Valor got really pumped about Halloween this year. We walked around the neighborhood the week before to see the “Halloween scenes,” as Valor calls them, on people’s porches. I thought seeing the “scary” things in the daytime would help prepare him for the night of trick-or-treating. We also practiced a script that went something like this:
Abby: Valor, what do you do after you ring the doorbell and they open the door?
Valor: Say Trick or Treat!
Abby: Then what happens?
Valor: Give you candy!
Abby: Right! And then what do you say?
Valor: Trick or Treat!
Fortunately Valor scored Princess Lily to go trick-or-treating with, who, at 4, knows the script a lot better than he did. John reported that he did a good job, in spite of some heart-pounding encounters with animatronic witches and whatnot. One house had two fake-blood handprints and the word “HELP!” drawn out in fake blood on their storm door. Didn’t seem to phase Valor at all (probably because he can’t read), but John found it dripping with biblical imagery. At the last few houses, the dragon was without the assistance of the princess, and started getting creative with the script: the final “thank you” which he never really mastered was replaced by an emphatic “I want M&Ms!” Yes, M&Ms, Smarties, Twizzlers, and Gummy LifeSavers were his favorites.
When his stash was finally consumed a few days ago, Valor asked to go trick-or-treating again. I had to explain that it only happens once a year, that no one would have candy for him now. It was sad to see him realize that, just when he got the hang of it, Halloween was all over for (what seems to him like) a really long time.
Let’s back up to a little more Halloween fun. These are our friends, Ole and Margaret, who we’ve become close to over the past five months. They are 10 years younger than us, but they like 80s music—score! They have been an answer to prayer: friends who commute to church with us in Morehead but live close by in New Bern. Ole flies helicopters for the Marines, and we’ve learned a lot about military life through his stories. And that’s all I will say about that.
A couple weeks ago they took us on the base to show Valor the helicopters and let him climb inside one that was in the hangar for repairs. Valor wanted to push all the buttons, of course. “Look at all the clocks!” he said, pointing to the dials in the cockpit. And outside on the tarmac he flitted from helicopter to helicopter, trying to climb into each one. I don’t think he ever fully understood why we didn’t let him take off.
On the pregnancy front (yes, the video at the end of our last post revealed that #5 is due in June), I am 11 weeks now and so far everything seems to be ok. Although I have had no bad symptoms, we still have times of terror, doubt, and anxiety. I rented a heartbeat monitor at 10 weeks, and when I couldn’t detect the heartbeat, I started to get worried. Today my obgyn also couldn’t detect a heartbeat, which she said was not unusual for this point in the pregnancy, but it would have been reassuring to have heard it. I couldn’t get in for an ultrasound until Monday. So we are trying to rest in God’s sovereignty and care.
I am also learning that there is a difference between trusting that God is in control and just feeling helpless and fatalistic about the outcome. I am trying to fight my tendency to mitigate pain by lowering my expectations. Here is a quote from Paul Miller’s A Praying Life that was just what I needed this week:
“To be cynical is to be distant….A praying life is just the opposite. It engages evil. It doesn’t take no for an answer. The psalmist was in God’s face, hoping, dreaming, asking. Prayer is feisty. Cynicism, on the other hand, merely critiques. It is passive, cocooning itself from the passions of the great cosmic battle we are engaged in. It is without hope.” (p. 79)
This also reminded me of how King David fasted and prayed fervently for the life of his son in 2 Samuel 12. Even though Nathan the prophet had told him that God had decreed the child would die, he didn’t take that for a final answer and continued to passionately engage God for his baby’s life. He thought, “Who knows? The LORD may be be gracious to me and let the child live” (2 Sam. 12:22). When the son did die, David accepted this and worshipped God. But David believed in a “Who knows?” God, a God who is loving and mighty and able to save. That’s what I need to remember.
Our friends the Kennedys flew up from Orlando to visit in early November. Valor was pretty sure they came just to play with him. We played lots of games and had good long talks. It was really encouraging to spend time with them and learn more of their story.
We finally heard from the NIH about James’s CGH test. Answer to prayer: it worked the second time they did it, and interestingly his DNA came back totally normal, with no significant regions of heterogygosity at all. So, the genetics front is a complete dead end for understanding the highly unusual House of Gjertsen, at least until they develop some better DNA tests.
The leaves here have flared into color and fallen from the trees, and Valor’s beloved neighborhood “Halloween scenes” have all been packed away. He is sad that Halloween is gone, but I told him that soon there will be “Christmas scenes” to see. We are so thankful for the sharp corner of human history that is the Incarnation. Everything changed, that first Noel! Christmas brings hope to us again this year, even in our own uncertainties with the pregnancy. We’ve already hung our new Christmas light balls outside. It’s hard to resist giving Valor something else to get excited about.