Monday, July 30, 2012

Monday Mourning -- Hope From the Belly of a Whale

Ever since January 1st of this year, I've been following Prof. Horner's Bible reading plan.  It's a rather unusual way to read the Bible ... in this plan, you read ten chapters a day.  But they are not consecutive chapters ... you read one chapter from ten different locations in the Bible.  For example, today, on Day 212 of the plan, I read Mark 6, Genesis 25, Ephesians 5, 2 Timothy 3, Job 26, Psalm 62, Proverbs 26, 2 Chronicles 32, Jonah 2, and Acts 16.

It's different, but I like it.  For one thing, it seems that no matter what our pastor preaches about on any given Sunday, or whatever the text is for Sunday School ... I've read it recently.  I like that familiarity.  Another reason I like it is because it forces me to read passages I normally would never read in Bible study, like the 32nd chapter of 2 Chronicles, or the second chapter of Jonah.  Unless you're researching to lead a study of the Old Testament, these are generally not books you turn to for your morning devotional.  Or maybe that's just me.

Anyway, I found myself reading Jonah 2 this morning, where Jonah prays to the "Lord his God" from the belly of the whale.  And I was struck by how similar his plight (being stuck in the belly of a whale) seemed to be to that of a Christian parent who has lost a child.  I spent the day Saturday at our While We're Waiting Mini-Retreat for Moms in Wynne, listening to moms make statements very similar to Jonah's in this prayer.  Read Jonah's prayer carefully ... and note how despair and hope are intertwined in nearly every phrase.

Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, saying, "I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice.  For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me.  Then I said, 'I am driven away from your sight; yet I shall look upon your holy temple.'  The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains.  I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God.  When my life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple.  Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.  But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay.  Salvation belongs to the Lord!"

Did you hear it?  Jonah was cast into the deep, surrounded by floods, tossed by waves and billows, nearly drowned as the waters closed over his head, fainting away ... he even had weeds wrapped around his head! And yet ... and yet ... he had hope.  He knew that God heard his voice, he knew he would again look upon His holy temple, he knew his prayers were heard, he knew God would bring him up out of the pit, and he knew his salvation was assured!

That's what I heard in the stories of these moms on Saturday ... in spite of their pain and suffering, they had hope.  And that is simply not possible without Jesus.  Jonah knew that, and these moms did too.  Note, too, that Jonah made all these statements of assurance before the Lord spoke to the whale, and "it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land."  These moms, also, were speaking these words of hope and assurance while still in the belly of the whale.  What a blessing and privilege it was to spend the day with these precious ladies!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wacky Wednesday -- "The BBQ Song"

Have you noticed that Burger King now has barbecue? And not just any barbecue ... they have Memphis, Texas, and Carolina (though they don't specify if it's North or South Carolina).

So, are you as confused as I am? What's the difference between BBQ in Memphis, Texas, and Carolina? Maybe this fun video by Rhett and Link can help you out!

Oh, and did you catch the mistake?  :)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tell About It Tuesday -- "While We're Waiting" on the Road!

Before I share the exciting news about "While We're Waiting", I wanted to let you know that I'm guest-posting today on Trevin Wax's blog, Kingdom People.  My post is about how we, as the body of Christ, can reach out to the bereaved parents in our churches.  We bereaved parents can be a little bit scary, and well-meaning people often don't know what to "do" with us.  Hopefully, my post will shed a little light on this dilemma.  You can link to it by clicking here.

Now, back to "While We're Waiting".  For those who may be new to this blog, WWW is a ministry to bereaved parents that my husband and I co-founded with Larry and Janice Brown.  This ministry seeks to bring hope and healing to bereaved, but believing, parents by bringing them together for weekend retreats.  We host twice-yearly weekend-long retreats for couples/singles who have lost children, twice-yearly weekend-long retreats just for grieving dads, and quarterly one-day mini-retreats for bereaved moms.  As bereaved parents ourselves, we've found that there is a great deal of healing to be found when we spend focused, quality time with other moms and dads who can truly understand our experiences.  And because we share a common faith, our time together is filled with hope and anticipation of the day we will be reunited with our children and our Savior.  We understand that while God's plan for our child was fulfilled when he or she went to Heaven, His purpose for us is not yet complete, and He is not finished with us here on earth.  Therefore, one of our major topics of discussion at these retreats is how we can live well while we're waiting for that great reunion some day.  You can link to our While We're Waiting website by clicking here.  You can also click on the tabs along the top of this blog for additional information about each of these retreats.  You can even find us on Facebook by searching for "While We're Waiting -- Support for Bereaved Parents."

So, what am I so excited about?  I'm excited because this weekend, for the first time, we're taking While We're Waiting on the road!  Janice and I will be hosting a mini-retreat for moms in a location other than Hot Springs.  We'll be spending the day Saturday with five precious moms in Wynne, up in northeast Arkansas.  A sweet friend is hosting us in her home, and she has planned everything for the day around Psalm 56:8 ... "You have kept count of my wanderings; put my tears in your bottle.  Are they not in your book?"  She will be decorating her home with a variety of brightly-colored bottles to fit the theme, and we will enjoy breakfast, lunch, and a gourmet dinner together.  I am so looking forward to this time of fellowship with other bereaved, but believing, moms.  What a blessing it will be for all who come ... including the hostesses!

We have another While We're Waiting Moms' Mini-Retreat scheduled for September 15th, in Hot Springs, but it's already filled up!  Our next Moms' Mini-Retreat in Hot Springs will be January 19, 2013.  Our next Parents' Retreat (for singles or couples) is scheduled for November 2-4, 2012 at Family Farm in Glen Rose, Arkansas, and our next Dads' Weekend is scheduled for October 12-14, 2012 at the Sullivan Farm in Briggsville, Arkansas.  We have a busy fall ahead, but we wouldn't want it any other way!  We would also be happy to take WWW on the road to your area, if there is a group of parents near you who would be interested in an event like this!

If you would, please be in prayer along with us for our event this Saturday ... that the moms who come would be refreshed and encouraged, and that our God would be glorified in the process.  Thank you so much ... your prayers are greatly appreciated!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday -- Thoughts at My Daughter's Graveside

On Monday of this week, I traveled to Hot Springs Village to speak to the Kiwanis Club there.  I had been asked to share on the topic of dyslexia, which is my area of specialty as a speech-language pathologist.  This event has been on my calendar for several weeks now, ever since the day I spoke to the Malvern Kiwanis Club about the same topic.  I've been looking forward to the trip, not so much because I was excited about giving another speech, but because the occasion afforded me the opportunity to visit Hannah's grave ... alone.

Let me explain.  When the time came to make a decision where Hannah's body would be buried, it was not hard at all to decide.  There's a beautiful cemetery in Briggsville, Arkansas, where the Sullivan family farm is located (aka "the deer camp").  Hannah spent many happy days at the farm ... hunting, riding 4-wheelers, and just hanging out with her cousins.  Occasionally, we would stop at that cemetery and visit the graves of her great grandparents and other relatives.  She always loved to walk around and read all the different headstones.  It's a beautiful country cemetery, on a hillside with lots of trees and a gorgeous view.  We knew that was the right place.  The only problem is that it's about an hour and 45 minute drive from our house.  Which, as you know if you've read this blog for any amount of time, has really not been a problem for me.  I'm not one who gets comfort from visiting the grave.  In fact, I'm the one in the family who avoids visiting Hannah's grave ... there's just too much finality there.  I don't like seeing my daughter's name engraved in granite, and I especially don't like seeing that ending date on there.  And because I never go to Briggsville unless our whole family is going there, I've never been to Hannah's grave alone, even though it's been 3 1/2 years since her body was placed there.  And lately, I've kind of been wanting to.

So, since Hot Springs Village is over halfway to Briggsville from our house, I decided to head that direction after the Kiwanis meeting finished up.  I felt like I needed to bring Hannah something (just like a Mom, huh?), so I stopped at a florist and picked up three long-stemmed roses ... one from me, one from Bethany, and one from Brad.  The drive seemed to take forever, but I finally pulled up and parked outside the gate.

The cemetery is on a hillside, and Hannah's grave is nearly at the top of the hill.  In fact, it's a bit of a hike to get up there. The day she was buried is a bit of a fog to me, but one thing that sticks out in my mind is watching the pallbearers carry her casket up that hill.  It bothered me that the casket was not level as they climbed, and I worried that all the things in there ... her stuffed dog, the letters her friends had put in there, the cross necklace that Mrs. Pat had put in there ... were sliding down to her feet.  I also worried that her body was shifting downward.  It bothered me because I knew that Hannah always liked everything "just so".  Such a strange thing to worry about on that day, but that's just the way grieving minds work sometimes.

Anyway, I made the climb to the top of the hill and sat down on the ground beside her grave, with my feet resting about where her torso would be.  And the thoughts started to roll around in my head like crayons on the floorboard of a car.  Since this is "Thoughtful Thursday", I'm going to share some of them with you.  Hang on tight ... It's kind of a wild ride!

  • I thought about moving my feet.  I mean, isn't it disrespectful to have your feet on a grave?  Then I realized that it reminded me of how I used to sometimes lay on the couch and put my feet in Hannah's lap, and I decided to leave them there.
  • I thought about how, if I had come to the grave alone in the early days (weeks, months?) of my grief, I would have laid right on top of her grave with my face in the dirt and sobbed, just to feel physically closer to her.  I  did not feel the need to do that on Monday.
  • I thought about how I would someday lie beside her, assuming Christ does not return before I die.  When we made the decision to have her buried there, we reserved enough room for Brad and I to be buried there as well, marking the corners with granite squares.  
  • I thought about how brokenhearted Bethany was when she realized we did not plan space for her as well at that cemetery.  We tried to explain that she would grow up, have her own husband and children someday, and would want to be buried near them, but at the age of 13, she simply could not imagine ever wanting to be buried anywhere other than right next to her sister.  Dear God, please, please do not let her be buried next to her sister.
  • I thought about how glad I was that I brought the roses.  Many people get great comfort from decorating their loved ones' grave with flowers and other special items, but for whatever reason, I have not been able to bring myself to do that.  As I looked around the cemetery at the other decorated graves, I thought to myself that maybe I was ready to start thinking about doing that myself.
  • I thought about how sweet it was that Bethany and "other Brad" planted sod and built a rock wall at the grave this past spring.  Of course, the sod and flowers they planted have long since died due to the drought this summer, but it still looks so much better than it did!  
  • I thought about how unfair it was that I had to sit in the dead grass in front of a granite slab to "visit" my daughter.  She should be home this summer, having completed her sophomore year at OBU, working a job, and sleeping in her own bed.  
  • I thought about how pretty she looked in the picture we'd had placed on her monument.  Bright, clear eyes, thick, luxuriant hair, and her trademark smile.  So different than she'd looked the last time I'd seen her, with about a quarter inch of baby fine hair, eyes closed permanently, and the hideous peach-colored lipstick the funeral home had chosen for her.  And, for the first time, I noticed her attitude in this picture.  She's leaning forward, eyes wide, hands clasped together, with an expectant expression on her face.  Exactly as I believe she appears right now, as she sits at the feet of Jesus, hanging on His every word.
  • I thought about how I felt no need to "talk" to Hannah.  On the drive there, I had wondered if I would do that, telling her about her new cousin, catching her up on all of Bethany's activities, and filling her in on all the latest gossip ... but once I was there, I realized that there was no need to audibly speak to her ... she wasn't there, anyway.  Instead, I contented myself by speaking to her Savior (and mine), asking Him to tell her how much I loved her, and that I couldn't wait to see her again.
  • Finally, I thought about how blessed I am to have had 17 1/2 years with this beautiful young woman, my daughter.  I am a very fortunate Mom indeed.  

The Hot Springs Village Kiwanis Club has asked me to speak to their club again this fall.  Looks like I'll be making this trip again ... and I'm okay with that!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wacky Wednesday -- "Tim Hawkins on Teenagers"

Any parent of teenagers will be able to relate to this ... Enjoy!


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tell About It Tuesday -- Meet Madison Mae

I think "Tell About It Tuesday" is the perfect opportunity to introduce you to my newest niece, Madison Mae!

Isn't she adorable?  We get to go meet her in person on Friday, and I can hardly wait to get my hands on her!

My husband comes from a family of three boys and a girl.  He and his older brother are just one year and two weeks apart in age, and his younger brother came along about three years later.  Then, when my husband was 16, his parents broke the news to him that they were going to have a baby.  His mom started praying then ... if she was going to have a baby at the age of 42, please God, at least let it be a girl.  Well, her prayers were answered ... that baby was a girl.  And since that time, every baby born into the Sullivan family has been a girl. (If you ever have a prayer need, just talk to Brad's mom)!   Each of the brothers had two girls, and Madison just joined her big sister, Faith.

Yes, that is now eight granddaughters on this side of the family, and not a single grandson!  In fact, when I include both sides of the family, I have NINE nieces, and ONE nephew.

We are excitedly anticipating seeing Faith and Madison this weekend, but as in every family milestone these days, there is a tinge of sadness.  Neither of these girls will ever know their oldest cousin, Hannah.  Faith was two months old when Hannah went to Heaven, and I am glad that we at least have some pictures of Hannah holding her that she can look back on someday.  And as much as Hannah loved her younger cousins, she would be ridiculously excited about this new addition.

It all just makes me that much more ready for Heaven, when our family will be complete again.  Chris Brauns, on his blog, talks about how his family has discussed where they're all going to meet in Heaven as they arrive there -- at the fifth tree on the right side of the throne.  I absolutely love that.  So, I'm just gonna say right now that the Sullivan/Persenaire family will be meeting at the sixth tree on the left, when you're facing the throne.  Sounds like a plan to me!

"Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month.  The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His servants will worship Him.  They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.  And night will be no more.  They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever."  Revelation 22:1-5

Monday, July 16, 2012

Monday Mourning -- "For I Know That My Redeemer Lives..."

We had the great privilege of meeting a precious, grieving family this past Saturday evening.  These folks "temporarily lost" their fifteen-year-old son to a car accident just three months ago on the day before Easter.  (They introduced us to the term "temporarily lost" -- I hope they don't mind if I steal it!).

Over dinner, we shared Hannah's story with them, and then our friends, the Browns, shared their son Adam's story.  After that, it was their turn to share.  The dad, who is a pastor, related how he had been preparing for his Easter Sunday sermon for a couple of weeks, and he had been drawn to Job 19:25, which says, "For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth."  Now, he acknowledged that Job is not a typical source to draw upon for an Easter message.  I've never heard an Easter sermon out of Job -- Have you?

As he prepared for that Sunday, he studied the entire book of Job, and was really struck by all the things that Job had suffered ... loss of his servants, his livestock, his ten children, and his health ... yet he still said, "...Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return.  The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."  He was amazed by the fact that Job could still praise the Lord after all he had been through.

Then their family's life was changed forever in a split second of time on the night before he was to deliver that sermon.  And with tear-filled eyes, he said, "What I thought was meant for my congregation was really meant for me and my family."  God had led him to study just the passage of Scripture that was needed to prepare for him for what his family was about to face.  And the knowledge that their Redeemer lives is what is carrying this sweet family through each painful day.

After visiting with them, I decided to look a little more deeply at the 19th chapter of Job.  The chapter is basically a litany of all of Job's problems...

  • His relatives had failed him
  • His close friends had forgotten him
  • His breath was strange to his wife (I'm not kidding, check out verse 17)
  • He was a stench to his siblings
  • Young children despised him and talked against him
  • His intimate friends abhorred him
  • Those whom he loved had turned against him
  • His bones were sticking to his skin

Then suddenly, in the middle of this really depressing list, he makes this declaration:  "For I know that my Redeemer lives!"  I love that!  Even though his life had not turned out the way he had hoped, even though he was facing desertion, extreme isolation, and disappointment, he had hope, because he knew he had a Redeemer.  

For many of us, life hasn't turned out as we had planned.  We face great disappointment and sorrow.  Maybe we feel abandoned and alone.  But we have hope, because we have a living Redeemer!  

Of all the attributes of God, the thought of him as "redeemer" is my favorite.  Look up the word "redeem" in the dictionary and you'll find that, among other things, it means "to pay off", "to set free", "to save from a state of sinfulness and its consequences".  According to these definitions, Jesus' death on the cross redeems us from our sins.  But there is another meaning of redeem, and that is "to make up for".  And I believe that God is going to redeem the sufferings we endure on this earth in Heaven one day, and maybe even, to some degree, while we're still on earth.  

I know that my Redeemer lives, and because of that, I can live with hope in my heart and joy in my soul!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday -- FCA Camp and ... Heaven?

I had an odd experience last week when I took Bethany to FCA Camp ... although as one of our "While We're Waiting" parents would say, "It's not odd, it's God!"  In fact, I'm not even sure that I can adequately explain it in words, but I'm gonna give it the old college try.  It was something that really made me think; in fact, I'm still thinking it through, even as I write this.  It may even sound a little crazy, I don't know.

First, a little background.  When Bethany decided earlier this summer that she wanted to go to FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) camp, I encouraged her to invite a friend to go with her.  I was a little surprised, at first, that she didn't want to invite a friend, but she insisted that she wanted to go by herself.  As I thought about it, though, I understood.  In our small community, she is known by two things ... she's the girl whose sister died of cancer, and  she's the principal's kid.  Sometimes she just wants to go somewhere and be anonymous, and that was the case here.  So that was the plan ... she was going to go off to camp for four days, not knowing a soul.  Also, the literature we received from the camp said the kids should not bother bringing their cell phones, because there was no cell phone coverage there anyway.  A number was provided in case of an emergency, but basically, it appeared that there would be no communication with Bethany until the day I picked her up.

Well, Bethany had just arrived home late Saturday evening from Florida, was home on Sunday, and then I was to have her at camp by 1:30 on Monday.  She also had basketball practice on Monday morning before we left!  Fortunately, it's only about a 30-minute drive to where the camp was being held, but by the time she  practiced, had a quick shower, and downed her lunch, we were running late.  She'd been unusually quiet all morning, and grew even more quiet as we drove along.  I knew what was going through her mind (Moms always know, don't we?).  She was starting to get a little worried about this "I want to go all by myself" thing.  As we got closer, I knew if I just gave her the opportunity, she'd back out.  I was tempted, let me tell you ... I was not looking forward to not seeing or hearing from her for four days, after she'd just been gone for a week!  But I wanted her to go ... I knew it would be good for her ... so I kept driving and kept smiling like everything was great.

As we approached the turn-in to the camp, I was a little concerned because we were late.  I didn't know where to go for registration, and what if it was already closed?  I spotted a few counselor-looking types kicking a ball around near the entrance.  Maybe one of them would help us.  Even as these thoughts were going through my mind, those teenagers abandoned their ball and literally sprinted to our car.  Two came to my window and two to Bethany's window, and the words started flying -- "What's your name?", "Where do you go to school?", "What sport do you play?", "Are you ready for camp?", "We're so glad you're here!", "Welcome to camp!".  This was the perkiest group of kids I'd ever seen, especially considering that it was 102 degrees outside!  They directed us toward the registration building, and as we drove along, we were met by another friendly counselor.  She showed us where to park, then walked us into the building and guided us through the process.  At every station, there were enthusiastic, helpful, extremely hyperactive counselors.

Back out to the parking lot we went, where they pulled Bethany's suitcase out of the trunk for her (no small feat, let me tell you!).  I hugged her good-bye there in the parking lot and pulled out.  As I looked in my rear view mirror, I saw Bethany heading to her bunkhouse, flanked on each side by a counselor.  A big tall guy counselor had her suitcase up on his shoulder!  She didn't look nearly as alone as she had when we arrived.

I was inexplicably weepy all the way home.  I'm not usually like that.  But four days without talking to my girl?  I don't think I've ever gone four days without talking to Bethany!

All afternoon and on into the evening I worried about her. I couldn't imagine what she was doing.  What kind of activities was she involved with?  What did her dorm look like?  What kind of food was she eating?  Who was she hanging out with?  Was she having a good time?

And then I heard it.  You know, the "ding ding" that indicates an incoming text.  It was three words from Bethany:  "Camp is awesome!"  Yes, I know she wasn't supposed to bring her phone because there was no cell phone reception, but hey, teenagers and their phones are inseparable, and she brought it along just in case she could use it.  I sure was glad she did.  Over the next few days, we heard from her very sporadically (they kept her busy!), but just enough to know she was having a great time.  I picked her up Thursday afternoon ... hot, dirty, tired, but more mature in Christ than when she left home.

So what's the odd/crazy part of this story?  As the week went by, I began to notice parallels between Bethany going to FCA camp and Hannah going to Heaven.  Wait ... What?  Just hang with me for a minute...

  • Hannah had to make the journey to Heaven all by herself.  I couldn't go with her.  She couldn't back out or change her mind.  And I'm sure she had some apprehension about the unknown, though she never showed it.
  • Just like those perky, overly-enthusiastic counselors met us at the camp entrance and walked us through the registration process, I believe Hannah was welcomed and accompanied by angels every step along her way.  What a comforting thought!
  • And just as that big counselor guy hoisted Bethany's suitcase up on his shoulder like it was a featherweight, Hannah's burdens of cancer, pain, mental fog, and physical weakness were lifted from her shoulders in a moment.
  • I wonder the same things about Hannah that I wondered about Bethany.  What is she spending her time doing?  What do her accommodations look like?  What kind of food is she eating?  Who is she hanging out with?  Is she having a good time?  (I'm pretty sure I know the answer to that last one!)
  • Finally, just as Bethany grew in Christ during her time at camp, I know that Hannah has grown as well.  In fact, I believe she has so far outpaced all of us still here on earth, it's beyond my ability to even imagine.  I look forward to her teaching me what she's learned some day!

Obviously, there are differences.  I will never get another text from Hannah or hear her voice on the phone again.  I don't get to pick her up at the end of the week and listen to her excitedly describe what she's been doing while she's been away.  I can't give her a hug and tell her how much I've missed her.  But, thank God, I will one day!

On the last morning at camp, they woke the senior girls up and had them do a "Golgotha Run", where they ran around the lake (about a mile) with a 2"x4" on their back to simulate carrying a cross.  What a great way to end the week!  It's a reminder that even though Hannah might be at "camp" for a long time before we can join her, we still have a job to do here.  We must continue to pick up our cross daily and live for Him while we're waiting.

So, there you have it ... my comparison between FCA Camp and Heaven.  Odd?  Crazy?  Maybe.  But it makes sense to me, and somehow, it makes Heaven feel not so far away.  :)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tell About It Tuesday -- A Family In Need of Prayer

I'm going to forego my usual Ten on the Tenth post today, because I feel it's more urgent to ask you to lift a young family up in prayer.

This is the McCone family from Crossett, Arkansas ... Alan, Melissa, Sydney, and Carson.  Alan has been battling cancer for the last several years.  In fact, he was probably diagnosed around the time that Hannah was.  He's been doing well lately; in fact, his most recent scans were very good.  Last week, their family was on vacation in Chicago when Alan suddenly lost strength in his legs.  He was hospitalized with blood clots, and while there, he had a cardiac arrest and stepped into the arms of His Savior.

Melissa was one of Brad's students when he was the assistant principal at Crossett High School, and she and Alan came over to Hot Springs about a year ago to visit one of our Anchor of Hope Cancer Ministry meetings.  Their desire was to start a similar type of ministry in their hometown.  They are a very sweet family, and have been an example to their entire community of how to go through difficult times with grace and faith.  We are planning to attend the visitation tonight, and the funeral will be tomorrow.  Please keep Melissa, Sydney, and Carson in your prayers as they start a whole new journey of faith.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore for the former things have passed away.  And He who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new."
Revelation 21:4-5a

I really hate cancer.  I can't wait for the day when He makes all things new!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Monday Mourning -- A Letter from Hannah

Not long after Hannah went to Heaven, I started looking for it.  I went down to the garage and dug through boxes of Hannah's old school papers.  It was a painful search, as I dug through those dusty boxes full of memories.  I had to harden my heart and force back the tears in order to keep my vision clear enough to continue the search.  I could only do it for so long, and then I just had to give up.  I fully intended to go back down and try again someday, but I just couldn't make myself dig through that stuff again.

Fast forward to this past Friday night.  Bethany and I were home alone for the evening, and we were having a great time looking through some old family photo albums.  After we finished with the photo albums, we dug through the shelves, searching for something else we could look through.  We ran across a couple of books that I had actually forgotten about...some memory books that I used to keep up with some of the girls' school stuff over the years.  You know, the kind that you do a really good job with through the early elementary years, and then kind of slack off as they get older.  Well, maybe some of you do better with that sort of thing than I do!

Anyway, as I looked through Hannah's book, smiling as I looked at her pictures and read about her favorite books, movies, friends, etc., from each grade, I noticed that there were pockets between the pages.  I reached into one of the pockets, and found her report card and standardized test scores for that grade.  Well, that was fun, so I started checking the other pockets to see what else I might have put in there and forgotten about.

And I found it!  Yes, the thing I had been looking for out in the garage a few years ago!  It was a school assignment Hannah had done for Mother's Day when she was in third grade.  When she brought it home from school oh, so many years ago, I loved it so much, I pinned it up on the wall in the sun room of our home in El Dorado.  I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to have found it again ... It will definitely be going up on the wall again, this time in a frame!

Here's what it says (with the original spelling, punctuation, and grammar intact) ....

"Mom I know you love me you know how?  Well if something bad happened to me I know if you were there you would save me.  If I was sick in the hospital you would comfort me.  If I was drowning you'd save me I know.  If someone kidnapped me you'd look for me.  If pirates told me to walk the plank she'd tell them that I couldn't.  If I had a bad grade you'd talk with me.  If someone died I'd have a shoulder to cry on.  If I was embarist she'd talk with me.  If there was a tornado she would tell me it's all right.  If I lost my game she will tell me I love you anyway.  That's how I know she loves me!!!"

This "Letter to Mom" was precious to me when Hannah was in third grade; it's priceless to me now that she is in Heaven.  

I'm so glad that she knew I loved her.  And I'm so happy that I had the opportunity to demonstrate my love for her in all the ways she mentioned in her letter ... well, except for the kidnapping and walking the plank parts.  :)   How blessed I am to have been her Mom!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Free-For-All Friday!

It's Free-For-All Friday, so here is a collection of random thoughts from the week (in no particular order):

  • It rained today!  And according to the weatherman, there is more rain to come in the next few days.  A welcome relief in the middle of this exceptionally hot, dry summer.
  • I see that Barbara Walters is hosting a two-hour special on Heaven tonight.  In spite of my great interest in Heaven, I believe I'll pass.  
  • I'm so glad to have Bethany home with me tonight.  She came home from her trip to the beach on Saturday and left for Fellowship of Christian Athletes Camp on Monday.  I really missed her while she was gone.  Gave me a little sneak peek of what it will be like when she goes to college next year, I guess.  More about her time at camp in a future post ... Or maybe I should say my time while she was at camp.  For tonight, we're on the couch watching "Say Yes to the Dress."  :)
  • We spent the Fourth of July evening with our friends, the Browns, who you hopefully "met" via my post from yesterday.  We grilled steaks and then went out for a cruise around the lake on their pontoon boat.  We ended up watching a fireworks show from the boat, which was an unexpected pleasure, since as far as we knew all the fireworks shows had been canceled due to the fire danger.  I haven't watched fireworks from a boat since I was a little girl in Wisconsin, so that was a fun treat.
  • Stuffed pizza from Papa Murphy's is really good ... I'm just sayin.' 
  • My classic for this week has been "The Picture of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde.  A very curious book. I'm interested to see how it ends.
So there you have it ... Free-For-All Friday for this week!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday -- If You've Ever Thought About Coming to a WWW Retreat...

If you are a bereaved parent, and you've ever thought about coming to a While We're Waiting Weekend retreat, but you're just not sure if it's for you ... you need to listen to this interview.  Moody Radio interviewed our good friends and While We're Waiting Weekend co-hosts, Larry and Janice Brown, and it is an excellent interview.  It is lengthy, and will take about 40 minutes if you listen to the whole thing (the interview with the Browns actually starts around the 9:30 mark).  If you're mostly interested in hearing about the retreats, you can just listen to about the first fifteen minutes or so.  For the remainder of the interview, they tell the story of the life and death of their son, Adam, who was a member of SEAL Team Six, and how their faith has carried them through these last couple of years.  If you take the time to listen to the entire thing, I can promise you, you will be blessed.  So pour yourself a glass of sweet tea, put your feet up, and give it a listen.  You will not be sorry.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Wacky Wednesday -- Behind the scenes at a McDonald's photo shoot

Here's your Wacky Wednesday video for this week.  I found this very interesting, and it made me wonder how often we try to push the "pretty parts" of our lives to the front and push the "ugly stuff" to the back...

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tell About It Tuesday -- Mission Hot Springs

Last week, our church (Hot Springs Baptist Church) embarked on a very ambitious mission project.  Over three hundred volunteers in blue t-shirts spread out all over the entire community to share the love of Christ with the people of Hot Springs.

These volunteers were divided into several teams, each with a different responsibility for the week.  Breakfast and supper were provided each day for the volunteers by the Meal Team.  After these times of food and fellowship, teams headed out all over town...

  • Backyard Bible Clubs were held in the mornings in public parks all over the city.
  • Block parties were held in the evenings in neighborhoods all over the city.
  • Construction teams undertook a number of projects for folks whose homes were in desperate need of repairs.
  • Evangelism teams witnessed door-to-door in neighborhoods all over the city.
  • Prayer Walker teams walked through neighborhoods all over the city, praying for all of the residents.
  • Encourager teams delivered homemade cookies to shut-ins and hospital patients, and hosted a mid-week cook-out for nearly 600 city and county employees in downtown Hot Springs.
  • Vacation Bible School was held on site at Hot Springs Baptist Church.
  • Childcare teams cared for the children of volunteers, so they could participate in the Mission Hot Springs activities.
  • Transportation teams took care of bringing all the other teams to and from the church as they participated in these activities.
The week culminated with a Family Fun Night, hosted on site at Hot Springs Baptist Church.  There were all kinds of activities for the kids, along with lots of free food.  I was the cotton candy lady for the evening.  Let's just say things got a little sticky!

Over the course of the week, 43 people made decisions for Christ!  What a harvest!  Plans are already in the works for Mission Hot Springs 2, coming up the last week of June, 2013.  Can't wait!  :)

Monday, July 2, 2012

Monday Mourning -- An Anniversary Get-Away!

Well, hello, blog ... Missed you last week!

As I mentioned in my last post, we spent the early part of last week on a mini-vacation for our anniversary.  Well, it wasn't really our anniversary, but we pretended that it was.  This August will mark 25 years of marriage for us, but because that is back-to-school time, we can never get away in August.  So we took advantage of Bethany being gone to slip off to Eureka Springs for a few days.

For those of you not fortunate enough to be from Arkansas, Eureka Springs is a Victorian village in northwest Arkansas.  The entire city is on the National Register of Historic Places.  It has a really neat downtown area, perfect for walking and window shopping.  It's a popular honeymoon destination, and is where we spent our honeymoon twenty-five years ago.  Here are a couple of pics, so you can get the flavor of the area.

The population of the town is actually just barely over 2,000 people, but, of course, in the summertime, it is full of newlyweds and tourists.  It is also the location of the Great Passion Play, which is well worth seeing.

My husband is always interested in the history of places like this, so we took a narrated trolley tour of the city.  It was fun and informative, but our tour guide left a little to be desired.  I don't know...maybe it was her first day on the job.  She seemed a little flustered, repeating the same things over and over, and had apparently never heard of subject-verb agreement.  By the end of the tour, we and the people sitting behind us were all giggling ... don't worry, she couldn't see us!

We drove by the little cabin we spent our honeymoon in, and it's still there.  It actually looks like it is a private residence now.  I would never have been able to find it in a million years, but my husband is one of those people who once he's been somewhere once, he can always find his way back.  I, ahem, am not one of those people.

This time, we stayed in a nice little cottage on Lake Lucerne.  We were very pleased with the cleanliness and the quality of the accommodations, and would definitely go there again.  You can check them out here, if you think you'd like to make a trip to the area.  Here are a couple of pictures...

It was a beautiful, very peaceful place.

We did some fishing off our little dock.  Guess who caught the most?  And the biggest?

We spent a lot of time reading, fishing, walking, shopping ... oh, and eating!  It was fun trying out several new places, all recommended by my gourmet friend, Laurie.  We especially enjoyed dessert at Local Flavor ... If you ever go there, try the Baked Fudge and the Chocolate Decadence.  They were amazing!

We also spent a lot of time just talking about our experiences over the last several years.  I sure am glad we didn't know when we were in Eureka Springs on our honeymoon what was in store for our family in the future.  Oh, there have been many, many good things ... too many to even begin to enumerate.  But, I'm not going to lie, watching your firstborn child suffer through cancer and die is a difficult test for any marriage.  I'm so grateful that God has given us the grace to withstand it.  

We spent some time wondering out loud what the next twenty-five years might hold.  That's a hard thing for me to wrap my mind around.  The first twenty-five (actually just the last four or so) held such an unexpected and unwelcome string of events ... I prefer to live day by day, and not spend too much time peering into the future.  I am content to just walk beside my Savior ... not ahead of Him ... and trust Him for strength for each day.  And right there, on the other side of me, my faithful husband, always there to hold my hand along the way!