Friday, August 19, 2011

The Challenge and The Invitation

The night my friend (we'll call her Dee) told us about her husband's (we'll call him John) tumor and diagnosis, she also told us of the vision he already had in his mind to turn the focus off of his illness and onto Christ. Instead of worrying about him and just praying for his healing, he challenged every man who would listen to him to get on his knees and pray out loud with his wife for the sake of their family. He spoke at his church, presented the challenge on his Caringbridge site and it was even written about in the local paper. He really believed that if men would get on their knees and lead their families in prayer, it would make a real difference in homes, churches and communities.


It wasn't until I was sitting the room packed with people who knew John, that I realized what the challenge meant. Christ has filled his heart with love for others and just like Christ he didn't not want any to perish. He invested in people's lives in tangible ways; kids he coached, patients in his practice, the kids at homeschool gym, couples in his church. The way John stopped by and visited Mike at work once John was unable to work showed his great love for our family.


The room was not only filled with people who loved John, but people that John loved. Loved with the love of Christ that is eternal and sacrificial. John's pastor did a wonderful job of expressing how John felt toward each and every one of us in the room. John didn't want us to worry about him. He knew where he was going and that it was a wonderful place but that he desparately wanted us to join him there. He believed that if any of his friends or family, or strangers for that matter, came to know the love of Christ and the hope of heaven as a result of his illness it would, all be worth it.


That's what makes John's passing such a great loss. He lived his life with love for others and a hope for their eternal future. He was not a man of many words but lived his life in action. However, he took the opportunities his illness presented to share words of love, life and truth. Here are a couple of posts from his Caringbridge site. The first one that he wrote last fall. The second is written by Dee. It's the words he struggled to share during his last weeks of life.


Thursday, November 4, 2010
I’ve been meaning to share this with friends and every time I try, I can’t seem to get it out, so I thought I would write it down. You could say this is my testimony. I have always known Jesus Christ as Savior of the world, but I hadn’t made Him “Lord” of my life until about eight years ago. After coming back from a mission trip to Ecuador I said a prayer asking Jesus to be Lord of my life, to come into my heart, and fill me with the Holy Spirit. I didn’t feel any different right away, but I noticed after that if I heard a dirty joke, or someone swore I would be saddened and disgusted. That had never happened before so I know it wasn’t me who was saddened and disgusted but Jesus who was in me. I was truly born again. If you want to read about being born again read John chapter 3.

Romans 10: 9 “That if you confess with your mouth that “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” I found out that it wasn’t enough to know Jesus as Savoir only, but “Lord and Savior”. Making Jesus the Lord of my Life is trying to please Him every day with my words and actions and reading His word and trying to obey it. I am far from perfect but I am trying.


After making Jesus Lord of my life, I also felt a real peace. I was sure I was saved and that I would go to heaven someday. I thought I knew this before but now I was really sure. I want each one of you reading this, my friends and family, to know this peace and joy of salvation. I also want to see you in heaven someday. So please consider praying like I did, read John chapter 3, and make Jesus Christ “Lord and Savior” of your life.
Thanks again for all the prayers, I really appreciate them.
God Bless,
John


Sunday, August 7, 2011
Several weeks ago John worked hard to give me the words he wanted to share at his Home Going Celebration.

They included:
1) I want to go home (heaven)
2) Adventure
3) Joyful
4) Invite

With gestures, head nods and scarce words, he carefully worked me through the message that he is going home, it will be joyful and that it has been an adventure that began the day he allowed Jesus to make a home in his life. He wants to invite you all to join him in this adventure and to ultimately to join him in his heavenly home. He was also very clear that he wanted everyone to be warned that hell was for real and that heaven was the better option. He had me repeat the main ideas, not once, but three times, saying "perfect" when each repetition. So, these words could be considered John's last loving words to each of you who have been so lovingly concerned for him. John's initial desire to have couples pray together was called "John's Challenge". This challenge could be called "John's Home Going Invitation".


I want to live my life the way John lived. I want the people I come in contact with to know they are loved deeply not only by me but by God their Creator and Jesus their Savior.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Beauty

On August 5th, we found this big guy on some milkweed, brought him home and continued to feed him fresh milkweed.



On August 8th, he formed this chrysalis or cocoon. Amanda kept calling it a racoon.


This morning, I notice the chrysalis had become translucent and knew the butterfly would be emerging soon.


When we got up after naps, this was what we found. The butterfly had emerged and was hanging from the empty shell.


I helped him out of the jar and onto a spot on the deck where he continued to hang until he disappeared.


It was the perfect day to witness such a miracle of nature and such beauty. The magic of a butterfly's transformation never gets old.

I Will Rise by Chris Tomlin



This was the final song that played at the funeral yesterday. It was sung by the pastor and the church's choir. I have heard this song before but considering the context of the moment, I starting bawling after the second line and couldn't stop until the song finished. We have such great hope and my friend's husband continued to share this hope right up to his last days.

But more on that later...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sadness and Joy

Almost two years ago, I sat on the stairs in my entryway leaning against Mike, pregnant with Tali and holding newborn Christiana in my arms, crying with my dearest friend who just found out her husband had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.

We had watched their dog while they went to the Cities for an MRI. She was picking up Tommy and sharing the results. It was heartbreaking to think that she was going to lose her husband.

After the initial shock of the diagnosis, we all sort of moved into "faith-and-hope" mode. You know, where you take one day at a time and don't really talk about the future and hold onto hope of miraculous healing. I would often wonder if she thought about life without her husband but didn't dare ask her about it fearing that would show I didn't have faith he'd be healed.

Our life became very intense caring for the babies and her life became very intense caring for her husband. We used to see each other several times a week. She had been my partner in adventures with my boys every since we moved here. Sliding, skating, swimming, sports, the park, etc. It was so hard for me to not be able to support her during this hard time. I'm sure it was hard for her to not be able to share in our joyful time as our family has grown and the pain of infertility became a blurry memory.

My friend and her husband were strong Christians and their faith grew and was shared throughout this battle with cancer. Once he was unable to work, he often stopped by Mike's work and shared his health struggles and his faith. There was often signs of hope that he would be healed and we all continued to hope and pray that he would get a miracle.

Last week, he received his miracle. His body was completely restore and healed in his new heavenly home. Tonight we gathered to celebrate his life and rejoice in the hope of heaven. He was an amazing and faithful man. It is a great loss.

There is great comfort in knowing he had a strong relationship with Jesus and knowing that in Christ we will see him again. But I am still heartbroken. Heartbroken for his wife, his three children, his parents, his extended family, his friends, his patients, his neighbors, the list goes on.

The service was so beautiful, so filled with hope and promise and words of comfort as we said good-by. But the words I'm clinging to tonight as my heart is broken and the tears are falling come from the shortest verse in the Bible, John 11:35, "Jesus wept." Jesus wept with Lazarus's sisters knowing that in mere moments he would be raising Lazarus back to life and their sorrow would be wiped away. He still cried with them and felt the pain they were feeling.

So tonight, I am weeping with my friend, knowing her husband's joy but feeling the pain of human loss.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Our Afternoon

The activity...



I only opened two pots of paint so once they were used up, they were done painting until next time.





The clean-up...




Yes, Tali's eating bubbles.




Amanda's trying to blow them not eat them.











What is it with kids and drinking pool/bath water? Gross!






They needed to come in and rinse off the soap and warm up in the bath tub but at least all the paint was washed off outside. I also managed to get three loads of laundry folded on the table just inside the patio door during this project...in between breaking up fights, helping Tali down the slide and stirring up the water to make more bubbles.




These little tubs are so great because they keep the little girls in their own space and not bothering each other. They also warm up fast in the sun. We got them from our pony friends. They used to contain a mineral supplement for horses and ponies. Our pony friends used to get so many of these each year and they hated to just throw them away. They've been in our shed not being used for a few years just waiting for these days. ;)







Sunday, August 14, 2011

On the Water

We finally took the boat out for the first time in two years. This picture was from before we launched the boat. I hate launching the boat. It always makes me nervous to watch the truck back up to the water's edge at the steep incline. We took two vehicles because all the carseats were in my van and the hitch is on the truck. We originally headed to one lake but turned around and drove west after seeing it was pouring rain in the east. We could see the rain falling in the east the whole time we were out on the lake. Despite the not-so-cheerful looking faces, the girls did have a good time.

I had anticipated fussing from Ana because it was a new situation and I thought Tali would be afraid of the motor. There was a good possibility both girls would complain about the life jackets. I had no worries about Amanda. I knew she would have a good time. But nobody fussed.

We started out just using the trolling motor which is almost silent. Tali sat up on Mike's lap while he drove. Ana sat on my lap and Amanda stood and "fished" with a pole rigged with just a bobber. She really wanted to catch fish but we weren't going to try it with the little girls in the boat too.

Since the girls were doing so well, Mike gave the motor a try. After a few tries, there was lots of cheering when it finally started. There was still no fussing and plenty of smiles from the little girls. All in all it was a good trip. We ate a snack in the boat in the shade at the boat landing after pulling it out of the water.

Mike took the boat out again today with just Amanda and Tony. Tony drove the trolling motor while Mike helped Amanda fish. Amanda had fun on her first fishing adventure and they caught lots of little fish.

Mike talked me into clearing out the garage so he could store the boat in there. He promised it will get used more often if he doesn't need to uncover it each time. You know, I plan to hold him to that promise. :)

Friday, August 12, 2011

18 Weeks

Here's Baby #6 at 18 weeks. This picture doesn't really show the 20 pounds I've already put on. Which seems odd considering I've been living on salads, stir fry and veggies and I can't stand anything sweet or carbohydrate loaded. I've definitely been feeling more pregnant lately. It feels more like I have a baby belly and less like just squishy mommy-fat laft over from Tali. I think I'm feeling the baby move but it tough to tell for sure.




Just for fun, here's a photo of me at 19 weeks with Tali.



Sunday, August 7, 2011

Happy Birthday Amanda!!!

On our children's birthdays, Mike and I often reminisce about what we went through together on that big day. After wishing Amanda a "Happy Birthday" this morning, I turned to Mike, hugged him and instinctively tried to recall a memory from her birthday. But there are none. We had no idea she was being born or that we would be or had been chosen to be her forever family. We didn't find that out until a week later. I guess that's why it's important to celebrate Gotcha Day with her so we can remember all the work, feelings and emotions that led up to the first day we met Amanda.

Amanda is very happy to finally be four. She asked if we were having another party today and I told her that we were going to church. She asked if there would be cake. I said that I hoped so. There was cake and the congregation sang her "Happy Birthday." So, it was a good celebration.




After the little girls were in bed for the night, we headed over to our neighbor's house to take pictures in her lovely garden. Their new little kitten stole the show. Amanda just loves that little kitty. When they first got her, Amanda would talk about how she was going to go over to their house and take their kitty from them. She had a great time playing with the kitty while I took pictures.





Everybody loves Amanda's curls!


After all that fun with the kitty, we had to go say, "Hi" to their dog, Jack, too.


It's been a fun week of birthday celebrating. It started with shared parties on Monday and Tuesday with Tyler. On Friday night, Mike took her mini-golfing. She got a hole-in-one. There could have been pictures but Mike and Tony were just too shocked. :) Then today during naptime for me and the little girls, Mike took her to get ice cream with Tony.



Happy Fourth Birthday, Amanda Bear! We love you so much and are happy you are "growing up bigger!"

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Beach

I took all three little girls to the beach today. I had help. Another mom and her three older boys ages 10, 12, 14. Oh yeah, it took all of us.

It was not very much fun.

The boys had a great time swimming. They seem like really great brothers.

Amanda tried out some new floaty things that the boys blew up for her.

Ana was relatively content in one of those baby float things.

Tali eventually calmed down and was content sitting on my lap on a loungy floaty.

The little girls grew tired of the water long before Amanda was done swimming.

Tali loved playing in the sand. She spent a long time just filling a bucket one handful at a time.

Amanda found a cute little plastic turtle and learned to build sand castles.

Feeding the girls with sandy hands was not very appealing. They didn't seem to mind.

Getting them in the car with as little sand as possible proved to be quite a challenge.

I think we'll stick to the back deck pools and on occasion taking Amanda by herself while the little girls stay home. I took her out last Sunday and it was fun. It will be more fun with the newly inflated floaties.

Have I mentioned I'm feeling better? Almost normal. It great that I have a little bit of summer left to enjoy without the overwhelming cloud of nausea.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Happy Birthday Tyler!

Today is Tyler's 17th birthday. Or, as Mike put it, the first day of his last year of being a kid.

My mom came yesterday with a couple of cousins and Grammy to celebrate Tyler and Amanda's birthdays. It was raining so we sat in the garage while the little kids played with umbrellas and rode bikes in the rain. It was so funny because Grammy kept saying, "Come back inside our you're going to get all wet." We didn't care and they didn't care so they got really wet and had a blast.

My mom brought the cake and the cartoon candle that was probably a leftover from another cousin's birthday. Amanda thought it was a toy and played with it the rest of the day including tossing it around the living room and bringing it outside to play. I'm sure my mom was hoping to put it on my brother-in-law's cake next week but, you know, wax candles just aren't very durable. :)

Today we invited some neighbors over for a swim party, dinner and cake and ice cream. I made dinner and our neighbor made the cake and brought the ice cream. There were nine little kids in various pools and tubs on our little 10x12 deck. It was fun! Tyler and Amanda blew out the candles together again. Amanda's friends all went home to go to bed and Tyler's friends showed up and we ordered pizza. It's unlikely they will go to bed anytime soon...

Toddlers and teenagers...it's never boring! :)