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.