Thursday, June 15, 2017

Forty Years

This Sunday Bill and I will celebrate the fortieth anniversary of our wedding day. We were married on my daddy's  forty-seventh birthday.  As it has in the past,  this year it falls on Fathers Day also. Sunday will be a day full of memories for us. Both of our fathers are gone. Bill is now the patriarch of our family.
How could forty years have passed by so quickly? I was 18, Bill 26. So young and na├»ve. I have heard that many couples divorce when they have a special needs child as it is such a strain on the marriage. Amy did put more pressure on our marriage and we did have problems. But we worked through them and our marriage grew stronger.
I have also heard the same is true when a child dies. Amy's death has only strengthened us, though. Not because she was so precious (she was), not because our family has rallied around us and helped us grieve (they have), and not because our church family was always there for us [they were]. Those things are wonderful and good,  but only because we know Who our strength is and Who we go to in times of trials have we become stronger.
I thought that Amy's life and death would have been enough for any family to handle, but Bill and I have both had to struggle with issues in our extended family also. So we go to our Lord and He helps us through and gives us strength, comfort and wisdom on how to handle things.
This past year has brought even more challenges. Our church has always been our life. Our kids were involved in every aspect of it as they were growing up. They have made life long friends their own ages and also older ones who have been godly examples for them and they now are part of our 'family.' My kids all serve in some capacity in our church and so do Bill and I. We always have. It has been our extended family for forty years. Amy was always welcomed, always loved. This past year has been our biggest trial yet. We are trusting in God to give us wisdom, strength and to follow His leading in our lives. Right now we do not know what that will bring. But .......... God does. He knew this was going to happen. He knew the trials we would be facing, He knows what the future will bring to us. We are just called to trust and have faith in His perfect will.
This again has strengthened our marriage more so than the other trials in our life we have gone through. Is that surprising to you? It has been to me. We have been continually drawn to prayer, to study God's Word, and discuss the situations, and drawn to prayer again and again. As I have mentioned before, Bill is a man of few words. We have talked more about spiritual things in the last year than we have in the other 39 of our marriage. Trials always produce something. Even though I do not enjoy going through this time and have many questions of why, I am thankful that He has drawn Bill and I together through this.
I started a new Bible Study today. It is called, "Entrusted, a study of 2 Timothy" by Beth Moore. I have done a few  of her studies before and with each one I am amazed at what God teaches me. This verse jumped out to me today. It's from Acts 13 (the first lesson is background to 2 Timothy). So in Acts 13 Paul and Barnabas are being persecuted for preaching the Word and they have been driven out of the city. So what did they do? Verses 51 and 52, "But they shook off the dust of their feet in protest against them and went to Iconim. And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit." They were filled with JOY! JOY? After all their trials? JOY. Yes they were filled with joy. I, too, can be filled with joy even through the trials. Especially through the trials.
So how to handle the memories that will come this weekend?
Bill and I are leaving in the morning for Niagara Falls to stay in an inn, a B&B on the shores of Lake Ontario. Our very first vacation with Amy was to Niagara Falls. She was only 3 years and Tessa was 5 years. Emily and James were yet to be born. We had a wonderful time. I have good memories of that vacation.
The next four days will, I'm sure, have some tears, but mostly I hope joy.  JOY because I know that God is in control of every detail of our lives. From the aches and pains of getting older to the stress that comes from jobs and relationships with others. God is in control. That brings joy.

The only photo I have of our time 32 years ago.

And I almost forgot, we're going to be grandparents again. That little 5 year old in the photo is going to have another baby in December. More blessings, more JOY.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Dancing In The Rain

February came and went; we all were sick, even the grandkids. March came in like a lion and Bill flew off to Andros Island in the Bahamas again for a week to do some ministry, working on buildings repairs after the hurricane last fall.
Amy would have been 35 years old on the 9th of March. The 'girls' (my two daughters and daughter-in-law) and I celebrated Amy's birthday with a spa day. We each got a massage, Laura and Tess a pedicure, I got a manicure and Emily got the works- a pedicure, her make up and hair done.  It was a nice fun day to remember Amy.

As the month of March progressed I tried my best to not remember the events of 4 years ago. But my depression deepened and I think I was at my lowest ever on the anniversary of the day Amy died, April 8th.  We once again gathered at the cemetery to release a balloon for each of us. Last year newborn Micah stayed in the van because it was so cold. It was a little nippy this year also, but the sun was shining and the flowers were blooming. Although I felt like I was in darkness. I tried to focus on my children faces. And the grandchildren. They were so happy. They wandered around the cemetery. So innocent, unharmed by reality of life.

After wards I took a drive by myself and went to our local state park and enjoyed nature and prayed. I drove by the fruit orchards and inhaled the fragrance of the blossoms and I prayed. I prayed for wisdom, I prayed for joy. I tried not to dwell on four years ago and tried not to think about the new sorrows and grief I had experienced in the last year and a half since Daddy died. But instead I tried to remember the happy things that had happened this last month.
We celebrated Micah's first birthday and Marissa Amy's second birthday.


And...... after a pretty snowless winter, it snowed in early spring!

I received a few cards, messages and one long letter from friends, telling me they were thinking of me. My mom and sister sent me some butterfly items in memory of Amy.   I felt like the darkness had lifted. Then Easter came, just a week later. I made an Easter egg tree. I've made one every year since we were married, except for the last four years.
 I discovered that one of the four cacti that my sister potted up for me (that were Daddy's and came from the farm) had sprouted and grown a new shoot. I was about to give up on them as it has been so long. But there was new life in at least one of them. I felt like it was a small miracle, God sending me a message. 


I made Easter Egg Baskets for the grandkids, and we had an egg hunt.

Matthew 21:15 &16  "But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He had done, and the children who were shouting in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became indignant and said to Him, “Do You hear what these children are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies You have prepared praise for Yourself’?”

PRAISE. It is the least I can do for my Lord for all He has done for me. 

One of my favorite songs, "In Christ Alone."

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand
In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
'Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live
There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ
No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life's first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand

As I was taking pictures of the cactus, I reread the saying on the stone that Tessa gave to me after Amy died. "Life isn't waiting for the storm to pass, it's learning to dance in the rain."
The darkness in every storm eventually passes but I don't want to feel like I'm drowning anymore. I want to stand in the power of Christ. Till He returns or calls me home. But I want to do more than just stand. I want to dance.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

JOY

I only took one picture at Christmas. ONE. I don't have a smart phone and just an old fashioned camera so as the years go by I take less photos. (Except of course if it's on vacation and if I see buffalo!) I rely on my kids to give me pictures of the grands and then I usually complain if I'm in them! But this Christmas as Bill was reading the Bible of the birth of Jesus I had to snap a photo. Ever since I can remember, my Daddy always read the Christmas story before we opened presents. We have carried on this tradition in our own family. As he was reading I was wondering how many times I heard Daddy read the story and how many times I have heard Bill read it. Last year Mama read it, even though it was hard for her to see the words. That was a special moment for me.

























This picture says more than just Bill reading the Christmas story. It shows how our lives have changed in the last two and a half years. There are Duplo Legos on the floor under his chair and an open Easter egg at his feet. ( I have no idea why!) Beside him on the table is a pacifier. It is pink so that means it goes to Marissa's baby doll.  Beside him is Tim, Will's stuffed penguin, reading the Christmas story along with him!
After a rough month of wondering if anyone remembered Amy, each of my children gave me a memory of her. Emily gave me butterfly earrings, Tessa gave me a bracelet that says Amy on it, and Laura gave me a kitchen towel set with butterflies and a calendar with a different butterfly on each month. A dear friend at church the week before had also shared a memory she had of Amy and how her family remembers her each Christmas because of it. Thank you for speaking her name, even though it brought tears. Thank you for remembering her.
I have a favorite photo of Amy's last Christmas with us. It was taken in the light of our advent candles. We would try to burn a candle every night up till Christmas Eve when all of them were lit.




Emily wanted me to put up the candles this year and I just looked at her and said, "What for? I haven't put them up for the last three years." It was a few days before Christmas and I had finally gotten the dining room table cleaned off from craft making and Christmas wrappings. I could tell she was a little upset (a mother can always tell) and so the next day when she was at work I put the table cloth on and set up the advent wreath of candles. I cried many tears with each candle I put in, knowing that the last time I did this Amy was still here. We lit them before the Christmas meal and sometime during  dinner I glanced up and this was the view I saw. Marissa Amy and little Micah  in the light of the candles. I used Tessa's camera to get the picture so I wasn't focusing right, but it is still dear to my heart. God knew I needed to see it this way. He knew. He was telling me, "Look at the blessings you have! Think on the future, not the past."




I received a few presents, too, in  memory of Daddy. Emily made me a cutting board that says "We thank Thee, Lord, for the necessities of life...." When I was little Daddy would always say the same sentence in his prayers and it was about partaking of the necessities of life.  I really didn't understand until I was older that he was thankful for the daily necessities that most of us take for granted. It is now a constant reminder in my kitchen to be thankful.

James and Laura commissioned a painting to be done with the artist who painted Amy's closet door with a scene of butterflies, an arbor, flowers and a fairy in her bedroom (our bedroom now). This was what they commissioned. This was what I unwrapped. I thought my heart was breaking once again.





That's my Daddy walking through his beloved fields of corn. Walking into the rays of the sun. Going Home.
O how I miss that mighty man of God. He stood for everything that is true, and honest, and just, and pure, and lovely in this world.   

I started this blog after Amy died as a way to share her life and my process of going through grief. I didn't care who read it as it was a way for me to grieve and almost all of the posts were written with tears streaming down my face. I could be real on here so I could 'pretend' out in public that everything was ok.
I struggle with words. I am not a natural born writer and many of these blogs have taken hours to write as I try to make sure my grammar, spelling and sentence structure are correct. I knew there would be others reading this although I never dreamed  I would touch people in foreign countries.  Even though I haven't written a post since Oct. in the last 30 days there have been over 100 views from Asia, Europe and South America. I don't say that to brag. I say that to state that what I am writing now is mostly for those out there who don't know me very well and if you are friends or my family, I hope you can see my heart in this and not take offense.

The last few months have been really hard. After my visit to my Mama in Oct. I seemed to struggle more with grief. Then the first anniversary of my Daddy's death came and I remembered all the details of the last two weeks of his life that I was able to spend with him and the following week of the funeral. There were so many heartaches that week and in the weeks to come with my family that I have tried to forget. But it has put a distance between my sisters and myself.  As time has passed and the political climate has changed I decided to remain silent, especially when I read this verse from Amos 5:13, "Therefore at such a time the prudent person keeps silent, for it is an evil time."  Even though we don't agree, I love them and do not hate them or their families. Disagreement is not the same thing as hate.

This past November, in my own immediate family a horrible misunderstanding occurred. Angry words were spoken, tears were shed, I asked for an apology and it was given but with more hurtful words said, and distance came between us. I was willing to talk- to hash things out- but they chose to not talk about the situation and just move on.  
And so we have. 
At that same time I fractured a rib and was in a lot of physical pain for a few weeks and the emotional pain just added to it.

During the last year and especially these last few months God has taught me much. I always thought my family would be there for me. He has taken me through the loss of a sister, mother and father-in-law, a precious daughter and then my sweet Daddy. Someday I may lose others before He decides to take me home to Him. But I have learned that I only need Him. He and He alone is what I need to be complete and whole. My family adds to my joy (and sometimes sorrow) but I cannot live my life for them. I can only live it for Jesus and do what He tells me is best for me, not what others think is best for me. God is writing my story and He isn't revealing that story to others, whether it be my children, sisters, or friends.
So to all of you out there, I don't know your stories.  What I am trying to convey to you is that even if you have no family or don't have a relationship with your family, you can still have joy and be content if you have Jesus. He is all you need.


"But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord;    I will wait for the God of my salvation.
My God will hear me.
Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy.
Though I fall I will rise;
Though I dwell in darkness, the Lord is a light for me."

Micah 7:7-8
My word for the year is JOY.
Thank you for reading my blog. Being able to share God's Word is one way I have joy.