Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Jon (and I) Recorded a New Worship CD!!!!

Several months ago, we found out Jon's brain tumor was growing again.  While we were getting 2nd and 3rd opinions on treatment options and radiation, another MRI a few months later revealed it had stopped growing.  The doctor was baffled by this.  Tumors don't just stop growing!  We told him SO many people were praying.  He said, "Well, there's that, I guess.  I mean, we'll probably never know."  :)

Well in the midst of all of that, I began having conversations with a few talented friends of ours.  And we decided to surprise Jon with a way to raise funds to help with his medical expenses, as well as document his spiritual journey over this past year through worship.  We sat Jon down and told him there was a group of talented friends who were going to volunteer their time and talent to help Jon (and I) record a worship CD.  Jon's only responsibility would be to pick the songs and show up to sing.  So over the past few months, we have been in the process of making this CD.

I have to tell you, it was INCREDIBLE to watch Jon create the worship experience for this CD.  I call it a "worship experience" because that was his #1 desire.  That you would be able to throw this CD in, and find hope and healing.  Jon wanted to record the CD exactly how he worships when he's alone and it's just him and God.  Songs are melded together, there is space to sit and listen...  There are 17 different songs or parts of songs on the CD - but only 7 actual different tracks.   Because it's not about a bunch of individual songs.  It's about going on a worship journey.

Jon also was adamant about having a choir on the CD - a group of voices singing with us at certain places throughout the project.  One of the biggest blessings and most beautiful parts of our journey this past year was the community that surrounded us.  Jon wanted to make sure "Community" was represented on the CD.  The best musical expression of that, that he could imagine, was a choir.  And man, every time I listen to the CD and I hear that group come in, I get tears in my eyes.  It represents The Body that so extravagantly loved on us and pleaded with God on our behalf.  Wow.

Well all that to say..... THE CD IS DONE!!!!  "Let Faith Arise" is the title of the new worship CD - a CD filled with songs of hope and healing - the prayers we sang as we grieved and celebrated, grieved and celebrated, over this past year.  (10,000 Reasons, Love Came Down, Oceans, Give Me Jesus, Never Let Go, etc.. to name a few)

One of my favorite parts of the CD are the moments you can hear the raw emotion in Jon's voice, as he fought back tears while recording/worshiping.  It. Is. Beautiful.  And to know that he recorded it - deaf in one ear and struggling to pronounce words properly while fighting the paralysis on the right side of his face...  I'm telling you.  It. Is. Beautiful.

There is a link on the Right side of this blog that will let you purchase this new CD.  (it's under our pic, under my email address, and links to PayPal)  We are selling the CD for $10 and if you need it shipped, it's $13.50 - to cover shipping and packaging.  The link will allow you to pay via PayPal.  If you don't have a PayPal account, you can still make a payment through the link or you can just email and we'll get you the info on sending a check via snail mail.  :)  Also, if you are ordering 3 or more CDs, send us an email and we'll let you know the accurate shipping amount, since PayPal does't give you that option.  (we're working on fixing that)

Thank you SO much for journeying with us this past year.  Jon's next MRI is in about 3 weeks, so we will keep you posted on those results.  Praying and trusting God for continued healing and NO tumor growth....

Love you all.....

Thursday, November 13, 2014

My Confession...

2 weeks ago, Jon walked in the door from work and he greeted me in the kitchen with a kiss. I looked at him and said, "Babe, can we sit down and talk?"  I'm sure he thought, "Oh crap."  But he lovingly grabbed my hand and we headed to the living room couch, which we only use for "those talks."  We sat down, Jon held my hand, I looked into his eyes and said, "I think I'm tired." Jon knew exactly what I was saying and he nodded.  "I feel like I'm losing steam,"  I said next.  And he nodded again.   I continued, "I feel like my plane is wanting to land - but it's not landing in a beautiful, warm, tropical island. :)  I feel like it wants to land in a big, dark pit.  I don't want any part of that.  But I'm just... tired."  He sat with me for awhile.  He accepted me in my honesty.  He didn't try to fix it.  He didn't make promises. He didn't even try to say an 'encouraging word.'  He was just present.  Partly because he's awesome like that.  And partly because he's tired too.  He feels the same way.

Rewind a week....
We had just spent the week at CHOC (Children's Hospital of Orange County) where our 3 year old had been admitted due to low oxygen levels and respiratory issues.  She was put in an isolation room where the doctors and nurses only entered with full "protective clothing" on.  (Not sure what to call it when they have to get "suited up" each time they enter the room and then throw away their "suit" each time they leave the room.  Hazmat suit, anyone?)  ;)   They told us after the wide panel of tests, everything came back "negative."  Their bottom line was that Morgan had a virus.  They didn't know which one, but they assumed it was a rare, bad virus.  They said there was no way to treat the virus.  Keeping her hooked up to oxygen was about the only thing they were able to do to help her breathe.  But other than that, we would just have to wait and see.  Wait and see how her body fights.  Or doesn't fight.  Time would tell.

One year ago, Jon was admitted to the hospital with a brain tumor.  Now almost 365 days later we were there with our 3 year old.  For the first time, in a year filled with Doctors and hospitals and appointments, I needed OUT.  Stat.  Jon took one look at me and said it even before I did.  "Um, babe, why don't you go.  You need to get out of here, I think."  He was right.  Too right.  I needed to get outside of the walls of that blasted hospital.  And I needed to have words.  With God.  Out loud words.

I walked out to the parking lot, taking deep, like-you're-in-labor breaths the whole way.  I had barely made it inside my minivan before I started in.. with intensity.  "God, I cannot do this.  I can't.  CAN. NOT."  And then I said it. "If you think this is going to be some great way for me to put you on display and be used for your glory, YOU ARE MISTAKEN."  It felt like the air got sucked out of the van.  Kind of how it feels right now as I type this.  I am embarrassed to admit those words came out of my mouth.  But in an attempt to "live out loud" and continue in this journey honestly, I confess them.  It's not that I don't think God can't handle my exasperation.  It's just that I've never so blatantly said "No" to God before.  Oh, I've said "no" many times.  But it was always more subtle.  ;)  Choosing my own way...  Not obeying...  Pretending like I didn't hear Him...  Manipulating circumstances to make them "work out"...  But never have I just said, "No."  Verbally.  I drove around the parking lot just waiting for a giant whale to swallow me up.  I immediately felt guilt.  But not enough to make me take my words back.  My flesh and my spirit were at war.  Everything in me wanted to live my life open handed.  In theory.  I want to choose Jesus every day of the week and twice on Sunday.  But I was also facing off with my fears.  My desires.  And still in the process of learning what it looks like to live  a fully surrendered life.

Fast forward back to the couch a week later.
I realized that I'm just plain tired.  And I think it's because my reserve is low.  You know when you have a full tank (in life) and you get normal, every day hits?  They don't seem to do all that much "damage" when your tank is full.  But when your tank is low, those events don't seem like "normal, every day" hits.  They feel like huge blows that deplete whatever reserves you had in there.  So you feel helpless, exasperated, desperate with each life event. The baby has a rash?  Of course she does.  Your homework isn't done yet?  Lovely!  You spilled nail polish where?!?  UGH!  And then there was the water heater that went out, the child that came home from school with lice and the other one who had it 2 weeks later.  Each life event felt like a fatal blow.  So when Morgan went into the hospital, it just about did me in.  I don't have what it takes to have a sick child right now.  Taylor was crying at school because Lord knows all this hospital business has taken an emotional toll on her.  Jon's trying to juggle work and school and an eyeball that puts him in debilitating chronic pain.  And I'm getting emails from speaking engagements I'm booked for, asking for a current "head shot" for their promotional material.  Head shot?  If you could see my face right now, you would probably cancel me as your speaker!  ;)  But we trod along.  A friend takes a updated picture of me and uses all the photoshop she can muster.  My in-laws babysit.  (and wash the car and do the laundry and... and...)  God provides.  Just enough.

The awkward part, was I had been booked to speak at an event a few weeks after my "minivan meltdown" and only few days after the "couch confession."  I was booked to speak and I felt like I had nothing to say.  I contemplated canceling.
I told God, "I have nothing to give these ladies."
And do you know what God said back to me?
"You're right."
Um, thanks?
"You have nothing to give.  But I do.  So give them Me."
What?!?  But I have to teach them something. I have to...
"Um, I'm gonna need you to try and not teach them anything right now."  He said.   "Seriously.  Just give them me.  Tell them about me.  That's it."
So I did what He said - only because I really didn't have any other options.  And you know what?  That experience changed me.  It was like God was saying, "Your eyes have shifted.   Shift them back to me.  You're trying to give everyone more and more of yourself.  Stop. You don't have anything to give them.  Give them me instead."

Do you know how freeing that reminder has been?
The ladies at that event will tell you, I didn't try to "teach" them one single bullet point.  I just told God's story.
My friends will tell you, I've stopped giving advice. LOL!  I just trust Jesus to speak to them and point them to Him.
My kids will tell you, I've stopped refereeing their fights and whines and complaints.  I kid you not.  Do you know what I said when Taylor came downstairs after bed time, complaining about something Jackson said to her?   "Taylor, I love you so much.  God loves you so much.  God made you so special.  He has such great plans for your life."  It was almost comical to see her reaction.  She looked puzzled and said, "What does that have to do with Jackson saying..." I interrupted her.  "Taylor, you are SO loved."  As I continued to speak words of truth over her, she began to smile. Her demeanor changed.    She repeated it back to me, kind of laughing.  "Mom, I am SO loved."  She went back upstairs a completely different child.  And do you know what?  I didn't have to parent her out of my deficite!  I didn't have to give her what I don't have.  I just gave her Jesus.  And (surprise!) He was more than enough!

I have been quiet here on the blog because I just couldn't muster up the energy to try to process all of the feelings I've experienced over the past few weeks.  I'm not even certain I've done a good job of it here, but I felt like I needed to try.  And, honestly, it took me a bit of time to muster up the cajones to write this.  There's nothing enticing about telling people that you're tired, losing steam, and "lost it" with God.  But it is what it is.  Brutal.  Real life.

I do, however, feel SUCH freedom in giving people Jesus instead of me.  I know.  Duh.  But sometimes we forget.  Sometimes we start to believe that we should be enough.  How quickly I was reminded that I'm robbing people (friends, strangers, husband, kids) of SO much by just giving them me.

I'll end by doing my favorite thing.  (if you've read my blog for any amount of time, you know this is NOT my favorite thing, but I'm learning...)
Would you continue to pray for Jon and I? :)  That God would continue to sustain?  That we would be patient in affliction?  That we would seek to fill ourselves with Jesus and pour only Him (and not ourselves) out into the world around us?

In the morning when I rise,
In the morning when I rise,
In the morning when I rise,
Give me Jesus.

Give me Jesus.
Give me Jesus.
You can have all this world.
But give me Jesus.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Morgan is in the hospital...

On Monday afternoon, Morgan (our newly 3 year old) was admitted to the hospital after having a severe cough and low oxygen levels.  Her oxygen levels are still very low and she is not yet improving.  We met with the Doctor today and I posted this on Facebook:  (thought I'd update the blog followers as well)  

Update: We met with the doctor. Here's the bottom line: Morgan has a virus. Most likely a more rare virus that doesn't present itself in the panel of virus tests they usually run. I have had a gazillion people text me and message me and email me and post on here asking about the Enterovirus. I figure I should just address that. Is it possible that Morgan has Enterovirus? Yes. Could she have another type? Yes. They are not going to do a specific test for the Enterovirus (or any other specific virus) at this point because it does not effect how they treat her. A virus is not bacterial, so there is no medication or antibiotics that can help. All they can do is what they are currently doing... Oxygen and breathing treatments to help clear the lungs + time. Her body needs time to fight. If they gave her different tests and were able to give the virus a name, it would change nothing as far as the course of action to take. (It would only elevate Jon and my stress level.)  So the reality is, we wait. We wait and see. By the grace of God, each one of us reading this are taking a breath. Morgan is no different. By God's grace. Am I struggling right now with the feeling of helplessness? Yes. I want answers and I want to know how to help my baby. But there is nothing I can do. Except the most powerful thing offered to any one of us - prayer. So I pray. And I ask you to pray. And I wait expectedly for God to strengthen and heal.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Brain Tumorversary Day...

Anniversary.  Birthday.  I don't quite know what to call it.  All I know is 1 year ago today, Jon was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  We have survived a full year.  When I mentioned to Jon that this date was approaching, he paused and said, "I can't believe I've lived with this eye pain for a year now."  If my kids were to comment on today marking 1 year, they would say, "I can't believe our dad has looked different for a full year."  If you were to talk to our parents, they would say, "I can't believe we've prayed this fervently for a year now."  If you asked Jon's co-workers about today, they would say, "I can't believe it's been a year since you've led worship at church." But me?  I can't believe we've survived a full year.  365 days is a lot of days.  The impact of those days are different, depending on who you ask.  Those 365 days held long nights in the hospital.  They held therapy appointments where Jon learned to eat, drink, walk, balance, throw, catch... again.  The past 365 days held months of Jon not being able to drive.  5, to be exact.   Those 365 days have held tears and pain and questions.  They have held celebrations and rejoicing and victories.  We have watched God show up in very practical ways through very beautiful people.  We have experienced the "peace that surpasses understanding" and can testify to its power.  We have experienced miracles that doctors cannot explain.  We have heard God say "Yes."  We have heard God say "No."  And we have heard Him say "Not yet."    And through each day, we have fallen deeper in love with each other.  We have fallen deeper in love with our children.  And we have fallen deeper - much deeper - in love with our Creator God.   Gratitude is our chief emotion.

Over the next few days, I plan to feel. More than I do on a day to day basis.  I want to let myself feel what I felt a year ago.   I plan to remember.  I plan to read texts I sent one year ago...  Telling of shock and disease and fear.  I plan to process it with Jon.  And hear what he feels.  The 24 hours between diagnosis and surgery was a blur.  We didn't have much time to think and process and feel.  So I want to go back to that place.  And feel it again.   I plan to grieve and celebrate.  And remember where our God has brought us from.  What He has done.  To see the deep deep pit and sit in wonder at His goodness.

One year ago today, our lives changed.  We lost much.  We gained much more.  Lost physical things. Gained spiritual things.  The trade off has been painful but beautiful.  I have never trusted God more. I have never believed Him more.  I have never known His faithfulness more.

Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus.  
And to take Him at His word
Just to rest upon His promise
Just to know, "Thus sayeth the Lord"

Jesus, Jesus how I trust Him
How I've proved Him over and over
Jesus, Jesus precious Jesus
Oh for grace to trust Him more.  

Happy Brain Tumorversary Day, Jon Ramsay.
You are the most courageous, handsome man I know.

And Happy Brain Tumorversary, God.
If I didn't know you so well, I'd think you were just showing off for the past year.   ;)
Thank you.


YOU GUYS!!!!! Tonight, we drove to Mission Hospital, went to the ER, waited for an hour, and then got to hug, look into his eyes, and thank our ER DOCTOR from one year ago tonight! This doctor saved Jon's life! He trusted his gut when Jon came in with his headache, and ordered the most extensive tests. We just HAD to hug him and thank him!!! He said this was the highlight of his year! What a blessing that God allowed us to track him down!!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Beards, Bangs and Bigger Fish...

My husband recently grew a beard.  Not your typical, nicely groomed beard.  But a gruff, scruffy, long, full-on mountain-man beard.  He and 9 of his buddies had decided to hike Mt. Whitney and in a spirit of manliness, outdoors-ness, and all things rugged and mountain climb-y, Jon decided to stop shaving until the hike.  Now the day of the hike has come and gone, but the beard is still here.  Jon hasn’t gotten around to shaving it and he’s kind of indifferent toward it.  What’s interesting though is that I get approached ALL the time - by both husbands and wives, friends and strangers - with the exact same question:  “So, how do YOU like the beard?”  This is usually posed by wives who can’t believe I “let” my husband have a beard or husbands who are trying to convince their wives to give a green light to facial hair.  The first time I was asked, without even pausing to think, I blurted out, “His beard? Oh gosh, I have way bigger fish to fry than to spend time hating on Jon’s beard.”  My response surprised even me a little.  But it was true.  Time has a way of offering perspective.  Years ago, I would have absolutely cared.  Who wants scratchy kisses?  I mean, really.  Until your husband has a brain tumor and survives and then you realize that the person who wants scratchy kisses is you.  I want them.  I want his kisses in whatever form they present themselves.  It’s interesting how Life does that.  Refocuses you. Jon once spent 2 years saying he wanted to shave his head and I kept talking him out of it.  Then one day, he said in passing, “Man, I just want to shave my head.” And I paused and thought to myself, “Why the heck do I care so much?  If he wants to shave it, he can shave it.”  And so we did it right then and there.  And guess what?  The world didn’t stop.  “But he has the best hair!  Many men would kill for his thick, beautiful hair.  Why would you ever want to shave it??”  Well, because…  Bigger fish. 

I remember when I was a new mom and my son Jackson wanted to wear his Superman costume to the grocery store.  “Sweetie, that is not appropriate.  We wear clothes to the store, not costumes.”  Fast forward 8 years as our 4th child heads out the door in her princess dress.  “You look beautiful, Snow White!  Let’s go shopping!” I exclaim, much to my daughter’s delight. 

Time.  Life.  Perspective.  Oh how I wish I would have had that from the beginning.  How much time did I spend ‘Majoring in the Minors?’ Too much.  Taylor begged to cut bangs for a full year.  “But honey, bangs are more trouble than they’re worth.  Growing them back out is such a pain.”  But after a year, I took a deep breath and thought to myself - Bigger fish.  So we cut the bangs.  And she looked beautiful.  And she loved them.  And I did too.  And now, a year later, she wants to grow them out again.  And so we start the growing process.  And if she isn't patient enough to let them grow out, and decides to cut them again?  Bigger fish.  

What are the bigger fish?  I want my kids to be kind.  Compassionate.  Generous.  Forgiving.  I want them to reach out to the kids in their school who are “outsiders.”  I want them to love mercy.  I want them to walk humbly. I want their hearts to break for those who are in need.  I want them to know that God loves them.  No matter what.  And I do too.  I want my husband and  I to have a thriving marriage.  I want him to feel respect and I want to feel loved.  I want to parent our children as a united front.  I want to be on the same team.  No matter what.  I want to encourage him in his passions and experience him encouraging me in mine. I want our intimate relationship to always be exactly that.  Intimate.  I want to be a kind and loving light in our community.  I want to model to our kids the compassion, grace, mercy, generosity…  And on and on the list goes.  

SO.  If something conflicts with those Big Fish, then I will give them time and attention.  If something doesn’t conflict?  Then we cut the bangs.  Shave the head.  Grow the beard.  

There is freedom in Majoring in the Majors.  A release of what other people think…  No more people pleasing.  No more unimportant standards / expectations.  Allowing my husband to be a grown-up man and choose his own darn haircut.  ;)  Allowing my 7 year old to stretch her creative muscles and experiment with bangs.  Because as time goes on, the battles we face in life are going to get bigger and more important.  Our battles must be chosen wisely and with intention.  

And so today I will run errands with Belle and Ariel.  I will pin back my 8 year old’s bangs as they are in that “awkward” stage, and tell her how beautiful she looks.  And I will grab hold of my husband’s long, scruffy beard, pull it toward me, and smooch those lips.  If I can find them in there.  ;)  Oh, and just for the record, in case he reads this:  Yes babe, “no motorcycle” is still on the GIANT FISH list.  ;)
I’m still a work in progress…  ;)  


2nd grade birthday book for her classroom... "Really honey? You get to pick only 1 picture to put in your book. You want this one? Of you last year? Dressed like Anna?"
Perfect. Bigger Fish. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

TO: My Husband FROM: Your Stay at Home Wife/Mom

I wrote this "Note" on Facebook about a year ago.  I wrote it at 9am while my 8 month old sat on my lap and I typed with one finger while watching The View.  Seriously.  
I did not write it about my husband.  My husband actually does all of these things.  Well, except for the boob thing while nursing.  And the non-sexual touch.  (To quote him: "Non-sexual touch? What the heck is that?")  ;)  
I wrote this because of the many young mom's I have had the privilege of encountering over the past 10+ years, since I became a mom.  So many moms shared with me the exact same story with the exact same frustrations.  So on a random day in August last year, I posted this without even a thought.  After 17,881 Shares on Facebook, I realized this topic hit close to home for many women.  Is this Note exhaustive?  No.  Does it cover the other side of things for the man?  No.  But did I get hundreds of emails from strangers (many of them from men) thanking me for starting a much needed conversation in their marriage?  Yes.  So I thought I'd post it again.  A few words revised.  But the same note, 1 year later.  In case someone needs it today....


To: My Husband.
From: Your Stay at Home Wife/Mom.

I used to think it would be so romantic if you just knew me so well, that you knew exactly what I needed.  I would never have to verbally share with you my needs because if you really loved me, you would know what they were, even before I did.  You, my love, were to be nothing less than a mind reader. It sounded fabulous and romantic.   However, we’ve been married awhile now. And reality has set in.  You are an amazing man.  An incredible husband.  But I must tell you: You are horrible at mind reading.  And it’s not your fault.  I now get it.  It’s physically impossible. There’s nothing you can do to acquire this superpower that I wish you possessed.   So today, I am declaring that I am letting you off the hook.  No more guessing.  Today, I lay it out.  I’m giving you a peek into me.  You can choose to stop reading here if you enjoy the guessing game.  Ah, you’re still reading?  Awesome.  I love that about you.  You’re IN.  I knew it. 

Ok wait.  Before I express my needs, let me explain something that might be difficult to understand: 
I love our kids.  I love my role as a mom.  But honestly?  It’s tough.  And here’s the tricky part – those 2 things DO co-exist.  One doesn’t trump the other or cancel it out. I love it - And I’m tired.  It’s an honor – But it’s exhaustingly hard work.  I’m fulfilled - And I’m drained.  Get it?  Me either.  It’s tricky and complex.  But it’s called Motherhood and I’m in the thick of it.  OK, so in light of that, here’s what I need.  Or want.  TomAto….TomAHto. Here’s the reality in no particular order…. 

1) I need to refuel.  And it’s not by grocery shopping with only 1 kid instead of all 3.  I need to get out of the house.  Alone.  I need to ride in my car and listen to adult music.  I want to use the public restroom in the small stall. The one without the changing station.  Alone.  I don’t need extravagance.  [I mean, I won’t turn down extravagance, of course.  But I don’t need it.] ;) You know what I’d love?  To wander the isles of Target for an hour.  Or to sit at Starbucks alone for 30 minutes.  Or to walk in a shopping mall without pushing a stroller.  It really is that easy.  Will I come back completely changed and ready to conquer the world? Honestly?  Sometimes yes.  But sometimes, no.  But what I WILL come back with, is a little more life in me.  I will have a spring in my step.  It’s a little shot in the arm.  I reeeeallly need this.  When you ask if I want it, and I say, “I’m OK.”  I need you to tell me to go anyway. 

2) Please don’t call and ask what’s for dinner.  If anything, call and ask, “Do we have dinner plans?  If not, can I stop by the store and pick anything up?”  I love you.  And I love providing nourishment for our family.  But when I have spit up running down into my bra and a toddler who just learned to take off his own dirty diaper, I could do without The Call.  

3) When I take the kids to the pool, please know that I didn’t spend the day poolside with a cocktail.  Sometimes I feel like that’s how you view the life of a stay at home mom.  In reality, every 2 minutes, I’m doing roll call to make sure everyone is above water.  “1..2..3..…1…2…3…” over and over and over and over.  I’m changing poopy swim diapers on hot concrete and peeling wet swimsuits off of tiny bodies because they have to go potty AGAIN.  I’m schlepping towels and sunblock and swimming goggles and dive toys and flippers and water shoes and cover ups and diapers and wipes and snacks and drinks.  I have one child who has no fear of water and is jumping into areas he’s not allowed to, and another child who’s deathly afraid of the water and is leaving claw marks in my arm.  Blood has been drawn.  A walk in the park is not a walk in the park.  It’s chasing, and counting, and disciplining and refereeing.. A day at the pool is all of that, in a big hole of water.  Attempting to avoid death.  For real.

4) I’ve been nursing a baby all day long.  My “nursers” are over stimulated.  The last thing I desire when you get home from work, is to have one more person perusing the “food court.”  I realize it's probably hard to have parts of my body now belong to a bald, drooling, demanding "significant other."  I don't want you to feel in competition with our little one.  You win.  Except when it comes to my boobs.  My boobs are sustaining a human life right now, so you get trumped.  If you will understand this and not let it become a point of tension, I’m certain you’ll get extra rewards in heaven.  (or at least extra a grateful wife)  

5) However, when we’re home and you walk by me in the kitchen and grab my butt, and I swat you away, I don’t mean it.  I secretly love that you still want to be playful and frisky.  The timing may not be right, or I just don’t know what to do with your playfulness because my brain is counting the number of loads of laundry waiting for me.  But please don’t stop.  I need to know you still like me. Deep down I want to be pursued.  I understand this is confusing in light of the point above.  I can’t explain everything.  I’m just informing.  I’m complex like that.  

6) I need a Girls Night Out every once in awhile.  While we both know you rock, I  need some time with girlfriends as well.  Unless, of course, you would like to discuss bikini waxing, my period and the latest fashion trends with me.  No?  Cool. Girl’s Night Out it is.  

7) I need non-sexual touch.  I know you don’t quite understand what that is.  Just pretend it’s valuable and possible.  The grabbing mentioned above is fun and all, but sometimes I just want to feel your arm on my shoulder, without it slowly moving a few inches south.  I need your physical affection without another motive.  I need to know that you like to just be with me.  

8) When you walk in the door, let’s make a deal:  You won’t walk straight to the family room and collapse on the couch with the remote… And I won’t greet you at the door with all 3 kids, dump them on you and clock out.  When you come home from work, let’s do it together.  Share the load.  If you need to decompress from your day at work, please take the long way home.  Drive around the block a few extra times if you need to.  I'm not meaning to sound harsh.  And it's not that I don't want our home to be a safe place for you to decompress.  I do!  But coming home every night and making a beeline for the couch in front of the TV makes me feel not valued.  I need my partner.  My teammate.  And when it's been "one of those days" for either of us, let's give the other person a heads up.  That way we can intentionally create space for the other person to vent, rest, chill, whatever.  (I think it's a great learning for the kids when I can say, "Daddy has had a long, hard day at work.  Let's get him a drink and a snack!" and allow them to be a part of loving you on "Those Days.")  

9) That trip we took with the kids was awesome.  We created family memories.  We had fun.  But that’s exactly what it was – a “trip.”  I need a “vacation.”  A vacation is like a trip.  Just without the diapers and wipes and baby food and high chairs and primary color toys.  Oh, and without the tiny humans that come with those things.  Don’t get me wrong, I love those tiny humans. But a break to refuel, refresh, clear my mind, invaluable.  I have no way to explain what a true vacation will do to me.  Other than to say hotel room sex is fabulous.  The end. 

10) When you come home to a clean house, be assured it didn’t look like that hours earlier. There were crackers smashed on the floor, toys everywhere, food smeared on walls, 8 outfit changes from our preschool daughter strewn around the house…  If you come home to a clean house, please notice.  Please say something.  Acknowledge that it obviously took superhuman powers to get it to the state it is.  It sounds silly and needy.  Maybe I am.  But you know that “atta boy” you got from your boss at work that made your day?  Ya, I need that too.  And if your jerk boss never tells you "atta boy," I'm sorry.  Could you still tell me?  ;)  (Just to clarify, I'm not saying you're my boss.  It was just an analogy.  Settle down there, big guy.)  ;)  

11) When we go to a restaurant, sometimes I need you to offer to sit next to ‘The Kid.’  You know, the one that needs extra assistance.  The one that cries and grabs and throws and needs.  When I say, “No, it’s OK. I’ll sit next to The Child” I need you to gift me with the break anyway.  I’m not saying every time.  But we both know that going to restaurants with The Child is difficult. I’d so appreciate sharing that load with you. 

12) I need to go on a date.  With you.  I need to wear clothes that don’t smell like any type of child’s body fluid.  I need to order food for just me.  I need to eat it while it’s hot.  I need to look into your eyes.  I need to hold your hand.  I need adult conversation.  And while the topic of kids might creep into our conversation, let’s commit to keeping that to a minimum.  We spent so much of our dating years getting to know each other.  Asking questions.  I was your student and you were mine.  A lot has happened since then.  You and I have changed and grown. Let’s learn about each other again.  Re-discover who we are today.  Let’s know and be known.  Let’s date. 

13) Let’s commit to not comparing.  My friend might be prettier.  Or a better homemaker.  Or parent with ease.  Her husband might be more romantic.  Or more successful.  Or a more engaged father.  There’s always going to be someone who does what we do, but better.  Or so it seems.  Let’s commit to not comparing.  Comparison will steal our joy.  It will take the wind out of our sail.  It will make us feel defeated.  Or frustrated. Or angry.  Or all of the above.  Let’s be honest - everyone else is just as messed up as we are.  We just see the beautiful, shiny outsides of them that they put on display, and tend to compare it to the dysfunctional, broken insides of ourselves that only we know.  Let’s just be the best “us”we can be – keeping our eyes ONLY on OUR path.  I love you.  I chose you and you chose me.  Let’s be in for US and US only.

Thank you for hearing me.
You may not understand it all.  I don’t even know if I do.
This season is glorious and difficult.
And in all the uncertainty, the only thing I do know is there is NO ONE I’d rather do this with, than you.
You are exactly the “who” I need. 
The other stuff is just the “what” I’d love from you.  I ask you to just try. 
And if you’re willing, I’d love a list like this from you in return.
This is a tough season for us both. I know you have needs you rarely express as well and I’d love a peek into those if you’d be willing to share. 
I love you and love that we’re living in what we’ll someday call “the good old days.” 
You have my heart forever.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

BEST Date Idea EVER!!!

So I'm pretty sure my friend just went on the best date ever.

She and her husband are in a busy and difficult season of life, as they are raising 3 young (and active) children, they've had job transitions, and most recently a close family member was diagnosed with a terminal illness.
So as her husband's birthday was approaching, she asked him what he would like to do to celebrate his big day.  His response was brilliant:
"I'd like to do a 'Random Acts of Kindness Day' date."

Now friends, this might be the coolest date idea EVER.  We've all heard of doing a "random act of kindness."  But devoting a whole date to it?  Or an entire day?  What a life-altering, perspective changing experience!  Serving others changes you.  It just does.  Taking your eyes off of your own circumstances for a day and having eyes to see the world around you and searching for ways to bless that world?  That's a game changer.

I'm going to suggest this is the best 1st Date idea ever.
It's also the best 100th Date idea ever.
It's also the best Family Date idea ever.  (To cultivate a heart of service into your children?  Priceless.)

I literally got off the phone with my friend and ran to my computer to write this down.
I cannot wait to do this with my husband.
And I can't wait to do this with my kids.

You can sit down and brainstorm ideas that work for you and your community.
But here's the list they made....

1)  Get 2 rolls of pennies and place them around the fountains at the mall, so kids can make wishes.
2) Buy school supplies to fill backpacks for kids/families in need.  (When they dropped off the supplies, they also brought the girl who organizes it all a Starbucks.)
3) Go to the hospital and leave coins at vending machines.
4) Buy fancy sea shells and anonymously drop them around the beach for children to find.
5) Buy a box of dog treats and deliver to the Dog Park.
6) Go to Subway and buy 5 footlong sandwiches and have them cut into 10, 6-inch sandwiches.  Buy a bag of apples and a case of water bottles.  Drive around downtown and hand out to the homeless.
6) Buy lunch for the person behind you in the drive-thru line.
7) Go to the laundromat.  Put quarters in plastic ziplock bags and tape them to random machines.
8) Drive around town and leave coins on Parking Meters
9) Buy ice cream from the ice cream man for kids at the beach.  (this could be done in your local neighborhood too)
10) Buy Starbucks for the person behind you.
11) Go to Costco and buy 2 meals and drop off with 2 different families.  (they did 1 family who is expecting a baby in 2 weeks, and another family who just had a baby and the mom had her first day back at work that day.)
12) Go to an embroidery/tshirt making store and have them make a personalized custom item for someone going through a difficult situation and deliver it.  (They had a personalized baseball hat made for a little boy they know who was recently diagnosed with cancer.  They put his "I'm a fighter" type nickname on it.)
13) Buy flowers and drop them off during BINGO at the local Senior Center.
14) Buy all the supplies for banana splits and dropped it off at the door of a person who has encouraged your life.

The possibilities are endless!
Be creative!
I love these ideas because they bless special people in your lives as well as total strangers!

Sometimes we just need to let someone go in front of us in line.  That act alone can shift our focus from "self" to "others."  
And yet other times we need to spend several hours proactively blessing and serving others.  It's healing and hope-infusing.

Let's do this!
And the more we do it, maybe, just maybe, these random acts of kindness will become less "random" and more "second nature."  And soon we'll just call it An Intentional Life of Kindness.
That would be beautiful.
I'm in.

Squeeze and Space

I was recently invited to write a guest blog post for the incredible writer/blogger/speaker, Leeana Tankersley.  Leeana has a beautiful gift with words and her newest book, "Breathing Room" is soon to be hot off the press!  I feel SO honored to have been asked to guest blog on her site.  I invite you to check out her blog and her new blog series, Squeeze and Space, that I was invited to write on.  :)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Big MRI Results.....

First, let me thank you for your 'grace' on my last post.  I typically have time to re-read posts before I hit "publish."  I usually have time to process and think etc... Today, I had a short window of time coupled with a myriad of emotions.  Probably not the best combo.  ;)  But you were kind and gracious and let me express my "half baked" thoughts.  Thank you.  :)

Well, to quote my Facebook status update: "Today the miraculous DID happen!  Jon's tumor did NOT grow!!! NO radiation! (for now at least)  Next MRI is in 6 months!!!"

I honestly still can't believe it.  I'm still trying to exhale.  Here's how it went down:

Our neurosurgeon called us out of the regular "doctor/examination room" and walked us into his personal office.  He sat down at his desk and we sat down across from him.  He angled his computer screen so that we could see it and proceeded to tell us he had very good news for us.  He showed us Jon's 9 month (post op) MRI and compared it to Jon's 6 month (post op) MRI.  He said the tumor size is virtually the same as it was 3 months ago.  The tumor had not grown at all.  He said this was VERY good news.

Let me say it again and try to explain how cool this is:
*The MRI that was done right after Jon's surgery revealed a tiny sliver of tumor that our Neuro had left in surgery (attached to his facial nerve).
*Jon's 6 month post-op MRI revealed the tumor had grown and was growing at a fast rate.  (Typical rate of growth is 1mm per year.  Jon's tumor had grown 6mm in 5 months!)
*Today's 9 month MRI looked exactly the same as it did at 6 months.  Which is very odd, since it was supposedly growing at such an alarming rate.

The Doctor was baffled by this whole situation.  He said, "The only possible explanation for this, would be that the MRI that was done right after Jon's surgery was inaccurate.  It must not have captured the whole thing.  It must have been this size since Day 1, because tumor's don't just grow at alarming rates and then stop growing out of no where at 6 months."  I responded, "Yes, that could be.  OR the fact that we've been praying and have a ton of people praying."  He looked at us and said, "Well, there's that too.  Who knows.  We'll never know!"

*Since the tumor is not growing any more, and it is on the edge of Jon's brain and not pushing onto his brain or growing into his brain, the doctor said NO RADIATION is necessary at this point!

The reality is, there are 2 options:
1) If the tumor was this size all along, then Jon would have undergone Radiation on his brain unnecessarily!  God prompted us to ask for that "pause button." We got a 2nd and 3rd opinion and were patient to take the 3 months to double check the tumor's growth.  God's hand was so clearly guiding us and with us!
2) If the tumor was indeed smaller right after surgery and then grew extensively in the first 6 months... and then just stopped growing?  That is nothing short of a miracle!!!  God's hand was so clearly on Jon!

The way I see it, it doesn't matter what in the world happened.  We may never know.  And I couldn't care less.  God is good!  He is faithful!  He has been so present - guiding each step of this journey.  We feel SO grateful for the prayers of so many going up on our behalf.  THANK YOU!

So what is next???
Jon's next MRI is in 6 months.  If Jon's tumor doesn't grow and that MRI reveals everything has remained the same/stable for 6 months, he'll then switch to having MRI's only once a year!  Yes, it's once a year for the rest of his life, but we'll take it!  They will monitor the tumor every year to watch for any growth.  If it ever grows, then we'll begin the radiation/surgery conversation again.  Until then, I'm washing my hands of that topic!  :)

The Neuro said now we get to just focus our attention completely on Jon's recovery and his post-op illnesses/issues.  Possible eye surgery coming up... keep working on his balance... keep expanding his stamina... keep working on his management of details.... talk about possible specialized surgeries on different nerves to help bring movement to his face... etc... etc... etc...  Yes, there is still a lot to deal with.  But a growing tumor aint one of them!!!!  :)

Thank you for praying.  Thank you for supporting and encouraging.  Thank you for believing with us.  We are so humbled by your love.  We are so grateful for you.

Please continue to pray with us - specifically for the biggest issue at hand - Jon's eye pain.  We are currently looking at eye surgery options with our health insurance etc...  Please pray with us that God would open doors for that to be done.  It's not guaranteed that would eliminate his eye pain, but there is a big chance it could!  And please continue to pray for Jon's facial nerve to restore.  We believe God is able!

Thank you again.
And again.
And again.

Going to bed with a grateful heart,


Today at 3:15pm, Jon and I will meet with his neurosurgeon to get the results from his MRI.  This MRI will reveal if Jon's tumor really is growing as fast as they found it to be growing at his 6 month, post-op MRI.  At 3:15pm we will find out if Jon needs to have radiation on his brain or even a possible 2nd brain surgery.

Our kids are attending a water sports camp down in San Diego this week, so I just drove up to meet Jon at his appointment.  I didn't hit any traffic, so here I am, 90 minutes early.  I glanced over at my passenger seat and there sat my laptop.  God's gift to me in this moment.  A chance to write.  To process.  To gather this jumbled mess of emotion inside of me and try to put it into words.  God bless Starbucks and their free wi-fi.  :)

I have never believed more in the faithfulness of God.  God has been SO faithful to us in this season. I don't doubt His goodness.  He is so good.  He can be trusted.  His people have surrounded us.  He has provided for us.  Sustained us.  So what do I feel right now?

I am dreading this appointment.

I remember driving Jon to the Emergency Room 9 months and 7 days ago.  Jon and I were both certain they were going to send him home with a dose of Extra-Stregnth Something for his headache and we'd call it a night.  Instead, they said he had a brain tumor and admitted him to ICU.

I remember driving Jon to his 6 month, Post-Operation neurosurgery appointment.  Jon and I were both certain that they were going to send him home with a clean bill of health.  I mean, he had the surgery. They removed 98% of the tumor and cauterized the tiny sliver left, it so it wouldn't grow any more.  It was successful.  He now has SSD (Single Sided Deafness) and facial paralysis to prove it.  He's paid his dues.  Instead, they said the tumor was growing back at an alarmingly fast rate.  They scheduled him to start Radiation a week later.

After canceling his Radiation to buy us some time to make an educated decision, Jon and I got 2nd and 3rd opinions.  We drove to USC to be seen by "the best." Then he was a Case Study at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach.  Each time, we were hoping someone would say, "You're good!  Your journey is coming to an end!"  Instead, each time we were told action would need to be taken.  Different doctors had their differing opinions on the timeline, but all agreed that action is needed.

We got our neurosurgeon to agree to a 3 month "Pause Button."  Basically, let us wait 3 months and then do another MRI.  If this MRI reveals the tumor really is growing as fast as you say it is, we will move forward with more treatment.  There is no harm in double checking.  Today, those 3 months are up.

We're now 60 minutes away from our next "big" appointment.  And I am dreading it.  This isn't my first rodeo.  I've driven into this driveway.  I've been hopeful.  I've expected the best.  And I've walked out feeling like I got socked in the gut.

I realize these feelings are raw.  Not polished.  I probably shouldn't even hit the "publish" button when I'm done writing this.  Not sure if I will.

It has nothing to do with the faithfulness of God.  It has nothing to do with His goodness or His provision or His grace.  It has everything to do with my flesh.  My flesh is so weak.  It's tired.  I know that I know that I know that whatever 3:15pm holds from the doctor will also be accompanied by whatever it is we need from God.  God has NEVER left us lacking anything.  He has provided what we need - and abundantly more - for each leg of this journey.  So my dread is not that I worry about our needs being met.  It's just the dread of knowing that we live in an imperfect, fallen, broken, sin-filled, disease-ridden world.  And it's painful and hard and exhausting and scary and unsure.

I don't have answers. Yet.  I don't see or know what God sees and knows.  But I will tell you that I've prayed.  A lot.  I've asked God for good things.  I've told him my fears and expressed my dread.  And what is amazing and beautiful?  He is near to me.  So present.  I can feel Him.

I'm going to hit "publish" on this blog.  I realize I may offend some people, because I'm sure there are people who can't rectify the "rub" of believing God to be faithful and at the same time dreading something.  But I'm going to hit "publish" anyway - because I realize there are many people who are afraid to tell God that they are mad or scared or feel dread.  Sometimes we think our prayers need to be all sunshine and rainbows.  We think we should be grateful for our blessings and that's it.  Well let me give you permission to be real with God.  God can handle it.  Tell Him exactly how you feel.  Tell Him what your worries are.  Tell Him your struggles.  I am telling God today, I believe you.  I have faith in you.  I know You to be faithful.  But I am dreading this appointment.  I resonate with Mark 9:24:  "I do believe!  But help me with my unbelief!"

Would you pray with Jon and me?  That God would bring healing.  And that God would give us peace.  And that if we need to make decisions, that He would give us wisdom.

We are SO grateful for the gift of His presence through all of this.  And we are SO grateful for the prayer support from all of you - who live literally all around the world.  God hears us.  He cares for us.  He knows our story.  He is able.  He is faithful.  He is good and generous and extravagant in His love and grace applied to our lives.  We are so grateful.

I want to encourage you to invite God into your journey.  Invite Him into those painful places.  He alone can heal.  He alone can bring true peace. He alone can bring comfort.  Be real.  Even with God. He can handle it.  Don't think that's what prayers and talking to God should look like?  The Bible says otherwise:

Psalm 55:22 - Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you.
1 Peter 5:7 - Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.

Join me.  I'm taking my dread and "casting it onto Him."  My palms are wide open.  I'm not pretending like unicorns are sitting in my hands.  It's dread.  And God will take it from me and sustain me because He cares for me.

Jesus loves me, this I know.
For the Bible tells me so.

Well, it's 3:03.  I gotta jet.
Courageously hitting "publish" now....

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Jon's MRI is at 8am!

Tomorrow morning, Sunday the 28th, at 8:00am, Jon will have an MRI.  Jon's last MRI was 3 months ago and those results revealed that his brain tumor had started to grow back at quite a fast rate.  Our neurosurgeon at Mission Hospital (as well as the team at Hoag Hospital) told us that Jon needed to have Radiation immediately.  In an attempt to be thorough, we asked them for a 3 month "wait" period.  Tomorrow, those 3 months are up.  If the MRI tomorrow reveals/confirms the tumor growth, we will move forward with Radiation.  If the miraculous happens and there is no growth, we will hold off on Radiation.  Having Radiation on the brain is not ideal, so we wanted to double check with this additional MRI, just to be sure.

Would you pray with us tomorrow at 8am?  Pray that Jon would have a nice, relaxing nap during the MRI?  ;)  That the MRI would be a time of rest for him?  :)  Would you pray with us that when they do the MRI, they see NO growth?  Would you pray with us that Jon would not need Radiation?
It will be a week before we see our neurosurgeon for the results.  We will keep you posted....

THANK YOU for joining us in prayer as this journey continues.  We are grateful for you....

Saturday, June 21, 2014

45 Years of Marriage Never Looked So Beautiful....

This is a picture of my parents - 45 years ago, today.

On June 21, 1969, Paul Rischer and Carol Corbett had a wedding in Winnipeg, Canada.  They had just turned 20 years old.  Carol sewed her own wedding dress and in the ceremony, Paul and Carol sang a song to each other.  

8 years earlier, Paul and Carol had met at a Province-wide music competition.  Paul had won 1st Place in the 12 year olds Vocal Division.  Carol had won 1st Place in the 12 year olds Piano Division.  They stood next to each other in the Winners Photo.  4 years later, at age 16, Paul and Carol found themselves at the same High School and were cast as the 2 Leads in their school's production of "Brigadoon."  When Paul asked Carol on a date to "practice their lines," it was an amazing coincidence that the scenes he had planned for them to rehearse were all of their kissing scenes.  ;)  4 years later, these high school sweethearts had a wedding.  

Their wedding was beautiful. They were madly in love. They were surrounded by family and friends.  It was exactly what every young girl dreams about as a little girl.  

Over the next 45 years, their marriage brought them 3 daughters, then 3 son-in-laws, and eventually 11 grandchildren.  Over the next 45 years, they taught around the world on marriage.  How to have a healthy marriage... How to keep a healthy sex life... How to love and respect and serve your spouse.  Over the next 45 years, they continued to date.  And "practice their lines from Brigadoon" - even in public - even when their teen-aged daughters acted disgusted. ;)  They knew the best gift they could give their kids was a solid marriage.  And so they invested in it.  A lot.  Over the next 45 years, they took romantic get-aways without kids on a regular basis.  They held hands.  They put the other person first.  Their marriage was a picture of love and grace.  

For 45 years, Paul and Carol planted their roots. 
They invested time.  
They watered it.  
And the roots grew deeper.  
They spoke words of love and affection.  
Words of affirmation and encouragement.  
Deeper and deeper the roots grew. 

45 years later, these roots are so deep that they can withstand even the fiercest storm.

45 years ago, my parents didn't just have a wedding.
They began a marriage.

A wedding is sequins and lace.
A wedding is flowers and candles.
A wedding is pretty.

A marriage is sacrifice and service.
A marriage is hard work and dedication.
A marriage is beautiful.  

A wedding is pretty.
A marriage is beautiful.

Let me explain.

This is pretty:

This is beautiful:

3 years ago, at the age of 62, my mom was diagnosed with Frontal Temporal Dementia.  Her personality has become that of a young child.  She has lost about 98% of her ability to speak.  She cannot take care of herself.  So my dad does everything from wiping her mouth to shaving her legs.  My dad loves her and cares for her as if she was the exact same High-School-Sweetheart turned Bride he said "I Do" to, 45 years ago.  


The roots.  Those roots.  They are beautiful.  Roots of courage.  And sacrifice.  And love.  And romance.  They have never been more beautiful.  

Single friends:  Don't settle.  Who you marry matters.  You are choosing the person you will raise children with.  The person you will chase dreams with.  The person you will grow old with.  Be choosy.  Don't settle.  It matters.

Engaged friends: My mom always said, "It's not official until you walk down the isle."  If you have doubts or hesitations, explore those.  Be thorough.  The things you think will just work themselves out after you walk down the isle, won't.  It's never too late to call it off if it's just not right.  And you'll never regret being courageous enough to do it.

Married friends:  Invest.  No, not financially.  Invest in the stuff that matters when money can't fix it.  Love.  Grace.  Service.  Compassion.  Support.  Encouragement.  Patience.  Those are things that water and grow your roots deep.  Remember to date.  Re-fuel.  Fill up each other's tanks.  Kiss.  Hold hands.  Grab his tush as you're walking past it.  Believe in each other.  Go to marriage counseling if you need it.  Trash your pride and embrace humility.

45 years later, my parents would say one of the best decisions they've made was to commit their lives to each other.  But the best day of their lives has been each day since - learning how to take something so incredibly pretty, water it, invest in it, and experience the most profoundly beautiful expression in relationship that God has ever created: Unconditional Love.  

Happy 45th Anniversary, Mom and Dad.  

Marriage has never looked so beautiful.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

God Showed Up... Again. And Still.

This past Monday was my birthday.  While the big kids were in school, my in-laws watched the babies so I could celebrate my birthday poolside with Jon.  We laid out at the St. Regis Hotel pool, compliments of a friend's hook up.  The day was perfect.  So relaxing, I even fell asleep in my lounge chair!  It was glorious!  As we were driving to pick up the babies from my in-laws, Jon and I passed this amazing hotel called "The Blue Lantern Inn" in Dana Point.  13 years ago, when Jon resigned from his position at his first job out of college, they gave us a night away at the Blue Lantern Inn as our farewell gift.  It was incredible.  It's right on the ocean overlooking the Dana Point Harbor.  It provides wine and hors d'oeuvres each evening.  Incredible breakfast each morning.  Each room has a jacuzzi tub and a bedside fireplace.  Need I say more?  :)  As we drove past the Inn on Monday, we reminisced about the time we got to stay there 13 years ago.  We talked about how amazing it was and we talked about saving up so we could go back and visit someday.

Then Tuesday was Jon and my 14th wedding anniversary.  I woke up in the morning to one of the babies crying.  I went to stand up out of bed and I screamed in pain.  I collapsed onto my bed.  I knew I had gotten a sunburn on my legs the day before at the St. Regis, but this pain was different.  It was fierce and intense.  I tried to stand up again.  Nope.  The pain was debilitating. Long story short, I spent the next 2 days in bed.  Literally, in bed.  I didn't brush my teeth for 2 days because I couldn't even get to the sink!  The best guess I have (from the 'amazing' online research I did) ;) is that it was nerve pain.  The sunburn somehow did something to the nerves in my right leg.  (I literally have no idea - I've never experienced anything like it.)  So instead of enjoying our Anniversary with the amazing date night we had planned, we had to cancel our babysitter while I laid in bed.  Such a bummer.

When everything went downhill that Tuesday, my in-laws stepped up big time. They took the babies while Jon went in to work.  Then on Wednesday, they picked up the babies for an overnight sleepover.  Praise God for them!  I got to rest and let my leg recover.

Then Thursday morning, at 12:15am to be exact, I got an email from a friend.  She said, "OK this is crazy, but sometimes crazy can work!  Any chance you can have someone watch your kids for the night?  We have an extra room tonight at (ready for this?) THE BLUE LANTERN INN!  It is paid for and was going to sit vacant - but then we thought of you guys and knew you had to cancel your anniversary plans because of your leg.  If you can make it work, it's yours!"  Um, HELLO!!! What are the chances!??!  At 7:45am I called my mother-in-law to 'test the waters' to see how things were going with the babies.  ;)  She answered the phone and said, "Good morning!  I was going to ask you - Would you like us to keep the babies again tonight?'"  Amazing!!!  I proceeded to tell her about our offer and she was so graciously on board.  Then I called an incredible friend to ask if she would break all of our rules and host a "school night sleepover" for Jackson and Taylor.  ;)  She graciously accepted without hesitation.

So Jon and I spent last night (Thursday night) at the Blue Lantern Inn.  What a treat!

I've been reminded once again of how good God is.  I am reminded of how personal His love is.  I am reminded of how intimately He knows us and knows our story.  Your story.  My story.
How gracious of Him to not just give us a date night to replace our missed Anniversary - But to give us an extravagantly better Anniversary experience than we had even originally planned!  And to make it all the more sweeter, He had us drive past the Inn on Monday, just to build the anticipation.  ;)

God's ways are always gooder.  ;)  He can take our good plans and make them better.  He can take our lame plans that we think are good and create better ones.  When we make bad choices, He can redeem. When we make good choices, but are victims of circumstances, He is present - offering whatever is needed for restoration.  He. Is. Gooder.

I realize this "blog post" (if you can even call it that) could have been summed up in 60 characters saying, "Jon and I spent the night at The Blue Lantern Inn last night."  But I just couldn't.  It was so much more than that.  It was God telling us that He is here.  Still.

You'd think by now His beauty would be running out for all these ashes.
But they're not.
Beauty for ashes.  Beauty for ashes.
New beauty.
Every morning.
I surrender my ashes...
And He gives me beauty in return.
He is here.

Monday, June 2, 2014

I Forgot to Tell You....

Have you ever had "Posters Remorse" after a Facebook post?  We've all had "buyers remorse" at one time or another.  But "posters remorse" can happen easily these days as well.  This morning, I had "posters remorse."  I woke up to the post I had written about my mom and just wished I could delete it.  Not because I had said something wrong, but because I didn't say it well enough.  I didn't do her justice.  I tried.  But I barely scratched the surface.  I wish my words were more eloquent.  I wish I could remember more.  My mom accomplished a lot.  But WHO she was is even more remarkable.  I wish I could bottle up the essence of my mom.

When writing last night, I forgot to tell you that my mom would have conversations with ANY young adult - a waitress, a flight attendant, a hotel clerk - and encourage them to continue their education.  She was passionate about being a life long learner and by the time we ordered at any restaurant, she had that young adult considering going back to college.

I forgot to tell you my mom LOVED setting people up.  If you are were a young adult and were single, my mom had a guy/girl she just *knew* you were going to love.  Dates were set up all the time.  Many marriages happened as a result.  She loves love.

I forgot to tell you that my mom's favorite organizing tips were 1) E & C and 2) Only Handle It Once.  "E & C" - Eliminate and Concentrate.  Eliminate what you don't need and concentrate on what is important and what you value most.  "Only Handle It Once" - If it touches your hands, deal with it.  Don't pick it up, put it down, and then have to deal with it later.  Only handle it once.  You'll save much time in the long run.

I forgot to tell you that my mom invented "Happy Nothing Day."  So if there was a month with no official holiday to celebrate, she would celebrate Happy Nothing Day.  We'd come home from school to streamers and balloons and a little gift at our plate.  My mom LOVES to look for reasons to celebrate anything and everything in life.  A TMI example of this, is that we were able to get our ears pierced as a celebration of becoming a "woman."  ;)  No milestone was little and no event was small.  We had a reason to celebrate whatever, whenever!

I forgot to tell you that my mom threw the BEST dinner parties for her friends.  A few of my favorites was her "In Poor Taste" party where everyone was supposed to come dressed "in poor taste" and everything at the party was in poor taste.  The brownies looked like little poops, people dressed super tacky (think plumber crack) and my mom acted in poor taste the whole dinner - even shaving her armpits at the dinner table!  She was HILARIOUS.  The other one I loved was for my dad's 50th she threw a "Better Half" party to celebrate my dad reaching mid-life.  Everyone came dressed as their better half and had to act like their better half all night.  Again, hilarious!

I forgot to tell you my mom really REALLY valued family time.  As busy as our lives were, she would always block off "Family Nights" on the calendar.  When my sisters and I were younger, it was every Friday night.  And we'd rotate who picked what we got to do for Family Night.  (bowling, roller skating, etc..)  As we grew older and busier, she didn't sacrifice family night.  They remained a priority and she'd work around our schedules.  She loved to have people over and entertain, but she also protected time investing in just our party of 5.

I forgot to tell you that one Christmas my mom invited our old, widowed next door neighbor with dementia to join us on Christmas Day because she had no family in town.  And when she was finally put in a home, my mom visited her once a week - even when Mrs. Giles had no idea who anyone was anymore.  My mom visited without fail.  Another Christmas we had a single mom join us whose kids were with their dad for Christmas and she was alone.  Our home was a safe place for whoever needed one.

I forgot to tell you that my mom kept our house immaculate at all times.  And when I say immaculate I mean IMMACULATE.  Closets, drawers, cupboards.  What was seen and what was unseen was always in order.  Her driving force?  To be a perfectionist?  Nope.  She wanted anyone to be able to drop by at any time and feel welcomed and she wanted to be available to serve them without hesitation.  She even had a hidden key outside our door and typed instructions on how to use the TV remotes and A/C etc.. inside on the counter in case someone needed a place to stay while we were gone or out of town. She would just tell them where the key was and they were able to make themselves at home. Her home was her ministry.

I forgot to tell you that my mom was creative in her parenting.  When she taught us piano and we got into a "rut" she told us she hired a new piano teacher for us, named Mrs. Magilicutty.  The day for our lesson came and the doorbell rang.  We were so excited - ran to the door and found my mom standing there, dressed as "Mrs. Magilicutty." She introduced herself and all of a sudden new life was breathed into our lessons with our "new" teacher.   ;)

Here I am again. Needing to stop writing but I don't want to.  I literally could go on and on.  You've indulged me enough by reading this far.  I don't expect many will.  And I get it.  But I just had to say more today.  I'm sure over the next season of life as she continues to decline, there will be more "volumes" of these types of posts.  Thank you for letting this be a safe place to remember.  And reflect. And celebrate.

My mom was remarkable.  Gracious.  Smart.  Generous. Kind. Selfless.  Achiever.  Leader.  Strong.  Wise. Intentional.  Funny.  Hard working.  Faithful.  Creative.  Talented.
But most of all?

"Do As I Do..."

Last week, my mom turned 65.  A couple of years ago, my mom was diagnosed with FTD.  Frontal Temporal Dementia.  My mom has the behavioral variant of FTD which changes your personality, impacts your executive functions, reasoning, sequencing, speech, emotional, social...   It's not the type of dementia that effects your memory.  It's a type of dementia that effects the very things that make you, you.  My mom has lost about 98% of her speech and resembles a very young child.  Most people celebrate their 65th birthday with the hope of retirement, enjoying their empty nester years, planning world travels, spending time with grandbabies...  My mom's birthday was spent with our family sitting at a fancy restaurant that we know my mom used to love, ordering food for her we know she used to really enjoy... while she sat there silent.  We talked and told stories.  She sat and listened.  Most of the time with a blank stare.  A few times she smiled.  Once she even laughed.  (I know how to pick out a funny birthday card, if I do say so myself!) ;)

At my mom's birthday celebration, at the very end of the evening, my sister Cheryl pulled out 3 bags.  She placed one in front of my mom and one each in front of my other sister, Melanie and me.  Inside was a stack of CDs.  A large stack of CDs.  When my mom was my age, at 35-36 years old, she had her own radio show.  It was on KIRV Radio in Fresno, CA and she had a daily radio program.  She would talk about everything from women in ministry, to women at home, to leadership, to marriage...   Well, for my mom's birthday, Cheryl got ahold of all of the tapes from her radio show (reel to reel) and had them transferred onto CDs.  Then she had copies made for each of us.  You can imagine what the presentation of that gift was like.  Yes.  Tears.  

One of the things I think about most these days is, "I wonder what my mom would say about...." and I fill in the blank.  I wonder what my mom would say about how to organize this closet.  I wonder what my mom would say about how to really teach Taylor gratitude.  I wonder what my mom would say about Jon's health.  I wonder.  If my mom could speak into "_______" area of my life, I wonder what she would say.  Oh what I wouldn't give to hear her wisdom right now.  Cheryl's gift is the closest thing I'll ever have to hearing that voice again.  I now have a large stack of CDs and I get to hear my mom, at my exact same age, talk about raising her kids, keeping her home, serving in ministry.  I get to hear her voice.  I get to know her thoughts.  What an incredible gift!

Jon and I were recently in the car together and we decided to listen to one of the CDs.  I was blown away by the message.  This talk was a charge to women - to moms specifically - to live the life you are created to live.  Her bottom line?  She wants to be able to say to her kids (my sisters and me), "Do as I Do."  In an era that commonly said, "Do as I say, not as I do," my mom said there should be something better than that.  Something more.

I look at my mom's life - what she taught as well as what she lived at home - and want so badly to "do as she did." I'm not going to lie.  My mom's life was busy.  Full.  But our home never felt frazzled.  It never felt out of control.  We had family dinners.  Every single night.  We shared the best part of our day and the worst part of our day.  At every dinner.  At the end of dinner we would pick a missionary family and pray for them.  We practiced piano every day.  We were involved in our community and school.  At the same time, my mom was a conference speaker, radio host and author.  This was a big deal.  These days, anyone can be an author.  Much like an Indie Artist (like myself) who can make a CD, the wonderful world wide web has created a platform for any average person to write and and have a blog and consider themselves a "writer."  (read: me) ;)  And anyone can self publish a book.  When my mom was 36, Harvest House Publishing Company came to her because of the incredible woman, wife, and voice she was.  They asked her to write a book and she did.  This was a big deal and honor back then.   The book was called "Insights for Young Mothers."  I remember my mom being flown to appear on TV shows and interviewed for her book.  I also remember my sisters were entering their tween/teen years and my mom decided to put the brakes on it all.  She could have pursued more and more of that type of career, but she knew her kids under her own roof needed her more than other women around the country needed her.  My mom sacrificed much for us.  She still stayed very busy and connected to her passions, but her home base was her highest value.

Tomorrow, I turn 36.  I can't help but compare my 36 years to the 36 year old young mom I am listening to on the CDs.  Her voice sounds so confident.  So secure.  She had a (freaking!) radio show.  And was becoming an author.  She was so organized. And so focused.  She was so excited about God's calling on the lives of women.  She was considered a 'forward thinker' when it came to that stuff back then.  How proud am I of her!   Oh my, I forgot to mention something else - She was a business owner too!  Yes, she and my dad opened 2 clothing stores when they were 35 years old in 2 different malls.  She achieved much by such a young age.  Who was this adventurous, strong, smart, savvy, talented woman?  She was my mom.  She is my inspiration.  She is who I want to be.

I desire to wrap up this post with a final paragraph of eloquent words and a clever little tag line about my mom and her impact.  But I can't.  Every time I try to wrap this post up, my fingers won't let me.  My brain can't tie up the loose ends.  I think it's, because, there's just no end.  No end to her talent and charm and enthusiasm and passion and wit and wisdom and... and.. and...  I don't want to stop typing about her.  I want to gush.  And rave.  And gush some more.  But it's late.  And I must stop.

Tomorrow, I will celebrate my birthday inspired.  Challenged.  Encouraged.  I feel like I won the lottery when it comes to the legacy left for me.  When it comes to age 36, I will listen to the CDs.  I will hear the beauty of age 36 well lived.   I will do as she did:  Love God.  Love people.  Use my gifts to His glory.

No clever tag line.  Just a stack of CDs, a green light and my foot on the gas pedal.