Friday, August 30, 2019

It's Doable!


I realized I have never fully explained how the phrase, "It's Doable", became our family mantra and the name of our team for the CF walk. As most people know, Wednesday, April 3rd of this year Hannah was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis and, as a result of her diagnosis, Caleb and I have been diagnosed as well. It has been almost 5 months and some days it seems like we're in a really good routine and CF hasn't changed that much and then other days it is overwhelming and I wish I could turn back the clock to those much more simple, pre-CF days! That, however, would mean going back to those days when Hannah was sick, struggling to breathe, coughing non-stop and rapidly losing weight so, of course, I'm deep down thankful for a diagnosis and a way to treat it.

The night I got the call after 2 days of testing at the Mayo Clinic, Hannah and I were at our hotel getting ready for bed. We had plans to travel the next day to visit some dear friends in Iowa. We were originally supposed to travel home the next day, but the pulmonologist had requested we stay nearby so he could see us on Monday and a road trip with the promise of sweet fellowship at the end of it seemed like a fun way to pass the weekend. Just as we were ready to crawl into bed, my cell phone rang and I recognized it as a Mayo Clinic #. I answered it and slipped out the doorway to the hall so I could speak to the Dr without Hannah in ear shot. I already knew what he was going to say, but hearing his confirmation was going to take a few minutes to fully process and I felt deep emotion bubbling just below the surface. He explained that Hannah's sweat test had come back positive and that she was a very sick girl. He wanted us to pack up that night and head to the hospital for at least a 2 week stay.


To say I was stunned would be an understatement. I definitely did not see the 2 week hospital stay coming and I was trying to wrap my brain around what we needed to do in order for that to happen. When I finished with the Dr, I called Tim and told him what the Dr had said and then I called our dear friend and primary care, Sandy. The whole time I was talking I was pacing the halls and I'd occasionally see Hannah pop her head out in the hall to see where I was. I'd motion for her to go back while I finished my conversations and she told me later that the amount of time I spent talking and walking in the hall didn't seem like a very promising sign to her and she had concluded she did, in fact, have CF.


After I had prayed, regrouped and worked up my courage to tell her, I went back to the room and let Hannah know what was going on. She, too, was taken aback by the 2 week hospital stay and called her Daddy and Kara, our youth pastor's wife who is her mentor. Kara prayed with her and by the time Hannah was done with her 2 conversations, she seemed much more settled and accepting of the situation. I watched her sit down on the end of the bed, pause and then say with a contemplative look...


"CF! It's doable!"

Really? 10 minutes after finding out she had a very serious lung disease, she had already come to the conclusion that CF, whatever it entailed, was "doable". I was amazed by her resolve that God was in control and that it was all going to be okay. This was her attitude then and during her hospital stay and it has remained her attitude over these last 5 months. These words have impacted our family, our friends and everyone who has heard Hannah's story. These words are a permanent fixture in our home as a constant reminder that what we are going through IS doable, and they became the name of our team in the CF walk. We have a logo, bracelets and now a beautiful new bag from the Georgia CF Foundation with the words, "It's Doable".




Whatever you may be going through now or may encounter in the future, I pray that you will look to the Lord to meet your needs and allow your heart to echo Hannah's profound words...


It's doable!!!

Friday, May 3, 2019

Why Not Us?

Surreal : marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream
Yep! That pretty much sums it up…the last 4 weeks have felt very surreal. 4 weeks ago today we had plans to fly home from MN and instead my phone rang and I stepped outside our hotel room to take the call. It was Hannah’s pulmonologist sounding very grim confirming that she did, in fact, have CF and was very ill. As I walked up and down the hall of the 4th floor of that hotel, processing the news that we would be packing up that night to head to the hospital for a 2 week stay, I stepped aside to let a family pass by. I remember thinking at that moment that I was having a very personal conversation within ear shot of strangers and how 3 days before I would have been very uncomfortable with that. Not anymore, though.
Our hotel was a home away from home for many patients of the Mayo Clinic. We met them at breakfast and compared appointment schedules, watched them shuffle down for free afternoon soup in their house shoes, heard their own hushed conversations about treatment options, saw them waiting for the shuttles that left every hour transporting them to and from the Mayo Clinic, watched daddies pulling weak children in wagons full of pillows and witnessed more than a few bald heads and pairs of sunken eyes. In that moment it hit me that we likely had a bond with that family and that they had probably had their own phone call at some point in their journey like the one I was on so what did it matter if they heard mine. Funny how such a sizeable shift in thinking can happen without you even knowing it.
I had talked to God often over the last few years about the fact that our family hadn’t really been personally affected by tragedy, severe sickness or death and how thankful I was for that. Tim and I still had both our parents, our children were relatively healthy, we had both made choices that led to us having a strong marriage and we all loved each other. I was thankful and yet I always felt that at any moment this life of relative bliss was subject to change. I’m not a big worrier by nature and I try very hard to reign my thoughts in and not borrow trouble, but I knew that we weren’t special. That there was no reason we should be exempt from suffering.
Why not us?
Why should Frank have to endure so many surgeries that it was hard to keep count…and not us? Why should Conner have a brain tumor that required Amber and him to have to spend weeks in the hospital…and not us? Why should the teenage boy in the room beside us be slick-headed and bloated from massive doses of steroids…and not us? Why should the family with the very sick baby at the end of the hall have to spend more days at the hospital than at home as a family…and not us? Why should we have friends who have had to bury their babies…and not us?
Why not us?
As I walked in church this past Sunday morning I spotted my friend, one of the ones who we’ve had the pleasure of walking beside in life for two and a half decades, and I made a beeline for her. She's my friend, that for some reason unknown to either one of us, is the one I’m most likely to cry with…and I’m not a big crier. As expected we embraced and both burst into tears, neither one caring that we were a captive audience. She held me and patted me and whispered that she wished we didn’t have to go through this, wished that we didn’t have to watch our baby struggle to breathe and wished that she could take away the pain and the suffering our family as a whole was going through right now. I told her I wished she could, too, but then I pulled back and looked at her and said, “But really…
why not us?”
Months ago Tim had planned to start a new series that very morning entitled, “The Struggle Is Real”, confirming yet again the Lord’s relentless attention to detail. I have no doubt that he could have done an amazing job sharing with our people that the struggle is real and we can struggle well without the events of the last few weeks, but apparently God had other things in mind. Suddenly, here we were as “Exhibit A” in the current examples of suffering. Hannah had been diagnosed with CF in MN, Caleb had been diagnosed with CF the week after our return and my diagnosis would be 2 days and a phone call away as well. Now Tim’s message wasn’t a theory or something he had observed on the pages of scripture or in others intimately walking with the Lord. It was a message shared as a member of the fellowship of suffering. 
Do I wish my babies and I didn’t have to become one of the 30,000 people in the US with Cystic Fibrosis? Absolutely! Do I wish Hannah didn’t have to spend hours a day doing treatments just to breathe well? Of course! Do I wish we had immune systems that had the ability to fight off germs instead of falling prey to so many different sicknesses? Without a doubt! But…
why not us?
As my BFF reminded me when we were in the hospital and I was processing the news about Hannah, CF is just a label. It’s a label that helps us identify why we’ve struggled with so many things for so many years. It’s a label that has given us a plan and a protocol for Hannah and will soon do the same for Caleb and me. We’re still the same people and it’s just a label that defines our issues, but does NOT define us!! Will we have hard days ahead? I’m sure we will. There’s a reason they call it suffering! One of my deepest prayers, though, is that we would always remember that God is sovereign and none of this has caught him unawares. We’re going to pray, we’re going to fight and we’re going to struggle well. What we’re NOT going to do is feel sorry for ourselves because really…
why not us?

Tri-Fecta

As expected, we won the trifecta and I, too, tested positive for CF. My genetic testing confirmed I have 2 gene mutations which definitely supports my clinical symptoms and explains my many breathing issues! They said I have a milder version than the kids, but will still need to get set up at the Emory CF Clinic. Thanks for continuing to pray for us!!! It is SO appreciated!!.

Hard and Dark Places

I had a friend text me this morning. She's not someone I see or talk to a lot, but we have a deep love for each other. She sent me a very encouraging note letting me know the things she was praying for us, and for me specifically, and we corresponded back and forth for a bit. One of the final things she said to me was that if I needed someone to come alongside me in the "hard and dark parts" of wrestling with God that she could handle it! I have found myself pondering that all day...
"the hard and dark parts". 
Finding out your daughter has CF is hard. Finding out your son has it, too...starts to feel a little dark. Spending 2 weeks in the hospital watching your daughter fight to be able to breathe well is hard and dark. Seeing her weight dip below 100lbs...was really hard. Learning a new normal is hard and I'm sure will be for a while. I haven't had too many dark parts, but I'm sure there will be more before it's all said and done. Hard parts? We have plenty of those. Just having her get a positive flu swab 2 days ago made me want to scream and hit something!
We've experienced an overwhelming out-pouring of love, encouragement, meals and offers of help over the last 3 1/2 weeks. We stand amazed at the people the Lord allows us to have as part of our community near and far. I know many of those people would totally be there for the "hard and dark parts", but there was something about my friend offering...going there with those specific words...that stopped me in my tracks. 
My friend is well acquainted with "hard and dark parts". She's had to fight her way through many of her own over the last few years and you can tell. The struggle has been real, but she has struggled well. She didn't avoid these spots. She didn't deny they were there. She waded in and did hard work and she has come out the other side with a beauty and a grace she probably never imagined could be hers.
My friend taught me something today. She taught me that a lot of people may offer assistance and genuine care, but it takes someone who has done their time in hard and dark places to not be afraid to go there with others; to name them and call them out! She taught me that these hard and dark places are never wasted and He will use them in my life and eventually allow me to use them to go there with others. My friend made me a little more brave today as I was reminded how she made it through her hard and dark parts and found joy in the midst of it all!!
2 Corinthians 3-5 ~ "All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too."
Thank you, friend!!! You encouraged my heart today and helped make me a little more brave!!!

In Hannah's Words Take 2



Well, we really are alike!!! KK and I BOTH have Cystic Fibrosis!!! So thankful that we have each other!! Some people may say, “that sucks y’all both have it” but really it’s amazing that we have each other to go through life with!!! God knew exactly what He was doing when He created us! I’m thankful God gave me KK as a brother and best friend!!!! Love you lots!!!

FC Twins




These 2 are 19 months apart and have always been best friends! KK once bought Hannah a sign that said something about his sister being his best friend and the lady in the store asked him if that was true and he said, “Yep! And now she has the sign to prove it!”
They’ve always liked to do everything together and now...we have the test to prove it!! Yep, KK’s sweat test came back positive and he, too, has been diagnosed with CF!! He actually says he’s going to tell people he has FC...since he’s dyslexic!!🤪
Truthfully, as soon as she was diagnosed I pretty much knew he would have it, too, based on his symptoms of “asthma” (which it can often be diagnosed as) and recurrent nasal polyps. We KNOW that Caleb is fearfully and wonderfully made and that this has NOT caught the Lord by surprise. We don’t really know what it looks like for him because he is generally pretty healthy, but he will begin attending the CF clinic every 3 months with Hannah starting May 14. 
We SO appreciate everyone’s prayers and encouragement and are so thankful for our community near and far!!! We love y’all!!

In Hannah's Words

This is something Hannah wrote. It is something that challenged me and, I imagine, may challenge you!!
So, as most of you know, on Wednesday, April 3, I was diagnosed with a disease called Cystic Fibrosis. CF (Cystic Fibrosis) is a lung and stomach disease. It can be very harmful to the lungs and cause a lot of damage. CF makes it hard to gain weight because your lungs are working extra hard, so all the calories that go in to your body go straight towards fighting off infection in the lungs, therefore you begin to lose weight or struggle to maintain weight. With having CF I have to be aware of my breathing and my weight so that my body can stay healthy. 
Some people can have a hard time with CF, so that’s why I don’t read about it on the internet. All that does is fill my mind with negative information that might not even happen to me. The night I got diagnosed, I called Kara (my mentor) and she asked to pray with me. As she was praying, she was asking the Lord to give me a peace that surpasses all understanding and just a peace of mind. Needless to say, I definitely have that peace. I keep second guessing myself and wondering if I should be more nervous about having the disease, but honestly why should I worry when I have God fighting for me? Why should I worry when God is the great physician? Why should I worry when I am grounded in my faith and I know who the TRUE healer is? 
Like my mom was telling me, God is giving me grace in this situation because He knows that I need it. I have truly used this opportunity to grow and to try and be an influence in other peoples’ lives. Not to brag but, while being at the hospital, many doctors and nurses have commented on what a good attitude I have had during all of this. The only reason is because I know that God is on my side and He will take care of me and, because of that, I have no reason to worry. Being in the hospital has given me an opportunity to ask the nurses what their stories are and I’ve gotten to know so many new people. In the hospital, I put scripture up around the room so that I especially could be reminded daily of what His Word says, but also I didn't know whether the scripture would make an impact on a nurse or someone else who comes in and out of my room. 
One of the biggest things that I have learned from everything I've been going through is this…if I can trust the Lord while going through this, then He can use me to be a light for others and to help challenge others to trust the Lord in every circumstance. I’m thankful for how He is using CF in my life already.

Genes

Gene ~ a unit of heredity which is transferred from a parent to offspring and is held to determine some characteristic of the offspring.
Today was the day we have been waiting for...the day Hannah's genetic testing would come back. It's a day I thought would never get here and yet that I was dreading at the same time. It was the day that we would know definitively that Hannah does or does not, in fact, have Cystic Fibrosis.
It may seem strange to doubt that she did after all we've been told, but there was one Dr, the one over infectious diseases, who just was never convinced she had CF. It never made sense to him that it took so long for her to be diagnosed and that she did not present in a physical way as the majority of CF patients do. So, while 99.9% of the Drs told us she DID have CF, I clung to hope that maybe the infection disease Dr knew something they didn't. I mean, I've never been one to follow the crowd, so why start now. 
I stayed at the hotel last night, as I am again tonight, but I made sure I was up and at the hospital in time for the residents and her care team to make the rounds. Deenah and Dr. Wang came in around 8 as usual and, during their daily assessment, casually mentioned that the genetic testing had come back and it was positive. The infectious disease Dr and I may have held out hope, but genes don't lie.
Dr. Pillai and later Brad, the guy over respiratory therapy, explained about the genes Hannah had and what that really meant. They named her genes and showed us how to enter them both in a database and and find out the characteristics of her particular gene set as well as the number of people in the world who have her exact gene mutation of CF. And you know what? There's a reason it seemed odd to the infectious disease Dr (who I promise has a name, but it's a mouthful).
There are only 24 people in the world who share G551D and 1717-1G>A gene mutations. There are about 35,000 people in the US with CF and about 75,000 in the world...but there are only 24 people in the world who are fearfully and wonderfully made with the exact same gene mutations as our Hannah. Wow!!!
I'd like to say I embraced this news with a joyful heart, but I must admit I felt the weight of each of those mutations pressing down on my chest as I listened to their words. I KNOW God made Hannah and He makes no mistakes! I KNOW this has not caught Him the least bit by surprise! I KNOW these things. But. I. Don't. Want. My. Daughter. To. Have. CF.
So, I listened to their words with a brave face and then I went for a walk and cried. I cried because all those Drs were right. I cried because I don't want my baby to have to spend hours a day doing breathing treatments in a vest that beats her around. I cried because I'm tired and claustrophobic and want to go home. And then I dried my tears, ordered lunch and spent the rest of the day enjoying time with 2 people who mean the world to me.
I want to be clear about something as I wind up my thoughts for today. It has never crossed my mind to be mad at God. I don't blame Him for any of this! I admit to feeling a tad bit of Mom guilt this week, especially once my sweat test came back, because it was confirmed that I contributed to her having jacked up genes. You know what's crazy, though. She had to get a jacked up gene from Tim, too, and I would never blame him for that! 
So I now no longer blame God OR myself for Hannah having CF. She IS fearfully and wonderfully made...2 genetic gene mutations and all!!

Rollercoasters

I’m not a fan of rollercoasters. I never really liked the idea of them, but a close call years ago sealed the deal. We were visiting my grandparents and the fair was in town. I was so excited to go and see what they were all about because I had never been to one. While we were there, I was somehow convinced to ride the rollercoaster. It was your typical fair rollercoaster with a track that creaked and groaned as you slowly ascended, leaving you with a less than confident feeling that it could withstand a train of cars hurtling around it at high speeds. I made it to the end and and resolved in my mind that that would most likely be the last time I ever rode a rollercoaster.
That night we were home at my grandparent’s house and, as was the custom, we were watching the 10 o’clock news before bed. I always loved going to visit my grandparents because we got to stay up and I felt very grown up watching the late news. The familiar intro played and Dan Miller filled our screen with the top story of the night...the derailment of a rollercoaster at the county fair!!! The very rollercoaster that I had clung to as it creaked and groaned it’s way to the top. Needless to say, I was traumatized. The knowledge that shortly after I disembarked it had left the tracks, injuring numerous people, ensured the end of my rollercoaster riding days.
Since then I have avoided them at all costs. Really high highs and rushing lows just aren't my thing. I prefer to live simply, with my feet firmly planted on the ground! If you know me well, you know this applies to life in general for me. I don’t need mountaintop experiences and I try not to wallow in the valley. I’ve had tough things to deal with in my own life and as I’ve walked with others, but I’ve often thanked the Lord that I haven’t had anything really hard happen to me or those I hold closest to my heart.
That changed on April 3, 2019 when my baby girl, Hannah, was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis. I had seen the results of her sweat test and was pretty sure we would soon have a positive diagnosis, but all that was confirmed when the pulmonologist called me early that evening. In a grave voice he said she did have CF and he would like her admitted to the hospital that night because she was quite ill! I can’t remember all he said because I became less aware of his words and more aware of my own personal rollercoaster beginning to unlock and veer off the tracks. We thought we were going to have to stay in town a few extra days, and instead we were told she was being admitted for a 2 week stay at the Mayo Hospital.
The first couple of days were an overwhelming whirlwind of examinations, information and little to no sleep, but I felt at peace. This morning I woke up sad and mad and have had to struggle through the majority of the day. I take comfort in the knowledge that God is not offended by my struggle and that He is actually camped out in the middle of it with me. I know we are entering new territory with a huge learning curve and that there will be many hard days. I am confident, though, that God is still as sovereign as he was before we boarded that plane to head north and that He loves Hannah even more than Tim and I do.
We so appreciate all the calls, texts, meals, care, concern and especially the prayers. We are reminded, yet again, what an amazing community the Lord has allowed us to be a part of and we do not take it for granted! Tonight we take comfort in knowing we’re one day closer to coming home!

Friday, August 24, 2018

Things Pondered After a Jailhouse Visit


Yesterday I went to the Walton County Jail. I had only been there once before, to the morgue to hold up a friend while she identified the body of her beloved son, and those memories came flooding back as I drove in the parking lot. I was there to visit another friend which was almost as difficult as my first visit. This friend is someone I really love, but someone who has made some bad choices over the last couple of years. I was thankful I’d decided to forego breakfast because my stomach was tight with anxiousness. There’s something about a place like that that sets you on edge, especially if you’ve never been and are unsure of where to go and what to do. 

It took a couple of conversations through bullet-proof glass, after passing through secured metal doors that buzzed open and locked behind me, to figure out where I was supposed to go sign in and wait. I drove to the designated parking lot, left my purse and cell phone securely locked in my car and proceeded toward the walkway encased by chain link fencing. As I walked toward the entrance, I was struck out of the blue by a scripture I had learned years ago in an effort to try to parent well…

”When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of the people are filled with schemes to do wrong.” (Ecclesisates 8:11) 

It seemed like a safe parenting verse way back when, but suddenly I was wondering how many people were behind these walls because they had never experienced this verse lived out in their own lives. No judgment…just the pondering of my heart as I made my way to the door.

I entered the waiting room and passed through the metal detector, armed only with my car keys and a piece of paper with my friend’s inmate # written in the bottom R corner. No name…just a number to mark her place in the system. I filled out the paperwork with my personal information and surrendered my driver’s license through the tray beneath yet another piece of bulletproof glass. The deputy taking all the visitors’ information was the friendliest one I had encountered so far and I marveled at how she had maintained what seemed like joy in the midst of such a barren place. I completed the registration process and took one of the few available seats in the stark waiting room.

There were a lot of chairs in a very small area and I found myself with only a couple of feet separating those who sat across from me. Since it was my first time being in a place like that, I was unsure of the protocol regarding chatting with your neighbors. I’m one who tries to overcome my introverted ways and make a conscious effort to engage others and do what I can to encourage them. Since discouragement and downcast souls seemed to be the common denominator that linked all those who were waiting, I glanced at the floor and prayed for an opportunity to be His hands and feet. A sweet little one year old girl with beaded braids bounced around in circles and captivated the attention of most who were there, such innocence displayed despite her jaded surroundings. Another sweet girl soon joined the room and they played with a carefreeness that belied their reasons for being there…each waiting to visit their Mama. I gazed around the room and noted the tired eyes, many of whom wore their years and stories firmly etched on solemn faces. “Weary” seemed to be the word for the day.

A nervous woman randomly asked if she could sit beside me and I welcomed the chance to strike up a conversation. I asked her who she was there to visit and as she explained her situation, I realized she, too, was there to visit my friend, a step-mom come to see what she could do. Suddenly the “random” request took on a divine appointment and she expressed how thankful she was to not have to experience this  first time alone. So there we sat, strangers but moments before, both anxiously waiting for the same name to be called. Her name was called not long after and we walked through the heavy metal door and waited our turn to be searched with the wand that would signal we were safe to proceed ahead. We entered a cinder block room with 7 cubicles. I know because I found the need to count them, I can only assume, in an effort to bring order to my jumbled thoughts. Each cubicle was equipped with a phone and a heavy glass barrier that would separate us from our inmate. And suddenly there she was, not in the cute clothes I was used to seeing her in, but a state-issued jumpsuit identical to the woman next to her.

Her step-mom talked to her for 5 minutes or so and then left me alone to visit as we tried hard to hear each other through phone lines long out-dated. My friend wept bitter tears of regret and it was heart-breaking to realize this was her reality. I spoke firm words wrapped in grace and reassured her that her current circumstances did not change our love for her. I prayed with her, sensing the Lord was there, stretching His arms through the thickened glass connecting us to one another. Then a guard called “time” and we each hung up our phones, feeling the distance between us deepen, she heading back to a place of scary unknowns and me to the world of familiar. 

I passed back through the waiting room in a sea of mourning souls and heard a lady right behind me sigh and say, “It sure is hard seeing your baby girl in a place like this.” I turned and waited for her to join me, recognizing her need to speak forth the broken pieces of her heart after her painful visit. She shared her daughter's story, intertwined with her own, and I listened to a mama’s heart filled with regret. A mama who now has the responsibility of raising four teenage grandchildren because both their parents made selfish choices and find jail their current home. As I listened to her nervous words spill out I was reminded, yet again, that we all have a story and want someone to care enough to wade into it with us. We talked for 25 minutes, leaning against the chain link tunnel, and as we parted ways I hugged her and assured her I would pray for her.

It took me a minute once I got back to my car to collect my thoughts. I looked toward the building from which I had just exited and asked the Lord to use this time to bring my friend to a place of true brokenness and repentance. I finished my prayer with a sigh of my own and slowly backed out of my spot, my heart a little less anxious than when I drove in. I was thankful the nervousness had dissipated, but I found it had left a heaviness in its place. A heaviness that felt like a cloak wrapped tight and I thought...

I guess that’s what happens when love has to reach through bulletproof glass.


Monday, July 9, 2018

The Ebb and Flow

I've been contemplating the ebb and flow of life lately and relating it to the ebb and flow of the tide as we sit on a beach. Sometimes the tide is low and we're able to wade out and see so many treasures that the ocean holds. In a matter of hours, though, we can witness the tide rise and the waves wash over anything in its path, engulfing the shore in water and washing its contents out to sea. That's how the final week in June felt to me this year.

Tim and I had the privilege of spending a week in Estes Park, CO and further up at a site adjacent to the Rocky Mountain National Park called Wind River Ranch. We were there with our friends, Mac and Aimee, and a multitude of new friends that we had the privilege of making. It was truly one of the most peaceful places I have ever been and the mountains were jaw-dropping evidence of the Lord's power and majesty in every direction we turned.

I was able to fulfill a bucket list item and attend a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater. What made it extra special was that it wasn't just any concert. It was Third Day's final concert ever. It was the end of a 20+ year journey with Mac and the band as well as a launching point for a new dream and a new direction. The memories rolled like a highlight (and occasional lowlight) film and the tears flowed as I reminisced, with their familiar music as a soundtrack playing while the images flashed.

It was a week that provided a much needed time of rest and reconnection for Tim and me. We felt ourselves being refreshed and encouraged and able to let our minds quiet themselves. We rocked and talked, breathed fresh mountain air, ate meals I didn't have to prepare and enjoyed temperatures that were gloriously low and dry compared to what our normal Junes felt like. As we finished the week and started to wind down the mountain, we were filled with thankful hearts for the respite from our daily demands. All was well in our world until we got the call...the call that alerted us to the fact that our friend, Bruce, had walked into eternity just moments before.

We have spent our 28 married years in ministry and throughout those years there have been so many mountaintop moments we've been able to experience with people as they surrender their lives and their wills to the Lord and begin to walk out their new-found faith. We have also spent many hours wading into grief with precious people who have just experienced devastating loss. This would prove to be one of the more difficult times. Our hearts were crushed as we waited to board the plane home and I discovered an airport can be a very vulnerable place for tears of sorrow to fall as you're surrounded by a captive audience.

We landed in Atlanta and headed to Bruce and Shelley's house to wait for her to arrive. Bruce had died at home and sweet Shelley had witnessed a rather horrific scene. While he had battled cancer for much of their 4 years of marriage, his death still came as a shock and Shelley and their children were reeling. As the car pulled up with Shelley, her son and 2 other family members in it, I cried out to the Lord and asked Him to help us minister to them in ways that far exceeded what would otherwise be our own mere feeble attempts. We embraced Shelley as our tears washed together and we slowly ascended the steps into their home where just hours before she and Bruce had been having coffee together.

As we sat with Shelley in relative silence I was overcome with the feeling that we had entered onto holy ground. There were really no words that could mend her broken-heartedness and so I resisted the urge to fill the quiet moments with meaningless chatter. We simply let her tears flow as the grief pooled around her. We had literally descended from the mountaintop into the depths of pain and mourning and I thanked the Lord for the divine and sacred privilege of entering into another's grief.


"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and He saves those who are crushed in spirit."

The next few days were spent helping Shelley and her family attend to details and make decisions that we all wish we would never have to, but know inevitably we eventually will. These moments stood in stark contrast to the peaceful ones we had experienced just days before and I was reminded yet again...


"The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord."

I read today in 66 Love Letters by Larry Crabb that "small obedience is great work". So often we can, if we're not careful, find ourselves missing the daily opportunities to perform a great work because they don't seem grand enough and we forget that walking intimately with Jesus doesn't always look like we expect it to in our own finite minds. Just as the ebb and flow of an ocean demands that we contemplate His power and providence, so must we see those ordinary moments as extraordinary because they require us to obediently enter into His divine work. Sometimes those moments may seem mundane and other times they can feel overwhelming. How comforting to know, though, that He has promised to never send us where He is unwilling or unable to journey with us.


"Carrying out this relief work involves far more than helping meet the needs of poor Christians. It also produces abundant and bountiful thanksgivings to God. This relief offering is a prod to live at your very best, showing your gratitude to God by being openly obedient to the plain meaning of the message of Christ. You show your gratitude through your generous offerings to your needy brothers and sisters, and really toward everyone. Meanwhile, moved by the extravagance of God in your lives, they'll respond by praying for you in passionate intercession for whatever you need. Thank God for this gift, His gift. No language can praise it enough."
2 Corinthians 9:15 ~ The Message






Saturday, March 31, 2018

Despair and Desperation

It's Saturday, the day in between Good Friday (oh, the irony) and Easter Sunday, and I've been very contemplative about what that day must have been like.  We know it was the Sabbath so, as we saw when we were in Israel, everything would have been shut down and it would have been a day of rest and contemplation. I wonder, though, what were the thoughts of those who had been in the crowd calling for Jesus to be crucified? What were Pilate's thoughts as he contemplated his cowardice and the way he backed down in leadership and allowed an angry mob to call the shots?

Friday was a day of darkness. For 3 hours the sun was blotted out and when Christ finally died the veil was torn, the earth quaked and the rocks were split in two. Nature acknowledged what humans were unwilling to admit...a grievous act against an innocent man was complete! And now it was Saturday and they must wait. Much as a disobedient child who is sent to their room to "think about what they have done", I have to believe that for many a knot had formed in their stomachs and they were forced to contemplate their role in putting an innocent man to death. The day of darkness had rolled into a day of despair and desperation and they were left to think.

Think about what they had done. Think about what was to come. Think about how to minimize the collateral damage. Think about how to keep His brazen claims that He would rise on the third day from appearing to actually come true. Pilate may have made a valiant attempt to wash his hands and declare his innocence in front of an angry crowd and a doubtful wife, but when the Pharisees came requesting the tomb be sealed, he was forced to acknowledge that their desperate measures would be hopeful at best. Now they must rest and wait.

I've had times in my life when I felt like I made a mistake that could never be made right. My failure felt final and I was left to contemplate what I had done. I was left to question my motives and struggle thru whether Jesus could ever come to my rescue in the midst of my despair and desperation and make things right. And yet, in the midst of my despondency, He had me tethered to the hope that maybe my failure wasn't final and maybe my despair could give way to deliverance and delight.

Let's not waste this day of waiting. Let's not become so focused on our past that we fail to prepare our hearts for what is to come. This day in between may be filled with many conflicting thoughts, but our deliverance is only a day away!!





Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Loopholes

I learned so many things while we were in Israel! So many spiritual truths and things about myself and so many historical facts that I felt like my head might explode at times trying to process it all. One thing I learned early on in the trip really blew my mind, though, and I found myself thinking on it a lot during the rest of the trip and since I've been home. 


I learned about "loopholes".



This was the first loophole I saw and was when my mind was initially blown. Maybe I'm just a geek and no one will find the concept as fascinating as I did, but I'm going to attempt to explain it anyway. First let me share the initial definition of loophole...


a small opening through which small arms may be fireda similar opening to admit light and air or to permit observation




 


So tactically speaking a loophole is a small hole someone who was engaged in battle would slip their weapon through in an attempt to ambush the enemy while being protected from reciprocal fire. They were able to see out of it while remaining hidden and safe. 





Once I was made aware of what these openings were, I began to notice them virtually everywhere we went. In a country which is currently known for its political and religious turmoil, it was amazing to recognize that there's not much new under the sun and this is obviously a centuries old problem.


There were loopholes in the cities, in the country and even on top of a mountain in the ruins of an ancient palace. 



While the historical influence of these loopholes was fascinating to me, I couldn't help but be struck by the spiritual and linguistical influence of loopholes. Let's look at the second definition of loophole...

a means of escape; especially an ambiguity or omission in the text through which the intent of a statute, contract, or obligation may be evaded

Do you see it? 


Loopholes...ways we try and get out of commitments and covenants with no (or at least minimal) damage to ourselves or our integrity. 

The problem with loopholes is that very often others DO get ambushed in the process and there IS much collateral damage. The other misconception about loopholes is that we can evade our commitments and all will be fine, but it is always with great detriment to our character and our integrity. It may seem like we get off scot-free, but there are lasting implications that cannot be avoided.




When we desire to honor the Lord no matter what, one thing we can always be guaranteed of is that we will encounter attacks from the enemy and opportunities to look for an easy way out. I want to be known, right down to the very end, as someone who will battle with courage and integrity and not always look for a "loophole" in order to protect myself.


God has given us spiritual armour to protect ourselves with on a daily basis...

Ephesians 6:10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

I also love how it's put in The Message...
Ephesians 6:10-12 And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.
13-18 Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.
                                                     
                                                   

Lord, thank You that you desire to teach us in such cool and amazing ways wherever we may go! Thank You for the opportunity you gave Tim and me to travel to Israel and thank You for so many spiritual insights that You allowed us to be made aware of throughout our journey. I don't want to look for loopholes, Lord. I want to battle courageously right down to the very end. Thank You that You have given us everything we need to equip ourselves for the battle. Now help us battle well!!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Seasons


Ecclesiastes 3:1 ~ There is a time for everything,
  and a season for every activity under the heavens...



The lazy days have come and gone and so has Labour Day. Summer is officially over and routines are being re-established. Alarm clocks are a daily occurrence and packed lunches are the norm. The familiar sound of the buses making their rounds disrupts the early morning quiet and carpool lines test the patience of those trapped within their confines. School is in full session.



For 21 years school had one common denominator for the Cash family and it was "home". For 21 years home was where at least one student pulled up a chair at the table, newly sharpened pencil in hand and began the learning process for that particular grade level. For 21 years life was familiar, chaotic, and "ours"...until it wasn't. 21 years and 5 students later, school as we knew it was no longer and we found ourselves embarking on a journey that took us into uncharted waters.

We have had kids in school before. Rachel spent her senior year in a Christian school, Benji's entire high school years were spent at the same Christian school and Jesse has spent the last 3 years (freshman thru junior) at the public school down the road. We prayed a lot about what school would look like for Jesse, Hannah and Caleb this year and things look vastly different. Jesse is spending his senior year at Loganville Christian Academy. Hannah is a freshman at Bethlehem Christian Academy and Caleb is in 7th grade at BCA. Caleb is the youngest one we've had enter school, but he has been diagnosed with some learning differences and we felt it would be good for him to get a head-start so high school might be a little easier for him.

Not everyone was totally thrilled about their new assignment (okay, Jesse was the only one looking forward to the change), but they are settling in and learning a new way of life. Having a set (early) time to get up and trading jammies for uniforms to start the day have been a bit of an adjustment. The technological side of things has provided a few bumps in the road and more than one meltdown. Totally exasperated one afternoon as he tried to figure out how to find his homework assignments on Schoology Caleb blurted out, "Whatever happened to pencils and paper? Pencils and paper! They worked great for hundreds of years! Why can't we just use pencils and paper?" I have to admit I definitely lean hard into his thinking on this, especially as I get used to having to track 3 students on Renweb and Schoology. All in all, though, everyone is hitting their groove and things are much smoother than the first couple of weeks predicted they might be. All 3 students are making their way so that just leaves...

Mama!

The woman who, for 25 years, has always had at least one child home with her all day every day. The woman who was responsible for 21 years of information being introduced to 5 different students all in different grades and at different stages of life. The woman whose husband traveled all the time and who learned creative ways to keep toddlers busy while trying to teach others their times tables or how to dissect an owl pellet. The woman who fixed 3 meals a day and was continually cleaning the kitchen suddenly found that when she cleaned up after breakfast it stayed clean. 

The first day of school was a moment I had been somewhat dreading. I had kept a strong front and cheerful face in the weeks leading up to the first day and all the way thru the drop-off line, but I didn't make it out of the parking lot before the tears started flowing. They flowed so much that I had to pull over somewhere to get myself together and I picked the one place I knew I wouldn't have to deal with other people guessing at why I was such a mess. I even turned off my GPS because I could envision Tim, wondering why I was taking so long, checking the tracker app and trying to figure out why in the world I was at...

the pet cememtery!!

Yep! I knew there'd be no prying eyes or judgment passed at the pet cememtery so I ugly cried to my heart's content and mourned the end of a way of life for the Cash family. It wasn't that I felt like we hadn't made the best choice for each of them, but life as we knew it had come to an end and more than 2 decades of familiarity had been replaced. I finally managed to pull myself together enough to venture home to Tim and a handful of workers who were in the final stages of our kitchen renovation. I had to steal away often that day to resume crying and I felt like a wet dishrag that had been wrung out by the end of the day.

We're all finding a new normal and I am finding that I can clean the house and it stays that way for quite a while. There's less pressure now not being the sole person responsible for their entire education and my introverted self does relish the quiet. I sure do miss my kids, though. I imagine a part of me will always miss the time when life was a little simpler and school meant "us". I'm so thankful for all those days we had snuggled on the couch reading books that became treasured friends and I'm thankful for those days when we struggled to even want to be in the same room with each other because cabin fever had taken its toll on us. All those days, the good and the bad, were what allowed our hearts to be bound together and what made our family uniquely ours. 

Those 25 years are so precious to me and I will be forever grateful that the Lord granted us that time together!!


Ecclesiastes 3:4 ~ A time to cry and a time to laugh.

    A time to grieve and a time to dance.



I've had my time to cry and the grieving will eventually come to an end. Now I just need to learn my new dance!! Until then I shall remember this quote from my old friend, Dr. Seuss...


"Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."