Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Fourteen Years (4 months late in posting)

Yesterday, May 6, 2019, marked fourteen years since Todd went to heaven. That may sound like a long time to many of you, and some may even think, "Oh, she has surely gotten over the pain and is no longer grieving after all those years." But I wanted to write tonight to let all who read this that no one ever "gets over it" or stops grieving. Ever.

The reason for this is because Todd is always present in some way, whether it be in memories, in pictures on the walls, in my children's faces and mannerisms, his empty place in bed or at the dining table, movies or television shows that we watched together and now watch together without him, mail addressed to him that still comes, phone calls asking for him (yes, I still get those), forms asking for my marital status, making decisions by myself, doing chores that were once his (I really hate scrubbing the tub!), taking the van and car to get inspections and repairs, signing permission slips as a single parent, sitting in church without him with couples all around, making his favorite meals knowing he won't be eating it, and so many, many more. See, we live with him still present in these things every single day. There has never been a day that passed since he went to heaven those 14 years ago that he hasn't been in my thoughts.

Every night I ask God to somehow make it possible that Todd knows we still love him and miss him, and often to let him know that we are doing well. Especially after major milestones in the kids lives: Please, Father, let Todd know Toby was on the Honor Roll again with all A's! Please, Father, let Todd know that Winter has become an awesome writer and has the same gift of singing like he has! Please, Father, let Todd know Tiffany fell in love and got married! Please, Father, let Todd know that Katrina has become an incredible young lady who loves You and seeks to serve You in everything! Please, Father, let Todd know that Nathan bought his own house! Please, Father, let Todd know that Abe has been doing a great job at his workplace and how very proud he would be of Abe's work ethic, never missing days or goofing off.  ....and on and on it goes. Every night.

I just wanted people to know that even though it's been fourteen years, we still miss Todd/Daddy, and always will. And it still hurts...especially on these kinds of days. There are still nights where I cry myself to sleep, or cry when I think no one is looking when the loneliness consumes me.

Grief remains. And the pain can be around any corner or any bend, but always with change or milestones.

This broken heart will only be whole again in heaven, and this is my hope! This is how I keep going. One day there will be no more tears and no more grief. Until then, we keep going. One day at a time.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Day By Day...

..and with each passing moment!  ...strength I find, to meet my trials here.

I often recall that Thursday morning, the day before my dear husband passed, standing next to his bed and watching him struggle to breathe. A great man of God and his sweet wife were visiting with us. With tears streaming down my face, I confessed to him that I didn't think I could take any more. He wisely asked, "Can you just make it to the end of today?" This was in the morning, and I began to shake all over and sobbed, "No."
He quietly said, "How about making it to dinner time? Do you think you can do that?"
"Just make it to lunch. Do you think you can make it to lunch?"
"OK. That's fine," he said softly and gently. "Let's try to focus on the next hour. Can you try to make it through this next hour?"
I looked at Todd, heard his raspy breath, saw him laying there so still, knowing he was in pain, then put my head down and cried, "I can't make it another hour, Pastor. I just can't."
"Alright, then. Let's do this by the second. By the moment. You've just made it through three of them. Now keep going. Breathe." And then he prayed. He prayed for me, for Todd, for the children, each by name, and then for me again. That was more than a few moments! I had made it. I still needed to focus on those moments through the day, but eventually it got to be minutes. Then I was able to move to hours. And you know, baby steps: a few hours strung together, eventually days, weeks, and now, once in a while, a whole month.

I can't tell you how many times I think of the words to that hymn, Day By Day. Through all of these 13 years and 9 months, God has always been here. He has never left me. He has been so faithful. And He gives me the strength for each moment and yes, each day!

A few months ago I came to that point again of thinking I couldn't go on. Through this past summer, my health was not great. Among other problems, the dermatologist found a basal cell skin cancer mole on the side of my nose and another group of irregular cells higher, but near to the other mole. Since my daughter was to be married in August, we decided to have the basal cell removed in early September, which we did and all went well.
For that other group of "build-up of irregular plasma cells," I was told it was not cancerous, but that I needed to see a specialist: a hematologist/oncologist. That sounded cancerous to me! Once there the specialist explained I had "Extramedullary plasmacytoma," which basically is cancer, but not like normal cancer. He did his best to explain this to me, but also said it could be a sign of other plasmacytomas in other places in my body, like my bones or bloodstream. In other words, this could be a sign of leukemia or another kind of cancer in my body. I have to be honest, and say these words did not phase me very much. I have been longing for heaven for 13 years! However, telling the kids would be difficult. That's when I became concerned....for them. One was married in the summer, and another moved to his own home,  but that still leaves 4 kids at home, with our youngest being only 15.

Well, we all began taking each day as it came. Day By Day....again. Over the next few weeks were a series of tests: first there was the bone marrow biopsy, which thankfully was normal. Then there was the PETscan, which again, thankfully was normal. Then they did a CTscan and set me up to do radiation in order to get rid of the apparent single plasmacytoma on the side of my nose. Day By Day...sometimes Moment by Moment.

Radiation treatment involves 5 days a week for 5 weeks. Day By Day. Each morning they need to numb my right eyeball and slide a lead shield over it to protect it from the radiation. Moment by Moment. Then they place a mesh mask over my face and head. Moment by Moment. Then they make sure I can breathe, tell me to stay still, and leave the room. Moment by Moment. Then I hear the humming noise and, although my eyes are taped closed, can "see" the light. Moment by Moment. When it's all done, they come back in the room and remove the face mask and lead shield, and place a patch over my eye. I can't drive for 20-30 minutes, so I need to sit in the waiting room until I am able to drive. Day By Day.

Admitingly, it's not easy to pass these signs every day, but it has allowed me to see a whole different world. A privileged world. A world of men and women who struggle every day, yet who smile and are willing to share their story to a stranger. After the first day, they are no longer strangers. They are comrades. They are fighters. I pray I am able to help them in their fight, and share some Light in their weary days.
Currently I am midway through my 4th week of radiation! Side effects are minimal, but beginning to cause conflicts with work.

I was so excited and thrilled to be blessed with one of the best jobs I have ever had! I now work as a tutor for Brandywine Academic Services, and the owner is a believer in Jesus Christ! It is such a blessing to work for someone who I know is praying for me and who wants to run her business as a mission to honor the Lord. I have been really enjoying working with each new student God has allowed me to tutor!

And despite the itchy, sore, red eye, bright red spot on the side of my face, and fatigue setting in, God has provided the strength needed for each tutoring session! Day By Day. There have been some days where I just don't feel like I can make it, and in those days, God miraculously changes the schedule to provide the rest needed. Every. Time. !!!  Day By Day.

Through all of this, I have been enlightened to things I don't believe I ever would have been, had it not been for the trials. First, it's a lot easier (at least for me) going through the trial myself, than watching a loved one go through the trial. Second, the closer I am in walking Day By Day and Moment by Moment to an Almighty God, the more I am able to see Him at work in the details, and that's amazing! Just amazing!

My prognosis is good for now. They will be checking my blood every 6 months to be sure no other plasmacytomas show up anyplace else.

Trials are tough. But walking Day By Day and Moment by Moment, can strengthen your faith and allow you to rejoice in your Amazing Father like nothing else can.

I know I have copied these words on this blog before, but they are always a blessing to me, and I pray to you as well!

Day by day and with each passing moment,
Strength I find to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father's wise bestowment,
I've no cause for worry or for fear.
He whose heart is kind beyond all measure
Gives unto each day what He deems best--
Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

Ev'ry day the Lord Himself is near me
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear, and cheer me,
He whose name is Counselor and Pow'r.
The protection of His child and treasure
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
"As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,"
This the pledge to me He made.

Help me then in eve'ry tribulation
So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith's sweet consolation
Offered me within Thy holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
E'er to take, as from a father's hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till I reach the promised land.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Another Christmas...Come and Gone

Christmas was a little different this year. It's been "different" for 13 years now since Todd left us for his eternal home in heaven, but this Christmas season had it's very good moments and it's difficult days as well. I think it's been the most different and difficult since those early years after Todd died. Our family is growing and moving, so the tight-nit closeness of just "us," left to survive with only each other, wasn't felt this year. And I suppose that is a good thing. I suppose, in reality, this is a very good thing for our family, as we are no longer feeling that "survival" mode, getting through the hard times alone, but now the family is putting those things behind and learning to cope and grow as individuals.

Our youngest is fifteen now. She barely remembers Daddy, as she was only two years old that first Christmas without him. Of course she doesn't remember any Christmas with Daddy, so this Christmas was one similar to all others for her. And that is good.

Our 24 year old daughter got married in the summer, so I know this Christmas was very special for her: the first spent with her new husband! And that is good.

Our 27 year old son bought a home in the summer and had moved there just two weeks before Christmas. So I know this Christmas was filled with new excitement for him as well! And that is good.

Our 19 and 26 year old daughters and 29 year old son are doing well in college and jobs and have been quite successful in both academics and careers. They are all maturing into adulthood and settling nicely with their grown-up lives, so this Christmas, for them, was happy and well. And that is good.

For me, this was a big time of adjustment, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I know, especially around this time of year, I need to be thinking truth and constantly repeating God's Word, His promises, and Truth over and over in my head or I would spin into a downward spiral that would leave me in a pit of depression and self pity. I know this, because I've been there many, many times through the years! But I was determined this year to not end up in my room alone, crying for hours. I wanted to be a part, so I leaned heavy on my good God to get me through.

One thing that I was so excited about was making snowmen packages for all the kids (including a spouse and girlfriend)!
 They seemed to really enjoy them, and Katrina even added yellow tissue paper to her younger sister's, Tiffany's, snowman and explained our dog must have peed on hers!

 The kids also surprised me with my own snowman they had made for me, too!

 Christmas Eve, when everyone went to bed, I placed hats on all the snowmen for an added surprise on Christmas morning! I had a lot of fun with this and everyone seemed to really enjoy this new twist to our Christmas routine.

Even our dog enjoyed the festivities! 

Admittedly, there were tears as I cried myself to sleep on several nights, longing to share my heart with Todd and have him experience all of the joy and heartaches of raising these children into adulthood, but God was there with me. He is here with me now and will be with me in the coming days! I am so grateful that I can share everything with Him. He understands. He loves me. And He cares. I am resting in these truths through this Christmas season, and I am so, so very thankful for our good, loving, and caring God! May you experience the same in your life, not only this Christmas, but every Christmas God allows us to be here with our families!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

New Job. New Revelations. And Farewell to an Old Aunt.

Ok, so I began working for an online tutoring company to help students with the writing of their papers, most of which are college students. The students submit their papers, and I "review" their work, always commenting on the reasons why I suggest they make certain corrections. It's tedious. Each comment must be carefully worded, so that I do not edit or otherwise make changes myself to their papers. It is their work; I only can make suggestions.

I've noticed two things while reviewing college papers. One, there is generally a major lack of understanding English grammar and applying such knowledge to writing academic papers in today's college classes. Two, there is also generally a major lack of knowledge of the truth and moral integrity in today's college students; many papers are filled with doubt, immorality, and a sense of feeling lost.

I don't consider myself "old," despite the many comments from my children; however, I am realizing that the older I get, the farther away the youth are getting from Biblical truth and moral integrity (and seemingly, the farther away from an intellectual academic standard). Growing up, I was not perfect in any sense of that word, nor was I gifted intellectually. However, I was taught and given examples of moral integrity and a striving for excellence in my schoolwork that is far above what students are exhibiting today.

My aunt went to heaven yesterday. She lived a long life, and I will cherish the memories I have of her while I was growing up. You could definitely title her, "old school." By that I mean she had high standards for living and loved the Lord her God. She was "proper." I remember several lectures while growing up and even in my early married years. "Wendy, you ought to know it isn't proper to..." or with that smirk and lifted eyebrows, "Wendy, you know better!" There was one particular instance when she stopped playing a game with us because she refused to play with a cheater, one who did not strictly heed to the rules during play. It was on principle. She would not participate in such a game. I tried to explain we were only joking around, but it didn't matter. It was cheating. (Note: I was the cheater.  We were playing Pictionary and I got desperate and wrote the word after trying so hard to draw the word for Todd to guess. We won that round. But my aunt moved to the living room and would not finish the game with the rest of us, leaving my uncle to fend for himself.)

So what is my point exactly? I'm not sure. I was just thinking about my aunt while working at my new job today. I miss her. I miss the "old school." I miss the days where Biblical truth and moral integrity abided with the majority. May God help the older generations to stand for truth and to strive for excellence and to be good examples for the youth.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Trusting God

When I realized my webpage about Winter Hope was soon to be coming down, I decided to take screen shots of the entire site. I found the following pages on Trusting God very encouraging, and hope you find encouragement as well.

"I just keep trusting my Lord..."

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Making Dinner

Ever have a meltdown? When you just want to give up because the pain and hurt and brokenness feels too much to handle anymore? And you just want to give up? And quit? This happened to me last night while I was making dinner.

While preparing I began a head count, as I always do, and realized there would only be three kids eating that night. Tiffany, of course, is now married. Nathan works late and I never know if he'll be home for dinner, but lately he's been stopping by his new house and doesn't get in until late, so he eats leftovers or whatever he can find in the cupboards. Abe had texted me telling me he wasn't going to make it for dinner because he needed to stay late for work. That left the three remaining girls. I looked at the dining room table and thought we might as well eat in the kitchen. Todd had always loved eating at the dining room table, so for several years after he passed, I hated eating out there. It left this big gap at the end of the table where he always sat, and I just didn't like staring at the empty seat. So we began eating in the kitchen; there was still an empty chair, but it was somehow more manageable for me. Until I discovered the kids liked eating in the dining room because it reminded them of Daddy and there was more room, etc., so I decided to start eating out there again. Eventually I got used to it and eating in the dining room once again became the norm. But tonight we would eat in the kitchen.

I tried to cook less food as I could feel that knot in my throat and tears forming in the corner of my eyes. I knew it was inevitable, but it all happened so fast. From eight, to seven, and now to four. I began to open a can and my can opener stopped working. It was the portable kind...the one Todd bought me because we didn't have the counter space for the normal kind when we lived in the condo. Over the years, I came to love my can opener. It was unique. No one could use it correctly except Todd and I, and now only I could master it. But right now, it wouldn't turn. I unplugged it and started working on it. I wanted to call out for Todd and ask him to fix it. It's been over 13 years since I called him to help me fix anything, but that's the first thing that came into my head. I missed him. I always seem to be missing him, even 13 years later and especially when things change and I feel I need him. I tried to open the can again. Nothing. I couldn't ask Nathan or ask Abe; they were both at work. "Why?" I asked out loud. I may have been asking God. This wasn't fair. This was my cherished can opener and now it wasn't working. How was I going to open the can? Dinner was ruined. Why even bother? The girls can eat cereal. I wasn't hungry. No one cares anyway. Leaning against the counter in utter dismay, I wanted to walk away, crawl under the covers, and quit. Making dinner wasn't worth it. Just living wasn't worth it without Todd and the kids. I asked God directly this time, "Why? What lesson do you want me to learn from a broken can opener and ruined dinner with no one to cook for anyway? What do you want me to do right now? I'm lost and hurting and don't want to go on. I just can't take anymore. I've been missing Todd for too long now. Every. Day. For over thirteen years! I can't do this parenting thing by myself anymore. I want heaven. I'm done."

I looked at the can opener on the counter. I looked at the unopened can. I decided to try one more time before throwing the can opener in the trash and going to bed. Guess what? It worked! It started right up and did it's normally perfect opening job! I began to cry. No, weep. Alone in the kitchen I suddenly realized that God heard my prayer, my call for help, and saw my hurting heart. He was right there with me! Todd may not have been there, but God my Father most certainly and obviously was!  And then I started thanking Him.

"Thank you, my precious God and Father! It was something so small, yet You fixed it for me! Thank you for this can opener. Thank you for the incredible gift of a man who bought me this can opener. Thank you for all those years we had together and how wonderful he was to me. Thank you for my kids. Thank you for Brad. Thank you that Tiffany found a godly man she could spend the rest of her life with! Thank you for Abe and his job and his hard work. Thank you for Nathan and for his new house. Thank you for Katrina and the job she has and for all of her help around the house. Thank you for Winter and for allowing her to be here with us, healthy, after so many medical issues and life-threatening concerns through the years! Thank you for Toby and her sweet personality, contagious smile, and love for life and care for others. Thank you for my kitchen and for my dining room! Thank you for the many, many blessings you have given to me! Oh, thank you, my Heavenly Father, for loving me and taking such good care of me. And forgive me for those crazy, unchecked thoughts, that seemed to go out of control just a moment ago."

Then I noticed this on my window sill. I'm certain it was my Father's gentle reminder.
I know, I know....what is it? It's supposed to be a thought tree. A couple of years ago I went on a ladies retreat where we made these silly crafts. I'm not a craft person, and I did not enjoy trying to complete the craft, especially when everyone around me was doing a fabulous job. Yes, I know. I wish I had a picture of how it is supposed to look, but the idea was to make a craft that would remind us of the lesson...watch our thoughts. Make good thought roads or tree branches. Stop the wrong thinking, and begin making and creating thoughts that would lead to other good thoughts so that it will become a pathway in our brain. Because, let's face it, typically our thoughts keep going wrong until we totally defeat ourselves, like I almost did while making dinner last night. It's so easy to do.

I remember a book my Mom made me read when I was a teenager called Telling Yourself the Truth. It basically had the same principles, and it all boils down to Philippians 4:8 which says: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."  

Keep a check on your thoughts today! Make good thought roads, and keep telling yourself the truth of God's Word: Father God loves you. Father God will never leave you. Father God wants the very best for you. Father God is so very faithful and so very good. 

May God help us to watch our thoughts. Do not allow them to run out of control and into wrong thinking! Think the truth! ...and be thankful. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Tales of Seven Kids!

It's official!  Time for a name change for my blog!  My daughter got married this weekend, and although I don't have any official pictures yet, I did manage to get a few. But first, look at the thoughtful gift my daughter and her new husband gave me...
                                                   ...a new charm!  Todd had gotten me a necklace with the charms of each of our kids birthstones.  Now I have seven...they added the one in the middle, next to Tiffany's.  They are in age order: Abe, Nathan, Katrina Joy, BRAD, Tiffany Grace, Winter Hope, the baby in heaven angel, and Toby Faith!

The wedding was beautiful, and all of my kids did such a wonderful job helping and making this wedding run smoothly.  From the days before setting up, through the rehearsal, the morning of the big day, the wedding ceremony, and the reception, my kids were my heroes!  They each stepped up and made me proud!

   Of course we missed Daddy very much, but God's grace was abounding and His love was felt so very much, that there was more joy than sadness this day.  Tiffany went down the aisle solo with one of Todd's favorite songs, Edelwiess.  It was beautiful!

So, welcome to my seventh kid, Brad! I am so thankful that he loves the Lord and wants to serve Him.  I am blessed beyond words. Thanking God for my newest addition tonight, and anxious to share more tales of my seven kids!

Monday, July 30, 2018


My heart is again broken tonight to the point of a deep painful ache. I got the news yesterday while in church that a close friend's husband unexpectedly passed away.  Yesterday afternoon I went to visit her. I had to see her, despite the long drive. I had to give her a hug, which we did for a long time! Neither wanted to let go. I love her so much and hate when she is hurting. It's still so shocking and unbelievable.

We are both comforted in knowing Jeff is in heaven, with Todd, and probably talking about their crazy wives and families. But we miss them. Waiting here on earth without the love of our lives seems cruel. But God is not cruel; He is good. He is kind. He is loving. He only gives us things to draw us closer to Him and give us things we can't even imagine. But I still want heaven. It again feels so close and real tonight.                                                                                      


My daughter was mentioning yesterday how she would love to see the spiritual: those things that are here with us on this earth, but blinded from our eyes. The angels. What are they doing at this very minute? And where is heaven? Is it closer than we think, perhaps within our sight but only blinded from our eyes like other spiritual beings? What if Jeff and Todd were so close we could see them!

I know they are safe with Jesus, but I want to be there with them. I want to see it all. I'm tired of living by faith. I want to see Jesus.  I want to see Todd. I want to see Jeff, and Steve, and Kimmie, and Pammie, and the Choates, and the Allens, and Mr. Murphy, and the D's (and so many, many more!). How much longer do we need to stay on this earth, waiting?

 Then I am reminded of those here that God kept for us to help and care for. Yes, there are our children, but how many more souls in this world who have never heard the good news? They are all around us, and we need to be willing and open to share Jesus with them so that they, too, can one day be in heaven.  So for this reason, I will impatiently wait for heaven, but in the mean time keep telling others about Jesus. One day we will all be together. "Looking unto Jesus!" until He comes...

The Rings

It wasn't until I was 12 years old before I met my Grandfather for the first time. I heard stories about the man ever since I can remember, but they were only stories. He was everything I had imagined him to be: tall and thin, refined, kind, gentle, and humble. Even though he was aging quickly, he stood straight and tall. He was the owner of a jewelry store in a small town, and everyone knew and loved him. As my parents and I walked toward the store I could see him standing outside watching down the street for us. His eyes glistened and a smile grew across his aging face when he recognized us. His hair was white. His arms instinctively began to raise as he reached out towards us, and I ran to one of the best hugs I had ever been given. This was my Grandfather.
Although looking fragile and elderly, he managed to lift me off the sidewalk with that first hug, and from that moment on we became best friends. He loved to hear me talk, and I loved to listen to him talk, especially about the history that he lived. On that first visit, Grandfather proudly showed me around his store. He showed me the shiny cases that held brilliant pieces of all types of jewelry. The store wasn't large, but he did have a second floor where he lived. Suddenly his smile began to withdraw as he looked at me with his fading, yet still sparkling blue eyes and asked, "Would you like to see my back room?" Seeing the quickly changing smile, I felt a bit uneasy but fully confident in my Grandfather's leading. 
"What's in the back room?" I asked hesitantly.
"My most cherished possessions. The ones I do not put out for sale. I have invited very few to enter my back room." His smile quickly returned, and he reached for my hand and led me to the back room. It was small, but beautiful. There was a small desk where Grandfather obviously worked on his accounting and business for his store, with a rather large comfortably looking chair. I noticed a filing cabinet, safe, and then, in the back of the room, an exquisite display case.  Grandfather walked over and put his hand on top of it. It was long, but only as high as my chest and Grandfather's waist. It stood on four legs of hand carved wood, with glass sides and a glass top so that you could see the precious, sparkling specimens it held from any angle. I glanced back to my beaming parents who were standing in the doorway watching my reaction to the first time I saw the dazzling spectacle. My eyes grew wide as I looked closer. There were no less than a hundred rings of all sizes, shapes, and color, neatly and delicately laid out on a black velvet material. Each one had been placed there with care and all were lovely to behold! They had been polished and obviously placed with a gloved hand, as none had any marks other than that of purposeful splendor. After a few moments of my gawking, Grandfather quietly said, "Choose one to take home with you." Were my ears deceiving me? I couldn't possibly take one of these home!
"Oh, no, Grandfather, I couldn't possibly..."
"I insist. I want you to take one for your own."  
It only took me a few seconds to choose the ring I would call my own. It was gold with what looked like leaves  engraved on the side and had beautiful dark blue gems outlining a cross. It was perfect. Grandfather carefully took it from the display case and handed it to me. It happened that it fit my middle finger perfectly, and I wore it with such pride for the rest of the time we were visiting my grandfather. But once it was time to leave, I gingerly slid it off my finger and placed it in my deep pocket. I kept my hand in my pocket for most of the 27 hour bus ride home, constantly rubbing the outline of the cross and feeling the bumps of the leaves on my new prized possession.
Despite the many miles between us, Grandfather and I continued to be close in spirit and in each other's hearts. We wrote letters every day. We called monthly and talked for as long as my parents would allow. The distance truly made us grow fonder of each other.
When it was time for my parents' annual trip to visit Grandfather, I insisted that I join them without much, if any, resistance. I was considerably taller now, and Grandfather had a bit more difficulty getting me off the sidewalk with his initial hug when he saw me, but he succeeded. After the usual greetings, we walked into the store, and Grandfather again led me to the back room where he kept his cherished rings.
"I added a few since you have been here. Please choose another to take home with you."
"Oh, no, Grandfather, I still have the beautiful one you gave me last year, and I couldn't possibly..."
"I insist."
I took my time and searched through all the beautiful rings in the display case. This time I chose a thicker wooden ring that had sparkling red gems placed around an engraving of a mountain around the edge. This one slid easily on my ring finger, and again, I wore it proudly the entire visit with Grandfather. As soon as we boarded the bus, however, I quickly slid it off and into my pocket to keep it safe during the long bus ride. I was anxious to get home and see both of my rings side by side on my fingers or safely in my drawer. Now I had two prized possessions!
The next year I chose another ring. This one was gold with a pink gem. It had beautiful flowers engraved all along the outside and adorned my pinky finger majestically. It was more delicate than the other rings I had chosen, but it's delicacy drew a surprising comfort and splendor. This ring felt magical! My prized possessions were now three awesome rings with each having their own unique features, that I kept polished safely in my drawer.  
When I was 15 I chose my fourth ring from Grandfather; it was silver with yellow gems. This one was more simple than the others, yet had its own distinctive charm. If I looked closely and squinted my eyes, I could almost see the shape of a butterfly in the yellow gems. I couldn't have been more happy with my four rings, especially knowing they were also cherished by my Grandfather. We now shared our passion and enjoyment of the rings and continued to grow closer and closer.
Once I turned 16, my parents gave me permission to take the journey by myself, so I made plans to visit Grandfather before our annual scheduled trip. I traveled alone and was anxious for the long ride to be over and to be reunited again with my very best friend. With this reunion, Grandfather never quite got me off of the sidewalk with his bear hug. I stood on my tiptoes to let him feel like he was lifting me, when in reality I was close to his height now and had put on some more pounds to make it nearly impossible for him to lift me anymore. He still stood tall and distinguished and still gave great hugs, but he was getting older and not quite as strong as when I had first met him four years earlier. We walked to the back room and headed straight for the display case. Grandfather smiled as I closely examined the rings. He even pointed out some of his favorites, and eventually I chose one he had told me came from a faraway country. It was an ivory ring with purple gems forming the fire that was coming from a golden dragon. I held it carefully and turned it over and over to see the purple "fire" glitter in the light. Again Grandfather told me what a rare and beautiful ring I held and approved of my choice. We had a great visit, but not nearly as long as we desired.
My new ring fit nicely on my thumb, but before I got on the bus, I slipped it off and put it in my pocket, as I had done with all of my rings before. I was hungry and gulped down the sandwich Grandfather had packed for me, and then wiped my hands and face with a napkin.  There were no trash cans on the bus, so I put my napkin and empty sandwich bag in my pocket. I instinctively felt for my newest prized possession and felt a wave of panic when I couldn't find it! I knew I had put it in my pocket, where did it go? I took the crinkled napkin and bag out of my pocket and examined them carefully. Nothing. I looked on the floor by my feet and scanned around the area for the precious white ring. I looked beside me on the seat and noticed my shaky hands. I felt in both of my pockets again for the ring, but there was nothing there. Where could it have gone? I thought back to when I first got on the bus and tried to remember everything I did. I know I put it in my pocket! Where is it and how did it get out of my pocket? My heart began to beat faster and faster until I decided to stand up and search my pockets again, knowing for a certainty I had put the ring in my right pocket. I reached in my pockets to turn them inside out, and as my fingers went to grab the seam at the bottom of my pocket, I sighed out loud when I felt the cold piece of ivory! I stood for a moment on the bumpy bus, relieved and thankful for the touch of that ring. I took in several big breaths of air before I sat back down in my seat. The mere thought of losing that precious ring made my stomach hurt. I held it carefully in my hands and couldn't keep my eyes off of it. I carefully and slowly turned it over again and again. I watched the purple gems sparkle and made up stories in my mind about the dragon. I couldn't bring myself to put it back in my pocket, so I kept holding it. I was determined to stay awake to avoid the risk of possibly dropping it if I slept; I stared at that ring the entire 27 hour ride home! My eyes were heavy and I felt weak when I finally got home, but it was worth it to be able to hold onto that ring and now place it with the others where it could not get lost. It was only then when I was able to fall asleep; the ring was safely home.
Now that I had five rings, I decided to make a display case of my own. I made sure every visitor to our home saw my rings. I told them about each one, and of course, told them where they came from and all about Grandfather.
It wasn't long before I was once again in Grandfather's arms and looking at his awesome ring collection to choose one to take home. This sixth ring I chose more carefully, not knowing how many more visits I would get with my grandfather. With each visit he was getting more frail. His smile and eyes were still big and bright, but physically he was getting slower and generally looked tired. Grandfather's favorite color was green, and mine was orange, so when I saw a ring that had both of these colors, I instantly knew that would be my next ring. I was so excited to put it on my finger and show Grandfather my choice. He was watching me from his chair by the desk and smiled as tears began to roll down his worn and tired face.
"That is a very good choice, dear one. I am pleased."
I wondered if this would be my last ring from Grandfather, and as I was getting in line to get on the bus I slipped my special choice off my finger and looked at it one more time before putting it in my pocket. I smiled, and then someone bumped my arm as they were passing. I felt the ring wobble, went to get a tighter grip, accidentally flipped it in the air, and grabbed desperately at it before it hit the ground in front of me. I instinctively bent down to reach for it as I watched it bounce once on the ground, spin, and then roll towards the street. "My ring!" I yelled. People turned to look where I was pointing, but as I was trying frantically to reach it, my eyes watched as it bounced off the curb and rolled between the bars of a grate that was used to drain water from off the street. "No!" I yelled as I fell to my knees in tears. I heard people asking what was wrong and if they could help me, but I couldn't answer anyone. I just wanted to cry and be alone. But that wasn't really possible on a sidewalk where a bus was being loaded with an especially large group of people. Most people stepped around me and kept on with their business, but some stopped to ask if I was ok.
I was being so careful. I was putting the ring away so I wouldn't lose it on the bus. How could this have happened? That ride home was the worst ride I had ever taken. I kept thinking how I chose that one with Grandfather watching. I thought how happy he was with my choice. I thought about the colors...his favorite color green and my favorite color orange. I thought how perfect it was. Then I thought how I would be coming home from Grandfather's for the first time without a ring. It felt strange. I didn't like it. I put my hand in my pocket and felt around, hoping what just had happened was only something I imagined. But my pocket was empty; the ring was gone. With the reality of my losing that ring, I wept. I wept all the way home. I didn't think I could cry any more tears, but they kept coming. I felt so empty inside. I almost didn't want to go home to my other rings, but surprisingly the sight of them made me feel better. They were safe. They were there, but there was one missing. I tried hard to picture the ring I had lost sitting with the others in my display case, but I couldn't. I could barely remember what the ring looked like. It never made it home.
All I could think about was seeing Grandfather and getting another ring. Only a month passed since losing the ring, and I was fortunate to make the trip to visit Grandfather again. When I saw him standing outside his store and our eyes met, we both began to cry. He held me for a long time. He was as disappointed as I was about losing that ring. He understood. It was a difficult visit, but again he led me to the back room. We both stood at the door and looked at his display. Do I dare? Before I could ask, Grandfather put his arm around my shoulder and said, "Go ahead. Choose another one."
We walked over to the case, and immediately my eyes spotted a small gold ring with the most beautiful light blue gems. They surrounded an engraved bird, which had a tiny black jeweled eye. That was it. I chose that one. I held it close and wouldn't put it down my entire visit. Sometimes I wore it on my finger, and other times I would hold it in my hand.  And when it came time for the bus ride, I didn't take it off my finger, not even to put it in my pocket. I covered it with my left hand and kept my right hand clenched, securing the ring so it couldn't slide off my finger. I was not going to lose this one!  Once it was safely home, I finally released it to the display case with the other five rings. There they were: a gold ring with dark blue gems surrounding a cross, a wooden ring with a red gem and carved mountain, a beautiful golden ring with a pink gem and engraved flowers, a silver ring with yellow gems, an ivory ring with an engraved dragon and purple gems, and a smaller gold ring with light blue gems and an engraved bird. They were all marvelous and spectacular! I tried to envision the ring I lost sitting with the other six, but it was never focused enough in my mind to come through as a clear vision. As I looked at each one and noted the differences, I again thought of the similarities and how they all made a connection to Grandfather, the man I had come to love with all my heart. I treasured my rings and couldn't wait for my next visit to Grandfather's! But work was demanding and my next visit was delayed for another very long 18 months. I was so excited to finally be on that bus again and heading to my Grandfather's. Even though we frequently kept in touch, this was the longest time I spent away from my grandfather in years. I was so anxious to see him again, to feel his hug again, and to hear his voice again!
As we got closer to Grandfather's little town, I began to feel apprehensive for no reason other than the fact that I knew my grandfather was getting older. I wondered if this was going to be one of my last visits with him. Then as we entered the town, I could hear sirens and noticed a lot of commotion in the streets. The bus slowed to nearly a stop as police officers were barricading Main Street, where my grandfather's jewelry store and home was.
It was then that I saw the thick black smoke in the distance. A fire truck roared past us, screaming the alarm to make way and another one followed. An ambulance wasn't far behind. I jumped out of my seat and rushed to the front of the bus.
"Can you let me out here?"  No. I knew the driver never stopped unless it was a designated bus stop along the prescribed route. We still had another two blocks until the official stop. "Please?" I begged, telling him my grandfather lives on Main Street. Definitely no. There were no deviations. I stayed standing near the door next to the bus driver, practically jumping up and down waiting for the bus to stop so that I could get off. I kept glancing at the smoke and trying to figure out how far down the street it was coming from. That can't be Grandfather's house. It just can't be. Main Street was lined with stores and row homes, and the odds were in favor that it was someplace other than Grandfather's shop and home.
Once the bus finally came to a stop, I sprinted towards Main Street and to my grandfather. He would be outside, walking down the street away from the smoke and hopefully in my direction. I searched for him in the crowd of people who were gathered on the sidewalk and in the street. Police were trying to keep everyone back. The crowd, heading in the opposite direction as I was, and the smoke were getting thicker with each step closer to my grandfather's shop and home. I kept looking at the many faces for the familiar one that I knew so well. As I got closer, I counted four fire trucks and two ambulances, and then I saw it. The smoke was covering the entire block where my grandfather's shop was located. It was difficult to see what side the fire was burning on, so I kept trying to push my way through the crowd to get closer. There was a clear line where no one was crossing at the beginning of the block. There were only rescue workers there, and the police were urging folks to move back as fear, screaming, and eventual pandemonium broke out. The smoke was choking us now. People were in a panic.
"My mother was shopping down there!" someone yelled.
"Has anyone seen my son?"
The noise became deafening. Soon I couldn't make out any words, just noise. My legs felt like I had just run a marathon and they were quickly giving out. There was no place to go. No place to move. No place to sit and rest.
After two more fire trucks and several more ambulances reached the scene, the police were somehow able to move people back another block away from the fire. I watched as if I was looking from above and not part of the crowd. Somehow I was detached in my mind but physically present. As the smoke began to clear, I felt a weight pressing on my chest when I saw clearly that the fire was on my grandfather's side of the street. I found the strength to reach a police officer. "You have to let me pass; that's where my grandfather lives!" I yelled in despair. The police asked his name and then said, "The owner of the jewelry shop?" I wasn't prepared to hear what he told me next. "The fire started next door to the shop, and I'm sorry, but three shops and homes are totally destroyed, including the jewelry shop." The sidewalk I was standing on began spinning out of control as I tried to get my bearings.
"What about the owner? Is my grandfather ok?" I blurted out simultaneously with tears, as my stomach started doing weird things and the weight on my chest got heavier. The police officer was out of focus and seemed to be swaying.
"He was taken to the hospital in pretty bad shape. I'm sorry."
I stumbled backwards and valiantly pushed my way back through the crowd, asking people where the hospital was. Since it was a small town, everyone seemed to know everyone and they all knew my grandfather. They also knew why I was asking where the hospital was, and surprisingly one of them offered to take me there.
The ER was very busy and the waiting area was standing room only. I made my way to the desk and asked about my grandfather. The nurse started going through a pile of papers, and then suddenly stopped.  She was staring at one of the papers and wasn't saying anything. She slowly raised her eyes and said, "I'm sorry. Can you follow me?" The floor I was walking on felt spongy and everything was getting blurry. Is this really happening? What is going on? Where is Grandfather?
The nurse took me into a small room and started talking about my grandfather. She began explaining the paramedics said firemen had pulled him from the smoked-filled second floor and he was not breathing. "They did CPR and got a pulse in the ambulance. He was brought here in really bad shape and they did everything they could to save him, but due to his age and the amount of smoke inhalation, they just couldn't..."
I buried my head in my hands and tried not to listen to the rest of what she told me. This couldn't be. Something wasn't right. As she continued to talk in a hushed tone, I lifted my head from my hands and blurted out "How do you know it was Grandfather? There are so many people here and it would be easy to get things mixed up. You were shuffling a lot of papers earlier...how do you know it was him?"
She kept saying she was sorry and then asked if I wanted to see him. She said it may help if I saw him and got some closure. At first I couldn't imagine seeing Grandfather dead, so I shook my head no. But as the nurse was about to leave, I shouted, "Yes! I do want to see. I'm sure this is a mistake and Grandfather is still alive someplace."
Her eyes looked sad and she led me down the hall and into a room where there was a gurney with a lifeless body under a sheet. There were a lot of machines and wires in the room, but they had all been turned off and the room was very quiet. There was trash from syringes and other medical supplies scattered on the floor. The nurse quietly went to the head of the gurney and slowly pulled down the sheet. As soon as I saw the white hair I closed my eyes and turned away. It was Grandfather.
I suddenly felt like someone was kicking me repeatedly in my stomach. My head hurt. The weight on my chest was so heavy that I found it hard to breathe. I felt suddenly alone, like there was no one in that entire hospital but me. Then I heard the words, "Take as long as you need."
I have no recollection of how long it was before I was able to leave that room and call home to tell my parents. They found plane tickets and were there in less than four hours. Even their presence and hugs didn't take away the loneliness I felt. We stayed overnight and once we received permission to go to the scene of the fire, we went to see what we could salvage from Grandfather's shop and home. The police officer was right: it was totally destroyed.  I wondered if we were on the right street, because nothing looked the same. My parents were kicking around at charred piles of debris when suddenly it hit me. The rings! My eyes went to where the back room used to be and I gingerly walked through what was left of Grandfather's shop. Nothing was recognizable; everything was blackened and destroyed. The rings were all gone. I thought of the rings I had at home and realized how much more precious they had instantaneously become. They were now my only link to Grandfather. I thought of the one I had lost; the one that was green and orange. I wish I had that one at home as well, but I was so thankful for the six that remained.
As the years passed, those rings became even more precious. Sometimes when a memory of my grandfather would fade, I would look and hold my rings, and that memory would somehow grow stronger again. There were many times, however, when I would be looking at one of my rings, and a memory of my grandfather would feel so real that it hurt when I realized it was only a memory. I would never see my grandfather again. Often tears would come flooding down my cheeks when that realization would sink into my heart and mind.
Word began to spread of my unique collection, and more and more people began to show an interest in my rings. One day I received a letter from a man in a far away land requesting a loan to his museum for one of my rings. He was especially interested in the simple silver ring with the yellow gems, and asked to place this treasure on display for four years in his museum. Four years in a museum was a long time, but I thought it might be a good way to share my love of the rings to others. And after all, it would be returned in four years. I agreed and tried to visit as much as my job would allow. I would often hear stories from strangers who saw my ring at the museum and marveled at its brilliance and rarity. At first I felt jealous and would want to bring the ring back home again. But as the years flew by, I became proud when hearing the stories from strangers, knowing that was my ring and it would be back home in my possession in just one more year.
Then came the phone call. A man had seen my ring at the museum, and was excitedly telling me how remarkable and beautiful my ring was when I began to sense an urgency in his voice. He went on to tell me about his own ring. He described it as silver with delicate a single yellow gem, and then explained that his ring and the one in the museum were formed by the same jeweler from another land; they were crafted to complement each other. He offered to pay a price, but admitted he did not have nearly enough to pay what the cost would be for such a treasure. As we talked on the phone, I looked over at my remaining five rings. I didn't know what to say at first and there was a long pause. "Where are you from?" I finally asked.
"I am from that land where the jeweler crafted the rings. I am his grandson."
It was then that I realized this man would keep very good care of my ring. He would cherish it as much as I did and as much as Grandfather had. I felt confident that Grandfather would agree with my decision to let this man have the ring and in a way, return it to its origin. We made an agreement that he could purchase the ring after the four years were complete with the museum. I asked if I could see my ring once more and for a picture of the two rings together; he willingly agreed.
That year, knowing my ring would be under the care of a new owner in a faraway place, was very difficult for me. Each time I looked at my other rings, all I kept thinking about was the one that I was giving to that man. It made me miss the ring even more. I was comforted, however, knowing that it would be taken care of correctly, and that it would give another person great joy.
And then, just when the fourth year was nearly gone and I would once again see my ring for a brief time, a friend of mine came to visit me. He had always shared my love for the rings, and he began talking about the wooden ring with the red gems. He asked if he could hold it. I watched as he carefully tried it on his ring finger and smiled at the perfect fit. I had to admit that it looked good on his finger, but there was no way I was letting go of another one of my rings. Allowing my little silver ring to be under another's care was difficult enough; this wooden ring was staying here. My friend seemed to sense my uneasiness, and he gently slid the ring off his finger and handed it back to me. That was a relief, but it didn't last long when he said, "That ring would be perfect for my wedding band." I had almost forgotten that he was getting married in a few months. "May I see it again?" he said reaching out for the ring. I selfishly wanted to deny him the privilege and put it back safely in the case, but for some unknown reason, I handed it back to him. He turned it over on the palm of his hand admiring the detailed work and stunning red gem. "You know my fiancé's favorite color is red?"
No, I didn't know, nor did I care. I was keeping this one. He handed me back my ring, and we began talking about his upcoming wedding. Very cunningly he turned the conversation back to the ring. "It would be perfect, you know. And it's not like it will be far away from you. I see you nearly every day!"
He made some good points; I glanced over at my rings. What would Grandfather think of me giving our cherished possessions away? I remembered how willing Grandfather was to share his rings with me, and how pleased he was to see me enjoy them so much. I thought of the man who would be taking my silver ring away in just a few months and how happy he was to be getting it. I got up and walked to the display case. I looked at them and thought of Grandfather. Then I reached for the wooden ring. I looked at it carefully, and rubbed my finger across the red gem and the bumpy mountain. A tear came from nowhere and landed on the ring. I was surprised to learn the tear came from me. I knew I was giving another one of my rings away.
At first, each time I gave a ring away, I felt like I was losing a part of Grandfather. Just the thought of giving away a ring would invoke those feelings, and here I was about to give away two of my most cherished and prized possessions in the whole world. Could I even live without them?
As I placed the wooden ring into the hand of my friend, a calm came over me. Grandfather would be proud. Our love for these rings was being passed on to others, and that's what I think he wanted most of all. If there comes a day when another ring, or even all of my rings, are given away, I would still have Grandfather's memories and he will still be very dear to me. Letting the rings go, as much as I will miss them and know it will hurt, also brings a sense of peace in knowing others will be enjoying them and cherishing them as much as Grandfather and I have treasured them.  And who knows? Maybe my rings will only be the start to their own collection of rare and beautiful rings!  And hopefully I will be able to share in loving and treasuring those rings as well.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

My Daughter's Getting Married! And My Son Bought A House!

And my world is changing yet again.  13 days before the wedding and 5 days before my son's settlement.  I know change is a part of life, but I don't understand why I don't like it very much.  Going from six kids to four in a week's time is not easy on my emotions.

However, I hope you don't mind if I take some time to tell you all the amazing "God" things that have happened these past few months.

Toby, our youngest, was diagnosed with scoliosis (see Good Friends) and had to wear a brace.  Her sister, Winter, also had scoliosis and endured surgery to correct her curves in August of 2013.  We prayed and prayed for Toby to somehow be able to avoid this surgery, despite the doctor telling us that the brace would hopefully "hold" the curve through her growth spurt and possibly buy us more time before she would probably also need the surgery.  Well, last year the doctor was very impressed with Toby's progress and gave her permission to only wear the brace during the night.  Then, earlier this year, he said she was doing so well that he thought she could go without wearing the brace at all!  He wanted to see her for her regular 6 month check-up to see if the curve changed at all.  Winter had her 5 year check-up the same time we went back last month for Toby's check-up.  Are you ready for this?  The doctor said, "It looks like Toby has avoided the surgery.  Her curve has only minimally increased, and we think she will be fine."   !!!!!!!  He didn't want to see her again for a whole year, and Winter is doing so well that she doesn't have to be seen for five years!  Earlier this year the doctor said, "When she presented five years ago, we were 100% certain of upcoming surgery for her.  We put her in the brace with a hope and prayer."  To which Winter responded, "And that's exactly what we did:  we prayed and we hoped!!"  Well, God heard our prayers, and God not only held the curves, but lessened her curves as well! Here's the latest Xray taken last month:

Tiffany is getting married on August 4, 2018.  She was accepted to grad school a few months ago at Virginia Tech and will begin the end of August!  Her fiance has been so gracious and was able to find an adorable apartment close to the school, and is currently looking for a job in Blacksburg, VA.   God has been directing and leading and providing for this couple already!  He is so, so good!!

Nathan began thinking about and casually looking for a house to buy just a few months ago as well.  He thought it was time to get his own place, and sought the Lord's direction and will for what was next for him.  To make a long and exciting story shorter (and perhaps a little less exciting than it was), he found a house and so many little details have been worked out for him to make settlement on July 27th!  So many prayers have been answered for him!

God has been doing amazing things for my kids!  Abe is doing well with his job for six years now!  Katrina has graduated with her Masters in Psychology and has been given the privilege to be a nanny for a 6 month old baby boy and 2 year old precious little girl, which she enjoys and thrives in doing!  Winter will be starting her third year in college in the fall!  And the Tobster will be a sophomore in high school.  She was on the Distinguished Honor Roll for all four of her semesters last year as a freshman, and has passed her Keystone Exams in Biology and Algebra in the Advanced category!  Blessings!!!

I marvel at God's goodness, love, protection, care, guidance, provision, and leading in our lives.  He surely has remembered the widow and the fatherless! Praise His Name and Glory to Him!

Sure there are a lot of big changes happening in the Radle home, but I am blessed.  I am thankful.  I am in awe of my awesome God.