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Saturday, May 31, 2008


Well I'm sad to say this world has lost another mighty man of God. A true man of faith. A tower of strength, Skip Ficthner.

Skip is the father of my dear friend Lori Jo. It was her family that first came to Andrea's and my rescue after we learned Andrea's cancer returned. I have written about this amazing family before but tonight I want to pay tribute to Skip.

It was July 2007 when Andrea started back into chemo and it was a difficult time as you can imagine. Cancer not only tries to consume your body, but it can consume your mind and your thoughts to the point where you can't think about anything else but odds of survival, and what to eat, drink or do to beat this disease. And that is a real battle you have to fight. It is a struggle to just live, to be normal, to not allow cancer to control your living as it dictates your death.

It was Lori Jo and her family that reached out to Andrea and allowed us to be normal. Like I said in my previous blog, "A Day At The Beach" on May 11 07, it was the Duvalls that gave Andrea and I an escape from cancer. But is was Skip that stood in and prayed over Andrea, laid hands on her and anointed her with oil. I still remember the strength I felt whenever I was blessed to hear Skip pray for Andrea. He spoke with the confidence of a man of faith. A man who had seen difficulty in his life yet still still grew in his faith. He gave me strength to be the husband Andrea needed me to be. He was an example of faith to me. He gave me a calmness, because I knew his words were spoken not from a book he read but from the life he lived. He spoke of his mistakes in life, he spoke of his faith in God and Andrea and I were the beneficiaries of Skip's faithfulness. I count myself lucky to have known Skip, Norma, Lee, and the Duvalls. They are a family that lives out the faith they profess, and I believe that is due mostly to Skip, a Godly father and husband.

I will miss Skip. I will miss his laugh when he played with the girls. I will miss his wisdom he passed to Brack. I will miss his example to me of how to live for the Lord. I should be so blessed to be a man like Skip Fichtner. In a very short span I have seen two people of great faith leave this world. It is sad for those of us left to live without them in our lives. But it is also a little intimidating to know we must step up and fill those big shoes they left behind. I feel inadequate at times but I can hear Andrea and Skip telling us, "You can do it, just believe what you know to be true."

But today I had to smile a little bit today knowing He saw Andrea again. I can only begin to imagine the reunion they had. I just see them with big smiles on their faces because they both had great smiles that expressed the joy they had in their hearts. Skip's was a life lived out for what truly matters, God and family.

Have a nice day with Jesus you two.

See you in a little bit.

Friday, May 30, 2008

To My Love

My past two or three blogs have been about my love for Andrea. Mainly as she was on my mind as our anniversary approached. My life today is not how I thought it would be on April 30th 1983 when Andrea and I were married. But that is okay for I doubt any of our lives are what we thought they would be when we were young. And to tell you the truth I would not change a thing about my life. When I express my feelings in this blog I usually do so unfiltered. Many of you who know me realized that about me. But I guess there are people who read this blog now that may not know me at all or know me well enough to understand me. When I say I would not change anything about my life I do so because I believe fully that where I am is where God wants me and there really nowhere else I want to be. Does that mean I got here without pain? No. Does that mean I got here with a smile on my face thanking God for every difficulty in my life? No. What it means is that I would rather be the man I am today; having gone through the pain of losing my wife then to have remained unchanged and have Andrea with me. That may sound harsh to some of you but if my purpose is to be conformed to the likeness of Christ and that was furthered in my pain then as the song by Mercy Me says, "Bring the rain." And I will tell you Andrea wanted it this way as well. That is what she told me and that is what she wrote and most importantly that is how she lived and died.

Do I jump for joy in her death? Certainly not which is obvious in my past writings. But in my pain I see the faithfulness of my God and as the scripture says, and my good friend Al reminded me, I needed to "Be thankful IN all things." Not be thankful FOR all things. For difficulties if faced with the right perspective can make us better, more mature in our faith and I believe ready to be used by God in the future. Because I believe all I have gone through as a purpose and reason. So let me tell you why I'm thankful and what I see has part of the purpose of "why" this all happened.

As I wrote in a recent entry, the man I am is due to my experience with living, loving and losing Andrea, and the person I am is a perfect fit with the person Ginger needs. Just as she is to me for having gone through her loss of Troy. That is a very difficult thing to say, and I do not say it lightly for I know the price that was paid by all of us.

As I begin my life with Ginger I do so with amazing joy, and thankfulness for the blessings God has given me. I trust God as He leads me into this phase of my life, and I believe Ginger and I meeting was part of God's plan for our lives. I believe this is a continuation of the thread of my growth and maturity if my faith. It is an amazing gift to be loved the way I am twice in a life time. And I as go through the grief of losing Andrea I do so as I said with a eternal view and I see Ginger as a gift from God and a clear answer to part of the question why this happen. If I could describe how I feel to be with Ginger I would. But her love is amazing, and her words speak right to my soul. They comfort me in ways only she could and they tell me I am where God wants me to be.

All this includes our seven children all who have endured pain and learned the harshness of life at far to young an age. Boston, Greyson, Bella, Aspen and Annalise need a dad, and Nic and Anthony need a mom. We all need to be a family and God has given us that gift again. It is a home forged in the pain of loss, but it only makes each of us realize how special the gift we have been given. We have all felt a deep loss but we also have the ability to love that much deeper.

What I'm trying to say is I know where I have been has prepared me to be where I am today. And the same God who led me to Andrea on April 19th 1980 is the same God who led me to Ginger in Jan 07 when she received one of my monthly email updates on how Andrea was doing. I love that God allowed the two women I love to be connected in my life. I do not see my life as two separate lives but the continuation of one blessed life, orchestrated by God, the events interwoven into a beautiful tapestry.

I have said I do not have the words to describe the pain of losing Andrea, and maybe at times I have written my blogs when my feelings were still very raw. But I do that because I see the blog as my journal of my experiences, a place I can go back to later in life and remember. Maybe posting these thoughts in a "public" forum is not the best way to go. I know the reader does not know the thoughts behind my words or the events that triggered my thought to write the blog.

But I also cannot find the right words to describe the joy and the gift that Ginger and the kids are in my life. I feel a depth of love in Ginger's words to me. It is just another reminder of God's love for me. Because of the depth of our pain is equaled by the height of our joy it only heightens the realization of the depth of God's love for us and the assurance that He has a plan for our life. As I wrote in my last blog, I knew God was with me the day I heard the song, "All I have sown" and that was the same day Andrea had her "meeting" with the Lord,. Just as I know He is with us as I look at the amazingly beautiful story of Ginger and my life. Our children only heighten that awareness. When I hold the girls or put my arm around Greyson or Boston I feel such a sense of peace. When I hear Ginger talk to Nic or Anthony and her desire to be what they need in there life I know we are exactly where God placed us. I am in His will and I await the revelation of the rest of His magnificent plan. I know what we all went through was not just for us to have this joy but to be used by Him for His glory.

But I will be honest it has been hard at times to understand my love for Ginger. It was not unexpected because Andrea was my first love, initially it was hard for me to reconcile my feelings for Ginger and not feel I was somehow betraying my love for Andrea or her memory. But with the same eternal perspective that I look at my loss. I also use to look at the blessing of Ginger in my life. It is all God's plan. And I am ready to live the life God is leading me, I pray I never forget the lessons I learned up to this point and that I will be the husband Ginger needs and the father our kids deserve.

So it is with a humble joy that I begin my life with Ginger. I am as happy as I have ever been in my life. I love Ginger with all that I am. Her presence in my life calms my fears. Her tenderness and compassion as I have dealt with my grief are a blessing as I know her words come from one who totally understands me. Her touch soothes me. I thought I would never experience unconditional love in my life again, yet I am. I look with excitement and anticipation of our life beginning. I know that none of this slights my love for Andrea or her memory. Andrea's departure from my life and Troy's departure from Ginger's life were not of our choosing. And as sad as that can be it also brings a certain comfort when viewed with an eternal perspective, through the eyes of faith and trust in God.

And is not that how Troy and Andrea lived? I think nothing honors their memory more than Ginger and I coming together in faith that God is leading us.

Well I will call it a night. Ginger is away for the night shooting a commercial for a foundation that raises money for kids who lost a parent in the war. I think it is supposed to run this summer during PGA events, so keep your eye out for it. I made it through my first night as Mr. Mom, Praise God!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Psalm 115:1
Not to us, O LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory,
because of your love and faithfulness.

This is the prologue to Ginger’s entry of happy. As we were talking the other day she was telling me how she felt happy, and I was saying I just feel normal. Normal, I never thought that would be my reaction after two weeks of marriage. I continue to adjust to my life, understanding my past my present and my future.

Losing a spouse involves so much more then the initial blow of the loss. In the first days of loss my pain was superficial and as time as gone on I have understood the depths of my loss and the many levels of who I am that were affected by losing Andrea. You would think after 4 years I would have been better prepared but I guess I did not think about losing Andrea other then the initial impact. What would I do about a funeral, really no more than the initial days. In a way I just couldn’t imagine what I would do beyond that because to think of life without Andrea was not really possible. At least at the detail of what everyday life will be like. Plus I was so focused on living I did not allow myself to think beyond the initial thought of living without Andrea. We were fighting to live and we were in the trenches together. It was hand to hand combat but we loved our life for no other reason than it was ours. Normal for us was 3-4 doctor appointments a week, sickness, a lot of time at home and constant prescriptions to be filled, pills to be divided into days and nights, back rubs and heating pads for the pain. That was our normal. I had forgotten what simply living was like. I longed to just live, it was Andrea's and my dream, and we did our best to adjust to cancer and make our life normal as it could be.

Then it hit me as I came home from work one day and I called Ginger and asked if I needed to pick anything up from the store. My life was normal. I got up for work took Anthony to school and came home to Ginger cooking dinner, unpacking of course, and if time and energy allowed a little time to relax together. But do you really want to know what I noticed first? It was when I laid my head on Ginger’s chest and I did not hear anything, I just felt the gentle rise and fall of her breathing. Her breathing was so quite that I could hear it. There was no rattling in her lungs, no strain in her breath, no accelerated pace, no struggle for air, no weakness to walk, she is healthy. It hit me how I had all I had prayed for, my life was normal.

I will tell you I have had to adjust to life without Andrea and it has proven more difficult then I had thought. Strangely it is how wonderful my life is that seemed to be the hardest. And to be truthful I never saw this as a potential area of difficulty. So much of my identity was in Andrea and fighting cancer and it ended so suddenly on Dec 17th. It was like standing in the front row of a concert and suddenly the music stops, it is silent but you still hear the music ringing in your ears. That is what it is like, the intensity is gone, the pressure of the fight, Andrea no longer needs my every attention and yet I found myself looking around as if I should be doing something I just did not know what to do. Life suddenly made no demands of me. I guess I did not realize how consuming the battle had been. And the silence only reminded me of the price that was paid. But Ginger took away the silence in my life. She came to me exhausted from her own battle, seeking normalcy in her life. Her smile warmed me and her words comforted me.

Ginger, who I know God blessed me with is the only person who could make me feel loved in my very soul. I want to explain it but it is hard for me, yet I feel I must try for you to understand the miracle that occurred in our lives. And it is nothing short of a miracle, unlike anything in my life. All I can tell you is there are very few things in my life that I have been so sure of. When I met Ginger in Junction, Texas, half way between San Antonio and her parent’s home in San Angelo, Ginger expressed how she felt about me. I will never forget that day because it was then that I knew she loved me. Her words felt like they physically touched me, deep within me, it was a connection that caught me off guard, but it was a feeling of absolute comfort, and trust. I have known love and I have been loved by Andrea but this was different. I never expected to feel this way again; I did not think it was possible. It is not that Ginger’s love is better or purer than what I had before in my life, it is just different. I knew at that moment when Ginger told me how she felt, and I saw her feelings expressed in her eyes we were brought together by God. I had found in Ginger someone like Andrea, whom I could trust with my feelings and with who I am. I had no fear of being hurt, taken advantage of, I saw in Ginger someone who loved me as herself, and that is how I had loved and how I would love if was to ever love again. That more than anything is what told me Ginger was put in my life by God, to be my soul mate, to become my partner in life. I knew that everything else would fall into place, I did not know how, but I knew it would. The kids, all 7, were part of this plan. this miracle was not for just Ginger and I, exclusively for our happiness, it included all of us. I trusted God, I trusted He would work out the details. And He has. For each day I find a deeper understanding of God's plan in our life. My life is different in so many ways, yet similar in every way that matters and I'm thankful for it. I trust in God's unfailing love who provided it.

So as I drove home the other day and the thought hit me, my life was normal. I could not help but reflect on all that had happened in my life. I turned down the radio and listened to the silence of normalcy. It is going to take some adjusting to and I will have to relearn what to do with myself and my time. The intensity of life has lessened but I think 6 kids in the house will fill a lot of my time, and I’m sure, take away most of the silence. But then again I have found the silence a little uncomfortable.

Psalm 116:1
I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


I (Ginger)was driving down the street to our new home in San Antonio the other day and it occurred to me that I was feeling something I had not felt for a long time happiness. Not that there have not been sweet simple moments of happiness over the last year and a half. But not this kind. The deep, permeating, all-encompassing warmth of total happiness. I welcomed the foreign feeling with gratitude. I drove the tree-lined street to our new home and thanked the Lord for His generous provision. There are no promises of happiness in this life. I think when your life becomes so stripped away of all joy like it does when devastation enters in, you realize that sadness now lives where happiness once did. I see it on people's faces now so much more easily after having seen my own sad face in the mirror after losing Troy. It's like the light in your heart dims so much that it doesn't reach all the way to your eyes anymore. I look at pictures taken of me (and even a few of the kids too) where we just have the saddest eyes. We smiled in the photos but those smiles never made it to our eyes. The old saying that the eyes are a window to the soul never rang more true than when I would look at my own reflection. Now I wonder what do my eyes say?

So much has happened in the last month. I have been inspired to write so many blog entries lately but just haven't had the time to pull them out of my head and onto paper. I still want to write about my trip to the Holy Land and my last weeks in Phoenix packing up Troy's things. Later I suppose. As I type right now I am riding in the car hoping to finish before we arrive back home. I know the Lord will give me recall on the ones He wants me to finish. He has so faithfully stood by my side through the darkest hours, through the waiting, and now through the joy of wholeness. Though my sad eyes did not always reflect it, I know He was no nearer or farther to me during each of those phases. He never left me though I often didn't sense His presence. He never stopped working His divine plan out though I felt like I was wandering directionless. God is so steady. He isn't fickle. He doesn't tire. He isn't an unconditional lover of my soul. He had my future right there next to me and just said, "Wait, my child, until I unveil it for you."

As I recognized I was finally through and through happy again on that pretty drive the other day, I knew the veil was starting to lift. I will not lie and say it is an easy thing to choose to trust when you are waiting on the plans He has for us to unfold. At times it is literally the hardest thing you will ever do - to NOT DO. I am a doer and everyone that knows me knows I am. A frustrating thing happened to me when I couldn't "do" anything to change my situation. But a freeing thing also happened. It became all about what the Lord could do. Jim and I have discussed this topic at length. There was nothing he could do to heal Andrea. There was nothing I could do to make life good for me and for my children after Troy died. So we just surrendered our desires to the Lord and begged Him for provision through the pain and for the living hope of a full life again someday that only comes from Him. He has restored my life.

It wasn't overnight. It was bit by bit. In my days before having 5 children I used to quilt. I remember piecing those small fabric squares together for days and days on end, never believing it would actually look like something in the end. And then one day I would run that last seam, flip it over and it was a little piece of art. That's what I feel like, a piece of patchwork that the Lord put together. Fragments of my old beautiful traditional life with Troy, pieces of my broken loneliness and now bits of my new-found sunshine with Jim all woven together by the Master Weaver. Far prettier and much more amazing than anything I could have ever tried to create on my own.

Jim and I joined our lives in holy matrimony last Monday, May 5th, 2008 in Phoenix before a very small group of family and friends the day before I left Arizona for good. It was time for everyone to view the masterpiece God had been working on. Our children needed to see it. Our family and friends needed to see it. But most of all we were ready to see it. Ready to live it. Live the next chapter. And now we begin our lives at the end of that tree-lined street. We will still celebrate on July 5th just like we planned. I figure Jim is wonderful enough to keep track of two wedding anniversaries. :) Between his family and mine, we have all had lots of reasons to be sad. Those continue to make us into who Christ wants us to be. But now we have lots of reasons to be happy. Jim will post a blog later titled "Normal". It's the prologue to "Happy". Maybe later this weekend (when he is not on a ladder with a hammer in one hand and a picture in another) he will have time.

Here are a few pictures a friend took at the wedding.

Our cake the hotel gave us

Our good friend, Lin, walked Ginger down the aisle
The beautiful Arizona sky reminds
us that God is watching over us

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mothers Day

Nic and Kate

A Happy Dad Thinking About His pay Raise

The Big Moment

This has been another hard day that I'm glad is over. I knew Mother's Day was going to have a special meaning for me this year as I lost my Mom in November and Andrea in December but also God has poured out abundant blessings on me by bringing Ginger and me together. So this was a day of mixed emotions, both sadness at what i have lost but joy at what I have gained. Truthfully sometimes I find it hard to express or even allow myself to totally feel my joy. I'm sure that will fade I continue to adjust to my life, my past and my future. It is hard to believe all that happened to me but it did. In some ways it seems like I could not have lost my mom and my wife as if I'm looking at someone else. But I'm not.

So as I sit in Nic's apartment at the end of the day I feel a sense of relief that this day is over. However I can't help but think of how truly blessed I am. My losses only hurt because of the great blessings I have had. My Mom and Andrea were towers of strength and Ginger is a blessing I never thought was possible. Of course I reflected on my Mom yesterday, her amazing way that she raised 8 children, taught us the importance of education, to have a work ethic, and what it meant to be a family. She was an example of sacrifice and the importance of loving others. I miss calling her, or seeing her bright smile and the excitement on her face whenever I visited her. Sometimes I think losing someone is hard because I just feel sorry for myself and what I have lost. The time to talk to my mom or Andrea, to laugh with them, I lost all that. They are both far happier then I will ever be in this life and when I think of that it tends to remove the sting of the loss.

Yesterday I spent a lot of time thinking of Andrea the mother of my children. I think I have sufficiently expressed what I thought of Andrea and all she meant to us boys. But yesterday as I watched Nic walk the stage, I was sad that Andrea did not live to share the day with us, but I proud of Nic for walking because I know that was hard for him as well. Yesterday, for the first time since I lost Andrea I felt as if I could see her, or sense her. I have struggled with this since she died. I could remember her and things we did but I could not "see" her. I know this does not make sense, but it was like I knew of her but could not see her. As I drove to our old house, drove to the Metro stop she would drop me off and pick me up every day, I could see her sitting next to me. I could see her smile as we talked about Nic and his graduation. I felt her in ways I had not since she died. She had a beautiful smile, and she was beaming with pride. Her eyes sparkled like they would when she was happy. I placed my hand on her seat and I missed her so very much.

But I have to tell you that although I'm sad for my loss, I thankful to God for all He gave me. A loving Mom who raised me, and two amazing women to be my wife. I always knew Andrea was a gift from God a blessing I did not think could ever be matched in my life, but God has showered me with such abundant blessing in Ginger that I almost feel guilty. I thought I would have never loved again as I loved Andrea and I truthfully, I would have had no right to complain for I was blessed with a thousand life times of love during my marriage to Andrea. But God had a plan for Ginger and I. He led us together even while we did not see how He could possibly bless our lives with a relationship equal to what we had. We were destined to suffer, and we were destined to be together.

So in my sadness of the day I also see God's loving hand on my life. I am blessed with seven wonderful children, my quiver is full! Plus, Ginger speaks to my soul and touches my spirit in ways I cannot explain. When I look into her eyes I feel a depth of love that as times I cannot comprehend and that only reminds me of the uniqueness of our relationship that could only come for God. It is very humbling and comforting to me, and it helps me when I look back on my life. As I look at my life I can't help but be filled with joy.

Happy Mother's Day Mom, Andrea and Ginger.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Congratulations Nic!

Tomorrow Nic graduates from American University Magna Cum Laude. Until I asked Nic I was unaware what that meant other then he must have had good grades. Does that tell you a little something about how I did in college?

Anyway this day much like Andrea's and my 25th anniversary is a day of reflection. Reflection on my life with Andrea and raising our son Nic. I will tell you he when he was in elementary school his teachers did not predict Nic would even be able to attend graduate college much less with graduate with honors.

Let me tell you about Nic, a little boy who loved life, had a great imagination and was an absolute joy to raise. Nic attended first grade in Phoenix Arizona and Andrea volunteered in his class. Andrea noticed Nic never liked to read out loud but otherwise was a normal happy child. When we arrived in Alaska for our first tour (92-95) Nic attended the base school. I remember Andrea calling me at work with bad news. (A event that would repeat itself on our second assignment in Alaska (01-04) only that time it would be a call about cancer.)

Andrea called because the teacher told us Nic could not read or do math and was going to be moved to a class for "special" kids and held back a grade. Andrea decided the best thing to do was to pull Nic out of school and home school him herself. Andrea spent the next year and a half teaching Nic reading and math. We had Nic tested and found out he was Dyslexic. Two years later we moved to North Carolina and Nic was able to attend a private school with Andrea's constant involvement with the teachers ensuring they gave Nic accommodations. Andrea was Nic's advocate and taught the teachers and students what it meant to be dyslexic.

We left North Carolina for Kansas and the school on base told us they were unable to teach Nic so Andrea home schooled Nic again. After that we moved to Turkey were Andrea again home schooled Nic up to 9th grade. Then in 2001 we returned to Alaska and we put Nic in a private school for 11th and 12th grade. After years of Andrea's hard work, studying and teaching herself about dyslexia we returned to Alaska and Nic was elected into the honor society his senior year. I know Andrea was far more knowledgeable then 99% of the teachers on Dyslexia.

My sister Maureen reminded me yesterday of a time we were visiting and I was upset because I did not think Nic was going to be able to attend college. At the time Nic's writing was a language of its own. His spelling was so bad I think only Andrea and I could read it. I did not see any way for Nic to function in school other then with Andrea's constant oversight, and it does not look to good to take Mom to college with you. But God gave Andrea wisdom to help Nic. She was also a valedictorian herself and graduated high school with a 3.9 GPA. She was an amazing woman in so many ways.

Andrea always made those around her better. Weather it is me as a husband and a father, or Nic as a student and a man, or her friends in their faith, Andrea always gave of herself. I have thought of her a lot and I have had so many people tell me how watching Andrea in her last years changed them. Some feel guilty for having benefited in their own life from Andrea's death. But that is how Andrea lived her whole life, and you can see that reflected in her journal writings, her personal thoughts written not for others but an expression of her most personal thoughts.

So tomorrow when Nic walks for his diploma it will be Andrea that walks beside him. When he takes the diploma it will be Andrea that smiles the biggest smile. I wish I could see her, but I know she will be there. Tomorrow is Andrea's and Nic's day. A day to remember the special bond they had as Mother and son. They fought many battles unbelievable struggles and overcame incredible odds to be here right now and Nic is well aware all Andrea did for him to walk the stage. It will be a great day. It will be another hard day. It is life.

Nic: Your Mom and I are proud of you! Never let life tell you what you are capable of or dictate you’re potential. You witnessed firsthand what most people only read about, a life lived by faith; a life lived not for temporal gain but with an eternal perspective. You mom loved you so very much. Remember her tomorrow. Remember her smile when she watched you succeed. Remember her gentle encouragement and her tenacity to never give up. Remember her Faith and dedication to us, her family. Remember her greatest joy was our success. And know that the most important things in life are not what you make or take is your faith in God and what you give and leave to others.

I Love you,