Saturday, September 29, 2012

Free for All Friday -- on Saturday!

Is it really the 29th of September?  How is that even possible?

The days and weeks seem to be just flying by.  Guess that means we're keeping busy!  Here are a few things we've been up to recently...

1.  Bethany and I went on our first college visit!  She already knows she wants to be a Razorback, and she even has a roommate lined up, so we had a great time visiting the campus of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.  We got the full campus tour, which was fun, and toured a couple of residence halls.  We came home and filled out the online application form ... now we're just waiting for formal approval.  Then, we start the scholarship application process!  The way Razorback football has been going lately, we're thinking maybe she can get a football scholarship!  :)

2.  The day after we got home from our trip to Fayetteville, we had Bethany's senior pictures taken!  The photographer is a friend of mine, and she and her husband create the monthly newsletters for the Anchor of Hope Cancer ministry.  She is a fantastic photographer and you can check out her website here.  She made the session so much fun ... I think she was as excited as we were about it!  We don't have the pictures yet, but here's a sneak peek.  It's not the greatest quality picture ... I took it with my phone ... but you can kind of get the idea.

3.  I've also been keeping busy working on "While We're Waiting" stuff.  In the wake of our non-profit approval by the IRS, I've been doing all of the paperwork necessary for Arkansas approval.  And, just like before, I really have no idea what I'm doing.  Hopefully, I've done enough right to get us approved without any major problems.  

4.  Speaking of "While We're Waiting", I've been humbled and awed by the number of people who have been registering for our upcoming events.  Our Dads' Weekend is coming up in two weeks (Oct. 12-14), and it is nearly full ... we have room for one more Dad if you know someone who might like to come.  Our Parents' Weekend scheduled for November 2-4 is full, and we have had to close registration.  So, wee have scheduled another one for April 5-7, and already have two parents registered.  Our Moms' Day scheduled for January 19 is full, and we've closed registration for that one, but we have already set another one for March 9.  And God is sending folks from all over the country ... in addition to Arkansas, we have from Moms and Dads coming from Texas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, Nebraska, and even New York.  God is blessing this ministry, and we are grateful.

5.  I saw on TV this morning that there are only 38 days until the election.  That's hard to believe.  I cannot imagine an election more important to the future of our nation.  Please, please educate yourself about the issues and vote!

6.  I'm still reading the classics on my treadmill in the mornings ... just finished Don Quixote, and started The House of the Seven Gables yesterday.  I didn't love Don Quixote, but at least now I know what a Quixotic character is when I hear that term.  And you never know when that knowledge might come in handy.

7.  Made some Pinterest cookies this afternoon.  They are awesome ... in fact, they're already almost gone.  So far, I've only tried one Pinterest recipe that turned out to be a total flop.  It's so nice to have some new things to cook for a change!

8.  Looking forward to the cooler weather that's supposed to move into Arkansas next week.  I'm ready for some "hoodie weather"!

9.  I need to close out this post, because it's almost time to Skype with my family in Indonesia ... something I look forward to every week!

Oh, and guess what!?!  I had written about half of this post, then saved it and took a little trip to Wal-Mart.  When I got back home, I checked the mail, and found an envelope from the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration in my box ... addressed to "While We're Waiting".  I quickly tore into it, and Yes!  WWW has been approved as a nonprofit corporation in the state of Arkansas!  Just one more step forward for this ministry!  Praise God!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Tell About It Tuesday -- Drum Roll, Please....!!

It's time for a big announcement.....

The "While We're Waiting" ministry has officially been granted 501(c)3 non-profit status by the Internal Revenue Service!!  

Let me just tell you ... This is nothing less than a miracle.  And here's why.  About a year ago, we sat down with Larry and Janice Brown, the co-founders of While We're Waiting, and discussed our desire to seek non-profit status for this ministry.  We all wanted to do it, knowing that it would open up multiple fund-raising avenues for WWW; however, we had no money to hire an accountant or an attorney to assist us in the process.  And none of us had the faintest inkling about how to set up a non-profit ministry.

So I ordered a book off the internet titled How to Form a Non-Profit Corporation, and basically "winged it."  First we had to file for an employer identification number and register as a corporation with the state of Arkansas, all of which was fairly easy.  We had to write by-laws and establish a board of directors ... no problem.  Then we had the daunting task of completing the monstrous IRS Form 1023 with its multiple attachments.  I did my best to fill that thing out, following the advice of my handy-dandy book, and ran everything past the rest of the board.  Eventually we decided that it all sounded pretty good, and put our signatures at the bottom.  Sometime in January of 2012, I wrote the check for the application fee and stuck it in the mailbox.  I prayed over it as I mailed it ... simply asking that God would allow whoever eventually read it to look upon it with favor.

In a surprisingly short time, I received an official-looking letter from the IRS.  I ripped open the envelope and read the letter.  The writer acknowledged receipt of our application, and explained that non-profit applications are placed into one of three categories.  One, it would be approved with no changes; two, minor changes would be required for its approval; or three, the application required "further development" and would be assigned to an IRS development specialist.

Yes, of course, we fell into category three.  And, wouldn't you know it, there was a backlog in assigning these applications to development specialists, and they hoped we wouldn't mind the inconvenience of waiting an unspecified amount of time for our application to even be assigned to someone.  Oh, but there was a website we could go to to see what month they were working on, in case we wondered how long it could potentially take.

I was not the least bit surprised.  I was sure our application was going to require a LOT more development if it had any chance of being approved, especially since we had no idea what we were doing when we filled it out.

I checked the website, and sure enough, they were about six months behind in assigning applications to development specialists.  Ugh!  Because I knew that once we got assigned to this development specialist, it would probably be like starting all over ... I just knew our application was sorely lacking.

As each month has gone by, I've faithfully checked that website to see where we were at in the process, and for a time, the applications were moving forward at a pretty decent pace.  I was thinking that maybe we would hear something by late summer.  At least we would be assigned to one of these specialists and have an idea what we were dealing with!  Then the process seemed to grind to a halt.  All forward motion on the IRS's part came to an end, and I had begun to think that if we heard something by Christmas, we'd be doing good.  In the meantime, though, I kept praying that whoever that enormous application landed in front of would look upon it with favor.  Maybe they would even be a Christian parent who had lost a child, and they were see the vision of what we were trying to do with While We're Waiting.

Well, this past Saturday, we had one of our While We're Waiting Moms' Days at Janice's home.  We spent the day with five wonderful Moms and heard the stories of the lives of their precious children.  God blessed us with an amazing time of fellowship and encouragement.  It was truly an awesome day. Just as we said good-bye to the last sweet Mom, and she pulled out of the driveway, my husband pulled in.  This was no big surprise, as he and Janice's husband often show up at the end of our Moms' Days looking for leftovers!  :)

When Brad walked in the door, the first thing I noticed was a big white envelope sticking out of his pocket and his bigger-than-usual grin.  My heart and mind were so full from the day we'd just had ... I wondered why he was carrying an envelope in his pocket, but it never occurred to me what it was.  Until he pulled it out and waved it around and said, "Guess what came in the mail today?", and then before I could answer, he hollered, "We're approved!"

I had to see it for myself.  Sure enough, the letter stated it as plainly as could be ... "We are pleased to inform you that upon review of your application for tax exempt status we have determined that you are exempt from Federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.  Contributions to you are deductible under Section 170 of the Code.  You are also qualified to receive tax deductible bequests, devises, transfers or gifts under Section 2055, 2016 or 2522 of the Code."  It did NOT say, "That was the most ridiculous application we have ever received!  What were you thinking?  You're going to have to start completely over from the beginning," like I thought it was going to say.  No development specialist.  Just total approval.

I have probably lost most of you by this point.  I realize that this is probably interesting to nobody but me.  Why go into all this detail?

Simply to show that only God could have done this.

This application was completed by four totally ignorant people sitting around a kitchen table, using only a book purchased off the Internet as a resource ... and God took it and got it approved with no further development required in just nine months time!  From what I've always heard about non-profit applications, that simply does not happen.

For the four of us, it is confirmation that God's hand is on this ministry.  And we are so thankful.

Now for the next step.  We have to learn how to run a non-profit corporation.  Hmmmm ... Wonder if Amazon's got a book about that.....   :)

Monday Mourning -- Every Parent's Ultimate Goal

It seems that I find myself missing the things I'm missing with Hannah more and more these days.  Wait ... What?

Let me try to explain.  After 3 1/2 years, I've almost gotten "used to" her absence.  I don't expect her to  walk in the door after school, I don't check my phone to see if she's texted me, I know she's not going to be in her bedroom in the morning.  Not that I don't miss her presence anymore ... I will continue to miss her until the day we are reunited in Heaven!  It's just that I know I will not see her until then, and I've had to come to terms with that.

What I miss now are the things I'm missing.  The weekend visits home from college, the new boyfriend who might possibly be a son-in-law someday, the shopping trips together ... becoming friends with the woman my little girl grew into.

But let's think about this together ... What is it that every parent wants for their children?

We want them to grow up happy and healthy.

We want them to graduate from high school.

We want them to be successful after high school -- go to college, join the military, or start a career.

We want them to marry a wonderful Christian spouse.

We want them to have children of their own one day.

We want them to serve the Lord in all they do.

I look at this list, and I think ... It is so not fair, and not right, that my child didn't get to do any of these things.  And I didn't get to enjoy seeing her do any of these things.

But let's think just a little bit deeper.  Besides all those things listed above, what is truly our ultimate goal for our children?

We want them to go to Heaven someday.

Isn't that true?  Isn't that why we start bringing them to the church nursery six weeks after they're born, why we have them involved in the church's preschool program, why we bring them to children's choir and AWANA, why we make them go to youth group even when they'd rather stay home and watch TV on Wednesday nights?  Isn't that why we read them Bible stories, whisper bedtime prayers with them, and rejoice when they receive Jesus Christ as their Savior?

We want our children to go to Heaven when they die.

What a great reminder that is to me when I sadly think of all the goals and dreams I had for Hannah that were unfulfilled ... because in an eternal perspective, none of that really matters.

Because my ultimate goal for her has been fulfilled.  She is in Heaven, right where she was created to be ... I'm the one who's out of place.  Thankfully, my parents had the same ultimate goal for me, and because I accepted Jesus as my Savior too, I will be able to join her one day.

What a wonderful thought for this Monday Mourning!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tell About It Tuesday -- The ABC's of Me!

Internet Meme (meem):  A concept that spreads via the Internet.

I've never done a meme before, although I occasionally see them on other people's blogs.  When I saw this one the other day on Melanie's blog, I decided to go ahead and give it a try.  So, on this "Tell About It Tuesday", I guess I'll tell you all about me ... alphabetically!

A.  Age:  46.  I don't know why, but it's never bothered me to tell my age.

B.  Bed Size:  King.  I love my king-sized bed.

C.  Chore that you you hate:  Mopping.  I actually hate any chore that has to do with the floors.  The others really don't bother me that much.

D.  Dogs:  A West Highland White Terrier named Lacee.  You can see her picture in the column on the right.  She can be a little flaky at times, but she brings us a lot of joy.

E.  Essential start to your day:  I don't have to have it, but I sure do like a glass of sweet tea in the morning!

F.  Favorite color:  Um ... I don't really have a favorite color.  Cheesy as it sounds, I like all colors.

G.  Gold or Silver:  Silver!  Of course, white gold is great, too!  ;-)

H.  Height:  5'9", and so thankful that "long" length pants are easier to find these days!

I.   Instrument you'd like to play:  I'd love to be able to play the piano beautifully and effortlessly.  The two years of lessons I took as a kid in Wisconsin didn't really take me too far in that direction.  Maybe if I had practiced like I was supposed to...

J.  Job Title:  Speech-Language Pathologist and Certified Academic Language Therapist.  You just about have to be a speech pathologist to be able to say both of those titles in a single sentence.

K.  Kids:  Bethany, who is a senior in high school, and Hannah, who is living it up in Heaven.

L.  Live:  Arkansas.  When I was twelve years old and moved from Wisconsin to Arkansas, I thought my life was over.  Now, I can't see myself ever leaving Arkansas.

M.  Mother's Name:  Elizabeth Nina -- better known as "Betty"!

N.  Nicknames:  When I was a kid, I was known by my family as "Jilly Bean" or "Jill the Pill".  I guess it depended on my mood that day.  More recently, it's been "Word Nerd" or my personal preference, "The Word Fairy."  I have earned these monikers by being the person who can always be depended upon to give examples of basically any type of spelling rule -- A sometimes helpful skill in an elementary school.

O.  Overnight hospital stays:  For myself, just when my girls were born.  With my second child, my insurance kicked me out within 24 hours.  Three days later, I returned for a more lengthy stay with a raging infection.  I also spent many, many nights in the hospital with Hannah when she was being treated for cancer.  I've never counted them up.

P.  Pet peeves:  Incompetence, complaining, and bad grammar.  Um...Maybe that's where the "Word Nerd" handle came from.

Q.  Quote from a movie:  "You saw me when I was invisible." ~ Princess Diaries

R.  Right or left handed:  Right handed.  If I ever break my right arm, I'm in trouble.

S.  Siblings:  Two brothers.  My older brother is a jeweler in northern Arkansas, and my much younger brother is a missionary pilot in Indonesia with Mission Aviation Fellowship.

T.  Time it takes you to get ready:  That depends on whether you count the hour I spend on the treadmill every morning.  Minus that, it takes me 30 minutes or less.

U.  Ultimate vacation:  Anywhere with a tropical climate, a white sand beach, palm trees, scuba-worthy water, and my family.

V.  Vegetable you hate:  Boiled okra.  Fried okra I like, along with pretty much every other kind of vegetable.

W.  What makes you run late:  Staying on the computer too long  ... Facebook, Pinterest, catching up on blog reading ...

X.  X-Rays you've had:  Not many.  Chest for pneumonia, and my wrist when I fell roller skating in junior high.  Both were negative.

Y.  Yummy food that you make:  Mississippi Mud Cake.  Hannah's favorite, and what I make every year for her birthday.

Z.  Zoo animal:  Penguins!  I even have an app on my phone that allows me to watch penguins live at a zoo in California.  I love how they're so slow and clumsy on land, but can zip through the water with such grace and ease.

So, there you have it.  More about me than you ever wanted to know!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Ten on the Tenth -- Ten Things To Know About Fear

You know, when my daughter was diagnosed with a particularly frightening form of cancer, and subsequently went to Heaven, I can remember clearly thinking I had nothing left to fear in life.  The thing that every parent fears most -- the death of a precious child -- had happened to me, and I had survived.  At least I was still walking, talking and breathing.  And at that point in time, that was surviving.  I even remember it being a strangely freeing feeling -- I was afraid of nothing.

But, as time has passed, fear has begun sneaking back into my life.  Especially as Bethany gets older, nearly surpassing her older sister in age now, and gains more and more independence.  Every time she gets in her car, every time I think about her going to college far from home next year, every time she complains of a headache ... there is fear.

So, when I read a post by Ann Voskamp on her blog a couple of months ago, it really spoke to me.  Ann Voskamp is the author of One Thousand Gifts, which I highly recommend, and her blog is just beautiful.

Anyway, this month's Ten on the Tenth is credited to Ann Voskamp, and it goes like this:

Ten Things to Know About Fear

1.  Don't fear failing.  Fear not obeying.

2.  Fear is a fraud.  Nowhere on earth is beyond the reach of God.

3.  All fear is but the notion that God's love ends.

4.  Your fears don't decide your fate -- Your fears destroy your faith.

5.  We must do that which we know we cannot -- To prove that it's our God who cannot fail.
Our God appoints those who will disappoint -- To point to a God who never disappoints.

6.  Travel in the direction of your fears -- To let God direct your life.

7.  Fear doesn't stop the really bad things as much as it stops you from living.

8.  It's impossible to simultaneously feel fear -- And give thanks.

9.  Everything your Father has for you -- Is over the fence of fear.

10.  Do not feed the ducks, or the bears, or the fears -- Instead, feed your soul on the Word that is the Bread of Life.

I hope you didn't just skim over that list.  There are some really profound statements in there ... some things we can really hold on to when that spirit of fear tries to take over our lives.  What a great reminder on this Monday morning! 

"For God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control."  2 Timothy 1:7

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday -- "How Do You Keep From Losing Your Faith?"

This week, my husband was asked a question by a man who is grieving the loss of a child.  Point blank, this man asked Brad, "How do you keep from losing your faith?"

What a profound question.  We spend a lot of time talking with parents who have lost children, and have discussed lots of questions, but I don't think anyone has ever asked that question quite so directly.

"How do you keep from losing your faith?"

I'm glad he didn't ask me that question.  I'm not good at thinking on my feet ... It takes time (and sometimes writing it out!) for me to fully respond to a question of that depth.  And this guy was clearly not looking for a "Sunday School answer."  Well, you know, all things work together for good... was not going to do it for him.

Ever since Brad told me about that conversation, I've been thinking about the answer to that question.  How did we keep from losing our faith ... after a diagnosis of terminal cancer for our teenage daughter, a year of grueling radiation and chemotherapy treatments, the unspeakably horrifying experience of watching our daughter take her final breaths, and now living without her presence for nearly four years?

Is it because we are some kind of super Christians, with faith that's faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings with a single bound?  Is it because we have some kind of inside track to God, some secret source of strength that no one else knows about?  Absolutely not.  

There is nothing unique or special about us.  Though we have never come close to losing our faith, our faith has certainly been shaken by the events of the last few years.

So, when something truly horrible happens, how do you keep from losing your faith?

For me, it all comes down to holding on to what you know.  When you're going through a terrible loss, your feelings and emotions are all over the place.  They are very real, and very present, but you can't trust them.  Your feelings will tell you that God is not good, that God has failed you, that God can't be trusted.  And, believe me, Satan will take advantage of those feelings to plant those doubts in your mind and in your heart.  You have to accept the fact that those feelings are going to be there ... but you can't let them eclipse what you know to be true.

And what do we know?

  • We know that God is sovereign.  He is not surprised by anything that happens on this earth.  Each one of us has a specific number of days to live, and this was determined by God before we were born.  Psalm 139:15-16
  • We know that God does not change.  Hebrews 13:8
  • We know that God is good.  Nahum 1:7
  • We know that our loved one is in Heaven, if he or she knew Jesus as his or her Savior, and that we will be reunited with them one day.  Revelation 22:3-5
  • We know that we will not be crushed, left in despair, abandoned or destroyed.  2 Corinthians 4:8-10
  • We know that weeping will not last forever, but will be replaced with rejoicing.  Psalm 30:5
  • We know that God is close to the brokenhearted and will save those who are crushed in spirit.  Psalm 24:18
  • We know that God is our Redeemer, and that He will redeem all of our losses one day.  Job 19:25
  • We know that God sees the big picture, and He is able to bring eternal value out of our suffering.  Isaiah 46:9-10.
  • We know that God loves us with an everlasting love.  Psalm 36:7
Does knowing these things relieve our pain?  No, not really.  Our grief is still very real, and can be excruciating.  But, if we remember what we know, it will help us fight off some of those questions and doubts that assail us during these times of suffering.  

Randy Alcorn says, "The faith that can't be shaken is the faith that has been shaken."  This is so true.  I have been so privileged to listen to many bereaved parents describe with tear-filled voices how their faith was shaken to the core when they lost their children ... and how their faith is now stronger than it's ever been.  

"How do you keep from losing your faith?"

By fully leaning on what you know.  

"In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ."  I Peter 1:6-7

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Monday Mourning -- Give 'Em a Hug

Yes, I know it's not Monday ... Sigh.  Might as well get used to my days being a little bit off, now that we're back on the school schedule.  I just can't get posts up when I intend to anymore.  If you can just hang in there until next May, I promise I'll pull it back together.  In the meantime...

I really don't have a lot to say tonight, other than "Give 'em a hug."  Because you never know when you'll be seeing your loved one for the last time.

On Saturday, a boy was walking with a friend in central Arkansas when he was suddenly swept into a storm drain and drowned.  This young man was the nephew of a good friend and co-worker.  I'm sure that when he walked out the door that afternoon and said, "See ya, Mom!", his mom had no idea that her life and the life of her family was about to change forever.  What she would give for just one more hug from him!  My heart has been broken for this family ever since I heard the news.  Thankfully, this little boy knew Jesus as his Savior, so he and his parents will be reunited one day.

Then, this morning, I heard the news that the pastor of my parents' church in Mountain Home was killed in a motorcycle wreck.  He had been the pastor of this church for twenty years.  He was an outstanding member of the community, serving as chaplain for the sheriff's department.  On Sunday morning he was in the pulpit ... on Monday evening, he was in Heaven.  Who would have thought it?  I'm sure his family (and his congregation) is aching for one more hug from him.

I personally know dozens of parents who would give anything for one more hug from their children.  I would give anything for one more hug from my child!

So, what am I saying?  Give 'em a hug.  Every time they walk out the door.  I can promise you, you'll never regret it.