Friday, April 30, 2010

One year....

Yesterday was April 29th.  It doesn't seem possible that a whole year has gone by since Frank completed his journey and went to be with Jesus.  We still miss him and think of him every single day.  I still want to pick up the phone and call him about little things that happen to us.  I still miss our late night recap of the day as we got ready for bed at night.  That was when we solved all the world's problems!

This milestone didn't sneak up on any of us.  We have been talking about it openly around the house and within our family.  The last few weeks have been much harder as we've mentally retraced our steps of a year ago.  Some of us have remembered things others had forgotten, so as we've retold stories, it's been interesting to see a little bigger picture.  We've laughed and cried and hugged on each other a lot more these past few weeks.

But April 29th.....  a day that our lives changed forever - was sad last year.  I was determined to find a way to change that somehow.  April 29th was going to come every year - for each one of us.  I wanted to find a way to honor Frank's life, his personality and fun-loving spirit and still not take anything away from what this day means for us as a family.  So, we formed a plan....

I was awake early yesterday.  I spent time alone remembering the events of our last morning together.  As a thousand memories went through my head, my heart came back to the same conclusion.  We were so blessed.  God was so merciful to Frank.  I believe every detail of that morning was covered by God's grace.

Thank you, Lord.

We had a plan.........  We couldn't think of a better way to honor Frank's memory than for Zach and I to skydive!   God worked out the details of this too!  Jumps are usually during the weekend only, but German military (equal to our Navy Seals) were training here this week.  The planes would be up, and they allowed us to jump with them on Thursday.

Zach and I enjoyed the experience so much.  We loved flying through the air! And our family and friends on the ground seemed to feel secure in their position too.  It was a beautiful day and we all had our minds on Frank and his wonderful spirit. 

Heb 11: 1-2  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Thank you Frank, for giving us such a wonderful example of what it means to live out our lives to the glory of God, in every situation.  

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Therefore, comfort one another with these words.

It’s quiet in the house this morning. The only sounds I hear are the wind chimes outside and Casey’s heaving breathing as she lay close beside my feet.

Spring is here. The Bradford pears are in full bloom. The cherry trees are displaying beautiful shades of pink. Both of those trees remind me of Frank. We had a cherry tree at our other house that we enjoyed very much. And I love the Bradford Pear trees. But Frank refused to plant one at any of our houses. He said they weren’t strong enough. The limbs break in storms, etc. We playfully argued about landscaping and our disagreement about the Bradford pear was ongoing….I tried to have one at each of our houses…until the big storm that hit Memphis a few years ago with straight line winds. We called it “the destruction of the pear trees”. I was convinced. But I had to see it with my own eyes before I believed. Even though Mr. Horticulture knew what he was talking about. I wasn’t convinced until I saw it with my own eyes.

I went to the cemetery yesterday. I’d never seen it like that before. The whole Garden of Grace was covered in white wild flowers. It was so pretty and peaceful.

While I was there, I read the scriptures in 1 Thessalonians 4 about the coming of the Lord. It explains how those who are asleep in the Lord will rise first, then those who remain, and then we will be with Lord forever. The last verse says we are to comfort one another with these words.

After I left the cemetery, my night went on as planned. I picked up Chase from play practice, went to Zach and Jimmy’s soccer game at school, and then drove Chase to a party.

I’ve been in the mood to spring clean the past week or so. It’s time. The house needs it. It’s not about going through Frank’s things, which I haven’t done. It’s more about the process of just getting your house in order. You ladies know what I’m talking about. But everything in the house has things that belong to Frank in it. There’s not one place that was just mine. But I’ve had a week to prepare. I was ready for the challenge.

When I got home, I decided to tackle the office. I spent about an hour throwing papers away that I know I didn’t need anymore. A lot of it was medical papers, lab results, etc. I had made my mind up that I wasn’t going to keep those things. It wasn’t how I wanted to remember Frank. The bottom line for me was that my husband died of cancer. I didn’t need an old lab report to remind me of that. It hurts enough.

So, after an hour, I had a bag of trash and a somewhat organized desk. I found letters from Big Frank, pictures, birthday cards, our wills, and more. And I put them in a special place for safe keeping.

I thought I was doing pretty well until I got in the car to pick up Chase. I don’t know what it is about the car, but that (and the shower) is one place that I can break down and let it all out. Without warning, my soul confessed that I my big cover up wasn’t fooling anybody and the emotions of what I had just done came over me like those straight line winds that ripped up the pear trees. I felt guilty and sad…. and lots of things all at once. What was I doing??  My face must not keep as good of a secret as my car does, because the first thing Chase said to me, walking to my car – in the dark – was “Have you been crying?” Secrets out.

So, this morning, while it’s quiet (except for Casey), I decided to comfort myself with “those words”. I read 1 Thess 4, 1 Cor 15 and 2 Cor 5. I had to ask my self if I really believe this or do I need to be convinced, like the pear trees? But God has never lied before. He’s always been true to His word. So I will “walk by faith, not by sight”, like 2 Cor 5 says.

After some time, I decided that I am indeed comforted by God’s words. I’m finding myself a little jealous of Frank this morning. He is farther ahead in this journey of ours that isn’t finished yet. I know it was a work of the Holy Spirit that prepared Frank’s heart about his going home. He had a peace and strength about what was happening to him that was such a testimony to the grace and mercy of God. It helped comfort all who watched him in those past months.

I’ve read those verses before, but now when I read them, I have the face of my soul mate, my lover, our daddy, and my best friend in my mind. That makes the verses jump off the page for me and mean so much! I hope they do for you too.

Therefore comfort one another with these words.
1 Thess 4:18

Sunday, March 21, 2010

gotta love spring break !

I can’t believe we’re winding down March. In some ways time has stood still this past year, and yet, at the same time it seems as though it’s gone by really fast.

Spring break is the best part of March! The kids and I have been looking forward to Hope’s ski trip for so long! They love to get away with their friends and leaders, and I love getting to tag along. It’s the perfect combination for teenagers…. Mom’s there, yet not around enough to be in the way. Of course, there are Mom benefits too. I don’t have to keep up with their stuff, wake them up, feed them or nag them about anything. Like I said….. we look forward to it all year!

It snowed everyday on the mountain and several nights at the Ranch. It was so beautiful to watch ~ so peaceful and calming. I’ve never been on that ski trip without Frank. I was expecting it to be difficult, but I made some decisions on the front end to try and make it better. I avoided the cabin we always stayed in and enjoyed my week with Jane in a new cabin. We laughed, talked and had a great time. I tried to focus on the wonderful blessing of Frank being there with us last year. Making that trip meant the world to him. It was huge sense of accomplishment and blessing.

There’s just something about being in a different place, especially somewhere as majestic as the mountains that make you feel close to the Lord. His creation is just staring at you all over the place! I know, I know, His creation is here too… but let’s face it…. the Rockies are a lot better looking than Germantown Parkway in rush hour traffic!

With our year mark approaching, I took that time to do a lot of soul searching, a lot of praying, and a lot of talking ~ to Frank and myself. I tried to make some goals for myself, and for the kids. Some of these are practical. I plan on answering questions like: are we going to stay in the house? ~ what about Frank’s clothes? ~ when do I go through his things in the garage? ~ etc. I want to be strong for the kids. Frank was so strong. It just amazes me as I think about all he went through. As I did some soul searching, I tried to set some goals.

I'm also working through my feelings about other things. Chandler is about to leave for college… another big change ahead. I thought I was ready, but the closer it gets, I’m not so sure! I feel we’re the Incredible Shrinking family! Just when I get used to her being gone, Zach will leave the next year! I want to make goals about how I spend my time. The kids are my whole life right now. That just comes natural as a momma. But I’m not their whole life, and I shouldn’t be. They’re trying to leave the nest ~ and I don’t want to clip their wings. I want a healthy balance, for myself and for them. Yet, I know they still me right now. I’m still praying about when to jump into a full time job.

Chase and I celebrated birthday’s this month, along with Frances ~ my birthday twin. My last birthday, Frank sang happy birthday to me from Salida, CO in the cutest pizza joint. I miss the sound of his voice and his sweet kisses. But I was showered with love from my dear friends and family. Chase and I both felt special and much loved this year.

Today’s Streams in the Desert is so good. I love it when God confirms what He is doing in my heart.

“A stoic person despises the shedding of tears, but a Christian is not forbidden to weep. Yet the soul may become silent from excessive grief, just as the quivering sheep may remain quiet beneath the scissors of the shearer. Or, when the heart is at the verge of breaking beneath the waves of a trial, the sufferer may seek relief by crying out with a loud voice. But there is something even better.

Therefore, amid a multitude of trials, souls who love God will discover reasons for boundless, leaping joy. Even though “deep calls to deep” (Ps 42:7), the clear cadence of the Lord’s song will be heard. And during the most difficult hour that could ever enter a human life, it is possible to bless the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Have you learned this lesson yet? Not simply to endure or to choose God’s will but to rejoice in it “with an expressible and glorious joy” (1Peter 1:8). Streams in the Desert pages 121-122

My prayer is that I will live each day, with God’s help, accepting His will with joy.

Thank you for your faithfulness to our family and for continuing to remember us in your prayers.

In His grace,

Monday, February 8, 2010

As I sit to write this post, I am looking outside at beautiful snow! I just love it! I had intended to update on Jan 29th - our 9 month mark, but we got winter weather that day too, and time just slipped away. But yesterday was a special day too.... Frank asked me to marry him 21 years ago on Feb 7! I'm so glad he asked! :)

I have been reminded of the power of prayer and how precious the body of Christ is this past month. I have run into several friends lately that have told me, " I still pray for your family every day". I cannot express how that makes me feel! When people told Frank they prayed for him everyday, he used to tell them, don't pray for me everyday... you'll get tired of it. Pray for me on trash day - that way you'll remember!

Jan 29th was 9 months. There was ice and a little snow on the ground that morning too. The kids were sweet to go with me to the cemetery (they don't really like going). I wanted to see it with snow around it. I never tire of going, although my emotions vary with each visit. Sometimes I go because I just miss any sense of being near him, and I talk to him, even though I know he's not there. I feel like Forest Gump when he talked to Jenny. It's embarrassing. And other times I go and I'm happy and joyful and just reminded of how very blessed I was to have had a good marriage. I know I'm a better person for knowing him, and for loving him.

God is teaching me gently how to love and trust Him in a new way. I have trusted Him as my Saviour. I have learned to say "not my will be done" about His plans for our lives. This isn't easy, but that relationship is familiar after walking with the Lord as a believer. What I didn't realize was that I didn't really know how to let Him fulfill needs that Frank filled. I had to admit that I didn't allow Jesus to supply my every need. As a wife, Frank filled a lot of my needs. Learning to look to the Lord to really meet my every need has been a challenge. But guess what? God never disappoints. Hope doesn't disappoint. And He promises to meet us right where we are!

Since Christmas, I can - for the first time - say that I feel progress being made on this grief journey. (I don't know what else to call it) Christmas was...well.... just really really hard! But even with New Years came a sense of hope, new beginnings and fresh starts. Every sense then, I can feel the heaviness of pain lifting a little. I still cry. Almost every day but it's just a little different than before. I remember with more joy than pain. But this statement couldn't be more true: You never get over it, you just get through it.

The kids are all doing well. They have a healthy perspective about Frank I think. We talk about him very often. His name is mentioned at our house daily in some way or another. We laugh at old stories, we are very mindful of the mark he left on our lives in so many different ways. Even in the little things.... Zach and I went to buy new windshield wipers for the suburban. He bought just what his daddy told him to: "the good ones... don't buy the cheap ones". We just smiled on the way to register... it's just the little things that make us remember him with tenderness and love.

Chase finished his swim season strong and just made the spring musical Fiddler on the Roof at school. Zach is getting ready for the soccer season to start and working at the church. Chandler was recently diagnosed with Senioritis. It's pretty bad... We are on the daily countdown to graduation! Her plans are to attend Miss State (tell me Frank doesn't have pull in heaven!) in the fall. She's still playing the piano and working at the restaurant.

This week is Big Frank's birthday and he and Frances' anniversary. My thoughts are with her and Neely and Scott as we approach the one year mark of saying goodbye to Big Frank. We miss him so much!

THANK YOU for your continued prayers for our family. We are filled with gratitude and thankfulness for you!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

"Be stong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord." Ps 31:24

I hope each of you reading this had a wonderful Christmas and New Year. It seems like time has passed so slowly since the Thanksgiving update. I hope time doesn't pass that slowly as you read this post!

The Christmas season hit me much harder than I ever expected. I thought I was ready. I've read grief books, gone to grief counseling (Mom and I even went to a seminar about how to handle the holidays), I get daily email devotions about grief. I had prepared my head like I was cramming for a final exam. But my heart must have skipped class. I cried every day for a solid month. Anything and everything set me off.

I felt so bad when Chase asked me one day why I wasn't be happy and did it have anything to do with him. I tried to explain my tears as best I could and reassured him I how much joy he brings me. There are times I see the "little boy" in Chase that just melts my heart. No matter how grown up he trys to be, he is still so vulnerable and tender. Chase watches me like a halk. When I do cry, he is usually first to my side to try and make it better. I pray for wisdom in how I deal with Chase. We'll have more time together at home than I will with the other two. And at his age, our relationship is different than it is with Chandler and Zach. I worry more about the absense of a father in his life. And then I cry again... because whenever Frank opened up about his prognosis, the first words he'd uttered were "What about Chase? Please Lord, just let me get Chase grown up..."

The kids and I devised a plan to do something different for this holiday. (something I learned in my holiday grief seminar!) We went to my parents for our traditional dinner with the family. But after that, we jumped in the car and drove all night to Panama City. A dear friend let us stay at their condo and we were so excited to be going to the warm beach for Christmas day!

Except..... it was not warm in Florida! But we still had a great time. We began the DVD series of Lost and got hooked! Nocturnal by nature, we stayed up till 3 and 4 in the morning watching tv, slept till mid morning, went out to eat and came back to the condo to play games and watch more Lost. It may seem weird that we drove all that way and only watched tv, but not really. Had we stayed home, the kids would have gone out with their friends, worked, played Xbox, etc. I was thrilled to have them all to myself for 5 days!

Monday was the warmest, sunniest day in Panama City. We went to the beach. For an 2 hours. We were covered up from head to toe with sweat shirts, socks, and blankets. Chandler and I snuggled up while the boys fed and chased the birds. Just being able to see the ocean and hear the waves was soothing. Being in the mountains or at the ocean is alway a good reminder of how awesome our God really is. How majestic is His creation! It reminded me that He is in control and loves us so much.

Another neat thing that happened in Florida was my being able to meet a college friend of Neely's. Through Neely, Stefanie follows this blog and has been praying for us a long time. We met one afternoon and had coffee together. What a blessing it was for me to see face to face someone who has invested herself in praying for our family.

We made it back in time for New Year's Eve. I felt really good all Thursday and Friday. Celebrating the New Year conveys such a message of renewal, moving forward, and new goals. I felt hopeful that 2010 would be a year of continued healing. I am looking forward to seeing what God is going to do in each one of our lives this year.

Today is Jan 2. On this day last year, Frank and I were returning home from a very emotional trip to Little Rock. This was the night we gathered the kids around and told them he wasn't going to do anymore heavy treatments in Little Rock. Frank told them the treatments weren't stopping the cancer and that he would only live a few months. Only by the grace of God...

Zach and Nana comforted each other. I cried with Chase in the middle of our living room floor... the same room we were in when Frank passed away 4 months later. And I will always remember hearing heart wrenching sobs of Chandler crying together with Frank in her room. A year ago......

When I remember that I can only thank God for the blessings He gave us each day with Frank. We are thankful that we knew in advance and were able to make the most of our time together. Whenever I hear of a tragedy that took someone's life unexpectedly, my heart goes out to the family because their goodbye is so different. I can't imagine that kind of loss.

It's 2010. God is still in His throne. The kids are doing well. I am feeling more hopeful than I have in a long time. We are 8 months into our "year of firsts". The memories are vivid, yet each one of them have helped us through the healing process. We are getting stronger each day.

"We have this hope as an anchor for our soul, firm and secure." Hebrew 6:19

Thank you so much for the continued support and love for our family. It overwhelmes us so much. May God bless each one of you..... peg