Thursday, July 24, 2014


Last week's post (read it here) shared the miraculous story of the birth of our grandson, James.  He had an AVM, a malformation of the vein of Galen in his brain. He began with a 77% death rate before he was even born last November. Three brain surgeries and drops of glue finally saved his life, sealing off the malformed, monstrous vein. The amazing thing is the only incision is a small one in James' groin, in which to thread the tiny catheter! Imagine!  Brain surgery with a one inch incision! This post is to hear from his parents, Dave, Katy (our daughter) and me, his grandmother, about this journey. 

God worked miracles not only on James' body but on us, his family.  We want to share those God moments for His glory. So this question and answer will let you into the parents' hearts.  And mine, James' Nana. 

What was your first reaction, during pregnancy, when you learned the MRI showed something wrong in the brain?

Katy:  I couldn't accept that my baby would die.  When I thought about it, I felt sure we were the exception.  The more we learned, it was more than I could handle.  I tried to do normal with home schooling and housework. I felt very alone so far from my parents.

Dave: I thought, OK, so this is a lot more serious.  As we drove the hour or more home, I immediately grew quiet and prayed a lot. I knew the Lord had a reason.
Nana: Disbelief. Katy called me.  I expected her to say false alarm.  Instead she said, "It's not good news, Mama. . ."  She explained the danger.  I thought, well they've been wrong before.  This is probably just another alarmist in the medical field. I guess I was in denial.

Oma & Opa VanKesteren
Papa & Nana Henderson

Was there a first "God Moment" personally for you?

Katy:  Yes.  When Mama called and said, “Katy, I’m coming.”   At that moment, when I knew my mom was coming, I felt a huge weight lifted.   I knew she'd be with us at this birth. They'd set a date to induce. I didn't feel alone.

Katy: Another day, at home, I was completely overwhelmed physically, trying to do normal with the kids.  I was spent emotionally, unable to hold it in.  Crying, I answered the phone and heard my sister-in-law's voice.  Jolene came right over to relieve me. I knew I couldn't walk this road alone. I felt God taking over and using His children.

Dave:  It may not have been the first, but one of the most powerful times was after picking up Katy's mom at the airport in Detroit.  We were stuck in traffic crossing the border into Canada. Traffic was not moving when I spotted a Texas license plate on the SUV to our left. I love Texas.

Why is Texas special?

Dave: Well I love America but especially Texas because it's legal there to shoot wild pigs 50 feet from a helicopter.  But on the vehicle were 3 other things that God used to speak personally to me. . .to us all.  A decal that read "You'll get through this."  A sign of the fish. The third thing was in the middle and really blew my mind.  It was the name Kate. Mom suggested I take a picture of it.  

 Nana: That was my first of many God moments.  It was so personal, so beyond coincidence.  I felt Him near, telling us that He was with us every step of this journey.  He was.

What else helped you cope through these months?

Nana:  Facebook family and friends praying, sharing Bible verses.  Humor!  Dave and I especially share that bond.

Katy: The world's largest Ronald McDonald House provided our home away from home each time we were in Toronto from birth through the surgeries.  Meals there were wonderful.

Dave: I come from a large Dutch family.  They took care of our other five children and house every time we were away.  Church friends helped too, brought meals or visited us in Toronto.  We were encouraged by them all.  Back home (four hours away) they cleaned our house top to bottom more than once.  They left meals for us, knowing we'd be busy once we came home.

Nana: Yes, James' other grandmother, known as Oma, did what I could not do, in caring for our grands and organizing the family to meet so many needs.  God's plan even included getting some of the children into the Christian school, when homeschooling became impossible. Their family, friends and pastor even shuttled me to and from the airport during my three flights over the months.  What a blessing.

Another God-moment came when we drove over three hours to Toronto for James' birth.  I felt weak, lost in this huge hospital.  I'd packed a black outfit in case the birth turned into a funeral. Then our cheerful labor nurse introduced herself, "Hello.  I'm Kathryn."  Katy and I smiled because she shared OUR name.

Katy: It's also my grandmother Tippett's name. She's in heaven. We'd already talked about her. Mom said, "James will be in the arms of a Kathryn today, either here or there."  He knows my name.

Nana: Our name. Then another nurse and a pediatrician in NICU said, "Hi! I'm Kathryn. . ."  Too many times to be a coincidence.

Dave: God used several doctors to touch me personally. It began with Dr. Ryan Hodges who first gave us hope when he said, "Of course we can do something.  We have some of the world's best doctors in this area here."  I'm Dutch and we Dutchmen share a common bond.  Then I began to meet our doctors, many were Dutch-- Dr. Karl terBrugge, Dr. Johannes Kunen, Dr. Peter Dirks. We even spoke Dutch at times. 

He knows my name. 

No doubt God taught you many lessons. What did you learn through this journey?

Nana: Peace.  Unbelievable peace in horrific circumstances. I learned Peace is a Person, not an emotion.  It grew my faith. During the eight month ordeal, there were times I could not be there with the kids and James. But Jesus was with us both, providing peace, unifying us. 

I flew up three times and Doug twice, buying expensive one way tickets.  God supplied our financial needs. A huge yard sale cleared our attic, netting $2,000 just before all this began. A former pastor's wife mailed us a check.  It covered a ticket.  Family helped with expenses. Jehovah Jireh was our Provider.

Katy:  Comfort.  When we faced a 48 hour life-or-death survival period, it rocked my world. But I looked and saw my daddy on one side of me.  I knew my heavenly Father was on the other side of me.  My panic dissolved.  I had two fathers with me in the valley of the shadow of death.  

My husband's love and strength as a godly man held me together at times too.  Once he told me God flooded his mind with Scripture.  Another night as James had a seizure in my arms, Dave calmed me down with his faith. His lead was a help for me to follow.

Dave: What Katy's describing was in the car driving home after we first heard the bad news, before James was born.   I first felt God near during that quiet drive home. I tried to pray. Suddenly my mind raced as Scripture flooded my brain.  It poured, faster than I could have thought it:  I will never leave you. . .all things work in the Lord with all your heart...count it all joy when you fall into diverse temptations...whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth.  He was speaking to me!  From verses memorized as a child! I knew as God's child this was in the hands of the Lord.  My faith in God's sovereignty grew.  Even if He took James, I KNEW He was in control.

You mentioned humor?  How does that play a part?

Dave:  Mom laughed every time I shared quotes and scenes from Mash and Mayberry episodes.

Nana: (laughing) EVERYTHING reminded Dave of a show.  I love Andy Griffith but had never even seen Mash.  

Dave: She did after we got home.  We stayed up late watching several Mash shows I'd recorded.

Katy: Music also helped me.  After he was born, one night I had a nightmare about James.  He was pale then suddenly I saw blood  spurting out of the top of his head!  In my dream I felt grass under my nose because I knew my knees had buckled. I woke up. When I finally calmed down and got back to sleep, a song ". . . thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed thee..." came to me. He gives songs in the night.

Nana: God speaks to us in our love language. . .humor, music.  Sometimes mine is chocolate or 50% off sales!

Would you call any of this a miracle?

Nana: I felt that I was witnessing a miracle the moment James was born.  Katy had one hard push. . .ONE!  She does give birth quickly but never this fast. He popped out, breathed then cried without help. No birth trauma. I KNEW he'd just beat those 77% mortality stats. They let Katy cuddle him briefly then took him to the surgical room beside us in case he needed help. He didn't.

Katy: Mama peeked in on him and said, "He's pink!"  I think we all sensed God working. James was already in the 23% to have survived birth.

Dave: We were also told that even with surgery, only 3 out of 10 made it.  Those 3 surgeries ahead were miracles to come! Yes, we saw many miracles.  God used the doctors to perform some of them.  They respected the body's power to find ways.  We knew it was God's work too. "We're fearfully and WONDERFULLY made."

This was at Ronald McDonald House a few days after James' birth.
Nana was with us this time, so we Face Timed Papa.

Are there times that stand out on this journey?

Katy:  Yes, back home at 2:00 AM one night, we rushed James  to our local hospital Emergency Room.  Dave's brother, Mike, a policeman, heard on the scanner about a Hyundai without tags at the hospital.  He figured it was us because we own a dealership. When I saw him walk in I knew God sent family.

Again I felt alone one night after James had a seizure but before we were airlifted to Toronto. Waiting for the flight, I pled, "Lord, please let me see someone I know."  Soon as I prayed though I thought maybe it was a selfish prayer.  But once again in Emerg, one of the nurses on duty came in.  It was Rebecca, someone I knew from church. He heard my cry!  I knew God loves to give gifts to His children.

Nana:  The night James was born Dave and I slept at the hospital. I was in a recliner next to Katy's bed.  He found a sofa in a waiting room.  Exhausted, we slept.  God knew we needed a more comfortable place though.  Getting into the Toronto Ronald McDonald House is difficult.  But one phone call by our social worker and the doors opened.

Dave: Every time we've been to Toronto, space there opened up.  Last time when Dad was with us, it was a 10 day stay.  There were only 3 rooms left.  It filled up right after we got in.

Nana:  Another trip to Toronto and during the hours driving there, we had no place to stay.  Within 2 blocks we got the call, "We have a room for you here at Ronald McDonald House.  Come right on."  Five minutes later we walked in. And look who welcomed us to dinner!  We made duck faces and lightened the moment.  

James, no one ever asks you about all you faced.  Do you want to show your scar and tell us about it?


Thank you, sweet boy!  Anything else any of you would like to add?

Katy: Tell about Dave's dad, James' Opa.

Nana: James' other grandfather, Mr. VanKesteren (the original David!) is a conservative politician, a member of parliament (MP), serving much of the year in Ottawa, away from home.  This is similar to our senators in D.C. God gave him a platform there to publicly thank the brilliant medical staff and pioneers whom God used to save James' life.  

VanKesteren addresses The House of Commons of Canada in this short TV clip.

This shot of James was taken today on his
new deck at home.  CURED!

YES! We are blessed and will be eternally grateful to God and the many people He provided on this journey. We all grew closer to Him and each other in our foxhole. 

James is already a world missionary, driving many to their knees in prayer for him. God heard. God answered.  

Yes, Jesus loves me.  This I KNOW!  

And He loves you.  Do you know Him personally?
Here's how.


This is a 2 part blog sharing our story.  It began just before Thanksgiving last November. This week's post briefly covers the medical part of the story.  Next Friday will be a Question and Answer interview of mother, father and me, Nana. It will reveal the spiritual part of our bend in the road.

Our daughter, Katy, was a month from giving birth to her sixth child.  She's only known quick births with beautiful, healthy babies.  Until now.

Dave and Katy decided not to know the baby's sex this time since they had 4 boys, 1 girl and plenty of baby clothes. So they expected nothing unusual from a sonogram to see if the baby's head was down.  But when the midwife phoned Katy with the report, it sounded serious. It was. "They spotted something on the brain."

Another city, another test, another day revealed this little boy (they changed their minds--he needed a name, James) had an AVM*.  We soon got a crash course on *a vein malformation. This one was an enlarged vein of Galen in the middle of his brain.  The huge vein grows and stresses the heart to handle the extra blood flow.  

One doctor said, "It's like having an extra baby on board.  James' heart is overworked, already enlarged even in the womb.  The death rate is 77%, from cardiac arrest during the trauma of birth."

We all reeled, trying to grasp his words.  Fear swirled.  Hearts raced.

The doctor continued, "You need to drive the 3 hours to be in Toronto for his birth.  World renown neuro doctors there pioneered surgery in this rare area."  Glimmer of hope.

EIGHT MONTHS, Nov. - July, condensed:
Birth.  Three brain surgeries.  Two emergency airlifts.  Seizures.  Eight month old James slept after the third surgery.  The doctor spoke, "If he survives the next 48 hours, he will be cured."  
 CLICK HERE for more on James.

If he SURVIVES?  Survives?  Nothing prepared us for those words.  We felt a collective kick to the stomach.  It drove us to pray, to cry, to wait, to trust God. . .together those 48 hours.  We stood, deathly still, at the crossroads between life and death. Friends and family prayed as we sent out Facebook requests.

Prayers swirled worldwide.  Warriors stormed heaven and our support flowed like wind beneath our wings. We felt protected, placed by God in His refuge.  We asked God to increase our faith and peace. He did. 

Doug was in Canada with them.  In this iPad picture I wondered if this might be my last look at James alive. I could see the new veins working on his forehead. Could he handle it?

Then at last two days later. . .CURED! We're both in a better place now.

Now it's blood thinner for awhile, future MRIs just to monitor.  But we're rounding 3rd, heading home.  In the south we call it the short rows.

Last week they all were at the Dekens (Oma's family) reunion.  James is in Katy's arms, next to kneeling Dave, bottom left.

This is the medical part. Next Friday we'll have a Q & A blog to give perspectives from the hearts of James' parents and grandmother, me, Kathy.

Thursday, July 17, 2014



I stopped at the light and saw the homeless man, his sign begging for food, and thought, "Get a job!"

Listening to my friend complain on the phone for 30 minutes took my joy for a nose dive.  I dread her griping because it's so depressing.

Opening the mail, I found a medical bill much higher than expected.  Gripped by fear, I moaned out loud, "How are we ever going to stay on our budget?"  

I've got 10 extra minutes, just enough time to grab some bread from Aldi and still be on time to the church meeting.  Then I landed in line behind 3 shoppers with carts fully loaded! No one offered to let me and my tiny bag of bread cut ahead.  Foot tapping, throat clearing and heavy huffing did nothing to show them my impatience!  Ugh!

Adding to my annoyance, the toddler in the cart in front of me spilled his drink all over himself. . .and ME!  I glared as his mother cleaned him up, ignoring my plight completely. By the time I finally checked out, the clerk said, "Have a good day."  I snapped back, "Too late for that!"

Dashing to my car, I raced ahead of the lady driving out, knowing I had to make the light in time. Success!  At last!  I beat her so maybe I'll be on time after all.

As I came to the church meeting and saw all the financial needs, I spoke, "I don't see how we can do all this with our limited budget.  Maybe we need to cut back on some of the ministries until we have more money.  It's just good business not to operate in the red." Others agreed.

On the way home my cell phone rang.  It was my piano student, Jerry.  "Mrs. Henderson I hate to tell you but I gotta miss another piano lesson tomorrow because of our ballgame." I sighed deeply then scolded him about his priorities.  I know it won't change anything but as his teacher I owed it to him to tell him the truth!  At least I felt better telling him he probably won't be ready for recital.

Home at last, I reached for the remote and a big box of chocolates.  Ahhhh!  Reward time for a tough day.  I downed the whole delicious box.


The homeless man approached our car at the stop light.  My daughter, Katy, rolled down her window and handed the filthy young man her apple with, "God bless you."

I listened to my friend's familiar drone of complaints on the phone.  As she vented I smiled with an occasional "Unh-huh. . .bless your heart." I also did my nails.  French manicure looks great. I'm happy, happy, happy.

As our bills arrived, exceeding our budget, I prayed, "Lord, help me to first seek Your kingdom. I know you'll cover the rest."  He did!  Always does.

My To Do List grew and my time shrunk.  Shrank?  Became less.  I waited in the back of the long line at Walmart. Then a mother of three, cart full, got behind me.  I let her go ahead. Instead of meatloaf, we'll have BLTs tonight.  Fresh 'maters!  Mmmmm-mmmm good.

Sweet little Anna Grace came to me after family movie night at church, tears in her eyes.  I had tears too because we were both touched by the film The Son of God.  Young Katheryn joined our conversation.  We quietly talked about what He did for us.  Suffer the little children to come.

I waited for that only parking space as the elderly man slowly backed out.  Looks like everyone's out shopping today.  Then a lady drove up just as he left.  I gestured her to go ahead and take the last spot.  She waved a thanks.  I found a space at the back of the lot. Oh well, I need the exercise.

Pastor reminded the congregation, "As a church reaches a certain age, maintenance expenses grow.  Give above your tithes--offerings cover things like sound systems, re-surfacing the parking lot and so forth.  God will honor your faith in giving."  They did.  He does! We're a church, not a business.  We walk by faith, not by sight nor balance sheets.

My piano student arrived late. He was very distracted, obviously unprepared.  "What's wrong?" I asked the middle schooler. He cried and talked about the bullies at school. "They call me a nerd!" he sputtered, frustrated, hurt.  I praised his abilities and intellect and told him that one day, they'd all look up to him.  Today he's finishing his college engineering degree.  They do look up to him. Soon they'll work for him too.

I reached for the bag of Dove dark chocolates.  I ate one.  ONE!  It's a miracle!

All of the above events actually happened.  They are true.  The almost part is that they were not in one day.   

Each event, in both lists, reveals whether or not I had love, joy, peace, patience, etc. 

On any given day I may choose to live out this verse or not.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

SURPRISE PLANS (Pictures and a video included)

Hello. My name is Kathy and I'm a planner.  Confession done!  Yes, I've even been accused of being overly organized.  But that usually comes from someone totally NOT organized.  So it doesn't count.

God's teaching me about planning.  Yes, it's good to plan your work and work your plan but I'm learning to let it be HIS plan.  It's not just in life but a daily, moment-by-moment thing.

Consider it pure joy...
My learning process is. . .well, a process. . .ongoing.  But seems to come down to two words:

When I love someone or something, I grip tightly.  God's teaching me to hold loosely.  It's His. Yes, even my precious family.  We make vacation or travel plans.  

He says, "I'll be with you in the hospital waiting room."  And He is!  Flexibility.

The second word?

List-making for me is almost art!  You should see my plan sheet for vacation week with the clan.  It's way beyond menu and events.  It's color coded for certain days, people, activities. Gives me the illusion of control.  

He says, "I know the plans I have for you. . ." And they ARE good, even better than mine! Colorful sunsets (I usually miss the sunrises, but my daughter-in-law, Mary, soaks them up), brilliantly colored fresh fruits, veggies and flowers designed by God Himself.  

Never thought of Woody Allen as a theologian but he agrees with my discovery.

So as I plan the day, summer vaca or whatever, I try to remain flexible and let God have control.  Looking back over recent times, I see what an amazing job He's done when I just

Here are a few UNplanned treasures that came my way.

As I post this blog, our little baby James (above) is sleeping in a hospital room in 

Toronto. He's now 7 1/2 months old.   Tomorrow at 9 AM he faces his 4th brain surgery.  

It is urgent, unexpected, unplanned.   We rest in God's hands and trust His plan.

Alex Kendrick (movie maker--Facing the Giants, Courageous, Fireproof)
crashed our girl cruise. Or maybe it was the other way around.

Doug surprised me with this anniversary joy ride!  God does that a lot too, if I LET Him!

Friday, July 4, 2014


File this blog post under So You Had a Bad Day.  Next time you feel you're in the throes of one, just look at these pictures.  You'll feel better!  Instantly.

Run, Forrest!  Run!

Oh deer!

Uh, Houston, we have a problem. . .


And a VERY bad last day. . .