Friday, October 26, 2012

Free-For-All Friday -- Randomness

Free-For-All Thoughts From This Week...

  • Thank you so much to everyone who prayed for us as we marked Hannah's 21st birthday on Monday of this week.  What a difference those prayers made!  I posted a collection of my favorite pictures of Hannah growing up on Facebook that day, and was absolutely overwhelmed by the incredibly kind things people had to say about her.  It's such a blessing and a comfort to know that people still remember and love our girl.
  • Hannah would have been so excited about voting in her first presidential election on November 6th.  Well, actually, I'm sure she would have already voted since we have early voting.  She would have been counting the days until election night, when we surely would have stayed up half the night watching the returns come in.  Huh...Now that I think about it, though, she would have been watching from her dorm room at OBU.  I guess we would have been texting each other half the night as we watched the returns come in.  And hopefully, we would be celebrating when our candidate won.  I remember when I was a student at OBU and was able to cast my first vote in a presidential election ... for Ronald Reagan.
  • We had a friend take senior pictures of Bethany a few weeks ago.  We got the disc of pictures on Wednesday night, and they are amazing!  I'll post a few of them at the end of today's post.  She is growing up to be so beautiful, both inside and out.  I think it's okay for her mom to say that.  :)
  • Got a fire in the fireplace tonight.  So nice to finally have some season-appropriate weather.  Looking forward to a day at home tomorrow.  I'll be spending most of my time cleaning house, but, hey, it's a whole day at home.  My goal will be to not leave the house at all.  We'll see if that actually happens
  • My "Reading the Classics" update ... I just finished reading "War of the Worlds" by H. G. Wells. Great book....a fun read.  I recently downloaded a new app called "Books -23,469 Classics", which has all the classics for free.  It's a free app, although I did spring for the $1.99 and upgraded to the ad-free version.  I didn't really like the ads dropping down into the middle of the book I was reading.  I figure 23,469 free classics should keep me going for awhile.
  • It's hard to believe that we are already nine weeks into the school year.  Actually ten weeks, as of today.  The year is flying by.
  • There will be no Free-For-All Friday next week, because I will be at our While We're Waiting Weekend for Bereaved Parents.  I'm so excited, I can hardly wait for it to get here!  
And now, as promised, I'm going to leave you with a few of Bethany's senior pictures ... Have I mentioned that I love this girl?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wacky Wednesday -- A Bad Lip Reading of the First Presidential Debate

In the middle of this hotly-contested election, I think we need a little bit of levity.  No matter your political persuasion, I think you'll enjoy this little video.  (If you receive my blog via email, you will probably have to click through to view the video.)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Monday Mourning -- Hannah's Fourth Birthday in Heaven

Today my oldest daughter would be 21 years old.  My first thought is, "How is that even possible?  It seems like she was just born a week ago!"  And my second thought is, "How is it possible that she is not here with us on this day?"

If all were as it "should be", Hannah would be in the middle of her junior year of college.  She would have a fine Christian boyfriend, maybe even "the one", who would have come home from college with her this past weekend.  And we all would have loaded up and gone to Briggsville, where we would have met all of her grandparents, and her aunts, uncles, and cousins for a birthday celebration.  We would have ridden 4-wheelers, had a big dinner with all the family, and eaten her favorite dessert, Mississippi Mud Cake.  We would have hugged and kissed her good-bye last night, and she would have headed back to OBU to finish up the semester.  We would've been sad to see her go, but we would know she'd be coming home soon for Thanksgiving and Christmas...

Well, the three of us did go to Briggsville yesterday, and it was an absolutely beautiful drive, with the trees just beginning to display their fall splendor.

We stopped at a little grocery store in Hot Springs Village to pick up some roses, as has become our tradition.  At first, we were a little disappointed that they didn't have our usual red roses, but then some pretty little pinkish-orange roses caught our eye.  Those were the ones!

Bethany removed the petals and put them in our little basket...

And when we arrived at the cemetery, she sprinkled them all over her sister's grave.

We sat on the ground beside her grave for awhile, reflecting on our girl, and even played a couple of songs on my of Hannah's favorites, and Chris Tomlin's version of Amazing Grace....a much-needed reminder that her chains are gone, and she's been set free.

We took a couple more pictures...

And then it was time for a four-wheeler ride.

Couldn't help but chuckle when we ran across this guy.  Yes, he's stuck in the same spot where our "While We're Waiting" Dad got stuck last Saturday.

Finally made it to our destination ... the Rock Hole...

Brad had to impress us with his bravery...

Actually, he just wanted to get this picture up the river...

Bethany couldn't be outdone by her Daddy...

Love this girl so much!

Not exactly the way we would have chosen to celebrate Hannah's 21st birthday, but a good day, nonetheless.  Today, which is her actual birthday, we are planning to eat at her favorite Mexican restaurant, and then come home for some homemade Mississippi Mud Cake.  Then we'll watch the presidential debate, which believe it or not, she would have just loved.  She was quite the political junkie, that girl.

Is it still painful, after the fourth time, to celebrate Hannah's birthday without her?  Oh, yes.  Although it's easier to cope with now, the grief still threatens to overwhelm at times.  I wish I could explain how every fiber of our family's life is different now ... how every detail, every moment, every breath is fundamentally different from what it once was.  I think it's something only another mom or dad who's lost a child can understand.  Or any child who's lost a sibling.

In our limited human minds, things are not as they "should be."  Both of our girls should be here with us, and we should be watching them both grow into adulthood.  My relationship with Hannah should be transforming from mother/daughter to best friends.  Bethany should be sharing secrets with her older sister, and benefiting from her experience and guidance.  Her dad should be making plans to walk her down a rose-petal strewn aisle, instead of kneeling down at her rose-petal strewn grave.

But in God's eyes, all is exactly as it "should be."  Before Hannah was born, He knew exactly how many days she would live.  She didn't live one day more or one day less than she should have.  His purpose for her life was completed in the number of days He gave her.  And while we would have chosen for her to live many, many more days, that was not in His perfect plan.

And one day, Jesus will return, and all will finally be as it "should be."  There will be no more grief, no more pain, no more cancer, no more suffering, no more sin, no more tears.  And what a day that will be!  Even so, Lord Jesus, come!

"My frame was not hidden from You, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them."  Psalm 139:15-16

"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."  Revelation 21:4

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tell About It Tuesday -- The "While We're Waiting Weekend" for Dads

Let me see ... Where do I begin?  There's just so much to say!  From all reports, the While We're Waiting Weekend for Dads was a huge success.  When Brad got home on Sunday afternoon, he was positively giddy.  There's really no other way to describe it.  All he could talk about is how good God is.  I'd been waiting all weekend for him to come home so I could pump him for details about everything that happened while they were there ... and all he kept saying is "God is so good!"

I finally got him to settle down and tell me about the weekend.  And, wow, God really is good.  The guys had an absolutely amazing time of fellowship over the course of the weekend.  Obviously, I wasn't there, so everything I'm going to share here comes secondhand, but hopefully you can get an idea of how the weekend went.  I'm actually going to mostly let the pictures speak for themselves.

Our While We're Waiting Weekends for Dads are held in a very rural part of Yell County, Arkansas.  My husband's family owns a multi-bedroom house and several hundred acres there.  The guys take over the house for the weekend.  There's no TV and no cell phone service, so they have the opportunity to truly get away in solitude.  There is wi-fi available -- They can't be completely cut off from civilization, can they?  ;)

Five dads came for the weekend, plus Brad (my husband) and Larry (the co-host).  My husband's dad and brother also came, and they were the cooks and waiters for the weekend.  The guys all arrived on Friday evening at different times, as they were able to get there after work.  They spent that evening just getting to know each other, not even discussing their kids in Heaven at that point.  Apparently, it was like a big "bunkin' party", because I understand they didn't go to sleep until around midnight!

Saturday morning began with a big breakfast, and then the guys began to share their kids' stories.  I'm not going to share any of that here ... In fact, Brad shared very little of it with me ... The things shared at our retreats are sacred, and often very personal and private.  He did say that their conversation was very deep and rich, as I'm sure you can imagine.

After some sharing time, the guys took off on a four-wheeler ride.  

While they were riding, their cooks fixed lunch and brought a table and chairs down to one of the ponds.  They ate and shared more of their kids' stories.  While they were there, some dogs ran several deer right past where they were sitting.  

During the afternoon, the guys had several more adventures.  They did some more 4-wheeler riding ...

Had a little excitement on the 4-wheeler ride ... Don't worry, they got him out!

Did some arrowhead hunting ...

Success!!  Isn't that a gorgeous arrowhead!?

They visited the "Rock Hole"... The river is a little muddy right now due to the recent rains.

Then they climbed up in deer stands and watched wildlife for awhile...

Yes, those are wild hogs under the deer feeder.  Can you see the piglets?!

When they got back to the house, their cooks had prepared a steak dinner with all the fixin's for them.  They even got to sample bear meat.  Yes, bear meat!  Brad's cousin had killed a bear earlier this hunting season, so there ya go.  Brad tells me it was delicious.

They closed out the weekend on Sunday morning with a time of worship and reflection.  The guys had a lot to share as they closed.  I can't speak for any of the other guys, but Brad came home a changed man.  I'll leave you with one quote.  One of the Dads had driven from a long distance ... he told Brad and Larry that "it was the best six hundred miles he had ever driven."  I think that says it all.

The next While We're Waiting Weekend for Dads is scheduled for April 19-21, 2013, and Brad and Larry are already counting the days!  If you'd like to register, or get more information, please visit our website by clicking here.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Free-For-All Friday -- Random Thoughts

Yes, I know it's Saturday.  Seems like I'm always a day behind and a dollar short lately.  Ah well, what can ya do?

So here are a few random thoughts from the last week or so....

1.  Our While We're Waiting Weekend for Bereaved Dads is going on right now ... even as I type.  And no, I'm not curious at all about what's going on there this weekend.  And if you believe that, I've got some oceanfront property in Kansas to sell you.  I CAN'T WAIT for Brad to get home tomorrow and tell me all about it.  In the meantime, I've been praying for the five Dads who have come from all over Arkansas and Texas to attend this retreat.  Please join me in praying that God will do amazing things in these men's lives over the course of this weekend.  You know, it's one thing when a group of women get together and share their deepest emotions and sorrows ... I'm thinking it's got to be a completely different deal when a group of men does it.  

2.  I got to watch my niece compete in a junior high dance team competition today.  Their family lives in Van Buren, so I rarely get to see my nieces participate in these kinds of things, so it was a special treat that the competition was held in Hot Springs.  I thoroughly enjoyed cheering for her team as they competed in pom, jazz, hip-hop, and kick.  I couldn't help but get a few pesky tears in my eyes as I watched her, though, knowing how much Hannah would enjoy seeing her cousins grow up.

3.  I try not to get into politics too much here, because that is not the purpose of this blog.  But I must say that I've found the two recently-held debates very interesting.  I'm trying not to be too gleeful at this point, but maybe, just maybe the nation is beginning to have its eyes opened a little bit.  We shall see.

4.  I missed Ten on the Tenth this month for the first time since I started doing Ten on the Tenth posts a couple years ago.  There have been a couple of times that they appeared on the Eleventh, but at least they appeared.  Since it's now the Thirteenth, I'm not even going to attempt it this month.  I'll try again in November!

5.  One reason I missed Ten on the Tenth is because I worked that day, and then headed straight to Little Rock for a speech pathology convention.  I spent Thursday and Friday in workshops fulfilling my continuing education requirements for another year.  The meetings were okay ... not great ... but I had a fantastic time catching up with an old friend, shopping, and hitting some good restaurants.

6.  And while we're speaking of the Tenth, on October 10th my parents celebrated their 53rd wedding anniversary!  I am so blessed to have them as an example of a Christ-honoring marriage.

7.  Three weeks from today, we'll be hosting our fourth While We're Waiting Weekend for Bereaved Parents.  This retreat has been completely booked for awhile now, and we have parents coming from Nebraska, Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee, and, of course, Arkansas.  We continue to stand in awe of what God is doing through this ministry.  I would love it if you would join me in praying for these folks.  It takes a lot of courage to come to something like this ... where you'll be sharing the most painful experiences in your life with a bunch of strangers.  But we have seen again and again how God uses these weekends to bring healing and encouragement to these parents.  And we, as the hosts, are among the most blessed.   Thank you so much for faithfully lifting this ministry up in your prayers!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tell About It Tuesday -- CureSearch Walk 2012

We had the opportunity this past weekend to participate in Little Rock's second annual CureSearch walk.  It is a walk to raise not only funds, but also awareness of the prevalence of childhood cancer.

Here are some key statistics about childhood cancer:

  • About 12,060 children under the age of 15 will be diagnosed with cancer in 2012.
  • Cancer is the second leading cause of death for children under the age of 15 (after accidents).
  • Leukemia, brain and nervous system tumors, and neuroblastoma are the three most common childhood cancers.
  • About 1,340 children are expected to die of cancer in 2012.

Unbelievable, isn't it?  While Hannah's cancer (glioblastoma multiforme) is not typically considered one of the childhood cancers, we have seen too many families whose lives have been changed forever by their child's cancer diagnosis to pretend this horrific disease doesn't exist.

This year, we decided to form a "While We're Waiting" team to participate in the walk.  We looked forward to wearing our WWW t-shirts and spreading the word about the existence of this ministry for those parents who might need it.

Well, the day dawned cold and cloudy, with a blustery northwest wind.  Our t-shirts were quickly covered up by jackets and hoodies, but hey, at least we had a team sign!

Before the walk began, a ceremony was held to honor the children who had lost their lives to cancer, as well as those who were survivors.  All of the parents whose children had died were called up to the front, where we were each given a white balloon.  Markers were distributed, and we were instructed to write our child's name on the balloon, along with a message, to be released at the signal.  Then we stood and faced the audience as our children's names were read.  

This was, by far, the hardest part of the day.  Here we were, parents whose children had died from cancer, eye-to-eye with parents whose children were fighting cancer.  We, with our arms and hearts empty, face-to-face with parents clinging tightly to their sick children.  You could see it all over their faces ... They were desperate not to be where we were.  And we, just as desperately, were wishing that we were anywhere but there. It was surreal. Then there was a brief moment of silence, and we released our balloons.  And just like that, the moment was past.

The walk finally began under heavy cloud cover, with lightning flashing along the horizon and the rumble of thunder in the air.  We made it across the Big Dam Bridge ... 

... And were headed back toward Murray Park when the ominous-looking sky opened up, and the rain poured down.  As we slogged through the icy raindrops, we discussed the fact that after you've slept countless nights in a chair beside a hospital bed, watched your child endure painful and sickness-inducing treatments, and held their hand while they took their last breath ... what's a little cold rain?

All in all, it was a good day.  We were able to see several of the nurses who had become like family during our year-long tenure at Children's Hospital, which is always a special treat.  We were able to see a couple of the children who were receiving treatments while Hannah was, and they are doing well.  And we always enjoy spending time with our friends, the Browns and the Smiths.  Two of the Brown's grandkids joined us on the walk, and their presence really brightened up the day.

And it was nice to get home, put on some warm, dry clothes, light a fire in the fireplace, and watch the Razorbacks actually win a game for a change!  

I'm already looking forward to next year!