Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wacky Wednesday -- Are You An Introvert?

Introversion has gotten a lot of attention in the blogosphere lately.  There have been lots of books published on the topic recently, and I particularly enjoyed a book titled "Introverts in the Church:  Finding our Place in an Extraverted Culture" by Adam S. McHugh.  One of these days, when I have time again, I'd like to write a post about that book.

Anyway, I've always known I was an introvert, and after reading this list on Thom S. Rainer's blog today, I'm even more convinced of it!  Take a look and see if you qualify.  I think you'll get a chuckle from some of these...

  1. You might be an introvert if you enjoyed timeout as a child.
  2. You might be an introvert if you shop at 1:00 am in the 24-hour grocery store to avoid seeing people.
  3. You might be an introvert if you rearrange the name cards at a dinner table so you don’t have to sit next to people you don’t know.
  4. You might be an introvert if you like to have an extroverted friend with you so he can carry on the conversations you want to avoid.
  5. You might be an introvert if your favorite game is solitaire.
  6. You might be an introvert if your favorite number is one.
  7. You might be an introvert if you take plenty of reading material on airplanes to avoid talking to people.
  8. You might be an introvert if you smile when you see the “Do Not Talk” sign in the library.
  9. You might be an introvert if you try to convince family members that you are really okay staying at home for a week of vacation.
  10. You might be an introvert if you avoid buying new clothes so people won’t comment to you about them.
  11. You might be an introvert if you can’t understand what’s so bad about solitary confinement.
  12. You might be an introvert if you enjoy talking to yourself more than anyone else.
  13. You might be an introvert if the word “meeting” causes you to become mildly to violently nauseous.
  14. You might be an introvert if you work in your garden at night with a headlamp to avoid conversations with neighbors.
  15. You might be an introvert if you think social media is the greatest invention in 200 years because you can communicate without being around people.
  16. You might be an introvert if your favorite room in the house is the bathroom because you know you can be alone there.

I can relate to every single one of these, with the possible exception of #10.  My introversion definitely does not keep me from buying new clothes!  How about you?  Are you an introvert, too?

If you'd like to read the rest of Thom Rainer's post, you can link to it here.  

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Free-For-All Friday

Yes, I know it's Saturday.  It's the Saturday after the first week of school, which should explain why there has only been one post on the blog this week.  Now that school has started back, my posts will not be as frequent.  There's just too much going on!  And on the rare evenings when we are home together as a family, I will not be wanting to spend all my time on the computer.  I will once again be off on Mondays this year, so hopefully I can get at least one post in each week!

Anyway, back to Free-For-All Friday.  Here are my random thoughts from this week...

  • Busy as it is, it was good to get back into a regular routine this week.  It's always good to see my students again.  I work with students in small groups, and tend to have the same students for a couple of years in a row, so I get to know them pretty well.  Some of them have home lives that make me very sad, but they somehow always seem to have smiles on their faces.  Sweet kids.
  • Why do parents not exert more control over what their kids watch on TV?  I remember when I was a kid, we were not allowed to watch Three's Company, The Love Boat, or even Bewitched. Kids today watch TV shows, movies, and listen to music that no adult should be watching or listening to.  It's scary.
  • We got a new vehicle this week!  Well, it's new to us.  It's a 2008 Chevy Silverado pick-up with only 33,000 miles on it.  That means we will be selling Brad's 2000 Chevy Blazer with 116,000 miles on it, hopefully this upcoming week.  We're excited about the new truck, but will be a little bit sad to part with the Blazer ... simply because there are memories of Hannah associated with it.  Little by little, we seem to be replacing those memory-filled things ... but I guess that's part of moving forward.  As my friend Susan says about her son who went to Heaven not long after Hannah ... "I don't need to keep all of his things to remember him by -- I have him with me in my heart all the time."  
  • I have discovered Pinterest.  I fought joining it for a long time ... I knew I would like it, and I just really don't need another time drain like Facebook.  But after looking over my friend Gina's Pinterest page on her iPad during one of those school inservice meetings a couple weeks ago (Shhhh!), I knew it was time.  And now, like I knew I would be, I'm hooked.  I really joined for the recipes, and boy, have I found some good ones.  I think my family is just happy I'm cooking again!  We'll see how long into the school year that lasts....
  • This week's free Kindle classic has been Oliver Twist.  I am thoroughly enjoying it.
  • An article about While We're Waiting appeared in this month's "Hot Springs On The Go" magazine.  If you're interested, you can link to it here.  Click on the "flipbook edition" of the magazine and flip through to page 30.  It's a great article, but we were terribly disappointed that the author gave the wrong website at the end.  The correct website is, not  We were very pleased to get the publicity for While We're Waiting.
  • We've had some really nice weather in Arkansas this week ... cooler nights, lower humidity levels, and even a little bit of rain.  A nice change after the extremely arid summer we've had.
  • I have to admit it ... I'm a weather geek.  Most of the people I follow on Twitter are weather forecasters and storm chasers.  I get a kick out of watching tropical systems develop and following all the predictions of where they're going to go.  And I get positively giddy when winter weather is predicted.  And I'm thinking that as dry as our summer was, our winter precipitation chances have got to be good.  Bring it on!
  • Finally ... Bethany started her senior year this week.  And I'm pretty excited about the fact that by the time she graduates, she will already have 12 hours of college credit under her belt.  My girl is growing up ... and I'm absolutely thrilled about it!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tell About It Tuesday -- "While We're Waiting" CureSearch Walk Team

Last October, we had the privilege of participating in the first annual Arkansas CureSearch Walk.  This is a walk to promote awareness and raise funds for pediatric cancer research.  You can read about last year's event by clicking here.  We had a great time, and the walk was a huge success, with over $50,000 raised for a very good cause.

One of the things that we really enjoyed about that day was seeing several of the kids who were receiving treatment at Arkansas Children's Hospital during the time that we were spending so much time there ourselves.  It was wonderful to see those kids running and playing, happy and healthy.  There were also many families there whose children were still in treatment.  The CureSearch Walk is similar to Relay for Life, in that teams are formed for fundraising and fellowship purposes.  Each of these kids had his or her own team, all with clever names and colorful t-shirts.

As parents whose child had not survived her cancer, we couldn't help but feel a little out of place.  We had no "team" to belong to.  We walked with our friends, Bobby and Amy Smith, whose son, Joel, is also in Heaven following his brave battle with cancer.  And like I said, we enjoyed the day ... but we felt a little bit out of place.  It just seemed as though there should be a team for those of us who had children in Heaven.

Well, on October 6th, we will be returning to the CureSearch Walk, but this time we will be participating as Team "While We're Waiting."  This will be a team for those of us who are seeking to live well while we're waiting to be reunited with our children in Heaven one day.  Our friends, Bobby and Amy Smith, will be walking with us again, and we'd like to invite you to participate as well ... if you can make it to Murray Park in Little Rock to walk with us, we would love it!

The event kicks off with registration between 8:30-9:30 a.m., followed by the opening ceremony, and then the walk.  The walk is the length of a 5K, but it is a walk, not a run.  The route of the walk takes us across the Big Dam Bridge and back (assuming it's the same as last year).

Or, if you'd like to join our team as a "virtual walker", that would be great, too.  Maybe you live too far from Little Rock to participate, but you'd like to make a donation to the fight against pediatric cancer.  We'd love for you to be part of While We're Waiting's "virtual" team.

You can join the While We're Waiting team by making a $10 donation (minimum) by clicking here.  Remember, none of these donations go to While We're Waiting ... all donations go to CureSearch, to raise awareness and funding for the fight against pediatric cancer.

Take a look at this picture from last year ...

That banner is full of names of kids whose lives have been touched by cancer ... just in Arkansas.  If you look closely, right in the lower middle part of the banner, just under the words CureSearch, you'll see a heart with the name "Hannah Joy" in it.  She is just one of the many reasons we walk!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Monday Mourning -- Back-to-School Season

It seems like everyone I know has a child going to college this year.  I guess it's just the age I am right now ... after all, Hannah would be starting her third year of college, and Bethany will be going next year.  So I suppose it makes sense that so many of my friends have been saying good-bye to their children over the last couple of weeks.

You know, I really ought to take a hiatus from Facebook during the month of August.  I must confess, I have a really hard time reading all the posts from moms whose kids are heading to college.  For many of them, it's almost as if their child has died.

Last year about this time I read a Facebook conversation between two moms that really bothered me.  I mean it really bothered me.  I literally lost sleep over it, which was silly, but then it doesn't take much to interrupt my sleep.  I wanted to write about it at the time, but was honestly too bothered by it to even write a blog post about it.  I always try to include something positive when I write, and I just couldn't figure out how to put a positive twist on this.  But a year has gone by, and maybe ... just maybe ... I can do it now.

So here's the basic conversation.  This is between Mom #1 (whose youngest son just went to college) and Mom #2 (whose daughter just got married).  Imagine reading this through the eyes of a parent who has lost a child.

Status posted by Mom #1:  "This is way harder than I ever thought."

Mom #2:  "Not sure what you're talking about, but if it's about your kid being gone, I TOTALLY AGREE!  I'm fighting every day not to be curled up on the floor in the corner."

Mom #1:  "I hate coming home because the house is so empty and quiet.  It's the stupid stuff that gets his car not being in the driveway, or his clothes not being in the laundry.  It's killing me!"

Mom #2:  "I know what you mean.  I cried like a baby today over shampoo.  I was thinking I needed shampoo and I wondered if 'Susie' did and then I realized I wasn't going to be buying her shampoo anymore. Something like that happens almost every day!  I never realized how final everything would seem once she got married."

Mom #1:  "I did that over a Pizza Roll coupon.  Realized I didn't need it because no one here eats Pizza Rolls anymore.  Cried like a baby.  I am trying, but it just sneaks up on you and then you are done."

Mom #2:  "Yep, me too.  Everyone keeps telling me to find something else to do, but it's just not that easy."

Son of Mom #1:  "Mom, I would love it if you would buy me Pizza Rolls."

I am not making this stuff up.  I know it might seem like it, but I'm not.  I did change the names to protect the innocent, but this is the conversation nearly verbatim.

You know what bugs me about this conversation?  If Mom #1 is really missing her son, she can text him, call him, or even Skype with him, which is the next best thing to talking face to face.  She can hop in her car and go visit him for the weekend (he was only a couple hours away from home).  She can clip that Pizza Roll coupon, go buy the Pizza Rolls, put them in the freezer, heat them up in the microwave, and serve them to him when he comes home in a few weeks.  He clearly is looking forward to coming home and eating some!

If Mom #2 is really missing her daughter, she can give her a call and arrange to meet her for lunch and a pedicure.  They can plan a shopping day together, and maybe even cook Christmas dinner together.  And, you know, I'm sure her daughter wouldn't mind if she picked up a couple bottles of that shampoo and dropped them by her house sometime.  Someday, this daughter might even give Mom #2 a beloved grandchild!

These Moms don't see how blessed they are!

A mom who has lost her child can do none of those things.  When we said good-bye to our children, it wasn't with the knowledge that we'd be seeing them again in a couple of weeks.  We knew there would be no more laundry to do, no more favorite foods to buy, no more shampoo to purchase.  Their car is no longer in the driveway, and their bedroom is quiet and empty.  No texts, no phone calls, no Skyping, no Christmas dinners, no grandchildren.

So where am I going with all this?  I guess I'm just making the point that we bereaved parents are different than other parents.  We think differently and our perspective on life is different.  This is never more apparent to me than during "back to school" season.  Why do parents spend so much time and energy bemoaning the fact that their children are growing up?

I'm still having a hard time trying to put a positive twist on this post.  I guess you can tell that this is something I really struggle with.  In fact, I ran across a quote from Sheila Walsh the other day that I think can be applied to me in this case ... "One of the hardest things for Christian women is to tell the truth about ourselves; we seem to feel obliged to appear triumphant."  Ouch!  She totally pegged me with that one.

Last year, when I angrily read this Facebook conversation to Brad, and told him all the snarky comments I was thinking about adding, he reminded me that these Moms just didn't (and couldn't) understand.  To them, their children leaving home (even if it was only for a short time) was the worst thing that had ever happened to them.  It was my responsibility to extend grace to them, and (gasp!) even pray for them.

I'm working on it.  I really am.  I've tried to be more understanding during this "back to school" season.  And with God's help, I'm doing better.  After all, next year it will be me sending my girl off to college!  And right now, I'm thinking I'm going to be very grateful for cell phones and Skype!!  :)

Oh...I almost forgot!  Here's the obligatory first day of school picture from this morning.  I love this girl!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday -- A Quarter of a Century!

Yes, this photo was taken twenty-five years ago yesterday, shortly after we had been declared Mr. and Mrs. Brad Sullivan at Twin Lakes Baptist Church in Mountain Home, Arkansas.

We were a young couple, still working towards our college degrees at Ouachita Baptist University, but we felt that we were very mature for our age, and ready for whatever life might throw at us.  And life was good ... We didn't have much money, but we had a lot of love, as we finished up our undergraduate years there and then made the big move to Fayetteville to get our master's degrees at the University of Arkansas.  We managed to complete those programs in one year ... two months before Hannah Joy arrived in October of 1991.  The joy of our marriage was multiplied by her arrival, and then multiplied yet again a few years later when Bethany Grace made her appearance in June of 1995.

We spent the next several years moving all around Arkansas, as Brad gained experience as a school administrator.  When we finally landed in Magnet Cove in the summer of 2004, where Brad was about to take on the role of high school principal, things were really looking good for us.  Our girls were growing up ... Hannah was starting eighth grade and Bethany was entering fifth ... we had a comfortable home, good jobs, a great church, and absolutely everything to look forward to in life.

Then our Hannah was diagnosed with cancer, and in a single moment our whole world spun off its axis.  We embarked on a year-long roller coaster ride of radiation treatments, chemotherapy protocols, extended hospital stays, platelet transfusions, and grim prognoses.  We were forced to have conversations and make decisions that no parent should ever have to make.  And then we, along with Bethany, sat beside Hannah and held her hands as she took her final breaths.  It was an awful, awful year.

But, as horrendous as that year was, it could have been worse.  Throughout that time, it was absolutely critical that Brad and I were on the same page, both in practical matters, such as decisions regarding treatment plans, and in spiritual matters, such as agreement about the sovereignty of God.  And I am so thankful that we were.  If we had not been united regarding these things, I literally don't know how we could have made it through.  And that need for unity continues, as we continue to adjust to life without our girl.  Thankfully, God continues to give us new joy through Bethany, and through the ministry opportunities He's given.

As I look at our wedding picture, I fully realize that we are not the same people who walked down that aisle twenty-five years ago.  We are older, we are wiser, and we now live with an eternal perspective that we never had before.  Would I do it all over again?  Absolutely!  Even if I knew that we would face the exact same heartaches again?  Without a doubt!  I can't imagine walking through this life with anyone else.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tell About It Tuesday -- "The Seasons of God" by Richard Blackaby

A few months ago, I received an email (out of the blue!) from Dr. Richard Blackaby.  To say that I was stunned would be an understatement.  You may recognize the name Blackaby from the well-known Bible study, "Experiencing God."  That study was written by Henry Blackaby, Richard's father.  Richard is quite a prolific author himself, and is now president of Blackaby Ministries International.

So how did I come to receive an email from this gentleman?  Let me give you a little background.

Our church has been fortunate enough to have had various members of the Blackaby family come and lead a mini-revival every fall for the last several years.  Henry has come a couple of times, another of his sons, Tom, came last year, and Richard has either accompanied them or come solo every year.  They are dynamic speakers, and we always make an effort to attend every service when they come.

In 2008, Henry and Richard came to our church the last weekend of September.  On that Sunday morning, our family was there, all four of us, along with several members of our extended family.  Our relatives had come to see us that weekend because we had just received the devastating news that Hannah's cancer had returned with a vengeance.  Her oncologist had informed us that her prognosis was very grim.

So there we were in church that Sunday, broken hearted and already grieving.  At the end of the service, our pastor called us to the front, and the congregation spent several minutes praying over Hannah and our family.  After that, we had the opportunity to speak with Richard, and we shared with him about Hannah's prayer for a storm.  He met Hannah that day, and spent several minutes talking with our family.

By the time the Blackabys returned in 2009, Hannah had gone to Heaven.  We spoke to Richard after one of the services, and he remembered all about Hannah and her storm.  And each year when he's returned to Hot Springs, we've always spent a few minutes visiting with him.  I've always been impressed by the fact that he remembers our names from year to year.  He asked us once for our contact information, and we gave him one of our cards.  He stuck it in his wallet, and I assumed that he promptly forgot about it.

Well, I was wrong.  He apparently pulled that card out a few months ago, and sent us an email.  In that email, he asked if we would mind if he included Hannah's story in a new book he was writing.  If it was okay with us, he would send us a rough draft of what he was planning to include for our approval.  Um, yeah ... That was fine with us!  He sent us the rough draft of what he had written, and we heartily approved.  He told her story in a way that we felt truly honored Hannah, and more importantly, honored God.

Yesterday, we received an advance copy of the book in the mail.  And sure enough, there on pages 52 and 53, under the heading "Escape from Mediocrity" is our daughter's story.  It concludes with the lines, "Hannah didn't live long, but she lived well.  And her legacy continues."

I started reading the book this morning, and I can already tell I'm going to love it.  We all know there are seasons in life, and it appears that the gist of this book will be to discuss how we can not just survive, but thrive, in each of these seasons.  I can really relate to that, because that is one of our goals for "While We're Waiting" ... to encourage all of us who have lost children to not just survive, but to thrive, while we're waiting to be reunited with our kids one day.  The book is scheduled to be released on August 21st, and I encourage you to pick up a copy.  And not because Hannah's story is in it ... truly, her story is only a teeny, tiny part of the book ... but because we all need to discover God's purposes for us in the seasons of our lives.

"To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under Heaven."  Ecclesiastes 3:1

Monday, August 13, 2012

Monday Mourning -- Just a Piece of Paper

It's just a piece of paper.  It really shouldn't bother me so much.

I keep it in a fireproof storage box, along with our marriage license, our passports, our social security cards, a few two-dollar bills (just in case they're worth a fortune some day), and a variety of other important papers.

I rarely open that storage box, and when I do, I try to just grab what I need real quick, lock it back up, and put it away.  When Bethany went to FCA camp a few weeks ago, I had to dig through it to find her shot record.  Thankfully, it was close to the top, so I found it easily.  Of course, Hannah's shot record was in there, too, right underneath Bethany's.  Why do I still keep that when I most certainly will never need it again?  Just because I can't throw it away ... It's just that simple.

Then, the other day, Brad asked me to pull out the title to our 2000 Chevy Blazer.  That poor little Blazer has just about had it, and we are hopefully going to be trading it in on a somewhat newer model pick-up truck sometime soon.  Ugh.  I knew that was going to take a little more digging in that storage box.  What if I saw that certain piece of paper that I so didn't want to see?  I swallowed hard, steeled myself, and dug through the papers until I found that title.  Whew!  No sign of that dreaded paper.  I must have it buried really deep ... maybe at the very bottom.  I didn't check, though, because I really don't want to know where it is.  I was just glad I didn't have to see it that day.

So what is this piece of paper that causes such an angst-filled reaction in me?  It's Hannah's death certificate.

Yuck.  I don't even like typing those words.  It doesn't feel like a sentence including those words should exist.  How could there even be a death certificate with my 17-year-old daughter's name on it?

I remember that as we made Hannah's funeral arrangements, the funeral director asked us how many copies of the death certificate we would like.  And I foggily remember asking her, "How many do we need?", instead of screaming "None!", like I really wanted to.  She kindly explained that for older people who had lots of investments, bank accounts, insurance policies, etc., multiple copies of the death certificate were needed so they could be sent to all these different banks and institutions.  For children and teenagers, usually one was sufficient.  "Well, I guess we'll take one, then," I remember saying.

And I remember looking at the death certificate when we got it.  It had the cause of death, the date of death, the time of death, the place of death, the doctor's signature, etc., all clearly spelled out.  And I hated it immediately.  It just made everything sound so legal, so permanent, so real.  I locked it away in that storage box and I've never looked at it again.

Because, in fact, that death certificate is a sadly incomplete record of what really happened on the afternoon of February 26, 2009.  Yes, it records Hannah's physical death and all of its awful details ... but that's all.  It makes no mention of the fact that at the very moment of Hannah's earthly death, she was also born into an incredible spiritual life.  In fact, maybe I could deal with that paper better if I thought of it as a birth certificate ... because isn't that really what it is?  

When I started writing this post this afternoon, I really didn't know where it was going to go.  I knew I wanted to write about that hated death certificate, just because it's been on my mind ever since I opened that box last week to find the Blazer title.  I almost decided not to write this post, because I was afraid it would be too negative.  Oftentimes, like Ann Voskamp has said, I don't really know what I think until I sit down to write it.  Leave it to God to direct me, even as I was writing this post, to the hope that can exist even in something as despised as my daughter's death certificate.  Or, as I'm going to start calling it, Hannah's new birth certificate!  Yes, I believe I like that better.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Ten on the Tenth -- Senior Year Excitement!

In exactly ten days, Bethany will officially begin her senior year!  To say that I am excited about this would be an understatement.  Without further ado, here are the ten things I am most looking forward to this year...

1.  Getting senior pictures made.  Well, actually, I'm not looking forward to this anymore, because we've already done it.  At least we had the pictures that will go in the yearbook taken.  As I arrived at the high school cafeteria, another "senior mom" asked me if I was going to cry.  Um, no.  Why would I cry?  Of course, that's not exactly what I said.  Close, but not exactly.  Anyway, I snapped a picture with my phone while the photographer was setting up.  Loved seeing my girl in her cap and gown!

2.  Bethany's last first day of school.  Taking a picture on the first day of school is a tradition ... I'm sure you'll get to see it!

3.  Her last basketball season.  Last year, the Lady Panthers made it to the elite eight in the state finals.  With four starters returning and an awesome new coach, this could be the year for a state championship!

4.  Her last track season.  Last year, she came in second in high jump at the 2A state track meet.  This year, she's determined to come in first.  Next ... the Olympics!  :)

5.  Senior night.  Brad and I will get to escort her across the basketball court, while an announcer tells about all her extracurricular activities and favorite high school memories.  I remember hiding out in the bathroom during what would have been Hannah's senior night activities.

6.  Powder Puff football.  Our school has a Powder Puff football game each year as a fund raiser for prom.  The junior girls play the senior girls.  Last year, the senior girls one ... this year, I have a feeling they might win again!

7.  Helping her fill out scholarship applications.  Yes, even that will be fun ... I think!

8.  The graduation ceremony itself.  The fact that her dad, as the high school principal, will be the one calling her name and giving her her diploma will make it even more special.

9.  Dorm room shopping!  Of course, all shopping is fun, but dorm room shopping has got to be really fun!

10.  Taking Bethany to college next fall.  This is the one item on the list that I'm not quite so excited about.  For her, I'll be excited.  She's ready ... The girl would skip her senior year and head straight to college next week if she could.  It's beginning to hit me, though, how much I'm going to miss her.  But that's okay ... we'll have texting, and Skype, and weekend visits, and Christmas break ... All of those things will make it much easier!

So why am I really so excited about Bethany's senior year?  Because I am so happy that she is going to have one!  So many parents seem to spend their child's senior year moaning and groaning about how sad they are that their kids are growing up.  They cry gallons of tears over many of the events I just listed above.

Now, I'm not about to say that I'm not going to cry at all during Bethany's senior year.  I probably will.  But they will not be sad tears ... they'll be tears of joy that my girl is growing up.  I've said it before, and I'm sure I'll say it again ... It is not sad when your child grows up.  It is sad when your child does not have the opportunity to grow up.  And that is why, Lord willing, I intend to enjoy every minute of Bethany's senior year!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday -- "A Bruising of a Blessing"

I'm turning back to Joni Eareckson's book, "A Place of Healing" for today's "thoughtful" post.  I've posted several times previously about Joni, including last Thursday.  In addition to her quadriplegia, Joni is now battling chronic pain.  Of course, in the passages below, she is referring to physical pain, but I believe everything she says can also be applied to emotional pain, such as what we experience when we lose a loved one, go through a divorce, or go through a period of severe financial strain.

Here's what she says...

"For pain is a bruising of a blessing; but it is a blessing nevertheless.  It's a strange, dark companion, but a companion -- if only because it has passed through God's inspecting hand.  It's an unwelcome guest, but still a guest.  I know that it drives me to a nearer, more intimate place of fellowship with Jesus, and so I take pain as though I were taking the left hand of God.  (Better the left hand than no hand at all.)

In the meantime, these afflictions of mine -- this very season of multiplied pain -- is the background against which God has commanded me to show forth His praise.  It's also that thing that I am to reckon as 'good and acceptable and perfect,' according to Romans 12.  God bids me that I not only seek to accept it, but to embrace it, knowing full well that somewhere way deep down deep -- in a secret place I have yet to see -- lies my highest good.

Yes, I pray that my pain might be removed, that it might cease; but more so, I pray for the strength to bear it, the grace to benefit from it, and the devotion to offer it up to God as a sacrifice of praise."

Wow.  I love her attitude.  She fully understands and accepts that she may never be healed from her physical pain, so she seeks to find the good in it.  In the same way, our emotional pain may never be fully healed (at least on this earth), but there is good to be found in it.  I love the phrase "a bruising of a blessing."  It's so true.

She closes this section of her book with this statement ...

"To this point, as I pen this chapter, He has chosen not to heal me, but to hold me.  The more intense the pain, the closer His embrace."

"He has chosen not to heal me, but to hold me."  What a beautiful statement of faith, and something to really think about on this Thursday afternoon.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wacky Wednesday -- "No Frills Airline"

I always loved the Carol Burnett show when I was growing up, and Tim Conway and Harvey Korman were my two favorite actors on the show.  I ran across the clip on another blog the other day and thought it was quite relevant today, especially with all the cutbacks going on in the airline industry.  Enjoy!  (Remember, if you receive my blog via email, you will need to click on the title above in order to link to the video.)  

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tell About It Tuesday -- "While We're Waiting" in Wynne

A couple weeks ago, I excitedly posted about the fact that we were getting ready to take "While We're Waiting" on the road.   Well, that date has come and gone, and I have not yet blogged about it!  Actually, that's because although I took some lovely pictures at the event, I ended up leaving my camera in Wynne.  Thankfully, my friend Mary was kind enough to mail it to me, and I'm finally ready to share those pictures with you.

Our hostess for the event was Kim Dillard.  Kim has never personally experienced the loss of a child, but she has a remarkable understanding of and sensitivity to those who have walked that road.  She planned our day around Psalm 56:8, and even created a wonderful visual reminder for us to enjoy...

Kim's loving touch was evident even in the way she decorated the tables, using a number of bottles in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes.  Look closely, and you'll see that she placed fresh flowers in each bottle, illustrating that God can bring beauty from our tears.  Each Mom was able to choose her favorite bottle to bring home with her as a reminder of the day.

She also chose to use a black tablecloth, representing the very dark days we often experience as grieving Moms; but she also chose beautiful bright colors for the dishes and decorations to remind us of the joy that is still available to us as children of God.  Don't you just love those tea glasses?

We didn't feel that we could ask Chef Franklin to come all the way to Wynne for us, so my dear friend Laurie and her husband Jerry stepped in and provided an amazing meal for us!  And as always, I must tantalize your tastebuds with some pictures!

Our appetizer was roasted asparagus wrapped in proscuitto with shaved parmesan...Delicious!

Next was our salad -- an individual caprese salad with tomatoes and mozzarella cheese, topped with lemon vinaigrette dressing and chopped fresh basil.  Yum!

The intermezzo was next ... to cleanse our palates, of course!  Delicious chilled strawberry soup...

This was followed by the main event ... the entree'.  This was grilled balsamic bruschetta chicken with lemon herb pasta.  So good!

Now the part that's always my favorite ... dessert!  This is Laurie's dad's recipe -- "Magic Lemon Icebox Pie" with a graham cracker chip.  So fresh and cool ... just right!

Because what is shared at our Moms' Mini-Retreats stays at our Moms' Mini-Retreats, I'm not going to reveal any of the personal stories of these dear ladies.  Let me just say that we had an amazing time of fellowship together.  Our children in Heaven ranged from the age of five to the age of thirty-six, and their homegoings were all very different, yet the bond that formed between us was instant and strong.  I can honestly say that I will never forget the declarations of hope and and trust voiced by these Moms.  It was truly humbling.  I consider myself privileged just to be a part of this wonderful day.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Monday Mourning -- A Trip to the Dentist

What is a story about a trip to the dentist doing on a "Monday Mourning" post?  Stick with me for a minute, and you'll see.

The summer is drawing to a close, and that means it's time for all those last minute appointments ... haircut, eye doctor, and dentist.  Today was my turn at the dentist.

I rarely went to the dentist when I was a kid.  We had no dental insurance or extra money for twice yearly teeth cleanings, so, unless something was really hurting, we just didn't go.  (Of course there were the four years of braces, but that's another story!)

But, from what little I remember, going to the dentist has really changed over the years.  Back in the day, there were no dental hygienists.  The dentist did everything himself.  And do you remember the little spit bowls?  You'd spit in it, and the spit would suck right down that little drain.  I remember thinking that was pretty cool.  And all paperwork was done by hand, of course.  There were no computers.

Well, now I have dental insurance, which covers two cleanings a year.  So, I'm off to the dentist's office faithfully for my biannual cleanings.  Now there's a bright, smiley dental hygienist who cleans my teeth for me,  and the dentist just comes in for a few minutes at the end.  There's a nifty little spit sucker that you can put right into your mouth, so there's no need for the spit bowl anymore.  And the technology!  Computers are everywhere in my dentist's office, including mounted on a swinging arm right in front of the chair itself.  I can see a whole diagram of all my teeth, including the good, the bad, and the ugly.  My next appointment can be set before I even get out of the chair!

Today, just as I was getting settled into the chair and getting my little "bib" put on, I asked the hygienist a question about Bethany's next appointment.  She tapped on her keyboard for a minute, and up popped up our family's records on the screen.  I couldn't help but feel a little jolt as I saw our names listed ...


Yes, all four of our names were there, but Hannah's was grayed out.  Ugh.

At first, it bothered me a little bit.  I just didn't like seeing her name grayed out like that.  But as I thought about it some more, I realized it wasn't bothering me as much as it once would have.  So I started wondering why not.  I mean, what else was I going to think about while I was sitting there?  

Anyway, I finally came to the conclusion that seeing her name like that, in some strange way, proved her existence.  Now, after nearly four years have passed since she went to Heaven, I never see her name anymore.  And, of course, I know she existed ... she is the very heart of me, as is Bethany.  But sometimes, it's just nice to see her existence validated.  It's nice to see her name included with our family.  It's nice to remember that at one time she did normal "kid" things, like go to the dentist.  It's just nice to see her name.  

And it's nice to know that even though her name may be "grayed out" on the dentist's list, it was written in the Lamb's Book of Life in bold print and all caps.  And her existence now is so much more rich and full than it ever could have been here.  So it was worth going to the dentist today, just for that little reminder!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Free-For-All Friday -- Olympics-Palooza!

We've been watching the Olympics more or less non-stop at our house this week.  I've been a fan of the Olympic games ever since I was a little girl watching Nadia Comanechi score perfect tens.  Yes, ever since I built my own balance beam out of a tree trunk (with my brother's help) and forced my parents to repeatedly watch what I was sure would be gold-medal winning performances someday.  Never mind that I was already 5'8" at the age of 11, and had the coordination of a drunken sailor.  Hey, anybody can have an Olympic dream ... right?

Now, I'm perfectly content to just watch the gymnastics competition on TV ... and hey, how about those USA girls, huh?  I would say they've represented us well.  Here's hoping things start looking up for the guys as the competition goes on.

So, here are a few random thoughts about the Olympics as our theme for this Free-For-All Friday!

  • I always love watching the opening ceremonies.  Last Friday night, we watched them with our good friends, the Browns, in our hotel room in Wynne, on the eve of our While We're Waiting Moms' Mini-Retreat.  I got a kick out of the queen "parachuting" into the Olympic stadium.
  • I think it's funny that we will watch sports that we would never otherwise watch, just because it's the Olympics.  I mean, really, if you were flipping through the channels one evening and landed on water polo, would you stop and watch it?  Or judo?  Or fencing?  Or badminton?  But we watch all of those things, just because it's the Olympics and we want our team to win!
  • Speaking of water polo, how on earth do those people tread water that long?  It makes me tired just to watch!
  • Have you ever noticed that watching the Olympics makes everybody an expert?  "Did you see that step he took on his dismount ... that will be at least a .67 deduction"; or "Did you notice that big splash ... that's because she wasn't vertical upon entry into the water ... that's going to hurt her score."  Of course, I would never say anything like that!
  • Just how many swimming events are there?  No wonder these swimming people win multiple medals (not to take anything away from their accomplishments) ... There are just so many different races!
  • Did you know that gold medals aren't actually gold?  They are 92.5% silver (just like the silver medals), but are plated with at least six grams of gold.  The last Olympic gold medal that was actually gold was awarded back in 1912.  Hmmmm....Who knew?
  • I like the winter Olympics, but I think the summer Olympics are my favorite.  Summer Olympics has gymnastics, diving, synchronized swimming (yes, I know that means I'm a dork), equestrian, track and field, even trampoline events!  All so much fun to watch!
  • These Proctor & Gamble "Mom" commercials are killing me.  Tearjerkers, all of them.
  • So far, my favorite quote from the Olympics has come from Gabby Douglas, after she won her gold medal in the gymnastics all-around.  She said, "I give all the glory to God.  It's kind of a win-win situation.  The glory goes up to Him, and all the blessings fall down on me."  

And I think that's a perfect way to wrap up this Free-For-All Friday!  :)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday -- Suffering and Satan

For today's Thoughtful Thursday, I decided to return to "A Place of Healing" by Joni Eareckson Tada and choose another passage that caused me to think.  Hopefully, it will stimulate you to some thought as well.

I've discussed this book here before, and if you've followed this blog for awhile, you know how much I've appreciated Joni's testimony through her paralysis, her cancer, and now through chronic pain.

Here's the passage that caught my eye this evening...

Referring to Satan, Joni writes, "I believe he views disabilities as his last great stronghold to defame the good character of God.  Suffering is that last frontier he exploits to smear God's trustworthiness.  The Devil relishes inciting people to complain, 'How could a good God allow my child to be born with this horrible defect?' and asking, 'How can I trust a God who would permit cancer to take my husband of only six months?', or wondering, 'Why would I believe in a God who includes Alzheimer's, and autism in His plans for people?'

Wow...She is so right.  And here is what strikes me, personally, about what she is saying.  Even after 3 1/2 years, there are still days when I find myself questioning, doubting, wondering how our family's life could have turned out so differently from what I had always expected.  Then I begin to sink, and my feet get stuck in the mire, and before you know it, I'm slogging through my days with my head and my heart sagging.  And you would think, after all this time, that I would instantly recognize that as an attack from Satan.  But I don't. Sometimes I have to be nearly immobilized by the muck before I realize what's going on.  But once I do finally wake up to it, it's almost a relief.  "Oh, of course ... this is just Satan doing this to me."  Then, through God's grace, I can beat back the enemy and get back to living the way I should while I'm waiting.  After all, he's already been defeated, right?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Wacky Wednesday -- "Chick-fil-A"

Today's Wacky Wednesday post will feature a Chick-fil-A video ... What else, on "Chick-fil-A Day"? We'll be picking up our supper from Chick-fil-A on our way to our While We're Waiting board meeting tonight ... assuming we can even get in the parking lot, that is!  Mmmmm....I've been looking forward to that peach shake all day!  :)

I must say I'm a bit astounded by all the controversy ... to my knowledge, all Dan Cathy did was state that his company supported traditional marriage. He did not come out "against" anything! You might want to take a look at Trevin Wax's blog today, in which he makes the point that the Chick-fil-A boycott is really all about Jesus.  He states that the controversy is not really about homophobia, but rather Christophobia.  I think he's right!

Anyway, just in case all the stress has got you down, this little video might give you a chuckle!  (If you receive my blog via email, just click on the title of the email, which will take you straight to my blog where you can view the video link.)