Thursday, March 27, 2014

Keeping it Together....

Three weeks ago, my husband took a load of sheets out of the dryer and lost one of two dryer balls.  To this day, we haven't found it.  How does that happen?   My answer: Only in our house.

A lot has been going on in my hubby's world that makes me wonder how we've managed to keep it all together and only loose one dryer ball these last few months.  My husband is my rock.  The glue that holds our family together.  The calm one.  Level headed.  Patient.  Non-complaining.  (I'm not even sucking up, he doesn't read "our" blog.)

Recently, he's lost sleep.  Been irritated. Complained more than I think I've ever heard.  It's his busy time at work.  He's feeling pressure from different levels of employees.  It's not like him to seem so aggravated.  I try to listen quitely knowing he needs to vent, but sometimes I say things that probably adds to his trouble.  My reaction is for him to tell them off.  You're the boss!  Get mad! Fire them for pete's sake!  He has that power.  Did I already mention he's the patient, level-headed one in our relationship?

We are approaching 21 years of marriage in just a couple of weeks.  I'm more madly in love with him than the day we married.  We have three kids together.  One carries his genes.  All three of them he fathered. I've seen him treat all three kids the same through the years.  Sacrificing for their needs.  Providing, loving and encouraging in his patient way.  He's done the same for me.  I take for granted how he tells me multiple times a day he loves me.  He compliments me on every meal I cook.  He tells me I'm beautiful at least once every day.  He always kisses me good morning and goodnight (even if I'm asleep).   I didn't know I needed him in my life so badly.  However, God did.  I'm glad He intervened.  It hurts me to see my hubby frustrated.

All I can do is pray for my husband through this time of challenges.  The busy season will come and go and again reappear.  I'm going to work harder on daily appreciating the man I married.  I'll eventually replace the lost dryer ball with a new set.  Right now, we'll just keep working on keeping it all together - together!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Never Once......

It seems I've been on quite a journey of memories lately.  I've thought about things as far back as elementary school and all the years in between.  Some days have been a flood of memories and some days have been that something simply pops into my head.  It doesn't help that I'm finally digging into totes and boxes stacked in our basement that contain pictures, papers, and memories of life.

Have you ever reflected on your life?  I mean really reflected?  Have you thought about situations you were in throughout life - rather it was choices you made or circumstances beyond your control.?

I'm not ashamed to say that I believe in Jesus.  I've actually believed for a long time, but I've not always lived a life that reflected that belief.  Through these flood of memories I'm encountering, it's easy to reflect and see how God worked situations in my life.  Even when I made choices that were pleasing to myself, harmful to others and definitely not God honoring, life lessons were taught.....just not always learned.  Even when all I wanted to do was please God with my life, tough situations arose and choices had to be made.

A song we sing at church by Matt Redman, Never Once, sums it up nicely for me.  I can't sing it without crying.....thinking of situations God has brought me through, protected me, and made me stronger.  Even in dark times, when I've made wrong choices and felt alone, I've never been left on my own.

Life is short.  We don't always do things right.  Our circumstances change and can often feel out of control. Listen to the song I'm referring to and reflect on your life.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Remembering the Unbelievable - Cancer

February 18th, 1998 3:00 p.m.  Todd & I sat at the doctors office after I had been ran through a battery of tests.

"We have the results of your tests and we believe you have cancer.  It is likely a lymphoma."

I honestly don't remember everything after that other than we cried and cried some more.  While we suspected something, I don't know how you can be prepared to hear those words.  The doctor was excellent in the way she cared for me and for my husband.  I'll never forget that.  She gave us time alone but yet came back with a plan for retrieving a biopsy and did so with a lot of compassion and hope.

That day forever changed my life.  It changed my family.  I was 30 years old with 3 children 8, 7 and barely 3 years old.  Todd had recently changed jobs.  Todd & I cried a lot at home in our quiet hours.  It was so much to think about for just the two of us, let alone how to handle the emotions of the kids and their schedule with what would be our soon to be schedule.

Surgical biopsy, more testing, and a diagnosis of Hodgkins Lymphoma started a hard core regime of chemo.  A new normal set in with every two weeks of chemo and 4 days of not so pretty stuff.  Blood draw & check ups every week.  I received my maximum life dose of chemo in 8 months.  I learned a lot about endurance and perseverance....or so I thought.

February 1999, I was told the cancer had relapsed.  Endurance and perseverance became difficult.  Mental stability was difficult most days.  All I had was hope.  Hope that the 50/50 chance I was given would be the right 50%!  Life drastically changed for my family as I was admitted to the hospital for a stem cell transplant and spent 45 days there, mostly in isolation.

It was - hands down - the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.

This year is 15 years of being cancer free.  Remission!  It's also been 15 years of remembering something I can't forget.  Sometimes smells trigger nausea.  Trips to the doctor bring on anxiety.  Deaths bring out the survivors guilt.  Cancer changed my thinking about situations.  Life. People.

Not only did my husband never leave me, my God never left me.  My only hope I had came from knowing that if I lived, God performed a miracle.  If I died, I would spend eternity with Him.  Neither one could I really turn down.  I'm looking forward to my 15th year of survival.

Romans 8:28
All things work together for good for those who love God and who are called according to His purpose.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Not So Glamorous Side of My Life

With a glorious reunion comes great joys and yet unexpected struggles and sorrows.  I've been at my breaking point many times in the last few months.  I'm unable to explain my feelings, thoughts, and yet I so understand what is going on inside of me.  It's the most uncomprehending thing I've struggled with in my life.

I miss my mom.  More today than a year ago.  More than two years ago.  I miss her more than I ever imagined I would.  It's more than the day her first grandchild graduated college.  It's more than the day her grandson got married to a wonderful, godly woman.  It's more than the day her last grandchild graduated high school or the day she went to college to pursue Nursing.  My mom would be so proud of all of them.  I miss my mom for questions I'll never have answered.  Questions I didn't even know existed when she was living.  On January 26th I wanted to celebrate that day she went to heaven 3 years ago.  With much sadness, this year I just could not.

Throughout 20 years of marriage, my husband has been my rock.  My sounding board.  My shoulder that I regularly cry on.  The one who keeps me patient.  The one who makes me keep my mouth shut.  Sometimes he's the only logical one.  Yet I'm experiencing something he can't even comprehend or understand.  I often wonder if I should seek counseling....a real spiritual counselor.  Who has experience with this stuff?  I don't even know!  All I can do is cry out to God.

When two people find much peace in their heart from something that has been knowingly - and unknowingly - longing for 40 years, why is there unrest from others?  Family members who I know and love and those I don't know have verbally and non-verbally expressed their not so happy opinions.

On the outside looking in, it seems as if the reunion between my dad and I has been wonderful.  I think I can speak for both of us that it most definitely has been!  However, what happens in my deepest thoughts and in our one on one conversations is so much more complex.  I'm constantly retraining my brain to know how much my dad loved me all the years he never had anything to do with me.  I can't grasp how an entire family (7 other siblings, grandparents, & cousins) just left me alone when so many lived in the same school district or just a short drive from my home for many years.  I can hear dad give the explanation many times over.  I just can't understand it.

I could once count on two hands my family on my mom's side that I knew.  All of a sudden I have an enormous family.  I don't have the sense of family that is in the Bowers blood.  I have never known that.  My husband's family is this way too.  I don't understand it.  I've never lived it.  I shy away from it.  I'm having a hard time accepting it.  It was easier with just my two hands.

God has pushed me out of my comfort zone.  How can I have so much peace but yet turmoil at the same time?  Why does He allow that to happen?  God was beaten, mocked and scorned.  This is nothing in comparison to His suffering and pain.  For me to have gained so much and yet feel so alone has only got to be growth & change from God.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Thanksgiving, Christmas & the New Year!

Thanksgiving came and went quickly.  I spent a fantastic 4 days with my dad and his wife.  I had uncontrollable crying spells the day he left and for 5 days after.  Not a day went by that we didn't talk on the phone - usually for no less than 1 1/2 hours.  How do you put a time limit on getting to know one another?

Before dad and his wife left at Thanksgiving, we had began planning our next get together.  Since dad wasn't able to meet the girls, he wanted to meet them and more so, he wanted to spend Christmas together.  I don't even remember a Christmas together.  Due to the kid's work schedules, it was determined we would have Christmas a week early.  Dad decided to return after only being gone for a little over a week so we could share Christmas as a family for the first time.

Sidenote:  A couple years ago during the Summer Olympics, we had family backyard olympics.  We set up the volleyball net, challenged one another in badminton, ladder ball and, of course, volleyball.  Since that was family fun, it was determined we should do Christmas Winter Olympics 2013.  Knowing Christmas was going to be practical presents for our kids (i.e. kleenex, toilet paper, deoderant, etc.), I began planning some fun!

Mid-December and my dad and his wife have arrived back to our home.  Jerod came back around to spend time playing guitar with his grandpa.  Mattye came home from college, Jessi arrived and the girls meet their grandpa for the first time.  Since I personally feel I have great kids, and I think dad is an easy person to get to know, all went really well.  Sometimes I noticed dad sitting and smiling a huge smile as my kids carried on interacting with one another, telling stories, and being themselves.  We all had a great time.

Our Christmas Olympic weekend began with a "team breakfast" at our house followed by "team pictures".
It was a joyful moment taking pictures as a family, with grandkids, and as father & daughter.  I honestly had a moment where I shed a few tears while thinking how God worked this entire situation.

After the above picture, everyone changed into warm clothes and the kids were challenged to head out on a scavenger hunt.  Also know as the "Parade of the Country".  Dad and I had put out clues earlier in the day in preparation of the big event.  Together they found the clues, performed the tasks, and completed the hunt.  The next event was the "Snow Triathlon".  Thanks to friends who offered up their backyard, we tubed/sled, climbed the hill, and showed off trap shooting skills until the cold snapped the firing pin in the gun and the other kept jamming. We returned home via Dairy Queen to play "Fa-La-La-La Farkle", indulge in more food, drink hot cider, and open presents.

Our family fun time ended, but dad and his wife stayed around until the day after Christmas.  Knowing that dad was having partial knee replacement surgery after the new year, Todd & I discussed how I could visit dad's home and I could be there during the surgery to help as needed.    So January 1st, Todd & I headed to Arkansas.  Todd came home on the 5th while the plan was I would stay the next 2 weeks.

Dad's surgery was on January 6th.  His hospital stay was through the 9th.  He came home second guessing the surgery he agreed to and with medicine that was unable to control his pain.  There were many challenges in the first week at home, but with phone calls and persistence, plus time for healing, things started to turn around.  I left dad's January 19th in tears but confident in his progress.

I'm certainly glad I had the time to share with my dad.  We had many conversations - some he probably doesn't even remember.  We spent hours together in the same room for two weeks. I was able to be an encouragement and a helper when he needed it.  I'm so thankful that God rearranged my life months before I even knew dad and I had this opportunity to spend with him.  I very grateful my husband has been such a supporter and provided encouragement to me through this entire craziness of reuniting with my dad.

Most of all, God has been totally awesome and continues to blow me away with His plan for my life.  I'm thankful He changed my heart and my life years ago.  I'm certain that without the love of God and seeking His guidance while looking for answers, I would not have had the calm assurance I've had during our reunion. Since November 27th, 2013, my dad and I have spent 18 days apart at the time of this writing. Our next visit is already planned.  Dad has marked his calendar.  We're both looking forward to it.