Happy Birthday

Tonight I asked Daddy what his plans were for tomorrow. He said “Nothing. For the first time in my life I don’t have any plans for tomorrow.”

Tomorrow, March 23, is Momma’s birthday. If you know us then you know that birthdays are big deals. They come with 6 a.m. phone calls complete with a tone-deaf, off-key rendition of “Happy Birthday” being sung. Some voices are louder than others, and some are more chipper. But it’s all done with a half-awake, full of love heart and joy! Of course no birthday is complete without the favorite dinner followed by Daddy’s homemade strawberry shortcake and ice cream. And because no one can agree on one single flavor of ice cream in our house there’s always a smorgasbord to choose from, kinda like stepping into Baskin Robbins.

Hales and I loved the shopping for her cards. It was a challenge to find a good, spunky, sassy card that will top the belly laughs from years past. But let me tell you, Hales is a GOOD finder of cards that are “spoken like a true smart-ass!” (Claree Blecher, Steel Magnolia’s) Honestly, it’s a trait in our family. Or a squishy one that’ll make her cry more than the year before. I miss that and hadn’t realized till now how much I do. Or watching the kids help her blow out her candles. Oy vey. There should be a guide-book for all of this – at least one with suggestions!

I hope you enjoy your first birthday in heaven, Momma. And I hope you like the flowers we’ve placed at the cemetery. Daddy takes such great pride in having everything look nice for you. He’s itching to get out there and check on them for you, but the rain. It. Just. Keeps. Coming. Please tell God we’ve had enough. And while you’ve got his ear, please tell him that this family is full of soooo much character, it’s oozing out of our eyeballs. He can relax on us for a little bit. I think the lottery would be a nice compromise.

I love you Momma, we all love you…bunches and bunches and more than this world!

And Happy Birthday!

xoxoxo

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“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” ~James 1:12

….and she did.

Greater is He who is in me, than he who is in the world

This is what we’ve become. Day counters. When I walked into the kitchen this morning and glanced at the calendar, this is what was staring back at me. A reminder of time lost. Three long months.

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Subconsciously I was keeping score of what has been ripped from me but I had know idea that the kids were too. Funny how I thought on some level that it was just me in my crazy thinking. Not so at all. And if it is crazy, then my whole family is in the boat with me. And that’s comforting….in a weird way? They’ll jump ship on me.

It’s horrific that we all know someone whose life has been affected by cancer, if not our own. An online GBM support group that I’m apart of has over 3,000 members with new members being added daily. Think of all the time that’s been robbed from them. GBM is classified as an “orphan” disease meaning that it affects fewer than 200,000 people in the US. It has a median survival rate of 14 months. It doesn’t get all of the attention that breast cancer, colon cancer, skin cancer or any other cancer does. Wanna know why? Because there’s no cure for it. And there’s no federal money being put into research for it. Just within the last month I know of three people diagnosed with GBM and another two families who have battled GBM to the end. I think the numbers need to be re-looked at.

Considering the trauma we’ve experienced, I’d say we’ve all done ok. Some days are better or easier than others. They all hurt. But in those moments when it’s the darkest, it’s easy to let the enemy get a foot hold. To allow him to plant those seeds of doubt in my mind. To relive the not so nice moments over and over like a projector has been installed inside my brain, running continuously. And I go back to the many Bible studies that I’ve done – that Momma and I did together, and I remember to capture those thoughts and images. Taking every thought and making it obedient to Christ is sometimes not easy – but it’s the only way. “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” ~ 2 Corinthians 10:5

I remember when I was little and would have a bad dream and call out to Momma in the middle of the night. She would come sit beside me and rub my back and in the softest, sweetest voice she’d redirect my thoughts to a happy place – my favorite place to be….on the beach. And I could imagine us building sand castles, playing in the crashing waves, listening to the ocean and birds above squawking at us for a just a drop of boiled peanut, a chip or a crumb of fried chicken, walking our dog. And those bad thoughts would be captured and good ones would replace them and calmness would return.

Over the last few weeks in Kids Church we’ve walked through Jesus’ baptism, his temptation in the desert and his healing of Peter’s mother-in-law. I don’t believe for an instant that the lessons I’ve been teaching the children are coincidental with where I am. I think they were for me. I always tell the kids that you may hear a Bible story 20 times BUT if you really listen with your heart and your mind, you’ll hear something new. Always. After Jesus was baptized and the Holy Spirit came down on him and he heard God speak, he goes right out into the desert to be tempted by Satan – for forty days with angels attending him. For forty long days Satan tried every temptation to break Jesus. Mind games. And Jesus used God’s word against Satan.

And. He. Won.

God always wins. Hebrews 4:15-16 tells us that Jesus absolutely can sympathize with what we are going through because he has been through it all himself and we can approach the throne, with confidence that we will receive grace and mercy and help in our time of need. He is FOR us!

So when those mind games start, I have to remember who I am in Christ. I have to remind myself of all of His promises for me. I have to search for Him in all of it. I do know that He has great plans for me. I don’t believe for a minute that my great God makes bad things happen. But he does allow us to walk through the muck and mire, learning to navigate it. To experience it. To learn from it. Sometimes we get stuck in it but He can rescue us and use it all to help us grow. As I tell my kids, it’s called character building.

And that’s about the time they give me the eye roll. And yes, I sometimes roll my eyes too.

And when I capture those bad thoughts or images and replace them with God’s truth, it’s then that I can recall all the good times and great memories that I have and be joyful and thankful for them. It’s in those moments that I can hear her voice, hear her laughter and feel her next to me….like right now.

Thank you Jesus for all that you’ve done for me. All that you will do for me.

So long 2014, be good to us 2015…

Well. Here we are. It’s New Year’s Eve and somehow, someway we’ve survived. We made it through a lot of firsts without Momma in the last two months. A 47th wedding anniversary, my birthday, Jackson’s birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and I think we’ll make it through to the new year. It’s bitter-sweet for us to say good-bye to 2014, BUT let me tell you something 2015, you better have a much better plan for us!

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Please Lord, I beg of you, let 2015 be a great year for our family.

So how did we do it? To be honest, I’m really not sure. Some days we just ran on autopilot. But this is what I’m learning along the way….

To take care of myself and listen to me and follow what I’m feeling. I give myself permission to say NO to people, invitations, whatever and it’s ok if I need to back out at the last-minute. It’s ok for me to want to be alone and it’s ok for me to want to surround myself with friends. And you will find out who you friends are.  It’s ok to cry. Even in front of people. In front of strangers. In front of my kids. They’re struggling too and it does them no good for you to make them believe that all is well with you. They will understand and through this you are giving them the permission they need to express their own feelings and open up more to you. It’s ok that some days all I can manage is to get out of the bed and make it to the couch. It’s ok to laugh and smile and not beat myself up over it and feel guilty (I have to remind myself of that constantly). I have a new normal and I’m trying it on to see just how it fits and feels.

Sometimes traditions need to be put on hold or changed all together. So what that we didn’t do a Christmas Eve dinner after church service this year and instead we ate backstage with the worship team. We didn’t make a birthday cake for Jesus and I’m sure He understood. But I do secretly admit in not doing the birthday cake I was hoping that it would’ve catapulted the second coming. As you see, no such luck. We didn’t ride around town looking at everyone’s decorations and yet the world continued to go on.

It’s ok that it’s all not ok.

We keep Momma’s memory alive. We talk about Momma openly. Whatever comes to mind we say. And often it’s all the things that she would’ve said to us. I love remembering her out loud. I love that my kids talk about her all the time. That Daddy and my Aunt Jo (her sister) and I can share stories of her over the phone and over lunch. And laugh. And cry. And then laugh some more.

The other day Daddy and I were at the cemetery and I did something completely in character of me and graceful and Daddy laughed so hard and we both said exactly what Momma would’ve said to me. And it was lovely to hear him laugh that deep laugh from the heart and gut.

I’ve also learned that I can’t do this on my own. If I try I’ll get stuck in the muck and mire of all the horribleness of this tragedy. So I’ve reached out to a counselor – I’ll let you know how it goes. You know there’s gonna be some good stories. But in the meantime, I’ll keep putting one foot in front of the other. Taking one step at a time and with each night I’ll continue to ask in my prayers that Daddy will feel Momma’s arms wrapped around him and she’ll visit us in our dreams.

Happy New Year’s, Momma. We love and miss you hard!

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

I did it my way…

A week ago today hospice told us that Momma had entered the transition phase. Her body is preparing for death and her spirit is preparing for its journey Home. Last Rites were administered and the family was called to come and say their goodbyes. And now, we sit and hold her hand. Whisper “I love you’s” in her ear. Kiss her on the forehead. And wait. And remember all the good times. All of them. Because that’s the only way we can do this.

Can I call a time-out on all of this? Surely you know God what control freaks we all are and yet we have no control over Glioblastoma?

I remember when I was pregnant with Haley I began having panic attacks about the whole birthing process. So about two months before my due date I decided that I wasn’t going to give birth and she would just have to stay in my tummy. And that was that. I was in complete denial. Right up until the moment that they sent me in to be induced. But I showed them. After 36 hours of laboring I still wasn’t dilated so an emergency c-section was done. There was no way I was pushing a baby out of me. The McDonald’s have a strong will about them. We like to do things our way. Sometimes it turns out good and other times it backfires on us.

The fear of not having control can be so suffocating. I feel like if I hand over my control I’m also handing over my mom. How can I give up someone who I love so much? How will I be able to go on and raise my kids without her advice? How will we be able to celebrate without her? I don’t know how to do this. I don’t want to do this.

But I know in my heart I’ve got to. Give it up. Let it Go.

Lord, give us the strength and the courage to do the hard.

And that’s what we’ve been working on this past week, letting go and giving Mommy the permission she needs from us to let go too. I’ve never done anything harder in my life until I told my mom yesterday that she didn’t have to fight anymore and assured her that we’d take care of each other. That it was okay for her to grab Jesus’ hand and go with him. We would be okay. And in time we will.

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Everyone’s journey Home is different. The nurses keep telling us what to watch for but as you know we don’t follow the textbook guidelines. And just as she’s done all her life, Momma will do this in her own way – as she should. Can’t you just hear Frank Sinatra singing “My Way” through all of this?

But I also love the way my Daddy looks at it….”Jesus is still preparing her room in His house.” And that makes me smile. Oh, yes He is.

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen ~ BCP