Featured Post

Perfect Imperfection

Tonight we put up our Christmas tree, the first Ravella/Gilbert tree. Actually we have two trees. One is artificial. It is perfect. It has p...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Family

Webster dictionary defines a Family as:

1. A group of individuals living under one roof
2 A group of persons of common ancestry
3 A group of people united by certain convictions or a common affiliation

When Ginger and I got married we spoke and thought about the family God had created referring to the nine of us. But as I began to see at our wedding in Phoenix and again here in San Antonio, there are many more people that I would call "family."

Of course you initially think of your brothers and sisters, mom and dad when you think about family. And I have been blessed with an amazing family in that respect. And when I married Andrea I was welcomed into an equally fantastic family. June my mother in law is a wonderful woman who would buy Andrea and I food when we were in college at Texas A&M. Whenever we would come home for a visit she would load our car full with groceries. I don't think we would have made it without the Kraft Macaroni and Cheese or box spaghetti that June gave us. Andrea's Dad, Doyle, married us and helped me find my first job. I was helping Doyle roof a church he was building and we stopped by Duo Fast to pick up some staples and nails when the salesman asked me if I needed a job. I said "Yes!" I had just graduated college and married Andrea and my current job of maintenance man for a company in College Station was not exactly what I had in mind after college. Not to mention I was a pretty bad "fix it guy." As Andrea would say, I could hire someone to fix the car for $300.00 or do it myself for $100.00 and then have to pay someone to fix what I had broken for an additional $400.00.

I never expected to marry again. I was quickly introduced to my new family in San Angelo and Phoenix. Ginger's parents, Jay and Judi although understandably cautious made me feel right at home. And it was when I went to visit Ginger in Phoenix that I saw the "family" I was joining was more than just in laws, it also included people who loved and supported Ginger during the 18 months since Troy had died. They are a special group much like the Chemo girls that supported Andrea every week during chemo. They all are examples of sacrificial love and I'm proud to call them family. People who helped clean Ginger's home, or do laundry, cook a meal, or most importantly held Ginger when she grieved. Men, who took the boys camping, set up basketball goals, doll houses, or a trampoline. Friends, who sat with Andrea, brought her drinks and food in the chemo room. Friends who faced the harshness of the ICU just to let Andrea know she was not alone. You are all family.

But this past weekend when I went to Ginger's annual family reunion made me think about family and this blog. It is a tradition that began in 1952 after a son who had been kidnapped was returned and the family gathered to celebrate God blessings. The tradition continues to this day and I was blessed to meet my new family this weekend. People who have been praying for Ginger since Troy died, people who felt the pain along with Ginger and the kids. The reunion began with twelve kids and their families, and it is these 12 "tribes" as they are called that gather each year in central Texas. I could not help but think of the impact of the parents of these 12 kids as I looked at this huge gathering of people and saw on the wall a family tree with a leaf for each member of the family. I was told Anthony and Nic and I had been added to the tree. Sometimes I think we forget the impact of simply being a mom and dad. We seek validation of who we are in our work or bank accounts. But this weekend I saw the impact of being a Godly parent as I listened to the members of two of the tribes pay tribute to their parents who had passed away I could not help but be humbled to be a part of this family. It was like they had all been behind Ginger, unknown to me, hidden from my mind and my sight, until now when ours lives were suddenly intertwined. Once separate we are now family. Once unknown to me, a stranger I could have passed on the street and never said a word, were now my family.

It was a great weekend. I met wonderful people who loved me and cared about me for the simple reason that I had married Ginger, and in doing so I went from stranger to family. This weekend I realized my family has grown in many ways I had not thought about. It reaches far beyond us 9, Ginger, Nic, Anthony, Boston, Greyson, Isabella, Aspen, Annalise or I. It is the joining of four families and many friends all of whom have a special place in our hearts. All of whom are our family.

You see death cannot sever family bonds in fact it has done the opposite, it has grown our family. My family tree is now a branch of four families, Ravella/Sullivan, Fuller/Brumley, Gurley/Wiman, and Gilbert, and so many friends.

This weekend I realized once again how blessed we are to have all of you in our life.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Our Family; God's Masterpiece

This is the slide show we made for the wedding. It is put to two songs both by Jeremy Camp. The first song is "I Still Believe." Jeremy wrote this song after his wife died of cancer and it spoke to Ginger as well as Andrea and me as we all went through our trials and clung to the Lord. The second song is "Beyond Measure." This song was on Jeremy's last album and it was written after he remarried. It is a song that expresses how God has blessed him again, but more importantly how we are nothing apart from God. His ability to express the emotions of losing a spouse, or any tragedy for that matter is amazing. I could always feel the pain and his humble spirit in his songs. Andrea and I went to a Jeremy Camp concert in 2005 while living in DC. It was a moving experience as he told the story behind "I Still Believe" and "I Will Walk by Faith" knowing the reality of Andrea's diagnoses. It was equally moving when this past February Ginger and I went to a Jeremy Camp concert sang these songs together.

As we began planning our wedding Ginger and I both wanted to include Troy and Andrea in the ceremony because they made us who we are. Between us we were married 40 wonderful years and we thought Jeremy Camp's words expressed how we felt.

As Ginger said at the wedding and in her last blog, it is okay to feel sadness and happiness when you watch this video. I know this video will be difficult in many ways for you to watch, it was for Ginger and I, but I also know it reflects God's provision and blessings. In doing so this video is sad and uplifting. I have found that dealing with these emotions coexisting has been difficult. It is not just unhappy and happy, it is the extremes of sadness and joy and that does not usually exist at the same time.

That is a unique aspect of our marriage, we live with these two emotions and we are able to express them to each other and help each other as we work through our feelings. We both deeply miss Troy and Andrea, yet we feel God's hand guiding us in a very real way, and that gives us the strength we need.

Our prayer is that God will give us the opportunity to share Troy's and Andrea's stories as well as our life in hopes that it would encourage others. I don't want anyone to think that because of our joy that we somehow are ready to praise God, as if God had left us when we hurt and as someone reappeared in our life. As I said at our wedding, God has never left us, even in the darkest of moments when Ginger heard the knock on her door or when Dr Atkins told Andrea she had incurable metastatic cancer in her liver, lungs and bones. It is not the removal of difficulty that is evidence of God's presence rather the ability to handle what you lack the ability or strength to handle. We have both had the hardest of days, days when we could not see how we would ever make it to the next minute much less the next day. And it is only when you look back you ask, "How did I make it?" that you know it was God providing your strength. He was there in the moment even though you may have felt totally alone. It was not by removing the trial or our pain for there we still many difficult days, but it was by helping us go through the trial that God deserves all praise. Sometimes He helped in silence, sometimes He helped through your acts of kindness. That is what we want others to know God is faithful, and God does bless us even when we are facing life's most difficult challenges or simply a bad day.

My prayer is that you see this video as a testimony to God's love for us and the great price that was paid for us to find one another. I believe with all my heart that we are exactly where God wants us to be. Though there is great sadness there is also great Joy, and that is okay.


Psalm 126:5
Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy

video

Our Wedding Weekend

What a special weekend! Family and Friends came in on Friday for our rehearsal dinner at one of San Antonio's many yummy Mexican food restaurants, La Hacienda. These pictures are not in order, some of the wedding mixed in with the dinner ones the night before. But you can see what a special reunion this weekend was for us. Jim and I talked about how this amazing group of people represented so many loved ones who have journeyed with us through both happy and sad days. We are indeed greatly blessed to be cared for in such a tender way. We both believe it was healing, in a way, to have everyone witness the coming together of our two families. We composed a slide show for the wedding reception of pictures set to music. (We will post te slide show on our next blog) The pictures were special ones of Jim and Andrea and their boys, Troy and I and our kids and then the last ones were pictures of Jim and I and our new combined family. I am pretty sure there wasn't a dry eye in the house. Before playing the slide show we told everyone it was okay to be happy and sad at the same time. Jim and I have become accustomed to these mixed feelings living in and with us. There has been so much hurting yet so much joy. And as Jim commented, God loved us through it all. It was only appropriate that we ended the wedding service with the entire congregation singing Chris Tomlin's "How Great is our God". Indeed, He is great and greatly to be praised! Enjoy the photos!

Lin and Faye

Sherry, Kathy and Faye

My good friend Doug and Me

Bella and Boppa

Nic and Kate at the Rehearsal dinner

The happy couple

Ginger and Angela, best friends from junior high

Ginger and the Girls,left to right
Amy, Ginger, Cara, Ali, Amy

Ginger and I with her brother Matt and his wife Katherine

Kate Nic, Ginger, Anthony and I at our home

Ginger with her Aunt Sylvia and cousin Julie


Mike Duvall and my sister Maureen

Anthony Kate, and Lori Jo Duvall

Ginger, Her mom and sister in law, Katherine

Ginger and her brother Matt

Maj Gen Lessel his wife Kathy and my sister Maureen

Ginger and I with her parents

Us with all our boys, Nic and Anthony decided to pose as Italian models

Ginger's family

The cake

Me and my Brother Pete

My brothers and Sister Left to right
Pete, Maureen, Me, Neil, John


The Ravellas

Neil and His wife Mary with Ginger's mom Judi


The Boys Boston (left) and Greyson with Ginger's Dad, Jay

All That I Have Learned

I (Jim) have decided to have my original blog turned into a book for me to keep. So I decided to write this blog in an attempt to summarize what I have learned. This was orginally written on April 27th 2007.

One of the songs on my play list and a song I had intended to use during Andrea's memorial in North Carolina is by Bebo Norman. It is called "All I have sown." I first heard this song when Andrea went for her walk in Alaska and God spoke to her. I believe I have written about this before but it was when she laid in the grass and saw the mountains around Anchorage and saw the tall grass she was laying in God told her "Andrea how you deal with life depends on what you are focused on. Andrea's response was, "Lord I will do whatever you ask of me, I lay my life down to you."

This was just before we found the cancer. The song starts off,

"I believe when the put her in the ground I think they buried part of me Because I have been searching, I have been looking all around and I cannot find the heart of me. So I put my fingers in the soil upon her grave and I will plant for her a garden. And every flower a reminder of her face."

It is a sad song at first but the message is that our life is seed that we sow and our family is our harvest. I still remember sitting at the computer in 2003 and hearing that song thinking how sad. I remember Andrea coming back from her walk and telling me what she had learned. At the time I did not see the connection between what she and I had experienced. Today I see it all to clearly and in brings tears to my eyes and a pain in my stomach, but it also brings a sense of peace knowing God was with us before we ever knew we needed Him. Looking back I see God with us for He knew the fight that was ahead of us, and He knew the price we would pay. He knew it all He knew the beginning the middle and the end. He was there with us and that gives me peace in my pain. It does not remove my pain it does not guarantee me a happy fun filled life, it reminds me of the promises I profess in my faith. My God is a God of compassion a God of grace and mercy and a God who will never leave us or forsake us. A God who is not here when life is good and absent when life is hard. He was there before we even knew what was about to hit us, and He was surely there when I buried Andrea, and like the song says a part of me as well. That song was on my mind every time I sat at Andrea's grave, as I ran my fingers through the soil upon her grave. The final barrier to my life once lived, to my wife once touched, to my heart, to a part of me, and I remembered that God somehow was preparing me on that summer day in 2003. Now I live what He knew, and I know He still stands beside me again knowing what I do not yet know and seeing what I have yet to see.

So what have I learned as I look back on my life since Aug 2003? I hope to be able to put into words what God has shown me as my wife was slowly taken from me. First I would have to say I have learned of God's faithfulness. I have learned how the Psalmist could cry out to God in one verse and praise Him in the next. I have learned as I read the Bible at times thankfully at times with sadness to realize I have lived some of those words. I have learned that though I spent 4 1/2 years dealing with cancer and knowing death was stalking us I was not ready for the finality of death, when Andrea was gone, never to return. No matter how much we talked about it or planned for it, Andrea was still here and I could not replicate the reality of her being gone of me being alone. That is something you just have to go through, and death comes on its own terms and timing. There is only so much you can do to prepare for the blow. Training or preparation can only take you so far and there comes a time where you enter the battle ready or not. And that leads me to my next lesson, dealing with the pain.

I can say it hurts but that is so inadequate. It hurts so deeply it is debilitating. It is the pain of your very soul being ripped apart, a loss so deep I cannot describe it. My prayer is that you never feel this pain, the ache the longing to hear a voice to feel a touch just one more time. The wailing when you realize they will not come back. As if it would take away this pain if I saw Andrea one more time. Even though I know it will not happen I still long for it. I just want Andrea to talk to me one last time; I want her to tell me she is okay. I want to tell her I miss her that I am weak and lost without her. As bad a cancer was we had each other now I face this pain without her. I cry out for her and only silence answers me. It is hard. When I lost Andrea I knew the obvious triggers to my pain, birthdays, anniversaries, our bedroom, but it was the unexpected that caught me off guard, the little things, places, items in the house that brought waves of grief crashing over me. And I'm thankful our God can handle me asking "Why." For He knows the struggles I face. It is hard to walk into our home, to walk anywhere and see Andrea in my mind walking with me. I try to relive a moment when I look at a place I know Andrea was at, a place I knew she stood, maybe I have a photograph of her in the exact spot, but she is not there. And when I close my eyes and try to relive the past Andrea's memory seems to just flee from me leaving me even emptier then before. My memories are an elusive shadow that evades my every attempt to hold them. I have also learned this pain in not a onetime event. I think it is the pilot in me that wants to see my pain as something to get done and so I can move on with life, as if it is a box to check and it will be over. But it is not that way, the pain, the sadness are forever mine. I know the depth and frequency will lesson but it will never be completed. My life will always involve sadness and joy. Which leads me to my next lesson I have learned, what to do with this pain.

My only escape from the pain I feel is to remember my first lesson I learned, God is faithful, worthy of my trust and He is with me. If I give up on this, I lose it all. I cannot even begin to imagine how I would make it through a day without my faith and complete trust in God's love for me. I fear I would try to take my life if I did not have the hope of the cross and a personal relationship with Christ. He carries me when I have nothing. He listens to me when I cry out when I don't understand why such a loving wife, such a faithful woman, such a caring mother would be taken from us. There is no earthly logic to this, there is nothing earthly that allows me to say, "I understand and it was worth it." For I have lost the woman I was to grow old with, we were going to retire, and we were going to hold our grand kids, we were going to stop this constant moving of the Air Force life and we were going to have a home of our own where we would sit on the porch after a hard day of working in the garden and watch the sunset. That was my earthly plan and it will not happen, and I see no value in the physical world around me why losing all that was a good thing. But that leads to my next lesson I have learned, how can I see purpose is this pain.

To find value or purpose in death you must look with eternal eyes though the spiritual not the physical. For there really is no good in losing the one God made you one with. I was not in need of a better marriage, or a more loving wife. But Christ's death on the cross was not for my comfort, but for my salvation. And my salvation was not for me to avoid life's pain as some "Get out of jail free card." My salvation was for my sanctification to become more like Christ, the one I profess as my savior.

Romans 8:28-29

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.

Romans 8:28 is a common verse because we like to think all things work for our "good." And we tend to define "good" in modern America with convince, avoidance of pain or difficulty. It has been my challenge to rethink what I define as "good" and what I define as a blessing. I challenge you to do the same, look beyond your desires and you will find God in many places you previously overlooked. Those times when we did not have our prayer answered the way we hoped, those times when life challenged us with difficulty. Those times are hidden treasures of God's love. Remember Romans 8:29 tells us the purpose of God working is us is for us to be conformed to the likeness of His Son.

Think about being conformed to Christ's likeness, to be like Christ. His life lived not to gain wealth or comfort, but to serve those in need. A life lived not to be lifted up by those who loved Him but a life lived to serve His enemies. A life not for comfort, but for service. A life lived not for earthly gain but for eternal gain. A life not lifted up but a life laid down. A life not pompous with pride but a life lived in humility. A life not lived for personal gain but a life submitted to the Father's will. A live not lived to avoid pain or difficulty, but a life that forced confrontation. A lifted lived to die a horrible death. A life not lived for self but for the Father.

I have learned that left to our human desires we seek to avoid all these things. We seek the "Good" God can give us but we don't seek to serve, sacrifice, or to give without an expectation of return, especially if it is to our enemy. But it is adversity that draws us from our human desires and helps us to conform to the image of Christ. Sadly the worse the adversity, the more we abandon our selves to God's will and the more we are conformed into the image of our Savior, Jesus Christ. So as I deal with pain and suffering far beyond anything I have ever felt I have found an amazing comfort that when I lay this down at the cross and tell my Savior, "I cannot do this alone, I need you to make it through the next minute, the next hour or the next day." I then look not at the pain I feel but I look instead at how God is trying to use this for His glory. I look at the spiritual side of the battle and there and there alone do I find purpose and victory. In that moment I feel the strength of my Savior as He lifts me from the pit and plants my feet on solid ground. And in that moment I live the faithfulness of my God, I feel and see His unfailing love for me when I choose to look not at what I lost but at what He gave me and what His promises are.

Above all that is the lesson I have learned, That God is with me in my most gut wrenching pain just as He was in the summer of 2003 when I did not even see my need for Him. I have also learned that some pain cannot be prayed away, but must be lived in order to be conformed to the image of Christ. Like forging steel, it takes a lot of heat and pressure to bend steel. This not only forms into the desired shape but it also is how to retain its strength in that new form. So I have learned that I will hurt, but eternally it has a purpose, and if I am blessed and allowed to see that purpose in this life time, praise be to God, if I have to wait until the day I stand before my creator, then I ask God to give me the strength to praise Him as I wait.

There are many examples in the Bible of the faithful enduring difficulty, those who endured trials yet remaining faithful to God. Paul is an obvious example from the New Testament as you read his Epistles written from prison. As you read these verses remember to listen to the faith of a man who is living his life not for worldly comfort but as a servant of God. His words express great faith and trust in God. They are written by a man who is surrendered to Christ, and sees life's difficulties from an eternal perspective.

Philippians 1:12-14, 18-20, 29-30

Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

As I always said to Andrea, "I will see you in a little bit."

There is a lot of truth and faith in that statement and it helps me on the days like today when I struggle. It always reminded me that our focus should be on the eternal not the temporal. Our fight was for 30-40 years of this life and this life is but a vapor. I will see Andrea again for she lives just as Jesus my Savior lives. And in her living she is no longer sad, no longer hurting. I see Andrea with a smile on her face, for she is with her first love and at times I cry when I think of her, but they are not tears of sadness for my loss but tears of joy for her gain. She ran a good race and she has received her reward, her sanctification is complete. Praise God who is faithful true and worthy of all we have!

And that leads me to all that I have learned.

God loves me and He alone is worthy of my trust.

I willingly lay my life down to serve Him.

Trust

Ginger and I continue to enjoy out time in Maui. We are sitting on the porch both working on blogs. Hence you will see several new postings. Can you tell we are kid free? We have had a wonderful honeymoon which we both needed in many ways and on many levels. We have had a lot of good conversations about our life together as well as time to discuss Troy and Andrea and all they meant to us. It has not been your typical honeymoon. We have had a blast seeing the island and building memories all our own. But as I was writing today I noticed I had several old blogs I never posted for some reason. This is one of them. I continue to remind myself of the need to trust God in my life. I don't ever want to forget how it felt in the darkest of days when I needed God to lead me. My desire is to live with that same hunger for God's leading in times of blessings as well as in the trials of my life.
I (Jim) wrote this journal entry on Dec 28th 2005. I wrote this after a sermon we heard 0n Sunday. It was the last sermon of the year and it was on death. Not the most uplifting sermon.

Psalm 33:18

But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him,

on those whose hope is in his unfailing love

Lord why does it bother me to hear this sermon and the last sermon of 2005? I don't want to see this as Your words to us. But I know if the sermon had been on healing I would have clung to every word as straight from you. Do I get to pick and choose? Lord I cannot believe in all you have done and fear what is yet to be. Father this sermon speaks to everyone, for we will all face death. We will all face what Andrea is dealing with. I need not look at her with pity for her fate is also my fate. How will I respond? What will I do when I face the end? Will my life when laid on the alter be an offering that is pleasing to you?
Father I'm sorry but I grow weary at times. I hate having to look for hope in the smallest of things, a word, a song, a sermon, a note from a friend. Ever searching for a sign that this madness will stop. Ever searching for something to take away my deepest fear.

The fact that Andrea or I will die one day should not bring fear over me. For we who believe know the truth of what is to come. And as sure as I sit here now I know God hears our prayers. As sure as I write these words I know God will provide. As sure as I breathe I know Andrea and I will spend eternity together. As sure as Christ lived, died, and rose again and as sure as Jesus' shed blood forgives my sins I need not fear this life.

Luke 12:4-5

I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.

Lord, I confess my sins and my failures. I confess I have not lived my life in a way to serve my wife to meet her spiritual needs. I ask you God to provide for me to complete me as a man, father, husband and believer. I pray that I would be used of You. That I will fulfill Your will for my life. I ask you to help me with my fear. Help me to trust in you and you alone. Help me to know that you love Andrea and you are with her as she takes every step of her journey. Help me not to be focused on a particular outcome but to learn to just trust in you.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

YOU’RE DOING WHAT?!

Jim told me he posted a blog about my tattoo this morning so I thought it best if I weighed in on the subject as well! I purposely haven’t read his before writing this so as to not be influenced by his thoughts on it. After all, I did get it done a month before I met him so at the time I never really considered what a “significant other” in my life would think of it. Okay, wait, let me rephrase that… ALL of my many “significant other friends” did weigh in at the time. Thus the title of my entry, “YOU’RE DOING WHAT?!” ha. Being a proudly preppy-in-high-school, conservative Christian soccer mom, I have to admit I had judged a few inked (I have learned the lingo now) folks in my day. I never even considered getting one myself. After losing Troy, however, I found myself considering a lot of things I had never dreamed of before. I guess when your life gets spiraled out into the land of the unknown, you begin to look at many things differently than before. That is exactly what happened to me last November. I was approaching the year anniversary of Troy’s death and was reflecting, even more than usual, on the arduous journey the Lord and I had been on together. Many others walked with me as well. But, to be honest, it was a lonely sojourn. Just me and Jesus wading daily through the pain. Not unlike the poem;

Footprints in the Sand


One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,
other times there were one set of footprints.

This bothered me because I noticed
that during the low periods of my life,
when I was suffering from
anguish, sorrow or defeat,
I could see only one set of footprints.

So I said to the Lord,
"You promised me Lord,
that if I followed you,
you would walk with me always.
But I have noticed that during
the most trying periods of my life
there have only been one
set of footprints in the sand.
Why, when I needed you most,
you have not been there for me?"

The Lord replied,
"The times when you have
seen only one set of footprints in the sand,
is when I carried you."
Mary Stevenson

Sometimes He carried me and I didn’t know it. I wondered where in the world He was. But by the time it had been a year, I knew He never left. I knew He was the only one who really understand all the nuances of my suffering and the true enormity of my pain. He had, long before me, gone through more hurt than I could have imagined. Suffering all the way to the cross. Separating Himself from His Father. Taking our sin into His sinless Being. Being tortured and killed so we would not have to spend eternity the same way. This Saviour, my God, knew deep sorrow better than me. So it became clear to me that He was the One to follow to lead me through the darkness.

Earlier in the fall, I did a Beth Moore study, “A Woman’s Heart; God’s Dwelling Place”. It is a study of the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament and a comparison of it to our relationship with Christ in New Testament living. I don’t have it right in front of me so don’t quote me on exactly the words she wrote. But one thing she talked about really stuck with me. The Ark of the Covenant was God’s promise to Old Testament Believers to be with them, to save them and to be their God. When He sent Christ to New Testament Believers He now sent Himself to be with them, to save them and to be their God in the flesh. Christ became our Ark – our promise. To Him we are forever linked to God Almighty. Beth pointed out the scripture Hebrews 6:19:
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure…” Anchors have the unique purpose of keeping the ship from drifting too far away from the mainland and holding it safely in position. Beth painted a beautiful portrait of us being tethered to Christ. Our hope in Christ guarantees our ultimate safety. When the waves crash in and when the storms of life threaten to take us away from the mainland, our relationship with God, then there is Jesus, our anchor, keeping us steady, planted and firm.

I journaled quite a bit about drowning and sinking in water in the months after losing Troy. It just seemed to be the only analogy I could compare what I was feeling to. I was barely able to keep afloat from all the sorrow. The sadness and despair constantly threatened to pull me under. In an email I sent a few months after Troy died I wrote something like I felt chains were wrapped around my body slowly pulling me down below the water’s surface and I was just becoming too tired to fight it. I was referring to the grief engulfing my heart and the sadness weighting down my days and nights. So when I heard this scripture in the Hebrews I clung to it as a promise directly from God to me. The hope I have in Christ that He would keep me, love me, provide for and protect me was the one thing I knew for sure. I didn’t have to be hopeless because He lived in me and no matter how battered my little ship felt, He was not going to let me drift, much less sink like I felt before.

I would constantly remember this scripture in the weeks to follow and one day thought, if I ever were to get a tattoo that scripture is what I would want it to say. A constant reminder of Jesus hanging onto me and not letting me sink in my grief. The somewhat Bohemian artist side of me suddenly came alive and I began mentally sketching what this tattoo would look like. I knew I had to have the anchor, the Cross and the scripture reference. I decided to add the heart so that faith hope and love would be represented. Then after doing Internet research (like any good mom in her thirties does for anything!) I decided to go for it. Remember I came from the generation where this was an unacceptable thing to do to one’s body. To my surprise there were numerous Christian sites giving support to tasteful tattoos as a way of showing others our beliefs. I did all the comparisons of safe techniques and starting inquiring about where to go. To my surprise, again, I found I knew more Christians than I realized with tattoos! Now, I still have those (you know who you are!) that just want to find the nearest tattoo removal specialist and take me there as quickly as possible. But I have found others are becoming used to my ankle art! I can’t tell you how it encouraged me, that week of the year anniversary of Troy’s death, to look down and have a physical reminder of what my hope looked like, Christ! I have had many people ask me what it means or why I got it. I have gotten lots of opportunities to share with them how the Lord has helped me during my darkest hours and that without Him I would have had no hope. I know I would have been lost in a sea of anger, bitterness and deep drowning despair. I know it may fade on my skin with time but the very realness of our sovereign Saviour’s presence as a comfort in my pain will not fade in my memory.

Friday, July 11, 2008

What It Means To Me

Hebrews 6:16-19

Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure

Ginger had this tattoo done around the one year anniversary of Troy's death. It is on the inside of her right ankle. I will let Ginger write about the meaning of the tattoo and her reasons for getting it in a later blog. I wanted to write about the tattoo after being asked what I thought of it. Actually Ginger asked me the same question shortly after I met her. I'm sure many people think it was wrong to get a tattoo. I'm not sure I would ever get one but I don't hold any strong feelings either way. I will admit I have thought about it after losing Andrea and I will just say never say never. Never (how's that for short term memory) say what you would do if you were in someone else's shoes because you never (there it is again) know what you will do until you are faced with owning reality you are imagining. I'm pretty sure if Ginger wanted to cover her body with tattoos I would form an opinion pretty quick. But to me there was a reason behind this tattoo. And when I look at her tattoo I think of those reasons and every time I see that tattoo it is a reminder to me.

It reminds me of the great price that has been paid for our life together.

It reminds me of the pain Ginger suffered, the lonely nights. Friends came to help her and the kids but there always came a time when Ginger shut her bedroom door, turned out the lights and faced the loneliness of her life.

It reminds me of Nov 27th when her door bell rang and there stood men in uniform, telling her there was an "accident."

It reminds me of the day a box arrived at her home. It was from Troy and it contained a rug he had picked out for her. A rug Ginger laid on and wept.

It reminds me that two families and seven kids lives were torn apart.

It reminds me of 53 months of fighting cancer.

It reminds me of all the times I held Andrea when she vomited.

It reminds me of the chemo room.

It reminds me of waiting for test results, and never hearing what we had hoped for.

It reminds me of Troy and Andrea and all they did to make us who we are.

So I guess I do like the tattoo. In a sad sort of way it serves as a reminder of our past and the price paid for the present, and the hope we have in our future.

The Move

Okay I know I have not written in a while but life was a little busy the past month. I have been thinking of blogs I wanted to post I just did not have the time to sit down and write, but today is catch up day.

I'm sitting on the veranda outside our hotel room in Maui. I wish I could capture this moment and go to it later but as I have learned life just keeps moving on and the present is immediately a memory never to be recreated again. So I try to capture the moment with pictures, thoughts and writings to help me remember all I am experiencing. It is sunrise, and I'm looking at a perfectly calm ocean through a grove of palm trees, there are birds chirping and countless flowers in bloom many I have never seen before. The mere existence of Hawaii makes you relax; you just can't be stressed here.

Anyway more about our honeymoon on a later blog, today I have to go back in time to May 6th, the day we left Phoenix on our drive to San Antonio. To the day of "The Move."

Looking back at the month of April/May Ginger and I have to agree with many of you at this time, we were a little crazy! I had been on a trip for work in Alabama on Tuesday - Friday. I got back to San Antonio on Friday afternoon and I started moving my stuff to our new home. I finished moving on Sunday at 1pm, well I had to quit but I was about 95% done thanks to my good friend Karl. The reason I had to quit was because I had a flight to Phoenix at 4pm. I made it to Phoenix at 5pm and we loaded the U haul for our drive to Texas. The next day, Monday the 5th the movers finished packing Ginger's stuff..."stuff" does not capture it, this was the second moving truck required to fit it all. But they managed to finish by 1pm allowing Ginger and I time to go get a marriage license for our wedding that was to take place in 5 hours!

The next day, May 6th is where I will pick up the story. We, Ginger and I, Ginger's mom Judi, and the three girls, Bella, Aspen and Annalise loaded up in the Suburban, U Haul in trail and headed of for Texas. We had two days to get to San Antonio as the movers were meeting us on Thursday to begin unloading. Did I mention that on Friday Anthony and I had to leave for DC for Nic and Kate's graduation? Yeah life was a little busy.

I was the only male in this carload of 6 and I would soon be baptized by fire into my new life. We had a lot of fun along the way. Once were were passing some trucks and the drivers were waving at us. We thought how nice it is to be back in Texas and friendly drivers. But it turns out the door to the U Haul was open and they were trying to get us to stop. Thankfully nothing flew out the back and we were soon back on the road.

It was not long when I realized how blessed I was to have Judi as a Mom, how hard it is to travel in the Suburban, how cute my three girls are, how expensive it was to fill up on gas, and what an amazing mom and wonderfully beautiful and fun wife Ginger is.


I snapped a few pictures along the way to help capture the trip.


The brave yet naive newlyweds ready for the adventure
Goodbyes are said to good friends, Aspen finds comfort in her Giraffe.
Friends for life
Annalise is ready for the trip, still not sure how the headphones work with the DVD player but they make a nice headband.
Aspen, not so happy, but just as sweet. Truth be told I felt the same after being in the car for 9 hours.

Ahhhhh the simple pleasure of an ice cream cone


We finally broke down and decided to find Benadryl to help the girls sleep, I mean help them with their runny noses. 15 minutes later I look up to find Judi and Ginger sound asleep while the girls were wide awake. Ummm who took the Benadryl?

30 minutes later victory. That is a sweet picture!

Our first night was spent at Ft Bliss in El Paso. This was breakfast the next morning when the Ravellas invaded the buffet. The night before we were greeted by 60 mph winds in El Paso which did not stop till we were approaching San Antonio the next day. It was blowing so hard it was windy in the rooms even though the windows were shut. So glad to leave Ft Bliss behind... Not sure where it got its name.

2 hours out of San Antonio we are almost there and we decided to stop for a lunch break. I left everyone on the restaurant and went across the street to fill up. When I came back this is how I found Ginger, on the patio of the restauranty telling me "Run get diapers and clothes!" Seems the twins decided to have diarrhea at the same time. Judi took the initial blow and Bella and I were running buckets of hot soapy water through the restaurant to the patio. "Never mind us just go about eating your meals." Lets just say I was broken in to being a dad again. Next time we fly!

We made it! Our first night in the new home. The kids are excited to find a "bouncy toy" and we are excited to have them burn of some energy. All in all we are all so glad to be here, but tomorrow the moving trucks arrive...That is another story all together!