Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tell About It Tuesday -- "While We're Waiting" Update

Some very exciting things have been happening in the "While We're Waiting" ministry over the last few weeks...I've just got to share them with you!

1.  We are taking our "While We're Waiting" Mom's Mini-Retreat on the road!  We will be hosting our next Mom's Day in northeast Arkansas, in the town of Wynne, on July 28, 2012.  There are several bereaved families who live in that part of the state, so we are bringing "While We're Waiting" to them.  We are also working on the possibility of a weekend-long parents' retreat in that part of the state this fall.  If you would like for us to work on bringing a While We're Waiting event to your area...even if it's outside of Arkansas...drop me an email and we'll talk.

2.  Our next "While We're Waiting" Weekend for Parents (couples and singles) is coming up the weekend of April 20-22, 2012.  We are particularly excited about the fact that our website has really been increasing in traffic over the last several weeks and we've been getting inquiries about this upcoming retreat from around the country ... Arizona, Washington, Kentucky.  In fact, our available spots are already about half filled.

3.  We also have a "While We're Waiting" Weekend for Dads coming up the weekend of May 4-6, 2012.  It's also going to be a great event ... go to our website for more information or to register.

4.  We have filed for non-profit 501(c)3 status and are currently in what I refer to as "IRS limbo".  Hopefully we'll hear something soon.  As soon as we are approved for that, any donations made to "While We're Waiting" will be tax-deductible.

5.  On our spring break last week, we took a trip out to eastern Tennessee to visit my brother's family and celebrate my niece's birthdays.  While there, we girls (my mom, my sister-in-law, and I) took a little side trip to Asheville, North Carolina, to visit the headquarters of World Magazine.  I've shared on this blog before how much I enjoy reading this magazine, and I thought it would be fun to go there and take a tour.  The headquarters didn't look anything like what I thought it would!  It's near the Biltmore Mansion (which I would also like to tour someday!) and this part of town is just beautiful.

Anyway, while we were getting our tour, we had the opportunity to meet Marvin and Susan Olasky.  He is the editor in chief of World Magazine, and a bit of a celebrity ... at least in my eyes!

We visited with them for several minutes, and of course, I took advantage of the opportunity to put a couple of "While We're Waiting" brochures in their hands!  They seemed genuinely interested and asked lots of questions about the ministry.  Who knows what God might do through this encounter someday?

6.  There are a couple of unique opportunities for publicity for "While We're Waiting" which will be coming up over the next several months.  More about those as they develop.

As you can probably tell, we are very excited about what God is doing with the "While We're Waiting" ministry.  We just believe so strongly in the healing that takes place when bereaved, but believing, parents get together to support, encourage, and pray for each other.  We believe in it because we've experienced it.  And we've had the joy of seeing others experience it as well.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

While We're Waiting Mini-Retreat for Moms #4

Well, our fourth "While We're Waiting" Mini-Retreat for Moms is in the books.  And as I've said after each one ... it was amazing!

(If you're new to the blog and wondering what a "While We're Waiting" Mini-Retreat for Moms is, look at the top of the right hand column of this blog under "Pages" and click on the "Mini Retreat for Bereaved Moms" link).

Once again, God brought just the right group of moms together.  Our stories were all different, but the pain we had experienced in our losses was the same.  Some of our children never had the opportunity to take a breath on earth, and some lived to adulthood.  Some were killed suddenly and tragically, and some experienced long periods of illness.  As different as our stories were, our losses and our faith immediately bound us together.

There are some sweet ladies who have taken on "While We're Waiting" as part of their decorating ministry.  Yes, I said decorating ministry.  These ladies are uniquely gifted in creating beauty.  As a person who is not at all gifted in this area, I have a great appreciation for their work.  These ladies used a fun, whimsical spring theme in their decorating this time, and made for such a pleasant, comfortable setting.

Our conversation was, as always, rich and inspiring.  It is such a blessing to hear how other moms deal with things like how to handle your child's empty bedroom, or how the loss of your child can affect your relationships with other people, or what it's like to return to church after a loss like this.  These are just a few of the things we discussed yesterday.  I really think the best part about the whole day is just the opportunity to spend time with other moms who truly understand!  It's also a great relief to spend time talking about your child with people who are genuinely interested in hearing about him or her, and who are not made uncomfortable by the topic.  And the massage each mom receives in the afternoon releases even more stress!

And what mom doesn't love to be cooked for and waited upon?  That's how we ended our day, with a five-course gourmet meal prepared and served by our own private chef.  Here's a little glimpse of what we enjoyed...

Our appetizer:  A braised short loin meatball with a red pepper and tomato charassaco sauce...

Our salad:  Sweet apples with a pecan maple glaze, arugula with tomatoes, eggs, stilton, and smoked cashews, sweet vinaigrette...

The intermezzo:  A delicious lemon sorbet...

The entree':  Grilled pork medallions with ranch-style potatoes, yellow and white cauliflower, broccoli, and drizzled with basalmic...

Our dessert:  Fresh-made red velvet cupcake with cream cheese icing sprinkled with macadamia nuts, and banana split ice cream.  The star is made with cocoa powder...

The eight of us moms started the day as strangers, but we ended the day as friends...bound together by our common losses and our common faith in an uncommon Savior.  I firmly believe that God deliberately puts each of these groups together, choosing just the right people to meet at just the right time.  I'm just so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of it!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Free-For-All-Friday -- A Collection of Random Thoughts

Random Thought #1 -- I am ridiculously excited about what God is doing with the While We're Waiting ministry lately!

Random Thought #2 -- Spring in Arkansas is exceptionally beautiful this year...loving all the spring blooms!

Random Thought #3 -- Whoever thought of spring break had a brilliant beyond brilliant idea.

Random Thought #4 -- Thinking about putting together a "While We're Waiting" team for the CureSearch Walk this year.  Hmmmm....

Random Thought #5 -- Joshua Ledet's performance of "When a Man Loves a Woman" on American Idol this week was amazing!

Random Thought #6 -- There's an awful lot of basketball on TV lately.

Random Thought #7 -- My daughter makes a pretty cute Powder Puff football player.

Random Thought #8 -- Looked through Hannah's closet the other day (where her clothes are still hanging), and noticed that most of her clothes are now out of style...Hard to believe she's been gone that long.

Random Thought #9 -- I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook.

Random Thought #10 -- I really don't want this to seem like a Ten on the Tenth list, so therefore, I give you...

Random Thought #11 -- Got Bethany registered for her senior year today...So happy to see her reaching these "growing up" milestones!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Monday Mourning -- "Weep Not For Me"

I continue to be amazed at the bond that forms between parents who have lost children.  It's an instant bond, that forms as soon as we meet, and it's a permanent bond, that remains even if we only meet once.

One of these dear friends sent me a message on Facebook this weekend.  She and I have actually only met once, at one of our While We're Waiting Mom's Days, but as bereaved moms, we bonded instantly, and have been close ever since.  Both of us lost our children to cancer, which bonds us even more closely.

In her message, she shared a beautiful story about a visit to her son's grave.  It really touched me, and with her permission, I'd like to share it with you.  I think it will encourage you, as it did me, especially if you've lost a loved one.

She and her husband visited their son's grave this weekend, which is located in an old cemetery where many of her dad's family members are buried.  Her husband rarely comes to the cemetery with her, because he has such a difficult time emotionally...something I can definitely relate to!  As they were leaving, they passed by a monument that had been broken in half.  It caught her eye, and she went over to it to see what it said.  She had to get down on her knees and scrape the moss off of it in order to read it.  It was a monument for a nine year old girl, her grandpa's sister, and this is what it said...

"Father and Mother, weep not for me, for I am waiting in Glory for thee."

She immediately felt that it was a message from God...a reminder that her son was in Heaven waiting for them...and she was filled with His comfort and peace.  She even felt that it was a turning point in her grief journey.

Then she said this ... "Can't believe I have been going to the cemetery all of my life but had to get down on my knees today to read what it said."

Wow.  Did you catch the depth of that statement?  She had to get down on her knees to read it.

I think there's a message there for all of us ... I know there's one for me.  Thank you, my sweet friend, for sharing your story with me, and for allowing me to share it with others.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Ten on the Tenth -- Heaven

When we moved to our little community several years ago, we had the good fortune of buying a house next door to Gerald and Catherine Taylor, a retired pastor and his wife, originally from El Dorado.  It didn't take us long to become acquainted, and in the past few years, they have become very precious to us.  They quickly became like grandparents to our girls, and "Brother Gerald" was the first person we called when Hannah was diagnosed with her brain tumor.  He came down the hill to our house, and spent quite a bit of time with us that evening, praying for us and comforting us as we processed this frightening news.  He shared Nahum 1:7 with us that evening, "The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble.  He cares for those who trust in Him", and that verse became our theme as we walked through Hannah's cancer journey.  When it was time for Hannah's "Life Celebration" after she went to Heaven, we knew we wanted him to lead the service, and he did.

Occasionally, Brother Gerald preaches at our church, and for the past several Sunday evenings he's been preaching a series of sermons about the basic tenets of the Christian faith.  I love to hear him preach.  He's one of those preachers who has so much Scripture memorized, he is able to weave it seamlessly into his sermons without ever glancing down at his Bible.  It amazes me.

Anyway, this past Sunday evening, Brother Gerald took his place behind the pulpit and stated his sermon topic:  "Eight Things We Need To Know About Heaven."  What do you know...My favorite topic!  I started scrambling around for some paper and a pencil to take notes, and didn't have a thing with me.  So, at the risk of people thinking I was texting during church, I grabbed my phone, opened up the Notes app, and got busy.

Here are his eight points:

1.  Heaven is a real, actual place. "In my Father's house are many rooms.  If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. John 14:2-3."  It is a prepared place for a prepared people.

2.  Heaven is always described as a perfect place.  It is a place of perfect knowledge, perfect rest, and perfect joy.  All mysteries will be revealed.  I really like thinking about how wise Hannah must be now.  It does not bother me a bit that she has far surpassed her Mom in knowledge!  I look forward to her teaching me someday!

3.  Heaven is a populated place.  "After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, 'Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!' Rev. 7: 9-10."  Cool to think about, isn't it?

4.  Heaven is a permanent place.  The Greek word used in John 14 referring to "my Father's house" specifically refers to a "permanent dwelling that never changes."

5.  Heaven is a beautiful place.  One of the costliest, most valuable substances on earth, gold, is so common there, they make streets out of it.  "And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  Rev. 21: 2".  Heaven is full of the beauty of holiness.  There is nothing there that can defile it.

6.  Heaven is a place of unbroken fellowship.  Yes, we will have eternal fellowship with our friends and loved ones who have gone on before, but we will also have eternal fellowship with God Himself. "Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.  I Thess. 4: 17."

7.  Heaven is a place of reward.  "Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done.  Rev. 22:12."  Our greatest reward will be the people who are in Heaven because of us.

8.  Heaven is our home.  There is no need for a passport or tourist visa.  This world is like a hotel room...temporary at best.  Heaven is our real home.

That was the end of Brother Gerald's sermon.  So these last two points are mine.  (We can't have only 8 on the 10th now, can we?)

9.  Heaven is the place we were created for.  If we feel incomplete here, and I certainly do, it's because this is not where we belong.  We were created for something so much better!

10.  Heaven is the place where Hannah is.  We didn't "lose" her on February 26, 2009 ... We know exactly where she is.  And I am looking forward to the day I see her again in that real, perfect, populated, beautiful, permanent, rewarding home, where our fellowship will be eternally unbroken!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tell About It Tuesday -- "Fearless"

Today I want to tell you about the release of a new book on Amazon!  Well, technically, it hasn't actually been released yet, but it is now available to be pre-ordered in the Kindle format.  It is the story of Navy SEAL Adam Brown, who is the son of our dear friends, Larry and Janice Brown, from here in Hot Springs.  

God put us together with Larry and Janice in late 2010, several months after Adam had been killed in Afghanistan.  We immediately bonded, as all parents who have lost children seem to do, and have been close friends ever since.  Larry and Janice are our partners in the "While We're Waiting" ministry, and they have ministered to us in more ways than I can describe here.  

Several months ago, they were contacted by Eric Blehm, an author with Random House publishers, about writing a book about Adam's life.  They consented, and the lengthy, and somewhat painful process began.  You see, Adam wasn't always a "hero".  He was a man who struggled with his sin nature, just as we all do.  Eventually, though, through the faithful support of his parents and siblings and his wife, Kelley, he became a man after God's own heart.  It was hard for the Browns to have to re-live those dark days as they shared Adam's story with Mr. Blehm, but they felt it was important to be honest about both his victories and his struggles.

Below you will find a description of the book, copied directly from the Amazon website.  Read it, then connect to Amazon.com and pre-order it!  The book will be available in Kindle format on May 22nd.  I'm not sure when the print edition will be available, but I would guess it won't be long after the 22nd.  I, for one, can't wait to read it!

Fearless: The Heroic Story of One Navy SEAL's Sacrifice in the Hunt for Osama Bin Laden and the Unwavering Devotion of the Woman Who Loved Him

Fearless takes you deep into SEAL Team Six, straight to the heart of one of it’s most legendary operators.
When Navy SEAL Adam Brown woke up on March 17, 2010, he didn’t know he would die that night in the Hindu Kush Mountains of Afghanistan—but he was ready: In a letter to his children, not meant to be seen unless the worst happened, he had written, “I’m not afraid of anything that might happen to me on this Earth, because I know no matter what, nothing can take my spirit from me.”
But long before Adam Brown became a member of the elite SEAL Team Six—the counterterrorism unit that took down Osama bin Laden—there was a fun-loving country boy from Arkansas whose greatest goal had been to wear his high school’s football jersey. An undersized daredevil, prone to jumping off roofs into trees and off bridges into lakes, Adam was a kid who broke his own bones but would never break a promise to his parents … until he grew older, and his family watched that appetite for risk draw him into a downward spiral that eventually landed him in jail.       

FEARLESS is the story of a man of extremes, whose determination was fueled by faith, family, and the love of a woman. It’s about a man who waged a war against his own worst impulses and persevered to reach the top tier of the U.S. military. Always the first to volunteer for the most dangerous assignments, Adam’s final act of bravery led to the ultimate sacrifice.

FEARLESS is the intimate story of a devoted man who was an unlikely hero but a true warrior, described by all who knew him as just that—fearless.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Monday Mourning -- A Strange Feeling...

As of today, Bethany has gone a week farther into her junior year than Hannah ever did.  True, Hannah did not attend school very much during her junior year, but up until the date of her death, she was enrolled as a student at Magnet Cove High School.

It's hard to explain how strange it feels to know that my younger daughter has now surpassed my older daughter.  My girls were three grades apart in school; and as it happened, they were never in the same school building at the same time.  They had always looked forward to Hannah's senior year and Bethany's ninth grade year, when they would finally have been in the high school together.  That never happened, because Hannah did not make it through February of her junior year.

Now Bethany is in March of her junior year.  And it just feels strange.  Don't get me wrong...I am overjoyed that Bethany is with us...that she's healthy, that she's enjoying school and athletics, and that she's doing so well in so many ways.  I am so thankful for that!  It's just that it doesn't seem right that she has passed up her sister.  There's something that feels so unnatural about it.

She's still younger than Hannah was at this point in her junior year.  Hannah had an October birthdate, so she was 17 for almost all of her junior year.  Bethany, on the other hand, has a June birthdate, so she won't turn 17 until after her junior year.  I'm sure it will really feel strange when Bethany actually becomes older than Hannah.  Who ever thinks their younger child will someday be older than their older child?

I have to remind myself that Hannah is ageless now ... She lives beyond the constraints of time.  Seriously, how cool is that?  And, as competitive as Hannah was academically (and believe me, she was!), I don't think she minds a bit that her baby sister has passed her up!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

State Tournament Wrap-Up

Well, the Lady Panthers' moment in the sun was brilliant, but unfortunately, rather short-lived.

Their first game on Friday was a huge success, against a team that had a 30-2 record coming into the game.  I'll let the scoreboard speak for itself...

Yes, we were the "Visitors"!  This win put our team into the "Elite Eight", or the top eight teams in the state for our size category.

The girls went into Friday's game with high hopes, but came out with a disappointing loss.  The final score was 53-45, which really doesn't reflect how close the game was.  It was back and forth the whole game, with several lead changes, but we were forced to foul down the stretch in an attempt to get the ball back.  Unfortunately, they were excellent free throw shooters, and did not miss.

So now, we move on to life after basketball.  I'm already becoming a little bit giddy, just thinking about all those nice evenings we can spend at home instead of at the gym.  And Bethany's just a junior, so we still have one more year to look forward to.  She'll be turning her attention to high jumping now.  Track season is definitely less busy, and I think we're all looking forward to that!

Congratulations on a great season, Lady Panthers!  It was fun!