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.