanctification”, that is, the process of becoming more and more Christlike every day. I often tell people to quit listening to everyone else, and just get your Bible out. Forget the man-made systematic theologies and doctrinal camps… you are perfectly capable of opening your Bible, reading it, asking God what it means, and then other teachers like me become a “help”, not an authority.

Nadara asked: I would love to know your opinion on parents in the workforce. Specifically outside of the home. Do you think one parent should be with the kids full time? I currently stay home with my 4 girls but have great respect for working parents as well. There is no Biblical RULE about both parents working. I think a very substantial argument can be made for the benefit of a parent staying home full time with the children as well as an argument that NEGLECTING the parenting of our children would be an ungodly choice. However, we have Biblical precedent for industrious working women, ie. The Proverbs 31 Woman.

Christy asked: A few posts ago you added three new buttons of children to pray for, and Zoey was one of them. Then I noticed that she disappeared....where did she go?

It is a matter of liberty and conscience for each Christian family. No matter how convicted any of us are about “man works, woman stays home” it remains just that: a personal conviction. If the Bible plainly stated that as a command, I’d be the first to say so. Our command is to raise our children to love and serve the Lord.

Zoey’s mom requested we remove the badge.

My personal opinion and conviction is that if both parents work

Mandy asked: Been wondering about this: I was asking for prayers for Grady not long ago. He did very well with the *clearance appt* and then got his tubes and all went well. The prayers worked. Or did they? Would that have happened even without the prayers?

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What if we had all prayed yet things didn’t go well. Did we not pray right? enough? Did God not want things to go well? Just some ponderings I’ve had and would like your take. We pray. God hears. We trust in God’s sovereignty and providence. Would good things still happen if we don’t pray? We better hope so because I know we don’t pray for every single good thing that happens. Did you pray to wake up breathing this morning? Sometimes we pray and things don’t go well. Does the mean we prayed “wrong”? Sometimes. But sometimes we just didn’t know that God had other plans. Sometimes we pray “right” and God has something better, or different. Sometimes we pray "right" but something in our life is hindering our prayers.

3/23/2009 11:41:00 AM

Monday.... We are sorta outta pocket today, though not by choice. I (Brent) have been really sick for two days and continue to feel just awful today.

Thank you so much for the care packages, cards and pictures. You guys made Abby's stay much more fun. Abby told her doctors that all of her friends love her VERY, VERY much. Thanks for making Abby feel special.

3/25/2009 4:36:00 PM

New Pics Abby

Michelle is busy packing up and hopefully getting ready to bring Abby home, although there may be a hitch in that too. We'll try to post something later today. Thanks for all your kindness and encouragement.

3/23/2009 3:07:00 PM

Getting Closer We are finally getting closer to getting to go home. We are praying that the last few details get solved soon. I will update twitter when we are going home. Thank you so much for praying!

Abby is at home now of course, but she's still pretty rough. She is on a lot of pain meds still. Today she smiled for the first couple of times with being asked. She's starting to play some, and interact with the rest of us. For the first couple of days we really got not much more than blank stares. Please continue to pray for Michelle as she juggles all of Abby's meds and schedule. She is up and down all night taking care of Abigail. Besides rubbing my back, keeping my snacks prepared and being my personal assistant especially while I'm golfing or out with my friends, she stays pretty tired. She's having a hard time getting my clothes back from the dry cleaner and last night my bath water wasn't warm enough. She's not trying to slack off, but the added stress of doing the bills and mowing the lawn is probably making it harder on her. I may give her a break and help her paint the house, but only if I'm not sleepy.

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Abby is coming back to us, slowly but surely. We are starting to see some genuine smiles, and she is interacting with us more and more. Please continue to pray for her healing and strength.

July 2008

Sami is a joy. She helps us with Abby and continues to do her schoolwork every day.

March 2009 I don't know... what do you think? Is cancer hard? We're on the way back now.

3/29/2009 12:53:00 PM

SpideyLandis admires his mask as he contemplates what adventures he will launch into once he dons it..

Open Season Answers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 & 9

3/26/2009 5:51:00 PM

About Nine Months & One Kid 269


Now, having said that, IDEALLY we would simply weave the celebration of all things Christian into our ongoing life, and well, we should. But for those who focus on Jesus during Christmas, there is hardly anything wrong with honoring the Savior any time, whether a “Biblical holiday” or not. It is a matter of liberty. To the degree that the world and Madison Ave and political correctness have hijacked and bastardized our Christian holidays, is the degree to which they become worthless to society as a whole (detrimental in fact). But in the end, it is a matter of Christian liberty because there IS NO DIRECT COMMAND in Scripture telling us “thou shall” or “thou shalt not” about Easter or Christmas, bunnies or Santa. Kristen and Abby were fascinated by a special visitor at the hospital. We'll have some new pics and video to share this week about this wonderful meeting Abby had with... Answers by Brent... Kimberly asked: Hi - we struggle with whether to bring the *Easter Bunny* in our house with the kids. They are 4 and 2 and this is the first year the 4 year old has really been influenced by peers. What are your thoughts? Does your family recognize it in some way? Thanks! As with most things, we think there is an extreme on both ends. One extreme is just going with the flow and treating what used to be Christian holidays (ie. Christmas, Easter, etc as practiced for centuries by Christians) as commercial holidays where we fall for all the marketing hype, spend lots of money on needless stuff and candy, and just have yet another day to line the pockets of Madison Avenue while taking a day to indulge ourselves. The other extreme is to see paganism and Satanism in every symbol of the holidays and throw out all holidays as holdovers of Roman influence from the days of Constantine (much of which is true by the way but that doesn’t in essence make our celebrations of holiday inherently and automatically “worshipping devils”.) It is a question for us much like the question of “eating meat sacrificed to idols” was for early Christians. Some Christians saw it as wrong, and some did not. Paul said to follow your conscience, and the strong in faith should not be a stumbling block to those weaker in the faith. We see ANY celebration or time set aside to remember something about God as GOOD. No, Jesus was not actually born on Dec 25th, nor does most of what we not see publicly for Easter anymore have anything to do with Jesus' resurrection. But if we can set aside days to think about these events and celebrate them, then those are good celebrations. To the degree we commercialize them and leave God out is the degree to which they become useless as “Christian” holidays.

Miranda asked: Brent - My husband is Muslim and I am Christian. His faith goes as far as just observing the holidays. He doesn’t pray 5 times a day or any of the other things. We have been talking about the differences in Muslim vs Christian. He says the Bible was altered. Do you have anything of Scripture that I can give him? No. I have no specific verses for you. Just the Bible as whole which your husband as a good Muslim will belief is corrupt and inferior to the Quran. In truth, neither he nor you have been true to either belief. You have ignored the Bible’s teaching not to be unequally yoked (married) to an unbeliever, especially one diametrically opposed to any belief in salvation through Jesus Christ. And your husband has ignored his faith by marrying an "infidel", which you are, according to Islamic teaching. The only advice I have for you now is that you need to get serious about learning and living Christianity so that through your example, your husband MIGHT see the truth and come to know the True and Living God of the Bible which means he will face a choice concerning the teachings of Islam. You could be the light by which your husband finds Jesus, but only if you get serious yourself about your own faith so that you can live it, demonstrate and if needed, give up your own personal happiness or life for it to be a living example for him. But flashing a few Bible verses in front of him is unlikely to have any effect on him until he can see and “hear” the Word of God being lived seriously in your life. If he is truly interested in exploring the evidence that proves either the Bible or the Quran to be the real “book” from God, there are plenty of authors he can check into: Dave Hunt, Chuck Missler, James Kennedy, Ray Comfort to name a few. Emma asked: Slightly out of season, but what are your opinions on telling kids about Santa? Do you feel it is telling lies? What do your kids think about Santa? I think it is a LIE if you present the “tale” as anything but a 270


“tale” based loosely on the real life of person who lived long ago. Santa is a “tradition” to be presented (if you want) as a fun tradition. As the kids get older, they need to understand that some stories are actually true (Bible stories for example), and some stories are just “fun” but not true. But to call it a “lie” to “make believe” with a three year old that “Santa” came and left presents last night is simply to foist our adult hang ups on to the care free world of a child.

which can NEVER be true, ever. You are right that we can, in great humility, approach God in honesty and tell Him, “God I’m angry”. But your parents are right if they mean you, as a Believer, should never dare to affront the Almighty Creator with such an grievous error as saying “God I’m mad at YOU.”

As they grow, appropriate to their age (and that’s a fairly young age in my opinion), kids need to know that Santa, elves, and Rudolph are just a fun holiday tradition while Noah, David & Goliath, and Jesus are REAL, true, actual characters and stories. They “get it”. Don’t underestimate them. I knew Santa wasn’t “real” by the time I was four or five and no one even had to tell me. megan.light@gmail.com asked: This kind of relates to your post on anger - how do you feel about being angry at God? I certainly feel that He is our Father, Provider, Healer, and sooooo many things...that part of having a close relationship is the ability to say “Hey God, I’m really mad”. And then you work through it. My parents disagree completely. What are your thoughts?

We teach our children about sex and relationships. Often we have to counteract what they have learned from friends or at school. It’s just a part of parenting. The whole world strives every day to teach our kids WRONG about sex, so in this day and age parents should be making a monumental and extra special effort to combat that by talking and teaching their kids often and comprehensively the right information and attitudes about sex according to our Christian faith. Both boys and girls are to be equally guarded and taught. To think that a reckless boy is less in danger simply because they cannot get pregnant or raped, is folly.

Saying “hey, God, I’m really mad” and knowing WE are the cause and source of anger is fine. Saying “hey God, I have a right to be mad at YOU” just betrays a lack of understanding about God’s perfection and goodness.

The Knitting Basics asked: Do you guys have a garden? Do you like to grow your own veggies? We save about 300 to 500 dollars each summer growing our own food.

We have lost a LOT of the respect and reverence for God that we should have by decades of OVER emphasis on God as “Father Daddy” a term I myself am reluctant to ever use even though many do while praying. I think it is just TOO casual to address the Almighty Creator of the Universe as "Dad". Do I believe God is “Father”? Of course. Do I believe He is as intimate, close and loving as “Daddy”? Of course, in it's purest essence. But I’m careful not to then think of the True and Living God on the same human terms as I think of my own human father. I think of God with ALL of the best and perfect qualities of a human father AND, AND, AND all the qualities of the All Powerful & Awesome Mighty God. Combining those two, it keeps me from casually approaching His Throne and declaring “hey Pops, I’m angry at you.” When I am angry, I have to first acknowledge that my anger cannot actually be AT GOD, or ABOUT GOD because this would imply that God has done something for which a frail and sinful human has the right to be “mad” which of course I know as a mature Christian is completely ludicrous. I can approach God with humility and awe, tell Him honestly “I am angry” and ask Him to reveal in MY HEART the flaw, weakness, sin, lack of knowledge or misunderstanding that is causing my anger. But we should never be “angry at God” because this implies HE let us down, did something wrong, made a wrong choice, etc

Mandi from Montana asked: How is sex education handled in your home? When did your older kids start dating? What are your views of premarital sex? Do you guard (for lack of a better word) your older daughter more closely with relationships and dating? Just wondering because I know I was treated different than by brother in our house growing up in relation to sex and dating even though I grew up in a very Christian house hold.

We do not have a garden at this time but want one. We have rabbits, birds, squirrels, armadillos, possums, raccoons, skunks and guineas that make it almost impossible to keep a garden unless it is well fenced off. Marie asked: Me again...can you please explain Gods Will vs Free Will? I often see you saying everything is in Gods hands, he knows what will happen etc. But obviously you also believe in free will - the ability to sin, make choices etc. So...if God has a plan and he controls everything, and you choose to do something wrong...was that his will or yours...oh the confusion! What do you think Brent? God’s will comes in two forms: His written Will (the Bible) and His ongoing Will (whatever else He desires). Free will is the quality God (according to His Will) instilled in humans as the ability to choose from a human viewpoint, which direction, desire or action they want. (Note: not going to argue about Calvinism here. Just see my answer as addressing what we experience humanly as “choice” or “free will” and we’ll leave the deep theological discussions for another time.)

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God is sovereign which means He knows all and is in control of all. From a human perspective, and from our vantage point, part of God’s sovereignty includes giving us the ability to “choose” on a daily basis pretty much everything about our life: what we do, what we eat, whether we believe in God or not, what our life is about. Of course, our circumstances and social positions appear to give us MORE choice to exercise our free will. Money appears to give us more choice. Freedom appears to give us more choice. And it is our “free will”, our mind, our ability to think and make a choice, that gives us our human experience as persons, not robots. We could ramble around and discuss philosophy, Calvinism and other religions all day but on a purely human level, the basic experience of “free will” is the universal characteristic of our existence that makes us “human” and not “animals”. God's Will is whatever God desires. Our free will as Christians is the ability to choose our desires within the framework of God's Will. Marie asked: Do your older children follow your faith as strongly as you do? What would you do if any of your kids chose to follow another religion, or none at all? It would be unreasonable to think that teenagers or twentysomethings would follow the Christian faith as strongly as their spiritually mature parents who have been following God for decades. Each of our children follow God with their own understanding, commitment and maturity appropriate to their age and spiritual development. I quit worrying about whether they were “faithful enough” a long time ago. That’s in God’s hands, and He is much more able than I am (understatement) to take care of them spiritually. We help, but God is in charge.

Brent Riggs asked: Why are you the way you are? Can’t you be the way you should be? Or is it impossible to change the possible? I am the way I am because I’m that way. I would be the way I should be if I could but I can’t so I shan’t. I’ve never found it possible to change the impossible even when the impossible is possible though we believe impossibly that it’s possible. So what you see is what you get even if what you see is not what you want to see or get even if you aren’t looking. I am the way I am because you see what you see even if you should see what is impossible to see or not see. See?

3/30/2009 1:20:00 PM

Abby Update, Comments About Comments & the Next Two Years News Flash 8:50pm CST Holy cow... we just had an inch of hail dumped on us in less than 5 minutes. It actually was a little scary. I have a "drift" of hail a 6" deep outside my office door. I was trapped in my office and couldn't get in the house. The kids were terrified, then wondered where all the "snow" came from.

We have some kids who appear to be more interested in God than others, but all we can do for each of them is teach them and be an example. They will eventually have to grow into their faith on their own terms being drawn by God just as we were. God does not call parents to be RESPONSIBLE for the children’s salvation. He calls us to be examples of it and to teach them. It is hard to watch any of our children appear to be disinterested in God, or at times, even question Christianity completely but there is no need to be anxious or worry because their salvation is squarely on God’s shoulders, not ours, even if we are terrible parents who neglect our children spiritually.

Inch of hail dumped in about 3-4 minutes with window rattling lighting and thunder. Thrilling and scary. From Michelle:

I am sorry it has taken me so long to update you. Things have been tough for Abby, Brent and I, but they are improving for Abby. I love and appreciate the prayers and encouragement we And thank the Lord it’s NOT our ultimate responsibility... what receive when we are struggling and honestly I have needed guilt and worry would crush us if we thought WE could fail our your prayers this last week and now. kids eternally. Unfortunately when I talk about the harder things that are happening with Abby, I get numerous emails, questions and 272


comments about how we need to just put her on hospice and let her die. Of course the word "die" isn't used but nicer phrases like "let her go". Most are written out of genuine concern for Abby just not really understanding the whole situation and where we are at, but others were just being mean.

consider "is the treatment worth the possible cure?", we will face that question and are quite able to do so. WE will know when it is time to say "enough!", and WE will know when comfort and quality time during her "last days or weeks" is more important than enduring further treatment. We do not FEAR that decision, though it would sadden us.

This is an example of one comment that we went ahead and posted. I took off any identifying info, because I believe that even though it was hard for me to read, she was just saying what she believed was best for Abby, out of concern for her:

It hurts to have people leave comments implying or directly stating we are selfish and desperate, and will let Abby suffer any amount just so we can keep her around a little longer. I guess anyone who really knows us very well (personally, or by reading our blogs) will probably already know that... but these comments caused me a quite a bit of heartache and I wanted to write this, even though Brent's advice was to just move and on ignore it all.

•

Okay, this just breaks my heart seeing poor Abby in that video begging to go to the beach. Awww she is too adorable! Have you ever considered taking her off all of this painful treatment and bringing her home , letting her enjoy the beach and be a happy kid for the little time she has remaining? I think that would be good for Abby. I know sometimes as parents we can be kinda selfish wanting to do anything to prolong our child's life yet when the quality of life is diminished and the child is suffering, sometimes its time to make some serious decisions and let our children be happy.

Obviously this commenter had nothing but good intentions, but it's still really hard to read stuff like that. We have NO ills feelings about the commenter. Brent and I are fully aware and have discussed at what point we will talk about ending treatment. Abby is no where NEAR that point. This note was innocent, but painful. Do people REALLY think we haven't discussed this? Most of the others, I would never post and we just delete because they are simply mean and cruel. I know it is hard to read about a child who is hurting. Imagine how hard it is to hold them, care for them and watch them endure all this. We don't want Abby to suffer and we have to continually balance the potential for cure against the price of treatment. The chemo Abby is doing now is to KEEP HER IN REMISSION. If we were to simply stop the treatments, Abby is not going to "die from cancer". Abby doesn't technically "have cancer" at this point. The chemo eradicated it, and the continued chemo is meant to give her the greatest possible chance of never getting it again.

What's Next... The next treatment planned for Abby, is the LAST phase of chemo call "maintenance". It is usually an easier course of chemo, but it will last for 2 years, once a month clinic visit typically, daily chemo. The goal will be to keep her immune system suppressed enough to keep the cancerous white blood cells from coming back, without compromising her immune system to the point where it will be dangerous to her. Because Abby has a history of handling chemo poorly, they are starting with lower doses and only giving her higher doses if her counts are too high, and she seems to be handling it. She will have weekly appointments until the right dose is found, then go to monthly most likely. For the next two years Abby will receive 4 different kinds of chemo. The tougher ones will be at most once a month and the other chemo will be a daily pill. Daily chemo for 2 years sounds like a hard long road, and it is, but it will be easier than what she has done in the past. If we choose not to give it to her, then everything she went through for the last 9 months would probably be for nothing. If we stop, barring a miracle, the cancer will come back with a vengeance. We have already let Abby go out to church and shopping, with a mask on, because her WBC (ANC 740) was adequate. She was very excited and enjoyed it. We would appreciate your prayers as we are making decisions for Abby.

Now, having said that, yes, Abby has been close to dying 3 or 4 times during her treatment. There was no way to foresee that, so there was no chance to even consider "not" treating her. Each time was from different compiling chemo effects.

We are shooting for a more "normal" family life, while still remembering that Abby needs to be protected from germs. It will take several months to find the exact doses that are best for Abby. Once we do that, she will have more freedom.

In the end, we want our friends and family to know this: WE have seen her through every step of this. As you know, we are NOT hopeless or desperate, and in fact, we know that Abby will be quite happy waiting for us in heaven should she graduate early. If and when the time comes that we need to seriously

Abby should be able to do many more fun things, once her current wounds heal. Even though she is home, we are still administering round-the-clock antibiotics and morphine. Normally, a kid in her shape would still be hospitalized, but since we know how, we were able to bring her home and do 273


her care and nursing at home.

wander off to their blog to harass them. We'll take your harrassment first, so they can ignore you when you visit them.

(And by the way, for those two or three really nasty comments about how Brent doesn't help me, uses our blog as his own ego trip, thinks he's "god" and that we adopted Sami to use her as a slave to care for Abby.... go find another blog to read. We, and our blog friends, have no use for you here. Brent is the hardest working person I know, and cares for our entire family relentlessly, doing more than his share of house work, kids, work, ministry and helping others. Everyone that knows him, know this about him. And for those hand full of people who don't like Brent "giving his intolerant religious views" on our family blog, you can either ignore them, or join the others who need to move on. Brent has been teaching, ministering, guiding, mentoring and discipling people his whole life. It's who he is. It's an integral part of our family and relationship. To say it is an "ego trip" for him is senseless and hateful. It is an act of service that Brent freely gives his time and energy for when he could be using that time and energy out making money or pursuing leisure.)

I have set up approval/moderation systems on the lists, comments, questions and other reader submitted information on our blogs. From now on, your nasty comments will never make it past me. Michelle won't see them, and they will never get on the blog. They don't bother me... so don't bother wasting your time. Delete, delete, delete will be the only response a nasty comment, question or list submission will ever get from now.

Today, Abby is still healing. The wound on her abdomen is still red and has an open area in the middle. It is much better than it was, but it still needs to heal. We are almost finished with the IV antibiotics, but have been warned she may need another round of them. We are willing and ready of course, but Brent and I would love not to have to get up all hours of the night. Abby's pain is pretty well controlled at this point. She is getting her energy and spunk back. Brent and I are really, really tired, but little Miss is recovering quickly and hopefully we'll get some sleep soon. Kids are amazing, aren't they? Thank you so much for all of your prayers and encouragement. Thank you also for loving Abby enough to be concerned about her and pray for her. In the future Brent will be moderating the comments and questions. He is able to read and delete, without giving rude comments a second thought. I love him for shielding me from comments that are written by people who say hateful things for sport. Other comments on harder subjects, but written out of caring, we will talk about and pray over before deciding how/if to respond. From Brent: Well I had to add a little to Michelle's comments. Just to many of my own thoughts to keep them quiet. For you heartless people who accused Michelle of exploiting our children, adopting Sami so we could have a "slave", and implying that we "use" our children for personal gain and labor... GO AWAY.

Now, for our true friends on this blog, we WELCOME genuine, loving, respectful disagreement, questions and even criticism. We always want to grow, and if we make a mistake we HOPE you'll kindly tell us. If you disagree, we hope you'll tell us why, because we may be misinformed or ignorant. We WANT to learn. We really sincerely want to know why people disagree. Mature people learn MUCH by discussing disagreements. If we receive your criticism or disagreement and we still end up disagreeing, then guess what? We disagree. Big deal. We disagree. How earth-shattering... we don't question your sincerity or motivations... and hopefully you won't question ours. We just disagree. Big stinkin' deal... if we agree on everything, all the time, then I say we don't have much of REAL connection anyway. If you genuinely want to discuss a disagreement, include a name and email, even if you send it to me privately. Anonymous disagreements/criticisms will be ignored. I plan for this to be the last post about nasty, cruel, hateful comments because they will never make it past me from now on. In reality... IT IS WASTE OF TIME AND ENERGY. Out of the hundreds of thousands of visitors we get each month, four or five are hateful jerks, another half dozen are rude and leave gutless, ugly, comments, and only 3-4 more leave any sort of genuinely negative and always anonymous responses. So why waste time on them? If I receive a genuine criticism or correction that is accurate and needs to be heeded, I'll be the first one publicly to admit it. Being teachable and correctable is a sign of maturity, not weakness. I have no problem admitting when I'm wrong, or was ignorant about some facts or information. Whew... glad that's over with. Someone leave us a nasty comment for wasting your time talking about our nasty comments.

No really... go away. And if you think you are "getting to us" because we wrote these comments, think again. We are just letting our blog friends know you are out there in case you 274


The many faces of Little Miss Abby.

3/31/2009 12:58:00 AM

Laughter Lives Tuesday Samrawit Davis Jr. A couple of days ago, Sami was "banging" (code for pretending to play) on the piano for a while until Michelle and I finally looked at each other with "that's ENOUGH" looks. I was just about to holler and tell her to quit, when she finishes her latest hit with a flourish, and a "Ta Dah!" Michelle and I smiled and each other, enjoying Sami's funny creativeness, but RELIEVED that the piano pounding was finally over... when much to our chagrin we hear Landis call out from his bedroom: "Yeah Sami!!!.... ..... ...... ..... " (yep, you know what's coming don't you?) "... ... ... PLAY IT AGAIN!"

Tina Sami Davis Jr. Turner played to packed house: Landis. Sami has never let us capture her "crazy hair" but I guess she was feeling like a true pop star on this occassion. Abby's Been Listening to Dad Abby and I were sitting on the bed this morning. Landis comes tearing through the door wearing a one piece pajamas, closed feet, slick bottoms on a wood floor. Like a puppy on buttered ice, he starts spinning his feet ala Fred Flintstone trying to get his car moving. He wipes out, plows his head into the wood floor and crumples to a halt at the base of the bed. Landis looks up at me with that "am I supposed to cry or not?" question on his face. Abby jumps in without missing a beat and takes care of business for me... "Get up baby, be tough". Somebody HAS been listening to Dad. This was one accident I would have had some sympathy for but Landis just pops us, 275


declares "I'm tough" and takes off down the hall.

me. Continuous improvement... we should always strive to get better.

My New Ring Tone Wanna hear my new ring tone? This is AUTHENTIC. I get to hear it every time my phone rings and I can hardly keep from laughing as I say hello. I recorded it myself, totally real. Can you guess who it is? Can you imagine the looks I get when my phone "rings"?

FYI... odious means "bad", and versification means "writing". That was the pinnacle of my writing creativity. It's all downhill from here. More Awful Comments You know, I thought we had run off the people calling us names and saying mean things about us but I got all sorts of insults today:

4/1/2009 2:01:00 AM

Urgent Update About Riggs Family Blog You will be redirected to urgent information about this blog in a few seconds... (this was my April fools joke where I made it look like I got hauled off to jail…)

4/1/2009 1:42:00 PM

April Fool's & Bad Boys & More Awful Comments From Brent: Bad Boys, Spidey Boys, Whatcha Gonna Do... The TV show "COPS" got wind of my illegal odious versification, and sent a film crew over. They got one look at SpideyLandis, and put him to work filming the opening them song for the show: April Fools Looks like about 97% of the readers thought the April Fools was funny. I only ran off 3% of our blog friends who thought negatively of it, but that's a lower percentage than the number I usually run off when I take a public stand on a Christian issue.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

I am certifiable I'm terrible I'm someone who would "pull" something I'm a bad boy I'm the fool I'm rotten I'm mean I stopped a couple of people's hearts I made one person poop their big girl undies I'm unforgivable I'm REALLY mean I'm not nice I'm "poop" I'm shameless and shameful I callously almost caused several nervous breakdowns I'm really awful I'm a booger... yes, a BOOGER Evidently I SUCK One person wants to clobber me I'm naughty I'm officially hated now I'm a mess

You know, I have only one thing to say to all you people who wrote those ugly things: YOU TOTALLY MADE MY DAY!!!!! I haven't laughed so hard, so many times in one day in months. I've been cracking ribs all day. Absolutely the most fun, the most laughs, the most light hearted, entertaining day we've had in many many months. If you haven't read the comments, you should (click here), they are funnier than my April Fool's prank. THANK YOU!!! BLESS YOU!!! Now, I'm off to repent of my wicked ways. ~ Brent

If you missed it, for most of the day today, when you came to our blog, you were immediately taken over to this NOTICE. Of course, most of the fun was thinking it was real, so... Next year, my goal is to make 5% of our blog friends mad at

PS. For the 2-3 commenters who were actually mad, said they wouldn't be back to our blog, that our Christian testimony is suffering and people are now starting to doubt our story... how do you respond to that? It's cool if someone didn't like the 276


April Fool's joke and bids "adios" to our blog, but to say our Christian testimony is being diminished, it was a sick joke that ignores the seriousness of Abby's illness and I am casting doubt on our integrity.... I just don't get it. Sorry. One guy, some "Bruce Hess" fella was actually hoping I'd been arrested! Can you believe that??? He's probably some Pastor or something.... Maybe (hopefully) they are just April Fooling me back... Abby update later this evening...

4/1/2009 11:25:00 PM

Update to the Last Post....

They started to protest loudly yelling "Why?, Why?" and "He couldn't have done anything wrong, he's ABBY'S DAD!" and "Wait, he's a good guy!" As I read them the charges, several started to "get" it. Then the rest caught on and the class erupted in laughter. They asked me to tell you that they were impressed and you are really good at April's Fools Day. High praise from this age group. Nobody - I mean absolutely nobody was offended. They thought it was absolutely cool that you, an adult after all, was able to put one over on them. Oh, by the way, they made me look up the words because they just had to know what you were guilty of - they knew you wouldn't lie to them. Thanks for the smiles, Cindy Oregon. To Miss Cindy and her students: A great big HELLO!, Bless You, Love You and Maybe I Can Come Visit You Someday... from Abby's Dad!

4/2/2009 4:12:00 PM

Abby Update & Comment Clarification Tongue-in-Cheek From Brent:

This is kind of "part two" that goes with the last post... I had to share this comment we got. I was laughing so hard I almost cried picturing this teacher, CINDY, exploiting having fun with her students by pulling our prank on them.... PRICELESS!!! The comment from Cindy: My 4th grade class is following Abby's story and insist that we check each day for updates. I am able to project my computer screen onto a larger wall screen so they can actually see the photos. This morning when I checked your site - always check first so I know what I will need to explain - I just grinned and decided to have some fun. With a totally straight face, I told them that there was some serious news about Abby's dad to share. They watched with their mouths wide open as the photo of you in the police car appeared. They literally gasped as the "mug shot" showed up.

Folks, the "More Awful Comments" post yesterday was tonguein-cheek. I know people were calling me names out of FUN!!! I LOVED THE COMMENTS. Believe me, if you knew my family and friends, and how much we enjoy "ribbing" each other, you probably would have called me even more names because you know I can dish it out. I thought that was pretty clear from what I wrote about it, but perhaps my satirical, dry sense of humor doesn't resonate with everyone. I LOVED THE COMMENTS about the April Fools jokes... if I get called "poop", told "you suck" and "I hate you!" then I know that I really GOTCHA! I can dish it out, and I can take it. Fun "awful" comments are GREAT! Keep'em coming (but get ready for paybacks). Abby Update From Michelle: Those of you who follow me on twitter or Facebook know I was very nervous about Abby's oncology appointment Wednesday. The plan was to begin the next round of chemo if her bone marrow and abdomen was healed enough. This is the beginning of the maintenance phase that will last for 2 years. In 277


the Land of Leukemia getting to the maintenance phase is a BIG deal. It is still chemo (two years more of chemo) BUT less harsh. As long as Abby's counts are good, Abby will be able to do fun things... NORMAL things. After 9 months of being stuck at home (when we weren't in the hospital) getting to go places sounds wonderful. For nine months Abby was very fragile and we were more than willing to do what we needed to to do to protect her, but getting to take her out is public will be a wonderful blessing.

• • • •

For her to continue to be cancer free. The intracranial hypertension would not return. The bacteria that was infecting her wound was a pretty nasty bug, so I would appreciate your prayers for continued and complete healing. For Abby to grow up to love God and serve Him.

Thank you so much for praying for Abby and the rest of our family. I would love to pray for you too.

The doctor was very pleased with how Abby's abdomen is healing. Two weeks ago surgeons thought she would have to go back to surgery to repair the damage on her tummy after it healed for a few weeks. Now everyone thinks it is healing beautifully and no additional surgery is necessary. It still needs to heal more, but we are praising God for an end to IV antibiotics and the canceled surgery. In the past, Abby has had a lot of problems with intracranial hypertension (increased pressure in her head from too much spinal fluid). This was a side effect of a chemo that Abby will take for the next two years. The medicine to control them made Abby very nauseated, so much so she was throwing up up to thirty times a day. Abby stopped taking the medicine several months ago, because her body just couldn't handle it. Even without the medicine to control the pressure, she has had no problems with her spinal pressures for 6 weeks. Major praise. Increased pressure causes monster headaches and left untreated will damage vision and damage her brain. Life without the headaches is very good. Most of you know it has been very difficult to sedate Abby for her spinal taps (lumbar punctures). Now that her intracranial hypertension is better, they were able to use a different sedation drug. I was with Abby during her spinal tap today. She showed no sign of being able to feel pain or pressure during the procedure. She was very calm during it and appeared to not be aware of what was going on. After the procedure she was happy, smiling and very loving. This was an answer to many of your prayers.

Abby at the clinic about to do some crafts with Mom.

No cancer cells were found in her spinal fluid. Honestly, I am very excited that Abby has started her last treatment phase. I know I sound insane to be so excited about having "only" two more years of chemo, but I can't help it. After nine very, very tough months, I can finally see the finish line. Yes, it is very far away, but it is there and for today Abby is dancing toward it with a smile on her face. Please continue to pray: •

Wisdom to keep Abby safe from diseases and infections, without keeping her out of activities she could enjoy with minimal risk. 278


Sami, and I went to check it out as I homeschool. It looked pretty neat, but my concern was that they may have things in the curriculum that aren't Bible-based, like evolution, humanism, etc. I was wondering if you have seen much of the curriculum and if you know if it has this kind of stuff in it or not? I know with a book you can usually flip through it to find your answer... So far we haven't run into problems with them teaching evolution. The science that I have seen so far is very basic. Angel Weir http://www.thevoiceofadventure.blogspot.com/ has been using http://www.time4learning.com/ longer than I have and has two children using it. You might want to ask her too. I would also suggest you call the company and ask them. The program does let you skip lessons you want to skip. Rose asked: Do you plan for Abbys future, such as college savings, etc... What do you plan on doing for kindergarten? Yes, we plan for Abby's future, in the same way we do for our other children. As for kindergarten, I would love for her to go to the same school our other children have gone to. It will depend on how she is doing when the time comes. I am homeschooling her now for preschool and I honestly love it, so I am not sure what we will end up doing. Abby the Rabbit.

4/4/2009 1:59:00 PM

Open Season Answers - A Bunch of Them...

Mary (in MN) asked: I would like to send Abby another little package but would like to include something for the other kids at home. Can you tell us what their interests are and maybe shirt sizes for the youngest three?

From Michelle:

You are so sweet to think of the other children. Sami wears 1416 in juniors and Landis wears a 3 T. Sami loves music (kids and Christian) and clothes. SpideyLandis loves anything with Spiderman on it or little things like bubbles.

I missed many questions while Abby was sick. Please feel free to ask again. I didn't get to many question that I was very interested in answering.

Holly from Purpose Driven Family asked: How many cups of coffee do you guys consume in a day to keep moving? ;+)

Welcome to the jungle asked: Good morning. My daughter would like to know where Sami is from. I know you told us once but I can't remember and I can't seem to find the post.

The answer to that is always "more than yesterday". Love you Holly. I really miss talking to you. Please tell your children I am thinking about them. From Brent:

Sami is from beautiful Ethiopia. I fell in love with the country and its people, when I was there last year. We talk often about going back and helping to care for children in orphanages. I can't wait for Abby to be well so we can. Ange~ asked: I asked this question last week, and I know Michelle was busy, so maybe this week? You mentioned the software you use for

[Disclaimer: The following answers are my opinion. I'm not a doctor, lawyer, guru, expert, self-proclaimed authority or any other thing that counts for much in this world. I’m not particularly brilliant, nor anyone special, and there are probably a lot of other really smart people you would be better off investing your time in. If you disagree with my answers, just 279


discount them as the musings of an over-the-hill, irrelevant hick who rarely puts on long pants except for church and sometimes funerals. If you do disagree with any of my answers, I sincerely would love to know why because I always want to continue learning but... don't write and tell me you are offended. If you are offended because of my answer, do I get to be offended because you disagree? Let's not be offended, let's just disagree and thoughtfully/respectfully consider what we both have to say. Cool? ~BR] Sam asked: This might be a stupid question, and Im sure if I were to read back on your blog I would find the answer.. but how did you find out that Abby had cancer? What were the first signs? And... does cancer hurt? I mean - the cancer itself - I understand that the treatment is painful. We noticed little “blood spots” on her neck and body… something a healthy person might get if they were pinched or rubbed too hard. The next day she was covered bruises. We both knew then she had Leukemia. We were not even remotely surprised when the doctor told us. Chemotherapy and radiation are different for everyone. Some people experience great discomfort and side effects, other people go through it with minimal discomfort. The “cancer” itself hurts more or less depending on what it is, but of course left untreated, or unhealed by the Lord, will most often result in death eventually by all manners of physical problems. Busy Mammaw asked: Of the 4 older children, which ones are yours (from previous marriage) and which are Michelle’s (her previous marriage). I know they are all considered *ours* now, but just curious as who came with who. Brent – Dane (21), Jordan (20), Christian (17). Michelle – Garrett (16) Amanda asked: Hey there...curious to know (if you don’t mind sharing)...what is your and Michelle’s age difference? Don’t need to know how old you each are, just wondering how many days/months or even years separates you?! ;) My hubby and I are 7 years apart (he’s 7 years older than me)! :) God Bless! I’m almost 44 (May 19). I have a picture from her birthday this year with candles that say “24”. kipani4jc@aol.com asked: During the maintenance phase of Abby’s Chemo will her hair start to grow back? Not guaranteed, but we pray it will. Most children do, but not

all. Abby is anxious to have it back too. sandy asked: Brent, can I use Abby’s name and pic when I run a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society race in May? My team thinks of her as our informal honored hero and we’d like to formally recognize her at the pre-race dinner. Absolutely. You can use pics off the blog if you need to. We are honored and blessed to have people race/run/walk/whatever in honor of Abby. me of course asked: Were do pets go when Jesus returns? The Bible doesn’t say but we know in heaven there will be no tears or sadness, so whatever the answer is, it’s a good answer. I wrote more about that here: http://seriousfaith.com/asr/question.asp?questionid=916 Reina Danielle asked: Do you and Michelle plan on adopting anymore children? If so, what kind of timeline are you looking at (after Landis is a certain age, etc.)? Yes. We probably would have adopted again already if Abby wouldn’t have gotten sick. As of now, we’re just playing it by ear and will wait for God to make it clear one way or another. Brooke asked: How can I encourage a friend that is going through a really hard time that has been through unspeakable tragedy? I totally believe in speaking life and truth over someone through Gods word, but sometimes there are just no words that can help. Sometimes we throw a bunch of “positive thinking” or “word faith” verses at people during tragic times when what they really need is a time of understanding and acknowledgement that they are suffering and hurting. This is NOT being negative, it’s acknowledging their current reality rather than expecting them to shrug it off with some “positive thinking”. The Book of Psalms is a GOLD MINE of comforting and empathetic verses that help people know that GOD understands their pain and will see them through it. You are right, sometimes there are no words, and words aren’t needed. Just listen, pray, hug and cry with them. Elyse asked: Just curious to see how all the kiddos are doing...from the oldest to youngest? I am nosey and okay with that. Have a great weekend. We have the typical ups and downs and family “stuff” that every family with lots of kids – teens to toddlers – has and

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deals with. Everyone is healthy and cared for. Each child has their specific areas of weakness and strength and we just parent them the best we can. We don’t every pretend that all is “rosy” or perfect… we deal with the same stuff most families deal with. Debbie K. asked: Don’t think I am crazy asking this question, but I can’t seem to find the right answer. When the Lord returns, do our pets go with us to heaven? I love my cats and it just breaks my heart to think they would have to stay here on earth without any care. The Bible doesn’t say but we know in heaven there will be no tears or sadness, so whatever the answer is, it’s a good answer. I wrote more about that here: http://seriousfaith.com/asr/question.asp?questionid=916 Katiep477@yahoo.com asked: Was it hard to *blend* your families when the two of you married. Were there specific challenges that you faced? How did the children handle it and how did your oldest children feel about the idea of adoptive siblings? Lots of love from Texas! Hard? It had some challenges, predictably, but overall the older kids love the adopted young’uns and the little ones love their big’uns. I wouldn’t say it was “hard”… we just did it then dealt with issues as they arise. Even if the kids don’t see it fully NOW (I think it’s beyond their maturity and years to really understand it all now), later in life they’ll all realize what a privilege it was to have the family they have. Lindsay asked: I have a daughter in Heaven. I lost her after 19 days. I believe that she is in Heaven right now, I believe that as soon as her little heart stopped, she was carried away to be with our Father. The man I’m about to marry, believes that our bodies and souls lie dormant until Jesus returns. I felt the presence of God in that room when she died in my arms. I’m not asking for you to settle an argument, I am just beginning to think he may be correct, but it doesn’t feel right. What do you feel? 2Cor 5:8 says to be absent from the body is present with the Lord. Jesus told the thief “TODAY, you’ll be with me in paradise”. We have the story of the poor man resting in “Abraham’s bosom” (heaven) fully alive and aware. There is plenty of Scripture to safely believe that death in this life does not result in any sort of “soul sleep” or annihilation or waiting in some dormant state. Kristie asked: You said you use photo shop to do you pictures. To edit them and do other things like the cop car one. Can you maybe do a blog and show us how or explain how you do stuff like that in photo shop. I have it and I haven’t a clue how you do it. I’ll do some more demos… some of those “tricks” are pretty

complex and years of doing image editing make it seem easy. But I’ll see if I can do some more demos and reveal some “secrets”. brysmommy asked: Will you ever consider making *seriouslife* available in a hard copy form? I would love to have it that way! No. There are many, many reasons and advantages to having an electronic magazine, and it is becoming a universally common form now. I do format the magazine though where is it will print perfectly on letter sized paper. When you view the magazine it is very easy to print a page, a spread or a range of pages. Future photographer asked: Any advice on starting out? Have a basic digital camera and will get a nice one when finances allow it so equipment isnt an option for me right now. Do you use Photoshop for editing and do you have any hints for the actual taking of the picture? Do you have a photo website and do you take anything else other than the awesome photos of your family? Check out the demos I have on that currently and I’ll be doing more in the future. http://brentriggs.com/online_demos/ n2nrsing@btes.tv asked: Where do you think you go *when you die*? I’ve heard many *versions* of the same Biblical process but, just curious what your views are on this; in your words. I enjoy reading many of your teachings and knew if you decided to answer this one it would certainly be worth reading. Thanks either way! I’ll try to answer that some time on SeriousFaith.com. It’s too lengthy to explain adequately here. Amy asked: I know that our beliefs don’t exactly line up, and I don’t completely understand your stance on varying religions...but doesn’t the Bible teach that everyone is created by God and he loves everyone, no matter what? If so, why do you think you have the right to judge people who don’t hold the same beliefs as yourself? Just because someone doesn’t follow your religion, they aren’t automatically going to hell, how do you know that your way is the only right way? Yes, the Bible teaches everyone is created by God. Yes, God loves everyone. But the Bible clearly teaches that God does not SAVE everyone. He saves those who accept His gift of salvation on HIS terms. It has nothing to do with “judging” people. It has to do with either believing, or not believing, what the Bible says. The Bible clearly states, repeatedly, in plain language, that there is only one way to receive eternal life when you die. So we either believe it, or we don’t. We don’t pretend to accept 281


the illogical (and impossible) notion that you can believe two “religions” are “equally true” when those two religions state diametrically opposed and incompatible “truths”. What I say, unapologetically, is that if you believe a religion is the TRUTH, have the guts to say so. This notion that all religions are equal, just pick one, is logically absurd and can NOT be true. I’m not willing to stake my eternity on being politically correct or popular. I believe the Bible. The Bible is clear. You are free NOT to believe it. But don’t patronize God by saying that the Bible is true (along with its EXCLUSIVE claims of salvation and Truth) and other religions that teach the opposite are JUST as true. This is tantamount to believing there IS NO TRUTH. I believe there is. As for the “don’t judge” argument that is routinely presented, I’ve written more about that here: http://www.seriousfaith.com/asr/question.asp?questionid=25 94 Miranda asked: I am the lady last week with husband Muslim. I was raised in the church so I know the scripture but I was previously married and didn’t work. We tried for 6 year to get pregnant and nothing. Then I got remarried to current husband and conceived on honeymoon. So if God totally disapproved why would he let me conceive with him and not my previous husband who was Christian but treated me like dirt? My life is so much different and I have so much peace in this marriage. Hello Miranda. I appreciate your questions and willingness to openly discuss a difficult topic. I was roundly criticized last week for “calling her an infidel”. I didn’t call you an infidel. If you are a Christian, you are my Sister. Islam labels you an infidel, not me. I have no idea whether your first husband was truly a Christian, doesn’t sound like it. I’m sad that you’ve endured poor treatment at the hands of a Christian, and I applaud and acknowledge the good treatment from your Muslim husband. We cannot use anecdotal evident to determine what God approves of and does not approve of. God has given us His Written Word to tell us objectively what He approves of and what is TRUTH. A thief steals; just because they end up with the money doesn’t mean God approved of the theft. The fact that you conceived is not proof of anything other than your fertility and his. We have to seek out God, study His Word and determine what He would have us to do. Otherwise, we are just left to go by gut feeling or circumstances which leads to confusion, chaos and deception. If God struck us down, stopped us in our tracks, or otherwise “derailed us” every time we do something He doesn’t approve

of (sin), then we would be a train wreck most of the time. Cindi asked: No question. You crack me up. I always check in the morning to get a good laugh for the day. Thanks for sharing you fun sense of humor! I’ll post a picture of me waking up. That ought to cure you of checking in first thing in the morning. emtcharlotte asked: Brent,do you and Michelle have much help with the house and other kids to help relieve some of the stress you are both under? If I were close enough Id be sure to offer some cleaning, cooking, laughing assistance. Love ya, man. We’ve had dear friends bringing meals for months and that has a been a HUGE blessing. If you can do this for someone, don’t underestimate how much “help” it is not to have to cook and shop for meals. Some other friends raised some money to pay a young lady to come help us around the house for a few weeks. We are almost done with that, but it has been a wonderful blessing too. brent@brentriggs.com asked: Can we really ask you anything we want? Will you answer questions about online business, the magazine, parenting... whatever? Really? Yes, it’s true. Ask anything… except for you. I don’t want you asking me anything.

4/6/2009 12:23:00 AM

Update and Open Season Answers From Michelle: Please pray for Abbey Colbert. She is very sick and is needing your prayers. http://colbertfamily.blogspot.com/2009/04/back-in-hospital.html Update: Abby has been complaining about headaches for a couple of days. This usually means she has too much fluid surrounding her brain. We are giving her Lasix, in an effort to correct the problem. So far it is helping without causing any side effects. Before when we were dealing with this, Abby was on daily medication to control her pressure. She was averaged throwing up 30 times a day. My hope is that we can figure out what 282


chemo is causing the problem and how long it is effecting her pressure after we give it to her. Then we can give her the medication to lower her pressure on the days her pressure is most likely to be going up, instead of daily. Hopefully lessening the side effects. Life with Abby is a dance and treating her cancer is more of an artform than science. She needs a lot of medical help, but it has come with a hefty price. For now, her headaches are less severe than they were in the other phases of treatment and she is not nauseated. The Morphine and Lasix is keeping her comfortable. Please continue to pray for her healing and comfort. Please also pray for wisdom for the doctors and Brent and I. Open Season Answers: Linda at Smithsoup asked: Does Abby have a pedi-neurologist on her team of docs? I am researching a neurologist to consult with over a 16 month old baby with untreated hydrocephaly we are praying over, regarding adoption. Not afraid of his issues, but want to be as informed as we can. Thanks! Yes, Abby has a pediatric neurologist, Dr. Abid. We love her. We have also met the other neurologist at Children's Hospital and they are very good as well. As a commenter said, consulting with a neurosurgeon would be a very good idea. Abby doesn't have a neurosurgeon, because she is not a candidate for surgery. I will be praying that God's will is clear to you. Your family would be a blessing to any child. Mary K. asked: Does Sami do her own hair? It always looks so good!

watch and look for in their children? Are there any early test that can be requested to test for such things in your children? I always wonder if there were better ways for parents to be aware of and know their children. Example. Baby Cora... they thought she had an ear infection, all of the sudden had black eyes, cancer and then died. With Abby we saw about 200 bruises on her neck, about the size of a freckle. She had been wearing a cross necklace we bought her in Guatemala. It was just an ordinary beaded necklace, but because it left a distinctive pattern of bruises, we knew to take her to the doctor. A lot of leukemia patients experience leg pain as their normal bone marrow is replaced by an abundance of cancer cells. They are tired and pale because the cancer cells are keeping them from producing enough red blood cells. A lot of parents report that their child was running a fever for a few days and is tired. Abby had the bruises, but wasn't anemic when when she was diagnosed. Like many other kids with cancer, she was misdiagnosed with an infection first (at a minor emergency clinic, AKA a doc-in-a-box), but received a correct diagnosis the next morning. Many children are misdiagnosed by pediatricians and emergency rooms in the beginning. There is no “sure” way to “spot” cancer. And parents should not feel guilty if they didn’t catch it sooner, thinking that maybe they were the cause, or worse. You just have to care for them normally. Sometimes cancer doesn’t have any weird or unusual symptoms. Sometimes cancer symptoms mimic other things like the flu. If you see really weird unexplainable things, then of course, get your child looked at immediately. We can really only speak to Leukemia… if you see the symptoms we talked about above, then definitely go to the doctor.

We went to a great deal of effort to learn how to take care of her hair. Brent is wonderful at caring for her hair and even learned to braid it in cornrows. I love doing Sami's hair and would love to adopt another girl from Ethiopia. Their hair is beautiful. Her natural curls are absolutely GORGEOUS but is hard to manage as an everyday style. By evening they are very tangled and take a long, long time to comb out. Most of the time she wears it pulled back in a ponytail, with a drawstring ponytail attached. Sami is definitely a "tween". She thinks she is too old for braids (which I love), but Mommy and Daddy think she is too young to have her hair chemically straightened (she respectfully disagrees). The ponytails work for now. Wing Beneath My Wings asked: As a parent of a child with cancer, how was it that you came to learn that Abby was sick? Are there any signs parents can 283


Abby a few days before she was diagnosed with leukemia. We know now she already had cancer when this was taken.

4/7/2009 7:32:00 AM

Laughter Lives Tuesday Our Laughter Lives (from Brent) Abby was sitting next to me at dinner last night. I look over and see her wiping her hands on her pants in a very habitual manner evidently since she didn't care that I saw her. "Did you just wipe your hands on your pants?" I asked. "No Daddy." "Honey... I just saw you do it, don't tell Daddy lies." I told her. "I didn't Daddy... my pants wiped off on my hands." That's one of those things that gets a laugh the FIRST time only.

Abby, about a week or so before diagnosis. She is really wishing for her hair to grow back now.

4/9/2009 12:24:00 PM

We're Still Here We haven't been very active for a week or so on the blogs, comments, email or chat. We've been very tired and I've been sick. I think all the stress and adrenaline and whatever of the past 10 months just finally dumped on us. We both feel really fatigued and dull of senses right now. It's been hard and we still have two years to go... so I think we are just catching our breath before diving into the next phase of life. It won't last long though. Never does. I'm sure we will be back to our regular chaos and hi-jinxs in a few days. I'm still trying to figure out how I'm going to fool anyone next April 1. Everyone will be on the look out for me next time... Thanks for checking on us. ~ Brent

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4/10/2009 2:52:00 PM

Project Linus and Pictures We would love to answer your questions: Open Season Friday. Many people have asked me how they can make and donate blankets for children who are ill. One neat organization, that has blessed Abby is Project Linus. They collect handmade blankets and give them to children who are hurting. Our hospital also gives children with cancer homemade pillowcases, when they are admitted to the hospital. It really brightens up the bed and makes Abby feel more at home. Your local hospital may accept donations of pillowcases. If not, then we would love to bring any you make to the hospital that takes care of Abby. The blankets and pillowcases make a scary place more friendly. Thank you so much for helping children who are hospitalized.

Jagger stole Sami's heart.

Last night Abby's white blood cells were high enough to spend time with her friends. She had so much fun!

Landis loved painting.

4/13/2009 6:36:00 PM

Open Season Answers & It's Good to Be Back Back in Business

Abby with Jagger Jett. Abby wants us to adopt a "baby" just like Jagger. Jagger is a fun ball of energy.

We didn't do much on the blogs last week. Just needed to get things back in a groove with Abby at home now. We look forward to a lot of great stuff on the blog. Our traffic to the blog has predictably gone in the toilet, but we hope everyone will come back and join us as we adventure through life. Open Season Friday Answers by Brent

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Liz asked: I appreciate the way you have chosen to discipline your children; I really do! In the past you said, “The key is consistency… Every instance of disobedience, defiance and disrespect should be met with routine, predictable discipline in various forms appropriate to the child’s age, maturity and personality.” I find my criteria for discipline slightly different in the sense that I do not punish for “every instance of disobedience”, primarily because I want to go to the heart of that behavior – just sin? fear? guilt? etc. This gives me room to be inconsistent. Then my temperament (too tired, not feeling well) also plays a factor in my inconsistency. Sometimes, I’m not patient enough to address my child’s sin in a deeper manner so “discipline” is the easy answer. Trusting that you also face such inconsistencies, how do you integrate this with your style of discipline and the real need to be consistent and without sin in your own heart when administering discipline? When we say “every instance” that is just a general principle. Of course we take into account sickness, activity, circumstances. If a kid is sick they get some leeway appropriate to the illness. If we’ve drag them around for 12 hours and they are dead tired, we take that into account. If we ourselves are sick, tired, angry, stressed, we take that into account as well. The GENERAL PRINCIPLE is that disobedience, defiance and disrespect don’t get “three strikes”. One strike… but of course we factor in special circumstances as described above. Sara asked: To tithe 10%....is this all to the church and then charity is above and beyond that or can that 10% be partly to church and partly to charity? I have heard differing opinion. “Tithing” is an Old Testament command, and at a best a New Testament principle. We are not under command as Christians to tithe, and the Bible gives no such guidelines for how much, when and how divided for Believers. This fact grates on many church “authorities” who want people to give under compulsion rather than in cheerful freedom. I’ve written more about tithing here: http://www.seriousfaith.com/asr/question.asp?questionid=25 40 http://www.seriousfaith.com/asr/question.asp?questionid=10 34 http://www.seriousfaith.com/asr/question.asp?questionid=64 8 Lanetta Gobble asked: I want to edit a header for my blog (add pictures, etc). I found one that matches my blog at the cutest blogontheblock... and I followed their directions -which say to use paint.net. I tried and GAVE up! Can you help? I need more specifics. Send me the header, and tell me what you are trying to do. brent@brentriggs.com

Michelle asked: What kind of camera do you use? I’m looking for a new one right now and I think I’m leaning towards the Canon G10. Any opinion? Also, are you aware of a point and shoot digital that does a reasonably good job in lower light settings? Thanks, Michelle I have a Canon 40D. If you really want to shoot decent pictures in lower light settings you need a DSLR with a good lenses. Point-and-shoots will “flash” everything as good as they can, and some of the pictures will be “okay” but you just cannot get GREAT pics in low light with a pocket camera. The following is something I wrote previously: I have a Canon 40D. A Canon Rebel or some equivalent 35mm DSLR would be sufficient. Assuming a camera body of at least that quality, the real trick to great pics is in the lenses. Most people take pics in low light indoors with completely inadequate lenses, then cannot figure out why their photos stink. It helps to learn some basic rules of framing and composing a photo (I'll do a demo on that). But no matter how good your eye for photography is, if you don't have an appropriate lens, you won't have good pics. Outdoors, the standards lenses than come with a DSLR (a full size camera that takes standard lenses) are usually fine for outdoor, sunlit photos. But in any kind of low light, you've got have some decent lenses. It's too much to go into all that here, perhaps I'll do a demo about it. You can research it yourself by looking up lenses that go with your camera, and finding out their capabilities. You should also learn some photography basics like exposure, f-stops, shutter speed, etc. "Digital Photography for Dummies" is a great book to start with if you know nothing about it. I can give you hint about a good low light lens. It must be a low "f-stop" value, typically 1.4-2.0. You'll understand that when you take a few minutes to learn some simple basics about lenses. harleyps_mom@yahoo.com asked: My question is regarding parenting. I am asking this question because I have 2 children and struggle with discipline. What do you do for discipline with your children? Read the first question above, then read this answer we previously posted: We believe in firm discipline bathed in extravagant affection and love. For the little ones, we believe in a variety of discipline that is appropriate for their age, maturity and personality INCLUDING SPANKING. We are neither embarrassed or equivocating about spanking. 286


never need spanking but they are the exception, while most parents today pretend it is the RULE.

Spanking (defined as paddling them on the butt only, with an object that does not cause injury such as a paddle) done with consistency, in love, for the purpose of teaching is one of the most effective tools parents have for the younger children. It is a national disgrace and tragedy we have brainwashed several generations of parents into believing spanking "teaches violence" and refer to it as "hitting" a child.

We use spanking, time-outs, extra chores, loss of privileges, talking to, standing in the corner and variety of other creative tactics teach the kids discipline, again, appropriate to age, maturity and personality because there is no "one thing works for all kids".

It is embarrassing and deceptive to parade horrible parents on TV who jerk up their kid by the arm in frustrated anger, whack them a couple of times with their bare hand, then let them throw a temper tantrum and proclaim, "SEE! SPANKING DOESN'T WORK". What a joke. What a shame.

I will say this, with both honesty and humility, our children are well behaved, polite, respectful and good kids whether at home or out in public. All our friends will testify to that. We have no worries about going out to eat, going to Walmart or attending Church. They have their moments, sure, but overall we are not concerned at all about taking them anywhere, or having people over.

We spank for three reasons (defiance, disobedience and disrespect) and for the purpose of teaching boundaries and self control. Here is a typical episode of discipline for us:

Let me finish this answer by restating our philosophy: firm discipline (expectations, rules, boundaries, self control, respect, obedience appropriate to age, maturity and personality) bathed in extravagant love and affection.

Dad: "Landis, I want you to _______________" Landis follows with a tantrum, direct disobedience or "no!" I take him to his room. I tell him what he did wrong, and what his incorrect behavior was. I tell him he is going to get a spanking and what that spanking will be such as "two swats".

Whew... I probably ran off alot of people right there. My parenting ideas are from the Dark Ages evidently.

I put him over my lap and give him two swats. I stand him up for a few seconds to let the moment sink in. Then I repeat what he did and why it was wrong. Then I ask him "why did Dad give you a spanking?" to which he replies "because I ______." Then I tell him, "okay, give me hugs" which he does and within seconds, things are fine and he goes back to what he was doing. That's it. No anger. No frustration. No "if I tell you one more time..." for the tenth time. Loving, consistent discipline. The kids know exactly what to expect. They aren't "afraid" because we finally get fed up and blow our tops. One note here: you should not allow your kids to PUNISH YOU after you discipline them by allowing them to scream, holler, wail, thrash about, run off, etc. It serves no teaching purpose to discipline them and then let them rebel and throw a tantrum. Our kids understand they can CRY all they want after a spanking, but any temper fits because of getting a spanking will only result in another spanking. Once your kids know this, you will end the "after-spanking melodrama". The key is consistency. Don't do the "15 chances until I lose my temper". Every instance of disobedience, defiance and disrespect should be met with routine, predictable discipline in various forms appropriate to the child's age, maturity and personality. It is not always spanking, but too many parents exclude spanking often with the nice sounding excuse of "my kids really don't need it". Granted, I've seen some kids who

Marcia asked: Our six year old son came home from kindergarten yesterday very upset because his friend told him he does not believe in God. I told him we should pray for his friend. My husband thinks it’s ok to tell our son that there are many ways to Heaven, including just being good, nice, etc. (my husband grew up Catholic and we have very different views on this). I don’t think we should lie to him but I think it’s a lot for a six year old to be worried about. How would you handle this in your family? We would tell our children that not all people choose to believe in God. God WANTS everyone to believe and gives everyone the same offer of eternal life, but most people will say either “I don’t choose to believe in God”, or “No God, I would rather live my own way.” We certainly would not poison our kids with the absurd and illogical idea that “there are many ways to heaven”. This is not being “tolerant”, it’s suspending your brain. I’ve addressed that here: http://www.riggsfamilyblog.com/2009/03/open-seasonanswers-11-my-intolerance.html It’s not “too much” for a six year old if the six year old is the one thinking about it. We just have to be appropriate for their age and maturity. Tell them the simple truth, and then let them dig deeper if THEY want to. But six years old is not too young to simply say “Son, not every person chooses to believe in God and this is sad. Hopefully, when they get older and understand what is means to reject God, they will change their mind.”

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lesliehutsler@hotmail.com asked: Has anyone ever told you that Abby is sick because you don’t have enough faith to believe for her healing or that her illness was caused by a secret sin in your life or that cancer found its way to your doorstep because you allowed it by not praying enough? Christians can sometimes be so cruel and thoughtless.

what we do. We can pray to change God’s mind. We can repent and God might change His mind about some punishment He planned. There are plenty of examples of this in Scripture.

Yes, we’ve been told many times our lack of faith, “negative confession” or lack of belief keeps Abby from being healed. We’ll just have to join the millions of martyrs, heroes of the faith in Scripture, Christians, disciples, Apostles and even the Lord Himself who have all suffered in this life as believers in God. If they “didn’t have enough faith” to be perpetually healthy and wealthy, then I’m proud to join them in my “lack of faith”. There is much misguided, false and destructive teaching about “faith” today that is more metaphysical, Eastern and New Age than it is “Scriptural”. I know the teachings of “word faith” and “divine healing” to an exhaustive depth, so it is not a matter of being “uneducated” about the topic. This is not the forum to write a refutation of it, but suffice to say many FAITHFUL and genuine Christians today have their trials and grief increased by well meaning but undiscerning Christians who tell them they are suffering in some way because of their “lack of faith”. The Bible is replete with stories and accounts of the most faithful people in all Biblical history who suffered, were sick, persecuted, in poverty and even died. This alone should be enough to cause one to question this ideal of perpetual divine health and overflowing wealth THIS SIDE of heaven.

For example, from God’s view, He knew and determined from the “beginning of time” what the outcome would be for Angie. He also has determined what the outcome will be for Stellan and Abby. His “decision” WILL come to pass no matter what anyone says, does or prays. That’s because God’s “decision” was made based on full knowledge of everything that would or could ever happen, be asked or be prayed. From OUR VIEWPOINT, we don’t know God’s final will for Stellan or Abby. So we pray. We ask God. We petition Him to “change His mind” about Abby having Leukemia or Stellan’s heart problems. We can indeed “change” God’s mind or cause Him to act because the fervent prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective, accomplishing much. That is from OUR view. That is the best way I know how to explain this irreconcilable truth (one of many in Christianity). Mandi from Montana asked: When you were little, both you and your wife, did you plan on having so many children? Is it something that just happened or was it just Gods plan?

Do I believe in “divine health”? Do I believe in “abundant life”? Absolutely. We are promised these things as Christians but they will be granted in PHYSICAL fullness as part of our heavenly reward… we have it SPIRITUALLY now, and PHYSICALLY in heaven.

We both always wanted family and kids. It didn’t happen exactly the way we have planned, but we are blessed to have our heart’s desire now.

Jenny asked: Okay- I was thinking of asking this question to Angie (over at Bring the Rain), but since you all OFFERED...! Do you believe that God has His mind already made up about everything and that no matter how many people pray or how hard they pray, He will not change His course? Both Mckmama and Angie have talked about this briefly, but I have to be honest, it never crossed my mind until they mentioned it. I just assumed that we could have an impact. What is Gods purpose for prayer? It depends on the VIEWPOINT. If we look through GOD’s EYES, then NO He never changes His mind in reality, because His Will is always done, and any decision He makes will come to fruition even if that decision appears to involves “changes” of decision. That’s looking at it from God’s viewpoint who is outside of time and physics. From OUR VIEWPOINT, God does change His mind based on

Many of these difficult questions about God can be more easily understood if we learn to see things from BOTH views: from God’s view (to the degree we are capable of seeing it from His viewpoint), and from OUR view as we experience life and a relationship with God.

Marie asked: Hi, this question concerns the bible and religion in general. I will say that I am very active in my faith, I live each day that I may make my calling sure. I strive for unity amongst the people of God, and I was wondering your take on the religious world. In 1 Corinthians 1 he calls us to all be unified and to all speak the same thing, yet religion out there today is very divided. I am interested to know your beliefs as to why this is, and maybe open discussion on this. Thanks for your time. We have so many “religions” simply because man has decided that God’s Word is not the final authority and the single source of genuine absolute eternal Truth. Once you throw out a single source of Truth, then anyone is free to make up a “truth” as they see fit. The idea that all religious ideas and “truth” are equal is categorically illogical and absurd. I write more about that here:

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http://www.riggsfamilyblog.com/2009/03/open-seasonanswers-11-my-intolerance.html

began. She has given up naps and taken to running through our home chasing Landis and Sami. Her smile is back and our home is filled with the laughter of children. We are truly blessed.

1Corinthians calls us to be unified IN GOD’S TRUTH. Unity, for unity’s sake, is simply all of us agreeing there is NO real truth. True Biblical unity can only be achieved when people agree that the source of Truth is the Bible, and we unify around it’s teaching. It doesn’t mean we agree on every point because God gives us liberty in most of faith… but it does mean we agree with the core essential truth of salvation, and we agree on black and white statements of truth (ie. “don’t steal”, “don’t commit adultery”, “be a cheerful giver”). The real “unity” that the Bible speaks about and God desires is unity around the fact and person of Jesus Christ. The single fact we are to be unified in is that salvation is found in no other person or way than Jesus Christ. This is the “unity” that Scripture encourages. In the end, you are judged ALONE by God as to your response to Jesus Christ. Unity is important as we live our faith but unity comes AFTER our personal response to the issue of sin and being separated from God. ~ Brent

4/14/2009 5:20:00 PM

Abby Update Hair Watch From Michelle:

Abby still needs chemo for 2 more years, and we are not taking that lightly. As both a reminder, and something to celebrate when finished, you'll notice our Abby countdown clock up in the right hand colum of our blog. We are celebrating each and every victory, no matter how small. Abby is no longer using her feeding tube for nutrition and I only put medication down it if she is asleep. She is eating VERY healthy food and in bigger quantities than Landis. Landis has been known to eat more than many adults, so besting him at an eating contest is quite a feat. Abby still has her gastric tube, but we are hoping to remove it soon. Abby still has pain in her legs, from the chemo, but they are controlling it well. Her headaches are gone and the wound on her abdomen no longer hurts and is healing nicely. God is good. Last week Abby's white blood cell count was low enough to prove the chemoe is fighting her cancer, but high enough to get to go out in public. To date she has gone to Sunday School, the mall and even out to eat. She has played with friends and gone to the library. We have loved every minute of our return to a more "normal" life (a term used very loosely for us even in the best of times). So far Abby has not gotten sick yet from our outings. She has a doctors appointment tomorrow. Hopefully her lab work will look great again. Please pray for: • • • • • •

We have been fighting this disease for 9 months. Running hard. Taking each day as it comes. Some families keep running stats on things like number of hospital stays, number of shots and number of blood transfusions. Because of the intensity of Abby's battle, we have lost track of a lot of the details. Today we learned Abby has had 43 blood transfusions since July. 43! An adult only has 8 units of blood in their bodies and Abby, my 30 pound daughter has need 43 different transfusions. That blows me away.

Abby to remain cancer free. continued healthy weight and appetite her gastric tube to be removed her pain to be controlled her to remain free of illnesses wisdom for the doctors, nurses and Brent and I, as we make many decisions about Abby's medical care. Wisdom for Brent and I as we decide on a daily basis how much to let her be out in public.

Thank you so much for praying for my daughter and our family. We are forever thankful to the people who have taken time, out of their busy lives, to donate blood. You have saved her life and we will always be grateful. A special thanks to Garrett's (our 16 year old son) Boy Scout troop and our church for doing blood drives to help Abby. Update on Abby: Abby's is doing the best she has done since this whole thing

Our 16 year old son is going to say a public thank you to his Boy Scout troop at a big meeting tonight, with Abby in his arms. Please pray he would communicate clearly and confidently. Abby is usually gung-ho for doing ANYTHING with Garrett. It will be interesting to see how they do together. Many people have asked about Abby's hair. Some children are bald for their whole treatment. That would be a very long 2 and a half years. Others regrow hair during the phase Abby is 289


in, only to loose it again. Abby and I have been staring at the top of her head for a month now. At first I tried to not let Abby see me do it, but the reality is, she thinks about it and brings it up all of the time. She is comfortable with her "little bald head" (her words), her beautiful hats and wigs, but misses her hair. Her and Brent have the "bald head club" and their gang sign is to rub each others head! Since so many of you are asking and wondering I thought it would be fun to give you a hair update.

Slick as a bowling ball. The first picture was taken about 3 weeks ago. It was hard to find a hair on her head. There were a few, but they were really light peach fuzz. I LOVED Abby's black hair, so let me tell you, I was praying for it to get darker quickly.

You can see the black hair fuzz starting to grow back in. The second picture was taken today. The hairs are obviously very short, but they are sprouting up everywhere. In person it looks like a five o'clock shadow, but you CAN see it and more importantly ABBY can see that her hair is growing in. She is one excited little girl. Every prayer now has to include a thank you for her "porcupines" (her word for her new hair). Thank you so much for praying for everything, details big and small are such a blessing to be covered in prayer. The auditorium tonight is dark. I will try to get a decent picture.

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her gastric tube for nutrition. Her doctors were excited with all she has accomplished in a short amount of time. Abby's oncologist and surgeon have both agreed to take out her gastric tube at her next appointment. Abby is on cloud nine. The not so great news: Last night Abby caught a cold from her big brother. Not a big problem for a healthy child, but they need to be very careful with Abby. After months of worrying about her being out in public, she caught cooties at home. Her chest x-ray was clear, so we were able to go home on antibiotics. Abby's white blood cells are responding beautifully. She is feeling icky, but no one is worried about her ability to kick the upper respiratory infection. Because of how beautifully Abby's immune system is working, Abby's doctors are still confident it is safe for Abby to be in public. We are keeping her home (our whole family home), for a few days, out of consideration for others. Even sick, Abby is feeling MUCH better than she has in the last few months. Tonight, she tried to talk me into going shopping. Got to love a girl with a plan. It is embarrassing to admit but Abby and I have the same cold. I would love to crawl in bed and sleep until it is over. Abby is running through the house, laughing and playing. She is an amazing little girl.

Never thought we'd be GLAD to see "attitude" but we are thrilled to watch Abby regain her personality and twinkle.

4/15/2009 7:45:00 PM

New Pics... Abby Update Great, Okay, Ugly From Michelle: Abby's doctors overall were very happy with how Abby is doing. Her blood counts are great and her abdominal wound is healing beautifully.

Abby's biggest, ugliest problem is her liver. Her liver functions had been improving, but today they are looking down right ugly. She is 2 tenths of a point from having her chemo held next week. When you are fighting an aggressive cancer, holding chemo is very concerning, especially when her white blood cell count is too high (ANC 6000). We would appreciate your prayers that her liver counts quickly rebound to normal. Last night Abby and her 16 year old brother, Garrett, were able to thank his Boy Scout Troop for doing a blood drive to benefit Abby. Garrett did all of the talking and just held Abby. She looked shy on stage, but when it was over, immediately asked if she could go back up front. She's quite the camera hound Thank you so much for praying for Abby. Abby needs 2 more years of chemo. A lot of her chemo is hard on her liver. I am praying it is healed. Look up in the right corner: only 714 days to go! Brent was getting some pics ready while I was writing... so here they are:

Abby has been begging us to take out her gastric tube. It is bulky, it leaks on her clothes and it hurts when Landis tackles her. She knows she will have to take thousands of pills over the next two years. She has learned to swallow all of her pills and has maintained her weight for a couple of weeks without using 291


Michelle took this pic of Garrett and Abby last night at his function where he thanked the Troop for the Abby Blood Drive.

Sami and Abby dressed up in Sami's traditional Ethiopian dresses. The girls really love each other. They are inseparable at home except when SpideyLandis gets between them.

If you look close, you can see HAIR standing up on

I (Brent) grabbed my camera when a cat wandered into the back yard. I had actually seen it several times and found out a litte later why... it had birthed some kittens under my riding lawn mower. Yes, I found them BEFORE starting the mower for the first time this spring.

the top of her head!

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Abby and SpideyLandis just doing what kids do. I love pictures like this, yes, even me, a macho guy. Sweet candids of children are probably my favorite thing to photograph.

SpideyLandis scales the platform I built for them on the side of the swing set. It's fun seeing your kids actually enjoying something you built.

Landis as the soccer game watching Sami last weekend.

The BRAVE cat risks her life to see if SpideyLandis had good intentions. He did, and after a cat kiss, Fred Flintstoned across the yard.

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along with your blog address if you want and make you famous!

4/16/2009 4:35:00 PM

Abby On the News & Picture Caption Winner From Brent The local news, Channel 4, came out to interview us today. They are covering a story about a big blood drive locally, and somehow heard about all the blood donated on Abby's behalf. The segment is supposed to run at 10pm tonight barring some breaking news that preempts it.

Abby loves being able to get out now and do things. She came to Sami's soccer game too, and quickly found a friend to pose in front of. She has become QUITE the camera hound since getting all this attention.

Dustin Pyeatt of the Oklahoma Blood Institute gets a shake down from SpideyLandis who isn't intimated by anything or anyone.

YOUR TURN! SUGGEST A CAPTION... BECOME INFAMOUS. Easter morning... all dressed up and ready to go. "Abby, Landis... come over here and let Dad get your picture. Okay, smile... 1, 2, 3... say cheese..." And this is what I got from lover boy. Take your best guess at what this reaction was all about, or even better, just make up something hilarious. If we choose your caption, we'll post it 294


After the interview, we stop to get a pic together.

Setting up the camera and lights for the interview.

Ernie Paulson of Channel 4, Oklahoma City did the interview. Nice guy. We really enjoyed meeting him.

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Heading out the door to pack up, the crew has a surprise waiting for them...

Farewell to the Chief: As President Bush waves goodbye from Air Force One for the last time, Secret Service Agent SpideyLandis never lets down his guard even for one second. After 8 years of faithfully protecting the President, SpideyLandis will return home to pester protect his family.

SpideyLandis mounts the news cruiser challenging all who dare.

AND THE WINNER IS:

4/17/2009 3:28:00 PM

Landis Wants Something How's about a little kiss, baby?

There were a couple of really good ones, so we have to post more than one: "Landis, did you get into my morphine?" Sweet_Joni

"Travis, Travis, Travis! If I hear "Travis" one more time, I'm going to be sick!" James 1:27 Family

"Oh puh-leeeze! Must I pose with her royal highness again?" Four Babies 4 Us 296


4/17/2009 11:49:00 PM

4/18/2009 12:16:00 PM

Brent Photoshop Never Ending Challenge: Mount Riggsmore

Abby on the News

Photoshop Challenge for Brent: turn Mount Rushmore into Mount Riggsmore Actually, I (Brent) didn't have to fake this photograph believe it or not. Work on the real Mount Riggsmore was recently completed. Just today, we visited the monument for pictures. Michelle is behind the camera with the kids as I braved the high climb to the top. As proof of our presence there, you can actually see me over to the right, high up, on top of Garrett's head. The monument took a very long time (almost a couple of hours :)) to carve out of the side of a rasterized cliff virtually identical to the famous original inspiration. We were thrilled to be the American bloggers that were chosen for the new national landmark. Blogging has become such a pasttime, the National Institute for American Historical Landmarks decided to create a lasting tribute for posterity. Needless to say, we were shocked that we were chosen from the nearly 12.5 million entries sent in. We hope you'll visit Mount Riggsmore soon in the Lotsabytes National Park. We left a hammer and chisel at the base for you to leave us a comment. (We'll chip off any mean commments.)

Abby and our family was interviewed for the local news to help encourage people to give blood. Abby has had FORTY THREE blood transfusions since July of 2008. The segment aired yesterday on KFOR, Channel 4 in Oklahoma City. We were interviewed by Ernie Paulson and he was accompanied by Dustin Pyeatt from the Oklahoma Blood Institute.

4/18/2009 8:46:00 PM

In Case You Didn't Believe Us... Just in case you didn't believe us about Mount Riggsmore, another family visited the monument today and took pictures of their kids playing up on top. We don't know these people, so you can't say we put them up to it. They took this picture and sent it to us with the following note: Brent,

Mount Riggsmore (click to view a larger image)

It just so happened that we made a visit to Mt. Riggsmore today. The kids and I had heard so much about it that we wanted to see it in person. They had a blast exploring it. I think they took a few risks, but it was worth it. Jacob just had to see what it was like to golf from the top of Landis' head. He almost made a hole in one, but it missed. Hopefully he didn't hit anyone at the bottom! Somehow, Sam figured out how to crawl out of one of the mouths. I still haven't figured out how he did that. He is such a ham! And even though Elizabeth is only 4 years old, she was able to climb to the top of Sami's ear. She used her walking stick to help. She was quite proud of herself! Abby's head was just smooth enough for rollerblading. Emily was brave enough to put her skates on to help Ri. He really hasn't mastered rollarblading yet. I wasn't quiet comfortable with him out on the ledge of Abby's head all by himself! Erin dribbled the soccer ball everywhere she could, but it seemed easiest near Sami's head. 297


you have any? Hope you like the picture. I was a "Nervous Nelly" watching them all from the bottom!

Look forward to sharing our adventure with you this week.

Darcy

4/20/2009 6:35:00 PM

Open Season Answers From Last Friday Karla_medrano@yahoo.com asked: I just wanted to ask... how to you cope with all the depression and sadness of having a child with cancer? Hope in God. Trust in eternity, knowing that nothing in this life compares to the next. Knowing that the WORST (the worst?) thing that can happen to Abby is that she goes on early to be with Jesus, and we see her in a little while. We would miss her terribly, but be happy that she was enjoying heaven. Proof that Mount Riggsmore exists... someone wouldn't "fake" a picture and send it to us, would they? One thing though... those are some REALLY big and tall kids. If you measure to scale against Mount Rushmore, the kids are about 27 ft tall... so I'm not sure what's going on there. Must be an optical illusion or something.

Marie asked: You seem like such loving, fun, positive, giving, just plain awesome people!! Do you really, seriously, truly in your heart believe that those that dont believe in Jesus are going to hell? I mean really...my dear kind Muslim friends Kaoki and Nadia are going to hell? My friend Ana who is the sweetest person but just doesnt believe in God? Will a child molesting priest really get in instead of them? I dont understand.

4/20/2009 7:25:00 AM

Go back and read what I’ve written this topic. My premise is that we have NO TRUTH when we say ALL “truth” (religious ideas) is equal. We believe a “truth” and we have the courage to publicly proclaim it. Your arguments are anecdotal, out of context and straw man in nature. They have nothing to do with TRUTH, but only your gut feelings and personal experience.

Monday.... We will be posting up Open Season Friday answers all day today... I had to teach yesterday at church, and when I teach, I put a lot of time into preparing, so I didn't answer any questions on Saturday as I finished up my message and studied it. Also, Michelle and I got some long awaited chores done around the house over the weekend that have backed up while Abby was sick. I'm traveling on business some this week, so we spent Sunday after church and evening getting ready for that and doing some family stuff.

Muslims believe ONLY they are righteous and “saved”. If you are not Muslim, any HONEST Muslim is going to tell you that you are an infidel, worthy of only being converted by force, or killed. Of course many Muslims do what many Christians do… they ignore the plain and clear teaching of their faith for the sake of popularity or political correctness… or they do it in honest ignorance. Christianity teaches it is the SOLE way to salvation. Islam teaches the same. To deny either, is simply to not believe either, and insult whichever you claim to believe.

You ask ME what about MY opinion of someone ELSE’s eternal destination. MY opinion doesn’t mean a thing about YOUR eternity, or your Muslim friend, or the pedophile. Your asking Please pray for Michelle as she juggles all the house, kids and the wrong question to the wrong person. I simply believe what "Abby" responsibility by her lonesome most of this week. the God of the Bible clearly proclaims. I choose to believe that because I genuinely believe it to be the TRUTH as delivered by I've gotten a couple more good "Brent Photoshop Never our CREATOR. So if you don’t like what HE has said, you need Ending Challenge" suggestions but still looking for more. Do to take that up with Him. 298


feelings. Brent: WILL YOU EVER GROW UP? Will a child molesting Priest get into heaven because they call themselves “Christian”? Do I really have to answer that? But just in case: •

Mt 7:21-23: "Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (NKJV)

Mandy asked: What does a *normal* day look like in your home? Fun, noise, laughter, standing in the corner, an occasional spanking, kissing, hugging, blogging, eating, playing, school, work, stress sometimes… almost NEVER any boredom or sitting around wondering what to do. indianamom asked: Random question, but do you think that marriage still applies in heaven? I always heard that things are as they last were. But if you are married and your spouse dies, then you move on to be with someone else - married or not - when you do, do you go back to being with your wife? Or what for your new partner to come and be with you? Or does marriage, etc no longer apply? Just wondering what your theory is. •

Mt 22:30: For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven. (NKJV)

But our relationships and memories stay intact. We don’t “forget” who we were, or our family or friends. Watch my presentation on heaven: http://www.seriousheaven.com/ Sue asked: Brent, I was wondering your take on the impact that the current deployment schedule/length is having on families? We have 3 young kids, my husband (proudly a soldier) got back 6 months ago from 15 months in Iraq. We are gearing up for a Dec. deployment to Afghanistan now. We do the normal things, lots of letters, pictures, webcam chats, videos, sending packages. Can you give any creative suggestions for both kids and spouses as far as staying close and weathering the deployment? Let me think more on this one… I was deployed for over a year myself in Desert Storm. Let me think on this for a week. Ask me again this Friday and remind me.

Do you WANT me to grow up? Brent Riggs asked: I heard you were kind of a bonehead... is that true? Oh yeah… it’s definitely true. More… Michelle will answer the adoption related questions. I’ve got the energy for a few more questions tonight if you have any. Email them to me: brent@brentriggs.com ~ Brent

4/21/2009 4:40:00 AM

Laughter Lives Tuesday From Michelle: Today I HAD to buy Landis so more underwear. He was somehow down to 4 pair (who knows why/how that happened). I tried to find a pair of Abby's, for him to borrow, that were less girly than her normal attire. Princess, being a princess, had none that were even close to unisex. Since Brent is out of town, I just laughed and grabbed Dora. Landis didn't care at all, but Princess Abby was a little put off. Two hours later, when Landis pooped on Dora, Abby was totally disgusted. Needless to say, she is not willing to share panties with Landis anymore. (of course after Brent reads this, Abby won't be the only one who feels that way, hee hee.). While driving away from the store, with my packages of new Spidy underwear, I told the big kids what Landis did to Dora. They thought it was hilarious until I said, "since Abby won't share anymore, I let him borrow Sami's". Sami flipped and then begged me to tell her if I was kidding. I told her "of course I am not kidding, just ask Landis". Sami asks Landis if he is wearing her underwear, and he proudly pipes up from the back of the van and says, "Yes, I am!" To test us Sami, asks us what color they are. I said a little brown, because of a "small accident". Sami, turned to Landis, with a disgusted look on her face and asked if he pooped in her underwear. Landis proudly replied, 'Yep, I stinked 'em up!"

Kristie asked: Okay, this is a fun question that is not intended to hurt anyones

To Sami's relief, 20 minutes later, we finally stopped the car so 299


she could unbuckle and check to see if Landis was wearing her underwear (he wasn't of course). Yes, It is a true story. Dangerous I know to hand a joke over to a three year old, but he ran with it without skipping a beat. You have to love a three year old who knows how to make people laugh. Laughter lives!

called your points a "straw man argument." You stated your original question basically this: "you mean to tell me my good Muslim friend will go to hell while the pedophile Christian priest gets into heaven?" And you don't call that presenting an argument? Have we really lost all ability to discuss, point-and-counter-point in our politically correct pop culture driven country?

From Brent: We were driving Sunday and started talking about chickens. "I want a baby chick, Dad-dee" Abby loudly informs us. "You want a chick?" I said. "You know that baby chicks turn into chickens, right?" "I want to have chickens Dad-dee" Abby adds. "If we have chickens, you know they are not just pets right?" I asked. "I want to have pet chickens, Dad-dee" Abby continues undeterred. "Abby listen to me...." I get serious. "Little baby chicks are cute and fun, but they grow up to be chickens which we eat for food. You know, like chicken nuggets... those come from chicks that grow up to be chickens that we kill and eat..."

You did say how much you enjoy our blog, and I did not address that in my answer because it wasn't relevant. I will say it now publicly, that I'm grateful you visit our blog and enjoy it. We enjoy you visiting. We enjoy your questions, we even enjoy the disagreement. We enjoy knowing people who can live, laugh, love AND disagree without descending into the common juvenile name calling that is so prevalent (ie. "bashing", "hate", "judgmental"... everytime someone writes something with which we disagree). Thank you for your questions. Thank you for your comments. I'm not attacking you (or any reader) anymore than you are attacking us by posting a question (which you are NOT, that's that point). We love that you come to our blog. We hope you keep coming. And we hope you'll keep asking tough questions, to which we will give our best honest answers. That's why people ask us. They want direct, honest answwers, presented with logic, confidence, experience and conviction. We are not wishy-washy, politically correct or worried about popularity. That's why people ask us something knowing that they will get an straightforward answer.

A few seconds of silence.... .... .... Abby's eyes get bigger... ... ... "You have GOT to be kidding me!!!" our little four year exclaims with all genuine sincerity. I was laughing so hard at that point I could hardly drive. After regaining my composure, I asked "so who's going to volunteer to clean up chicken poop every day?" That's where the story quickly ended.

4/22/2009 5:47:00 AM

Pray for Me... Pray for Others... April 22, 2009 Comment About a Comment

We don't claim to know everything, or be right about everything. We are courageous enough (and love people enough) to give an honest answer based on logic, study, experience and pure motives. If people disagree, that's great, and it's to be expected. But agree or disagree, you know that you are getting an answer based in integrity and genuine love, rather than an answer filtered through political correctness, pop culture or the need to impress people. I'm only responding to Marie personally here to make sure she knows we appreciate her loving our blog even if we do have disagreements. More generally, I just want our friends and readers to have faith that when you ask a question, we'll answer with conviction. love and honesty, regardless of popularity or disagreement. We are concerned with TRUTH when it comes to questions of faith, family, marriage, relationships eternity and God. So we answer with what we believe is the truth even though we know that disagreement (and even offense) is inevitable.

To Marie from last Friday's Open Season Questions concerning her comment about my answer... You asked a direct question and I gave a direct answer. How is that "attacking you"? You said "what arguments?" when I 300


Abby is really getting her personality back in full swing. Pun intended.

4/22/2009 7:15:00 PM

Abby Update From Michelle: Abby is doing GREAT. Abby is eating well, maintaining her weight and her pain in less over all. She has energy to run and play. She is getting stronger everyday and loves being able to keep up with Landis better. God is so good. She is doing so wonderfully her doctors recommended taking out her gastric tube. Abby REALLY, REALLY wanted it out. The only catch was they wanted to wait for someone from Surgery to come take it out (because of politics). This would mean waiting for hours for a surgery doctor (or more accurately, a med student, on his/her surgical rotation) to see us.

Taking it out is VERY quick and easy. As a nurse I have done it more times than I can count and I told Abby's PA so. Abby's PA thought a much better idea would be for me to take it out myself and asked if I was willing. I said YES! She asked Abby if she wanted Mommy to take it out or someone else. Abby said Mommy. She was scared, but handled it pretty well. It takes literally about two seconds to remove, so she wasn't scared for long. She said it only hurt a tiny bit. It only took a couple of minutes for the hole to close up. It feels so good to take a huge step towards a more "normal" life. Afterwards she just wanted Mommy to hold her while she rested. It is tough work being brave when you are four. Landis, Sami and Abby are all sick, with respiratory viruses. Landis was diagnosed with bronchitis on Sunday. Oddly enough Abby is much less sick than both her siblings and is licking it faster, too. Thanks for praying! The not so great news, Abby has something that looks like old blood in her stomach contents and has been complaining about abdominal pain. She has been diagnosed with a bleeding ulcer before, so I am concerned. Her gastroenterologist and cancer doctor both agreed it would be best to take her tube out and treat the problem with medication. Also Abby's immune system has taken a nose dive. Her ANC was 6000 last week and is now in the 659. If it is under 500, she will be stuck at the house and eating fresh veggies/fruits will be considered dangerous. I am praying it stays over 500. We all enjoy our freedom, but will do what is necessary to keep her safe.

We are so happy to see Abby outside, playing smiling... being "normal.

Abby's hair continues to grow and her eyelashes and eyebrows are coming back. She has taken to carrying a mirror around, while doing a happy dance for all of her new hair. It is going to take months to grow back, but she is thrilled with any progress. Several parents of cancer kids are warning that hair can occasionally thin and even come completely out during maintenance (Abby's next 2 years). In fact, we know a girl who is losing her hair, 6 months before she is finished with chemo. We will hang on to Abby's wig, hats and ponytails, but choose to enjoy every hair on her head as long as they are there. Honestly, I don't expect her to be bald again, but I appreciate the heads up so I don't promise Abby something I don't have any control over. The kids miss their daddy and I miss Brent so much it hurts. Brent is such a wonderful father and husband there is a huge void here when he is gone. Please pray: 301


• • • • •

Thank God her liver is improving and her g-tube is out. Abby's stomach to heal, inside and out. Her pain to continue to decrease. Her liver to heal. And of course, for her to remain cancer free.

We would also appreciate your prayers for Brent's safety while he in away. Please also continue to pray for Kayleigh. Her story is heartbreaking. She needs a miracle.

4/25/2009 8:30:00 PM

Open Season Answers by Michelle Molly asked: How did your hospital meet Abby’s psychological needs, ie explaining procedures so she wasn’t scared, keeping her spirits up, etc. Do they have a person for that? I’m interested in working in Pediatric Oncology from a psychological standpoint, like a support person for parents and children... As for keeping up her spirits and familiarizing Abby with what was going to happen, our hospital has a wonderful Child Life Specialist, Kristen. Every time Abby had a new procedure she would bring in picture of where it would take place, of the equipment and talk about what would happen (from Abby's perspective). Then when she could she would bring in actual medical supplies, so that Abby and her could pretend to be the doctors and nurses (Sami was usually the "patient"). All disposable equipment would be left with Abby so she could play with it as much as she wanted to. Abby and Sami has logged in hours of play time with the treasures Kristen left them.

Kristen with Abby When she was first diagnosed, Kristen also brought in tiny pieces of candy, in varying sizes, so Abby could learn to swallow pills in a nonthreatening way. Abby is now great at swallowing pills and the skill has made things much easier for her. Abby's nurses and doctors also spent time helping Abby feel comfortable and less scared. Abby loves all of her nurses and doctors. As for her emotional needs, Brent and I knew from the beginning Abby would have many potentially painful and/or scary procedures. We knew she would need to take a thousand doses of medication and we will spend many hours in the clinic and hospital. Our goal from day one was to help her be confident and secure while she fights cancer. Does Abby like pain? No. Would she rather be home having fun? Of course! But, praise God, Abby handles the tough stuff really well and is able to have a lot of fun while she is at the hospital and clinic. Brent and I spend a lot of time holding, comforting and playing with Abby. To make things easier for her, we want to teach her to handle everything she is going through. It is a pretty amazing to watch a sweet, beautiful, 4 year old girl fight cancer like the champion she is. You could say that we specifically took responsibility for her emotional and spiritual health. Mary (in MN) asked: I understand through your blog that Abby gets daily chemo and that Michelle is able to give it to her (what a blessing that is). How often does she have to go to the clinic to have blood work etc done? Most children, at this stage of treatment, only have to go to 302


the clinic once a month, for blood work and to get IV chemo. They also get periodically chemo injected into their spinal column. Because of the complications Abby has had, her doctor wants her to be seen ever week, for an exam and blood work. She is being very cautious with Abby and I appreciate her doing it. The hope is that Abby will be able to go less frequently eventually.

4/27/2009 11:05:00 AM

Abby also has to follow up with other specialists to monitor for complications.

Rachael....chanan7@gmail.com asked: I see that you are a busy professional blogger...etc, I have always wanted a 3 column blog, but I am not sure how to accomplish that. We also have a website www.iamgreenonline.com and I want to get someone else to work on it and also download it to another webhost. Can you help or can you direct me to someone who is willing to help us at a cheaper rate. We have a great product, but this site was not only to make the public aware, but to also help us pay on our adoption expenses. Please Help...

No name asked: Does Sami still speak Amharic (or whatever local language she spoke while in Ethiopia)at all? Sami still understands Amharic and speaks some. She can do it, but it is sometimes hard for her to "find" the right words. We try to encourage her to call her friends who were adopted from Ethiopia, but during some of the harder times with Abby, we weren't as good with that as I wish we were. She is now reconnecting with them and enjoying renewing her friendships. Kristin asked: How do you feed such a large family with probably very different tastes? Can you share a favorite recipe that everyone loves? I laughed when I read this question. We have been blessed with many, many friends bring us hot meals and frozen food. Until just recently my cooking has consisted of setting out meals others have brought. It feels wonderful to begin to prepare food for my family again, although the food people brought was wonderful. We serve meals that always have something each person likes, but we do not run a restaurant. If you are picky at our house you will be very hungry. Sami, when she first came home, didn't "like" cooked veggies, salad or many fruits. We always require the kids to eat a small helping of foods that are good for them. Now Sami loves salad and fruit. She even asked for salad for breakfast yesterday. :-) We account for the fact that occasionally there will be a food each kids just genuinely does not like… but we don’t tolerate picky eaters who want what they want and that’s it. It doesn’t hurt a kid to miss a meal if they are just being picky, and when they get hungry enough, like magic, all of sudden they like the food after all.

Open Season Answers From Brent

You can do a Google search for “three column Blogger templates” and you’ll find plenty, many of them free. As for finding web help at a cheaper rate, I’m not sure what you consider cheap. There are LOTS of people doing basic web stuff nowadays. If you ask around with the people you know and put the word out you’re looking for someone, you’ll probably get your choice. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone reads this from our blog and contacts you. Sissy asked: How do you feel or believe about divorces among Christians (reasons other than fornication) and then when they remarry, is that ok with Christ? Is it still unto death we do part that we are united to that person or are you free to go on and remarry in Gods eyes? Since you ask the question “is that okay with Christ”, I’ll answer that God has given us His Written Word in the Bible, and the only thing we can say for sure is “okay with Christ” is what we can clearly find in Scripture. The rest, we are left to pray about and follow our own conscience, and then personally answer to God for those choices. The Bible allows divorce for adultery and abandonment. In both cases, the “victim” is free to remarry only another Christian. The “guilty” party is not free to remarry. That is the nutshell of what the Bible teaches on the matter. MY OPINION: As for those people who divorced for a reason not mentioned or allowed in Scripture and have remarried, they should NOT seek a divorce. God does not call us to disobey Him in order to go back and fix a sin. In other words, we are not to divorce now and say we are just trying to get back to some point of obedience because we never should have remarried in the first place. (I’ve seen people use this logic because what they really want is to be out of their 2nd marriage). Christians are to seek to obey God TODAY, in whatever situation they have found themselves in.

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feeling and emotion (as a general rule). We are created in God’s image and He instill us with both: logic and emotion, intelligence and feeling.

For those who are currently divorced for a reason not allowed in Scripture and not already remarried, if you are a Christian, the answer is categorically “NO”: you cannot simply remarry anyway and expect it to be pleasing to Christ. You are directly disobeying Him… how can that be pleasing? It doesn’t matter what we think or feel about this Biblical mandate. It is clear, and to ignore cannot please God. It’s not easy. Often we feel it’s too hard. Most people, and pretty much all non-Christians, see the Bible’s commands about marriage to be punitive and unfair. They are not. They are intended to convey to Christians the seriousness of marriage, and make us award of how much God hates divorce. They are there to help us choose divorce only as a last resort, understanding what the consequences are. The destruction of the longevity and commitment of marriage destroys society, a fact we can well see in America today. Marriage is THE basic building block of human community, and to treat it lightly and casually is to invite all sorts of societal breakdown (again, something we clearly see in America and the West today). People, and even alarming number of Christians, view marriage like this: “if I’m happy, I’m committed; God doesn’t want me to be unhappy”. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked or heard “so you think God wants me to be unhappy the rest of my life?” I think God wants us to obey His Word and wait for His promise to bless us and care for us. I truly wish I could tell some Christian who is divorced unBiblically to go ahead and remarry – just don’t make the same mistake again – but that would be clearly defying what the Bible states in plain language. Sam asked: You said we can ask anything LOL - how do you feel about circumcision? I know people of Jewish faith do it for religious purposes, is there anything in the New Testament that speaks either for or against it? No, there is no New Testament command or implication either way. It is a matter of liberty for parents to decide for themselves. It is a matter of conscience. JG asked: Brent, Why do you think men are more reluctant or more skeptical to believe in God? Twenty years ago I might agree with your premise, but anymore, I don’t think men are more prone to reject God. I think it’s pretty equal now in a society that has been raised to be skeptical about God and the Bible. In the past (25-75 years ago) I think maybe we just created a bit of an environment where it was considered “women’s work” to care for the family spiritually. Some might argue that it is harder for men because we approach it more logically, while women rely more on

Rejecting God on either basic (logic or feeling) is a blunder. There is irrefutable and undeniable logical and intelligent evidence that supports God’s existence, and the Bible as His supernaturally delivered Word. Rejecting God based solely on feeling is just careless and frankly, stupid. You want to risk your eternity based on your feelings? And yet, I cannot count the number of people who write me and say “I don’t care what you think; I FEEL LIKE God loves everyone and I KNOW IN MY HEART He would never send someone to hell.” Okay then, have it your way… base your eternal destination on what YOU FEEL while ignoring the evidence to the contrary. I would never want to base my medical care on FEELING. I want to base it on feeling PLUS evidence, logic and fact. I’m not going to build my business on FEELING; I want to use feeling PLUS evidence, logic, principles and fact. I could name a dozen more things but you get the point. If I’m unwilling to base THIS life on subjective and often WRONG feelings, why in the world would I base my eternity on what I FEEL rather than making the effort to find out and consider the facts, logic and evidence? I’m amazed at how flippant and careless people are about their eternal destination. People may feel good NOW appearing to be tolerant and “loving” by saying “I feel like God will accept everyone” but they are tossing their eternal destiny to the winds of their emotions based on NOTHING but their gut feeling. In that case, of course we FEEL LIKE “all roads lead to heaven”. To say anything less will invite both scrutiny and criticism. But the fact is our feelings are not trustworthy (by themselves) about many (most?) things, much less eternity. On the other hand, you cannot come to a true relationship with God based solely on an intellectual or logical effort. It takes both: understanding and heart; emotion and logic; feelings and intellect. The FACTS compel us to believe and our HEART allows us to take that step of faith. JG asked: What happened to the answers to the adoption questions? Did I miss them? Michelle is working on them. She wants to answer them all, but is just now finding time to really get to them after the long hard months of being in the hospital with Abby. Deanne asked: My husband and I are really frustrated with the reaction from others, especially Christians, about our choice to adopt a child from Ethiopia. My husband is to the point that when someone asks The Question all adoptive parents cringe at “why don’t you adopt from the US?” that he now just growls and walks away.

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Do you all have any suggestions? Not really. That question is just one of several that are frustrating. You are never going to make everyone happy, so it’s really futile to even worry about it. If someone is particularly aggressive with that question, ask them “if you are so concerned why don’t YOU adopt someone domestically?” If that person has adopted domestically and is forcing their preference on you basically all you can say is “we feel like God wanted us to adopt from Ethiopia, and we are just obeying Him the best we know how.” The one comment that my wife and I have to bite our tongue about (and it’s usually said innocently) is “so you have four REAL children and three adopted?” or “so four our YOURS and three are adopted?” I know what people really mean so we don’t get too bothered, but that is one of the comments that grinds on us a bit. Deanne asked: Hello, we are a family in WV. We have three boys and are in the process of adopting a little girl that is six months old from Ethiopia. I am a huge child advocate and HIV advocate. I was reading *Too Small To Ignore* by Dr. Wess Stafford. He mentioned there was no Childrens Hall of Fame anymore. I was so inspired that I created a Childrens Blog of Fame, since of course we cant actually build one. I am also wondering as is the reader above how to get more readers interested in this blog. Getting people interested in a blog is simple: you consistently write good content, and you get the word out: email, commenting on other blogs, participating in forums, using social sites like Facebook and Twitter. There is no MAGIC, quick solution and beware of anyone who offers one. It’s a waste of time and money. It takes good old fashioned time and effort. It’s the snowball effect. Just start with a little, and start rolling it around. It will pick up size and momentum as you go, but you have to do the hard work in the beginning. Amie asked: Need some Biblical answers. Both my husband and I were born again Christians but walked away November 2007 after serious complications with the birth of our son. The pastors wife told the congregation the reason why we went through this was because we weren’t tithing our 10%. We totally don’t understand why this happened and we WANT to know where we can go in the bible that we weren’t being punished. Were we can find some peace. First of all, I will say categorically that this “Pastor’s wife” is shameful and manipulative. She will face God personally for this kind of egregious spiritual abuse. For those of you who would like some Bible answers about tithing, here’s what I’ve written on it: http://www.seriousfaith.com/asr/question.asp?questionid=25

40 http://www.seriousfaith.com/asr/question.asp?questionid=13 25 http://www.seriousfaith.com/asr/question.asp?questionid=64 8 Are there times when Christians may suffer physical ailment because of sin? Apparently so since the Bible plainly says some people were sick and died because they were not participating in Communion in the manner which God asked. (1Corinthians 11:27) But the New Testament does not teach the commonly held notion that if you are suffering IT MUST BE BECAUSE you have some specific sin you are being punished for. Sometimes we suffer the consequences of sin, of course. A pregnant mother doing drugs, smoking and getting drunk may birth a child with big problems. Is that being punished for sin? In a very real sense, yes. What about the wasteful, lazy person who finds themselves in poverty and hunger? Are they suffering because of their own specific sin? Yes. The principle here is clear and easy to identify. Other parents may have children who get sick or have physical problems who are simply suffering the GENERAL consequences of sin… what I mean is this: when Adam and Eve sinned, they introduced the sin curse into all creation. Because of it, we get sick, we die, we suffer. One day, this sin curse will be removed and there will be no more suffering or sickness. In the mean time, every human, good or bad, saved or unsaved lives with the consequences of the physical curse of sin that causes sickness, disease and heartache. It’s a fact we are all painfully aware of. Unless there is compelling and clear evidence (like the pregnant drug addict) to say “you are suffering from your sinful choices”, it is outside the realm of humans to be able to determine WHY things happen like what you experienced (except to generically say is it because we ALL have to live with the curse of sin and what it has done to humanity). You need to find a sound group of spiritually mature Christians who will love you and show you real Christianity. There is a shameful amount of this kind of spiritual abuse by selfproclaimed Christian leaders who twist Scripture to get people to do what they want (often it is to get them to give money). jpjack2@msn.com asked: In photography, how can I get my backgrounds “blurry” while keeping the main object sharp? I am a a pre-beginner! Have regular Kodak digital camera and 7 gorgeous grandchildren for subjects!! Thank you so much! This is difficult to do with a common pocket digital. Much of this ability comes from the camera lens which is just beyond what a pocket camera lens is capable of. The blurriness is caused by the size of the aperture opening of the lens which 305


focuses on a foreground object and is “out of focus” on the background (blurry). You can get a little bit of this effect by shooting close to your subject and having the objects in the background far in the distance. That’s about as close as you will get with a pocket digital. You really need a DSLR with the right lenses to get this effect consistently.

common yet. We didn’t have texting, Twitter, Internet or cell phones. All of those are common today but of course your husband needs access to them. I’m not sure how much the military makes that kind of technology available. Can some of your current military families enlighten me on what it available to the deployed troops?

You can manually blur the backgrounds with an image editor, but no matter how good you are with something like Photoshop, it never looks as good, or as real, as an actual photo that has the blur because of the lens.

The most important thing I tell the families of the deployed is to immediately plug in and get hooked up with a “family” of other Christians who can support you, and help you with the loneliness. The Christian men in your community and church need to STEP UP and help be good male role models for your children, as well as assist you with “man” stuff you need done around the house and yard.

If you want to find out more, go to Canon’s site, and research the capabilities of lenses. This will help you understand this concept better. http://www.usa.canon.com/consumer/controller?act=Product CatIndexAct&fcategoryid=111

Hopefully, Dad will have access to the Internet occasionally, and you can share video calls, email and audio pretty easily. That is a huge blessing that was not available a decade or two ago.

Fairy Wonderful asked: I am new at blogging and I need any advise I can get... how do I get more traffic to my blog??? I am a stay at home mom with 3 kids the last one being born 3 months early and unfortunately I don’t do this as a hobby it is my livelihood... so any advise would be much appreciated. Thanks!!

My Roller Coaster Life asked: Hi Brent, can you explain step by step how to create a blog badge? Thanks! I’ll do a demo on this soon…

Read the comment above where I talk about getting more traffic. Also, here is a great free report to read to get you started: http://chrisguillebeau.com/3x5/overnight-success/

Pita (PPrincess2424@aol.com) asked: Brent I want to ask you a question about drugs ! My Mother has been in the hospital for doing 14 times in the last year with being on the vent 7 times ...my question to you is my mother going to make it to heaven even though she is a drug addict ? How do I deal with my anger and not blame God? I have been struggling with this for a while and since you’re a godly man and I trust what you have to say I just wanted your outlook on this.

Also, for the mechanics of blogging, and ideas on how to grow your blog, one of the best sites is http://www.problogger.com/ Dene asked: The negative comments that you’ve posted made me wonder if anyone has ever said those types of things to your face and how you reacted if they did. I’m thinking specifically of the ones who questioned your decision to keep Abby in treatment. You’re so cordial in your answers, but I wondered if it was harder in person. Praying for you.

Thanks for the kind compliment and your trust in my opinion and judgment. First, your mother’s salvation is dependent on one thing only: her obedient respond to God’s offer of eternal life on His terms. I am not, nor could be, the judge of whether someone is saved or not. We can look at the “fruit” of someone’s life and have some indication. In the same way I can see apples on a tree and say “that is an apple tree”, we can see the product of someone’s life and have some idea of whether or not they are a “Christian tree”.

It’s actually easier in person because you don’t have people hiding behind anonymity. People are much less “brave” face to face, and usually we are able to give a kind answer that helps them understand that these tough decisions by hurting parents should not be second guessed and criticized by those who haven’t walked in their shoes. Sue asked: Hi again! Just repeating the question about creative ways for spouses and children to stay connected through deployments, and the effect of deployments on families, as we prepare for my husband’s second deployment with our 3 children. Thanks! When I was deployed for Desert Storm it was for a year and a half. Back then we had the phone calls but even email was not

If your mother’s life is showing no “fruit” that would give you reason to believe she is a “Christian tree”, then your first and foremost effort should be to proclaim the Gospel to her: you are a sinner and only God can rescue you from both the life, and the life to come. Speak God’s Word to her which is sharper than a razor and able to cut deep into her heart and show her the Truth.

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Why would you be angry with God about your mother’s choices? That makes no more sense than you being mad at me for what your mother chooses. Why are you angry at all? Sad, yes. Disappointed, of course, but why angry? Your mother has just as much right to choose her own course in life as you do. And you have no more control over her than she does of you. You anger is simply a choice. Don’t be angry. And certainly don’t be angry at God who is waiting with open arms for your mother to repent and be saved. God deserves the OPPOSITE of anger from you, for He is waiting and hoping and desiring that your mother turn to Him.

Gary asked: I don’t see much about your life history. Can you give us the 60 second, bullet point version of your life? Where you’ve been, what you’ve done, highlights of your life, what you’ve accomplished, what failed; don’t be bashful or humble. I think those of us who read your blog would know you better this way. Michelle will have to answer this one for herself if she wants, but I’ll do a rapid fire version of my life. So to the best of my memory, here is a rapid fire highlight nutshell of my life:

Pray for her. Love her. Speak God’s Word to her. Don’t be angry. Rejoice that as long as she has breath, God is waiting for her with open arms. Melanie asked: My husband’s family is very different from mine, they are not as touchy feely and can be a little flaky. I would love to talk to them all the time (they live a few hours away), but sometimes they don’t even call us back when we call them. They even reacted poorly when they found out we were pregnant with #3 and #4. I’m a really busy mom with 4 kids under 5yrs old, but I want to make time for them. Can you tell me what is the Christian way to react/reach out/respond to them? Thanks! Relationship is a two way street. Our parents (or any of our family) are PEOPLE too just like us, with all their quirks and problems. Sometimes our family is not nice. Sometimes they are bums and downright mean. People are people. I would say that you need to continue to reach out as “family” but if you think that “doing more” is going to change them, I’m afraid you will be disappointed. Sometimes we a choose a life (lots of kids and activity) that others in our family don’t like or don’t enjoy, and that’s just “life”. The “Christian way” is to continue to honor them and offer to be a part of their lives, but if they don’t want it, or make it difficult, your first duty is to your husband and children, not parents. Ideally, it all works together and things are wonderful but sometimes we have parents who are difficult, selfish, manipulative, demanding and hard to please. That’s just reality. Only THEY can change how they behave. Your only Christian duty is to continue to be loving, make reasonable attempts to include them in “family” togetherness and make reasonable accommodations for their particular quirks. But when those quirks becomes Unreasonable, it is not incumbent on you to bend to the whims of others. Be kind, be loving, offer to include them, make an effort… past that, focus on your children and husband and just accept that the other is what it is. It’s a little disappointing when we have to finally accept that our parents (or some other family member) isn’t going to be the ideal we hoped for, but again, that’s just part of life that we cannot change, therefore we shouldn’t try or eat up our emotions with it.

Born in Clinton Oklahoma. Dad in the Army. Mom managed day care centers. We were never in day care though. Public schools. Typical childhood. Playing. Fun. Chores. Had a dog named Skipper. Fought with my twin brother a lot. High school in Claremore, Oklahoma. Competitive tennis from age 15 which I still do now. Played softball for decades. Above average in whatever sports I played. Was the “artist” in our school. Always knew I’d do something with art. Managed restaurants at age 19. A year of art school but computers came out so I dropped out to learn graphics on my own. Went into the Army. Drill Sergeant for many years. Desert Storm. Got married. Worked on the Space Shuttle for 5 years, 29 launches. Black belt in Kenpo. Learned to play the guitar. My first real graphics design job with Lockheed. Active in church, taught and spoke often. Led worship for many years. Sang in Southern Gospel groups most of my life. Lived in North Carolina building houses for a while then moved back to Oklahoma. Suffered through the heartache of unwanted divorce. Started writing. A fanatic at reading and self educating. Learned web development, programming and database. Together with graphics and photography, started creating my own websites and blogs. Helped start several businesses. Continued learning business and technology. More writing. Routine teaching, mentoring and consulting. Started some magazines and online stuff. Got married. Adopted kids. Live in a very small town, work from a home office. Write daily, teach, speak, create things. Love my family. Very happy… to be continued. That’s probably more than you ever wanted to know, and there’s a WHOLE LOT more I didn't bore you with… if you have any other questions about my “life”, I’m happy to answer. One thing I’ve learned in my short 40 something years… my life is neither more important or more significant – or less important or less significant – than the lives of 20 billion other people who have lived and died. So I’m pretty transparent about my life, good or bad. My only hope is that something I have done or will do, will make some difference in a few lives for the good. Brent Riggs asked: Do you think anyone will have any questions today?

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I hope so. I love answering questions. What I can’t figure out is why you ask yourself questions that you then answer for yourself. That’s kind of weird isn’t it?

4/27/2009 5:11:00 PM

True or Not True? Travel Day in Hades

snatched it up and ran back to the car which was of course… gone. AAAAAAHHHHHHHH! With ten minutes it had been towed because I was parked in one of the places where you are not allowed to leave the car unattended. With bag in hand (I wasn’t going to forget it again), I trekked over to the car rental counter to discover that they tow rentals back to the company who owns them, so I just had to pay a big fine and I could get another car. I pulled out my wallet… my wallet… oh, crud… my wallet was in my briefcase in my hotel room. In my haste to get back to the airport, I had run out and forgot it. (I keep my wallet in my briefcase when I fly so that I can go through the metal detectors with no problems). This was getting almost comical now. I go out and BEG a cabbie to give me ride back to the hotel, promising to pay him when I get my wallet from my room. I think the only reason he believed me was because no one could possibly make up a story that good. Fast forward a few days on the day I returned…

[Note: “True or Not True” is a blog post where I tell a story about something that has (or maybe hasn’t) happened to our family. The fun is that you get to decide whether it is all true, all false, or partially true. Nobody believes half the crazy stuff that happens to us anyway, so we thought we should at least get to enjoy it! ~ Brent] Last week, I (Brent) had to travel to Charleston on business. I’ve traveled a thousand times but nothing would prepare me for what I was about to experience. To set the mood for the trip, on my departing flight I walk up to the ticket counter, “hi sir, do you have any bags to check?” As a matter of fact, I did. But I didn’t have them with me. I had parked, waited for a shuttle, got on the shuttle, made the trip to the terminal, walked in the terminal, waited in line, got to the counter only to realize I had left my bag in the car. Now I was looking at being late for my flight too. So I ran back out, caught a shuttle and did the whole thing again. Fortunately, I was able to get through ticketing and security quickly and I made my flight. Whew! At least I had all the bad stuff over with and the rest of my trip would be routine, right? Wrong. I get to Charleston. I get off the plane. I go get my rental car. I drive over to the hotel. I check in. I go to my room. See anything missing in that sentence? Yep! I forgot my bag AGAIN! So I hustle back to the airport and have to park my car at the curb hoping it won’t get towed as I sprinted into the Terminal praying my bag would still be there. I found it sitting out all alone with two other bags that were obviously unclaimed too. I

I pull up to turn in my car rental return and the only parking spot is THE LAST space in the last parking lot furthest from the terminal. Oh well, I need the exercise so I grabbed my briefcase AND MY BAG and march up the lot. I get inside the terminal to find that Delta is the VERY LAST ticket counter on the opposite side of airport. You notice a pattern starting to form here? Walk, walk, walk… I get to the counter and check my bags and head for security only to find out it is back on the OTHER FAR SIDE of the terminal where I originally entered. Hey, I wanted to start getting in shape, so here’s a jumpstart, right? No big deal. I make my way through the predictably slow moving security line, and guess where my gate is located? You guessed it… the LAST gate in the terminal. I’m working up a good sweat by now and feeling sorry for whoever has to sit next to me on a trip I was already dreading: two long layovers on a flight that usually had one layover and took about 4 hours. This flight had two stops, and would take almost 11 hours. Fun. We take off and land in Atlanta. Do we taxi right up to the gate and get off? Of course not. We sit on the runway for 30-40 minutes. Do we then proceed to a convenient gate location? Of course not. We pull up to the ________ gate in the terminal. Go ahead, fill in the blank. I’ll give you ONE guess. The LAST gate. Now, if you’ve ever been to Atlanta, you know it’s a LONG walk from one concourse to the train, to another concourse. I’m now in danger of not getting to my other flight on time. I’m in concourse D and the next flight is in concourse E. My legs are aching about the time I reach the train but I make it - glad that I only had to go to the NEXT concourse. Wrong again. The train was traveling in descending order, so I had to go to C, B, A and all the way around back to E. 308


to park your car with one set of wheels off in the grass pretty close to where a steep hill started. I get out, walk around my car and toward hers. About this time an 18 wheeler comes blowing by and the gust of wind knocks her car off the jack. Either she had put the jack under the wrong spot on the car, or had placed it on soft ground instead of the road. Either way, her car kind of teeters for a second, then the jack tips over. The woman immediately runs towards me screaming as the back end of her car starts sliding towards and slipping down this wet overpass hill. Like a slow motion movie, the car begins to gain momentum and then just “whoosh!” down the hill it goes about 30-40 yards I estimated. I kept expecting it to turn and roll over but it stayed straight and ends up butt first in a heavy stream of water that had formed from the storm.

I get off on concourse E just KNOWING that my gate could not possibly be the LAST one in the terminal AGAIN. What do you think I’m going to say next? I know you think I’m lying. I was at the VERY LAST gate in the concourse. Holy cow… I was about to cramp out already. Nonetheless, I endured and made it to my gate only to find my flight had been delayed over an hour and I could have taken my sweet time getting there if only I had checked the Departures board first. I was still feeling triumphant that I got my bag checked, and now I had some good exercise too. All was well as I tried to humor myself with the thought of having some great blog material to write about. Once we begin to board I hear the announcement, “now boarding Zone One”. I checked my ticket to see that I was in Zone Nine. Guess how many zones there were? No matter, I was getting on the flight even if I was last and except for a stop in St. Louis, was headed home. We land in St. Louis. You think I’m going to say we were at the last gate again, don’t you? Well, I’m not. We were in the NEXT TO LAST gate! No problem. St. Louis is not that big of an airport, unless you land in Terminal “A” and leave from another terminal which of course I was. I had to go to “D” terminal but couldn’t figure out how to get there until a Delta employee informed me “oh, when you come into ‘A’ and fly out another terminal, you have to leave security, walk to the other side of the airport, and go back through security all over again.” Arrrrggghhhh!!!!! It’s true… look it up. I’m already less than :30 minutes from missing this flight so I’m facing cardiac arrest to make this happen. But I did. I got out, then back in through security, and got to my gate (not quite the LAST gate, but close) hustling up to it expecting to run on to the plane as the door was shutting. Delayed. They had just determined some “security thing” needed to be finished and decided to delay almost an hour. At least I could go to the bathroom and catch my breath. Well, I finally land in Oklahoma City. Home sweet home… close to it anyway, I still had a :45 minute drive. I did NOT forget my bag this time and it was going to be smooth sailing to hugs and a warm, soft bed. Wrong again... as it turns out, my day had only begun.

Meanwhile, the poor lady is screaming bloody murder because apparently her three year old is still in the car. At least the car didn’t flip, and hopefully the kid was in a car seat. I take off down the hill, wade into the knee deep water and get the door open. Yes, the kid was in a car seat, thank heavens. It was almost cartoonish to see water and mud pour into her car when I opened the door. It was like something you’d see in a movie, not experience in real life. I got the child from the car seat, who seemed amazingly oblivious to the whole situation, and had the presence of mind to notice her purse and diaper bag. I grabbed all that and slogged my way back up the hill. By this time, the poor woman didn’t care a thing about her car and was, understandably, only concerned to see her child was safe. As it turned out, she lived in the same direction I was going, so I waited around for the tow truck to pull her car out and take it off wherever they take flooded cars, and gave her a ride home. She found the whole thing pretty funny (given that her child was safe) which was remarkable to me, and we both agreed it would definitely be a great story to tell the next day. Believe it or not, I made it home with no further adventure or delay. It’s been pretty boring since then. That’s my travel story and it happened just last week. What do you think? All true? None true? Some true? Leave a comment and let us know. ~ Brent

I’m driving home down I-35. It’s dark and raining. A thunderstorm had passed through and another appeared to be on the way. There are sections of the highway that are pretty well lit and it was one of these stretches where I saw a woman, in the rain, trying to change a tire. No matter what is going on, that is just not something I can drive by and ignore. I didn’t care about getting wet, I was already sweaty, stinky and tired, so what’s a little rain going to hurt? I pulled over, and backed up towards her. She had stopped on the upslope of an over pass, and you had

4/28/2009 6:05:00 AM

Laughter Lives Tuesday & the Truth About True or Not True 309


True or Not True? My Travel Day from Hades “I didn’t touch it Dad. I didn’t even clean off the table.” You know, the thing that makes a good story a good story is that it COULD be true. Most people thought the whole story was true; a few folks got the truth backwards, but a hand full of you savvy hounds couldn't be persuaded. The airport stuff is all true except for the car getting towed. The highway rescue? Not so much. Completely fabricated except for the thunderstorm part. I had a lot of fun with this type of post, and it seems you guys did too. I look forward to the next one. Laugher Lives Tuesday If you haven't seen the April Issue of Serious.Life Magazine be sure to check it out... or if you only got to look at part of it, now's a good time to revisit the issue. I'll be putting up the first "new format issue" some time next week. Laugher Lives Tuesday is a day when we all get to look forward to a good laugh. No rules, no stress, just OPEN SEASON FUNNY!

“Well isn’t that wonderful” I announce loud enough for all the kids to hear. “That water bottle just grew legs and ran away all by itself” I proclaim, marching down the hallway into our bedroom. I walked in the bedroom and my wife was sitting on the little loveseat we have in our room. “Those kids… “ I said exasperated, “Nothing is safe around here. They…” As I walk over to sit down on the far side of the love seat, I look over on “my side” where I typically set my stuff, like books, or my laptop or my… my… oh, my…guess what was sitting there? Yep, there’s my water bottle. And the only person who could have possibly put it there is yours truly. So, like the good father I am, I get up, walk to the bedroom door… and as I close it, yell down the hallway, “I better not find out who took my water bottle!” “You’re awful!” my wife said trying hard not to laugh, but not very hard.

Your post can be about whatever you want, just make it funny so we can all have a good laugh. I could use a good laugh. How about you? Pics, videos, jokes, stories... stuff about you or your own family... stuff off the Internet... WHATEVER. Our Laughter Lives From Brent: Last night I was looking for my water bottle. I’m trying to kick the soft drink habit so I carry about a big one liter water bottle all the time.

4/28/2009 2:26:00 PM

Mud Puddle Thunderstorm Pics We had a classic Spring thunderstorm blow through and dump a couple of inches of rain. The kids begged me to go outside and play. Abby went out too, but before I could get a picture of her having fun, she got cold and wanted to go in.

I had it at dinner time and realized I left it on the table at the mercy of the kids who were cleaning up after we ate. I go back to the kitchen, no bottle. Look in the sink and dishwasher, no bottle. Poke through the trash, no bottle. “Garrett, what did you guys do with my water bottle?” Predictable answer: I didn’t do anything with it. I track down Sami. “Sami, where did you guys put my water bottle when you cleaned the kitchen.” Again predictable, ”Nowhere Daddy, promise. I didn’t do anything with it.” “Christian!” I was on the right path now. My oldest son (living at home) is famous for such things. “What did you do with my water bottle? And don’t say ‘nuthin’.” 310


SpideyLandis was in hog heaven. He would have slept in that mud puddle if we would have let him.

SpideyLandis did an episode of AquaMan. Michelle wouldn't let me show you the great pics of his glorious buttcrack that made a grand entrance a few minutes later.

A classic thunderhead exploding in the Oklahoma sky. The clouds grow tens of thousands of feet in minutes and unless you 10-20 miles away you can't hope to get more than a small portion in the camera lens.

Sami enjoyed it even more than the little ones. She started out slow...

... but soon was going all out enjoy the puddle. It didn't take her long to make sure Landis was wet head to toe.

Abby was actually having a lot of fun too, but by the time I got the camera, she was shivering and cold asking to go back in the house. 311


Thank you so much for praying for us today. We are finally home after a very full day.

4/28/2009 4:11:00 PM

The tests went well. Some of the results were not what we hoped for, but overall it was a good day. Abby was well sedated for the procedures. After the months of enduring painful tests, we are thankful she was comfortable. I was with her the whole time. She was still, didn't appear to be in any pain and doesn't even remember the procedure. Praise God!

Update on Abby