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. . . 

Therefore

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.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Tis the Season

This time of year signals so many things . . .

We have just come from the Thanksgiving season, abreviated though it seems in our culture.  I try to keep a mindset of thanksgiving.  Through all of the changes over the past two years, I still believe with all my heart that there is so very much for which to be thankful.  God is good, and He has blessed us in so many ways, and He never changes -- He has always been and will always be good!

These days are flying by and filled with Christmas shopping, baking, school activities, recitals, basketball games, and programs (to name a few).

I don't know whether it is the mental references from last year or the increased level of activities, but life has taken on a feeling again that the rest of the world is moving at a different pace, and I find it a bit overwhelming trying to keep up with the busy-ness of it all. 

I see struggles in the kids, too.  It started the week before Thanksgiving.  I started hearing references to last year and how different - abnormal - it was.  One of the kids told me that they can't stop their thoughts from playing over and over.  One of them told me that they can't remember what Dad sounded like.  Sometimes, it is the things the kids don't say more than what they do say.   Even all of the 'fun' Christmas events at school are reminders of last year.  So . . .  This year is a little bit weighty.  Next year will be easier.

The most important focus, though, is Christmas -- the true meaning for all of the celebrations.  God became flesh and dwelt among us and gave His life to redeem us.  He is the reason we can have the hope of Heaven.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Congruent Paths


There are events in life we expect to experience - things such as graduations, marriage, and parenthood.  There are other events in life we never plan to experience, but they happen anyway.  I certainly never planned to become a widow.

Earlier this week, I wrote two letters -- one to a new widow, and one to a wife whose husband recently transitioned to hospice care.  I never thought I'd be looking at these scenarios with a perspective of experience.

I've long held the belief that we are responsible for what we've been given -- not just material items, but knowledge and experience, too.

Those days last year aren't hard to remember.  As tough as those days were, in retrospect, they were much easier than they could have been.  God gave us a wonderful team with the doctors and nurses and social workers from Methodist.  I had to make some hard decisions, but they helped to keep the process simple.

If our experiences can help to make just one person's journey even a little easier, then that is what I want to do.

I attended a funeral service at my church last week.  The last funeral at my church was my husband's.  This funeral was for the former pastor of the church, affectionately referred to simply as, "Preacher" -- he had been my husband's pastor for most of his life.  I found a picture of my husband and Preacher from our wedding.   It seemed a very apropos tribute.  They are both now free from the sufferings of this life on Earth.  They are experiencing the promise of Heaven.