Thursday, February 28, 2008
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
I want to be the Joseph who ruled, am I willing to be the Joseph in Prison? Am I willing to be the Joseph who forgave his brothers?
I want to be the David the King, Am I willing to be the David in the wilderness?
I want to be Paul the great preacher, Am I willing to be the Paul in prison?
I want to be Peter the leader of the church, Am I willing to be martyred for what I believe?
I want to be the Daniel who was made ruler over the entire province of Babylon, Am I willing to be the Daniel taken into captivity?
I want to be faithful, Am I willing to endure suffering as Job?
I want to be in a position of respect, Am I willing to wash the feet of others?
In each of these examples God used everything in their lives to make them the example we look up to. Both the good and the bad, the blessings and the difficulties.
Am I ready to have my life's events written down for others to read? My life does not need to be one of perfect faith to be used by God to encourage others. Andrea's was not yet she touched so many lives. Sometimes we think if we can't do it perfectly then we need not try at all and that only limits our effectiveness. God uses "all things" in our life. The blessing and the curses. The rain and the drought. Though it all we learn and grow in our faith and become more and more Christ like. Never attaining yet always striving, knowing God is using all we experience for His glory. Knowing we serve Him when we suffer as much as when we are blessed. Sure one is easier and more enjoyable then the other but both are service to the one who gave us salvation, the greatest gift of all.
Monday, February 25, 2008
Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.
I know she had not been home for 22 days but she was still here. I could go to her, now she was suddenly out of my reach. I could not get there. Andrea was gone. It is the difference between being away and being gone. It was hard. In the back of your mind you think she will be back. I think in part because we in the military are used to being separated and maybe this is what I relate to. But she is not away for a while, she is gone.
I have a friend who also lost his wife and we were talking one day in my office and he told me, the depth of your grief is proportional to the height of your love. I thought I'm in trouble! But I'm thankful I was blessed with a love so grand, it was worth the fall in order to see the view from that mountain top. I would not trade my love for Andrea to avoid this pain.
Some of you have sent me emails or blog comments that say you feel guilty for having gained through Andrea's suffering. I understand that feeling, I to have been blessed and benefited from the sacrificial love of Andrea. I have often said I would not trade this experience for a life without it. As hard as cancer was to watch, I was a better person for having gone through it with Andrea. In a way I guess that does make me feel guilty. To have benefitted from Andrea's suffering. But you know what; Andrea was honored to pour herself out to make us better. She was not prideful but she was proud of each of us.
Losing Andrea has revealed a gaping void in my life. I miss my best friend. I miss my wife. I miss Andrea. I miss talking to her. I miss helping her.
It has been so long since our life had been normal. It was Aug 2003 when Andrea told me she found the lump. I had just returned from a four month deployment in June so our last "normal" life was around January 2003. Think about all you have done, all you have experienced since Jan 2003. That was the last time we simply lived. I hardly remember just living. What did we even do with our time? What did we talk about? What made us laugh or cry? I really don't remember. Isn't that sad? Cancer just became our life. It consumed our time like it consumed Andrea's body. Then in an instant at 1:07 on Dec 17th it was gone. As fast as it came it was gone and it has left my life empty. Cancer changed our life and took away what was normal. But God replaced it with a life that was better. Love was more intimate. Conversations more meaningful. Laughter more satisfying. Time spent together more valued. Touches more savored.
As I look back at our life I realize that I really don't want what was "normal." Our life was special and cancer only intensified the great parts of our relationship. Cancer put life in perspective, and what our priorities should be.
Today I was faced with a seemingly insignificant item, Andrea's toothbrush and it brought me face to face with the reality of what happened on Dec 17th, but it also reminded me of the uniqueness of what we had.
In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
I wrote this blog after visiting Andrea's family this past weekend.
Your husband being killed in war.
I just wanted to jump up and say "I disagree, marriage is not hard." It's not hard when your marriage is built on trust. A trust I felt the moment I met Andrea and Ginger. A trust that allows you to be yourself, to be accepted, to know you are safe. This is your most prized possession in a marriage and it must be protected at all cost. Trust is what frees you to love unconditionally. Trust is what allows you to love unselfishly and this does not just apply to the wife. As a husband I must love unconditionally. I must love Ginger as Christ loved the church. Husbands should think about what that means before they start thinking how great a submissive wife would be. To love your wife as Christ loved the church is to be willing to lay your life down for her. What desire do you have as a husband or as a person greater than your life? What do you most want in life? Whatever that is you must be willing to give up for your wife. I know the thought of giving of yourself can be scary. I know it is risky to open yourself up in this way to another human, especially if you have been hurt in the past. That is why trust is crucial to it all. It enables you to lay your life down. I do not think a truly submissive wife exists without a husband being submissive first. It first takes a submissive husband for a woman to fulfill the role God has for her. And when you experience a love like this you find marriage is not hard work but effortless. Things in marriage may be hard but marriage in itself is not hard.
This is what is hard.
Watching your wife die of cancer. Watching her lips lose their color, and the feeling of her skin go cold. A final kiss.An Air Force Chaplin and a Squadron Commander showing up at your door in their service dress to tell you there as been "an accident."
The numbness you feel at the funeral.Standing before a casket.
The realization that it is not a bad dream.Having to tell your children their dad is not coming home.
Having to tell your kids Mom is not going to make it.Watching the chemo slowly dripping into the IV.
Watching a video of your husband made only weeks before the "accident."
Waiting for CT results.
An empty side of the bed.
Being a single parent.
Walking down the card isle on Fathers day or valentines day.
Getting sympathy cards instead of sending them.
Going to sporting events alone.
Learning to say I instead of we.
Eating out alone.
Getting a package from your husband days after you learned he had died.
Looking into your kids eyes knowing you do not have the strength to help them.Seeing pictures of Andrea or Troy.
Packing away their clothes.Trying not to remember someone you never wanted to stop thinking about.
Any holiday or birthday and worst of all anniversaries.Stating a new life.
Feeling guilty for being happy.Crying till you hurt all over, and the headache that follows the next day reminding you of the pain in your life.
Keeping your faith.
Going to church alone.Feeling like everyone is looking at you.
The silence at night and the silence when you first wake up.Feeling lonely.
Knowing one of us will face losing a spouse again.
That is what is hard, being married is easy compared to this. We would trade you in a second for one "hard" day of marriage.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
I came here to bring some of Andrea's personal belongings to her Mom, Sister and Niece. I came because I wanted them to have some things Andrea has touched, held or worn some things for them to remember their daughter sister or aunt. I did not think about what it was going to be like for me to come home again. It was not until I was about two hours away on the drive last night that it began to hit me. I was going home without Andrea. Really this was our home. We spent the majority of our Christmas' in this house. I think we came home every year except when we lived in Turkey. We certainly came home every time we moved. No matter where the Air Force took us we would always come back to Wichita Falls and this house. As I have said before Wichita Falls and this house in particular is where Andrea and my lives began. This is where she lived when we met. I remember dropping her off from a date and sitting outside until her bedroom light went off and I knew she was asleep. I'm in the same bed we slept in every visit, in the same room. There is no where I look that I don't have a memory of Andrea. And that is hard. It was hard last night at bedtime when I had to be alone and face my feelings. I called Ginger and we talked until 1 or 2 am. That is a bad habit we have gotten into but there is so much we have to say to each other there just is not enough time in day. Last night, like many times before one of us is struggling and needs to talk. Last night it was me who was having a hard time and I needed to talk about Andrea and Ginger being my gift and my blessing from God listened to and helped me work through my thoughts.
I will share what I felt having not fully understood what it all means. I miss Andrea so much and naturally I drift to memories of her. I want to remember Andrea. Because of the closeness we shared as husband and wife the memories are more detailed, abundant, personal and intimate. I soon found out that my memories, the very thing I sought, tormented me. I miss Andrea and I naturally think about her but when I do it hurts so bad I want to run from her memory. Then I feel bad for not wanting to remember my wife, the woman I loved so dearly, so deeply. It is as if I have no place to exist. I can't remember her, yet I can not forget her. What once gave me joy, security and hope now brings sadness, worry and fear. And being back in Wichita Falls and especially in this house triggers memories of almost 28 yrs of our relationship.
Lately, praise God, I have been able to remember Andrea without feeling such a deep grief that I wanted to run away. I guess that is a sign of how life will be when I "adjust" to life without Andrea. But there are days and times where the memories trigger such grief I hate to remember her. I hope that does not sound cruel, I do not intend it too. Last night was one of those times. There are so many memories they just overwhelm me. I find I have no where to escape. It is always hard when my mind focus' on the physical aspect of losing Andrea and not the spritual truth of where she is and the faithfulness of God I witnessed everyday.
Last night I was looking at pictures with Andrea's mom and I came across on of Andrea in Turkey. She was walking and talking to a Turkish woman on a muddy dirt road. I told June about the picture. It was taken after the huge earthquakes Turkey. I think the death toll was around 30,000 and maybe as high as 50,000 but don't hold me to that. The bottom line is there was a lot of destruction. Andrea the boys and I went with some friends to a village that was hit very hard. Our friend, who is a missionary, was helping get trailers to the people who lost their homes and we went along to hand out candy to the kids and visit with the families. I remember driving around and seeing all the houses and apartments that had collapsed but more then that I remember the blue tarps of make shift tents that were outside the homes that were not destroyed. I asked my friend why the tents. He told me it was because the people feared another earthquake and were too scared to live in their houses. I understood the people who lost everything living in tents, but I thought is so strange that even the ones who were fortunate enough to still have a home were living in tents. You would see a perfectly intact house and there in the yard would be a tent made of any scrapes they could find. They were so scared of going to sleep in their house for fear it would collapse on them that they would rather sleep outside on the wet ground. Really who could blame them? They had just experienced the earth shake and there was no certainty in life for them. Their home was stripped of its protective nature and what was once seen as their shelter and protection had turned into their greatest fear.
I thought about that last night as I told June about the picture of Andrea. I thought how at times I allowed fear to force me away from the security of my faith. It seemed so irrational for those people to sleep outside in the wet and cold when within 50 feet sat this perfectly good home with the comforts of heat, running water, and warm beds.
Isn't that just how we are at times in our life? We have all we need in Christ yet we choose to allow fear to steal our security from us. We choose to live in a tent when we have a home. We allow our fears to make what is secure seem insecure. We allow fear and worry to cast a doubt on what God has promised. We become suspect of the greatness of God. We allow ourselves to be convinced God is too good to be true, or God that not care about this in my life, and so we live in a tent just outside a palace.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
My sweet realtor here that helped sell my house last spring sent me a gift yesterday in the mail. It was a neat book and a sweet Valentine. The card really made me think.
...A Valentine may take you out to dinner, but God has invited you to the most amazing feast ever given...
'Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!' Rev. 19:9...
...A Valentine may bring you chocolate, but God provides you with something even sweeter, His Word...
'How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth.' Psalm 119:103...
...A Valentine may love you for a lifetime but God loved you before you were born and will love you for all eternity...
'Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love, with lovingkindness I have drawn you.' Jer. 31:3.
Wow, powerful promises and heart-touching analogies from the One who wrote the greatest Love Story ever told, Jesus. Last Valentines Day, I am not ashamed to tell you that I was angry with God. He had allowed the most excruciating pain into my life by taking Troy away. Maybe that card would not have comforted me last year. It probably would have made me even angrier as I thought, "great, just me and You, Lord today!". In my human mind, that seemed like it just could not be enough. But, in spiritual truth and faith, He is all I needed. He was what I needed last Valentines Day. Another man and even dare I say, having Troy still alive, would not have helped me to grow my faith in the darkest times. I am a woman who really enjoys being adored, cherished and loved by a man. I am meant to be part of a team; half of a whole. I know God made me who I am, so nothing I can tell Him about me, He does not know. But I have continued to have to make the choice to trust Him. To know that somehow He would provide a way where there was no way. He would be my stream in the desert. No man, no matter how wonderful, can meet the deepest thirst in your soul. I had to be okay if for the rest of my life, God had been my only Valentine. And though I couldn't fathom it, I knew if called me to that, He would enable me to accept that and have a full life. I am a woman. I know there are many women, maybe men too, who are wondering tonight when their Valentine will come. Well, He already came. Two thousand years ago in Bethleham. He loves us so much, He left the perfection of heaven to come to this most hideously painful and ugly world. He suffered physical, emotional and spiritual pain on the cross because He wanted to woo us to Him.
"We love because He first loved us" I John 4:19.
"And so we know and rely on the love God has for us" I John 4:16.
I can tell you, my heart has been broken and He has glued the pieces back together. It is possible.
"For God is greater than our hearts and He knows everything" I John 3:20.
I have been wooed and pursued by two wonderful men on this earth now. I praise the Lord for that daily. I thought I would be loved on this earth by the first man for the entirety of my life. I was wrong. I hope the second one will be on this earth long enough to love me until I am old woman. But if I am wrong again, the Lord forbid, I must know that my God, the Alpha and the Omega, the Mighty One who pursued me with His life, will love me for eternity.
P.S. Happy Valentines Day, Jim!
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
No this blog is not in reference to Andrea's height. It is about doing the small stuff of life and that through the small stuff we really see our character. I thought that sometimes we tend to over look the little things we can do in life and seek the grand events to prove our value. But really that is not the case, it is the daily events of life that really speak to our character and what we believe. It is in these small consistent acts that speak to others.
Andrea and I had hoped and prayed and believed she would be healed. We would think of the great praise and glory God would receive in this miracle. I imagine some of you thought that yourself. Did you think of the lives that would have been changed when Andrea was healed? When her life was snatched from the clutches of certain death. Trust me I did. I thought what better way for God to revel Himself, what could be more perfect then for Andrea to stand before a crowd and be a witness of God's amazing power. In my mind there that was the perfect outcome and I just wanted to write the script and hand it to God as if to say, “Here you go I have it all worked out, just wait for this ending!”
But it was not His will, and many of us struggled with this. She seemed like the perfect candidate for a miracle didn't she? She had so much faith in spite of all her suffering and she never quite praising God. I remember one day in particular. I hope I never forget it. Andrea was sick once again. Her bouts with vomiting were back again. I don't even remember what drug she was on, but I think it was around February 2007 when she was on a new chemo treatment which particularly hard. Anyway it was a Saturday and Andrea felt sick to her stomach. I walked back into our bedroom and heard Andrea in the bathroom throwing up. I went in as I always did to rub her back, pray for her and just sit with her. When I walked in she was sitting on the floor exhausted from vomiting. It was then that I witnessed one of the most powerful examples of her faith. She went to vomit again and in between throwing up she would stop and thank God for His blessings and praise His name. I went to her and held her and began to pray for her but I will never forget walking in on her and seeing her vomit and then praise God at the same time. She refused to give into the sickness. In that small act I saw the character of Andrea.I thought this week about how I had envisioned God's perfect plan, Andrea being healed and her being in the spot light giving glory to God. I could not help but think back to that moment in our bathroom. I thought which instance really spoke louder of who Andrea was and the God she served? Then I realized that God does not need the spot light to bring attention to Himself. I found this sentence I had written during church in 2006:
Our failures do not limit God
Our successes do not enable God
Although what I had hoped would be, was not. I realized sometimes it may have been more about my pride of wanting to be in the spot light then it was about serving God. Now God has asked me to serve in a way I would not have chosen. Sometimes our loudest statement about who we are can be spoken in the smallest of acts. And that is what I think about when I think of Andrea's life. It was never my desire to write this blog, but I do. I do so knowing God used Andrea's death in ways I never understood and I know in ways I will not see until I stand before Him.
Last Friday I saw a practical example of this during our weekly PT run at work. I had finished my run and was trying to recover from my blistering 10 min mile pace. As I sat down to catch my breath I watched Lance our PT leader. He had finished his run which is usually twice as far as my run and somehow he seems to finish in less time. As each person approached the finish line, about 100 yards out, Lance would run to meet them and pace them for the last part of their run. As he dropped of each person at the finish line he would turn around and go meet the next person. He did this over and over until everyone had finished their run. At the same time Rene, our other PT leader, would cheer each person as they crossed the finish line.
As I sat there I saw how these simple acts by Lance and Rene spoke so much about their character. They are both great workers and given any task their skills shine. But I doubt anything could speak to me louder to me then what I saw that day because it was not done for anyone to see. There was no personal gain in their actions; it was a simple act of service which I doubt many people even noticed. As I got up to go home I thought about how Lance and Rene were much like Andrea. Their acts of service were not for the praise of others, it was just to serve. It was not done in the spotlight, but in the background.
I thought that all of us have this opportunity every day and sometimes we miss them when we see our only value in the grand acts of life. I realized it is in the small stuff that what we believe really comes out. I think about how I would imagine what I would do if I won the lottery. How I would give to those in need but really that would not happen unless I'm that way right now with the small amount of money God has entrusted to me. Why do we sometimes think who we are or our character will change? I venture to say we would act the same if we won 100 million as we do with 100 dollars we have right now.
Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.”
We need to remember is that God does not need us in the spotlight to serve nor does our worth need to be in the grand. That sometimes He just asks us to just live to be a witness. And that is really how we show our true character and our true beliefs. As the saying goes,
“Always be ready to preach and if you have to use words.”
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
I wrote this blog as I traveled to Phoenix this past weekend. I finished this on the flight back to San Antonio. This was my first time to meet the kids and the incredible friends that supported Ginger over the past 14 months. It was an emotional weekend which began with a trip to the Troy Gilbert Memorial Bridge. Seeing his name written in brass was overwhelming to me. I saw a physical reminder of what it cost for me to be there. I entered the lives of the five wonderful children, each so very special, each a gift from God, conceived in love, once the center of Troy’s life. I watched as the twins celebrated their second birthday. Ginger and I took Boston to soccer practice and watched Greyson play basketball. I heard Bella call me daddy and seek out my affection. I tucked her into bed and tried to answer her question, “If God made everything, who made God?” I stood and held Ginger’s hand as we worshiped with the families that prayed over Troy before he deployed and never returned. I felt the pain they all experienced when they learned of Troy’s death.
I thought of Troy as this was his place. I thought of Andrea as this was her dream. I thought of Ginger and I as this is our life. I was humbled to be given such a gift and such a responsibility. Who am I to be showered with such blessings twice in my lifetime? I thought of my boys and my desire for all of us to be a family. I prayed Nic and Anthony would know I entered this new life believing God’s plan is for them as much as it is for Ginger and me. I pray they know Ginger has been called to love them as I know I am called to love Ginger’s children. I hope my boys know I do not run from them but desire to bring them along into our new family. What I seek is for us all to become a family, not two separate families but a continuum of a family. We understand the pain they have suffered in losing their mother and father and that Ginger and I offer all we have to help each of them understand the pain they face both now and in the future.
It is a dark and scary place we went to grieve. Hopeless grief is the natural place to go when you lose a spouse and a young age. Hardly any effort is required to fall into that pit. Just a step and gravity takes over. Before you know, you’re falling into the darkness and that natural pit becomes your home. In a cruel twist you soon find that getting out of that pit takes far more effort then falling into it. You fall in effortlessly but you struggle to climb out.
At this time is when you feel God’s provision; when those around you who come to met you in the pit. Or even better when they drop a line and climb down to rescue you. They accept the risk that if you fall they fall with you. Life is no longer isolated. There is a hand on yours and a word of encouragement in your ear.
I think of our God who reminds us He is the faithful One. Though, at times, His words were drowned out by the grief and His promises hidden in the darkness. His voice was masked by the ripping sound as what was one is torn in two. Strands woven separately into a single cord now torn apart. A foundation once secure is now shaken. Certainties are now doubted. Life’s promises now in question. Children’s questions no longer answered with a simple promise, “It will all be okay.” A child’s simplistic view of life is taken and left with an incomprehensible void. Their minds ill-equipped to handle such truths as death. They are robbed of the gradual realization that life is hard and far crueler then fairy tales. To be a kid, and lose a parent is to be caught between two worlds. A world of total security and a world of scary uncertainty. A world their friends do not understand or even know exists.
As a grieving spouse you find your life is spinning out of control. Your mind entertains thoughts you would have never allowed. Life seems not worth living, as life offers nothing of value. Satan torments you with a plausible solution to end your suffering. As life seems to offer no escape and only in our own death could we find relief. Ginger clearly remembers flying on airplanes wishing the plane would go down taking their lives. These are not suicidal thought but an expression of total hopelessness.
However, God tells us He never leaves us or forsakes us.
More then any other verse, these words come into question when life offers no light but only darkness. How can God be in this? How can such a feeling of hopelessness exist if He is with us? In the midst of this suffering there are no answers. The only solution is to take God at His Word. Though God may seem silent or his voice barley a whisper this is the place where God draws nearest to us.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
Is a willingness to run the race the same as running it?
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.
Is the idea of following Christ and taking up your cross the same as exchanging your own dreams and desires for His?
"Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Is there a part of our life we fear God will ask us to give up? Is there a part of our life we hold in reserve? Do you know if God asks you to do something He will provide all you need to do it?
Do you know the only thing you will regret is the part of you that you do not give to God? That no matter how hard you hold on or how much effort you put into your own life it will never equal what God can do in you. He awaits your willingness to trust Him. He longs to take you into a relationship with Him that will exceed you wildest dreams.
I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.
After talking about our journeys of pain Ginger and I discovered we had both written scriptures on 3x5 index cards to reference when we were hungry for words of hope. God’s Word supplied our needs when this world offered no relief from our pain.
We threw ourselves at the foot of the cross because we could not solve the questions that exists between a mysterious yet loving God and our lives here on earth.
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts declares the LORD.
We accepted the gift of Christ’s shed blood and we entered into a relationship with our loving Father. Will not the same God who loved us before we were saved love us that much more as His children? Would He provide the answer for your salvation and leave us incapable to deal with life? Was His gift some cruel joke? We should not fear what you can not do, for God does not ask us to succeed by our own abilities. That would only point to us. May in our victories people only see Christ’s love and provision. But in a life laid down He sees the canvas of a surrendered heart where He begins to paint His masterpiece. And His promise is it will not be left incomplete.
Hebrews 12 :2
Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.
Ginger and I praise God as we stand in awe as we watch the Master at work in our lives, and we await the reveling of His masterpiece called our family.
Monday, February 11, 2008
If you have not read the updated version of "About Me" at the top of the blog you may want to do that before you read this entry. It explains the changes in my blog and relates to what I have written today. Every blog I have written and every experience I had with Andrea as I dealt with the drawn out process of losing her and every experience Ginger had as she dealt with the sudden loss of Troy as made us the person we need for each other. Unfortunately we have the complete grief story, one sudden, one drawn out, one with small children, and one with older kids. This unique story is for a reason. Today I begin to share where I feel God is leading me. To seek the reason for the pain we endured. To honor Andrea and Troy for the life they lived, a life submitted to God, even though He asked them to lay their life down. Ours is a story of service to God, of thankfulness for His provision and the outpouring of blessings in our life.
This is the first blog about Ginger's and my relationship. Many of you know God brought Ginger into Andrea's and my life in Jan 2006 via emails we exchanged. Since Jan of this year we have found our common experience of losing a spouse has formed a much deeper relationship. Our plan is to be married on Jul 5th 2008. We ask for your prayers as we enter this relationship, especially for our children. We feel God has brought us together to share our unique story in hopes that it helps others who may have lost a spouse or face any difficulty that seems overwhelming. Life can be hard, and losing Troy and Andrea was as hard as it gets, yet God did not end the story there, and this is the first in the account of our continued journey to healing.
This is a letter wrote to some friends about Ginger. I had not intended to post this on the blog as it is personal but what of my blog is not personal? So I'm going to do what I have always done and that is be honest with my life and who I am. I hope it helps you understand me and my relationship with Ginger. I have talked to my boys and I will not comment on their feelings as those are theirs and it is not my place to speak for them. As a parent I do understand the pain this causes them. I understand the issues in bringing two families together. And I understand the risk I take. My prayer is they will be able to understand and accept what Ginger and I feel is God's leading in our life. But I feel God not only has plans to bless us but also the children. We are all included in this joining of two families. I want you to know I understand that is all happening fast, and I understand your concern for me and my kids. I do not enter this relationship without considering the children, in fact both Ginger and I enter this as much for the kids as for ourselves.
It is an amazing story that we hope to share with you through this blog.
I love you all. This is a hard subject to talk about via electronically. I know there are far too many chances of being misunderstood and becoming upset. So I ask that we filter what we read through two through these two thoughts. First, that we love each other as brother and sister in Christ. Second that we know each other, our character and our beliefs. I ask that you trust me knowing who I am and what I believe.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
As we began our journey, I began to look at my life. Of course you go through the expected thoughts, is this because of my sin? Is God punishing us? I did not linger on those thoughts too long, but I did begin to look at my life and my sin, not as a bargaining chip with God and not because I thought if I changed some things God would be obligated to heal Andrea, no I did it because I decided I did not want to live outside of God’s will for my life. I was ready to submit to Him. More than anything it was the fact that I was faced with a situation I had no control over. There was nothing I could rely on at this point but God. Even the doctor told us Andrea needed a miracle. And I needed God to be God and that started with my relationship with Him. Right now there is no cure for Andrea. Dr Atkins hope was to stabilize her condition to keep her alive long enough until a cure was developed. I’m not an expert but that is not good news. But it made it very clear where we needed to place our faith. As I told the doctor, “So you are saying there is no cure for Andrea, good then when she is healed you will know it was God.”
As I began to look at my life I quickly saw a sin I had to deal with. In fact God brought this to my attention during round one of the cancer but I did not deal with it. I loved my wife too much. That may seem like a strange comment so let me explain. Andrea is very strong in her faith, in fact I saw it the moment I first met her. It was something in her eyes. I saw all I needed; I saw kindness, love, and gentleness. I saw the spirit of God, and I wanted it in my life. Well I found it very easy in life to rely on Andrea’s faith. I think if I was at heaven's door and I was asked why I deserved to enter, I would say, “Well did I mention I know Andrea.” I failed to develop my own faith and my own personal relationship with Christ. Now it was time to face the fact that Andrea was an idol in my life. I had placed her above God. I worshiped her more than God. I put all my effort into building my relationship with Andrea at the expense of my relationship with God. And to be honest I was good at it. I received many compliments and praises that I found rewarding. So I found myself seeking the praises of men and before I knew it I was full into idol worship, and it was perfectly disguised.
As I began to step out from under Andrea’s faith and develop a deeper relationship with my creator, I was able to see my sin and repent. It hit me one night after Andrea and I had prayed, she said, “Jim what are you going to do when I’m healed? If your relationship is only built upon the intensity of this trial, what are you going to do when it is over? You need to have a faith of your own, a faith built upon your own relationship with God.” Andrea is a very wise woman of faith, and God used her that night to speak to me. When I was freed from my sin and I had God in his proper place I have found that my love for Andrea is deeper and more satisfying than ever before. God promises us life and a more abundant life. That is so true, what I thought was perfect love for Andrea, turned out to be as much about my own selfish desires as it was about loving Andrea, but now I have experienced a love for Andrea far beyond anything I have ever known.
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
Fear or faith
Worry or Trust
The physical or the spiritual
This is what Andrea faced every moment of every day for 4 yrs and 4 months.
This is what we face today. I’m not saying there is no grief in Andrea’s passing, that to feel the pain is somehow wrong. The grief we feel is a reflection of the love we had for Andrea. It is a God given emotion in response to a God given love. As our old pastor used to say, “Don’t hear what I’m not saying.”
All I want to say today you and to myself is as difficult as this day is, and the days that lay ahead for me and the boys, we have to remember to look at the other side of the coin. The side Andrea lived by. It was her witness to us. It is how she carried her cross.
This is how Andrea faced this trial; it is how she lived her life. She loved God so deeply there was nothing she would not do for Him, even suffer cancer.
Nic reminded me of something Andrea told us when she was first told she had cancer. She said “I don’t want to die but if God could use my death to help us (our kids) understand how much God loved us or help us grow in our relationship with Him she was willing to die”. She always believed she would be healed but she accepted the reality of her death. She did not see death as a negative because she knew God would use whatever happened for His glory, and therefore she was not afraid.
There is nothing she would not do for any of us. That is why she suffered in silence. Yet all the time she was helping us shoulder our own burden. Those who were blessed enough to sit with Andrea in the chemo room witnessed this. Not only did she carry her cross by faith, she also had the faith to reach out to us. It was opposite of what you would expect. So many came to Andrea with the intention of helping her face this cancer, and left realizing it was Andrea who had them.
As she laid in the ICU for 22 days, her concern was for us. It was why she told me to be strong when I took her to the ER. It was why she waited on the edge of the bed for me to come to terms with taking her to the hospital. I have no doubt when I walked out, she prayed for my faith and my strength. She needed me to fall back on my faith, to be strong. I think she knew I would be okay, as if she saw that moment as a final exam in my class titled faith. One day I was struggling with my faith and Andrea said to me “One day Jim you have to have your own faith, if your faith is wrapped up in me what will you do when this is over?”
She was always drawing us into a deeper relationship with God, and she willingly laid down her life to do it. There was nothing she would not do to make me a more Godly man, father, and husband.
She felt the same about everyone she met. No matter where you were in your walk with God. When I would read her the emails of how people were praying and their accounts of how Andrea had changed their lives, she would smile and nod, yes, yes. As if to say, yes this is worth it. In your lives she saw purpose in dieing. When Christ came to her and asked, “Andrea how much do you love me?”
She said, “With all my heart, with all my soul with all my strength, and with all my mind.”
He said, “Will you stretch out your arms for me?”
Without hesitation Andrea said, “Yes Lord, though my desire is to see my children’s children, thy will be done.”
That is what we witnessed these past four years. A life laid down, in faith and we all benefited from her sacrifice.
I want you to know Andrea carried her cross by faith. Her example is one of Christ’s love. Not a love judged by what she gained on earth, but a loved measured by what she has now. A love we were all blessed to witness. A love when understood not in the physical but in the spiritual draws us into thanks and praise to a loving God for having chosen us to be a witness to Andrea’s life. God loved Andrea in her death as much as He did in her life.
A love that helps us right now when we face our grief and our loss. How do we respond to a life taken far to early in human terms? A life of such faith seemingly unfairly taken. How do we respond? We choose to see life and death from an eternal perspective, form God’s view point, and in doing so we see the other side of the coin. The side that reminds us where what is really important in life. That was Andrea’s example to us, two sides of a coin, 2 choices, the physical or the spiritual the flesh or faith. Andrea faced every day with reminders of her battle, yet she chose to see her life and death in terms of God’s promises. Promises that are not about making her life on earth comfortable or easy that fade in value but in terms of eternity. For her faithfulness she entered the presence of her savior at 1:07 on Dec 17th 2007. In that instance time no longer existed for Andrea, and on her head was placed a crown of glory whose value far exceeded anything of this life we fought for over the past four yrs and four months. In that moment Andrea’s choice to see the other side of the coin was rewarded.
I will close with another entry from Andrea’s prayer journal written on Aug 19th 2005
This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life.
Lord, you’ve taught me how to live and I choose you. And by choosing you I choose life. I love you and worship you. I believe, I choose life. I love you, Andrea.
Thursday Night - 2 Tylenol, slight flu like symptoms.
Friday - No side effects - felt great!
Saturday - No side effects - felt great
Sunday - Early am hot spots - night sweats
Monday - Flu like symptoms aching all day, especially my trunk. chest, lip, and knees. Swelling still down my hand. Still have neuropathy. Aching in my pelvis.
Tuesday - Less body aches, neuropathy in hand, heels are so tender, have been for about four days. A little tired
Wednesday - Not much aches until 4pm. Then chest legs shoulders. A little tired in the pm. Nap for 1 hour.
Thursday - Chemo day, Abraxine, Gemzar, double dose of Herceptin. Palettes were low. Very little aching. No fever tonight PTL (Praise the Lord) My hair on my head and eyelashes appear to be coming back! PTL, please God let it continue to grow and not fall out. 1 1/2 hour nap.
Friday - Some aching tired. Saturday - No side effects, tired
Sunday - No side effects, PTL
Monday - No side effects! Healed jaw, PTL.
Tuesday - Tired, took nap in the afternoon.
Thursday - My stomach has been hurting all day.
Friday No bleeding today.
Saturday - 1 1/2 hr nap. felt good
Monday - No side effects neuropathy bad in the pm Voice good PTL! No nap, no bleeding
Thursday - Chemo day fever, fatigue, neuropathy
Friday - Aching in my knees stomach hurt, took a nap
Saturday - Felt great in am, got to clean the house today. Nose bleed aching in trunk and legs, 1 hour nap, voice not to bad, neuropathy
Sunday - No aches in am. Aches at 4pm, took 1 1/2 nap, voice not as good as it has been
Monday - Aches tired voice better
Tuesday - Aches especially in the knees
Wednesday - Aches in afternoon tired
Thursday - Chemo day - Still have neuropathy voice problem eye problem but my mouth is fabulous
Friday - Tired aches
Saturday Tired aches
Sunday - Very tired, slept through sermon. Sweat a lot at night
Monday - Very tired slept till 10:45, got up for 1 1/2 hr slept another hour or so. Aches in hand knees and calves.
Tuesday - Felt good, no nap little aches
Wednesday - Got shot for low blood count. Some bone aching after the shot. Slept until 11:00 nap for 30 minutes.
Friday - CT scan nothing PTL
Saturday - Felt great, slept 30 mins,
Sunday - Felt great no nap, Monday - Felt extra great No nap Scan results, very good! Few questionable spots on liver and lungs. Spleen and lymph nodes were great.
Friday - Felt good, just tired. Slept till about 11:30. Took 2 hr nap. Some aches around 5pm, Some more bone came out of my jaw. PTL Sunday - Forgot to write but I think I felt good
Monday - Very tired
Tuesday - I feel great. I took chemo last Thursday, took double Avastin and Herceptin since we are going on a trip to Texas next week. I feel really good today.