Thursday, November 29, 2018

Sharing Comfort

We've all seen them.  The articles about what NOT to say to someone in a difficult circumstance.  They can be helpful.  We should weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.  We need to be thoughtful about this and show empathy.

But these articles kind of annoy me, too.  Can't we just assume that people are doing their best?  That maybe they don't know WHAT to say?  I've been there, myself.  And we had friends who completely disappeared when our boy got sick.  It's OK.  I understand.  I hope I'm not quick to assume malice.  Whether someone tries and fails to be compassionate or doesn't try at all... I hope I can offer grace.  I've needed it so often, myself.

Even now, we're not able to do hospital visits quite yet.  I hope someday we can, again.  But right now it's just too hard.  I need those that I love to extend grace to us for that.  We are still healing in so many places.  It doesn't seem to happen on my timeline.

Sometimes our tendency can be to try to "out do" someone's suffering.  In my case, I've had people comment that their situation is hard, but having a kid with cancer  (like me) is harder.  Even hesitating to confide in me, because they feel like their difficulty isn't important enough. 

Or in the reverse, I've had others say, well, your son has cancer, but at least it's not ___.  And trust me, I'm aware that there are MUCH harder things.

But both perspectives make me cringe. 

It's not a competition, is it?  Your hard versus my hard?  Which is worse? 

Yikes.

Our suffering here on earth counts for something.  I think we all long to know this.  That our suffering isn't in vain and it has value in eternity. Some losses can't be redeemed this side of heaven.  How my heart ACHES for my son's suffering to be redeemed.  For his losses to be restored.  For the ashes of his dreams for the future to be turned to beauty.  Our human hearts need to know that redemption is possible.  And because of Jesus, it is.

Hope is not found in having people understand our suffering or offer us comfort in the way we'd like it to be offered.  We're all human.  Let's extend grace and trust that everyone is trying in their own way.  You know who DOES understand all of our suffering?  Not your BFF (and I have some amazing friends!), your spouse, your kids, your pastor... JESUS.  He's endured ALL things.  ALL.  Go to Him for the comfort you long for and then turn and extend grace to everyone else.

Hope is not found in our circumstances HERE... it's that these earthly sufferings will pale in comparison to the heavenly GLORY for all of eternity.  Wow!

Do I want my son to be healed?  Of course.  Do we give God the glory for each and every healthy day we have together?  Absolutely.  But no matter what the future holds, God is still good and God is still faithful.  Because we have that eternal hope of glory. 

I needed the reminder today, to show compassion and empathy and tenderness to those around me.  Maybe even more so over the Christmas season.  Everyone is carrying a burden of some sort.  You can count on it.

We've found God sufficient in our suffering at the troops.  I can say with confidence that He will be sufficient in your trials, as well.  No matter what they are.  No matter whose hard is harder.

And I'm just saying, if it comes down to how much laundry you have and how tired you are?  I'm going to win that one.  Haha!

"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.
For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ."

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Every Day a Gift

We've been trying to find a balance here lately, between celebrating ALL THE THINGS and doing ALL THE THINGS and not completely exhausting ourselves. I don't think we've succeeded.  But when you have to deal with the reality of a serious medical diagnosis, you can't help but want to make every day a celebration of the gift of life.  The gift of family.  The gift of people and health and love and beauty.  

On the one hand, I can't tell the kids, no we don't have the time or energy for that right now.  Because I know life can change in ONE second.  But on the other hand, we're tired.

Volleyball was fast and furious and was over in two seconds.  Football season (glory be!) is still going.  We're deep into the playoffs this week and the Coach is eating sleeping breathing film, defensive schemes and practices.  We love our football at the troops and we adore our senior wide receiver even more.  But the Coach is my favorite and it's been a delight to see his success.  

Basketball has begun for the younger four and I'm so very thankful the older two girls can get themselves to and from practice and scrimmages and I just have the 8th grade and 5th grade games to figure out.  Once football is over, I'll have more help from the Coach, but he's swamped right now.

Even though three college kids (one graduating in two weeks!), a wedding in January, a highschool senior, two more highschool girls, a jr high girl and a fifth grader - along with another college graduation coming in May -  keep us pretty busy, the Coach just went back to school, as well.  (Can you hear my laughter?)  He's begun work on his masters degree.  It's needed to happen for way too long and we decided now is the time.  I'm already (5 weeks in! Ha!) telling myself, "It's only 22 months.  It's only 22 months."  I very much want to help and support him in anyway I can.  So that means helping out with things he usually manages so capably.  

In the midst of it all, the continuing treatments for our boy (about nine months to go!), ongoing tests and doctor's appointments, his involvement in school and plays (so fun!), along with the busy holiday schedules and so much planning to do for the coming weeks...

The Lord is our Rock.  He is our helper, our defender, our strength and the GOOD that we enjoy in each day.  Every bit of THIS.  The beauty and the hard... they are all HIS GOOD GIFTS. 

And rest is a gift, as well.  We're still learning how to make that work.  To be thankful for each day and see it as a gift... we've learned a lot, but we still have so much to learn.  God is so patient with us.  His love endures forever.  No matter what tomorrow holds, we don't have to walk through it without the grace and strength of the Lord.  


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Seasons

The front porch called to me and my cup on coffee (heavy on the non-fat milk) after my run this morning.  It often does.  I rarely answer.  There is always work to be done, errands to be crossed off, chores around the house.

But today is the last full day of school for my five youngest troops.  In two more half days, we'll be heading into summer and my quieter days at home will end for another season.  I'm ready to have them home and enjoy some more time together.  I'll miss my quiet days alone, as well - to be honest. Between sports camps, VBS, Summer jobs, vacation in Colorado and mission trips, it won't be quiet or restful!  But it's all such a gift.

The college kids have been finished for awhile, now.  All did SO well this semester.  One off to Nashville to work for the Summer and be near his girl.  One living here and working as a nanny again, between weddings and a trip to Africa.  And our son #3, who started the semester living away and finished it back at home - with lots of driving AND straight A's.

I'm so proud of them.

I'm learning that we all have obstacles and things to overcome in life.  I've watched my troops tackle them differently.  Some with determined, careful thoughtfulness.  Others hurling themselves headlong into whatever gets in their way.  Regardless of method, they've all been over-comers this past year.  Growing in their dependence on the Lord and learning to trust Him more.  Stumbling along the way at times, but getting back up and trying again.

So Summer is upon us.  We certainly pray it's less eventful than last Summer - even with this Summer's bi-weekly labs, monthly doctors appointments, and monthly chemo infusions for our boy.  We pray that the Lord would continue to heal him - that perhaps NEXT Summer we'll see the end of this current treatment schedule, as well.

But then if we've begun to learn anything at all, it's to breathe in the moment - the day - the season.  To enjoy it all and be grateful in our circumstances.  The Coach and I are so much better at taking a deep breath and not reacting in frustration or anger.  We're laughing and hugging and saying "I love you," more.  We are feeling less guilty about staying home (ha!) and more purposeful in the time we have together.

The Coach has a habit of saying to my overwhelmed ramblings, "It'll get done."  And so often, I have been tempted to say, "Only because I will do it!"  But I find myself more often these days saying, "You're right.  It will."  And I say that because I've lived it.  Some things may be on the list from now until the rapture - and that's OK.  Other things will be accomplished in due time.  Many will be delegated to the troops or picked up by the Coach.  But what difference does any of it make, if it's all about accomplishing things and we miss the joy in each day?

So on this last full day of the 2017-2018 school year - a reminder for us to soak it all in and enjoy each moment with the people God has given you.  He'll be faithful to you and He'll be faithful to THEM.  Every day is a gift.  <3 p="">
Happy Summer!

Friday, December 1, 2017

All is Well

Last night I went to the Michael W. Smith Christmas concert, also featuring Jordan Smith (recent winner of "The Voice").  The music was heavenly, the singing that of angels, and the company of sweet friends made it even more of a treasure.

It took one friend to take Little Man home with her, then to practice.  Another friend to bring the girls home from their practice.  And the Coach getting another girl home from school and picking Little Man up after his practice.  Just for me to have the night off.  I'm so thankful for all of the help so I could go!

I sat there, overwhelmed with the beauty.  And the joy in my heart.  Things are GOOD with our troops right now.  Busy, happy, healthy.  I'm so thankful.  But this joy in my heart is deeper than that. It's that joy that comes after you've come through the valley of the shadow of death and FOUND JOY THERE.  Not the joy that only comes after a trial (although I admit how amazing it is to be on the other side!).  But the deeper joy that comes when you realize that no matter what happens, peace and joy can still fill your heart.

On my one side?  A dear friend who has been caring for her mother that recently suffered a stroke.  The all encompassing work and heart ache and exhaustion to watch someone you love so dearly suffer so deeply.  All while caring for her own family and a recently empty nest and her baby in college far away.

On the other side?  Another precious friend whose husband is suffering greatly from a degenerative illness that allows for very little rest and recuperation for either of them or their family.  Also with a newly empty nest and a young college student.

I sat there between them, thinking of this past year at the troops, the heart ache and suffering that my boy has experienced.  How we are still exhausted and the tears still fall when we least expect them.  How I wonder every day what the long-term scars will be  - not only for my boy, but for the other troops and the Coach and I.

And yet.

The three of us sitting there with that music washing over us, are really just like all of mankind for all time.  Each one of us having our own physical trials and emotional heart ache and pain.  We all have pain.  Of some sort, at some time.  Some sweet friends I pray for daily have had a lifetime of it.

I don't understand why.  I never will.  It doesn't make sense to me at all.  Our kind and wise teacher not recovering from his bone marrow transplant, leaving his kids and grand babies without their Pop.  Our volleyball coach's wife (and my dear friend) leaving her family and this earth at a time that was certainly way too soon for her husband and her seven children.  Babies who have physical challenges that can't be overcome this side of eternity.  So much loss and suffering.

I don't have to understand.

It's enough to know that All is Well.  Not because my circumstances are "well" or because my life is easy and uncomplicated and pain-free.  All is well because we have Immanuel.  God with us.

He's with us today, when the house is decorated for Christmas and we have basketball games to look forward to.  As we celebrate Advent and have our kids home with us and enjoy time with our families.

He's with us tomorrow in the unknown, the fears, the uncertainly, that defines life on this earth.

He's Immanuel.  God with us.  And all is well.  


"All Is Well"


All is well all is well 
Angels and men rejoice 
For tonight darkness fell 
Into the dawn of love's light 
Sing A-le 
Sing Alleluia 

All is well all is well
Let there be peace on earth 
Christ is come go and tell 
That He is in the manger 
Sing A-le 
Sing Alleluia 

All is well all is well 
Lift up your voice and sing 
Born is now Emmanuel 
Born is our Lord and Savior 
Sing Alleluia 
Sing Alleluia 
All is well

by Wayne Kirkpatrick, Michael W. Smith

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Practicing Thankfulness

We're doing really well at the troops.

School is going well.  Everyone has passing grades (haha!).  Not to make light of academic struggles, but the troops got their daddy's smarts.  We may miss an assignment now and then or not get AR points for the 9 weeks (because this momma has kind of given up at this point), but they are bright.  I'm thankful.

We survived volleyball season.  The Coach and our football team made it to the playoffs.  Basketball practice has started for the girls and Little Man had his first game of the season on Saturday.  It goes so fast and I want to enjoy it all.

The house isn't being worked on all day every day, anymore.  We still need curtains in the "library" and dining room, but I've decided I'm done making decisions.  I'll get to them, eventually.  And someday maybe those pictures of the fun projects.  The bookcases are AMAZING.  So thankful.

The college kids are finishing up second semester of Junior year (engineering)/first semester of Junior year (nursing)/first semester of Freshman year (math education).  And doing SO well.  Another year from now we'll be getting ready for more graduations.

I'm so thankful for it all.

For the fact that God has been with us this past year as we've walked through so much.  He's been so faithful.

But if I were to be truly honest...
((and if you know me, you know I have to be))

There is still a lot to be worked through, processed, and dealt with around here.  And sometimes it all creeps up on me and I feel slightly incapacitated and very much less like dealing with daily life.  Think couch/netflix/chocolate, while the puppy sleeps at my feet.  Not that I have time for that, but a girl can dream.

Life is GOOD and we are so grateful.

And when I'm tired and cranky and overwhelmed with it all, I need to practice thankfulness and remember that.  Every day is such a gift.

So here's my list for today:

1.  A patient (extremely patient) husband, who can tell when I've had it with the 10 year old, the dog,  the laundry, and the dog stealing the laundry.

2.  Books.  So I can escape, learn, or just fall asleep reading.  I never want to stop learning.

3.  Our kids.  Who make me laugh and cry and sometimes both at the same time.  They are sweet and funny and sarcastic and smart and athletic and everything I would have wanted to be when I was a teenager.  They are the best.  Even if I have to drive to Alva to watch one of them play football on Friday in the cold.

4.  Our home.  I don't like to get out in the cold, but I sure like to stay home in it.  With the fire and hot tea and blankets and my slippers.  The best.

5.  Amazon Prime.  Because #4.

6.  Doctors and medicine and clinics and hospitals and nurses and the way God uses them every. single. day.  Because my boy is here and healthy and whole and I'm so so thankful.

7.  My new car.  Even if it already has a dent.  It smells nice and drives smoothly and everything works.  Amazing.  And I guess we can only have a car without a dent for a few weeks and that's ok.  I'll keep the kids, anyway.

8.  Soup and chili and hot cocoa and cider and fireplaces.  And trees turning colors and cool breezes and a yard full of leaves (even if they have to be raked).

9.  Friends.  To drink coffee with, laugh and cry with, do life with.  Who remind me that God is faithful and that I can always trust Him.

I'm feeling better already.

What are you thankful for, today??


Saturday, October 21, 2017

We'll Make it... Right?

Over our almost 23 years together, as various crises have occurred with our troops, I have crawled into bed at night with a sigh and asked the Coach, "We'll make it, right?"

Without fail and with utmost confidence, he'd tell me,  "Yes.  Of course we will."

Trouble with kids, broken bones, injuries, 10 people with the stomach flu, you know... Crises.

But the first time I crawled into bed with the Coach after Son #3 was diagnosed with cancer (and it was weeks, literally, that we spent the nights apart)...

It just stuck in my throat.

I couldn't ask him.

I couldn't bear the answer.  I knew he couldn't promise me that our boy would be OK.  How could he?  And I didn't want to hear that.

Nine months later, I still haven't asked him.  I wonder if he's noticed?

But over these nine months, a new thought has grown and taken root in my heart.  The question still comes.  Mostly at night when I'm trying to sleep and my mind won't be settled.  When I pray for so many precious friends who are walking through fiery trials.

Yes, our boy is doing SO well.  Yes, the future is hopeful, today.  I'm so thankful.  I pray I'll never take "normal" for granted, again.

But life is still hard.

We may not be finished fighting cancer at the troops, no one can promise me that.
We may still have struggles with our kids, their choices, and the directions they go.
We may still have tragedy and illness and heart ache in the years to come.  In fact, I can almost guarantee it.

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

But we'll make it.

I'm sure of it.

Not because the difficulties will end.  Because they won't.  Not this side of heaven.

We'll make it because GOD WILL BE FAITHFUL.  And that won't change no matter what happens.  He promises that whatever comes in this life, He will walk through it WITH us.  We don't have to face it alone.  We don't have to face anything alone.

Maybe I won't need to ask the Coach that question, again.  I'm still confident in him and his ability to lead, protect, and provide for us - which he does SO very well.

But ultimately, my confidence in is my Lord and Savior who is GOOD, who LOVES us, and who works EVEN the horrible things for our good and His glory.  All praise be to His name forever.

We're going to make it at the troops.  And if you know Jesus...

You will, too.

Tit 2:13
Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;


Friday, September 22, 2017

Trusting the One Who Knows

We've had some delightful distractions going on here at the Troops.  Fun projects that have occupied our time and thoughts - and we've enjoyed it tremendously.  I'll post pictures soon.

Cleaning out cabinets to make room for new bookshelves in the "library" (so fun!) we came across our wedding video.  VHS none the less.  The kids insisted they hadn't seen it - forgetting that I used to make them watch it every December 17th, when the bigs were toddlers.  I couldn't resist turning it on and watching it with them.  I'm not sure how it's been almost 23 years.  But it has.  Son #1 will soon be 22.  Maybe this is why I'm so tired.  Well, ONE reason, anyway.

I had several thoughts while watching it.  One... I'm STILL a little bitter that the videographers just put a shot on the candles during the prelude music - I would so love to have video of the PEOPLE coming in, forheavenssake.  It's probably time for me to get over that.

Two... we were so young.  And well-rested.  When that camera zoomed in as the Coach put the ring on my hand... they didn't look like my hands at all.  No spots or wrinkles! The funniest part may have been when Son (#4) said, "You got a french manicure?" Ok.  So he knows more about nails than I would have thought.  That's weird.

The kids (as usual) made fun of the Coach and I.  Our smiles, the way we look so awkward and nervous - like we didn't know each other - which we didn't.  So wonderful to see our grandparents - all five that were living when we married have passed away.  The kids couldn't believe all of the uncles - and how young they were.  Especially their aunt (who was 10) and uncle (who was 17) - who were in our wedding.  Babies who now have full houses of their own babies.  And our parents who were truly SO young, still.

The Coach has always been the right one.  I knew it the first time we sat on the porch and talked and prayed together.  He balances me and calms me and completes me in ways I never knew I needed.  He loves me unconditionally - through weight gains (currently) and weight losses (soon, I hope!), through pregnancy and post-partum (so many times), through parenting babies, toddlers, middle schoolers, pre-teens (not my favorite, I'll be honest). Through watching our kids graduate from high school (Three of them now, how is that possible??) and leave for college.  Always faithful, always loving me, even when I (often) don't deserve it.

But if I ever HAD doubted how thankful I am for the Coach and his steadfastness?  The last 8 months have made it quite clear.  God knew what He was doing when He led the Coach to pursue me almost 24 years ago.  And the Coach, in his typical steady, consistent way... was so faithful to follow.

The hard things are what shape us.  I wish that weren't true.  I wish we could become more dependent on the Lord, more loving to each other, and more thankful for the countless gifts God gives us - without the hard.  How I wish.

But I'm so thankful that IN the hard, God shows us his faithfulness in new and deeper ways.  One of them being that He blessed me with the perfect match in the Coach.  Even though we couldn't have imagined what the next 23 years would hold.

I'd say yes to him again in a heartbeat.  I'd say yes to the 8 babies in 11 years, too.  I'd choose the Coach through all of it, every day, every trial, every sleepless night, all of the tears, and all of the laughter, too.

And today?  So. Very. Thankful. For all of them.  God is so good to give us what we need, before we know we need it.


Such a good reminder to me in the NOW.  The uncertainty, the waiting, the concerns.  God knows.  He's already been there and He's making a way.  Even now.  We can trust Him.  His faithfulness to us will continue and we can trust Him.  I'm so thankful.