Monday, July 20, 2015

Hope and Joy in the middle of Heartache

My mom and me!  One of my favorite pictures.  This is
in the middle of her battle (Sept 2011), and she is smiling as big as ever.
This is what the Joy of the Lord looks like! 

My heart breaks.  My tears fall.  My mind spins.  I re-live all the heartache and loss.  I read about another PALS meeting Jesus.  PALS?  You ask.  Person living with ALS.  Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.  A death sentence.

I would bet that a year ago most of you (if not all) had never heard of this disease.  Thanks to the "ice-bucket challenge" you now probably have heard about it, maybe participated in fundraising for it, maybe even complained about the videos on your FB news feed, and hopefully have never personally experienced it.  For those of you who are still in the dark, ALS is a terminal disease which steals a person of all movement- talking, walking, eating, all muscles defy the will of the person who lives with ALS.  They typically become a quadriplegic, not able to move anything below the head- including the neck.  In this process, they also loose the ability to eat on their own, talk on their own, scratch an itch on their own.  Try for just 5 minutes, 1 minute even, to not move.a.single.muscle.  Not one.  Do not switch the weight from one side to another.  Do not move for just 5 minutes.  It's almost impossible.  Yet, a person who lives with ALS does this day in and day out 24/7 relying on someone else to ease their pain, scratch their itch, and keep them comfortable.  Not able to cough on their own, clear their throat, swallow their saliva.  This doesn't even scratch the surface (pun totally intended) on the hopes and dreams and thoughts and feelings of the PALS.  Those are gone too.  Everything stops- and eventually so does the ability to breath.  A PALS's life (and their care taker's) is full of scary machines such as ventilators, percussion vests, cough assist and suction machines, doctors appointments and hospitals stays, pneumonia and feeding tubes.  The typical life expectancy of a person who is given the diagnosis of ALS is 2-5 years.  There is no cure.  There is  no treatment.  They do not even know how or why one is stricken with this disease.

Each time I hear of another diagnosis or another passing- my experience floods my mind and my soul and I am full of grief.  Grief for all the things lost.  All the experiences not had.  All the emptiness that ALS brings.  Until it is you caring for your loved one, watching them fight their body as it defies them, helping them with the simplest task, loosing sleep because of worry or caregiving, begging God to help you be strong because it isn't possible on your own.  Until that is you- you can really never fully understand the thief that is ALS.  And, as I hear of another precious family walking the same road.  Doing Battle on the same Battlefield, living the same days and nights that I have - I know, immediately, so much of what they're thinking and feeling.  It's like a super close-knit club that no one wants to be a part of, ever.

February 14, 2011 my sweet momma was given the full diagnosis of ALS and she fought this horrific disease faithfully and valiantly until October 31, 2013 when she went to the arms of her Savior- and is now walking, dancing, and worshiping Jesus in His presence.

And as the tears flow down my cheeks and the ache in my heart to have her be with us is there, still fresh, I also have a strange sense of Hope and Joy.  I know that it doesn't make any sense.  How can I have Hope and Joy when I have lived through the horror of what I described above?  It's because I was blessed with the opportunity to be with my momma every.single.minute since before the diagnosis till the moment she entered the throne of Heaven.  I am thankful for the opportunity to serve her and help her and love her as she did for me.  I had the blessing to give to her anything and everything she needed. To be her advocate.  To make sure she was getting what she needed to be as comfortable as possible.  I am thankful for all of our "blinked" conversations (after my momma lost the ability to talk, I would say the alphabet and she would blink on the next letter of the word.  We would have entire conversations, spelling out each letter, word by word, through the alphabet and blinking.)  It was exhausting for her and for me- but I AM SO THANKFUL for those conversations where we were able to share our fears about the future and comfort each other with the presence of our Lord.

It wasn't easy.  In fact, it was the most difficult 3 years of my life- and my husbands life- as we were most certainly a team of caregivers for her. Tony was the most amazing example of laying down his wants and desires for someone else because he was looking to the ULTIMATE example of laying down life for someone else: Jesus.  

I have Hope and Joy for other reasons too.  My children know what it is to love even when it is hard.  To put others first, as their needs were often second, third, or fourth in line.  They know their grandma loved them and found joy in them.  They also know that their grandma loved Jesus.  She had JOY, even in suffering, because of the Holy Spirit's work in her life.  They saw an example of being #blessed even when things are really really really bad. I have Hope and Joy because I have faith in the only One deserving.  Thanks be to God, for my faith and for my Hope and Joy.  In 1 Corinthians 15:55 it says, "Death is swallowed up in Victory.  O, Death where is your Victory?  O Death, where is your sting?" and in verse 57, "Thanks be to God,  who gives us Victory in our Lord Jesus Christ."

My Hope and Joy comes from my Lord Jesus Christ.  Deuteronomy says, "The Lord himself will go ahead of you.  He will never leave you.  He'll never desert you. So don't be afraid. Do not loose HOPE" (caps are mine).  Nehemiah 8:10 says, "This day is Holy to our Lord.  Do not grieve, for the JOY of the Lord is your strength."
This is our last family picture to include my Momma!  You
can see she is on a ventilator and is in her favorite chair.
This is where she spent 14-16 hours a day.
We are missing a few additions to the family that
were born since this picture was taken in Oct 2013.

You see, I was not alone.  I was not forgotten.  My precious momma- even though she could not talk or walk- was not alone and was not forgotten.  And, what she demonstrated in her quiet and stillness was a JOY so great, a smile so bright, that it literally LIT up the room.  She demonstrated the total Peace of Christ that passes ALL understanding and through that she gave me the courage to see the Joy, Hope and Peace even in the middle of the battlefield.

So today, even though my tears are fresh (again), and my heart is heavy, I have Hope and Joy!

Isaiah 55:12
You will go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
    will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
    will clap their hands.

New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

New International Reader's Version (NIRV)
Copyright © 1995, 1996, 1998, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Stern, Bo.  Beautiful Battlefields.  NavPress, 2013.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


My littlest love bug Lauralei is almost 15 months old.  She is the cutest thing (I say that about all my children!).  But, really, she is sweet, smiles as big as the sun, and has so many adorable faces that just!!!  You can't look at her, hold her, or love her and be upset.  She has that kind of power over our family.  It is unanimous.  We all are smitten!

One of may favorite times in the day (in fact, I may try to one up Tony just to get to experience this more!) is when I get Lauralei up from a nap.  She is all snuggly, warm, and wants her Momma (or Daddy if he is getting her up).  She wants to put her head on my shoulder and holds me tight.  In fact, she kind of hangs on for dear life.  She grips my T-shirt with one hand and rubs my arm with the other.  She wraps her monkey legs around me.  It.Is.Precious!!  I want to make time stand still and hold on to that moment forever.  I pay really close attention to all the details- how her hand feels on my arm, how her sweaty/bed head rests on my shoulder, how her sweet baby smell greats me (unless she has a dirty diaper- in which case, I try to forget the smell...).  

There is another time of day that this hold-on-for-dear-life love fest happens.  It's when she's scared.  And, while my heart breaks because my sweet precious little girl is scared, my heart also soars because SHE WANTS ME!!!  I help her feel better.  Feel safer. Feel loved.  I make it better.  Whatever "it" happens to be at that moment.  There is nothing more that I want to do as her momma than make it all better.   And, as her Momma I can see the big picture.  I can see that although it FEELS scary at the moment- she is really ok, and all will be well in a little bit.  I really enjoy this love fest and being the best thing since sliced bread.  (As a side note, I am only outdone by Tony.  She has a thing for her daddy.  The force is strong between them!  It is a wonderful glorious thing that makes me love them both even more!)  

After a little bit,  her heart has been comforted, the scary thing is no longer scary, and she unwraps her legs, and loosens her grip and even asks to be put down to explore on her own.  She sees what I knew all along- things are ok! And, while I know that this is coming.  I know that this is healthy- she should feel safe without gripping me.  But, oh man I dread it.  My heart does not want to put her down. 

One day this past week, as I was comforting her in a hold-on-for-dear-life love fest session- a light bulb went off.  The Lord said to me (as He often does when I'm correcting, guiding, reprimanding my kiddos) that this a picture of how I should approach the throne of my Heavenly Father!  That we should cling to Him, wrap our arms and heart around His word, put our monkey legs around His love.  That we should only feel safe, secure, loved when we are holding on to the ROCK!  This Rock should make all better.  We must see Him as the One who makes all things good.  And, to tell you the truth, I feel that I do this pretty well when I am scared.  I usually run to Jesus first when things are headed into trouble. The danger zone sends me to Christ quickly.  I'm on my knees and I'm gripping Him because I know that He is the only way things will be right.  Safe.  Better.   He never fails.  He comforts me, saves me, provides for me.   And, just as I see the big picture with Lauralei, He sees the big (Really BIG) picture with me.  He KNOWS that this is going to be ok.  As my heart is comforted by His Love and Truth I start to loosen my grip.  I feel better.  I want to "get down and explore on my own".  It's not a blatant thing.  It's not an on-purpose thing.  It's just a thing.  And, I am convicted.  Do you do this too?  Are you guilty, as I am, of clinging to the Rock in the storms of life and letting go when things seem to be going well? 

Another way of saying this is to ABIDE in HIM! 

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.  John 15: 4-11 (ESV)

It's time for a change sisters!  We must cling to the Rock at ALL times!  We must learn to abide in Christ when things are bad AND when things are good.  We must learn that He is first no matter what is going on around us.  Can you imagine how much more we grieve Him when we go on our merry way - just as Lauralei does when she feels better? We say with our actions and our priorities- "Thanks for saving the day, I've got this now".  It's hard to even type those words.  They sound so ungrateful.  So bratty.  Let today be the day for change.  Whether you are in a good place or a bad place- cling to the Rock.  Whether things are fantastic or crap-tastic- cling to the Rock.  It is in Him and from Him that all blessings flow- and all things are made better.  When we abide in Him we find true Joy.  True love.  Apart from Him we can do nothing!  

When we cling to the Rock we will find our safety and our security.  In His truth and His love we can gain strength, passion, self esteem, and courage.  It is from Christ that these traits come to be in our lives.  They are the Fruits of His Spirit!  And, they only come from Him.  When we think (whether in words or in action or in priorities) that we have it all under control- we get way too big for our britches and go unwisely as if we are in control.  Woe is me!  

My dear friends, join me in clinging to the Rock.  No matter what today or tomorrow brings.  Remember to abide in Him.  Cling to Him.  It may be the (said in Rapunzel's voice from Tangled).  Without clinging to Christ- abiding in Him - it does not matter.  

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

HGTV? Hearts: God's True Vision

Cross country moves are NOT for the faint of heart.  Let me tell you I could have MULTIPLE blog posts on the crazy that ensued when we began our journey from Florida to Texas.  Seriously.  Lots of crazy!!  But, what kept us going, through it all, was the clear voice of God telling us THIS was His plan for us, and that we were embarking on an amazing journey.  In my shortsightedness, I thought He was being literal- Talking about the journey of actually getting from place one to place two; that He was working in the getting to and fro.  Just look at (some of) the crazy that actually took place: monsoon rains while packing the semi, epic falls off said semi, too.much.stuff, midnight Salvation Army donations, hours and hours and hours of work, car vandalism, and NO HOME to go to once we got there (that is a whole 'nother story!).  

But, what I am learning more and more as I walk with Jesus through life- is that He is rarely just literal! He is so much more! He wasn't talking about our "journey" as the few weeks between deciding to leave and getting to the new place.  The "journey" is our life.  Our story.  So- fast forward a few weeks... maybe a month.  And, we had found a house, and have started to settle in.  I was falling deeply in love with Texas and all that being a "Texan" involves!  I was loving the culture, the decor, and the countryside.  I was a happy camper.  But, the boxes and chaos of unpacking were getting out of control.  Seriously, I was a mad (wo)man on a mission and anyone in my way might have gotten run over.  I needed to enjoy my home.  To make it ours- make it comfortable, but beautiful.  A place we all love to be and surrounds us with a warm, beautiful hug.   Right.  Because isn't that as women our first go to?  What do I need to do? What do I need to fix?  What can I improve about this or about you child right there or you husband over there? (ouch!) I began to dream, and Pinterest had NOTHING on me.  I was pinning to my hearts content.  The problem was, the more I dove into fixing up this house to be a home, the more agitated I got.  The more I tried to make the house look good, well designed, put together the more I began to feel yucky, messy, and totally not put together.  I really couldn't put a finger on what was stirring up these feelings in me.  

As I began to bring these feelings to the Lord- through worship at Church and through prayer at home I began to HEAR Him.  Not in that loud booming "Moses" voice that we imagine.  But,  I started listening to what He was actually saying to me in the stillness of my heart.  The quiet, strong, repetitive words. Once I started truly listening I stopped putting my own spin to the words that He gave.  

This is what He said:
STOP decorating the inside of your home to create order and peace.  LOOK at the hearts inside your home.  START decorating the hearts inside your home to live in ME for ME.  MY fruits of the Spirit will bring the calm, order and peace your heart is craving.  Then your house will become a home.  

WOAH!!!  When I really heard Him I STOPPED in my tracks.  My heart poured open and I knew with all that I am I had been going about this "decorating" in such a wrong way!  What was really bothering me was not the chaos of some brown boxes and so much newspaper, but our hearts in chaos.  The ugliness and hurt that I could see inside my own heart, and what was being displayed by my family. I mean, I didn't see any future axe murderers- but I saw self centeredness, bickering, anger, and some other unlovely things.  

It reminded me of these verses in Matthew 23: 

25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

How was I attending to the outward adornment of our home when I had hearts to attend to? MY heart.  What is hidden in there that is ungodly, chaotic, ugly?  My children needed me to love, encourage, teach, and direct towards Christ?  I had hearts that needed my guidance, prayer, attention.   My husband needed my encouragement, support, and respect.  Yet, I was very busy cleaning the outside of our "tombs" and not attending to the hearts on the inside.  Listen, this is in no way a dig on making your space beautiful.  If your gift is decorating spaces- PLEASE go forth and decorate!! :) The world needs you!  But, it is a call to see the BIGGER picture.  To not stop at the literal, but to look all the way to the Spiritual.  

There is so much deep, rich truth in these verses.  SO much reflection.  When I look back- almost a year now- and see where our family is and has come from I can see so much growth.  We have come so far in such a little time.  I still see plenty of room for more cleaning.  But, that is it- isn't it?  We are a work in progress- just like I'm sure I'll never have my house fully put together- magazine perfect- I know our hearts on this side of eternity will never be fully put together.  But, when my focus and attention is on making sure we are cleaning the inside- I know, because God told me, the outside will look better too!!  

Peace and calmness, order in my home will come from the lives that live within the walls.  Not the beautiful furniture or the perfect paint color!  What is God urging you to clean out and attend to?  What have you been whitewashing? 

In this journey with you, 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Hello, again!


It has been six years since I've thought of updating my sweet little blog!! And... man has life changed in these six years. 

Tony and I have had TWO more babies!!  We are now a family of SIX!  We have added Liam and Lauralei to our family!!  So our precious children are Ruthie who is 7 years old, Emma Kate who is 6 years old, Liam who is 3 years old and Lauralei who is 1!!!  We have been blessed over and over again with our sweet family.  I couldn't imagine doing life without them. 

We cared for and buried my precious momma.  My mom was diagnosed in 2011 with ALS.  She moved into our home in 2010 because of the beginning symptoms and she died Oct 31 2013.  In all of that time- she was right here with me.  She was in my home, and I have the privilege and honor of caring for her every need.  Easy, no.  Blessed, YES!!!

We moved!  I was born and raised in Florida!  I lived in my hometown of Ft. Lauderdale for 19 years when we moved to Tampa, FL for  a teaching job for my mom.  I was a sophomore in college- so I moved with her!  She was my rock.  After graduation, I set up house in Tampa and lived there for 20 years!  I met Tony there and we birthed all of our children there!  In 2014, he was asked to join the Dallas Cowboy's merchandise team in the art department.  We enthusiastically packed all of our belongings and set out on a grand adventure that was totally a God thing.  We LOVE Texas!!! And, we are having so much fun exploring this great state- making it ours! 

As we embark on this next season of life I am brought full circle to this blog and writing for a few of you.  This time- God has put much more in my heart to share with you.  I will still keep you updated on my sweet little family and all the antics they provide for me each day.  I will let you in on how we homeschool, which may look a little different than the way your kids do school.  I will also share with you the important things God has placed on my heart.  How He is working in me.  Changing me.  Beginning a new work in our family. Moving us to the next level- deeper in His word, and in serving Him.  

In much I am the same person who was writing this blog many years ago.  I am a mom.  I love my children more than words can communicate.  I am happily married to the love of my life and I am living my DREAM life!!!  And, in many ways I am different.  I have LOST big.  I have HURT big.  I have waged war with Christ against stupid Satan in some HUGE battlefields.  And, I am drawn to LOVE bigger.  Serve BETTER.  

I'm so thankful and honored that you might join me in this journey.  It is going to be amazing.  It already is... and I can't wait to share more of it with you!!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Emma Kate is 6 months old!!

After you pick yourself up off the ground because I am actually updating my blog... I know you will be shocked... I'm a little late w/ my monthly updates!!

Emma is 6th months old!! I LOVE THIS AGE!!! It is the absolute best... although I keep saying that. I love watching my sweet girl become more and more independent and uniquely her own self. Her personality is shining through all the baby babble!! She is a sweet, laid back, loving girl who likes to laugh and have fun!! :) It is just going to be pure joy to watch her grow up!! Between her and her sister... I am one lucky Momma!! :)

This is what sweet Emma Kate(cake) accomplished during her fifth month:

* she does an incredible "super baby" boy is she strong. She has fantastic gross motor skills!!

* She eats avacado and apples w/ her baby cereal. She's not the best solid food eater and she really DOES NOT like apples. I hope that changes!!!

* She is scooting and rolling all over the place!! I can hardly keep her still!

* She is a little over 14lbs and 26" long!!

* She is laughing and taking up a storm!! She loves to hear herself... and I think it is pretty sweet too!!

* Loves to play with her toys. It's fun to watch her grab at things...

* Sitting up in the Bumbo... only a bit away from sitting on her own.

* Graduated out of the car seat in the stroller. Now is sitting up on her own.

Here are some pics for you to enjoy!! :

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Ruthie's happenings...

Ruthie has been talking up a storm... she's always talking (she gets that from her daddy!) But just recently she's really trying to communicate in sentences!! I love to watch her try out language, especially when she learns a new word's meaning.... She repeats it a bunch!!

She's been saying recently:

"oh, I didn't know that" (what gets me is that she uses it appropriately)
"spib" (spit- as we're working on spitting out fluoride toothpaste and not swallowing it!)
"Tony" "Teresa" "Babe" "Honey" (she's been using all our names... it's so funny. She tries them out and then looks at us to see if it's ok!! It's really hard not to laugh because she so stinking cute!)
"dad" "mom" (ditto above)

She's also graduated into a big girl bed. We have just a mattress and box springs on the floor for now. Didn't want her to fall out too far!! She's done great with it.. except for getting out of bed!! It is crazy. Some nights after we finish our night time routine (which has been the same since she was a little baby) she goes right to sleep... as if it were easy peasy. Then other nights, it takes both of us working in tandem two hours to get her to sleep. She just seems to FIGHT it. If we say do it this way, she does it that way. UGGG!! She's doing well sleeping in the bed, and doesn't fall out. But, some nights I'm tempted to install a safety system that includes duck tape... or at the very least velcro!! :)

Her first night in a big girl bed!

Emma Kate is 5 months old!!

Well our little Emma Cake (as Ruthie calls her) is 5 months old... and yet again, I'm totally late in posting it!! :) She has done great during her fourth month and hit a lot of milestones!! :)

* she started eating cereal (rice) I didn't think she was quite ready for it, but after sleeping about 12 hours through the night, she began to wake up to eat every 2 hours. The doc said that she was hungry. So we started w/ cereal and that seems to have done the trick. She's back to sleeping well again each night!

* She has rolled over both ways now (tummy to back, and back to tummy!) She will be a rolly-polly soon!

* She continues to suck her fingers and love on the lovie... she particularly likes this one, but has a second favorite that she loves too!

* she started taking her baths w/ Sissy...She really likes that and it makes bath time oh-so-much easier!

* She graduated out of her bassinet and went into her crib!! (Means that Ruthie moved from her crib to a big girl bed... )

* She is a little smiler and loves to laugh. She is ticklish and it is soooo much fun to hear her belly laugh. What a sweet little girl who is very easy and laid back. She just wants to be with you... enjoying life!

Going night-night in my big, roomy crib!!

"What? you want me to roll over? Well, I'm sucking on my fingers... I guess I can do both at the same time!" Part 1

Rolling over part 2

Rolling over part 3

Ruthie and Emma