Thursday, December 30, 2010

Well Done...Good & Faithful Servant Larry Don Hurst

This post is one I never dreamed of writing.  This is one I truly feel such incredible weight to write, but yet have no idea how to even begin.  I want it to truly reflect the greatness of the last days:  great blessings, great peace, yet great heaviness and mourning.  I want it to reflect my daddy in such a glorious way that every person that ever reads it can see his greatness and how it came from Christ's greatness.  However, I know I can never come close to writing what my heart is feeling. 

Please forgive the length...I've never been "short" in writing and even I know this one will be novel length.  Forgive the weepiness with which it is written and remember that my main reason for blogging from the very beginning was to have an outlet of expression and a mode to remember our daily lives.  Forgive the obvious typos that are to come.  I plan to write and not correct, because if I read and re-read....I'll NEVER get it done and until I've written this post, I know I won't have any of the weight lifted from my shoulders.

My Daddy lived a short 66 years, 2 months, and 23 days.  He was my Daddy for 36 years and 27 days.  From the moment that we heard his diagnosis to the moment that God walked him home was only 1 month and 9 days.  The initial news of the doctors findings came to us at 7:36 PM on November 14th and he took his first breath in heaven at 8:05 AM on December 23rd.  One month and 9 days of unbearable heartache as the strongest man known to us, quickly lost his battle but fought with everything he had in him. 

The first thing that made my Dad remarkable in my eyes was that he took ALL responsibility SERIOUSLY.  He never let someone else do what he knew was his job.  NEVER!  He instilled in each of us an attitude of "you start it, you finish it."  He is the number one reason that I carry that same attitude.  His responsibility was NEVER more evident in the choice that he made to raise us.  It's highly unusual for a dad to be the custodial parent in today's was unheard of 35 years ago.  He never walked away from us and he worked harder than any other person I ever knew to make sure we had what we needed.  There was seldom room for "wants", but he covered each and every need.  Even in our most lean times, he made sure that what ever sacrifice had to be made was made.  In those times, something else that will FOREVER be my Dad's legacy is that he gave.  He gave in lean times and he gave in times of blessing.  I can NEVER think of a Sunday that he didn't place a tithe check in the offering matter how difficult of a struggle we were having. 

Dad's legacy of giving is unbelievable.  He not only gave of his money, he gave abundantly of his time and talents.  There was no better of a fitting Celebration of Life than for Dad's last journey to take him down the hallways and aisle of Strong Tower Ministries.  He poured his heart, blood and tears into the building and it's people.  Money was irrelevant.  He gave of heart and soul.  He said often that he had pride in the building, but it was the people that mattered.  He believed in supporting youth and giving them a chance to be "something".  He was remarkable.  I was so touched at the Celebration of Life when Bro. David had those in attendance that had been baptized in Dad and Teresa's pool during the building of the church years and I was stunned as hands all over the building raised.  Who could have any more of an amazing legacy? 

For those that really knew my Daddy, they know that he was a very private man.  He was reserved and even harsh at times.  As we were growing up, affection wasn't freely given.  It was NOT because he was not a loving man.  It was because he carried the weight of the world on his shoulders trying to provide for us.  He was strict beyond imagination.  I told him in recent years how proud I was of that.  For many years, I could not understand why on earth he was so harsh or why his rules were WAY more strict than those around us.  Once I became a mother with the pressures of raising children to be great servants of Christ, coupled with the incredible burden of providing for them....I understood it.  I told him that and thanked him for it.  However, as Dad got older and the pressures began to lighten on him, he became one of the most loving, affectionate men on this earth.  He loved his grandchildren like no other.  What amazing memories they have of sitting in his lap in his big recliner.  He would stop what he was doing and tell them to come sit with him.  Even in his very last days, he asked them to climb up on the bed with him.  I'm thankful that my children will forever have those last memories.

I can't begin to write about Daddy's going home with Christ without telling about those last hours.  As hard as it is to think about, how incredibly personal those moments, they have to be told.  My wish is that those who don't believe in Christ or who have turned their backs and walked way could have been in that hospital room during ANY of those last hours. 

On Wednesday morning the 22nd, I got the call that my heart was expecting but I wasn't ready for at the same time.  There is no more helpless of feeling that to know you HAVE to get home immediately and the fear that you won't make it in time.  Because two amazing friends came in and literally took over the packing process, we made it on the road MUCH faster than if I would have had to find the presence of mind to do it myself.  Thank you will never be enough for Erin & Elaine (and others as well).  Elaine presented me with a precious shawl that she began making soon after Dad's diagnosis and then had friends pray over it.  It has since absorbed MANY tears, given much needed hugs and been a beautiful reminder of how amazing friends are.  Erin came in and literally swooped my kids away and stocked them with arm loads of snacks, shoes, and even underwear!  The funniest scene was seeing her leaning over Kevin's sink giving Peyton a haircut!  They took care of all the practical things that needed to be done and I am forever grateful! 

Once we arrived at the hospital, I can't tell you the immediate fear I had when the elevator doors opened and my family all around began to openly weep.  I was so paralyzed in that moment thinking I had not made it in time.  However, I did and the hours that followed were ones of extreme heartache but unspeakable beauty. 

A few minutes after arriving, the staff let Kevin and I go back to be with Dad even though it wasn't official visiting time according to CCU policies.  Though the things that were said in those moments and the raw emotions are ones I don't want to relive at this moment, I do have to tell of what my Dad told us.  He told us over and OVER by pointing up, saying I'm going home, I'm ready or similar statements.....but the most beautiful thing in those moments is that he told us VERY clearly and VERY adamantly that He had seen Jesus.  Jesus was waiting for him.  He was at peace and he was ready to go.  With many tearful kisses, we left the room thinking that our final goodbyes had been said.  We were given another 12 hours. 

My sister and I were the ones that stayed with Dad through the night.  Others out of exhaustion and their own physical issues, went home.  My sister was prepared to stay alone, but I made a promise that I would stay with her until the end, no matter what we were faced with.  Kevin took the kids to another floor and they slept on the floor as much as they could. I will NEVER regret that decision because those hours created bonds that will never be broken and let me see God in a whole new way.  Death is truly just an entrance into eternity for those that believe.  There is nothing more beautiful than to see a family gathered around a hospital bed talking their Dad into heaven and for him to be telling what he is seeing.  I'm thankful for two special nurses that walked us along that journey.  David---came by and prayed with us in the minutes before Dad gained victory.  He was my care pastor many years ago.  Wendy---was another blessing to have in the room with us.  It was comforting to have a familiar face that so lovingly cared for Dad in his last minutes and then with dignity prepared his body for other family members to see after he had passed.  She later told me what an honor it was to witness such a beautiful entrance into heaven.

Those last hours were horrible to say the least, but the beauty totally outshines.  My sister and I vocally and tearfully pleaded with God to take Dad home.  We constantly assured him that we loved him, but yet we were ready for him to walk with Jesus.  I remember the great torment it was to watch his numbers decline and celebrate, but yet be angry when they would rebound.  That was a feeling that I wasn't expecting.  We just wanted the suffering to end and his passing to be quick.  Nicci and I lovingly talked with him and cared for him the best we could and he was STILL doing everything in his power to comfort us.  I remember telling him that we were only holding his hands so he wouldn't be alone, but we weren't holding him back.  Many times he would take our hands and hold them next to his heart and say "my girls".  Even up to the last second, his grip was still strong and his heart was still huge!  Though many things happened in his room that night, some I want to erase and some I want to never forget, the one that I will forever cherish is the moment in which he was ready to walk in victory and he wanted his arms held high.  His body was too weak, but his heart and soul wanted them raised to God.  With each of us on either side, we held his arms in Victory as my very reserved father wanted to praise his heavenly father that welcomed him home.  That was huge.  Normally the best you might get would be tears and a thumbs up, but he wanted his arms HIGH! 

I remember blogging about Moses and how Aaron and Hur held his arms up when he could no longer do it.  I wrote that blog about how I would be holding the arms up of those around me and that others would be doing the same for me.  God had revealed that passage to me and the meaning was so great at the time.  Now it is completely priceless.  Us telling of that image also led Bro. David to speaking about it at Dad's service. 

Dad's service was the most beautiful I have ever seen.  In Southern speak----we had church!  It was truly a time of celebration of a life well lived.  I thought Teresa was actually going to shout and I would have been about 2 seconds behind her.  It was truly that moving and amazing!  Though the weather prevented some family members from arriving, it was unbelievable the turn out.  Though the crowds at the actual service are a blur at this point in my memory, there was a moment on the way to the burial that took my breath away.  Usually a grave side service is small and since the weather was so bad, I didn't expect more than just immediate family to make the processional.  Peyton asked us to look back at one point when we made our last turn and as I did, I saw cars as far as the eye could see....from hill to hill....from one horizon to another.  That spokes volumes about the man I called Daddy!

Thanks so much to the Rippy Family for singing our two favorite songs fitting of the situation.  Not only did they carry deep meaning, we know that you not only sang with pure talent that comes directly from God but with love in your hearts for all of us as well.  Dana----oh Dana----thank you so much for fulfilling mine and Nicci's wish of having you sing "Father's Eyes".  You know the meaning the song has for us and I hope that I can continue to have eyes that reflect both my heavenly and earthly father. 

Another memory that stands out from those days is the moment that we sat around the massive oak table at the funeral home making arrangements.  That is a moment that can only be understood by someone that has walked that path.  It felt completely like an out of body experience that I know that it was only by the Holy Spirit that we made it.  All I could think about was the pride with which Daddy would have had to see all of us sitting at HIS table again.  With us living so spread apart, those days were very rare.  Dinner growing up at our house was a family affair.  It was ALWAYS at the table and the rule was that we ate together if at all possible.  Dad and Teresa had an oak furniture business for many years and our table was a great source of pride for us.  Life happened around that table.  Families if you don't gather round your table to eat....start now.  Give your children that amazing time together with you! 

Last weekend when we were able to spend time as he tried to recover from his only chemo treatment, the kids were not able to see him.  It was too dangerous for him since his white count was so low.  They made a banner that said "Go, Fight, Win....Victory: Team Grandpa" and it was covered with scripture of healing and victory.  (It was also purposely in Alabama colors....Roll Tide also was placed on his pall arrangement!).  It hung at the funeral home and at first I thought maybe it would be seen as a failure.  NOPE!  He did get the ultimate victory!  We mourn not for him....we just mourn for those of us left behind.

Daddy asked for 20 more years.  He said he wanted to see my children grow up because he wanted to see what amazing things they were going to do.  He was one of my greatest supports in homeschooling.  He was not the typical supporter of non-traditional methods, but once he saw how they were growing and maturing he was such a support.  Though my heart aches for my kids, I know that Dad is still going to see them grow and he is going to be still leading me in teaching them.  He taught us well.  I will do everything in my power to continue the legacy he began in us.

Daddy made Kevin promise that he would always take care of his little girl.  He leaned in our car door just before we pulled out from our wedding and reminded him of that promise.  Kevin reconfirmed that promise to him and they exchanged some words about that in his last days.  Though I don't know exactly what was said, I do know that Dad told him he had done a good job and to continue to do so.  I promised him that I would take care of our kids, that I would remain strong in my faith and not blame God, and that I would do everything possible to help Teresa.  I told him that no one ever could be as special as she has been to all of us and that I would honor her to my dying days. 

The hurt I feel is real.  The emptiness is drastic.  The reality is harsh.  I have many breakdowns ahead.  However, I can not thank you enough for the extreme blessings that have been poured out on my family and especially on me.  God has met every need so far from SOMEONE.  Many of you have gone above and beyond in blessing us.  Money was slipped in my wallet to help us with expenses of all the traveling we had done.  Money was sent in the mail with "Merry Christmas".  Friends and family have carried us.  I have a list of rain checks waiting to be redeemed when I have a melt down and need space.  Food has been overflowing and friends have lifted me when I haven't been able to breathe.  There hasn't been a moment that someone hasn't blessed us.  Kathleen---one of my most precious friends----brought us dinner on HER birthday and her husband and family cleared our driveway of massive snow amounts.  Family has taken care of the kids when we've needed space.  We've been carried in the most tangible and intangible ways.  I was blessed to have a very healing hug from someone so dear to me.  Her hugs have carried me through so many things before and for her to come deliver me MANY of them just made my heart overflow.  BJK---I love you so much and no one would have ever dreamed we would both have taken this journey together so close in time.  Thank you.  Thank you to all of you. 

Christmas was expected to be different this year.  WE wanted it different and we made many great efforts to change it.  However, I never dreamed it would change this much and we would be gathered around my father's "treasure box" (as Bradlee lovingly calls the casket!).  It definitely became a holiday of celebrating Christ and I hope that we continue to carry that in our hearts.  My heart breaks that I haven't been able to finish my gifts and that some things we planned to do didn't get done, but please know that as time allows we will get to it.  Right now, it's still just very overwhelming and sometimes even simple tasks are monumental.  We have many gifts to finish and MANY thank you notes to write. 

In closing, we included many special sentimental touches to Dad's service.  I spent hours digging through pictures that my sister spent COUNTLESS, sleepless hours combining them into a beautiful slide show of our lives together.  My siblings, Teresa, and I wrote TINY private messages that were placed in a prayer box that was buried with Dad.  As a last statement, I am sharing what I wrote for the insert that is being placed in the DVD jacket of the slide show.  Hopefully it reflects the love I have for my dad and the gratitude I have that he showed me the way to my heavenly father.


I can only imagine what beauty and blessings you have been experiencing since the moment that you walked home hand-in-hand with Jesus. Though my heart has a hole that can never be filled, I know that you are receiving the ultimate gift of being with Christ. I've never been more proud to be "Daddy's little girl" and you taught us well. The legacy you left behind in each of us will never fade away. I'm forever grateful to have been blessed by such an amazing earthly father that showed us the majesty of our heavenly father. May I always have eyes that reflect both of you! I'm holding on so tightly to the amazing glimpse of heaven that you gave us as you told Kevin and I of seeing Jesus, your constant assurance of the home you were going to, the desire you had to hold your hands in victory, and of how you held mine and Nicci's hands to your heart and said "my girls". Forever grateful, forever blessed....and knowing that one day you will welcome me back home and our family circle will again be complete. Until that day, I will be seeking to continue your legacy and fulfilling the promises I made you. I know Christ welcomed you with the words "Well done good and faithful servant." WELL done, Daddy...well done!



Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Just a quick Check in!

Just a quick note:  I haven't abandoned the blog world.  I have plenty to say and amazing things to share about God's overwhelming peace and blessings despite the extreme heartache.  However, I still need a few more days to let my brain process all that has gone on.  I want my post about Daddy's homecoming to be special and it to fully reflect the life of the man who has left my heart so empty.  At the moment, I'm just so incredibly overwhelmed with exhaustion, gratitude, and so many things still feel so surreal.  Losing a parent is horrible, but to lose him during the holidays and in such a way is even more excruciating. 

Thank you to all of you that are checking in to see if I have posted.  Thank you to all of you who are praying us through these difficult days.  Thank you to all of you that have blessed us beyond our wildest dreams in taking care of us as we try to refocus our lives towards a "new" normal.  Thanks most especially to all of you that are helping me catch my breath in whatever way that happens to be at the moment. 

In short, I am doing OK.  Roller coaster ride doesn't even begin to describe this whirlwind, but for every moment of complete breakdown there has been two moments of complete peace and gratitude. 

I'll be "back" to the blog world when I can process the thoughts in my head to the keyboard!  Love to all of you!  Please know that I still believe that God is good and though I don't understand His plan in the very least, I believe in HIM and believe His purpose is just so grand that our human hearts just can't understand it at the moment. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Looks VERY Different This Year!

Christmas will look different this year. 

I remember being at the end of October or the first week of November when Kevin and I really began to have conversations about our thoughts about the holidays.  Who would we visit and when?  What things did we want to do with the kids?  Which traditions should we start, which should we toss out and which should we hang on to with dear life?  What would we buy as gifts and how on earth would we pay for it?  Basically, WHAT did we want the holidays to look like. 

Plain and simple: We wanted it to look and feel VERY different than years past.  We immediately made the decision to take MUCH different approaches.  We didn't want the rushing around and stress.  NO swapping money or gift cards because "that" is what was expected.  NO overflowing Christmas trees with gift after gift that would be forgotten by the next day.  We wanted to completely bring CHRIST back as the MAIN and only focus of our holidays this year.  That at times was going to mean that it might "hurt" a little.  We might irritate some people when we said "no" to gatherings or to purchases.  We might find it painful to give up some of our "old" traditions that didn't fit in with our new focus.  It might be hard to stick to the budget we had planned and it might get hard to say "no" to purchasing gifts.  WE love to give, so NOT giving can be hard.

In regards to the kids, we made the tough decision to change our approach to Santa.  Instead of our normal traditions, we decided that there would only be three gifts for each of them this year.  We decided on the "three" gifts Christ was given and that they would receive three as well: one that helps them in their spiritual growth, one that is a NEED, and one that is a want.  Nothing else. 

In regards to gifts for others, we decided that ALL gifts would be either handmade or purposeful.  Money normally spent on cards and postage would instead be spent on making Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes.  We wouldn't attend countless gatherings and decided to choose one or two to focus on and spend more time at home as a family.  We decided on what mattered most to us and came up with ways to make sure those things became priority. 

We were rolling along right on track.  The kids are actually excited about their three gifts because we've talked so much about the REAL reason for the holidays and about our focus on Christ instead of Santa and "more, more, more".  Gifts were beginning to get made and plans were constantly being tweaked for the countless crafts that made the "final" cut on our list.  No longer having TV sure helped lessen the "I want that" mentality. 

Then life took a very sudden, drastic change.  Life has been in upheaval.  Stack after stack of partially completed gifts lay around.  The realization that there is no way they will be completed on time has sunk in.  Christmas shopping for the actual gifts that made the list hasn't been completed.  The budget has taken another hit since I haven't been as focused on our food budget during the stress and because of so much travel.  We don't even know when we will be able to spend "our" time together or time with family and friends.  Nothing is settled.  Once a plan gets made, it has to be changed. 

Guess what?  It's ok.  It is just TRULY serving to bring the REAL focus of what matters most.  The budget has been re-tweaked and amazingly, the numbers will work out if we are very careful.  The handmade gifts for friends and family may not make it by December 25th, but they will get done.  The house may not be fully decorated inside and out like I normally want.  The baking, cooking, crafting on "my" list is being reduced to the essentials.  My normal spotless house, is tolerable.  School isn't on schedule, but the train hasn't derailed.  It's ok. 

The truth of the holidays is FRESH in our hearts and we are witnessing the power of it EVERY day.  We are TRULY not caught up in the rat-race of what culture says the holidays should look like.  We wanted a SIMPLE Christmas with family and that is what we are getting.   Snuggling up and watching a movie, reading a book, or just taking the time to LAUGH and be together.....that is what we are focusing on.  Talking about the meaning of the holidays and talking of ways that God is blessing us....that is our blessing in this chaos. 

This Christmas is completely surrounded in chaos not of our choosing.  Upheaval is a mild word to describe it.  The only thing we can count on right now is that EVERYTHING changes and can change a hundred times a day.  We can easily get caught up in the "what ifs" and unfairness.  EASILY!  Instead, we are focusing on keeping things as stable for the three "little" people in our home and doing our best to cling to precious memories and make new ones. 

Yes, this Christmas looks very different.  WE chose for things to be different in some ways and in others we had no choice.  What matters is that at the end of the day, we are still a family and we are growing deeper and more steady in that love.  We are growing more in touch with finding the little blessings that God has given us.  Christmas is about the ULTIMATE gift and that is what we are celebrating.  WE WOULD BE LOST without it!  So, I'm glad that Christmas looks VERY different this year. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Kids--Just Can't Help But Make Messes

Oh and their messes.  Some mornings, specifically this morning, you are slammed with another mess to clean up before your brain is even awake.  Some days you turn around and KNOW you cleaned a certain area not five minutes before but there isn't any evidence of the effort.  Some of us may have one of more  "messies" living in residence.  Some of us may have a Mr. or Mrs. Destruct-o living in our midst. 

Kids....just bring about messes.  For the most part, they truly don't intend to cause trouble. They just happen to be impulsive, curious, selfish, distractable, clumsy, stubborn....and the list could continue.  They don't really intend to cause you more trouble, frustrate you, or leave you with a huge mess to clean up.  They don't mean to break things that can't be repaired or replaced.  They don't wake up intending to stress you out, frustrate you, or leave you with gray hair or even no hair (once you've pulled it out MANY times!). 

It was in one of "THOSE" moments this morning that I realized that kids aren't the only ones in that predicament.  While I was fully involved in cleaning up a mess before my brain was even alert enough to register many thoughts, God let me see that I'm the same way.  I bombard him with the same issues.  I'm impulsive, stubborn, distractable, etc....  I act in my own selfishness, pride, and desires and leave him with many messes to clean up.  He is constantly at work having to shape me, get my attention, or redirect my wrong efforts.  He is constantly having to pick up the pieces and restore what is broken.  He is constantly having to knock down walls and rebuild others.  He is constantly at work with me....just like a parent that truly loves his/her children.  He knows I'm frustrated, terrified, emotionally wrung-out, and physically hanging on by a thread.  He knows that at times (even constantly!) I'm going to head the wrong direction or with the wrong attitude.  He knows that right now, that even in my extreme brokenness...I'm still looking for Him.  To Him, that is ALL that matters.  Just like our children need to know that we love them despite all the trouble they get into or messes that we make, it's amazing to know that God loves me despite all of my messes.  Better yet, He finds pleasure in picking me up and carrying me when I don't have a clue how to move ahead.

This morning as I scrambled to clean up a mess, I was reminded of something else important.  In our house, our little green machine spot cleaning carpet machine is probably the most used tool (three kids two of which are boys and a dog....enough said!).  However, this morning it was missing a required piece.  No matter how I attempted to make it work, without that piece it was useless.  I tried to "make" something else to replace the missing piece, but no amount of effort was going to fix it.  We searched.  I begged and pleaded for the kids to find it.  In frustration, I about lost my cool.  I'm finding myself in that position so often these days.  Fortunately, the needed piece was found.  It wasn't where it should have been, but it was where someone had put it. 

It made me think of all the "pieces" that I need to keep myself on track.  No matter how I'm trying....I'm just "not" fully working at my capacity right now.  As a "tool" so to speak, I'm not being effective.  I'm missing some piece that is keeping me from being and working the way God intends for me to be.   Today, that revelation is that in the struggles going on, I'm missing that quiet, one-on-one time with HIM.  Prayers have been wrapped up in the moment and desperate pleas for help.  Necessary.  Reality.  What is missing is that "growing" and digging deep that had been taking place over the last months.  It's been replaced by just trying to survive and keep my head above water.  I've not turned my back on God and I've not put up walls between us, but the focus has shifted so drastically that it's as if they only time I'm getting with him is in "panic" mode or at hyper-speed.  I can't clear my heart and brain from everything that is going on, to find Him in that deep part of me that he was changing so drastically.  I miss it.  I need it.  I just don't know how to find it.  I feel so deeply and my heart is so huge, that I just can't compartmentalize the current pain and fear to let him reach the other areas.  It's a struggle, but I know that He will find a way to wedge himself back into those deep places.   I don't give up on my kids and I love them unconditionally.  They don't earn my love and they don't lose my love when they make different choices than I want them to make.  God is the same way.  He already knows my exact struggles, he knows exactly what is going on and he can read my heart even when I can't express the words.  Fortunately, he has every tool to clean up every mess I could ever make or clean up every mess that people around me make.   He is relentless in his love and grace.  Thankful.  Fortunate.  Blessed.  Otherwise, this crazy insanity would be pointless!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Thankful for the Simple Things

There is just something about the beauty of the season's first snowfall.  The WHITE fluffy view----not the black nasty slush that follows on our city streets.  Our first one of the year caught me by surprise and I found that it was very soothing to the soul.  Though I do NOT like Illinois winters in the least, even I had to just sit back in awe and wonder of the beauty that God put on display.  All in all, news reports are saying we had about 9 inches.  With the blowing and drifting, I have no idea how much we actually had.  I do know that by early this morning, our lower rung on our fence wasn't visible and it continued to snow until after 4:00 this afternoon. 

So far this weekend has been just what my body and soul has needed.  For the first time in weeks, I was able to put down the weight of the world and just ENJOY my family.  Kevin and I stayed up into the wee hours of the morning watching movies and TRULY laughing.  My heart needed that in so many ways and God gave us a few hours to just be "us" again.  The "us" that those around us talk about.  NOT the "us" that has been carrying such heavy weight.  I needed to wake up next to him this morning and FEEL like life was normal.  Normally he is gone hours before I am alert and by that time Bradlee has crawled in the bed to take over that empty spot.  Weekends are usually so on hyper-speed that we don't even get to enjoy that because it's jump up and go.  It was just what my heart needed!

The rest of the day may have been "boring" by some standards, but for me it was perfect.  The boys spent hours playing out in the snow and burning off lots of pent up energy.  Peyton shoveled our sidewalk and those of at least 3 neighbors.  Kevin and Peyton rescued a bunny that was stuck in our window wells and let her warm up inside a bit before releasing her.  Granted, it took MUCH longer to get Bradlee ready to go out then the actual time spent out.  It never fails that the first snow of the season leaves us scrambling to find all of the necessary gear.  I spent the majority of the day snuggled up in bed sewing while watching the snow fall.  Since no one had been in the back yard, I was able to see the "unspoiled" snow and it was just extremely soothing.  By the end of the afternoon, I put my final touches on the "biggest" project I had on my list for this Christmas.  I have MANY more things to make or do, but they are ones that can be done in a few hours at a time. 

As this evening is about to wind down, it's also about to bring us together as a family again.  Pot roast that has been cooking all day is being dished out for a late dinner since Adriana was gone for the most of the day.  A family movie has been chosen.  A movie for Kevin and I to watch afterwards has been loaded on the laptop and is ready to go.   Hot chocolate mugs are sitting on the counter waiting to be filled with everyone's favorite "extras" (marshmallows, Hershey kisses, peppermint sticks).  For us, life is about the simple things that make us a family.  Nothing matters more. 

There are times that I have been reminded today of the battles we are facing.  There are times that I could have found myself bogged down and broken.  Situations have come up that people have been incredibly insensitive, but it hasn't mattered.  All of "that" will still be there, but for THESE moments, I choose to wrap my arms around those around me and enjoy every minute.  THESE minutes are the ones that matter.  Our choices to change our priorities and take a different approach at life over the last months has prepared us to appreciate MOMENTS like these.  I'm grateful.  I'm blessed.  I wouldn't change "us" for the world. 

Friday, December 3, 2010

God's Will IS Perfect For Me

Today I read a blog that reminded me of a much needed truth.   It talked about how God's PERFECT will may not look the way that I think it should.  There is no doubt that this storm we are facing is NOT one I would choose for myself or my family.  As a matter of fact, I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.  However, the reminder was there for me to see that even when I can not fathom what it is that God is doing----I CAN trust Him.  Daily I chose to trust Him.  Sometimes, every minute I MUST choose to trust Him.  If I don't, then EVERY single truth I have based my life on becomes a lie.

The words from Pastor Steve Furtick say it beautifully:

God’s will for you is to become everything He dreamed you to be so that you might glorify Him the way He deserves to be. And that doesn’t necessarily happen through easy circumstances or perfect conditions.

God’s will doesn’t have to be perfect to me to be perfect for me.

If you need proof of this, just take a brief glance at the Bible:

God’s will for Job wasn’t perfect to him. He lost everything. But it was perfect for him. It brought him to a whole new level of faith and positioned him for a greater blessing later in his life.

God’s will for Joseph wasn’t perfect to him. He landed in slavery and prison for over a decade. But it was perfect for him. Through him, God saved his family and an entire nation.

God’s will for Paul probably didn’t seem perfect to a lot of people. Few men have ever suffered so much for the gospel. But it was perfect for him. Few men have ever spread the gospel so vastly in their lifetime.

God’s will for Jesus didn’t seem perfect to his disciples. In the garden of Gethsemane, even He didn’t want it. But it was perfect for him. He defeated and humiliated sin on the cross. Then conquered death in the resurrection. And thereby provided salvation to the whole world.

God’s will for you might not always seem perfect to you. But trust me, His will is perfect for you.

The job you hate right now might not seem perfect to you. But through it God is perfectly developing your character, patience, and faithfulness.

That relationship you just lost might not seem like God’s perfect will to you. But the person God is clearing space for and has been preparing you for your entire life is perfect for you.

The disease you’re battling right now might not seem perfect to you. But God could use your pain as a platform for the gospel to reach countless people. And He’s putting you in the perfect position to comfort others.

That doesn’t make it easy. But it does make it meaningful. Purposeful. Worth it.

It makes it perfect for you.

I can not begin to figure out what God's plan in all of this is or what the outcome will be.  My prayer is that he performs a modern day miracle for my Dad.  What I have to accept and prepare for is that His will may not line up to mine and that I have to firmly believe that His plan has a purpose.

Though I'm struggling with some really powerful things and it's taking EVERYTHING and more to keep moving ahead, I choose to continue to believe His promises to be true.  Looking back over the last several weeks and even months, we are each becoming aware of how God has had his hands on us preparing things for us.  I know my step mom has mentioned some things to us in private conversations and though I choose to honor that privacy, I believe that she is also seeing his hand at work.  For us, two MAJOR things have happened in recent months that we now believe to be in direct preparation for the battle we are facing. 

For those of you that know my daughter well, you know that she is a PASSIONATE gymnast.  Her work ethic and drive compared to no other.  Several months ago she suddenly decided she wanted to walk away and though we fully supported her choice, we weren't exactly sure what lead her to that decision.  We understood her reasons and supported her choice but none of us could grasp the sudden end of her "drive".  Looking back now, it was God giving her the bigger picture of her life.  Tomorrow officially starts competition season for our gym.  There is no way that we would have been able to keep up that lifestyle with what we have going on.  Three to four hour practices a day, traveling usually three out of four weekends a month, and the extreme strain on the finances and body would have been a breaking point for us.  Had she not already made the decision to pursue other things, having to walk away from the gym RIGHT now would have been beyond devastating.  God took her heart and worked with it in His way, giving her another direction to go.....making this journey ever slightly easier for her.  I never doubted her decision, but now I finally understand the abruptness and the timing. 

Sometimes other things---very painful things---happen that we don't have any idea what the purpose could be.  I've mentioned great loss in our lives over the last several months and one hit Kevin and I extremely hard.  We only shared the details with a very select few people.  For the most part it was kept private because I just didn't have the words.  Though I still do not have complete understanding and have many unanswered questions for God, I am beginning to understand part of His plan.  Just a few days before Labor Day and Kevin's family reunion, we suffered a very early miscarriage.  At that point, we had BARELY even had time to wrap our brains around the fact that we were expecting number four.  The only explanation I could come up with at the time was that I wasn't healthy enough to carry a baby full term since I had been having too many flare-ups and we've usually tried to time pregnancies when I've been flare free for at least six months.  We felt that perhaps God was saving us some REAL heartache by it happening SO early....versus several months down the road.  Now I understand that there was a bigger plan.  I know it would have been nearly impossible to have handled a pregnancy all the way to full term with what we are dealing with, especially knowing that the last one resulted in 4.5 months of bed rest.  It has been a tough emotional battle for me, especially knowing that our child would have been born just a month or so after our granddaughter.  God's plans may not seem perfect TO me, but they are perfect FOR me.  I can't see the big picture, the tapestry fully complete, but God can. 

I'm still battling minute by minute to keep my head above water.  I'm on a roller coaster like no other.  I am failing at keeping things together many days, but some minutes are purely amazing and we are doing our best to wrap ourselves up in those.  I easily fall apart.  I easily get angry and people irritate me more than normal with their petty complaints or how they live their lives with no regard to Christ.  Normal.  Struggling....but normal.  I just know that every single time I've been at my lowest breaking point, God has come through in one form or another.  I will continue to hold onto that.  There is NO other choice for myself or our family. 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How are you REALLY doing?

I guess it is time to finally attempt to answer the two question that those that are the really close to me are asking.  "How are you REALLY doing?" and "What can I do?" seems to be the questions asked most often in the last few days. 

I've attempted to blog several times in the last several days, but the words just haven't come easily from my brain to the keyboard.  Normally writing has soothed my soul many days, whether in letters (or novels as I'm sometimes accused of writing!), journaling, or blogging.  It's just not happened and it's like it's all "locked" in my brain and getting heavier by the day!  For the most part, it's been about the inability to find the focus for long enough and then a small part of really not knowing what I think about things myself.

How am I REALLY doing?  I'm in survival mode.  That's about the best I can do to describe it.  Many have said that I must be in denial or at the very least avoiding reality because I'm still keeping everything together.  There has never been anything further from the truth.  I'm just pretty good at keeping up appearances on the outside, but on the inside oh's a whole different world. 

Just a few short weeks ago, I welcomed the month of November with open arms because we had been through so many struggles and loss in the previous months.  I had said that November was going to be "our" month of new beginnings and the month to finally feel like we were on solid ground.  I had no idea that just the exact opposite was going to happen.  I still have a note written on our foyer dry erase message board written to Kevin about the excitement I had about "our" time finally being here.  So to feel that way and feel that God was just about to unleash his power in us and then to have it all ripped simply just HARD to deal with. 

I have to daily, even minute by minute choose to remain strong in my faith and to not blame God.  I have to recommit over and over to my belief that our lives are truly in his hands and that He is in control.  I won't lie.  It's a hard struggle.  However, this is ONE area that I refuse to have taken from me.  I'm not about to lay down and be completely defeated.   I know without a doubt that God has had his hands on us in preparing us for the road ahead.  We can see in our own lives how God was already preparing our hearts and that tells me that no matter what we have to face, we will come through it.  It's going to hurt and rip us apart at times, but NO matter what the outcome....He is going with us every step of the way. 

How am I REALLY doing?  I'm frustrated.  I'm terrified.  I don't know how I'm going to keep everything balanced.  At times I struggle with just the most basic mundane tasks.  Even standing in front of the washing machine this morning with arms full of dirty clothes, I couldn't remember what I was doing.  I don't know how to answer my children's questions.  I don't know how to stay on track with school.  I don't know how to plan for the holidays.  We had planned on a very quiet at home Christmas and were taking an almost all home-made approach to giving, but now I can't even seem to finish a simple task.  I don't know to even plan for next week, much less the weeks and months ahead. 

On a deeper level, I don't know how to even process the thoughts that keep running through my mind.  How do you find the right balance between BELIEVING in miracles and preparing yourself for handling it if God chooses to only heal him in heaven?  How do you prepare yourself to watch the man that you see as Hercules, full of strength and SOLID going through this?  How can your heart watch someone you love so much and have depended on for your entire life watch her husband struggle so deeply with all of this?  How does your heart prepare itself to watch poison being pumped in someones veins and all of the side effects?  How do you sit back and watch those around you love struggling so much with their own emotions?  How do you balance in your own mind that an amazing man who has spent his life doing good for others devastated by this while others around you with NO REGARD for Christ or love for others seem to have nothing wrong going on in their lives?  How do I handle the reality of the fact that he JUST was getting ready to his live HIS dreams and have HIS turn to enjoy life?  How do you handle seeing all of those projects of his dreams just sitting there, especially when your own children have dreams of enjoying it with him? 

How do you handle the fact that you can't keep it all together?  How do you handle it when your kids see you break?  How do you handle the fact that you need the world to just stop for a few minutes so you can catch your breath?  How do you handle the fact that people are already treating you different?  How do you handle watching family and friends that are struggling so hard with all of this that they have already hardened their hearts?  How do you just for one day separate yourself from the struggle and just be a "normal" family?  How do you still focus on God and not question his judgment?  How do you drown out the words of the doctors and believe that God is in control?

All I can say to answer those questions is...I don't know.  This is all NEW ground.  This is truly a taking one minute at a time scenario.  I don't like not having answers and I have few to offer.  What I do know is that I am surviving.  Many minutes it is nothing short of a miracle and I know that there are many people praying for all of us.  It has already happened many times that someone has said JUST the right words minutes after praying a prayer for help.  He's used so many of you in so many different ways.  I just have to keep believing that He will continue to do so.  When I can't go on and it is just too hard to face, I know He will find a way to carry me.

Trying to balance it all isn't working.  I am working to find a new balance.  I am having to let go of so many expectations that others have on me, but most especially those I have placed on myself.  I'm having to find ways to get through hard moments in a HEALTHY manner.  I'm having to find ways to keep my body physically strong and to keep lupus flare-ups from hitting back to back.  I'm struggling with maintaining my personal God time without it turning into a sob session.  I can NOT let that time go or lose it's priority or I won't have the ability to handle anything else.  I have to work HARD at telling Kevin what I'm needing and feeling instead of shutting him out.  I struggle with seeing him broken and his personal struggles with this whole situation. 

However, though the rawness of all of this hurts beyond ways that words can describe, it has also brought some of the most precious tender moments.  Priceless, beautiful memories are being made.  Relationships are being made stronger.  Love is being shown in new ways.  God has revealed himself in some of the most amazing, touching ways.  I'm just holding on to those with all I have and some moments it's that holding on that gets us through. 

No matter what happens in the coming weeks and months, I am going to hold on to the amazing moments of this past weekend.  To say Thanksgiving was hard, is to make an extreme understatement.  God somehow provided some superhero strength...that is for sure.  He allowed me to soak in everything around me and to say and do things that were out of my comfort zone.  I was physically exhausted and in pain, but he still gave me energizer bunny strength to take care of things that needed to be done.  I wanted to make sure that Teresa had every second she could with all the friends and family that were there.  To be honest, at times I had to just be BUSY to get through the day...but for the most part, it was to just take the load off of her.  Though many memories were made that day, the ones that I'm holding onto are the ones that were made at church that morning. 

The most important thing to me was to make sure that I was with Dad and Teresa at their church.   My heart is full aware that Dad may have attended church for the last time Sunday or at the very least he may be physically too drained to attend for a long time.  I HAD to be there with him.  It was also the first time he had been since his full diagnosis.  Because he had a very difficult time on Saturday, I was so afraid that he wasn't going to be able to attend.  God provided!  When we got up Sunday morning, he was already fully dressed and sitting in his chair ready to go!  Not only that, he ended up having the BEST day he's had since all of this began. 

I was a nervous wreck walking in those doors because I know he is an EXTREMELY private and strong man and that it was going to be a hard emotional day for all of us.  I can not tell you the pride I felt as I stood there as each person greeted him.  They were loving on MY DADDY and I had never been more proud to be his daughter in my entire life.  A special person in his life drove in from another town and surprised him by being with us.  I felt the spirit of God from the first second worship begin.  Tears rolled down our faces from the beginning to end.  Dad had to leave for part of the service and it worried us, but he was able to return before the end.  Church was just being dismissed when one of the members being obedient to God came up and stopped everyone from leaving because she felt it was important to have Dad come up and have hands laid on him in prayer.  It had been avoided earlier out of respect for his privacy (though they had been having special prayer for him at different times).  Dad didn't hesitate (thankfully!).  No matter what happens, I will always have the memory of those amazing God-filled moments as the entire church gathered around all of us, anointing Dad with oil, and pleading for miracles and strength for all of us.  MAYBE that is the moment that God begin his miracle!  If nothing else, it gives us all strength and unity to face each and every obstacle ahead of us.  The only negative thing about those moments was that Kevin couldn't get get through the crowds to stand beside me...but I know he was in there somewhere!  However, my BIG little brother (who may be 13 years younger but TOWERS over me and I'm not short!) did a pretty good job of standing in his place! 

I said in an earlier post that sometimes I may not be able to put thoughts into words and others I may write I guess this counts as the novel! 

So the answer to "how am I really doing" and "what do I need" is practically best answered as I don't really know!!!!!  I do know that God is going to provide what we all need in one way or another.  I'm just holding on and putting one foot in front of the other as we wait on him.  I just need people to keep loving us and praying us through these days.  I need grace for the days I fail and non-judgmental attitudes.  This is new I'd give anything to not be on, but since we are....just love us through finding our footing. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Lesson from Moses about the Power of Friends

I've said MANY times that reading blogs and posts on facebook has been a sanity saver for me.  The growth experienced personally and in our family unit has greatly come because of how God has used that tool to speak to us.   As much as I believed that before, I'm certain now that it is exactly how I'm going to survive this storm.  EVERY single time I have turned on the computer or grabbed my phone (yes, I'm slowly learning that smart phone technology)....a new facebook post or blog grabs my attention and it just literally seems to take my breath away as if I can feel God sitting right beside me talking to me.

Though I've had MANY breakdown moments in the last 10 days, today was the first morning that I woke up and literally just didn't feel like I could face the world.  There have been hard days of sitting by the phone waiting for results, but even those days I had a "purpose" and even though I felt a physical brick sitting on my chest..I still was able to stay focused.  I gave into the pity party for awhile this morning and thought there would be no harm in just staying in bed all day.  It probably would have been fine.  However, for someone that has battled deep depression I KNOW I can't allow myself to have many of those days or that pit will start surrounding me and I'll fall deeper into it.  So, I literally jumped out of bed and almost in a rage ripped all the bedding off the bed.  I usually wash our bedding on Tuesday or Wednesday anyway...but it was a physical way to make sure that I got up and MOVED ahead.  Even if I find myself just wanting to crawl back in this afternoon, at least I temporarily got going. 

When we got home from story time a few minutes ago, I read a blog that had popped up on my facebook from one of my favorite websites (Proverbs 31 ministries).  Once again, it was a direct link from God talking me through getting through THIS day and the days ahead. 

The blog was based on Exodus 17:12.  At this point in the "story", Moses was leading the Isrealites in a battle against the Amalekites.  When he held his staff in the air, the Isrealites remained strong and held the advantage.  If his arms began to drop, the Amalekites would begin to defeat them.  His hands practically contained the power of God...the power of their victory. 

I'm sure that Moses was WELL aware of the pressure he was under to keep his arms in the air.  NO doubt he knew what the repercussions would be if he let them drop.  I imagine that he went through every encouraging thought he could muster.  I'm sure he used self-talk to try to convince his body to keep his arms in the air.  I'm sure he prayed continuously.  I'm sure he gave it EVERYTHING he had.  However, the Bible says that his arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. 

That is where the beauty of the story comes in.  "So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on.  Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands.  So his hands held steady until sunset."  Sometimes, each and every one of just need help.  I think God was telling me that he IS expecting me to accept help when I need it....even when I really want to keep that strong, capable image going.  There ARE going to be days that no matter how hard I want to, my arms are just not going to be able to stay up.  Friends and family are going to step in and bring me a stone to sit on and hold my arms up in the air. 

Just like, as the days progress....I'm going to be standing there holding my Dad's arms in the air to give him strength to fight his battle.  I'm going to be holding Teresa's arms in the air to give her the encouragement to hang on tight.  I'm going to be holding my family's arms in the air as we together face such uncertainty and need each other's help to keep ALL of our arm's in the air.  I'm going to be holding my children's arms in the air as they try to find calm in the chaos.  Kevin and I will be holding each others up at the same time to face everything together. 

I've mentioned to Kevin more than once that this is all just unchartered territory.  His normally strong wife has suddenly become a freak-a-zoid.  We laugh and say the roller coaster reminds us of the last few weeks of pregnancy when hormones and being miserable morph me into an alien....or the early months when I've been too sick to function.  I really want time to sit still just for a few days so I can let everything soak in and have all of my questions answered, have a plan for EVERY aspect of EVERY thing going on (most people know I need a plan with a back up plan for the back up plan!!!!), and to just slowly adjust to everything.  Since that isn't going to happen, I'm going to have to learn to let those around me keep my arms in the air when I physically can't do it any longer.  I'm also going to have to find a way to let go of my perfectionist tendencies.

The following words come from the blogger and she says it so well that I think I will let her words express it: 

In the same way over the past couple of years I've needed my friends to hold me up, so I can be the wife, mother and woman God has called me to be. Friends have listened, prayed and helped me with practical matters of everyday life. Their support has given me courage to press on, to remain hopeful, and to find strength in them and the Lord.

Just like Aaron and Hur did for Moses, my friends have held up my hands and lifted my heart so I can be obedient to God's call on my life. We all need the help of faithful friends.

Dear Lord, thank You for the encouragement of friends - and for providing each one at just the right time. Forgive me for the times I've been prideful and independent instead of vulnerable and honest about my needs. Let me be an encourager to others the way they've been to me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Monday, November 22, 2010

God moment---again!

JUST two minutes after posting my last blog post, I logged back onto facebook and THIS is a link that had just been posted.

Coincidence? NO WAY!  Coincidence that the last several weeks at church and for a couple more we have and will be continuing to study the book of Nehemiah?  No way. 

Simply:  God moment. 

A small battle now...but a HUGE victory later!

I may kick myself this afternoon, but I'm wide awake and up early today.  I actually slept a few solid hours last night so my body must have loved and needed it so much that it allowed me to wake up alert.  Had hoped the kids and I would sleep in since we had the chance. 

We had intended to attend a free school/family event at the U of I today and watch the women's basketball game, but I've instead decided to spend the day at home.  Adriana has to babysit this afternoon and we are supposed to eat dinner out with a business associate this evening.  I think we'll just focus on those things instead of being gone all day.  The first step in adjusting to this new reality is learning to simplify and most especially for me is learning to say "no".  (The other will be saying "I need help" and this is what I need.  Baby steps!).  School has fallen WAY down on the list of priorities this past week and with the MANY days ahead that I won't be able to focus, staying home is the best thing for us.  I need to choose and purchase a back up curriculum for the boys that is VERY portable and that will require minimal thought and input from me.  Hopefully I can look into that in the coming days.  Adriana is covered since hers is computer based and loaded on a laptop, except for the days that she needs reteaching from me and my brain can't "think".  Hopefully those days won't happen very often.  ;)

This morning one of the prevalent thoughts that kept repeating in my head is how I feel like I already battled the enemy last night and won a round.  I'm learning that sometimes when you make a decision, you may just feel like you are making it at the moment but yet it matters in the big picture when you don't even realize it.

I know that the BIGGEST source of strength is going to come from my faith and most especially it's going to come from the spiritual connection that has made my marriage so beautiful in recent months/couple of years.   The enemy knows that he HAS to attack that or place any little wedge or any tiny thing that can grow into something bigger.   His goal is to take our eyes off of God and to create division between all things good. 

Last week when we were waiting for confirmation (which my heart knew the reality from the VERY first phone call), there were a few nights that I asked Kevin to not pray with me before bed.  It was NOT because we weren't praying and it wasn't because I didn't want him to join me in praying for miracles.  It was just because I was struggling so hard to keep things together emotionally (being "strong") that the intimacy and rawness of prayer together would have broken me.  Since I was struggling so much with insomnia, I thought it was best to not get me even more emotional before falling asleep.  Reality was that I ended up unable to sleep anyway with most nights getting an hour at most.  He respected my wishes and instead usually just sat beside me and prayed silently. 

Reality:  Satan was planting a seed.  He wanted us to lose our connection to each other that prayer brings. 

Last night I was exhausted beyond belief and found myself in that position again.  Kevin finally came in and sat beside me and said he needed to pray with us before I fell asleep.  I told him that since I was very relaxed and calm that I didn't want him to because I knew it would turn my brain back on and I just wanted it "shut off" so I could sleep.  I hadn't shed any tears in an entire hour and my head was half way clear.  He respected my wishes initially, but as I layed there with him rubbing the swelling out of my ankle joints, God began to let HIS opinion be known.  He spoke to my heart and let me see the reality of what was going on.  IT was a small start to division.  Praying as a couple CHANGED our lives.  The times that we let it slip away, our marriage and family life suffered.  By asking him to NOT pray, I was giving that tiny little seed of division a chance to grow later.  With all we are facing, THAT is the exact opposite of what we need.  If we aren't careful, in times of stress....EVERYTHING else can fall apart.  WE HAVE to stay on top of our own personal relationships with God, our marriage relationship, our own physical needs....or we WILL lose the balance of keeping it all together.  The end result will be that Satan will have plenty of ammunition to use to cause us to turn our backs on God. 

I fought God at first and tried to ignore Him, but he was relentless.  I finally had to speak up and tell Kevin that I was wrong.  As much as I was concerned about losing that tiny window of sleep, it was more important to maintain our relationship with each other through prayer.  I think he was relieved to hear me say it.  I think he was beginning to get concerned that he was seeing signs of me "running from God" or letting the important things slide....and because I'm usually so ADAMANT about was scaring him.  God won.  Satan lost.  God showed me that making that tiny decision at the moment wasn't necessarily a huge deal, but in the big picture it could have created huge issues.  Result: I slept.  Soundly.  Coincidence?  Maybe.  After all, your body does eventually crash.  Reality: God's peace. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

What do you say?

I'm still here.  I'm still ticking.  I'm still walking in faith. 

Some days I may write the length of a mini-novel....some days I just can't. 

Right now, I'm still in the process of finding balance.   The biggest thing right now is that, I've been talking the it's time to walk the walk.  Some days I'm going to fail miserably and I'm grateful that grace will be covering me.  Some days I'm going to be more successful than others.  Some minutes I have been incredibly strong and stunned those around me.  Some minutes I've been a REAL walking basket case that literally can't breathe.  Normal.  Expected. 

For my Daddy and my children, I will be as strong as possible.  For my Daddy and my children, I'm also VERY human with a huge heart.  THEY have and ARE going to see my break at times.  When I left his side this morning, I left with no regrets of things unsaid.  Dad, Teresa, Kevin, Adriana, and I had some good heart felt conversation....with laughter and tears in the middle of the night, crawled up in his bed. 

Right now, we are just extremely overwhelmed.  I can honestly say I'm not mad at God and I have yet to doubt Him during this sudden insanity.  I'm kicking and screaming and pleading....but not doubting. 

For many months, I've felt like God has been preparing us for something "big".  I just had no idea that THIS path is the one He would be choosing.  I've yet to say, Why me? Why him?  Why us?  I may at some point.

For now, it's about thousands of questions to answer and having no answers.  It's about trying to figure out how to keep one foot in front of the other.  Trying to figure out what we need to do to simplify life at home so that we can keep up.  Trying to figure out how to stay on track with school when we all feel like it's the last thing we want to do.  Trying to figure out what I need to do for myself to keep my physical health strong enough to handle what is ahead.  Lupus and stress are horrible combinations.  Trying to figure out how to comfort my children when I'm broken as well.  Trying to figure out how to make the load that much lighter for our family.  Trying to stay connected with my husband and building on the incredible positive steps we've taken in the past year or so.  Trying to stay positive, but yet not be in denial.  Hoping for miracles, believing in miracles...but yet being prepared for if those miracles are only brought about by HEAVENLY healing. 

Most especially, keep praying.  Each and every one of us NEED it more than the air we breathe.  Thank you so much for all of the encouraging words.  Please know EACH and every one means the world, even though I'm unable at this point to personally thank you each time.

Less than 4 months ago, medical tests done for another reason showed ZERO signs of cancer.   Results show that Dad has esophageal cancer already advanced to stage 4.  We have few medical options.  However, we have the absolute best doctor known to man....THE Great Physician.  He has all of us in his hands....and he will carry each of us when we can't carry ourselves. 

I feel incredibly old all of a sudden (will be 36 next week) and extremely young at the same time.  SO not ready for this roller coaster ride, but now that we are on it....there is no getting off.  It's going to be about holding on tight no matter how many loops and flips there may be ahead. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Reposting Day 13 &14

This is a post that I had posted on Sunday night, but took temporarily down until we had confirmation.

Day 13: I am thankful that God's mercies are new every morning. I am thankful that when I ask for forgiveness for my sins, his word says he remembers them no more and they are as far as the east is from the west. THANK goodness! I don't believe there is anything any more comforting than to know that God loves us despite how messed up we are or how much we have messed up. I admit that some days I struggle with remembering just how expansive his forgiveness is----especially since I'm trying to be a reformed perfectionist!!! I'm just grateful that he sees my heart and ALL of me and loves me anyway! What an amazing thing that is!

Day 14: I am thankful that God is the "great physician" and that he can bring about healing---physical, emotional, spiritual and even of the "heart".

When I chose that as my topic of thankfulness for the day this morning, I had know idea just how important that was going to be. I was thinking about it because my plate has been pretty full with so many things going on and people needing healing and I was comforted by knowing that no matter how overwhelmed I may get, HE is the great physician and HE can heal EVERY emotional wound and EVERY physical need. Specifically, I was thinking of how amazing it was going to be on the day that he brings physical healing to my brother. I was thinking about how heavy my heart has been on some issues and that he has carried me and allowed healing to take place in areas that I know I couldn't do on my own. I was thinking about the miracles he had already performed in recent weeks in the lives of so many people around me. I was also thinking about just how many people in my life that need physical healing RIGHT now. It IS overwhelming. However, I know that HE has EACH and EVERY one of us in the palm of his hand and we can find absolute comfort in that.

At that time, I didn't know that at 7:36 PM that the rug would be pulled out from under me AGAIN. I heard from my step mom that my dad had been admitted to the hospital with some VERY serious issues. At the moment, I think I'm still in shock and trying to process the information. I'm HORRIBLE at waiting. I'm a concrete kind of girl....I need FACTS and then I research like crazy and get my "solid" footing. Since this is going to require some waiting, I may go insane. My flesh side wants to just BREAK---some days I don't understand why on earth God keeps handing me more. I REALLY am not that strong!!!! However, what I believed with my whole heart this morning, I CHOOSE to believe now. HE IS the GREAT physician and he is not going to leave any of us. He has my Dad in his hands and he has each of us as well. We will pray that he performs miracles and most importantly that he brings about immediate pain relief tonight. He will be with each of us as we wait and wonder what all of "this" means. He can help me control my thoughts and keep my eyes focused on him when all I want to do is HIDE! Hopefully, we will be rejoicing in a few days when the doctors tell us that all is well and Daddy is back to being his normal self. He'll be back out in his garage working on one of his treasured classic cars, riding around the farm on his tractor, or hitting the hills on his four wheeler. In the mean time, I'm going to be flooding heaven with prayers of healing, comfort and strength.

I'm thankful that my "thankfulness" of the day was on my heart THIS morning so that my heart was better prepared to handle the phone call tonight. Having been so deep in thought about it all day was NO accident. The Holy Spirit knows exactly what we need, even before we do!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Month of Gratitude: Day 16

Today I'm thankful for a little thing that means SO much.  It's the special hug from my 4 year old.  He's all about putting EVERYTHING and more into it.  I'm also thankful for those incredible backwards hugs from Kevin....the ones where he grabs me from the back and holds on tight.  It's just something about how perfect he fits!  Even though the other two are still in that stage that hugging mom isn't so cool anymore, I'm still thankful for them.  I'm most thankful for their wacky sense of humors and their wild antics that keep me laughing.  Hugs and laughter truly are an amazing gift!  Between everything that is going on right now and the fact that this whole month has been about gratitude and causing me to have my eyes wide open for blessings, I'm just grateful for all of those "little" priceless things!

On a side note, I'm also thankful for something else tonight even though it wasn't my "official" thought of the day.  Tonight I finally had a little bit of MUCH needed calm come over me and the brick that has been sitting on my chest lifted....even if only for a few minutes.  The calm came from getting lost in stitching a Christmas gift for some loved ones.  I'm blessed by the memories of when I was first taught to cross-stitch.  My step mom was one of the leaders of "Pioneer Girls" at our small town, country church.  Think Girl Scouts---but with a Biblical focus.  We earned patches for learning skills: mostly homemaking.  Gasp***  wow, what a concept~!  :)  It was great.  I remember how patiently she taught me as we made a red gingham pillow with a star pattern.  I know she was probably ready to pull her hair out with all of the times she had to rip my stitches out and re-thread my needle.  I could NOT for the life of me stitch with out pulling my needle so far away from the pillow that it would completely unthread.  I remember how she finally gave up and tied a knot in it!  That was probably 30 years ago since I'm about to turn 36 and I'm pretty sure that was 1st grade...maybe 2nd.  I'm well past the learning stage now...but those memories are absolutely priceless!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Month of Gratitude: Day 15

Day 15:  I'm thankful that through the storms of life, that I have someone to turn to.  As overly emotional as I have been today and as difficult as I know some things ahead MAY be, God is absolutely in control.  I don't have to understand the "whys" and all of my flesh is screaming against everything going on.  However, He is at work and He is NOT about to leave us alone.  I'm on a roller coaster right now (and in real life I HATE NOTHING MORE!) and as much as I want to get off, I still have some peace.  It doesn't diminish my concern, but it comforts me GREATLY. 

Tonight, despite the heaviness I'm feeling....God has been at work.  Kevin received a GREAT emotional blessing today from someone that he loves dearly.  I'm so overwhelmed that God provided that for him.  HE NEEDED that boost!  I needed to see him have that moment.

I've spent the last 45 minutes trying to get my wild little man to go to sleep.  He's wound up and bouncing more than Tigger.  He obviously is feeding off of my emotions and I'm doing my best to recognize that and not add to the problem.  Just a few minutes ago he whispered something in my ear and I had to make him repeat it because it gave me REAL goosebumps.  It was one of those moments that I KNOW God was speaking to me....and he used my precious 4 year old as his vessel.  He said "My help comes from the Lord".  It wasn't prompted and it isn't an actual verse we have been working on at home.  He obviously learned it at church, but God used THIS moment to reveal it.   He has proven yet again that HE is just a heartbeat away AND the reminder is something that is going to STICK with me! 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Month of Gratitude: Day 11-12

Day 11:

Grateful for freedom because it was purchased at a price and it continues to cost families every day.  Many people chose to thank the military/veterans yesterday since it was a day set aside to do so.  Though I think that it is FANTASTIC, I challenge us all to take it beyond that one day.  Keep them in your hearts and prayers EVERY day instead of just one.  It's VERY easy to forget about the sacrifices that those in the military make, and especially those of their families.  Unless we've walked in their shoes, I don't think any of us can truly understand it.  I'm extremely thankful that Andy is not deployed during this pregnancy and will get to experience all of Samantha's pregnancy and the early days of Lauryn's life.  Missing out on so much of Izabella's life (the majority of the pregnancy and her first 10 months) had to leave such a significant hole in both Andy and Samantha's lives.  These young families give up so much to allow us to continue on with the freedoms we so often take for granted.  Many times, they don't even understand the depth of their own sacrifices. 

Day 12:  Thankful for memories.  Memories are one of the most beautiful blessings God has given us.  For those that are now living in His presence, it serves as a direct connection that keeps them so close to our hearts.  It was 7 years ago today, that Kevin's mother joined Him in heaven and the memories for all of us keep her as close as possible.  She NEVER once fit the typical "mother-in-law" reputation.  I don't have a single negative memory.  She was truly one of a kind!  I see SO much of her in Kevin and I know that is why I love him so much.  Mothers like her...just live on and I'm so grateful to see so many of her traits in Kevin!  I know that having just lost his sister in recent days makes this day even harder on Kevin's dad.  Memories and faith in a LIVING God will get him through.

Memories are also blessings when they remind of us of those that are STILL with us.  I love how random memories pop in my head and either make me me laugh or warms my heart.  Isn't it such a joy to think of a random person, a childhood memory, or even be reminded of something that just happened last week? 

Even those not so wonderful memories----the painful ones---CAN be a blessing.  They serve to remind us of mistakes we don't want to make again.  They can draw us closer to God when our hearts still need healing.  They can draw us closer to God when we still need to repent or when we still have unforgiveness in our hearts.  Bad memories don't have to define us or break us down.  They can remind us of where we have been and where we never want to go again, causing us to focus on the beautiful things God has waiting for us. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Month of Gratitude: Day 10

Today I'm thankful for the freedom to make educational choices for our children.  I'm thankful for a husband that has supported and encouraged those choices for over 9 years now.  Though I don't believe that home schooling is the only right choice, it is the right choice for our family.  It's about seeking God's direction in regards to your children's educations and then being obedient.  For us, he revealed his plan about the time Adriana was three years old and though it has been a TOUGH (and VERY discouraging and lonely) road at times, I am thankful beyond words to be on this journey.  It's extremely frustrating some days, but more days there are blessings beyond compare.  Though I wish MANY things for my children, the three things I want them to embrace from life are a love for Christ, a love for others, and a love of learning.  Home schooling has been the greatest tool for developing those loves.  Though I could write PAGES on the topic, I simply just say...I'm thankful.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Month of Gratitude: Day 9

Today I'm thankful for the written word.  Most specifically HANDWRITTEN!  In our technology driven world, it has become a lost art!  Nothing gives my heart a greater boost than to receive a handwritten note, letter, or card in the mail.  I'm old fashioned I guess!  I LOVE communicating by email, texts, and blogs...but there is JUST something about a handwritten note.  I'm still trying to take the time to send cards out on most Thursdays.  It warms my soul to write them and it gives me a personal connection with the recipient.  I also LOVE to leave notes for Kevin (either on our dry erase board or cards/letters) and I get completely GIDDY with excitement when he has left them for me.  I love the times that I go out to get the mail and find a note or card from someone.  It brings about an instant smile and encouragement.  Though I would also enjoy hearing from them by email, just to see their handwriting makes it that much more special.  Yes, I'm a nerd....and proud of it!  Perhaps, I was born in the wrong era?  Nah, I also LOVE my technology!  Many schools are no longer teaching cursive writing, but that is something I will not be skipping in my kids curriculum!  Today I'm thankful for those that inspired me to love "writing" and for those that have taken the time to send me notes in recent months.  Thank you. 

My love of writing and ALL things cards....led me to create a letter box by upcycling a clementine crate on Sunday afternoon.  I enjoyed taking the time to "craft" and now a FEW of my favorite note cards are together waiting to find recipients in the coming weeks! 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Month of Gratitude: Days 6-8

We spent the weekend moving constantly, bouncing from one fun family activity to another so I didn't sit down long enough to blog.  It was a fantastic weekend!  Unfortunately, I am behind a few days on my gratitude blogs. 

Day 6:  Grateful for ministry leaders and volunteers that go above and beyond in teaching my children that Christianity is MUCH more than a Sunday morning attitude.  This is one of the greatest blessings in my life!  To all of you:  thank you!   Thank you for loving on my kids in the most tangible and intangible ways.  I'm truly amazed with how you make us ALL feel like family.  I'm thankful that I can completely trust my childrens' hearts to you.  I've always been a firm believer in making sure that the biggest bulk of children's spiritual training should come from HOME.  The church and it's leaders should never be expected to be the ones fully responsible, but I know that my kids are in the best hands possible.  Thank you!  For Adriana:  thank you for showing her that being different is EXACTLY who she needs to be and encouraging her to be proud of that.  Thank you for causing her to dig even deeper and grounding her faith even stronger.  For Peyton: thank you for loving and supporting him as he's trying to find his own way where he is a square peg in a round world.  Thank you for beginning to get deep in his spirit and for letting the real changes begin to take place.  For Bradlee:  thank you for taking a little guy whose screams could be heard throughout the church in the beginning because he didn't want to stay, to a little guy who has so much infectious enthusiasm that we can't keep up.  Thank you for hiding the word of God in his little heart and for making these most important years REALLY count.  For us as parents:  thank you for being with us through the laughter, tears, frustration, and helplessness.   Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you!

Day 7: simple.  Thankful for our fleece sheets.  Yep, not really deep there!  When you wake up to a house that is 56 degrees and you realize you are still warm (until your dear husband purposely pulls the covers off to make you get up!).  For those of us that are so stubborn and are experimenting to see how long we can go without turning the heat on (mostly due to being frugal and for budget survival during the holidays), the warmth of fleece sheets is an incredible blessing. 

Day 8:

Part one: thankful for hot biscuits with my Granny Brown's homemade grape jelly.  It's soothing to the soul and it is just amazing to the tummy! 

Part two:  thankful for friends that TRULY pray.  I'm thankful for those friends that when you ask to pray for you, you KNOW they do and within minutes you can feel the mountains start moving in your life.  They are the REAL blessings in life.  How many times has someone said "praying" and you know that they forgot you as soon as they said it or wrote it?  Or they do stop and say a short 2 line prayer.  Those are appreciated, but the ones that REALLY go to God on your behalf are the ones that bless our lives beyond imagination.   When you get an unexpected facebook message, email, call, text, or card in the mail that says I'm praying for you and you KNOW they are.  It leaves me speechless (OK, almost....I seldom am EVER REALLY speechless!).   To those of you:  thank you doesn't seem like enough to say.  In recent weeks/months, it is those prayers that have kept our head above water and truly brought us back into real fellowship and personal connection with God.  It would have been easy to throw our hands up and quit, but your prayers reached God and they reached us.  Thank you. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Month of Gratitude: Day 5

Today I'm most thankful for......the Internet!  OK----I realize that's an odd thing to be thankful for but that is one of the top things on my list. 

I think back to how isolated I was on this journey of motherhood and especially home schooling.  It was a very DARK lonely time that I wouldn't wish on anyone.  Living in the country certainly didn't help. 

I'm most thankful for facebook and the blog world.  Frivolous?  Maybe.  Life-saver?  Absolutely in my book!  Because of facebook, I've had an entire world re-opened to me and in the mean time my heart has grown tremendously.  I have been able to reconnect with special friends that I may never have found again.  One particular friend I have NEVER met in person, but we developed a God-designed friendship years ago online and lost contact with our MANY moves.  I feel unbelievably grateful to have her back in my life because she is truly one of the greatest cheerleaders in my life. 

I am thankful for the connection that I've built with extended family that I seldom see.  Two specific ladies that I feel a GREAT connection with I would have most likely never realized how special they were without facebook and blogs.   I'm also thankful for the connection it has created with Kevin's dad. 

I am thankful for the friendships it has strengthened.  Some of the dearest people in my life have come about by getting to know them more deeply from FB and blogs. 

I am thankful that it also one of the greatest sources of support----more than I ever dreamed!  I can't tell you how many times I've had a spiritual need and post something and with in a matter of minutes feel God moving.  Countless other times I've been struggling with something and it never fails that someone in my circle has posted JUST what I need to hear, directly touching my heart.  EVEN in someone else's struggles, I've been touched.  It has been the greatest source of joy (it's easy to find something to TRULY make you laugh!) on many days.  It has been the greatest source of keeping my priorities in the right place.  Either through blogs or facebook, I've read what so many people have said and it has made me examine my own life and see if God was speaking to me about needing to make a change.  Also if your life is an open book, you best be living a life worth seeing.  It's caused me to be more purposeful in how I live my life.  I'm open to sharing my successes as well as the many more times that I fail. 

The internet/blogs/facebook all have been a great encouragement for this stay at home, home-school mom.  It's VERY easy to get overwhelmed in your own four walls and bogged down at the task at hand.   If I don't know how to do something....someone else does.  If I need's easily found.  If I need to feel not so alone...someone is going through the same thing that I am battling.  If I need an educational/teaching's EASILY found in abundance.  Need to know how to save money, do something frugal, or need a recipe...oh my, that is VERY easily found!   Need to express something on your about it.  Who cares if no one else ever reads it!

I also love how it allows my husband and I to connect.  He knows what is going on in my typical day.  I can support him and vice -versa.  I can banter back and forth with him and enjoy doing that often.  It keeps us connected in a world that has us moving at hyper-speed.  I can post a message to him on FB, and it WILL get his attention since it also goes to his phone and by email.  IT will catch him wherever he is...catching him in his office is IMPOSSIBLE at best.  Catching him on his cell phone is not as easy as the Verizon commercial shows...Can you hear me now?  Most likely not.  Catch him by email----well that would require his email system to actually be working.  What almost always works?  The "normal" internet....not his company network.  So, I know that even if it's "I love you...hurry home"....he's going to get that message and know that I'm thinking of him.   He can read my blogs and know what deep thought has been bogging my brain down that I've not been able to sit down and talk about.  Kids have a way of interrupting that.  I am also a "writer" and not a "talker" so many times.  It's written down and still there hours later when we both are more able to connect.....and otherwise that time may have never come. 

So yes.....I'm thankful for facebook.  It's not a deep, normal thing to be grateful for....but it's on my list.  Hey, some people couldn't make it a few hours without a Starbucks....for me it's the cyper-space addiction!