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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...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

My Dream

The other day we were talking as a family about dreams and it reminded me of a dream I had probably around 1986. I have never been one to have prophetic dreams like Andrea but this one of those dreams I will remember forever. When I think about it I still feel as if I have just woken up. I still feel the emotions and remember every detail. I have thought many times over the years on what this dream meant because it was so clear to me and full of so much meaning I knew it was a message to me. Over the years I thought there were several major events in my life that gave meaning to this dream, like Nic being born and Anthony’s adoption. But there was one aspect of the dream that did not fit until now; I think you will see what I mean.

The dream began in green field, almost like a pasture; in front of me was a steep cliff the top I never saw I only remember seeing the face of a tall cliff. Andrea and I were there with a group of people none of which I knew. We were playing football, I was the quarterback and Andrea was a running back. As we set up to run a play Andrea and I knew the goal was not to play football but to climb the cliff before us. And for some reason I was trying to get a head start as if it was a race. So when we hiked the ball Andrea and I let it pass over us and everyone took off for the fumble. At the same time Andrea and I ran for the cliff and started to climb. To our amazement what looked like a cliff made of rock was actually soft and we could dig in with your hands and feet making the climb far easier than I thought. I can still “feel” my hands sinking into the cliff as if it was the forest floor, soft with moss. Soon I was alone, I have no idea, nor did I seem to care that Andrea was no longer with me; I was just intent on finding something, what I did not know.

Soon I made it to a ledge, the cliff continued far above me and I was standing on a ledge, like a narrow sidewalk on the side of the cliff. Before me where two paths, one wide to my left that led into a tunnel, and one narrow to my right that formed the path along the cliffs edge. Above them was written,

Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction
Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life

Matthew 7:13-14

Enter through the narrow gate.
For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.
But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it.

I took the narrow path to my right, as it followed the cliff until it came to a large open room cut inside the mountain. I stood at the edge of the path which was the entry of the room and I looked for something. I still did not know what it was, but I knew I was looking for something and I felt an urgency as if it was still a race. It was as if I trying to find something hidden, not knowing what it was or where it was and I was seeking any clue that would point me in the right direction. Then to my right at the opposite corner from me stood a man clothed in brilliant white clothes, and his face shinned so bright it was white and almost translucent. In my mind I knew it was Jesus and I took off running after him. When I got to where Jesus had been standing he was gone and to my right was another long path and I saw Jesus standing about 100 yards from me. I took off in a sprint after him and as I approached he stepped into a doorway. I ran to it and quickly opened the door and there in a totally white room with nothing in it stood Jesus, and to his right was Andrea, also dressed in white shinning brilliantly. She was just smiling at me. She had an air of contentment and peace. I was not sure how she got there, and in my dream I the thought or question never came to me, I glanced around the room thinking whatever I was after must be here, but the room was empty except for Jesus and Andrea. But to my right (Jesus’ and Andrea’s left) I noticed two doors. Still feeling the need to hurry, I immediately went for one of the doors and Jesus put out his hand as if to say no that is the wrong door. I now felt a calm come over me and the need to hurry was gone, maybe because I knew whatever I was after was behind the second and final door. As I reached for the door knob, I looked to Andrea and she was still smiling at me. I opened the door to a small closet, again totally white, and in the middle there was a bassinet with a baby in it. I looked back and Jesus and Andrea were just staring at me, Andrea still smiling. Then I woke up and the dream was over.

The military can make you chase after accomplishments and lose track of what is really important, my faith and my family. So for years I thought that dream told me that in my rushing in life I need to remember that playing promotion games was not worth my time, my boys and my family were what were important. You know how life pulls you in so many directions sometimes the easiest thing to give up is our family or our relationship with God. This is especially true when life is going smooth, and your sense of inadequacy or need perceived as nil. I have come to think that keeping the faith is most challenging when life is going the way we want. Most people think how awful it must have been for Ginger to lose Troy and me Andrea, but as far as faith it became simpler for me, for there was nothing else I could do, life overwhelmed me and I was helpless to control the events around me. Now when life has settled down there is no external force driving my need to seek God, in fact it is just the opposite, life accomplishments tend to force self reliance and thus a lack of need for God’s presence in my life.

Over the years I could never figure out why Andrea started out with me and was then standing with Jesus. Now I think that is clear. I have always felt the cliff represented something in life that appeared to be difficult, if not impossible, but turned out to be easier then it looked. I thought that may have been events in my military career, but now I see the cliff represented cancer. It was do daunting, so overwhelming to hear a doctor speak those words to my wife at the age of 41. I see not that I was left to finish on my own, choosing my faith on my own. And this has been a definite message God has spoken to me over and over since 2003. I could not relay on Andrea’s faith for my salvation. The path represented my choice to place my faith in Christ, and Jesus led me to what I sought. The two doors represent a choice, and in my hast I see my personality to always rush to a decision. In Christ’s movement to stop my first choice I see the usual outcome of my impatience, the wrong choice. But I also see the love God has for me and Jesus directs my path. The meaning of the baby is what I have always tried to understand. Did it represent life, family? I don’t know for sure but I think maybe it is both, life, or living again, and my new family.

I can still see Andrea’s smile, in a way more clearly then I can remember her in life. It was so calming, so reassuring that everything was okay, with her, she was happy and I was going to be okay.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Things We Don't Need in Heaven

I (Ginger) finally threw away Troy's contact lenses the other day. Those things came all the way in his lockers from Iraq. When I opened them I cried. Then I stored them. I moved them across three states and stored them again. If it wasn't so sad I think it would be humorous. What on earth was I keeping them for? They just seemed so...his. So personal. Troy had the prettiest eyes. Green or hazel depending on the day and what he wore. They were warm eyes. They were the first thing I noticed about him that day in the cafeteria my sophomore year in college. There was a hint of mischief and romance in them.

He didn't need contacts until later after we were married. And, unlike me who is blind as a bat, his were a low prescription. Anyway, here I sat with them in my hands the other day. I started to put them back in the cabinet. But, really, he doesn't need them anymore. Do I? There are many of Troy's things that I have set aside for the children or myself. But I decided the contacts could go now.

Troy's eyesight was made perfect the second he died and went home to be with Jesus. Andrea's frail body was no longer ravaged with cancer when she took her last breath that day in the hospital and looked upward into Christ's face. No more imperfections. No more illness. What a glorious day for them!

"They will see His face, and His name will be written on their foreheads." Rev. 22:4
(Could that be referring to a tattoo?! - See past blog :))
"He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Rev. 21:4

I, through thick glasses or high-powered contacts, look forward to that day that we will reunite with Troy and Andrea and will rejoice with them in the very real-life presence of our Saviour!

Where Does My Help Come From?

(Lyrics to Mark Schultz' "He Will Carry Me")
*see our music playlist for the song
I call
You hear me
I've lost it all
And it's more then I can bear
I feel so empty
You're strong,
I'm weary
I'm holding on
But I feel like giving in
But still You're with me
And even though I'm walking
Through the valley of the shadow
I will hold tight to the hand of Him
Whose love will comfort me
And when all hope is gone
And I've been wounded in the battle
He is all the strength that I will ever need
He will carry me
I know I'm broken
But You alone
Can mend this heart of mine
You're always with me
And even though I'm walking
Through the valley of the shadow
I will hold tight to the hand of Him
Whose love will comfort me
And when all hope is gone
And I've been wounded in the battle
He is all the strength that I will ever need
He will carry me
He will carry me
And even though I feel so lonely
Like I have never been before
You never said it would be easy
But You said You'd see me through the storm
And even though I'm walking
Through the valley of the shadow
I will hold tight to the hand of Him
Whose love will comfort me
And when all hope is gone
And I've been wounded in the battle
He is all the strength that I will ever need
He will carry me
He will carry me
He will carry me

I (Ginger) am hearing more and more often that other people who have lost their spouses are visiting our blog. Or their friends are visiting our blog so, I assume, they can have a little more insight of the painful journey their friend is walking through. We are humbled that anyone would want to read our thoughts or seek to find help, hope or healing in our words. I can assure you that if any of that comes from our writings, it comes straight from the Lord. We are only the broken vessels He chose to use.
II Cor. 4:7-10

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side but not crushed, perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body."

I love this scripture because it is such a descriptive picture of what our place is on this earth. Our treasure is the amazing Godness/humanness of Christ and His Word, which is still just as alive today as ever, and that He would choose to indwell His Holy Spirit in us. We, however, are those pitiful little clay jars just trying to hold in all of His amazingness. Being an interior designer I have seen a few jars in my day. I am always attracted to a pretty urn or vase. I own a few myself. (See my definition of a few from Jim's perspective - ha). But I have been to Israel and the Holy Land and I am guessing the type mentioned in this text is referring to those plain dirty terra-cotta brown ones. They are not real smooth, more than a little rough around the edges and have no adornment whatsoever. That pretty much sums us all up. No matter how cute we think we might be, even on a good-hair day, we are all still plain, dirty and unattractive vessels. The beauty we have comes from Christ in us.

I haven't felt very pretty on the inside lately and I thought I would sit down and write about it. Back to my original opening statement that I know others who have lost spouses might be reading this blog. I am specifically going to address those who had children when their spouse passed away. I guess I don't really know what other perspective I would write from as that is the only one I know. My best friend, Amy, always says I am the one who says out loud what other people are only thinking. I am not sure if that is good or bad but I do see in myself the ability to be transparent and open and self-aware and willing to talk about it.

Among the flood of emotions that overcame me as I sat on my 3 year old's bed and listened to a general methodically tell me that my Troy's plane had gone down that Fall day in November, I felt my life slip down the drain. Unable to stop it, just like the last of the bathtub water. There it went. Because of the shock I can't remember exactly what I said. But my friend, Christy, who was there with me said I kept saying over and over "This can't happen. We have 5 children. This can't happen. We have 5 children....." I remember, in a strange way, thinking if I say this statement enough it will reverse what this man just told me and put everything back the way it was, the way it was supposed to be. "THIS WASN'T THE WAY IT WAS SUPPOSED TO ALWAYS BE!" shouted loudly in my head. Troy and I never sat down and said okay, let's have alot of kids and figure out how one of us would raise them alone. Believe me, I wish we had. There were so many days and nights where I would cry and long to hear Troy's wisdom and advice about what on earth I was supposed to do now. He and I were a parenting team. We even led a parenting class. We were good at it and despite the hard work always saw the benefits of our "full quiver".

When he died, it felt as if someone cut off both of my hands and said now go knit me a sweater. Yeah right. Like I got handed an assignment that said, "Take care of, godly parent, love and nuture your five children ages 8 and under while your heart, mind, soul and body are crushed. Oh, and don't lose your faith or your mind while doing it!" That was the task, Lord?! Okay, I give. That's just asking too much. I told the Lord He knew my limitations and He pushed me over the edge of them.

My definition of loneliness was parenting alone. With every soccer game or school function I attended without Troy, it became clearer that he was really never coming back. In those first months I would lay in bed at night and think of all the milestones in our children's lives that I would now see alone. Everything from first steps for the twins to Boston's high school graduation to Bella's father-daughter dance at her wedding - those were just some of thoughts that tormented me by night. But during the reality of day, things like the 6 of us sitting at the dinner table and looking over to the empty chair where he should be sitting or filling out the first school form and not knowing what to write in the father blank. Only someone who has lost their partner in parenting and life knows the depths of pain things like that bring. I know what it is to sit with your children at your husband's gravesite. It's almost so horrible you can't wrap your brain around what it is you are actually doing.

One thing I realized was that, before Troy died, subconsciously every time I looked upon my children, I must have thought of him to some degree. We would either be referring to him or they would be looking or acting like him. After he died, whenever I looked into their faces or even worse, their sad eyes, it just served as a reminder that he had left us. When people couldn't understand why it was so hard to be around my children, they really couldn't fathom how there was no comfort there, only more acute stabbing heartache. All of those memories do take me back to the not-so-long-ago past hurts. And by God's mercy and grace alone, has there been so much healing that I am re-engaged with my kids and desiring to be their mom again. It wasn't that I didn't want to be their mom. I just didn't want to be their mom without Troy there to be their dad. It seemed as if my map got torn in half but I still was supposed to keep driving in the same direction and make it to our intended destination. I didn't feel I could ever enjoy the beauty of watching the glorious splendor of a sunset on the horizon that raising children can be, without him.

As I said, there has been much healing but it is not complete yet. And though, my heart overflows with thankfulness for another amzazing husband and father,Jim, walking the parenting journey beside me, I still struggle with how HARD it still can be. Troy and I set out to have four children and the Lord decided five was a better number. When he left for Iraq the twins were 6 months old and 9 months old when he was killed. Who ever has children born in the same year that their parent dies? Me. But I know I am not the only one out there. My 2006- THE YEAR OF CHANGE.

Now, in 2008, there has been much more change. Change of beautiful and miraculous proportion but change still. In my heart, I know we all still feel the effects of the changes in 2006 and Jim's in 2007. I believe that the Lord Himself has cocooned our children in love and protection from the harsh winds of change that have blown into all seven of their precious lives. And though we see they each face some insecurities that they will have to surrender to the Lord's help, they are doing remarkably so well. I have been facing my own insecurities as their mother. The parent that I once was has had to evolve. I beat myself up over being more impatient or distracted or frustrated. I admit to looking at the 5 (now 7 with Anthony and Nic) of them and feeling a lot overwhelmed. I feel like I should join every parenting support group there is out there - parents of large numbers of children, parents of children who lost a father or mother, parents of multiples, parents of potty-training twins (these folks need margaritas at their meetings :)), etc... The list goes on of the places I could go to for help. But the source I know I must turn to the most, daily - hourly even, is my Heavenly Father. He said I can do all things through Him. I would assume that means most things He knows I cannot do without Him. I am not equipped to handle this on my own and so He is reassuring me that's okay and He is fully aware of my need for Him. The trick is I need to be aware of my need for Him. And let me tell you, there is nothing like losing your spouse and raising kids on your own for making you keenly aware of your need for Him.

I went to the Beth Moore conference here this weekend. She said so many great things but the one thing she said that really has played over and over in my mind was this statement, "Whatever you are called to do in this life, if it is manageable to you, then that is most certainly NOT your calling. You haven't found it yet. Because when you find it, it will be something you cannot do on your own. You must have the Lord to help you do it." As I told Jim, when I got home, that must make us smack dab in the middle of God's will for our lives! Because grieving losing Troy and Andrea, raising 6 obedient kids to know the Lord, running a large loud bustling home AND being newly married seems quite unmanageable at the moment.

Beth also made the statement that our theology, as Believers, needs to become our reality. In other words, the rubber needs to meet the road now with my faith and trust in the fact that the Lord KNEW from before He laid the foundation of this earth that I would have 5 children, lose my husband and still be expected to trust Him for all our needs and carry on in a manner pleasing to Him. He KNEW Jim's prayer for Andrea's physical healing would not come in this life and he would be left to raise two young men, continue to work his day job and stand as a man of unshakable faith. And He KNEW that Jim and I were meant to be together, with this gaggle of children, to stand up and glorify Him. He knew the plans He had for us. Christ is the one holding the other half of the map. I think He purposely hangs onto it so we cannot look too far down the road (it might be too scary) and we will see how much we need him (making the scary things less scary).

"I lift my eyes to the hills - where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and earth." Psalm 121:1

We must carry our crosses and the Lord will carry us. I think that means He's actually the one carrying it all. Thank you Jesus.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Importance of Prayer in my Life

Acts 17: 24-27

He himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 'For in him we live and move and have our being.

Well I'm on my way home from a business trip so I guess my free time to blog is about to end. I have enjoyed writing again. It is hard to find time when I need to build relationships with Ginger and the kids. But both Ginger and I feel it is important to write and seek opportunities for God to use us and the stories of Andrea and Troy as well as the amazing blessing we have in each other. I promise we will carve out some time to put down our thoughts.

We are approaching a milestone as a family, our last weekend of summer school and thus the first day of school. Starting school brings a new meaning and in some way solidifies us a little more as a family. Taking kids to parent teacher day, buying school supplies, new clothes and all that goes with the first day of school is what families do, normal families. So it is with a tinge of excitement that I look forward to Monday and all that goes with that first day. The kids just a little nervous about meeting new kids and a new teacher. Dropping them off and seeing them get out of the car with their backpacks on, running off to see new friends. Homework, sports, making lunches and everything hectic about school is about to start. It is what families do, and I like the thought of it all.

I hope that in February when life is hectic, trying to get the kids to do homework, getting up for school on a dark winter morning that I remember how nice it is to just be a normal family with all that comes with being normal. I'm learning that tragedy in life does not give you a "pass" on future trials or difficulties and that life is never without some issue that may range from small to large. I'm not expecting life to be perfect as if God somehow owes me that. And I don't expect to rejoice when the normal issues of life roll my way. I just want to live, become one with my wife, love my kids, and above all to serve my God in the blessings and the curses that are set before me.

We are always given the opportunity to walk by faith. It is just that we tend to take the small steps in life under the illumination of our own lamp, when in fact God is always there waiting with a lamp that will not lead us astray, we only need to ask. I always remember that about Andrea she would pray for anything, be it a parking spot near the front on a rainy, or for her cancer to be cured. She prayed both with the same intensity, she did not live life without God, she sought Him and she drew near Him and He drew near to her. But her most amazing quality was she prayed specifically, yet accepted the results from a God she loved and most importantly a God she knew loved her. She did not see God with her when an outcome matched her prayer and became angry at God when the results were somehow different. She praised God equally in all outcomes. I really think it was her daily faith built upon years of seeking God, and knowing He held her in His palm of His hand that gave her the strength to follow Christ in the end. She showed me faith, and trust in God is not circumstantial. I saw the same foundation of faith in Ginger when we met. I need to remember to look for those chances in my life to seek God's will and presence in my everyday life.

And live with the knowledge that He loves me knowing that prayer is not reserved for the oncologists office, the ICU, or a National cemetery, but that God wants to hear from me when I'm struggling to raise six children, when life is so busy I'm tempted to let my time with God or Ginger be put aside. And maybe, just maybe I will find myself praying when I can't find a parking spot in the front row. Thanking Him when I get one, praising Him when I don't knowing I probably need the exercise.

Luke 11:10
For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The To-Do List

I (Ginger) scarcely have time to read our own blog lately with all the kiddos, summer activities and numerous to-do lists running me a bit ragged. I love these precious children but I had the thought this week that if someone told me I had to homeschool next week instead of sending the kids off to school, I might run out in front of the school bus. We all need some space, some outside fellowship with new people and an established routine.

Boston longs for a good friend and misses Phoenix alot right now. Though he is settling into a new soccer team and has only broken out one window with a soccer ball this summer. Greyson is better with settling in and adapting more quickly but is on a wild cooking rampage, at the moment, and messes up the kitchen more than usual with his creations. Isabella heightens the drama when things get too boring so she seems to be ready for kindergarten and a whole new audience. Aspen and Annalise are in the throws of potty training. Twice as nice is not an accurate phrase when it refers to having more than one set of soiled panties to change. They are managing it pretty well. Or maybe I am just more laid back after having trained 3 kids previously. I actually took them to a store today (they don't get out much due to the 2 to 1 ratio they have on me) in panties of all things! Now I never would have braved an outing so early on in the potty training days with my other 3, but I needed to get some things done so... About halfway through the store Aspen tee-tee'ed in her panties. I proceeded to wrap them in a paper towel, shove them in my Coach purse and keep shopping (Aspen sans underpants). I guess the level of what really gets to me these days has lowered considerably. ha.

So, as I count down days til school starts, I add up all the things on my to-do list that need to be accomplished. I know my depression has lifted because I do care about things again. Things like cleaning out closets, organizing recipes and sorting through photographs. It is good to care again. But with the caring comes a sense of overwhelment (just made that a word if it wasn't already). Will I ever be able to be do it all? Be a new wife and spend quality time laying the foundation of mine and Jim's new marriage and life together? Be a good mom to five kids who need me more now because they have moved away from so many that were an integral part of meeting their daily needs? Learn to be a new mom to a teenage boy? Make new friends? Cook (for 8!)? Clean up after those 8? Minister for the Lord? Be a student of the Word? Keep in close contact with loved ones? Okay, I am tired just typing the list! I have no idea how I will ever do it all. And honestly, I feel a bit defeated right now. But the one thing I know is Christ has proven that I never do it alone. He either silently walks beside me, imparting His own strength or He sends a physical presence into my life. I know He sent Jim to me and me to Jim so I am confident He intended for us to be each others helpmates on this crazy ride. As we journey I know we will face obstacles; bumps in the road that we have to ride over or go around. We have already faced some unknown twists and turns with just learning how to juggle NEW EVERYTHING. I think Jim and I must have been talking about this new routine when I thought of how it does feel a bit like walking on the moon. Every step is a new one into unchartered territory. There are dips and bumps and we are learning to navigate through them all. It's exciting but when you look back to earth, that just still looks so familiar and EASY. You knew your way around earth; what to expect and how it felt to live there. Even the air is different on the moon. Don't misunderstand, the moon is beautiful. It is mysterious and intriguing. Peaceful and serene. But it is quite different.

I have watched Jim be at peace with his new life with us and watched him wrestle with it a bit. Just as he has watched me do the same. He and I had never even considered living one minute of our entire lives without Andrea or Troy. Now, here we are not just considering the thought but immersed in totally new lives void of their presence, except for the physical reminders of our children, their earthly belongings and some memories written on paper or caught in a photograph. That is what we were pouring over on Sunday afternoon; our respective histories. Rich histories. Lovely histories. Is it okay to love history and fully embrace today? I do believe it is. I know Jim struggles more right now because he has had less time to learn to live without her. I had over a year of that learning before I met Jim. So I give him time and love and grace and attention and a little space. I pray that the Lord will continually show us how to fully embrace His new will for our time left on earth. First, His will in allowing our most treasured loved ones to die so young and leave us so alone.

"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints" Psalms 116:13

But also His will in allowing this new unique blessing of a second marriage and new children to come into our lives.

"See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs us, do you perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland." Isaiah 43:19

I know that some people, at times, had to look at Jim and Andrea's defeated battle with cancer as a wasteland. I am sure that many of the same saw me and my kids as wandering in the desert when Troy suddenly died and left us alone. Jim and I would be lying if we did not, at times, feel that same abandonment ourselves. Death making breaking news right in the middle of our perfect lives... But, faith makes one choose. And I see our lives (both past and present) and our marriage as an entirely new opportunity to tell others what a great and mighty God we serve. I see mine and Jim's pasts as gifts and stepping stones to lead us to not just this new place on earth but to eternity.

Troy and Andrea were no average husband or wife. They each loved us with a devoted and selfless commitment. But more than that, they loved the Lord. I believe Jim and I established that devotion and commitment in our relationship way back when we saw the Lord's "miracle of the moment", as Jim mentioned, happen to us so quickly and powerfully. But now I believe Jim and I have a commitment to go further with our relationship. We don't get to live naively anymore. We do understand that a loving God can permit unspeakable tragedy to enter our lives. We do know the reality of rolling over in bed and feeling the emptiness laying next to you.

However, we have a better understanding of faith and trust in our Father. We have felt Christ weep with us. We know He is real. He is moving and working in us. Therefore we must look not only to one another for answers or fulfillment, but we must focus our gaze on Him who holds the world in His Hands. I know, from God's Word, what should probably now be at the very tip top of my to-do list.

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength" Deut. 6:5

I do belive that if Jim and I put our first energies into that (even in the 3-ring circus that is our life) we will grow in grace, flow with love and finally accept our new gift - us.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I'm Sorry

PSALM 118: 8-9

It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.

I ended my last blog with the statement that last year I did not see how sick Andrea was. I have thought about that many times since Andrea died. Why did I not see it. Was I too wrapped up in the fight that I did not see her slipping away? Did I not want to see it? Was a afraid to see it? Was I blinded by hope?

What I really struggled with was Sunday night, Dec 16th, the night before Andrea died. She had begun to slip away, and was less responsive that day. Andrea kept staring at a spot on the wall and would only look away when I would speak to her, and then only when she heard my voice. Otherwise she would stare off in the distance. When I went to leave that night I told her goodnight as I always did, I whispered in her ear and prayed with her. I said communion with her and when I began to walk out the door I looked back and she was staring at the wall. I walked back to her and said, "Andrea are you okay, you are scaring me." She moved her eyes towards me and cracked a little smile. I kissed her and told her I loved her and faintly she repeated it to me. It would be our last exchange.

I beat myself up for leaving that night. It was Andrea's last night on earth and left her alone. I so wish I could go back and be with her that night. Did she wake up and look for me? Was she scared and needed me? All the while I was home sleeping. I had been with Andrea through all her treatments, chemos, surgeries, and doctor appointments even when she had to go have her blood drawn between treatments, yet on her last night I was not there. I struggle with this because I was so tired at the time, I wanted to get away. I gave up. Like running a marathon and being so exhausted you quit 100 yards from the finish line. Andrea never had the chance to get away and rest, she fought everyday, 24 hours a day, and I went home to sleep. I want to tell her I'm sorry. Sorry for leaving her and sorry for quitting.

But at the time I still thought she could get better, I knew medically she had a huge battle ahead of her, and I think my hope was that we could just get out of the ICU and go home. I did not want her to die in the hospital, away from her own bed and our home. I was clinging to the hope she would make it out and back to chemo. We both knew her odds were slipping away I just did not see it happening in the ICU. I wanted her to beat that place, in part because I did not want to take her there in the beginning. I did not want her to die there, in a sterile room, it was not home. Death, and Andrea losing her fight, was personal to me, and losing is the right word to use. Because I felt like we had lost; we were beaten. And in a way I did not want anyone to know. I really don't understand all these feelings but they are there and thankfully Ginger has helped me work through them. I know most of them are unfounded but they are real and they weigh on me at times. Maybe it is all part of losing a spouse, someone you pledge to love for ever. You are just never ready when forever comes to an end.

I had spent so much time taking care of Andrea. Now all I can do is go to her grave and pick the leaves out of the grass. I sit at her grave and make sure it is clean and her flowers are straight. I have wondered why I do that, was it just my neatness gene? But I think it is my way of still taking care of Andrea. My way of telling her I sorry for leaving the night.

Walking On The Moon

Psalm 113:3

From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
the name of the LORD is to be praised.

Ginger came up with the title to this blog the other day when we were talking. It expresses our feelings as we both learn to love again. At times it feels like we discovering a new world, as if we are walking on the moon.

It has been a while since I (Jim) have written a blog, sorry about that. I is not that I don't have things that come to me it is just that I hardly have time to sit down and write. I guess I did not realize how busy life would be. We are still unpacking the last boxes, and there seems to be a never ending list of things Ginger and I have to do. And sadly the last things we have to unpack have been personal things of Troy and Andrea. It is so strange to unpack someone stuff. The other day we were all working in the garage (that does not come as a surprise to those who know me) and I was putting away Troy's tools. I felt closer to Troy in a way, and sad that I was going through his things. It made me remember Troy was a son, and there is a mother who hurts and a father who misses his only son. He was a brother whose sister has things she would love to tell him. Likewise Ginger and I were unpacking Andrea's linens and china yesterday. The items she loved, that she used to make her home welcome and beautiful when someone visited. I was reminded her Mom lost a daughter and her sister is now an only child, a trait Andrea and Troy's sister share. Seeing and going through their things reminded me of the "others" who suffered on Nov 27th and Dec 17th. Then over the last week Ginger and I have been going through our "Boxes of memories," Boxes that contain letters, cards keepsakes, and photos of our past. A hard and difficult task. Both of us sitting in our bedroom surrounded by stacks of things pointing to a life once lived. I say all this because it is under this setting that Ginger and I discussed where we are in our life.

To be honest the past week has been difficult for me. I had struggled with being in love with Ginger and missing Andrea. I pray that my words adequately express my feelings because and do not confuse or give you the wrong impression. I do not mean to imply I do not love Ginger. Far from that, actually I have been struggling because I love her so much and to feel such love for anyone other than Andrea has been hard for me to process. I did not think I would ever be loved as Andrea loved me, yet Ginger does. For me to even type those words is a little hard for me. I spent my life loving Andrea and expressing my love for her, and now I do the same for Ginger and it seems wrong for me to have these feelings for Ginger. It is as if I would not allow myself to feel such closeness, and depth with Ginger because in a way I felt I was turning my back on Andrea. Wrongly I kept my pain to myself thinking Ginger would not want to hear what I was dealing with but also because I was trying to understand this myself. I was just a little sad and in my loneliness I underestimated Ginger's love for me.

I knew this would be difficult for me and I realized part of this is due to the timing of our marriage, and the short engagement we had. But like I told Ginger, I knew this would be harder on me but waiting to be married brought other difficulties and I felt it was far better for the kids to have a family and begin to settle into a routine.

When I lost Andrea I wondered how do you know when you are "over." I hate that expression, as if my marriage was something to dread and I wanted it to be over. Anyway, you do wonder when the pain will end, then you realize it doesn't. Then you wonder when it will ease so you can live again, because you must. I think last week for me was another step in my adjusting to losing Andrea. And I was struggling with stepping a little further away from Andrea. I was grasping to hold on to something that no longer existed. Like in the movie "It's a Wonderful Life" when Bert the policeman is trying to arrest Clarence the angel and he disappears leaving Bert wrestling nothing arms failing in the emptiness. He is left with a confused look on his face. That is how I felt last week.

I will say God did a miracle when He brought Ginger and I together. It is what Ginger and I call the "Miracle of the moment," after a Steven Curtis Chapman song a friend sent me. I know without a doubt we were meant to be together, and sadly I also know the implication of what that meant in our life, the pain and loss we both had to experience to be together. But as we build memories together I begin to feel my life settle down and our family becomes my own in a deeper way each day. Ginger's love for me at times overwhelms me, the depth and commitment she has to me and our marriage amazes me, and humbles me. I may be walking on the moon right now but soon this will seem normal to me. I will learn and grow finding the balance my love for a life once lived and for the life I now have and I to allow myself to fully express my love for God's gift to me, Ginger.

Andrea told me she wanted me to remarry and I have just begun to understand the depth of love expressed in those words. I always told her I was not sure I could say that to her. It is one of Andrea's greatest expression of love to me, knowing she was facing death and thinking of the life I would live after her. She was just that special of a woman.

So I continue to live and understand all that has happened to me and I brace myself as the one year anniversary of losing Andrea approaches. It was about one year ago that we moved into our house on Randolph AFB. It is hard to believe that in just over 13 weeks Andrea would be in the hospital. It seems crazy that she went that fast. I guess I did not realize how sick she was. But that is a subject of a later blog.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Hawaii Pictures

Other then just being August in Texas and the heat and humidity, things are going good here. Ginger and I continue to learn how to parent together. For me I'm learning how to raise little girls and for Ginger it is being a mom to a teenage boy. We are both learning and we are both helping each other.

It has not taken long for me to realize girls are different from boys. In fact we all went on a walk tonight and we stopped by a small pond. So I took the girls down to the water to skip rocks and make big splashes. Sounded like a good idea to me and it was until Aspen and Annalise got mud on their flip flops and began to cry. This would have been a dream come true for Nic or Anthony, but I'm learning that girls just don't like water and mud as much as boys. Not that there is anything wrong with that...I'm just learning. Like the fact that a scream is a way to express anything from a spider on the porch to Mom walking in the house. I will let Ginger speak for her own experiences of being a mom to a 16 year old boy, but trust me she is doing a little learning herself. For example never hand a 16 year old boy $275.00 and turn him loose in the mall to buy school clothes and expect to get any change back. Like I said we are both learning.

Ginger is away with Boston Greyson and her dad at the PGA championship. She was asked to come in support of the Folds of Honor Foundation that raises scholarship money for kids who lost a parent in the war. You can get more information on the foundation and see a video interview with Ginger at http://www.partiotgolfday.com/. Meanwhile Ginger's mom and I have been holding down the home front with the girls. So in my spare time I decided to post a blog and I realized I had not posted any pictures from our trip to Hawaii. So here are a few.

Hotel lobby
Guava juice...they were giving this stuff away for free! So I attempted to drink enough to break even. Okay this was a funny picture. It was supposed to be a picture of Ginger and I but Ginger set the camera of self timer and as you can see she never made it before the picture was taken. In fact I think she only made it about two steps from the camera.
Our Hotel

You know I love to take pictures of flowers so here are a few exotic ones we saw.

Day 1, Ginger love the flowers so much she kept them the whole day
At the black sand beach
Sunset in Hawaii...nothing better then having dinner with this view
The happy and beautiful bride
Ginger laying claim to the shrimp and crab at Sunday brunch