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- Chris Fabry
- Married to Andrea since 1982. We have 9 children together and none apart. Our dog's name is Tebow.
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Andrea wrote some friends in our old hometown to give them an update on our progress. It helps us to take a hard look at our situation. And it shows our progress. I thought you might like to peek over our shoulder and take a look at what we've told to friends who have been so dear to us. It hurts not to be able to enjoy their company and laugh with them.
Here is my edited version of her letter.
We signed a 12-month lease Friday and it became real that Monument will not be our home for awhile. I knew, then, that I wanted to update our community of friends who have offered such support these last two years. It's hard to believe that school is beginning soon for all of you. I will so miss that first day of school.
(By the way, Andrea always had a tea/coffee event on the first day of school in August. Women filled the house to overflowing and there was such life there. Pippen and Frodo went wild with all the attention and shoes to sniff. Andrea loved getting new people together. I loved the pastry left over afterward. That is a big loss this year.)
We continue to progress here. The climate is a contributing factor to this, even in the dog days of summer. We were at 107 yesterday. The progress is slow. Very slow. Some days I can't see it. Last night, as I watched all of them play at the park, I saw it.
Photo by Edward McCain
Brandon: His neurological recovery continues. He's much calmer and able to sit still. His rashes have greatly improved. He is extremely sensitive to any and all chemicals and his eyes will redden immediately. He continues to suffer severe nosebleeds.
Colin: his migraines are infrequent. Abdominal pain is rare. His blood sugars are still erratic. And just last week colonized fungus appeared all over the backs of his legs. This shows the de-tox is working. It also shows how far we have to go. He and Brandon are on a baseball team.
Kaitlyn: is extremely sensitive to the environment. Her immune system is so taxed that we had to stop her horseback riding lessons for awhile. She struggles with rashes and strong allergic reactions. Her vision has improved and she is back to reading! She has two friends and is excited about our new house.
Reagan: his light sensitivity has improved. Rarely has a migraine. Is still dizzy and struggles with the tinnitus. We are going after this intensely and he has had moments of no dizziness. This is very hopeful. He has become quite the magician and has some amazing card tricks up his sleeve.
Kristen: is chronically fatigued. Her pituitary was hit hard so we have been working on this. Her peripheral neuropathy is still an issue. She may try a few classes at the local high school. She loves photography--especially the Arizona sunsets.
Ryan: has decided against the conservatory in New York for financial and logistical reasons. The focus of his future has changed as well. He has responded well to the de-tox and is the healthiest I have seen him in years. He is meticulous about his diet. No gluten, sugar, etc. His digestive system was hit hard by the mold. Some exciting opportunities have already come his way.
Shannon: is working hard at her recovery. Her dedication is an inspiration. She loves the hiking here and is looking into possible classes in the fall.
Megan: is struggling. Her road to recovery will be long due to the complications from her Africa and Peru trips. Exposure to toxic mold becomes a breeding ground for parasites and other microbes. She has done some amazing video projects and continues to persevere.
Erin has decided to join us for a few months. Her rashes continue (which simply means there are more mycotoxins to come out) and her fatigue level is abnormally high, another common occurrence after a mold exposure. She is going to miss Rosie’s terribly. And I know many of you will miss her.
Chris is doing well. Dogwood won an award recently and he's excited about his new book, June Bug. He is the most chemically sensitive of us all. I am so grateful he can work from home in a "known" environment. He has been an amazing rock of support for me. He has gotten me up off the ground many days by his wisdom and humor. I don't know what I would do without him.
(I resisted the urge to embellish the above.)
As for me, I lost my mother unexpect-
edly on May 21st. She died of a brain hemorrhage following a severe coughing fit. My brother, my dad, and I were all with her and I am grateful I had the opportunity to say goodbye. She was a tremendous support to me these last two years and I miss her. A lot.
My health has been more of an issue in this last month as I have taken the much needed steps to recover. I am focusing on clearing my liver of mycotoxins, something my blood testing showed was a serious issue, and it has created a "die-off" which means the microbes are killed and then create sickness. My memory remains an issue and I miss it! So do my kids!
(For some reason, she is still able to remember why we fought during Christmas, 1984, etc.)
I continue my blog and have met other mothers just like me. I have secured the website "Moms Against Mold" and will continue my passion to get the word out.
We have been living in a 1700 square foot home in the middle of nowhere. Eight of us sleep on air mattresses in one room. There are two bathrooms. Our next home is about 3500 square feet and the good news is, we gain 1 more bathroom! It is on an acre and backs up to a sandy area known as a “wash” where rainwater rushes through after a monsoon. It stays sandy most of the year. We walked through the home with the builder last week. He agreed to rent to us even after hearing our story. I have a good gut feeling about the home as it is all electric and lots of tile and it has never been lived in. Still, a move brings back lots of fear and trauma. We have to continue to move foward, however, and this is a good next step.
Our home in Colorado remains just as we left it. A friend is cutting the grass for us. The home is still contaminated. We have a forbearance on our mortgage which enables us to pay the rent here. If anyone would like either of our trampolines let me know! We are pursuing legal action as this is what keeps the forbearance and keeps us from foreclosure.
I don't know what our future holds. I do know that my faith is not in the legal system or the medical world. It's definitely not in myself. I do believe that our story is bigger than our present circumstances and all of you have played an important role in it. You came alongside of us in critical ways in the days following our evacuation from our home. Thank you.
I conclude with this quote by Albert Einstein which has meant a lot to me.
"Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to a divine purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: That we are here for the sake of others...for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day, I realize how much my outer and inner life is built upon the labors of people, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received.”
At 7:50 we stopped and looked north. I couldn’t see many stars and worried that the sun’s glow would thwart my plan. Plus there were big trees at the edge of the park.
Shannon ran for a picnic table and stood on it. “The mountains are too high,” she said. “They’re going to block it.”
“It’s supposed to be 26 degrees above the horizon,” I said, but I thought she might be right. That mountain range is lofty.
I ran into the trees where I could get a better look. I checked my watch at 7:58 and still could see nothing. The kids were barely visible behind me as the orange glow got softer.
Then I saw it. At least I thought I did. A silver speck moving from left to right a bit above the mountain range. “I see it!” I yelled.
The kids came running. “That’s it?”
“Where?” Brandon said.
The “speck” was the Space Shuttle orbiting the earth, along with the International Space Station, visible to the naked eye. It looked like an airplane moving fast in the sky.
“Are there people on it?” Brandon said.
“Yes, astronauts are up there right now.”
My cell rang. “I think we see it,” Kaitlyn said. They were returning from Phoenix. “Is it on our left and moving?”
“That’s it,” I said.
We watched it for about four minutes until it disappeared. We all clapped and everyone thought it was a great moment. We actually saw the Space Shuttle in flight.
Nobody else at the park knew what we were doing. They were going about their business of playing or walking the dog or rollerblading. And the only reason we knew about it was that our friends had told us that on Saturday and Sunday nights we could see the Shuttle in the sky. Saturday it was too cloudy but on Sunday we got our chance.
It’s that way in life. Some special things pass you by without you ever realizing it. Unless someone takes the time to tell you and you actually look up.
If you want to see the Space Shuttle, check out the times in your area by clicking HERE.
“God is honoring you by giving you this trial,” he said.
It doesn’t feel like an honor, but I know he is right. His words rang true.
When we parted, he put his hand on my shoulder and prayed. With passion he asked God to give us a larger house for our needs. He asked God to give us laughter. Those are the two things I remember most.
Yesterday, we signed a lease on a house that has never been lived in. We met the builder on the day we walked through it. If he sold it now, he would lose about 50K. We’re going to rent it for a year while the court proceedings continue for our house in Colorado.
This new home is gorgeous and sits on about an acre of land. Four bedrooms—but as we count bedrooms, it has six. All electric. No pesticides have been sprayed outside on the landscaping. There is carpet in the home, but since it’s never been lived in, we’re not as concerned about reacting to it. Our lease is up at the present house on August 16, so this is perfect timing.
Last night we had some friends over. They played games with us. Scattergories and “Signs,” an acting game Ryan taught us. We laughed a lot. We laughed about eight of us sleeping in one bedroom. We laughed about the silly answers Andrea gave during the game. We laughed about how competitive men are and how agonizingly smart women are. The point is, we laughed.
For everything there is a season. A time to laugh and a time to cry. A time to pray and a time to wait. A time to move and a time to cancel the electricity. A time to escape to the desert and a time to give thanks. We are grateful for those who have put their hands on our shoulders and prayed, near and from a distance.
We’re not there yet. We have not arrived. But we’re still putting one foot in front of the other. We’re still trying. And sometimes amidst the tears and heartache, there is laughter.
I opened an envelope filled with gifts from people who had heard Andrea and me on Midday Connection in June. Then I opened a box. When Anita and Melinda asked us to tell our story, we had no idea they would also ask listeners to get involved. Just before we went on the air they mentioned it in passing. "And we want to give listeners a chance to get involved, if that's okay."
We received more than 200 gift cards and several people wrote us checks to help cover our medical and living expenses. It's amazing. Several times as I was opening the box, I had to close it and put it away. It was just too much. To see the love and generosity of people we don't even know was like getting a glimpse of God's love in red and blue envelopes.
I've learned a valuable lesson over the past few months. Don't refuse a gift from the heart. Become a good receiver. It's not my natural bent. Self sufficiency is more my style. Pride. I can do it myself, thank you. But I've learned the hard way that I can't do it myself. And that this is a season when we need to receive and be grateful for friends.
I've been in the dumps about our health insurance company that refuses to pay for our treatment, medicine, tests, pills, clay, etc. (I resisted the urge to put their logo here.) I want to write a song like those guys who sang "United Breaks Guitars." But the more I consider this, I realize that the gifts we’ve generously been given by friends and family have more than covered those bills. God takes better care of us than any insurance company ever will. And he works through his people.
It is a wonderful and humbling thing to simply receive. It is a measure of God's grace to us. We cannot repay these gifts, but some day we hope to pay forward. And I want to thank every person who took the time and effort to give. Words are not enough. But the best ones are simple.
Andrea looked at me the other day and said, "I can't wait until we get to do something like this for someone else."
"Yeah," I said. I can almost imagine the feeling. It's probably what God feels like all the time.
When an award is given, it's icing on life's cake. That happened Saturday night at the Christy Awards in Denver. My daughter, Erin, drove up from Colorado Springs and joined me. She even had her picture taken with Robin Jones Gunn! Robin wrote the Christy Miller series which Erin read. It had such a great impact on her that she went to college in Hawaii. Thanks Robin. I think. :)
Richard Foster spoke about the spiritual formation of the writer and he was fascinating. He'll be featured on a future Chris Fabry Live! Then it was time for the awards. There were 9 categories and the first sentence of each novel was read as they announced the winner. I worked on that first sentence a long time. Years, actually. But I suddenly blanked. I couldn't remember the first sentence of my novel. Only when the presenter said, "Ruthie Bowles once said I would wind up hating her," did I recall it.
Now, let me tell you the rest of the story.
You get one minute to make a speech if you win. I accepted the award and looked out at those faces. I didn't write a thing down, but I knew what I wanted to say. However, as I looked at my daughter, my friend and agent Kathryn Helmers, my friend and editor Karen Watson, and my friend Jerry Jenkins, a wave of emotion hit that I wasn't prepared for. I've learned something valuable through the process of the last year. When genuine emotion rears its head, don't fight it. My pride says otherwise, of course.
I have learned that feeling things deeply informs my writing and radio work. Instead of pushing that down and trying to be more "professional," the better path is to follow the emotion and lean into the pain or joy or struggle that it springs from.
Here is what I tried to say.
I remember the very spot on the Interstate between Indianapolis and Denver where I got the call from Kathryn Helmers that said at least one publisher had made an offer on my book, Dogwood. Kathy believed in me when no one else did. She called it a beautiful story and so redemptive in its theme. I remember the conversation with Karen Watson at Tyndale and how she hoped they would be the one to publish it. She was as excited as I was about the story.
I also remember sending short stories and book ideas to Jerry Jenkins at Moody and his statement to me, "I can help you do this if you'd like, but it's gonna be painful." He was right. It was a painful process. But I wouldn't have had Dogwood published--or any other book--without Jerry's mentoring.
Some of you know the difficulties my family and I have faced in the last year or two. I'm so glad Erin was able to be there to represent my family. But in the difficulties, we have heard the whisper of God many times saying to keep going, I am with you, I won't forsake you. And sometimes his encouragement comes with a shout, like this Christy Award.
That's what I tried to say. It didn't come out as coherent as that, but it did come from the heart. Thanks to everyone who has read Dogwood--I hope more will read it in the coming year.
FABRYGRAM Volume 2
July 10, 2009
Something happened on Thursday’s Chris Fabry Live! that I have to tell you about.
I was sitting at my computer, minding my own business, when I had this thought that we needed to talk with Andrew Palau. We hadn’t decided on the topic for Thursday’s program, but I wasn’t concerned. There is plenty in the news, plenty going on in my life, and I really like to go on the overflow sometimes and talk about something current.
However, Andrew Palau popped into the noggin and I couldn’t get his name out of there. I emailed a friend in Portland and got Andrew’s email address. One email was all it took.
I discovered Andrew was headed to Rwanda to hold a festival there in that land that is so ravaged with violence and death. The church in that region is alive and well, and they are hoping to effect great change with the gospel. I asked Andrew to come on and talk about his life, his wayward ways of his youth, and then discuss the Kigali Festival.I caught up with him at an airport in Washington, D.C.
It was a gritty interview with airport noises all around. But the gospel is powerful enough to get through on a cell phone. He talked about his turning to alcohol and running away from God. He talked about his parents and how they loved him and constantly prayed for him. I don’t know who that program was for, but I know it was a powerful reminder of the God we serve. Andrew’s emotion came through several times as he reflected on God’s grace.
After the program, I received this email from a parent:
I just wanted to say thank you for airing this program. I am the parent of a prodigal and my husband and I have really been struggling with loving the unlovable nature of our child and I have struggled big time with being long-suffering and patient. Just this morning I confessed to the Lord that I really have not trusted that He would be able to reach our daughter because so many times I find myself jumping back into God’s role. I asked him to speak to me and today on your program I have heard His voice through Andrews’s story. Your encouragement has shown me that I must surrender to complete trust and hold on until God’s timing is right to bring our daughter back to Himself and then back to us. Thank you for being transparent Andrew and thank you Chris Fabry for airing this program. God Bless You.
That parent “got it.” We are focused on the faith we want our child to have. We are focused on what we want God to do in them. He wants us to focus on Him, have faith in Him, and trust in Him.If you get a chance to listen to the podcast, do it. You can find it on Chrisfabrylive.org, Past Programs tab, Thursday, 7/9/09.
The novel I’ve been working on for more than a year is available! We're picking up copies from the publisher today, and I’m very excited. I think this is the best story I’ve ever written. It’s a powerful look at the grace and salvation of God, though cast in a story of a little girl who reminds me of Cosette from Les Miserables. If you want to order a signed copy click here. I’ll be in Denver next week to talk with a lot of authors on Chris Fabry Live! Joe Gibbs, Josh McDowell, Terri Blackstock, Beverly Lewis and Wanda Brunsetter and so many more I can’t list them all. It’s going to be a fun week. I hope you can join us.
Have a great weekend!
I just read a review by Richard Beattie that sums up the story I've worked on for the past year. Richard nailed both the thrust of the story and the parallels with what has happened to our family over the past few months. It's really scary now that I think about it. Beautifully scary.
Here's a section Richard quotes from the book: "My dad says there's a lot of things people don't need and that their houses get cluttered with it and they store it in basements that flood and get ruined so it's better to live simple and do what you want rather than get tied down to a mortgage." I'd forgotten I wrote that. I wrote that in June of 2008. We left our house in October of that year. It's frightening when you start living your fiction, but that's our life right now.
CLICK HERE if you would like to read the entire review.
Perhaps this stems from trips with my mother who dutifully took me to Huntington, WV every summer before school. It wasn't her fault, I know, but I still associate her with those trips and the invariable clothes Nazi who would say, "My, he's big for his age."
"We need that in a Husky size," my mother would say.
"Husky" is a dog word, not a people word. My face would flush, I'd grit my teeth and try on another pair of pants and walk out like a blimp with a lampshade. Once, when my brother was graduating from West Point, this must have been in 1974, my mother bought me a white suit coat with navy and red vertical stripes. I looked like an overfed polar bear. It was downright humiliating, but what did I know? I was 13.
Fast forward to last year. When we found mold in our house the second time, we threw out all our clothes. Everything. Shoes, socks, underwear, dress shirts, suits. If it was in the house and could be worn, it was bagged and thrown away. I miss some of those clothes, but I'll admit there was a certain freedom in tossing them. I was starting over. So I bought some shorts and sweats, the essentials. Then I had a wedding early last October (Tricia Boyle's) and I bought a new suit. It made me look slim and somewhat un-polar bear like. My daughter, Megan, went with me to pick out the shirts to go along with it and the shoes and the new belt and the socks...I don't want to think about it.
That suit, along with the new suitcase Andrea bought, is still in the garage, unpacked from that trip. Every stitch of clothes we bought is still in that house and will be destroyed when we are able to go back inside.
So I had to start over again. This time, however, I didn't purchase anything over $10. Seriously, it was just too horrifying to think I'd have to throw it away again. So I bought shorts and T-shirts, a big bag of white socks, and a pair of shoes. To this day, all my clothing fits in a laundry basket we keep in the corner of the closet. I have one pair of jeans and three dress shirts that were given to me.
Until last night.
I asked Andrea to go with me, but she was tired and it was clear by the noise in the house that the kids needed at least one parent to ride herd. I had to fight this battle alone. So off I went, steeling myself aginst the fashion headwinds.
First, I picked out the suit coat. I decided not to buy a suit--just couldn't go there. I found one I could afford, which wasn't my first choice but it was okay, then found the pants, then the shirt and the tie. I tried to think like the women in my life who say, "I love buying men's clothes. It's so fun." Tie a noose around my neck and throw me off the nearest bridge, this is anything but fun. This is torture. Guantanamo Bay sounds like a line of clothes to me. But I had to do it. I am going on a trip.
I asked one clerk who was changing the prices on everything in the store what he thought of the outfit. He was wearing an old, brown T-shirt and ratty jeans. I should have known. He looked them over like they were roadkill and said, "I don't know much about clothes, you better ask somebody else."
At that hour, there was no one else except the cashiers and I wasn't going to walk all the way to the front. When I rounded the corner I heard movement and thought there might be someone working back there. Before I even saw anyone I said, "Could you help me?"
It was another customer, a female, a little older than me but nicely dressed. "Sure," she said.
I showed her the shirt and coat, she put the shirt under the coat and then held the pants up. "Yeah, the black makes it more dressy looking and the khaki is more casual. Good choices!"
I felt like hugging her right there in hosiery, but I didn't. I just thanked her and wandered off to shoes.
If there's anything I hate worse than buying clothes, it's buying shoes because when I find the ones I want they're NEVER in my size. I know this is so foreign to most women. They can't understand my aversion to buying things I need. I don't understand it totally myself, but I know this is the way I am. Deep breath. Cleansing breath. In through the nose, out through the mouth.
I found the PERFECT shoes. The biggest they had were 9 1/2. If I only had European feet.
I settled for something $20 more than I wanted to spend and headed for the front.
There at the cash register was Mrs. Quintroll. I swear she looked like her. The lady from my childhood who owned the little General Store near my grandmother's house. Mrs. Q was nothing but bones and a little skin and all dentures. Her hair was as white as a ghost and her skin matched her pallid nature, like a little dose of sunshine would make her shrivel.
"You going on a trip?" the cashier said.
Wow, a psychic. "Yes, as a matter of fact I am."
"You want this coat in a bag?"
"That would be great."
"Where are you from?"
"Colorado, but we're living down here now."
"What brings you our way?"
I told her the short version, the one that just says toxic mold really fast and hopes she won't ask more questions.
She looked up at me with those sunken eyes Mrs. Q had. I sensed some connection and I don't know why, I just thought she wanted to know more. So I told her about the kids and their sickness. I told her about the house. I told her about our dogs. And there was a look on her face I'll never forget. A pain mixed with horror mixed with a knowledge of where I'd been.
"You had to put them both down?" she said.
A burly man walked up with a gym bag, crossed his arms and sighed. I tried not to look at him as I told her the story. "A friend of mine said you should never go alone to put down a dog."
"I had to do that with my lab. She was 18. The vet asked me how I was able to keep her that long and you know what I said? It was love. That's what I said. It was love."
She could tell the man was impatient, all cross-armed and turned head. I could tell she wanted to say more. She bagged my stuff and hit the register.
"Do you have your coupon?"
"No, I didn't get one."
"That's okay," she said. "I'll give you the senior citizen discount."
I smiled. "Thanks."
I signed my name, took the receipt, and gathered my wardrobe. The guy behind me pushed his gym bag over near the sensor and got out his wallet.
The cashier called to me as I headed out the door. "I'm real sorry for the trouble you've gone through." Pause. "God bless you and your family."
I nodded as I turned and heard the final blip. And for some reason I was glad I went shopping.
There was just one problem. When I walked in my throat closed and it was hard to talk, my eyes watered and breathing became difficult. Just little things. We've learned, over time, not to ignore stuff like this. We bought a couch a few months ago thinking it would be fine. They delivered a different one with all the chemicals sprayed on it without us knowing. The next morning we woke up knowing.
This is life for us now. We received the final rejection of our health insurance appeal. I'm paying the doctor and lab test bills in installments. The lease on the house we're in is up at the end of July. We desperately need something bigger, but trying to find an all-tile house with all electric appliances with some room on either side of it, plus no pesticide usage and that isn't 40 minutes from the grocery store and has no water damage (is built by a reputable builder) is difficult. We've been looking since late May. We've expanded our search to Phoenix and beyond. Every house we find is either rented or is too expensive or has something that would compromise our detox.
I know it sounds like we're picky. That we're trying to find the perfect house. Not true. It's just that I know we won't get better in the wrong house.
So maybe you could pray with us that God would drop something in our laps. Soon. Until then, we keep asking, seeking, and knocking, wondering when this traveling vagabond show will end. Wondering if what we're going through is of value to the kingdom. Wading through cactus to find grace.
And I'm particularly glad that we're up and running on my birthday! My birth was overshadowed by the death of Ernest Hemingway, back in 1961, just 39 years ago. There was even something on MSN this morning about Hemingway and the final days of his life. They didn't put anything about my birthday on there--overshadowed again, but I'll get over it.
I think you are really going to have fun navigating through the website. There are memories of Mornings with Greg and Chris, a way for you to make a difference in others' lives, purchase personalized copies of Dogwood and June Bug, and much more. Go to the Back Fence page now and read about Cheryl who was our final caller yesterday, and Phil, and Carolyn.
Be the first on your block to visit us!! CLICK HERE for the new website.