Esther Pavao

I wanted to take a minute today to talk about one of my favorite miracles that God has done: my brother. At birth, my brother was born with congenital heart defects. A big word which summed up means, "Nothing exciting in your future". One of his valves in his heart was "stuck" and they performed a surgery on him within the first week of his birth. I won't go into all the medical terms that I've taken years to try to understand and can't remember what they're called, but they essentially sent a "balloon" down into his heart and tried to inflate it in order to release the tightness in the valve, and ripped it open, forcing them to perform open heart surgery on him. It didn't entirely fix the problem. The valve, while partially repaired, still leaked blood back into the chamber after pumping once, so his heart pumped a second time to send the rest of the blood on, making his heart beat twice when a normal person's would beat once. This began a series of hospital visits that frustrated Austin to no end.

Easter Photoshoot
When he was younger, the frustrations were hardly noticeable. He got tired before other people and he was not allowed to have any candy, soda, juice or popsicles with blue dye in the because when he stained the outside of his mouth blue, he looked like he didn't have any oxygen. As he got older and his friends were allowed to play sports while he was only allowed to spectate, he started to get angry with my mom and God for not letting him be normal.

Austin and Me!
Doctors and surgeons alike told him he'd never get to play sports or be active and his dream of becoming a pilot was ridiculous. No one in their right mind would let someone with his medical record pilot a plane because of the risk he held of having a sudden heart attack due to altitude. Many people would have given up and found a new dream. He could have chosen to give in and learn computer graphics or become a doctor himself, but Austin didn't. He begged for a chance to play soccer. The doctor was hesitant at first and told my mom a story of someone who had Austin's problem. He too had begged for a chance to play sports and wouldn't listen when they told him he shouldn't. He played football and one day, during a game,  his heart literally exploded. (That's what I remember being told. Maybe I was too young to understand the specifics of the story.) This story scared my mom and the rest of us, but Austin was undeterred, and after a lot of discussion, my mom finally decided to let him play soccer on the terms that he could only play goalie and had to sit out if he got tired.

This arrangement worked for a little while, but the exertion was making Austin's heart pump harder than usual and like all muscles, it started to grow with the exercise, sending him to the hospital for another open heart surgery at 15. This surgery, they said, would be the last one. They replaced the valve and it should've last for many years. A major infection discovered the day he would have been released from the hospital put him back in for another week. I remember how angry he was about this. He was so desperate to get out of the hospital and finally be normal.

I think it only took him two years to disintegrate that valve and have to have another emergency replacement. He was 18 this time and there was some question about how to do the surgery. All his previous hospital visits had been with Lebonheur hospital, but they specialize in children's medical care and Austin would normally have had to switch doctors at this point. His case was so complicated though, that my mom was very hesitant to have someone else perform the operation and against expectations, Lebonheur hospital agreed to keep him on.

Just over seven hours of surgery later, Austin was healed, and for good this time. He was not only allowed to play sports, he's receiving his medical records within the week to begin the process of getting his pilot's license. And a few days ago, he ran a half marathon (13.1 miles) in 2 hours, 9 minutes, and 44 seconds. We were asking if he felt all right and everything. His complaint?, "I wanted to do it in under two hours." Isn't that amazing? He will always have a scar on his chest and he will probably never be as bulked as other guys, but he is living proof that God still performs miracles. And I think he's pretty awesome.

Esther Pavao
I got outside of my box last night. It was Phil's birthday, and our house got cookie ingredients and since I had the night off, I volunteered to make them. Before I knew it, I had Vesper on one hip helping me run the mixer, Hopie measuring out dry ingredients, Faith helping with the wet and Sonrise and Caleb by my feet. And surprisingly, I had a blast!! They were adorable. Phil and Zube were there, and Phil said something that reminded me of what I wanted to blog about.

In our ladies meeting about three weeks ago, Jerusha said something that I haven't forgotten. We were talking about making good choices: what to wear, whether or not to eat, etc. What she said was something like we don't think enough of ourselves to make good choices for ourselves. We don't think we're worth it or don't care about ourselves enough. However, as soon as she had children, she had the ability to make better choices.

I am the same way. There is some music that I could listen to that doesn't affect me in the slightest, but some friends of mine struggle with it. There are clothes that I want to wear or I think look good, but if I put them on, my brothers struggle. What it comes down to, is that I don't think highly of myself and don't care enough about myself to listen to better music or wear more modest clothing. If it weren't for my friends and family and God, I'd do all manner of things that I would never do otherwise. But I don't do them. Because I care more about them than I do about me.

I think that if we care more about ourselves, then we can wear what we want, listen to what we want, and do what we want. If we care more about others, we'll do what is best for them and it's a small sacrifice. It only matters as much as you care about someone else.

So last night, we were making jokes about Phil eloping. It was all in jest and we were having fun, until Faith asked me, "Dassi, what's eloping?" I stopped laughing and looked at her. "It's running away and getting married without asking anyone." She looked at Phil and the look of shock and horror on her face stopped me dead in my tracks. She looks up to and respects Phil and could not imagine him doing anything like that. We quickly explained to her that he had done nothing like that and that it was a joke, but I'll never forget the look on her face. 

If I ever think of something I want, all I have to do from now on is imagine that look and know that I care more about Faith than I do about myself and even if I don't care enough about myself to make good decisions for myself, I care enough about Faith to make good decisions for her.
Esther Pavao
I just got back from a weekend trip to Jackson, MS to perform with WindDance at a Celticfest.

Friday morning, I worked at the Coffee shop and we were leaving at 1:30, so I packed the night before, staying up until after 1 making sure everything was complete. I got up at 4:45 am Friday, so I was pretty tired all morning at work and actually looking forward to the 5 hour drive, hoping I might be able to sleep since I had been pretty busy all week and hadn't had more than 5 hours of sleep a night for about two weeks. In a crazy whirlwind, we closed early, made it home and grabbed the rest of my stuff and went to the bus.

As soon as I walked to the car, my day started going downhill. I looked in dismay at the backseat of Johnny's tiny backseat. Both side seats were taken and as soon as I climbed in, I felt claustrophobic. I was crammed in between Maranatha and Samantha with my feet on the hump. Worse, I felt a migraine coming on. I scrunched down in the seat, trying to lay my head on the back of the seat and within five minutes my back and neck were aching. I sighed and sat up. So much for sleeping. I thought as we pulled out. This is going to be one miserable drive. 

Thunder rumbled and we drove straight into a wall of rain. I put my headphones in and turned my music up as loud as I could handle it so I wouldn't have to talk to anyone and looked out the windshield, keeping my mouth firmly shut to keep the complaints inside. I couldn't believe how bothered I was, but it just kept getting worse and I could not pull out of it. I closed my eyes and tried to pray, but couldn't. I leaned my head back thinking  The only thing that could  make this worse is if we got into a car accident. Actually, it might be better if we did. At least I'd be out of this car. There was a squeal of tires on the newly wet pavement and then WHAM! The car lurched forward and I felt myself thrown against my seatbelt. Yanking my headphones out, I turned around and saw that Asher's white van had rear-ended Johnny's little black jeep. Completely shaken, we pulled into the Bolivar BP and checked out the damage. The fender was dented and the back door wouldn't open, but the alignment was still ok and there seemed to be no problems. Apparently, the car in front of us stopped a little suddenly, forcing us to stop suddenly and the 15-passenger van, which was pulling the trailer with all of the luggage, couldn't stop fast enough on the wet pavement and had hit us from behind.

We had to pull over and answer questions for some police officers. I couldn't help but feel a little shaken. Literally as soon as I thought it, it happened. We hadn't even made it outside of Bolivar yet. My mom and Amy could tell I was tired and started trying to switch up the vehicles to move me somewhere I could sleep, which made me feel really bad. I didn't deserve it, but I got to switch to another van and sleep, waking up feeling much better.

For the rest of the weekend, though, I guess I forgot what God had gone out of His way to show me and before long, I got into that funk again. I don't know what it was, but everyone and everything started driving me crazy. The girls, who were behaving perfectly normal, seemed to me to be very immature. People were talking way too loud. Everyone felt like they had to walk on eggshells around me, and I could tell. The girls in my room went down to swim, and I, grateful for the opportunity to be alone and try to calm down, stayed behind. I pulled out my book, thinking that reading stories about missionaries would remind me that I had nothing to complain about, and wondering what on earth was the matter with me. As soon as I started reading, the girls came back...and turned on the TV. My black mood, which had drained away briefly, came back full-force and I had to force a half-smile on my face for all the girls who kept asking what was wrong, which I couldn't explain.

The next morning was no better. I woke up angry and on the verge of tears and as thoroughly confused about my mood as I was the day before. After breakfast, I escaped to our room, trying again to spend some time trying to get close to God, but He just seemed so far away, and I finally sent my mom a text when all the girls came back in and I was over it. She came and we talked for a little bit. It helped temporarily.

I'll spare all the details since this is getting much longer than I wanted. My mom had told me to stop thinking about myself and focus on other people. Stop trying to pray, stop trying to "be happy" just, think about the people with me and take care of them. Before long, I was smiling again. I had my friends laughing till they choked and I was happier than I'd been the whole trip.

I tell my friends that the only time I am insecure about my looks or my weight, it is because I was thinking about myself. Now, I will have to add that the times I am unhappy has nothing to do with God, has nothing to do with my circumstances, and even nothing to do with the people around me. It has everything to do with whether I am choosing to think about myself, or someone else, whether that someone is God, the friends I am with, or the person who walks by me.

My happiness is a choice, something I've been told before, and even believed, but never had to experience until this weekend. I had to apologize to a few friends after the weekend I put them through, and we're all fine again. (Thank God for my forgiving friends.)

Anyway, next time you get pulled under, remember that it is nothing to do with your circumstances, it is everything to do with how you see them.
Esther Pavao
I've been thinking a lot lately (a dangerous hobby, but necessary). I've been wondering why it is so hard for me to be content where I'm at. Clearly God put me here, and yet I struggle with wanting to be somewhere else, doing something else, being someone else, or whatever. I can't seem to just be where I'm at and be ok with it. I had a bit of insight, not sure where from really, but most likely from God. I think what I'm most afraid of is not being content, it's being complacent. I am afraid to allow myself to take root because I don't want to get stuck in a rut and miss God using the excuse that I'm learning to content myself. But the truth is that I need to be content. I need to be happy where God has me, but I can't allow myself to become complacent to the point that I don't want to move, I don't want to be anything different, I don't want to change.

Well this is much shorter than I had anticipated, but length doesn't determine depth I suppose, and even though this lesson may be blatantly obvious to some, it took me a long time to get there.