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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, February 26, 2009


Okay, calm down. The title of this post is NOT an announcement that Jim and I are adopting another child. We need to hang onto what little bit of sanity we have left, you know. We now, however, do have a new future daughter-in-law so that does make us officially "Eight is Enough". Which, incidentally, I remember watching that show when I was about 9 or so and didn't it seem like they were ALL nearly adults? Perhaps that's why "John and Kate Plus Eight" is such a hit. We all wondered what those parents did the first 18 years! Anyway, this post is about Jim officially adopting Boston, Greyson, Isabella, Aspen and Annalise. It is also about me and you and the rest of God's children. The Great I Am desires to adopt all of us and call us His very own.

For the past 6 months Jim and I have been working with a lawyer trying to orchestrate and finalize this process. I have many friends who have adopted and I remember the long wait and many hurdles they encountered. But this one was supposed to be fairly quick and simple. It definitley has not been. Social worker visit, lawyer meetings, lots of paperwork, fingerprinting at the sherriff's office, local and state background checks, reference interviews, financial expenses, numerous phone calls and some more waiting. It is still not quite finalized. After discussion we decided to add the surname "Ravella" to the girls names but leave the boys "Gilbert". It will be Boston and Greyson who carry on Troy's honorable name. Six of Jim's seven children are not biologically "his". Anthony was adopted by Jim and Andrea when he was two years old. This is all yet another unique circumstance in Jim's life that he probably never anticipated. Yet, I believe, his heart was specially designed for this very thing. I believe as well that in time my children will see the significance of having another man CHOOSE them to call his own.

Jim comes from a large family. He is the youngest of eight (sticking with the "Eight is Enough" theme yet again!). I was never honored to meet his parents as they have both passed away. But I have been blessed to have now met all of his siblings. They are each wonderful, diverse and have been so kind and welcoming to me, though I know they all miss Andrea very much. It has been fun to be a fly on the wall listening to their lively debates and discussions. Their parents must have been strong people because they are all full of conviction and opinion in varied arenas. I think Jim might be one of the lesser vocal of them all, maybe because he's the baby of the family, but he has just as strong of beliefs and convictions, none the less. Their latest round of discussion, via email, has been on religion. As I have read each of their views I could not help but make a connection with the adoption process we are going through.

The story of Jim adopting the majority of his children is a sweet one. But the story of God adopting us is poignaintly beautiful in a way like none other. First, simply the fact that He would desire our company or seek relationship with us. He is God, after all. Complete and not lacking anything. Second, we can be quite unlovable; rebelliously rejecting His offer and outstretched hand time and time again.

The band Tenth Avenue North has written a heartfelt song portraying God's pursuit of us titled "By Your Side". These are the lyrics:

Why are you striving these days?
Why are you trying to earn grace?
Why are you crying?
Let me lift up your face.
Just don't turn away.
Why are you looking for love?
Why are you still searching as if I'm not enough?
To where will you go child?
Tell me where will you run?
To where will you run?
And I'll be by your side
Wherever you fall.
In the dead of night
Whenever you call.
And please don't fight
These hands that are holding you.
My hands are holding you.
Look at these hands and my side
They swallowed the grave on that night.
When I drank the world's sin
So I could carry you in
And give you life.
I want to give you life.
(Chorus 2x)
Cause I, I love you.
I want you to know
That I, I love you.
I'll never let you go.

I have heard and read many discussions on the "how-to's" to have a relationship with God. I think we make it so much more complicated that it actually is. It is not us reaching to God asking Him to take us in or doing enough good works that we would catch His eye and be deemed worthy enough to be called His own. We could never reach that high. He reaches down to us. We could never be good enough. Or follow the rules enough. Even if we gave everything we had to the poor and devoted our lives to world peace, we couldn't possibly earn enough good merit badges to gain access into heaven's pearly gates.

Ephesians 2:4-5

"But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved."

Remember we were made from dust. It was His breath that first gave us life. It was His last breath that saved us from death.

Genesis 2:7

"...the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being."

Psalm 103:14-16

"For He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass, he flourished like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more."

Ephesians 2:8-9

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

God's grace saves us through the vehicle of our faith in an unseen God. We are the workmanship, the craft of His hand and our purpose is to serve Him and do good because He gave us the gift of Christ Jesus. Will we be rewarded in heaven for our works? Yes.

Psalm 18: 24

"The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in His sight."

I believe our country must be very careful with passing laws advocating the shedding of innocent blood. Someday, God will ask us to turn over our hands. No doubt He is looking for that cleanness.

Proverbs 6:16-19

"There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers."

I Corinthians 3:8

"The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor."

Revelation 22:12

"Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with Me and I will give to everyone according to what he has done."

Do our works get us into heaven? No. However, right thinking and right living should go hand in hand. The Bible says even the demons believe there is one God. We must put action behind our beliefs. Otherwise we are no different than them.

James 2:17

"In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead."

Abraham was considered righteous and his faith genuine by his actions and his faith working together. He laid his precious son, Isaac, on the altar. He would never have been able to do that without placing his trust in God first. I have often said that without my faith in God and the prayers and love of others with that same faith, I would not be sitting here today. Faith, that was often shaken in my tumoltuos despair after losing Troy, was the only thing I had left. It saw me through the months of hating my life and wishing for death. It saw Jim through God answering no to Andrea's healing. Those were things bigger than we were. Bigger than we are still.

Matthew 16:24-27

"Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone would come after me, He must deny himself and take up cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good wil it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man (Christ) is going to come in His Father's glory with His angels, and then He will reward each person according to what he has done."

We take up our crosses. Our crosses may be carrying the weight of sickness, tragedy, sorrow and loss yet hanging onto Him on the journey. Yours may be a cross of abuse, abandonment or unfairness, an unwanted pregnancy, a longing for a baby or the loss of financial security. We must understand we cannot save ourselves. Or seek to gain a world of knowledge and success in the hopes of "arriving" on earth or in heaven. Like the Bible says, what good is all that because we will still be forfeiting our soul? There is much that is incomprehensable and mysterious about God's ways and how He works. But this, salvation, is fairly simple. Thomas was one of Jesus' disciples and he struggled with doubt and believing in the unseen promises the Lord was always speaking of.

John 14:5-6

"Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

The world will tell you you're crazy. Trust goes beyond logic. Intellect does not necessarily help us have faith.

Mark 10:14

"...He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." And He took the children in His arms, put His hands on them and blessed them."

It's holding out our hands, receiving the gift, remembering to say thank you and showing Him we are a changed person after the exchange takes place. He's always pursuing us. I love the story of Zacchaeus. If you grew up in church, you probably remember singing "Zacchaeus was a Wee Little Man". Zacchaeus was a tax collector and had obviously swindled some money from the innocent. Jesus came through the town of Jericho and Zacchaeus wanted to catch a glimpse of him. Being short and resourceful, he climbed into the nearest tree. Jesus saw him and asked him to come down and could He, the purest One, stay at Zacchaeus' house. The righteous were aghast that Jesus would sit with a sinner. He knew Zacchaeus' name and be sure, He knew his history. Zacchaeus knew he needed some saving. Zacchaeus immediately gave half of all he had to the poor and those he cheated he paid back four times the amount he stole from them. Zacchaeus was a descendant of Abraham but knew not by his ethnic or spiritual background or even his good deeds he would be saved. His salvation came when Jesus said, "Come down" and Zacchaeus accepted the gift of forgiveness. I love the last line of this story:

Luke 19:10

"For the Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost."

Focus on the Family's website has some wonderful information about adopting a child. One statement stuck out in my head. Basically it said that the beautiful truth of adoption, both in the earthly adoption of a child or the heavenly adoption of all us, is that it is rich with healing, salvation and redemption.

I have seen God actively at work blending, mixing and kneading the people that live in this new Ravella home into an entirely lovely masterpiece. Not that it has been smooth or always easy.

He also does that same type of kneading in all of our hearts, souls and minds when we let Him. We are all mixed into His family. He desires to keep His family together. In this life and in eternity.

Regular conversations in our home include speaking of the day we will be reunited with Troy and with Andrea. And most of all with Jesus. Face to face. A real chance to see His nail-scarred hands. A meeting with the One who breathed life into our nostrils. A chance to say thank you in person for His hand that reached down and saved us. He signed all those adoption papers a long time ago. We don't have to jump through hoops to take His name.

About four days after Troy died I received some gifts in the mail. Gifts addressed to me from my husband. That's right. From Troy. He mailed them from Iraq the week before his crash. One contained a beautiful Persian carpet he had gotten a good deal on. He loved to "talk rugs" with the locals. I think I have mentioned this before. My memories of that moment are more vivid than most that took place that horrible week. I remember opening it, unrolling it on the floor of our sadly empty bedroom, laying on it and crying until there were no tears left. I could almost feel his hands running over the plush pile. One was full of little Christmas gifts for the kids. He gave Bella and the twins small jewelry boxes and the boys some stickers and trinkets. But the last was the most precious. A tape he made of himself showing us around the base in Balad; the runways, the planes, the busy activity of a base fully operational during war. He prayed with us. He read stories to the kids. One he read while sitting on a building's flat rooftop with a gun strapped to his back because that was how that things had to be if you stepped outside of your office or room. If you have never read, "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus", you should. And then picture sweet Troy reading it to his kids in the middle of a warzone on top of that roof.

I held onto this tape for over a year, paralyzed with the crippling fear of what kind of grief would engulf me when I saw him walking and talking for the first time. I chose to watch it last year on his birthday. I won't lie, it was crushing. It was magnificent but it was crushing. I decided I would watch it every year on his birthday as a tribute to him. In the first scenes he is behind the camera, walking, talking, laughing and "showing" us around. Then the camera goes perfectly still. He has set it on a stand. He steps in front of it with the sun setting low low in the sky behind him. His image is very dark in contrast to the brightness of the glowing orange and pink sinking sun on the horizon. It's only for a moment. Then he checks what he has filmed and discovers he is too dark so he swings the camera around to the opposite sky where we can get a better look at him. I was so overwhelmed last year when I watched it for the first time that I scarcely remembered the beauty of that first shot. Him against that fabulously colored sunset. I noticed the heavens first. I couldn't help it. And then there he was standing in the shadows in front of it. I don't believe everything out there is a sign from God. But that picture almost shouts, "Ginger, he's with Me and this is just a glimpse of what it looks like."

The children have not watched this video. I am still deciding when the right time will come for them. Last week I found myself viewing it again on his birthday, then the twins suddenly came into the room. They stopped and watched Troy talking on the screen of my laptop. For a moment they were quiet. I asked them, "do you know who that is?" They each replied, "I don't know." I said, "that's your daddy in heaven." We have briefly talked about this with them but they are too young to grasp the concept of it yet. But Aspen replied, "we have a daddy in heaven and a daddy on 'earf" (earth-she can't say her th's). I said, "yes, you do. You have two daddies." And Annalise chimed in, "and a daddy at work!" I laughed. I needed a little laughter at that moment.

Yes, everyone was right. We do have a Daddy in heaven and on earth. And that Daddy, our Heavenly Father, is always at work! He is working for us.

Romans 8:31

"What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?"

Ephesians 1:4-6

"For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love, He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves."

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Chris Tomlin Concert

Andrea and I turned to many different sources of strength but one of the most important was music and one of the most important singers we listened to was Chris Tomlin. We were blessed enough to go to his concert twice while we were in North Carolina between 2006-2007. If you have not been to one of his concerts I highly recommend it. It is a very worishipful experience where the majority of the time is spent singing praise songs as the audience. It was there that Andrea stood next to me and stopped singing and just listened to all the voices singing "How Great is Our God." She journeld about that night and I inculded it in previous blogs but in exxence she thought, "This is what heaven is going to be like."

There were several other concerts that we attended. Third Day, Jeremy Camp, Bebo Norman, Jars of Clay, and Michael W Smith to name a few. I have very specific memories of Andrea at all these concerts but none more then Chris Tomlin. Truthfully, it has been emotional going to them again this past year and Ginger and I have pretty much been to them all, all except for one, Chris Tomlin. That is until tonight.

Since I lost Andrea I can't really pick an exact moment where I know I would have been with Andrea. Sure the holidays come to mind but I have moved so that is not the same. But tonight I know exactly where Andrea and I would have been...at the Chris Tomlin concert. We would have stood together and sang many of the same songs from previous concerts and a few from his new album, "Hello Love." But she was not here and in a way I felt closer to her tonight then I have in a long time. But then again I felt amazingly far away from her. We are in separate worlds for now and that was all to clear tonight. It made me think. I wondered if she could hear us? I wondered if she knew I was there? I wonder is she paused for a moment and remembered me. I know none of these thoughts are biblical but they were my thoughts none the less.

Tonight I sang and cried and missed Andrea but then towards the end Chris Tomlin sang a song from his new album called "I will Rise." He said it is easy to praise God when life is going good, but it is another thing to praise his when life is difficult and we need to be able to say, The Lord gives and takes away but blessed be the name of the Lord." Then he said he wrote, "I Will Rise" for people who lost someone, those who have felt pain. Here are some of the words to that song:

There's a peace I've come to know

Though my heart and flesh may fail

There's an anchor for my soul

I can say "It is well"

Jesus has overcome

And the grave is overwhelmed The victory is won

He is risen from the dead

And I will rise when He calls my name

No more sorrow, no more pain

I will rise on eagles' wings

Before my God fall on my knees

And rise I will rise

Race for the Cure

It is time for the Susan B Komen Race for the Cure here is San Antonio. I ran this race last year. I will never forget running that day. It is a festive atmosphere with the survivors, the crowds and the fan fare. I think there was a record 20,000 people yet I was never so alone in my entire life as standing in that crowd. I cried most of the morning but I made it and I did it while listening to Andrea and her dad singing, "Move that Mountain" and "Have a Nice Day with Jesus." I think both tracks are posted on an earlier blog. They were recorded when Andrea was a teenager and thankfully her dad had a cassette copy stowed away which I transferred to my computer and then to my Ipod. I missed her that day. I wish she could have been there to be honored as a survivor but it was not meant to be. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in there lifetime and around 20,000 die each year. As my good friend Robert said when Andrea was first diagnosed, "It is a very bad player." I hope some of you reading this will personally benefit or know someone who will benefit from the funds raised by this foundation. Research advances every year with treatments that are less difficult on the patient and more effective against the cancer.
This year I will run the race again but not alone. On April 4th Ginger and I will run the race in honor of Andrea. If you would like to donate you can click on either of these links.

Jim's Link


Ginger's Link


Friday, February 20, 2009

Food For My Soul

This is a blog I wrote last year and for some reason I never posted it. I'm not sure why, but I just found it and thought I would finally get it posted.

Philippians 4: 6-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

An entry from Andrea journal written on 19 Jan 2007

Lord, as I believe we are approaching the end of this cancer invasion, I thank you for all we have learned and for our growth spiritually. Sometimes I was anxious but through prayer we overcame our fears, and I learned to trust in and to lean on you. We poured our hearts out to you and made our desire and request for healing known to you. You gave us peace which we still cannot understand. A complete peace. You guarded our hearts and our minds from attacks of fear and desperation. Our faith in you has grown and we are learning how to never be anxious. I love you Father and thank you for your healing of the cancer in my body. You renew me.

As I read this entry from Andrea I think it is a good summary of her faith. It would make a good last entry into this blog don't you think? Not that this is my last entry, just that it would make a good last entry. It is about faith, about our humanness, and God's provision. Its about hope trust and faith. And that pretty much sums up life.

If you have ever faced a trial or difficulty in your life I'm sure you have read Philippians 4:6-7. It is one of those verses that you cling to in times of trouble. Andrea and I said it many times to each other. Unlike other times in my life verses like this one changed from mere words on a page to food for my soul. As if I could taste the words as I read them. They fed a need in me as a glass of cold water meets your thirst on a hot summer day. The Bible became for me a source of strength. Its words were no longer just a formation of letters but nourishment to my soul. As my body needs nutrients to functions so was the word to my soul. It was amazing to feel the words as if I could chew on them when I read. I savored them as my lips formed the words. I was torn as I wanted them to linger in my mouth but I yearned to taste the next word. Never as the Bible been so real to me, so much more then words. I know I'm repeating myself but I can't find the the right way to express how this felt. The Bible became satisfying to me. It met a need. Like being full from a good meal it put a smile on my face yet left me waiting to be hungry again.

There is such power in the Word, I hope you have experienced this in your life. Though you may have read the Bible a 100 times, it still has the power to feed your soul. It's message is so powerful the same verses can speak to you differently depending on where you are in life. Be it a time of blessing or a time of trial a time of silence or a time of closeness the Bible holds what you need. I will admit there are more times then I care to remember that I was too tired to pick it up and read, many times I just wanted to do nothing not even read the Word. I wish I could say I had a hunger as Andrea did but I do not. I will say there has never been a time that I regretted spending time in the Word. Andrea taught me that. She showed me why I needed God in my everyday life. I loved that about her, she was so practical in her faith. Nothing flashy just daily living in faith. And isn't that what we all want? We wonder what do we do with Jesus or God after the big moment when we are saved. We soon find ourselves caught up in the daily grind of life and wonder where is God in all this. That was just another thing Andrea taught me, what to do with God on a Monday afternoon. When life is just life. Andrea's had a relationship with God was part of her routine life. She prayed about everything, not that she could not make a decision, she just wanted God involved in everything about her life. Weather it be praying for a haircut or for healing Andrea's relationship with God was always important. And it was the prayers for a haircut that touched me the most. Because it to Andrea God was not someone to call in when life was hard. To her God not only cared about the largest struggle, but the smallest detail of her life.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Social Security

There, I just recited it silently in my head and got it right this time - Jim's social security number. If you are a military spouse you understand the vast importance of having these nine little numbers memorized. They are the proverbial magical key to unlock every single door you walk through in the armed forces. It's how you are identified as the serviceman or his family so you'd better lock this one in your memory early on. When Troy and I first married and he joined the AF, I rebelled against the system on needing i.d. cards and his social security number to access everything but quickly I gave in realizing that was just the way things were! For 13 years I knew Troy's social better than my own phone number. Now suddenly it has become Jim's I must memorize. I admit it has taken me months to do so. Teaching this old dog new tricks takes longer now. The AF is so accustomed to spouses easily stating their sponsor's socials that they look at me like I must have the IQ of a 4 year-old when I start digging around in my wallet looking for my ID just to make sure I am giving them the right one. This all got me to thinking about the term "social security". Beyond the government's numerical identification system. More along the lines of our own personal identification system. Are we as hyumans secure because we are socially connected to other humans? As for me personally, I do find much security in having a husband, parents, kids and good friends. When I lost Troy, the first on that list, I grew very insecure. Who was I now? What was my identity? Where would my security lie now?

Troy was always a provider. I knew we would never go hungry or without a decent roof over our heads because he was a hard worker and totally committed to taking care of me and our kids. I knew I would never quesitons his devotion or faithfulness to me because he loved me more than himself. He would never leave me for someone else. What I never considered was the possibility of him leaving me for Jesus.

When Troy died the social security "benefits" (they always use the term death benefits as if you are actually benefitting in some way from total devastation) checks started coming in. I thought the first time I would see these would be after retirement.

Fear gripped my soul. That fear had a name - insecurity. I just couldn't fathom that an unseen God could replace Troy's warm embrace and protective covering over our family. Shortly after he died my friend hung a placque in my home that said "Christ is the head of this home. The unseen guest at every meal." It served as a constant and much-needed reminder to me that just because I lost Troy I did not lose my God too. I continued to have His covering over me and our household. I believe, whether all women will admit it or not, we have an innate need for the security a man in the home offers. Equally as much as men need us as helpmates and companions.

Genesis 2:18

The Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."

I now know so many women who have lost their husbands and must dig deep to see themselves and God in an accurate light. I continue to be one of those women. In fact, all of us who have lost someone or something precious to us. Someone or something that made us who we are. Or, in the case of my many girlfriends who have suffered infertility, who we so desperately want to be? Once that bubble is burst our souls are just laid right out there in the open for some major self-evaluation. Is our security purely social, purely dependent on our title as wife, mom, daughter, friend or is it eternal?

I have recently joined the Facebook phenomenon. I can pretty much guarantee all that I will not devote much of my scarce spare time to logging into it. But is has proven quiet fascinating to me to observe the desire we all have to feel connected to others. Facebook proves more than anything I have ever seen, that we have a desire to be surrounded by some type of social security. Okay maybe it is a little bit of that nosy voyeursim thing too! :)

I believe God created us with the undeniable need for relationship. With Him first. Then others second. We just often reverse the order. He knew Adam needed Eve. He knew Abraham needed Sarah and Isaac needed Rebekkah. He knew Naomi needed Ruth. He knew Mary needed Joseph. He knew Jesus needed John. He knew we needed a Savior.

My question is when the human connection is broken, especially in death, what do we do then? Even if that person was just as I described Troy: devoted, hard-working, committed, faithful and loving, they will still eventually leave us or us them. Who is the one we can depend upon?

Psa 61:3-5

"From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings."

I recently found two journals. Both dated back to November 1996. One written by Troy and one by me. We were stationed in England at the time and went to a "Marriage Encounter" weekend. These are popular in the States because I think as a whole we are a touchy-feely, communication-driven culture of people who thrive on introspective thinking and digging deep within ourselves. We like Dr. Phil. We buy self-help and relationship books by the hundreds of thousands every year. We like to express our feelings. I think this might be one of the reasons why we are so annoying to other cultures. Anyway, the Brits (generally speaking) tend to be a bit more proper or stoic with showing their emotions and deeply personal sides. Troy and I were the only Americans in the place. We giggled at how uncomfortable many of the other couples seemed to be with this very-American-based approach to marriage enrichment. Lots of talking. Lots of hugging. Lots of writing. Today, I couldn't be more thankful for that weekend of writing. While Jim has lots of Andrea's journals full of her her most-treasured thoughts and expressions penned in her own hand, I have very little from Troy. He liked to write me cards but didn't journal his feelings often. That weekend in the English countryside he did. I will cherish that little blue notebook. I was also interested to see what I wrote. I didn't do much of that kind of thing either at the time.

As I read over the words I had written I found answers to an interesting couple of questions the leader had asked us to write to our spouse about. The first was to list the reasons we wanted to go on living and the second was to list the reasons we wanted to go living together as a couple. Seemed a strange question to have asked as I never thought I would not want to go on living at any point in my life. However I did write on the subject at length and in the last paragraph. I think I almost touched on the one thing that would make me lose that desire for life. My words to Troy were:

"In conclusion, I want to go on living with you is because I belong with you. I envision we are like a little chain of paperdolls. We were being cut out so that when we were opened we were connected. To cut those paperdolls in half we would not be complete - something from one of us would be missing. That's how I would feel without you connected to me, like some part of me was missing."

Those words, ironically, rang painfully true. My fears of loss then were validated exactly 10 years and 10 days later. Now I face them daily. I need Jim just as much as I ever needed Troy. He completes me now in the same way Troy completed then. The question is what do I do with the fear? In whom shall I place my trust?

Psalm 27:1

The LORD [is] my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD [is] the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 112:7

He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.

Psalm 118:8

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. (our spouses)

Psalm 118:9

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. (our president and world leaders)

Jer 17:7-8

"But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they go right on producing delicious fruit."

Therein lies the challenge and why we all need the Lord so desperately in times of suffering: how are we to go right on producing delicious fruit (living with purpose) after losing the will to do so? Only by His might, His strength, His stamina, His gifts, His mercy, His purpose, His grace, His unfailing and unending love. As Jim always says, "Christ willingly laid down on the cross. Sometimes, without explanation, He asks us to do the same." I had never thought before that Christ had to first lay down on that rough and splintered wooden cross before they nailed His hands and feet. What an act of submission to God! Though He was part God, He was part human so you know that was the last thing in the world He wanted to do. Christ asked me to lay down my identity and my security in being Troy's wife. As a woman married all her life, I would say, there is almost nothing more difficult to be asked of her than that.

While in the middle of writing this blog, Jim and I went back to Phoenix for the weekend to visit my adopted parents, Faye and Lin. They are the most endearing and lovely black (Faye says I can say that instead of African-American and she's the expert on everything! Aren't you Faye?:)) couple from our church out there. There will be a future blog about them. There is just too much to say about these two precious people. In short, Faye is very sick. She has cancer, MS, connective tissue disease, sick cell anemia and a host of other illnesses. Faye is the single most remarkable person I have ever known. Lin is kind and patient and handsome and has lovingly stood by her side for 40 years. Faye has never had riches, power or fame but she has the grand stature of a queen because she is confident of who she is Christ. Not who she is as Lin's wife. Not who she is as a healthy woman who should be in the prime years of her life enjoying retirement, travel, good food and the comforts of life. At the moment she is unable to chew anything that is not finely mashed and rarely leaves her home except for the endless trips to the doctor. She has been confined to her home these last 6 weeks because the doctors fear she is too weak and cannot catch any type of cold or flu. Faye is a social butterfly. Her illnesses have clipped her wings so often. Yet she can still find the humor in many situations and always makes others feel as if they matter more than anyone. She is on a campaign right now to help the nurse that draws her blood each week. She wants to go on a mission trip so Faye agreed, from the recent confines of her home, to help her get support. She and Lin live in a tiny house in a neighborhood that has seen much decline and crime in the last 20 years. Yet I would have rather been standing in her kitchen drinking smoothies with her, like I did this past Saturday, than at the finest banquet in the world. I want a bit of her to rub off on me. Just so I can, too, stand in great stature and be known as a woman who still praised God when she had every reason to curse Him, just like Faye.

I found myself feeling wrapped in the secure blanket of a loving friendship by just being with Faye and Lin this weekend. As I held her crippled hand to pray at dinner, my mind could not help but wander to what would I possibly do if I lost Faye? Was the security I have in her friendship meaning I wasn't depending on God enough? Was the security I had in Troy and now have in Jim standing in the way of my confidence in knowing I am God's child first? I think the answer is possibly no but probably yes. This embodies the mind-blowing concept that this life is but a teeny tiny snippet on the timeline. It's our two-world view struggle. We must keep our lives and our eyes fixated on Him. On the eternal not the temporal. And then be utterly thankful and rejoice when He sends a bit of Himself (the Troys and Andreas and Fayes in our lives) to keep us company while we wait for our entrance into eternity. I do believe God loves us enough to understand we need to have people on this earth with whose hearts we can intertwine. We just still have to remember when those hearts are no longer with us, He still is.