Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday -- Definitions

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose."  Romans 8:28

Have you ever wondered if God has different definitions for words than we do?  I've come to believe that maybe His definition of "good" is different from mine.  For example, my "good" would never include cancer, car accidents, war, or natural disasters.  My "good" would consist of healing of all diseases, protection from all accidents or evil, seeing both of my children live long and healthy lives, and dying peacefully in my sleep at a ripe old age. 

But in God's dictionary, could it be that "good" means anything that brings us closer to Him ... whatever that may be? 

That's just what I've been thinking about this Thursday.

"...Yet in the maddening maze of things,
And tossed by storm and flood,
To one fixed trust my spirit clings;
I know that God is good!"
~John Greeleaf Whittier

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tell About It Tuesday -- The Vintage Pearl

What Mom doesn't love to see her child(ren)'s name(s) in print?  And how much sweeter is it when that name (or initial) is on a beautiful piece of jewelry?

That's what The Vintage Pearl specializes in.  I first heard about The Vintage Pearl through a friend's blog, and instantly knew I had to have some of their jewelry.  I went to their website and, of course, this was the first thing that caught my eye...

I ordered that for Bethany.  She loves it.  It's designed to look like an angel's wing, but she says it looks like half of a heart....the half of her heart that will always belong to her sister. 

And then I ordered this for myself, with both of my girls' names on it...

They don't just do full names -- they do some items with just initials, and some with birthstones...

...And some items that don't have names or initials at all.   Isn't this "peas in a pod" necklace just the cutest thing ever?

They also have beautiful rings and bracelets, and a variety of other items that you will just love.  Just check out their website to see it all!

When we first started discussing the idea of the While We're Waiting Mom's Day, we knew we wanted to give all of our ladies some sort of gift.  Naturally, I thought of The Vintage Pearl.  We all love to have things with our child's name or initials on it....but for a Mom who's lost a child, those kinds of things are even more precious.  And a necklace that keeps this remembrance of your child close to your heart...that's just extra special! 

The Vintage Pearl is a Christian-owned company, and they were so gracious in working with us...even allowing us to send in our order at basically the last minute, and still getting it to us in plenty of time for Saturday's event.  And when I received our order in the mail, I was absolutely tickled to see this...

Look how beautifully boxed these necklaces were, each with their own little ribbon and pearl accessory! 

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Vintage Pearl, for demonstrating the love of God to these women in such a thoughtful way!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday Mourning -- "While We're Waiting" Mom's Day

This past Saturday, my friend Janice and I hosted our first "While We're Waiting" Mom's Day.  This was a special day for moms who are waiting to be reunited with their children in Heaven.  Our desire was to provide these dear ladies with a day of relaxation, pampering, fellowship with other moms who understand, spiritual refreshment, and encouragement to live in a way that honors Christ and honors their child(ren) while they're waiting for that glorious day. 

I can't tell you what a blessing the day was ... not only for the ladies who attended, but for Janice and I! 

The Moms began arriving around 9:30, and we were all a little nervous.  Most of us had never met before, and here we were, coming together to talk about the most painful part of our lives!  But as we stepped out onto the deck and enjoyed the view, we began to relax and get to know each other.  Our original plan for the day had included a pontoon boat ride, but with the temperature predicted to soar into the upper 90's, we scrapped that idea.  It was a good thing, too, because our day ended up being very full, as it was.

We enjoyed a delicious breakfast of homemade muffins, cheese and spinach quiche, and chocolate-covered strawberries, and then gathered in the living room to begin sharing our children's stories.

The time seemed to fly by as we cried and laughed together, and before we knew it, it was time for our "high tea".  We feasted on a variety of yummy sandwiches, fruit salad, and had some delicious cake balls for dessert.  And, of course, we had flavored teas and coffees. 

We spent the afternoon discussing various topics that grieving moms deal with on a daily basis, ranging from dealing with the holidays, to how we feel about our child's gravesite, to how our husbands' grief differs from ours.  We acknowledged the fact that none of these are issues we can "fix", but that it's just helpful to discuss them with other Moms who understand our feelings and experiences. 

As we chatted about these issues, each Mom got to slip out to another room and have a private 20-minute massage from Kelly, a therapist with the Mobile Massage Company in Hot Springs.  It was fun to see each Mom come back into the living room like a wet noodle after her massage!

When it was time for dinner, we gathered in the dining room, where some wonderful friends had created a beautiful, welcoming table for us.

Then Chef Franklin patiently explained how we were to correctly use the multitude of silverware that appeared at each place setting.  He made learning proper table etiquette fun!  He then served us the most marveous 5-course meal you can imagine.  It felt like we were on the Food Network!  He and his daughter would serve each course, and then he would stand back and explain exactly what we were about to enjoy, just like they do on TV.  What a treat!


Our appetizer.  I sure wish I could remember what all Chef Franklin said that all this stuff was.  I do know that this had eggplant, tomato, mozzarella cheese, and radicchio (and some more things), all grilled.


Our salad was grilled romaine with a bleu cheese vinaigrette dressing, topped with chopped tomatoes, boiled eggs, and fried wontons.

The intermezzo (to cleanse our palates!) was to die for.  This was a three-berry sorbet (blackberry, blueberry, and raspberry) with fresh blueberries.

The entree was a chicken breast stuffed with spinach and boursin cheese, white-truffle infused potatoes, and fresh asparagus with a carrot ribbon.  It also had some kind of sauce, which I cannot begin to describe.  It was outstanding!

Finally, for dessert, we had a chocolate torte with a caramel filling and chocolate ganache frosting and Moon Pie ice cream, all sprinked with raspberry-infused sugar. 

Is your mouth watering yet?  I kept thinking I wasn't going to eat all of each course, because I wanted to "save room" for dessert.  Well, I cleaned my plate each time, and still managed to eat all of my dessert!

What an amazing day it was.  And not just because of the incredible food and beautiful setting...although that was really nice! 

What made the day so special was the opportunity to get together with a group of  Moms who share a common grief, yet also share an uncommon faith -- the belief that God wants to heal from our losses and be whole again.  Not to forget our pain...we will never forget it...but to grow through it, and to become the women that God intends for us to be while we're waiting to be reunited with our precious children one day. 

We plan to host a "While We're Waiting" Moms Day every few months, and our next one will be September 17, 2011.  We want to keep our gathering relatively small and intimate, so we will be limiting it to six Moms.  If you would like to register, please go to our website and fill out the on-line registration form.  It may fill up quickly, but if it's already full when you register, we will put you on the list for our next WWW Mom's day, which will probably be in January or February. 

For those of you who prayed for us as we planned and held this event, let me say "Thank you!"  The presence of the Lord was evident, and we could definitely feel your prayers lifting up our group! 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Heaven's Gain

Lauren Crook stepped into the arms of Jesus today after a long and brave battle with cancer.  Her life has been an inspiration to so many, and she is now eternally healed.  Please keep her family in your prayers as they face some very difficult days ahead.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday -- More Thoughts About Healing

I have to admit that "healing" is a bit of a sensitive topic for me.  I sometimes have a hard time whole-heartedly singing along with praise choruses with lines like "He is the healer of all our diseases" or "Jesus is my healer." 

Intellectually, I know that He is a God of healing, and that sometimes the healing occurs on earth and sometimes it takes place in Heaven.  In my mind, I know that He is the healer of broken hearts. 

But sometimes, I just can't seem to silence that little voice in my heart that asks, "But why didn't He heal Hannah in the way we asked Him to?"

I'm still working my way through Randy Alcorn's book "If God is Good:  Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil."  He does a really good job answering questions like the one above.  In fact, he does such a good job, I'm not even going to try to paraphrase him.  Please bear with me as I quote from Chapter 36.  He begins with this striking statement:

"Asking God to always heal us and remove adversity is like asking Him to afflict us with spiritual apathy."

And then he continues....

"Scripture's prayers deal far more with spiritual growth than with physical health.  Notice the focus of Paul's prayer for the Colossians:

'And we pray this in order that you may life a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way; bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthed with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.' (Colossians 1:10-12)

It's striking what Paul doesn't pray for:  an elder's bout with cancer, the flu bug going around Colossae, an Asia Minor recession, kidney stones, back problems, and good weather for the church picnic.  Did they have these issues back then?  Sure.  They had diseases, discomforts, financial strains, and bad weather.  And did they pray for them?  No doubt.  But Scripture's recorded prayers seldom concern such things. They involve intercession for people's love for God, knowledge of God, walk with God, and service to God.

We should pray for ourselves and our suffering loved ones, not simply try to pray away suffering.  "God, please heal this cancer" is appropriate.  "God, please use for your glory this cancer, so long as I have it" is equally appropriate.

When you pray only for healing, what are you praying to miss out on?  Christlikeness?  Shouldn't we learn to pray that our suffering causes growth, that God will give us little glimpses of Heaven as we seek to endure, and that he would use us?  I've mentioned Jim Harrell, a friend and ALS sufferer.  Jim wrote me,

'As I contemplate what it would be like to be healed of this disease, God has caused me to focus on my own sinfulness and human condition.  If healed, I genuinely fear that within a year at the latest I would begin to forget what it was like to be in this condition.  I would fall into the trap of allowing life's distractions to divert me.  While I realize these distractions are not bad in and of themselves, a clear and distinct advantage of suffering is its ability to sharply focus one on what's important....  The wonder of being healed would be indescribable; however, I seriously question whether or not that would be the best for my soul.  I don't have an answer, but I do know my own heart.'

Hmmmmm....This really made me think.  I have no doubt that God uses suffering for His purposes, which often are far beyond our understanding.  Think about this ... Have you ever heard someone say, "I grew closest to God when my life was free of pain and suffering"?  Most of the time (if not all of the time), it's exactly the opposite. 

I'd love to hear your thoughts...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wacky Wednesday -- The Dad Life

Several of my Facebook friends posted this video on their wall in honor of Father's Day this past weekend.  I got a real kick out of it when I watched it, because it sure reminded me of a particular Dad that I know very well.  From the gas station sunglasses, to the Dockers with cuffs & a crease, to the tears while watching Disney videos, to the devotion for his daughters...this video has Brad pegged.  What a great Dad he is!

Yesterday morning, Brad told me about a dream he'd had the night before.  We kind of consider it a big event in the family when any of us dreams about Hannah, and we always tell each other about it.  It doesn't happen that often, so when it does, it's always special. 

In his dream, he and Hannah were playing church league softball.  It's not really surprising that he would dream about that, because he and Bethany actually are playing church league softball this year on a co-ed team.  The surprising part would be that Hannah was playing softball at all ... she was not really the athletic type.  Oh, she tried to be when she was younger ... we did dance, soccer, and basketball when she was little, but by the time she got to high school, she was content to be the girl's basketball team manager.  Like her mom, she knew her limitations!

But in his dream, Hannah got up to bat and hit a ball to the fence.  The fact that she hit the ball at all tickled her, and she laughed and laughed as she tried to run the bases.  It slowed her down so much that she got thrown out at second.  And that's where the dream ended.  I loved hearing about that dream, because it was just so Hannah-like for her to laugh at herself like that.  He said that she was healthy and beautiful and happy in his dream.  What a comfort to know that she truly is healthy and beautiful and happy where she is now ... and who knows .. maybe she's playing on a softball team in Heaven!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tell About It Tuesday -- Driving Contract

Well, I made it for one week!  Last week I actually managed to post something five days in a row.  But, alas, I failed to get a Monday Mourning post up yesterday.  Last night was our monthly Anchor of Hope support group meeting, and those meeting days are always very busy.  By the time we got in at 9:30 last night, I just didn't have the mental stamina to formulate a coherent post.  So, check in next Monday for a new Monday Mourning post.

As you know if you follow this blog, Bethany turned sixteen a couple of weeks ago, and is now a legal driver.  And let me stop here and thank all of you who have prayed for and asked about Bethany since I wrote about her health issues last week.  We went back to the doctor yesterday and had more labs drawn.  All of her numbers looked much better, with only one liver count still above normal.  We are still waiting for some of her tests to come in, and we still don't know if she has mono or Lyme Disease, but whichever it is, she's getting better, and that's all that really matters.  We'll go back again next week and they will check her again, but we can tell she's going to be just fine.  So again, thank you for your concern.

Anyway, back to her becoming a driver.  As her birthday approached, we decided to create a "driving contract"...something to help keep her accountable as she took on this huge responsibility of driving.  I thought I would share it with you here, just in case someone you love is about to be turned loose behind the wheel.  Here's what we came up with....

Driving Contract

1. Absolutely no texting or talking on the phone while driving. If you must talk or text, pull over in a safe location to do it.

2. Text us whenever you’re changing locations (before you start driving!).

3. Always be where you say you are.

4. No more than one friend in the car at any time.

5. Drive with two hands on the wheel at all times.

6. As long as your grades are all A’s and B’s, we will pay for your gas. If any grade should drop to a C at any time, we will stop paying for gas until it is raised back to a B or higher.

7. You must always be home by your appointed curfew.

8. Because we love you, we will require you to follow the terms of this contract or lose your driving privileges.

I made two copies of the contract and all three of us signed and dated it.  One copy stays in the glove compartment of Bethany's car, and we kept the other one.  Hopefully, this will help keep both her and the other drivers on the road safe.  Feel free to personalize this contract for your own child or grandchild and use it! 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Free For All Friday

Well, we've made it to "Free for All Friday".  Friday posts can be about anything...and may often be rather random and disjointed in nature.  So here we go...

This week has not exactly gone as planned.  Remember all those favorite things about summer I talked about in my last "Ten on the Tenth" post?  I believe I said something like, "I may not have to leave the house all summer."  Well, I've actually spent the last four days of this week at the doctor's office with Bethany.  Starting this past Sunday, she began developing a constellation of symptoms that left me convinced by Tuesday that she had viral meningitis.  I brought her to the doctor, who drew lots of blood, and announced that she did not have meningitis (thankfully!), but she did have strep.  This seemed a little odd, because a sore throat was not one of her symptoms.  But we left with a prescription for an antibiotic, and figured we were done.

Later that afternoon, though, I got a phone call from the doctor's office.  The full blood test results were now back, and there were some numbers they did not like.  Would I bring her back in tomorrow for another blood draw?  Well, of course I would...but after having a child with cancer, hearing that there were problems with Bethany's bloodwork really twisted my gut.   

So we went back the next day, and had another blood draw.  There were lots of folks having labs done that day, and the results were slow coming back, so the doctor suggested that we go out for lunch and come back later to find out the results.  So off we went to a nearby Mexican restaurant and had lunch ... which, for me, was eerily reminiscent of the day the MRI tech sent Hannah and I down to the hospital cafeteria for lunch while we waited for her scan results.  I really wasn't very hungry. 

When we got back to the doctor's office, we were told that her bloodwork profile was indicative of either Lyme Disease or mononucleosis.  Either one was preferable to what had been going through my mind.  The tests were inconclusive, though, so we were asked to return the next day for another blood draw.  Just in case it was Lyme Disease, the doctor did prescribe another antibiotic to tackle that, which we started that evening.

So yesterday was another blood draw, with some numbers going up and some going down, which led to yet another set of blood work today.  Today's numbers showed improvement in all areas...Praise the Lord!...but we'll have to go back Monday for another blood draw.  We should also have results of some of the sent-off tests by Monday, hopefully letting us know definitively whether it's mono or Lyme Disease.  Hey...We can deal with those things!  I'll just be glad to have it settled.  And, thankfully, she really doesn't feel all that bad, although I know she is sick because she hasn't been begging me to let her drive...not too much, anyway.  :)

OK...Now a random subject change (as my friend Susie always says).  I have a friend who has lost two children, a little girl to a mitochondrial disease, and a little boy to cancer.  Before her little boy ever got sick, he told her that if he went to Heaven before her, he would send her heart-shaped clouds.  So ever since he went to Heaven, she has been collecting pictures of heart-shaped clouds.  When I saw this picture posted on Facebook today, I emailed it to her, and I thought I would share it with you, too.  Enjoy!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday

When I was trying to think of clever names to title my daily summertime posts, my original thought for Thursday was "Theology Thursday."  But I quickly discarded that idea...I would never want to mislead anyone into thinking that I know anything whatsoever about theology.  Because I don't. 

I do read a lot of thought-provoking material, though, particularly about the topics of grief, earthly suffering, Heaven, and healing.  Therefore, the title "Thoughtful Thursday."  Anything I share under this title will be just that -- my thoughts.  In general, my thoughts will be based on something I've read by a trusted Christian author, but they are just a fellow sinner's opinion -- no more, no less.  Please don't take anything I say as the authoritative truth, because that could only come from God's Word.  Always use the Bible as your ultimate source of truth.

That being said, here we go with our first "Thoughtful Thursday" of the summer....

I love the author Randy Alcorn.  I first discovered him as a fiction writer, when I read "Deadline", followed by "Dominion", and then "Deception."  Then I read "Safely Home", which still ranks up there as one of my favorite Christian fiction books ever.  It wasn't until my teenaged daughter entered hospice care that I picked up one of his non-fiction works, "Heaven" and began reading it hungrily, eager to find out what my daughter's next home would be like.  What a wonderful, deeply-researched book that is!  (It is almost too deep at times...I actually recommend "50 Days of Heaven", also by Randy Alcorn, which is basically the same book, just broken up into smaller, easier to digest pieces.)  And over the past many months, bit by bit, I've been reading "If God is Good:  Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil."  It is also an excellent book, but needs to be read a little at a time, simply because it is so deep. 

This week, I've been reading Chapter 36, titled "How the Health and Wealth Gospel Perverts Our View of Evil and Suffering."  Alcorn doesn't pull any punches in this chapter.  As you can see from the title, he does not have a very high view of purveyors of the "health and wealth" or "name it and claim it" type of theology. 

Because of my experience with having a daughter who was diagnosed with what is basically a terminal cancer, I've been particularly interested in a Biblical view regarding healing.  There are those who believe we can declare our way out of illness.  A well-known prosperity theology preacher wrote this, "Maybe Alzheimer's disease runs in your family genes, but don't succumb to it.  Instead, say every day, 'My mind is alert.  I have clarity of thought.  I have a good memory.  Every cell in my body is increasing and getting healthier.'  If you'll rise up in your authority, you can be the one to put a stop to the negative things in your family line...Start boldly declaring, 'God is restoring health unto me.  I am getting better every day in every way.'" 

So, basically, if Hannah had just said something like this to herself every day, she would have been miraculously healed of brain cancer?  I don't buy that. 

Of course, Hannah prayed for her own healing.  We did too, and we were joined by literally thousands of other people who were all praying for the same thing.  But there came a point where we had to accept that earthly healing may not be God's best plan for her. 

Randy Alcorn says it best.  Let me quote from page 384 of his book "If God is Good" when he talks about his diagnosis with insulin-dependent diabetes.

"Upon learning of my disease, well-meaning people sometimes ask whether I have trusted God to heal me.  I respond that when it first appeared in 1985, I and others did ask God to heal me.  After a while, when God chose not to answer our prayers that way, I stopped asking.  When I say this, I sometimes get looks of alarm and quotes about persevering in prayer and having faith as a mustard seed.  I point out that Paul asked God to remove his disease three times, not a thousand times or a hundred or even a dozen.  Just three times he asked -- but God made it clear that the affliction had come from His gracious hand.  Paul had no desire to ask God to remove that which his Lord wanted to use to create in him greater Christlikeness and dependence upon God." 

I don't know about you, but this paragraph made me very thoughtful.  As a matter of fact, I'm still thinking about it, and probably will be until my next Thoughtful Thursday post.

Actually, this song might say it best...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wacky Wednesday

For my first Wacky Wednesday post of the summer, I thought I would share something funny that happened to me a few months ago. 

One Saturday evening, after a busy day working around the house, we decided to go out for supper.  Of course, I was thrilled not to have to cook, especially since I had done something very unusual and cooked breakfast that morning.  I've discovered that you can cook bacon in the oven if you have one of those Pampered Chef stoneware baking pans, making it much easier and less messy to cook.  Just bake it at 425 degrees for about 25 minutes.  But, I digress.

I grabbed my purse from off the stovetop, swung it over my shoulder, and headed to the car.  The three of us piled in, and I set my purse down where I usually do, on the floor of the car by my feet.  As we drove, we discussed our day and talked about where we might want to eat.  Somewhere in the back of my mind, I was vaguely aware that I didn't seem to have as much foot room as I usually do in the car, but the thought didn't even come all the way into the forefront of my mind.  Like I said, I was just happy we were going out to eat!

We got to the restaurant and hopped out of the car.  I hung my purse over my shoulder, as always, and we walked into the local eatery, waving to people we knew as we made our way to an empty table.  We approached the booth, and as I swung my purse into the seat, something shiny and round caught my eye.

I recognized it immediately.  It was a burner cover from my stove.  But what in the world was it doing on my purse?  Turns out, when I cooked that bacon earlier in the day, my purse, which had been sitting on top of the stove all day, had melted onto the burner cover.  This is what I carried into the restaurant that evening...

Yeah, that's right.  I carried my purse with a burner cover stuck to it into a crowded restaurant.  And while I walked in with such confidence, I walked out hoping nobody would see me and my rather bizarre-looking accessory. 

I'm sure there's a spiritual application here.  Maybe something like when we think our sin is hidden, we walk around in confidence and without shame, but when our sinfulness is brought to light our first response is to try to hide it. 

Or maybe people just shouldn't leave their purses on the stove top when they're cooking bacon in the oven.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tell About It Tuesday -- Free & Cheap Kindle Books

So this is my first "Tell About It Tuesday" post.  This summer, my Tuesday posts are going to be about favorite things I want to share with you.  Could be a neat website, an awesome iPhone app, or a tasty recipe.  The possibilities are pretty much endless!  I must confess that I stole the "Tell About It Tuesday" title from Meredith, who blogs from her home at 7000 feet.  She has a great blog that I really enjoy reading, and Tell About It Tuesdays have been a long-standing tradition with her.

So, here goes....

I love books.  I've always loved books.  I actually started reading when I was three years old.  Nobody taught me to read...I just could.  I can still remember the first time that the words in a book suddenly made sense to me, and I was immediately hooked.  Books have been my constant companion ever since then.

I never thought I'd like reading an electronic book.  Give me a book I can hold in my hands, with pages I can turn, and that "new book" (or "old book") smell.  If you're a book lover, you know what I mean. 

But then I discovered Kindle!  And I've never looked back.  I love the convenience of being able to carry a book with me everywhere I go...actually a stack of over 100 books!  I don't actually have a Kindle...I use the Kindle app on my iPod or iPhone.  So it stays in my purse and I can pull it out anytime I have to sit and wait the doctor's office, getting the oil changed in my car, even in a long drive-through line at McDonald's!   It's great for reading in bed, and it's perfect for use on the treadmill...I don't have to struggle to turn pages, or worry about pages flipping back. 

When I first started using Kindle, it was easy to find free and cheap books.  Recently, it seems like it's become more difficult.  But, if you're hooked on Kindle like I am, you will love these two websites:  Pixel of Ink and Inspired Reads.  Each of these websites posts a new list of free and discounted Kindle books every day...the only difference is that Inspired Reads features only Christian books, which is awesome.  You can even enter your email address on these sites, so you will receive a daily email from each one, listing all these great books.  I subscribe to both of them, even though many of the Pixel of Ink books are not of interest to me.  But I have found good books from both of these sources, and my only problem now is finding time to read all these great books I've downloaded!  Not a bad problem to have, though!  :)

Happy Reading!!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Monday Mourning -- Different Losses, Same Pain

My plan for the summer is to post something related to grief every Monday (or at least most Mondays)...thus the title "Monday Mourning."  My aim is to be as honest and open as possible as I share about the journey our family has been on for the last few years.

This may sound strange, but after losing my 17-year-old daughter to cancer, I often found myself mentally comparing my loss to that of others. 

Which is worse..losing a child that you've spent 17 years with, or losing a child you've spent 17 minutes with, or maybe 17 months?  Does that hurt less, since you didn't really know that child very long...or does it hurt more, because you feel robbed of all the wonderful experiences you could have shared together?

What about losing a child who has grown into adulthood and maybe even has a family of his or her own?   Would that hurt less, since you'd at least know that your child had gotten to experience some of the greatest joys of life...or would your grief be compounded while dealing with a widowed spouse and grandchildren who are missing their mom or dad? 

And is it worse to lose a child suddenly, tragically, like in a car accident or drowning, without the opportunity to say good-bye or make sure things are right between you...or is it worse to watch your child's health deteriorate before your very eyes until their illness leads to death? 

Is it harder to know that your child died without you by his or her side...or is it harder to sit beside them, holding their hand, as they struggle to take their final breaths?

And you know what I have finally figured out, after spending a lot of time talking to bereaved parents who have experienced all of the above scenarios in one form or another...

Our losses are all different, but the pain is the same.

Whether our child never took a breath outside the womb, or lived to be 5, or 17, or 36, or 50; whether they died suddenly or slowly; whether we held them as they died or if they died all alone ... it doesn't make a difference.  The losses are different, but the pain is the same, and it is very real.  And the only place healing can be found is in Christ. 

Psalm 147:3 says, "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."  What a comfort that is! 

Six brokenhearted moms will be coming to the While We're Waiting Weekend Mini-Retreat for Moms on June 25th.  We are looking forward to seeing God heal broken hearts and bind up wounds during our time together.  Please pray for us as we seek to minister to these precious ladies. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Ten on the Tenth--Summer!!

What better topic for Ten on the Tenth this month than "My Favorite Things About Summer"...especially since today is the last day of school in our little community.  No, we don't normally go to school until June 10th, but the nine snow days we had during the winter months led to this seemingly interminable school year.  Summer is going to feel exceptionally short this year, because it will be, but I intend to enjoy every minute of it.  I feel extremely blessed to have a job where I have summers off.  In fact, if you are not similarly blessed, you may not want to read any further.  If you choose to do so, I claim no responsibility for any extreme feelings of jealousy you may experience.

That being said, here are my ten favorite things about summer (in no particular order):

1.  Not having to set my alarm clock.  What an unspeakable luxury it is to go to bed at night knowing I don't have to be up at a specific time in the morning!  My husband still has to get up...high school principals don't get the summer off...and just to be able to roll over and go back to sleep....Aaaaahhhhhh!  Now, I'm generally awake by 7:00 or 7:30 even without an alarm, but it's just knowing that I don't have to get up that I enjoy so much.

2.  Not having a schedule.  There will be many days this summer when I won't leave the house at all.  And now that Bethany is driving and begging me to give her errands to run, I may not have to leave the house all summer long!  :) 

3.  No homework.  Yes, I know I'm too old to have homework, but when Bethany has homework, it feels like I have homework.  This year, she had to make a leaf collection for her Pre-AP Biology class, and it quickly became a family project.  Even her Grandpa Sullivan, who, thankfully, is a retired forester, got sucked into this one!  I know that getting her homework done is her responsibility, but I'm always aware of the dates her work is due, and am relieved when she gets her assignments turned in.  And then there are those Spanish tests, with the endless lists of vocabulary words that must be memorized.  I think I learned as much Spanish as she did this year!  Actually, she has an AP English assignment for the summer...reading "The Scarlet Letter" and "All the King's Men"...and I've decided to read those on my Kindle as well.  I like to know what she's reading in class and to be able to discuss it with her.  Oh well, maybe "not as much homework" would be a better way to phrase Item #3.

4.  Not having to "dress up" every day.  I enjoy my job very much, but I don't enjoy standing in my closet every morning trying to decide what I'm going to wear that day.  During the school year, Friday is my favorite day because it's "jeans day".  I love slipping on my favorite pair of jeans and a Panthers t-shirt and being ready for work.  And this summer, I'll be in shorts and a t-shirt every day except Sunday.  I can handle dressing up one day a week!

5.  Having time to do all those things that I never seem to have time for during the school year.  You know...all those projects around the house that need to be done, like cleaning out the closets, rearranging the kitchen cabinets, painting that old dresser...the list goes on and on.  I find that I actually enjoy doing all those things when I have time to do them!

6.  Evenings at home with the family.  Other than church-league softball, our summer evenings are generally free.  This is a huge contrast to our evenings during the school year, which seem to be completely filled up with school-related or church-related activities.  All good activities, in and of themselves, but they sure drain away a lot of family time!

7.  Cooking!  I rarely have time to cook during the school year, and since our family is usually involved in all the above-mentioned activities, it seems that we're rarely home during the dinner hour anyway.  And to really cook well, you must have time to plan your menus, make a shopping list, go to the grocery store, unload the groceries, cook the meal, and clean up afterward.  In the summer, there's time to do all that.  I hope to even have the opportunity to try out some new recipes, because I sure get tired of cooking the same thing all the time!  And there's always the grill -- a great opportunity for the hubby to show off his cooking skills, such as they are!

8.  Walking on my treadmill every day.  I really, truly enjoy the hour I spend on my treadmill, probably because it affords me an uninterrupted hour of reading each day.  During the school year, it's hard to keep up a regular exercising schedule, but it should be no problem this summer.

9.  VACATION!  We have always tried making family vacation time a priority, and I'm so glad we did.  We have such wonderful memories with our girls at Gulf Shores, Disneyworld, Yellowstone, and Washington D.C.  I wouldn't trade those trips for anything.  This summer we'll be trying Panama City Beach for the first time, and we are looking forward to that.  Vacations have become somewhat bittersweet, though, because we really seem to feel Hannah's absence more sharply during special family times like that.  We've become somewhat "accustomed" (not really sure if that's the right word) to her absence in our home, but we are acutely aware that she is not with us when we are out of our normal routine.

10.  Time to blog!  During this past school year, it's been hard to post as often as I would like to.  Too many times I've had a great idea or thought about something I wanted to share, only to be too exhausted at the end of the day to sit down and write about it.  And after several days of that, the great idea just seems to fade away.  I'm hoping to remedy that this summer by having an actual plan for posting on my blog.  Starting next week, I hope to post something every (or nearly every) weekday according to the following schedule...

Monday Mourning -- I plan to write about some sort of grief-related topic.

Tell About It Tuesday -- I plan to share something that I love, such as a favorite product, recipe, restaurant, website, etc.

Wacky Wednesday -- Something funny from my week...could be a personal story, a video, or a funny Facebook post.

Thoughtful Thursday -- I plan to share something from my personal Bible study or reading time, something that makes me go, "Hmmmmmm."

Free-for-All Friday -- Could be anything.  I may even try a give-away or two, like some of the bloggers I aspire to be like do from time to time. 

That's the plan, anyway.  We'll see how it goes.  I realize that in all reality, I probably won't be able to post every day, but I'm going to try to follow this schedule when I do post.  By following this plan, my posts should be shorter, too, since I won't be trying to cram everything I want to say into a single post just because I have time to write it.  Like this post, which started out as "Ten on the Tenth", and has somehow morphed into my new blog plan. 

Oh well, I didn't have anything else I had to do today anyway.  Just one more thing I love about summer!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

"While We're Waiting" Mom's Day!

Before I write about our upcoming WWW Mom's Day, I feel the need to add a little "P.S." to my last post.  I re-read it just now, and boy, does it sound negative, even a little morbid.  It almost sounds as if I'm expecting something to happen to Bethany now that she's driving on her own.  And I really don't.  I think maybe I just always thought my children were invincible, and I know now that that's not true.  None of us are. 

And even though I used the term "scared to death", I wouldn't really describe what I'm feeling as fear.  It's more of a consciousness that Bethany is moving a little farther out from under my protective wing.  And that's okay...I want her to grow up and become independent, and do the things that Hannah did not have the opportunity to do.  I'm just thankful that even though she's slipping out from under my wing, she will never be out of her Heavenly Father's care!!

OK.  I just had to clear the air about that.  I actually meant to write all of that in my post last night, but I think I was writing too late at night, and my brain just went to sleep before I was finished!  Bethany's already been out driving today...a trip to Wal-Mart and Taco Bell...and will be driving herself to driver's ed this afternoon.  And Mom's been doing just fine.  :)

Now, on to the WWW Mom's Day.  We still have room for a few more ladies to come join us on June 25th for our first-ever mini-retreat for bereaved moms.  The retreat will be held at my friend Janice's home overlooking beautiful Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs, and we have some of the most wonderful activities planned for the day! 

We'll be starting with a light breakfast/coffee time at 9:30 a.m.  We'll spend the morning time honoring our children by sharing their stories with each other, and if time allows, we may take a little cruise around Lake Hamilton on a pontoon boat.  Around noon or a little after, we'll have a "high tea", with all kinds of yummy treats.  In the afternoon, we'll discuss specific issues that we face as bereaved, but believing moms, and a massage therapist will be coming by to give each lady a 20-minute private massage.  The highlight of the day will be our dinner.  A chef will be coming to prepare a 5-course gourmet meal for us!  We will have an appetizer, a salad, an intermezzo (to cleanse our palates...I didn't know what that was either!), a delicious entree, and a decadent dessert.  We met with him a few nights ago to discuss the menu, and I honestly felt like I was on a Food Network show as he described each course in detail.  He will also give us some lessons about proper etiquette...such as which fork to use when...something I desperately need!  He's a very friendly, personable guy, and I think dinner is going to be a lot of fun.  We should be wrapping up for the day around 6:30 or 7:00 p.m. 

Our goal is to provide these ladies who have lost so much with an enjoyable, relaxing, uplifting day, and to allow all of us to build lasting relationships with other moms who really understand us.  I believe our shared experiences and our common faith will bind us together in a very special way.

So, if you or someone you know has lost a child, and you think they would enjoy coming to something like this, send them to our While We're Waiting Weekend website to register, or just have them send me an email and I'll get them signed up.  We are asking each lady who comes to bring $10 to help offset some of the day's expenses.  We'd like to have all our ladies registered by June 10th.  We have a personalized gift for each lady that we'd like to give them when they leave that day, and it will take at least two weeks to prepare it.  You can still register after June 10th, but we may have to mail your gift to you after our day together.

And we're not forgetting about the dads!  We are working on a weekend retreat just for dads July 29-31.  It will be held in Briggsville, Arkansas, which is in Yell County, not too far from Russellville.  The Sullivan family owns a house and several hundred acres there, and the dads will be treated to a weekend full of 4-wheeler riding, fishing, canoeing, and other guy stuff.  As we work out the details for that, I will get the While We're Waiting Weekend website updated with that information.  If you want to go ahead and get your spot reserved, though, you can go ahead and email me and we'll get you registered. 

We'll also be holding our next couples retreat November 4-6.  We've already got some couples signed up for that one, so if you'd like to join us, you can go ahead and register for that as well.

I don't know if you can feel my excitement about these events through your computer or iPhone, but believe me, it's there!  We really believe God is going to use these events to start and/or continue the healing process for all who participate in them.  The loss of a child is the most devastating loss one can endure, but it is possible to survive and even thrive after this loss...if we're willing to allow God to heal us and use us for His glory while we're waiting to be reunited with our child someday.  And that's what "While We're Waiting Weekends" are all about!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Sweet Sixteen!

Tomorrow my baby girl will turn sixteen.  How is that even possible?  It seems like just yesterday that I took this picture of the Hannah loving on her baby sister...

And look where we are today!

Unlike her older sister, who was in no hurry to drive, Bethany got her permit the day after she turned fourteen.  And I've been fighting her for the wheel ever since then.  The girl loves to drive!  A few months ago, we purchased this car for her...a 2006 Honda Civic...the perfect blend of good gas mileage and high safety ratings and an adequate level of "coolness".   We wanted her to have plenty of opportunity to practice with "her" car before we turned her loose on her own. 

Now that day is almost here.  Tomorrow, she'll be driving solo.  And honestly, it scares me to death.  I don't remember being this freaked out when Hannah turned 16....and Hannah was not nearly as good of a driver as Bethany is!  I think one reason for that is because Hannah didn't particularly like to drive, and I knew she wasn't going to be wanting to drive all the time.  But I know the real reason why I'm on the verge of hyperventilating tonight. 

I know now that bad things can happen to "good" people.  I know that things you never thought could happen to you, can happen to you.  I know that just because you're a person of faith, doesn't mean you are immune from suffering.  And I know that just because you've lost one child, doesn't mean you can't lose another. 

I read this poem on my friend Kelley's blog the other day, and I couldn't believe how exactly it mirrored my feelings.  Kelley lost her firstborn son, Grayson, to SIDS in 2002, so this poem describes her feelings as well. 

Sometimes I may hug you a little too tight,

I may even check on you ten times a night,

Sometimes I may kiss you a little too much,

Cling to you, sing to you, tickle and such,

As you grow up you may notice me kissing your nose,

Touching your hair, feeling your toes,

I may cry when you walk, laugh when you talk,

Scream when you're late, coming home from your date,

I may very often pull you near

Because I don't want you to see my tears,

I never will want you to have my fears,

Because I need you to know I hold you so dear,

Cause you see, I'm not just your mother,

A long time ago, I lost another.


Happy birthday, sweet girl!  I love you!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Relay for Life 2011

This past Friday night was the Garland County Relay for Life, and we had a great time participating with our Anchor of Hope Cancer Ministry team.  We're so proud of all of our survivors and caregivers, and enjoyed spending the evening with them.  The fact that it was 99 degrees when we arrived at Oaklawn at 5:00 (according to the thermometer in our car) put only a slight damper on the fun.  Thankfully, once the sun went down, it became a little more comfortable!

Our family was so pleased to be asked to be Honorary Chairs for the luminary ceremony.  We were called to the stage, where the emcee shared a brief synopsis of Hannah's story.  We then lit a tiki torch, which was carried across the field and used to light the large cauldron in the middle of the track.  We were honored and humbled to be asked to participate in this way. 

This year, for the first time, the Relay for Life committee sold luminary bags that you could personalize yourself.  We got one of those and Bethany and I decorated it.  In the picures below, you can see the front and the back of our personalized luminary.


We didn't make it all night, like we did last year.  Our Anchor of Hope team sponsored the Musical Chairs event at 1:30 a.m., and we left shortly after that.  We just had too many other things going on this weekend to miss an entire night of sleep.  Next year, we plan to be out there all night again.

If you've never been to a Relay for Life event, I encourage you to go to one in your area next spring.  It's an incredibly inspiring, moving, encouraging, uplifting, and entertaining event.  And you will come away absolutely amazed by how many people's lives are touched by cancer.  As I've said before...I had no idea. 

But there is Hope.  And that Hope is not found in the American Cancer Society, although I am all for raising money to find a cure for cancer.  The only true Hope is found in Christ.  I am so thankful for that Hope.

"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure..."  Hebrews 6:19