Once again, it’s been quite a long time since I’ve updated this blog. So much has happened, and I was honestly too overwhelmed to write anything for awhile. Life in the Doebling home has been pretty challenging for several years now, and this summer things became even more difficult.
As you know, Betsy has continued to struggle with Lyme, and her young life has included a lot of suffering. Two of her greatest joys (besides sewing and crafts) have been nature and our Bernese Mountain Dogs. No matter how bad she felt, she would try to get out each day and take them for a short walk. Walking them was one of the few things that she could still do, and it brought her so much pleasure. She was doing exactly that this past June when she was attacked by a moose behind our home. AJ and I heard the attack and her screams from our bedroom window, and although we did not know it was her at the time, we knew someone was in serious trouble and went running to help. We found her in the road and took off for the ER. The moose trampled her as she tried to run away, kicking her in the head, face, and back. She had corneal abrasions to her left eye, multiple fractures around her eye, a concussion, lacerations…not to mention a lot of physical pain and emotional trauma. The moose tried to circle around and get her a second time, but she fell down the hill into some bushes, and our dogs chased the moose off. It actually jumped right over the top of her as it ran away. I can’t even imagine if that moose had been able to get to her a second time, and as awful as the attack was, we are grateful, knowing that it could’ve been much worse. Over time, Betsy’s physical injuries have slowly healed; however, the emotional trauma of the attack is still significant. She is afraid to go outside, and no longer wants to walk the dogs. Nature is now a source of fear for her instead of enjoyment. I’m not sure there are words to describe how that makes me feel as her mom…I’ve had to wrestle with God through quite a lot of emotions including grief, fear, anger, helplessness, and more. In the end, although I don’t understand, He has reminded me of His goodness and trustworthiness. I don’t know what He’s doing, but I do know who He is, and He is our faithful, loving, and always good God who has good plans for each of us, including Betsy.
The rest of the summer continued to be difficult, with AJ having the hardest summer he’s ever had in Young Life camping. It was that way for many YL camps, and for all of our staff at Crooked Creek. There were multiple issues and situations all summer long that were draining, exhausting, challenging, and all-consuming. Before camp started, AJ and I had discussed the need for him to set some boundaries and try to be at home as much as possible given all that’s going on with our family. However, it turned out that we saw less of him than we have during any other YL summer. He went at least 6 weeks without a single day off, and was rarely home – not for lack of wanting to be, but because of the things that happened and because that is what he needed to do. So, we were all limping across the finish line this summer…and then on the last day of camp, a 15 year old camper snuck out of his cabin at night and died in a freak accident. Again, there are no words to describe the situation, but it was awful. AJ was at the helm, and he led well, but it obviously took a huge toll on him and everyone at CCR.
Fall brought the sadness of Augie going back to college, although we are so incredibly happy for him and the life that he’s getting to live. He is leading Young Life at Paso Robles High School, having fun going to school at the beach, enjoying his classes, and generally loving life! Cal Poly has been great for him. Also, we decided to put Sam back in school, which felt like a big gamble, but has turned out to be a blessing. He still has Lyme, and definite struggles along with that, but he has made a lot of progress! School is physically and academically challenging for him, and he is one exhausted boy, but we are celebrating what he’s been able to do in returning to school. It’s a challenge for him, but still a victory.
However, at home we continue to struggle through the daily challenges and relational dynamics of chronic illness. Betsy and I are still in a pretty tough place physically. Add to that the emotional stress resulting from all that occurred this summer (really the last few years), and it makes for a pretty difficult situation for all of us. Consequently, the leadership of Young Life has given AJ a paid leave of absence for a few months in order for him and our family to circle the wagons, spend time together, process all that’s happened, seek healing, and try to figure out a new normal. We are incredibly grateful for this gift. To know that they value his leadership and want to do all that they can to help us is a blessing beyond words.
AJ’s time off began on December 1st. This past week, he spent 5 days in Buena Vista on a counseling intensive/retreat. I went on this same intensive in September, and he saw the same counselor that I did. The time was a blessing for both of us. It’s really hard and really good to process all of these things, and to connect with the Lord is obviously essential in the midst of our grieving. Also, in January we are going on a retreat together at The Potter’s Inn, which is in Divide, Colorado. We have opted not to go to the YL All Staff Celebration in January as well. As much as we are sad to miss it (seriously!), we know that it’s the right thing to do. We want to do everything we can to take advantage of the time off that AJ’s been given, and to be intentional during the time so that we can make the most of it.
So….there’s a long update on the Doeblings. A Scripture that really sums up where we’re at is this:
I am dying from grief; my years are shortened by sadness. Misery has drained my strength; I am wasting away from within. BUT I AM TRUSTING YOU, O LORD, saying, “You are my God!” My future is in Your hands. -Psalm 31:10, 14-15
Life is hard and God is good! We continue to covet your prayers for us, especially during these next few months. Thanks for loving us and praying for us. May He bless you richly with His faithful Presence.
AJ – Wisdom in leading our family and knowing how take care of himself while balancing all that God has given him to do at work and at home. It’s a heavy load! Comfort and rest and emotional healing – he misses me being “me” and having a wife that can do things with him. Pray that God would lead his time off and show AJ what He desires. Pray for AJ and I to love each other well and be each other’s biggest fans in the midst of the struggles.
KATHY – Physical healing. Wisdom. Strength to surrender to God each day and choose to trust Him. I want to focus on what is true and eternal in the face of heartache and confusion. Joni Eareckson Tada says “Suffering is the last frontier that the enemy exploits to smear God’s trustworthiness.” I want to trust Him no matter what, but it’s a daily choice. He proved His love for me at the cross. That is who He is, and I want to always remember that!
AUGIE – School, leading YL, friendships…his own love relationship with Jesus. He comes home TOMORROW for Christmas break! Pray for our time – we are all so excited to see him!
BETSY – Physical healing. Emotional healing, especially from moose attack. She is afraid to go outside. Hope and encouragement. Sometimes she feels like God’s given up on her. Pray for strength/willingness to seek counseling and try to deal with her emotions in the midst of not feeling well. Pray that God will come and rescue her and bind up her wounds. Also, she is having her wisdom teeth out on 12/29. Because of her Lyme issues, I’m pretty nervous about that. Please pray for her protection and that whole process.
SAM – Continued physical healing. Sleep at night. Energy and strength, especially for school. He is pretty fried and really ready for Christmas break. Especially pray for his relationship with God. I am asking God to reveal Himself to Sam in significant ways, so that Sam can trust and hope in Him. There’s a lot of confusion there.
MAX – Physical healing. As Max goes through puberty (he’s 13) the Lyme may get worse. We’re praying that’s not the case, and that he will be able to continue to function fairly normally and stay in school. Pray for emotional healing and ability to trust God as well. There’s a lot of sadness and frustration in his heart underneath that crazy, fun exterior.