Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Another Year in the Past...

And another NEW YEAR just ahead! Our family will be entering into our fifth year of living without Todd. That's astounding to me, because I never thought I could make it a day, or even an hour, without him here with us. However, as anyone who is reading this can see, God has proved Himself strong and able to get us through each day. God is here! God has been our provider and our strength.

Looking back, I am humbled and even shocked to think that I have been given the grace to continue raising six children to love God and honor Him. Four teenagers now, two of which are now driving, one in college, and all doing well. I would have told you I couldn't do it, and I could not have, but I am rejoicing in what God has done in my life these years. It's been a struggle, but I am praising Him for His work and continued presence in my and my children's lives.

Looking ahead, I am anxious to see what God will do in our lives. I am hoping for Christ's return this year, yet I am looking to see how and what God will do in and through my life. I wish you all a very happy and blessed New Year. I pray we all grow closer to our God and look for opportunities to serve Him.

H A P P Y N E W Y E A R ! ! !

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Happy Birthday Tiffany!


Tiffany turned 14 years old today. Birthdays are still not "right" without Todd here, but we are learning to celebrate them as best we can. It seems like every December 27th something happens that "out does" Tiff's special day. One year it was my parent's 50th wedding anniversary big party. One year it was everyone getting sick....except Tiff! It always seems to be something. Today was no different. My sister's son had a special wedding reception at their church tonight. He had gotten married in October in Wisconsin, so tonight they had a video of the wedding and a reception that this side of the country could enjoy (those too cheap to travel for the real thing). We planned the day so that Tiff would get most of the attention: we would have an early dinner....her favorite meal....with Granddad and Grandmom, and then sing and cut the cake, then head out to the reception about 45 minutes away. Great. We get ready to sit down to dinner with my parents, and their ride comes! They rushed around, leaving us at the table to eat without them. We decided to wait until later to cut the cake and sing with them. Only problem with that was the length of the video and travel time. We had to come home and get ready for bed! We sang, cut the cake, and ate it without the Grands. It happened again this year. Poor Tiff. Happy Birthday, Tiffany! Here she is at her cousin's wedding reception, smiling like usual! I love this girl!



The Christmas season is just not a good time for a birthday. Todd would know about that, being born on Christmas! Oh well. We tried. The day is nearly over. Praise the Lord for His goodness. One more day done. Trying to get ready for the next one...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Very Special Thanks...

God continues to bless our family in ways I could never imagine. Today my cousin stopped in and gave us a check from Grace Bible Fellowship Church where he is a deacon. Once again, God's timing was/is perfect. What a blessing just when I was wondering how I was going to feed all the extended family that will be showing up on Christmas! Is God amazing or what?

This evening we attended Fellowship Church, where our family received a huge basket filled with gifts that went above and beyond anyone's expectations for this Christmas! I think Toby's face says it all:



It's hard to believe that there could be a bigger blessing than seeing my children's eyes light up when opening those gifts and hearing their comments of how they couldn't believe how expensive everything was, but there was even more blessing tonight. I was reminded by Pastor John that no matter how difficult the days feel, no matter how much I miss Todd, no matter how many tears I shed, no matter how hopeless I feel, there is so much more that God has GIVEN me. Pastor John reminded us to look at all we HAVE, rather than all we are missing. He reminded us that God has given us so much, including our very salvation from sin and separation from God. I have hope! I have the hope and promise of heaven one day!

I am thanking God for His gift of Jesus and salvation tonight. I am thanking God for my six wonderful, incredible, fantastic children. I am choosing to thank God for all He has blessed me with, rather than going to that familiar pity party and feeling miserable tonight!

My very special thanks to Grace Bible Fellowship, Fellowship Church, and Pastor John with his message of thankfulness for our hope and salvation and many gifts, from God.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Lights and Cookies!

Tonight the kids and I drove around to look at Christmas lights. We counted how many times we saw the Nativity...five. I can remember when we saw a Nativity on nearly every lawn! Anyway, we had a good time. We found a live nativity at a church nearby, and stopped in for that as well. The kids were a little embarrassed when I pulled in with my lights on and accidentally lit up their shepherds waiting quietly in the darkness until the spotlight shown on them. I didn't realize they were reading the entire Biblical account of Christ's birth and lighting up different areas of the property to show the story....oops. We also tried to walk through the park where all the lights were with different displays, but it was so cold I ended up running with Toby around the inner circle and back to the van. The older ones seemed embarrassed again at us running through the place. Oh well. Toby wanted to run around again, because she missed some displays, but no one would take her...it was just too cold. It wasn't the same as when we did this with Dad, but hey, at least we went this year!

We came home and the girls and I made cookies. They weren't exactly Christmas cookies with cute little cut-outs and fancy decorations, but they were cookies. Not edible, but they were cookies! I tried a new idea I had seen in a magazine. I realized tonight that the picture isn't nearly as good as the real thing in making cookies. The recipe asked for Jolly Rancher candies to be smashed and put in the center of a cookie dough ball. Then bake, and again, the picture looked so yummy! Well, I couldn't even get them off of the pan after the candy melted and acted like cement. The boys tried what I was able to scrape and chisel off of the pan, and one commented it was like fast-drying tasty cement, but they didn't recommend anyone with cavities to try them. Knowing nearly every tooth has a filling in my mouth, I didn't think I should try any, BUT, of course I did anyway. They were right....once I got to the melted candy part, I found it very difficult to chew because my teeth were glued together. Not nice. Not edible! Oh well. Toby wanted to eat them, but I was afraid she wouldn't be able to open her mouth for a month (and she's supposed to sing in the children's choir tomorrow at church). It wasn't the same as when we made Christmas cookies in years past, but hey, at least we made them this year!

Friday, December 12, 2008

We Got Our Christmas Tree!


...and this year we decided to make it a "Daddy Tree." It is decorated with home-made ornaments from the kids, and things that were special to Todd. I love it. Way to go, kids! I think it looks great!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas



Repeat...from last year. I love this song. I am praying for God's strength for every day. I don't understand. My heart is hurting. Todd was born on December 25th. It all is mixing together again in a fog of bewilderment, pain, and memories. The memories are good, and I thank God for them. I cherish them. I just wish they didn't hurt so much.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Post Thanksgiving Thoughts

Yesterday I ate too much, but didn't cook at all. Yesterday my kitchen was more clean AFTER dinner, than it was in the morning. Yesterday I sat on my butt, and even hid in my room for awhile, and didn't feel badly about it at all. Yesterday I was blessed by my sister-in-law (she is welcome here anytime!). :) She came over Wednesday night and early Thursday to prepare a Thanksgiving feast for my kids and for her kids, and everything went perfectly, including my daughter beating her son in checkers 3 times! It was a good day.

I am thankful for a lot of things every day, but living these past years without Todd has made me even more grateful for God. He has been our strength and our hope. I love this verse. Isaiah 41:13 says: For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee. God has certainly held me and helped me these years. There are times when I feel like I am going to crumble under the weight of so much responsibility that is left for me in raising these children alone. I could not have asked for a better husband and father to help me; I am thankful for the many, many good memories, but I am also thankful to God for giving me those 17 years with Todd.

Thanks, Kimmie, for a good day yesterday....you're great. You are always welcome here! We love you (not just for your cooking!).

Thanks to God for Todd, and for His salvation and help and strength and love and guidance.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Wendy is...

...now on facebook. My kids warned me not to do it, but I was trying to get hold of a friend, and got sucked in. In the last couple of weeks, I have been reconnected with childhood friends, friends from high school and college, and family members who I rarely get to see or talk with anymore. It's been quite an experience, but my children were right. It's time-consuming and I'm addicted!

At first I felt overwhelmed with all the people and tried to write to everyone. Now I enjoy just reading how they are doing. Last night I was missing Todd alot, but God showed me that I am not alone here on this earth, even though it feels like it. I am blessed with so many great friends and family. I still feel alone, but I am thanking God for so many dear friends and family! God is good!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Student of the Month: Trina!

My student of the month for October has to be Trina. She's been helping so much around here, and I rarely hear any complaints from her. She consistently and diligently does her school work, and unfortunately, I hardly even notice. One course that is giving her an especially difficult time is Creative Writing. That's odd, because she LOVES to write. This course, however, has begun with poetry. yuk. She seems to be getting through, but doesn't enjoy that form of writing as much as others (wonder where she gets that from?). Anyway, she usually asks me to go over her work (when I'm not tuned out or when I'm actually focused!), and I am so proud of her. She's doing very well. Often she will write about her Dad. It's difficult to look over those writings, but I love this poem and had to share it with everyone. (it WAS in a form of a smiley face)


My Dad’s Smile

My father
Was my hero. He was
Brave and a very, very strong man
He always knew just what to say to me
I loved him so much, and knew he loved me
He was very smart. Knew everything about life,
friends with everyone, and he was very handsome too


Blue eyes


Round nose
And


HIS SMILE!


My father had a smile. It used to light up a room.
He would smile and make everyone happy.
Even when people were sad, my father
Could make them smile
That was my father.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Too Much!!

The days have been full and much has been happening. Before too much time passes, I wanted to share how much fun Toby had at her birthday party. She had the biggest smile, and all of her "bestest friends" were there.



We had her party at an indoor soft playground called KidsQuest....the same place we had Trina and Tiff and Winter's 5th bday parties. Everyone had a good time, but I have to say, it was not as fun as the other parties. Todd made those things fun, and without him, there was definitely a big part of Toby's special party missing.

My favorite great nephew had a big birthday party as well. Eban turned one!!! Happy Birthday, Eban! That was a fun party, too, but once again, at least for me, the fun Todd provided was missing. It wasn't easy to see family and friends, hear their conversations, and answer that question, "How are you doing, Wendy?" But it was another great birthday for a great nephew!

This last week I've had some visits from some friends I haven't seen in awhile. Friends are great. Each one brings their own unique personality. Both visitors knew Todd. Both visitors lost their husbands and have children. Both visitors know what loss is and how it feels. Yet every one of us is different. Everyone experiences loss differently. But here's the thing. They appear to be doing so much better than I am. I've come to understand and realize that this ache, deep in my being, may never go away until heaven. Yet these dear friends are living through that ache. They are embracing life and even enjoying it. I'm not there yet. I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong in this process, but nothing seems to be working. Life is not fun anymore. I feel like I hurt more with each new day, each step I take, everything we do.

I am thankful for friends. I am especially thankful for these friends and for their faith in our good God. I am learning that each circumstance and each personality and each life is different, but God is the same. He is our comfort. He is our strength. He is good. By His grace and His strength, I hope one day soon to be able to experience life again as Todd and I did together. Some day...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

October 19th Toby turned 5!


Five years old. She had a good day. My thoughts on all the events this past weekend are jumbled, so I'll try to write more later. I still can't believe our baby is 5. Happy Birthday Toby Faith!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Adventurous Weekend!

"Adventure" is really the only word I could think of for the past 3 days here at the "Radle Ranch," as Todd used to call our family. Saturday we enjoyed a Military Helicopter Airshow. For me, it was loud, crowded, and confusing. The older kids really liked it. Toby and Winter were tired, hot, thirsty, and hungry. When first arriving, we were met by two military guards who kindly instructed us to turn around because we had gone to the wrong entrance. I always feel conspicuous in our large, red van. I feel like we are bigger than we really are, and that everyone is staring at the largeness and redness of our vehicle. Todd liked that. I hate it. So when we pulled into the proper parking area for the show, the parking attendants seemed puzzled at where to "send" us. The lot and the fields were full. One of them said, "Sorry, you're on your own," and the other, farther into one of the fields, began waving his hands and jumping, pointing to a place he had found for us. We inched slowly towards him, and he ran excitedly ahead of us, leading us to some empty spots. But he had other plans. He directed me like an airplane pilot further into the field. He kept backing up, further and further. He pointed in the direction he wanted me to turn the wheels, and proceeded until we were parked in the middle of the field! Seriously. Were we really that big? The kids were laughing. As I stopped and turned off the engine, the attendant explained, "You're fine here, no one will bother you." Don't you think? The rest of the time there was a blur for me. I began following Nathan, who finally said he was following me. That was the reason for the initial confusion. We were relieved to find familiar faces in the crowd, and stood with them for what seemed like hours, until Toby finally got my attention with "I want to go home." That sounded good to me. We walked up to see some more helicopters on display, then headed to the parking area. Nathan commented how he could see our van from on the hill, nearly 1/2 a mile away! ugh. At least we could find it easily.

Today we visited the Philadelphia Zoo, a place we have been many times before and one of everyone's favorite. Todd and I discovered after only having 3 children, that it was well worth it to become a member as far as cost and admission. We did not think there would be very many heading for the zoo today, but we were wrong. We had to park at the opposite end of the zoo, and walk to the entrance. Toby enjoyed this rather long walk as a time to wave to every passing car. I noticed that Philadelphians are not very happy people. Who wouldn't take time to smile and wave back to an adorable almost 5 year old little girl on her way to the zoo? Apparently no one. That didn't stop her from continuing to wave, however. She was happy to wave to the monkeys as well, even though they never returned the favor either. She waved to the alligator, which I'm thankful for not waving back. The giraffes had to be our favorite exhibit this time, as the tigers were sleeping, the gorillas were hiding, and the polar bears finished swimming. The zoo has a new giraffe from Texas, named Gus. We could tell which one was Gus without even asking....he looked like a Texan giraffe. Don't ask me how I know this, I just do. A zoo keeper was shoveling hay into a bin way up in a branch of a tree. When he came out with some fresh branches to stick in the fencing around the tree, the giraffes followed him. That was pretty interesting. Actually, that was our highlight of the day. I know it doesn't sound like much, but it was pretty cool.

So there you have it: two adventures in 3 days for us! Not bad. I wish I could say the more we do, the easier it gets. Unfortunately, that's not happening. Maybe some day it will. Right now it still makes me miss Todd. I am thanking God for the safety He provided on our adventures, and also for the courage to get through the days. God is good!

Here's Winter "enjoying" the Helicopter Show!


Ahhhh, familiar faces and friends (at the Air Show)


Our last stop before home...Toby's happy!


Polar bear....not swimming!


Mama bear and some of her cubs


And finally, Gus, the Texan Giraffe!

Friday, October 3, 2008

School Daze

Things are going well with the Radle kids' and their schooling!


Toby has to be our "student of the month" for September, only because she sounded out her first word! ("cat") One day she wrote the entire alphabet on the white board because she was "bored."

I feel like I've been in a daze this first month. I'm thankful I was aware enough to see Toby's eyes light up when she sounded out "c-a-t," and now have that memory with me forever. I'm thankful I took a picture of her alphabet artwork on the board. I'm thankful for the phone calls from the other children's schools to know they are up-to-date and doing well. I'm thankful for Winter's tears, that alert me to her struggles (but sorry I don't see the problem until she reaches that point!). God has been good, despite my school daze.

My sister-in-law handed me this picture of Todd at church this week. Just had to share.


I am amazed at how much he and Nathan look so similar at that age!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

40 months

Sounds like a long time, but sometimes it feels like an instant. All the memories of Todd's sickness, those days in the hospital, the weeks here at home, and even that last day he was here with us, are all so close and vivid in my mind, making it feel like just yesterday.

40 months. God has taught me a lot. He has been our help, our strength, and our provider.

40 months. The children are growing up too fast. Time has stood still for me, and it's difficult to realize that we now have a 19 year old son in his second year of college, and in two days our oldest daughter will be turning 16.

40 months. That's a lot of months. Time moves on, despite my desperately holding on to the past, to the feel of Todd's rough hands, his soft touch, his thick hair and stubby beards, and, of course, that never-ending smile (I still see that clearly when I close my eyes at night!).

40 months. A long time. Oh, for one more touch, one more kiss, one more conversation...just one more day. Yet I was promised eternity with my Savior, the God of heaven, and with my sweet Todd. "I never felt more homesick than now!"

40 months. Thank you, God, for your care through them.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Fighting the system...and losing

After spending hours on the phone and standing in long lines waiting for people who I never saw or heard of before, I have come to the realization that I am fighting a lost cause against a powerful, immovable system. They're too big and they really don't care anything about anyone's individual situation, only if an individual meets the pre-set qualifications for the "system." I have heard that word used countless times this week. This "system" is screwed up, and it is also screwing up the people's lives that it was originally established to help!

I learned today that I and my older children are now ineligible for medical assistance because of the Survivor's benefit we receive. Praise God the younger children are all covered and considered "eligible," but get this: I apparently don't have enough income to be eligible for medical benefits from one program, yet I have too much income to qualify for the other benefits. Where does this leave me and the older children? Oh, but they told me today that if I was pregnant, I would be eligible for full benefits, including coverage on all prescription medications! I asked if I went and got pregnant, if next month I could call them back and be given the coverage, and they said "Yes, that is how the system is set up. If you become pregnant, then immediately you would qualify for full coverage."

I'm so thankful my God is in control and that this life here on earth is temporary. I'm so thankful Jesus is preparing a place for me, a place where I won't need to worry about who will take care of me or my children...God, the Creator and King of Kings will be our care provider! How cool is that? I'm so thankful that this "system" is not permanent, and that one day Jesus will rule here and make everything right. Praise the Lord.

But until then, well, I don't know anymore. I'm at a loss, and my loss of Todd is making me feel all that much more alone in this "system." This week I've felt like it's me alone against the unmoving, all-powerful "system." I feel so small and so alone. I miss Todd.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

First Week of School

Well, just sitting here writing this shows you that we survived our first week of school. Praise the Lord! It didn't come without many obstacles and problems, but we finished an entire week! phew.

Abe had stories to tell every day when he returned from classes. He certainly is going to have an interesting 2nd year at college.

Nathan worked one last final week, but he'll be starting his senior year next week.

Trina worked hard on taking pretests and getting started on her courses, while Tiff struggled to fill the hours as her classes begin officially next week.

Winter and Toby: well, they certainly enjoyed all the extra attention they received from me. I feel totally overwhelmed. I'm not quite sure what to say about the week with them, except that they both were very excited and did well with their school work. I never realized how much fun Todd brought to homeschooling; this week seemed so much more of a "task" than previous years. I really missed Todd this week. "I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me." Yes, very clearly the only way through this school year is going to be Christ strengthening me!

I'm just glad we have an extra day off with Labor Day this weekend....that probably sounds crazy after only a week of school, but then again, I may be going crazy!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Gross bathroom lesson

Don't worry, I won't give details, but today I was in the "main" bathroom, the one all 6 kids use, and I was shocked! It was a mess! I had just finished cleaning it, too! yuk. I wanted to walk away and "teach them a lesson" by not cleaning it again, but then I realized if I left the mess, it would be there, only worse, the next time I made a visit. As I was cleaning, AGAIN, I was thinking how much that bathroom is like sin in my life. If you ignore it, it gets worse. You have to be cleaning daily (sometimes hourly!), or it will just continue to get worse.

I was reminded again how important it is (thanks, friend, if you're reading this!) to keep my thoughts "in check" all the time, or the same thing will happen. When I begin to dwell on such things like, "I can't do this without Todd," or how difficult the days are raising these children to love God without Todd's help, it can get "messy." I have to be constantly "cleaning" my thoughts with how much God loves me, how much He is in control, and how He will provide the strength necessary to keep going!

Monday, August 18, 2008

School...already?


What happened to the summer? I can't believe we are preparing for another year of school already. The boys worked through the summer, and have both given their notices that they will begin school soon. Abe will begin his second year of college (wow!) next week, and I (drum roll, please....and prayers!!) will be attempting to homeschool the two youngest. We used to homeschool, but since Todd's death, it's been so difficult to even think about doing that again. Todd was a great support and encourager for us when we homeschooled. And here I am, preparing to try again, without him. Most days I think I'm crazy. Either that, or I just cry when I try to plan to homeschool again without my best buddy and friend.
It's going to be strange homeschooling without Todd. Winter will be in 5th grade and Toby will be in the K5 program. The others will be home, but they are enrolled in a cyber school.

This is a big year for us with birthdays, too. Trina will be turning 16 in a few weeks. Toby will be turning 5 in October. Nathan will be 18 in March, and Abe 20 in May. Our kids are growing, with what I feel like, behind my back! I feel "stuck" in time when they were just 18 months, 6, 10, 12, 14, and 15...how old they all were when Todd died. It just doesn't seem possible. I never dreamed we would be celebrating all these birthdays without Dad. It's just weird.

Anyway, we're off to start a new school year. It will be a challenge, I am sure, but it is good to know that God will be here with us, and will continue to give us strength and grace to get through another year.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Lots of Smiles!

Lots of smiles here today and yesterday, thanks to EBAN!! I'm a great Aunt! Eban is not just my nephew's son, but I'm also just a great aunt. Between Eban and Toby, we had plenty of much-needed smiles around here. Hopefully the following pictures will make you smile, too!









Did it work? Did you smile too? I hope so!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Letters and Landscapers

Another "6th," making today 39 months living without Todd. I received a letter from Todd's Mom today. In a short letter, the words "lonely" and "alone" appeared five times. Todd's father died in Feb, 1999, when our Winter Hope was a month old. Todd was torn between his infant daughter's health concerns and being with his Mom. He did well. His Mom knew he loved her. He was there for her when she needed him. The letter spoke of Todd's siblings and how they are there for her now. I'm praising the Lord for them, yet I feel I should be there for her as well. I know all about those words "lonely" and "alone," and I'm living with a house full of kids!

A landscaper stopped by today, offering a great deal to remove some trees and do some pruning, and asked if my husband was home. Yes, Todd is home in heaven, but not here. I had to say the words again, "My husband passed away..." and the tears came. As he drove down the drive, he said, "Keep your chin up, it could be worse." I tried to smile. Worse? maybe to some, but for me, no, it can't get any worse than losing the one person on earth who meant the most to me.

Yet God continues to care for us. Trina (15) reminded me today that God is always here, and that He will never leave us. I knew that, but at a time when I was missing Todd, aching to talk with him again, it was good to be reminded. God hears. God sees. God knows. ...and God cares. Thank you, again, to those praying for us! He hears your prayers and is answering. He is good.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Claiming God's Promises

II Corinthians 4:7-9 says "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;"

God promises His strength, even when I feel so very weak.
God promises He will never forsake me, even when I feel so very lonely.
God promises heaven one day, even when I feel hopeless.

Last week we had Vacation Bible School at our church, and although every day made me miss Todd more, God provided a good week, and provided the strength needed to get us through. Praise the Lord!

The last few days have been filled with major tasks that seem impossible and that make me miss Todd even more, yet once again God's promises of strength and enablement have been met.

At the end of the last school year, I had to evaluate the children's education and make some huge decisions, alone, without Todd's guidance and help. I really wanted to homeschool Toby (kindergarten) and Winter (5th grade), so I began the process and paperwork and ordering of books to head that direction. As August draws ever more near, I am fearful that I made the wrong decision, and I miss Todd. I wonder if I can do this without him. I also decided to change schools for Nathan (12th grade) and Trina (11th grade). Yesterday I tried to enroll them in a different school, and I froze. I cried. I missed Todd. So many memories, and of course the first person we met knew Todd and his siblings. I didn't know the correct response to one of the questions "Child lives with both parents? Mother only? Father only? etc..." so I put "Mother only." The lady asked me if I had any court papers. When I questioned her, she pointed to "Mother only" then saw later Todd's name under the father's information. Just saying it, saying the words, "Todd passed away..." is surreal and is honestly still painful.

Sometimes I wonder if it will ever be ok to say those words or make decisions or even get through a day without it hurting so badly. I've heard "time heals..." but it doesn't. The more I do, the more I try to accomplish, the older the kids get...the more it hurts. I miss Todd: my best friend in the whole world, my dear husband, my confidant, my hero, our leader, my love, my encourager, my secret sharer, my soul mate... I miss him with all my heart.



Yet I am reminded that this pain is for a season, that Christ has promised to return one day, and that because of Calvary, I will spend eternity in heaven with Him, and reunited with Todd. So, until that time, I must (for the kids' sake and for God's glory) keep going, no matter how much it hurts.

Thank you, again, for those of you who pray for us! It means so much.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Some good "medicine"

"A merry heart does good, like medicine..." Proverbs 17:22a

Today I received a double-dose of some good medicine! I was blessed with two special visits, each bringing a "merry heart" and lots of laughter. It felt good to laugh today. This has been another long week, and today was such a blessing to be able to laugh.

Sue, my cousin and good friend, came and brought lunch. This is the cousin/friend who helped me take care of Todd when he was so sick. She is like a bolt of sunshine and can light up a room like no one else I know. She brought a lot of smiles, but she also was
a huge encouragement today. She reminded me that there is no "time table" for grief. She acknowledged the deep and painful sorrow that I still feel in missing Todd, and assured me that this was perfectly "normal" ...17 wonderful years can not just be "forgotten" or "gotten over" in a few short years. It felt good to cry, and it felt good to laugh, too.

Then there was Amy, who came with her family and bought us pizza for dinner. It was easy to talk about Todd in front of this family. We didn't feel awkward or uncomfortable mentioning his name. Amy has been an incredible friend, always there, always encouraging, and always directing my thoughts to my Savior and God. She's great. But she needs improvement in winning
gracefully. My Dad bought the kids an early Christmas present this week....a Wii. I made the mistake of beating Amy (gracefully, btw) in a game of tennis, and she in return, beat me and let everyone know it...harsh. But I haven't laughed that hard in a long time. Her husband helped in that area as well. He's hysterical, and I am so thankful for the laughter he brought to our home today.

Tonight I am thanking God for the blessings of a merry heart and for the double-dose of good medicine I received today. I thank God for my cousin, Sue. And I thank God for Amy and Brent. What a great day! God is good.

Monday, July 7, 2008

A long weekend

It's been awhile since I've been able to think of anything good to write, or have even felt like writing. However, I am thanking God tonight for my family and for Todd. Our kids are growing so fast, but I am so proud of every one of them. Lately Toby keeps saying, "Let's talk about Daddy." We cry together, but mostly we laugh, and then we talk about who will kiss and hug him first in heaven.

Yet as we talk about heaven one day, I am always reminded that our first and foremost joy will be in seeing our Savior. I have a feeling (especially after our pastor's messages lately) that I (and all of us) will be flat on our faces before Him. But what an awesome time that will be! To be in His presence, to see Him, to talk with Him... wow. For me, I have the added blessing of being reunited with the love of my life, too. To stand (or be face down) next to Todd in heaven....wow again. Sometimes I think I am bit too anxious. The older kids get nervous when I talk with any passion about it. One time when I was driving and noticing the beautiful sunset and brilliant colors in the sky, I asked all the kids if they knew for sure they were on their way to heaven (thinking about Christ's return one day in the clouds). I asked about how, when, and their assurance of salvation. As the van grew quiet, Abe (sitting next to me in the passenger's seat) softly asked, "Mom, why did you ask us that?" I tried to explain, and he said, "Bad timing, Mom. Not when you're driving down the highway at 60 mph with a van load of kids!" oops

This weekend was a long and difficult one. I don't know if I ever wrote about the Fourth of July. That was when Todd proposed to me. I'll always remember the day we spent together on the beach, eating on the boardwalk, watching the kites in the field, and finally the fireworks. During the grand finale, with all the explosions and excitement and music, Todd got down on one knee and tried to get my attention. Admittingly I was annoyed. He was missing the best part and trying to get me to miss it as well! When I glanced down, I nearly fainted. He was holding a ring and saying something I couldn't hear. Later I found out he had been rehearsing a speech for weeks, poor guy. He says I never said yes, but I never heard him ask! We stopped at a little restaurant on the way home, and I showed everyone in the place my ring. I remember looking at it all the way home from the shore, snuggled under his right arm, feeling like nothing could ever be better than how I felt that night.

Then Sunday was another 6th, marking 38 months living without Todd. It's been a long, difficult, and lonely weekend, but one where God felt close. I am so thankful for a God I can trust with my whole being: my life, my emotions, my salvation. God is good. He is the only One sustaining me, the only way through these dark days. I can't wait to see Him and to be with Him (and Todd!) for eternity. One day...

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Family Reunions

Today I took all our kids to my Grandmother's 96th birthday "party." I never was a big fan of family reunions...seeing aunts and uncles and cousins who we normally only see on these special occasions, once a year or once every 5 years or so. Todd, on the other hand, loved them. He loved talking with family, catching up, and hearing their stories over and over again from years gone by. He would make the kids listen to the stories, telling them how much they could learn, let alone the sheer entertainment of how my Grandmother would discipline my aunts and uncles, who all are grandparents themselves, many years ago (before there was television, car, or video game privileges to be taken away). Todd would find ways to get us up to the old farm where my Grandmother and uncle live, just to visit for an afternoon. Going back there today was bittersweet. I love my Uncle Andy. I love my Grandmother. But somehow being there without Todd was not fun. It was like an unspoken thought from everyone behind their smiles: "We sure miss Todd." One of my cousins was there who recently lost her husband, John. Todd and John would always be talking and joking together at these gatherings. As I talked with my cousin, we were both holding back tears. Even though we didn't say it verbally, we both missed our men. I could hear them laughing and joking. It was surreal.

Life will never be as it was when Todd was here. He was so much a part of so many lives. I feel lost again tonight. I miss him.

Yet once again I am reminded of God's promises, that He will never leave us or forsake us. I'm thankful for His tender care and for His love for us. I miss Todd so very much, yet I am thankful for his love for me and for so many. The words to that song come to mind again: "...I probably wouldn't be this way, I probably wouldn't hurt so bad...God gave me a moment's grace, cuz if I never saw your face...I probably wouldn't be this way..."

Thank you God for Todd.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Waves and Walking on Them

A friend sent me a devotional she had read about Peter walking on the water. Remember he was fine until he took his eyes off of Jesus? These lines from the devotional that was shared really stood out to me:

"If you are recognizing your Lord, you have no business with where He engineers your circumstances. The actual things are, but immediately you look at them you are overwhelmed, you cannot recognize Jesus, and the rebuke comes: "Wherefore didst thou doubt?" Let actual circumstances be what they may, keep recognizing Jesus, maintain complete reliance on Him."

The circumstance for me, living this life without Todd, is overwhelming. I am learning that I need to keep my eyes on Jesus, if I am ever to "walk on the waves" or get through this life circumstance that God has allowed me. God is good. I'm learning, slowly, but I'm learning. Trusting Him through every day/hour, leaning not unto my own understanding...

Whatever you may be facing today, remember to keep trusting, keeping your eyes on Jesus! It's the only way to walk on those waves!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Another Nature Lesson

Check this out. I tried to get a picture, but I don't think you can see it clearly. I was looking at the roses beginning to bloom again (from the rose bush that Todd had asked my sister to buy when he was sick, so that I would continue to get roses "from him"). One rose was in full bloom, but it looked odd. The main stem from which it grew, had been cut off (I was attempting to prune them earlier), but this flower grew sideways from just where the cut had been made, but only with half a stem!


God has been showing me some great things lately. He's been "growing me" in so many areas. It hasn't been easy. I still hurt and I still miss Todd with all my heart....but could it be God was showing me today in this flower that He can still "grow" me, even with the little that is left after His "pruning?"

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Friday the 6th

Another one of those "special" days is coming. I'm noticing more and more that those days themselves are not usually as difficult as I have made them to be. It's the anticipation, and sometimes the day after, that is the most difficult.

I am once again reminded of the day Todd entered into heaven. He did so on a Friday, late afternoon, in May. This Friday will mark our 37th month living without Dad. Our family is forever changed, but learning much, as we seek to please our good and loving Father. Although our hearts still ache, we can see God's care, provision, and love on our lives.

The children and I were looking through old pictures, and after hearing To Where You Are by Josh Groban, I had to put them together for a slide show. I couldn't end there, however. I added another song that has meant a lot to me....Trusting You. I hope and pray you are blessed as I was. God is good.

Friday, May 30, 2008

I Feel Like I'm Shrinking!

Can you even find me in these pictures? The first one was taken with Todd in 2004, when we visited my brother, Dave.



But this one was taken in March, 2008, when we went to visit Dave.



I was amazed when we received this photo in the mail today. Our children are beginning to tower over me! Everyone is growing so fast. It's still hard for me to believe that Todd is no longer here with us. I know that sounds crazy, but when I look at these children every day, watching them grow up before my eyes, it seems Todd is simply in the other room. We often talked about "When the kids got older..." and now it's happening. Now that the kids are older: there won't be any dinner dates out alone, there won't be any weekends at the shore for just the two of us, there won't be any spontaneous vacations, and no long walks together in the park, holding hands instead of pushing strollers and/or pulling wagons.

As the children grow taller and I shrink in their shadows, I am feeling more and more alone. I am so thankful for God's promises:

"We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;" (II Cor. 4:8-9).

"...I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." (Hebrews 13:5b)

"Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." (John 14:1-3)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Tasting Memories?

Is that even possible? Over the last few days I think I've actually been tasting memories!

Todd and I both loved the shore and the boardwalk. I've only taken the children twice since he died. I miss it, but it's hard going when he's not going with us. We got engaged there. We spent many, many family vacations there. Anyway, we always made sure we had fudge and caramel popcorn for the drive home. Of course most times these items barely made it to the van, and rarely made it all the way home. We tried to prolong our time spent at the shore and boardwalk as long as possible by eating popcorn and fudge all the way home!

Well, thanks to my niece who brought some back after her visit to the shore this weekend, we once again were enjoying the famous Johnson's Popcorn and fudge from the famous Fudge Kitchen. YUM!!



Today I was brought chocolate from the Wilbur's Chocolate Factory. Todd used to bring me home some of their chocolate when he delivered there. YUM again! We would hide this precious chocolate from the children, so they had no idea what it was when my friend brought some to us today. (yes, I did share with the children, but I didn't want to!!) The taste was divine.

While eating those yummy treats, there came a lot of memories. I could hear Todd's laugh again. I could see his smile. I could taste his kisses after we shared that special chocolate we hid from the kids.... ahhhhh, the taste of memories!

As usual when these good memories come, I thank God for Todd and for all those precious times we shared.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Memorial Day


There are so many memories. Todd always made sure we remembered the fallen soldiers over this weekend. He would take the children to the graves of relatives who were veterans, and some who were KIA, with flags to decorate. We would talk about the soldiers. We would pray for them.

Before I began this blog, I came across a blog that has touched my heart and for which I am so grateful for. I love going there. This Memorial Day weekend, I would encourage you to make a visit there.

You will read of a man of God, Sgt. James J. Holtom, who gave his life for this country.


You will read (and be blessed) of his loved one....the one he was planning on spending the rest of his life with. She is strong. She is courageous. She is faithful to God. Please be blessed by reading of this young lady who loved a soldier.
This Memorial Day weekend I will be praying for Sgt. Holtom's family, and for Mel and her family and remember the fallen. Thank you, God, for Jim and for all of our fallen soldiers. Thank you, God, for the United States of America and the freedoms we enjoy here.

Remember this song, 3rd verse, and common chorus?

"O Beautiful, for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!

America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!"
--Samuel A. Ward

Friday, May 23, 2008

Our Precious Toby Faith

This morning I learned that people actually enjoy coming here to read about "Tales of Six Kids." That amazes me. But as I was contemplating on yesterday's events, I was reminded that my sister-in-law informed me that people like reading of what's going on here with the six kids. Amazing. Sooooooo...

The Tobster had another major procedure scheduled for yesterday at the dentist. This poor child has had the unfortunate displeasure of many dental problems in her short 4 years. We don't really know what the underlying cause is (could it be the many lollipops given to her?), but she has endured numerous painful toothaches. Yesterday she had to get another cap on one of her baby molars. They had to give her that gas again, and she does not like "that yucky smelly stuff."

As difficult as these kinds of things are for me to deal with, especially without Todd's help, Toby did very well. She cried, she complained, but she was cooperative and brave. Dr. Robin said she did a wonderful job in sitting still and obeying. yay, Toby!! They wouldn't let me go back there with her (I wonder why? ....I cry more than Toby does!), but reports from Dr. Robin and the nurses were all positive. She's a trooper.

On our way to the appointment, I told Toby that if she tried to be real brave with Dr. Robin, then I would take her to get her friend a birthday present at Toys R Us. This thrilled her, as she loves both her friend and Toys R Us! However, in the waiting room she came over to me, crawled in my lap, and whispered in my ear, "Mommy, can I cry?" I just about lost it.

She's so precious. So when we went to Toys R Us, we didn't just buy a birthday present for her friend. I couldn't resist a new stuffed animal that she clung to while looking for a gift for her friend! She fell asleep hugging "Spots"...had to get a picture of that!

I often wondered why God would have allowed us this precious one, knowing Todd would only be here for her first 18 months of life. I think I'm beginning to see why....Toby Faith has been our precious gift and countless source of smiles and laughter. She, as with all the children, are a continuous reminder to me of Todd and his love for me and for his famiily.

Thank you, God, for our precious Toby Faith!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day

Another difficult day, yet filled with love and a peace that passes all understanding. Mother's Day was another day for Todd to show me how much he loved me, as he would be sure to make this day special and remind the kids to thank God for their wonderful Mom. I always felt loved and appreciated....Todd made sure of that.

Three years ago on this date we buried my husband. The memories of that day are blurred, yet some things stand out clearly....the casket, the limo ride, putting flowers on the casket and watching some fall into that dark hole, holding Winter as she shook with tears and sadness as we stood beside the casket, and the van breaking down on our way home.

Today, with all it's memories of this date and all it's memories of past Mother's Days, I surprisingly and gratefully, felt that love again. Many, many thanks to great friends (thanks Brent and Amy!), the kids were given money to take me out to dinner. The boys did a great job of handling the bill and tip with the money given to them, and the older ones took good care of the younger ones in order to make the dinner extra special. The children were sincerely thankful to God for me. They expressed their love so geniunely and thoughtfully. I was blessed.

When we got home, they presented me with a special "card." They told me how they had been hiding it from me all week. They had been secretly gathering pictures and designing and creating a collage of all the things I like, love, and hold dear to my heart. I cried. It was a special gift indeed. I had to scan it to share on my blog.

I am so thankful for the love from my friends, children, Todd, and God today. The added blessing from God of that peace has been my stronghold when the sadness seemed overwhelming. God is so good.

Here's my special gift, with every picture and word portraying something that means a lot to me (yes, I once was in love with Harrison Ford...I'll admit it): (they had planned to have Todd's picture bigger than Hans...honest!)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Comic Relief

It's so nice to be able to laugh in the midst of heartache. It was good to laugh last night....I mean really laugh, until the tears came and catching your breath was difficult!

My parents live in the Florida Keys, but they stay with us for two or three months during the hurricane season. They have a room here that we leave untouched. We had friends over last night who have been threatening to "clean" that room so that we can use it while they are gone. This made me nervous, to say the least. Anyway, last night my friend took the plunge and spent two hours "cleaning" my parents room. Two hours and two big trash bags later (please don't tell them), and we still can't see a difference. ugh.

Anyway, for as long as I can remember my Mom has tried her best to "dress" my Dad properly....laying out matching clothes, buying nice things for him to wear...BUT he seems to find things to wear to get a reaction from her. Often when they are staying with us we can hear, "Paul! Where did you find that? Take it off and put on what I set out for you to wear!" It's comical in itself.



Last night Loretta uncovered an interesting "find." A thin, pale yellow, old pair of shorts that my Mom has been hiding from my Dad for years. She was not good at this, because my Dad would always find them and try to wear them in public. I realized, that until last night, I hadn't seen those shorts in years. My Mom succeeded! As Loretta held them up, we all yelled, "Hey, Granddad's shorts! He was looking for them!" sorry, Mom, for uncovering them again, but don't worry....Dad will never find them or wear them again (you can thank Loretta). poor Dad.

I love my parents. They're the best. I'm thanking God today for them and for laughter. They're both good.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

3 Years

These last 3 years have clearly been the 3 most difficult years of my life. However, I have learned some important lessons that I will never forget, and that I will always cherish.

Lesson #1: God is a good God. He never changes. He's the same good God that brought Todd into my life, gave us 17 wonderful years together, and the same God that Todd is enjoying and praising even now, face to face.

Lesson #2: God is a faithful God. He keeps his promises. Even when my emotions cloud the feeling of His promises, He has never left us, He loves us and only wants the best for us, and He has always provided for our every need.

Lesson #3: A thankful heart to a good and faithful God, brings a peace and contentment no matter what my circumstances. I am so thankful for Todd. He helped me to grow in so many areas in my life. He made me the person I am today, and I am praising God for Todd and how He used him in my life. This is worth re-posting (at least worth it to me!):



Todd Jeffrey Radle
December 25, 1960 - May 6, 2005
Missing you...still crazy in love with you!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Peace and Pain

I am learning that trusting God brings a peace that passes all understanding. When I can say, "God, I do not understand why, but I trust that you know what is best for me, you are in control, and you love me and will not forsake me," there is a peace that comes and remains as long I keep trusting.

I am also learning that the pain doesn't always go away during those times of peace. I'm trusting, yet I'm hurting. I have peace, yet my heart is broken. I'm not sure when the pain will go away. I'm not sure if it will ever go away until heaven. Yet I am sure that trusting God brings a peace, an assurance, and a hope. How does one go through the difficult times in life without these things that come from a trust in a good and loving God?

Thank you, God, for your peace today that passes all understanding.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Raging Storms

It seems the storms are raging more frequently these past days/weeks. The memories of Todd's last few weeks here with us are ever present and create a sense of storm in which to find my way through these dark days. The memories are painful. I remember that Monday when he was helping Toby with a puzzle on the floor and couldn't get up. When we tried to help him, he said in a shaky voice, "Please don't touch me; it hurts all over." I nearly fell apart. Todd was a pillar of strength just a few months earlier. He did everything! Now he was crumpled on the floor, unable to move.

Yes, the memories can create such a storm and the tears have been flowing, yet I am so thankful for the good memories, too. In remembering how we talked Todd's final days here, how we remembered together all the fun times, how we assured each other of our eternal destinies, how God had blessed us over the years...we smiled through our tears. I can still see Todd's smile as the tears streamed down his face when he told me watching Toby play, "I want so badly to walk Toby down the aisle, but God has other plans. I'll be watching." I love that smile and I will always cherish it.

I found this quote on a music video and it is so true:

Sometimes God calms the storm....sometimes God allows the storm to rage and calms His child.

Thank you, dear God, for the calm and peace you provide through the storms of life. Thank you again for Todd and for his smile.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Caring God!

I had an interesting conversation with one of my former students. Here's a young man who knows a lot of facts about the Bible and Christianity, yet has chosen to claim he is a theist...he told me he believes in a god, but not necessarily the God of the Bible. He seemed very upset when I talked of my faith (which he knows very well), especially, as he put it, "praying to a God who you say is all-powerful yet who allowed your husband to die from something like cancer." He went on to talk about the lack of "proof" that God was real, active, or even cared about this world today. After some debate, I finally ended with saying, "I don't know where I would be right now without God and the knowledge that He does care for me."

These last few weeks have been filled with memories, some good, but most of Todd's last few days here with us. I'm surprised that I have any tears left, yet they continue to come every day. Going to sleep at night is my only relief from the pain, and then I wake up to the reality that Todd is not here, not coming home from work, and the pain begins all over again. Where does one turn when you feel like your whole world has caved in? Where does one look when everything seems so dark and endlessly lonely? There is only one place to go, and I am so thankful to serve and personally know a God who cares! Only the God of heaven, the true and living God of the Bible, is big enough, strong enough, caring enough, and loving enough to heal my broken heart. Thank you, dear Heavenly Father, for caring for "such a worm as I."

Monday, April 21, 2008

more memories....

The kids are often talking about Daddy and different things he had done or said. Tonight at dinner they were remembering one of our favorite things about Todd....his very opinionated comments on anything and everything. He had come home from work one day while the younger ones were watching Dora the Explorer. "What is that? A dancing cigarette?" No, it's a map, Todd. It shows Dora which way to go in the show. "It looks like a dancing joint to me."

Leave it to Todd. Now every time I hear "I'm the map, I'm the map, I'm the map..." all I can think of is a dancing joint. ugh.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

memories...


Three years ago this week April 13th was on a Wednesday, and I was standing in front of four doctors at National Institutes of Health, after they had taken Todd back to his room. It was just me. My knees felt weak. They asked me if I had any questions. It had been a long two days, filled with tests and short procedures, and many tears. We were back for a follow-up after Todd's major surgery he had two months earlier. The surgery was to remove a large tumor that had overtaken his right kidney; the prognosis was hopeful to begin a new treatment at NIH to rid him of the remaining cancer, once he was strong enough after the surgery. He never got strong enough for the study in IL2...his only hope for survival.

As I stood there in front of the doctors, after they had just told Todd and I that the cancer had spread rapidly since the surgery, and that he was now ineligible for the IL2 treatment, I knew the question I had for them. I didn't want to ask. Looking at the floor, tears streaming down my face, feeling sick to my stomach, I muttered, "How long?" The response was delayed. The doctors shifted their weight. They looked at the floor, each other, and then began telling me more about the cancer and the type it was, etc. Finally they grew quiet. One of them said softly, "8 to 10 weeks." I couldn't hear or see anything. I felt dizzy. This wasn't happening. I had to sit down, because I had no strength in my knees. The four prestigious doctors gathered around me. They were saying things I didn't hear. I have no idea how long we were there. I knew Todd was waiting for me in his room. I had to get up. I couldn't move. Somehow I made it back to Todd's room. He had a big smile and said, "What happened, did you get lost?"

I can still see that smile. That's when I started hearing and seeing things more clearly. He was in incredible pain and exhausted, yet that smile....in that smile I saw his love again. I wasn't lost. I was right where I wanted to be.

God is good. I thank Him for the memory of Todd's smile and for Todd's love. It is something I will cherish forever. Thank you, God. Thank you for Your Love as well, and for your tender care for us. God is good.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Children: Blessings and Heartaches

Yesterday morning before church, Abe received some heartbreaking news about a friend of his. They weren't close, but Abe and this young man shared common interests in the computer gaming world. Abe was asked to pray for this guy, who had made some poor choices and is now paying some grave consequences for the sin and subsequent destruction to not only his life, but many others as well. It breaks my heart. Here is a young man who, in my mind, was full of energy, joy, and zest for life. He told me how he and his family were praying for our family when Todd died. He was sincere. He was active in his church. His father was a pastor. He had so much to offer, so much to give, so many talents. Today it appears as though the world and the devil's deceptions have distracted him, and now he is paying a great cost.

There are so many things in this world calling out for our children's attention. The devil is fighting hard for their souls. He uses alcohol, drugs, sex, porn, depression....anything to get them to choose to turn away from God and into sin and destruction. When the wrong choices are made, heartache always follows. I'm saddened as I write this for this young man, yet I am thankful for the blessings my children provide in making good choices.

I am often criticized for "sheltering" my children. Often I hear people tell me that they are not provided enough social atmosphere. This weekend I was told that they need to go to a "real school" and how important it was for them to have friends outside of the church and home. I don't understand this.

Our oldest (19 next month!) is attending classes at Penn State University and doing very well. He studies on the weekends. He's home on the weekends. He attends church on the weekends....all good choices for a 19 year old. Our kids are not perfect by any means!! We have our battles; we have our struggles. By God's grace, and by continuing to stay close to Him in our personal devotions and family devotions, our children seem to be making the right choices in life. For this I am blessed, very blessed. Yet, as I talked with Abe last night, we both acknowledged that we could very well be dealing with the same issues as his friend is facing today. We are ALL capable of the same sins. We are ALL capable of making wrong choices. I reminded him again to "guard his heart." I pray for our kids every day. Don't forget to pray for yours! They are being bombarded at every level from every direction.

My heart is heavy today. I wish I were sharing these things with Todd, and I would do anything to be praying beside him, on our knees, for our children and for Abe's friend, even at this very moment. Our children need our prayers.

"A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother." Proverbs 10:1

Sunday, April 6, 2008

35 Months

I haven't written in longer than I realized. When thinking about my blog and what to write, I try at some point to remember and share how good God is. God is good, and He shows it in so many ways. This morning in church we sang one of my favorite hymns, "Count Your Blessings," but I couldn't finish singing without crying. Todd loved this song as well, and he would add words to the end of the lines and sing it often around the house. It made me miss him.

These last few weeks have had countless memories of Todd and many tears have fallen again and again. You would think after 35 months that the pain would lessen. You would think that the memories would decrease. You might even think that his voice and mannerisms are so far in the past that I would find it difficult to remember what it felt like to be held in his arms or tickled by his mustache. These things have felt more real to me than if he had died only yesterday. I taught Jr. Church for the first time without Todd today. I could hear him laughing and picture him making the children laugh. But for some reason, I couldn't even smile; all I could do was hold back tears. Even after 35 months, it still hurts more than I could express. The pain is deep tonight. I miss my love. I wonder how I can possibly go on without Him, and that's when I must turn to God's promises.

God promised He would never leave me nor forsake me.
God promised He would meet our needs.
God promised His love for me.
God promised Jesus would return and we will be reunited with loved ones (my Todd!).

Truly, GOD IS GOOD.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Rockets and Forts

These are two totally separate thoughts, but I wanted to write about both of them, thus the diverse title.

Toby (4 yo) often asks me when Daddy is coming back down here. Whenever she has something to show him, or when she's crying about being hurt or just sad, she asks me, almost pleading with me, and says, "I want Daddy down here now." Yesterday she came to me with this fabulous lego design and told me it was a rocket. She has a great imagination (I had to have one too with what she showed me!), and she told me, "This rocket is big, so Daddy can come down here and take us back with him to heaven. And then we can come back here and he can go back up to heaven if he wants to." The whole time she was moving her "rocket" high into the air as far as she could reach and back down on the floor. A rocket to heaven would be nice. Someday we'll get there without a rocket, and a lot faster! I can't wait for Jesus to come back. I'm listening daily for the trumpet...

Forts. I was having a difficult day yesterday. In tears, crying out to God for His help, my thoughts went to family devotions. I've tried so many different things, but could never get everyone's attention (ages 4 to 18 now) like Todd could. Todd was so good with family devotions. He made them fun and even I enjoyed that special time we would have together as a family. I rarely have done them; compared to how it used to be, it's helpless. I asked God for wisdom. Something amazing, only from God, came to mind.

Today Nathan has designed and built a fort. It is in the shape of a bust, only with a square "head." It has two gates in the front, and one on each side. The walls around the shoulders are not as high, but have no gates. Picture this? The "gates" will represent our eyes and ears. Inside is going to be our battle ground. The girls are going to help me stencil/stamp words on the inside walls: good, honest, true... Our brain is the battle ground. We are going to try to guard our heart, or as Tiffany has labeled it, "The Throne Room" where our King, Immanuel, will be. It is vulnerable, with lower walls, but it will be our duty to keep the enemy from inhibiting Him.


Tonight we bought some little soldiers. The kids are so excited. We can do so much with this. Once it's completed, there are so many lessons we can gleam from it, and the younger ones will be able to "see" it come to life. The picture shows the beginning stages...I'll have to take more pictures after the kids decorate it. I'm so excited. God is so good.

Thank you, God, for visions of rockets and heaven, and for forts and the protection you give us from our enemies.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Happy Birthday Nathan!


Today is Nathan's 17th birthday. He is a miniature Todd...more like Todd than any of our children, although all have their resemblances. I know his Dad is as proud as I am of this young man, who is growing more every day....not only physically, but more spiritually and like Jesus, too. Nathan has his Dad's commitments to God and his Dad's work ethic as well.

I'm doing my best to make today special. What do you think he wanted for his birthday dinner? To go out for pizza? steak? No, he wanted me to make him a roast beef dinner with mashed potatoes, because "no one can top my potatoes." (just like Todd always said and was his favorite meal as well) Even the cake is the same: yellow cake and chocolate frosting. Todd always preferred to eat in the dining room for dinner. It's hard to eat in there, but of course, Nate asked if we could tonight. The table is cleared, new tablecloth, set for tonight, only with one important place empty.


The mixed feelings today are difficult. I want to cry, yet I want today to be happy for the kids. I'm trying. Nathan is 17! wow.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Dave


We just got back from a visit to see my brother, Dave. Since being incarcerated in 2000, it has always been difficult to visit my brother. Todd would be sure we visited often as a family. My brother hurt many people with his crime, but it hasn't changed the fact that he is my brother. What did he do? Here's a part of a newspaper article from 2002...his crimes are still affecting people today:

"The case stems from a Ponzi scheme perpetrated by David Burry, who raised $25 million from investors after he formed C.F. Foods, a wholesale company that distributed candy from manufacturers to retailers.
To attract investors, Burry, who later pleaded guilty to criminal charges, falsified sales records, balance sheets, income statements and accounts receivable listings. The investors were paid back through a pyramid scheme in which proceeds from new investors were given to old investors, creating an illusion of legitimate profit-making." (from The Legal Intelligencer, January 4, 2002)

The federal courts wanted to make an example for other financial criminals (this was before Enron), so they sentenced the maximum years (12 years) and required he pay everything back in retribution.


Every family has its leader, the one other siblings turn to for advice, turn to during tough times...the "leader" often inherits this position because of personality, or because he/she earned it, or just because they are the oldest. Todd was the leader in his family. Dave was the leader in our family. Neither were the oldest sibling; both earned their leadership with their care, love, concern, and wisdom for others. Both leaders are "gone" now.

I have only seen my brother three times since Todd died. Every visit is emotional and difficult, but since Todd's death it is even more so. This visit was no different. In fact, it was even more difficult coming from the tragedy of the fire last week (Dave married Kim, Kelly's sister). Dave wanted to know every detail. He asked specifically about each family member, how Jay was doing, how Kelly was doing, each of their children. We cried a lot. Of course he would be there if he could. Todd would be there as well. It's so strange, because I can see Dave, even though he is "gone," but I cannot see or communicate with Todd. Leaving this morning was hard, but I can still talk with Dave, write letters to Dave, and communicate with him just recently with email. I wish I could do the same with Todd.

God is good. He gave us safety both ways to and from the mountains of West Virginia. The strong winds and snow caused many accidents, but God kept us safe. We're home now. I miss Dave. I miss Todd.
But I am praising God for my family, for my brother, for my husband, and for His grace and love and safety. Thank you, God. You are so very good.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

God's Goodness

Today has been a long day. My heart has been heavy for Kelly and her family, and my prayers have been with them, as well as with Fireman Picozzi's family. Tonight after work, the girls helped me make cookies, and we took them over to the "new" house, across the street from their burned home. Yesterday we were praising God for a kind neighbor, who had taken his house off the market and allowed Kelly's family to stay there until they could rebuild. As we stood in the empty house yesterday, looking across the street at the still smoldering home, I never dreamed or imagined what I would see tonight.

Since early this morning, friends, neighbors, family, church members, and strangers, have been dropping and donating furniture, clothing, dishes, food...the list goes on and on. The house is now full of God's blessings on this family! Kelly and Jay had tears in their eyes, overwhelmed in showing me the filled rooms. Amazing.

On the way home the kids remarked how the whole thing reminded them of Job. They noted Uncle Jay's testimony, how he and Aunt Kelly never once complained about all they lost, only voicing their concern and prayers for the fireman's family who had died yesterday. Their focus never appeared on their own loss, but always on the family that lost so much more. Uncle Jay had told the news people, "We can replace the things we lost, but you can't replace a life. Our prayers are with the family." Today, God blessed their testimonies abundantly. He poured His love out on that family through the neighbors, family, church members, and even strangers.

Speaking of family...the Choate family is a blessing in itself. They have endured much tragedy over the years, yet their love for God and for each other has been and continues to be always outstanding. Yesterday and tonight I witnessed a love and bond that few families have. The difficult times drive them closer to each other and closer to God. The hard part was in watching Jay, Rick, and Paul working so hard, and not having Todd or my brother, Dave (more on him soon!), working alongside them. Todd's absence was huge. These are the times that make missing Todd so intense. Today marks 34 months since his death. I miss him so very, very much.

In closing tonight, I wish I had a picture or movie to share with everyone of the scene at Kelly's house. God's love. God's provision. God's goodness! It would draw your heart closer to Him. God is good.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

And the hits keep coming...

I got a call this morning from my niece. She was crying and barely got out, "Aunt Wendy, Aunt Kelly's house burned this morning. They lost everything." I was able to find out the family was ok, but that a fireman had died. I felt numb. I couldn't stop crying. I wanted to call Todd. Todd worked with Jay (whose house burned) and Kelly has been a friend of mine since we were young (her sister married my brother, so we are "family" as well), and was a huge help to me when Todd was sick and with the funeral. I had to see her. I had to know that she was ok.


When I drove over to the familiar house (Kelly and Jay bought Kelly's parents' house after her parents died...a place where I had spent much time growing up and for family gatherings), the roads were blocked with dozens of fire trucks, police, and ambulances. I had to walk. It was so hard to see the burned home. The whole family was there, but I needed to see Kelly. After tears and hugs and crying, I found her. She was fine. Strong. Kept saying, "It's ok, Wendy, it's ok."

I love the Choate family. Todd loved them as well. I wish he were here to lean on.

The fireman who died had a wife and two young children. A tragic loss.

Today feels like a dream. I wish it was. I want the nightmares to end.

There is praise to God in all this tragedy. He is still good. He is still God. He is still in control. He is there for Kelly's family, He is there for Fireman Picozzi's family. He is good.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Well in Sickness

I was sick over the weekend; however, my illness was truly a blessing. I know many of you probably think I'm losing my mind, and this post surely will not help you to think otherwise, but I have to share this experience anyway.

Last week was a difficult week. I struggled day and night with both sweet memories of Todd and heart-breaking dreams that will never be. I longed to be with him again, to be celebrating those 20 years together as a married couple. I cried, sobbed, and ached for my love. Friday everything seemed to come to the surface, and I looked at what was before me in defeat. There was no way I could get through that day. I just couldn't go any further. I needed Todd.

A good friend called (after a desperate email from me titled, "I can't") and reminded me that I needed God. She reminded me to just look at the next task ahead of me, not the whole day. She reminded me to break the day down into "do-able" steps, taking the day a step at a time. Then she prayed with me over the phone.

I took the next step, then the next, then the next... By God's strength and grace, I got through the day! Friday night I began to feel sick. I felt weak, headache, stomach ache...

I slept through most of Saturday and Sunday. Sunday morning the older children helped get the younger ones ready for church, and the boys drove the gang to church. It was the first time I was alone in the house since Todd used to take all the kids out for me, at least once a week, to give me a break. Sometimes I would go with them, but Todd could tell when I needed to stay home alone, and made sure I had my rest. I didn't realize how much I missed those few hours alone. I missed my kids, prayed for them as they were traveling, but then slept for 3 hours straight!

Today, although still feeling weak and tired, I am rejoicing for being sick this weekend. Really. I thank God for that time. He knew I needed it and provided rest for me. I'm ready to go back to work tomorrow. Still taking one step at a time, I feel rested and ready to get back to doing whatever it is God has for me. He is so good. Oh, and today is the third day in a row that I have not wept in agony over missing my dear Todd. After seven plus days in a row of weeping, that is huge! Praise God for His loving care and tender mercies for me!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

20th Wedding Anniversary





I can't believe it myself, but tomorrow, February 27, 2008, would have been our 20th wedding anniversary. We had 17 fantastic years together. Even though our last anniversary together was spent in the ICU at National Institutes of Health, miles away from our family and friends, it was one I will always cherish. We used to try to be the first one to say "Happy Anniversary," which eventually led to setting alarms, getting each other distracted, trying anything to be the first who said it (I usually won), so our last anniversary was no different (at least for me).



Todd was in the ICU, only 10 days after major surgery, still very critical, and I repeatedly reminded him that our 17th wedding anniversary was the next day. The nurses would get involved and ask him, "What special day is tomorrow, Todd?" (the neurology team would ask him questions daily like "What is your name?" and asking if he knew who I was...some days he would know and others he wouldn't). Every time he was asked about the 27th, he would smile and say, "That's the day I married the most beautiful lady in the world." (that was me) :) He never forgot the "right answer" to that question. (when he was unsure of an answer for the neurologists, he would look at me and say, "Was that the right answer?" It was precious, but so sad too....during surgery he had had a stroke.)

Anyway, I couldn't sleep when I left him on the 26th. Of course I waited until one minute after midnight, called the ICU, and asked the nurse to tell Todd I said Happy Anniversary. I also asked her to mark it down on his chart that I said it first, knowing he would probably argue that point in the morning. The nurse thought that was funny, and she laughed and commented that we acted like we were newlyweds or something.


The next morning, Todd greeted me with the biggest smile. He said, "Happy Anniversary. You beat me this time."

I wish we were celebrating here. Happy Anniversary my love. You gave me the best 17 years of my life. Thank you. I miss you more than words could tell.