Friday, December 23, 2011

Luke 2:1-4

 "1 Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all [a]the inhabited earth. 2 [b]This was the first census taken while [c]Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, 5 in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. 6 While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a [d]manger, because there was no room for them in the inn."

Now, you have to think about this.  Joseph had to go to Bethlehem to be taxed because it was the home of his fathers.  This is where is family hailed from--this is where the relatives are.  

Yet, when he and his pregnant wife arrived, there was no room for them in the inn.  Well, did you ever wonder, why were they trying to find an inn?  Why didn't a relative take them in?

Could it be that many knew of the circumstances of the marriage.  I can imagine that it was whispered about...even talked loudly about at the family get togethers.  Wouldn't it be all the chat in the ladies something to "keep in prayer?"  I'm sure many eyes rolled...because everyone knew better and decided that Mary and Joseph had sinned.

This wouldn't be a first.  Look at Job's friends.  His buddies stop by not to see if they can assist, not to offer funds or medical aid, but to ask what sin he has committed.  

As we have walked this journey, we have learned that people can be very judgmental.  It's human nature.  There are those who wonder what a person does to bring cancer on themselves.  There are those who question why this decision or that decision was made medically, financially, whatever.  The experience we have had is the same for most of our friends with cancer.  For the most part, you learn to overlook the gossip, the lack of grace--the lack of understanding.  But as the pastor on Sunday, spoke about Mary, and about her walk with the Lord...I realized that she walked that long journey totally alone, with only her God and her husband beside her.  And I really began to realize just how much my God DOES understand the journey I have been on.

If only those around Mary and Joseph had remembered their past character, and realized that these two people did not just fall from grace overnight.  Perhaps, there was more to their story than prying eyes could see.  Just perhaps, God was working a miracle.  Perhaps, He was very much in control.  Sad really, as those that missed the blessings were not Mary and Joseph.  It was those who chose to turn their backs on the couple--and instead, the blessings of welcoming the new baby Jesus to the earth were shephards...who were of ill repute and lowly.  

Isn't it amazing how God works?

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 19, 2011

1 Corinthians 15:54-55

 54 Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die,[c] this Scripture will be fulfilled:

   “Death is swallowed up in victory.[d]
 55 O death, where is your victory?
      O death, where is your sting?[e]”

One year, tomorrow.  The unthinkable has been our reality for a year.  We miss him…more than anyone who has not experienced this type of loss can understand.  He was our cheerleader, our guide, our support.  He was our rock.

We learned a lot in the journey with cancer.  I learned that my husband was an even stronger man than I thought possible.  I learned that he walked even closer to God than I had imagined.  I learned that in our weakest times, God is there, sometimes in a very physical way.  I learned that hope is an important element to the human experience, and I learned that most people cannot even understand—cancer is a special language that only those who have endured can speak.  I can’t even really speak it.  I had a great translator, however…in Layne.

What are you doing for this day?  Well, what DO you do?  You get up, just like every other day, and you move forward.  You don’t forget, because you cannot forget.  A person who was your life cannot ever totally disappear from your life.  They may not be seen…but you know they have changed you permanently for the better.

Tomorrow, we will get up and spend some time as a family.  We will meet with Sam and Gail, and we will hug them, cry, remember.  We’ll smile a lot, as well.  Just today, we were laughing at how Layne went through cell phones…and complained that they were all made imperfectly.  Of course, we knew that it didn’t matter their quality, no phone can stand up to being beaten on the steering wheel of a Ford truck.

Matthew had an interesting experience recently.  He had some breathing difficulties, and we took him into quick care.  There, he was given a breathing treatment and put on steroids.  The same ones that Layne was given during chemo and for nausea.  He became very short with everyone, ravenous, and couldn’t sleep.  He asked, “Did Dad feel like this?”  It gave him a lot of insight into what his dad felt, though for the most part, Layne covered this pain very well.  He refused to admit he was in pain or sick.  He got up every morning and went on, as if he were not sick.  He was brave for us.  Now, we are brave for him.
Throughout the journey, we shared with you some of Layne’s favorite things and songs.  I thought, perhaps, this year, some of you might share in these ideas…and remember a man who meant so much to so many around him.
Layne loved to adopt families at Christmas. He never wanted them to know it was us…he said that it was too huge a blessing to also get credit!
He loved to feed the homeless.  He kept gift certificates in the truck visor for McDonalds, In N Out, and Wendy’s to give to those who held up signs or asked for help.

He loved to go see the lights with the kids.  This will be the first year since we met that our family has not been to the house on Belmont Street to see Santa and just enjoy the ambiance there.  He was like a giant kid at Christmas time, savoring all the sights, the sounds, the tastes of the season.  The house on Red Coach was another favorite, and we went back night after night, sometimes with and sometimes without the kids.
He loved to put a wreath on his truck, and he loved to see how many cards came in the mail.

And of course, he loved the music of the season.  He loved the entire soundtrack from the Polar Express…

Speaking of music, it is appropriate that we leave you with a few of the songs that he loved so much, that have had us thinking of him lately.  Of course, anything on a dulcimer…then there were these:

This was one of our favorites not only due to the message, but it also has a dulcimer in it, and it looks so much like our favorite beach…  We often said it was amazing we’d been married 22 years…as it seemed like such a short time because we were enjoying the journey so much!

Of course, Layne’s faith was of so much importance to him.  He told me that if the kids were older, he would not have even fought the cancer.  He fought for us, but he knew where he was going. His faith was that of Paul or Abraham…  and he loved this song.  It was his fight song during the cancer.  Stay strong, you are not lost …

This was one of his favorites.  Layne hated to travel.  He wanted to be with his family and spend time with us.  He told me that I should always remember that he was already home.  I think that is a fitting way to leave this post.  He is already there, take a look around, I’m the sunshine on your hair, I’m the shadow on the ground.  I’m the whisper in the wind, I’m your imaginary friend, and I know I’m in your prayer.  I’m already there.
Indeed, he is.  One day, we’ll see him again.  Save us a place, Dunk.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Luke 2:10-15

 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is [e]Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a [f]manger.” 13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
 14 “Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men [g]with whom He is pleased.”

It's that time of year again, the crowds, the stress, the same sermon over and over again at church: Luke 2, Luke 2, Luke 2.  

For us, it seems to be magnified as we are shopping for new family members, and learning their likes and dislikes, trying to settle into a new home, dealing the the anniversary of Layne's homecoming, and of course, finding a new church.  This means we have heard a LOT of sermons on Luke 2.

What interested me most about the sermons was not the scriptural reference itself, but that in the last two weeks, two pastors have mentioned an interesting fact.  It seems that prior to the events in Luke 2, there had been a period of 400 years of silence from God to the nation of Israel.  

Now this was God's chosen people.  It was a nation that had been blessed with visits from God at a burning bush, his presence in the Tabernacle, and warnings, guidance and prophesy from his prophets.  They were accustomed to a close relationship with the Lord.  It was a relationship that they at times took for granted, but God was always there, always in contact.  Suddenly, there was only silence.  And that silence continued for generation after generation.

Sometimes, you have to hear something more than once to listen to the Lord.  And so it was for me, hearing this message.  I thought it was interesting the first week, but this week, I realized, God was telling me something.  

Last year, at this time, I was begging God, I was pleading with Him, bargaining with Him, and so was Layne.  I prayed in faith, and yet, I felt He was not answering me.  After Layne went home, I truly felt that no matter what I said to God, He never answered.  He was totally silent.  

Today, I realized, he was letting me know that sometimes, he is silent for a reason.  He is not being cruel, he has his reasons.  Those reasons are not for me to know, it is for me to seek His face.  When He is ready, He will reveal His purposes.  That revelation may not occur here in this lifetime.  But He loves us and He is trustworthy.  

At this time of year, a lot of people feel God is silent to them.  It has been a rough few years for everyone I know.  Job losses, losses of spouses, losses of homes...all hard stuff, and it seems overwhelming sometimes. However, though He may be silent, He is making preparations for us.  Just as during the 400 years, God was making preparations for a Savior.

So this Christmas season, if you feel God is being silent...don't quit talking to Him.  Trust that He is there...and always will be.  

Merry Christmas...we love you all.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Ephesians 5:20

"Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,"

Thanksgiving has come and gone.  We had a wonderful day, filled with ups and downs of being in a new house, with a new family and new stresses.  But it was nice.  The turkey refused to cook at first, but we worked around that.  It gave us lots of time to play some fun games.  

We watched the parade, and we put up the tree.  Does a nine foot tree fit into an 8 foot room?  YES!  You can do it!  We added a lovely seal ornament to the tree, and we know we will add even more through the years as the girls start to add an ornament each year just like the other five kids have always done.

The move was stressful.  Any change is, but add a 7 bedroom home to move in the mix...and it's a lot of back breaking labor and restless nights to make the stress seem--well, unbearable at times.  Thankfully, our friends the Wellman family came to the rescue.  Even Giles showed up...with hugs and love.  He took a few things to remember Layne by, and we were happy to provide those things.

And so we settled into a new home with a new routine.  Megan landed, and our family, minus two, was together.  We awkwardly met new  family members, and we learned their quirks and personalities.  We found the local Little Caesars, which kept us fed, and those of us from Nevada learned that rain is not a one day thing here.  It's more like a season thing...the entire season, every day, every hour, drip, drip, drip.  We saw our first frosted over windshields and we applauded when the sun (formerly in Vegas known as "the hateful burning orb" peaked out slightly today.

We combined the dvd collection, the dishes, the towels.  We found new places for every item in our lives...well except for the things in boxes still in the garage that we prefer not to think about right now.

Tomorrow, we begin the search for a home church.  That, we assume, may take some time.  We'll start at the Nazarene church...and we'll work our way around the neighborhood.  I'll miss my little church in Vegas, it had  become a place of respite for me.  I know the boys will miss Summit Ridge.  We need to find a new homeschool group, and we need to get Matthew enrolled in fencing, and the girls enrolled in activities that suit them, as well.

But for now, we are home.  In OUR home, and we are safe.  

Thanks for all the prayers.  

Monday, November 14, 2011

Gen 18:19

"For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of theLord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”

So, what is family?  Who is part of your family?  What does family DO and how do you recognize them?

Well, I have a lot of family.  I have family in Ohio, family in South Carolina, family in Texas...  But I also have family who don't have the same blood running in their veins as mine.  If you checked our DNA, you may not think that we are family.  But we are.

Family are people who are there for you.  When things are rough, they are there to uphold you, to support you in your roles as husband, wife, father, mother.  They are there to hold your hand when you are terrified, and there to laugh with when things are good.  They are the ones who know the small things that matter to you...and always seem to be able to remember those small things.  

In my life, I have been blessed with several people who are not of the same DNA, but who truly are family.  These people have become an integral part of our lives.  

Sam and Gail, Layne's very best friends...the first people he introduced me to--in fact, long before I met his DNA family, I met Sam and Gail.  He told me these two people were family...and that they had loved him like a brother and sister.  Those feelings only intensified as the years went on.  When Layne was diagnosed, it was Gail who I called for support.  It was she who bore my tears when I couldn't share them with Layne.  It was they who insisted that they could come down and help out in person...and just give us hugs--though the trip was long and the cost, I'm sure, outrageous.  

Gail is a sister.  Sam, a brother.  They always will be.  My kids look on them  Because they are.

Connie--she's a bit opinionated.  She's a bit obnoxious...and she can be downright sarcastic.  I think that is why I like her.  When we needed friends in Texas, she was there, always there.  We stayed with her, we bothered her...and when Layne died, she flew in, became my brain, and took care of our family as if --well, as if they were HER family.  She is family.

Then there are family members who you don't get to choose, but who actually ARE your family.  People like my son-in-law, Chris.  Chris is pretty amazing.  When Layne was sick, he brought the family to see him.  When we needed help, and I was exhausted...he supported Teri in coming out to help me--for weeks.  She was able to help with feedings and doctor visits...which made my life so much easier.  

Then, it came time for us to move.  This has been very difficult.  It's been pretty much--well, our family only--doing the move.  And it is exhausting and mentally difficult.  Not many people would give up three weeks of leave and travel across the country to pilot a moving truck for someone else.  Except Chris.  Chris has been here, helping to remove some of Layne's work for me, disassembling furniture, filling boxes, and even digging out my special rosebush.  He has spent hours and hours and hours measuring, toting, and getting sore muscles.  He has a lot more of them to go.  I didn't get to pick Chris, but I am certainly glad that he is family.  

See, that is what family is.  They are there physically pitching in.  They are there mentally, giving you a boost.  They believe in you, hope the best for you, and overlook when your hair isn't done and your jeans have moving gunk on them.  Family is not a name, it's action. It isn't doing what it is asked, it is offering BEFORE being asked...and following through with what you offer.  Because these people depend on you--you're part of the same root system, like sequoia trees.  You know if they fall, you fall.  Wow, sounds a lot like that saying that Layne kept using the last few months. "Love is an action, not a word."

He had noticed that everyone wanted to call and say they loved him in the last few months...but very few picked up a hand and helped--take him to the doctor, ensure that his days were stress free--and in the hospital, be willing to give him quiet and peace.  So many people wanted what THEY wanted of his last days, not what HE wanted.  And he loved to refer to those folks as "vultures."

But there were those who showed love not by saying they loved him, but by action.  When he called them for support, they were there.  They held him up.  They made him feel valued.  If he wanted to just be alone, they let him do that.  When he was lonely, they were there for him.   And those people...with their hands holding him up--those people were family.  Each and every one of them.  

I'm very thankful ...for family.  Those who share my DNA and those who do not.  

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Psalm 127:3

"See, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward."

It's an interesting perspective...being on this end of being a parent.  When my kids were very small, there were many long nights of rocking, crying (both them and me) and worry.  I wondered to myself, "God calls this a 'blessing'?  Really?"

The teen years really threw me for a loop, and sometimes...they still do.  After all, you love them, give up your life for them, and sometimes, they roll their eyes at you, say the most terrible things about you, and even worse things to you.  

Yet, as the tragedies of the past few years befell us, my children have become my most priceless "possession."  As we have gone through pictures as we pack, I have realized how much like their father the boys look.  It is so nice to have part of him still here.  My daughter, Teri, has come to help us pack.  I know that I would not have been able to complete this huge task if it weren't for her assistance.  Today, she helped me complete the tear down of the office.  I had been three days working on the office prior to her arrival.  It seemed the more I went through, the more the piles grew!  

We went out to dinner last night, to celebrate Camm's 21st birthday.  I looked around the table at all of my children except Megan, who is teaching school in South Carolina.  I realized how blessed I am.  The traditions, the beliefs, the integrity that we hoped to instill are all in tact.  They were respectful to the waitress, kind to one another, and they were totally enjoying sharing a meal.  

When I needed them, they have come to my rescue.  I understand now that the Lord means it when He tells us that children are a blessing.  The long nights I invested, in what I thought was their future, turned out to be an investment in my own.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Matthew 5:4

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."

It's that time of has been a tough time for our family for the last few years.  This was the time of year we were doing surgery.  This was the time of year that Layne was in his most desperate fight.  It is the time of year that David lost his daughter, Maggie.

This morning, I was doing some grading and a Facebook message came across about my good friend Carol,with whom I bonded immediately because of our similar situations. Carol and I met through a friend we shared, and we had lunch one day at Panera Bread.  The food was great, the fellowship was balm to both our souls.

"Do you feel this?"  I asked timidly.

"Yes! And I have thought I was the only one!" she burst out. "Do you feel guilty when..."

My reply of course was, "Yes!"  And the entire conversation went that way.  We dreamed of starting a course to give hope to those who are dealing with cancer.  A course that would provide hope, and compassion for the caregivers.  Someone to say "Yes, we have been there," and "No, you are not a bad person."

 The Facebook message informed me that Carol's husband, John, had lost his battle with cancer.  When I read the news, I was immediately taken in my mind to a hospital room, where I again watched  my husband pass from my arms into the arms of Christ.  My heart sobbed for her, because I know the anguish, and I know the path that lies ahead for her.

First, she will want time to grieve, time to just scream at the Lord and ask why she has had to live this difficult path and then was rewarded with loss.  It seems that we are programmed to expect reward after extreme effort, and everything within us feels cheated.

Friends who mean well will tell her that is "for the best" that "he is at peace."  She knows this.  She, however, is now a widow.  Her friend, her confidant, her love, is gone.  She is alone.  If you have never lost a spouse, you cannot know the depth of that sorrow, the breadth of that solitude.  In a room full of people, you will still be alone.  A single.   While yes, in the long run, all things work together for our good, it certainly feels as if God has turned his face and has walked away from you at times like this.

My good friend Connie sent me the most amazing card when Layne died.  It didn't have any sweet but "usual" sentiments.  It said something along the lines of  "This is not fair.  You were supposed to grow old and decrepit together."  Finally, I thought, someone understands.

It isn't fair that Carol has lost her husband.  They made promises to one another in front of God, and they looked forward to growing old together.  She was going to tell him of her day, he was going to tell her of his.  They were going to laugh at inane television shows, and they were going to do wonderful things for God.  They were going to keep those shared memories, and have private jokes that only they understood.  Now, she is the only one who understands.  She is the only one who knows what her deepest fears, needs, and desires are.  For at least a while, no one else will understand.

It is then that God lets you know, in the most subtle of ways, that He is still your Father, and He still understands.  He reminds you that He has carried you thus far, and indeed, though you no longer want to walk, His arms are there to carry you.

Indeed, Carol will be carried.  I know this because I have lived it.  When she raises her fist, He will reach down and dry her tears.  He'll show her compassion that is much more deep than even her closest friend can provide.  He will provide to her through amazing ways.  Others may scoff, but I know this will be her reality, because I have walked the path.

What can her friends give Carol?  Compassion.  Understanding.  Grace.  She may not travel the widow's walk the way that you think you would.  But you cannot know until you have been faced with the financial, emotional, and physical devastation that cancer brings.  So be graceful.  Be blessed by the blessings she receives.  Praise God for the good days, and shelter her in the bad days with prayer.  Be her friend, not her judge.  Be her advocate, not her adviser.  Be there for tears, but when she is ready, allow her also to find happiness.

She's been sad long enough.  She's been saying goodbye long enough.  It's time for her to allow herself to say hello to all that God can and will provide in her future.  And He will.  Because, He loves her.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Our Journey In His Hands

It is time to move this blog from the Carepages site to a regular blog.  I don't want to continue to take up space on a site needed by those who are ill.  For those who are new to this blog, who would like information about our previous experience, you can find us on the site, under this same name.

Last night, we went to see the movie "Courageous."  What an amazing film.  In the opening scene, there is an incident that reminded me very much of Layne.  In this scene, a man takes an incredible, life threatening risk, laying down is life, in effect, for his son.  After the scene, two other characters are commenting, and one asks the other, "Would you have done that?"

The men never really answer the question, but I knew as I watched that Layne would certainly have done the same thing.  I know this because he DID do the same thing.

Cancer is very painful.  It is debilitating.  Layne could have stopped his treatment at any time.  I often told him that when he was done fighting, we would be ready to support that decision.  Yet he fought on.  As his body began to die, his kidneys shut down, his stomach closed off at the bottom, and limbs actually began to die.  Yet, he fought on.

Why did he fight?  It wasn't for himself.  I think that he probably knew when the nurse indicated he needed to be intubated that it might be his last effort.  But he had a living will.  In that living will, he insisted that as a family, we take all measures.  He did this because he believed in life.  He was fighting with his own body for his children and their children, so that they would not be deemed unnecessary, and allowed to die when treatments existed.  He lived as a pro-lifer, and he wanted to pass into his Savior's arms in the way he had lived.  He did these things to live and die courageously, for his family and his friends.

He and I often had conversations about Christian men, and how the church can impact men into taking their responsibilities seriously.  As we walked through cancer, it became evident that the things that most men base their value upon--their ability to provide financially, their ability to care for cars and homes, was actually the thing that was MOST replaceable.  Layne's value as a man was not in those things, it was in the spiritual guidance he provided and the expectations he set for his children.  He expected his sons to be men of God.  He expected his daughters to be women of faith.

The movie brings a great message about the type of courage that is required to adhere to the guidance for fathers that is found in the Bible.  What is wonderful about the movie is that it reflects two great scriptural truths:  First, God loves us and is ready to forgive--life decisions that we have made poorly can be changed.  God is always there to help us move forward from where he finds us.  There is always hope, even in the darkest of storms. Second, even if we don't have examples to follow on earth, the Bible is always our guide.  He has not left us without a path to follow.  If you search diligently, your role as a mom or dad are clearly defined in God's love letter to us.

What a great impact this movie can have.  Take your neighbor, take your brother, take your small group!