A Thousand Words | And, Smiling Through the Struggles

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It had sure been a week when we found ourselves at Cucumber Falls in Ohiopyle State Park last Saturday morning. It seemed like it was one medical mishap after another all week long. Nothing major, praise God. No ER visits or helicopter rides. Just the constant day in and day out grind, escalated as Belle grows and changes and we have new challenges to figure out. Like any child, what works during one stage of her development doesn’t necessarily work at the next one, so we have some growing pains and we have to rethink our approach. And, believe me, for that challenge we are VERY grateful. This was our first trip to Ohiopyle State Park, so we didn’t know what all was there for us to get in to. We could see the falls from afar and it certainly didn’t look like much of a hike to get to them. Cucumber Falls was listed as “easier hiking” on the state park’s brochure. We quickly found out a hike like this one, that would have been nothing for Joey and I, was quite the challenge when you throw in a three year old. Then, add a one year old on Joey’s back, scratch that-a one year old with an IV line, scratch that-a one year old with an infusing IV line, and a “simple hike” turned in to quite the feat.

We quickly surveyed the situation, and decided if it was a risk we wanted to take. We tossed the most essential medical supplies in the hiking backpack, made an escape plan, should we need one, and set off. Jonah had a blast hopping from rock to rock, occasionally missing and jumping in the water, pretending he was on a survival adventure. I chased after him, jumping in and out of the water alongside my boy. Joey and Belle had their own adventure. At times Joey would have to climb up steep rocks on all fours and Belle would be flat on his back. Each time I could hear her squeal with delight, followed by “Ohhhh,” or “Whoaaaa,” or “Wowwwww.” At one point, they took a different route than Jonah and I because Joey knew he only brought one pair of shoes for the weekend and didn’t want to have to step in the water. He nearly pushed me to my Mama’s breaking point when I looked over to see him, with our sweet infusing one year old on his back, walking across a wet, fallen log with rushing water beneath them. He flashed his handsome smile at my dirty look and kept going. There were a few spots we both stopped and wondered if we should turn back and not chance it. After all, storm clouds were moving in and a downpour would pose a major medical problem for us. Fueled by the week we had just had, and without having to say it to each other, we knew we had to keep going. Eventually we made it to the top and the kids were both completely in awe of the beautiful falls.

It’s true that a picture is worth a thousand words, and there is so much more to the picture posted above than just the four of us standing in front of a modest, yet beautiful waterfall.

From this family picture alone, one can’t see the countless hours our nurses put in to organizing and packing our medical supplies so we could hike to a waterfall as a family.

One can’t hear the phone calls I made prior to this camping trip (and every camping trip) to the local ambulance station for wherever we are going so they were aware of our situation should we have to call 911.

One can’t see the frustrating week of endless medical care we spent prior to this hike.

One can’t see less than 24 hours before this picture was taken, the night before, Joey and I in the camper, thinking we might have an emergency on our hands, me freaking out as usual, and him keeping his cool as usual and figuring it out; thus avoiding calling the ambulance station I spoke to earlier in the week.

One can’t hear me telling him the night before, “I want to go home NOW” because of said situation.

One can’t see the amount of patience a certain three year old had on this hike.

Likewise, one can’t see the amount of patience the aforementioned three year old has to have day in and day out; nor the endless love he has for his sister regardless of the fact that he has to practice “patience=waiting WITHOUT complaining” more than any other three year old I know.

One can’t look at this picture and understand the importance of the six getaways we took as a family of four this summer when our home is constantly full of people outside of our four (nonetheless people whom we love dearly and without whom, I’m certain we could not live the full life we do).

One can’t look at this picture and understand what it truly meant for us to hike to this waterfall this day, to conquer one more challenge after having been beaten down, but not destroyed the week prior and many weeks prior.

One can’t just look at a picture of smiling faces on social media and have any idea that maybe there is a struggle behind the smiles. I’ve been through enough myself, and talked to enough hurting people to know that life isn’t always just smiles, rainbows and butterflies. And yet, that is what we so often share on social media. I post a lot of pictures of us smiling on my page. And it’s true. We smile a lot, and we truly have a lot to smile about. I have experienced more joy in the last two years than at any previous point in my life. This picture is authentically, four very joyful people. But behind every smiling picture is a story of normal people, with hurts, and fears, and sadness, along with joys, and triumphs, and overcoming. The smiles on our faces are an overflow of the struggles we have faced and, by the power of Jesus Christ in us, and not in our own strength, overcome as a family. I wonder if maybe there are others out there who hold a struggle behind their smile? Keep smiling, my friend. The waterfall is always worth the hike it took to get there.

I don’t think a thousand words would be enough for me to describe my gratitude for this day. Thank you, Lord. May there be many more waterfalls and opportunities to  “smile through the struggles” in our future.





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