Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Five-Year Plan

I always hated being expected to write a plan for my future -- You know, the 'Where do you see yourself in 5 years?' kind of questions. . .  When forced to answer, I'd agonize until I could come up with enough of a non-answer to fulfill the assignment.

To this day, I still hate those types of questions.

However, five years ago, I was contemplating what life might look like five years out. . . .  You see, it was five years ago this week that I was told, "We found cancer."  The initial things we heard caused us to start looking at where we (or ultimately where I and the kids would be) in three to five years.  Would my husband still be here?  How old would my kids be at this point - and would they be ready to face what seemed to be coming?  What would life look like between there and here?  Many, many more questions were going through my mind.

From the very day I heard the surgeon's words, I realized that I could end up as a single parent . . . I couldn't have envisioned, though, that  it would be my reality in less than seven months.  In fact, I don't think I could have visualized anything  that our lives were during those months.  None of the 'experts' predicted what our days would be.  Through the very end, our path was different than they thought it would be.

There were occasions when someone would ask me what I thought life would be like after my husband was gone (some more tactfully than others).  My thought was always, "I have NO IDEA how life will look on the other side of this!"  During that time, it was all I could manage to focus on that day - sometimes only that moment.  What I thought our day might be could be changed instantly by the vicious nausea or a sudden pain crisis.

And now - we have arrived at the five-year point for all of the events of that year.

Nothing I could have formulated would have looked anything like what life has been.

As I have looked back at some of the things I wrote down back then, my heart is thankful.  I have a God who never changes.  My first post about the cancer diagnosis  included the following paragraph: 
As I prepared to go to sleep that night, I felt wrapped in God's blessings.  The night before, I had gone to bed thanking God for His love, care, and total control in this situation.  That night, I realized that it was a great blessing to be able to do the same thing -- those factors had not changed.  God still loved us; He still cared for us; and He was still in control of every aspect of our situation.  This diagnosis may have been a surprise to us, but God already knew.  Through the emotional turmoil of the day, I was still blessed.
God has been with me every step of this journey.  At my most difficult moments - and no matter what my emotions want me to believe, I can still know that God is ultimately in control and that He works things according to His plan.

My follow-up post talked about plans being 'tentative' and about not being able to make concrete plans.
We were going through life as normally as possible.  Making plans as best we could, but everything was tentative.

Funny how that works -- The truth of the matter is that all of life is unknown, but we certainly don't live like it is.  We live like we know what will happen, but the reality is that we don't know.  Something like this just puts that fact in front of us and forces us to acknowledge it more.
That truth remains.  We don't know what a day will hold.  We don't know how our perceived paths may be altered, but we can trust that God knows the outcome.  We can choose to trust that He knows best.  Psalm 18:30 says, "As for God, His way is perfect."   It may not feel perfect, but God sees a bigger picture than we ever could.  I am grateful that God knows my outcome - as it says in Job 23:10, "He knoweth the way that I take:"  And in Psalm 47:4, it says, "He shall choose our inheritance for us."   

I am thankful for who God is!

On a rubber-meets-the-road kind of note, I will say that life isn't what I expected - but I think that is mainly because I had very few set expectations, and I'm not really sure what I expected.   I am simply doing my best to live life where I am - and follow God in doing so.

Some will ask what it is like getting to that 5-year mark.  I think if you asked a dozen people what it is like, you might get close to a dozen different answers.  The best way I can describe it is that it feels strange -- strange to have gotten that far out.  So much has changed, and yet - so much is the same.  It does feel odd when people ask how long it has been to say 'Five Years' -- I don't know why it feels any different than saying that it has been four years, but it does.

And so, life continues. . . .  Where do I see myself in five years?  I have no idea!  My plan is to keep walking on the path where God has placed me, doing my best to keep my eyes on Him, looking to Him for guidance, asking Him for direction at each decision point, trusting Him that He will make His way clear as we go forward. 

Where do I want to be in five years?  I want to simply be following God.

  Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee.                                
 Psalm 143:8

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Reflections on the Water

It seems as though it happens too often sometimes. . . .

Twice in one week during this past month, a friend had to say their final earthly good-bye to their husband.  Then, another friend had to do the same with her dad.  That same week, we made the decision to begin hospice care for my own dad - and just seven days later, he was gone from us . . . .

I've watched my friends as they have had to walk the path on which God had set them.  I've listened carefully to the things that have been said, knowing well that certain statements are more than the sum of their words.  I've paid attention, too, to the things that weren't being said, because - sometimes - it is those things that speak volumes.

My heart has ached deeply for each one as they have come to every juncture along the way.  I believe there is a different level of empathy  when you have walked a similar path - it gives deeper meaning to the scripture that tells us to 'weep with them that weep.'  (Romans 12:15)  The empathy comes close to being the original feelings from my own journey. . . .  I've had many nights of reduced sleep and many not-so-productive days as my heart has been heavy for my friends and my thoughts and prayers have been focused on them.

There have been points in time where I start to beg God to give people more time -- but more time may mean more suffering.  It is heart-rending to watch someone suffer -- it is equally heart-rending to know that the suffering will only end when they have taken their last breath on Earth and are no longer with us!  Do we desire more time as they suffer or an end to their suffering which means we must say good-bye for now??  Had someone been able to present me with those options, I couldn't have chosen either one.  That is where those two words that I've held onto become so very vital:  Trust and Surrender.

I choose to trust that God has a plan and that His plan is best.  I choose to surrender to His will and His timeline - to surrender my own plans and my own strength.  In those things I can rest.  God can be trusted -- He cannot lie, He is always good, and He never changes.  I can trust Him to work His will in His time.  When I surrender, it saves precious energy.

So instead of begging God for more time, I thank Him for being good and for having a plan and for His way being perfect.  (Psalm 18:30)  I thank Him for His grace and strength that I know He gives to those who choose to trust in Him.

I realize that all sounds very simple and cliche, but as I heard it put once, 'It is simple -- it just isn't easy.'  Simple and easy are two very different things.

I don't want anyone taking those statements and using them against someone else -- Don't tell someone that if they would just trust and surrender, everything would be fine.  Trusting God and surrendering to Him does make it easier  than if we resist Him, but there is no easy  way though any of this!  The reality is that suffering, grief, and loss are HARD !  Going through those things is also exhausting - in every way - and to an extent that words fail to describe.  I was able to see one of my dear friends for just a few minutes the day after her husband's memorial service.  I hugged her, told her I loved her and was praying for her, and then made a comment about words being inadequate.  She responded with, "But the exhaustion runs so very deep!"  Yes - it does.  I remember well - and even as an observer to another's journey, it comes again.

As I spent a weekend sitting with my dad, and in the days following, these thoughts have been foremost once again.  It it a privilege  to get to show care to someone - at any age or stage.  It is so very hard to watch someone's body wear out and fail -- especially when that body has been the 'soul carriage' for someone you love.

Because we live in a fallen world, death is a part of our reality.  We all face death for ourselves and for those around us.  Our only escape from death is after we have crossed over into eternity, having trusted Christ as Savior.  Until then, we will encounter and endure suffering, loss, and grief.  As we trust God and rest in His will, we also experience His love and comfort.

I am grateful for my God who loves me and never changes.  I'm grateful He can be trusted to have a plan and to work things out in His perfect way.  I am grateful that God gives us His presence and comfort as we walk the difficult paths of life. . . .

Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;
Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. 
II Corinthians 1:3-4

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Family Update . . . and Reflecting on the Journey

I didn't realize how long it had been since I posted . . . . The days do seem to slip away from me at times.

Life has been incredibly busy . . . I'm not sure it will ever really slow down.  I had been looking forward to the 'relaxed pace' of summer, but there was so much to be done that it felt as though it just sped past me.

Summer was good, just very busy as I said.  My youngest was the only one of my three who was still young enough to attend the basketball clinic that my children have gone to for the past 8 years . . . hard to believe he only has one more summer that he's still able to attend!  My daughter was disappointed that she had outgrown the program, and so she decided to contact the man who runs the program and ask if she could help.  He allowed her to do so, and I think she really enjoyed being on the 'other side' of the program.  It was good for her.

We had our usual Vacation Bible Time (VBT) at church, and everyone had their place.  This was my oldest's first year of being a helper.  Changes keep coming along. . .

Immediately after VBT, we left on vacation.  It was a good trip!  It is always good to get to go back to Pensacola and see friends . . . and always so hard to say goodbye when the visit is over!  We split up our drive home over 3 days and had some fun along the way.  We stopped at the Mark Twain Cave in Hannibal, MO.  The cave tour was a first for all of us.  The last day of our drive home, we were able to stop in and see some very dear friends.  That was a great blessing, too.

In August, we had camp.  This was Nathaniel's first year as a worker, and Jonathan's first year to get to go.  I believe they each had a good time.

Nathaniel also played softball on our church team again this summer.  His skills have improved, and it was noticed.

The remainder of our summer was spent on getting much-needed projects done.  And in the next blink of an eye, it seemed, it was time for school to start again.  This year, Nathaniel is a 10th grader, Esther is a 7th grader, and Jonathan is a 5th grader --  It is my last year of having an child in elementary.

This summer, we found out that Esther has some congenitally-missing teeth . . . so this fall we started the process with braces to properly align what is there and have her ready for implants when she gets older.

I was also able to get Jonathan in for a vision-function exam.  His eyesight is 20/20, but I knew there was more to the picture.  The eye fatigue is too great - and it gets to that level too quickly and too frequently.  The exam was very interesting.  It confirmed what I had concluded through observation and also gave me more insight to what is really going on.  This week, we start vision therapy.  They promise me the change will be dramatic.  I am praying that is the case.

We just ended volleyball season for Esther, and in a few short weeks, we will start up with basketball season for Esther and Nathaniel - the schedule is bound to be even crazier through all of that.  I'm enjoying these few short weeks of no sports schedule!

 As I've been sorting through things lately, I've been reminded of all we went through three years ago.  (FB likes to remind me, as well.)  I don't want those memories to weigh me down -- I want them to remind me to look upward.  Those were certainly hard days -- it was three years ago today that I was told that it was very likely that I was entering the final hours I would have with my husband . . . .   God saw fit to give us several more weeks.  It was the beginning of a very strange time -- A time for which I struggle to find the words to describe.  However, it was also a time of God's amazing power blazing brightly.

Amidst all that we faced, God gave His Peace that truly passes our understanding.  Aside from a few moments when I needed to realign my thoughts, there was no fear. Though there was a tremendous loss - both while Trent was still with us and after he was gone - there was no despair.  There was a settled peace amidst all of that. I still chuckle to myself when people comment about me being so strong through all of that - and I remind them that it wasn't my strength at all -- it was all of God's strength.  Through the depths of my weakness, He showed His incredible Power!

I never want to forget God's working in our lives through all that was - and has been.  God made His Presence so real to us - His Grace was more than abundant  - His Strength was amazing - His Peace was beyond words. 

We have an AWESOME God!  (I don't say that lightly.)  In my Sunday School class, I try to emphasize to my girls how truly INCREDIBLE God is!  God made each of us individually - and for a purpose.  God has a plan for each of our lives.  God loves us more than we could ever comprehend.  To top it off . . . HE NEVER CHANGES!   He will always love us!  

It is easy to get our eyes on our circumstances, but we need to never lose sight of Who God is and all that He does!  (Have you reflected lately on Who God is?)

So today - as I write these words - I allow a few tears to fall.  They are not tears of sadness.  They are tears of thankfulness and of being overwhelmed with God's Goodness to us.  For those who have followed me in this journey, if you shed tears today, I hope they will be the same.  I hope you will join me in thanking God for Who He is and for all He has done for us.

Friday, January 1, 2016

A New Year - A Year in Review

We have reached a new year again. . .

Looking back, this past year was very busy - so much so that I only posted twice.  Sometimes, life is that way.

The busyness of this past year included helping my parents sell their home and move into a senior-living facility.  It is amazing the amount of stuff that can be accumulated in 50 years!  (A good reminder to choose carefully what I save.)  There were many trips to Des Moines this past year, but the job did get done (much more so by my sister who lives local).  The process included a lot of decisions - some of them were not easy.  My dad, who was especially limited in what he could do, had a hard time with some of it.  At one point, I had to ask Dad to just trust me that I would do the best I could, even if it wasn't ideal.  It wasn't an easy road even after they moved.  There have been some unforeseen bumps in the road; but I still believe this was the right decision for them to make.  They are in a place where there is help available when they need it.  They are closer to my sister now.  They no longer have the burden of upkeep on their home.  These are all good things, even if there are difficult things that come along with it.

There has been much busyness here on the home front, too.  School is a factor during those months.  Sports add to the busyness during their respective seasons.  Currently, I have a 9th grader, a 6th grader, and a 4th grader.  They are all doing well in school.

My oldest is in his 3rd year playing basketball at school; and this summer, he added in playing for the men's softball league at church.  I think it was a good experience for him. (Definitely provided opportunities to discuss examples of good - and Christian - sportsmanship - and not-so-good sportsmanship.)

This year for basketball, he is playing on the JV team.  New year, new coach, new opportunities.  His team this year plays well together.  They communicate.  They pass.  This is no one-man show.  Everyone has the opportunity to dribble, pass, and shoot.  I enjoy seeing that kind of teamwork.

My daughter is old enough to play sports at school this year, too.  She played volleyball at the beginning of the school year, and I think she enjoyed that.  I know she enjoyed her coach -- a big thanks to her for all her work with the team!

Now the season is basketball.  The junior-high coach gave all the girls a challenge to spend a certain amount of time dribbling and to shoot a certain number of baskets over the summer.  The prize for doing so was to get to go shopping for a new basketball and $50 toward a new pair of shoes for basketball.  She worked hard and met the goals, and she is very proud of what she earned.  She is enjoying basketball, and that is good.

My youngest is not in sports yet, but wishes he was.  His time will come.  That youngest-child slot is sometimes a very difficult thing when trying to find a 'place' in life.  He is as creative and inquisitive as ever.  Today, he brought me breakfast in bed - his idea, and he did a great job.

There have been a few people who have gone out of their way to help fill voids for my children.  I never take those encounters for granted.  People who invest in my children are one of the greatest blessings.  Their efforts make a difference.

There have been some challenges this year, too, of course; but there are always challenges in life, no matter your circumstances.  God is always faithful, and He guides us through those challenges.  I was reminded during one of those challenges to seek what God has for me in them -- Is there a lesson I need to learn, or an area where I need to grow?  That's not always an easy perspective to take.

This past month, I was able to attend the wedding of someone very dear to me.  She was one of the flower girls in my wedding.  She was a beautiful bride.  Making that trip was a bit of a 'splurge', but I felt so blessed to be able to go.  I was able to see several friends who live far away.  It was a lovely time.

This has been my second year as a widow.  I've heard many times that the second year is harder than the first.  I wouldn't say it was harder - just different.  In general, people do react differently after that first year has passed.  I don't know that it is much different than any other thing in life (it just feels magnified sometimes).  Time moves forward.  Life has a definite rhythm.  I actually don't think a lot about the fact that I'm a widow.  I am where God has placed me in life, and I just keep walking.

Looking back, I am always in awe of God's grace and the fact that He cares for me.  I spent some time reading through old blog posts and my old pen-and-paper journal; and all I could think was, "Wow!  God has been so good to us through all these tough events."  At thanksgiving time, I talked to the girls in my Sunday School class about being most thankful for the things that can never change -- God never changes.  He will always love us.  He is always faithful.  He always keeps His promises.  Those are what I'm most thankful for!

Today is the beginning of a new calendar year.  I look forward to seeing what God has for us in the days to come, and I know He will be walking with us as long as we are following Him.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

I Didn't Choose This Life

 . . . or did I?

It has been said to me by some, and suggested by others, that I did not choose this life, that I did not opt for my current life circumstances.

Those statements have caused me to step back and really consider:  Did I choose this life?  This life that consists of becoming a widow at 41, of being a single parent who is solely responsible for every single decision and who now has to juggle family, work, school, sports, activities, home life, and life stresses, etc. on my own -- Did I choose this life?

I can say with certainty that those options were not on any "Life Goals" list that I have ever seen or written; but does the fact that I've never specifically said, "I want to be a widowed, single mom." mean that I didn't choose this life

I've felt compelled to look deeper at what I did choose (and do choose) for life goals . . .
  • Many years ago, I told God that I wanted His Will for my life, whatever that may be.  That was a choice I made.
  • More times than I could count, I asked God to work His Will in my marriage.  I chose that request.
  • I have sung songs - and meant them from my heart - about surrender to whatever God has for me.  I sing those words willingly.

A couple of other things that I had to consider as I was pondering:
  • I believe that God has a plan.
  • When circumstances are beyond my control, I am still trusting that they are under God's control.

So . . . In summary, my conclusion is this:

God has a plan, and He is in control.  He has ordered my circumstances.

I choose to submit to His plan and surrender to His control. . . 


I Choose This Life!

Psalm 143:8   Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

It Feels . . .

It had been one of those days when it feels . . . .

  • It feels  like everyone has forgotten me.
  • It feels  like I am so very alone.
  • It feels  like I don't matter.
  • It feels  like there is judgements from too many sources.
  • It feels  like I will never succeed at this single-parent thing.
  • It feels  like the tears will never end.
  • It feels  like the pressure from it all will surely make my head literally explode.

And then . . .

The Holy Spirit gently touches my heart.  I'm reminded of previous days when the feelings were so very intense and of how I made it through those days.

It is certain I didn't survive on feelings!  I was able to walk through those days by forcing myself to focus on the things that I know.

  • I may feel  forgotten and alone, but I know  God is always with me and He has not forgotten me and He has a purpose for this path on which He has placed me. ( ". . .I will never leave thee nor forsake thee."   Heb. 13:5 )
  • I may feel  judgement (and it may honestly be there), but I know  that I only answer to the few individuals to whom I've made myself accountable and ultimately to God Himself.  ( "So then, everyone of us shall give an account of himself to God"  Rom. 14:12 )
  • I may feel  that the tears will never end, but I know  that God sees my tears and that He promises joy.  ( " . . . weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."   Ps. 30:5 )
  • I may feel  that the pressure is just too great, but I know  God's strength is available to me if I choose to accept it.  ( "And He said unto me, '. . . My strength is made perfect in weakness.' "  II Cor.12:9)


God created mankind with feelings, but those feelings were not to be the driving force in life.  I must choose to live by what is constant - by what I know.

That day, I took each of those areas where it feels, and I acknowledged before God the truth of what I know

This process is emotionally and mentally exhausting.  I was left feeling spent, and my eyes still burned from the tears that had been shed. But the reward for the effort was there -- the weight was lifted, and I was at peace.

Friday, December 19, 2014

One Year Ago . . .

I am lying here awake again in the early hours of the morning (or the very late hours of the night, if you prefer) and thinking about one year ago.

Thinking about the steps I had to take . . . the conversations I had to have . . . the new path we were beginning.

In some ways, it seems so very long ago, and life feels worlds removed from that.  Yet I remember details very vividly - at least some of them, anyway.

As strange as it may seem, there are aspects where life doesn't feel so dramatically different.  There have been many adjustments, but we have faced them one day at a time - one step at a time.

I realized recently that I've been a single mom for a whole year now.  (Light bulb moment, I know.)  I don't know if I'll ever get used to that designation.  I fall short regularly. I feel that there's never enough of me for all that needs to be done.  I've caught myself thinking, "I'm not cut out for single parenthood."  The reality is, though, that God has put me in this place, and I choose to believe He has a purpose.

I had someone remark again recently that they think I am such a strong person.  I'll share a little something here -- I've never felt weaker than I have the past year and a half.  I am NOT strong.  God is strong . . . and in His grace and mercy, He has strengthened me.

So, I continue in this path, looking to Him and asking Him to make Himself seen through my circumstances.

We have made it to Christmas break and can put away the responsibilities of school for a little bit.  I'm needing this break as much as the kids are, I think.

We will be busy at least for a few days yet -- it suddenly occurred to me that Christmas is actually in just a few days, and I have yet to have a menu planned or groceries purchased.  I'm thinking I should get working on that . . . and other details, too.  :-)

That being said, I might need to consider some sleep, too.

Good night.