Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Alive Day 2020

I woke up early this morning, and as the clock ticked closer to the well known minute he was shot six years ago, I held him tighter. Not willing to let go, I believed that if I held him through that moment, he could stay with me forever. Oh, how little have I learned in six years?

Chris has always had a heart for the eternal things - I've admired this about him greatly. In fact, the day before the shooting, as I stepped off of the West Ridge Church stage from leading a song called "Oceans", my husband jumped with joy at the certain assurance that He would one day experience eternity with Christ. He expressed, "I can't WAIT!" to which my mom said, "Yes, you can." I am not making that story up. God placed eternity on my husband's heart in the same way he was preparing me for the greatest purpose I've ever known.

Just 48 hours later, Chris was shot at point blank range with a shotgun in a workplace violence shooting. I recognize now that the greatest sacrifice Chris has ever made for me was choosing to fight for his life here, instead of letting the light fade and waking up immediately in the presence of God - pain-free, fully-known, fully-loved, forever.

Our trail of faith has not been easy but God has given us deep joy and moments of comfort. The surgeries have paused for now at 54, but I would be lying if I didn’t confess there has been discussion of more to maintain quality of life. As with most serious injuries, there will be no end to the chronic pain in this life...we will endure this together. There are losses we can not measure, and good gifts from God that we do not deserve. Life springs forth from death.

Elisabeth Elliot shares this story in her book "Keep a Quiet Heart" of a preacher from the 1800's named Ugo Blossi who wrote a sermon around John 15, describing with deep detail the process of the pruning of the vine. This particular line stood out to her, and not coincidentally me, as I reflect on this day that set in motion all of our days ahead.

"Measure thy life by loss instead of gain...Love's strength standeth in Love's sacrifice" - Ugo Blossi

"The life of the Vine is "not one of pleasure or of ease". Almost before the flower fades the fruit begins to grow, but instead of being allowed to grow where it will, it is tied immediately to a stake, forced to draw out of the hard hillside its nourishment. When "the fair shoots begin to wind and wave in the blue air, and feel how sweet it is, " along comes the gardener with pruning hooks and shears, "and strips it bare of all its innocent pride...and cuts deep and sure, unsparing for its tenderness and joy."

When the vine bends low with the weight of grapes, "wrought out of the long striving of its heart" the hands come ready to tear down the treasures of the grapes, the feet are there to tread them in the wine-press "until the blood-red rivers of the wine run over, and the land is full of joy." But the vine standeth stripped and desolate, having given all, and now its own dark time is come, and no man payeth back to it the comfort and the glory of its gift."
Winter comes, and the vine is cut back to the very stem "despoiled, disfigured, left a leafless stock, alone through all the dark days that shall come" While the vine undergoes this death, the wine it has produced is gladdening the heart of man. Life springs forth from death - this the central message of Christ."

Wine poured forth from our trauma...
- Recognition and respect for the sovereignty of God.
- Deeper understanding of the Attributes of God.
- The saving of many lives.
- A strengthened marriage forged in the furnace of affliction.
- Endurance...etc.

We will only know the true measure of this in eternity.

"Christ was forsaken, so must thou be too.
Thou wilt not see the face or feel the hand.
Only the cruel crushing of feet,
When through the bitter night the Lord comes down
To tread the winepress - Not by sight, but faith,
Endure, endure - be faithful to the end"

So there it is. Eternity is now on my heart like never before. Does this mean I will have a near death experience tomorrow? I sure hope not. But I can't help but think the way Chris did - that our faith in Christ should prepare us to keep our eyes so fixed on Heaven that one day we just wake up there. So for now, I hold my husband tight and thank our Father, the giver of all good gifts, for giving me this precious man not once, but twice.

Happy Alive Day, Christopher. May my love for you be felt in the Heavenlies.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Home and Recovering

Hello All!

It's an honor to share this good news with those who have been following our story...Chris is HOME and HEALING! We had another "side step" just before leaving when Chris fell in the hospital and fractured his T3 and T4 vertebrae. He was in a lot of pain. They kept him longer to monitor his head and spine. All seems slightly better now and he is walking more at home which helps with recovery. While the fall was disheartening, we kept thanking God that nothing upset his newly constructed bowels. He came home on about 20 medications so we have been a bit overwhelmed and trying to get a new schedule down.

The inflammation in his bowel has still not minimized to a point where he can eat anything other than liquids. He does have an ENORMOUS appetite (he craves Publix fried chicken, PB&J's, and chocolate milkshakes haha!) but sips of chicken broth and popsicles are all he can manage until the inflammation goes down more. They are going to do another CT scan in 3-4 weeks and we will see if he can incorporate more solids from there.

The doctors haven't talked about it in depth yet, but the next stage of recovery (when he eats) will be trying to get enough nutrition and maintain his weight with food and water. It will be incredibly difficult, but the goal for a young guy like Chris is to be off of the TPN and IV fluids. The diet is referred to as "low residue". I have been told that this process can take anywhere from three months to a year.

Keep you all posted after his next CT scan in a few weeks.

Jamie Lynn and Chris Sparkman

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A slow miracle is still a miracle!

It's been two weeks since the first CT scan, and another CT scan last week showed that the partial blockage was beginning to heal. Chris was finally put on a clear liquids diet over the weekend, and managed a few sips of broth and a bite of jello until he said he felt "Thanksgiving full". Baby steps!

Many ask about his spirits - although he is agitated by hospital life (pricks, beeps, nurses 24/7), he is happy to be moving forward. I've personally been able to witness hope light his face again. It feels like a gift. I watch him as we walk the halls and he believes - he KNOWS this is it. He is healing.

Almost two years ago, we received the letter telling us of Dr. Galloways team from our now dear friends, the Petersons. We didn't know it then - but it would be another two years of trials until we felt the tiniest, first fruits of harvest. We are so grateful for the letters and cards that encourage us along the way. Without the kindness of strangers, I can honestly say we wouldn't be here today.

Keep you all posted! One month in the hospital already, the goal is for him to rehabilitate at home soon. This is still the very beginning of a long road where Chris will have to learn to live with what he has left. A challenge indeed - but one he will not back down from. God has brought us THIS far already... :)

With gratitude,
Jamie Lynn

Friday, February 24, 2017

The CT Scan.

A corner has been turned. I remember talking about this corner when Chris was back at Kennestone. Always so close, and then thrown back into the pit after a leak in his bowel occurred. We are now walking in a direction of healing that we have never had the opportunity to go..that, very honestly, we were learning to look at life and feel Gods love for us with or without.

Chris' CT came back showing that there were NO LEAKS in his newly reconstructed bowel. You heard leaks.

We kept talking to the doctor after the report, but her voice was fading. The weight of what was said washed over us, like a grand wave on a shore, drawing our shackles back into the water with it. Tears. Freedom. Hope. Life. There is still a long road ahead...but the miracle we were learning to live without has been given and we give thanks to Jesus for what has been done.

Christopher still can not eat or drink due to a lot of inflammation around the site that was repaired. However, the doctor said this can be expected and he will recheck with a CT in 7 days. Chris' rehabilitation after eating will involve learning how to live with short-bowel syndrome as well as therapies to get his back pain under control, etc. We all have about 600cm of small bowel, Chris has approx. 165cm of small bowel remaining, you can live with will be a change, but we're thankful for the opportunity to continue life together.

Thank you all for praying. This is a miracle. This is Jesus.

With love,
Chris and Jamie Lynn Sparkman

Monday, February 20, 2017

Day 10

Today was the 10th day post-op. It's a milestone for us, as far as experiencing a "normal" recovery. However, today we have experienced what we hope is only a minor hiccup in the healing of his bowel. An X-ray showed that Chris has a blockage in what is left of his upper GI, which was signaled to us by him throwing up this morning. It was painful for him, but I do appreciate how the human body has a way of signaling for help when it needs it. It's possible it will clear itself, if it doesn't, they will insert an NG tube in his nose and access the situation from there.

I'll be doing a post soon of a timeline, so that the new readers can understand the big picture from April 2014 as well as a "refresher" for our friends who have been following this story from the beginning.

I will keep you all posted when we know more about this situation. I'll never forget what every trauma surgeon at Kennestone kept repeating to me after he was shot and survived the first 72 hours...they said this was a roller coaster, and to expect highs and lows. You think we would be used to them by now. I don't think you ever really get used to the fear of everything falling apart...

But that's not going to happen this time. Positive thinking, positive thankful prayers.

Will update you all soon.
- JL

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Surgery was successful, but with Chris there is always a "we'll have to wait and see" added on to the update. He truly is a medical mystery.
The surgeon made the smallest incision on Chris' abdomen that they say he's ever made to repair the hole in his bowel. He only had to remove 5cm, which leaves Chris with somewhere around 165cm. (You need 80 to survive on food and not IV nutrition). Chris will spend years trying to figure out how to live life with short gut syndrome. I'm told it's a process.

The surgeon said the bowel felt much stronger than before due to the trial steroids he has been on since August. As tough as they were on Chris, we're hearing they paid off! The next 14 days are critical, so he is not taking visitors at this time. We will let you know when he can.

The theme we haven't been able to ignore with this surgery are all the "differences" God has shown us. I believe He wants us to break out of the enemy's stronghold of the "same old thing". (C.S. Lewis "The Screwtape Letters"). What a miracle we have watched unfold over the last 48 hours. More about this later.

With that said, please say a prayer for me because I went home last night feverish/achey/chills and I put my faithful trusty second string in - my mom. It was hard to leave his side, but I couldn't subject him to whatever has taken me down.

He is well looked after by family and Emory. I have a peace he will be watched with the eyes of an eagle in my absence.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Road Continues

It is with a humble heart that I tell you all that Christopher will be going back into surgery on February 10th. This surgery will be similar to the last few, but there are many variances in Christopher's body (many not seen since before the shooting) that give our surgeon optimism and hope that this will be successful.

Many people have asked, "is this a good thing?" Well, yes. It's the path God has sovereignly asked us to continue, and He has promised absolute goodness for our lives. There will be relief. There will be healing. It's coming.

When I was contacted about the surgery, overwhelmed with confusion, I told my mom that I could not fathom another extended hospital experience. I was tired, and to see Chris in helpless amounts of pain again was something I have begged God to never experience again. She told me to look back at what God has done. Go back to the beginning of this story, and find His promises tucked inside those little miracles all along the way. (Thank God for moms)

So, I open the scrapbook, reread my own blog and journals...and Jesus fills us again with His immeasurable strength. We will be equipped.

I was reminded of this verse through Instagram this week (oh yes, God can use Instagram to speak to us) and I couldn't be more grateful for this Word to cling to during this time.

"We forget so easily. Remember, intentionally. And when your soul carries complaint, complain in the right direction."
- Brooke Fraser Ligerwood

"I cried out to God with my voice
And He gave ear to me.

In my day of my trouble I sought the Lord;
My hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing;
My soul refused to be comforted.
I remembered God, and was troubled;
I meditate within my heart, And my spirit becomes weak.

Will the Lord cast off forever?
And will He be favorable no more?
Has his mercy ceased forever?
Has His promise failed forevermore?
Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut his tender mercies?

I will remember the works of the Lord; 
Yes, I will remember Your wonders of old. I will also meditate on all Your work,
And talk of Your deeds.
Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary;
Who is so great a God as our God?
You are the God who does wonders;
You have declared Your strength among the people."
Psalms 77:1-3, 6-9, 11-14