August 30, 2016

Late Night Rambling

Tonight I read chapter one of the book When God Doesn't Fix It by Laura Story. I knew that it was going to be a hard read because, well, I am living "when God doesn't fix it." My emotions are raw. Everything reminds me of Kevin. Tears often flow freely. Especially at home. At night after the kids are in bed. When I am sitting here in my room with no one to see the tears. As you can guess, sitting in my room alone reading this book at 10:30 at night was a recipe for a hot mess. I did not disappoint!

If the rest of the book is like chapter one, I may not make it through. As she was describing the issues her husband was having: couldn't stay awake, forgetful, unable to hold conversation, etc, I was transported through the last three years. Those were all things that Kevin displayed as a result of depression and addiction. When she revealed that her husband was displaying these things as the result of a brain tumor, my first thought was, "I wish it had been a brain tumor."

How heartless. How thoughtless. I feel horrible that I even had that thought. Like Laura and her husband, Kevin and I spent countless hours on our knees crying and begging God to remove this disease. This thorn in the flesh. And nothing. To his dying day he struggled. If we'd been fighting a brain tumor, it would have been an honorable fight. Instead, because it was addiction, it felt shameful and lonely, for both of us. If he'd had a brain tumor I wouldn't have had to spend my days wondering whether he really ever loved or cared for me or the kids. If he'd had a brain tumor he would have felt like he could share and let others in. If he'd had a brain tumor I wouldn't have had to fight the feeling that he was always choosing the drug over our family (even though that was never the case.) Before I understood even the tiny bit I do about addiction, I begged God to make me sick, with anything (cancer, brain tumor, whatever it would take) so Kevin would see how badly the kids needed him and he would just stop being stupid and stubborn and come to his senses. Now I know that was a ridiculous thought and an even more ridiculous request. There were moments when I think I knew he would never recover. The depression was too strong, Satan's lies to deep, and his hope too thin. I don't know what I could have done to change things, but this I know: Kevin's death was an answer to our desperate pleas and cries for deliverance. Is there any better deliverance than complete and total healing and worshiping at Christ's feet? Can I still worship when His answer was so drastically different than the answer I truly expected?

You all, I was praying expecting a very different answer than I got. In my mind I could see his healing here on earth, the two of us ministering together and sharing our testimony of deliverance to those who so desperately needed to hear it. I prayed believing that Kevin was going to be 100% healed here on earth and would stand as a beautiful testimony to the power of our God. How could I pray in faith, believing one thing would happen, and then the exact opposite is what actually happens? Was I praying wrong? Was there a sin in my life keeping God from hearing my prayers? Was God not answering because Kevin wasn't saved in the first place? Why did God answer similar prayers for others and not for us? I have no answers. I don't know why the Lord answered our prayers this way. I don't know why the kids and I are still here and Kevin isn't. There are days I struggle to think that waking up here on this earth is a gift. That there's any grace in still being on this planet when Heaven is my home. Waking up in Heaven would be grace. Being here almost seems like punishment in comparison to the joy that awaits in Heaven.

However, the truth is that ALL IS GRACE. ALL IS GIFT. Even waking up here. Without my husband. Filled with the shame of a death caused by addiction. Filled with the regret of not being able to help him while he was here. Able to walk beside my children and show them God's love and faithfulness each day. To pray fervently for their salvation and the new lives they will have in Christ. To live out for them a life of trusting and waiting on Christ, in the good and the bad. I am here to know Christ and to make Him known. To love God and love people.

Oh, Father, please don't ever stop drawing me to You. Let Your face shine upon me. Upon Sophie. Upon Ethan. Draw Ethan to You and fill him with the Holy Spirit to lead him and guide to a life that is poured out for You in any way You ask. Continue to grow Sophie to be more and more like You each day. Fill our hearts with a love and passion for Your word. Fill us with a love for the precious people You have created and placed around us. Oh, Father, may those who see fear You rejoice when they see us, because we have put our hope in Your word. (Psalm 119:74.)

August 24, 2016

The Night I Was Undone By A Glow-In-The-Dark Race

It was a beautiful plan. Families coming together to run. And have fun. And I let it get the best of me.

I don't love running. My kids don't love running. And I did very little to prepare them for this night. But, still, in my head I had this beautiful picture of the three of us running long spurts together, walking here and there, and laughing and loving every minute.

As you may have guessed, totally not what happened. Sophie didn't run hardly at all, barely even walked, and one of the dads had to stay in the back with her. But she had the time of her life taking selfies with all the fun, glowing props and just taking it easy. Ethan actually ran several spurts, but melted into a puddle of despair when we didn't get to the finish line fast enough to catch the wad of glow sticks they were tossing in the air at the DJ booth. It was like he'd lost a pet or something. Totally unreal. And nevermind the 10 or so he already had around his neck.

So Ethan was grumpy, Sophie was happy, and I was frustrated. And we rode home in silence and I cried the whole way. I went terribly wrong in three major ways (and felt stupid and like a failure for it later):

I didn't share my expectations or the reason for them with my children. As parents, we all know this truth: you can't obey what you haven't been told. I never once laid out a plan for them. And idea of how I wanted things to go. Perhaps more importantly, I never explained to them why this family race was so important to me. Kevin loved running. A lot. He ran as much as he could until his body just wouldn't allow it anymore (a combination of his actual back injury and the weight he gained from addiction.) I cannot even count the number of times that he begged us to at least jog with him. We pretty much always said no (except for Ethan) and he could barely get us to walk with him. I feel terrible about that now and wish we had said yes every time. So for me, this was a way to do something Kevin loved, together as a family, and honor him with our best effort. I know that had I explained that to the kids, they would have tried a harder and truly done their best.

I failed to acknowledge the fact that their idea of fun and my idea of fun might be two different things. Not that I love running. Or even find it all that fun. But, I do enjoy doing it with my friends and do somewhat enjoy the races and seeing how we improve with time. It's a challenge to keep improving myself. I never stopped to think that, like me until a year ago, my daughter.hates.running. Any form of it. So, in reality, there was little to no chance she was going to enjoy this night. Yet, she did anyway. Even though she was in the back for almost the entire race, she finished with a smile and laughter. She loved seeing all the glow in the dark things throughout the course. She loved stopping to take selfies. She loved getting to chat with Mr. Justin as he kept her going throughout the course. Ethan does enjoy running, to an extent, but he's seven. And a boy. And gets tired and bored easily. So I should not have been surprised that he never ran more than two minutes at a time, usually as fast as he would run, before he was done and had to walk. Yet, he was proud of those few moments he was able to run, he loved seeing all the people in costume as we ran, and enjoyed the one selfie I allowed us to stop and take. And he finished. In a really good time for someone who walked most of the race and had never done anything even remotely like this. And all I let myself see was that he didn't run as much as I wanted and he cried over glow sticks. #seriousfail

I forgot that they are unique and instead compared them to others. You would think that at almost 38 years old I would know by now that comparison never helps. It only hurts. And steals JOY. Yet, I did it that night with my precious children. The other kids in our group that night were rock stars. One of them actually ran the whole race with no training! They all gave it their best and did such a great job (at least that's what my head told me, but we weren't with them, so I really don't know!) I put my kids up against that and felt crushed at how poorly they did in comparison. But my kids are not those kids. They don't enjoy the same things or have the same skills and abilities. I should never have expected them to react in the same way. What was I thinking?!?!

I truly do hope that we can train a little and find another fun race (maybe another glow in the dark race or even a color race) that we can do together. I am pretty sure I can talk Ethan into that, we'll have to see about Sophie. But, more than that, I pray that I will take the lessons I learned from this hard, frustrating night and move ahead as a better parent.

Lord, give me a sensitive spirit when it comes to my children, that I may see what they truly need and be able to step up and provide that, through Your power. Help me to see their joy, even in my frustration, and to grab hold of that and live that with them. Teach me to be a parent that loves and leads and enjoys and points them to You at all times. Father, give me discernment to see each of their gifts and the bravery to encourage those gifts. Lord, show me how to teach them to use every skill and gift for Your glory.

August 17, 2016

Of Printers and School and Anxiety

I just set up, installed, printed, and connected to a cloud a new printer ALL ON MY OWN. I am not sure you grasp the gravity of that statement. Never in my life did I think I would be able to do such a thing. Or even need to. But (by the grace and patience of God), I did it! And now I am sitting here in tears because it's just one more reminder of this new reality of living without my man who could and did everything for me. What took me 2 hours would have taken him 10 minutes. Reality is closing in more and more each day that he's gone. He's really gone. Every time I sit down to try and organize the school room and school books and school stuff I am just overwhelmed. The first day we do school in there is not only the beginning of a new chapter, but a very real end to an old one. One I didn't want to ever see end here on this earth. That room has always been Kevin's room. He designed it, he built it, and he spent countless hours in there working hard to provide for the family he so loved and cherished.

Sometimes when I walk in there I feel guilt at just wiping away all of his work. Just moving it all to the storage area and looking forward to the day that mess is no longer in my house. Other times I think how proud he would be that I had a vision, went for it, and refused to let something just sit because it was hard to use it. Still other times, I think of all the pain, heart ache, depression, and addiction that happened in that room and I want to seal it up and pretend like it was never a part of this house. The flip side of that feeling is wanting to shove it in Satan's face that God can even redeem and reclaim a room, so I want to just pour everything into the room and the school that will happen there.

And sometimes I am just mad. Just mad at Kevin for being an idiot. (I promised to always be truthful.) He should have known better. He should have thought through things. He should have never become addicted in the first place. It's been a long two weeks of losing battles because of his cause of death. It's been a long month of wishing I could get things done, but the bank won't let me because they think the court gave me the wrong papers. None of this would be happening if Kevin were still here. Still fighting. Still holding on. Still being the man I married. And I just want to throw a pity party!

As school gets closer and closer the anxiety gets stronger and stronger. There is no doubt in my mind that we are to be homeschooling this year. God has prepared and granted too many things for that not to be true. But I just can't focus my mind or make myself organize things. Sticking with the whole honesty thing, this is the first week in 5 months I have used the computer sitting anywhere other than my bed. It's the first time I haven't spent all of my time in my house (other than making meals) in my room on my bed because that's all I could handle. It has felt good. Almost back to normal. And then there's school. I have been able to put lesson plans into the computer, but the closer school gets the harder it is to even walk in the room. At least for me. I am praising God that it seems to be easier and easier for the kids to use that room. Especially Sophie. It's her dance studio. She has had so much fun in there. I am so thankful.

But, we all still call it the office. Or Daddy's office. Not sure we'll ever, consistently, call it the school room. That's not the use for which it was intended. It not the use for which I ever dreamt it would be used. I want the office back. I want my husband back. I want my family back.

Though it's not the life I intended, it's the life I've been gifted and the life I must live. Yes, I cry. I scream. I rant and rave. I fill pages and pages of journals with the hurt, pain, fear, confusion, doubt, worries, insecurity, and everything else that pops into this head. But, like King David, at the end of the day, my lips must still praise Him. He is God. He is in control. He is a good, good Father. He is perfect in all of his ways to me. To Sophie. To Ethan. To Kevin. Grace upon grace upon grace upon grace has been lavished on me and my family. Even when I didn't see it. Even when I ignored it. Even when I didn't think it looked like grace.

Oh, Father, open my eyes to see each gift of grace You lavish upon me. Give me a love for this new room. Give me a JOY at entering its door in order to teach and train my children in the way You have asked. Give me peace as I sit at a desk that was built for equipment but is now filled with books and papers and all things school. Give Sophie and Ethan a passion for learning Your word and for using each subject they learn to make them more able to serve You and others. Father, do great and mighty things which we could never think or imagine in that room that once was darkness and depression and death, but is now light and life and JOY. Only because of You! Father, as we enter this room for school, the beginning of one chapter and the end of another, let us remember the old chapter with sweetness and joy and love and look ahead to the new chapter with hope and peace and joy. Only You can help us do that!

August 10, 2016

You Have Written and Redeemed My Story

Five months ago today, around 4:30 a.m, I awoke and noticed Kevin wasn't laying beside me. I lazily walked downstairs see what he was up to, only to discover him in his office, slumped over his desk, completely unresponsive. About an hour later he was pronounced dead. And our world forever changed.

That office is now our school room. The walls have been painted, the desk redone, and soon new pictures and canvases will line the walls. What was once a room of sadness, pain, addiction, and death will be redeemed. Everything will be redeemed. Because we serve a God who specializes in redemption. In beauty from ashes. In there always being more than we can see. The ugly beautiful. Resurrection is what He's all about and He's doing that with this school room.

Would you join me in this prayer over our room for the next several weeks as we prepare to begin our sixth year of homeschooling and our first year of doing it without Kevin?

Father, thank You for redemption. Thank You for resurrection. Thank You for making all things new again. Only You can do that. Thank You for making this once painful, ugly room new again. Father, fill this room. Fill it with Your peace and joy and hope and love. Give all who enter a passion for learning; learning about You and the world and people You created. Use every subject to train all three of us to love You and serve You. Let every lesson (even math) prepare us for the calling You've placed on our lives: to know You and to declare Your glory. Let each lesson bring us one step closer to the specific path You have for each of us to live out that calling. Soften our hearts toward others. Lord, redeem our hearts as You redeem this room. Let every lesson draw Ethan to You and give him ears to hear and a heart to follow and say yes when you call His name. Let Sophie's heart be knit with Yours more and more with each lesson as she becomes enamored with the amazing God You will reveal Yourself to be with each lesson. Give me a sensitive spirit toward my children to know their needs, their aches, their pains, and to always have Your word on my tongue so I can point them to You. Bind Satan from getting any foothold of fear, depression, addiction, doubt, or confusion in this room ever again. Make this room Your room.  You are the ruler of our home and Satan has no authority in this room or any other. Father, give me courage and boldness to declare Your truth at all times and in every lesson. Bless this room and bless the learning that takes place in it.

August 08, 2016

Five Months

This Wednesday (Aug. 10) will mark five months since my beloved husband passed away. Five months. Almost half a year. How is that even possible? How is it possible we're all still here, still moving, still putting one foot in front of the other, without you?

So much has changed in these last five months. I've learned to ask for help. I've learned to do a lot of things I never thought I could. I've learned to pray more fervently. I've learned to sleep alone. I've learned to trust God for even the smallest thing. I've learned, that even when God is providing every thing we could possibly need, I still often initially turn to fear and worry. I've learned that God truly does redeem our stories.

Lately, I've been reading a book that dives into the book of Ruth. The story in that book has become much more meaningful since becoming a widow. It's a reminder of God's love and provision for each of us, particularly the least of these. It has been convicting to look at Ruth and see how well she loves others, even in the midst of her own deep grief. Her husband has died. She has no children. She has left her family and the only culture she has known to follow her mother-in-law to love and care for her in her old age. Who does that? How did she do that? If there's been anything I've been in the last five months, it's been selfish and inwardly focused. I can't imagine how she can be so devoted, so loving, and so hard working while she is in such deep grief. Oh, that I would have that kind of love for those the Lord has placed around me.

Here's one thing that hasn't changed:
I love this ring. I remember how angry I was the day Kevin was, unbeknownst to me, picking it out. We were all going to see Willie Aames (Bibleman) and Brady Williams (Cypher) in a Bibleman Live show and Kevin was so late I'm pretty sure he missed part of the show. I was so angry with him. He knew how important it was to me that he be there to meet these two people I was working with, but he was still late. (And if you know Kevin, you know that's just the way he lived his life. Always late. I'll never understand people like that!) Of course, the night he proposed was pretty crazy, too! (Just ask Joe Banderman, Sabrina Brookshire, or Kevin's brother, Chris.) But, I have to say, I am glad he was late that night because this ring is beautiful! I loved it the moment I saw it! (Though I would have said yes whether he had a ring or not!) I just can't bring myself to take it off, yet. I'm not ready for that very visible sign to the world that I am single. That there's no husband. No father. I'm sure some day I'll be ready for that, but not today. Also, I've gained a lot of weight since Kevin put this ring on my finger and it's pretty tight. And barely comes off. And is way too small for the ring finger on my left hand. So, for now, it'll stay right where it is!

This week brought many opportunities to be angry. Angry at the situation we know find ourselves in. Angry at the choices Kevin made. Angry at addiction for stealing my husband and my children's father. Angry that Satan is here to steal, kill, and destroy. Angry that things always have to be so hard and have so many steps. Angry that I don't turn to Christ first when I am angry and frustrated. BUT GOD is so good. So forgiving. So loving. So comforting. I needed the reminder several times this week to lean in to Him and let go of the anger, pride, fear, and selfishness. I am sure this will not be the last time I'll need that reminder!

We've survived a lot of firsts and still have seven month's worth of more firsts, but we'll make it. We'll make because the Lord sustains. Provides. Heals. Protects. Leads. Guides. Saves. Redeems. And so much more.

Oh, Father, keep me focused on You alone. Use the scary moments to draw me to You. Use the fearful moments to draw me to You. Use the frustrating moments to draw me to You. Oh, Father, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I!

August 01, 2016

A Little Update

Well, it's August. Next week will mark 5 months since my beloved Kevin passed away. In some ways the time has flown by, in others, it feels like it's been creeping. Most days it just all feels a little surreal. Life will forever be marked with a "before Kevin", "with Kevin", and "after Kevin." I hate everything about that. We were supposed to be going on a cruise in January. We were supposed to see both of our children saved, together. We were supposed to be together until we were too old to scoot around anymore. Alas, that is not the story that God has written for us. Though most days it's really hard to see, His story is always better than any we would write for ourselves. He sees the whole picture, beginning to end, and knows just what it will take to make each of us more like Him. Sometimes, that hurts. At least here on earth. In the end, we'll all agree that it's worth it. In the meantime, it's trusting Him, reading His word, and putting one foot in front of the other each day.

We've had a gloriously blessed summer. We've spent most of it on the road doing a lot of firsts. It would not have been possible without family and friends opening their homes so we didn't have to stay in hotels, covering the cost of plane tickets, allowing us to use their friend passes to amusement/water parks, Read to Succeed providing free Six Flags tickets for my kid's hard work, and so much more that I am sure I will remember after I hit publish. We have tons of pictures and lots of precious memories. Only one small trip left and then we have to really buckle down and get ready for school. (I've given up hope of starting full-time until after Labor Day, so until then I am hoping to get in some review between now and then.)

It's been awhile, so here are some ways you can be praying for us right now:

Rest. I need rest. True, deep rest. I wake up each morning tired and only get more tired throughout the day. I've been sleeping better than ever, but just can't get rid of the tiredness. I know a large part of that is just grief. That's just life right now. But, honestly, it's gotten old and life must continue. School must happen. Laundry must happen. Life must happen. It's really hard to do that when I can barely keep my eyes open.

School. I am asking the Lord to renew my passion for homeschooling. This will in turn make school more fun and exciting for all of us. I need the energy to do more projects and fun things than we did last year. I need to get organized and stick to a plan. I am also asking the Lord to give my children a love for learning. I am praying that the more we get into the school year the more they will just soak it up.

Salvation. Most of you probably know that Sophie gave her life to Christ a little over a week ago! Hallelujah! She has been excited to tell her friends, but very shy about telling anyone else. Would you pray that the Lord will give her courage and boldness to share what God has done? Pray that He would give her the right words to express what God has done (when you are young and there's no huge life change, it's hard to find the words to express how life is different. As one who came to Christ at a young age, I know this struggle first-hand.) We have already seen that her sharing a short little amount with one of her cousins is bearing fruit as he is know seeking Christ and asking about being saved. May this continue each time she shares! May her testimony lead to Ethan seeing his need to accept salvation!

Direction. I feel lost. Like I am just out there floating in the middle of the ocean with no boat, no paddle, and no idea where to go. I truly believe that God will use all this ugly, messy, chaotic grief for His glory, but I have no idea how. I have no idea what next steps He wants me to take or how I can use this to declare Him as I keep moving forward. I know it's early still, but with a new school year starting, the house sorted, and things picking back up again, it feels like the new chapter is truly starting but I have no idea where it's going. Please pray that any unbelief in God's sovereignty and guiding over my life would be gone. Pray that I could step back, let go, and let God lead in every area: school, job, service, everything.

Kevin's Estate. We've run into a little hiccup with Kevin's estate, which means I cannot do some things for a customer that need to be done. They are being very gracious and my lawyer is awesome and will help me get it figured out, but in the meantime, it's really frustrating. And causing me to be scared about the future and wonder whether it will all be resolved as it should be in October. I don't want to fear. I want to bravely trust the God who has proven Himself faithful and true over and over again in the last five months. I have no reason to believe that He will stop providing now. Pray that I will trust, even in the unknown.

Next Tasks. This week I have two things I really need to get done and nothing in me is looking forward to doing them. First, I need to go to the DMV and get a new title without Kevin's name. Everytime I have to turn in a copy of his death certificate is just hard, in so many ways. It's heartbreaking, shameful, and just hard. And it's the DMV. So add those together and it's just no fun! I also need to get prices for his grave marker this week. I know exactly what I want it to say, I just have to actually go and do it. This will make things seem so final. So over. So finished. But it must happen. (Though Kevin would probably have preferred his plot remain anonymous!) Pray that the Lord will grant me strength and, selfishly, no ugly crying in the midst of it. I just want to walk in and do it and get those things checked off the list.

Quiet Time. Quiet times this summer have been very sporadic because we haven't been at home. I am never in routine when I am home. Please pray that I will be able rise at least 30 minutes before the children to have a deeper prayer time. Pray over the quiet time the children and I have, at the same time, but separately. Pray that the Lord will give all three of us a hunger and love for His word. Pray that God will show me how to aid the children in having a meaningful and memorable quiet time.

Bedtime. Another casualty of summer traveling has been our bedtime routine. We had such a sweet time those first few months. Then we hit the road and it all fell apart. Please join me in praying that the Lord will restore that routine. Pray that the Lord will give me an energy and love for the bedtime routine that just doesn't come naturally to me. This is one of the things both kids miss most about Kevin, that time with just him at the end of the day.

Thank you all so much for your love and support through these last 5 months. Words can never express. (And if you haven't gotten a thank you card, I greatly apologize. I have a pile that has literally been sitting on my table for 5 months that I keep forgetting to take to church to hand out. It doesn't mean I am not grateful, just that I'm forgetful.)