Saturday, January 30, 2010

Leavin' on a Jet Plane...

According to the internet, planes are leaving on schedule from the Little Rock Airport today...Yes! We are about to leave home, heading for the airport, and should be flying out at 2:41 p.m. Please continue to pray that all goes well this weekend and that God is honored by all that is said and done!

Friday, January 29, 2010

A Change of Plans...And A Request for Prayer!

We woke up this morning to all of our trees (and power lines!) covered with a glistening coat of ice. The weather folks had actually been predicting this for a few days, but we really didn't think it would happen. Something very similar was predicted a couple weeks ago, and nothing happened, so we didn't take this forecast too seriously. Well, it was bad enough this morning that today's school and tonight's basketball games were canceled. Additional ice and snow accumulations were forecast for this afternoon, so we decided to head on up to Little Rock (about an hour drive), go out for a nice dinner at Macaroni Grill (thanks to a Christmas gift card from a dear friend) get a hotel room, and be close to the airport for our 7:15 a.m. flight to Chicago. We left home around noon on clear roads but surrounded by beautiful, but heavily iced, trees. Within about ten miles of home, though, a fresh round of heavy sleet began, and the road conditions quickly deteriorated. We abandoned our Macaroni Grill plans, deciding instead to go to a restaurant close to the airport and our hotel. They were very short-staffed due to the weather, so we were there for quite a while...long enough for people to start coming in from the airport, all of them talking about canceled flights. The folks at the table next to us were trying to fly to Chicago today, but their flight had been canceled, and they had rebooked for the 7:15 a.m. flight tomorrow. Some other folks were talking about other flights for tomorrow morning, which had already been canceled. So, we decided to head over to the airport and see if we could find out anything at the United counter about tomorrow's flights. They wouldn't tell Brad anything at the ticket counter, but he ran into someone he knew who had been waiting at the airport all day for a flight to Florida. He'd been bumped from one flight to another all day, and was finally giving up. We then decided to head over to the hotel where we had reservations, just to have a quiet place where we could sit down and call the airline. After several minutes of automated menus and holding, we were told that tomorrow's 7:15 a.m. flight had been already been canceled. There was a 10:30 flight to Chicago, but it was already full. There was also a 2:40 p.m. flight with a few seats available, and they were able to transfer us to that flight with no additional charges. While we were sitting in the lobby, people were streaming in from the airport, all of them on their cellphones, trying to get flights rescheduled. There were even TSA people and baggage handlers coming in. The precipitation had stopped by this time, and since our flight was now not until the afternoon, we decided to head home and sleep in our own beds. So, we canceled our hotel reservation, and made our way home. It was a slow ride with a few scary moments, but tonight we are back at home watching "The Fugitive" in front of the fireplace. It is now snowing, and is about 27 degrees outside.

On the way home, we heard on the radio that there were 116 flights canceled at the Little Rock airport today, and that they were going to be working hard to get at least one runway open tomorrow. The high temperature tomorrow in Little Rock is forecast to be 33 degrees. A storm like this is fairly rare in central Arkansas, and our airport is just really not equipped to handle it. Please pray that our plane will fly out as scheduled tomorrow, so we can make it to DeMotte, Indiana, for the Sunday morning church service and the Princess Tea that afternoon. If this flight is canceled, there will not be another until Sunday morning. We know that it is all in God's hands, and He is in control.

I think I've mentioned before how Hannah didn't like winter weather too much, and driving in it really made her nervous. Several times as we were driving today, I thought about how much Hannah would have hated driving around in that stuff today, and how she would have been freaking out when we fishtailed a couple times on the interstate. And then I remembered that if Hannah were here, we wouldn't even be going to Indiana. We would have been home watching movies in front of the fireplace all day. But she's not here...she's in Heaven. And that's precisely why we want to go and share her more people will know about God's love, peace, and comfort, and have a home in Heaven someday.

I'll keep you posted on our trip plans.....Thanks for your prayers!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Unique Opportunity

This coming weekend, our family will have a unique opportunity to share what God has done in our lives through Hannah's storm. I have relatives in DeMotte, Indiana, and we will be flying there this weekend to give our testimony. On Sunday morning, we will be sharing in my cousin's church. Then, that evening, I will have the privilege of sharing at an event called a Princess Tea. This is an event that my aunt and uncle's church hosts each year, and it sounds like a very special occasion. It is for junior high and high school girls, and has a prom-like atmosphere (minus the guys!). The girls get dressed up in formal dresses, get their hair done, and then are transported to the venue. The emphasis is on the fact that they are "Daughters of the King", and they are treated as royalty for the evening. Each girl is given a special gift as a symbol of God's love for her. There is praise and worship music, and a special speaker...this year, that speaker will be me.

I am humbled, excited, and frankly, a little bit scared about the whole thing! It's such an incredible opportunity, and I want to be so careful to share just what God wants these girls to hear. It's a rather difficult thing to introduce a story about a teenage girl dying of cancer into a fun-filled occasion such as this. Honestly, I've really been struggling with how to do that. But just this morning, our pastor referred to Matthew 5:16 in his sermon, and I thought, "That's it! That's the direction I need to go!" It says, "...let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven." That's Hannah! And she could only let her light shine because of her dependence on Him. And she could depend on Him, because she asked Him to be her Savior when she was eight years old. It's still coming together, but at least it's coming. Please pray that I will follow God's direction as I continue working on it, and also pray that at this time next week, I'll be able to deliver His message with conviction and without too much emotion. Every time I speak, there's always the possibility that emotion will render me this point, though, God has given me the ability to get through it every time. It's got to be Him, because I could never do it on my own. And your prayers for me and for our family are a huge part of that....Thank you!

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Ultimate Victory

For the past couple of months, I've been following the blog of a woman with glioblastoma, the same kind of cancer Hannah had. Her husband is the author. I don't know these people personally...I don't even know where they live. I used to hear her husband on the Christian radio station I listened to years ago when I drove back and forth between El Dorado and Crossett three days a week, and I always enjoyed hearing what he had to say. He's not a particularly well-known person in the Christian community, but he has published a few books, and I actually bought one for my dad several years ago. The blog was recommended to me by a friend who knew that this lady and Hannah shared the same kind of cancer, and he thought I would be interested in following it.

By the time I started reading this blog, the woman's health had already deteriorated to about where Hannah's was this time last year...probably even a little worse. What interested me most, though, was the husband's attitude toward her illness. As her illness progressed, he began making comments referring to his belief that Satan was trying to steal his wife's life away, and that "the evil one" was trying to silence her. Honestly, I was floored by this attitude...I just couldn't comprehend it! We never, ever, EVER felt that Hannah's life was being taken by Satan. God had every single day of Hannah's life planned, and I believe that when His will for her was completed, He lovingly took her to her home in Heaven. There was no victory for the "evil one" in Hannah's death!

This lady passed away last Wednesday, and other than the announcement of her death, there have been no new posts by her husband. I do think they are Christian people, and I believe she is in Heaven with the Lord. And I pray for her husband, that he will realize that his wife has won the ultimate victory, and receive peace from that knowledge. Psalm 116:15 tells us "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." What a beautiful thought!

P.S.--Bethany is feeling much better tonight. Thank you to all who have asked about her and prayed for her as she's been sick!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Tournament Champions!

We've had a very full week of basketball this week, which reached its peak tonight when Bethany's team won a tournament hosted by the Bismarck School District. They had to beat two teams earlier this week to reach the finals, and their opponent in the finals tonight was Lakeside School District, a large 5A school, versus our small 3A school. It was quite an exciting match-up, with Lakeside coming out strong early on. The girls inched their way back in, though, and played them close for most of the game. In the fourth quarter, we were down by seven, but our girls kept plugging away, and before you knew it, the game was tied...and we went into overtime. Bethany was one of several girls who hit a critical basket in overtime (although in this game, every point was critical), and we ended up beating Lakeside 36-35. The crowd went crazy, and the trophy was presented. Bethany has actually been sick for the past few days with a severe sore throat, spending the last two days on the couch, and just getting up to play basketball. Thankfully, we'll have a little break now...her next game won't be until Thursday!

I think I've shared on this blog before that Hannah was Bethany's biggest fan. She would always sit next to me while we watched the games and continuously encouraged and cheered for Bethany. I always loved that she chose to sit and share the experience with me, rather than sit with her friends. As we drove home from Bismarck tonight, we talked about how much Hannah would have enjoyed tonight's game, and how she would have been cheering for her sister. We discussed whether Hannah would be watching from Heaven...and I'm not sure about that. I just can't really imagine someone in Heaven, surrounded by all that glory and beauty, looking down on earth to watch a basketball game. I don't know.I do know that Bethany misses her sister. So much goes on in a 14 year old girl's life that she needs to talk to someone about.

As I watched Bethany & Hannah grow up together, and share so much of each other's lives...often choosing to sleep together just so they could tell stories, laugh, and talk late into the night...I came to realize how much I missed out on by not having a sister. And for Bethany, who once had and now has lost a sister, the loss is enormous. And in so many ways now, she is set apart from her peers. The experience of walking with her sister through brain surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, the loss of her hair, devastating setbacks, loss of vision, motor skills, personality, and intellectual ability, and finally, sitting beside her holding her hand as she died, has changed her. She understands far more about life and death than most kids her age, and the typical junior high drama does not interest her. Unfortunately, she sometimes gets swept up into it unwillingly, and that's when she needs her sister to talk to. I can be her mom (and we've gotten quite close), but I can't be her sister, and it is not my role to be her best friend. It is my job to teach her to lean on Jesus, who will always be there for her. Please pray for both of us, that we will continually depend on Him, and give Him the glory!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

American Idol

Very quietly, almost unnoticed, American Idol began its new season tonight. Over the past several years, the beginning of American Idol was a highly anticipated event in our home. You cannot imagine what a big deal it was around here. Hannah became a fan of the show in its second season...during the big face-off between Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken. She liked Ruben that year, and was thrilled when he won. The next year, she supported Diana DeGarmo, spending two hours voting for her after each show. Carrie Underwood was her favorite the next year, followed by Taylor Hicks, Jordin Sparks, and David Cook. She was pretty good at picking the winners, and it was probably her relentless voting that put most of them over the top! We would arrange our whole schedule around Tuesday and Wednesday evenings...thank goodness for the DVR we got a few years ago! She and I attended four American Idol concerts together, and I have some wonderful memories associated with Hannah and American Idol.

I also have some rather difficult memories associated with Hannah and American Idol. I remember watching the show together in the hospital, just a few days after her brain surgery. It was hard for her to watch, because the surgery had left her unable to look up with her eyes without moving her head, and of course, the TV was mounted up high on the wall. After we returned home, we watched that season together with particular interest in David Cook, whose brother was also battling brain cancer. I remember cringing as they talked about how seriously ill he was, wondering what was going through her mind as she listened. We watched the David vs. David finale that year, and Hannah cheered as David Cook was declared the winner.

Hannah was a huge fan of Carrie Underwood, and when I heard she was coming to Little Rock in May, I immediately went on line and bought three tickets for the concert (Brad never has gotten into the whole American Idol thing). The concert was scheduled for just after Hannah's radiation was completed, and we thought it would be a fun way to celebrate getting that part of treatment behind us. But just a few days before the concert, Hannah really began to feel bad...very weak and extremely tired. The day of the concert came, and she could hardly even get out of the recliner. So, we did not go...Bethany and I just couldn't go without her. We found out on the following Monday that Hannah's blood counts were extremely low and she needed blood and platelet transfusions. That was the first time we had experienced this...up until that time, her blood counts had all been fine, so we didn't recognize the symptoms of severe anemia. That was the first of over 100 blood product transfusions.

Last January, when American Idol began, Hannah was excited about it, as always. Our least favorite part of the show is the auditions, but we still watched them and got a kick out of all the people who thought they could sing, but couldn't. But it was about this time last year that Hannah first began to show signs of slipping cognitively. After the first couple of shows, Hannah had difficulty remembering who she had seen the week before, and although she knew there was someone from Arkansas who had done well in the auditions, she kept getting confused about who it was. By the time they got to the Hollywood rounds, she still wanted to watch the show, but she could not follow it at all, and did not know who Kris Allen was. And I believe she knew, deep down, that she would not see the finale.

On the Sunday before Hannah went to Heaven on Thursday, she received a phone call in her hospice room from her all-time American Idol favorite, Jordin Sparks. Although Hannah was unable to talk back to her, Jordin spoke to her and to all of us on speakerphone, and even sang "No Air" to her. Jordin was incredibly gracious and kind, and so upbeat and bubbly, although I'm sure it was a difficult thing for her to do--she was not much older than Hannah herself. It was a bittersweet moment...something Hannah would have been so excited about...but I'm not even sure if she really knew who was talking to her. After her death, we watched the rest of the season rather half-heartedly until Kris Allen from Arkansas became one of the finalists. We got behind him and helped vote him to victory. Brad even joined in on the voting! Hannah would have enjoyed seeing the Arkansas boy win.

If you're not an American Idol fan, and you've managed to read this far into this post, I'm surprised you've stuck with it. I'm sure you have no idea (and probably very little interest) who any of these people even are. And I guess that's my point. As big a deal as American Idol has been in our household over the past eight years or so, it's so irrelevant in the big picture, as is most of what we spend our time and energy doing. Only what is done for the Kingdom of God is of eternal value. Fame is fleeting, fortune is quickly wasted, and health is easily lost, but God's Word will stand forever. Let's spend our time and energy on things of significance.

Will we watch American Idol this year? Probably. We DVR'd tonight's episode, but haven't watched it yet. There have been some changes in the show's direction that don't really excite me. It's certainly not the same watching it without Hannah. And I'm a different person than I was when I first started watching it with her. Older, wiser, sadder...but better because of what the Lord has taught me through my own daughter. He continues to teach, and I pray that I will continue to learn. I am determined that I will not waste Hannah's storm.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

More Thank Yous

In my last post, I shared a little bit about Hannah's former youth director, and the impact he and his wife had on her life. I would be remiss if I did not mention the many, many others who played a part in her spiritual growth over the years. I won't even attempt to mention them all by name, because I would almost certainly leave somebody out...but as I sit here tonight, I can see the faces of all the nursery workers, AWANA leaders, children's choir helpers, Sunday School teachers, and youth leaders who taught Hannah over the years. Many of you read this know who you are! How thankful I am for each of you! When faced with such an enormous crisis in her young life, Hannah remembered all those Bible stories you shared, the songs she sang, and those verses you taught her. Her faith is what carried her through, and you were a huge part of that.

Maybe you didn't teach Hannah, but you are a nursery worker, Sunday School teacher, AWANA leader, children's choir helper, or youth leader at your church. I know that sometimes it can feel like a thankless job, but believe me, you are making a difference in those kids' lives. Thank you for allowing God to use you. You may never know...actually, you probably won't ever what you're teaching today will affect them tomorrow.

We have a busy week ahead...Bethany will be playing in a basketball tournament. Their team has only lost one game this season, and that was by two points in overtime. They have been a lot of fun to watch, which is good, because we've been watching them a lot! Bethany is truly a blessing in our lives, and we are so thankful for her!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Getting Back Into a Routine

Well, at least Brad and Bethany are getting back into a routine. I just work four days a week, Tuesday through Friday, so I have one more glorious day at home by myself before I start back. For a little while this morning, it looked like they might be coming home early...there was a dusting of snow on the ground when we got up, and as I was driving Bethany to school, snow began falling again. It continued to snow heavily (beautiful, giant flakes) for a couple of hours, and I was beginning to wonder if I would be getting a call from the school, when it finally thinned out and stopped. As I watched the snow fall, I was reminded of the evening of Hannah's visitation. It was February 28th, and just as the visitation was beginning on that cold evening. a light snow began to fall...unusual for Arkansas. Several precious people whispered to me that evening that Hannah must have sent the snow from Heaven just for us. And I had to smile to myself, because unlike most kids, Hannah hated snow. Oh, she liked it when she was little...we have great memories of sledding (or trying to sled) on our neighborhood streets in El Dorado, making snow angels, having snowball fights, etc. And she liked getting out of school because of snow. But, as she'd gotten older, she liked snow less and less. She just really didn't like cold weather, especially after she got sick. But she would have appreciated the beauty of the snowfall this morning, and I wished she was here with me to watch it.

Yesterday in church we had some special guests. Mike Beck was Hannah's youth director when we first came to Hot Springs Baptist Church about 4 1/2 years ago, and Jennifer, his wife, was Hannah's Sunday School teacher. Mike was Hannah's youth leader when she attended the Disciple Now event where she prayed for a storm. He is very talented musically, and would often lead the youth in worship. Anything he sang became one of Hannah's favorite songs, including the one I shared in my previous posting. Just a few months before Hannah was diagnosed, God called them to the mission field in Portugal, where they are still serving today. It was wonderful to see them yesterday. As they shared their struggles and frustrations in trying to reach a very secular society for Christ (Mike became emotional as he shared that only one person had accepted the Lord as his Savior in the past two yeas), I couldn't help but think about how much of a difference they had made in the life of one teenage girl in Arkansas. Clearly, some of the things she learned under Mike & Jennifer's teaching helped her get through an incredibly difficult experience. We are so thankful for the influence they had on Hannah's life, and know that God has great plans for their ministry in Portugal. Seeds are being planted and watered for the kingdom of God. You can read more about them at