Friday, January 16, 2015

Monumental Dates

My dad was a dates guy.
He once told a story that he saw a guy in a store and said hey- I can't remember your name, but your birthday is xx/xx/xx and told the guy his exact birthday. Numbers were his thing. He could remember them so well even though he couldn't remember the guys name he could recall his birthday. It was amazing how he would remember birthdays and call or text people on their birthdays. He seemed to never forget.

Today was his birthday. 01/16/54.

He would have been 61.

He was known to call someone at 12:01am or even better 2am to his best buddies. To make sure he was the first to wish them a Happy Birthday.

Last year for his 60th birthday he was in VEGAS with my stepmom.
I didn't call. I knew he was busy and having fun and who knows why, but I didn't make it a priority. Luckily I can say that is my ONLY regret of my relationship with my dad.

I loved him so so much. And he knew that. He loved me so so much and I KNOW that. But not talking to him on his birthday last year...never knowing it would be his last...is my one regret.

They got back from their trip out west and just a week later he was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer. He took his first Chemo the first week of February and then in March I practically moved in with them and spend his last 6 weeks with him. I am so grateful for that time with him.

Firsts are hard. We have almost made it through them all. 1st Thanksgiving without my dad, my 1st birthday of my entire life without my dad, 1st Christmas without my dad, his 1st birthday. He died April 13th, 2014. I can't believe it has almost been a year. These last 3 months of holidays/birthday have been really hard. But like my grandmother said today we just keep surviving. We don't have any other choice. Praise be to the one who sustains us. Thank you Lord for memories, for tears, and for loved ones who understand.

Here's to celebrating his legacy and living a life of love and kindness just like he did.


Monday, January 05, 2015

Let the 2015 Adventure Begin

We moved back to Clarksville, TN in November then there was unpacking then there was Thanksgiving and then there was Christmas. It was a whirlwind. We finally feel settled....besides the boxes in the basement of things we move around with us that apparently we don't need or use. Part of this adventure has been that we are not on staff at a local church. The entire time we have been married Daniel has been on staff at a church. So each Sunday (and for the last 2 years EACH SATURDAY- I think I'm still bitter about that....) we have known what church to go to. But for this new adventure we have had freedom to attend different churches and support fellow ministers. It's been a tad overwhelming to me in that I don't always love new things. I like to know what to expect. I tend to worry about my kiddos and how they will do in new environments. (They are awesome and have really seemed to have had fun at all the places we have gone.) So far we have been to 5 different churches. What a neat experience, I'm definitely counting this as a privilege to worship with different bodies of believers.

Yesterday we went to a 5pm service. I was moved to tears during the communion time. As the first service of the new year the pastor encouraged us to forget what was behind and let go of fear of the future. Last year holds plenty I want to forget with the death of my dad being at the top of the list. And this year definitely holds lots of unknowns which often leads me to fear.

There was a new pastor there for the first time. He preached on marriage. It was a very young crowd. Like seriously looking around we were in the 2% of the oldest people there. {ummmm we are not old!} The pastor has been married 13 years. (We have been married 14.5 years! boom) It was a nice, but strange situation to be in. We have a great marriage. I'm really proud of the hard work we have put into our marriage being and remaining strong.

It was a great sermon to start the year. Some of the points of his sermon I can't get out of my head today. One was a statistic that out of married couples that pray out loud together the divorce rate is 1%. (He gave lots of other stats good and bad, but this one really shocked me.) That God can change things. That His presence in our marriages matters. That He matters and changes things especially marriages in a country that leads statistics in having the highest divorce rates of developed countries.

The big idea of his sermon was that the key to having a marriage that sizzles is having serious fun. The couples you see that have that longstanding love take their commitment seriously yes, but they also have serious fun. That we usually have fun when we are dating and that is what made us fall in love, but having fun can also sustain our marriages. He challenged us to ask the question- Am I fun to live with? I've been pondering that thought all day. He said we can't make anyone choose love us. Control is an illusion. But we can behave in a way that creates margin for another human being to love us back. He talked about how we have expectations and when behaviors don't meet those expectations we can react two ways---assume the worst or believe the best. This is something Daniel says a lot. Don't assume the worst. Luckily we are able to communicate and work through miscommunications (or times when I assume the worst.) But that one question keeps swirling around in my mind and heart....Am I fun to live with?

What about you? How is your marriage? So many are struggling. If yours marriage is struggling don't go it alone. Reach out for counseling or help. We all have good seasons and hard seasons of marriage. Daniel and I learned a trick in marriage counseling that we have used over the years. Each of you rate your marriage 1-10. (The wife usually has a lower score...don't take it personally.) Then ask yourselves what could make it closer to a 10. This has really helped spark conversation of expectations and of what's missing in our marriage.

*I understand that not all men and women are in healthy marriages. If you are being abused or have been divorced or feel alone in your marriage God is not abandoning you, get help. God is real and loving and gives grace freely and He doesn't expect you to walk this journey alone. I just had to share my notes from this sermon since I can't get this stuff out of my head this morning.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Moving Time

It's November 1st. I love November. It's my birthday month, but that doesn't come till the very end of the month. Although I'm celebrating now a prayer request that was answered. On January 1 of 2014 I prayed the bravest prayer of my life. That God would lead us back to Tennessee to live. We currently live in Chicagoland. (yes--they really do call the greater Chicago area Chicagoland...for all you southerners, I had no clue before moving here.)

I grew up in Tennessee and lived there until I was almost 30 years old then we moved to Valparaiso, IN to help plant a church. That was one of those unmistakable obedience moments where we knew that we knew that we knew that we were supposed to be a part of that church plant. Gracepoint is thriving and continuing to grow 5+ years later. Two years ago...exactly two years ago, Daniel took a job at The Chapel- Grayslake. We moved two hours from Valparaiso, but it seemed so much farther from home. The trip to Tennessee now included driving through Chicago and that always added on more time than miles. Plus while here we added Oakley and now our family seems complete. It just seems right that it's time to go home.

Rockytop you'll always be home sweet home to me. Good ole Rockytop. Rockytop, Tennesssee. 

The moving truck comes on Monday. This is our last weekend at church and saying goodbye to friends. That is always hard, but the excitement of moving home is overwhelming. I truly want to celebrate that my prayer has been answered. I'm not one to pray bold prayers. I usually stick with prayers that include things like- whatever You think is best God, or You will be done. So I want to celebrate.

We have a house to live in there which seems to be a gift from God. It's a church parsonage that they don't currently need and they are renting it out to us. It's in a great neighborhood and is close to family. We have much to celebrate in that God has provided for Daniel to be able to take a sabbatical for the rest of the year and not have to stress about finding work immediately. After 18 years in ministry he will get to seek God and sit and rest for a couple of short months before heading out to his next adventure whatever that may be.

When we left 5 years ago we didn't have children. And now we are coming home with two amazing boys. It will be such a privilege to live near family.  We have done life for 5 years without family nearby, so I'm hoping we will truly make the most of it and cherish every moment.

Today I celebrate. I'm celebrating November, I'm celebrating Tennessee, and I'm celebrating moving home.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Daddy's girl is here.

I found the room at the hospital and walked in. There were two nurses in the room about to do therapy. My dad was laying in the bed and he had terrible sores in his mouth from Thrush. He lifted his hands and said- "Awww." Tears slowly streamed down his face. His girl was there. His baby girl. I never left his side till he passed on to eternity.

I've always known my dad loved me. He would do anything for me. I was one of the lucky ones. Some people didn't have fathers in their lives and some had worthless fathers. But mine was there. He made sacrifices for me. He made many choices in life because of his love for me. I knew that. I have know he's a great dad. I have known I was a lucky one. But to see a grown man, always strong in my eyes, grow so week and be unable to speak. It rocked me to my core. More than that though was his ability to communicate with his body language and his eyes and his "awww." I knew he wanted me there. I knew he needed me there. I was so glad to be there.

That day I just waited there with my stepmom Lynn and my dad. Lynn nursed him well and fed him spoonfuls of water. The nurses were busy, in and out, giving meds, getting vitals, checking things. Daddy had a tube coming out of his nose that was suctioning his stomach. They had said words like he was septic and he looked terrible to me.

I left to go get Lynn some dinner and we both scarfed down a cheeseburger. Then my BFF from college {who just happens to live 10 minutes from the hospital} came and picked me up. We went to J.Alexanders and ate. She had salad and I had dessert. *I gained at least 15 lbs over the past 8 weeks. But that chocolate cake was amazing. Holly had Carrot cake which was equally amazing. I don't like to order carrot cake out because there are so many different varieties of carrot cake. But next time I go to J Alexanders I will save room for the Carrot Cake.

I spent the night with her and we got up early the next morning and grabbed some bagels on the way back to the hospital. I was set to fly back that day and was supposed to leave the hospital at 1pm so I wouldn't miss my flight.

I was to get there early to talk with the doctors. I arrived and shortly after that the Oncologist came in. He had some sobering news. (Daddy slept while he talked to us.) He said there were 3 options- 1. do nothing and go home with hospice care to make daddy feel comfortable. 2. try another round of chemo, but he didn't think daddy was strong enough for that or 3. wait for the biopsy to grow and see if there was a specific chemo that would work better, but he also didn't think daddy was strong enough for that.

He told us to talk about it and pray about it. Lynn had a couple of questions like could they do a surgery so he could eat again and get stronger. *The cancer in his pancreas was blocking his digestive track and he wasn't able to eat a full meal. Right before he went into the hospital he was throwing up non stop. The Doctor was very nice and brought such a strong presence into the room, but said surgery was not an option that my dad could survive. He was a gentle man with great bedside manner. Lynn and I just cried. I hugged her and we just cried. This past Christmas was the best ever. We had fun and played and ate out. The doctor is now saying HOSPICE. What does that even mean? 9 weeks after Christmas and we just get the word that my dad is never going to get better. That he is going to die soon and that there seems to be no hope for fighting this cancer. Wow. How is this even possible?

So we cry and talk and talk and cry. What do we even do? Do we let Daddy decide? Do we decide for him? What in the world is happening. We forget to eat. I get a blazing stress headache. I call Daniel in the hallway. I tell him to rush down to TN. Our van is in the shop from hitting a deer and the trailblazer is on its last leg and my car is at the airport. So he figures it out to be able to borrow Maggie Mohr's vehicle to make it to TN the next day with the boys. She packs for the boys and I cancel my flight back to Chicago.

When Daddy wakes up we talk to him and he says he wants to "Let nature take it's course."
So that's what we did.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Running again

I ran jogged today. I started the couch to 5k program today and it kicked my butt. But I completed it. I thought back about the last time I'd run.

It was March 2nd. Almost 8 weeks ago. I was running through an airport. I got through security and my flight wasn't for 2 more hours, but as I was in line in security I saw that my flight had been canceled. I knew there was actually an earlier flight from Chicago to Nashville so I ran. I ran in non running shoes. I'm not fast, but I wanted to get to my Daddy as soon as possible and a canceled flight would mean not until the next day at the soonest. I got to the gate and there was a line at the counter. The flight had just left. I was too late. I stood in line and begged the tears to not come. But they were pooling up in my eyes. My dad was sick. He was in the hospital and I wanted to get there as soon as possible.
He had been diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer on January 29, 2014. He had had 3 chemo treatments which they considered 1 round and it wiped him out. He was currently hospitalized and I had planned a quick 2 day visit without kids to go see him. I had arranged childcare for the kids while Daniel needed to work and then I was off. But this ice storm and flight delay had me stumped.
I ended up getting a hotel room nearby so I wouldn't have to commute the hour and 1/2 to and from the airport for the first available flight the next morning.
I was so confused as to why I couldn't get to my dad sooner. That's the only place I wanted to be. I'm an only child and I just wanted to be with my dad. But that couldn't happen because of the weather. So I tried to soak in some peace and sleep, not really knowing what I was going to find when I got to the hospital. My step-mom was doing a great job of keeping me in the loop with texts and updates, but I just needed to see with my own eyes. I needed to be there.

The flight left the next morning on time and flew to somewhere crazy like Baltimore. {Baltimore is not crazy, it's just crazy that a flight from Chicago to Nashville would take a detour to Baltimore.} But this was my only option. The earlier flights from Chicago to Nashville were all delayed as well, so I was actually glad to be going to Baltimore.

I sat by a 2 year old. I wasn't scared of flying by a child and I thought well at least maybe I can lessen the moms anxiety. The dad was sitting an aisle up with the 2 year olds twin. They have family in Chicago, but live in Tennessee. Just the opposite of us. So they were coming home from visiting family. I told her where I was going and why and that I didn't know what I was walking into and she wished me strength and courage. Do you know how many times over these last 8 weeks I've needed strength and courage. So so many.

I got to Nashville took a taxi straight to the hospital....taxi's are expensive by the way. {I had no clue.} But luckily they took a debit card. The guy that drove me was from Africa and had just had twins. Like JUST HAD TIWNS. They were still in the hospital and his wife was home and he was working. He talked about how expensive raising twins would be, but he was overjoyed with the excitement of them being born. The driver missed the turn in to the hospital and dropped me off at the corner. I was so distraught when I arrived that I didn't even shut the taxi door. (It was a minivan.)

I had finally arrived at my destination. Lord give me strength and courage.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Supporting Missionaries; Supporting My Friends

Our dear friends Angie and Brian Barber are heading to the mission field. They both end their jobs here in the US after Christmas and are heading to missionary training towards the end of January. They have to reach some major goals to be able to depart for the Dominican Republic. Their goal is to leave in the spring of 2014 right after missionary training. Their hearts are there already and they feel called to minister there, but the money isn't there yet. It's been encouraging to me to see them walking in faith and planning to go even though the money isn't there. At this point the finances are the only road block.

They still lack about $8,500 for their one time giving and for monthly support once they get there they lack about $1,600. That is what people would continue to give monthly for their living expenses. To be quite honest I had no idea that it cost so much to go do missions. Much like adoption I thought that willingness was the biggest obstacle. That once someone was willing to go to a foreign country or once someone was willing to adopt that everything else would easily fall into place. No doubt about it God can provide but just like for our adoptions it took a lot of people pitching in to make it happen.

They are heading to the DR with an organization called Kids Alive. When we first moved to Valparaiso, IN I was looking for a place to volunteer and found Kids Alive on the ECFA website. (That's the website you can go to to make sure your contributions are going to a reputable organization. You can see how organizations like World Vision, Compassion International and Kids Alive use their funds.) Kids Alive had a good track record then and they still do. Kids Alive is dedicated to rescuing kids around the world. From what I understand they set up what we would consider foster homes for children. They set them up to get good food and be able to go to school. Brian and Angie will be a part of this process and work with these children at school as well as doing many other things on the ground to make the whole organization run smoothly.

Angie is currently the Children's Ministry Director at GracePoint in Valparaiso (the church we came from and helped plant.) She has that spark that is so visible when working with children. She can make the room light up and you can see the glow of excitement on children's faces when she's playing games or teaching or just making them feel special. I can not wait to hear stories of the lives that are going to be changed by their presence in the DR. Brian is great with a camera and taking pictures. I'm excited to see how his love for photography is going to be able to be used to help communicate with the children's sponsors around the world. He also has a silly side which I think the children are going to really love.

Would you consider helping them out and adding to their fund either to the monthly giving or to the one time donations? This would help them in a major way. If 80 of my friends/family gave $20 a month for the next year they would be fully funded in the support they need to minister there. You can be assured that this donation will make difference in these children's lives and in Brian and Angie's lives as well.

Thanks for jumping on board to help!
Here's the link to sign up:
https://secure.kidsalive.org/p-2481-brian-and-angie-barber.aspx

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanks and giving

This year we have so much to be thankful for. I find myself in a very content place. For once we aren't waiting on anything. For years we were longing to have a baby. Longing for the adoption to go through. Longing for what was next. And now at this point in life I feel completely content with our sweet little family. Life is good. We continually talk about how privileged we are as a family. I teared up praying the other day and thanking God for all of our blessings. I told God it was not lost on us how much extra we have been given, way above and beyond what we need. Daniel has a great job, which is rare these days. I am able to stay at home, which is also a major privilege. I want to be generous with what we have as well as acknowledge that this excess is not meant for me alone to attain.

One way to share is by helping our dear friends Brian and Angie Barber. They are heading to the mission field in 2014 with Kids Alive International. They still need funds to be able to reach their goal though. https://secure.kidsalive.org/p-2481-brian-and-angie-barber.aspx

What ways are you planning to give back this year? What ways are you planning to make a difference for others around you? In good times and in bad it always does my heart good to give. It puts things in perspective and allows God to use you in ways you may not have imagined possible.