When Your Kids Are Along For The Ride

When my husband found out he had colon cancer, he wasn’t sitting in a doctors office. There was no box of tissues nearby for him to grab. His wife wasn’t sitting next to him to take hold of his hand. No comforting words or hand on the shoulder from a doctor. He recieved the results coldly, over the phone by someone who had grown used to passing on bad test results.

I found out the news in a more gentle way. In the privacy of our bedroom, with my husband’s arms around me. My husband’s shirt to dry my tears. My husband’s gentle words to calm my fears.

Our teenagers, however, learned of Daddy’s cancer in an unusual way. My son was listening outside our bedroom door. He, of course, ran down the stairs to share what he had heard with his older sister.

The two of them, not understanding everything, but knowing it was making mom cry, began to finish making dinner and keeping their little brothers quiet.

Many people have asked me over the months how my kids are coping. The first time I was asked this question, I had to take pause. I was so wrapped up in my own feelings, I hadn’t taken the time to see how my kids were really doing. I began to pay close attention.

My fifteen year old daughter has a very laid back personality. Her way of handling daddy’s cancer has been to not think about it. Instead, she has focused on helping me out at home. Many times I have been at the cancer center with my husband and come home to a spotless house and happy little boys. My daughter’s main goal through this valley we are in, has been to make everyone as comfortable as possible. When asked what the hardest part of this journey has been for her, she will say being home all summer. She misses the family outings, having friends over, and our trips out of state.

My thirteen year old son has an A-type personality. He is the most determined person I know! He thinks very deeply, and has a lot of emotion to go along with his thoughts. His way of coping with dad’s cancer is to plan. I have had several conversations with him about the “what ifs” of our family’s future. When my husband and I come home from a long day at the hospital, we usually find that he has organized something. He will have mapped out evening plans for the entire family, and will take it upon himself to make everyone stick to his plan. When asked what has been the most difficult part of this journey, he will say seeing his dad so sick, and not having family outings this summer.

My youngest boys have, for the most part, been unphased by Dad’s cancer. As long as we have family movie nights, games of Battleship and UNO, pizza, and popsicles for the back porch, they are perfectly content. There have been a few moments of needing to ask questions about Daddy’s sickness, but when asked, the only difficulty they could think of is not getting to sleep in a tent this summer!

If you are in a hard place in your life, and have kids along for the ride, here are some truths my husband and I have learned.

1. All kids react to stress differently. Every human being has different personalities, and this includes kids. Some will hold their thoughts and fears inside, others will talk to anyone who will listen. Then there are the kids who don’t seem to notice what’s going on, and are content in their own little world. Study your children and learn how they are coping. Open doors for conversation every now and then, and make sure your kids know they can talk to you at any time.

2. Kids take their cue from their parents. If a parent is afraid or angry about their circumstances, chances are their children will be, too. Little eyes are watching how you deal with stress every day, and will copy what they see. If you are able be joyful despite your circumstances, your kids will be, too. Parents need to be careful on how they talk about things in front of their kids. This doesn’t mean you should hide the truth from your kids. They know something is going on, even if you try to hide it. Be honest with them, but be positive. Always remind your child that God is on your side!

3. Kids can get bitter, too. We learned early on, that our kids NEEDED a life outside the house. When there is a sick family member at home, it is often, that home becomes a dreary and depressing place. We make it a point to do something special with them at least once a week. This can be accomplished by trips to the library, local parks, ice cream shop, and even the YMCA. Our family also has wonderful friends, and my kids have been invited to go along with other families for outings.

4. They want to feel useful. My older son took charge of all outside chores since my husband had his stroke over a year ago. This has been a difficult task as we have a very steep hill in our yard. His determination, however, has helped him persevere in his tasks, and he is now getting attention from our neighbors, and job offers! My younger son’s are always “writing books” for their dad, or giving him “massages”. If your child is a “doer”, give him something that will make him feel that he is contributing to the family.

Lastly, here are some tips on helping your kids through difficult family trials.

1. Have a routine. Our family schedule has for the most part, been pure craziness. I have found, however, that my kids need some routine. I can’t always be there when they wake up, and there have been days I wasn’t there at bedtime. When I am home however, I make it a matter of importance to have our evenings together. I will read a couple of chapters from a book before prayers each night to my little ones. The older ones feel privileged to watch an episode of Start Treck with us before bed. Every child needs some order in their day, even during the hardest valley.

2. Pray with them often. Kids need to hear their parents talk to God. They need to hear the emotions and fears that are daily laid at the feet of Jesus. They need to feel God’s presence in their family and home.

3. Use scripture. My younger son has always struggled with fear, for as long as I can remember. He doesn’t like to be alone in any room of our house, and he is easily frightened by many things. My husband’s poor health the last two years seems to have slightly intensifed his fears. After many talks, and times of prayer with him, I recently discovered that scripture gives him the most comfort. He has a favorite verse we memorized together, and he recently asked if we could hang it up in his room.

4. Focus on making memories more than having fun. The biggest lesson I have learned with my kids, is that even fun can be forgotten. They are not going to remember every movie, every ice cream cone, or even every trip to the park. This realization has changed my planning to some extent. Now, every outing is all of us together. No one has opportunity to be home alone- there are plenty of other times for that. Also, to my entire families dismay, I take a LOT more pictures.

There is no perfect answer or laid-out plan on helping your kids walk through a valley with you. As a parent, the best thing that you can do for your kids is to be right with God. Your kids will see the comfort and the peace that God gives you in the valley, and you will be able to show them the way to God even in the midst of trials.

Aged Woman, I am Watching You

Having just tucked my two little charges into bed, I rounded the corner into the living room. I stopped suddenly at the scene unfolding before me.

Standing on her tip-toes, the woman reached up and gave her husband a kiss. He touched her cheek with his hand, and they both shared a special smile, as they gazed into each other’s eyes. He whispered something in her ear, and her cheeks turned rosy.

I’m not sure how old I was when I witnessed this sweet moment, but the memory has stayed with me through my teenage years until now. At the time, I felt awkward for having intruded on something so private, but over the years, this memory filled my heart with hope. Hope that one day, I too could be happily married.

In my teenage years, I helped this family with babysitting. I’m pretty sure this dear lady had no idea I was watching her. Yet, there I was a teenage girl, quietly taking in how she loved her husband, her children, and how she cared for her home.

I was watching her as she faithfully lived according to the Word of God.

This sweet lady has long been someone I have looked up to, trying to emulate the love she showers on her family and ministry.

The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.” – Titus 2:3-5

And, there are others. Other “aged women” I have watched on a weekly basis. They taught Sunday school. They worked in the nursery. They cooked meals for fellowships and conferences. They decorated the church. They sang in the choir. They cleaned the church. They did all these things while loving their husbands and raising their kids. They kept their homes in order, and some even had to work outside the home. Some cared for sick family members. Some cried over their wayward son or daughter. These ladies have watched as their children went off to college, married, and had their own children. They have seen their husbands retire. Some have lost their husbands. Yet, they all have lived according to the Scriptures. They have all been examples and “teachers of good things”.

Aged woman, I’m still watching you. Will you “continue steadfast” in your faith and convictions you once taught your own children? Will you continue to be faithful despite the difficulty that comes with increasing age? Will you continue to have a sweet disposition, even after you have retired from your ministries? Will you still love your husband after age has slowed him down? Will you continue faithful in your Bible reading and prayer time?

Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware, lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness.” – 2 Peter 3:17

Aged woman, I need you. I need you to teach me how to age in God’s grace. I need to know that life can still be joyous, despite its many disappointments. I need you to teach me that no matter how painful life can become, there is still a “reason for the hope that is in you”. Teach me how to reach out and minister to others with a happy heart, even when my hands are hurting and my heart is failing.

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” – I Peter 3:15

Aged woman, the world needs you. The world today is telling women that it’s OK to leave their husbands and children in order to “find” themselves. The world is telling women that they don’t need to keep their homes. The world is telling women that if they stay at home to care for their families, they have no value or beauty. The world is telling women that it’s not healthy to push their faith on their children and that they shouldn’t make them go to church. The world is lying to women today. Aged woman, the world needs you to be a candle in the darkness. They need your shining example that it is better to obey God than to follow their own pleasures.

For those women whom I have looked up to since I became a Christian 30 years ago, thank you for your examples. I could never have been the wife, mother, or keeper of my home that I am today without your example. And now, as time continues to move faster, I too, am becoming an aged woman. I only pray that I can teach others as you have taught me.

Let your lights so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16

A Year Ago

A year ago today, I had no idea that our family was about to embark on a journey that would forever change our lives. I had no idea that just a few short days into 2017, my husband would be diagnosed with colon cancer. I never would have guessed that it would be a year filled with private tears, and worry.

A year ago today, I had no idea how good our God is! I had no idea how far the reach of His comforting arms extended! Never did I expect the honor of witnessing the miracles He performed, just for us! A year ago today, I had no idea how much God really cared for and loved me. I had never experienced such great, unexplainable peace in the midst of great chaos!

A year ago today, I didn’t understand that in order to shine brightly for God, you have to be surrounded by darkness.

I didn’t know that God could use you for His glory during the hardest of your trials and struggles. I didn’t understand that when we are in our weakest state, that is when our God is strongest! Never would I have guessed that walking with the Saviour in 2017 would be the sweetest walk I would ever experience!

Today, I am facing the future of 2018. Sometimes, I look ahead in trepidation, wondering what surprises are lurking in its dark corners. Yet, the fear doesn’t last very long because all I have to do is think back to a year ago and remember how God saw us through the most difficult journey of our lives. 2018 will hold it’s trials, and who knows, maybe they will be more difficult than what we have already faced! I know that I can trust God, however, to be right there with me, from the start of the journey, all the way to the very end!

“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:19

Thank you, dear readers, for joining me in my discoveries of God’s goodness and mercy in 2017! I hope and pray you all have a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS! And whatever is in store for your 2018, I pray you claim the promise of God’s peace!

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” – John 14:27

(Photograph taken by Kasey Photography)

Meditation Monday – Leaving and Reaching

Have you just come out of a long trial?  Maybe someone in your family was sick, or you experienced the death of a loved one. Your head might still be spinning from the emotions of your trial.  Now that it is over, you are wondering, “how in the world do I get back to a normal life”?  

The Bible tells us to “forget the things which are behind.”  All the pain, fear, and worry of your trial needs to be left behind .  You might be thinking, “but that trial was SO HARD, I don’t know how I could possibly forget it!”  God has given each of us the ability to make the pain of our trials a distant memory.  Once we get on our knees and surrender the pain of our past to the Lord, He will give us the strength to press on towards the prize!

“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:13 & 14

 

What Makes a Good Friend

This article is lovingly dedicated to my friends. Thank you for being there for me, especially these last couple of years! You have listened to my fears, hugged me as I cried, prayed for me, and been there for me at a moment’s notice. You have taught me by your examples how to be a friend, and you have loved me, despite me.  I love you guys!!

Pacing the busy church foyer, my 13-year-old self tried to muster up courage. 
Realizing I just needed to take the plunge, I walked towards the girl.  She had perfect blonde hair that flowed past her shoulders.  Her dress was a beautiful flower pattern, with puffs and ruffles in all the right places.  Looking into her questioning, blue eyes, I nearly lost my resolve. 

“Um…I just wanted to know….what do I have to do to be your guy’s friend.  I mean….do I need to change the way I dress or do my hair?  I just really want to be your friend!”

Smiling at me, the girl gently placed her hand on my arm.

“You don’t need to change.  Just give it some more time.  It will get better, I promise!”

Little did I know then, that 26 years later, that very girl would be one of my dearest and closest friends!

I am in no way an expert on friendship, but I am very blessed by the many friends God has given me.  Some friends go way back and others are newer, but they all are very dear to my heart. 

Making friends is not something that has ever been easy for me.  Approaching people I don’t know will make me break out in cold a sweat.  I say stupid things, and most of the time, come across as very awkward!  My husband tells me that I start to laugh in a high pitched voice, and even talk faster than normal, when I am talking to someone I don’t know. For me, making new friendships has required a lot of work, and, as my dear friend said to me so many years ago, patience.

Maybe you are in a church or a community where you find it difficult to make friends. Before you blame the church members, or even your neighbors, make sure you are following Biblical principles when trying to develop new friendships.

You mean, the Bible says something about making friends?

Yes.  In fact, there are several examples of friendships in the Bible.  David and Jonathan, Moses and Arron, Paul and Barnabas, and Jesus and His disciples are just a few friendships we can read about in the Bible.

WHAT MAKES A GOOD FRIEND

A Common Bond in Jesus Christ – While a Christian should be friendly to the unsaved world, he shouldn’t be best friends with them.  The Bible reminds us in James 4:4 – “whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”  Don’t forget, that you can’t serve the world and Jesus. An unsaved individual is going to live like the world and is going to do worldly things.  Luke 16:13 – “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”  

Be the First to Reach Out – To have friends, the Bible teaches that you have to take action.  You have to be the one that reaches out first.  If you are standing in the corner by yourself, hoping to be flocked by a group of new friends, you are going to be sadly disappointed!  It doesn’t mean the church is unfriendly, it means the church is busy serving.  Maybe they are as afraid of you as you are of them.  Put a smile on your face, get out of your corner, and reach out to others!  Get involved in the church, and be patient.  It takes time to make friends!  Proverbs 18:24 – “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.

Forgive – Weather you are offended because someone isn’t friendly enough, or your closest and dearest friend has just stabbed you in the back (yes, I know that was extreme), you need to forgive.  Ephesians 4:32b – “…forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”  True friendship won’t seek revenge or hold a grudge.  Proverbs 24:29 – “Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me: I will render to the man according to his work.”

Be Generous – The best way to make a new friend is to be generous.  Inviting someone over to your home for a delicious meal is a wonderful first step in getting to know someone!  Meeting for coffee and dessert is another excellent way to form a friendship.  If you doubt this, just look to Jesus’ example.  He invited Himself over to Zacchaeus’s house for dinner!  Luke 19:5 – “Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.”  If you have a friend in need, and you feel the Holy Spirit moving you to help, you better obey!  Not only does true friendship give when there is a need, but you will be rewarded for your generosity!  Proverbs 3:28 – “Do not say unto thy neighbor, go, and come again, and to morrow I will give when thou hast it by thee.”

Watch Your Tongue – That old saying, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” applies right here.  Ephesians 4:29 – “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” The worst thing a group of friends can do when they get together is gossip about other people.  In fact, if you have friends that sit around and gossip about your pastor’s wife, MAKE NEW FRIENDS.  Seriously, do I need to remind you about Miriam?  Numbers 12:1 – “And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married”.  Miriam got her tongue wagging out there in that wilderness against Moses’ wife, and God called her out for it! “And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them…and, behold, Miriam became leprous, white as snow…And Miriam was shut out from the camp seven days.”  If you have tried to make friends and have found yourself still sitting in the corner alone, you need to examine your tongue.  What are you talking about when you are around other people?  Are your words pleasant?  Do they edify others in the Lord?  Proverbs 15:2 – “The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.”  Just because you have knowledge about someone else, doesn’t mean you should pour it all out for everyone to hear.  A true friend will speak pleasant words about everyone! Proverbs 16:28 – “A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends.”

Be Faithful – If you want to know who your friends are, look to see who is still standing after a storm.  Trials and difficult situations can often “weed out” friends.  Don’t desert your friend in their time of greatest need.  If you don’t understand what they are going through, you can still be there for them by telling them you are praying for them and that you love them!  Bring them a meal, send them a card, send them a text, or meet them for coffee!  Lend your ear, and if you are asked to share your opinion, do so with meekness.  Proverbs 17:17b – “A friend loveth at all times”.  Proverbs 27:10 – “Thine own friend, and they fathers’ friend, forsake not.”

Have Some Character – A true friend will bring out the best in you. When you leave their conversation, you will be strengthened in your own Christian walk.  Romans 14:19 – “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.”

Be Truthful – Truthfulness is a hard quality to find in a friend.  Often, one will tell a “little white lie” in order to avoid hurting a friend.  But the Bible tells us a good friend will tell the truth, even if it hurts.  Proverbs 27:6 – “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”  A true friend will gently share the truth, weather it is desirable to hear or not. It does not always have to be painful, however.  If done in the right spirit, it can be a blessing!  Proverbs 27:9 – “Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart; so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by heart council.”  

If you are desiring to have more friends, or have found yourself in a place that seems unfriendly, be sure you are applying Biblical principles to your efforts.  At the end of the day, remember, you have a Friend Who will never leave you!  Just look to how Jesus treated His friends.  He fed them, laughed with them, healed them, taught them, ate with them, and He even washed their feet!  How does Jesus treat you?  Jesus is our best example of what makes a good friend!

John 15:15 – “Jesus said, I have called you friends.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Unseen Hand

In January of 2015, my husband began rubbing his chest.

My heart won’t stop racing!”

“Was it a stressful day at work,” I asked?

We had been talking for the last couple of months about how something had to give with Gabe’s job.  Not only was he driving an hour to work, he was working 10 to 12 hour days before driving another hour home.  It was starting to wear on him, and our entire family was effected by the high demands of his career.

A few days later, Gabe started to have chest pain.  It was enough to make him question if he was having a heart attack.  It was time to go to the hospital.

In the emergency room, Gabe’s heart rate was crazy.  One minute it was 70 and the next it was over one hundred!

“Atrial tachycardia“, the doctor had said.  “We will keep you until the medication begins to regulate your heart.”

After two days, the medications were not helping.  They sent him home with a scheduled procedure for the next week.  He would be having a heart ablation, a seemingly simple procedure where they pricked a tiny hole between the heart chambers and burned away excess tissue surrounding the heart.

The procedure, though uncomfortable, was a complete success!  We went through the rest of 2015 with no other health struggles or emergency room trips.  Until, exactly a year later, in January of 2016.

I’m taking you to the ER”, I insisted as I drove my family home from church.

“Just let me go home to bed”, Gabe argued.

“You have had a headache, dizziness, nausea and now vomiting for the last week!  You couldn’t even sit in your chair tonight, and I have stopped twice on the way home now, so you could throw up!”

After finding a babysitter and getting my kids off to bed, I practically dragged my husband to the car.  It didn’t take long to get him registered in the hospitals emergency room. After several hours of tests, two doctors came into the tiny room.

“Unfortunately, the test results show that you had a stroke in your cerebellum.  We need to keep you here to run more tests.”

My husband and I looked at each other in shock.  He was only 45, after all.  We were not expecting this kind of news until we were at least in our 70’s!

The next day we learned that the stroke was more than likely the result of a blood clot that was thrown from the tiny pin-prick hole between his heart chambers.  While they couldn’t prove it, it was the only theory that made sense.

As my husband was being released with strict instructions for “no work, no stress, no noise”, we were visited by an endocrinologist.

“Before you leave, you need to know that the MRA revealed a large mass on your thyroid.  In a couple of months, after you have had some healing time from your stroke, you need to see a surgeon.”

We were so focused on healing from the stroke, that we found we weren’t too worried about the mass on Gabe’s thyroid.  A few months later, a biopsy revealed cancer.

“It’s actually a blessing you had the stoke.  Since you were not having any symptoms, we would have more than likely caught this cancer when it was much worse”, the endocrinologist explained.

In July of 2016, Gabe had surgery to remove his thyroid.  Cancer was found in three places.  By September, he was finished with his  radioactive iodine treatments.  Gabe was back to healing from his stroke, and his surgery.

By Thanksgiving Gabe was starting to feel pretty good.  He had begun to return to the office a few days a week, and we were making some exciting plans for 2017.  Only, Gabe had began to notice a lot of blood in the toilet.  Realizing it could possibly be from the blood thinners he now had to take, he felt God was urging him to mention it to his doctor.

In January of 2017, Gabe received a phone call from the gastroenterology.

“The biopsy from your colonoscopy came in today.  I’m sorry, but you have colon cancer.”

For the next two weeks, my husband and I struggled with our emotions.  One minute we felt peace and complete trust in God and the next minute, fear and despair would overwhelm us.  Hadn’t we been through enough?  A heart procedure,  stroke, thyroid cancer, and now colon cancer?

After two weeks of grieving, the fog began to lift from our emotions, and we began to think more clearly about our situation.

“Gabe, do you realize you wouldn’t have had the stroke if you hadn’t had the heart ablation?”

“Yes,” he replied.

“And you wouldn’t have learned about the thyroid cancer if you hadn’t had the stroke.”

The worry wrinkle on my husbands face began to smooth away, as he began to understand my meaning.

“If I hadn’t been on the blood thinners, they never would have discovered the colon cancer.”

We sat together in awesome wonder.

We really could trust God!  He really DID know what He was doing! It was pointless to question Him!  Not only had God allowed all of this struggle into our lives the last two years, but His hand was there the whole time, leading us.  Excitement began to replace our wonder, and thankfulness.

Yes, thankfulness.  For the stroke, the thyroid cancer, and even this colon cancer. For all the time off work my husband had to take, the millions of doctors appointments and the growing pile of medical bills.  For the stress of juggling crazy schedules, and the fearful thoughts of “what if”.  We have witnessed God’s perfect timing, His perfect thoughts, and His perfect ways.  We have received blessings from His hand through the giving hands of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are thankful for all of it, because while it was difficult (I would be lying if I said it wasn’t), we have been able to experience God’s unseen hand in our life.

There is an unseen hand to me
That leads through ways I can not see
While going through this world of woe
This hand still leads me as I go.”

– Bill Gaither

 

 

Meditation Monday – Those Crazy Moments

It’s usually not until I’ve dropped my kids off at school, and I’m driving home in silence, that I realize my crazy morning had gotten the best of me. Tense muscles and a strong desire for a second cup of coffee are a sure sign that I was overwhelmed by my crazy morning! 

Let’s face it, we’ve all had moments that have overwhelmed us! Whether it’s a crazy schedule or a stressful situation, if you find yourself overwhelmed, try meditating on this: God was already in that crazy moment! 

“When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path.” – Psalms 142:3a

Not only can God see what is ahead on our path, He is there ahead of us, waiting to lead us through. When we are able to humble ourselves to God, and follow Him through the crazy moments, there is always rest on the other side! 

——————————————–

If you’ve enjoyed this short devotional, consider following my blog! You will be notified every Monday morning when a new “Monday Meditation” will be posted!