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


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!