Monday, April 29, 2013

Monday Mourning -- Rescued

First, let me apologize for the lack of updates over the past couple of weeks.  And I'm afraid it's not going to get any better for the next month or so.  Right now, we are finding ourselves in a headlong dash toward the end of the school year, with some sort of activity every evening.  For example, this week we have ... district tournament softball finals tonight (we won!), a 3-hour drive to Fort Smith on Tuesday night, all-day state track meet at Fort Smith on Wednesday followed by the 3-hour drive back home, academic awards banquet at OBU on Thursday night, and the first two rounds of regional softball tournament on Friday and Saturday.  And the two weeks after that look about the same.

Not that I'm complaining.  Despite the fact that I get to feeling a little ragged sometimes, I'm enjoying every minute of Bethany's senior year activities.  I know that as of May 24th, all of this crazy activity will be coming to an end, and once again, our lives will change, as she transitions to a new chapter in her life.

Anyway, I just wanted to share a brief thought today.  We had our fourth "While We're Waiting" support group meeting last week, and one of the moms said something that I had never really thought about before.  Her young daughter went to Heaven quite unexpectedly ten years ago when a virus attacked her heart.  She stated that she felt like God had "rescued" her daughter from the evil in this world when He took her to Heaven.

Hmmmmm ... that really made me think.  Rescued?  I hadn't ever thought in terms of Hannah being "rescued" when she went to Heaven.  But the more I thought about it, the more it resonated with me.  

There is so much heartache in this world.  All you have to do is turn on the TV or skim through the headlines on the Drudge Report to see how prevalent it is.  Bombings, earthquakes, cancer, addiction, moral bankruptcy, shootings, terrorism, war and rumors of war ... It's enough to really drag you down.  

Hannah was kind of an unusual teenager.  She was very politically aware and was always tuned in to world events. And she worried about what was going on in the world.  I had to frequently remind her that God was in control.  And then she'd be okay for awhile ... until the next big thing happened, and then she'd be worried again.  This was in direct contrast to her cancer diagnosis, which she never seemed to worry about ... or at least she didn't show it.  

Anyway, as I thought about her being "rescued" it made sense to me.  Obviously, she was rescued from the ravages of cancer, but she was also rescued from all the junk in this world.  It brings to mind Isaiah 57:1, which says, "The righteous perish, and no one takes it to heart; the devout are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil."

Rescued.  I kind of like that thought.  I'm looking forward to being rescued myself one day!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Wacky Wednesday -- Wacky Prom Pictures

One of the things I love most about Bethany is her fun-loving nature.  Ever since she was a little girl, she's had a playful spirit.  I guess I enjoy that so much because it is such a contrast to my own personality.  I sometimes think I was born a middle-aged woman!

Anyway, this past Saturday night was Bethany's senior prom.  We took tons of pictures ... mostly serious, but lots of fun ones, too.  Her boyfriend is blessed with the same playfulness, so we had a good time with our amateur photo shoot.  So, on this wacky Wednesday, I thought I'd share some of these fun pictures.

First, one serious picture so you can see what they really look like ...

Now a few pictures taken around our house ...

Then we headed to a nearby river, a very popular pre-prom photo spot ...

Here they are demonstrating how they're going to dance at the prom ...

And, since her basketball shoes just happened to match her dress, we decided to include them in a few pictures ...

I mean, how fun is that?

Finally, I wanted to include my favorite picture of the day ...

Four years ago, I could not have imagined that we would ever have another family picture like this one.  We are a blessed family, and God has been faithful to restore our joy.  Oh, how we miss our Hannah when we have family times like this, but we know we have eternity to look forward to.  In the meantime, we'll continue to "hope for what we do not see, eagerly waiting for it with perseverance."  (Romans 8:25)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Monday Mourning -- Permanent ... Yet Not Permanent

I had a strange thought the other day.

I was thinking about the future ... thinking about how much fun it will be to be a grandmother one day.  I've reached the age where some of my friends are now becoming grandparents, and if Hannah were still here on this earth, at the age of 21, she might be married (I was at her age), and just maybe I'd already have a grandchild on the way.  At least a grandchild would be in the relatively near future, Lord willing.

And as that daydream dissipated, my thoughts turned to Bethany.  She's only seventeen ... but in my thoughts, I decided that maybe in about five or six years, after she was finished with college, she'd become a mom and maybe make me a grandmother.  And surely Hannah would be back by then to celebrate and enjoy the new baby with us.

Wait ... What?  Did that thought really pass through my mind?

Hannah would be back?  Where did that thought even come from?

In all the time she's been gone ... four years now ... I have never once had a thought like that.  And it just came so naturally ... surely she would be back soon.  It literally stopped me in my tracks.  And it hurt.  It hurt to re-realize that Hannah is not coming back, at least not to this place.

A few weeks ago, my heart broke as I listened to a bereaved grandmother as she said she told God that she had learned what He wanted her to learn ... "Now, can this just be over?" she sobbed through her hands.

I think all of us who have lost children have felt that way at some point.  We just want our grief and pain to be over.

We want to know that our loss is not permanent.

But that's where the hope steps in.  While our childrens' absence on this earth is permanent ... this earth is not permanent.  Thank God this is not all there is!  We will see our children again, and we will spend eternity with them, thanks to God's gift of His Son.  Now that's the kind of permanent I can get excited about!

"For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."  2 Corinthians 5:1

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Ten on the Tenth

Wow ... the tenth of the month sure seems to come around quickly these days!  Must be the busy-ness factor ... our days and evenings are just so filled with activity, I sometimes lose the sense of time passing!

Anyway, it is the tenth, so it's time for another list.  And since we just had our fifth While We're Waiting Weekend for Bereaved Parents this past weekend, I thought I'd share my top ten favorite things about the weekend.  Here we go ...

1.  Family Farm is one of my most favorite places in the world.  You can walk onto the property and feel the presence of the Holy Spirit.  I love that we have our retreats here.  The feeling of peace is almost palpable.

2.  I love the time we spend with the animals.  Each one has a name and its own unique personality.  There's something about spending time with God's creatures that's very therapeutic.

3.  I love watching folks figure out how to get across the Islands without stepping into the "molten lava" in between them.  People who just met less than 24 hours ago have to work together to get every member of their team across these wooden platforms using only three boards and a rope swing.  They did it!

4.  I love hearing the Mays, who own Family Farm, share the story of their son, Zane.  We always hear their story at Salvation Station.  Such a beautiful spot.

5.  I got a big kick out of watching this group do the land skis.  Another working-together type activity, with a little competition thrown in.  OK, maybe a lot of competition.  The ladies were waaaaay ahead, 'til the guys got their act together.  Could've been a little cheating involved.  Just sayin'.

6.  I love watching moms and dads who have endured so much loss having fun.  Our kids would want us to find the joy in life ... after all, they are experiencing more joy than we can even imagine!

7.  One of the moms who came from New Orleans brought us a king cake.  She explained to the group that king cake is a New Orleans tradition.  A plastic baby is baked into the cake, and we "worked" all weekend to find that baby.  And it was hard work too ... we had to keep on eating this delicious pastry until we found it!  By Sunday morning, there were just a few pieces left, and the baby was finally found.  There might have been a little cheating involved here, too.

8.  Speaking of food, our 5-course gourmet meal on Saturday night is always a special treat.  Take a look at what we enjoyed ... in order, these pictures are the appetizer, the salad, the intermezzo, the entree, and the dessert.

9.  I love the time we spend sharing our kids' stories and talking about our various journeys.  There is so much wisdom shared in these discussions.  I've gotten to where I keep a notebook handy and jot down things I want to remember.  Here are just a few quotes I wrote down ...

"Why would I be angry at God when He ended my son's suffering?"

"Your perspective in life changes, and your direction in life changes."

"It's not a new chapter ... it's a new book."

"Guard your heart, pick your battles, and use your energy to get better."

Good stuff.

10.  But maybe my favorite part of this weekend came after I got home.  Our parents are offered the opportunity to write comments about the weekend that they wouldn't mind us sharing publicly.  I didn't read what they had written until I got home, but when I did, I was so touched by what they said.  I'll close this post with these...

"Truly amazing weekend!  So thankful for this opportunity!"  ~Raegan's mom

"WWW has been an uplifting and inspirational experience.  I would recommend it to all those grieving the loss of their most precious children."  ~Ben's mom

"What a life changing event!  After our daughter's passing, our lives were forever altered.  Our faith has been strengthened tenfold after attending our first While We're Waiting retreat.  We were just where we needed to be on the anniversary of Kendra's passing."  ~Kendra's mom and dad

"As a skeptic coming in, it only took a few hours with this great group of people of God for me to realize my family had just grown.  Thank you for this amazing, healing ministry."  ~Timmy's stepdad