Naming T-shirts

I have a quirky thing I do. I give people t-shirts. Not actual t-shirts, but t-shirts in my mind of descriptive words that capture a phrase or personality trait that is true of a person or situation. For example:

Leila (of the Awesome Threesome) says “Lord have mercy!” when she gets overwhelmed or can’t find words to express a big jumbled mess. Her t-shirt would say that phrase on the front.

Margaret (National Director of Leadership Developement for Epic, and truly incredible woman) often prefaces what she says when dealing with complex ministry related challenges, “From an LD perspective” so that would be my t-shirt for her.

My friend, Kierstin, has contagious enthusiasm and passion. Her t-shirt would read: “AWESOME!” 

I would give my strong, extremely broad-shouldered husband, Darrin, the same description as Starbucks French Roast coffee: “Smoky and Intense”

You get the idea…

Well, the t-shirt I would give myself that captures these past few weeks and months would read:

“Are you kidding me!?!”

and maybe down a bit in smaller letters: “seriously?”

and maybe on the back: “What in the world!?!”

Lately I’ve been muttering, sometimes sighing, sometimes exclaiming out loud these phrases. Repeatedly.

We have been in a season of bewilderment. This summer between Michael’s broken wrist, surgery and multiple casts, losing our dog Max and nearly $5000 in vet bills, and unexpected but extremely draining ministry challenges, we received a ray of sunshine in the gift of our puppy Koa. Read his story here.

Last week, after multiple visits and calls to the vet, we learned that Koa has a congenital disease called: megaesophagus. You can read about it here. The website x-rays look just like Koa’s after his barium tests.

Are you kidding me!?!

Of all the puppies in the world…

Our sweet Koa can’t swallow food normally because his esophagus muscles don’t work and the food just pools and balloons in his esophagus. This explains why he repeatedly threw up the first week we had him. It wasn’t the worms, the deworming medications, me overfeeding him, food allergies, puppy vaccines or trying a new dog food. Nope. Koa has this condition that he likely will not outgrow (a very, very small percentage of puppies outgrow it and that’s what we are praying for).

What this means is that we have to feed him six small meals a day and give him medications and we have to feed him upright so gravity can move the food down to his stomach. We need to hold him upright for about ten minutes after he eats or drinks and watch carefully so he won’t aspirate. This could lead to pneumonia which can lead to death.

Are you kidding me!?!

So this is the way Koa eats and drinks in our kitchen six times a day.


And when he grows too big to hold upright after his meals he will need to sit in one of these contraptions called a Bailey chair to eat:


Are you kidding me!?!

I’m laughing. Then crying. Then laughing and crying at the same time.


Even as I type and look at that picture I am laughing.

What in the world!?!

So now we have a specials needs dog. We have been talking as a family about what this means for us. We are praying for supernatural intervention and healing for Koa. He is not experiencing any pain and is putting on weight. Since he was born with this condition, this is all he’s ever known. Darrin wisely said, “I don’t want the kids to grow up associating that good means blessing. Life has both good and hard. Just because things are hard doesn’t mean that God has stopped blessing us or stopped being good.” We don’t know how long Koa will live because of having this condition. I’ve read about puppies who only make it a year because of complications with pneumonia. I’ve also read of dog owners spending tens of thousands of dollars getting feeding tubes and various medical treatments and we certainly don’t have that kind of luxury. There is no cure for megaesophagus. His condition taps into my ongoing struggle of wanting to fit in all of my life (it will be my second book after the cancer book). Now I’m one of THOSE dog owners. I’ll have a doggie high chair in my kitchen.

What in the world!?!

So laugh with us, cry with us. We sure would appreciate you praying for us and for Koa, too.