Monday, January 28, 2008

I love my kids!

Tonight I'm thanking God for my great kids. I've been trying to climb out of this valley the last few days, unable to concentrate on anything but how much I don't like this life without Todd, and I remembered a good friend telling me how I need to count my blessings. God has blessed me with six great kids.

I thank God for my eighteen year old, who is having a great start to his second semester of college. He stands up for what is right, encourages good behavior, and reminds me often that "it's all about God, Mom, not us."

I thank God for my sixteen year old, who is a junior in highschool and has been such a huge help around the house fixing things, replacing light bulbs, and even repairing his younger sisters' toys.

I thank God for my daughters as well. Our little girls seem suddenly so grown up. They take on responsibilities of helping to take care of their younger siblings, they help me a lot around the house, they love each other (not without their squabbles) and are always playing games together, and they keep me laughing and smiling. Tonight Toby (four years old) told me she wanted to be a gladiator when she grew up (we were watching American Gladiators and she loves "The Wolf"...btw, go Toni! Did anyone see that awesome older-than-me Mom take on that 26 yr old cheerleader and BEAT her?? Yes! It inspired me to get in shape and try out for the show!! I could take those gladiators!); my kids got a good laugh tonight at my dreams. They're so encouraging, laughing at my probable heart attack and/or embarrassing failure. Thanks kids. I'll show them one would think they would have more confidence in their Mom, who can STILL beat them in basketball!

Anyway, back to what I was writing about: I love my kids (even when they laugh at me). My kids keep me moving. God has used each one to help me get out of bed each day and give me many reasons to push forward. I often wonder where I would be without them.

Thank you, God, for my wonderful children. I love them so much.

[About the picture above: I don't like that picture...we're missing a huge part of our family and it just doesn't look right without Todd in that picture. But we did our best to make him present there. Toby is holding Daddy's teddy bear, the girls are wearing jewelry given to them from Todd, and the boys are each wearing one of Dad's ties.]

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Family and Feeling Cold

Todd's Mom was hospitalized with pneumonia last week. His brother had surgery Monday to remove a blood clot. And I feel cold for several reasons: 1. our heater broke last week, 2. the heater in my van is broken (going to work and church have been quite an ordeal in this cold weather!), and 3. I haven't visited Todd's Mom or his brother, nor have I even called them to see how they were/are doing.

Visiting hospitals and sick people have always been a difficulty for me. Looking back, I can see how God worked in my life to be able to get me to endure Todd's sickness and all the hospital stays. Todd was my strength and anchor when our Winter Hope was in and out of children's hospitals with tests and procedures and the many doctor visits. I spent weeks "living" in the hospital when Todd was sick, and weeks in the ICU (which was a miracle of God's, and although overwhelming, was necessary to be with my love).

So visiting local hospitals to see Todd's Mom and to encourage his brother should be easy after all that God helped me to accomplish during Todd's sickness, right? I feel cold.

God is good. I am still learning, still growing as a person, but sometimes I feel helpless. It's hard to grow as a person without your strength, confidence, and love by your side. I miss Todd, and I know his family misses him a lot these days. He would be there by his mom and brother's side (probably with all of us as well). I can't do it without him. I feel cold without him. I miss him more and more....when is this supposed to get better? Thank you for your prayers. It means a lot. God is good.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Jumbled Thoughts

A lot has happened this week, but I haven't been able to "blog" for fear of offending someone or worse yet, for fear of writing things from my heart, or jumbled thoughts, that may not be God-honoring.

I read a lot of blogs. I got caught up one day on following links from one blog to another until something really caught my eye and my heart, and stopped my jumbled thoughts for a few minutes. Here's what I read:

One day, as I was walking and pondering, it was as if the Lord said to me, “Sally, if I took everything away from you that you hold dear, would you still believe in me?” It was suddenly as though God was shining a spotlight onto the deepest part of my soul, and I found at the very bottom of it, that with all the difficulties that a fallen world could throw at me, I would still rather hold on to my faith in God and believe in His love and goodness for the rest of my life, than to choose a life of existentialism and despair. But a realization came to me that this choice would require constant vigilance–that I would have to guard my heart and feed it with the truth of God’s word and His constance in my life...
...from this blog I found...

OK, so here's the thing. I remember when Todd was first diagnosed. I refused to believe he had cancer. When the facts sunk in there was just no way either one of us would believe that he would die from this cancer. I told God I couldn't live without him. I told God He had to heal him. I told God a lot, but God was good. He was patient with me.

Todd and I had publically and personally dedicated ourselves to raise each one of our children to love God. We had also given each one of them back to Him. We knew (especially after Winter Hope was born) that they were, in reality, already His children. In my mind Todd was not God's. Todd was mine. So Todd couldn't die. I know the faulty reasoning here, but please allow me to continue and try to finish this.

Since Todd died, I struggled with praying. Why should I? God was going to do what He wanted anyway, right? Our pastor often spoke on prayer, and one time I emailed him asking him why God didn't answer my prayers for Todd's health, along with a few other interesting and difficult questions. Here was his response:

"I feel very inadequate to try and respond to your questions as I often have more questions than answers myself.
In my reading today, I found this statement by a writer I highly respect: We live by promises not by explanations. God did answer your prayer and today, Todd is completely healed and in glory. Why didn't God heal him and leave him here? I don't know; honestly I don't have an explanation but I do have promises that I believe. I know God has a purpose and a plan. I know God didn't forget your prayers. I know that God has not forsaken you. I know God loves you with an everlasting love. You ask, where is God's love for Todd? I want you to think about that. God showed the ultimate love for His child, Todd, in promoting him to glory. Where is God's love for you? God gave the ultimate healing and promotion to the person you loved the most on this earth. If God gave you a choice to give supreme blessing to one individual on this earth, who, other than him, would you have chosen to receive the ultimate prize - the greatest of all eternal blessings? The truth is, God gave Todd the very best He has - eternal life in Heaven with Him. The whole time you were praying, God was answering your prayer; I can't tell you all the different ways, but He was working in everyone's hearts and lives in ways that we still may not see and understand now. In the seeming silence, God was answering and still is. I can't explain it but We live by promises not by explanations.
God loves you and your children; He has not forsaken you; He has a purpose and plan. His plan has worked for Todd's good and will work for your and the children's good. I know you don't want to hear that, but it's true. Explain it, I can't; believe it, we must!
Three times we are told in the N.T. "The just shall live by faith." "By faith" means we are not going to have all the answers but we trust and believe anyway.
I don't have much at all to offer by way of explanation and there is so much I don't yet know and understand either, but I do know God's Word is true and His promises true even though sometimes I don't understand it all. I know God loves you and your children and that He wants to bless and use you all. I know Todd is with the Lord, rejoicing around the throne eternal and is infinitely better off than we are. I know, one day, we'll understand it all. I know, until then, we've got to go on serving Him by faith."

That helped a lot, yet for some reason I still have great difficulty in praying, especially for others' health. Since Todd died, several friends and relatives have been diagnosed with cancer and other serious ailments. Some have survived, others haven't. These past years I've lost four precious friends and relatives to cancer. However, I've felt numb, with hardly any feeling when I hear and read about their struggles. Yes, I feel guilty for this. I can't help it, though. There just hasn't been any emotions.

Then, for some reason I may never know or understand, some friends suddenly "appear" back in my life, and a few short weeks later, their Dad, a dear friend of our family's, is diagnosed with cancer. I cried! It was the first time in years I cried for another person's suffering. I prayed. I keep praying. I read of Buddy and his church annointing oil and praying over his Dad, and got chills and cried some more. This is good, right? But why does it hurt so much? I don't like the pain. I want to feel numb to it all, but the pain keeps coming. So many memories that hurt more than they did before, keep running through my mind. I don't want to feel these emotions, but they are coming in waves since I've heard about "Uncle" Chuck.

Yes, jumbled thoughts. Painful memories. But many lessons to be learned. God remains good and will always remain good. No matter what comes my way here on earth, I am going to choose, as Sally Clarkson has, to live by faith and to believe in His matter what...

Friday, January 18, 2008

New Ring

I got my ring today. I love it! It's called "Memorial Teardrop Ring" and has a tear drop on the outside, and engraved inside it says, "Until we meet again." I've been having trouble knowing what to do with my rings. When I don't wear them, I feel lost and it feels funny, and I absolutely hate wondering what people think when they see me with six children and no wedding ring. I know. Todd used to always tell me, "It doesn't matter what people think, it matters what God thinks." I know, I know....but it hurts when my students ask, "Miss Wendy, are you married?" or "Where are your rings, Miss Wendy, did you get a divorce?" I tried wearing them on my other hand, but that just felt weird. Lately I just haven't been wearing them, but I hate that empty feeling. Anyway, I love this awesome new ring. My finger feels much better, safer, and happier.

Until we meet again... I can't wait for heaven!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Winter Hope

Our Winter Hope turned 9 today. On January 13, 1999, Todd was holding our fifth child in his arms, staring at her tiny face in unbelief. Another miracle. The hospital was nearly shut down because of an ice storm that had closed roads and stores in the area. Nurses were doing double shifts. Todd and I were having trouble settling on a third girls' name, but as Todd was holding our new baby, he walked over to the window. He looked down at our baby's full head of white hair and quietly said, "Winter Hope."
That was it. The perfect name. We did not realize at the time, how perfect that name was for our precious one.
Later Todd had told me that as he looked out the window, he saw the beautiful shimmering ice coating the trees and wondered how something so beautiful could be so dangerous. Danger was only hours away from our beautiful new little baby.
The first night Winter Hope was home, she had been crying for hours, and I had finally gotten her quiet and put her in the crib for a few hours of sleep before the other children would be awake. It was 4 am, and I remember putting her down saying, "She's all yours, Lord," before I fell asleep. I woke 15 minutes later after a terrible dream about all of us scuba diving and our air tanks running out of air. The baby was quiet. Too quiet. When I went to check on her, she was blue and stiff. I picked up what felt like a feather-light board. I cried, I prayed, I rubbed her back, I panicked. It wasn't long before she began choking, then coughing, and finally crying. That began our days of "Weathering Winter."

Winter Hope turned nine years old today. Every birthday for Winter has been extra special for Todd and I. We shared some life-changing trials together with Winter, that only he seemed to fully understand....he went through these times with me. This was Winter's third birthday without Todd. I miss him tonight...alot. I pray Todd sees his little girl and wish so badly he were here to celebrate and thank God with me for her.

(Last birthday with Daddy)

Thank you, God, for these nine years with Winter Hope. Thank you for Winter and her life. And thank you for Todd and his support and help through those early years of her life. Remind him of my love for him. Please come quickly...

Saturday, January 12, 2008


I hate cancer. I'm so tired of hearing "God's will" when it comes to those trying to comfort myself (when Todd was sick) and others who are dealing with cancer. I know people mean well, but saying such things like, "It must have been God's will for Todd to get sick..." only focuses my anger or contempt in the wrong direction! Let me make myself very clear: I'm angry at cancer, not at God. I hate cancer. I love God.

God's will is for everyone to know Him, first personally as their Savior from sin, then to draw close to Him, glorifying Him, and serving Him. What is the greatest commandment? "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy mind, and with all thy soul." Yes, God is in control. Yes, God allowed cancer. But God's will is for us to draw close to Him through the things that He allows, not that we should suffer with things like cancer.

I hope that makes sense. Our family, and countless others, have been overwhelmed and devastated in hearing the word, "cancer." Please don't get angry at the One who we need to run to for our comfort and strength. Cancer is NOT God's will; God wants us to go to Him, draw close to Him, love Him, and serve Him....especially through times like this. Get angry at cancer, not God.

We have t-shirts that say, "Cancer Sucks" (well, Tiffany doesn't like that word, so she has one that says "Cancer stinks"). But anyway, it helps us to keep our anger in the right direction. Cancer does suck.

Oh, and one more thing before I stop writing today:
I love you, Uncle Chuck! Our prayers are often and diligent for you and your precious family in this recent diagnosis. You and your family have a special place in my heart. You always have had a way of showing your love for our God in a fun and exciting way. Thank you for that! I love you for that. God is good.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Crazy Weather, Crazy Kids, Crazy Days!

It's been crazy around here! The weather has been crazy warm, and perhaps this is the cause for all the craziness lately. But whatever the cause, something has led us through two crazy adventures yesterday and today.

Yesterday, after the school work was finished, the kids talked me into a trip to Valley Forge. Ok. This would be another "first" without Todd, but I allowed myself to be pushed into the attempt, and off we went. I got lost. I've been to Valley Forge many times in the past, but for some reason (the crazy weather?) I couldn't think where we were and ended up taking an hour and 15 minutes to get to a place that is only 20 minutes away. Fine. At least we made it, right? Well, Toby was afraid to go near any huts or cannons, saying she was scared of the "soldwers." After finally convincing her there were no soldiers anymore, we finally got her to go into George Washington's headquarters. Guess what? That's right, as I slowly opened the creaking door for her (it was like a scary movie or something), we heard a voice in the dark saying, "Hello," and our eyes quickly adjusted to focus on a Revolutionary soldier sitting inside! I knew it was a volunteer dressed in an authentic uniform, however it was not easy to explain that to the Tobster who was clutching my leg and thankfully too panicked to cry, scream, or even mutter a word.
By the time we were heading back to the van, Toby got her voice back and said, "I saw a soldwer. I don't like him." As we drove on through the park, the older kids alerted me to a park ranger who seemed to them to be following us. I ignored them, but it was getting suspicious when the ranger was at the next stop. The kids kept saying he was after us, but I kept ignoring them. Why would he be? Then I saw the flashing lights. Then a short siren. The kids said, "Mom, stop! He wants you to stop." I ignored them. Besides, there was no place to stop on a narrow one-way path, so I drove to the next stop, with the ranger's flashing lights behind me. He followed me in and asked me for my license and registration. A park ranger? I thought only the police could do that. I started getting my license and asked him what was going on, when he told me that we were not allowed to drive around the park with the van side door open. I tried to argue that it was a park, that the other rangers told us it was ok, that the kids were all buckled, (I should have added about the crazy weather) but he walked away with my license and registration. He didn't care. The kids seemed to think this was the greatest thing in the world. They seemed excited about the fact that their mother was pulled over by a park ranger with his lights and siren. I wasn't excited nor entertained. I was frustrated. We went home.

Today I had to see my counselor in the morning, then go to work. I made the mistake of telling my therapist that the kids wanted to go to the zoo today, but that I had to work. She said, off the record of course, "Call work and take the kids to the zoo. It will be good for you." I didn't want to go to work. I didn't want to go to the zoo either. Work or Zoo? I called work and told my boss that I was taking the kids to the zoo on "doctor's orders." He didn't seem amused. We went to the zoo, and I skipped work.

OK, so here's what's bothering me. As I was talking to my boss, he said that I shouldn't skip my responsibilities for "momma bear activities," and reminded me how important it was to show the children dedication to a job. I paused, then I told him, "But that's Todd's job, that's his responsibility, that's his example. I'm the Mom, and I am going to put my kids first on this one." He let me go, but not willingly and not happily. How does one be both Dad and Mom? I haven't gotten that one figured out, but you know what? I'm glad I went to the zoo. I'll go to work on Thursday, when the weather is back to normal. I don't like the balancing act. I don't like work, or should I say I don't like going to work. Whatever, I don't like it. I don't like a lot of things, but this is where God put me, so I suppose I must "keep inching forward" (why does that sound familiar? ...oh, John again...thank you).

Everything still feels so unstable and scary out there without Todd with us. It's hard to keep taking steps. I took a few these last crazy days, but I'm not even sure if they were the right ones. Life is confusing. Life seems to have lost its fun. Life is lonely.

How thankful I am for a God who still cares. I know He must. So, in and through His grace, I'll continue on, looking for that glorious appearing of Jesus one day hopefully soon. Oh, I pray He comes tonight!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Another "6th"

Minutes build into hours, hours into days, and here we are another month further along in this journey. Looking back, it's easy to see how God has given strength and direction in our lives without Todd here, yet I honestly thought this journey would be easier the further we were into it. It's not. Each day, each month, seems to bring new challenges and the same deep, aching pain in missing someone who was such a huge part of our lives.

Today was strange. We had several good days strung together last week, which included times of laughter, times of great blesssing, and times of victory. But today things seemed to grind to a halt. I couldn't get up for church, but the children literally pushed me out of bed, and we made it to all the services. My mind wandered, however, and I didn't hear much, nor did I feel "connected" today with our church family. I answered "fine" when asked how I was doing. At home I kept forgetting things. I cried in the evening service at church, not from what was sung or said, but just because I suddenly missed Todd. I wonder how long this will hurt. I wonder how long the tears will suddenly pour down my cheeks at times when I least expect them to. I wonder how long this journey will last. I wonder when Jesus will come back and end all of this? I wonder...

I wonder about a lot of things, but I must remember to keep my eyes, my heart, and my thoughts on the truth of God's Word and on His promises. Here is where my strength God. Thank you, God, for your faithfulness, your love, your mercy, and your grace. God is good.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A New Year: 2008

With each new year, most people ponder "resolutions," what things they would like to accomplish, and perhaps how they can better themselves in the upcoming year (both physically and financially). However, for the past two "New Years" my mind has dwelt primarily on what will be missed in the coming year, and it has become a discouraging time, rather than one of excitement, as it once was. The only encouragement I can find is in asking God, "Will this be the year when Jesus comes back?" Now that's exciting!

As I think of all the special days this year that will be spent without Todd: our birthdays, our 20th wedding anniversary, holidays, Katrina's Driver's Ed class, Nate's SAT test, the close of Abe's first year of college....and many more, my heart feels again broken and discouraged. I cry. I hate the thought of all these special times not being shared with Todd. It makes me feel so lonely and lost.

But then, today, I was remembering all the many times God had supernaturally provided for us in 2007. I remember all the times God felt close, and I felt His loving care for us in 2007. I remember all the many praying friends in 2007. God is good.

So, what is in store for 2008? Will Jesus come back? If so, I pray I don't miss any opportunities to show other's His love. I pray that I will be found faithful to Him this year. I pray our children will grow to love Him more. There have been several godly men and women who have told me that I need to keep moving forward, no matter how much it hurts to do so without Todd beside me. I need to seek what God has for me and for our family in 2008. I don't like pain. I don't like to cry. I don't like the feeling of loneliness I am feeling every time I try to move forward, but I do realize that these things are part of the moving. As much as it hurts, as lonely as it feels, I must go forward, and by God's grace, we will.

Thank you for your prayers.