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 my....it'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 apart....is 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 novels.....so 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 ground....one 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 it....it 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 talk....now 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 inspiration...it'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 tool...it'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 heart...blog 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!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Month of Gratitude: Day 4

Today I'm grateful for our Parent's Morning Out (PMO) program at church.  It means so much to me because for 12 years of being a stay at home mom, I had no such opportunity to grab a few minutes of alone time.  Babysitters were NEVER in the budget, we lived so far away from other moms that I was physically isolated, and programs such as this were available in another town but gas money and "tuition" didn't fit in the budget. 

Our program is amazing because there is ZERO cost involved.  It works on the volunteer system.  I spend one Thursday morning a month volunteering and then the other three, I get to take 2.5 hours to do something for myself.  Last year I wasn't able to get the full benefit of the program since at the time there wasn't an option for Peyton.  Bradlee was young enough to stay and Adriana was old enough to volunteer.  About half way through last year, they opened up a homeschool class that allowed school age children.  YES!  I was completely in heaven and SHOCKED when I got that first morning to myself.  It took several weeks for me to really start to enjoy that time! 

This year has been fantastic for me.  It truly is a blessing to just get a few hours most weeks to just not have to be a mom or teacher temporarily.  I promised my husband I would not STAY at home, I would not shop for the kids or I would not work on anything school related.  MOST days, I keep that promise!  I usually try to stay out of the grocery store and try not to run normal "errands", but sometimes I still end up doing it.  At least on those days, I can usually do it MUCH more efficiently!

Aside from the me time, it has been amazing because of the relationships I've also formed.  It was from that homeschool class starting last year that I first became involved with other home school moms on a more regular basis.  The friendships that have come out of that group are completely priceless to me.  It has been one of the greatest joys of knowing that we are exactly where God placed us.  Having personal one-on-one relationships with someone else that REALLY gets the "call" God has placed in our hearts is absolutely amazing.  To know that someone else TRULY gets the ups and downs....is PRICELESS! 

I also completely enjoy the morning that I get to volunteer.  Everyone that knows me knows that I am most happy when I have a baby in my arms and on those mornings I get the chance to completely lose myself in snuggling, rocking, and soothing.  I love it!  Many mornings those few hours have been my sanity savers and it has also healed many wounds.  Kevin always knows which days I got my baby fix!!!!! 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Discouragement Doesn't Define Us

I've been wanting to write this post since Sunday, but had too much going on and was being pulled in too many directions to pull my thoughts together.

Many of you understand that God gives you just the "right" message when you need it.  I am so surprised every time that happens.  I shouldn't be.  I should always have an expectant attitude knowing that God is going to somehow find a way to get his message through my thick, stubborn skull!  Sunday was one of those such days.  I went into church that morning with a door slightly open in concerns to some heart issues needing fixed/adjusted and needing to be encouraged.  God took that tiny little opening and then rammed right through it and barreled in full speed ahead.

He had already been teaching and reminding me of these same truths when I was reading Lysa Terkeurst's book, but to hear it AGAIN and in a different atmosphere was like God was really saying "open your ears and your heart".  I needed to hear the voices of truth again to drown out the lies that Satan tells us. 

I have been greatly discouraged lately, but it seems that in every disappointment and discouragement, God has almost immediately sent someone or something to boost me right back up.  To those of you that are my rocks and sources of encouragement, THANK YOU!  You may not ever know just how truly grateful I am for you literally changing my life for the better.  I'm thankful that God doesn't feel as far away as he has in the past, when I need to feel Him close....it's as simple as reaching out.  My hands no longer come back feeling empty handed. 

Sunday's sermon continued on with our study of Nehemiah. The "stage was set" by describing how the people were feeling when Nehemiah showed up and finally announced his plans to rebuild the city.  The citizens initial attitudes were along the lines of thinking "Why have we stayed so long in this city, a community going no where?"  What good does it do?  What else do we have?  What are we missing?----those type feelings.  Then the government shows up with it's military and leaders.  The first thoughts were probably along the line of concern.  What is happening?  Are we going to war?  Are we going into exile?  Will this do any good?  What are we in for?  No one around knows what the story is.  There have been no leaks from the media....their was no inundation of news like we have today. 

With the unity of the leaders, Nehemiah finally speaks.  He says something along the line of, "We are in a great deal of trouble.  Our city is in ruins.  However, that NO LONGER has to be our legacy.  Let's rebuild it and restore it.  We have the blessing of God.  Let's let the worst news be no more.  We now have joy and hope!"   Can't you just feel yourself standing in that crowd.  First you are in shock of seeing what is in front of you and worry overtakes.  As Nehemiah begins to speak, you at first are in agreement of his assessment of how bad things are.  You feel like  "doom & gloom" and just KNOW that his next words are going to be of how much worse things are going to get.  You heart is dreading his next words because fear and worry have already crept in and taken hold.  Then his words are those of healing, hope, and restoration.  The fear begins to lift slowly and you can feel it lift from all of those around you.  Far in the distance you start to hear a murmur and it continues to grow.  Hope is rising and the cheers began to erupt.  Life is about to change.  The darkness is about to lift. 

At that point, I thought God had already spoken his message to me.  I was already feeling encouraged and I was so able to identify with the citizens.  We've all been in those dark places.  I've been in the deepest pit of depression with no hope of escape and then FINALLY felt the fog lift as God pulled me out.  I've faced trying times, even VERY recently, that left me feeling like I just could not handle one more single piece of bad news.  Some days my shoulders can not handle even a feather of more weight.  At this point in the story, I felt encouraged by the reminder that even in our darkest moments, there IS light ahead!  I thought that was all God was wanting me to remember!

There was more to the story.  Plain and simple....reality!  Ben Franklin may have said that only two things in life are certain----death and taxes.  Perhaps, a third should be added to that list.  NEGATIVE people!  It's inevitable.  When you set out to do good, EVEN when by following God's leading, you are going to run into such people.  For Nehemiah, it was Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem the Arab.  They scoffed contemptuously, mocked and ridiculed.  They were "wet blankets" trying to put out his fire. 

When you are trying to do something, ESPECIALLY something for God or driven by God, people ARE going to try and stand in your way.  People are going to stand in the way of change.  If you let those people control you, change is never going to happen.  Denouncers, distractors, dream stealers, and those that try to redirect the attention to themselves are going to step out and try to make you give up on the path of good.  I loved how JP described them as "two-legged pests" and that some people believe that their spiritual gift is of discouragement and they love to share it liberally.  We ALL have those people in our lives! 

What really jumped out at me and has been sinking in deeper each day was the encouragement the message brought.  I needed the reminder that just because you ARE in the will of God, it doesn't mean your path with be smooth sailing.  He may clear SOME obstacles, but there still may be many more in the way.  Many times, the greater God IS leading us, the greater we may find "wet blankets".  I read that in Lysa's book, but hearing it again really drove it home.  I've been met so greatly with that type of discouragement and I admit that many times I have backed down and listened to their voices.  The message encouraged me to get back on track and to move forward.  It's time to silence my own doubts and "shut up" the enemy.  Nehemiah's response to his "wet blankets" basically said "I will not cave under your pressure".  I, too, need to stand up and say the same thing.

No matter how difficult a task or how many times I get discouraged, I am NEVER a failure provided that I get up JUST one more time than I fall down.  So today, I'm going to get back up.  I'm going to stand back up and face the enemy with a stronger voice than he has.   Moses was a felon who murdered, but God called him to do exceedingly great things.  Joshua continued on his task despite how many people failed before him.  Daniel felt the world was against him when all he wanted to do was pray to God.  David was still used by God despite his failures and sins.  Discouragement is going to always be a part of us, but it does not have to DEFINE us!  (Neither do our failures!)  That's some powerful stuff right there! 

The message was ended in a way that left me REALLY thinking and I ask you to think of the same questions for yourself.  What area is God trying to change in us but the enemy keeps creating obstacles?  Is God trying to get your attention in regards to reading scripture more, praying, etc..  Is he trying to save your marriage and make it whole?  Is he trying to change your attitude at work?  Where is God speaking to you, but Satan keeps throwing more and more at you to divide your attention?  Where is God at work but Satan is equally fighting just as hard?  I know I can point out things in my life.  I can very much see that God is trying to get my attention.  Some things I have finally listened to and made changes, others I've not taken that step in faith.

On the flip side, do you think things are wonderful?  Do you not feel convicted in areas of needing to change?  If you can't feel God pulling you closer to Him and you can't feel Satan battling, then the enemy doesn't see you as a threat anymore.  If things are all "great"----Satan has probably already won.  He no longer feels the power of God in you.   I know that to be true, because I've been there, too!  There have been many times in my life that Satan has left me alone, he didn't have to bother with me.  He knew I was too weak and too far from God for me to be worth his effort.  It's encouraging to know that if Satan is battling you hard, it's because he feels the power of God rising up in you and he's SCARED to death because he knows who has the victory.  So, in that I say.....bring it on Satan...my flesh my like it when you are silent, but my spirit knows that when you are battling me it's because you know God is in me!  If God is for us, who can stand against? 

Month of Gratitude

I love the idea of the month of November being about gratitude.  Many of my friends are posting something they are thankful for as their facebook status.  I'm doing the same thing....just on my blog instead.  You know I don't like to be limited to 420 characters on facebook!!!!  It's already November 3rd, so I have a couple of days to catch up.

1.  As my blog title reflects, I'm thankful for God's grace and for Him filling in the gaps when I lack.  I mess up more than I get right, but thankfully God knows how to step in and take over.   He gently rebukes me when I've taken a wrong step and causes my heart to be unsettled until I have turned back down His path.  He always sends just THE right person along to help me do something that I can't do alone or even things I don't know how to do.  He amazes me that way!  Having the assurance of salvation, God's forgiveness, His grace, and his Holy Spirit is what makes life worth living.  Thankful for a PERSONAL relationship with Christ.  Plain and simple.

2.  Thankful for my husband.  DUH!  Who wouldn't be?  He's pretty gosh darn amazing!  Though we have our struggles and things that constantly need working through, I would NEVER want to be on this journey with anyone else.  Some conversations while traveling home from Indy last night (we did get to talk on the way, but just on the "surface") reminded me even more of how thankful I am for the fact that he is the kind of man he is.  Though he is far from perfect, he IS perfect for me.....together we are complete.  THAT in itself was truly of God's design. 

3.  Thankful for my little "mountain mover".  He may be an absolute drain on the energy, Mr. Destruction, and may put a dozen new gray hairs on my head EVERY day.....but he is the most lovable, precious little guy.  Watching him grow and change is a daily joy that I'm so glad I don't have to miss very often.  I love his sense of humor, his open affection, his love of music and boy oh boy does he have rhythm, his wacky off the wall statements, and so many more personality traits of his.  I love the joy with which he snuggles in with me every morning and how he has to do it "just" right....no tiny little hugs and no tiny little kisses from this guy!   It warms my heart every time he snuggles in my lap and says his prayers every night.  It isn't a "chore" for him...he truly gets giddy with excitement!  Most importantly, I love my little mountain mover because I'm still so certain that God has called him to move mountains.  Those words immediately came to mind the first moment I held him after his birth and I still feel them every time he snuggles close. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

November=New Beginnings

As I finally sit down to write a blog for the first time in a week, the realization that a new month has begun brings about hope.  A new month means a new beginning.  I can choose to look at it from the angle of how quickly time has gone by (which IT HAS!), but I'm choosing to see it as an opportunity to welcome a new month full of fresh starts and hope for greater days ahead. 

The past several months, most especially the last two in particular, have been difficult in terms of loss.  We've had to face the fact that some of our dreams have permanently failed.   God didn't rescue us from a dark period in the way we had hoped He would.  However, He has His reasons and though we don't fully understand His reasoning we FULLY believe He does have a plan.  Even though we have felt the sting of the loss, we are now thankfully in the next phase.  We are looking at a new beginning with God redirecting us down HIS path.  He WILL provide a path for new dreams and a new vision.   I welcome the fresh start. 

Our family also just suffered a loss that can only be healed by the assurance that our salvation brings.  Kevin's aunt was in a fatal car accident on Friday afternoon.  He received word just as we were walking into our church's Family Fun Fest.  Having to be busy that night and having a task at hand allowed him to slowly let things sink in.  Losing Betty hit him hard.  It's hard to watch your husband hurting so much, especially when he's USUALLY a SOLID rock.  She was an extremely special lady that is best described as a true Proverbs 31 woman.  She was always the prime example of being a hostess and a godly wife.   She was ALWAYS a great encouragement to me personally any time I was around her.  She made sure that I knew that I was doing something important by being home with my children.  It was just back in September, which is now the last conversation we had, that she put her arm around me and told me that I better keep on taking good care of Kevin because he had suffered more than enough in his life and that he needed someone to keep treating him like he deserved.  She said she loved hearing about the two of us from Kevin's dad and our facebook bantering back and forth just made her smile and laugh so often.  My kids have already said that trips to Indianapolis will not be the same because they looked forward to seeing her because she was a "riot".  For Kevin, I know he has expressed what a great loss he feels because they always had a special connection.  We will traveling to the celebration of life service (I hate the word funeral!) on Tuesday.  I can't express how grateful I am that two amazing friends volunteered to keep all three of our children so we can make the trip alone and give Kevin the privacy he needs.  Bradlee is just at the WRONG age right now to try and "contain" for such a day.  We were also worried about Peyton since he is having such a struggle with crowds, both in regards to his health issues and his panic attacks. 

It's also been a difficult couple of months in regards to so many people around us suffering set-backs from every direction.  Watching people you care about hurt is hard.  You truly just don't know what the person next to you might really be going through.  I know that is something that I'm personally working on pointing out to the kids.  We are making more effort to be encouraging and to show gratitude.  A simple act can REALLY just change a person's entire outlook.  Otherwise, I think some days we all could "break" with the weight of so many burdens around us. 

I've also had loss on the level of accepting that some things just aren't what I thought or what I need them to be, especially in regards to relationships.  God has REALLY been giving LOTS of opportunities to learn to trust HIM first.  People will fail you.  Friendships change, but GOD STAYS the SAME! 

What is most amazing is that when one door closes, another one REALLY does open.  Adriana & I have talked often recently about how as hard as some things have been, we can really see some things getting better in the days ahead.  We've been seeing examples of just how blessed we are to be living where God has placed us and beginning to see the rewards of following His leading.  Just a few days ago, we celebrated the fact that we have been living here for 4 years.  It has been an incredibly hard roller coaster, but the peace that comes with knowing you are WHERE God placed you is indescribable.  It seems as if every day or so, we recognize another blessing of our decision.  This week, just as my heart was feeling so heavy as I realized that some friendships/relationships that I leaned on in the past have changed and aren't meeting "my" needs, God has filled that gap GREATLY.  For someone that doesn't easily make "deep" friendships, I am extremely blessed with some of the greatest friends that are TRULY supportive in times of crisis, heart break, and just in the every day moments when you need to LAUGH and feel like someone is TRULY on your side. 

Perhaps, the hardest loss we've faced is a "quiet", personal one.   It's one that Kevin and I have kept between the two of us with just a very few others knowing.  It's not one that we've felt like sharing publicly.  It's an extremely painful one that continues to hurt deeply.  We aren't to the point that we have very much understanding of the "why" yet, but we do have peace.  Peace doesn't erase hurt, emptiness, or hurry along the grieving process...but we do trust that God will help us take those steps.  He's using this time to teach us to lean on Him AGAIN, to find ways to communicate with each other when we aren't even sure what we are thinking individually.  For me, on the hardest days, He's teaching me that He is the great physician----in all regards.   He is just as interested in healing spiritually and emotionally as He is physically.

So as a new month has started, I am absolutely ready to have a NEW start and a NEW beginning.  I'm ready to put this season of great loss behind us and celebrate the joy that comes from absolute faith in God.  Ready to embrace the joy that HE brings despite pain, loss, and suffering.   Excited to see where He leads us as we've taken some great steps in obedience in recent months.  Hopeful that HIS plan for our lives becomes more vivid each and every day.  Grateful that when a door closes another one opens.  Waiting with expectant hope that seeds that have been planted take root and grow beyond what my own eyes could imagine.  November in general is a welcomed month because it ushers in the celebration of  gratitude.  Thanksgiving is more than just a day....it's an attitude that we are earnestly seeking to adopt DAILY.  I'm looking forward to see how that thought process changes our lives in the coming weeks.