Confounding Question

“How Are You?”

Three little words.
They confound me.

My mind races to grasp what to say. My Dad is dying. Right now he lays in bed, eyes sunken, half lidded and we think he’s already seeing glimpses of heaven. His arms reach round like holding a beach ball, extending a hug to the unseen, maybe loved ones already on the other side.

“How Are You?”

Puzzled every time I’m asked. Three little words. I assume asked in reference to this life altering event, the dying of this integral man to my life. My mind filters through files and files of memories, moments and my face is frozen as my mind reaches to respond. I am lost how to respond.

“How Are You?”

And I am suspended in thought because I am well. The whole experience is beautiful. My own mind shocks at such a response. Loosing Dad is real. For days I’ve done mental cartwheels to understand how my response can be such. But what brings the tears? Why do I feel so overwhelmed that my chest is about to explode with it all?

“How Are You?”

I wrestle to put my finger on the factor, what is that one factor that does me in? What leaves me wracking with tears and gasping for breath?

And then I see it.
It’s Crystal clear.
This God, this creator, He keeps showing up. In a million tiny ways He keeps showing up to care and provide. And not just for me but for my children, my brother, our neighbors and I watch as this God gently loves The Man, tenderly cradles my broken Mom and this kind of love, it does me in.

I am in the midst of loss and the creator of the whole world keeps stepping in and caring for all these little people experiencing this loss.
It is overwhelming.
It is beautiful.
It is breathtaking.

This God, who gave His Son so I can dwell with my Dad on the other side. This swells in my chest and creates sobbing, wrenching tears. How can a being love me so much? How can he give so much so I can have so much? He just never stops giving.

“How Are You?”

It’s Ash Wednesday and the reality of mortality is nose to nose. So, I’m loading up my babies and we’re heading to church to worship this amazing God. It’s the least I can do as He carries me through this hard, hard life. I am honored to do it.

“How Are you?”

And now I ask my question of you. You see, I’ll be there one day. I’ll be reaching arms to hug Dad on the other side. I’ll rejoice as I enter God’s gates. I’ll worship at God’s feet holding tight to Dad’s hand. Yes, that’s going to happen one day.

Will you be there with me?

So, really, “How are you?”

Think on that question, the one that has confounded me for days, but first scroll to the bottom, pause the music then press play on the video and join me in processing the question:

Spilling

DSC_0380
Dad is a silent.
Mom is sad.
Hospice is amazing.
People who follow Jesus,
true disciples of Him,
they make me cry,
heal my heart,
make me long to deeper know my God and His Son.
My breaths come sharp.
Tears spill in odd places.
Children play and laugh and then hide in corners with silent tears streaming.
My even, steady Man has a fuzzy red that rims his deep, brown eyes.
I make meals to comfort souls.
I write words to capture the amazing beauty of this family,
on this journey.
We celebrate an 8 year old birthday and play with the newest family member.
We have journeyed to a cemetery to make arrangements.
We drank coffee afterwards,
so normal.
Normal will soon, forever change.
Soon my father will be past tense.
Oh, how I need the heavenly one to face the loss of the earthly one.
My God remains faithful.
His strong arm supports,
He is not shy to show His face.
My writing rhythm is shot.
My words won’t flow.
I’m focused on a family rhythm for now.
Cancer altered the lens.
Joy spills with the tears.
God is so good.

Impending Loss

Every thing makes me weepy. That’s the nature of loss. You feel it. Impending loss is cruel. It lingers in the foreground and in our case there is no arrival date. For 3 years now we’ve carried the best guess of this or that doctor.

I rejoice that the first declarations of our impending loss were way off base. That doctor gave us weeks. God responded with years. Blessed years so The Boy got to know my Dad, his Papa, better. Time spent together sharing things Dad wanted us all to know. He has told me so many wonderful things, he has spoken those kind of words we think in quiet moments but the joy of living finds few windows to speak them.

I come from a messy family. We sin and we sin hard. We love and we love deep. These are drastic spikes on the emotional scale. Is it any wonder we all struggle a bit with depression. You won’t find us coasting, we just don’t coast. My Dad never coasted. I love the story of his pursuit of my Mom. It was all in, hard pursuit. He’s told me many times how he loved her from minute one. He always told me he was a “one woman man” and he didn’t want anyone but her. Their 39 years have been hard fought. My brother and I have had box seats. It was war. I never cheered for a war more than I have on the sidelines of that marriage. They did it. The battleground they gained paved a path for my own marriage.

When Daddy realized the nature of his cancer he went about telling us all what he wanted us to know. One day he sat me down to tell me the story of my birth. Now, I have heard the story of my near abortion. My mom has shared over and over again the divine intervention that occurred in an abortion clinic while lying on a sterile metal table. The voice that she heard, almost assuredly audible, telling her if she had this baby God would take care of her. It changed Mom’s life forever and her faith, in that moment, gave me a chance at life. Yes, this story I had been told but I had never heard it from my Dad’s point of view.
 
It was a bright sunny day and Dad still looked like himself. He had lost a lot of weight but he was his usual rugged handsome, wearing his favorite levis and standard harley shirt. He sported his signature mustache and on his neck a bandage covering where he had recently had a port inserted under his skin for upcoming treatments. He wanted to have a heart to heart talk. We were just facing the reality of cancer. I was full of hope yet the impending loss already dangled large in our future. The hope side of me longed to silence his words. They felt like goodbyes. He was insistent so I sat across from him on the couch to listen.

“Honey, I want to tell you about your birth. I have never told you my side and I want you to know.”

I wish with all my heart I had gotten the video camera out. I regret I didn’t put him on hold and do just that. He proceeded to again share his love for Mom. How it was the summer before her senior year of high school when she told him she was pregnant. He responded with great joy. He told me how excited it made him. He wanted to get married. She didn’t think they could actually do this family thing. She was certain it was better to save a child from teenage parents.

 
He agreed to help her however she needed him. She made an appointment but he said it pained him greatly. He felt it was wrong and he didn’t know where to go with it all. A new follower of Christ he decided to go on his knees. He shared the facts with his mother and she joined him in prayer. He told me he wanted me from day one and he prayed with all he had that God would work to save my life. He drove her to that clinic and he watched her walk down the corridor always petitioning God on my behalf.

“I prayed like I had never prayed before. I just knew if there was a way to change this outcome that God could do it. When your mother came out of the room and told me she wanted to marry me and have this baby I couldn’t usher her fast enough out of that place. God answered my prayer.”

Daddy went on to tell me things he had told me over and over in my lifetime. He loved me. He wanted me. He adored me. He treasured all our days together. My Daddy has been all a knight in shining armor should be. He fought for me, he protected me, he treasured me as a helper. I have spent 38 years toiling at all kinds of tasks joyfully at his side.

Now I will help him rest comfortable until God calls him home. I am so grateful for all his prayers that day to usher my life into this world. It’s  just way too soon to be sitting at his side praying for him as we wait for the doors of eternity to open and usher him home.

Transformed

I’m sitting here, in an office. Work clicking all around me and the buzz of voices behind closed doors. I’ve been a part of this. It’s exciting being a part of something so much bigger than my little self. My days these last months devoted to family and development. Developing something that stirs a passion deep within.

I didn’t know I had this passion. Now that I’m in the whirl of development I can look back at the lighted steps that lead to this moment. A moment sitting behind a camera offering my heart, encouragement to homeschool families with high school students. I’m shocked as my passion stirs me to speak. Shocked at the overwhelming emotion stirred in my heart and welling in my eyes as I share incredible encounters with everyday families, incredible because God met us there and we were changed.

My eyes well even now. It is overwhelming to be cradled in a place of God’s planning.

I had a plan for my days. I wrote it out even drew a map of my roadways and told God what I’d use to travel on them. He sent tidal waves and I’d shake my fist thinking, “don’t you know it would work so well if you’d do it my way”. As I type this I shake my head at my own precociousness. I wonder that I wonder where my own children get it from.

How did I get from handmade roads to walking a divine creators will?

One day I got tired of building. Maybe my newest construction, in it’s infancy, had been demolished one too many times. Too tired to start again I finally yielded to the expert. Maybe watching my progeny use my building methods opened my eyes to the state of my own affairs. Either way I asked to be transformed. I made it 2011’s pursuit, The Year of Transformation. I became intentional in acquiring transformation.

It’s funny when you become intentional by letting go. I let go of every pre-planned goal. I put aside my Performace Planner.  I would listen and be led. How can I be transformed if I don’t listen to the one who brings about the  transformation? I feared my silence. It left me alone and I feared I’d find myself lonely.

At first it made me restless.
I needed something to do….
what to do…
on my knees hands clasped I began to beg…please God just give me  something to do.

He asked me to stop being by my doing.
Would I let him do and just be a set of hands here and walk to that man there?
Drive your Daddy to Chemo  treatment on this day?
Bless children of the Dominican Republic in this way?
Maybe, dear girl, would you just give up your house and move?
Are you willing to deeply love and train your children?
Love and be led by that man  I sent you?
Then, my daughter, would you just smile at the wind and bask in my prescence?
Could you just go  on your knees and  be, with  Me, JUST BE?

And it has been so hard.

Lord you are so often like the wind. I want you in flesh, I want to grab hold of you but you are uncatchable. Unless I stop my plans, breath deep the moment I am in and see with your eyes the real and tangible world and how you are reachable in all the moments, faces, smiles, sunsets, hard days and broken moments. Yes, especially in the broken moments, here I find you so real and reachable.

So, I look back at this transformation and I know it is only the beginning, but a Year of Transformation it has been and I say a cheery “hullo” to this new year already grateful for every day it holds.

Counting in 2012:
1091.
A shopping day with my oldest and Gamaw.

1093.
An early morning quiet time and one by one the entire Party of 5! joins me with their Bibles and devotionals.

1094.
Being married to a guy that loves to watch “Lark Rise to Candleford”

1096.
First sight in the a.m. being my sweet boys face with a big kiss on the cheek.

1099.
How he laughs at my vision of a tiny house and tells me that’s he loves that fun crazy side of me.

2011 Book List

I work so hard to read a book a week. I’ve accomplished it once. It happened last year and need I say that I was over the moon that I reached my goal.  It was a huge Goal Achieved!

I have however learned what holds me back. My real struggle is I don’t like speed reading. Even technical books I find whole passages that inspire me and I want to write them down. That’s my second problem, to really get something I find I have to write it down, so I do. I will copy, with pen and paper, entire passages that speak to me. Yeah, this really holds me back from reading that one book week. It’s a constant tug of war over finishing a book a week and letting myself get absorbed in the read.

Here’s what I meandered through this 2011. Check out 2010 Book list here.

1. Boys of Grit Who Became Men of Honor ~Archer Wallace
2. Pride & Prejudice ~Jane Austen
3. Real Citizenship ~Tim Echols
4. What he Must be if he wants to Marry my Daughter ~Voddie Baucham
5. Made to Crave ~Lysa Terkeurst
6. Florence Young ~Janet & Geoff Benge
7. Radical ~David Platt
8. The Cat of Bubastes ~G.A. Henty
9. One Thousand Gifts ~Ann Voskamp
10. George Muller ~Janey & Geoff Benge
11. How God used a Snowdrift ~Diane Kleyn
12. Becoming a Woman of Simplicity ~Cynthia Heald
13. Unshaken ~Dan Wooley
14. Choosing to See ~Marybeth Chapman
15. The Hidden Hand ~E.D.E.N. Sothworth
16. Weird ~Craig Groeschel
17. Letters from the Land of Cancer ~Walter Wangerin Jr.
18. Foreign to Familiar ~Sarah A. Lanier
19. The Way of the Heart ~Henri J.M. Nouwen
20. Modern Parents Vintage Values ~Trevathan & Goff
21. Weapons of Mass Instruction ~John Taylor Gatto
22. Preparing for Jesus ~Walter Wangerin Jr.
23. Already Compromised ~Ken Hamm
24. Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild ~Mary Kassian

It’s tough to pick a favorite because all these reads run in different directions. I love “The Hidden Hand”. I’ve read it twice myself and then out loud to the kids. Recently they asked if I could read it to them again. It’s just that good.

I’m excited to see what’s on your books. Thanks Nesting Place for Hosting us!

2011 Christmas Tour

When the heart of the home is solid it doesn’t matter the size of the rooms or when they were constructed, the season of Christmas comes through.

We downsized. A journey that continues to amaze and getting Merry Christmas into this little house proves a delight. It busts at the seams, this cheery little domicile.

Finding a place to hide away a Christmas present is impossible but belly laughs abound and we as a family are bound. Our hearts knitted tighter thanks to a tighter environment.

A blessed result of a crazy act and with our first teen we rejoice at every late night chat on the couch. Throw in the Christmas lights and it’s childhood magic all over again.

Like Mary, our lives have been interrupted. May your find your moment at the manger. May you choose a life of divine interruption. May your Christmas be All that is Merry and Bright.

Thanks always to The Nestor for her lovely Christmas Tour of Homes. Go take a peek.

When You Know the Answer

All roads collide into one. The many lives that dwell, live, weave throughout my everyday, well, they have this tendency to merge, they take the same exit all at the same time. Birthdays fall, illness slams, jobs need, husbands travel, children require and I feel helpless to control and I can’t help but think it. You think it. You’re thinking it right now,
“Why?”
“Why does it all happen at once?”

I embarked on this journey, a journey to be a disciple. Many years I lived my life and didn’t think too much about what it meant to be a disciple. I went my merry way. But life has this tendency to get hard, real hard. I was drowning in the dysfunction of trying to function on my merry own. I lifted my head to find I didn’t look too much like a disciple of that man, Jesus Christ. So, I took a deep breath and I committed to His way, not mine. Sincerely I asked that He be glorified, not me.

On the phone to the traveling man. He’s weary, I’m weary. We chat out our day and the above question comes up, the “Why all at once?” question. I just shake my head. I shake because I know the answer.

It happens all at once because right now I’m drowning in my desire for perfection, but not His perfection, not His glory but my own. If it didn’t all happen at once I could take it for myself, I would take it for myself. That’s what this human, arrogant nature of mine longs for. It longs to bring glory to itself and God let’s all of life collide and the weight is heavy and I sink to my knees begging to trade burdens. The stubborn heart takes too long to succumb to the load. There on my knees I find a lighter load, amazingly I find a peaceful heart.

My arrogant heart is changed. I am made wise to my weakness and wise to His strength. This wisdom changes my whole outlook. This girl remembers the point of being a creation and no longer laments with her “Why” questions.

Absorbing Today

It’s a time to be sponge like. Absorb every moment, live wide awake for every event. The brevity of life has been highlighted in vivid hues. Moonlight revealed the gossamer thread. Its frailty is felt to the core. We hold tighter, we hug longer.

Patience is a virtue we love, because by it, we show our love.

As a family we’ve gone through a wringer, ‘oft times one of our own making, and yet by God’s grace and clinging to His guidance we each found our way back.

How grateful am I for breadcrumbs always leading back, back to being a family, back to Christ. We’ve had our moments, moments of stolen crumbs and one of our own wandered in woods. Never would they wander long. We launch rescue missions here.

Sometimes, more times than we should, we launch out of our own devising. The rescue team often ends wandering lost. Frustration, pain, misunderstanding, standard responses when the wanderer and the rescue team find themselves on dark deserted roads that lead to lonely places. But this little family tossing about on a stormy night has seen it’s northern star, its immovable compass, its faithful search and rescue God. Each and every time He has led them home.

So it is together, as a family that we hold the hand of our “Dad” our “Papa” our “Tim” as he feels pain and wrestles each day on this broken, spinning globe. His courage is inspiring, his desire to just “BE” in our presence let’s us know we are loved, valued. We move mountains to be with him and experience that knowledge. His painful cancer is being lived to show love.

Grateful for every day, and….

*Adventures that are super scary and push me out of comfort into unknown places

*Getting Dad a Frosty

*The Man believes in my abilities, even when I’m a skeptic

*Children, motivated, striving for maturity.

*Giving up the idea of carrying on my bags and just packing what I need.

*Amazing women I get to know and dwell alongside.

*That the laptop has some life left in it.

*Knowing that no matter how it all goes that God can work through any kind of mess I make of it.

Learning to Run

We didn’t make it easy on her but how could I know all that God would squeeze into three short months.

Grammie planted the idea. She went on a Summer Adventure and her Grammie, whose always listening, always reading for new wisdom to deliver to her sons, their spouses and of course those beloved grand babes. Well she heard about it and then heard about a book written by a sweet girl who made it to Nationals.

Grammie bought the book and Girlie #2 devoured it. Home but a day when she finished  the read and came in my office late to find me on the website. She wanted to do it. I was  frantically researching what it entailed. What does it require of her, me, the family. We had to make a rush decision because we just happened to be on the site the last day of registration. Not only the last day but within hours of closing on the last day. I paid the $30 entrance fee and Girlie #2 became a contestant in the Junior Division of the National Bible Bee.

It’s designed as a Family Discipleship. The entire family works through a book of the Bible. The contestants have a stack of 250 Bible verses to memorize. I had grand plans to sit around the table studying God’s word, instead we encouraged her in the airport while we waited for our plane to the Dominican Republic. She dutifully lugged her study material, Strong’s Concordance and that big stack of verses all over that tiny island,  but still she fell behind and I felt like I let her fall. Then we arrived home with plans to catch up.

Instead we had to pack boxes and load trucks and find a new place to dwell. I worked hours learning a new job when I wanted to be drilling her on verses We all encouraged her and she gasped at the work load but continued to press on.

In our new abode, boxes piled everywhere, school started and unexpectedly her beloved Papa is admitted into the hospital. Focus is shifted, loved ones are cared for and that little Girlie runs so hard to keep up. When Papa’s hospital stay goes from days to weeks she tells me in tears how far she is lagging in her run. How can I help her run this race?

She decides if she sits at his side, next to him in the hospital room she can work the lessons of 1 Peter and maybe she can catch up. So she does. For days I drop my sweet 10 year old daughter at MD Andersen Cancer Center. She hefts that pink camouflage backpack up the elevator. The straps are begining to give way to the overload of weight in the form of John Gills writings, Strongs’s Concordance and her bulky Sword Study binder. She sits at the side of her ailing Grandfather and delves into God’s word.  There is a guilt over not holding her hand more as she runs, but I am brought to tears at the image of my girl studying in the presence of her heavenly Father as she gently, lovingly sits at her Grandfather’s side.

The date of the local bee arrives. She is nervous, It has arrived too quickly. We all go to cheer her on. Up at 6 a.m. to make it to the competition on time. Her heart is racing but her presence is that of peace. I’m already so proud.

First up the written test. The competitiors head to the testing room. We wait, for an hour, biting my nails and praying and she returns with sad news. She didn’t realize there was a second side and took too long on the first side. She ran out of time and that meant 30 questions unanswered. Her shoulders slumped a bit. The Man and I encouraged, reminded we are so proud, no matter the outcome.

On to the oral test. 10 minutes, 25 verses randomly chosen from the stack of 250. The Man and I follow her into the room sitting in  the back. The time starts and I watch her shoulders fall as she says, “Pass, Pass, Pass” to verse after verse. One judge pulls her baseball cap down over her eyes, she cannot look at the crestfallen competitor. I understand her body language, it speaks of right before the tears begin to fall. I can hear the quiver in my girl’s voice. I’m praying hard. My girl’s stumbling to the finish line and all I can do is ask the Holy Spirit to carry her the final steps in this race she’s chosen to run.

She recites a couple verses but as soon as the time is up her body collapses into a full slump. The tears flow. She ran her heart out, she is disappointed with how she finished. The Man and I envelope her. Our hearts break at the sound of her sobs and even the judges tears are flowing.

I take her into the ladies room and I remind her, remind her of the eternal verses earthly. We pray. The Holy Spirit gives me words beyond my own understanding and she is comforted, but still disappointed. She wished she did more, regrets of how she spent her time My heart is exploding with pride over this girl and her race. She wipes up her face, puts on a smile and heads to the waiting room to play checkers with the other competitiors/newfound friends.

All the staff disappears to tally scores. We fellowship with the families present, enjoying sandwhiches and ice cream. Her tears are forgotten. All the competitors sit together to hear the outcome of this amazing race. They start with the Senior Division. Girlie #2 claps and cheers for the sole competitior. Now the scores of the Junior Division. The announcer is looking at her list. She starts with First Place. The name she calls is familiar, I am in shock, The Man is in shock but the oldest sister is cheering and our Girlie #2 sits stunned.

“Me, did you call me?” she points to herself.

All present had seen the tears, all present were excited, applauding. It seems, though she missed those last 30 questions, she scored almost perfect on her written test. Time spent in a hospital at the side of one she loved had been blessed. The Holy Spirit granted wisdom and knowledge when she asked for it. She won First Place. Her sweet, humble little heart took my breath away.

Now, we wait, wait for three days to see if her scores are enough to earn a spot competing in Nashville, Tennessee on the National level. She would love one of those spots but either way she has learned how to run, not looking to the left or right but just dead on, running only for an eternal prize.

I’m so proud of my Girl!

Numberless Counting since I packed my Gratitude Journal:

Grateful to watch my children run races and get to help them run well.

Friends who bring me silly candies that make me laugh til I cry.

Children growing in their love for their God.

The Man shoulders stand square and his burden is less.

A little side Job

I often  forget to talk about this side of my life. I have a friend and when I talk about my plate full she always reminds me, “Don’t forget, you have your job too.”

How do I forget this?

Maybe it starts with not really looking at it as a job. I talk to Moms and Dads. The kind that love their kids and sacrifice. The kind that know how to “Do Hard Things” and then take it that next step to push their offspring to follow suit. These parents inspire and encourage me. Often I find myself at my desk researching more, reading one more article, understanding one more detail about critical thinking, CLEP tests and  how to make it all work because I want to better serve these amazing, inspiring parents.

I’ve been doing this little side job since 2008.  It’s such a pleasure working with CollegePlus! and CollegePrep!. I play several roles in the community and I’m currently training for two new positions. It’s crazy in the most fun, energizing and creative way.

I wrote an ebook here recently. It explains the details of Dual Credit. It’s a hazy world this high school/college stuff and when you throw in the homeschool dynamic, well, it can make your head swim and palms sweat. My goal with this little book, put hearts & minds at ease. I want to thank all those who’ve read. I pray you have been encouraged and maybe some of mystery of academia has been lifted.

If you’d like to read please download a copy here.

If you have read I’d love to hear your comments. Like I said I’m always digging to know more and hearing what I’ve left unsaid or what inspired you is HUGE to my always learning brain.