Monday, May 30, 2011

Catching Up

Wow....I have done a terrible job of keeping the blog updated this month.  May is just an incredibly busy month for people in the "school business."  I've been working more than usual to get all of my students post-tested, annual review conferences held, etc., and then we've been busy every evening with some kind of school event...academic banquets, athletic banquets, choir concerts, band concerts, graduation...the list goes on and on. 

Let me catch you up on the highlights of the past week or so....

Last Saturday, I had the privilege of speaking to the ladies of Dallas Avenue Baptist Church of Mena.  They held a tea in one of the ladies' homes, and it was such a wonderful blessing to be able to share my testimony with them.  Sharing with ladies' groups like this is one of my greatest joys, and I would love to do it more often.

Following the high of speaking on Saturday afternoon, we hit a bit of a low for the rest of the weekend, as some events occurred that made us realize that maybe we, as a family, were not quite as far along on the road of grief as we thought.  We spent some time regrouping and talking about some things that we needed to talk about, and our little family of three has drawn even closer than we were before.

Thursday evening, the ladies' ministry at our church held the Rainbow of Promises dinner, a fundraiser for the Anchor of Hope Cancer Ministry, and its Relay for Life team.  It was a very successful event, raising over $1,500 for this ministry, and it was truly a blessing to all who attended.  I especially enjoyed the special music, which was brought to us by a pastor who is a survivor of head and neck cancer.  When he was diagnosed back in the mid-80's, he was told he would quite possibly never speak again, let alone sing.  Well, he's been preaching ever since, and has a beautiful singing voice.  I really enjoyed hearing his story and listening to him sing.

This past Saturday, we spent the day with Brad's family in Briggsville. We visited Hannah's grave while we were there. I had not been there since October 22nd, which was her 19th birthday. I felt that familiar antipathy that I always feel when I'm there. I always hope that's going to be gone when I visit that spot, but not yet. Not yet. The highlight of Bethany's day was getting to meet Buck & Bella, twin fawns that have been adopted by Brad's cousins. Buck was a little shy, but as you can see, Bella took a liking to Bethany.

Pretty cute, huh?

Yesterday morning at church, the service included a very moving tribute to Navy SEAL Adam Brown, the son of our good friends, Larry & Janice Brown.  Adam gave his life in service to our country in Afghanistan back in March of 2010.  Adam was the commander of SEAL Team Six.  Yes, that SEAL Team Six, the team that took out Osama bin Laden on May 1st.  I must say that Memorial Day has taken on a completely new meaning for me since I've gotten to know this family so well.  I feel privileged to call them my friends, and I am so grateful for their sacrifice, and for the sacrifices that so many others have made for our freedom.

The highlight of the week ahead will be Relay for Life on Friday night.  At the Rainbow of Promises dinner the other night, the emcee asked everyone who had ever been touched by cancer in any way to stand.  Almost every single person in the room stood up.  Until cancer rudely invaded the life of our family, I had no idea how prevalent it was.  I'm going to close this post with excerpts from an email written by Lisa Crook, mother of Lauren, who has been battling cancer on and off for years now.  Unless God chooses to intervene, Lauren will be joining Hannah in Heaven before too much longer.  I believe the testimony of this young lady will bless you as it does me...

"All of Lauren's senses remain altered and are gone to some degree, but she is still able to communicate with us and listen to movies or songs on occasion. What truly amazes me, sometimes she does not recognize us, but she is always able to praise and thank the Lord. We pray with her at night and when she prays (days that are good and she can talk) she just thanks the Lord for all that He does for her and how much she loves Him. Her faith and love for the Lord never wavers. She is so inspirational to me. It is just so touching to listen to her talk about the Lord. Also, I will ask her about when she was saved and once again, she tells you of that day. Even though she might not know us, she knows the Lord is there with her. That is very comforting to Lance and I. She knows the Lord is with her no matter how difficult it might be.

Please remember, as a teenage girl, Lauren prayed for a testimony and for God to use her in a mighty way. She was willing to suffer for His cause. Lauren’s words, not ours. Our prayer is that those who do not know Christ as their personal Savior, will come to know Him before it is too late. Lauren wanted to tell the world about Christ and see souls saved. I can think back through the years of Lauren telling us how she wanted to work and serve the Lord prior to cancer. Well, it might not be the way she planned and God’s plans are different from ours, but Lauren told us, she wanted everyone to see what mighty things God has done for her through her battle with cancer. Whatever the outcome, God is in control. Nothing happens outside of His will.

Lauren is no saint, she is a sinner like all of us, but she had a desire to serve the Lord in a mighty way. I hate to say this, but I don’t believe I could pray the prayer Lauren prayed. But, I can share her testimony with others and that her testimony carries on. We ask that you share with others what God has done for Lauren and us. Please keep her in prayer and us too."

Monday, May 23, 2011

Update on Glory Girl

Since my last post about Miss Glory, several of you have asked for an update.  I talked with my sister-in-law last night via text.  She attends church with Glory's family in Van Buren, and she told me that things were looking better.  Her kidneys had apparently been in danger of shutting down, but now seem to be functioning again, and they are talking about removing her breathing tube soon.  The fever is down, and the infection appers to be under control.  Her mom said she felt like "Glory was back." 

I've never actually met Glory or her mom, but I've felt such a bond with this family ever since hearing about Glory's story, which started before she was even born.  And how could you not fall in love with a face like that?! 

Thank you all so much for your prayers for this sweet baby.  She's still got a long road ahead of her, so please continue to lift her up in the weeks and months ahead.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Glory Girl

Is that not the sweetest face you've ever seen?  This is Glory Morton, a precious little girl who is almost ten months old.

Glory was born with a congenital heart defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome as well as other congenital defects. Her parents knew before she was born that life would not be easy for her, and they named her Glory because, above all, they wanted God to be glorified through her life. She has been at Arkansas Children's Hospital since birth, and even though she's never been outside of the CVICU, she has already touched many lives.

I wanted you to meet "Glory Girl" so you could join me in praying for her and her family.  She has already ovecome a number of seemingly insurmountable obstacles in her short life, but has many more hurdles ahead of her.  And in the last 24 hours, she's been running a very high fever and has developed some other complications, possibly due to an infection.  So please take a moment and lift Glory before the Great Physician, from Whom all blessings flow.  And, if you're a Facebooker, you might want to like the "Fight Like a Glory Girl" page, so you can keep up with little Miss Glory.  I know her Mom would be so grateful for your prayers and messages of encouragement!

"But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high." Psalm 3:3

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Ten on the Tenth--The Joys of Raising Girls

Boy, I had a hard time thinking of a topic for this month's "Ten on the Tenth".  I shuffled through several ideas in my mind, discarding them as quickly as I thought of them.  Then I spent the day with Bethany yesterday, checking her out of school early, eating lunch at Genghis Grill in Little Rock (our favorite!), and making a quick visit to the new shopping center in Chenal Valley.  We weren't just playing hookey...she had an appointment at the Arkansas Foot & Ankle Clinic to finally get a diagnosis on the foot that's been bothering her ever since she hurt it high jumping last month.  (It's a partial tear of the plantar fascia...She'll be out of commission for another 3-4 weeks or so.)  And, since it just so happened that the foot clinic was practically next door to the Krispy Kreme shop...well, we had to make another stop before we headed home.  We had the best time together, just hanging out.

I grew up with two brothers.  Well, actually one of them arrived (Surprise!) when I was already practically grown up.  So, I just kind of always assumed that when I got married someday and started having babies, I would have boys.  When I was pregnant with Hannah, my first ultrasound was inconclusive...they could not tell if she was a boy or a girl.  By the time I had my second ultrasound, her arrival was only a couple of weeks away, so we asked them not to tell us...we wanted to be surprised.  And I was definitely surprised when the doctor said, "It's a girl!" a few weeks later.  And I was surprised again a few years later, when an ultrasound confirmed that I was having another girl.  But what a joy raising two girls has turned out to be!!

So, without further ado -- "The Top Ten Joys of Raising Girls"

1.  Dressing Them Alike.  My girls were about 3 1/2 years apart...just the right age difference to have fun dressing them alike.  That probably lasted until Hannah was about 7 or 8 years old, when she figured out that it really wasn't that cool to be dressed like her little sister!

2.  Fixing Their Hair.  When they were little, it was so much fun buying the big hair bows, and experimenting with all kinds of different hairstyles.  Both of the girls had naturally curly hair, although Hannah's was much more thick and curly.  Bethany's hair was very fine, and white-blonde.  I remember a sweet little old lady in the grocery store telling me one time that she had "angel hair."  As much fun as it was to fix their hair for them, it was also nice when they got big enough to fix their own hair.  Then there's the seemingly constant search for ponyholders and bobby pins...."I don't know -- Have you checked the floor?  Or the vacuum cleaner bag?"  Can I get an Amen?

3.  ______________ Lessons.  You can fill in the blank here.  I believe at some point or another, we've done dance, gymnastics, piano, and drama lessons.  And what does Mom do while her daughter(s) are being trained in the fine arts?  Make a flying run to Wal-Mart, balance her checkbook, grade papers, fill up the gas tank, get caught up on her reading.  Nowadays, Moms have iPhones and Kindles...makes sitting and waiting much nicer, doesn't it?  And the expense of all these lessons!  My piano lessons back in the early '70's were 50 cents.  No, I am not kidding.  I would bring in my two quarters and lay them on the piano right before my hour-long lesson.  I don't think Brad has any idea to this day how much turning our daughters into well-rounded people cost him.  But it's all worth it at recital time.  It's so much fun to see your child perform after they have worked so hard.  Those recital home videos are priceless!

4.  Shopping!  First, the fun part is shopping for them...then the fun part is shopping with them.  I've always loved shopping for the girls...the aforementioned matching outfits, those white lacy socks, the Easter dresses, shoes, prom dresses.  And Bethany and I had a great time shopping together yesterday...we even found this awesome little shop with cheap costume jewelry and purses.  Hannah and I were really good shopping buddies...the last year or so that we shopped together, she seemed to take it upon herself to move her mom out of the '90's the '80's.  She seeemed to really enjoy watching me try things on, and giving me fashion advice.  I loved it.

5.  Texting.  I never would have thought I would enjoy texting.  I fought getting the girls texting plans on their phones for a long time.  Why pay to type when you can talk for free?  Then Hannah went into the hospital, and her phone practically exploded with incoming texts.  All of which we were paying ten cents apiece for, whether she answered or not.  And, of course, we wanted her to be able to answer, so we sprung for the texting plan.  And now Bethany has unlimited texting, which is a good thing, because her texting capacity certainly seems to be unlimited.  Bethany and I text each other several times a day (never during school hours of course, just in case Brad reads this...he's her principal!) and some of the best conversations we have are via text. 

6.  Watching Pageants.  The girls and I have had more fun watching the Miss America pagent over the years...talking about which dresses we like the best, who has the best talent, which girls totally flubbed the interview question, and of course, pulling for our favorites.  Good times.

7.  Eating.  Stopping for a Krispy Kreme doughnut is a perfect example of this.  I would never do that with Brad.  We are far too practical when we're together.  We don't have time to stop, and who needs those calories anyway.  But with my daughters, practicality is out the window.  If we want a doughnut, or dessert at a restaurant, we go for it.  And nobody knows but the two of us, so the calories don't count, right?

8.  Chick flicks.  Who better to watch a sappy romance movie with but your teenaged daughter?  As long as it's clean, anyway.  And unfortunately, those kind of movies are a little bit hard to find.  But when you've got a good one, there's no one more fun to share it with than your daughter.

9.  Listening to Music.  Hannah and I spent a lot of time in the car together during the year she was receiving cancer treatments.  For nearly that whole year, we drove either daily or every other day to Little Rock (50 miles one way) for radiation treatments or platelet infusions.  We passed a lot of that time listening to music.  We talked about the music we liked and didn't like and spent lots of time singing along with the radio.  I've put several of those songs on my iPod now, and every time I hear them, I'm transported back to those fun times in the car.  And Bethany always has a new favorite song that she wants me to hear.  Somehow, my girls have never quite picked up on my affinity for '80's music.

10.  Inside jokes.  "Jokes" isn't really the right word here, but I can't really think of another one that fits better...maybe "secrets" would do it.  Both of my girls and I had our share of inside jokes...we could say one word, and start each other laughing.  And then there are those the three hand squeezes that say, "I love you" and the four squeezes in reply that say, "I love you, too." 

I love my girls.  I'm so thankful for the assurance that I'll get to spend eternity with them.  And if we have had this much fun together on earth, how much greater will our joy be in Heaven?  I can't wait!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

It's "Mommy's Happy Day"!

At least, according to my 2-year-old niece, Katie Joy, it is.  Most people prefer the term "Happy Mother's Day."  But I really like her phraseology's just so sweet! 

I vividly remember my first Mother's Day after Hannah went to Heaven.  She had only been gone a little over two months, and I was absolutely dreading the day.  We attended church in Mountain Home with my parents and brother and sister-in-law that day, so we could see Katie Joy and her big sister, Julia, be dedicated before their family went overseas for another 3 1/2 years serving as missionaries in Indonesia.  I was so glad to be there for their dedication, but I could not get out of there fast enough when it was over.

The hardest thing about that day was hearing people say, "Happy Mother's Day!"  Happy Mother's Day?  Are you kidding me?  There was nothing happy about that day.  Yes, I was still a Mom, and in my head I knew how blessed I was to have been Hannah and Bethany's Mom, but I was just so raw emotionally.  Every "Happy Mother's Day" felt like a physical blow.  I went to bed that night feeling very battered.

So this is my third Mother's Day since Hannah went to Heaven, and I still cringe inwardly a little bit when I hear that phrase.  "Happy Mother's Day" is an imperative...a command.  Every time I hear it (or read it on Facebook), I wonder how many women out there feel like I did on that first Mother's Day without Hannah...that Mother's Day won't ever be happy again.  Maybe that woman has lost her own Mom, or lost her child, or maybe she's never experienced the joy of being a Mom. 

Until I lost my child, I had no idea how painful Mother's Day can be for some women. 

I'm so thankful to be able to say that this holiday has gotten progressively easier over the past three years.  This day is not what it once was, but I understand that it never will be the same again.  Today's been an emotional day for me...but the tears have not come so much from sadness as from gratitude.  Gratitude for the sixteen Mother's Days I had with Hannah...gratitude for my precious Bethany....gratitude for a loving husband...and gratitude for my own wonderful mother and mother-in-law.  Among so many other things, Hannah's life and death taught me to fully appreciate the blessings I have.

And since we're on the topic of mothers.....

My friend, Janice, and I are in the process of planning a "While We're Waiting" Mini-Retreat for Bereaved Moms.  We've wanted to do this for quite awhile, after visiting with several women who wanted to come to the couples retreat, but whose husbands were not ready to come.  This one-day mini-retreat will be held at my friend Janice's home, overlooking beautiful Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs, and will be a full day of pampering, delicious food, and Christian fellowship with a group of Moms who understand what it's like to experience the loss of a child.  We'll share our stories and discuss issues that we face as grieving Moms.  We'll have some fun, too...taking an afternoon lake cruise on a pontoon boat, and enjoying some other surprises.  We'll share our struggles and our joys, and build lasting relationships as we encourage and pray for each other.  The date for this event will be June 25th, and you can register or get more information by clicking here.  We're going to limit the group to the first six women who register, because we want to keep our gathering personal and intimate.  If you would like to come, and can't make it in June, don't worry....we plan to do one of these every few months. 

And we're not going to forget about the Dads!  Our husbands are working on a "While We're Waiting" mini-retreat for Dads as well, but we don't yet have a date for it.  So far, all we really know about the Dads retreat is that it's going to include a lot of guy stuff....4-wheeler riding, canoeing, fishing, etc.  I'll let you know more details as it develops.

As I look out the window, I see that the sun is slipping below the horizon.  I pray that you have experienced some special blessings on this "Mommy's Happy Day", and that the God of hope has filled you with joy and peace.