Friday, April 26, 2019

April Birthdays 2019

This year's April birthdays were very low key.
No one wanted a party.
No one wanted anything lavish or involved.
No one had their birthday on Easter Sunday!
You heard no complaining from me.
Ashlyn just wanted a family dinner out.
Grant wanted a pizza party with his family in.
Tommy's birthday was on a Sunday so I took a giant
cake to share with our Sunday School class,
and some special friends came by to wish
him a "Happy Birthday!"
Always a busy month but full of fun!

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Resurrection Sunday 2019

We had a beautiful week of preparation before Resurrection Sunday this year!!

Attending worship services together celebrating our Risen Savior 
is always the highlight of the day!!

Lunch together after a busy morning and a long car ride home made
a success thanks to crock-pot cooking!!

Several of the children asked and asked if we could do an Easter egg hunt this year,
and that was a fun afternoon activity!

{Someone found the golden egg!}

That evening we went back to church for the final presentation of
OVERCOME:  An Easter Musical!!

What a blessing to be able to be together this year to celebrate
our hope, our triumph over death, our Risen Savior!!

Monday, April 22, 2019

What can we see when the Lord takes away

It nearly took my breath away.

That phone call you decline because you're walking to the check-out in Wal-Mart
and know you won't be able to talk for very long, if at all.
A phone call with Sara was never a 5-minute was sometimes an hours-long event!
I texted her to ask if she minded if I call her once I got home.
She texted back and said, "No. It's an emergency.  I'm at the ER."
I immediately stopped among the racks of women's clothing and called her.

"Hey.  What's going on??" I asked her.
"Well, I'm in the ER because I've had a heart attack?" she replied.
"What?!?" I gasped trying to figure out why her 39 year-old-heart was so broken.
"Yeah,"  she said, "but that's not all of it.
The doctors ran some tests when I got here and they did the wrong one.
They found out I have leukemia too."


Right there standing in Wal-Mart.
How could THIS be happening to my friend?

I first met Sara in 1992 in the chilly backwoods of upper Michigan when I was working as a summer camp counselor for Camp CoBeAc.  She was just a teenager then working as kitchen staff.  She had a larger-than-life smile and a personality to go with it!  So many fun memories from those days.

Throughout the years, we've kept in touch.

{Sara made this collage for my birthday several years ago.}

Her high-school graduation.
My college graduation.
Her college years.
My wedding and new family.
She came to visit us when we moved to Texas.  Many pranks happened.
She would call at all hours of the day or night and just talk for hours so passionately about her team, the Michigan State Spartans.
She was fanatical about them.  Hilariously so.
When she moved to Colorado for a short time to work as a nanny, I doubted she would be able to leave her beloved home-state and home team.
She couldn't.  She moved back in less than a year if I remember correctly.
But she brought with her a terrible cough.
We talked about it and discussed that maybe it was newly developed allergies.
She was told asthma.

She would still call and want to lecture me about letting my 18-year old move through a relationship with a boy.  Or talk about how her heart still hurt over the loss of her cousin in a terrible car accident years ago that left a young widow with small children behind.  Or how the crushing loss of friends to suicide was eating her up.
She would ask me to pray for her co-workers that she was witnessing to and had invited to go to church with her.
She would need to process through, over-and-over why, at her age, she had never had the opportunity to get married and have her own kids.
So she talked of adoption.
Most recently, she decided she was going to go back to school in nursing.
Sara loved people.
She was working as a home-health aide to the elderly during overnights.
She realized she wanted to have more knowledge and skills to help them better.
There was a looming problem though.

In the last year or so, her eyes had developed these spots that were bleeding.
She had several injections into them to control the bleeding.
Surgery was the next option on the table.
She still struggled with upper respiratory issues that her pulmonologist said was asthma.   The coughing caused her to vomit sometimes.
She was frustrated it was out-of-control.
She couldn't exercise to bring her weight down because of it.

She called me another time to tell me her Type 2 Diabetes was causing a lot of issues.  I thought this was a relatively new diagnosis for her.  Until she told me she first learned of it when she graduated from college over a decade and a half ago.
She begged me to give her some guidance on eating plan....
so she could get her numbers down.
I begged her to find an endocrinologist who could help her.

In the summer of 2015, I made my annual road trip home to Ohio with half of my kids.
Sara had been furious with me the previous year when I had made the very same trip but had neglected to carve out time to specifically see her.
She made absolutely sure that we were going to hang out together this time, so she set it all up,
and drove the two hours from her house in Michigan to my parents house in Ohio!
We made the best memories!!
My rental car had given me some problems on my trip, and after many phone calls I was able to make a trade.
But when Sara, saw the nasty car (which smelled and drove like a bowling alley) she was not having it.
She demanded we take that thing back to the airport where she turned into a lawyer basically threatening the rental car guy with terrible online reviews if her friend didn't get a fair shake here.
I hovered in the corner while "the girl from Detroit" went to bat for me.
I drove away with the swankiest Town and Country mini-van with all the bells and whistles that I had ever had the pleasure of driving!!
We stopped off at Chik-Fil-A afterward to celebrate and she was in fast food heaven!
It was a hilarious visit and we laughed nearly the entire day!!
As the sun was setting and she was getting ready to go home, she told me that the next Summer she would be celebrating her 40th birthday and she was going to fly me up to her house for her big party!
She made me promise to not plan anything for that weekend so I could be there to celebrate with her!

It was later that winter that I was shopping in Wal-Mart and she called me.
I couldn't believe it.
What was happening??
How could someone so young and full of life be having this physical cascade of health crises?

In a couple months, my husband and I were celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary.
We wanted to revisit where it had all started for us, so we booked a flight for Detroit and planned to go visit Sara while we were in the area.
On the morning we were going to try to drive to her home,
I got a call from her Dad.
"Honey, please don't come," he said to me.
"Sara has been on a new medication and it has made her really, very sick.
She is sick to her stomach and isn't up to any visitors."

We sadly complied.
Within just a couple days of flying back home from our anniversary trip,
Sara died.
Her 40th birthday came and went and I grieved the loss of my friend.
I could only wish for her name to come up on my caller ID signaling a phone call from her again.
I would never have imagined when I met her in 1992, and was a little overwhelmed by her exuberance for life, that she would be gone so soon.
Sara was one of those people who was the picture of faithfulness.
Once her friend, always her friend!
Her love went deep.
Never have I understood better the steadfast love and faithfulness of God since experiencing life with Sara.

"For great is His steadfast love toward us, 
and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.
Praise the Lord."
~ Psalm 117:2

"For your steadfast love is great above the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches the clouds."
~Psalm 108:4

She was one of those people who chose you.
You didn't have to choose to be her friend.
It was her decision and it was for life.
Her friendship was the epitome of faithfulness.
No matter how much time had passed between our phone conversations, we just picked up where we had left off.
Her love was generous!!
How much greater the love of God toward us.
There is never a moment when He is not available to us.
There is never a situation that we are experiencing that He is not aware of.
I'm thankful that I have the hope of seeing Sara one day again.
I'm thankful that Sara chose me to be her friend, and that the Lord used her in my life to teach me more about Him.
I need to be more like Sara.
I need to be more like Jesus.

**This is an excerpt from one of my chapters in the devotional book I co-authored recently.  You can find a link to grab your copy in the upper right-hand sidebar!!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Couples Retreat 2019

There is no greater investment you can make than nurturing your marriage.
It has lifelong benefits.

We have found that in our culture of constant distractions and
heavy, heavy busyness,
it takes a good 24 hours of just the two of us together
to be able to relax and communicate with each other.
I have always thought that we communicate (talk!!) all the time
at home and better than most couples.
We have to just keep our lives afloat and to be sure we don't
miss something important to us or to one of our 5 children still at home!!
We have strategies and set times we look at the calendar together
to make sure we are still on the same page!!
But even with all the modern conveniences that help us with daily chores
and time management,
we still get distracted and sucked into our own world of responsibilities and hobbies.

When we have the opportunity to attend a retreat like this,
we try really hard to build it into our calendar priority!!
We didn't get to go last year,
so we felt it was of the utmost importance that we go this year.

We were not disappointed, and were so blessed!
The peacefulness of our surroundings, the relaxed schedule,
the fantastically encouraging speaker and his wife, and the
great food and fun allowed us the perfect weekend getaway!!

I talked my hubby into playing the "Newlywed Game"
 and we won the whole thing!!
Our prize?
Getting to use this fun ATV golf-cart to zip around the campgrounds!!

It's always a delight to meet the offspring of couples who
asked me to coordinate their wedding!!!
Sweet babies!!!

My favorite traveling buddy!!!